I was not at ease, neither had I quiet, neither was I at rest; yet trouble came.
All Commentaries on Job 3:26 Go To Job 3
Gregory The Dialogist
17. Though in every situation of life, we sin in thought, word, and deed, the mind is then hurried along in all these three ways with the greater freedom from control, when it is lifted up with this world's good fortune. For when it sees that it surpasses other men in power, feeling proudly, it thinks high things of itself, and when no opposition is offered by any to the authority of its word, the tongue has the more uncontrolled range along precipitous paths; and while it is permitted to do all that it likes, it reckons all that it likes to be lawfully permitted it. But good men, when supported by this world's power, bring themselves under severer discipline of the mind, in proportion as they know that, from the intolerance of power, they are persuaded to unlicensed acts, as if they were more licensed to do them [vid. b. xx.c.73.]. Thus they refrain their hearts from surveying their own glory, they check their tongues from unrestrained talk, they guard their actions from restless roaming. For it often happens that they that are in power lose the good things that they do, because they entertain high conceits, and while they reckon themselves to be of use for every purpose, they blast the merit even of the usefulness they have laid out. For in order that a man's deeds may be rendered of greater worth, they must needs always appear worthless in his own esteem, lest the same good action elevate the heart of the doer, and in elevating overthrow its author by self elation, more effectually than it helps the very persons for whom it may chance to be rendered. For it is hence that the King of Babylon, while he was secretly revolving in his own mind, in the pride of his heart, saying, Is not this great Babylon which I have builded? was suddenly turned into an irrational beast. For he lost all that he had been made, because he would not humbly keep back what he had done; and because in the Pride of his heart he lifted himself up above men, he lost that very human faculty, which he had in common with man. And often they that are in power burst out at random into insulting language towards their dependants, and this merit, viz. that they serve their office of authority with vigilance, they lose by reason of their forwardness of speech, plainly considering with overlittle dread the words of the Judge, that he who shall say to his brother without cause Thou fool, [Matt. 5, 22] makes himself obnoxious to hell fire. Often they that are in power, whereas they know not how to refrain lawful actions, slide into such as are unlawful, and unquiet. For he alone is never brought down in things unlawful, who is careful to restrain himself at times even from things lawful. It is with the bands of this selfsame restraint that Paul shewed himself to be bound for good, when he says, All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient [1 Cor. 6, 12]; and in order to shew in what exceeding freedom of mind he was set at large by reason of this very restraint, he thereupon added, All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. For when the mind pursues after the desires that it entertains, it is convicted of being enslaved to the things, by the love of which it is subdued. But Paul, ‘to whom all things are lawful,’ is ‘brought under the power of none;’ in that by restraining himself even from things lawful, those very objects, which, if enjoyed, would weigh him down, being contemned, he rises above.
18. Let blessed Job then declare for our better instruction what he was when in power, in these words, Did I not dissemble? For when we are in possession of power, it is both to be taken account of for purposes of utility, and to be kept out of sight because of Pride, in order that he that uses it, on the one hand, that he may render service therewith, may be aware that he has the power, and on the other, that he may not be elated, may not be aware that he has the power. Now what he was in word of mouth, let him add in these words, Was I not silent? What in respect of forbidden deeds, let him further subjoin, Did I not rest quiet? But the being silent and quiet admit of being yet more minutely examined into. Thus, to be silent is to withhold the mind from the cry of earthly desires, For all tumult of the breast is a strong and mighty clamouring.
19. Moreover they rest, that bear themselves well in power, in that they prefer to lay aside, at intervals, the din of earthly business for the love of God, lest whilst the lowest objects incessantly occupy the mind, it should altogether fall away from the highest. For they know that it can never be lifted up to things above, if it be continually busied in those below with tumultuous care and concern; for what should that mind gain concerning God in the midst of business, which, even when at liberty, strives with difficulty to apprehend aught that concerns Him? And it is well said by the Psalmist, Keep yourselves aloof, and know that I am God. [Ps. 46, 10] For he that neglects to keep himself aloof to God, by his own judgment upon himself hides the light of God's vision from his eyes. Hence moreover it is declared by Moses, that those fish that have no fins should not be eaten. [Lev. 11, 10. 12.] For the fish, that have fins, are wont to make leaps above the water. Thus they only pass into the body of the Elect in the manner of food, who, whilst they yield themselves to the lowest charges, can sometimes by the mind's leaps mount up to things on high, that they may not always be buried in the deeps of care, and be reached by no breath of the highest love as of the free air. They, then, who are busied in temporal affairs, then only manage external things aright, when they betake them with solicitude to those of the interior, when they take no delight in the clamours of disquietudes without, but repose within themselves in the bosom of tranquil rest.
20. For men of depraved minds never cease to keep on the tumult of earthly business within their own breasts, even when they are unemployed. For they retain pictured in imagination the things, which their love is fixed on, and though they be employed in no outward work, yet within themselves they are toiling and labouring under the weight of an unquiet quiet. And if the management of these same things be accorded to them, they wholly go forth from themselves, and follow after these temporal and transient concerns by the path of their purpose of mind, with the unintermitted steps of the thoughts. But pious minds, on the one hand,. seek not such things when lacking, and on the other, they bear them with difficulty, when present, for they fear lest by the care of external things they be made to go out of themselves. Which same is well represented in the life of those two brothers, concerning whom it is written, And Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man dwelling in tents. [Gen. 25, 27. Vulg.] Or it is said in the other translation [so lxx.], he dwelt at home. For what is represented by Esau's hunting but the life of those, who, giving a loose to themselves in external pleasures, follow the flesh? and, moreover, he is described to be a man of the field, for the lovers of this world cultivate the external in the same proportion, that they leave uncultivated their internal parts. But Jacob is recorded to be a plain man, dwelling in tents, or dwelling at home, in that, truly, all, that seek to avoid being dissipated in external cares, abide plain men in the interior, and in the dwelling place of their conscience; for to ‘dwell in tents,’ or ‘in the house,’ is to restrain one's self within the secrets of the heart, nor ever to let themselves run loose without in their desires, lest, while men gape after a multitude of objects without, they be led away from themselves by the alienation of their thoughts. So let him, who was tried and trained in prosperity, say, Did I not dissemble it? Did I not hold my peace? Did I not rest quiet? For, as we have said above, when holy men receive the smiles of transitory prosperity, they ‘dissemble’ the favour of the world, as though they were ignorant of it, and with a resolute step they inwardly trample upon that, whereby they are outwardly lifted up. And they ‘hold their peace,’ in that they never clamour with the uproar of wicked doings. For all iniquity has its voice belonging to it in the secret judgments of God. Hence it is written, The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great. And they ‘rest quiet,’ when they are not only hurried away by no unruly appetite of temporal desires, but over and above eschew the busying themselves out of due measure with the necessary concerns of this present life.
21. But while they do this, they are still made to feel the strokes of a Father's hand, that they may come to their inheritance the more perfect, in proportion as the rod, striking in pity, is daily purifying them even from the very least sins. Thus they are unceasingly doing righteous acts, yet are perpetually undergoing severe troubles. For often our very righteousness itself, when brought to the test of God's righteous eye, proves unrighteousness, and that which is bright in the estimate of the doer, is foul in the Judge's searching sight. Hence when Paul said, For I know nothing by myself; he forthwith added, Yet am I not hereby justified; [1 Cor. 4, 4] and immediately implying the reason wherefore he was not justified, he says, But he that judgeth me is the Lord. As though he said, ‘For this reason I say that I am not justified herein, viz. that I know nothing by myself because I know that I am tested with greater exactness by Him, That judgeth me.’ Therefore we must keep out of sight all that favours us outwardly, we must keep under control whatsoever is clamorous within, we must eschew the things that twine themselves about us as necessary, and yet in all of these we must still fear the chastisements of a strict inquisition; since even our very perfection itself does not lack sin, did not the severe Judge weigh the same with mercy in the exact balance of His examination.
22. And it is well added, Yet indignation came upon me. For with wonderful skilfulness of instruction, when about to tell of the chastisements, he premised the good deeds, that each man might hence be led to consider what punishments await sinners hereafter, if the righteous even are chastised here with strokes so strong. For it is hence that Peter says, For the time is come that Judgment must begin at the house of God, And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? [1 Peter 4, 17. 18.] Hence Paul, after he said many things in commendation of the Thessalonians, straightway added, So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure; Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God. [2 Thess. 1, 4. 5.] As if he said, ‘Whilst you, that act so uprightly, undergo so many hardships, what else is it than that ye are giving examples of the righteous judgment of God, since from your punishment it is to be inferred in what sort He smites those with whom He is wroth, if He suffers you to be thus afflicted, in whom He delights; or how He will strike those towards whom He shews righteous judgment, if He thus torments your own selves, whom with pitifulness He cherishes in reproving.
23. The first words, then, of blessed Job being ended, his friends that had come in pity to comfort him, set themselves by turns to the upbraiding of him; and while they launch out to words of strife, they drop the purpose of pity, which they had come for. And indeed they do this with no bad intent, but, though they manifest feeling for the stricken man, they supposed him to be no otherwise stricken than for his wickedness; and whereas guarded speech does not follow that good intention, the very purpose of mercy is turned into the sin of an offence. For it was their duty to consider to whom and on what occasion they spake; in that he, to whom they had come, was a righteous man, and besieged with the strokes of God's hand; and so they should from his past life have estimated those words of his mouth, which they were unable to understand, and not have convicted him from present strokes, but have entertained fear for their own lives, and not as it were by reasoning have lifted themselves above, but by lamenting joined themselves to that stricken Saint, so that their knowledge might in no wise display itself in words, but that great teacher, grief, might instruct the tongue of the comforters to speak aright. And though they perchance might in any thing be of a different mind, assuredly it was meet that they should express these feelings with humility, lest by words without restraint they should accumulate wounds upon the smitten soul.
24. For it often happens that, because they cannot be understood, either the doings or the sayings of the better men are displeasing to the worse; but they are not to be rashly censured by them, inasmuch as they cannot be apprehended in their true sense. Often that is done in pursuance of policy [‘dispensatorie,’ in economy] by greater men, which is accounted an error by their inferiors. Often many things are said by the strong, which the weak only decide upon, because they know nothing about them. And this is well represented by that Ark of the Testament being inclined on one side by the kine kicking, which the Levite desiring to set upright, because he thought it would fall, he immediately received sentence of death. [2 Sam. 6, 7] For what is the mind of the just man but the Ark of the Testament? which, as it is being carried, is inclined by the kicking of the kine; in that it sometimes happens that even he, who rules well, being shaken by the disorder of the people subject to him, is moved by nought else than love to a condescension in policy. But in this, which is done in policy, that very bending, that is, of strength is accounted a fall by the inexperienced; and hence there are some of those that are in subjection, who put out the hand of censure against it, yet by that very rashness of theirs they forthwith drop from life. Thus the Levite stretched forth his hand as it were in aid, but he lost his life in being guilty of offence, in that while the weak sort censure the deeds of the strong, they are themselves made outcasts from the lot of the living. Sometimes too holy men say some things condescending to the meanest subjects, while some things they deliver contemplating the highest; and foolish men, because they know nothing of the meaning either of such condescension or elevation, presumptuously censure them. And what is it to desire to set a good man right for his condescension, but to lift up the ark that is inclined with the presuming hand of rebuke? what is it to censure a righteous man for unapprehended words, but to take the move he makes in his strength for the downfall of error? But he loses his life, who lifts up the ark of God with a high mind; in that no man would ever dare to correct the upright acts of the Saints, unless he first thought better things of himself. And hence this Levite is rightly called Oza, which same is by interpretation ‘the strong one of the Lord,’ in that the presumptuous severally, did they not audaciously conclude themselves ‘strong in the Lord,’ would never condemn as weak the saying and doings of their betters. Therefore while the friends of blessed Job leap forth against him, as if in God's defence, they transgress the rule of God's ordinance in behaving proudly.
25. But when any of the doings of better men are displeasing to the less good, they are by no means to hold their peace about the considerations which influence their minds, but to give utterance thereto with a great degree of humility, so that the purpose of him, whose feelings are pious, may, in a genuine manner, keep the form of uprightness, in proportion as he goes by the pathway of lowliness. Thus both all that we feel is to be freely expressed, and all that we express is to be uttered with the deepest humility, lest even what we intend aright we make other than right, by putting it forth in a spirit of pride. Paul had spoken many things to his hearers with humility, but it was with still more humility that he busied himself to appease them about that humble exhortation itself, saying, And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words. [Heb. 13, 22] And likewise bidding farewell to the Ephesians at Miletus, who were deeply grieved and loudly lamenting, he recalls his humility to their remembrance, in these words, Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears. [Acts 20, 31] Again he says to the same persons by letter, I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation, wherewith ye are called. [Eph. 4, 1] Therefore let him infer from hence, if he ever thinks rightly at all, with what humility the disciple ought to address the Master, if the Master of the Gentiles himself, in the very things which he proclaims with authority, beseeches the disciples so submissively. Let everyone collect from hence in what a spirit of humility he should communicate to those, from whom he has received examples of good living, all that he perceives aright, if Paul submitted himself in a humble strain to those, whom he himself raised up to life.
26. But Eliphaz, who is the first of the friends to speak, though he came with pity to console, yet in that he departs from meekness of speech, is ignorant of the rules of consoling; and while he neglects the guarding of his lips, he is guilty of excess, even to offering insult to the afflicted man, saying, The tiger hath perished for lack of prey, the roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lioness [V. thus], and the teeth of the young lions are broken [Job 4, 10. 11.]: i.e. by the teeth of a tiger marking out blessed Job, as it were, with the fault of variedness; by the roaring of the lion, denoting that man's terribleness; by the voice of the lioness, the loquacity of his wife; and by the broken teeth of the young lions, signifying the gluttony of his sons brought to ruin. And hence the sentence of God rightly reproves the feeling of the friends, which had lifted itself up in swelling reproach, saying, Ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as My servant Job hath. [Job 42, 7]
27. But I see that we must enquire, wherefore Paul makes use of their sentiments with so much weight of authority, if these sentiments of theirs be nullified by the Lord's rebuke? For they are the words of Eliphaz which he brought before the Corinthians, saying, For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. [1 Cor. 3, 19. Job 5, 13] How then do we reject as evil what Paul establishes by authority? or how shall we account that to be right by the testimony of Paul, which the Lord by His own lips determined not to be right? But we speedily learn how little the two are at variance together, if we more exactly consider the words of that same Divine sentence, which assuredly having declared, Ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right; thereupon added, as My servant Job. It is clear then that some things contained in their sayings were right, but they are overcome by comparison with one who was better; for among other things, which they say without reason, there are many forcible sentences they utter in addressing blessed Job; but when compared with his more forcible sayings they lose the power of their forcibleness. And many things that they say are admirable, were they not spoken against the afflicted condition of the holy man. So that in themselves they are great, but because they aim to pierce that righteous person, that greatness loses its weight, for with whatever degree of strength, it is in vain that the javelin is sent to strike the hard stones, since it glances off the further with blunted point, the more it comes hurled with strength. Therefore, though the sayings of Job's friends be very forcible in some points, yet, since they strike the Saint's well-fenced life, they turn back all the point of their sharpness. And therefore because they are both great in themselves, and yet ought never to have been taken up against blessed Job, on the one hand let Paul, weighing them by their intrinsic excellence, deliver them as authoritative, and on the other let the Judge, forasmuch as they were delivered without caution, censure them in respect of the quality of the individual.
28. But, as we have said above that these same friends of blessed Job contain a figure of heretics, let us now search out how their words agree with heretics; for some of the opinions which they hold are very right, but in the midst of these they fall away to corrupt notions; for heretics have this especial peculiarity, that they mix good and evil, that so they may easily delude the sense of the hearer. For if they always said wrong, soon discovered in their wrongheadedness, they would be the less able to win a way for that, which they desire. Again, if they always thought right, then, surely, they would never have been heretics. But whilst with artfulness of deceiving they engage themselves with either, both by the evil they vitiate the good, and by the good they conceal the evil, to the end that it may be readily admitted; just as he that presents a cup of poison, touches the brim of the cup with honied sweets, and while this that has a sweet flavour is tasted at the first sip, that too which brings death is unhesitatingly swallowed. Thus heretics mix right with wrong, that by making a shew of good things, they may draw hearers to themselves, and by setting forth evil they may corrupt them with a secret pestilence. Yet it sometimes happens that being collected by the preaching and admonitions of Holy Church, they are healed from such a contradiction in views, and hence the friends of blessed Job offer the sacrifice of their reconciliation by the hands of the same holy man, and even under attainder they are restored to the favour of the Supreme Judge. Of whom we have a fitting representation in that cleansing of the ten lepers. [Luke 14, 15] For in leprosy both a portion of the skin is brought to a bright hue, and a portion remains of a healthy colour. Lepers therefore are a figure of heretics, for in that they blend evil with good, they cover the complexion of health with spots. And hence that they may be healed, they rightly cry out, Jesus, Master [Preceptor, Vulg.]. For whereas they notify that they have gone wrong in His words, they humbly call Him Master when they are to be healed, and so soon as they return to acknowledge the Master, they are at once brought back to the right state of health. But as on the sayings of his friends we have carried the preface to our interpretation somewhat far, let us now consider minutely the very words themselves which they spake, The account goes on ;
C. iv. 1, 2. Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved?
29. It has been a1ready declared above, what there is set forth in the interpretation of these names. Therefore, because we are in haste to reach the unexamined parts, we forbear to unfold again what has been already delivered. According1y this is to be heedfully observed, that they, that bear the semblance of heretics, begin to speak softly, saying, If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou, be grieved? For heretics dread to incense their hearers at the outset of their communing with them, lest they be listened to with ears on the watch, and they carefully shun the paining of them, that they may catch their unguardedness, and what they put forward is almost always mild, while that is harsh which they cunningly introduce in going on. And hence at this time the friends of Job begin with the reverence of a gentle address, but they burst forth even to launching the darts of the bitterest invectives; for the roots of thorns themselves are soft, yet from that very softness of their own they put forth that whereby they pierce, It goes on;
But who can hold in [thus V.] the discourse conceived?
30. There be three kinds of men, which differ from one another by qualities carried forward in gradation. For there are some, who at the same time that they conceive evil sentiments to speak, restrain themselves in their speech by none of the graveness of silence; and there are others, who, whereas they conceive evil things, withhold themselves with a strong control of silence. And there are some, who being made strong by the exercise of virtue, are advanced even to so great a height, that, as to speaking, they do not even conceive any evil thoughts in the heart, which they should have to restrain by keeping silence. It is shewn then to which class Eliphaz belongs, who bears witness that he cannot ‘withhold his conceived discourse.’ Wherein too he made known this, that he knew that he would give offence by speaking. For he would never be anxious to withhold words that he cannot, unless he were assured beforehand that he would be inflicting wounds by the same; for good men check precipitancy of speech with the reins of counsel, and they take heedful thought, lest, by giving a loose to the wantonness of the tongue, they should by heedlessness of speech pierce their hearer’s spirits [conscientiam]; hence it is well said by Solomon, He that letteth out water is a head of strife. [Prov. 17, 14] For ‘the water is let out,’ when the flowing of the tongue is let loose. And he that ‘letteth out water,’ is made the ‘beginning of strife,’ in that by the incontinency of the lips, the commencement of discord is afforded. Thus, as the wicked are light in mind, so they are precipitate in speech, and neglect to keep silence, thoroughly considering what they should say. And what a light spirit [conscientia] conceives, a lighter tongue delivers apace. Hence on this occasion Eliphaz infers from his own experience a thing, which in a feeling of hopelessness he believes concerning all men; saying, But who can withhold his conceived discourse?