If my land cries against me, and its furrows likewise complain;
All Commentaries on Job 31:38 Go To Job 31
Gregory The Dialogist
52. For what is it for the ‘land to cry,’ for ‘the furrows to weep,’ and to have ‘eaten one’s own fruits buying them?’ To whom is it necessary to buy what is his own? who has heard ‘the land crying?’ Who has seen ‘the furrows weeping?’ And whereas the furrows of the land are always of the land, why is it that by a separate declaration it is both said that the land did not cry, and that the furrows thereof did not weep along with it? For whereas a furrow of the earth is nothing else but earth, it does not need the accounting of much difference, that he adds; And along with it the furrows thereof weep. In which same point because the order of the history falls to the ground, the mystical meaning displays itself to us, the doors as it were being now set open. As though it exclaimed in plain speech; ‘Whereas ye know that the reasonableness of the letter has dropped dead, doubtless it remains that ye should fall back to me without misgiving. For every one who either by private right rules a domestic household, or for the common advantage is set over faithful multitudes, herein that he possesses the rights of government over the faithful committed to him, what else does he but hold the land to cultivate it? Since it is for this end that each individual is advanced above the rest, by Divine distribution, that the mind of those under him, like land subdued, may be made fruitful by the seed of his preaching. But ‘the land crieth against’ its possessor, if it chance that against him, who is set at the head, either a private family, or Holy Church utters any just murmur. Since for ‘the land to cry,’ is for those under charge to grieve with reason against the injustice of him who rules them; where it is rightly subjoined, And along with it the furrows thereof weep. For the land even when not cultivated by any works generally produces something of sustenance for the service of man, but when ploughed it bears fruits to superabundance. And there are some persons, who ‘not being cleft by any ploughshare of reading, or any of exhortation, do yet of themselves produce some good things, though but the least, like land not yet ploughed up. But there are some who for always hearing and retaining, applying themselves to holy preachings and meditations, as it were cleft with a kind of ploughshare of the tongue, as to the former hardness of the heart, receive the seed of exhortation, and by the furrows of voluntary chastening render the fruits of good practice. But it is very often the case that those who are set at the head do things unjust, and it comes to pass that the very persons injure those under them, who were bound to do them good. Which when uninstructed persons see, being enraged they murmur against their ruler, and yet do not by sympathy grieve violently for their neighbours. But when these who are already broken in pieces by the plough of reading, and dressed for the fruitage of practice, see innocent persons borne down even in the least things, they are forthwith turned by sympathy to tears of sorrow, because they bewail as their own the things that their neighbours suffer unjustly. For the perfect, whereas they are ever affected with regard to what is spiritual, are taught to lament for the bodily hurts of others, so much the more in proportion as they are now instructed not to lament for their own. And so every one who is set in authority, if he executes what is bad in the case of those under him, ‘the earth crieth against him and the furrows weep,’ because against his injustice the uninstructed peoples indeed break out in accents of murmuring, while all the perfect severally chasten themselves in tears for his wicked practice, and for what the inexperienced cry out and do not grieve, those under authority of a more tried life bewail and hold their peace. And so for ‘the furrows to bewail along with the land crying out,’ is by that thing whereas the multitude of the faithful complains with justice against the ruler, for persons of a more fruitful life to be brought to tears of sorrow. Thus the furrows are both of the earth, and yet are distinguished from the term of ‘the earth,’ because those in Holy Church, who cultivate their mind with the labour of holy meditation, are as much better than the rest of the faithful, in proportion as by the seeds received they render more abundant fruits of deeds. And there are some who being set over holy peoples obtain the payments of livelihood by the bountifulness of the Church, but do not pay the ministrations of exhortation that are due. In opposition to whom the example of the holy man is yet further subjoined aright.