And from the wicked their light is withheld, and the uplifted arm shall be broken.
All Commentaries on Job 38:15 Go To Job 38
Gregory The Dialogist
8. Because, while they refuse to believe the truth, they lose for ever the knowledge of the Law, and while they boast of having received the Law, they are, doubtless, blinded by boasting of their knowledge. For it is written, Let their eyes be darkened that they see not. [Ps. 69, 23] And again it is written, Blind the hearts of this people, and make their ears heavy. [Is 6, 10] And again it is written, For judgment I have come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind. [John 9, 39] And because they boasted themselves in the works of the Law against the Giver of the Law, it is fitly subjoined;
And the high arm shall be broken.
9. For the high arm is broken, when the proud works of the Law are reproved, by preaching the grace of faith, when it is said, By the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified. [Rom. 3, 20]
10. But all these words can be understood in another sense also. For Holy Scripture is wont to call the Church ‘earth.’ The Lord therefore holds and shakes the ends of the earth, because He allows the ends of His Church to be agitated by most cruel persecution through the coming of Antichrist, and yet forsakes her not, by permitting it. Sometimes the Lord holds this earth, and shakes it not; sometimes He holds and shakes it; because He possesses it at one time with the tranquil peace of faith, at another orders it to be disturbed with the assault of persecution.
11. But when saying, Hast thou held and shaken the ends of the earth, He rightly added immediately, And hast thou shaken the wicked out of it? For as Paul bears witness, there are many therein, who profess that they know God, but in works deny Him. [Tit. 1, 16] The Lord therefore shakes the wicked out of it, because those, whom deep-seated sins possess, will then fall into the gulph of open unbelief, and pass over to the heap of chaff, when moved by the breath of that temptation. And though they now conceal themselves within the bosom of the threshing floor, under the semblance of faith, they will then, doubtless, bound forth from the heap of grain, by the fan of strict judgment.
12. Whence it is also fitly subjoined, The seal shall be restored, as clay. As if he were openly saying; They who now appear in the bosom of the Church as a ‘seal,’ will then in the sight of all men be restored as ‘clay:’ that is, they deceive not the judgments of men concerning their profession of religion, but it is proved that they savour of earthly things. For Holy Scripture is wont to use the word ‘seal’ for faith, and ‘clay’ for iniquity. For the younger son, who returned to his father, having consumed his substance, received a ring as a present. [Luke 15, 22] For the Gentile people, which returns to ‘God, by penitence, having lost its immortality, is defended by the seal of faith. Whence also it is said to the Church by its Bridegroom, Set Me as a seal upon thine heart. [Cant. 8, 6] For a seal is placed on things for the very purpose that they may not be violated by any boldness of plunderers. The Bridegroom therefore is placed as a seal on the heart, when the mystery of His faith is imprinted for the safe keeping of our thought; in order that that unfaithful servant, namely our adversary, observing our hearts sealed by faith, may not presume to break in upon them with temptation. But by ‘clay’ worldly infection is set forth, as the Psalmist bears witness, who says, He brought me up out of the pit of misery, and the deepest clay. [Ps. 40, 2] Because many then who are found in worldly infection, are sealed, when brought to the Church, with the sacrament of heavenly faith, and yet depart not from their wicked deeds, and conceal themselves now under the cloke of faith, and yet shew what they really are, when they have found an opportunity, it is rightly said, The seal shall he restored as clay. For those whom we now believe to be faithful, we shall then find to be the very enemies of the faith; and though, when not tempted, they appear to be a ‘seal,’ they will doubtless, when tempted, be ‘clay.’ Whence also it is rightly said, Shall be restored: for their reprobate life proves them afterwards to be such, as their conscience could have done before their faith. Of whom it is fitly subjoined, And shall stand as a garment.
13. For Holy Church is now clothed as it were with garments, as many in number as the faithful, by whose veneration she is honoured. Whence also when the Gentiles were shewn to her, it is said by the Lord through the Prophet; As I live, saith the Lord, thou shall surely be clothed with all these, as with an ornament. [Is. 49, 18] But she is now arrayed, in appearance only, with many who seem to be faithful, but when the assault of persecution strikes them, she will be stripped of them and laid bare; of whose fate it is said, And it shall stand as a garment. But to ‘stand’ is put in this place for persisting in sin. Whence it is written, And stood not in the way of sinners. [Ps. 1, 1] Or certainly every reprobate is said to ‘stand as a garment,’ to shew that he cannot stand at all. Because, as a garment, when put on, is stretched by the body, in displaying its appearance, but when taken off is bent and folded together; so every one, who has fallen back from the stability of Holy Church, was stretched out, as it were, and beautiful, while being worn, but will lie afterwards, when stripped off, broken down and cast aside. But if by ‘standing’ we understand ‘continuance,’ every reprobate person who endures a short time in this life, which he loves, stands as a garment. Whence also it is said by the Prophet, All shall wax old as a garment, and as a covering shall thou change them, and they shall be changed. [Ps. 102, 26] These points therefore, which he introduced veiled in a cloud of allegory, he now makes known in plainer words, adding, From the wicked their light shall be taken away.
14. For neither does the light of God now illumine those, who veil the malice of their iniquity with the name of faith. For while they neglect to live according to the preaching of faith, and yet in appearance reverence it, they seek for the honour of this present life under the name of religion; and they gain this light from faith, as faith cherishes them in the sight of men. But there are some who sincerely believe the eternal truths which they hear, and yet contradict by evil living the very faith which they profess. These also have their light in darkness, for while they act perversely and yet think rightly about God, they are illumined in a measure by the shining of a light, so as not to be quite in darkness. And while they love the things of earth more than those of heaven, those that they see more than those they hear of, when the season of persecution assaults them, they lose that sound belief they seemed to possess. And this is specially the case, in a greater degree, at that time, when the head of the wicked himself arising, in the last persecution, against Holy Church, his boldness attacks it with unrestrained strength. Then is the heart of each one laid open, when whatever lay concealed is exposed, and they who are now holy in words, but unholy in heart, fall headlong, on their wickedness being made public, and lose the light of faith which they had in appearance possessed. But it is necessary, amidst all this, for each of us to return to the hidden recess of his heart, and to fear at the fatal results of his doings, lest he fall, as his merits demand, into the number of such men, by the strict justice of the judgments of God.
15. But let no one inconsiderately flatter himself, and believe that he therefore is exempt from such a fall, because he thinks that he does not reach to the storm of this tempest. O how many have beheld not the times of that temptation, and yet are involved in the storm of his temptation. Cain saw not the time of Antichrist, and yet was deservedly a limb of Antichrist. Judas knew not the fierceness of that persecution, and yet yielded to the might of his cruelty, by the persuasion of avarice. Simon was far removed from the times of Antichrist, and yet joined himself to his pride, by perversely seeking for the power of miracles. [Acts 8, 19. 20.] Thus a wicked body is united to its head, thus limbs to limbs, when they both know not each other in acquaintance, and yet are joined together by wicked doings. For neither had Pergamos known the books or the words of Balaam, and yet, following his wickedness, it heard in a voice of reproof from above; Thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat and to commit fornication. [Rev. 2, 14] Both times and places separated the Church of Thyatira from the knowledge of Jezebel; but because equal guilt of life had enthralled it, Jezebel is said to dwell therein, and to persist in perverse doings, as the Angel bears witness, who says; I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce My servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. [ib. 20] Behold, because they could be found, who followed the conduct of Jezebel in their reprobate deeds, Jezebel is said to have been found there: because an agreement of habits makes a corrupt body one, even if times or places sever it asunder. Whence it is that every wicked person, who has already gone by, survives in his perverse imitators, and that the author of iniquity, who has not yet come, is already visible in those who do his works. Hence John says; Now are there become many Antichrists, [1 John 2, 18] because all wicked persons are even now his members, which being in truth born in wickedness, have prevented their head, by evil living. Hence Paul says, That he might be revealed in his time; for the mystery of iniquity doth already work. [2 Thess. 2, 6. 7.] As if he were saying; Then Antichrist will be manifestly seen; for he now secretly works his hidden works in the hearts of the unrighteous. For, to say nothing of more open crimes, behold one man secretly envies his brother in his heart, and if he find an opportunity, strives to supplant him. Of what other is he a member, but of him, of whom it is written, Through envy of the devil came death into the world? [Wisd. 2, 24] Another, thinking himself a person of great desert, preferring himself to all, through swelling of heart, believes all to be inferior to him. Of what other is he a member, but of him of whom it is written, He beholdeth every high thing, and is a king over all the children of pride? [Job 41, 34] Another seeks for the power of this world, not that he may profit others, but that he may not be subject to another. Of what other is he a member, than of him, of whom it is written, Who said, I will sit in the mount of the testament, the sides of the north: I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the Most High? [Is. 14, 13. 14.] For the Most High alone so rules over all things, as to be unable to be subject to another. Whom the devil perversely wished to imitate, when seeking dominion of his own, he refused to be subject to Him. Whoever therefore seeks for power of his own, imitates the devil, because he loathes to submit to him who is placed over him by Divine ordinance.
16. There are many things besides, to proclaim certain persons to be faithless, though established in the peace of the Church. For I see that some persons so accept the person of the powerful, as not to hesitate, when requested by him, to deny, for his good will, the truth in the cause of a neighbour. And who is Truth, but He who said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life? [John 14, 6] For John the Baptist died not, when questioned about his confession of Christ, but about the truth of justice; but because Christ is the Truth, he therefore went even to death for Christ, because namely for the truth. Let us suppose that a person has, when questioned, accepted the person of the powerful, and has denied the truth, that he might not suffer the wrong even of a word. What, I pray you, would he do in the pain of punishments, who was ashamed of Christ among the scourges of words? Behold, even after this he is still a Christian before the eyes of men, and yet if God resolved to judge him strictly, he is one no longer.
17. But I see others, to whom are assigned, through their position as teachers, the duties of exhorting and reproving, who behold some unlawfulness committed, and who yet, when afraid of losing the good will of certain powerful persons, presume not to reprove it. What else doth he, whoever he be, but see the wolf coming, and flee away? He flies, because he was silent; he was silent, because he despised eternal grace, and preferred temporal glory. Behold he hid himself within the concealments of his silence before the face of a powerful man, and gave way as to open persecution, so also to secret fear. It is well said of such; They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. [John 12, 43] If these things are strictly judged, whoever is such, even though public persecution was wanting, yet denied Christ by his silence. There are not wanting then, even in the peace of the Church, the temptations of Antichrist. Let no one then dread those times of the last persecution, as though the only ones. For the cause of Antichrist is continually promoted among the ungodly, because he is even now secretly working his mystery in their hearts. And even if many, now seemingly established within the Church, pretend to be what they are not, they will yet at the coming of the Judge be exposed, as they are. Of whom Solomon well says, I saw the wicked buried, who even when they lived here, were in the holy place, and were praised in the city, as men of just works. [Eccles. 8, 10] After it was said then of the wicked; The seal shall be restored as clay, and shall stand as a garment, and their light shall be taken away from the wicked, (which is certainly to take place in that persecution of Antichrist,) he presently, consoling us concerning the destruction of the same Antichrist, says;
And the high arm shall be broken.
18. For, for what else is the high arm taken, but the proud loftiness of Antichrist, who is so exalted over the reprobate minds of men with the pride of worldly glory, that though a sinful man, and yet scorning to be counted a man, he pretends falsely that he is God above men? Whence the Apostle Paul says; So that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself, as if he were God. [2 Thess. 2, 4] And to shew his pride more fully, he stated before, Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. For even a man can sometimes be called God, according to that which is said to Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh. [Exod. 7, 1] But a mere man cannot be worshipped as God. But because Antichrist sets himself up over all holy men, and over the power of the Godhead Itself, he endeavours to surpass that which is called God, and that which is worshipped as God, by demanding for himself the name of glory. But we must observe into what a depth of pride he has fallen, who remained not in that degree of ruin, in which he fell. For both the devil and man fell, by pride, from the state of their own creation, either for him to say, I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the Most High, [Is. 14, 14] or for the other to hear and to believe, Your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods. [Gen. 3, 5] They fell, therefore, both of them, because they desired to be like God, not by righteousness, but by power. But man who had fallen, by perversely aiming at the likeness of God, discerning, when freed by grace, that he was very different from God, through the guilt of sin, exclaims, O Lord, who is like unto Thee? [Ps. 89, 8] But the devil, having been justly cast aside in his sinful lapse, continued not in his own degree of ruin; but the longer he was deprived of the grace of the Almighty, the more did he add to the guilt of his sins. For he who fell, because he wished, inverting the order of things, to be like God, was brought so far, that entering into Antichrist, he scorned to seem like God, and, when condemned, counts Him as his inferior, Whom he could not in his pride regard as his equal. For when this, which we have stated before, is said of him; Exalting himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; [2 Thess. 2, 4] it is openly shown, that by seeking at first the likeness of God, he wished, as it were, to exalt himself against God, but that increasing in the sin of pride, he now sets himself up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. Because then this his pride will be smitten by the coming of the strict Judge, (as it is written, Whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming,) [1 Thess. 2, 8] it is rightly said, And the high arm shall be broken.
19. But all these expressions, which have been twice discussed, can be still understood in another sense. For the words of God are conserves [‘pigmenta’], as it were, to give us strength. And just as, the more a conserve is ground, the more does its virtue increase in the cup; so the more we bruise the Divine words by expounding them, the more, when we hear them, are we benefited, as if by the draught. Because therefore the merciful God long bears with the sins of men, and frequently converts the minds of sinners, when He sees the end now approaching, He rightly says of Himself, as suggesting the might of so great affection.