When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint;
All Commentaries on Job 7:13 Go To Job 7
Gregory The Dialogist
41. For in Holy Writ a ‘bed,’ a ‘couch,’ or ‘litter,’ is usually taken for the secret depth of the heart. For it is hence that under the likeness of each separate soul, the Spouse, urged by the piercing darts of holy love, says in the Song of Songs, By night on my bed I sought him, whom my soul loveth. [Cant. 3, 1] For ‘by night and on the bed is the beloved sought,’ in that the appearance of the Invisible Creator, apart from every image of a bodily appearing, is found in the chamber of the heart. And hence ‘Truth’ saith to those same lovers of Him, The kingdom of God is within you. [Luke 17, 21] And again, If I go not away, the Comforter will not come. [John 16, 7] As if it were in plain words; ‘If I do not withdraw My Body from the eyes of your fixed regard, I lead you not by the Comforter, the Spirit, to the perception of the unseen.’ Hence it is said by the Psalmist of the just, The Saints shall be joyful in glory, they shall rejoice upon their beds [Ps. 149, 5]; in that when they flee the mischiefs from things without, they exult in safety within the recesses of their hearts. But the joy of the heart will then be complete, when the fight of the flesh shall have ceased without. For so long as the flesh allures, because as it were the wall of our house is shaken, even the very bed is disturbed. And hence it is rightly said by that Psalmist, Thou hast made all his bed in his sickness. [Ps. 41, 3] For when temptation of the flesh moves us, our infirmity being made to tremble disturbs even the bed of the soul. But what do we understand in this place by ‘dreams’ and ‘visions’ saving the representations of the last searching Judgment? What we already have some slight glimpse of through fear, but do not see it as it really is. Thus holy men, as we have said, ever turn back to the secret recesses of the heart, when from the world without, they either meet with successes beyond their wishes, or with adversities beyond their strength, and, wearied with their toils without, they seek as a bed, or litter, the resting-places of the heart. But whilst by certain pictures of their imagination they see how searching the judgments of God are, they are as it were disturbed in their very repose on their beds by the vision of a dream. For they behold after what sort the strict Judge cometh, Who while with the power of infinite Majesty He lights up the secret recesses of the heart, will bring back every sin before our eyes. They bethink themselves what the shame of that is, to be confounded in the sight of the whole human race, of all the Angels and the Archangels. They reflect what agony is in store after that confounding, when at one and the same time guilt shall prey upon the soul imperishably perishing, and hell fire upon the flesh unfailingly failing. When, then, the mind is shaken by so terrific a conception, what else is this but that a sad dream is presented upon the bed? Therefore let him say, When I say, My bed shall comfort me, and I shall be eased talking with myself on my couch; then Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions. As if he confessed openly, saying, ‘If fleeing from external things, I turn back into the interior, and am anxious in some sort to rest upon the bed of my heart, there, whilst Thou dost set me to [A.B.D. ‘teach me’] the contemplation of Thy severity, Thou makest me to fear horribly by the mere images my foresight raises up.’ Now it is well said, And I shall be eased, talking with myself in my bed, in that when we return wearied to the silence of our hearts, as it were holding converse on our beds, we handle the secret words of thought within ourselves. But this very converse of ours is turned into dread, in that thereby there is more forcibly presented to us in imagination the view, which holds out the terrors of the Judge.
42. But lest anyone should be at pains to make out these words after the literal sense, it is of great importance to find out in how many ways the mind is affected by images from dreams. For sometimes dreams are engendered of fulness or emptiness of the belly, sometimes of illusion, sometimes of illusion and thought combined, sometimes of revelation, while sometimes they are engendered of imagination, thought, and revelation together. Now the two which we have named first, we all know by experience, while the four subjoined we find in the pages of Holy Writ. For except dreams were very frequently caused to come in illusion by our secret enemy, the Wise Man would never have pointed this out by saying, For dreams and vain illusions have deceived many, [Ecclus. 34, 7] or indeed, Nor shall ye use enchantments, nor observe dreams. [Lev. 19, 26. Vulg.] By which words it is shewn us how great an abomination they are, in that they are joined with ‘auguries.’ Again, excepting they sometimes came of thought and illusion together, Solomon would never have said, For a dream cometh through the multitude of business. [Eccl. 5, 3] And unless dreams sometimes had their origin in a mystery of a revelation, Joseph would never have seen himself in a dream appointed to be advanced above his brethren, nor would the espoused of Mary have been warned by the Angel in a dream to take the Child and to fly into Egypt. Again, unless dreams sometimes proceeded from thought and revelation together, the Prophet Daniel, in making out the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, would never have set out with thought as the root; As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter, and He That revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. [Dan. 2, 29] And soon afterwards, Thou, O king, sawest and beheld a great image. This great image, that was great, and its stature lofty, stood before thee, &c. [ver. 31] Thus while Daniel declares in awful terms the dream about to be fulfilled, and shews in what thoughts it had its rise, it is made plain and manifest that the thing very frequently proceeds from thought and revelation combined.
43. Now it is clear, that since dreams shift about in such a variety of cases they ought to be the less easily believed, in proportion as it less easily appears from what influencing cause they spring. For it often happens that to those, whom the Evil Spirit cuts off when awake through the love of the present life, he promises the successes of fortune even whilst they sleep, and those, whom he sees to be in dread of misfortunes, he threatens with them the more cruelly by the representations of dreams, that he may work upon the incautious soul by a different kind of influence, and either by elevating it with hope or sinking it with dread, may disturb its balance. Often too he sets himself to work upon the souls of the Saints themselves by dreams, that at least for a passing moment they may be thrown off the line of steady thought, though by their own act they straightway shake the mind clear of the delusive phantasy. And our designing foe, in proportion as he is utterly unable to get the better of them when awake, makes the deadlier assault upon them asleep. Whom yet the dispensation of the Highest in loving-kindness alone allows to do so in his malevolence, lest in the souls of the Elect their mere sleep, though nothing else, should go without the meed of suffering. Therefore it is well spoken to Him that ruleth over all, When I say, my bed shall comfort me, I shall be eased talking with myself on my couch; then Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions. Surely in that God ordereth all things wonderfully, even He Himself doth that thing, which the Evil Spirit seeks to do unjustly, whilst He letteth it not be done saving justly. Now forasmuch as the life of the righteous is at once assaulted on watch by temptation, and harassed in dreaming by illusion; undergoes without the mischiefs of its corruption, and within painfully carries in itself unlawful thoughts; what may it do in order to pluck the foot of the heart out of the mazes of such numberless entanglements? Yea, thou blessed man, with what dismay and trouble thou art every way compassed about we have learnt; now let us be informed, what plan thou dost devise to encounter the same.