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In explanation of the thirty-fourth chapter from the nineteenth to the thirtieth verse, the punishments of the reprobate, and the secret judgments of God are discussed.




1. The very mode of man’s creation shews, how far he surpasses all things beside. For the reason which has been conferred on man proclaims how far a rational nature surpasses all things which are deficient in either life, or sense, or reason. And yet, because we close our eyes to inward and invisible objects, and feast them on those which are seen, we most commonly esteem a man, not for what he is in himself, but from what is accidental to him. And since we do not look at what a man is in himself, but what he can do, in our acceptance of persons we are influenced, not by the persons themselves, but by what accidentally belongs to them. And thus it comes to pass, that even that person is inwardly despised by us, who is outwardly held in honour; for whilst he is honoured for that which is about him, he is, from his own doings, placed low in our judgment. But Almighty God examines the conduct of men, solely on the nature of their deserts, and frequently inflicts severer punishment, from the very fact, that He has here given greater opportunities of serving Him. As the Truth Itself bears witness, saying, To whom much is given, of him much will be required. [Luke 12, 48] Whence it is now well said by Eliu, (ver. 19.) Who accepteth not the person of princes, and hath not regarded a tyrant, when disputing against the poor.




2. But by prince, or tyrant, may be understood every proud person; but the humble may be designated by the poor. He does not regard then a tyrant, when disputing against the poor, because He declares that He knows not, in the judgment, any proud men who now oppress the life of the humble, saying, I know you not, whence ye are. [Luke 13, 25] And because He thus destroys him, when He wills, by His power, as He created him, when He willed, by His power, is fitly added in argument,

For they are all the work of His hands.

And it is immediately added,

Ver. 20. Suddenly shall they die, and the people shall bow down at midnight, and pass away.




3. However long it be before the ungodly are taken out of this life, they are taken away suddenly, and at an instant, since they know not how to foresee their end by thinking on it. That is sudden to any one, which he has not been able to think of beforehand. That rich man was taken away suddenly, who left the barns which he was preparing, and found the place of hell, which he was not looking for. He was employing his soul in thinking in one direction, he parted with it in another by his sentence. He fixed his thoughts on one object when alive, he experienced another when he was dying. For he left those temporal things, which he had long engaged in, and he found eternal things which he did not look for. Whence, in consequence of this his blind ignorance, it is well said to him by the Divine sentence, This night do they require thy soul of thee. [Luke 12, 20] For that soul was taken away by night, which was lost in blindness of heart. That was taken away by night, which refused to enjoy the light of consideration, in order to foresee what it would suffer. Whence the Apostle Paul rightly says to his disciples who are thinking on future things, But ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and children of day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness. [l Thess. 5, 4. 5.] For the day of death seizes as a thief in the night, when it casts out the souls of foolish men, which do not look onward to the future. Whence it is here also fitly subjoined, And the people shall bow down at midnight, and pass away. They bow down and pass away at midnight, who are brought low and swept away by the darkness of their negligence. They will then be bowed down by the sentence of the Judge, who now refuse to bend with humility of heart. But the Elect bow themselves of their own accord in humility, that they may not be bowed down against their will in death. Whence is it said to Holy Church, of the converted children of her persecutors, The sons of them who humbled thee, shall come bending to thee. [Is. 60, 14]


4. And he says properly of dying peoples, not that “they will pass along,” but pass away, because simply by living in the world we are daily coming to an end, and we pass along this present life, as though wearing a track in a road. But that men live subject to death, is a kind of journeying deathwards. And every day we pass of our life, we are approaching as it were on our journey by as many steps to the appointed spot. But the very increase of our years, is a wearing them away; for the length of our life begins to be not so much as it was at first. But the first man was so fashioned, that, as time passed on, he remained stationary, so as not to journey on together with it. For he remained still, as the moments hasted away; since he did not approach to the end of his life, through the increase of his days. And he stood the firmer, the closer he clung to Him who is ever stationary. But after he touched the forbidden thing, having offended his Creator, he began to pass onward together with time. Having lost, namely, the stability of an immortal condition, the stream of mortal being engulphed him. And, while borne along by youth to age, and by age to death, he learned, as he journeyed on, what he was when he remained stationary. And because we are sprung from his stock, we retain, like shoots, the bitterness of our root. For because we derive our origin from him, we inherit his course of life, at our birth, so that every moment of every day that we live, we are constantly passing away from life, and the length of our life decreases by the very means by which it is believed to increase. Since then we are daily proceeding, as our years increase, to the issue of death, it is well said of the dying, not that they pass along, but pass away. For they pass along, even while they live, but pass away, as they die. It follows,

And they will take away the violent without hand.




5. Thou understandest, ‘The divine judgments.’ But they will take him away without hand, who was violent with his hand. They will take him away without hand, because, namely, he is snatched away, by the violence of a sudden death, invisibly, who used visibly to spoil others. He beheld those whom he spoiled, but beholds not him who hurries him away in death. The violent therefore is taken away without hand, because he both beholds not his spoiler, and yet is hurried along. And there follows him a severer sentence, the longer great forbearance is extended [al. ‘was first granted.’] to him when sinning: because the severity of God punishes a sinner the more strictly, the longer it has borne with him. But it is frequently the case, that while the Divine mercy is waiting for sinners, they plunge into greater blindness of heart. Whence it is written, Knowest thou not that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up for thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God? [Rom. 2, 4. 5.] Observe, then, that while the man of violence is spoiling those whom he is able, is oppressing the weak, and indulging a long time all his sinful desires; because he is not smitten at once, and because his punishment is deferred to the end, his most wicked conduct is believed not to be observed by God. After then he had spoken of his death, he immediately rightly added concerning the Lord,

Ver. 21. For His eyes are over the ways of men, and He considers all their steps.




6. For He was then believed not to observe them, while this man of violence was committing, unpunished, all the wickedness he could. God was supposed not to behold the deeds of the ungodly, because He was delaying to condemn them justly; and His great forbearance was regarded as a kind of carelessness. The wicked also himself believed that he was not observed by God in the commission of sin, as often as he sinned without being punished. To whom it is said by a certain wise man, Say not, I have sinned, and what harm hath happened to me? [Ecclus. 5, 4] He does not wish to correct the wickedness, for which he has not suffered the punishment it deserved: and the more mercifully he is spared, the more sinfully is he urged on to wickedness: and, despising the long-suffering of the Divine forbearance, he has added to his faults, from the very circumstance that should have led him to correct them. As is said by this very Job, God gave him a place for repentance, but he misuses it in his pride. [Job 24, 23] Frequently, also, because he does not suffer immediately the punishment he deserves, he considers that his conduct is not displeasing to God. Let him go then now, and launch forth presumptuously into every kind of blasphemy. Let him take his fill of his sinful pleasures; let him spoil others’ goods, and satiate himself with the oppression of the innocent. And, because he is not yet smitten, let him consider that his ways are not observed by God, or, what is worse, that they are approved of by Him. There will fall on him, full surely, there will fall on him, a sudden and everlasting blow. And he will then acknowledge, that every thing is observed by God, when he sees himself condemned, by an unexpected death, in retribution for all his guilt. He will then open, in his torment, the eyes which he long kept closed in sin. He will then perceive, that the righteous Judge has observed every thing, when he is now unable, by perceiving it, to escape the due deserts of his sins. The ungodly, then, who is long spared, is swept away suddenly, because the eyes of the Lord are over all the ways of men, and He considereth all their steps. As though he were to say, Because He does not at last leave those sins unpunished, which He long looks on with forbearance. For, behold! He has suddenly swept away the violent man, and his sins which He endured with patience, He has cut off with punishment. Let no one say then, when he beholds any ungodly man heaping up sin without restraint, that God does not notice the conduct of men. For he who is long tolerated, is swept away suddenly.


7. But he calls the steps of men, either our separate actions on which we are engaged, or the alternating motives of our inmost thoughts, by which, as if by steps, we either depart far from the Lord, or approach near to Him by holiness. For the mind approaches by so many steps nearer to God, as it makes progress in so many holy emotions. And, again, it departs so many steps further from Him, as it becomes depraved by so many evil thoughts. Whence it is frequently the case that, though the emotion of the mind does not come forth in action, yet the sin is already perfected, by reason of the guilt itself of the thought. As it is written, Hand in hand, the wicked shall not be innocent. [Prov. 11, 21] For hand is wont to be joined with hand, when it rests at ease, and no laborious employment exercises it. Hand therefore in hand, the wicked shall not be innocent. As though he were saying, Even when the hand rests from sinful deeds, yet the wicked, by reason of his thoughts, is not innocent. Because then we know that not merely our actions, but even our thoughts, are strictly weighed, what will befal us for our walking in wicked action, if God judges so minutely the steps of the heart? Behold, no man witnesses the secret courses of our mind, and yet, in the sight of God, we are making as many steps, as many affections as we put in motion. We fall before Him, as often as we stumble away from the straight path by the foot of unstable thought. For unless this frequent stumbling of our minds increased in His sight, He would not in truth exclaim by the Prophet, Put away the evil of your thoughts from before Mine eyes. [Is. 1, 16] But speaking thus, He witnesses that He cannot endure, as it were, the intensity of our secret wickedness. But it cannot be hidden from Him, because, namely, every unlawful thought which is conceived in secret by us, is thrust offensively before His sight. For, as it is written, all things are naked and open to His eyes. [Heb. 4, 13] Whence it is here also properly subjoined,

Ver. 22. There is no darkness, and there is no shadow of death, where they who work iniquity may be hid.




8. What did he intend to designate by darkness but ignorance, and what by the shadow of death, except oblivion? For it is said of the ignorance of certain persons, Having their mind obscured with darkness. [Eph. 4, 13] And it is written again of the oblivion which comes on us at death, In that day all their thoughts shall perish. [Ps. 146, 4] Since then whatever is thought of during life is utterly consigned to oblivion by death, oblivion is a kind of shadow of death. For as intervening death puts an end to the doings of life, so does intervening forgetfulness destroy that which existed in the memory. It is rightly, therefore, called its shadow, inasmuch as it is modelled upon it, as it were, while it imitates its power in lulling the senses to rest. But, since God is neither unacquainted with men’s evil thoughts, nor forgetful of their evil deeds, (except indeed they are blotted out of His sight by penitence,) it is appropriately observed, There is no darkness, and there is no shadow of death, where they who work iniquity may be hid. As though he were to say, No one is hidden from His judgment, for this reason, that it is impossible for Him either not to behold what we do, or to forget what He beholds.


9. Although ‘darkness,’ or ‘the shadow of death,’ can be understood likewise in another sense. For every change is a kind of resemblance of death. For that which changes any thing, cuts it off, as it were, from what it was before: that so it ceases to be what it was, and begins to be what it was not. Because then the true Light, our Creator, I mean, is obscured by no vicissitude of change, and overshadowed by no defects in His own nature; but it is His nature to shine forth unchangeably, darkness and the shadow of death are said not to exist in Him. Wherefore it is written elsewhere, With Whom is no variableness, nor shadow of turning. [James 1, 17] And hence again, Paul the Apostle says, Who only hath immortality, and dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto. [l Tim. 6, 16] But since we all know that both the soul of man and angelic spirits were created immortal, why is God alone said by the Apostle to have immortality, unless it be that God alone truly dies not, since He alone is never changed?


10. For the soul of man would not fall, if it had not been changeable. And, banished also from the joys of Paradise, if it were not capable of change, it would never return to life. But, in endeavouring to return to life, it is compelled to bear with its defects, from its alternation and change. Because then it was fashioned out of nothing, it is of itself ever sinking beneath itself, unless kept up by the hand of its Maker to a condition of holy desire. Since then it is a creature, it has a downward tendency. For it considers, that of its own strength, it is able only to fall headlong; but it holds firmly to its Creator, with the hand of love, lest it should fall, until it passes over to unchangeableness, and lives really immortally, because unchangeably.


11. The Angelic spirits also were made changeable by nature, so as to fall of their own accord, or to stand from their own will. But, because they humbly chose to cling to Him, by Whom they were created,* they overcame the changeableness which was in them, by remaining immutably at the firm, so that they deservedly rose above the liability to change, to which they would have been subject in the order of their nature.

[*Note: Ben. here notes that after the words ‘they were created,’ one Vatican Ms. is quoted as adding, ‘They received from the vision of their Ruler that they should abide in themselves without falling. Hereby, however, their wonderful method of standing is formed, in that while they know what they can do of their own stedfastness, they consider what they owe to the government of their Ruler. And the more easily they see that they, as changeable, can fall, the more close do they draw themselves, that they may not fall, to the love of their Ruler. Of their own stedfastness, they know they may still tumble down headlong, but they hold them fast by their Creator with the hand of love, that they may not fall.’]

Since then it is the property of the Divine Nature alone, not to suffer the shades of ignorance and change, let it be justly said, There is no darkness, and there is no shadow of death, where they, who work iniquity, may be hid. For the more unchangeably that eternal light shines, which is God Himself, the more piercingly does It see, and It is neither ignorant of what is hid, since It penetrates all things, nor does It forget the things It has penetrated, because It lasts on without change. And consequently, as often as we conceive in our mind any unworthy thought, so often do we sin in the light. Because It is present to us though not present to It; and when we walk wickedly we offend against It, from which we are deservedly far away. But, when we believe that we are not seen, we keep our eyes closed in the sun light: that is to say, we conceal Him from ourselves, not ourselves from Him. Let us then, now while we are able, blot out our evil thoughts, and more evil deeds, from the sight of the eternal Judge. Let us recal to the eyes of our heart whatever evil we have committed through the sin of presumption. Let not our weakness flatter itself, and handle itself delicately in those sins, which it calls to mind. But the more it is conscious to itself of evil, let it be the more kindly severe against itself. Let it set before itself the future judgment, and whatever sins it is conscious must be severely smitten by the sentence of the Judge, let it mercifully smite in itself by the penitence of conversion. Whence, after the punishment of this man of violence has been described, it fitly follows,

Ver. 23. For it is no longer in the power of man to come near to God for judgment.




12. This verse requires the greater discussion, the more painful is that which it speaks of, if it is neglected. Here doubtless that judgment is not designated which punishes by eternal retribution, but that which, conceived by the mind, cleanses through our conversation [al. ‘conversion.’]. For whoever is afraid of being condemned by the first of these does not desire to approach near it. By its being said then, For it is no longer in the power of man to come near to God for judgment, it is pointed out at once that there is a kind of judgment, which is at last desired even by the damned and reprobate. And what is that, but this of which Paul the Apostle speaks, For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged? [l Cor. 11, 31] and of which it is said by the Prophet, There is no judgment in their goings, [Is. 59, 8] and of which David says, The honour of a king loveth judgment, [Ps 99, 4] namely, that he who now knows God by Faith, should carefully judge what he owes Him in his works. Whence it is written again, Be judged before the Lord, and wait for Him. [Job 35, 14] He in truth is judged before the Lord, who beholds the Lord in his heart, and examines into his conduct with anxious enquiry, beneath His presence. For a man waits for Him the more confidently, the more he daily examines his life with suspicion. For he, who comes to His final judgment, is no longer judged before Him, but by Him. Of this judgment also the Lord speaks by the Prophet to the forgetful soul, Put Me in remembrance, that we may plead together; tell me, if thou hast any thing, that thou mayest be justified. [Is. 43, 26]


13. For the mind of every one ought anxiously to enquire into its pleas before God, and the pleas of God against itself. It should weigh carefully either what good things it has received from Him, or what an ill return it has made for His goodness by wicked living. And this the Elect never cease to do day by day. Whence Solomon well says, The thoughts of the righteous are judgments. [Prov. l2, 5] For they, approach the secret chambers of the Judge, in the recesses of their own heart; they consider how sharply He smites at last, Who long patiently bears with them. They are afraid for the sins which they remember they have committed; and they punish by their tears the faults which they know they have perpetrated. They dread the searching judgments of God, even in those sins, which they perchance cannot discover in themselves. For they see that that is observed by Divine Power, which they, through human weakness, do not see in themselves. They behold the severe Judge, Who strikes a heavier blow the slower He is in coming. They contemplate also the assembly of the holy Fathers seated with Him in judgment, and blame themselves for having slighted either their words or their examples. [2 Cor. 6, 2] And, in this secret chamber of inward judgment, constrained by the sentence of their own conscience, they chasten with penitence, that which they have committed through pride. For they there count over whatever comes against, and assails them. There do they crowd before their eyes every thing they should weep for. There do they behold whatever can be searched out by the wrath of the severe Judge. There do they suffer as many punishments as they are afraid of suffering. And, in the sentence thus conceived in the mind there is present every agency which is needed for the fuller punishment of those convicted by it. For the conscience accuses, reason judges, fear binds, and pain tortures. And this judgment punishes the more certainly, the more inward is its rage; because it does not come to us from any thing without. For when any one has begun to enter on this business of examination against himself, he is himself the prosecutor who arraigns, he is himself the accused who is arraigned. He hates himself, as he remembers himself to have been: and in the person of his present self persecutes his former self. And a contest is raised by a man in his mind against himself, bringing forth peace with God. This struggle of the heart the Lord required, when He said, by the Prophet, I attended and hearkened: no man speaketh what is good, there is no one that doth penance for his sin, saying, What have I done? [Jer. 8, 6] He was appeased by this struggle of the heart, when He spake to His Prophet, of King Ahab, reproving himself, saying, Hast thou seen Ahab humbled before Me? therefore because he hath humbled himself for My sake, I will not bring the evil in his days. [1 Kings 21, 29]


14. Since then it is now in our power to undergo an inward judgment of our mind against ourselves, let us examine and accuse our own selves, and torture our former selves by penitence. Let us not cease to judge ourselves, while it is in our power. Let us carefully attend to what is said, For it is no longer in the power of man to come near to God for judgment. For it is a property of reprobates to be ever doing wrong, and never to repent of what they have done. For they pass over, with blinded mind, every thing that they do, and do not acknowledge what they have done, except when they have been punished. But it is the custom of the Elect, on the other hand, to examine daily into their conduct from the very first springs of their thoughts, and to drain to the bottom, whatever impurity flows forth from thence. For as we do not notice how our limbs grow, our body increases, our appearance changes, our hair turns from black to white, (for all these things take place in us, without our knowing it,) in like manner is our mind changed from itself, by the very habit of anxiety every moment of our life; and we do not perceive it, unless we sit down to carefully watch our inmost condition, and weigh our advances and failures day by day. For in this life, to stand still, is, in itself, to go back, as it were, to our old state, and when the mind is left undisturbed, it is overpowered by an old age, as it were, of torpor: because by neglecting itself, and by losing insensibly its proper strength, it wastes away, unknown to itself, from the appearance of its former power. Whence it is said by the Prophet, under the character of Ephraim, Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knew it not, but even gray hairs are sprinkled on him, and he himself was ignorant of it. [Hos.7, 9] But when the mind enquires into itself, and examines itself carefully with penitence, it is renewed from this its old nature, by being bathed with tears, and kindled with grief; and, though it had been well nigh frozen with the chill of age, it glows afresh by a supply of the zeal of inward love. Whence the Apostle Paul warns his disciples, who were growing old by contact with this mortal life, saying, Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. [Eph. 4, 23]


15. But both the examples of the Fathers, and the precepts of holy Scripture, assist us much in acting thus. For if we look at the doings of the Saints, and lend an ear to the Divine commands, the sight of the one and the hearing of the other inflames us. And our heart is not benumbed with torpor, when it is urged on by imitation of them. Whence it is well said to Moses, The fire on the altar shall always burn, which the priest shall feed, putting wood on it every day in the morning. [Lev. 6, 12] For the altar of God is our heart, in which the fire is ordered always to burn: because it is necessary that the flame of love should constantly ascend therefrom to God. And the priest should put wood thereon every day, lest it should go out. For every one who is endowed with faith in Christ, is made specially a member of the Great High Priest, as Peter the Apostle says to all the faithful, But ye are a chosen race, a royal priesthood. [1 Pet. 2, 9] And as the Apostle John says, Thou hast made us a kingdom and priests to our God. [Rev. 1, 6] The Priest therefore feeding the fire on the altar, must place fuel on it every day; that is, every faithful person must never cease to collect together in his heart as well the examples of those who have gone before, as also the testimonies of Holy Scripture, that the flame of love may not be extinguished within it. For to make use of, either the examples of the Fathers, or the precepts of the Lord, in exciting our love, is, as it were, to supply fuel to the fire. For since our new life within daily grows old, by its very converse with this world, fire must be fed by a supply of wood, so that while it wastes itself away by the habits of our own condition, it may revive by means of the examples and testimonies of the Fathers. And it is there rightly ordered, that wood should be thrown on every day in the morning. For these things are not done, unless when the night of blindness is extinguished. Or certainly, because the morning is the first part of the day, every one of the faithful must put aside the thoughts of this life, and consider in the first place, that he must enkindle by every means in his power, that zeal which is even now as it were failing within him. For this fire on the altar of the Lord, that is, on our heart, is speedily extinguished, if it is not carefully renewed by an application of the examples of the Fathers, and the testimonies of the Lord.


16. But it is rightly subjoined in this place, And when the burnt offering is placed upon it he shall burn the fat of the peace offerings. [Lev. 6, 12] For whoever kindles within himself this fire of love, places himself upon it as a burnt offering, because he burns out every fault, which wickedly lived within him. For when he examines the secrets of his own thoughts, and sacrifices his wicked life, by the sword of conversion, he has placed himself on the altar of his own heart, and kindled himself with the fire of love. And the fat of the peace offerings smells sweetly from this victim: because the inward fatness of new love, making peace between ourselves and God, emits from us the sweetest odour. But since this self-same love continues inextinguishable in the heart of the Elect, it is there fitly subjoined, This is that perpetual fire, which shall never go out on the altar. [Lev. 6, 13] This fire in truth will never go out on the altar, because the glow of love increases in their minds even after this life. For it is the effect of eternal contemplation, that Almighty God is loved the more deeply, the more He is seen.


17. But that we are delivered from the depths of this life, when aided by the Divine warning, and the examples of those who have gone before, is also well signified by Jeremiah the Prophet being lowered into a well; [Jer. 38, 11] for ropes and old rags are let down, in order to raise him out of it. For what is typified by the ropes but the precepts of the Lord? For since they both bind us fast, and snatch us away when involved in evil doings, they tie, as it were, and draw us, they confine and raise us up. But for fear he should be cut, when bound, and dragged by the ropes, old rags are at the same time lowered down: because the examples of the old fathers strengthen, that the Divine commands may not alarm us. And, by comparing ourselves with them, we presume that we are able to do that, which we shrink from, through our own weakness. If then we are anxious to be raised from the depth, let us be fastened with ropes, that is, let us be bound by the precepts of the Lord. But let old rags also be placed between, for the ropes to be held better by their means: that is, let us be supported by the examples of those of old times, that the subtle precepts may not, as they raise up, wound us who are infirm and timid. The Apostle Paul used to apply, as it were, some old rags, when he adapted the examples of the ancients to his spiritual precepts, in order to raise up his disciples, saying, The righteous had trial of mockings and scourging, moreover also of bonds and imprisonments: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword. [Heb. 11, 36, 37] And shortly after, Having therefore so great a cloud of witnesses placed over us, laying aside every weight, and the sin which surrounds us, let us run with patience to the contest set before us; [Heb. 12, 1] and again, Remember those who are placed over you, who have spoken to you the word of God, whose faith imitate, looking to the end of their conversation. [Heb. 13, 7] He had, namely, in a former passage, lowered ropes, as it were, while announcing spiritual precepts. But afterwards he applied old rags, as it were, when mentioning the examples of ancestors.


18. Roused then by the voices of so many precepts, and aided by the comparison of so many examples, let us turn back to our hearts, and examine carefully all our doings. And let us blame whatever within us offends against the will of Divine rectitude, in order that this very accusation may excuse us with our strict Judge. For we are the more quickly acquitted in this judgment of our conscience, the more strictly we regard ourselves as guilty. And we must not omit the opportunities which are afforded us for this purpose, because, after the season of this life, there is no time for so doing. For it is not, indeed, said without reason, For it is no longer in the power of man to come near to God for judgment. For we are reminded of what we cannot do then, in order that we may not neglect, now, what we can do. But behold, engagements occupy our minds, and, from their constant contact with us, turn away the eye of our mind from self consideration. For our mind is distracted by those visible things, which it beholds, and when it is employed outwardly, it forgets what is going on in itself within. But the Divine voice pierces it with its terrible sentences, like so many nails, to keep it vigilant; that man may, at least when startled with fear, tremble at the secret judgments hanging over him, which he pretends not to see, when overwhelmed by torpor. For, as we said above, the mind is weighed down, by being fatally accustomed to the habits of the old life, and is lulled as in sleep on these outward objects which it beholds; and after having once wasted its strength in seeking after visible things without, it has lost all its power for contemplating invisible things within. Whence it is now necessary that the mind which is detached by visible objects, should be smitten with invisible judgments, and that, since it has laid itself low by its evil indulgence in these outward objects, it should seek, at least when smitten, that which it has forsaken. But behold, Holy Scripture transfixes drowsy hearts with a kind of dread, in order that they may not cling to those things which come to nothing without, but which have eternally ruined them within. It points out to us what is decreed by the secret sentence, in order that these outward things may not be too much thought of. It informs us what is doing above us with regard to us, in order that we may turn the eyes of our heart from these outward and temporal objects, to the secret of the inward disposal. For after much had been said, concerning the punishment of the wicked, there is suddenly introduced the secret judgment, mercifully and justly passed upon us: how some lose that which they appeared to hold fast, and some receive that which others deservedly lose. For he says,

Ver. 24. He shall break in pieces many and without number, and shall make others to stand in their stead.




19. This is daily occurring. But because the end of both parties is not seen as yet, it is less dreaded. For the reprobate never acknowledge their fault, excepting when under punishment. And because punishment is deferred, the fault is made light of. But they fall from a state of righteousness, and others, on their fall, obtain the place of life. But they think not of their fall, since they do not consider the death which awaits them for ever. For did they but turn their eyes to what they are about to suffer there, they would tremble at what they are doing here. But it is plain to all that Almighty God will make a public enquiry at that final ordeal, so as to give up some to torments, and admit others to a participation of the heavenly kingdom. But that is now daily taking place by a secret, which is then made manifest by a public, judgment. For either searching, or ordering, the hearts of men, one by one, with justice and mercy, He casts forth some of them to outward pursuits, and leads others on to those which are within. He inspires these to seek for inward joys, and leaves those to think, for their pleasure, on outward things. He raises the mind of these to heavenly objects, and immerses the pride of the others in the basest desires. But the hearts of other men are shut up from human sight, and it is not known who is rejected; since the thoughts of each man cannot be penetrated. For oft times, though the heart be evilly disposed, the deliberation of thought has not been carried into effect, and a man is perhaps still constrained within by habit, who already wanders abroad in his mind. But such an one, whoever he be, fell in the sight of the inward Judge, as soon as he departed in desire from seeking for things within. But others, sometimes, after a course of evil living, revive, with sudden affection, to a hope of heaven, and they who had dissipated themselves by sinful conduct, bring themselves back, by self reproof, to the bosom of inward repentance. And men still looking back to this conduct, think them still to be such, as they knew them to be in behaviour. But they themselves, on the other hand, by the examination of strict consideration, attack their former life as they remember it to have been; and it is known what they were, but what they have now begun to be is not known. In both then of these classes it is frequently the case, that both they who in the judgment of men seem to stand, are already fallen in the sight of the Eternal Judge: and that those who are still fallen before men, already stand firm in the sight of the Eternal Judge. For what man could suppose that Judas, even after the ministry of the apostleship, would lose his portion in life? And who would believe, on the other hand, that the thief would find a means of life even at the very instant of his death? But the Judge secretly presiding, and discerning the hearts of these two persons, mercifully established the one, and justly crushed the other. He cast forth the one with severity, He drew the other within of His mercy. And hence in announcing even by His Prophet, that some would fall and others be raised up at the time of His passion, He well says, I mingled My drink with weeping. [Ps. 102, 9] For drink is drawn in from without, but weeping pours out from within. For the Lord then to mingle drink with weeping, is for Him to draw some within, from outward things, and to cast off others from an inward to an outward condition. He shall break in pieces, then, many and without number, and shall make others to stand in their stead.


20. But, as was said before, this breaking is first wrought within, in order to its being afterwards displayed without. By this breaking the outward parts of some sometimes appear to be still sound, while the inward parts have already rotted away. For it is written, Before ruin the heart is exalted. [Prov. l6, 18] They are smitten then on the very point in which they are proud. Whence it is written, I have broken their heart which committeth fornication, and which departeth from Me. [Ez. 6, 9] For to delight outwardly in forbidden objects, is to commit fornication within. But this very pride of the haughty man is a great crushing of his heart. For he falls from the integrity of sound health, just as he is puffed up with pride, on account of any virtue. For proud men despise God, and, forsaking the glory of the Creator, seek their own. And, for them to have lost the support of their superior, and to have sunk back on themselves, is for them to have already fallen. They are crushed too because, having abandoned the things of heaven, they seek the earth. For what greater crushing can there be, than, having forsaken the Creator, to seek the creature, having forsaken the joys above, to be eager only for things below? Whence it is well said by the Prophet, But He humbles sinners even to the earth. [Ps. 147, 6] For when they have lost heavenly things, every thing which they thirst after is earthly, and while they endeavour to seem greater, that which they seek after is of less value. Of whom it is well said by Jeremiah, Departing from Thee they shall be written in the earth. [Jer. 17, 13] But it is said on the other hand of the Elect, Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. [Luke 10, 20] This crushing, then, first steals on in the mind, in order that it may afterwards advance in outward act. It shakes first the foundation of the thoughts, in order to smite afterwards the fabric of conduct. We must labour therefore with the greatest care, in order that it may be avoided in the place where it takes its rise. For it is written, Keep thy heart with all watchfulness, because life proceedeth from it. [Prov. 4, 23] And it is written again, From the heart proceed evil thoughts. [Matt. 15, 19] We must watch, therefore, within, lest the mind should fall, when it is exalted. Let us guard within all that we do without. For, if once the rottenness of pride has eaten into the marrow of the heart, the empty husk of outward appearance speedily falls. But we must observe, that, while some are said to receive strength to stand firm, when others fall, the number of the Elect is shewn to be fixed and definite. Whence it is said also, to the Church of Philadelphia, through its Angel, Hold fast that which thou hast, that another take not thy crown. [Rev. 3, 11]


21. By this announcement then, in which it is said, that the life of some is exalted, and that of others is crushed, both the hope of the humble is cherished, and the pride of the haughty brought low: since those can forfeit the good qualities of which they are proud, and these enjoy the good things, which they were despised for not possessing. Let us tremble, then, at the blessings we have received, and not despair of those who have not yet obtained them. For we know what we are to-day; but we know not what we may become after a little while. But these persons whom, perchance, we despise, can begin late, and yet surpass our conduct, by their more fervent zeal. We must fear, therefore, lest he should rise, even on our fall, who is now derided by us, who are standing firm: although, indeed, he knows not how to stand firm himself, who has learned to ridicule him, who is yet unsteady. But the Apostle Paul, enforcing this dread of heavenly judgments, into the hearts of his disciples, says, Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. [l Cor. 10, 12] But by saying, He breaketh in pieces, and by adding immediately, without number, he desired either to express the number of the reprobate, which surpasses the amount of human calculation; or he, certainly, wished to point out, that all who perish are not reckoned in the number of the Elect, and that they are therefore innumerable, as running beyond the number. Whence the Prophet, on beholding that as many, at this period of the Church, believe only in appearance, as it is doubtless certain exceed the number and amount of the Elect, declares, They are multiplied above number. As though he were saying to many who are entering the Church, Even those come to the faith in appearance only, who are excluded from the number of the kingdom, because in truth they surpass by their multiplicity the number of the Elect. Whence also it is said by the Prophet Jeremiah, The city shall be built to the Lord, from the tower of Ananehel, even to the gate of the corner, and it will go forth beyond the standard of measure. [Jer. 31, 38] For no one in truth is ignorant that Holy Church is the city of the Lord. But Ananehel is interpreted the grace of God, and two walls meet together in a corner. The city of the Lord is said therefore to be built from the tower of Ananehel, even to the gate of the corner: because Holy Church, beginning from the loftiness of Divine grace, is built up, as far as to the entrance of both peoples, namely, Jew and Gentile. But because, as its members increase, reprobates also are included therein, it is fitly added, And it will go forth beyond the standard of measure: because it is extended even to those who, transgressing the standard of justice, are not within the number of the heavenly measure. Whence it is said also to the same Church by Isaiah, For thou shall spread forth on the right hand, and on the left, and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles. [Is. 54, 3] For it is extended in so great a multitude of Gentiles, to the right hand, when it admits some to be justified. And it is extended to the left also, when it admits into itself some who will even remain in sin. On account of this multitude, which lies beyond the number of the Elect, the Lord says in the Gospel, Many are called but few are chosen. [Matt. 20, 16] But, because some are crushed, while others are chosen, in consequence of the deserts of the sufferer, and not from the injustice of Him who punishes, (for God is not unjust, Who inflicteth wrath [Rom. 3, 5]) it is fitly subjoined,

Ver. 25. For He knoweth their works, and therefore will He bring night on them, and they shall be crushed.




22. It is specially to be understood, that every sinner is, in two ways, crushed in the night; either when he is struck by the suffering of punishment from without, or when he is blinded by a secret sentence within. He falls at night, when he loses for ever the light of life, by the last judgment. Whence it is written, Bind him hands and feet, and send him into outer darkness. [Matt. 22, 13] For he is then sent of force into outer darkness; because he is now blinded of his own will with darkness within. But, again, the sinner is crushed at night, when, condemned by the overthrow of former sinners, he finds not the light of truth, and knows not what he ought to do for the future. For every sin, which is not speedily wiped out by penitence, is either a sin, and a cause of sin, or else a sin, and the punishment of sin. For a sin which penitence does not wash away, soon leads on, by its very weight, to another. Whence it is not only a sin, but a sin, and a cause of sin. For, from that sin, a succeeding fault takes its rise, by which the blinded mind is led on to endure greater bondage from another. But a sin which arises from a sin, is no longer merely a sin, but a sin, and a punishment of sin. Because Almighty God obscures, by a just judgment, the heart of a sinner, that he may fall into other sins also, through desert of his former sin. For the man whom He willed not to set free, He has smitten by forsaking him. That, then, is not improperly called the punishment of sin, which, in consequence of a just blindness having been inflicted from above, is committed by way of punishment for former offences. And it is the result of a system, ordained indeed above, but thrown into confusion by men’s wickedness below, that a preceding sin is the cause of that which follows, and, again, a subsequent sin the punishment of that which precedes it. This seed, as it were, of error, Paul had clearly observed in the unbelieving and unstable, when saying, Who when they had known God, glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their thoughts. [Rom. l, 21] But he immediately added that which sprang up from this seed of error, saying, Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their own heart unto uncleanness, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves. [Rom. l, 24] For because, though knowing God, they wittingly committed the sin of pride, they are also so blinded as not to be aware of the sin they are committing. And they who are unwilling to follow their own understanding in sin, that is the cause of sin, are deprived of the light of understanding in sin, that is the punishment of sin. The pitfal of subsequent sins is covered over by the demerits of former sins, in order that he, who knowingly commits sin, may afterwards fall, even unwittingly, in other sins.


23. It is provided, in fact, that some faults are smitten with other faults, in order that their very growth in sin may be the punishment of sinners. For because Almighty God grants time for repentance, which human wickedness perverts, nevertheless, to the practice of its own iniquity, our guilt is doubtless permitted to increase by the just judgment of God, in order that it may be heaped up, for Him to strike it at last a heavier blow. For hence the Apostle Paul says again of certain persons, To fill up their sins alway. [1 Thess. 2, 16] Hence it is to John by the voice of the angel, He that hurteth let him hurt still, he that is filthy let him be filthy still. [Rev. 22, 11] Hence David says, Add iniquity unto their iniquity, that they may not enter into Thy righteousness. [Ps. 69, 27] Hence again it is said of the Lord by the same Psalmist, Suggestions [‘Immissiones’] by evil angels He made a way for the path of His anger. [Ps. 78, 49. 50.] For the Lord justly permits the heart which has been weighed down by former demerits, to be deceived also by the subsequent persuasions of malignant spirits, for, when it is deservedly led into sin, its guilt is increased in its punishment. Whence also the Lord is said to have made a way for His wrath out of a path. For a way is broader than a path. But to make out of a path a way for His wrath, is, by strictly judging to extend the causes of His wrath, that they who refused, when enlightened, to act rightly, may, when justly blinded, still so act as to deserve a greater punishment. Hence it is said by Moses, The sins of the Amorites are not yet full. [Gen. 15, 16] Hence the Lord says by the same Moses, For their vine is of the vineyard of Sodom, and their stock is of Gomorrah. Their grape is a grape of gall, and the cluster of bitterness is in them. Their wine is the fury of dragons and the rage of asps, which cannot be healed. Are not all these things stored up with Me, and sealed up in My treasures? In the day of vengeance I will repay them. [Deut. 32, 32-35] How many of their sins has He revealed, and yet He immediately subjoins, In the time when their foot shall have stumbled. Behold, their most abominable misdeeds are described, and yet for the day of vengeance, their subsequent fall is looked forward to, whereby their faults are to be heaped up to the full. They already have enough to deserve punishment; but their sin is still suffered to increase, in order that, sinning, a heavier punishment may torture them. Sin, the cause of sin, already deserves punishment; but it is still deferred, in order that sin, the punishment of sin, may supply an increase of suffering.


24. But frequently one and the same sin is also a sin such as is both a punishment, and a cause of sin. We shall make this more plain, by bringing forward some instances. For unrestrained gluttony excites the fulness of the flesh to the heat of lust. But lust, when committed, is frequently concealed either by perjury or murder, for fear it should be punished by the vengeance of human laws. Let us suppose to ourselves then, that a man has given the reins to his gluttony, that, being overcome by his gluttony, he has committed the sin of adultery, that being detected in adultery, he has secretly murdered the husband of the adulteress, lest he should be brought to judgment. This adultery then, standing between gluttony and murder, springing from the one, and giving being to the other, is a sin, and both the punishment, and the cause of sin also. It is in truth a sin of itself, but the punishment of sin, because it has increased the guilt of gluttony; but it is the cause of sin, because it also gave birth to the subsequent murder. One and the same sin, then, is both the punishment of the preceding, and the cause of the subsequent, sin: because it both condemns past sins, while it adds to their amount, and sows the seeds of future sins, to deserve condemnation. Because then the eye of the heart is blinded by previous sins, that blindness which confuses the mind of the sinner, by condemning him for his former offence, is properly designated ‘night:’ because by this the light of truth is concealed from the eye of the sinner. It is therefore well said, For He knoweth their works, and therefore will He bring night on them, and they shall be crushed. Because, as has been often observed, they doubtless commit previous offences, in order that they should be involved again in sin by the darkness which follows, so that they are now as unable to behold the light of righteousness, as they were unwilling to behold it when they were able. But the Lord is said to bring night on them, not because He Himself brings on the darkness, but because He does not enlighten in His mercy the darkened hearts of sinners. So that His having blinded men in the night is His not having willed to deliver them from the gloom of blindness. It follows,

Ver. 26. He hath smitten them as ungodly men, in the place of beholders.




25. In holy Scripture the word ‘as,’ is wont to be used, sometimes for resemblance, sometimes for reality. For it is for resemblance, as when the Apostle says, As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing: [2 Cor. 6 10] but for the reality, as John says, We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father. [John 1, 14] But in this passage it makes no difference, whether it is put for resemblance, or reality: for, in whatever way it is taken, the evil life of the wicked is plainly signified. But holy Scripture specially calls unbelievers ‘ungodly.’ For sinners are distinguished from ungodly by this difference, that though every ungodly man is a sinner, yet every sinner is not ungodly. For even a man who is godly in the Faith can be called a sinner. Whence John says, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. [1 John 1, 8] But a man is properly called ‘ungodly’ who is estranged from the holiness of religion. For of such the Prophet says, The ungodly shall not rise up in the judgment. [Ps. 1, 5] But Holy Church is called the place of beholders. For people rightly assemble therein, in order that the True Light, which is God Himself, may be seen. Whence it is said to Moses, There is a place by Me, and thou shall stand upon a rock, when My Majesty passeth by. [Ex. 33, 21. 22.] And shortly afterwards, I will take away My hand, and thou shalt see My back parts. [ib. 23.] For, by the place, is typified the Church, but by the rock, the Lord, but by Moses, the multitude of the people of Israel, which did not believe, when the Lord was preaching upon earth. It stood, therefore, on the rock, beholding the back of the Lord, as He was passing by: because in truth having been brought into Holy Church, after the Passion and Ascension of the Lord, it obtained a knowledge of the faith in Christ, and beheld the back parts of Him, Whose presence it had not seen. Let it be said, then, of those whom Divine Vengeance finds within Holy Church, still persisting in their iniquities; let it be said of these, whose conduct Paul describes thus, Who confess that they know God, but in words they deny Him: [Tit. 1, 16] let it be said of these, He hath smitten them as ungodly in the place of beholders. For they were standing in that place, where they seemed to see God. They loved darkness in that very place, where the light of truth is beheld. And although they had had their eyes opened in faith, yet they kept them closed in their works. Whence it is also well said of Judaea, Her watchmen are blind, because, namely, they did not behold in works that which they saw in profession. Whence it is written also of Balaam, Who falling hath his eyes open. [Num. 24, 16] For, falling in works, he kept his eyes open in contemplation. In like manner these also, who open their eyes in faith, and who see not in works, who are placed, from their appearance of piety, within the Church, are found, by their ungodly conversation, without the Church. Of whom it is well written in another place, I saw the ungodly buried, who when they were alive, were in the holy place, and were praised in the city, as men of just works. [Eccles. 8, 10]


26. But the very tranquillity of the peace of the Church conceals many under the Christian name, who are beset with the plague of their own wickedness. But if a light breath of persecution strikes them, it sweeps them away at once as chaff from the threshing floor. But some persons wish to bear the mark of Christian calling, because, since the name of Christ has been exalted on high, nearly all persons now look to appear faithful, and from seeing others called thus, they are ashamed not to seem faithful themselves; but they neglect to be that which they boast of being called. For they assume the reality of inward excellence, to adorn their outward appearance: and they who stand before the heavenly Judge, naked from the unbelief of their heart, are clothed, in the sight of men, with a holy profession, at least in words.


27. But some persons maintain the faith in their inmost heart, but are not careful to live faithfully. For they assail in their conduct that which they reverence in profession. And it frequently happens that they lose, by Divine judgment, even that which they wholesomely believe, through the wickedness of their lives. For they unceasingly pollute themselves by wicked deeds, and do not believe that the vengeance of just judgment can fall in retribution upon this conduct. And frequently, when they neglect to live strictly, they fall into unbelief, even when no one persecutes them. For they who do not believe that a strict judgment is hanging over them, who imagine that they can sin, without being punished for it; how can they either be, or be called, faithful? For to believe that due punishment cannot be inflicted on their unrepented wickedness, is to have lost their faith. Because then they scorn to maintain works worthy of faith, they lose even the faith which they seemed to possess. And the language of destroying enemies over these is fitly mentioned by the Prophet, under the character of Jerusalem. For it is said by them, Make her void, make her void, even to the foundation thereof. [Ps. 137, 7] For Paul says, Other foundation can no man lay but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. [l Cor. 3, 11] Destroying enemies, then, make Jerusalem bare, even to the foundation, when evil spirits, having first destroyed the edifice of good works, draw away also the firm foundation of religion from the hearts of the faithful. For works are built on faith, as a building on a foundation. To have laid bare then even to the foundation, is, after having overthrown good works, to have scattered the strength of faith. Hence also it is said to Judaea by Jeremiah, The sons also of Memphis and Taphnis have polluted thee even to the head. [Jer. 2, 16] For to be polluted even to the head, is, after a habit of evil deeds, to be corrupted in the very sublimity of the faith. For when abandoned spirits involve the soul of any one in wicked works, but cannot pollute the integrity of his faith, they pollute, as yet, the inferior members, as it were, but reach not to the head. But whoever is corrupted in the faith, is at once defiled even to the head. For a malignant spirit reaches, as it were, from the inferior even to the higher members, when, defiling the outward conduct, it corrupts with the disease of unbelief the pure loftiness of the faith. Because then all these things are hidden from the eyes of men, but are open to the sight of God, and many die, without faith, in this abode of faith itself, let it be rightly said, He hath smitten them as ungodly men, in the place of beholders. For they exhibit themselves, before men in the Church, as godly persons, but because they cannot escape the Divine judgments, they are smitten as ungodly. And it tends to increase their punishment, that each of them, having been thrown together with the faithful in the Church, wittingly despised the verity of the faith. And a heavier punishment follows them, as the knowledge of good living also attends them in the examples of righteous men. For the righteous and faithful brethren who are now set before them, are so many witnesses to assail them in the coming judgment. They know, therefore, that which they neglect to follow. Whence it is also fitly subjoined,

Ver. 27. Who departed from Him, as it were on purpose.




28. For we must understand that a sin is committed in three ways. For it is perpetrated either through ignorance, or infirmity, or of set purpose. And we sin more grievously from infirmity than through ignorance, but much more grievously of set purpose than from infirmity. Paul had sinned from ignorance, when he said, Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious, but I obtained mercy, because 1 did it ignorantly in unbelief. [1 Tim. 1, 13] But Peter sinned through infirmity, when the single word of a damsel shook in him all that strength of faith, which he had spoken of to the Lord, and when he denied, with his voice, the Lord Whom he held firm in his heart. [Matt. 26, 69. and 33.] But because a sin of infirmity or ignorance is wiped away the more easily, as it is not wilfully committed, Paul amended by knowledge the points on which he was ignorant: and Peter strengthened the root of faith which was moved, and, as it were, withering away, by watering it with his tears. [Ib. 75.] But those persons sinned intentionally, of whom the Master Himself said, If I had not come, and spoken unto them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. [John 15, 22] And a little after, They have both seen, and hated, both Me and My Father. [Ib. 24] For not to do good is one thing, to hate a teacher of goodness another: as it is one thing to sin from precipitancy, and another thing to sin deliberately. For a sin is often committed from precipitation, which yet is condemned on thought and deliberation. For it frequently happens that a man through infirmity loves what is right, and cannot perform it. But to sin deliberately is neither to love nor to do what is good. As it is therefore sometimes a heavier offence to love sin than to commit it, it is, in like manner, more sinful to hate righteousness, than not to have performed it. There are some then in the Church, who so far from doing good, even persecute it, and who even detest in others, what they neglect to do themselves. The sin of these persons is in truth not committed from infirmity or ignorance, but of intention alone: because, namely, if they wished to do what is right, and were unable, they would at least love in others, what they neglect in themselves. For were they but only to wish for it themselves, they would not hate it when done by others. But because they despise in their lives, and persecute with severity the very same good qualities which they know and hear of, it is rightly said, Who departed from Him of purpose. Whence also it is rightly subjoined,

And would not understand any of His ways.




29. For he says not, they understand not through infirmity, but they would not understand; because men frequently also despise the knowledge of those things, which they are too proud to do. For since it is written, The servant that knew not his Lord’s will, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes, and the servant which knew his Lord’s will, and did not according to it, shall be beaten with many stripes, [Luke 12, 47. 48.] they consider that their ignorance secures impunity for their sin. But they are doubtless overwhelmed with the darkness of pride alone, and therefore discern not, because it is one thing to have been ignorant, another to have refused to learn. For not to know is only ignorance, to refuse to learn is pride. And they are the less able to plead ignorance in excuse, the more that knowledge is set before them even against their will. Whence it is said by Solomon, Doth not wisdom cry, and prudence put forth her voice, standing on the top of lofty places, above the way, in the middle of the paths? [Prov. 8, 1. 2.] We might perhaps be able to pass along the way of this present life, in ignorance of this Wisdom, if She had not Herself stood in the corners of the way.


30. If It had wished to be concealed, it would have been necessary to search after It. But after It has publicly displayed the mysteries of the Incarnation, after It has exhibited to the proud a pattern of humility, It placed Itself, as it were, in the middle of the way as we were passing along it; in order, namely, that we might strike against that which we are unwilling to look for, and touch and stumble over that which we neglect to observe as we are passing by it. Let it be said then, And they would not understand any of His ways. For the way of Incarnate Wisdom is every action which He did in time. His ways are the courses of life, which He has laid down for those who are coming to Him. He has marked out as many ways for those who come to Him, as many patterns as He has set forth of holy living. The Prophet had beheld His ways of humility, when he sighed, saying, I will exercise myself in Thy commands, and I will consider Thy ways. [Ps. 119, 15] Hence again it is said of every righteous man who takes care to walk after the pattern of the Lord. The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord, and he desireth greatly His way. [Ps. 37, 23] Because then all haughty men despise the doings of the Lord’s humility, it is rightly said, They would not understand His ways. For these ways are mean in appearance, but are to be reverenced in understanding; since that which is seen in them is one thing, that which is looked for is another. For what else does it present in this life to the eyes of beholders, but degradation, spitting, insults, and death? But we pass through this lowliness to the highest glory. By these disgraces, which precede, eternal and glorious things are promised to us. Haughty men then have seen the ways of the Lord, but have refused to understand them, because by despising the mean appearance they present in themselves, they have lost the sublime promises which they offer. To understand, then, the ways of the Lord, is both to endure humbly what is transitory, and steadily to wait for that which is to abide; in order that, after the pattern of the Lord, coeternal glory, which is purchased by temporal disgrace, may be sought for, and that a person may not fix his mind on that which he suffers here, but on that which he looks for. Haughty men, then, have kept their eyes closed to these things, because while they pride themselves on the glory of this present life, they have not seen the loftiness of the Lord’s humility. For humility discloses to us the light of understanding, pride conceals it. For it is a kind of secret blessing of a holy life: and the mind attains to it the less, the more it is puffed up: because it is driven away from it, the more madly it is inspired. It follows,

Ver. 28. That they might cause the cry of the needy to come to Him, and that He might hear the voice of the poor.




31. For when these men are proud, they who are oppressed by their pride, cry aloud to God. Or certainly, it is said that they have caused the cry of the poor to come to God, because, on their fall, the poor, that is, the humble in spirit, are appointed in their room. And because this has taken place on their fall, they are said to have done it themselves: by the very same mode of expression with which we say that a camp fights, because men fight out of it. Or certainly, because every thing which has been stated above, can also be referred to the rulers of the Church, who give up the office of preaching, and are involved in worldly business, on occasion of exercising authority, it is fitly subjoined, That they might cause the cry of the needy to come to Him, and that He might hear the voice of the poor. For certainly while, from being engaged in worldly cares, they abandon the duty of preaching, they compel the flock which is under them to burst out into clamorous complaint. So that each of those under them complains, as if justly, of the conduct of the pretended pastor, why doth he hold the place of a teacher, who doth not exercise the office? Although, by ‘the pride of mighty men,’ the haughtiness of the Jews, and by ‘the cry of the poor,’ the longings of the Gentiles, are perhaps more appropriately typified. Just as by the rich man feasting sumptuously, [Luke 16, 19-31] as the Truth Itself witnesses, the Jewish people is designated, which makes use of the fulness of the Law, not for the needful purpose of salvation, but for the pomp of pride, and which does not refresh itself moderately with the teaching of the commandments, but makes a boastful display of them. And by the wounded Lazarus, (which is by interpretation, ‘Assisted,’) is set forth the condition of the Gentile people, whom the Divine assistance exalts the more, the less it relies on the resources of its own strength. And he is described as poor and full of wounds, because the Gentile world has, with humble heart, laid open the confession of its sins. For as in a wound the venom is drawn towards the skin from within, so, in like manner, while secrets are disclosed by the confession of sin, evil humours, as it were, break forth from the inmost parts of the body. When they sin then, the cry of the poor is heard; because, while the Jews are proud against God, the prayers of the Gentiles are come up to God. Whence also, from his awe at those boundless and unfathomable judgments, he does not care to discuss them with reasoning, but to venerate them with admiration, and says,

Ver. 29. For when He giveth peace, who is there to condemn? since He hath hidden His face, who is there that can look on Him?




32. Let no one then discuss, why the Gentile world lay so long in unbelief, while the Jewish people was yet standing, and why the sin of unbelief overthrew the Jewish people, as the Gentile world rose to belief. [Rom. 11, 20] Let no one discuss, why one is drawn on, as of a free gift, and the other repelled according to its deserts. For if thou art surprised at the adoption of the Gentiles, When He giveth peace, who is there to condemn? If thou art startled at the loss of the Jews, Since He hath hidden His face, who is there that can look on Him? So the counsel of supreme and hidden power becomes the satisfaction of evident reason. Whence also the Lord in the Gospel says, when speaking on the subject of this matter, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father. [Matt. 11, 25] And He immediately adds, as a kind of reason for this concealment and revealing, For so it hath seemed good before Thee. [Matt. 11, 26] In which words, in truth, we learn a pattern of humility, that we may not rashly presume to discuss the Divine counsels concerning the call of the one and the rejection of the others. For after He had mentioned both points, He did not at once give a reason, but said that it was thus well pleasing to God; pointing out, namely, this very point, that that cannot be unjust, which has seemed good to the Just One. Whence also He says, when paying the labourers in the vineyard, on equalling in compensation those who were unequal in work, and when he who had toiled longest asked for greater pay, Didst thou not agree with Me for a penny? I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with Mine own? [Matt. 20, 13-15] In all things then which are outwardly disposed by Him, the righteousness of His secret will is an evident cause of reason. Let it be said therefore. For when He giveth peace, who is there to condemn? since He hath hidden His face, who is there that can look on Him? And because God judges the least, in the same way as the greatest, things, and the doings of individuals, as those of all men, it is fitly subjoined, Both over a nation, and over all men.




33. As if we were plainly directed to observe, that this judgment which is spoken of over a single nation, is also exercised over all men, by an invisible examination; so that one man is secretly elected, and another rejected, but no one unjustly. This then which we see happening in the greatest cases, let us also anxiously fear in ourselves separately. For the Divine judgments are displayed in the same manner over a single soul as over a single city; and again in the same way over a single city, as over a single nation: and over a single nation, as over the whole multitude of the human race. Because the Lord is as attentive to particular persons, as though unconcerned with the world at large; and again so directs His attention to all at once, as though unconcerned with individuals. For He Who fills all things with His dispensation, rules by filling them, and when ordering one single thing, is still present in all, and again, when ordering the world at large, is present with each individual; in fact, works all things without moving, by the power of His own nature. What marvel, then, that He, when intent on any thing, is not confined to it, Who works still at rest? Let it be said then that He exercises this searching judgment both over a nation, and over all men. Because he has passed then from species to genus, he now turns himself from genus to species, and shews what Judaea properly deserves, saying,

Ver. 30. Who maketh a man that is a hypocrite to reign for the sins of the people.




34. For Judaea was unwilling that the true King should reign over it, and therefore obtained a hypocrite, as its merits demanded. As the Truth Itself says in the Gospel, I have come in My Fathers name, and ye received Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. [John 5, 43] And as Paul says, Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved, therefore God shall send them the operation of error, that they should believe a lie. [2 Thess. 2, 10. 11.]  In that, then, which is said, Who maketh a man that is a hypocrite to reign for the sins of the people, may be designated Antichrist, the very chief of all hypocrites. For that seducer then pretends to sanctity, that he may draw men away to iniquity. But he is permitted to reign for the sins of the people, because, in truth, they are preordained to be under his rule, who are foreseen before all ages to be worthy of being his subjects, who by their subsequent sins, claim to be placed under him by antecedent judgments. That Antichrist then reigns over the ungodly arises not from the injustice of the Judge, but from the sin of the sufferer. Although most of them have not beheld his sovereign power, and yet are enslaved to it, by the condition in which their sins have placed them. Because they, doubtless, reverence even him by their evil lives, whom they do not see tyrannizing over them. Are not they his very members, who seek by a shew of affected sanctity to seem what they are not? For he in a special manner assumes a false guise, who though a lost man, and an evil spirit, falsely announces himself to be God. [2 Thess. 2, 4] But they unquestionably now come forth from his body, who conceal their iniquities under the cloak of sacred honour, in order to seek to seem to be that in profession, which they refuse to be in their doings. For since it is written, that whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin, [John 8, 34] the more freely they now commit the sins which they desire, the more strictly are they bound down to his service. But let no one who suffers such a ruler, blame him whom he suffers: because his being subject to the power of a wicked ruler was doubtless of his own desert. Let him therefore rather blame the fault of his own evil doings, than the injustice of his ruler. For it is written, I will give thee kings in Mine anger. [Hos. 13, 11] Why then do we scorn their being set over us, whose authority over us we endure from the anger of the Lord? If then we receive rulers, according to our deserts, from the wrath of God, we infer from their conduct, what to think in our estimate of ourselves. Although even the Elect are frequently placed under the reprobate. Whence also David for a long time endured Saul. But it is proved by the subsequent sin of adultery, that he then deserved to be thus heavily oppressed by the cruelty of him who was set over him. [2 Sam. 12, 11]


35. The characters, then, of rulers are so assigned according to the deserts of their subjects, that frequently they who seem to be good are soon changed by the acceptance of power. As holy Scripture observed of the same Saul that he changed his heart with his dignity. Whence it is written, When thou wast little in thine own eyes, I made thee the head among the tribes of Israel. [1 Sam. 15, 17] The conduct of rulers is so ordered with reference to the characters of their subjects, that frequently the conduct of even a truly good shepherd becomes sinful, in consequence of the wickedness of his flock. For that Prophet David, who had been praised by the witness of God Himself, who had been made acquainted with heavenly mysteries, being puffed up by the swelling of sudden pride, sinned in numbering the people. And yet, though David sinned, the people endured the punishment. [2 Sam. 24, 1-17] Why was this? Because in truth the hearts of rulers are disposed according to the deserts of their people. But the righteous Judge reproved the fault of the sinner, by the punishment of those very persons, on whose account he sinned. But because he was not exempt from guilt, as displaying pride of his own free will, he himself endured also the punishment of his sin. For that furious wrath which smote the people in their bodies, prostrated the ruler of the people by the pain of his inmost heart. But it is certain that the deserts of rulers and people are so mutually connected, that frequently the conduct of the people is made worse from the fault of their pastors, and the conduct of pastors is changed according to the deserts of their people.


36. But because rulers have their own Judge, subjects must be very careful not to judge rashly the conduct of their rulers. For the Lord Himself did not without a reason scatter the money of the changers, and overthrow the seats of them that were selling doves, [Matt. 2l, 12] signifying doubtless that He judges the conduct of people by their rulers, but that He examines into the doings of rulers in His own person. And yet even those sins of subjects, which are put off from being judged, or which cannot be judged by rulers, are doubtless reserved for His judgment. Therefore whilst all is done in good faith, it is a worthy part of virtue, if whatever is in a superior is tolerated. Yet it ought to be humbly suggested whether any thing which displeases can be amended. But great care must be taken that an inordinate maintenance of justice does not degenerate into pride: lest humility, the mistress of what is right, should be lost, while what is right itself is loved without due caution; lest a man should slight him as his superior, whom he may perhaps happen to blame in some part of his conduct. But the mind of subjects is trained to guard its humility against this swelling pride, if its own weakness is constantly watched. For we neglect to examine honestly our own strength, and because we believe ourselves stronger than we really are, we consequently judge those severely who are set over us. For the more we neglect to know ourselves, the more clearly do we see those whom we endeavour to blame. These are the several evils which are often committed by subjects against their rulers, and by rulers against their subjects. Because both rulers consider all their subjects to be less wise than themselves, and subjects, again, judge the conduct of their rulers, and think that they could do better, if they perchance possessed the power. Since it is frequently the case that rulers see less judiciously what is to be done, because the mist of pride obscures their sight, and that a subject, when raised to high power, sometimes does the very same thing, which he used to complain of when a subject; and that, having committed the very faults which he has condemned, he is ashamed at all events that he condemned them. As rulers then must take care that their higher position does not puff up their minds, with a notion of their singular wisdom, so must subjects be careful not to be offended at the conduct of their rulers.


37. But even if the conduct of rulers is justly blamed, yet it is the duty of subjects to pay them respect, even when they displease them. But thou must carefully observe not to be anxious to imitate a person whom it is necessary for thee to reverence, and not to scorn to reverence him whom thou despisest to imitate. For the narrow path of rectitude and humility must be so maintained, that, though offended with the reprehensible conduct of their rulers, the mind of subjects may not depart from observing respect for their office. Which is well set forth in Noah when drunk, the nakedness of whose secret parts his sons came and covered with averted looks. For we are said to be averse from that which we reprobate. What is meant then by his sons’ coming with averted looks, and covering the shame of their father with a cloak thrown over their backs, except that good subjects, while offended with the misdeeds of their rulers, nevertheless conceal them from others? They bring a covering with averted looks, because judging the deeds, and reverencing the office, they do not wish to behold the sin which they conceal.


38. But there are some, who if they have made ever so small a beginning in spiritual conversation, on observing that their rulers fix their thoughts only on worldly and temporal objects, begin to blame the disposition of supreme Providence as if they were improperly appointed to rule, since they set an example of worldly conversation. But these persons, from not being careful to keep themselves from censure of their rulers, (as their fault justly demands,) proceed to blame even the Creator. For His dispensation is understood to be more right by the humble, for the very same reason that it is not judged to be right by the proud. For because the power of office cannot be exercised without our engaging in worldly cares, therefore Almighty God, in His marvellous dispensation of mercy, frequently imposes the burden of rule on hard and laborious hearts; in order that the tender minds of spiritual men may be released from worldly cares: in order that the one may be more safely concealed from the bustle of the world, the more willingly the others employ themselves in worldly anxieties. For hard are the ways of worldly slavery, in the discharge of a burden that has been undertaken even for the good of others.


39. And frequently, as has been said, as the Merciful God tenderly loves His own, so does He anxiously conceal them from outward employments. For often the father of a family appoints his servants to that work, from which he releases his delicate [‘subtiles.’] sons; and his sons are comely and free from annoyance, from the fact that the servants are defiled with dust. And how properly this is ordered in the Church by Divine appointment is signified by the very construction of the tabernacle. For Moses is commanded by the voice of God to weave curtains of fine linen, and scarlet, and blue, for the covering of the Holy of Holies within. And he was ordered to spread, for the covering of the tabernacle, curtains of goats’ hair, and skins, to sustain the rain, and wind, and dust. What then do we understand by the skins and goats’ hair, with which the tabernacle is covered, but the gross minds of men, which are sometimes, hard though they be, placed on high in the Church by the secret judgment of God? And because they are not afraid of being employed in worldly concerns, they must needs bear the winds and storms of temptation which arise from the opposition of this world. But what is signified by the blue, scarlet, and fine linen, but the life of holy men, delicate, but brilliant? And while it is carefully concealed in the tabernacle under goats’ hair and skins, its beauty is preserved entire. For in order that the fine linen may shine, the scarlet glitter, and the blue be resplendent with azure brilliance, the skins and the goats’ hair endure the rains, the winds, and the dust from above. They then who advance in great excellence within the bosom of holy Church, ought not to despise the doings of their rulers, when they see that they are engaged in the business of the world. For that they penetrate in safety into secret mysteries, is owing to the help of those who buffet with the storms of this world from without. For how would the fine linen retain the grace of its brightness, if the rain were to touch it? Or what splendour and brightness would the scarlet or blue display, should the dust light on, and defile them? Let the strong texture of the goats’ hair, then, be placed above, to resist dust; the brightness of the blue, fitted for ornament, be placed beneath. Let those who are engaged in spiritual pursuits alone, adorn the Church. Let those guard her, who are not wearied even with the labours of the world. But let not him who now gleams with spiritual brightness within Holy Church, murmur against his superior, who is employed in worldly business. For if thou glitterest securely within, like scarlet, why dost thou blame the goats’ hair with which thou art protected?


40. But some persons enquire, why it is that [perhaps ‘complain because.’], while rulers are engrossed in worldly concerns, solely for the benefit of those under them, many in the Church are made worse by their example. For who can deny that this is very true, when he sees worldly concerns more anxiously attended to by pastors, than heavenly objects? But this is not unjust, if, as we said before, the circumstances of rulers are ordered in accordance with the deserts of those under them. For the sins, which they commit secretly and wilfully, demand a bad example to be set them by their pastors: in order that by a righteous judgment the haughty man, who departs from the way of God, may stumble, through the guidance of his pastor, in the way in which he is walking. Whence it is said by the Prophet also, with the zeal of one who is announcing, not with the wish of one who is cursing, Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not, and ever bow Thou down their back. [Ps. 69, 23] As if he were to say, Let those who are appointed to mark out, as it were, the courses of human actions, not enjoy the light of truth, in order that their subjects, who follow them, may be bent down by the burden of their sins, and lose entirely their state of uprightness. And this we know was unquestionably the case in Judaea, when, at the coming of our Redeemer, the multitude of the Pharisees and Priests closed the eyes of their mind against the True Light, and the people, walking after the example of its rulers, wandered in the darkness of unbelief.


41. But it can be reasonably asked, How it is said in this place that the Lord makes the hypocrite to reign, when by the Prophet He complains especially of this thing, saying, They have reigned, but not of Me: they have become princes, and I know them not? [Hos. 8, 4] For, who that thinks rightly, can say that the Lord does that of which He knows nothing? But, because God’s knowledge is approval, His ignorance is disapproval. Whence He says to some whom He rejects, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity. [Luke 13, 27] And sometimes God’s doing a thing, is His allowing in His anger that which He forbids to be done. Hence He asserted that He hardened the heart of the king of Egypt, because He, in truth, allowed it to be hardened. In a marvellous manner then does God make hypocrites to reign, and knows them not. He makes them, by suffering; He knows them not, by rejecting them. Whence it is necessary, with reference to every thing, which is desired in this life, that the Inner [i.e. the Divine] Will should be first enquired into. And when the ear of the heart is anxious to catch Its sound, let it know that It speaks, not in words, but in deeds. When then a post of authority is offered, it is necessary for a man first to question with himself, whether his conduct is suited to the place, whether his doings are at variance with the distinction it confers; lest, perchance, the just Ruler of all should, afterwards, not regard his prayers in tribulation, because He knows not his very entering on that high office, which is the source of all his tribulation.