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The first eleven verses of the thirty-eighth chapter are explained,

in various senses, but especially in a moral sense.





1. After the loss of his goods, the death of his children, the wounds of his body, the words of his wife persuading him to evil, the insulting language of his comforters, and the darts of so many sorrows boldly received, blessed Job ought to have been praised by his Judge for such great power of constancy, if he had been now going to be called out of this present world. But after he is here about to receive back yet two-fold, after he is restored to his former health, to enjoy longer his restored possessions, Almighty God is obliged to reprove with strict justice him, whom He preserves alive, lest his very victory should lay him low with the sword of pride. For what commonly slays a soul more fatally than consciousness of virtue? For while it puffs it up with self-consideration, it deprives it of the fulness of truth; and while it suggests that it is sufficient of itself for the attainment of rewards, it diverts it from the intention of improvement. Job, therefore, was just before his scourges, but he remained more just after his scourges; and, having been praised before by the voice of God, he afterwards increased from the blow. For as a ductile tube is lengthened by being hammered, so was he raised the higher in praise of God, as he was smitten with heavier chastisement. But he who stood thus firm in his virtues, when prostrated by wounds, needed to be humbled. He needed to be humbled, lest the weapons of pride should pierce that most sturdy breast, which it was plain that even the wounds that had been inflicted had not overcome. It was doubtless necessary to find out a person, by comparison with whom he would have been surpassed. But what is this, which is said of him by the voice of the Lord; Thou hast seen My servant Job, that there is no man like him upon the earth. [Job 1, 8; 2, 3] By comparison with whom then could he be surpassed, of whom it is said, on the witness of God, that he cannot be equalled, on comparison with any man? What then must be done, except for the Lord Himself to relate to him His own virtues, and to say to him, Canst thou bring forth the morning star in its season, and canst thou make the evening star to rise over the sons of men? [Job 38, 32] And again, Have the gates of death been opened to thee, and hast thou seen the gloomy doors? [ib. 17] Or certainly; Hast thou commanded their dawn after thy rising, and hast thou shewn the morning its place? [ib. 12] But who can do these things, but the Lord? And yet a man is asked, in order that he may learn that he is unable to do these things; in order that a man, who has increased with such boundless virtues, and is surpassed by the example of no man, may, that he should not be elated, be surpassed on comparison with God. But O how mightily is he exalted, who is so sublimely humbled! O how great is the victory of the man, to have been foiled on comparison with God! O how much greater is he than men, who is proved by testimony to be less than God! For he is very mighty, who is proved by such questioning not to be mighty. But since we are being led to discuss very obscure questions, let us now come to the words of the text.

Chap, xxxviii. ver. 1. But the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said.




1. I see it must be observed, that if the speech were said to have been addressed to one in health and safety, the Lord would not be described as having spoken out of the whirlwind. But because He speaks to one who has been scourged, He is described as having spoken out of the whirlwind. For the Lord speaks to His servants in one way, when He improves them inwardly by compunction, and in another, when He presses on them with severity, lest they be puffed up. For by the gentle address of the Lord, is shewn His affectionate sweetness, but by His terrible, is pointed out His dreadful power. By the one the soul is persuaded to advance, by the other, that which is advancing is checked. In the one it learns what to desire, in the other what to fear. By the one He says, Be glad and rejoice, O daughter of Sion, for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee. [Zech. 2, 10] By the other it is said; The Lord will come in a tempest, and in the whirlwind are His paths. [Is. 66, 15] For He in truth is gentle, Who comes to dwell in the midst of us. But when He makes His way by the tempest and whirlwind, He doubtless disturbs the hearts which He touches; and puts Himself forth to tame their pride, when He is made known as mighty and terrible.


2. It should also be known, that the Divine mode of speaking is distinguished in two ways. For either the Lord speaks by Himself, or His words are adapted to us by means of an angelic creature. But when He speaks by Himself, He is disclosed to us, solely by the power of His inward inspiration. When He speaks by Himself, the heart is instructed in His word, without words and syllables; because His power is known by a kind of inward elevation. At which the mind when full is raised up, when empty is weighed down. For it is a kind of weight, to raise up every mind which it fills. It is an incorporeal light, to both fill the inner parts, and circumscribe them without, when filled. It is a discourse without noise, which both opens the ears, and yet knows not to utter a sound. For in that which is written concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit; Suddenly there was made a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind approaching, and it filled the whole house, where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them;) [Acts 2, 2. 3.] the Lord appeared indeed by the fire, but He spake to them by Himself within. And neither that sound nor that fire was God; but by that which He displayed outwardly, He expressed what He performed inwardly. For because He made the Disciples both to glow with zeal, and to be skilful in speech within, He displayed tongues of fire without. The elements, therefore, were applied with significance, that their bodies might feel the fire and the sound, but that their hearts might be instructed by the invisible fire, and the voice without a sound. The fire then which appeared was outward, but that which gave knowledge was inward. And when the eunuch of queen Candace was sitting in his chariot, and journeying, and was holding Isaiah in his hands, without understanding him, the Spirit had doubtless said to Philip in his heart, Join thyself to the chariot. [Acts 8, 29] And when Cornelius had sent soldiers who feared God to summon Peter, Peter doubtless heard in his mind by the Spirit, Behold three men seek thee. Arise therefore, get thee down, and go with them. [Acts 10, 19] For, for the Spirit of God to say, as it were, certain words to us, is for Him to intimate by His hidden power what is to be done, and to instruct in an instant, without the medium of sound or the slowness of speech, the unlearned heart of man in hidden mysteries. For because the hearing does not comprehend at once all the sayings which are addressed to it; since it understands reasons by means of words, and words separately by syllables; but our sight apprehends suddenly and at once the whole object, by turning itself towards it; the words of God addressed to us from within are seen, rather than heard; because, while He insinuates Himself, without the delay of words, He illumines by His sudden light the darkness of our ignorance. Whence also when Baruch the son of Neriah was explaining, when demanded, how he had heard the words of Jeremiah prophesying, he said, He pronounced all these words from his mouth, as if he were reading, and I wrote them. [Jer 36, 18] For he who speaks when reading, looks in one direction, but utters his words in another; because he speaks that which he sees. The Prophets of God then, because they rather see than hear His words in the heart, speak as if reading.


3. But when God declares His will by an Angel, He points it out sometimes by words, sometimes by things, sometimes by words and things together, sometimes by images presented to the eyes of the heart, sometimes by images taken for the time from the air and presented even before the eyes of the body sometimes by heavenly substances, sometimes by earthly, and sometimes by earthly and heavenly together. But sometimes God so speaks even by an Angel to the hearts of men, that the Angel Himself is presented to the sight of the mind.


4. For God speaks in words by an Angel, when nothing is displayed in outward appearance, but the words of the Heavenly saying are heard; as on the Lord saying, Father, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee; [John 17, 1] it is immediately replied, I have glorified, and will glorify Him again. [John 12, 28] For God, Who speaks without time, by the power of inward impulse, uttered not in time that voice by His own Substance, which voice, circumscribed by time, He made plain by human words. But speaking doubtless from “heavenly places, He fashioned, by the ministry of a rational creature, those His words which He wished to be heard by men.


5. But sometimes God speaks through Angels by things, when nothing is said in word, but future events are announced by an object taken from the elements; as Ezekiel, hearing no words, saw the appearance of amber in the midst of the fire; [Ezek. 1, 4] in order, namely, that while he was looking on this single object, he might understand the things which were to come to pass in the last times. For amber [‘electrum’] is a mixture of the metals of gold and silver, by which admixture the silver indeed is rendered more brilliant, but the brightness of the gold is softened down. What then is pointed out by amber, but the Mediator between God and men? For while He presented Himself to us as a union of the Divine and human natures, He both rendered His human nature more glorious by His Godhead, and tempered the Divine Nature to our sight by His Manhood. For since human nature shone forth with so many miracles by the virtue of the Godhead, the silver was improved by the gold; and because God could be recognised through the flesh, and because He endured therein so many adversities, the gold was, as it were, tempered by the silver. And it is well represented also in the midst of the fire, because the flame of the judgment which follows attends the mystery of His Incarnation. For it is written, The Father judgeth no man, but hath given all judgment to the Son. [John 5, 22]


6. But sometimes God speaks by Angels in words and deeds at once, when He teaches by certain gestures, that which He declares in words. For neither could Adam, after his sin, hear the Lord in the Substance of His Divinity, but he heard the words of reproof by the Angel, of whom it is written; When he had heard the voice of the Lord God, walking in the garden at the wind after mid-day, he hid himself among the trees of the garden. [Gen. 3, 8] For what is it, that God after the sin of man no longer stands, but walks in the garden, except that He points out that He has been driven from the heart of man, by the inroad of sin? What by His so doing at the wind after mid-day, except that the more glowing light of truth had departed, and the frosts of his sin were congealing his sinful soul? He reproved, therefore, Adam, when walking, that He might make known to benighted souls their wickedness, not by words only, but also by His doings; so that sinful man might both hear by His words what he had done, and perceive, by His walking, the inconstancy of his changeableness, on having lost the stability of eternity, and by the wind might observe his own torpor, when the warmth of charity had been driven away, and learn by the declining of the sun that he was drawing near to darkness.


7. Sometimes God speaks through Angels by images presented to the eyes of the heart; as Jacob when sleeping saw a ladder leaning against heaven. [Gen.28, 12] As Peter caught up in trance saw a linen cloth full of reptiles and quadrupeds; [Acts 10, 10. 11.] for he would not have been in a trance, unless he were beholding these things with other than bodily eyes. As a man of Macedonia appeared to Paul in a vision of the night, who asked him to come over into Macedonia. [ib.16, 9] Sometimes God speaks through Angels by images taken for the time from the air, and presented before the eyes of the body. As Abraham was able not only to behold three men, but also to receive them into an earthly habitation, and not only to receive them, but to supply also food for their use. [Gen. 18, 2] For unless the Angels, when announcing some inward truths, assumed for a time their bodies from the air, they would not, in truth, appear to our outward sight; nor would they take food with Abraham, unless they were bearing for our sake some solid substance from the heavenly element. Nor is it any wonder that they who are there received, are called, at one time ‘Angels,’ and at another ‘the Lord,’ because they, who were ministering outwardly, are designated by the word ‘Angel;’ and He Who was ruling them within, is pointed out by the appellation ‘Lord ;’ that by this the power of Him Who was ruling, and by the latter the office of these who were ministering might be clearly displayed. [Exod. 3, 2. 4.]


8. Sometimes God speaks through Angels by heavenly substances, as it is written, that when the Lord had been baptized, a voice sounded from the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have been well pleased. [Matt. 3, 17] Sometimes God speaks through Angels by earthly substances, as when He reproved Balaam, He formed human words in the mouth of a she ass. [Numb. 22, 28] Sometimes He speaks through Angels by earthly and heavenly substances together. As when He declared to Moses the words of His command in the Mount, He brought together the fire and the bush, and added one from above, and the other from below. [Exod. 3, 2] But this is done, only when something is signified by this very conjunction. For what else did He point out by addressing Moses, through the burning bush, except that He would become the ruler of that people, which would feel the flame of the Law, and yet would not avoid the thorn of sin? or that there would come forth from that people, He Who would take away by the fire of His Godhead the sins of our flesh, as the thorns of the bush; and would preserve the substance of our manhood unconsumed, even in the very flame of the Godhead?


9. But sometimes God pours the virtue of His inspiration into the hearts of men, through Angels, by their secret presence. Whence also Zechariah says, And the Angel who was speaking in me, said to me. [Zech. 1, 14] By saying that the Angel was speaking in him, and yet to him, he clearly proved that he who was speaking to him, was not without him by any bodily appearance. Whence also he added a little after, And, behold, the Angel that was talking in me was going out. [ibid. 2, 3] For often they appear not outwardly, but, as they are angelic spirits, they make known the will of God to the senses of the Prophets, and raise them up to sublime thoughts, and whatever events are still future they set forth as present in their original causes. For the heart of man, burdened with the very weight of corruptible flesh, enduring this its bodily part as an obstacle, penetrates not into inward things, and lies as a heavy burden without; because it has no hand within to raise it up. Whence it results, as has been said, that the subtilty of angelic virtue appears itself, as it really is, to the senses of the Prophets, and that their mind is raised up as it is touched by the subtle spirit, and that it is no longer slothful and sluggish below, but, filled with inspiration within, ascends on high, and thence beholds, as from a lofty eminence, the things which are to come, beneath it. But lest any one should think that, in the aforesaid words of Zechariah, either the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, is designated by the word ‘Angel,’ if he considers the text of Holy Scripture, he quickly amends his opinion. For it never calls the Father, or the Holy Spirit, an ‘Angel,’ nor the Son, except when preaching His Incarnation. Whence it is plainly shewn in the words of the same Zechariah, that an Angel, that is a creature, was really speaking in him, when it is said, And, behold, the Angel that was talking in me was going out. And it is immediately subjoined, And another Angel was going on to meet him, and he said to him, Speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall he inhabited without a wall. [Zech. 2, 3. 4.] The Angel therefore who is sent, who is ordered by an Angel what words he ought to speak, is not God. But because, in the sight of their Creator, the ordained ministrations of Angels are distinguished by the position of their ranks, (in order that after the common happiness of their blessed state they may rejoice together beholding their Creator, and yet minister to each other according to the position of their dignity,) an Angel sends an Angel to the Prophets, and both teaches and directs him, whom he beholds rejoicing in God in common with himself; because he surpasses him both by his superior wisdom, in power of knowledge, and, by more distinguished grace, in height of power.


10. These points then have been stated, to show in what ways God talks with men. But when the Lord is said to have answered Job from the whirlwind, it is disputed, whether He spoke to him by Himself, or by an Angel. For commotions of the air could have been made by an Angel, and these words, which are subjoined, could have been delivered by him. And again, both an Angel could agitate the air in a whirlwind without, and the Lord could sound into his heart without words the force of His sentence by Himself within; in order that it may be believed that he, who when filled with God, heard these things without words, himself uttered in words the sayings of the Lord which follow. It is therefore said,

Ver. 2. Who is this that involves sentences in unskilful words?




11. As we have said also in the former part, an interrogative of this kind, in which it is said, Who is this? is the beginning of a reproof. For Eliu had spoken arrogantly. And we say not, Who is this, excepting expressly of him whom we know not. But knowledge on God’s part is approval; His not knowing is rejection. Whence He says to certain whom He rejects, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity. [Luke 13, 27] What then is the enquiring about this haughty man, Who is this? except saying openly, I know not the arrogant: that is, I approve not of their life in the loftiness of My wisdom. Because while they are puffed up by human praise, they are deprived of the true glory of eternal retribution. But in that He said sentences, and added not of what kind, we certainly understand them to be good. And He asserts that these were involved in unskilful words, because they had been brought forward with language of boasting. For it is a fault of unskilfulness, to hold what is right in a wrong way, that is, to pervert the heavenly gift to a desire for earthly praise. For as it often happens that good things are stated badly and bad things properly, so the arrogant Eliu brought forward right truths not rightly, because, in defence of God he uttered humble sentiments unhumbly. Whence he deservedly serves as a type of those who within the Catholic Church are studious of vain-glory: for while they believe themselves to be skilful beyond others, they are in the Divine judgment convicted of unskilfulness; because, as the Apostle said, If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. [1 Cor. 8, 2] For since the original folly of the Angel was pride of heart, humility in his own estimation becomes the true wisdom of man. And whoever abandons this by even thinking great things, is the more outrageously foolish, the more he knows not himself. Whence Eliu both uttered sentences, and those involved in unskilful words, because he both knew the truth which he was speaking about God, and yet his silly pride was making foolish the things he said of himself. Having then glanced with contempt on this man, His words are directed to the instruction of Job.

Ver. 3. Gird up thy loins as a man.




12. Holy Scripture is wont to call those persons ‘men,’ who follow, doubtless, the ways of the Lord with firm and steady steps. Whence it is said by the Psalmist, Do manfully, and let your heart be strengthened. [Ps. 31, 24] Whence Paul says, Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees. [Heb. 12, 12] Whence also Wisdom in the Proverbs, Unto you, O men, I call. [Prov. 8, 4] As if She were saying openly, I do not speak to women, but to men: because they who are of an unstable mind, cannot at all understand My words. But to gird up the loins is to restrain lust either in work, or in thought. For the delight of the flesh is in the loins. Whence it is said to holy Preachers, Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning. [Luke 12, 35] For by the loins is designated lust, but by lights the brightness of good works. They are commanded therefore to gird their loins, and to hold their lights. As if they heard openly; First, restrain lust in yourselves, and then set forth from yourselves examples of good works to others. But since we have known that blessed Job was endowed with such great chastity, why is it said to him after so many scourges, Gird up thy loins as a man, (that is, as a bold man restrain thy lust,) except that there is one lust of the flesh, with which we pollute our chastity, but another lust of the heart, by which we boast of our chastity? It is said therefore to him, Gird up thy loins as a man: in order that he who had first overcome the lust of corruption, should now restrain the lust of pride; and that he might not, from priding himself on his patience or his chastity, become more fatally lustful before the eyes of God within, the more patient and chaste he appeared before the eyes of men. Whence it is well said by Moses, Circumcise the foreskins of your heart; [Deut. 10, 16] that is, after ye have restrained lust in the flesh, lop off also the superfluities of thoughts. It follows,

I will question thee, and answer thou Me.




13. Our Maker is wont to question us in three ways; when He strikes us with the severity of the rod, and shews what great patience either exists in, or is wanting to, us. Or when He enjoins certain things which we dislike, and lays open our obedience, or disobedience. Or discloses to us some hidden truths, and conceals others, and makes known to us the measure of our humility. For He questions us by the scourge, when He assails with afflictions the mind which has been properly subject to Him in a time of tranquillity. As the same Job is both praised, on the evidence of his Judge, and yet is given up to the blows of the smiter, in order that his patience might be the more truly manifested, the more severely it had been examined. But He questions us by enjoining hard things, as Abraham is ordered to go out of his own country, and to go whither he knew not; [Gen. 12, 1] to lead his only son to the mountain, and to offer up him, whom he had received, when old, as a consolation. For it is doubtless said to him, when making a good reply to the question, that is when obedient to the command, Now I know that thou fearest God. [ib. 22, 12] Or as it is written, The Lord your God trieth you, to know if ye love Him. [Deut. 13, 3] For God’s trying us, is His questioning us with mighty commands. His knowing also, is His making us know our own obedience. But God questions us by disclosing some things to us, and shutting out others, as is said by the Psalmist, His eyelids question the sons of men. [Ps.1l, 4] For, when our eyelids are open, we see; when they are closed, we behold nothing. What do we understand then by the eyelids of God, but His judgments? Which in one respect are closed to men, and in another are opened, in order that men who know not themselves, may become known to themselves; so that, while they comprehend some truths in their understanding, and are not at all able to understand others, their hearts may secretly examine themselves, whether the Divine judgments do not stimulate them, when concealed, or puff them up when laid open. For Paul was proved by this questioning, who after he had tasted inward wisdom, after the barrier of paradise had been opened, after the ascent of the third heaven, after the mysteries of Heavenly words, still says, I count not myself to have apprehended. [Phil. 3, 13] And again; I am the least of the Apostles, that am not meet to be called an Apostle. [1 Cor. 15, 9] And again; Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God. [2 Cor. 3, 5] Paul then, when questioned by the open eyelids of God, answered rightly, for he both reached to heavenly secrets, and yet stood sublimely in humility of heart. And again, when he was discussing the secret judgments of God concerning the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, and could not attain to them, he was questioned, as it were, by the closed eyelids of God. But he returned a thoroughly right answer, who in his ignorant state, wisely bowed himself down to God, saying, O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how incomprehensible are his judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor? [Rom. 11, 33. 34.] For, lo! when questioned by mysteries hidden, as with closed eyelids, he gave fitting and right answers. For knocking at the entrance of the mystery, because he could not through his knowledge be admitted to inward things, he stood before the gates in humble confession, and that which he could not comprehend within, he praised with dread without. Whence blessed Job is now also, after the questioning of the rod, examined by the questioning of the word, to make him consider the things which are above; and in order that, when he does not comprehend them, he may turn back to himself, and learn how he is almost nothing, in comparison with heavenly things. Let him hear therefore, I will question thee, and answer thou Me. As if it is more plainly said, I rouse thee by My words to consider sublime truths, and whilst thou perceivest that thou knowest not those things that are above thee, I make thee better known to thyself. For then thou answerest Me truly, if thou understandest what things thou knowest not. It follows,

Ver. 4, 5, 6. Where wast thou when I was laying the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measure of it, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the bases thereof fastened.






14. Behold all things are put together in historical narration, as if concerning the origin of the world. But something is immediately subjoined, which seems to be said of the creation, not of the world, but of the Church. For it is said;

Or who hath laid the corner stone thereof?


For by this, which was not done at the beginning of the world, it is shewn that that former expression was not used of the creation of the world. For some obscure subjects of a different character are blended with those that are plain and obvious, for this very purpose; that in consequence of that which agrees not with the literal meaning, that also may be examined mystically, which sounds as if spoken literally. For as, by some things which are opened we learn others which are closed; so are we compelled by those which are closed, to knock with a deeper understanding at those which we believed to be open. Let Him say then; Where wast thou, when I was laying the foundations of the earth? In Holy Scripture what else do we understand by foundations but holy preachers? For since God had placed them first in the Church, the whole structure of the subsequent fabric has risen up upon them. Whence also the priest is ordered, when he enters the tabernacle, to bear twelve stones on his breast. [Ex. 28, 21] Because, namely, our High Priest, in offering Himself a sacrifice for us, when He set forth mighty preachers at the very beginning, carried twelve stones under His head in the front of His body. The holy Apostles therefore are stones on the breast, to be displayed as an ornament in front, and foundations in the ground for the first firm basis of the edifice. And hence when David the Prophet beheld Holy Church established and built on the lofty minds of the Apostles, he says; Her foundations are on the holy hills. [Ps. 87, l] But when in holy Scripture ‘foundations’ are not spoken of, but ‘a foundation,’ in the singular number, no one is designated, except the Lord Himself, by the power of Whose Divinity the tottering hearts of our infirmity are made strong. Of Whom also Paul says; Other foundation can no man lay, but that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. For He is in truth the foundation of the foundations, because He is the first commencement of beginners, and the constancy of the strong. Because then they who have borne the freight of our iniquities are our foundations, lest blessed Job should be puffed up with pride by the power of his own virtues, he is, in the very commencement of the Lord’s address, tested by the mention of holy preachers; in order that the more worthy of admiration he beheld them approach, the more vilely he might think of himself in comparison with them. But that is described by the Lord, as if already passed: for the very reason that, whatever is outwardly still future in act, has been already effected within by predestination. It is said therefore to him, Where wast thou, when I was laying the foundations of the earth? As if it were openly said; Consider the virtue of the mighty, and think on Me their Maker before all ages: and when thou beholdest those wonderful beings whom I made in time, consider how entirely thou oughtest to be subject to Me, Whom thou acknowledgest as the Author of Wonders without time. It follows;

Ver. 4, 5. Tell Me, if thou hast understanding, who hath laid the measures of it, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?




15. Lines of measures are stretched forth in the partition of lands, in order that fairness of dimension may be observed by their very extension. But the Lord, coming to the Church in the flesh, measured out the measures of the earth with lines, because He marked out the boundaries of the Church with the subtlety of His secret judgment. The secret measures or lines of this earth were being stretched out, when holy preachers were called by the agency of the Spirit to go into some parts of the world, but were kept from approaching other parts. For when Paul the Apostle was neglecting to preach in Macedonia, a man of Macedonia appeared to him in a vision, to say, Come over into Macedonia and help us. [Acts 16, 9] But on the other hand, as it is written, The Apostle essayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not. [ibid. 7] When holy preachers then are called to Macedonia, and are kept from going into Asia, this line of secret measure is drawn on that side, and removed from this. It is extended there, that Macedonia may be brought within the limits of Holy Church. It is drawn in from hence, that Asia may be left without the bounds of the faith. For there were then some therein who were not to be gathered in: but, when they had been lost according to their desert, Asia has now been embraced within the measures of the Church, by the bounty of God.


16. Within these measures then are all the Elect, without them are all the reprobate, even if they seem to be within the limit of faith. Whence it is written in the Apocalypse; The court which is without the temple, cast out, and measure it not. [Rev. 11, 2] For what else does the court signify but the breadth of the present life? And they who are designated by the court are rightly without the temple: and they are therefore not to be measured, because narrow the gate that leadeth unto life; [Matt. 7, 14] and the breadth of the life of the wicked is not admitted to the measures and rules of the Elect. These spiritual lines were being stretched in hidden judgment, when to a certain person who said, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest, [Matt. 8, 19] it was replied by the voice of the same Master, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head. [ibid. 20] Those measures and lines were being stretched forth, when to a certain person who said, Lord, suffer me to go and bury my father, [Luke 9, 59] it was replied by the voice of the same Master, Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. [ibid. 60] Lo! one promises that he will follow Him, and is rejected; another demands to be released, and is retained. Whence is this? Except that the lines of heavenly judgments were being stretched over the hidden spaces of the heart, in order that their incomprehensible measures might enclose the one within, and that the other might, not unjustly, remain without. But since no one is ignorant that God stretches forth these lines of hidden judgments, why is it said to Job, Tell Me, if thou hast understanding, who hath placed the measures of it, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Is the question put to remind him of that which he might know, and yet forget; that he should consider more anxiously the weight of the secrets of God, namely, that the ordering of man depends not on human strength, but on the power [‘manu’] of the Creator, that so, while considering Who is invisibly performing these works, he may attribute nothing to himself, and no longer attempt any thing of himself, when he dreads the secret judgments of God? But that, considering the measures and lines incomprehensibly stretched out from above, he may remain more firm in the humility of fear, the more he sees every thing depending on the power of the Measurer. It follows;

Ver. 6. Whereupon are the bases thereof fastened?




17. What else do we understand by the foundations of this earth, but the teachers of Holy Church? For columns are raised on the bases, but on the columns the weight of the whole fabric is raised. Holy teachers are then not improperly designated by the name of bases. For while they preach what is right, and in life accord with their preaching, they uphold the whole weight of the Church by the fixed gravity of their manners; they endure sharp assaults from unbelievers, and, whatever is dreaded by the faithful as difficult in the precepts of God, they shew to be easy by the examples of their works. Whence also, when the tabernacle was being fixed as the type of the Church, it is well said to Moses, Thou shalt make four columns, and their bases thou shalt cover with silver. [Ex. 26, 32] For what else is understood by silver but the brightness of the Divine word? As it is written; The words of the Lord are pure words, silver tried in the fire, purged from the earth, purified seven times. [Ps. 12, 6] Bases therefore covered with silver support the four columns of the tabernacle; because preachers of the Church, adorned with the Divine word, in order to set themselves forth as an example to all, bear the words of the four Evangelists in their mouth, and in their works.


18. Prophets also can be signified by bases; for when they first spoke openly of the Incarnation of the Lord, we behold them rising as bases from the foundation, and bearing the weight of the superimposed fabric. Whence also, when the Lord ordered the boards of the tabernacle to be erected, He ordered Moses that their bases should be cast in silver. For what are signified by the boards, but Apostles spread out in their extended preaching to the world, and what by the bases of silver but the Prophets: who being themselves firm and molten sustain the boards placed upon them? Because while the life of the Apostles is instructed by their preaching, it is also strengthened by their authority. Whence also the bases put together in pairs are placed under the separate boards. Because when the holy prophets agree in their words concerning the Incarnation of the Mediator, they edify without doubt the subsequent preachers of the Church: and when they disagree not with themselves, they establish them more firmly on themselves. But it is not improperly ordered that the bases, by which the Prophets are signified, should be cast of silver. For the brightness of silver is preserved by its being used; when not used it is turned into blackness. The sayings also of the Prophets, because they were not held in the use of spiritual knowledge, remained, as it were, in blackness before the coming of the Mediator, because they could not be understood by reason of their obscurity. But after the Mediator, on His coming, wiped them before our eyes with the hand of His Incarnation, whatever light was lurking therein shone forth, and He brought into use the meaning of preceding fathers, because He expounded words by events. Whether He signifies then the prophets, or the teachers who succeed them in the latter times, by the expression ‘bases,’ let Him say; Whereupon are the bases thereof fastened? Thou understandest, except upon Me, Who hold all things marvellously together, and confer at the first an inward existence on things that are good without. For he who attributes what is good to himself, is not a solid basis; for whilst he rests not on the foundation, he is by his own weight precipitated to the bottom. But since many things are now being said concerning the building of Holy Church, the mind seeks to hear, with what virtue hostile nations are united together, that is, with what skill the different buildings of this house are fitted together. It follows;

Or who hath laid the corner stone thereof?




19. It is now clear to all by Divine grace, Whom Holy Scripture calls the corner Stone. Him in truth, Who taking into Himself from one side the Jewish, and from the other the Gentile people, unites, as it were, two walls in the one fabric of the Church; Him of Whom it is written, He hath made both one; [Eph. 2, 14] Who exhibited Himself as the corner Stone, not only in things below, but in things above; because He united on earth the nations of the Gentiles to the people of Israel, and both together to Angels in heaven. For at His birth the Angels exclaimed, On earth peace to men of good will. [Luke 2, 14] For they would not offer their joys to men of peace as a great thing at the birth of the King, if they were not at variance with each other. Of this Stone it is said by the Prophet; The Stone which the builders rejected, is made the head of the corner. [Ps. 118, 22] Jechonias the king typified the Stone, whom Matthew when describing fourteen generations, reckoned twice. [Matt. 1, 11. 12.] For him, whom he had inserted as the end of the second generation, he inserted again at the beginning of the third. For he himself was removed into Babylonia with the people of Israel; for while he is led from one to the other, he is not improperly counted twice over for the side of each wall. And by the bending of this migration he designates the corner stone. For where the order is diverted from its right course to go into a different direction, it makes, as it were, a corner. He could therefore rightly be counted twice; for he shewed as it were two sides of himself along either wall. Whence also he properly represented Him, Who born in Judaea, and gathering together the Gentiles, went as it were from Jerusalem to Babylonia, and bound together in His own Person, by the art of charity, that building of faith which before was rent asunder by the animosity of discord.




But these things which have been said, as descriptive of Holy Church, it seems good to repeat briefly in a moral sense. For it is right for us to be brought back to our own hearts by those things which we know were said to blessed Job; because the mind then understands more truly the words of God, when it searches for itself therein. For behold it is said,

Ver. 4. Where wast thou when I was laying the foundations of the earth?




20. If the mind of a sinner is dust, which is borne on the surface, and is swept away by the breeze of temptation, (whence it is written, Not so are the ungodly, not so; but as the dust, which the wind driveth away from the face of the earth;) [Ps. 1,4] nothing prevents the earth being understood to mean the soul of a just man, of which it is written, For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth the herbs meet for those by whom it is dressed, receiveth a blessing. [Heb. 6, 7] But the foundation of this earth is faith. The foundation of this earth is laid, when the first cause of firmness, the fear of God, is breathed in the secret places of the heart. This man does not as yet believe the eternal truths which he hears; when faith is given him, a foundation is now laid for the building up of the subsequent work. He now believes eternal truths, but yet fears them not; he despises the terror of the coming judgment: he boldly involves himself in sins of the flesh and of the spirit. But when the fear of future things is suddenly infused into him, in order that the edifice of a good life may rise up, the foundations are now erected. When the foundation then of a wholesome dread has been laid, and the fabric of virtue is being raised on high, it is necessary for every one to measure his strength, as he is making progress. So that though he has already begun to be great by the Divine building, he may without ceasing look back to what he was; in order that humbly remembering what he was found in merit, he may not arrogate to himself what he has been made by grace. Whence also blessed Job is now brought back to himself by the voice from above, and, that he may not dare to boast of his virtues, he is reminded of his past life. And it is said to him, Where wast thou when I was laying the foundations of the earth? As if the Truth openly said to the justified sinner; Attribute not to thyself the virtues which were received from Me. Exalt not thyself against Me by reason of My own gift. Call to mind where I found thee, when I laid the first foundations of virtue in thee, in My fear. Call to mind where I found thee, when I confirmed thee in My fear. In order then that I may not destroy in thee that which I have built up, thou must not cease to consider with thyself, what I found thee. For whom has the Truth not found either in sins or excesses? But after this we can well preserve that which we are, if we never neglect to consider what we were. But pride is yet sometimes wont to steal secretly even into careful hearts, so that the thought of good deeds, though slight and feeble, as it advances to a great height of virtue, forgets its own infirmity, and does not recall to mind what it was in sins. Whence also Almighty God, because He sees that our weakness is increased even by salutary remedies, places limits to our very progress, that we may have some excellencies of virtues, which we have never sought for, and that we may seek after others, and yet be unable to possess them. In order that our mind, when unable to attain these things which it desires, may understand that it possesses not of itself those even which it does possess, and that, from those which are present, those which are wanting may be thought of, and that, by means of those that are profitably wanting, those goods that are present may be humbly preserved. Whence also it is rightly subjoined, concerning His dealings towards this earth, that is, this righteous soul;

Ver. 4, 5. Declare to Me if thou hast understanding, who hath laid the measure thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?




21. For who, but our Creator, lays the measures of this earth? Who, by the secret ordering of His inward judgment, gives to one the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, to another perfect faith, to another the grace of healing, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of speeches; in order that one man may by one and the same Spirit be mighty in the word of wisdom, and yet not be strengthened with the speech of knowledge, that is, of doctrine, (for he is able to understand and discover even that truth which he does not attain to by study and learning;) and that another may shine with the word of knowledge, and yet not be strong in the word of wisdom, because he is able fully to understand all that he has learnt, and yet cannot rise by himself to understand any subtle question. One man by faith commands the elements, and yet cures not bodily infirmities by the gift of healing. Another removes diseases by the aid of prayer, and yet restores not by his word the rain to the thirsty earth. This man restores even the dead at once to present life, by the working of miracles, and yet, not possessing the gift of prophecy, knows not what things are to befal him.  Another beholds all future events as if present, and yet does not display himself in any working of miracles. One man by the discerning of spirits subtilly discerns the minds of men in their doings, but yet knows not tongues of divers kind; another examines into tongues of divers kind, but yet observes not dissimilar hearts in similar doings. One person skilfully examines by interpretation the value of words in one language which he knows, and yet patiently goes without the other goods which he has not.


22. Thus, therefore, does our Creator and Disposer order all things; that he who might be puffed up by the gift which he has, may be humbled by that virtue which he has not. He so regulates all things, that when He exalts any one by the grace bestowed, He also, by a different gift, makes one person inferior to another, and makes every one to look on him who is beneath him, as superior to him in some other gift, and though he feels that he is even in some respects superior, to place himself in others below the very person whom he surpasses. He so regulates all things, that while all possess separate gifts, they become, all of them, the property of each person separately, by a connecting bond of charity, and that every one so possesses in another that which he has not himself, that he humbly confers on the other that which he received as his own possession. For it is hence said by Peter, As every one hath received the gift, ministering, the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. [l Pet. 4, 10] For the manifold grace of God is then well dispensed, when the gift which has been received is believed to belong even to him who does not possess it, when it is considered to have been given to a man’s self on account of him in whose behalf it is exerted. Hence it is said by Paul, By love serve one another. [Gal. 5, 13] For charity then sets us free from the yoke of blame, when it engages us through love in mutual service, when we both believe that the goods of others belong to ourselves, and present our goods to others as though offering them their own. Hence it is again said by Paul, For even the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am therefore not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Became I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? And a little after, But if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. [l Cor. 12, 14-17. 19. 20.]


23. For what is Holy Church, except the Body of its own heavenly Head? Wherein one is the eye, by beholding lofty things; another a hand, by performing right things; another a foot, by running to and fro at command; another an ear, by understanding the voice of the precepts; another a nose, by discerning the foulness of wicked, and the fragrance of good, deeds. And, while they receive and discharge mutual offices, like the limbs of the body, they make of themselves together one single body, and, while they perform different offices in charity, they keep that from being different, in which they are bound together. But were they all to do one and the same work, they would assuredly not be a body, which is composed of many members; because, namely, it would not exist, as compacted of many parts, if this harmonious diversity of members did not bind it together. Because then the Lord divides to the holy members of His Church the gifts of virtues, He places the measures of the earth. Whence Paul says again, As God hath divided to every one the measure of faith. [Rom. 12, 3] And again, From Whom the whole body compacted and connected by that which every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the measure of every member, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. [Eph. 4, 16]


24. But since our Creator and Disposer with wonderful wisdom confers gifts on one, which He refuses to another, and refuses to one those gifts which He bestows on another; whoever aims at doing more than he has received, endeavours to exceed the limits assigned to him. As if, perchance, he, to whom it has been only given to discuss the secret meanings of precepts, should attempt also to dazzle with miracles; or, as if he, whom the gift of heavenly virtue strengthens only for miracles, should strive, besides, to lay open the mysteries of the Divine Law. For he puts forth his foot on a precipice, who regards not the limits of his own measures. And he who boldly hastes to grasp those subjects which he is unable to reach, commonly loses that power which was his. For we then use aright the services of our limbs, when we distinctly preserve for them their own offices. For with the eyes we behold the light, with the ears we hear a voice. But if any one, having inverted the order, applies his eyes to the voice, and his ears to the light, both are to him open in vain. If any one wishes to distinguish scents with his mouth, to taste flavours with his nose, he does away with the service of both senses, because he perverts them. For when they are not applied to their proper uses, they both give up their own offices, and do not attain to those which are foreign to them.


25. The Prophet David, then, had rightly confined the foot of his heart within the measure he had received by the Divine bounty, when he said, I have not walked in great matters, nor in things too wonderful for me. [Ps. 131, 1] For he would in truth walk in things too wonderful for him, if he sought to appear mighty beyond his power. For a man is raised above himself in wonderful things, if he endeavours to appear capable even in those things, to which he is unequal. Paul also was rightly confining himself within these limits, even in the wide range of his preaching, when he said, For I do not dare to speak of any of those things, which Christ worketh not by me. [Rom.15, 18] But the measure which has been received is then rightly preserved, when the life of spiritual men is viewed as set before the eyes. Whence it follows;

Ver. 5. Or who hath stretched the line upon it?




26. For a line is stretched over this earth, when the examples of preceding Fathers are pointed out to each Elect soul, as a rule of life to be adopted; in order for it to consider from their life what to maintain in its own doings; that so, by observing the track of the proper path, it may neither, through neglect, fall short of the smallest matters, nor, through pride, stretch forth beyond the greatest; nor endeavour to do less than it is able, nor grasp at more than it has received; lest it should either not attain to the measure which it ought, or should, by forsaking this measure, fall beyond its limit. For narrow in truth is the gate which leadeth to life, [Matt. 7, 14] and he enters therein, who is, on account of it, carefully confined in all his doings, by his subtlety of discernment. For he who with fearless mind spreads himself abroad through his own wishes, condemns himself to exclusion from the narrow gate. In order, then, for the measure of this earth to be preserved, a line is extended over it from heaven; because the discriminating life of the Saints is spread out before us in Holy Scripture, in order that, either our defects may be corrected, or our excesses moderated; and both what, and how much, is to be done, is marked out by their discrimination which is set before us.


27. Behold a person, fearing either the loss of goods, or bodily affliction, dreads the threats of worldly power, and presumes not to maintain the truth against the might of opponents. Because Peter beholds him hard pressed with fear, he brings him back to the wide space of virtue, by putting before him the line of his examples. For when he had been scourged by the chiefs of the people, and perceived that he had been set free, on condition that he should cease from preaching, when he was commanded not to speak for the future, he did not yield even for the time. [Acts 4, 18; 5, 40] For he immediately answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. [Acts 5, 29] And again, For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. [Acts 4, 20] But he, who before was weak, and fearing present loss, when he contemplates examples of such great courage, now follows the course of Peter, through the authority of the word, now fears not any adversity, and contemns, even with laceration of body, the powers of the world, which oppose God. But yet the more he overcomes the strength of his persecutors by bold endurance, and the more, in the midst of adversities, he yields not to any terms, the more does he in general set himself above others, even in the opinions he has held, when placed among the faithful; the more does he choose his own schemes, and trust himself, rather than others. He doubtless, while exerting himself in virtue, by not yielding to unrighteous opposition, places his foot beyond the proper limit, by not adopting even the right advice of others. Him does Peter recall within the line of measure, who, after he had overcome the authority of rulers by the freedom of his words, listened, through humility of heart, to Paul’s advice about not circumcising the Gentiles. For he desired so to raise himself up against the adversaries by his authority, as yet not to trust himself in those points in which he was wrong; in order that he might overcome haughty powers by the freedom of his boldness, and might exhibit by the humility of his gentleness submission in good counsel even to his younger brethren; and thus at one time oppose himself to others, and at another together with others oppose himself. In the conduct then of Peter a line of authority and humility is extended as it were before our eyes, lest our mind should not attain to the standard through fear, or should exceed the limit through pride.


28. It has been stated, how the line is extended, lest we should fall into a fault in another case, through the boldness of some of our doings. Let it be now stated how we abandon the line of discretion in one and the same virtue, if we know not how to perform it at one time, and how to defer it at another. For a virtue is not always one and the same thing, for the merits of actions are often changed by circumstances. It is hence the case, that when we are properly engaged in any pursuit, we often more properly desist from it; and that the mind more creditably abandons that employment for a time, in which it was creditably employed at its own proper time. For if in consequence of our lesser virtues, (by performing which we make progress, but by intermitting which we are not endangered,) greater evils and trials threaten our neighbours, we necessarily put aside our advance in virtue, lest we should cause losses to the faith in our weaker neighbours; lest what we do should so far not be a virtue, the more it overthrows the foundations of the faith in the hearts of others, for the sake of itself.


29. Which line of sound judgment Paul rightly extended before the eyes of the beholders, who both ordered the Gentiles who were coming to the liberty of the faith not to be circumcised, [Gal. 5, 2] and yet, when at Lystra, and passing through Iconium, himself circumcised Timothy, who had been born of a Gentile father. [Acts 16, 3] For, seeing that he would excite the rage of the Jews even against those who were then present as his companions, if he did not shew that he observed the commands of the letter, he deferred enforcing his assertion, and secured himself and his companions from fierce persecution without loss to the faith. He did that which he ordered not to be done from love to the faith; but he brought back to the service of the faith that which he did as it were unfaithfully. For a virtue is frequently lost, when it is maintained indiscreetly, and when it is discreetly intermitted, it is held the more firmly. And it is no wonder if we understand that that takes place in incorporeal, which we see taking place also in bodily, things. For a bow is intentionally unstrung, in order that at its proper time it may be usefully bent. And if it receives not the rest of being unstrung, it loses its power of striking, from being kept on the stretch. And thus sometimes when a virtue, which is in exercise, is suspended through discretion, it is reserved; in order that it may afterwards strike vices the more powerfully, the more it prudently abstains meanwhile from striking. The subtle line of sound judgment is, therefore, then extended over the earth, when, by setting before each soul the examples of preceding fathers, a virtue is both profitably excited to action, and is sometimes also more profitably restrained.


30. But when boldness of zeal is withdrawn for a while from employment, great consideration is needed, lest we should perchance cease from the exercise of virtue, not from regard to the common good, but through fear for ourselves, or for the sake of some object of ambition. For when this is the case, a man no longer gives way to dispensation, but to sin. Hence when a person so dispenses the work he has undertaken as to cease from virtuous exertion, he must take anxious care, and examine himself first in the depth of his heart, lest he should by this greedily seek something for himself, by this should spare himself alone through fear; and lest the result of his work should turn out ill, as not produced from a proper intention of thought. Whence the Truth well says in the Gospel, The light of thy body is thine eye; if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. [Matt. 6, 22. 23.] For what is expressed by the ‘eye,’ except the intention of the heart going before its work? which, before it exercises itself in action, already contemplates that which it desires. And what is designated by the expression ‘body,’ except each single action, which follows its intention as the eye with which it sees? The light of the body, therefore, is the eye, because the merits of an action are enlightened by the ray of good intention. And if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light, because, if in the singleness of our thought we intend rightly, a good work is produced, even though it seem not good. And if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness, because, when even any thing that is right is performed from a wrong intention, though it seem brilliant before men, it is yet obscured by the sentence of the inward Judge. Whence it is rightly subjoined, Take heed, therefore, that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness? [Luke 11, 35; Matt 6, 23] Because, if we obscure by bad intention that which we believe we are doing rightly, how great are those evils, which we are ignorant are evils even when we are doing them? And, if we see nothing in that case, when we hold, as it were, the light of discernment, how blindly do we stumble against those sins which we commit without discernment? Through all our doings then our intention must be considered with watchful care, that it choose not, in what it does, any thing temporal, but that it fix itself entirely on the solid foundation of eternity; lest the fabric of our deeds, if built out beyond the foundation, should be rent asunder by the yawning earth. Whence it is here also fitly subjoined,

Ver. 6. Whereupon are the bases thereof fastened?




31. For the bases of each single soul are its intentions. For as the fabric rests on columns, but the columns on bases, so is our life based upon its virtues, but our virtues on our inmost intention. And because it is written, Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ; [1 Cor. 3, 11] the bases are then on the foundation, when our intentions are firmly fixed on Christ. But in vain do the bases raise upon themselves lofty edifices, if they themselves do not stand firm on the solid foundation, because men doubtless perform in vain their deeds, however great, if the intentions of their hearts are turned aside beyond the certainty of eternity, and if they seek not the rewards of the true life, and they raise up upon themselves heavier losses of ruin, the loftier edifices they pile up beyond the foundation. For when they aim not at the rewards of eternal life, the more they raise themselves, as it were, in virtue, the deeper do they fall into the pitfall of vainglory. We must not consider then what the bases support, but where they are supported: because in truth the hearts of men examine, by Divine help, not only what they do, but what they aim at in their doings. Whence, when Paul was describing the strict Judge, and was speaking of the goodness of actions, saying, Who will render to every man according to his deeds; to these indeed according to their patience in well-doing, glory and incorruption; [Rom. 2, 6. 7.] because, having spoken of patience in well doing, he had mentioned the whole fabric, as it were, of Elect actions, he immediately enquired accurately where the bases of this fabric rested, saying, To those who seek for glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life. As if he were plainly saying, Although certain persons exhibit patience in well-doing, yet they receive not glory and incorruption, if they place not the intentions of their heart, that is the bases of the fabric, on the foundation. Because, namely, God dwells not in the edifice even of an honest life, which, placed without Himself, He Himself does not support.


32. Because, therefore, the intentions of every Elect soul rest on the hope of eternity, it is rightly said of this earth by the voice of the Lord, Whereupon are the bases thereof fastened? As if He were plainly saying, Except upon Me. For while every righteous soul aims at this, every thing it does temporally, it doubtless builds on Me for no temporal purpose. But since we are then more solidly built on the foundation, when we both follow the words of God in their outward precepts, and consider them with deeper understanding in their inmost meanings, it is rightly subjoined,

Or who hath laid the corner stone thereof?




33. For the ‘corner stone’ is a twofold understanding of Holy Scripture. And it is laid by Divine power, when it is not, by strict judgment, bound with the darkness of its ignorance, but enjoys a kind of liberty, whereas it knows sufficiently the precepts of God, either to follow their outward commands, or to learn by contemplation their inner meaning. To which our understanding would never attain, if He, our Creator, did not come to take our nature. For He is called in one sense ‘a corner stone,’ because He united in Himself two peoples, and in another, because He set forth in Himself patterns of both lives, that is, the active and the contemplative, united together. For the contemplative life differs very much from the active. But our Redeemer by coming Incarnate, while He gave a pattern of both, united both in Himself. For when He wrought miracles in the city, and yet continued all night in prayer on the mountain, [Luke 6, 5] He gave His faithful ones an example, not to neglect, through love of contemplation, the care of their neighbours, nor again to abandon contemplative pursuits, from being too immoderately engaged in the care of their neighbours; but so to keep together their mind, in applying it to the two cases, that the love of their neighbour might not interfere with the love of God, nor again the love of God cast out, because it transcends, the love of their neighbour. Because then the Mediator between God and man was manifested to the heart of man, when it knew not what it was doing, in order by His doings to set in order things transitory, and to shew by contemplation whence all things depended, it is rightly said, Or who hath laid the earner stone thereof? As if the Lord were openly saying, Except Myself, Who manifested in time for the salvation of men, Him Whom I begat as My only Son without time, that men might learn in His life that even diverse pursuits are not discordant. And it must be observed, that He does not state that He sent Him out, but that He sent Him away [‘non emisisse, sed dimisisse.’]. Because in truth the Son, in taking human nature, descended from a lofty, to the lowest, estate. But since even the Elect Angels, who are not redeemed by this mystery, yet marvelled at the mystery of this Incarnation, [1 Pet. 1, 12] it is rightly subjoined,

Ver. 7. When the morning stars were praising Me together.




34. For because the nature of rational spirits is believed to have been created first in time, the Angels are, not improperly, called ‘morning stars.’ But if this is so, whilst the earth was invisible, and in disorder, whilst darkness was over the abyss, they anticipated in their existence the coming day of the following age through the light of wisdom. Nor must we hear negligently the word ‘together’ which is added; because the morning stars doubtless praise, together with those of the evening, the power of the Redeemer, while the Elect angels glorify even with redeemed men in the end of the world the bounty of heavenly grace. For in order to excite us to praise our Creator, when the Light arose in the flesh, they proclaimed this which we before mentioned; Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will. [Luke 2, 14] They praise then together, because they adapt to our redemption the words of their exultation. They praise together, because when they behold us admitted, they rejoice that their own number is filled up. But they are therefore perhaps also termed ‘morning stars,’ because they are frequently sent to exhort men, and while they announce the coming morn, they drive away from the hearts of men the darkness of the present life. But behold Angels praise the Divine Power, because the very sight of such great brightness expands them. But with what virtue do we, who though ransomed, are yet weighed down by the corruption of the flesh, praise the gift which we receive? For how will our tongue be able to speak of that, which our mind is unable to understand? It follows,

And all the sons of God exulting for joy.




35. For it is called ‘exultation,’ when the joy of the heart is not fully expressed by the power of the voice, but when he who rejoices makes known in certain ways the joy which he can neither conceal, nor fully express. Let Angels therefore praise, who now behold above the loftiness of such great brightness. But let men exult, who still suffer here below the straitness of their speech. But because the Lord knew that these things would certainly happen, He does not speak of them as about to occur, but rather relates them as having occurred. But how is it that, when the good exult in the mystery of their redemption, envy inflames the wicked, and that whilst the Elect make progress, the reprobate are roused to furious madness, and persecute their rising virtues, because they do not wish to imitate them? And yet he Who has redeemed, forsakes us not even among these trials. For it is written; But God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. [1 Cor. 10, 13] For our Creator knows when to suffer the storm of temptation to arise, when to restrain it on rising. He knows how to restrain, in order to our protection, that which He allows to come forth against us for our exercise; that the raging storm may wash over, and may not overwhelm us. Whence also it follows;

Ver. 8. Who shut up the sea with doors, when it was breaking forth, as if proceeding from the womb?






36. For what do we understand by the ‘sea,’ but the world, and what by the ‘womb,’ but the corruption of carnal thoughts? For in this place by the word ‘womb’ is designated the secret and evil thought of carnal things. And this womb conceives not a bodily substance in order to produce offspring, but a cause of sorrow, in order to fulfil its wickedness. Of this womb of the heart of the wicked it is said in another place, He hath conceived sorrow, and hath brought forth iniquity. [Ps. 7, 14] By this womb do the wicked conceive when they think evil things. By this womb do they bring forth, when they execute the evils they have thought. The sea then was bursting forth, as if proceeding from the womb, when the waves of worldly threats, conceived in the iniquity of carnal thoughts, were raging for the destruction of Holy Church. But, by God’s help, this sea was shut up with doors, because holy men were opposed as a kind of door, against the pride of persecutors, in order that the wrath of persecutors might be crushed by their miracles, and reverence. For when the princes of this world had been brought low, the Lord exalted Holy Church, by their means, above the height of the world, and restrained the assaults of the raging sea, by having raised up the power of the same Church. But let us hear what the Lord did to this raging sea. It follows;

Ver. 9. When I was making a cloud the garment thereof, and was covering it with darkness as with swaddling clothes.




37. The raging sea is covered with a ‘cloud,’ because the cruelty of persecutors is covered with the veil of their own folly. For it is unable to behold the clear light of truth, from the interposed darkness of their unbelief; and through the desert of its own blindness, it knows not what it is doing by the impulse of cruelty. For had they known, as says the Apostle, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. [1 Cor. 2, 8] This cloud is wont to cover not only the unbelievers who are placed without the Church, but also to obscure those who live in a carnal manner within it. Whence holy men, who sympathize even with others’ negligence, and think that they themselves are also suffering that which they perceive others enduring, pray to God, and say, Thou hast placed a cloud before Thee, that our prayer should not pass through. [Lam. 3, 44] As if they openly said, To our mind accustomed to worldly pleasures Thou presented, by a righteous judgment, the phantoms of its cares, by which Thou confusest it, in the very earnestness of its prayer; and that which Thou art not ignorant is given up to the most degrading desires, Thou rightly repellest, when blinded, from beholding the brightness of Thy light; so that when it reaches towards Thee, it is turned away from beholding Thee, by the cloud of its own thoughts; and that that which constantly thinks on these worldly subjects, because it wishes for them, may endure them also in its prayer, when it does not wish for them. Because then the very wickedness of persecutors is so restrained by God’s ordering, as not to burst forth as much as it wishes against holy men; after He said, When I was laying the cloud as the garment thereof, He fitly subjoined, And was covering it with darkness as with swaddling clothes. For the feet and arms are bound with swaddling clothes, lest they should be thrown about hither and thither with unrestricted liberty. Because, therefore, the persecutors of Holy Church, restless from their instability of heart, and devoted to this world, savour not the things of age, but of childhood; they who are fast bound by darkness and obscurity, (not by a sense of the Divine judgment,) so as to be unable to persecute as much as they wish, are said to be wrapped in swaddling clothes. Because, as has been said, they savour of childish things, and yet, constrained by the Divine dispensation they do not stretch forth their arms wherever they please; and if they desire lightly to perpetrate every kind of sin, yet they are by no means permitted to fulfil all they wish. It follows,

Ver. 10. I surrounded it with My boundaries.


The Lord surrounds the sea with His boundaries, because He so restricts the wrath of persecutors by the dispensation of His judgments, that the swelling wave of their mad wrath is broken on the level shore of His secret dispensation. It follows;

Ver. 10,11. And I set a bar and doors, and said, Hitherto shall thou come, and thou shalt not proceed further, and here shall thou break thy swelling waves.




38. What is designated by ‘doors,’ but holy preachers, and what by the ‘bar,’ except the Lord Incarnate? For He has in truth opposed these doors as a firmer barrier against the force of the swelling sea, the more He has strengthened them by barring them Himself. For because these doors of Holy Church are strengthened by this bar being placed against them, they could be battered indeed by the waves, but they could not be broken through: so that though the wave of persecution might dash on them from without, yet it could not penetrate to the centre of their heart. And because holy Preachers open themselves by their preaching to their followers, but close themselves by their authority against those who oppose them, they are, not improperly, called ‘doors,’ that is, open to the conversation [al. ‘conversion’] of the humble, and closed to the terrors of the proud. They are, not improperly, called ‘doors:’ because they both open an entrance for the faithful, and again oppose themselves to the entrance of the unbelieving. Let us consider what a door of the Church was Peter, who admitted Cornelius, when enquiring into the faith, and rejected Simon when seeking miraculous powers for a price; saying to the one, I have found in truth that God is no respecter of persons, [Acts 10, 34] he graciously opened the secrets of the kingdom. Declaring to the other, Thy money perish with thee, [Acts 8, 20] he closes the entrance of the heavenly court by a sentence of strict condemnation. What are all the Apostles but doors of Holy Church, when they hear by the voice of their Redeemer, Receive the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained? [John 20, 22. 23.] As if it were plainly said to them; By you, those to whom ye open yourselves shall come in to Me; and those to whom ye close yourselves, shall be rejected. Whilst then the sea rages, the Lord opposes His bar and doors; because whilst the storm of persecution spreads itself out in the world from bitter and faithless hearts, God exalts the glory of His Only Begotten, and the reverence of His preachers; and while He makes known the mysteries of the Divine strength, He breaks in the ungodly the waves of wrath.


39. But it is well said, Hitherto shall thou come, and thou shall not proceed further. Because there is doubtless a limit of the secret judgment, both when the storm of persecution should burst forth, and when it should cease, lest, if not aroused, it should not discipline the Elect, or, if unrestrained, should overwhelm them. But when the knowledge of the faith reaches as far as to the persecutors, the swelling of the troubled sea is appeased, and there does the sea break its waves, because on coming to the knowledge of the truth, it blushes at every thing it has done wickedly. For the broken wave in truth glides back on itself; because wickedness when overcome is accused even by the thought of its own heart; and suffers, as it were, the very violence which it had inflicted, because it feels the stings of guilt, from the depravity which it had committed. Whence it is said to certain persons by Paul, What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? [Rom. 6, 21] As if it were said; Why did the waves of ‘your wickedness raise themselves aloft, which being now broken in themselves, overwhelm you when converted, by the same means with which they puffed you up when perverted. It is therefore rightly said, And here shall thou break thy swelling waves. But that the doors are spoken of a second time, in this shutting up of the sea, after the manner of Holy Scripture, a thing once mentioned is repeated by way of confirmation.


40. But if we ought to understand by the ‘sea’ in this place, not specially the crowd of persecutors, but the world in general; the Lord set up gates against the sea a second time, because He first gave to the human race the precepts of the law, and afterwards the testament of new grace; He a second time confined the violence of this sea by the gates He set against it, since those, whom He chose to obey His will, He first kept from idols, by giving the law, and afterwards delivered from the carnal understanding of things by the revelation of grace. The sea a second time received gates, because God first prohibited mankind from works of iniquity, but afterwards restrained them from the sin of thought. Let us see how God first imposed gates on the swelling sea. For behold it is said by the law, Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not commit adultery. Thou shall not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. [Ex. 20, 13-16; Deut 5, 17-20] Let us see how the Lord confines this sea with second gates. Behold He says in the Gospel, Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. [Matt. 5, 27. 28.] And it is said again, Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and do good to them that hate you. [ib. 43. 44.] He therefore Who first prohibits wickednesses of deeds, and afterwards does away with the faults of the heart, doubtless twice imposes gates on the swelling sea, that it pass not over the shores of justice which have been drawn around it.


41. But when He was saying, Who hath shut up the sea with doors? He immediately also subjoined the time, When it was breaking forth, as if proceeding from the womb. Because, namely, he then opposed mankind by the precepts of the Law, when the world, though little removed from its first beginning, was going forth even from its very birth to make progress in the carnal life. For to proceed from the womb, is to appear in the flesh in the light of present glory. And it is rightly subjoined, When I was laying the cloud as the garment thereof. Because, doubtless, God did not then present Himself to men in open sight, but while He rescued them from the error of unbelief, and yet laid not open to them the brightness of His own light, He withdrew them, as it were, from darkness, and yet covered them with a cloud, in order that they might forsake their former deeds of wickedness, and yet see not more clearly at present future blessings. Whence also it is filly subjoined, And covering it with darkness as with swaddling clothes. For when He taught not ignorant people by the open preaching of the Spirit, but bound them, in figurative language, with the literal precepts, He enveloped them, while yet weak in knowledge, with the darkness of His words, as if with swaddling clothes; in order that they might gain strength by being bound by grosser commands, lest they should perish, through a fatal freedom, in their own pleasures. And since not love, but fear, was confining them to the way of righteousness, the Divine dispensation kept them close, as it were, in order to nourish them. For when the feeble people unwillingly endured the swaddling bands of precepts, it attained to a stronger condition from its very bondage. For because fear first restrained it from sin, it came forth afterwards, in a fitting condition, into the liberty of the Spirit. These swaddling clothes which He gave to beginners, the Lord Himself blames by the Prophet, saying, I gave them precepts that were not good. [Ez. 20, 25] For evil things cease, as it were, to be evil, by comparison with worse, and good things are, so to say, not good, in comparison with better. For as it is said of Sodom and Gomorrah, to guiltier Judah, Thou hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done, [Ex. 16, 51] so are the good precepts, which were given to the ignorant, spoken of as not good, by reason of the better precepts of the New Testament which succeed them. For neither would minds which were clinging to the practice of the carnal life be raised from their low condition, unless they advanced through a gradual course of preaching. For hence is it, that when they were settled in Egypt, their secret love of gain is condescended to by a considerate and righteous forbearance, and they are ordered to depart, after having first taken away the gold and silver vessels of their neighbours. But when brought to Mount Sinai, they hear at once, on receiving the Law, Thou shaft not covet any thing that is thy neighbour’s. [Ex. 20, 17] And hence it is, that in the same law they are directed to exact an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, [Exod. 21, 24] and yet at last, on the revelation of grace, they are commanded, when struck, to offer the other cheek. [Matt. 5, 38. 39.] For because anger exacts more in vengeance than it has suffered in wrong; while they learn not to requite their wrongs in a manifold manner, they would learn at last to bear them of their own accord, even when multiplied. Hence it is that He prohibited this same ignorant people certain observances, but preserved others after their original use, though He applied them so as to prefigure a better condition. For they used to sacrifice brute animals to idols in Egypt, and He afterwards retained the sacrifice of animals, for their observance, but forbade the worship of idols; in order that, while losing a portion of their customs, their weakness might be comforted by retaining something of them. But by a marvellous dispensation of wisdom the Lord converted into a mightier figure of the Spirit, that carnal custom which He retained. For what do the sacrifices of those animals designate, except the death of the Only-Begotten? What do the sacrifices of those animals signify, except the extinction of our carnal life? The weakness then of an ignorant people is condescended to, by the same means as the greater strength of the Spirit is announced through the shadowy forms of allegories. It is therefore rightly said, And I was covering it with darkness as with swaddling clothes; because He bore with the weaknesses of its tenderness, by the same means as He raised a lofty cloud of spiritual significations.


42. But because He kept them by the limits of the precepts from unrestrained wanderings of mind, He rightly subjoins; I surrounded it with My boundaries. And because He restrained the motions of this human race by sending the Mediator, He fitly subjoins; And I set a bar and doors. For He set in truth a bar and doors; because He confirms the preaching of the new life, by sending our Redeemer to oppose the sins of the guilty. For doors, when closed, are strengthened by a bar being placed against them. God, therefore, placed against them a bar, because against the wanton motives of the human race He sent the Only-Begotten, Who confirmed in His actions the spiritual precepts, which He taught in words. But it is well subjoined; Hitherto shalt thou come, and thou shall not proceed further, and here shall thou break thy swelling waves. For this sea had in truth passed over its former doors, because the wave of human pride used to overleap the barriers of the door opposed to it. But after the world found the Only-Begotten opposed to it, it broke the force of its pride, and could not pass over, because it found the boundary of its fury closed up by His strength. Whence it is rightly said by the Prophet, The sea saw and fled. [Ps. 114, 3] By doors, also, His sufferings which were seen can, not unfitly, be understood. And He secretly placed a bar against them, because He strengthened them by the invisible Godhead. Against which the waves of the world come, but they break and are scattered: because haughty men despise them when they see them, but by experience dread their strength. For when the human race first derided, and then trembled at, the sufferings of the Only-Begotten, it came swelling with pride, like the sea which is about to dash against the opposing doors, and was broken and scattered by their power.


But because this is said to blessed Job, in order that the glorying of his heart, at his many virtues, might be kept down, (lest he should perchance attribute to himself what he knows of his lofty position,) if we consider these words in a moral sense also, we learn how much they were said for his edification. Let Him say therefore,

Ver. 8. Who shut up the sea with doors?






43. What is this sea, except our heart, agitated by fury, embittered by strife, swelling with the haughtiness of pride, darkened by the deceit of wickedness? And how mightily this sea rages, any one observes, who understands in himself the secret temptations of thoughts. For behold we are now abandoning our perversities, we are adhering to proper desires, we are now cutting off, outwardly, our wicked works. But yet we are secretly harassed within, by that tempest of our former life, with which we have come thus far; and unless the barriers of unbounded fear were confining it, with the thought of the judgment, and dread of eternal torment, all the foundations of the work which has been raised up in us would have utterly fallen. For if that which rages within in suggestion, were to burst forth in deliberate act, the whole fabric of our life would have lain utterly overthrown. For being conceived in iniquity and born in sin, we bring with us into this world a contest, through the plague of innate corruptions, which we must strive hard to overcome. Whence it is rightly said also of the sea; When it was breaking forth, as if proceeding from the womb. For youth is the womb of evil thought. Of which the Lord says by Moses, For the sense and thought of the human heart is prone to evil from its youth. [Gen. 8, 21] For the evil of corruption which each one of us has acquired from the springing up of his carnal desires, he exercises as he advances in years; and unless the hand of Divine fear speedily repress it, sin quickly swallows up all the goodness of created nature. Let no one then attribute the victory over his thought to himself, since the Truth says, Who shut up the sea with doors, when it was breaking forth, as if it was proceeding from the womb? For did not Divine grace restrain the waves of our heart, from the very first beginning of our thoughts, the sea, raging with the storms of temptations, would doubtless have overwhelmed the land of the human heart, so that, washed by the briny waves, it would have become barren; that is, it would have been charmed by the fatal pleasures of the flesh, and have perished. The Lord then alone shuts up the sea with doors, Who opposes to the evil motions of our hearts the barriers of inspired fear. But because we are prohibited following those things which we behold, because we are debarred from the enjoyment of bodily pursuits, we delight to raise the eyes of our mind even to things invisible, and to behold those very things we are ordered to follow. But what do we? These things are not yet open to our feeble sight. Behold we are invited to their love, and yet are restrained from their sight, because even if we ever see them by stealth and partially, we are in darkness from our still too imperfect sight. Whence it is fitly subjoined;

Ver. 9. When I was laying the cloud as the garment thereof, and was covering it with darkness as with swaddling clothes.




44. This tumultuous sea, (our heart, namely, agitated by thoughts,) is covered with a cloud; because it is so obscured by the confusion of its own restlessness, as not clearly to behold inward peace. This sea is covered with darkness as with swaddling clothes, because it is still kept from the contemplation of sublime truths, by its weak and tender senses. Let us behold Paul covered as it were with a kind of darkness, as with swaddling clothes, when he says, We now see through a glass darkly: but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known. [l Cor. 13, 12] For did he not perceive that he was a child in the understanding of heavenly things, he would not have first mentioned, on this point, a comparison of his age, saying, When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. [1 Cor. 13, 11] We therefore then attain to the strength of youth, when we behold with strong sight that life to which we are tending. But now, since the keenness of our sight is dazzled, through its infirmity, by the light within, our mind is, as it were, held bound by swaddling clothes. Where it is fitly subjoined;

Ver. 10. I surrounded it with my boundaries.




45. For the Lord surrounds this sea with His boundaries, because He keeps low within the limits of contemplation our heart which is still agitated by the plague and trouble of its corruption; that (though it desires more) it may not ascend higher than the limit assigned to it. Or certainly the Lord surrounds this sea with His boundaries; because He calms by the secret distributions of His gifts our heart swelling with temptations: at one time keeping a wicked suggestion from arriving at pleasure, and at another a wicked pleasure from breaking out into consent. He then, Who watches the unlawful motions of the heart, and in some cases keeps them from coming as far as to consent, but in others restrains them even from delight, doubtless imposes boundaries on the raging sea, that it burst not forth in act, but that the gently murmuring wave of temptation may dash itself within the secret recesses of the mind. But because it is then mightily restrained, when it is opposed by delight in God and by inspired virtues, it is rightly subjoined;

Ver. 10, 11. And I set a bar and doors, and said, Hitherto shall thou come, and thou shalt not proceed further, and here shall thou break thy swelling waves.




46. For what do we understand by ‘doors,’ in a moral sense, but virtues, and what by a ‘bar,’ but the strength of charity? These doors, therefore, that is, these virtuous deeds, the raging sea rends asunder, unless charity of mind, secretly placed against them, holds them together. But all the goodness of virtues is easily destroyed by a temptation of the heart rushing upon them, unless it be kept firm by charity rooted within. Whence also when Paul was, in his preaching, opposing certain doors of virtues to the sea of temptation, he immediately added to them, as it were, the strength of a bar, saying, But above all these things having charity, which is the bond of perfectness. [Col. 3, 14] For charity is called the bond of perfectness, because every good deed which is done, is doubtless fastened thereby, so as not to perish. For any work is speedily plucked up by the tempter, if it is found free from the bond of charity. But if a mind is constrained by the love of God and of its neighbour, when the motions of temptations have suggested to it any wicked thoughts, this very love opposes itself to their progress, and breaks the waves of sinful persuasion by the gates of virtues, and the bar of inmost love. Because therefore the Lord restrains the sins which spring up in the heart, by the strength of inspired charity, He checks the onset of the rising sea, by barriers barred against it. Anger, it may be, exasperates within, but, that heavenly peace may not be lost, the aid of the tongue is not lent to the agitation of the mind, so that that which sounds tumultuously in the recesses of the heart does not vent itself in words. Lust is kindled in the secret thoughts, but, that it lose not its heavenly purity, thy mind chastens those limbs, which could help to further the uncleanness conceived within; lest the filthiness of the heart should exhale to the corruption of the body. Avarice excites; but, that it lose not the kingdom of heaven, the mind, contented with its own lot, confines itself within the bounds of parsimony, lest it should break out in wicked deeds, and lest the heat of inward desire should ooze forth into outward acts. Pride puffs up a man; but, that he lose not his true dignity, by considering that he is dust, he brings himself down from the loftiness of his conceived pride; striving, doubtless, that that which he endures in the suggestion of thought, may not burst forth into outward exercise. It is well said, therefore, I set a bar and doors, and said, Hitherto shall thou come, and thou shall not proceed further, and here shalt thou break thy swelling waves, because while each of the Elect is both assaulted by sin, and yet refuses to act upon evil suggestions, the sea is kept, as it were, within bounds. And though it lashes the mind within, with the tumultuous waves of thoughts, yet it passes not over the appointed bounds of holy living. This sea indeed swells itself up, but when it is dashed against the firm deliberation of the heart, it is broken and retires. That blessed Job, then, may not ascribe it to himself that he stands firmly against the storms of his heart, let him hear by the voice of God; Who shut up the sea with doors, when it was breaking forth as if proceeding from the womb? and the rest: as if it were plainly said to him; In vain thou regardest thyself in thy good deeds without, if thou dost not consider Me within, Who calm in thee the waves of temptation. For that thou art able to withstand the waves in act, is of My might, Who break the waves of temptation in the heart.