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The interpretation being carried on from the last part of the twenty-first verse of the twenty-eighth chapter to the twenty-first verse of the following chapter exclusive, various meanings are laid open not less learnedly than piously, chiefly concerning Christ and the Church.




1.  WHAT wonder is it if the Eternal ‘Wisdom’ of God is not able to be seen, when the very invisible things themselves as well, which were created thereby, cannot be embraced by the eyes of men?  So then by things created we learn with what self-abasement to revere the Creator of all things; so that in this life the human mind should not dare to usurp to itself aught belonging to the Appearance of Almighty God, which He reserves for His Elect only as their reward in the ensuing Recompensing.  Whence after it was said, It is hid from the eyes of all living, we have the words thereupon introduced next;

Chap.  xxviii. 21.  And is kept close also from the fowls of the air.




2.  For in Holy Scripture ‘birds’ are sometimes given to be understood in a bad sense, and sometimes in a good sense. Since by the birds of the air occasionally the powers of the air are denoted, being hostile to the settled purposes of good men.  Whence it is said by the mouth of Truth, And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it; [Matt. 13, 4] in this way, because evilspirits besetting the minds of men, whilst they bring in bad thoughts, pluck the word of life out of the memory. Hence again it is said to a certain rich man full of proud thoughts; the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head. [Matt. 8, 20. Luke 9, 58.] For foxes are very cunning animals, that hide themselves in ditches and caves; and when they face the light, they never run in straight courses, but always by crooked doublings. But the birds as we know with lofty flight lift themselves into the air.  So, then, by the name of ‘foxes,’ the crafty and cunning demons, and by the title of the ‘birds of the air’ these same proud demons are denoted.  As if he said, ‘The deceitful and uplifted demons find their habitation in your heart; i.e. in the imagination of pride,’ ‘but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head,’ i.e. ‘My humility findeth not rest in your proud mind.’  For as by a kind of flight that first bird lifted itself up, which said in the uplifted imagination of the heart; I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: 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.  I will be like the Most High. [Is. 14, 13]  Mark how he in flying sought the regions on high with pride.  Which same flight also he recommended to the first of human kind as well.  For they themselves by flying as it were tried to go above their own selves, when it was told them that they should taste and be like gods.  And while they seek after the likeness of the Deity, they lost the blessings of immortality, which same would not by dying have gone into the earth, if they had been willing to stand with humility upon the earth.


3.  But, on the other hand, ‘the birds of the air’ are wont to be put in a good sense, as in the Gospel the Lord, when He was declaring a likeness of the kingdom of heaven by a grain of mustard seed, said, Unto what is the kingdom of heaven like?  and whereunto shall I resemble it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew and waxed a great tree, and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. [Luke 13, 18. 19.]  For He is Himself ‘a grain of mustard seed,’ Who, when He was planted in the burial place of the garden, rose up a great tree.  For He was ‘a grain,’ whereas He died, but ‘a tree,’ whereas He rose again.  ‘A grain,’ through the abasement of the flesh, ‘a tree,’ through the mightiness of His Majesty.  ‘A grain,’ because we have seen Him, and He was not regarded [Is. 53, 2]; but ‘a tree,’ because fairer in form than the children of men. [Ps. 45, 2]  The branches of this tree are the holy preachers.  And let us see how wide they are stretched out. For what is said concerning them?  Their sound is gone forth into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. [Ps. 19, 4]  In these ‘boughs the birds of the air rest,’ because the holy souls, which by a kind of wings of virtues lift themselves up from earthly thinking, do in the word and consolations of these take breath from the wearying of this life.  And so in this place after it was said of ‘Wisdom,’ It is hid from the eyes of all men; it is rightly added, It is kept close also from the fowls of the air: because being settled in the corruptible flesh, these very persons do not in seeing penetrate the mightiness of His Nature, who earn by holy contemplation even now to fly with wings.  Where it is well added,

Ver.22.  Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.




4.  Who are denoted by the title of ‘destruction and death,’ save the evil spirits, who proved the inventors of ‘destruction and of death,’ as of their leader himself under the appearance of his minister it is said by John, And his name was Death. [Rev. 6, 8] Unto whom all spirits of pride being subject, say concerning this ‘Wisdom,’ Which is God, we have heard the fame thereof with our ears, in this way, that the vision thereof doubtless they could not have with complete blessedness. For perfectly to see the Wisdom coeternal with God, is the same thing as to ‘have.’  Hence it is said to John of the reward of one conquering, I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. [Rev. 2, 17]  For in this life we are able either to know or see sometimes a thing even which we have not received; but to have ‘a new name written on a white stone’ is in an eternal recompense to have the knowledge of God strange to the faculties of men, which no man can know saving he that receiveth it.  Therefore as we have said, because to see God is the same thing that it is to have, therefore the evil spirits do not see this ‘Wisdom,’ because being cast off through pride they were never able to have It.  For they shut the eyes of the heart to the light of It, resisting the rays thereof shed abroad over them, as that may be also understood of the same evil spirits, which is written, They are of those that rebel against the light. [Job 24, 13]  And so for evil spirits to have ‘heard of the fame of Wisdom,’ but not to have seen that Wisdom, is at once to have ascertained the power thereof by its efficacy, and yet to have been unwilling to stand humbly under it.  Hence it is said by the voice of Truth of the actual head of evil spirits, He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth. [John 8, 44]  It follows;

Ver. 23, God understandeth, the way thereof; and He knoweth the place thereof.




5.  This Wisdom coeternal with God has ‘a way’ in one sense, and in another sense ‘a place;’ but only a ‘place,’ if a person understand it a place not local.  For God is not capable of being held close after the manner of a body. But as has been said, a place not local is meant.  The ‘place’ of ‘Wisdom’ is the Father, ‘the place’ of the Father is ‘Wisdom,’ as, Wisdom Herself bearing testimony, it is said, I am in the Father, and the Father in Me. [John 14, 10]  So then the same identical Wisdom has ‘a way’ in one sense, and ‘a place’ in another sense; ‘a way’ by the passing of the manhood, ‘a place’ by the settledness’ of the Godhead. For She passes not by in the respect that She is eternal, but She does pass by in the respect that for our sakes She appeared subject to time.  For it is thus written in the Gospel, And as they departed from Jericho, the Lord passed by.  And, behold, two blind men, sitting by the way side, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David. [Matt. 20, 29. 30.]  At whose voice, as it is there written, Jesus stood still, [ver. 32] and restored light.  Now what is it to hear passing by, but to restore sight standing still, but that by His manhood He compassionated us, Who by the power of His Godhead banished from us the darkness of our souls?  For in that for our sakes He was born and suffered, that He rose again and ascended into heaven, it is as if Jesus passed by, because surely these are doings in time.  But He touched and enlightened them standing still, because not as that temporal economy doth likewise the Word’s Eternity pass by, Which while remaining in Itself renews all things.  For God’s standing is His ordering all things mutable by immutable purposing.  He, then, Who heard the voices of those imploring Him while ‘passing by,’ restored light standing still.  For though for our sakes He underwent things temporal, yet He bestowed light upon us by the same thing that He knows not to have the passing of mutability.  Therefore because when He should through flesh appear to men was an uncertain thing, it is rightly said now, God understandeth the way thereof; and He knoweth the place thereof.  As though it were expressed in plain words; ‘To the thought of man the two are hidden, whether the time when by flesh Wisdom may come to men, or the mode bow, even when he appears without, He continues invisible with the Father.


6.  Although this may also be understood in another sense. For ‘the way thereof’ is not inappropriately taken to be that actual thing that comes into the mind, and infuses itself into us in the interior.  And ‘the place thereof’ the heart becomes, coming unto which She abides.  Thus of this Her way it is said, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord [Matt. 3, 3]; i.e. ‘Open in your hearts an entrance to Wisdom at Her coming;’ as it is elsewhere said; Make a way for him, that ascendeth above the setting. [Ps. 68, 4. Vulg.]  For to ‘ascend over the setting,’ was by rising again to have got the mastery over that very death, He had undergone.  And so he says, For him, that ascendeth above the setting, make ye a way; i.e. ‘To the Lord on His rising again make a way in your hearts by faith.’  Hence it is said to John by the Spirit; Thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, to prepare His way. [Luke 1, 76]  For everyone that by preaching cleanses the hearts of those that hear him from the defilements of bad habits, prepares a way for Wisdom on Her coming.  Thus, this ‘Wisdom’ hath ‘a way,’ and hath ‘a place;’ ‘a way’ whereby She comes, ‘a place’ wherein She abides; as She Herself saith; If any man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him. [John 14, 23]  So then there is ‘a way’ by which She comes, ‘a place’ wherein She abideth.  But whereunto does She come, Who is every where?  Is it for Wisdom to come, by the enlightening of our mind to make the presence of Her mightiness to appear?  And because it is doubtful to men both into what person’s heart She comes, or in what man, after She has come, She rests in abiding there, it is rightly said now, God understandeth the way thereof, and He knoweth the place thereof.  Because it appertains to the Divine sight alone to see, whether by what methods the perception of Wisdom may come to the heart of man, or whose soul shall not lose by deadly imaginations the understanding of life, which it has been vouchsafed.  And because this same ‘Wisdom’ made manifest by the graciousness of the Manhood was destined in all the regions of the world to fill to the full the hearts of the Elect, it is rightly added;

Ver. 24.  For he regardeth the ends of the earth, and seeth all things that are under the heaven.




7.  For God’s ‘regarding’ is the renewing to His grace the things that were lost and undone; whence it is written, A King that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with His eyes. [Prov. 20, 8]  For by regarding He restrained the evils of our lightness, and bestowed great worth of maturedness.  Whence it is further added;

Who made the weight for the winds.




8.  For in the Holy Scripture, by the rapidity and subtlety of the winds souls are used to be denoted, as it is spoken by the Psalmist of God; Who walketh above the things of the winds; [Ps. 104, 3. Vulg.] i.e. ‘Who passes above the virtues of souls.’  Accordingly ‘He made the weight for the winds,’ in that whilst Wisdom from above fills souls, it renders them weighty with imparted maturity, not with that weightiness, of which it is said, Ye children of men, how long with a heavy heart. [Ps. 4, 2]  For it is one thing to be weighty in respect of counsel, and another in respect of sin; it is one thing to be weighty, by constancy, another to be weighty by offence.  For this latter weightiness has weight of burthen, the other weight of merit. Thus, therefore, souls receive weight, that they should not henceforth with light motion glance off from their aim at God, but be made to settle into Him with immoveable weightiness of constancy.  Still was that people lightly moved to and fro, of which it is said by the Prophet, And he went on frowardly in the way of his own heart.  I have seen his ways: and I let him go. [Is. 57, 17, 18]  But weighty counsel in heart banishes all inconstancy of wandering.  And because there are souls, that with light motion are now after one set of objects, now after another, Almighty God, because these very light waverings of men’s minds He does not estimate lightly, by abandoning passes judgment on the wandering of the heart.  But when through grace He regards the wandering mind, He fixes it into stedfastness of counsel.  And so it is rightly said now, And made weight for the winds; because the light motions of the mind, when He deigns to regard with mercifulness, He directly fashions that mind to maturedness of constancy.  Or otherwise to ‘make weight for the winds,’ is to qualify with intermixed infirmity the glory resulting from virtuous achievements, which is vouchsafed to the Elect here.  Whence it is also subjoined;

And he weigheth the waters by measure.




9.  ‘Waters’ in Holy Scripture are wont sometimes to denote the Holy Spirit, sometimes sacred knowledge, sometimes wrong knowledge, sometimes calamity, sometimes drifting peoples, sometimes the minds of those following, the faith.  Thus by water we have the Inpouring of the Holy Spirit represented, as when it is said in the Gospel, He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  Where the Evangelist following on added; But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive. [John 7, 38. 39.]  Again, by water sacred knowledge is denoted, as it is said; And give him the water of wisdom to drink. [Ecclus. 15, 3]  By water likewise bad knowledge is wont to be designated, as when the woman in Solomon, who bears a type of heresy, charms with crafty persuasion, saying, Stolen waters are sweet. [Prov. 9, 17]  By the term of waters too tribulation are used to be signified, as it is said by the Psalmist, Save me, O God, for the waters are come in even unto my soul. [Ps. 69, 1]  By water peoples are denoted, as it is said by John, Now the waters are peoples.  By water likewise not only the tide of peoples drifting away, but also the minds of good men that follow the preachings of faith, are denoted, as the Prophet saith, Blessed are ye that sow upon all waters. [Is. 32, 20]  And it is said by the Psalmist; The voice of the Lord is upon the waters. [Ps. 29, 3]  In this place, then, what is denoted by the title of ‘waters,’ saving the hearts of the Elect, which by the understanding of Wisdom, have now received the hearing of the heavenly voice?  Touching whom it is rightly said; And weigheth the waters by measure.  Because the very Saints, who by the Holy Spirit bearing them up are transported on high, so long as they are in this life, that they may not swell high with any self-elation, are kept down by certain temptations, that they may never have the power to advance as much as they have the wish, but lest they should be exalted by pride, there takes place in them a kind of measure of their very virtues.


10.  It is hence that Elijah, after that by so many achievements he had advanced on high, was suspended aloft by a kind of measure, when he afterwards fled from Jezebel, though a queen, yet only a weak woman.  For I consider with myself that this man of marvellous power drew down fire from heaven, and once and again by momentary beseeching consumed the captains of fifty with all their men, by a word shut up the heavens from rain, by a word opened the heavens to rain, raising the dead, foreseeing the several things to come, and, lo, again it occurs to mind, with what dismay he fled before a single weak woman.  I see the man, as being stricken with fear, from the hand of God seeking death, yet not obtaining it, from the hand of a woman shunning death by taking to flight.  For he sought death, whilst he fled, saying, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. [1 Kings 19, 4]  Whence then was he so powerful as to perform those so numerous miracles? whence so weak as to be dismayed at a woman, except that ‘the waters are weighed with measure;’ that the very Saints of God should at once prevail greatly through the power of God, and again be limited by a kind of measure through their own infirmity.  In those powers Elijah learnt what he had received ‘from God, in these weaknesses what he had power to be by himself.  That mightiness was power, this weakness the keeper of power.  In these powers he shewed what he had received, in these weaknesses that which he had received he kept safe.  In the miracles Elijah was to be brought out to view, in the weaknesses he was to be preserved secure.


11.  In the same way I see that Paul, encountering the perils of rivers and robbers, of the city and the wilderness, of sea and land, bridling the body by fasts and watchings, undergoing the ills of cold and nakedness, exercising himself watchfully and with pastoral care to the safe-keeping of the Churches, [2 Cor. 11, 26] being caught up into the third heaven, and again caught up into Paradise, at once heard secret words which it is not permitted to man to utter, and yet is given over to an angel of Satan to be tempted; he prays that be might be released, and is not heard.  And when I look to the mere beginnings of his conversion, I consider with myself that heavenly pity opens the heavens to him, and Jesus shews Himself to him from on high.  He that lost the light of the body for a time, received the light of the heart for evermore.  He is sent to Ananias, he is called A chosen vessel, [Acts 9, 15] and yet from that same city, which he had entered after the vision of Jesus, he departs in flight, as he himself bears witness, saying, In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept guard over the city of the Damascenes, desirous to apprehend me; and through a window, in a basket, was I let down by the wall, and so escaped his hands. [2 Cor. 11, 32. 33.]  Unto whom I will take leave to say, ‘O Paul, already seest thou Jesus in heaven, and still dost thou fly man on earth?  Art thou carried into Paradise, art thou made acquainted with secret words of God, and still art thou tempted by a messenger of Satan?  Whence so strong, that thou art caught up to heavenly places, whence so weak that thou fliest from man on the earth, and still sufferest hard handling from a messenger of Satan, saving that the Same, Who lifts thee on high, again limits thee with the minutest measuring, that both in thy miracles thou shouldest preach to us the power of God, and again in thy fear cause us to remember our own infirmity?’ Which same infirmity, however, that it may not draw us on into despair when it buffets us, whilst thou wert beseeching God touching thine infirmity, because thou wert not heard, to us also thou hast told what thou didst hear; My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness. [2 Cor. 12, 9] 


12.  Thus by the plain voice of God it is shewn that the guardian of power is frailty.  For we are then kept to good effect within, when by God’s appointment we are tempted to a bearable degree without, sometimes by bad propensities, sometimes by pressing misfortunes.  For to these likewise, whom we know to have been men of mighty virtues, there were not wanting temptations and conflicts from the vices. Hence it is that for our encouragement the same great Preacher condescends to bring to view things of that kind concerning his own case, saying, I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. [Rom. 7, 23] For the flesh forces down below, that the Spirit may not uplift, and the Spirit draws up on high, that the flesh may not bring to the ground.  The Spirit lifts up, that we may not lie grovelling in the lower world, the flesh weighs down, that we should not be lifted up on account of the things on high.  If the flesh tempted us, while the Spirit did not uplift us, too surely by the absoluteness of its tempting it would cast us down below.  But again, if the Spirit lifted us above, while the flesh did not tempt, It would by that very uplifting prostrate us the worse in the fall of pride.  But by a certain regulating method it takes place, that whilst each one of the Saints is already indeed transported on high inwardly, but is still tempted outwardly, he “neither incurs the downfall of desperation, nor of self-exaltation; seeing that neither does outward temptation bring transgression to its accomplishment, because the interior bent draws upwards; nor again does this interior bent lift up into pride, because the exterior temptation abases whilst it weighs down.  Thus by a high appointment we see in the interior advancement what we receive, in the exterior shortcoming what we are, and by a strange method it is brought to pass that a man should neither be lifted up on the ground of virtue, nor despair on the ground of temptation, because while the Spirit draws, and the flesh draws back, by the exactest regulating of the Interior Judgment, the soul is balanced in a kind of mean above the things below, and below the things above.  Therefore it is well said,

Ver. 26, 27.  When He made a decree for the rain, and a way for the sounding tempests, then did He see it and declare it; He prepared it, yea, and searched it out.




13.  By ‘rain’ the sayings of those that preach are used to be denoted.  Whence it is said by Moses; Let my doctrine be waited for as the rain; [Deut. 32, 2] whose words, that is to say, when they gently persuade are ‘rain,’ but when they thunder out terrible things touching the Judgment to come, they are ‘sounding tempests.’  And it deserves to be noted, that ‘a decree is made for the rain,’ in order that ‘a way may be opened for the sounding tempests.’  For a decree has been set to the preachers themselves, that by living they fulfil what by uttering they are forward to recommend.  For the authoritativeness of speaking is lost, when the voice is not supported by the practice.  For here it is said by the Psalmist, But unto the wicked God saith; What hast thou to do to declare My statutes, or that thou shouldest take My covenant in thy mouth?  seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest My words behind thee. [Ps. 50, 16. 17.]  For the words of God the preacher does cast behind himself, when the same that he says he thinks scorn to do.  But when may another obey his sayings, whilst he himself rejects in practice what he preaches with the voice, and shews not to hear that he tells?  Of this law of preaching it is written; Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoso shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [Matt. 5, 19]  ‘The kingdom of heaven,’ we see, He calls the present Church; concerning which it is written, And they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend. [Matt. 13, 41]  For in the Kingdom Above ‘offences’ that should have to be gathered out thereof do not take place.  He then that breaks in practice, and teaches the like in words, in this kingdom of heaven shall be the least, in the other not even the least.  Now ‘He set a way to the sounding tempests,’ when for His preachers He made access to the hearts of men stricken with dread of the Judgment to come.  So first ‘a law is set,’ that afterwards ‘a way may be opened,’ because that voice pierceth the heart of him that heareth, which maintains by practice the thing that it has sounded with the lips.  Now it was then when ‘He set a law to the showers, and a way to the sounding tempests,’ that God ‘saw, declared, prepared, and searched’ this ‘Wisdom.’  By a mode of speech customary to Holy Writ, for God to see is a phrase for causing us to see, as the Lord saith to the righteous man, Now I know that thou fearest God. [Gen. 22, 12]  And the Israelites are forewarned; The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God, [Deut. 13, 3] i.e. ‘that He may make you to know.’  At that time, then, when ‘He set a law to the showers,’ i.e. gave the precept of watching to the preachers, this ‘Wisdom’ made Incarnate He caused to be ‘seen and declared’ by the preachers, to be ‘prepared and searched’ by the hearers. Since he ‘prepares’ Her for himself, whosoever by living aright is procuring Her favourable against the Day of Judgment.  And observe that there are four particulars spoken respecting her.  For he says, He did see it and declare it, He prepared it, yea, He searched it.  Thus He ‘saw,’ in that She is ‘a Likeness;’ He ‘declared it,’ in that She is ‘the Word;’ ‘prepared it,’ in that She is a remedy; and ‘searched it,’ in that She is a thing hidden from sight.  But this, viz. that the Eternal Wisdom of God is ‘the Likeness’ and ‘the Word’ of the Father, when is it penetrated by the mind of man?  For who might understand either a Word apart from time, or a Likeness apart from limiting.  Therefore there was need for something to be said, which man might recognise concerning Her by himself; whence it is fitly subjoined;

Ver. 28.  And unto man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is Wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.




14.  As though it were spoken in plain speech; ‘Man, turn back to thine own self; sift thoroughly the secrets of thine own heart.  If thou findest out that thou dost fear God, surely it is plain that of this Wisdom thou art full.  Which same if thou art not able to learn what in herself She is, meanwhile thou henceforth findest what She is in thyself. For She that is feared in herself by the Angels, in thee is called ‘the fear of the Lord.’  Because it is certain that thou possessest Her, if it is not uncertain that thou dost fear God.’  Hence also it is said by the Psalmist; The beginning of Wisdom is the fear of the Lord, [Ps. 111, 10] because She then begins to penetrate the heart, when She disturbs it by the dread of the final Judgment.  Therefore the Word of God draws Itself in to our littleness; just as a father, when he speaks to his little child, in order that he may be able to be understood by him, talks stammeringly of his own accord.  For because we are unable to penetrate the nature of Wisdom, what She is in herself, by the condescension of God, we have heard what She is in us, when it is said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is Wisdom.  But because he really understands the force of Divine fear, who keeps himself from all bad practices, it is rightly subjoined; And, to depart from evil is understanding. So then the things that come after, that they are full of the spirit of prophecy, the words of the sacred history themselves bear testimony, whereas it is said,

C. xxix. l.  Moreover Job continued his parable, and said.




15.  For because a parable is a name for a likeness, it plainly appears that through a form of exterior words he speaks mysteries, who with reference to speaking is recorded to have ‘taken up a parable.’ 




For when he relates his own circumstances, he is telling all the things that are to come to Holy Church, and through the thing that he himself undergoes he points out what she should undergo.  But sometimes he so mixes the words of his own history, that he sounds not of any thing allegorical, while sometimes he so utters his own sorrows as though he were giving utterance in the voice of the sorrowing Church.  But in the last part of his discourse, he designates the last time of the Church, when her adversaries, i.e. carnal persons, or heretics and pagans, whom she now busies herself to repress by the authority of wisdom, being set up with unbridled boastfulness, she is obliged to put up with, while derided.  Whence in this discourse likewise it is said; But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to put with the dogs of my flock. [Job 30, 1]  And the very principle of the arrangement requires that by the last words of blessed Job, the last days of Holy Church should be denoted, when, persecution increasing, she is forced to bear the undisguised voices of heretics, when those motions of their hearts, which they now cover up within the depths of their thoughts, they then disclose in the utterance of error made manifest.  For now, as it is said by John, the dragon is imprisoned and held fast in the bottomless pit [Rev. 20, 3], because the wickedness of the devil is hidden from sight in their crafty hearts.  But, as is there said, the dragon shall be brought forth out of the bottomless pit, because whatsoever is now covered over from fear, then against the Church openly out of the hearts of the wicked is all that serpent’s venom brought to light.  For now the envenomed feeling hides itself from sight under a flattering tongue, and malevolence of craft as it were covers itself with a kind of bottomless pit of dissembling.  Now the Lord, as it is expressed by the voice of the Psalmist, gathereth the waters of the sea as in a skin. [Ps. 33, 7]  For the ‘skin’ is carnal thinking.  So ‘the waters of the sea are gathered in a skin,’ when the bitterness of a froward mind does not burst forth outwardly into the voice of unhallowed liberty.  Surely the time shall come, when the froward and the carnal speak forth against her with unreserved voice that which they now go about with secret thought.  The time shall come when they shall oppress the Catholic Church not only with unjust words, but with cruel wounds.


16.  For from her adversaries the Church suffers persecution in two ways, viz. either by words or by swords.  Now when she bears persecution by words, her wisdom is put in exercise, when by swords, her patience.  Now persecutions of words we do now too as well daily undergo at the hands of heretics, when heretics themselves flatter us with crafty tongues and with feigned humility, but the persecutions of swords are destined to follow towards the end of the world, that the grains to be stored up in the heavenly granaries may be the more genuinely cleared of the chaff of sins, the more straitly they are bruised with affliction.  Then all the Elect, that may be caught in that tribulation, call to mind these times when now the Church secures the peace of the faith, when she holds under the proud necks of heretics, not by the potency of her highness, but by the yoke of reason.  They call to mind ourselves, who are passing quiet times of faith, who, though we be straitened in the wars [Alluding to the hostilities of the Lombards especially.] of the nations, yet are not driven to extremity in the sayings of Fathers.  Thus blessed Job bearing a type of Holy Church, which is then found in these straits, and yet remembers herself of our tranquillity, as I said, describes the particulars of himself past, and tells the particulars destined to come to others, saying;

Ver. 2.  Who would give me that I might be as in the months past?




17.  For Holy Church being borne down with sorrows is to say many like things.  For it shall be for her to be besieged with such great tribulations, as with great sighing to long for these times, which we undergo with great sorrow.  So then let her say, let her say in the voice of blessed Job, Who would give me that I might be as in the months past?  For because an appointed number of days has the name of ‘months,’ what else does he signify by the title of months, but the gatherings of souls?  For days, while they are gathered in months, are removed away, because in this time as well Holy Church, while she gathers in souls shining bright with the light of truth, hides them in the interior depths.  Sometimes also a month is put for perfection, as when the Prophet says, It shall be a month from a month; [Is. 66, 23] i.e. perfection in rest to those, to whom there may now be perfection in practice.  So let her remember her perfection of old, let her bring back to mind with what preaching of hers, by souls gathered in, she carried off her gains, and being straitened by tribulations, let her say, Who would give me that might be as in the months of old?  In which same months, who and what he was, he subjoins in telling over, saying;

Ver. 3.  As in the days when God preserved me; when His lamp shined upon my head, and when by His light I walked through darkness.




18.  For then, persecution forcing thereto, she sees multitudes of the frail fall from her, whom now as a mother she cherishes as her little ones within the bosom of peace, and keeps close within the quiet cradles of faith, seeing that being mixed with the strong they are nurtured by the very tranquillity of the faith.  But then many such are destined to fall, and through the bowels of charity, whatever it sustains in the damage of the little ones, the mind of the perfect laments that itself undergoes.  For every damage of the weak is by compassion made to pass to the hearts of the strong, Whence it is said by Paul, Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? [2 Cor. 11, 29]  For a man is perfect in such proportion as he perfectly feels the sorrows of others.  Whence Holy Church, being brought to a pass by the weak ones falling at that time, shall say with right, As in the days when God preserved me; because herself she then accounts to fall in those, who now sees herself in these to be kept safe.  And it is well said, When His lamp shined upon my head, and when by His light I walked through darkness.  For by the term of a ‘lamp’ the light of Holy Scripture is represented, whereof the Shepherd of the Church himself saith, We have also the word of prophecy more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in your hearts. [2 Pet. 1, 19]  And the Psalmist saith, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. [Ps. 119, 105]  Now because our topmost part is the mind, the mind is rightly styled by the designation of ‘head.’  Whence it is said by the Psalmist, Thou hast anointed my head with oil. [Ps. 23, 5]  As if he said in plain terms, ‘Thou hast filled my soul with the fatness of charity.’  And so now ‘the lamp shines upon the head’ of the Church, because the sacred Oracles enlighten the darkness of our minds, that in this darksome place of the present life, whilst we receive the light of the word of God, we should see what things are to be done.  Now she ‘walks by His light in darkness,’ because the Holy Church Universal, though it penetrate not the secrets of another’s thought, because as it were it does not know the face in the night, yet it sets the steps of good practice, being governed by the light of Heavenly Revelation.  It goes on;

Ver.4.  As I was in the days of my youth, when God was secretly in my tabernacle.




19.  As of each individual man, so is the age of Holy Church described.  For she was a little one, when fresh from the birth she was unable to preach the Word of Life.  Hence it is said of her, My sister is a little one, and she hath no breasts; [Cant. 8, 8] in this way, that Holy Church, before she made progress by accessions of virtue, was not able to yield the teats of preaching to the weak ones her hearers.  But the Church is called ‘adult’ when being wedded to the Word of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, by the office of preaching she is with young in the conception of children, with whom by exhorting she travails, whom by converting she brings forth.  Of this age of hers it is said to the Lord; The young maidens have loved Thee. [Cant. 1, 3]  For all the Churches, which constitute one Catholic Church, are called young maidens, not now aged by sin, but young ones by grace, not barren by old age, but by the age of the soul fitted for spiritual fruitfulness.  Accordingly then, when in those days being as it were enfeebled by a kind of old age she hath not strength to bring forth children by preaching, she calls to mind the bygone fruitfulness, saying, As I was in the days of my youth.  Though after those days wherein she is borne down, yet, this notwithstanding, now at length towards the actual end of times, she is empowered with a mighty efficacy of preaching.  For the Gentiles being taken in to the full, all the Israelitish people that shall then be found she draws into the bosom of the faith.  Since it is written; Until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved. [Rom. 11, 25. 26.]  But before those times there shall be days, in the which she shall appear for a little while borne down by her adversaries, when too she remembers these days, saying,

As I was in the days of my youth; when God was secretly in my tabernacle.


20.  What in this place do we take the ‘tabernacle’ for but the dwelling-place of the mind?  Because by all that we do with taking thought, we dwell in the counsel of our heart. But whoever in silence thinks of the precepts of God, to him ‘God is secretly in his tabernacle.’  For he had seen the dwelling-place of his heart to be before the eyes of God, who said, And the meditation of my heart always in Thy sight. [Ps. 19, 14]  For outward deeds are open to the eyes of men, but widely and incomparably more our interior and minutest thoughts are open to the eyes of God.  For, as it is written, all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him.  And oftentimes in the outward deed we are afraid to appear disordered before the eyes of men, and in the interior thought are not afraid of the regard of Him, Whom, whilst He sees all things, we see not.  For we are much more discernible by God within than we are by men without.  And hence all the Saints scan themselves both within and without on every side, and are in fear of either shewing themselves blameworthy outwardly, or wicked inwardly to the invisible seeing. It is hence that the living creatures, which are seen by the Prophet, are recorded to be ‘full of eyes round about and within.’  [Ez. 1, 18. &10, 12. Rev. 4,  6. & 8.]  For he that orders his outward circumstances respectably, but disregards the inward, has eyes ‘round about’ but not ‘within.’  But all the Saints, because they at once scan their exterior ways round and round that they may furnish good examples in themselves to their brethren, and watchfully mark their interior ways, because they are providing themselves irreproachable for the regarding eye of the Interior Judge, are described as having eyes both ‘round about and within;’ and that they may please God, even more do they make themselves complete within their interior self, as it is said by the Psalmist as well of Holy Church, All the glory of her, the king’s daughter, is from within. [Ps. 45, 13]  But because she keeps her outward things also irreproachable, he added with justice concerning her; Clothed about in clothing of wrought gold with embroidery.  That she should be at once beautiful to herself ‘within,’ and to others ‘without,’ both advancing herself by interior glory, and instructing others by the outward examples of deeds.  Thus then let blessed Job say in himself, yea, let him say in the person of the Church Universal, When God was secretly in my tabernacle.  For that he may make it evident how much he had advanced within, he tells, that ‘God was secretly in his tabernacle.’  That he may also shew the deeds of righteousness to what extent he outwardly kept them, he adds;

Ver. 5.  When the Almighty was yet with me; and when my servants were about me.




21.  Now all that stand in awe of the divine precepts become God’s ‘tabernacle.’  Hence as we have already said above, ‘Truth’ saith by Himself of the man that keeps His commandments, I and My Father will come and make Our abode with him. [John 14, 23]  Contrariwise the wicked severally, whereas they do not aim at the things within, pour themselves forth without in the thoughts of their hearts.  Whence it is said to them by the Prophet, Turn back to the heart within, O ye transgressors. [Is. 46, 8]  And again, Woe to you that devise a vain thing. [Mic. 2, 1] Since in their actions they are afraid of men, whom they see with bodily sight, and God, Whom they do not see, they do not account to be present to them.  Contrary whereunto it is said in commendation of a righteous person, seeing that he disregarded the king of Egypt, and obeyed the commandments of God, For he endured, as seeing Him Who is invisible. [Heb. 11, 27]  For the wicked ruler of the earth he as it were saw not, in that he banished him from the eyes of the heart. But the King Invisible ‘as seeing,’ ‘he endured,’ because from the regarding of His fear he turned not aside the eye of the soul.  So Holy Church being taken then in great tribulations, when she sees many by evil imagining depart from God, surely she sees the tabernacle of their mind on God’s departing to remain empty, and justly lamenting, she says, When God was secretly in my tabernacle.  By which words, and not inappropriately, the feigning of religion is likewise bewailed, because there are those even now that aim not to be, but to seem Christians.  These without question have God in public, not ‘in secret.’  But Holy Church desires to have God ‘in secret,’ because He regards those really faithful ones, whom He knows to be holding on to the life of faith with complete affection.  Which same, as well also with reference to the external uprightness of her activity, saith, When the Almighty was yet with me: when my servants were about me.  ‘Servants’ surely those are called, who do the bidding of the heavenly precepts.  Whence the Lord saith by the Prophet, Behold I, and my servants which the Lord hath given me. [Is. 8, 18]  And again in the Gospel, Servants [Pueri Vulg. The Greek diminutive hardly bears this.], have ye any meat? [John 21, 5]  And so now ‘the servants are round about her,’ because in all nations almost there are found those that keep the commandments of heaven, and obey the rules of spiritual discipline.  Which servants, too truly, shall then be lacking to do her service, when the wicked doers, that shall be found, despise her spiritual precepts.  It goes on;

Ver. 6.  When I washed my feet with butter.




22.  Whereas we have already frequently said that Christ and the Church are one person, He, that is to say, the Head of that Body, and She the Body of that Head; these words are to be understood after the voice of the Head in one way, after the voice of the Body in another way.  Whom then do we take for ‘the feet’ of the Lord, but the holy Preachers.  Of whom He saith, And I will walk in them. [Lev. 26, 12]  Thus ‘the feet are washed with butter,’ because the holy Preachers are filled to the full with the fatness of good works.  For, as we have already said above, scarcely is the mere preaching itself carried on without something being done wrong.  For any man preaching is either drawn on into some slight indignation, if he is despised, or into some little glorying, if he is reverenced by those that hear him.  Whence the Apostles too had their feet washed, that from any slight defilement contracted in the act of preaching itself they might be cleansed as from a sort of dust collected by a journey.  And blessed James saith, My brethren, be not many masters. And a little after, For in many things we offend all. [Jam. 3, 1. 2.]  Thus ‘the feet are washed with butter,’ because the dust gathered by glory in preaching is steeped and cleansed by the fatness of good works.  Or otherwise ‘the feet are washed with butter,’ when the wages owing are paid to the holy Preachers by those that hear, and those whom the imposed labour of preaching exhausts, the richness of good practice exhibited by the disciples cheers; not that they preach for this that they may be fed, but that they are therefore fed, that they may preach; i.e. that they may hold up to preach; not so that the action of the preacher should pass into the aim of getting support, but that the ministering of support should be made subservient to the usefulness of preaching.  Whence by good preachers it is not for the sake of the means of living that preaching is rendered, but for the sake of preaching that the means of living are accepted.  And as often as what is wanted is bestowed on those that preach by those that hear them, they are not used to take delight in the benefit of the good things, but in the reward of those bestowing them.  Whence it is said by Paul, Not because I desire a gift, but I desire fruit. [Phil. 4, 17.]  For the ‘gift’ is the actual thing that is bestowed; but the fruit thereof is if with a kindly disposition a thing be bestowed in the pursuit of the future recompense.  So we receive the gift in the thing, the fruit thereof in the heart.  And because the Apostle was fed rather by the recompense of his disciples than by the benefaction, he avouches that he ‘seeks not a gift,’ but ‘fruit.’  Hence he straightway added, saying, But I have all and abound.  Therefore ‘the feet are washed with butter,’ when the holy preachers, as we said, worn out by the actual preaching itself, are regaled with the good deeds of their hearers.  For the weary ‘feet’ he had ‘anointed with butter,’ who heard, Because the bowels of the Saints are refreshed by the brother. [Philem. 7.]  With this ‘butter the foot was anointed,’ which was held fast in fetters, saying, The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus: for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain. [2 Tim. 1, 16]  So then if by the voice of the Head we form our estimate of the words, we do rightly as has been said in taking ‘the feet’ for preachers.


23.  But if we are to interpret these words in the voice of the Body alone, then the feet of the Church are the ministers of inferior works, which whilst they enforce the things that are without for necessary purposes, by the lowest ministration stick to the ground like feet.  But they that are at the head, who are intent on the pursuit of instruction, ought with heedful care to question the hearts of the busied, and by the voice of frequent admonition to administer to them that pouring in of richness which they themselves as disengaged receive, For because in one body the members are interested for one another reciprocally, just as our outermost parts are stayed up by their ministrations, so it is necessary that their interior parts should be filled by our pursuits.  When then to persons devoted to the extremest offices the holy doctors preach the anointing oil of our Lord’s Incarnation, they ‘wash the feet with the butter’ of utterance, Moreover the feet are accustomed to be lacerated by the mere ruggedness of the way; whence it is altogether difficult at once to go a journey in the earthly actions of this life, and not sustain any wounds at all from the exertion of the journey.  And so when the rulers keeping watch call back to their heart within their hearers engrossed with exterior concerns, that they may ascertain what evil things they have committed amidst the very deeds allowed to be done, and that what they find out they may bewail, ‘they wash the feet with butter;’ because to the wounds of these persons they administer the ointments of penitence.  Therefore let Holy Church being unspeakably afflicted remember how in the time of her peace she purified by the word of exhortation even the furthest members in herself, and let her say, When I washed my feet with butter.




Which it is wonderfully interesting to view in the case of blessed Job, who amidst so many cares of property, so many interests for children, so many engagements of sacrifices, preached to his dependents, howsoever the very farthest, the good things of the life ensuing, that those he might inoculate touching heavenly things, who were working for him at earthly services.  What do we Bishops say to all this, who to those committed to us care not to render the word of life, when a wedded husband, neither the secular garb, nor the management of large means were able to debar the office of preaching. 




But saving the historical verity, let us now return to the words of Holy Church, who tells by blessed Job, i.e. by the mouth of a Member of her own, how great are the things that she shall suffer in the last time, when she remembers her past fortunes, when by that same richness of the word the life of those in action was cleansed. Who in more fully following out that same watchfulness of her preachers adds;

And the rock poured me out rivers of oil.




24.  That by the title of a rock Christ is denoted, the great Preacher avouches, saying, And that rock was Christ. [1 Cor. 10, 4]  Which very ‘rock’ doth now ‘pour out rivers of oil’ for the use of Holy Church, because the Lord by speaking therein gives out the preachings of the interior anointing.  ‘From this Rock that river of oil issued forth,’ the book of Matthew, the book of Mark, the book of Luke, and the book of John. In the several regions of this world for all the preachings she put forth, this ‘Rock poured out’ as many ‘rivers of oil’ by the mouths of the Apostles.  As many times still ‘a river of oil is poured out from this Rock,’ as often as to the minds of the hearers, to be anointed by the Holy Spirit, those things are explained which are spoken concerning Christ in the old Books.  And they are called ‘rivers of oil,’ because they run out and anoint; in which same he that is dipped is anointed, and he that is anointed is fattened within.  Of which fatness doubtless it is that the Psalmist saith, Let my soul be filled as with marrow and fatness. [Ps. 63, 5]  It may be that by the designation of oil the actual anointing of the Holy Spirit is denoted, whereof it is said by the Prophet; And the yoke shall rot at the presence of the oil. [Is. 10, 27.]  For ‘the yoke doth rot at the presence of the oil,’ because whilst we are anointed with the grace of the Holy Spirit, we are set free from the bondage of our captivity; and whereas the proud dominion of the evil spirit is thrown off, the yoke is broken in pieces, wherewith the necks of our liberty were borne down.  Of this oil again it is written; A vineyard was made to my beloved on the horn, a child of oil. [Is. 5, 1.]  For ‘a child of oil,’ the faithful people is called, which is engendered to the faith of God by the interior anointing of the Holy Spirit.  And so at that time let Holy Church, being borne down by countless sorrows, recal to remembrance the gifts of the Spirit and the marvellous preachings which are her’s now, and let her bewail her own silence, saying, The rock poured me out rivers of oil.  To which words he fitly subjoins;

Ver.7-10.  When I went out to the gate of the city, and in the street they prepared me a chair?  The young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men rose up and stood.  The princes ceased to speak, and laid the finger on the mouth.  The rulers held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to their mouth.




25.  It was the custom of the ancients, that the elders should sit together in the gates, and judge the cases of those entering in, that so the people of the city might be the more peaceful, in proportion as it was not allowed to those at variance to enter in.  Now we in revering the sacred history hold it certain that all this blessed Job did for the sake of the observance of just dealing, and we are led to the investigating the mysteries of the allegory.  What then is denoted by ‘the gate of the city’ saving every good action, by which the soul enters in to the company of the heavenly Kingdom?  Hence the Prophet saith; Thou, that liftest me up from the gates of death, that I may declare all Thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion. [Ps. 9, 13. 14.]  For ‘the gates of death’ are bad actions, which drag to destruction; but because ‘Sion’ is the word for ‘a viewing,’ ‘the gates of Sion ‘we interpret good actions, by which we enter into the Country Above, that we may view the glory of our King.  But what is denoted by the seat but the authority of mastership.  Now ‘a street’ in the Greek tongue is equivalent to ‘breadth.’  And so now Holy Church goes forth to the gate of the city, because that she may obtain access to the heavenly country, she puts herself out in holy actions.  For whom there is ‘a seat prepared in the street,’ because in the breadth of high authority she displays the freedom of her mastership.  For she that proclaims with public announcement the right things she has a perception of as it were ‘sits in the street on the seat,’ in that she fears no one for her preaching, and oppressed by alarms for no man buries herself under silence. Does not she in public sit in command to teach, whom at one and the same time truth in perceiving and power in teaching bear up?  But whilst he ‘went forth to the gate, and sat in the street on the seat,’ what was done by the light-minded, what by the grave, he adds, saying;

Ver. 8.  The young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men rose up and stood.




26.  If we give heed to the history, the things that he said we believe, if to the allegory, we see the things that he foretold; for those use to be called ‘young men’ who are not burdened with any weightiness of counsels.  But Holy Scripture is used to call those ‘elders,’ not who are ripe by amount of years alone, but by ancientness of character.  Hence it was said by one that was wise; For venerable old age is not that of long time, nor counted by the number of years; but the understanding of a man is grey hairs, and a spotless life is old age. [Wisd. 4, 8. 9.]  Whence the Lord also rightly saith to Moses; Gather unto Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest that they are elders of the people. [Num. 11, 16]  In whom what else is required saving the old age of the heart, when such sort of persons are bidden to be chosen who are known to be elders?  For if it were the old age of the body that were sought for in them, they might have been known by as many as they might have been seen by.  But whereas it is said, whom thou knowest that they are elders of the people; doubtless it is clear that the old age of the mind and not of the body is told as fit to be chosen.  Thus now ‘the young men see Holy Church, and hide themselves, and the old men rise up and stand,’ because her activity and uprightness the immature are afraid of, the aged magnify.  They that are light of mind flee, but the grave and perfect do homage to her by rising up to the merits of her life.  Since the discipline thereof the perfect sort love, the imperfect ones blame.  And so ‘the young men see her and hide themselves,’ because they are afraid to be detected in their hidden courses of conduct.  But ‘the elders rise up and stand,’ because all the perfect make it appear by humility how much they have gained ground in good practice.  But because he describes all this of his own people, let him describe as well how he is feared by foreign people.

Ver. 9, 10.  The princes ceased to speak, and laid the finger on the mouth.  The rulers held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to their throat.




27.  Who else in this place can be understood as leaders or princes, but the framers of heretical evil?  Concerning whom it is said by the Psalmist, Strife was poured out upon their princes, and they led them aside in the pathless place, and not in the way. [Ps. 107, 40]  For these identical persons, while they are not afraid to interpret the dispensation of God in a wrong sense, assuredly draw the common herds subject to them not into that way which is ‘Christ,’ but into ‘a pathless place:’ over whom ‘strife also is lightly said to be poured out,’ because by their statements they contradict mutually themselves.  For Arius in receiving three Persons in the Divine Nature believed three Gods as well.  Contrary to whom Sabellius taking up one God believed there was one Person.  Between whom Holy Church unswervingly holding the right pathway of her preaching both in proclaiming one God, asserts against Sabellius three Persons, and in asserting three Persons, confesses against Arius one God.  Again, because in sacred Revelation Manichaeus found virginity to be commended, he condemned marriage.  But on the other hand Jovinian, because he knew marriages to be allowed, despised the pureness of virginity.  Whence it takes place that, heretics being always at cross purposes by a wrong apprehension, reciprocally their wickedness is at once in accordance with itself in sin, and at variance with itself in opinion.  But on the other hand Holy Church midway between the disputes of either side moves with composed peace, and knows so to receive the higher good, that she also knows to venerate [note: He probably uses this strong word on account of the sanctity of marriage] the lower, so that she should neither equal the highest to the lowest, nor again despise the lowest whilst she venerates the highest.  And so now the rulers of heretical multitudes considering well the authority of Holy Church cease to speak, and as it were ‘put the finger on their mouth,’ whilst with false complaints they signify that they are restrained not by the reasoning of the voice but by the hand of power.  ‘The rulers hold their peace,’ because those same persons who endeavour to draw after them the people going wrong, that they should not now dare to utter what is wrong, are checked at once by the weight of authority and the efficacy of reason.  Whose ‘tongue cleaveth to their throat,’ because though they dare not to speak what is bad with an unrestrained utterance, yet they inwardly cover up in themselves all the things which they go to work to propound untrue against the true faith; therefore these times, the Church, being seized by the tribulation ensuing, calls to mind and laments, saying, When I went out to the gate through the city, and when they prepared me a seat in the street; the young men saw me and hid themselves; and the aged arose and stood up; the princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouths. The leaders held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to their throat.  As though she said in plain speech; ‘When there was an opportunity given me to preach with a voice publicly raised, everyone who was not in subjection to the truth dreaded me.’  For at that time, when Holy Church is weighed down by adversity, license of speech is afforded to all the bad preachers severally. Which Jeremiah beholding long while beforehand, saith, Even the sea-monsters bare the breasts; they give suck to their young ones.  For what else does he designate ‘monsters,’ [lamiae] saving heretics bearing the face indeed of a human being, but the hearts of brute creatures through impiety?  Which same then ‘bare the breast,’ when they freely preach their error.  Then they ‘give suck to their young’ in that the misattached souls of the young ones, while they insinuate therein what is wrong, by nourishing they confirm in impiety.  It follows;

Ver. 11.  The ear hearing me, blessed me; and the eye seeing, gave witness to me.


[xix.]                                    [HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION]


28.  Whereas blessed Job avouches himself to be ‘blessed by those that heard him,’ and to ‘have witness given to him by those that saw him,’ what he was in speech and what in practice, we have shewn us.  For neither is he henceforth perfect in practice, whom wickedness of the tongue still withstands, or praiseworthy in speech who does not exhibit in practice the thing that he utters.  Therefore that blessed Job being found out by the reproaches of his own friends, might declare that he had both these, he shews himself to have been an object of veneration both to the persons bearing and the persons seeing him.  Which if we refer to the voice of Holy Church, that man ‘blesses her words,’ who completes in practice the things he has heard. 




That person ‘gives testimony to her,’ who in patterns of life responds to her by living well.  For he in a true sense sees Holy Church, whose life bears witness that he sees her. For to this end the righteousness of the good is seen within her, that all that see her may be corrected of their wickednesses.  Not yet, then, does he see the good within the pale of Holy Church, who is not reformed from evil habits.  But whence ‘the testimony is rendered to him,’ is shewn, in that he subjoins;

Ver. 12, 13.  Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him.  The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I comforted the widow’s heart.






29.  Great mercifulness these deeds are proofs of, to ‘deliver the poor that crieth,’ to minister aid to the ‘fatherless,’ to rescue one on the point to perish, to ‘cheer the heart of the widow.’  For above it was said what he put forth in respect of instruction.  For he says; The ear hearing blessed me; but now he relates what he rendered in respect of mercifulness, saying, Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him.  Since the voice along with the deed of necessity accords with itself. 




These things blessed Job both exhibited to those under him, and thus notwithstanding represented them as destined to be exhibited by Holy Church.  Who doth now unceasingly enact both one and the other, that is to say, that her children she should at once feed by speaking, and protect by shielding, so that she should at once by words replenish the good, and by her patronage defend them from the evil.  Now it is well written; Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind. [Gen. 1, 11] Which really and truly happened in such a way, that it was a sign of something really and truly to happen, For by ‘the earth’ the Church is represented, which both regales us with the provender of the word, and keeps us safe by the shadow of her patronage; which both by speaking feeds and by aiding protects, so that she should not only bring forth the herb of refreshment, but also along with the fruit of the deed, the tree of protection.


[Historical Interpretation]


30.  I see that it also deserves to be well considered by those who head the governments of the common herds, that in saying above, The young men saw me and hid themselves; he now affirms, I comforted the widow’s heart.  What great discipline of rule, that before his presence ‘the young men’ should ‘hide themselves!’  What great mildness of pitying that by him ‘the widows’ hearts should be cheered!’  For there are some persons so severe that they lose even all gentleness of kindly affection, and there are some so mild, that they part with the lights of strict rule.  Whence by all rulers both are with all diligence to be maintained, that neither in the rigorousness of discipline they abandon the loving-kindness of a mild disposition, not again in gentleness abandon severity of discipline, so that they may neither grow hard to the fellow-feeling of pitifulness, when they chastise the contumacious, nor enervate the strong arm of discipline when they cheer the hearts of the weak.  Thus, then, let vigour of discipline control mildness, and mildness adorn vigour, and so let the one be recommended by the other, that neither vigour become hard, nor mildness unstrung.




31.  Now these works of pitifulness, which we have named above, Holy Church at once exhibits corporally, and ceases not to exhibit spiritually.  For she ‘delivers the poor that crieth,’ when to the sinner imploring pardon she remits those sins which he has been guilty of.  Since it is of such poor that it is said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [Matt. 5, 3]  And the cry of such poor ones is the cry of those saying in the voice of the Psalmist, Let Thy tender mercy speedily prevent us; for we are made very poor. [Ps. 79, 8]  Now she ‘delivers the fatherless who hath no helper,’ in that everyone who now flying the desires of a persecuting world, his old father the devil being dead, runneth to the bosom of Holy Church, finds therein the help of exhortation. It may be that by the title of ‘the fatherless,’ any believer may be understood even with reference to the death of a good father, of the sight of whom he is deprived for a while, though not deprived of solace.  And ‘the blessing’ too ‘of him that was ready to perish’ comes upon her, when she anticipates the destruction of a sinner, and when by holy admonitions she brings him back from the pit of sin.  Whence it is written; He that converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save his soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. [Jam. 5, 20]  For if it is a thing of great recompense to rescue from death the flesh sooner or later to die, of what high merit is it to free the soul from death, to live without end in the heavenly country?  Now ‘the heart of the widow’ she ‘comforteth,’ in that to each faithful soul he that describes the recompenses of the Lord, as it were recalls to remembrance the blessings of her husband.  Unto Whom as the soul is spiritually united, He being dead, she is called ‘a widow,’ but is cheered by the declarations of Holy Church in consequence of His Resurrection.  Great consolation therefore doth the heart of the widow receive, when the faithful soul learns by the words of the Church somewhat concerning the Coming of Him, to Whom she is spiritually united.  It goes on;

Ver. 14.  With righteousness was I clothed, and arrayed myself as with raiment.






32.  Surely, when we are clothed with a garment, we are surrounded on every side, and so he is ‘clothed with righteousness as with a garment,’ who defends himself on every side with good practice, and leaves no part of his conduct naked to sin; for he that is just in some deeds and unjust in others, it is as if he covered over this side, and exposed that one naked; nor are those henceforth good deeds, which are defiled by other evil deeds springing up.  For hence it is said by Solomon, He that offendeth in one thing, shall lose many that are good. [Eccl. 9, 18. Vulg.]  Hence James saith, But whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he shall be guilty of all. [Jam. 2, 10]  Which same sentence of his be himself diligently unfolded, when he added, For He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill.  Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. [Jam. 2, 11]


33.  And so with the eyes of the heart stretched out roundabouts, watching must be enforced by us on every side.  Hence it is rightly said by Solomon also, Keep thy heart with all watching, for out of it are the issues of life. [Prov. 4, 23]  For going to say watching, he put first all, without question that each one might scan himself diligently on this side and on that side, and as long as he is in this life know that he is set in pitched battle against spiritual enemies, lest the reward which he is making up by one set of actions, he should lose by another set, lest on this side he bar the door against the enemy, but on another side open an entrance.  For if against plotting enemies a city be encompassed by a great rampart, be girt with strong walls, on every side defended by a sleepless watch, yet a single opening only be left therein undefended through neglect, from this quarter surely the enemy enters in, who seemed to be every way shut out.  For that Pharisee who went up into the Temple to pray, with what fortifying he had begirt the city of his soul, let us hear.  I fast twice in the week, he says, I give tithes of all that I possess. [Luke 18, 12]  He that set out with I thank Thee, did, surely, employ extraordinary defencesBut let us see where he left an opening undefended for a plotting enemy; Because I am not as this publican.  See how he opened the city of his heart to plotting enemies through self-exalting, which city he fruitlessly shut close by fasting and almsgiving. Vainly is all the rest defended, when one spot by which an entrance lies open to the enemy is not defended.  He rightly gave thanks, but wrongly exalted himself above the publican. The city of his heart by being lifted up he betrayed, which by living abstemiously, and by giving alms, he guarded.  The greedy appetite was subdued by abstinence, the gluttony of the belly was destroyed, a grasping inclination was got the better of, by bountifulness covetousness was kept down. With what great pains do we suppose this to have been done?  But, alas! what a series of painful efforts being struck by one bad point fell to the ground! What great excellencies were killed by the sword of one sin! Whence it is needful with great diligence both always to be doing good things, and to keep ourselves heedfully in the thought of the heart from the very good things themselves, lest, if they uplift the mind, they be not good, which are enlisted not to the Creator, but to pride.


34.  With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical [Note: Cited by Cosin, Scholast. Hist. of Canon, c. viii. art. xcix. where some attempts at reconciling such statements with the decree of the Council of Trent are discussed. The same work contains a general review of authorities on the Canon of H. S. a subject too extensive for a mere note.], yet brought out for the edifying of the Church, we bring forward testimony.  Thus Eleazar in the battle smote and brought down an elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed. [1 Macc. 6, 46] Whom, then, does this one represent, whom his own victory bore down, but those persons who overcome bad habits, but by being lifted up are brought down under the very things they bring under?  For it is as if he died under the enemy he lays low, who is lifted up by the sin that he subdues.  Accordingly it deserves above every thing to be considered, that good points cannot avail, if bad ones that creep in unawares are not guarded against.  All that is done perishes, if it be not heedfully preserved in humility.  Hence too it is well said of the first parent himself; And the Lord put the man into the Paradise of pleasure, to work and to keep it. [Gen. 2, 15]  For he ‘worketh,’ who does in act the good that is enjoined.  But what he has wrought he keepeth not, whom that creepeth upon which is forbidden.  Therefore let blessed Job, because he had covered himself on every side with good practice, say, With righteousness I was clothed, and arrayed myself as with a garment.  Where it is forthwith added,

And my judgment a diadem.


35.  The judgments of the righteous are rightly compared to a ‘diadem,’ because by the gloriousness of great practice, they lead to a crown of rewarding.  Which same judgments they carry on with themselves day by day in the interior, what they owe to God, what to their neighbour, they look to with quick discernment, and they kindle themselves with ardour to the doing of what is good, and rebuke themselves with severity for the evil things committed.  Hence it is well said by Solomon as well; The thoughts of the righteous are judgments. [Prov. 12, 5]  Since within they are brought back to their own hearts from all the tumult of the world, and then they mount the tribunal of the mind, and set before the eyes themselves, and their neighbour, and bring forward in the midst the rule of the Testament, wherein it is said, Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them. [Matt. 7, 12]  They transfer into themselves the person of their neighbour, and heedfully mark what to themselves, had they been so circumstanced, they would justly have wished done or left undone, and so with strict justice and judgment, they try the cause of themselves and their neighbour by the tables of the Divine Law, in the court of the heart.  Therefore it is well said, The thoughts of the righteous are judgments, because the very interior motion of their heart is itself as it were a kind of scales of judicial power.  Which things being done, because they do not look for recompensing below, their judgments are rightly compared to ‘a diadem.’  For a diadem is set upon the upper part of the body; and so the judgment of the righteous is styled a ‘diadem,’ because they do not thereby covet to find their reward by it in things below and of this earth, but up above.  It follows;

Ver. 15, 16.  I was an eye to the blind, and a foot was I to the lame.  I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not I searched out.


[xxiii.]                                    [HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION]


36.  Herein the mind of the reader might perchance put the question, wherefore it is that blessed Job reckons up his own virtue with so much particularity.  For it is a mark of holy men to conceal the good things they may have done, lest it chance that they bring upon themselves the downfall of exaltation.  Whence Truth saith by Itself, Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them. [Matt. 6, 1]  It is hence, too, that in giving light to the two blind men sitting by the way-side, He charged them, saying, See that no man know it. [Matt. 9, 30]  Of which persons it is thereupon said, that they ‘departed and spread abroad the fame of Him throughout all that region.’  Now it is a question for us to consider, what this means, that the Almighty Himself, unto Whom to have the will is the same thing as to have the power, both wished that His extraordinary powers should be kept secret, and notwithstanding by those that were illumined with sight as it were against His will He is made manifest.  Which is nothing else than that to His servants following after Him He gave an example, that of themselves indeed they should desire to have their extraordinary endowments kept hidden from sight, and yet, that others might profit by their example, they should be brought to view against their will, and indeed by concealing their own achievements keep themselves safe, but whilst they are brought to view against their will, convey good examples on to their neighbours.  So then let them be hidden in set purpose, and made public by necessity, and let the hiding of them be the safe keeping of self, and the making them public usefulness to others.  Again, because it is written, Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but in a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, Which is in heaven. [Matt. 5, 15. 16.]  There are times when holy persons are compelled to do good things even in the presence of their fellow-creatures, or else to tell these very deeds of theirs to their fellow-creatures, but only to this end relating every thing, viz. that by those works not they themselves, but their Father, Which is in heaven, may be glorified.  For whilst they preach things holy, the very preaching itself perhaps goes for nought, of those whose life is not known.  So they are forced to tell their own life, that they may be able to change the life of their hearers.  And they relate their deeds that they may be held in veneration, and they seek to be venerated, that they may be listened to with awe.  Since it is written; And when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them. [Ez. 1, 21]  Because it is so that when the minds of the hearers take in the life of those that preach, surely they necessarily admire the force of the preaching as well.


37.  Hence it is therefore that good preachers at once eschew honour on account of being set up, and yet wish to be honoured on account of being imitated.  In the same way surely Paul the Apostle, when speaking to the disciples, at once flees honour, and yet shews how greatly he deserved to be honoured.  For when he said to the Thessalonians; For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know; nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness:  he adds going on; Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor of others, when we might have been, burthensome to you as the Apostles of Christ; But we were gentle among you. [1 Thess. 2, 5. 6. 7.] Again to the Corinthians, avoiding honour he saith; For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus Christ’s sake. [2 Cor. 4, 5]  Which same however he seeing to be led aside from the track of the true faith by the persuasions of false apostles, with the greatest pains shews to them how much he was worthy to be held in reverence, saying, Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.  Are they Hebrews? so am I.  Are they Israelites? so am I.  Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.  Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool,) I am more. [2 Cor. 11, 22. 23.]  To which particulars he likewise adds how that to him the secrets of the third heaven also were set open, how that being caught up he even penetrated the mysteries of Paradise.  See, how eschewing honour he proclaims himself the servant of the disciples.  See how for the use of his hearers seeking honour, he advances the claims of his life above the false apostles.  Since the great teacher acted with this view, that whilst he himself is seen and known for what he was, both the life and the tongue of those that preached amiss might by comparison with him be made worthless.  Therefore in a wonderful way he both exhibits the grace of humility, and seeks accessions of usefulness, so as both to proclaim himself a servant of the disciples, and prove himself better than the adversaries.  He displays to the disciples what he had been vouchsafed of humility, he displays to the opponents what he had been vouchsafed of loftiness.  He makes appear in opposition to adversaries what he had by gift, he makes appear to disciples what he remains in himself in thought, he makes known to opponents what he is presented without in practice.  So holy men, when they are constrained to relate the good things that they do, do not lend themselves to exaltation but usefulness.  Whence to his friends, unjustly upbraiding him, and so not knowing the good things in him, blessed Job telling reveals them, that surely they might learn, not whilst upbraiding him to lift themselves up against his life, but holding their peace to copy the same. Though, as we have already often said above, the despair urged on him by those upbraiding him, forced him to recall his own deeds to remembrance.  For amidst so many pains of wounding and words of despair, when he tells the things which he did, his mind as it were sunk down by words and wounds he sets anew to hope.  So let him say the good things that he has done, that he may not be forced in the midst of so many evil things that he hears to despair of himself. I was eyes to the blind, feet was I to the lame.


38.  When we are estimating the examples of holy practice, we ought first to mark what a right order is observed in relating them, so that first works of righteousness, next works of mercy should be described.  For that man does well what is pitiful, who is taught first to observe what is just, so that the stream of mercy bestowed on our neighbours be brought from the fountain-head of righteousness.  For there are many that in a manner render works of mercy to their neighbours, but do not abandon the deeds of unrighteousness, which same if they are anxious truly to shew mercy to their neighbours, ought first by living justly to have shewn pity to themselves.  Whence it is written; Have mercy upon thine own soul by pleasing God. [Ecclus. 30, 23. (Vulg. 42)]  He then that would pity his neighbour must needs derive the original of pitying from himself.  For it is written; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. [Matt. 19, 19]  How, then, is he pitiful to another by shewing mercy, who by still living unjustly becomes pitiless to himself?  Whence it is also said by one that was wise; He that is evil to himself, to whom will he be good? [Ecclus. 14, 5]  Since for shewing forth mercy, that it may be rendered to the needy outwardly in perfection, two things necessary agree together, i.e. the man that is to give, and the thing to be given.  But the man is by far and without comparison better than the thing.  And so he who gives up his outward substance to his neighbour in want, but does not keep his own life from doing evil, gives his estate to God, but himself to sin.  The thing which is the lesser he offered to the Creator, and that which is the greater he reserved to wickedness.  And so it is well said first by blessed Job, With justice I was clothed and arrayed myself as with a garment, and with my judgment as with a diadem: and is next added; I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.  Because there is then in God’s sight the offering of true righteousness, when from the root of righteousness the branches of pitifulness proceed.  But because in the very work of mercy itself the spirit is wont to be thought more of with the interior Judge than the thing done, observe that he declares that to ‘the blind he had been eyes, to the lame feet.’  For by saying these things assuredly he points out that both to the one he had held out a hand by himself, and that the other he bore up by carrying.  From which it is gathered how greatly the bowels of his mercy were poured out upon the weak and needy.  Whence it is added; I was a father to the poor.




39.  Which same words if we refer to the utterance of Holy Church by a typical mode of interpretation, the same is ‘eyes to the blind,’ because she gives light by the Word, and the same ‘feet to the lame,’ because she stays them up by support. For by preaching she enlightens the blind, while the lame by helping she supports.  For ‘the blind’ is he that as yet seeth not whither he is going, but ‘the lame’ is he who has not the power to go there where he sees.  For frequently sin is committed either by ignorance or weakness, so that either the man knows not what he ought to desire, or cannot do every thing that he has the desire to do.  Contrarily it is rightly said by the Psalmist, The Lord is my light and my salvation. [Ps. 27, 1]  For because the Lord bestows both knowledge and force, at once in opposition to ignorance He is called ‘Light,’ and in opposition to weakness ‘Saving Health.’  It is hence that it is said of the wicked, Let their way he dark and slippery [Ps. 35, 6]; that is to say, that through the darkness they may not see where they should go, who even if they did see what was right, yet by reason of the slippery quality they should not be able to stand fast therein.  And so the one sort through the slipperiness halt in the midst of good things, and the other sort through the darkness, are ignorant what good things to follow.  Thus then Holy Church, being seized by tribulations at the end, calls to mind the old times when she was accustomed both to enlighten by teaching and to stablish by helping, and speak with the lips of her foregoing member, saying,

I was an eye to the blind, and a foot was I to the lame.


40.  And whereas she has gathered together two Peoples in herself, viz. the Jewish and the Gentile, by the ‘blind,’ the Gentile People may also be rightly denoted, and by ‘the lame’ the Jewish.  Since the Gentile People had as it were no eyes, because the Law not being received it saw not where it ought to have gone.  But on the other hand the Jewish People having eyes was lame, because the Law indeed in knowing it held, but did not stretch forth the step of right practice therein.  For if the Gentile People had not been blind, the Prophet would not say, The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. [Is. 9, 2]  Again, if the Israelitish People had not gone lame to good practice, the Psalmist would never have said in the voice of the Lord, The strange children have lied to me: the strange children have waxed old, they have gone lame out of their paths. [Ps. 18, 44. 45.]  Which doubtless is for this reason termed a lame People, in that it had not a sound step in practice, since it would not use both feet, while it admitted one Testament, and spurned the other.  Which People when Holy Church receives coming to her, because to the same, already holding the Old Testament, she introduces the New Testament as well, for the directing the steps thereof, she as it were joins on another foot.  Which faithful People of Holy Church still further adds aright, I was a father to the poor, because surely the humble, who are called ‘poor in spirit,’ are begotten by her preaching.  But it is necessary for us in all these particulars to weigh with exactness the actual words of the history.  For he says;

Ver.16.  I was a father of the poor, and the cause, which I knew not, I searched out.


[xxiv.]                                  [HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION]


41.  For very often men give much to the poor, not because they love those poor, but because if they do not give, they dread the indignation of the Judge Above; which persons, if they were not afraid of God, would have had no mind to give the things they possess.  And indeed in good deeds it is the first step of beginners, that he who does not yet know how to love his neighbour as himself, nevertheless should yet henceforth begin to dread the judgments from Above. Thus because it is one thing to do a good deed by command and another to do it from affection as well, that the holy man may teach us the inward spirit of his practice, let him say, I was a father to the poor.  For not a patron, or a neighbour, or an helper to the poor, but ‘a father’ he testifies that he had been; in this way, because by the great attentiveness of his charity he converted the purpose of mercy into the affection of nature, that he should look on those as children by love, whom he was the head of as a father by protecting.  Therefore because the force of his mercy had copied nature, he records himself to have been a father to the poor.  Where he likewise adds;

And the cause that I knew not, I most carefully searched out.




42.  In which words we have to consider all the particulars how distinctly they are related, and that no profit is passed over by him.  Since he is just in his actions, pitiful in his neighbours’ infirmities, active in the concerns of the poor.  For he that takes thought of the blessings of the eternal recompensing, must needs extend himself to every occasion of the repayment to follow after.  For hence it is said by Solomon; He that feareth God, neglecteth nothing. [Eccl. 7, 18]  Hence also Paul saith; prepared unto every good work. [2 Tim. 2, 21]  But herein we ought to bear in mind that occasionally in our actions lesser good things are to be let pass for the usefulness of greater ones.  Thus who could be ignorant that it has the merit of a good work to bury the dead: and yet Lo one, who had prayed to be let go in order to the burying of his father, it was said; Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. [Luke 9, 60]  Thus the dutifulness of this service was to be made to give place to the office of preaching, because by the first he would be burying persons dead in the flesh in the earth, by the other he would be raising up persons dead in the soul to life.  By the Prophet likewise it is said to the chiefs of the Synagogue; Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed. [Is. 1, 17]  And yet Paul the Apostle says; Set them to judge, who are least esteemed in the Church. [1 Cor. 6, 4]  For he was kindling his hearers’ hearts to the excellency of wisdom, to different kinds of tongues, to the investigating the mysteries of prophecy also, saying, Desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.  But because they would not be capable of ‘spiritual gifts,’ if earthly matters had weighed them to the ground, he premised long before, saying, Set them to judge who are least esteemed in the Church.  As though he said in plain words; ‘they that are of least worth in the Church, and not enriched with any power of extraordinary gifts, let these only judge concerning earthly matters, that by whom extraordinary good cannot be supplied, the lesser good may be.’  Whom he at once styles ‘contemptible,’ and yet calls ‘wise,’ when he says; Is it so that there is not a wise man among you?  no one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? [1 Cor. 6, 5]  From which point what else is concluded but that they are to try earthly causes, who have received wisdom in things external? But they that have been enriched with spiritual gifts surely ought never to be entangled with earthly concerns, that while they are not compelled to manage the good things beneath, they may by being exercised be enabled to serve the interests of the good things Above.


43.  But above every thing it needs to be looked to, that they who shine forth with spiritual gifts should never entirely abandon the affairs of their neighbours of weak condition, but that they should entrust the same to be managed by others, whom it is meet for.  Whence also Moses appointed to the people seventy persons in the stead of himself, that in proportion as he buried himself out of the way of external causes he might with the greater fervour go into the things of the interior.  And so it comes to pass, that those that are the highest advance more to Spiritual gifts, when things that are lowest do not trample on their minds, and again the persons that are the last in the Church do not live without good practice, while in matters external they find right things which they may do.  For Holy Church is so compacted by a unity of the faithful, as our body is made one by the jointing of the limbs.  Thus there are some members in the body which are subservient to beholding the light, others which are never parted from the contact of earth.  Since the eye is set intent on the light, and that it may not be made blind, it is kept safe from the dust.  But the foot then rightly discharges its office, when it does not shrink from taking on it the dust of the earth.  Which same members of the body, however, are, by imparting their functions to one another, reciprocally united in one, so that the foot should run for the eyes, and the eye look out for the feet.


44.  Thus, then, thus ought the members of Holy Church to be at once distinct in office and united in charity, that the highest persons may look out the way of those, who go at liberty in the concerns of earth, so that the foot may as it were walk by the light of the eyes, and again that whatever they execute, being busied with the affairs of earth, this they may apply to the use of the greater sort, so that the foot, whose way is looked out, may step not for itself only but for the eyes as well.  And so whilst they suit one another by turns, by reciprocal ministering, in a wonderful way it is brought about, that whereas all the Elect, by bestowing labour on one another, do what they are able, those works too become their own, which they cannot do themselves.


45.  But herein we ought to bear in mind, that when those are wanting, who might fitly minister to the exterior occasions of their neighbours, those too who are full of spiritual gifts ought to lower themselves to their inferiority, and, as far as they may with propriety be able, lend themselves with the condescension of charity to the earthly necessities of those persons.  Nor should it weary the mind, if its perception, being ever intent on the contemplation of the spiritual, is sometimes as it were bent down, diminished in managing the least concerns, when that Word, by Which all things created are held together, in order that He might benefit mankind, having taken to Him the nature of man, was willing to be ‘made a little less than the Angels.’  What wonder, then, if man for man’s sake draws himself in, when the Creator of men and Angels for man’s sake took upon Him the form of man?  Not however that the perception is diminished when it is thus drawn in; because it penetrates the things above with more exact penetration, in proportion as with more abundant humility for the love of the Creator it does not even despise the things beneath.  What is there that is unworthy of us or difficult, if we carry the mind above and below, when of the body we wash the face with the same hand, with which we shoe the foot?  Therefore let blessed Job, because when he was doing great things he did not think the least things beneath him, let him say, And the cause that I knew not I very carefully searched out.




46.  Wherein I see it is to be noted, that for delivering sentence we should not ever be precipitate, that things not examined into we should not rashly judge, that any thing heard of a bad nature should not affect us, that what is reported every where about we should not credit without proving.  Which same, without doubt, we shall be afraid of committing, if we consider the doings of our Creator with some degree of minuteness.  For that very Creator, that He might withhold us from a precipitate delivery of sentence, whereas ‘all things are naked and open to His eyes,’ [Hev. 4, 13] yet refused to judge the evil deeds of Sodom when heard, in that He saith; Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is very great, and because their cry is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me; and if not, I will know. [Gen. 18, 20. 21.]  Thus God, Who is Almighty and knowing all things, wherefore does He before the proving seem to doubt, but in order to set forth to us an example of gravity, that the evil of our fellow-creatures we should never venture to believe before we prove it?  Observe how by His Angels He comes down for the ascertaining of the evil, and immediately smites the culprits; and He That is patient, He Who is gentle, He, of Whom it is written; But Thou, Lord, judgest with tranquillity. [Wisd. 12, 18]  He, of Whom it is written again; The Lord is a patient Rewarder, [Ecclus. 5, 4] finding them involved in such enormous guilt, as it were overlooked patience, and would not await the day of Final Judgment for vengeance, but with the fire of judgment prevented them before the Day of Judgment.  See, the evil He in seeming believed with difficulty when He heard it, but visited without backwardness when acquainting Himself He found it true; surely that He might give us an example that worse climes are both to be believed with difficulty, when they are heard, and to be punished more quickly when they are truly ascertained.  For this heedfulness accordingly blessed Job entertaining anxious interest, saith, The cause that I knew not, I very carefully searched out.  Which same words we may likewise apply not inappropriately in the voice of the Church to a typical way of interpretation.  For that same Church by her elect members does when she judges the evil deeds of carnal men ‘search out that, which she knows not,’ in that the evil things which she knows not in doing them, she searches out in correcting them in judgment.  And so Holy Church, when she shall be cramped for a time by the villainy of the unjust, remembers, saying, The cause that I knew not, I very carefully searched out.  As though she said in plain speech; ‘The evil that in mine Elect I knew not in doing, in wicked Men I did, by judging, chasten with severity.’  And because She now bruises the devil by the power of her preaching, and carries off out of his mouth the soul of every one that she receives, he goes on in the words;

Ver. 17.  And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.


[xxvi.]                               [ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION]


47.  Oh what a spoil did “he take from the mouth of the devil, when by converting she carried off Saul himself the spoiler; when still breathing threats he was on his way to Damascus, having received letters, and whereas by persecuting the faithful he was gathering prey for the devil, he was, by being made acquainted with the faith, himself gathered to Christ. [Acts 9, 12]  As many times did the Church ‘pluck the spoil out of the mouth of the wicked,’ as often as by preaching she snatched off a soul from the gripe of error.  For who can be more truly called a wicked one than the devil? whose ‘jaws we break,’ as often as by arguing against his deceits, we bring to light his secret contrivances.  And so we ‘pluck the spoil out of his teeth,’ because the soul, which he had already bitten by breaking it to sin, by converting we recover to the saving health of life.  Since by ‘the jaws’ are exhibited his hidden plots, while by the teeth the now open commission of sin. Of which same jaws and teeth it is said by the Psalmist; But God shall break their teeth in their mouth; the Lord shall break the jaw bones of the lions. [Ps. 58, 6]  But the holy man declares Himself to ‘break the jaws’ first that he might afterwards be able to ‘carry away the spoil from the teeth’ of that one; because we then truly snatch the prey from his teeth, when we first know how to break his jaws.  For it is necessary first to bring to light the secret artifices of his contrivances, that afterwards we may be able to recover the soul of our hearer from open falling.  The jaws of this wicked one the chief pastor of the Church himself did by preaching break in pieces, when he said, Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion goeth about seeking whom he may devour; whom resist, stedfast in the faith. [1 Pet. 5, 8. 9.] Against this ‘lion’ Holy Church, because she sees his plottings, guards the folds of the faith.  Whose ‘jaws she breaks’ as often as she destroys the arguments of heretics, and as many times ‘seizes the spoil out of his teeth,’ as she by preaching converts a man from error.  And because there shall then be many of the just, who reckoned that they would depart out of this world in the time of the Church’s peace, blessed Job, while he tells his own case, likewise points out the voices of the just coming after him, saying;

Ver. 18.  Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as a palm.




48.  What else is set forth in this place by the title of a ‘nest,’ but the tranquil rest of the faith whereby every infirm soul is nourished?  For that multitude of the good, which shall be overtaken by the times of persecution, thought to accomplish the days of its nourishings, as in a nest, so in a place of repose.  For except that Holy Church now nourished up the weak children severally in the nest of peace, the Psalmist would not say, Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house, and the turtle a nest where she may lay her young. [Ps. 84, 3]  Since henceforth ‘the sparrow hath found her an house,’ because our Redeemer has entered into the Eternal dwelling-place of heaven.  And ‘the turtle hath found a nest,’ because Holy Church, influenced by love of the Creator, makes use of frequent sighings, and as it were builds up a ‘nest’ for herself, i.e. the most peaceful rest of the Faith, wherein her growing children, like callow young, till they fly up to the regions above, she fosters, cherished warm in the bosom of charity.  And so because there shall then be those, who thought in the time of peace to take their passage to the regions on high, i.e. to soar away from the nest, their voice is anticipated by the voice of blessed Job, when he says, Then I said, I shall die in my nest.  But because this same quietness of peace they promised themselves in a length of many days, he rightly subjoins, saying, And I shall multiply my days as a palm.  For the palm advances slowly, but holds on long in greenness.  But with many difficulties Holy Church comes to the firm standing of the Faith, and for the gathering together of very many she desires to be set the longer in the glory of that Faith.  And so as ‘a palm’ she thought ‘to multiply her days,’ who on the crisis of sudden temptation emerging upon her, grieves for the boon of peace at once slowly gotten by the faithful, and quickly intercepted by the unbelievers.


49.  Nor is it unfairly that the life of the righteous is likened to a ‘palm,’ in this respect, that the palm below is rough to be touched, and in a manner enveloped in dry barks, but above it is fair with fruit even to be looked at; below it is compressed by the enfoldings of its barks, above it is spread out in amplitude of beautiful greenness.  For so is the life of the Elect, despised below, beautified above.  Down beneath the one is as it were enfolded in many barks, in that it is straitened by innumerable afflictions.  But on high the other is as it were spread out with the foliage of beautiful greenness in the amplitude of the rewarding.  The palm too has another thing as well, by which it differs from all kinds of trees.  For every tree holds, in its timber, large sized towards the ground, but in growing it is narrowed above, and in proportion as it is by degrees higher, it is rendered so much the minuter on high; but the palm sets out of less circumference from the bottom, and arises with wider timber towards the boughs and fruit; and that which goes on slender from the bottom grows up more huge to the top. Accordingly to what but earthly minds are other trees found to be like, expanded below, narrowed above?  because surely all the lovers of this world are strong in the things of earth, but feeble in the things of heaven.  Thus for temporal glory they long to spend themselves even to death itself; and for the everlasting hope they do not though but a little hold on in exertion.  For the sake of earthly gains they submit to any injuries, and for the sake of the heavenly reward they refuse to bear the insults even of the most trifling word. They are strong enough to stand before an earthly judge even a whole day through, but in praying in the presence of God they are tired even with the space of a single hour. Oftentimes they bear nakedness, abjectness [dejectionem], hunger, for the sake of acquiring riches and honours, and they torment themselves with the stinting of those things, which they are in such haste to obtain; but from seeking with hearty endeavour the things that are above, they excuse themselves the more, in proportion as they imagine them to be more slowly paid back.  So these as it were after the manner of the rest of the trees are wide spread below, narrow above, because they hold strong towards the parts below, but go off towards the parts above.  But on the other hand by the character of palm trees the progressive life of the righteous is represented, who are never strong in earthly pursuits, and weak in heavenly ones, but exhibit themselves devoted to God with a farther and wider extension [longius atique distantius] than they remember to have been to the world.  For whereas it is said to certain persons by our Preacher, I speak after the manner of men, because of the infirmity of your flesh; for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness; [Rom. 6, 19] without doubt there is a condescending to their infirmity, as though it were said to them in plainer terms; ‘If ye cannot any way do more, at all events be ye such in the fruit of good works as ye were for long in the practising of bad habits, so that the holy freedom of charity may not possess you weaker persons, whom the habit of earthly pleasure possessed strong ones in the flesh.


50.  But there are some who, while they aim at heavenly things, and forsake the pernicious doings of this world, by the littlemindedness of inconstancy fall away day by day from their setting out.  To what but to the rest of the trees should I call these like, who never rise such persons above as they spring up below?  For these when they are brought to conversion do not hold on such as they began; and as it were after the way of trees, they are of large size in the beginning, but they grow slight, because little by little through the accessions of the divisions of time they suffer the diminutions of the attainments of virtue.  For imperceptibly heavenly desires fade away in them, and they who had proposed to themselves things vigorous and strong, achieve only weak and feeble ones, and whilst they progress by increase of age, grow as it were easy to be bent.  But the palm, as has been said, is of vaster extent in the summit than it began with being from the root; because oftentimes the conversion of the Elect accomplishes more in finishing than it purposes on setting out; and if it begins the first things somewhat lukewarmly, it completes the last with more ardour; that is to say, it reckons itself to be always beginning, and therefore it lasts unwearied in newness.  It was this constancy of the righteous that the Prophet regarding said, But they that trust in the Lord shall change their strength; they shall take to them wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. [Is. 40, 31]  For they ‘change their strength,’ because they are earnest to be strong in spiritual practice, who were for long strong in the flesh. And they ‘take to them the wings as of an eagle,’ because by exercising contemplation they fly; ‘they walk, and do not faint,’ because they hold in the rapidity of their understanding, that they may condescend to the slower sort.  But under all circumstances in proportion as the good things they receive they gladly adapt to others, so much the more do they hold on themselves unchangeable in newness; and they that proceed small from the root of the beginning are consolidated as strong in the finishing of the topmost point.  So then let blessed Job say in his own person, let him say in the voice of Holy Church in behalf of those whom in the time of peace she had owned, converted to herself, and imagined would persevere in good ways, Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as a palm.  For ‘as a palm’ she thought to ‘multiply her days,’ in that she supposed that the minds of the faithful would rise up stronger even to the very last.  For when the hearts of multitudes worn out with persecutions begin to turn soft, she henceforth grieves that those in her as it were tend to weakness, whom she used to admire for their having purposed strong things. And because in mind she is always intent upon spiritual knowledge, it is rightly subjoined,

Ver. 19.  My root is opened beside the waters.




51.  For ‘by the waters the root is opened,’ when, for receiving the streams of truth, secretly the thought of the mind is spread out.  For as we have already said in a former book, in Holy Writ by the term of ‘the root’ the hidden thought is used to be denoted.  Therefore “our root we open by the waters,” when to the Interior watering we stretch the thought of the secret heart.  Which same words if we carry on to the voice of Holy Church, her ‘root’ must be taken for the very Incarnation our Redeemer itself.  Which ‘root is opened by the waters,’ in that God Invisible by the assumption of His Manhood was laid open to the regardings of our sight.  Since the Creator, Who was not able to be seen in the Godhead, took to Him from us that whereby He might by us be seen.  So ‘the root is opened by the waters,’ because the Author of the human race by means of His human nature is manifested to human beings.  Whence also it is rightly said by the Psalmist, And he shall be like a tree that is planted beside the runnings of waters. [Ps. 1, 3]  For ‘the runnings of waters’ are the daily passings by of peoples dying off.  And Truth saith concerning Itself, If they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? [Luke 23, 31]  And so there ‘is a tree beside the runnings of waters,’ because, whilst putting forth fruit and the covering of His shade for us, the Creator appeared in the flesh, that by a rising again He might stay the human race, which by a falling off was day by day going on into death.  It goes on;

And the dew shall stay on my harvest.




52.  Understand, I said.  For the harvest of Holy Church is not inappropriately taken to be, when perfect souls withdrawn from their bodies, like ripe crops cut away from the ground, are transported into the heavenly granaries; which same because it takes place not by our own power, but by heavenly grace vouchsafing it, he saith well, And the dew shall stay on my harvest.  For the dew falls from above, but the harvest is gathered in from below.  And so ‘the dew stays on the harvest,’ because grace coming from above causes it, that we should be meet persons to be gathered in from the world below.  For by that same grace watering us from above, we bear the fruit of good practice.  Whence also it is rightly said by Paul, But by the grace of God I am what I am; and His grace, which was bestowed upon me, was not in vain. [1 Cor. 15, 10]  For if it be enquired what is the dew coming from above, he tells us, By the grace of God I am what I am.  If we look at the crop growing up beneath the dew, he says, And His grace was not in vain in me, but I laboured more abundantly than they all.  It proceeds;

Ver. 20.  My glory shall always be fresh, in me, and my bow shall be renewed in mine hand.




53.  Understand, I said; since all is joined on to the sentence above, that is introduced next in a continuous thread of discourse, when he says, Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the palm; and afterwards it is subjoined, My root is opened by the waters, and the dew shall stay on my harvest; my glory shall ever be fresh in me, and my bow shall be renewed in mine hand.  To all that know what is true it is clear, that to the old life qualities of evil are proper, to the new qualities of virtue.  Thus it is hence that Paul saith, Putting off the old man with his deeds, and putting on the new man. [Col. 3, 9]  Hence he says again, Our old man was crucified with him. [Rom 6, 6]  Hence the Psalmist speaking in a type of man, as being caught in the midst of evil spirits, saith, I have waxed old amongst all mine enemies. [Ps. 6, 7]  For unto fervour of mind, whether amidst spiritual enemies, or in the midst of our several carnal neighbours, in some degree by the mere habituation of living ‘we wax old,’ and the form of newness taken upon us we soil. Against which same oldness, however, if our earnest pains after heedfulness be daily on the watch, by praying, by reading, and living well we are renewed afresh; because our life, while it is washed with tears, exercised in good works, drawn out by holy meditations, is without ceasing restored to its newness.  Blessed Job then so tells his own case that he represents ours, because Holy Church, when she sees her faithful ones return to the transgressions of the old life, is forced to lament for those whom she sees lose the newness of the interior.  Since the great Preacher says to his disciples, For what is our hope or joy or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord? [1 Thess. 2, 19]  And so Holy Church bewails her glory departed, when she sees her faithful ones return to the old life.  Thus she says, I said, My glory shall always be made fresh; because those whom she believed were enlisted within her to the new life, she sees to be lending themselves to old desires.


54.  Now by the name of a ‘bow’ in Holy Scripture, sometimes the plots of evil men, sometimes the Day of Judgment, while sometimes the actual sacred Oracles themselves are denoted.  Since by a bow plots are denoted, as where it is said by the Psalmist, And have bent their bow, a bitter thing. [Ps. 64, 3]  Moreover by ‘a bow’ the Day of the Last Judgment is denoted, as where it is said again by the same Psalmist, Thou hast shewed Thy people hard things, Thou hast made us to drink the wine of remorse, Thou hast given a token to them that fear Thee, that they may fly from before the bow. [Ps. 60, 3. 4.]  For in a bow in proportion as the string is drawn out far, the arrow flies off the keener from it.  Thus, yes, thus the Day of Judgment, in proportion as it is delayed for long that it should come, when it does come, the keener the sentence goes forth therefrom.  But for this reason we are now stricken with sundry losses, in order that being amended thereby, we may then be found more prepared.  Whence it is there premised, Thou hast shewed Thy people hard things, i.e. the scourges of the present state, which are forerunners of the Day of Judgment, to follow far worse.  Thou hast made us to drink the wine of remorse, so that earthly joys should be converted into tears.  Thou hast given a token to them that fear Thee, that they may fly from before the bow.  As though he said in plain terms; ‘This is the season of mercy, that shall be the time of Judgment.’  Thus by these scourges of this present time Thou dost betoken how Thou wilt then strike when Thou judgest not sparing, Who dost now strike so sharply when Thou sparest.


55.  But sometimes by a ‘bow’ Holy Scripture is denoted as well.  For that is the ‘bow’ of the Church, that is the ‘bow’ of the Lord, wherefrom like arrows striking, so do terrifying sentences come to the hearts of men.  Whence also it is rightly said by the Psalmist, He hath bent His bow, and made it ready; He hath also prepared in it the vessels of death, He hath made His arrows for the burning ones. [Ps, 7, 12. 13.] For the Lord hath ‘bent His bow,’ because to all sinners He hath set forth threats in sacred Revelation.  In which same bow He ‘prepares the vessels of death,’ because according to the sentence of His Revelation, those that neglect to be reformed now, He condemns as reprobate.  In which bow also He ‘made His arrows for the burning ones,’ because against those persons, whom He amends by terror, He sends forth the kindled sentences of words.  Concerning this bow of the preachers it is declared by Isaiah; With arrows and with bows they enter in thither; [Is. 7, 24] in this way, because the holy Apostles came for the smiting the hardness of the Gentiles’ life with the keen dartings of words.  What then in this place is to be understood by the name of the bow but sacred Revelation?  For by the string the New Testament, while by the bow the Old Testament, is understood.  Now in a bow, when the string is drawn, the horn is bended: so in this same sacred Revelation, when the New Testament is read, the hardness of the Old is rendered pliant. For to the spiritual and mild precepts of this, the rigidness of the letter of the other bends itself; because whilst the New Testament as it were by a kind of arm of good practice is drawn, in the Old Testament the claims of severity are relaxed.  Nor do we improperly say that the string accords with the New Testament, which it is certain came out by the Incarnation of the Lord.  And so as it were the string is drawn and the horns bent; because when in the New Testament the Incarnation of our Mediator is seen, the rigidness of the Old Testament is made to bend to a spiritual signification.  Therefore the holy man says, I said, My glory shall always be fresh, and my bow shall be renewed in mine hand.


56.  ‘A bow in the hand’ is Holy Writ in the practising. For he holds ‘a bow in his hand,’ who performs by the practising the divine revelations which he learns by apprehension.  Thus the ‘bow is renewed in the hand,’ in that whatever is learnt belonging to Holy Revelation by studying is fulfilled by living accordingly.  Hence also Solomon when he was describing the strong warriors of the spiritual fight, says, All holding swords, being well instructed for wars. [Cant. 3, 8]  For what is represented in Divine Writ by ‘a sword,’ Paul laid open by saying, And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. [Eph. 6, 17]  Now Solomon saith not ‘all having’ but ‘all holding swords;’ surely because not only to know the word of God is admirable, but likewise to do it.  For he has but does not ‘hold’ a sword, who knows indeed Divine Revelation, but neglects to live according to it, and he cannot now any longer be ‘well instructed to wars,’ who never exercises the spiritual sword that he has.  For he is altogether not equal to resist temptations, who by living badly puts it behind him to hold this sword of the word of God. So then let Holy Church, which is weighed down by subsequent persecution, taking thought of the multitude of bad and the scarcity of good ones, by the accents of blessed Job foreannounce her own woes, saying, Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as a palm. My root is opened wide by the waters, and the dew shall stay on my harvest.  My glory shall ever be fresh, and my bow shall be renewed in mine hand.  Which same, whilst taking a view of all things, was never imposed on by a false hope.  For they that be perfect now see many her supporters, but doubtless they reflect that on the crisis of temptation coming forth, the greater number of these become her enemies, who in the time of peace seem to be her citizens.  But they do not despair of all in like manner, yet nevertheless it very frequently falls out that those persons, touching whom they had entertained more confident assurance as to the Faith, themselves become fiercer enemies of the Faith, so that they then see those acting against the sacred Oracles, by whose working they had thought to restore those same sacred Oracles to the benefit of preaching.  Which same times, however, we lament have now already commenced, when we see numbers, set within the pale of the Church, who either refuse to practise what they understand, or this very sacred Revelation likewise disdain to see into and to know.  For turning away the hearing from the truth, they are turned to fables, whilst all seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.  The written words of God every where found are presented to their eyes, but men disdain to acquaint themselves with these, scarce one seeks to know what he has believed.  So then let the multitude of good men going before grieve to have their ‘bow destroyed,’ which same always thought to have sacred Revelation restored by the efforts of those coming after.