Job 34:18

Is it fit to say to a king, You are wicked? and to princes, You are ungodly?
All Commentaries on Job 34:18 Go To Job 34

Gregory The Dialogist

AD 604
52. We know often that most of those who rule exact an inordinate degree of dread from their subjects, and that they wish them to venerate them not so much for the Lord’s sake, as in the Lord’s place. For they exalt themselves with pride of heart within, and despise all under them in comparison with themselves, nor do they advise them with condescension, but oppress them with authority: because, in truth, they set themselves up with lofty thoughts, and do not acknowledge themselves to be equal with those over whom they happen to rule. Against this pride it is said in the Book Ecclesiasticus, Have they appointed thee a ruler? Be not lifted up, but be among them as one of them. [Ecclus. 32, 1] This pride the Lord also reproving by the Prophet in shepherds, saith, But ye ruled over them with austerity and with power. [Ez. 34, 4] For the good advice which they offer to their subjects, they bring out as ordering, rather than as advising with them: for the very reason, that to say any thing to them as if they were on equal terms, they consider a degradation. For they rejoice in their singular preeminence, and not in the equality of their creation. But because the Lord carefully considers those swelling hearts of rulers, it is well said against them, Who saith to a king, Apostate. For every haughty ruler falls into the sin of apostasy, as often as, through pleasure at his ruling over men, he rejoices in his peculiar distinction. For he considers not under Whom he himself is, and exults over his equals, for that he is as it were not their equal. But whence is it that this root of evil springs up in the heart of rulers, unless it be in imitation of him, who, having scorned the society of angels, said, I will ascend above the height of the clouds, and will be like the Most High? Since then every ruler, as often as he prides himself on ruling over others, is cut off, by falling into pride, from dependence on the Chief Ruler of all: and, because when he despises his equals who are subject to him, he does not acknowledge the supreme dominion of Him under Whom all are equal; it is rightly said, Who saith to a king, Apostate. 53. But since by domineering over others they lead their subjects to impiety by the example of their pride, it is fitly subjoined, Who calleth leaders ungodly. For they would lead them into the way of piety, if they did but present a pattern of humility to the eyes of their subjects. But he is an ungodly leader, who diverges from the path of truth, and who, when falling headlong himself, invites his followers to the precipice. He is an ungodly leader who points out the way of error by setting examples of pride. Paul was afraid of being an ungodly leader, when he brought down the loftiness of his power, saying, Not seeking glory of men, neither of you nor yet of others, when we might have been a burden as the Apostles of Christ, but we became as children in the midst of you. [1 Thess. 2, 6] He had become as a child in the midst of them, because he was afraid lest he should set example of pride, if he claimed, among his disciples, the honour due to his high station. He was afraid, in truth, lest if he were to seek for himself the power of pastoral authority, the flock committed to him should follow him along precipitous places, and lest he, who had undertaken an office of piety, should be leading to ungodliness those who followed him. 54. It is therefore necessary for a person in high place to take special care what example he sets his subjects, and to know that he is living for all those, over whom he knows he is placed. He should be especially watchful not to pride himself on his being set above others, lest he should exact too immoderately the privileges of rightful authority, lest the rule of discipline should be converted into the severity of pride, and lest by the power he possessed of restraining his subjects from wickedness, he should pervert the more the hearts of those who behold him; and lest (as was before observed) he should become a leader of impiety by means of his pious office. A man, however, ought not to undertake to guide others, who does not know how to lead them in holy living; lest he, who has been appointed to reprove others’ faults, shall himself commit the sin which it was his duty to cut off. Let rulers therefore take special care to live for themselves and those under them: to hide in the bosom of their mind the good which they do, and yet furnish thereby an example of good behaviour for the benefit of those who follow them; to correct the faults of their subjects by doing judgment, and yet not pride themselves at the severity of this same punishment; to be content with slightly reproving certain faults, and yet not to relax the bonds of discipline by this lenity; to overlook, and bear with other evils, and yet not to suffer them to make head by their overlooking them. These things are laborious, and, unless Divine grace support, hard to keep. But it is rightly said by the Book of Wisdom of the coming of the strict Judge, Horribly and speedily will He appear, for a very sharp judgment shall be to them who are in high places. [Wisd. 6, 5] Since therefore people too commonly launch out into pride from the power of rule, and pride itself is counted as an impiety by the strict Judge, it is well said by Eliu of the Lord, Who calleth leaders ungodly. For when they are proud of their authority, they lead by their example those under them to impiety. 55. A person then who is appointed to rule over men, must be especially careful, within the secret chambers of his mind, to preside in the seat of humility. And when others stand before him without, as he gives his sentence, he should with watchful eye behold Him, before Whom he is hereafter to stand to be judged for these very matters: that so he may behold Him with greater confidence, when he has seen Him, the more anxiously he trembles now before Him, Whom he does not behold. Let him consider then, that he who is hardly able perhaps to satisfy so strict a Judge for his own soul, has, from his ruling over so many subjects, so many souls (so to speak) singly to answer for to Him, at the time for rendering his account. And if this thought continually penetrates the mind, it crushes all the swelling of pride. And a careful ruler will be called neither an apostate king, nor an ungodly ruler, the more anxiously he regards the power he has received not as an honour, but as a burden. For he that is well pleased at being a judge now, feels no pleasure at beholding the Judge then. For the faults which are committed from the desire of obtaining power, cannot be numbered. But authority is then alone properly exercised, when it is held not in love of it, but in fear. And in order that it may be properly administered, necessity, and not our own desire, should, in the first place, impose it on us. But it neither ought to be abandoned through fear when once undertaken, nor, again, embraced as an object of desire; for fear a person should, as if by reason of humility, be guilty of greater pride, in contemning and shrinking from the course of the Divine dispensation: or should cast off the yoke of his Heavenly Ruler, the more his own private authority over others gives him pleasure. When power then is possessed it must not be greedily loved, but patiently endured; in order that then, at the judgment, it may be a light burden to our comfort, as we know it now for a service which is heavy to be borne.
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Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation - 2 Peter 1:20

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