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Contains the exposition of the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth chapters

of the Book of Job, to the twenty-first verse and half through it,

after manifold senses.



IT is the case for the most part in Holy Writ that there are things of a mystical nature so represented, that nevertheless they seem put forth in accordance with the historical relation.  But oftentimes such sort of descriptions are mixed together in that same historical relation, whereby the whole outside of history is rendered null [cassetur]; which same whilst they sound of nothing belonging to the history, oblige the reader to look for something else in them.  For things being spoken that we suppose plain, when we find any particulars interspersed with a more obscure meaning, we are as it were pricked by a kind of spurs, that we should both be alive for the understanding some things in a deeper sense, and that we should take even those things as put forth in a more obscure sense, which we looked upon as spoken in their plain import.  Whereas, then, blessed Job was speaking of the Word of the Lord, and the greatness of His thundering, next in order to these words it is directly introduced;

Chap.  xxvii. 1.  Moreover Job added taking up his parable, and said.




2.  By which same verse it is shewn in how great mystery the words of this most saintly man are delivered, when ‘a parable,’ i.e. a simile, is described as ‘taken up’ by him, who utters nothing below in the way of simile or comparison.  For be it far from us in this place to interpret a ‘parable’ that musical instrument [‘We know of no musical instrument so called either now or formerly; but one may imagine some so named from their parabolic figure.’ Ben.]. Since neither is it allowable to suppose that under infliction of chastenings he used music, when Truth saith by His Scripture, Music in mourning is as a tale out of season.  The word ‘parable,’ then, having been named, see how we now learn, the text itself telling it, not by the text only to estimate his words.  And so every thing must be drawn to turn to that likeness, by which the Church is denoted in a figure.  And indeed in the very beginning of his speaking, the things said are put forth in a plain sense, but they are entwined with more obscure ones subjoined.  For he begins as he is used, with a plain mode of speech, but he finishes his words with a description pregnant through mystical significations.  And so he saith,

Ver. 2.  As God liveth, Who hath taken away my judgment, and the Almighty, Who hath brought my soul to bitterness.




3.  By which same words blessed Job at once tells his own circumstances, and represents the times of Holy Church under affliction, wherein she is borne down by the open frowardness of unbelievers, and vexed by the bitterness of persecution.  For in two ways the Church is subject to be tried by her adversaries, viz.  that she should suffer persecution either by words or swords.  Now Holy Church aims with the greatest diligence to possess wisdom and patience.  And her wisdom is exercised when she is tried with words, her patience is exercised when she is tried with swords.  Now, however, he is speaking of that persecution, wherein she is provoked not by swords, but by false statements.  Now we know numbers, who when they encounter some things adverse in this life, do not believe that God is, but there are some that hold that God is, but does not concern Himself in the least with the affairs of men.  For of the one it is said by David, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. [Ps. 14, 1]  But the latter say in him, How doth God know?  And is there knowledge in the Most High’!  And again; Yet they say again; The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. [Ps. 94, 7]  Thus this person who bore a type of Holy Church, whilst set fast in the very bitterness of his affliction, made answer against them both, For as life has ‘being,’ but death has not, to avow that God is, he saith, As God liveth, but that he might tell that God concerns Himself with the affairs of mortals, he added, Who hath taken away my judgment, and hath brought my soul to bitterness.  For these ills which he suffers he bears record that he suffers not by accident, but by God Who ordereth all things, nor does he attribute the power for his bitterness to his tempter, but to his Creator.


4.  For he knows that the devil, though he is ever aiming at the afflicting of the just, yet if he do not receive the power from our Maker is not empowered in the least degree for any tittle of temptation.  And hence all the devil’s will is unjust, and yet whilst God permits it, all his power is just.  For of himself he does unjustly seek to try men indifferently, but those that require to be tempted, in so far as they require to be tried, God does not permit to be tried otherwise than justly.  Whence also in the Books of the Kings it is written of the devil, That the evil spirit of the Lord came upon Saul. [1 Sam. 18, 10]  Where the question justly occurs, ‘If it was the Spirit of the Lord, why should it be called an evil spirit?  and if an evil spirit, why the Lord’s?’ But in two words there is comprehended at once the just power and the unjust will in the devil.  For both he himself is called an evil spirit in respect of a most evil will, and the same spirit is called the Lord’s spirit in respect of the most just power bestowed on him.  And so it is well said; God liveth, Who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, Who hath brought my soul to bitterness.  For though the enemy rage furiously, who longs to deal the blow, yet it is the Creator, Who permits him to have power for any thing.  But forasmuch as the holy man by invoking the life of God bound himself to somewhat, let us hear what in so obliging himself he subjoins.  It follows;

Ver. 3, 4.  All the while my breath is in me, and the Spirit of God is in, my nostrils, my lips shall not speak iniquity, nor my tongue meditate falsehood.




5.  What he first calls ‘iniquity,’ this repeating afterwards he calls ‘falsehood.’  For both all ‘falsehood’ is ‘iniquity,’ and all ‘iniquity’ ‘falsehood,’ because, whatever thing is at variance with truth is surely at odds with equity.  But between this which he expresses, ‘to speak’ and that which he adds afterwards, to ‘meditate,’ there is a wide difference.  For sometimes it is a worse thing to ‘meditate’ falsehood than to speak it.  For to speak is very frequently a matter of precipitation, but to ‘meditate’ of purposed wickedness.  And who could be ignorant by what great difference the sin is distinguished, whether a man tell a lie by precipitation or of set purpose?  But the holy man, to be entirely attached to the truth, tells that he would neither lie of set purpose, nor by precipitation.  For all lying is very seriously to be guarded against, though sometimes there is a certain sort of lying which is of lighter complexion, if a man lie in rendering good [b].  But seeing that it is written, The mouth that belieth slayeth the soul. [Wisd. 1, 11]  And, Thou shalt destroy all them that speak leasing. [Ps. 5, 7]  This kind of lying also those that are perfect eschew with the greatest care, so that not even the life of any man should by deceit of theirs be defended, lest they hurt their own souls, whilst they busy themselves to give life to another’s flesh; though the same particular kind of sin we believe to be very easily remitted.  For if any sin is ‘by godly practice ensuing after to be done away, how much more is this easily wiped off, which pitifulness, the mother of good works, herself accompanies?


6.  But there are some that from the deceit of the midwives endeavour to establish that this species of lying is not sin, chiefly because, upon those midwives lying, it is written, That the Lord made them houses. [Exod. 1, 21]  By which mode of recompensing it is rather learnt what the offence of lying earns; for the profits of their kindness which might have been repaid them in everlasting life, on account of the sin of lying mixing in are diverted into an earthly recompense, that in their own life, which they were ready to defend by lying, they should receive back the good which they did, and not have any reward of their recompensing, that they might look forward to beyond.  For if the thing be weighed with exactness, it was from the love of the present life they lied, not from the being bent on the recompense; for by the act of sparing, they endeavoured to protect the life of the infants; but by the act of lying, their own life.


7.  And though in the Old Testament a few such cases may possibly be discovered, yet almost on no occasion will the attentive reader there find this or a like kind of lying practised by those that were perfect, although the lie might seem to bear some sort of semblance of truth; and perchance it might be an offence of a lighter complexion under the Old Testament, wherein by victims of bulls and goats, the sacrifice was not the very Truth itself, but a shadow of the truth.  For in the New Testament, after Truth has been manifested by flesh, we are advanced by a higher scale of precepts, and it is meet and right that certain actions which in that People were instrumental to a shadow of the Truth, we should give over. But if there be any man, who would defend his lying by the Old Testament, because there perhaps it was less detrimental to particular persons, he must needs be compelled to say that the robbing of another’s property, and the retaliation of an injury, which were there allowed to those in a weak state, cannot be injurious to himself.  All of which it is plain to all men with what severe strictures Truth doth visit.  Which ‘Truth’ now henceforth, the shadow of the betokenment of Him set aside, is brought to light in very flesh.  But as the holy man gives his word neither to ‘speak’ nor ‘meditate falsehood,’ these actual particulars, wherein he agrees with the truth, he subjoins, carrying it on;

Ver. 5.  God forbid that I should justify you; till I die, I will not depart from mine innocency.




8.  For he would ‘depart from his innocency,’ if he reckoned good things of bad persons; as Solomon bears witness, who saith, He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord. [Prov. 17, 15]  For there are persons, who, whilst they extol with commendation deeds of men ill done, heighten that which they ought to have rebuked.  For hence it is said by the Prophet, Woe to those that sew pillows under every elbow of the hand, and make cushions under the head of every age. [Ez. 13, 18]  For a ‘pillow’ is put for this, that we may rest the easier.  Therefore whoever flatters persons doing wrongly is putting a pillow under the head or the elbow of one lying, so that the man that should have been chidden on account of sin, being stayed up therein by commendations, should rest at his ease.  Hence again it is written, And one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it. [ib. 10.]  For by the term of ‘a wall,’ the hardness of sin is denoted.  And so ‘to build up a wall’ is for a man to rear against himself barriers of sin; but they’ daub the wall,’ who flatter those that commit sins, that what the first by doing wickedly build, those same persons by spreading their flatteries should as it were make of bright colour.  But the holy man, as he does not think what is bad of the good, so he refuses to judge what is good of the bad; saying, God forbid that I should Judge you just: till I die, I will not depart from mine innocency.  Where he subjoins in plain words;

Ver. 6.  My righteousness, which I began to hold fast, I will not abandon.


For ‘his righteousness’ that he had ‘begun with,’ he would ‘abandon,’ if he went out of the way into the praising of persons committing sin.  But because we then more truly keep away from the sins of others when we first keep ourselves safe from our own, why he is so afraid to be guilty touching those, he gives the grounds of the principle, when he adds; For neither doth mine heart reproach me in all my life.




9.  As if he expressed himself in plain words; ‘On your account I ought not to be drawn into guilt, in that I have dreaded to commit sin in my own affairs.’  But it is a thing to be known, that everyone that is at variance with the precepts of the Lord in practice, as often as he hears them, is reproached and confounded by his own heart, because that which he has never done is brought to recollection.  For whereinsoever it sees itself to have done amiss, the conscience by itself secretly accuses self.  Whence the prophet David beseeches, saying, Then may I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments. [Ps. 119, 6]  For greatly ‘ashamed’ is every man, when either by reading or hearing them he turns his eye to the precepts of God, which by his way of living he has disregarded.  Thus it is hence declared by the voice of John, If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.  And whatsoever we ask we receive of Him. [1 John 3, 21. 22.]  As if he said in plain speech, ‘If that He bids, we do, that we ask, we shall obtain.’


10.  For with God both these two do of necessity match with one another exactly, that practice should be sustained by prayer, and prayer by practice.  Thus it is hence that Jeremiah saith; Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.  Let us lift up our hearts with our hands unto God in the heavens. [Lam. 3, 40. 41.]  For to ‘search our ways’ is to sift what is inmost in the thoughts.  But he ‘lifts up his heart with his hands,’ who strengthens his prayer by good works.  For he that prays, but shuts his eyes to practice, ‘lifts up the heart,’ but does not ‘lift up the hands.’  But whosoever practises, but does not pray, ‘lifts up the hands,’ but does not ‘lift up the heart.’  And so according to the voice of John, the heart then acquires confidence in prayer, when no wickedness of life withstands it.  Of which same confidence it is rightly said now by the holy man; For neither doth mine heart reproach me in all my life.  As though he said in plain speech, ‘It never remembers to have been guilty of that, whereby it might be made ashamed in its prayers.’  But it may be asked, on what principle he declares that he is not reproached by his heart, seeing that he accuses himself above of having sinned, saying, I have sinned: what shall I do unto Thee, O Thou Preserver of men? [Job 7, 20]  Or surely, If I would justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me. [Job 9, 20] 


11.  But it is requisite to be known that there are sins that by  righteous men are possible to be avoided, and there are some sins which even by righteous men are not possible to be avoided.  For what man’s heart, whilst bound up with this corruptible flesh, does not slip in ill bent thought, even if be not plunged into the very pit of consenting?  And yet to think these same wrong thoughts is to commit sin.  But while there is a resisting of the thought, the soul is freed from being confounded.  And so the mind of the righteous, though it be free from bad practice, yet sometimes it falls to the ground in bad thinking.  Thus then into sin too it slips, because in the thought of the heart at all events it is made to swerve, and yet it hath not that whereon to upbraid itself afterwards in weeping, because it recovers itself before that it falls by consenting.  And so with just propriety he who confessed himself a sinner, declares that he is never upbraided by his heart, because though perhaps by thinking unlawful thoughts he ever fell short of righteousness, yet the resolute struggle of the soul, he resisted the thought.  It follows;

Ver. 7.  Let mine enemy be like the ungodly, and he that riseth up against me as the unrighteous.




12.  In Holy Writ, the words’ like as’ and’ as if’ are sometimes put not for a likeness, but for the reality.  Whence we have that; And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father. [John 1, 14]  And thus here also ‘like,’ and ‘as’ seem to be said rather for the sake of affirmation than similitude.  Now between the ungodly and the wicked man there is wont to be this difference sometimes, that every ungodly man is unrighteous, but not every unrighteous man ungodly.  For the’ ungodly’ is put instead of unbeliever, i.e. a stranger to the godliness of religion.  But a man is called unrighteous, who by wrongness of practice is at variance with righteousness, even if he does perhaps bear the name of the Christian Faith.  Therefore by the typical voice of blessed Job, Holy Church, which is subject to some gainsaying the right Faith, avouches that she has an ‘ungodly man her enemy.’  But because she has to bear others under the cloke of the faith within her pale living in bad practices, she abhors the ‘unrighteous’ man as being her adversary.  But if’ like’ and ‘as’ it is right we should understand as put on account of ‘likeness,’ Holy Church brands by a likeness to the ungodly those whom she is subject to living in a carnal manner within her pale.  For within her bounds he is an enemy to her, who whilst he maintains himself a believer by professions, denies it by practices.  And because he accounts him as an unbeliever, who, whilst set within her pale in semblance, only assails her with mischief of evil doing, he rightly says, Mine enemy is like the ungodly, and he that riseth up against me as the unrighteous.  As though he said in plain speech; ‘He is at variance with me in faith as well, who does not agree with me in practice.’ It follows;

Ver. 8.  For what is the hope of the hypocrite, if he seize with covetousness, and God free not his soul?




13.  The hypocrite, who in the Latin language is termed pretender [simlator], aims not to be but to appear just, and therefore he is a covetous robber, because whereas while doing wickedly he desires to be revered for sanctity, he seizes on the praise of a life not his own.  But it is said to be the aim of hypocrites, that both what they are they may keep back, and what they are not they may make themselves known to men as being; so that they should surpass their own measure in esteem, and by credit for conduct shew themselves to excel the rest of the world.  They eschew the seeming to be that which they are, and before the eyes of men they clothe themselves with a kind of overlaid respectability of innocency.  Hence in the Gospel they are rightly upbraided by the voice of our Redeemer, when the words are spoken to them, Woe unto you, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear to men beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.  Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of covetousness and iniquity. [Mat. 23, 27. 28.]  Contrariwise all that are Saints really not only do not ever at all covet glory that is beyond their measure, but do also eschew appearing that very thing, which they have obtained to be.  And hence that great Preacher of truth, in speaking against the false apostles; while he was relating the extraordinary excellences of his practice for the instruction of his disciples; whilst he was describing that he had undergone such countless perils in accumulated persecution, and after this made mention of his having been carried up to the third heaven, and into Paradise again, where he had power to learn things so ‘great, as he had not power in any degree to tell; was on the point perhaps of telling things still more marvellous of himself, yet holding himself in from human applause by deep reflecting he adds, But now I spare, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. [2 Cor. 12, 6]  He then had somewhat yet further to be declared concerning himself, who’ forbears’ to speak.  But the great Preacher did both, that both by telling the things which he had done he might instruct his disciples, and by being silent keep himself safe within the bounds of humility.  For he would have been over ungracious, if he had withheld all relating to himself from the disciples; and perhaps incautious over much, if even to the disciples he had uttered all about himself.  But in a wonderful way, as has been said, he did both the one and the other, so that by speaking he might instruct the life of those that heard him, and by holding his peace preserve his own.


14.  Now it deserves to be known, that holy men as often as they communicate any thing concerning themselves to their followers, are imitating the custom of their Creator.  For God, Who forbids us that we never be commended by our own lips, in Holy Writ does utter His own praises; not that He Himself needs them, Who cannot be a gainer by praises; but whilst He relates to us His greatness, He lifts up our ignorance to Himself, and by telling His own good He teaches us; whereas man would never know Him, if He had been minded to be silent about Himself.  And so He for this reason shews His own praises, that we may be able by hearing to know, by knowing to love, by loving to follow, by following to obtain, and by obtaining to enjoy the vision of Him.  Whence the Psalmist saith, He will tell the people the power of His works, and that He may give them the heritage of the heathen. [Ps. 111, 6]  As if he expressed himself in plain terms; ‘For this reason He tells the mightiness of His doing, that he that heareth thereof may be enriched with His gifts.’  Therefore holy men, imitating the way of their Creator, sometimes reveal things that concern themselves, that those who hear them they may instruct, not that they may themselves be gainers, and yet in these things they keep guard over themselves by bethinking themselves deeply, lest whilst they lift up others from an earthward bent, they should themselves be sunk in the coveting of earthly applause.  Whose statements hypocrites for the most part follow, but the meaning of their statements they are wholly blind to, because what the righteous do with a view to the advantaging of their neighbour, this these same do with a view to the extending of their own name.  But the holy man beholding that hypocrites seek not at all after future glory, but desire to possess themselves of present glory, says, What is the hope of the hypocrite?  in that while he loves the present things, he hopes not for the future.  For it is written, For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? [Rom. 8, 24]  And so for this reason there is on the part of the hypocrite no advancing in any degree to the eternal rewards by hope, because that which required to be sought elsewhere, he makes it his pride to have in possession here.  And because his offence was set forth, the punishment too is subjoined, when it is forthwith brought in next;

Will God hear his cry, fchen trouble cometh upon him?




15.  ‘His cry in the time of his straits God heareth not,’ because in the time of tranquillity he did not himself hear the Lord crying in His precepts.  For it is written; He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination. [Prov. 28, 9]  And so the holy man seeing that all they that are indifferent to practise what is light now, in the time at the end betake themselves to words of beseeching, saith; Will God hear his cry?  By which words assuredly he follows close upon the words of our Redeemer, Who saith, Last of all come the foolish virgins also, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.  And it is answered them, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. [Matt. 25, 11]  Because great severity is exercised then, in proportion as now greater mercy is prolonged [al. granted beforehand], and He does then with strictness put forth judgment upon persons not corrected, Who now patiently bestows pity upon them going on transgressing.  For hence it is the Prophet saith, Seek ye the Lord, while He may be found; call ye upon Him, while He is near. [Is. 55, 6]  Now He is not seen, and’ is near,’ then He shall be seen, and shall not’ be near.’ He hath not yet appeared in judgment, and if He be sought, He is found.  For in a wonderful way, when He appeareth in judgment He is at once able to be seen, and unable to be found.  Hence Solomon describes Wisdom at once caressing sweetly, and judging dreadfully, saying, Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets.  Whose language he also tells, adding, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity, and fools delight in  their own harm, and silly ones hate knowledge?  Turn you at my reproof.  Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto yow 1 will make known my words unto you. [Prov. 1, 20-28]  Mark with what kind of words her sweetness in calling is expressed.  Let us see now in what ways her severity in upbraiding is told, that in the end sooner or later her strictness in punishing may have free scope.  Because I have called, and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand; and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.  Let her now say how she will smite those, whom she bears with so much longsuffering, never turning back to her: I also will laugh at your destruction, I will mock when your fear cometh, when sudden calamity falleth on you, and your destruction riseth as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.  Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer.  They shall rise up early, but they shall not find me.  By the mouth of Solomon then, the wisest of men, all particulars are carefully set forth relating to the Judgment from Above: because she both at first calls us sweetly, and afterwards upbraids us terribly, and at the last condemns us irretrievably.  And so it is well said; Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?  Surely because the hypocrite then findeth not a remedy in crying, who now lets slip the fitting opportunity of crying.  Concerning whose wickedness it is yet further added;

Ver. 10.  Or will he be able to delight himself in the Almighty?




16.  For he that is overcome by the love of earthly things, in no degree delights himself in God.  The soul indeed can never exist without its delight, for it delights itself either in things below or in things above, and in proportion as it is employed with higher devotion towards those above, it grows deadened with the greater loathing towards those below, and as it glows with a keener interest for those below, it cools in proportion with an accursed illsensibility from those above.  For both cannot possibly .be loved together and alike.  Hence the Apostle John, well knowing that amongst the thorns of worldly attachments the crop of heavenly charity can never shoot, before he produces the seeds of the love eternal, with the holy hand of the word eradicates from the hearts of his hearers the thorns of worldly affections, in the words, Love not the world, neither the tleings that are in the world.  And he directly subjoins, If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [1 John 2, 15]  As if he said in express terms; ‘Both these loves cannot contain themselves in one and the same heart, nor does the crop of charity from Above shoot in that heart, wherein the thorns of gratification down below kill it.’  And he reckons up all the prickles arising from that gratification below, saying, For all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof. [v. 16. 17.]  And so the’ hypocrite cannot delight himself in God,’ because heavenly desires never spring forth in his mind, seeing surely that the thorns ofea11hly love overlay it.  Of whom it is fitly added;

Will he always call upon God?




17.  For it is then that the hypocrite’ calls upon God,’ when the wretchedness of earthly circumstances wrings him hard.  For when in this world he has obtained the carrying out of the good fortune sought for, his Maker, Who vouchsafed him this same good fortune, he asks not for; But because, as we said before, the art of those that teach should be, that in their hearers’ minds they should first aim to destroy what is wrong, and afterwards to preach what is right; (lest the hearts that are full of evil things should not contain the good seed of holy preaching, whence it is said to Jeremiah, See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down and to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant. [Jer. 1, 10]  For it is first bidden him that he should pull down, and afterwards that he should build, first to pluck up, and afterwards to plant; because the foundation of rightful truth is not laid, except the edifice of error be first pulled down;) blessed Job after that he had mane the case of the Universal Church his answer to the statements of his friends as if in opposition to words of heretics, and that by a manifold rejoinder he had destroyed their pride, describes himself henceforth to teach; that is, that he might be plainly seen in those things which he added to plant what is right, but in those that he premised to have plucked up what is wrong.  It goes on;

I will teach you by the hand of God, that which is with the Almighty; I will not conceal.




18.  In such a way does blessed Job speak in his own words as to denote something connected with what relates to us.  For Holy Church in teaching, in so far as it is expedient to know it, hides not a particle of truth.  Thus because ‘the Hand of God’ is a name for the Son; for, by Him were all things made [John 1, 3]; she tells that by the Hand of God she teaches those, whom she sees continuing foolish in their own wisdom.  As if she said in plain words; ‘I know not any thing of myself; but whatever I perceive of the Truth, this I comprehend by the bountifulness of that same Truth.  Ye for this reason are not embued with right wisdom, because this same wisdom that you have yon ascribe not to the Hand of God, but to your own selves.’  For the adversaries of Holy Church, if they do at times perceive any thing true, this they attribute to their own powers, and they deprive themselves so much the more of the Wisdom from Above, in the same proportion as they wish to have it appropriated to themselves as being derived from their own wits.  Unto whom it is sometimes vouchsafed for their judgment, that they should indeed know some things aright, but by this very same knowledge be rendered the more obnoxious to punishment.  Whence it is fitly added;

Ver. 12.  Behold, all ye yourselves know: why then do ye utter vain things without cause?


19.  It is written; And that servant, ‘Which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself; neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. [Luke 12, 47. 48.]  But he that knew not, and did not worthily, shall be beaten with few stripes.  And again it is written; Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. [Jam. 4, 17]  And so for the heightening of greater guilt Holy Church tells it that her enemies at once know what they ought to follow, and will not follow what they may know.  Of which same persons it is elsewhere said; Let them go down quick into hell. [Ps. 55, 15]  Those are’ quick’ that are sensible of the things that are done towards them.  For the dead neither know nor are sensible at all, and so ‘the dead’ who do not feel are used to be put for persons that know not, but’ the quick,’ who are sensible, for those that know.  Therefore to ‘go down quick into hell’ is for persons to sin knowing and being sensible of it.  It goes on; This is the portion of an ungodly man with God, and the heritage of oppressors, which they shall receive of the Almighty.  Which same’ portion’ and’ inheritance’ he thereupon gives, when he adds;

Ver. 14.  If his children be multiplied, it is in the sword; and his grandchildren shall not be satisfied with bread.


20.  The title of the ‘ungodly’ is not without meaning given to heretics, who through the erroneousness of false doctrine are far removed from the knowledge of the truth; whom in the words following he calls ‘violent’ as well, as being persons who set themselves to wrest by violence to a wrong meaning the sentences of Holy Scripture containing right articles of doctrine.  And so they are ‘violent’ if not in the goods of men, at all events in the senses of precepts.  But the ‘sons of violent men’, are the follower’s of heretics, who while they consent to their error, are as It were engendered by their preaching.  But while being’ multiplied’ ‘they shall’ be in the sword,’ for though now they grow up in an immense multitude in a ruinous liberty, yet they are smitten by the sentence of the Judge to come, Whence the Lord saith by Moses, My sword shall devour flesh.  For ‘the sword of God devours flesh,’ because in the Final Judgment His sentence destroys those, who are carnally wise, On which point it is to be made out why it should be said that the wicked’ receive this portion’ and inheritance of theirs from the Almighty?  Yet to those taking a right view it is plain that though they had it from themselves to act unjustly, yet it comes before the Equity Above, what is unjustly done justly to judge; so that the sentence of God should orderly appoint for punishment those whom their ill-ordered conduct drew into sin, Concerning whom it is fitly subjoined; And his grandchildren shall not be satisfied with bread.


21.  For ‘the grandchildren’ of Heretics are they that are born by the preaching of children in error.  And these ‘bread fails to satisfy;’ because while in the provender of the sacred Word they seek to perceive more than they take in, they are ever a hungering to the knowledge of the truth; and the preachings of instruction, which they are busy to seek for questioning, they are incapable of having for refreshment.  But because from the number of these heretics some Holy Church gathers in, some she leaves obstinate in their wickedness, it is thereupon added;

Ver. 15.  Those that remain of him shall be buried in death.




22.  Doubtless’ the persons left’ of that tribe of heretics ‘are buried in death,’ for whereas they return not to the light of truth, assuredly they are sunk down in everlasting punish.  ment by an earthly perception.  And because it is sometimes the case, that whilst the leader of the common herds in error is carried off to punishment, the common herds that were led astray are new set to a knowledge of the truth, and then the persons under them return to true knowledge, when these persons are brought to eternal punishments, who had been wrongly set over them, it is fitly added;

And his widows shall not weep.




23.  Whom do we take for ‘his widows’ but the subject common herds left deserted for their happiness by his death?  For oftentimes, as has been said, when the preacher of error is carried off to everlasting punishments, his subject multitudes are brought back to the grace of a true acquaintance.  For these multitudes the wicked preacher was set over like a husband, because the seducer of the soul did cleave joined to them for the worse.  Or, indeed, ‘the widows do not weep,’ because whilst continuing in their erring belief, whereas they hold their preacher to have been holy, they are beguiled by a deceitful hope, that they should not mourn.  It follows;

Ver. 16, l7.  Though he heap up silver as the earth, and prepare raiment as the mud; he may prepare, but the just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver.




24.  Silver is used to be interpreted the clearness of sacred Writ, as it is elsewhere said; The words of the Lord are pure wo1.ds: as silver tried in a furnace of earth. [Ps. 12, 6]  And because there are those that long to have the Word of God not inwardly in the exemplifying but externally in the displaying, therefore it is said by the Prophet, All they that are clothed in silver a1.e cut off, being those, who by the word of God do not fill themselves with the interior refreshment, but array themselves in the outward exhibition.  Hence their ‘silver,’ i.e. the word of heretics, is compared to ‘earth,’ because touching the subject of Holy Writ, that there may be something that they know, they toil and strain from the coveting of earthly applause.  And these, too, ‘prepare raiment as the mud,’ because they make up testimonies of Holy Scripture loosely and bedaubingly, whereby they would defend themselves, He shall ‘prepare’ indeed, ‘but the just shall put them on,’ because the person who is full of right faith, which is used to be accounted to the Saints for righteousness, gathers together those selfsame testimonies of Holy Writ, which the heretic adduces, and therefrom he charges home the obstinacy of that one’s error.  For whereas they fetch against us the testimonies of the Sacred Law, they bring with them unto us that whereby they may be defeated.  And hence David representing a type of the Lord, but Goliath the pride of Heretics, they spake that in deeds, which we are disclosing in words.  Thus Goliath came to battle with a sword, but David with a shepherd’s scrip, but David, defeating that same Goliath, with his own sword slew him.  Which thing we likewise do, who by His deigning have obtained to be made members of the promised David [al. ‘the promised members of David.’].  For when heretics full of pride, and advancing sentences of Holy Writ, we defeat by the same words and sentences, which they bring forward, we as it were behead Goliath in his pride with his own sword.  And so ‘the just puts on those same garments,’ which the unjust man ‘prepares,’ because the holy man employs in the service of truth those same sentences by which the bad man strives to exhibit himself a master of learning in opposition to the truth.


25.  And the innocent shall divide the silver.  For ‘the innocent to divide the silver’ is to set forth the revelations of the Lord piece by piece and with discrimination, and to apply to each individual what may be proportionately suitable.  For the Word of the Lord which is here entitled ‘silver’ or ‘garments,’ this same is elsewhere denominated ‘spoils.’ Which the Psalmist likewise witnesses in the way of comparison, saying, I rejoice at Thy Word as one that findeth great spoils. [Ps. 119, 162]  Which spoils are so called for this reason, because on the Gentile world passing over to the faith of the Lord, the Jews are spoiled of the Sacred Oracles with which they had been invested.  And of this division of the silver or of spoils it is elsewhere said, Benjamin is a ravening wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoils. [Gen. 49, 27]  By which words, no doubt, the Apostle Paul is designated, as being descended from the stock of Benjamin, who ‘in the morning devoured the prey,’ because in his first beginnings seizing upon all the believers he was able, he glutted his own cruelty.  But ‘in the evening he divided the spoils,’ because afterwards being made a believer, he portioned out the sacred oracles by interpreting them.


26.  Though this’ silver,’ which’ the innocent divides,’ may be understood in another sense as well.  For Heretics, that they may be easily able to recommend what is wrong, mix with their statements things that are right, that the minds of those that hear them by right views they may attract, and ‘by wrong ones wound.  Which same persons, because, in the precepts of God, they are pied with a sound and unsound mode of speech, are, in the Gospel, well represented by the appearance of the’ ten lepers,’ with whose healthy colour whereas an evil whiteness is intermixed, by this excessive whiteness they are rendered foul.  Hence we are warned, Not to think of ourselves more than we ought to think, but to think soberly. [Rom. 12, 3]  And these too, because they do not as yet love either God, of Whom they entertain wrong notions, nor yet their neighbour, from whom they are separated, are opposed to the precepts of the Decalogue, and therefore for the beseeching of the Lord they come ten in number.  Now for this cause, that they mixed what is sound with what is unsound, they are pied with a difference of colour; but because they offended in His precepts, they call Him that whereby they had so offended, saying, Jesus, Preceptor; and hereby they directly obtained to be healed.  And so because the Catholic makes out the things that are thought rightly, or that are thought wrongly by them, ‘the innocent divideth the silver,’ i.e. distinguisheth what may have been by them delivered either with wholesome or baneful effect.  I t goes on;

Ver. 18.  He buildeth his house as a moth.




27.  ‘The moth builds a house’ for itself by corrupting.  Nor could the heretic have been shewn by a better comparison, who makes a dwelling for his misbelief no where else save in the minds which he has corrupted, who also engages for his followers to be free from everlasting fire.  For he pledges to them ‘the refreshment of eternal rest, but his words ‘have no solidity, because they lack the fulness of truth.  Whence it is added, And as the keeper he maketh a booth.  For’ the booth of the keeper’ is not set firm by any foundation, but the time passing it is directly destroyed.  And the rest promised by heretics is destroyed together with the time, in that after this life it is not found at all.  And because oftentimes Heretics in contempt of the Church Universal are supported by the patronage of the powerful ones of the world, and the rich do not cease to aid them with all the countenance of active agency that they are empowered with, that identical person also, whoever he be, that is made to swell against the face of his Maker by temporal good things, is now touched by the sentence of the holy man, and from the particular ruin of heretics, the discourse is drawn off to a general characterizing of all the self-exalted, when it is added;

Ver. 19.  When the rich man sleepeth, he shall take nothing away with him, he shall open his eyes and shall find nought.


28.  In harmony with which same sentence the Psalmist saith, All the foolish in heart are troubled, they have slept their sleep, and all the men of riches have found nothing in their hands. [Ps. 75, 5]  For in order that the rich after death may ‘find something in their hand,’ it is told to them before death, in whose hands they should place their riches.  Make to yourselves friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye .fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations.  When the rich man sleepeth, he shall take nothing away with him.  His goods when he dieth he would take away with him, if whilst he lived, at the voice of him that besought him, he had taken them home to himself; for all things earthly, which we part with by keeping, we keep by bestowing; our patrimony which retained is lost, whilst paid out of hand it remains.  For we cannot long continue together with our goods.  Since either we by dying abandon them, or they by perishing as it were abandon us while living.  And so it remains for us to manage that things doomed unreservedly to perish we may compel to pass over into a reward that does not perish.


29.  But that is very much to be wondered at that is spoken, When he sleepeth, he shall open his eyes and shall find nothing.  For in order to sleep we close our eyes, and on waking up open them.  But on this point, forasmuch as man consists of soul and body, while it is called sleep of one subject, the waking of the other is shewn to view; because when the body falls asleep in death, then the soul wakes up in a true acquaintance.  And so ‘the rich man sleeps, and opens his eyes,’ because, when he dies in the flesh, his soul is compelled to see what it despised to foresee.  Then indeed it wakes up in true acquaintance; then it sees that all is nothing that it possessed; then it finds itself empty; whereas it used to rejoice in being full of good things above the rest of the world.  It’ sleeps, and takes away nothing along with it,’ nothing surely, of the goods that it possessed.  For the sin of the goods is carried on along with it, though every thing for the sake of which sin was committed be left behind here.  So then let him go now, and swell himself out with good things gotten, let him lift himself up above the rest of the world, and Pride himself in having what his neighbour has not.  The time will come sooner or later that he shall awake, and then learn how empty that was which he had possessed in sleep.  For it often happens to the needy whilst sleeping that he sees himself lich in a dream, and on the strength of those acquisitions uplifts his mind, is overjoyed that he has what he had not, and now counts to be disdainful of those whom ,it grieved him to be disdained by; but that suddenly waking up he is grieved that he has woke up, in that meanwhile though but while sleeping he possessed the semblance of riches.  For he groans directly under the weight of poverty, and is wrung by the straitness of his indigence, and this so much the worse, as though but for the shortest space of time he was even thus emptily lich.  Thus, thus, too surely is it with the rich ones of this world, who are bloated with good things acquired.  They have no knowledge to do right by their abundance; as persons asleep .they are rich; but on waking up they find their poverty, because they ‘bring nothing with them’ to that Judgment, that is calculated to remain, and in proportion as they are now lifted up the higher for a brief space, the more heavily they groan against themselves for everlasting.  So then let him say, He shall open his eyes, and shall find nothing.  Because he then ‘opens those eyes’ to punishments, which here he kept closed to mercy.  He ‘opens his eyes’ and he ‘finds not’ the fruit of pity, in that he kept them shut here, when he did ‘find’ it.  Those also are slow in ‘opening their eyes,’ who, as Wisdom is witness, are described as going in the time of their condemnation to say, What hath pride profited us? or what good hath riches with, our vaunting brought us?  All these things are passed away like a shadow, and as a post that hasteth by.  That the things which they possessed were worthless and transitory they now learn by their loss, which same, so long as they were theirs, seemed to their foolish hearts at once great and lasting.  It was late that the rich man ‘opened his eyes,’ when he saw Lazarus at rest, whom he scorned to see lying at his door.  He understood There the thing that here to do he refused: by his condemnation he was forced to learn what it was that he lost, when he did not own his neighbour being in want.  Of whom it is yet further added;

Ver. 20.  Want shall take hold of him like water; a tempest shall overwhelm him in the night.


30.  Let us look now at the want of the rich man as burning, whose abundance was so great as feasting.  For he says, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue for I am tormented in this flame. [Luke 16, 24]  By which same words it is not this that is made known to us, that there in that excessive burning a single drop of water is then asked for as a sufficiency of refreshment, but that he who has sinned by abundance should there be consumed by a want burning to excess.  For we see in the words of the rich man, resulting from the exactest judgment of God, how proportionate a punishment answered such sin.  For moved by want, he is there driven to beg for the very least, who here, moved by covetousness, went so far as to refuse the very least.  What can be paid back more exactly, what more strictly?  He begged a drop of water, who refused crumbs of bread; and so ‘want taketh hold of him like water.’  That want is then not unsuitably likened to water, because there is that tormenting in hell, which, as swallowing up those it receives in the depths below, is used to be denoted by the title of a’ lake.’ Whence it is delivered by the Prophet in the voice of mankind, My life is fallen into the lake. [Lam. 3, 53]  But by the triumphing of those that are escaped it is sung, O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee and Thou hast healed me.  O Lord, Thou hast b1’ough’t up my sold from the grave: Thou hast kept me from them that go down into the lake. [Ps. 30, 2. 3.]


31.  A tempest shall overwhelm him in the flight.  What in this place does he call’ the night,’ but the hidden time of sudden departing?  And by the name of ‘tempest’ he represents the whirlwind of the Judgment.  Which the Psalmist also testifies, in the words, Our God shall come in state, our God, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before Him, and round about Him a mighty tempest. [Ps. 50, 3]  Of which same ‘tempest’ Wisdom also saith by Solomon; I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind. [Prov. 1, 26. 27.]  And because the very ignorance of the coming departure is itself called ‘Night,’ ‘in the night a tempest shall overwhelm him,’ i.e. the whirlwind of Divine Judgment, whilst he is ignorant, shall seize upon Him.  For it is hence that Truth saith by Itself, But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.  Therefore be ye also ready.  For in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh. [Mal. 24, 43. 44.]  Hence also it is spoken against the ‘evil servant;’ But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth His coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken.  The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of.  Hence Paul says to the disciples, But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.  Ye are all the children of the light and the children of the day.  We are not of the night nor of darkness. [1 Thess. 5, 4. 5.]  Hence to the rich man, ‘giving loose to pride, it is said by the voice of God, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided? [Luke 12, 20]  In the night he is described as giving up his soul, who whilst not seeing death beforehand is carried off in darkness of the heart.  Thus then he saith, A tempest shall overwhelm him in the night.  For because he is not minded to do the good things that he sees, he is caught by the tempest of his destruction which he seeth not.  Of whom it is yet further added;

Ver. 2  The scorching wind shall carry him off, and take him away.


32.  Who is in this place called the ‘scorching wind’ but the evil spirit, who stirs up the flames of divers lusts in the heart, that he may drag it to an eternity of punishments?  And so ‘the scorching wind’ is said to ‘carry off’ any bad men, because the plotter, the evil spirit, who inflames a man whilst living to evil, ‘drags him when dying to torments.  For that ‘the scorching wind’ is wont to be meant for the unclean spirit, who by the breath of evil suggesting kindles the hearts of the wicked to earthly desires, the prophet Jeremiah testifies, saying, A pot kindled I see, and the face  thereof by the face of the North. [Jer. 1, 13]  For ‘the pot kindled’ is the heart of man boiling with the heatings of worldly concerns, and with the restlessness of desires.  Which is kindled by ‘the face of the North,’ i.e. set on fire by the suggestions of the devil.  For that very being is used to be called by the title of ‘the North,’ who said, I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the North.  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. [Is. 14, 13]  Thus by the burning effect of this scorching wind the mind of each one of the Elect is cooled down, when the heat of evil inclinations is extinguished therein, and the flame of carnal desires turned to ice.  And hence Holy Church in the praises of her spouse cries out with exultation, I sat down under the shadow of him, whom I had desired. [Cant. 2, 3]  Of the abatement of this heat it is said to her by Isaiah, by promise of the Lord, Instead of the ground willow shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the nettle shall come up the myrtle tree. [Is. 55, 13]  For ‘instead of the ground willow there comes up in her the fir-tree,’ when in the heart of the Saints, instead of the sunkenness of earthly thought, the elevation of heavenly contemplation rises up.  Now the nettle is altogether of a fiery nature.  But the myrtle is said to be of cooling virtue, and therefore’ instead of the nettle there comes up the myrtle tree,’ when the minds of the righteous are brought from the irritation and heat of bad habits to coolness and quietness of the thoughts, while they now no longer seek earthly things, while they extinguish the flames of the flesh by heavenly aspirations. 


33.  In reference too to this cooling of the soul, which is given from heaven, it is said to Mary, The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee [Luke 1, 35]; though on this point, by the term of’ the overshadowing,’ either Nature of God to be made Incarnate might have been denoted.  For a shadow is followed by light and body.  Now the Lord is Light in respect of the Divine Nature, Who, by means of a soul intervening, vouchsafed in her womb in respect of human nature to become a body.  And so because the Incorporeal Light was in her womb to be made corporeal, to her, who conceived the incorporeal for corporality, it is said, The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; i.e. The Incorporeal Light of the Divine Nature shall in thee take the corporeal substance of Human Nature.  But now let us carry to an end what we began relating to any wicked man.  Accordingly’ the scorching wind takes him away,’ in this way, viz.  that him whom the evil spirit now kindles with the fire of evil concupiscence, he afterwards carries off to the flames of hell.  It goes on;

And as a whirlwind shall carry him out of his place.




34.  ‘The place’ of the wicked is the gratification of the life of time, and the enjoyment of the flesh.  Therefore every single individual is in a manner’ carried out of his place by a whirlwind,’ when overwhelmed with affright on the Last Day he is severed from all his gratifications.  Of which same Last Day it is directly added with justice,

Ver. 22.  For He shall let loose upon him, and not spare.




35.  God, as often as He chastens the sinner by smiting him, for this reason’ lets loose’ the scourge, that He may ‘spare.’  But when by smiting He brings his life to an end whilst remaining in sin, He ‘lets loose’ the scourge, but never at all ‘spares.’  For the Same, Who ‘let loose’ the scourge that He might ‘spare,’ one day ‘lets it loose’ with this view that He may not spare.  For in this life the Lord busies Himself so much the more that He may spare, in proportion as He scourges the more in awaiting; as He Himself saith to John by the voice of the Angel, As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten [Rev. 3, 19]; and as it is elsewhere spoken, For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth. [Hab. 12, 6]  But reversely it is written of the scourge of condemnation, The wicked is taken in the work of his own hands [Ps. 9, 16].  Of whom the Lord saith by Jeremiah, when He sees the multitudes transgressing irreclaimably, whom He now no longer regards as sons under discipline, but as enemies under unmitigated scourging, For I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with a cruel chastisement. [Jer. 30, 14]  And what is said here, and not spare, is there likewise brought out in other words; Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable. [ver. 15]  Whence the Elect always make this provision, that they should return to righteousness before the wrath of the Judge is inextinguishably kindled, lest being caught by the last stroke, they find life ended to them, together with sin, For the rod will then do away with the sin, when it alters the life, since whosesoever ways it does not change, his doings it does not atone for.  Therefore all smiting from God is either a purifying of the present life in us, or a commencement of the punishment that follows.  For with reference to those who profit by the scourge it is written, Who framest pain in the commandment [Ps. 94, 20].  For in that case when the wicked man is scourged and amended, to the commandment he would not give ear; to the pain he does.  And so there is ‘pain framed in the commandment’ to him, who by pain as it were in the stead of the commandment is kept back from evil practices, But touching these persons to whom scourges are a curse, not a clearance, it is said, Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; Thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. [Jer. 5, 3]  With these, their scourges commence in this life, and last on in everlasting smiting, Whence the Lord saith by Moses, For a fire is kindled in Mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell [Deut. 32, 22].  For so far as regards the present smiting it is rightly said, A fire is kindled in Mine anger.  But as regards the eternal damnation, it is immediately added with propriety, And shalt burn unto the lowest hell.  Though by some persons that is used to be alleged, which is written, God judgeth not twice upon the same thing [Nah. 1, 9. LXX].  Which persons, howsoever, do not pay regard to this that is spoken by the Prophet of the wicked; And crush them with double confusion [Jer. 17, 18].  And that, which is written elsewhere; Jesus in saving the People out of Egypt, a second time destroyed them that believed not [Jude 5].  To which persons, however, if we yield assent, that any sin cannot be twice visited with punishment, this must be ,judged of those persons smitten for sin and dying in their sin, that their smiting begun here is completed there, that so to the unreformed there should be one and the same scourge, which begins here in time, but is consummated in eternal punishments, that to those that wholly refuse to be amended, the dealing of present scourges now should be the beginning of the torments to ensue.  And so God shall let loose upon him, and not spare.  It goes on;

Fleeing he shall flee out of His hand,




36.  For he ‘flees out of the hand’ of the Smiter, who amends the wickedness of his behaviour; or otherwise, because in Holy Writ the hand is used to be taken for acting, he ‘flees from the hand of the smiter,’ who, whilst he marks the destruction of the wicked man, forsakes the path of wickedness.  Whence it is yet further added;

Ver. 23.  He shall bind up his hands over him.




37.  For to ‘bind up the hands’ is to establish the practices of his life in uprightness, Whence Paul too saith; Wherefore lift up the loosed hands, and the unstrung knees [Heb. 12, 12].  While, then, they behold the destruction of another, they are made to turn back to the conscience, to remind themselves of their own, and by the very same cause whereby one man is carried to torments, another is freed from torments, And so ‘he binds up his hands over him,’ because he observes in the punishment of another what to be afraid of; and whilst he sees one living in transgression so smitten, he binds fast his own too loose practices with the sinews of righteousness.  And so it is brought to pass that he who, being a bad man, whilst living, had drawn numbers into transgression by the delightfulness of sin, in dying recovers some from transgression by the terribleness of torments.  Which same the Psalmist bears witness to be of advantage to the good as well, saying, The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance; he shall wash has hands in the blood of sinners. [Ps. 58, 10]   For ‘in the blood of sinners,’ when dying, ‘the righteous do wash their hands,’ because, when their punishment is seen, the life of the person seeing it is cleansed.  It goes on;

And he shall hiss upon him, beholding his place.  




38.  What is expressed in the hissing, but the straining of wonderment?  But if in the hissing there is some other meaning ought, when the sinner dies, these that witness his death draw tight the mouth in hissing, in that they are converted to those spiritual words, which they had contemned, so that they henceforth begin to believe and to teach, what before, while they perceived the wicked man thriving, they need not to believe.  For it very often happens that the mind of the weak is the more unsteadied from the hearing of the truth, as it sees the despisers of the truth flourishing; but when just vengeance takes away the unjust, it keeps others away from wickedness.  Whence it is said by Solomon; When the pestilent man is punished, the little one will be wiser.  Thus the holy man after he had adequately filled up the punishments of the men of power that are lifted up in the world, again directs his words to the pride of heretics, who are lifted up in speech, saying ;

Chap. xxviii. ver. 1.  The silver hath the beginning of its veins, and to the gold there is a place, where they fine it. 


39.  In silver the power of speaking, in gold brightness of life or of wisdom is used to be denoted.  And because heretics are so filled with pride for the brilliancy of their speaking, that they are not based firmly by any authority of the sacred books, (which books are for speaking like a kind of veins of silver to us, because from those identical books we derive the spring and source of our speaking,) he recalls them to the pages of sacred authority, that if they have a desire to speak in a true way, they may from that source draw forth what to say.  And he saith, The silver hath the beginning of its veins, and to the gold there is a place, where they fine it.


As if he said in plain words; ‘He that is fitting himself for the words of true preaching, the originals of the cases he must of necessity derive from the sacred page, so as to bring round every thing that he speaks to a foundation of divine authority, and in that set firm the edifice of his own speaking.  For, as we before said, oftentimes heretics, whilst they are eager to prop up what is bad of their own, broach things which assuredly are not maintained in the page of the sacred books.  And hence the great Preacher admonishes his disciple, saying, O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane novelties of speaking [1 Tim. 6, 20], for whereas heretics long to be extolled as if for excellency of wit, they as it were bring out new things which are not maintained in the old books of the ancient Fathers, and thus it follows, that whilst they desire to appear wise, they scatter seeds of foolishness to their wretched hearers.


40.  And it is well added; And to the gold there is a place, where they fine it.  As if he said in plain terms; ‘The true wisdom of believers, which has the Church Universal for its place, undergoes tribulation by you persecuting her, but from all the dross of sins by the fire of your persecution she is purified.’ Whence it is written; For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity. [Ecclus. 2, 5]  In which passage this too may be appropriately taken for the meaning, that for their foolish suffering heretics might seem to be rebuked.  For oftentimes for the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer, they suffer much, and by those same sufferings they look for themselves to become His martyrs.  To which persons it is now said by the voice of the holy man; and to the gold there is a place, where they fine it.  For according to that which has been already said even before us, he that suffers out of the unity of the Church, punishments he may suffer, but a Martyr he cannot be made; for ‘to the gold there is a place, where they fine it.’ What then, ye heretics, say ye to these things?  Ye are minded to be ‘fined’ by the afflicting of the flesh, nay even by martyrdom, but the place where ye must be fined, ye know not.  Hear ye what is spoken by the voice of the holy preacher.  ‘To the gold there is a place, where they fille it.’ So then, seek ye this ‘place for the fining,’ this furnace, wherein the gold may be fitly purged, find ye out.


41. There is one Church, .in which he that may have attained to be fined, may likewise be purified from all the dross of sins.  If for the sake of God ye undergo aught of bitterness, if aught of tribulation, being without her pale, ye can only be burnt, ye cannot be purified.  Let Jeremiah tell, let him tell in what way the fire of your fining is void of all efficacy.  The finer melteth in vain; for their wickednesses are not done away [Jer. 6, 29].  See how the fire externally melting at once administers a punishment of hard suffering, and yet does not clear off the sin of misbelief; it both furnishes torments of cruel punishments, and does not cause additions of good merits.  Moreover the fire of this fining which is undergone out of the Catholic Church, how utterly it is void of all efficacy the Apostle Paul instructs us, when he says, And though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. [1 Cor. 13, 3]  For some think wrong things touching God, and others hold what is right about the Creator, but do not maintain unity with their brethren; the one are sundered by erroneousness of faith, and the others by the commission of schism.  And hence in the very first part of the Decalogue the sins of both sides are checked, seeing that it is said by the voice of God, And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. [Mark 12, 30. 31. Deut. 6, 5]  And it is immediately added, And thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  For whoso imagines what is wrong about God, surely it is evident that he does not ‘love God.’  But he who while he entertains right notions about God is divided from the unity of the Holy Church, it is plain that he does not love his neighbonr, whom he refuses to have for his fellow.


42.  Whosoever, then, is divided from this unity of the Church our Mother, either through heresy in entertaining wrong notions concerning God, or by the erroneousness of schism in not loving his neighbour, is bereft of the grace of that charity, concerning which Paul saith what we have before given; And though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  As if he expressed himself in plain utterance; ‘Without the bounds of its place, the fire of fining being applied to me only afflicts me with torment, and does not purify me by its cleansing.’  This place all they that are lovers of holy peace seek with heartiest endeavours, this on seeking they find, this finding they keep, knowing the remission of sin, as to where, or when, or to what sort it is vouchsafed.  For where is it, save in the bosom of our Catholic Mother?  When, but before the day of coming departure?  Because, Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. [2 Cor. 6, 2]  And, Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near. [Is. 55, 6]  To what sort of persons, but to the converted, who after the imitating of little children are fashioned by humility as their mistress?  To whom it is said; Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. [Matt. 19, 14]  And, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. [Matt. 18, 3]  And therefore, because there are no true martyrs made saving in the Catholic Church, it is rightly said, To the gold there is a place where they fine it.  Because the soul would not be made bright in the radiance of everlasting beauty, except, so to say, it were first burnt here in the workshop of charity.


43.  Moreover, we are to consider that there are some whom Almighty God by His secret counsel preserving in innocency from their very beginnings promotes to the topmost heights of virtuous attainments, that, as their age increases, both numerousness of years and loftiness of merits should simultaneously advance in them.  But others abandoning in their outset He suffers to go with bad habits fermenting by headlong ways.  .  Yet for the most part even these He has regard to, and for the following after Him He kindles them with the fire of holy love, and the itchings of bad propensities engrained in their hearts He converts into a fervour of virtue, and they are the more set on fire to the desire of beseeching the pitifulness of God, in proportion as they are the more ashamed at the recollection of their own wickedness; as it often happens, that in the conflict of the fight the soldier, who is placed before the eyes of his leader, basely yields to the enemy’s valour, and that whilst he powerlessly turns his back he is struck; yet nevertheless being ashamed of this very thing that he has done [2 Mss. ‘yeilded.’] disgracefully before his leader’s eyes, from the mere sense of shame he gathers greater force; and afterwards executes deeds of Prowess, to so high a degree that he may at once achieve present credit of his valour, and cover past disgrace of weakness.  In a like way, these persons are sometimes more actively established in the service of God by consequence of past weakness, and such persons for the keeping of His commandments both the desire of things future draws on, and the remembrance of things past urges forward, that on the one side affection to that which is to come should stimulate, and on the other shame for that which is past spur on.  Which same however, while the enemies of the Church see to be endowed with the highest virtues, and in their present life cannot any way find out that whereby they may derogate from their merit, they set themselves to impeach them of the past, as the Manichaean assails our Moses, in whom he endeavours to soil with the sin of a past homicide the grace of subsequent virtuous attainments; in whom he heeds not how patient he was afterwards to endure, but how precipitate he was before to strike.  Such adversaries as these blessed Job encountering with the exactest eye of observation, after that he said, Silver hath the beginning of its veins; and to gold there is a place where they fine it; he justly added;

Iron is taken out of the earth.




44.  Heretics are used to pride themselves against us by the self-priding of their righteousness, and to boast high their practices with the swelling of ostentation, and ourselves, as we have said, they impeach either for being or having been bad persons.  Accordingly in a most humble confession, and in a truthful defence against those, the holy man speaks, saying, Iron is taken out of the earth.  As if he said in plain speech; ‘men of strength, who by the sharpest swords of their tongues are become iron in this pitched battle of the defending of the faith, were one time but’ earth ‘in the lowest sphere of actions.’  For to man on his sinning it was spoken; Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return.  But ‘iron is taken out of the earth,’ when the hardy champion of the Church is separated from an earthly course of conduct, which he before maintained.  Accordingly he ought not to be contemned in any thing whatever, that he was, who has already begun to be that which he was not.  Was not Matthew found in the earth, who, involved in earthly matters, served the business of the receipt of custom?  But having been taken out of the earth, he was strengthened into the forcibleness of iron, in that by his tongue, as by the sharpest sword, the Lord in the enforcing of the Gospel pierced the hearts of  unbelievers.  And he that before was weak and contemptible by his earthly occupations, was afterwards made strong for heavenly preachings.  Hence it is yet further subjoined;

And the stone being melted with heat is turned into brass.


45.  Then is ‘the stone dissolved with heat,’ when the heart that is hard and cold to the fire of divine love is touched by that same fire of divine love, and melted in the glowing warmth of the Spirit, that to the life that follow’s it should bum with the heat of its longings, which life on hearing of before, it remained uninfluenced.  By the power of which same heat, he is at once softened down to love and invigorated to practice, that as before he was hard in the love of the world, so he should afterwards give himself out strong unto the love of God, and what he declined to give ear to before, he should henceforth begin both to believe and to preach.  And so, the stone being dissolved with heat is turned into brass, because the hardened mind, being melted by the fire of love from Above, is changed to true strength.  So that the sinner that was before unmoved should afterwards be made at once strong in respect of authority, and sounding in respect of preaching.  Which is well spoken by Isaiah; They that trust in the Lord shall change their strength. [Is. 40, 31]  We ‘change our strength,’ when being converted, we eschew the present scene of things with as much power and might as we before were seeking it.  But because the foregoing life is unfairly by adversaries counted to the character of Catholics, it is rightly added;

Ver. 3.  He hath set a time to darkness, and Himself vieweth the end of all and everyone.


46.  He hath Himself ‘set a time to the darkness,’ i.e. bounds to the wicked, where they should cease to be wicked.  Whence it is said to them by the Apostle; Ye-were sometimes darkness, but 1l0W are ye light in the Lord.  Like as to the other disciples as well the same great teacher saith, The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore put off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.  Let us walk honestly as in the day.  Hence also in the Song of Songs on the coming of the Church it is said, Who is she that cometh forth as the morning in rising? 


For fitly is the Church described by being compared with ‘the morning,’ in that, by the knowledge of the faith she is changed from the darkness of sins to be in the bright light of righteousness.  By the term of ‘all and every one,’ he would have both the Elect and the damned to be comprehended.  For God both in doing and ordering what is good, yet not doing what is bad, but what by the wicked is done Himself so regulating that the things should not come forth irregularly, ‘vieweth the end of all and every one,’ and bears all things patiently, and beholds the goal of the Elect, how that from evil they are changed to good.  He sees, too, the end of the damned, how that for bad practice they are dragged to a punishment worthy of them.  He saw the end of Saul when persecuting, wherein prostrated on the earth he should say, Lora, what wilt Thou have me to do?  He saw the end of the seeming-obedient disciple, that for the guilty deed he had committed he should tie his throat with a noose, and both punish himself when guilty of sin, and by thus punishing, betray himself the worse.  He saw the Ninevites transgressing, but beheld the end of the transgressing in the repentance of the reformed.  He saw likewise Sodom transgressing, but He beheld the end of the burning of lust in the fire of hell.  He saw the end of the Gentile world, how that whilst occupied by the darkness of iniquities, it should be one day brightened with the light of faith.  He also saw the end of Judaea, how that from that light of faith, which it held, it should blind itself with the darkness of hardened unbelief.  Whence it is yet further added with just applicability, Ver. 4.  The stone likewise of darkness, and the shadow of death, the torrent divides from the people on travel. 


47.  What was that people of the Jews, hard by unbelief, that refused to behold by faith that Author of life, whom it foretold by prophecy, but ‘a stone of darkness?’ because it proved at once hard by cruelty, and clouded by unbelief.  Which same is also called by another term ‘the shadow of death.’  For a shadow is drawn such and of the same sort as the outlines were of that object, from which it is derived, And who is designated by the name of’ death’ but the devil?  Of whom in a kind of mode of representation by his minister’ it is said, And his name was Death. [Rev. 6, 8]  Of whom that people was a shadow, because in following his wickedness, it presented in itself a semblance of him.  But what is named by the title of the ‘torrent,’ save that fire that issues forth from the sight of the Awful Judge in the final Inquest, and divides the Elect and the damned?  Whence too it is said by the Prophet, A fiery and rapid stream came forth from before Him. [Dan. 7, 10]


48.  But what People is ‘on travel’ in this world, but that which hastening to the inheritance of the Elect knows well that it has its native country in the heavenly world, and expects that it will there find its own the more, in proportion as here it reckons all things that pass away to be unconnected with itself?  Thus the ‘pilgrim People’ is the number of all the Elect, who accounting this life a species of exile to themselves, pant with the whole bent of the heart after their native country Above; of which persons Paul saith, And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country. [Heb. 11, 13. 14.]  This pilgrim state that same Apostle also was undergoing when he said, Knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we go pilgrims [peregrinamur] away from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight. [2 Cor. 5, 6. 7.]  The woes of this pilgrim state he was in haste to get quit of when he said, Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ; [Phil. 1, 23] and again, To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. [ver. 21]  The burthen of this pilgrimage the Psalmist felt lying heavy upon him, when he said; Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in ,the tents of Kedar!  My soul hath been much a sojourner. [Ps. 120, 5. 6.]  From this he was panting to be extricated as speedily as possible, when inflamed with heavenly aspirations he said, My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God! [Ps. 42, 2]  But this desire they are strangers to, who rivet their heart on earthly gratifications.  For whilst they love only the things that are visible, surely the invisible things, even if they believe them to exist, they do not love, in that whilst they follow themselves too much with the outward following, even in the interior they become carnal.  Thus both people run together in this life, but do not together attain to the life everlasting, because, the stone of darkness and the shadow of death the torrent divides from the people on travel.  As if he said in plain speech, ‘Those whom in this present time either infidelity makes blind, or cruelty makes hard, the fiery stream that issues from before the Judge Eternal doth then sever from the People of the Elect, that thus from the company of good men the fire of the strict Inquest should part those, whom the darkness of evil habits makes blind in their lusts.


49.  Perhaps by the designation of the ‘torrent,’ the actual whatering of holy preaching may be understood, according to that, that is said by Solomon; The eye that sneereth at his father and despiseth the travail of his mother, lo the ravens from the torrents shall pick it out. [Prov. 30, 17]  For bad men, while they find fault with the judgments of God, do ‘sneer at their father,’ and heretics of all sorts whilst in mocking they contemn the preaching of Holy Church, and her fruitfulness, what else is this but that they ‘despise the travail of their mother?’ whom we not unjustly call the mother of them as well, because from the same they come forth, who speak against the same, as John bears witness, who says, They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us. [1 John 2, 19]  But ‘the ravens from the torrents come,’ when the true Preachers come forth for the defence of Holy Church from the streams of the Sacred Books.  Which same also are rightly termed ‘ravens,’ because they never pride themselves on the light of their righteousness, but by the grace of humility confess in themselves the blackness of sins.  Whence too, it is spoken by the Church of Elect souls, I am black, but comely.  And John says, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.  Which same ravens, no doubt, ‘pick out the eyes’ of him that ‘sneereth,’ because they overcome the aim of bad and froward men.  Thus by this testimony, if here as well ‘the torrent’ is to be taken for preaching; the stone of darkness, and shadow of death, the torrent divides from the people on travel; because the preaching of the Saints gives over the hardened minds of the lost, and betakes itself to the pious hearts of the lowly.  Hence it is yet further subjoined,

Those whom the foot of the needy man forgot, a1~d the inaccessible ones.


50.  What other in this place is taken to be the needy man, saving Him concerning Whom it is said by Paul, Though He was rich, yet .for your sakes He became poor. [2 Cor. 8, 9]  The ‘feet’ of which ‘needy man’ were the holy Preachers, by the presence of which same compassing the Gentile world, He went round about the whole globe.  Of whom it is said by the Prophet, And I will walk in them. [Lev. 26, 12]  Was not he His foot, who whilst held fast in fetters, said, For which I am an ambassador in bonds? [2 Cor. 6, 16.  Eph 6, 20]  But those, who proved themselves ‘a shadow of death and a stone of darkness,’ ‘the foot of the needy Man forgot,’ because in the very outset of the new born Church, whereas the holy Apostles were minded to have preached the kingdom of heaven to Judaea, seeing that they profited for nothing at all, they went off for the preaching to the Gentiles, as they themselves say in their Acts; It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it ,from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. [Acts 13, 23]  Concerning whom also it is said by the Psalmist, The mountains shall be carried into the heart of the sea [Ps. 46, 2]; because the Apostles, being thrust off by Judaea, were ‘carried’ into this scene of the Gentile world.  Who then are those, that by unbounded hardness and from dimsightedness of heart, like a kind of’ stone of darkness and the shadow of death,’ are divided from the People of the Saints going on travel, saving those whom’ the foot of the needy Man forgot,’ i.e. whom the Preachers of the Lord, poor as He was, that is, in respect of human nature, abandoned on account of the swelling of their pride; and those they wholly forgot, whilst they transferred the seeds of their preaching to the getting fruit of the Gentiles only?  Whom moreover he rightly calls’ inaccessible’ also, because while they were hardened in their infidelity, they refused to give the words of life access to their heart.  But this Judaea which grows thus hardened, whether what she was for 1ong, or what she underwent afterwards, let us listen to.  It goes on;

Ver. 6.  The earth from which bread arose, is overturned in its place by fire.


51.  Judaea was wont to give bread, in that she used to set before men the words of the Law.  Which same Law because the children of perdition could now no longer understand and interpret, the prophet Jeremiah bewails in the Lamentations, saying, The young children asked bread, and there was no man to break it unto them [Lam 4, 4]; but this ‘earth is overturned in its place with fire,’ because on beholding the miracles of the faithful it consumed itself with the firebrand of envy.  For because envy is always used to be engendered from pride, she ‘perished in her place by fire,’ who for this reason burned with envy, because she did not abandon pride.  And so ‘the earth, which first had bread, was afterwards overturned by fire,’ because the Synagogue, which set before men the commandments of God in the Law, by persecuting the new-born Church consumed itself with the fire of envy.  Was it not in flames with the brands of its jealousy when on seeing the miracles of our Redeemer; it said by certain of its own, What do we? for this Man doeth many miracles? [John 11, 47]  Or, surely, Ye see that we gain nothing; yea, the whole world goeth after Him. [ib. 12, 19]  They saw that whereby they should have been converted, and they were thereby rendered the more froward.  They sought to stifle Him, Whom they beheld give life to the dead.  They held the Law in the mouth, but persecuted the Author of the Law.  Therefore the earth, from which bread arose, was overturned in its place by fire.  Because Judaea had in her own self first the Law that should refresh, and afterwards envy that should consume her.  For the describing of whom it is further added,

Ver. 6.  The stones of it are the place of sapphire, and her clods gold.




52.  The proclaim of the glory going before adds to the guilt of the sin following after.  For the fall of every individual is of worse criminality, in proportion as before he fell he had the power to be of greater excellency.  Thus let it be told of Judaea, let it be told what she was, and let the greatness of the excellencies going before grow into the heightening of the delinquencies succeeding afterwards, Her stones were the place of sapphires, arid her clods of gold, What do we understand in this place by ‘gold,’ but the minds of the Saints and strong ones?  For in Holy Scripture ‘stones’ are wont to be taken sometimes on the side of bad and sometimes on the side of good, For when a’ stone’ is put for insensibility, by ‘stones’ we have hard hearts denoted.  Whence also it is said by John; God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham [Matt. 3, 9]; who, surely, by the name of’ stones’ denotes the hearts of the Gentiles, at that time hard and insensible in respect of unbelief, And by the Prophet the Lord promises, saying, And I will take the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you an heart of flesh. [Ez. 11, 19]  Again by ‘stones’ the minds of the strong ones are used to be denoted.  And hence it is said to the Saints by Peter, Ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood. [1 Pet. 2, 5]  And by the Prophet the Lord promises to the Church when she comes, saying, Behold, I will lay down thy stones in order, and lay thy foundations with sapphires; and I will make thy bulwarks jasper, and thy gates in cut stones, and all thy borders into pleasant stones.  And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord. [Is. 54, 11-13]  For He did ‘lay down in her the stones in order,’ in that He distinguished the holy souls in her by the diverseness of merits, He ‘laid her foundation in sapphires,’ which same stones retain in themselves the likeness of the colour of the air, because the strength of the Church is firmly based in souls seeking after heavenly things.  And because a jasper is of a green hue, He ‘made his bulwarks of the jasper,’ because they are advanced against her adversaries in the defence of Holy Church, who growing green and fresh by interior desires, do not die off by any drying up of damnable lukewarmness.  But He ‘set her gates in cut stones.’  For those are the ‘gates’ of the Church, by whose life and teaching the multitude of those that believe enter into her, Who also for this reason, that they are rich in great deeds, and that-what by speaking they declare, by living they exhibit, are described to be not plain but’ cut stones.’ For in whosesoever life right practice is seen, there is as it were represented in those same persons what they have done.  Where also embracing all the number of the Elect in a general roll, he added, and all thy borders in pleasant stones.  And as though we, on hearing these things, begged that he would make known those stones that he spoke of, he added, All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.  And therefore because from out of Judaea there were never wanting holy souls, to lead a heavenly life, it is said, he?’ stones are the place of sapphires.  And because with an extraordinary brightness of life and of wisdom she shone forth by faith, it is added, and her clods gold.  What is denoted by ‘clods,’ but the assemblages and multitudes of the several orders?  Now clods are compacted of moisture and dust; and so all they that being watered with the dew of grace confessed with a true-sighted knowledge that by the debt of death they are dust, whilst they were made to shine bright by excellency of life, lay in her like’ clods of gold.’  ‘Clods’ this earth had in the Prophets,’ clods’ she had in the teachers, ‘clods’ in the Ancient Fathers, who by an extraordinary infusion of grace kept themselves close in unanimity of profession and of practice.  Therefore let him say, And the clods of it gold; because therein the multitude of the spiritual souls shone with greater perfection, in proportion as it bound itself up in God and its neighbour with greater unanimity.


53.  But this gold was afterwards dimmed by the darkness of unbelief.  Whose blackness, surely, the Prophet Jeremiah surveying laments, saying, How is the gold become dim?  how is the most fine gold changed!  For ‘the gold is become dim,’ in that that ancient brilliancy in them of faith and innocency, upon unbelief coming upon them, dulled itself with the night of wickedness.  Therefore, what it was since we have heard, even that her stollen are the place of sapphires, now let us bear next wherefore that People so beloved of God lost these great blessings.  It goes on;

Ver. 7.  The pathway of the bird it knew not, nor beheld the eyes of the vulture.




54.  Who is denoted in this place by the title of’ the bird,’ saving He, Who in ascending poised sky wards the fleshly body, which He took to Him.  Who furthermore is fitly designated by the title of the ‘vulture’ as well.  For the ‘vulture’ while it is flies if it sees a carcase lying, drops itself down for the devouring of the carcase, and very often it is in this way taken in death, when it has come from on high after the dead animal.  Rightly therefore is the Mediator between God and Man, our Redeemer, denoted by the appellation of a ‘vulture,’ Who whilst remaining in the loftiness of His Divine Nature, marked as it were from a kind of flight on high the carcase of our mortal being down below, and let Himself drop from the regions of heaven to the lowest places.  For in our behalf He vouchsafed to become man, and while he sought the dead creature, He found death among us, Who was deathless in Himself.  Now ‘the eye’ of this ‘vulture’ was the actual aiming at our Resurrection, because He Himself being dead for three days set us free from everlasting death.  And so that faithless people of Judaea saw Him in the state of mortality, but how by His death He should destroy our death, it noted not.  It beheld, indeed, the vulture, but’ the eyes of the vulture it did not behold.’  Which People, whereas it refused to regard the ways of His humility, whereby He lifted us up on high, ‘knew not the pathway of the bird.’  For neither did it betake itself to consider that His humility would lift us to the heavenly heights, and the aim of His death renew us to life.  Therefore the pathway of the bird it knew not, nor beheld the eyes of the vulture.  For though it saw Him Whom it held bound in death, it refused to see what wonderful glory by His death followed our life [al. ‘what glory in our life should follow from His death’].  And hence it was kindled to the cruelty of persecution likewise; it refused to receive the words of life; the Preachers of the kingdom of heaven, by forbidding, by evil entreating, by smiting it thrust from it.  Which same, being so thrust off, abandoning Judaea whereto they had been sent, were dispersed for the gathering together of the Gentile world.  And hence it is further added;

Ver. 8.  The children of the dealers have not trodden it, nor hath the lioness passed through it.


55.  In all the Latin copies we find the word ‘Instructors’ [Institutores] put down, but in the Greek we find ‘traders,’ [negotiatores] whereby it may be inferred that in this passage the several copyists from being ignorant put ‘instructors’ (‘institutors’) instead of ‘institores’ (‘ dealers’).  For we call traders ‘institores’ on this account, that they are ‘instant in plying work.’  But both the one phrase and the other, though they disagree in utterance, yet are not at variance in meaning, because all those who instruct the practice of the faithful, carryon a spiritual dealing, that while they supply preaching to their hearers, they should receive back from them faith and right works; as where it is written touching Holy Church, She maketh fine linen, and selleth it.  Concerning whom it is likewise said a little after in that place, She perceiveth that her trading is good. [Prov. 31, 24]  Who in this place are called ‘instructors’ but the holy Prophets, who busied themselves by prophesying to instruct the ways of the Synagogue unto faith?  ‘Sons’ of whom, assuredly, the holy Apostles are styled, who that they should believe God Man were begotten to the same faith by the preaching of those.  Concerning whom it is said to the Church by the Psalmist; Instead of thy fathers are born to thee children, whom thou mayest make princes over all the earth. [Ps. 45, 16]  But because the Apostles being thrust off went out from the borders of the Synagogue, it is lightly said now, The children of the dealers have not trodden it.  Since the ‘children of the dealers’ would have ‘trodden it,’ if the holy Preachers had borne down the badness of the Synagogue with the heel of goodness.  But if those same ‘dealers’ we take for the Preachers of Holy Church, then the ‘children’ of the dealers, nothing hinders us taking for the Shepherds and Teachers who followed the way of the Apostles.  Which did not ‘tread’ the Synagogue, because whilst their fathers, i.e. the Apostles, were thrust off by that Synagogue, they themselves too ceased from the calling of her.


56.  Which same Synagogue’ the lioness passed not by,’ because Holy Church, being devoted to the assembling together of the Gentiles, never any longer employed itself upon that people of Judaea.  Now the Church is lightly called’ a lioness,’ in that persons living amiss in bad habits, it kills with the mouth of holy preaching.  Hence to the first Shepherd himself it is said as to the mouth of this lioness; slay and eat. [Acts 10, 13]  For what is ‘slain’ is killed out of life, whilst that which is eaten is changed into the body of the person eating.  Accordingly it is said, ‘Slay and eat;’ i.e. ‘Kill those to the sin wherein they are living, and convert them from themselves into thine own members.’  And because this Church is the body of the Lord, the Lord likewise Himself by the voice of Jacob is called’ a lion’ in respect of Himself, a ‘lioness’ by the body, when it is said to him under the likeness of Judah, To the prey, my son, art thou gone upThou hast couched as a lion, and as a lioness.  Who shall rouse him up? [Gen. 49, 9]  Accordingly this lioness it is never said’ passed not’ Judaea, but’ passed not through.’ For upon the Apostles preaching, in the first instance three thousand out of her, and afterwards five thousand, believed.  And so the Church’ passed by’ the way of the Synagogue, but’ passed not through,’ because a few from out of her it carried off to faith, but yet that faithless people it did not utterly make extinct to misbelief.  But, what we have already often said, being cast off by the infidelity of the Jews it turned away to the calling of the Gentiles.  Hence it is yet further said of that same lioness;

Ver. 9.  He stretcheth out his hand to the flint; He overturneth the mountains by the roots.




57.  For ‘he stretched out his hand to the flint,’ because He put forth the arm of His preaching to the hardness of the Gentiles.  Hence the same blessed Job, forewarned of the history of his suffering being destined to be made known to the Gentiles, says, Let these things be graven with an iron pen in a plate of lead, or hewn in the flint. [Job 19, 24]  But whom in this place do we understand by the’ mountains’ saving the powerful ones of this world, who on account of earthly substance swell themselves high?  Concerning whom the Psalmist saith, Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke [Ps. 144, 5]; but the mountains are overturned from the roots, because, on Holy Church preaching the highest powers of this world fell from their inmost thinking into the adoring of Almighty God.  For ‘the roots’ of the mountains are the inmost thoughts of the proud.  And ‘the mountains fall from the roots,’ because for the worshipping of God, the powers of the world are laid level with the earth from the lowest thoughts.  For by a root the hidden thought is rightly denoted, because by means of that which is not seen, being within, there bursts out what should be seen without.  And hence on the side of good it is said by the Prophet, And the remnant that is escaped of the House of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. [Is. 37, 31]  As though it were expressed in plain speech; ‘Deep down below the thought springs up, that up on high the reward may be rendered back.’  So then let him say, He stretcheth out his hand to the flint, and overturneth the mountains from the roots.  For whilst the sacred preaching sought the hardness of the Gentiles, it entirely frustrated the loftiness of the proud.  But because those whom it empties of earthly thoughts, it fills with heavenly gifts, and those, whom it drains of interest below, it waters with streams from Above, it is directly added;

Ver. 10.  He cutteth out streams in the rocks.




58.  i.e. in the hard hearts of the Gentiles he opened the rivers of preaching; as it is likewise spoken by the Prophet of watering the dryness of the Gentiles; He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into water springs. [Ps. 107, 35]  And in the Gospel the Lord promises, saying, He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. [John 7, 38]  What we then heard promised, we now see fulfilled.  For see how in the holy preachers, not sprung from Judaea, through the universal Church spread over the whole world, streams of heavenly precepts flow forth in abundance from the mouths of the Gentiles.  Thus because in the rocks He opened streams, from hard hearts too there flowed forth the river of holy preaching.  It goes on;

And his eye hath seen every precious thing.




59.  It is a thing to be especially borne in mind, that each individual soul is rendered the more precious in the sight of God, by bow much it is for Jove of the truth the more despised in its own eyes.  When thou wast little in thine own sight, did I not make thee the head of the tribes of Israel? [1 Sam. 15, 17]  As if he said in plain terms, ‘‘Thou wast great with Me, because thou wast contemptible to thyself, but now because thou art great to thyself, thou art become contemptible to Me.’ And hence it is said by the Prophet; Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!  Thus every man becomes the more worthless to God, in proportion as he is more precious to himself, so much the more precious to God as he is for His sake more worthless to himself; because He regardeth the lowly, and knoweth the high afar off.  Every precious thing, therefore, His eye saw. [Ps. 138, 6]  In Holy Scripture God’s ‘seeing’ is put for ‘choosing,’ as it is written in the Gospel; When thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee, [John 1, 48] i.e. I chose thee whilst placed under the shadow of the Law.’ Therefore He ‘saw every thing precious,’ because He chose the lowly.  God hath chosen the weak things of the world to co1ifound the things which are mighty.  He’ saw the precious thing’ when the human soul, having base views of itself, He visited with the illumination of His grace.  Of which same soul it is said by the Prophet; If thou separatest the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth. [Jer. 15, 19]  For the present world is vile with God, but the soul of man is precious to Him.  He, then, that ‘separates the precious from the vile’ is called ‘as the month of God,’ because by that man God deals forth His words, who by speaking the things that he is able to speak, plucks out the soul of man from the love of the present world.  And because the teachers of the New Testament are brought to this, that even the hidden darkness of allegories in the Old Testament they search out, it is rightly added;

Ver. 11.  The depths also of the floods He hath searched, and the hidden things He hath brought to light.




60.  For what else are here called ‘floods’ but the sayings of the ancient Fathers.  For who might be able to estimate how vehement a flood, whilst he was founding the Law, burst forth from the very breast of Moses?  how vehement a flood gushed from the heart of David?  what mighty streams of floods flowed out from the lips of Solomon and all the Prophets?  Now of these ‘floods’ Judaea held the shew, when in keeping the surface of the letter she knew not the depths thereof.  But we, who, on the Lord coming, seek therein interior spiritual things, search their ‘depths.’  And this thing the Lord is Himself said to do, because by Himself vouchsafing it we are enabled to do it; and so by us, who follow not the letter which killeth, but the spirit which maketh alive, the Lord ‘searcheth the depths of.  the floods, and bringeth the hidden things into light,’ because the statements of the Law, which the too dark history makes obscure, a spiritual interpretation now lights up.  And hence ‘Truth’ when speaking in parables in the Gospel bade the Disciples, saying, What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye on the house tops. [Mat. 10, 27]  For the plainly spoken words of these interpreting have made the sentences of the ancient Fathers henceforth clear to us.  Hence the Prophet Isaiah viewing the words plain by the interpretation of Holy Church, not obscured by the darkness of allegories, exclaimed, saying, The place of rivers, the broadest and open streams. [Is. 33, 21]  For the sayings of the Old Testament were as narrow and close streams, which bound up the sentences of their lore in the darkest gathering together.  But on the other hand the teaching of Holy Church are’ streams both broad and open,’ because her declarations are at once many in number to those that find them, and plain to those that seek.  Therefore he says, The depths of the floods he hath searched, and the hidden things he hath brought to light.  Because when He poured into His interpreters the spirit of understanding, He set open the ancient obscurities of those prophesying.  And that Holy Church henceforth knows and sees by the Spirit, which the Synagogue before was not at all able to understand by the letter..  Whence Moses also, while he spoke to the people, veiled his face; surely, in order to denote that that People of the Jews knew the words of the Law, but did not at all see the clearness of that Law.  And hence it is rightly said by Paul; But even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. [2 Cor. 3, 15]  But because the declarations of God are, without His wisdom, never fathomed at all, (for except him who hath received His Spirit, none knoweth in any sort His words,) the holy man adds words touching the subject of searching out that same Wisdom of God, saying;

Ver. 12-15.  But where shall wisdom be found?  and where is the place of understanding?  Man knoweth not the price thereof: neither is it found in the land of them that live pleasantly.  The depth saith, It is not with me, and the sea saith, It is not with me.  Fine gold shall not be given for it: neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof:




61.  It is first to be noted, that two points be proposed to himself, and two he adds making answer.  For to this that he said above, Where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?  he answered in this verse, The depth saith, It is not with me; and the sea saith, It is not with me.  But in answer to that which he had said, Man knoweth not the place thereof; neither is it found in the land of them that live pleasantly; he gave the lower verse, saying, Fine gold shall not be given for it; neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.  So then he answered to both questions, yet in adding to what he had objected, not in solving it.  For when he enquired the place of Wisdom, and then answered below, The depth saith, It is not with me; he pointed out not where it was, but where it was not.  Again when he said that’ the price thereof was not known by man,’ and rejoined to this below, fine gold shall not be given for it; he shewed not what was the price of it, but what was not.  For it is plain to all that neither can this wisdom of man be held in a place, nor be bought with riches.  But the holy man being full of mystical ideas sends us on for the making out other things, so that we should look for not wisdom created, but Wisdom creating; for except in those words we search the secret depths of allegory, surely those things that follow are utterly deserving of disregard, if they be estimated according to the historical narration alone.  For a little afterwards he saith, Gold and glass cannot equal it; and while, as we know, glass is far and incomparably of lower price than gold, wherefore after the name of gold, which is unquestionably a precious metal, byway of unlimited praise did he say that ‘glass’ too is not equal to wisdom?  So by the mere difficulty of the letter, we are forced that we be quick sighted to the mystical sentiments in these words.  So then what wisdom is it, the holy man is contemplating, but that of which Paul the Apostle saith, Christ the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God? [1 Cor. 1, 24]  Concerning which it is written by Solomon; Wisdom hath builded her house [Prov. 9, 1]; and of which the Psalmist saith; In wisdom hast Thou made all things. [Ps. 104, 24]  Of this same Wisdom ‘man knoweth not the price,’ because he findeth nothing worthy of the estimate thereof.  Now this price of Wisdom is not said at once ‘to be,’ and not ‘to be known,’ but as for this reason ‘not to be known,’ because it is wanting, in that manner of speaking by which a person caught in a strait, when he finds no remedy of succour, is wont to confess that’ what to do he knows not.’


62.  So then ‘not to know the price of this Wisdom,’ is to find no meriting of meet practice whereby to obtain it.  For we give a price with this object, that instead of it we may possess ourselves of that object which we long after.  But what have we given, that we should deserve to obtain this Wisdom, which is Christ?  Since it is by grace we are redeemed.  For those works alone by living badly have we given, for which if a ,just return were reserved, not Christ but punishments would be rendered back [c].  But man deserved one thing in the way of justice, and obtained another in respect of grace.  Let Paul bear witness, before the time that his mind received the seed of unbought truth, with what briars of error he was overlaid.  Who was before, he says, a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious, but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. [1 Tim. 1, 13]  Let him testify for what sort of persons Christ deigned to die, While we were yet sinners, he says, Christ in due time died for the ungodly. [Rom. 5, 8. 6.]  We, then, who on Wisdom’s coming were found ungodly, what title of good practice have we given, whereby we might obtain to receive that Wisdom?  ‘The price of this Wisdom man knoweth not,’ because whoso is separated from brute animals by the understanding faculty of reason, understands that he is not saved by his own merits, knows and sees that he had not given any thing of good practice that he might come to faith.  For it is as it were to give a price for the obtaining of Wisdom, to anticipate the coming to the knowledge of God by the merchandize of one’s conduct.


63.  He had learnt that of this Wisdom there is ‘no price,’ who said, Who hath first given unto Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again. [Rom. 11, 35]  Hence it is written again, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. [Eph. 2, 8]  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  Hence concerning himself he again speaks, saying, By the grace of God I am what I am. [1 Cor. 15, 10]  And as by the inspiration of this same grace, the practices of the parts of virtue are at once engendered in the heart, so that from free will also conduct should follow, which after this life the Eternal Recompensing should answer to, he thereupon added, And His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain.  But there are those who exult that they are in a sound state by their own powers, and pride themselves that by their own merits going before they have been redeemed, whose declaration, surely, is found to be contradictory to themselves, because, while they maintain themselves at once ‘innocent’ and’ redeemed,’ this very name of redemption they make null and void in themselves.  For everyone that is redeemed is doubtless set free from some sort of captivity.  Whence then is this said person redeemed, if he was not before captive under sin?  It is plain then that he greatly misjudges who judges so.  For heavenly grace does not find desert of man, in order to make it come, but after it has come, causes the same; and God, when He comes to the undeserving mind, at once sets it forth to Himself deserving by so coming, and causes therein merit for Him to recompense, whereas He had found only that for Him to punish.


64.  It is good herein to recall the eyes of the mind to that robber, who from the jaws of the devil ascended the Cross, and from the Cross mounted to Paradise.  Let us behold what sort of person he came to the stock of the Cross, what sort of person he went from the Cross.  He came bound by his brother’s blood, he came bloodstained, but by interior grace he was changed on the Cross; and he who inflicted death upon a brother, of the Lord when dying proclaimed the life, saying, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom. [Luke 23, 42]  On the Cross the nails had bound fast his hands and feet, and there remained nought in him that punishment left free, but the tongue and the heart.  But God inspiring it, he offered all to Him that he found free in himself, so that according to that which is written, he should with the heart believe unto righteousness, and with the mouth make confession unto salvation. [Rom. 10, 10]  But that in the hearts of the faithful there are three virtues in a special inner abiding, the Apostle testifies, saying, And now abideth faith, hope, charity [1 Cor. 13, 13];  all of which the robber being filled with instantaneous grace both received and kept on the Cross.  For he had faith, who believed the Lord was about to reign, when he saw Him dying equally with himself; he had hope, who begged for admission into His kingdom, saying, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.  Charity also in his death he livingly retained, who at once charged home for his iniquity a brother and fellow robber dying for the like crime, and preached to him the life which he had learnt, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly: for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done nothing amiss. [Luke 23, 40. 41.]  He that came such to the Cross by sin, see what he departed from the Cross by grace.  He confessed the Lord, Whom he beheld dying along with himself by human frailty, at the time that the Apostles denied Him, Whom they had seen doing miracles by divine power.


65.  But they who make out that man is saved by his own powers, fancy that that same confession of man is from the efficacy of man by himself.  Which if it were so, the Psalmist would not say in praise of God, Confession and great doing are His work. [Ps. 111, 3]  So that from Him we receive it to confess what is right, by Whom it is granted us to practise what is great also.  Therefore because we have not given aught of good practice, whereby we might deserve to be vouchsafed this Wisdom, let it be rightly said, Man knoweth not its price.  Inasmuch as he that henceforth uses reason looks down upon himself under the perception of this Wisdom so much the deeper, in proportion as he more truly knows the interior depth of that Wisdom, so as to see that he has attained to her being unworthy, by the which it is brought to pass without price, that he should be made worthy.  Concerning which it is well said;

Neither is it found in the land of those that live sweetly.




66.  What is denoted in this passage by the title of the ‘land,’ saving the soul of man?  Concerning which the Psalmist saith, My soul thirsteth after Thee, as a land without water. [Ps. 143, 6]  But this wisdom cannot be ‘found in the land of those that live sweetly;’ because the man that is still fed with the pleasures of this life, is severed from the perception of Eternal Wisdom.  For if he were truly wise-minded, being banished from the interior delights, he would mourn over that blind estate of his exile, whereinto he has fallen.  For hence it is said by Solomon; He that addeth knowledge, addeth pain also. [Eccl. 1, 18]  For the more a man begins to know what he has lost, the more he begins to bewail the sentence of his corruption, which he has met with.  For he sees whence and whereto he has fallen; how that from the joys of Paradise he has come to the woes of the present life, from the companyings of the Angels to carings for necessities; he considers in what a number of perils he now lies prostrate, who before without peril disdained to stand; he bewails the exile which being accursed he undergoes, and sighs after the state of heavenly glory, which he might be enjoying in security, if he had not had a mind to commit sin.  Which same the Psalmist regarding rightly, saith, I said in my fear, I am cast out from the face of thine eyes. [Ps 31, 22]  For after contemplating the interior joys of the vision of God, and the assemblage in fellowship of the Angels holding fast, he brought back his eyes to things beneath, he saw where he was laid low, who was created for this end that he might have been able to stand in heavenly realms; he considered where he was, and where he was not he grieved to think, he mourned for himself as ‘cast out from the face of God’s eyes,’ because by comparison with the interior light, he had felt the darkness of his exile, that he was undergoing, to be the heavier.  Hence it is that he admits not to his soul the solace of any favouring from the present life, saying, I refused my soul to be comforted.  For oftentimes the rich ones of this world, being afflicted with weariness of spirit, are used to regard the good gifts bestowed on them in time, and to soften down their sadness.  For when they feel themselves affected with something of sadness, they look at their horses, they survey the vessels of their gold and their silver, they go the round of their estates.  And while they gladly carry their eyes through the range of these temporal things, they get the better of the sadness of soul that has risen up.  And hence Truth saith to them also in the Gospel; But woe unto you that are rich, for ye have your comfort here. [Luke 6, 24]  But the holy man, who mourns for this, that he has fallen from everlasting joys, does not admit consolation on the ground of things temporal, saying, I have refused my soul to be comforted.  As though he said in plain speech; ‘I, who do not grieve for the loss of temporal things, am utterly unable to be comforted by the abundance thereof.’  And as though we ourselves on hearing these things said to him, ‘What then dost thou seek, who refusest to find comfort in those things that are of the world?’ he thereupon added; I remembered God, and was delighted.  As if he said in plain terms; ‘Me not even the abundance of things earthly doth cheer, but even able to see, gives me delight.’  So then, this is the bitterness the remembrance only of my Maker, Whom as yet I am not of the wise, that whilst they are lifted up on high in hope, they do not bow down the mind here to any delights.  For hence it is written; The heart of the wise is where there is sorrow, and the heart of fools where there is mirth. [Eccl. 7, 4]  Hence James saith: Be afflicted and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. [James 4, 9]  Hence ‘Truth bears witness by Itself, saying, Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ [Matt. 5, 4]  So wisdom cannot be ‘found in the land of those that live sweetly;’ because they are the more really foolish, in proportion as whilst parting with the greater things they delight themselves in the least.  Hence Peter blames that same folly of the wicked, saying, That count for pleasure the indulgence of the day of defilement and stain [Reading ‘coinquinationis,’ ‘coinquinationes.’  Vulg. as ours.]. [2 Peter 2, 13]  Hence Solomon saith, I counted laughter an error; and said to mirth, Why art thou vainly deceived? [Eccl. 2, 2]  Accordingly let the holy man say concerning Wisdom, Neither is it found in the land of those that live sweetly.  In this way plainly, that those who in this world live sweetly, are still so besotted, that this very thing too they know not, viz.  Whence they have fallen.  It follows;

Ver. 11.  The bottomless pit saith, It is not with me.


67.  What does he call ‘the bottomless pit’ but the hearts of men, which are at once by the fall all floating, and by the mistiness of double-dealing full of darkness?  Which same ‘bottomless pit’ declares that this Wisdom ‘is not with’ it; because the wicked mind, while it longs to be wise in a carnal way, shews itself foolish as to things spiritual.  For because as Paul testifies, the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, so much the more completely is every one rendered foolish within, as he endeavours to appear wise without.  Concerning this abyss it is said by John, And I saw an Angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand.  And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.  And cast him, into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled. [Rev. 20, 1–3.]  For by the number of a thousand, he denoted not the quantity of time but the universality, with which the Church exercises dominion.  Now the old serpent is bound with a chain and cast into the bottomless pit, because being tied up from the hearts of the good, while he is shut up in the minds of lost sinners, he rules over them with worse cruelty.  And a little while afterwards he is described as brought up out of the hollow of the bottomless pit, in that from the hearts of the wicked which now rage secretly, having then gotten power against the Church, he shall break out into the violence of open persecution.  And so this bottomless pit, wherein the devil is now kept hidden, ‘saith that Wisdom is not with it,’ because by wicked deeds it shows itself a stranger to true wisdom.  For, whilst a man covers wickedness in the heart, but with the mouth gives forth flatteries, whilst he overshadows his purposes with double-dealing, whilst he eschews words of singlemindedness as foolishness, whilst he shuns the ways of simple innocency, it is as if the Abyss denies that she has the Wisdom of God.  And because minds that are devoted to this world, are disturbed by the cares and anxieties of the present life, and therefore are quite unable to enjoy the repose of that Wisdom, it is rightly added;

And the sea saith, It is not with me.




68.  For what is there denoted by the name of the sea having the bitter disquietude of worldly minds, which while they fall foul of one another in enmities by turns, dash themselves together like encountering waves?  For the life of worldly persons is rightly called ‘a sea;’ because, whilst it is agitated by the tempestuous stirrings of actions, it is parted from the tranquillity and stedfastness of interior Wisdom.  Contrary to which it is well said by the Prophet, Upon whom shall My Spirit rest but upon him that is humble and quiet, and that trembleth at my words? [Isa. 66, 2]  But from earthly minds the Spirit flies the further in proportion as He findeth no rest with them.  For it is hence that it is said of certain by the Psalmist; Bruising and unhappiness is in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known. [Ps. 13, 7. Vulg. 14, 7. Com. Pr.]  From which same bruising of disquietude the Lord calls us back, saying, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. [Matt. 11, 28. 29.]  For what is more toilsome in this life than to be fevered with earthly desires? or what is there more full of repose here, than to long for nought of this world?  It is hence that the Israelitish people received the keeping of the Sabbath in gift; it is hence on the opposite side that Egypt was smitten with a multitude of flies.  For the people, that follows God, receives the Sabbath, i.e. the rest of the spirit, that it should not be worn out in this life by any craving of carnal passions.  But Egypt, which bears a likeness of this world, is stricken with flies.  For the fly is an excessively intrusive and restless creature.  Wherein what else is there represented but the intrusive solicitations of carnal desires.  Whence it is said elsewhere, Dying flies destroy the sweetness of the ointment. [Eccl. 10, 1]  Because superfluous thoughts, which in the mind taken up with things carnal are for ever both springing into life and dying away, destroy that sweetness, with which each individual has been inwardly anointed by the Spirit; because they do not suffer him to enjoy the unadulteratedness thereof.  And so Egypt is smitten with flies, because the parts of those persons that love an earthly life, while they are stricken with the disquietudes of their desires, are by the swarms of carnal imaginations borne down beneath, so that they cannot be lifted up to the desire of interior rest.  Whence when Truth comes to the heart with the wonderful help of His pitifulness, He first banishes therefrom the fevers of carnal thoughts, and afterwards distributes in it the gifts of the parts of virtue.  Which same the sacred history of the Gospel excellently conveys to us; in which when the Lord being besought was led by the way in order to restore the daughter of the ruler to life, it is added directly, But when the crowd were put forth He went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. [Matt. 9, 20]  So the crowd is cast forth without, in order that the damsel may be raised up; because if the importunate throng of worldly cares be not first expelled from the inner recesses of the heart, the soul, which lies dead in the interior, cannot rise up.  For whilst it lets itself loose amongst the countless imaginings of earthly desires, it never in any degree gathers itself up to the consideration of self.  Thus then, knowing and seeing that in these waves of perturbations Wisdom cannot dwell, he says, And the sea saith, It is not with me.  For no man receives her fully, saving he who strives to withdraw himself from all the drifting to and fro of carnal courses.  And hence it is said elsewhere, Write wisdom in the time of leisure.  And he that is lessened in doing, even he shall win her. [Ecclus. 38, 24]  And again, Be still, and know that I am God. [Ps. 46, 10]


69.  But how is it that we know that most of the old Fathers at once interiorly held fast this Wisdom in its life, and outwardly administered the affairs of the world in ordinary?  Do we call Joseph deprived of the attainment of this Wisdom, who in the time of dearth taking upon himself the affairs of all Egypt not only furnished provisions to the Egyptians, but by the skilfulness of his administration preserved the life of foreign people as well that came to him?  Did Daniel prove a stranger to this Wisdom, who, when he was made by the king of the Chaldeans in Babylon chief of the governors, was busied with greater charges in proportion as by a higher pitch of dignity he was likewise set above all?  Whereas then it is plain that very often even the good are engaged in earthly charges with no interest, we plainly see that in this way the citizens of Jerusalem sometimes render services [angarias] to Babylon, in like manner as oftentimes the citizens of Babylon pay suit and service to Jerusalem.  For there are some persons who preach the word of life for the displaying of wisdom alone, they minister the succour of alms from the passion of vain-glory; and indeed the things they do seem to be proper to Jerusalem, but yet are they citizens of Babylon.


70.  In this way then it sometimes happens, that they who love the heavenly Country alone, seem to be subjected to the charges of the earthly country.  Whose ministration however is distinguished from the practices of the wicked for the most part in act, but sometimes before the Judge Above in thought only.  For being full of wisdom from Above, they distinguish how they may at once be free to one thing inwardly, and busied with another thing outwardly; so that if perchance by God’s secret appointment aught of the concerns of this world is charged upon them, they coveting it not, they may yield to God Whom they delight in, and from the love of Him, may interiorly desire His Vision only, but from the fear of Him externally discharge the course imposed upon them with humility, that they should at once desire to be disengaged to God by force of the free attachment of loving affection, and again fulfil the charges imposed upon them by force of the constitution of servitude; and when the affairs of business make a din without, within the most peaceful repose is maintained in love; and the turmoils of employments outwardly clamouring, reason as presiding judge disposes of within, and with tranquil governance regulates the things, which all around it are too little tranquil.  For as force of mind is at the head for bridling the motions of the flesh, so very often the love of tranquillity regulates aright the imposed turmoils of business; because exterior charges, if they be not desired with a wrong affection, may be executed with a mind not disordered but regulated.  For holy men never court them, but lament them when put upon them by secret appointment, and though in respect of a better aim they shun them, yet in respect of a submissive mind they bear them.  Which same they are above every thing eager to avoid if it might be, but fearing the secret dispensations of God, they lay hold of that they eschew, and execute what they avoid.  For they go into their conscience, and they there take counsel what the secret will of God would have, and being conscious that they ought to be subject to the Appointments on high, they humble the neck of the heart to the yoke of Divine Providence.  But he that is such as this, whatever turmoils are at work without, they never reach to his interior parts.  And so it comes to pass that there is one thing maintained within in wish and another thing maintained without in office, and that with this Wisdom their hearts are filled, being no longer troubled and disordered, but in a state of tranquillity.  Well, then, is it said thereof, that the depth saith, It is not with me, and the sea saith, It is not with me.  As though it were expressed in plain speech; ‘The troubled minds of the worldly cry out by the mere circumstance of their not being quiet, that they are widely separated from true Wisdom.  But because this Wisdom of God, abiding with the Father before the ages of the world, was to be made Incarnate in the end thereof, so that in order to redeem the human race, It should send not the holy Angels, not just men, but in the manifestation of very sight comes by Its own Self, it is rightly subjoined,

Ver. 15.  Fine gold shall not be given for it.




71.  For what is denoted by ‘fine gold,’ save the holy Angels, who are rightly called both ‘gold,’ and ‘fine [obrysum];’ ‘gold,’ because they shine with brightness of righteousness; ‘fine,’ because they never had any defilement of sin.  But for just men, so long as they are in this corruptible flesh with the conditions of mortality, ‘gold’ they may indeed be, ‘fine gold’ they cannot be in any wise; because the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthy tabernacle weigheth down the mind, that museth upon many things. [Wisd. 9, 15]  For though in this life they may shine by an extraordinary brightness of righteousness, yet they never purely lack the dross of sins; as John the Apostle bears witness, who says, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us [1 John 1, 8]; and as James affirms, who puts a proof, saying, For in many things we all offend. [James 3, 2]  As the Prophet likewise beseeches, who says, Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, O Lord, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified. [Ps. 143, 2]  Those then are termed ‘fine gold’ who whilst holding fast in that innocency, wherein they were created, at once shine with the brightness of righteousness, and are stained with no dross of sins, no not the very least.


72.  But because in the stead of this Wisdom no one of the Angels was to be sent as the Redeemer of the human race, lest in those Angels, who, we have been taught, have often appeared in aid of men, any man should rest his hope, it is said, Fine gold shall not be given for it.  As though it were expressed in plain speech; ‘By Its own Self shall Wisdom be manifested, in order that the human race may be redeemed from sin.’  There is no Angel sent in His stead; because it must needs be that by the Creator the creature should be set free.  And hence the Lord said in the Gospel, If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. [John 8, 36]  But the holy man, being filled with the Spirit of that same Wisdom, foresaw that there would not be wanting in Judaea some that should put their hope in the Lawgiver, and make Moses the author of their salvation, even as to the man that had been healed, speaking evil, they say, Be thou His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. [John 9, 28]  Whence it is yet further introduced with propriety,

Nor shall silver be weighed in exchange thereof.




73.  For because the divine revelations are often denoted by ‘silver,’ by the term of silver it may be that the writers of that revelation are also understood, whose life shone amidst the crowds of their fellow-creatures with the light of virtuous attainments.  But because the Law was able to point out sins, but not able to take them away, it was not anyone of the ancient Fathers, nor the Lawgiver Moses, that became the Redeemer of mankind.  So ‘silver is not weighed in exchange of this Wisdom,’ because all that have had power to be holy, by comparison with the Only-begotten Son of God are accounted to have been of no worth, who except they had known and seen that they were servants of that ‘Wisdom,’ could never at all have been holy.  For to this end were they sent, that in the hearts of men they might by preaching prepare a way for this ‘Wisdom,’ neither yet that for her, but by her they might govern the peoples under their charge.  For because it was certain that by the accession of periods of time, the ailments of the waning world should grow to a height, it was brought about that in the end of ages the Eternal Wisdom of God should by Its own Self come to this full grown sick one, with his over great infirmity, i.e. to the human race lying sick, throughout the whole world, that preachers having been dispatched beforehand, like a kind of visitors, the power of the physician might afterwards come so much the more efficacious, in proportion as the sickness of the diseased had more grown to a head.  But because there is no one sent in the stead of Him for the saving of us, let it be rightly said, Nor shall silver be weighed in the exchange thereof.  Forasmuch as the life of the just men who preached, with whatever light of holiness it might abound, doth not by its presence make exchange for the coming of Heavenly Wisdom to us.  But there were multitudes of the Gentiles, who being attached to the systems of discipline of this world’s wise ones, observed those things which are honourable among men, and believed that, honourable dealing being observed, they were sure to be saved, nor any longer sought a Mediator between God and man, since they held the teaching of the philosophers as being sufficient for them.  In contempt of whom it is directly added;

Ver. 16.  Nor shall it be compared to the dyed colours of India.




74.  For what is meant by India, which furnishes a black people, saving this world, wherein the life of man is engendered dark in respect of sin?  Now ‘the dyed colours of India’ are the wise ones of this world, who though in respect of infidelity, and oftentimes in respect of behaviour, they be foul, yet before the eyes of men are stained with the hue of overlaid honourableness.  But the coeternal Wisdom of God is not ‘compared to the dyed colours of India,’ in that he, who really takes It in, discovers how widely it differs from those human beings whom the world has worshipped for wise ones.  And the very words of His precepts differ from the wise ones of this world, in that while they strain after eloquence, their sayings appear as if fair in shew and in the staining of the dye, and while they lack the power of realities, feign themselves to be something else than what they are by combination of words as by overcoated colours.  But on the other hand the instruction of Wisdom is at once fair by preaching and shining by unadulterated truth, nor does it by deceit set itself forth one thing outwardly, and retain another thing inwardly, nor in its sayings aim to appear fair by brilliancy of speech, but by uncorruptness of truth.  Therefore in its precepts the Wisdom of God is not ‘compared to the dyed colours of India,’ since whereas it has not the stained adornments of eloquence, it pleases like a robe without dye.  Which staining of the dye Paul rightly despised, when he said, Which things also we speak not in the words that man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.  For he chose rather to display this ‘Wisdom’ by the simple transparency of truth alone, but not to stain it  with thy dyeing of speech.

Nor to the most precious sardonyx stone, nor to the sapphire.


75.  That the sardonyx and sapphire are not precious stones, who would be ignorant?  And whereas there be many other precious stones, which immeasurably exceed these in the account of greatness, why is the sapphire or the sardonyx especially called precious, when either stone by comparison with other stones is most contemptible?  except that those stones which are described as precious, when we know not to be precious, we look out for some other thing in the meaning of them.  For the sardonyx bears the likeness of red earth, but the sapphire has an aereal appearance.  And so it may be that in the sardonyx by the red earth human beings are denoted, in the sapphire by the aereal appearance the Angels are denoted.  For whereas the sardonyx stone bears the appearance of red earth, it not improperly denotes man; because ‘Adam’ himself, who was created the first, is called in the Latin tongue ‘Red earth.’  What does it mean then that it is said that this Wisdom is not ‘compared to the sardonyx nor to the sapphire,’ but that He, Who is the ‘Power of God and the Wisdom of God,’ i.e. the Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, surpasses all things by such preeminent greatness that neither the first man on the earth, nor the Angels in heaven, can be compared to Him.  And hence it is said by the Psalmist, Who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord?  Who among the sons of God [‘Sons of God’ was a common expression for Angels] can be likened unto the Lord? 


76.  But it is possible that by the sardonyx stone the Fathers of the Old Testament, while by the sapphire the Preachers of the New Testament, are set forth.  For the first, though they maintained an extraordinary life of righteousness, yet lent themselves to carnal procreation.  Therefore whereas it is plain that they did some things of an earthly kind, they are not inappropriately denoted by the sardonyx stone, which as we before said bears the appearance of ‘red earth.’  But by the sapphire, which is of an ethereal blue, we suitably understand the Preachers of the New Testament, who laying aside the desires of carnal gendering, followed after the things of heaven alone.  And hence the Prophet beholding the holy Apostles mounting above all the desires of the flesh with spiritual fervency, being struck with admiration, saith, Who are these that fly as clouds? [Is. 60, 8]  As though he expressed it in plain speech; ‘We go along by the way of earth, in that we are still involved in marryings and employ acts of the flesh upon the propagating offspring; but these walk not on earth, but they ‘fly as clouds,’ who whilst they aim at heavenly things touch nought connected with earthly desires.’  Therefore he says that the Wisdom of God is not ‘compared to the sardonyx or the sapphire stone.’ As though he told in plain terms, saying, ‘To Him, Who is seen Man among men, neither any in the old Fathers nor any in the new is equalled, in that from His Godhead He derives it that in His Manhood He hath not any like to Him.’  Whence it is yet further added;

Ver. 17.  The gold and the glass cannot equal it.




77.  Who that is sound of perception would deem it worthy to understand this according to the letter?  For ‘glass,’ as we said above, is of much less worth than ‘gold,’ and after it was said that ‘gold is not equal’ to this Wisdom, it is yet further, as if heightening, subjoined, that ‘glass’ too cannot equal it either.  But the bare letter failing us in the historical sense, sends us to investigating the mystery of the allegory.  For we know that the metal gold shines with a superior brightness to all the metals.  But it is of the nature of glass that whilst seen without it shines with perfect transparency in the inside.  In every other metal whatever is contained within is hidden from sight, but in the case of glass, every liquid, such as it is contained within, such is it shewn to be without, and, so to say, all the liquid in a glass vessel, whilst shut up is open.  What other thing, then, do we understand by ‘gold and glass,’ but that heavenly Country, that society of blessed citizens, whose hearts mutually one with another at once shine with brightness, and are transparent by pureness; which John in Revelations had beheld, when he said, And the building of the wall of it was of jasper, and the city was of pure gold like unto clear glass. [Rev. 21, 18]  For because all the Saints shall shine in the supreme brightness of bliss, it is described as constructed of gold. 


78.  And because their very brightness itself is reciprocally open to them in each other’s breasts, and when the countenance of each one marked his conscience is penetrated along with it, this very gold is described as like pure glass.  For there the mind of every person no bodily frame of limbs will hide from the eyes of his fellow, but the interior will be given to view, the very harmony of the body too will also be plain to the eyes of the body, and each one will be in such wise distinguishable to another, as now he cannot be distinguishable to himself.  But now our hearts, so long as we are in this life, because they cannot be seen in one by another, are enclosed not within glass vessels, but within vessels of earthenware; in which same clay in respect of the mind being affected the Prophet dreaded to stick, when he said, Deliver me out of the clay, that I may not stick fast. [Ps. 69, 14]  Which very tabernacle of bodies, Paul calls ‘our earthly house,’ saying, For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [2 Cor, 5, 1]  Therefore in this earthly house so long as we live, the mere partition wall of our corrupt state, so to say, we do not penetrate with the eyes of the mind, and the hidden things in each other we cannot see.  Hence Holy Church desiring to see the form of her Spouse in the Godhead, yet not being able, because the fashion of His Eternal Being, which she longed to behold, His Manhood, which He took upon Him, hid from her eyes, says mourning in the Song of Songs; Behold he standeth behind our wall. [Cant. 2, 9]  As if she said in plain speech, ‘I desire to see HIM now already in the appearance of His Godhead, but I am still shut out from the sight of Him by the wall of the flesh He has assumed.’  Therefore so long as we live in this corruptible flesh, we see not the thoughts of the hearts in one another.  Whence it is said by the same Paul, For what man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man that is in him? [1 Cor. 2, 11]  And again; Therefore Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. [1 Cor. 4, 5]  So then that City, which manifests the hearts of them that are in it to each severally and reciprocally, is described ‘of gold like to pure glass,’ that by the gold it may be represented bright, and by the glass transparent.


79.  But though all the Saints therein glitter with such wonderful brightness, and shine through with such extraordinary transparency, yet that Wisdom, by a likeness of Which they have all that they are, they ‘cannot equal.’  Therefore it is well said, The gold and the glass cannot equal it.  For it is for this that all the Saints are brought to those eternal joys, that they may be like to God, as it is written, When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. [1 John 3, 2]  And yet it is written, O Lord God of hosts, who is like unto Thee? [Ps. 89, 9]  And again; Who shall be like unto God among the sons of God? [ib. v. 6]  Whence then shall they be like, and whence not like, but that to this ‘Wisdom’ they at once be like for a semblance and not like for equality?  For by gazing on the Eternity of God, it is brought to pass upon them that they should be eternal, and while they receive the gift of seeing Him, by the receiving of Blessedness they copy the thing that they see.  They are both like, then, because they are made blessed; and they are not like to the Creator, because they are a creature.  And thus they both have a certain likeness to God, because they are without end; and yet they have no equality to the Incomprehensible One, because they have comprehensible being.  Therefore let it be justly said, The gold and the glass is not equal to it.  For with whatever brightness and transparency the Saints may shine, it is one thing for men to be wise in God, and another thing for a Man to be the Wisdom of God.  Which same Wisdom he was truly acquainted with, who never ventured to liken any one of the Saints to the Mediator between God and man.  And hence it is added;   .

Neither shall vessels of gold high and overtopping be exchanged instead of it.




80.  For a ‘lofty vessel of gold’ did Elijah prove, ‘a lofty vessel of gold’ Jeremiah, ‘lofty and overtopping vessels of gold’ the old Fathers were.  But this Wisdom of God, in order that It might redeem us from a carnal kind of life, appeared in the flesh, and he, who did not see that Wisdom in a true light, supposed that the Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, was one of the Prophets, which Christ the eyes of the Elect held for God, when they saw by Him but Man.  Hence it is said by Him to the holy Disciples, Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am? [Matt. 16, 13, &c.]  And when they thereupon answered Him, Some say that Thou art John the Baptist; some Elias: some Jeremias, or one of the prophets; they were immediately interrogated touching their own perception; But whom say ye that I am?  To whom Peter, answering directly in the voice of the whole Church, says, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Thus, then, forasmuch as according to the declaration of Paul we ‘know Christ, the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God,’ for this  Wisdom Peter refused to ‘exchange vessels of gold lofty and overtopping,’ because he understood concerning it no other thing than it was.  For as has been said, a great ‘vessel of gold’ was John, a great ‘vessel of gold’ Elijah, a great vessel of gold ‘Jeremiah.  Now whoever accounted that That God was anyone of these, did ‘exchange a vessel of gold high and overtopping’ for this ‘Wisdom.’  But for this Wisdom the Church doth not ‘exchange vessels of gold high and overtopping,’ because it holds that Christ the Son of God is not one of the Prophets, but the One Lord of the Prophets.  For seeing that ‘Wisdom’ Itself had come to her, she refused to keep herself fixed in those golden vessels, but was eager with certainty of faith to pass on into that Wisdom.  Whence she saith in the Song of Songs; The watchmen that keep the city found me; to whom I said, Saw ye him, whom my soul loveth?  It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him, whom my soul loveth. [Cant. 3, 3. 4.]  For whom do we take ‘the watchmen that go about the city’ to be, but the former fathers and prophets who set themselves to watch by the voice of holy preaching for our safe keeping?  but when the Church sought her Redeemer, she would not fix her hope in those same ancient preachers, in that she says, It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth.  For Him she had not been able to find, if she had been unwilling ‘to pass by through these.’  For the unbelievers had rested themselves in those warders, who believed that Christ the Son of God was anyone of those.  With the voice then and the faith of Peter, Holy Church passed by the watchmen she found, in that she disdained to believe the Lord Who had been prophesied to be anyone of the number of the prophets.  Thus, let it be said, nor shall vessels of gold high and overtopping be exchanged for it.  Because the Elect severally both venerate the life of the Saints for their loftiness, and yet do not take up with it for error.  For those whom they know to be simple men they do not all compare to God-Man.  Whence it is further added;

Ver. 18.  Nor shall they be mentioned in comparison with her.




81.  For all the Elect of the Country Above are indeed holy and righteous, but by a participation of Wisdom, not by comparison therewith.  For what are men compared with God?  Now ‘Light’ Wisdom is used to be called, ‘light’ also the servants of Wisdom are wont to be called; but She as light lighting up, they as light lighted up; as it was written; That was the true Light, Which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. [John 1, 9]  But to these it is only said, Ye are the light of the world. [Matt. 5, 14]  ‘Righteousness’ indeed Wisdom is called ‘righteousness,’ the servants of ‘Wisdom’ as well are called: but She righteousness that maketh righteous, they righteousness that is made righteous.  For of God, Who is ‘Wisdom,’ it is said, That He might Himself be just and the Justifier; [Rom. 3, 26] but these say, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. [1 Cor. 5, 21]  So then it is after one sort that the ‘Light lighting’ is to be reverenced, after another that the ‘light lighted’ is to be; in one way the Righteousness that maketh righteous, in another way the righteousness that is made righteous.  Now Wisdom both is and is wise, nor has She for one thing to be, and for another thing to be wise; but the servants of ‘Wisdom’ are indeed able to be wise men, but yet they have not their being the same thing as being wise.  For they may be, and not be wise.  Wisdom hath life, but She hath not one thing, and is another thing, inasmuch as, to Her it is that to be that it is to live.  But the servants of ‘Wisdom’ whilst they have life are one thing and have another, inasmuch as to whom to be is not the identical thing it is to live.  For they may be after a sort, and yet not live.  For to them it is one thing to be, and a different thing to live; for in the very first parent they had being by a beginning, and life by an addition, since man was first made of the earth, and afterwards as it is written; He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. [Gen. 2, 7.]  Now Wisdom hath being, She hath life; but this, which She hath, She Her own Self is.  Wherefore She lives unchangeably, because she lives not by contingency, but essentially.  He then alone Is truly with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to Whose Being ours compared, is not to Be.  To this Wisdom if we be joined, we are, we live, we are wise.  If we be compared to Him, we neither are wise, nor live at all, nor are.


82.  Hence it is that all the Saints, when they advance in the vision of God, the more they view the interior depths of the Divine Nature, see so much the more that they themselves are nothing.  For it is no where read that Abraham confessed that he was dust and ashes except when he obtained to enjoy the converse of God.  For he says, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes. [Gen. 18, 27]  For he would perchance have thought that he was something, if he had not perceived at all the true Essence that is above himself.  But when for the contemplating of the Unchangeable One he was transported above himself, being filled with so mighty a power of contemplation, when he saw Him, he saw that he himself was nought but ‘dust.’  Hence it is that the Prophet being filled with the same Wisdom crieth out, Remember, O Lord, that we are but dust; [Ps. 103, 14. lxx.] who again viewing the unchangeableness of that Essence, saith, Yea, all of them shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail. [Ps. 102, 26. 27.]  Hence it is said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, HE THAT IS hath sent me unto you. [Ex. 3, 14.]  For He alone truly IS, Who alone unchangeably continues.  For every thing that now is after this way, and now after another way, is near to not being.  For to continue in its standing, it is not able.  And in some manner there is a going on not to be, whilst from that which was, it is by the enfarings of time ever being led away to some other thing.  In order then that in the partaking of His Body we may be something, let us know and see our own selves, that we are well nigh nothing.  Therefore it is well said, Nor shall they be made mention of in comparison with her; because vessels of gold high and overtopping, which by participation of Wisdom are fit objects of reverence to us, in comparison of Wisdom are not even fit to be made mention of.  But because this Wisdom is by secret means poured into the hearts of men, (as it is likewise said of the Holy Spirit, The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; [John 3, 8]) for this reason it is added,

For wisdom is drawn from out of sight.




83.  ‘Wisdom is drawn from out of sight;’ because whereas She is invisible, She cannot be found saving in an invisible way.  And She is rightly said to be ‘drawn’ also, because like as we draw the breath, that the body may live, so from the interior depths of Wisdom the Spirit is derived, that the soul may hold on to life.  Whence the Psalmist says, I opened my mouth, and drew in the spirit. [Ps. 119, 131.]  Which very Wisdom, taking human flesh together with [al. ‘by the medium of.’] a rational soul, when It had presented Itself from the interior depths close at hand, because this world could not behold its invisible Maker, Him Whom it saw visible Man, it also knew as invisible God as well.  The Gentile world was converted from the darkness of its unbelief, being before full of pride by its avertedness; signs and wonders being exhibited, faith gained ground; and the faith being spread abroad, the summit of Holy Church shone forth in reverence with all men.  To which same when there were wanting open adversaries, she began to be tried by her own members.  For numberless heresies springing up in her, they arrayed against her wars of cruel conflict.  For she must be exercised at this time by toiling, who is on the way to her recompensing in that which follows.  Whereby it has come to pass that some in her should come forth who should call the Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, created mere man, but one by grace made God, and should attribute so much of holiness to him as they knew in the rest of the Saints, the same being His servants.  Which persons blessed Job being inspired with the spirit of prophecy, reproves by the laying out of his sentence, saying,

Ver. 19.  The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it.




84.  What do we take ‘Ethiopia’ for, save the present world, which same by darkness of hue denotes a sinning people in the foulness of its merits.  But sometimes by the name of Ethiopia the Gentile world in a special manner is used to be denoted, as being before black by the sins of unbelief.  Which same on the Lord’s coming, the Prophet Habakkuk beheld affrighted with fear, and says, The tents of the Ethiopians tremble with dread, the tents of the land of Madian. [Hab. 3, 7]  David also, the Prophet, seeing that the Lord should come for the redeeming of Judaea, but that first the Gentile world should believe, and afterwards Judaea should follow, (as it is written, Until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved, [Rom. 11, 25. 26.]) says, Ethiopia, her hand shall be first to God; [Ps. 68, 31] i.e. ‘before that Judaea believes, the Gentile world being black with sins offers itself to Almighty God to be saved.’  Now the topaz is a precious stone, and because in the Greek tongue to pan is the word for ‘every thing,’ on this account, that it shines bright with every colour, it is called ‘topazium,’ as if ‘topantium.’  But when the Gentile world being turned to God believed, numbers from out thereof were so enriched with the gift of His Spirit, that as with many colours, so with many virtues they shone bright.  But lest any man be lifted up by the virtues he has received, it is now said by the holy man, The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it.  As though he said in plain words; ‘No one of the Saints, with however many virtues he may be filled, yet as being gathered out of this blackness of the world can equal Him, concerning Whom it is written, That holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. [Luke 1, 35]  For we, though we are made holy, yet are: not born holy, because by the mere constitution of a corruptible nature we are tied and bound, that we should say with the Prophet, Behold, I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin hath my mother conceived me.  But He only is truly born holy, Who in order that He might get the better of that same constitution of a corruptible nature, was not conceived by the combining of carnal conjunction.


85.  To this Wisdom as it were a kind of ‘topaz from Ethiopia wished to equal itself,’ when a certain heresiarch [Nestorius, Ben.] said, ‘I do not envy Christ being made God, because, if I wish even I myself may be made so.’  Who imagined our Lord Jesus Christ to be God, not by the mystery of His conception, but by the promotion of grace, arguing by misconstrued proofs that He was born simple man, but in order to be God that He had advanced by merit, and on this account reckoning that both himself and any others might be made coequal with Him, which same are made the children of God by grace, not understanding nor minding that the topaz from Ethiopia is not equal to Him.  For it is one thing for those born men to receive the grace of adoption, and another for one by the power of Godhead preeminently to have come forth God from the very conception.  Neither is it possible that to the glory of the Only-begotten, possessed by nature, another glory should be equal, received by grace.  For the Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, [1 Tim. 2, 5] is not as this one raves one person in His human nature, and another person in the Divine nature.  Not conceived and brought forth simple man, did he afterwards obtain of merit that He should be God.  But the Angel announcing it, and the Spirit coming, at once the Word in the womb, at once within the womb the Word made flesh, (that unchangeable Essence likewise remaining to Him which He has coeternal together with the Father and the Holy Spirit;) did take upon Him within the bowels of the Virgin that whereby He might both being Impassible suffer passion, and Undying suffer death, and whilst Eternal before the world be a temporal being in the end of the world, that through an unutterable mystery, by a holy conception and an inviolate birth, in accordance with the verity of both natures, the same Virgin should be at once the handmaid and mother of the Lord.  For so is it said to her by Elisabeth; Whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [Luke 1, 43]  And the Virgin herself at her conception said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it unto me according to thy word. [v. 38]  And though He the same Being is one thing from the Father, and another thing from the Virgin, yet He is not one Person from the Father, and another Person from the Virgin.  But the same Person is Eternal from the Father and the same a temporal being from the Mother, the same Who made is the same That was made, the same beautiful in form above the children of men [Ps. 45, 2] in respect of the Divine nature, and the same of whom it is written; We saw Him, and there was no shew, and He hath not form nor comeliness, [Is. 53, 2] in respect of the human nature.  The same before the world from the Father without mother, and the same at the end of the world from the Mother without father.  The same a Temple, the same the Builder of the Temple.  The same the Maker of the work, and the same the Work of the Maker, remaining one Person from both and in both natures, neither being confounded by the conjunction of natures, nor doubled by the distinctness of natures.  But because it is not these points that we have taken upon us to treat of, let us return to our course of interpreting.


86.  We are to take note that the holy man, in order to shew that the Angels are, widely distant from this Wisdom, says, Fine gold shall not be given for it.  Which same that he might exhibit the ancient Fathers likewise, dealers with sacred Revelation, as inferior, added, Nor shall silver be weighed in exchange thereof.  Moreover that he might point out that the wisdom of the philosopher is far beneath this Wisdom, he brought in; Nor shall it be compared to the dyed colours of India.  And he subjoined, Nor to the most precious sardonyx stone, nor to the sapphire.  Furthermore in order that he might shew that in that city Above no one attains to equality with the Only-begotten, he added; The gold or the glass cannot equal it.  That he might make it appear that the Prophets likewise were beneath It, he added; Neither shall vessels of gold high and overtopping be exchanged instead of it.  Nor shall they be mentioned in comparison with herFor Wisdom is drawn from out of sight.  Whilst at the last, that he might rebuke the very heretics in the Church themselves as well, who on coming from the error of the Gentile world, split through pride the faith which they receive, he added; The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it.  As though he taught in plain words, saying; These, who from the blackness of sin come to conversion, cannot equal God-Man, though they may seem to shine bright with many virtues for colours.  And that their pride might be thrown over, it is fitly added,

Neither shall the purest dyes be brought into comparison.




87.  For those are called ‘the purest dyes’ who are genuinely humble, and genuinely holy, who know that from themselves indeed they have not the shew of virtuous attainments, but that they hold this by the gift of accessory grace.  For they would not be ‘dyed,’ if they had possessed holiness by nature.  But they are ‘the purest dyes’ because they keep in themselves with humility the superinduced grace of virtues which they have been vouchsafed.  Hence it is that it is said by the voice of the Spouse concerning Holy Church; Who is this that cometh up blanched? [Cant. 6, 10]  For because Holy Church has not a heavenly life by nature, but on the Spirit adding Itself is arrayed with beautifulness of gifts, she is described not as white but as ‘blanched.’  And observe, that when he said above, Nor shall it be compared to the dyed colours of India, those same colours he did not bring in ‘pure;’ but in this place that he might distinguish the dye of true virtues from that staining of the philosophers, whilst speaking of dyes, he added ‘the purest.’  For those are rightly called ‘the purest dyes,’ who were aforetime foul through wicked deeds, yet, the Spirit coming upon them, are clothed with the brilliancy of grace, that they should appear to be far other than they were.  Whence also ‘Baptism,’ i.e. ‘dyeing [tinctio],’ is the name given to our own descending into the water itself.  Since we are dyed, and we, who were before unsightly by the deformity of bad habits, on the faith being received are rendered beautiful by grace and the adornment of virtues.  It goes on ;

Ver. 20, 21.  Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?  Seeing that it is hid from the eyes of all living.




88.  It deserves to be especially considered, that it is asked by the holy man, whence Wisdom cometh.  For It ‘comes’ from Him from Whom It sprung.  Now because It is born of the Invisible and Coeternal Father, the way thereof is hidden.  Whence too it is said by the Prophet, And who shall declare His generations? [Is. 53, 8]  Now ‘the place of the understanding of her’ is the mind of man, which mind the Wisdom of God when it has filled makes holy.  And so because both He is invisible, from Whom It came forth, and it is doubtful to us in whose mind It rests as being understood, it is rightly said now, Whence then cometh wisdom?  and where is the place of understanding? But this is very wonderful that it is directly brought in; seeing that it is hidden from the eyes of all living.  For if the Wisdom, which is God, had been ‘hidden from the eyes of all living,’ then surely this Wisdom no one of the Saints would have seen.  But see, I hear John agreeing with this sentence, who says, No man hath seen God at any time. [1 John 4, 12]  And again, when I look at the Fathers of the Old Testament, I learn that many of those, as the very history of the Sacred Reading is witness, did see God.  Thus Jacob saw the Lord, who says, For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. [Gen. 32, 30]  Moses likewise saw God, of whom it is written, And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man Speaketh unto his friend. [Ex. 33, 11]  This very Job saw the Lord, who says, I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee. [Job 42, 5]  Isaiah saw the Lord, who saith, In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up. [Is. 6, 1]  Michaiah saw the Lord, who saith, I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right hand and on His left. [1 Kings 22, 19]  What does it mean then that so many Fathers of the Old Testament have witnessed that they have seen God, and yet concerning this Wisdom, which is God, it is said, Seeing that it is hid from the eyes of all living?  And John saith, No man hath seen God at any time.  Seeing this, which is plainly given us to understand, that so long as we live here a mortal life, God may be seen by certain semblances, but by the actual appearance of His Nature He cannot be seen, so that the soul being inspired with the grace of the Spirit should by certain figures behold God, but not attain to the actual power of His Essence?  For hence it is that Jacob, who bears witness that he had seen God, saw Him not save in an Angel.  Hence it is that Moses who ‘talked with God face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend,’ in the midst of the very words of his speaking, says, If I have found grace in Thy sight, shew Thyself manifestly to me, that I may see Thee. [Ex. 33, 13. Vulg. Shew me Thy face.]  For assuredly if it were not God with whom he was talking, he would have said, ‘Shew me God,’ and not ‘Shew me Thyself.’  But if it was God, with Whom he was speaking ‘face to face,’ wherefore did he pray to see Him, Whom he was seeing?  But from this requesting of his, it is inferred that Him he was athirst to perceive in the brightness of His Incomprehensible nature, Whom he had already begun to see by certain semblances, that so the heavenly Essence might be present to the eyes of his mind, in order that for the vision of Eternity there might not be interposed to him any created semblance with the circumstances of time.  And so the Fathers of the Old Testament saw the Lord, and yet according to the voice of John, No man hath seen God at anytime; and according to the sentence of blessed Job, the Wisdom Which is God is ‘hid from the eyes of all living,’ because by persons settled in this mortal life He was both able to be seen in certain comprehensible images, and not able to be seen in the Incomprehensible Light of Eternity.


89.  But if it is so, that by some while still living in this corruptible flesh, yet growing in incalculable power by a certain piercingness of contemplation, the Eternal Brightness is able to be seen, this too is not at variance with the sentence of blessed Job, who says, Seeing that it is hid from the eyes of all living; because he that sees ‘Wisdom,’ Which is God, wholly and entirely dies to this life, that henceforth he should not be held by the love thereof.  For no one has seen Her, who still lives in a carnal way, because no man can embrace God and the world at one and the same time.  He who sees God dies by the mere circumstance alone, that either by the bent of the interior, or by the carrying out of practice, he is separated with all his mind from the gratifications of this life.  Hence yet further it is said to that same Moses too; For there shall no man see Me, and live. [Ex. 33, 20]  As though it were plainly expressed, ‘No man ever at any time sees God spiritually and lives to the world carnally.’  Hence Paul the Apostle too, who as yet had learnt the invisible things of God, as he himself testifies, in part, [1 Cor. 13, 12] related that henceforth he was dead all over to this world, saying, By Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. [Gal. 6, 14]  For as we have already said far above, it is not enough for him to say, I am crucified to the world, except he also first out with, The world is crucified to me, that he might not only bear witness that he was dead to the world, but also that the world was dead to himself, so that neither he himself should covet the world, nor the world henceforth covet him.  For if perchance there be two in one place, of whom one is alive, and the other dead, though the dead person does not see the living, yet the live one does see the dead.  Now the Preacher of God, in order that he might shew that by the abasement whereby he had cast himself down in humbling himself he was now become such, that neither he himself longed after the world, nor the world after him; not only says that he was crucified to the world, that he himself as one dead should not see the glory of the world, that he might long after, but likewise declared the world crucified to him, wherein he had cast himself down to the ground with such humility, that the world itself likewise, as if dead to him, could not now at all see Paul as being humble and despised.


90.  But we are to know that there were some persons, who said that even in that region of blessedness God is beheld indeed in His Brightness, but far from beheld in His Nature.  Which persons surely too little exactness of enquiry deceived.  For not to that simple and unchangeable Essence is Brightness one thing, and Nature another; but Its very Nature is to It Brightness, and the very Brightness is Nature.  For that to Its votaries the Wisdom of God should one day display Itself, He Himself pledges His word, saying, He that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. [John 14, 21]  As though He said in plain terms, ‘Ye who see Me in your nature, it remains that ye should see Me in Mine own nature.’  Hence He says again; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matt. 5, 8]  Hence Paul says, For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, then shall I know even as also I am known. [1 Cor. 13, 12]


91.  But because it is said concerning God by the first preacher of the Church, Whom the Angels desire to look upon, [1 Pet. 1, 12] there are some who imagine that even the Angels never see God; and yet we know that it is spoken by a sentence of Truth, In heaven their Angels do always behold the face of My Father, Which is in heaven. [Matt. 18, 10]  Does, then, Truth sound one thing and the preacher of truth another?  But if both sentences be compared together, it is ascertained, that they are not at all at variance with one another.  For the Angels at once see and desire to see God, and thirst to behold and do behold.  For if they so desire to see Him that they never at all enjoy the carrying out of their desire, desire has anxiety without fruit, and anxiety has punishment.  But the blessed Angels are far removed from all punishment of anxiety, because never can punishment and blessedness meet in one.  Again, when we say that these Angels are satisfied with the vision of God, because the Psalmist too says, I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness, [Ps. 17, 15] we are to consider that upon satisfying there follows disgust.  So then, that the two may rightly agree together, let Truth say, that they always see; and let the excellent Preacher say, that they always desire to see.  For that there be not anxiety in desire, in desiring they are satisfied, and that there be not disgust in their satisfying, whilst being satisfied they desire.  And therefore they desire without suffering, because desire is accompanied by satisfying.  And they are satisfied without disgust, because the very satisfying itself is ever being inflamed by desire.  So also shall we too one day be, when we shall come to the fountain of life.  There shall be delightfully stamped upon us at one and the same time a thirsting and a satisfying.  But from the thirsting necessity is far absent, and disgust far from that satisfying, because at once in thirsting we shall be satisfied, and in being satisfied we shall thirst.  Therefore we shall see God, and it shall be the very reward of our labour, that after the darkness of this mortal state we should be made glad by His light being approached unto.


92.  But when we talk of His light being approached, that presents itself to the mind which Paul says, Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, Whom no man hath seen, nor can see. [1 Tim. 6, 16]  And again, I hear what the Psalmist says; Approach unto Him, and be enlightened. [Ps. 34, 5]  How then by approaching are we enlightened, if we see not the very Light by which we are able to be enlightened?  But if by approaching to Him we see the very Light whereby we are enlightened, how is it declared to be unapproachable?  Wherein it deserves to be considered that he called it unapproachable, but to every man that minds the things of men.  Since sacred Scripture is used to mark all the followers of carnal things with the designation of the being ‘men.’  Whence the same Apostle says to certain persons at strife, For whereas there is among you envying and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal; and walk as men? [1 Cor. 3, 3. 4.]  To which he soon afterwards appends, Are ye not men?  And hence he elsewhere brought forward the testimony; Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. [1 Cor. 2, 9]  And when he had described this as hidden from ‘men,’ he added directly, But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; [1 Cor. 2, 10] separating his own self from the designation of ‘man’ in that having been transported above man he now tasted what is divine.  So also in this place, when he told of the light of God being unapproachable, that he might shew to what persons unapproachable, he added, Whom no man hath seen, no nor can see.  After his manner calling ‘men’ all whose taste is for things of man.  Because they who have a taste for what is divine, are doubtless above men.  Therefore we shall see God, if by a heavenly conversation we obtain to be above men.  Not yet that we shall so see Him as He Himself sees His very own Self.  For the Creator sees Himself in a way far unlike to that in which the creature sees the Creator.  For as to the unmeasurableness of God there is a certain measure of contemplation set to us, because we are limited by the mere weight that we are a creature.


93.  But assuredly we do not so behold God, as He sees Himself, as we do not so rest in God, as He rests in Himself.  For our sight or our rest will be to a certain degree like to His sight or His rest, but not equal to it.  For lest we should be prostrate in ourselves, the wing of contemplation, so to say, uplifts us, and we are carried up from ourselves for the beholding Him, and being carried away by the bent of the heart and the sweetness of contemplation, in a certain manner go away from ourselves into Himself, and now this very going away of ours is not to rest, and yet so to go is most perfectly to rest.  And so it is perfect rest because God is discerned, and yet it is not to be equalled to His rest, Who doth not pass on from Himself into another, that He may rest.  And therefore the rest is, so to say, like and unlike, because what His rest is, our rest imitates.  For that we may be blessed and eternal for everlasting, we imitate the Everlasting.  And it is a great eternity to us to be imitating eternity.  Nor are we heritless of Him Whom we imitate, because in seeing we partake, and in partaking imitate Him.  Which same sight is now begun by faith, but is then perfected in Appearance, when we drink at the very springhead the Wisdom coeternal with God which we now derive through the lips of those that preach, as it were in running streams.