He leaves a path shining after him; one would think the deep to have white hair.
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Gregory The Dialogist
33. For a ‘path’ is said to shine after Leviathan, because wherever he passes along, he leaves behind him great astonishment from the brightness of his miracles, and wherever he goes forth, either by himself or by his ministers, he glitters with lying wonders. Whence the Truth says in the Gospel, that which we have already frequently quoted; There will arise false Christs, and false prophets, and will give signs and wonders, so as even for the Elect, if possible, to be led into error. [Mark 13, 22] A path, therefore, shines after Leviathan, because he enlightens by prodigies the deeds of those, whose hearts he penetrates; in order, doubtless, to keep their minds more deeply involved in the darkness of error, the more powerfully he displays, as it were, by their means the light of miracles without. But there are some, who retaining in their memory both the words of the Prophets, and the precepts of the Gospel, know that both the wonders he displays are false, and that the punishments, to which he leads them on by his deceit, are true. Because, therefore, this Leviathan does not deceive their hearts by a display of sanctity, he presents himself to them with another illusion. For he observes some persons, though knowing these things, yet loving the present life; to whose minds he proceeds to make light of future punishments; he asserts, that the sentence of severity will at length terminate; and hurries them on, when craftily deceived, to present pleasures. Whence it is also immediately fitly subjoined;
He will esteem the deep [‘abyssum’] as growing old.
34. That the eternal and incomprehensible judgments are usually designated by the name ‘deep’ the Psalmist witnesses, saying, Thy judgments are a great deep. [Ps. 36, 6] But old age is sometimes put for the approach of the end. Whence the Apostle says, That which decayeth and waxeth old, is near to destruction. [Heb. 8, 13] This Leviathan, therefore, will look on the deep as growing old, because he so infatuates the hearts of the reprobate, as to infuse in them a suspicion that the approaching judgment may come, as it were, to an end. For he considers that the abyss is growing old, who thinks that the heavenly infliction of punishment will ever he brought to a close. This ancient deceiver, therefore, makes light in his members, that is, in the minds of the wicked, of future punishments, which he bounds, as it were, by a certain limit, in order that he may prolong their faults without any limit from reproof, and that they may not here put an end to their sins, the more they imagine that the punishments of sins will be there brought to a close.
35. For there are those even now, who neglect to put an end to their sins, for the very reason that they suspect that the future judgments upon them will, some time or another, have an end. To whom we briefly reply; If the punishments of the reprobate will at any time be ended, the joys of the blessed will also be ended at last. For the Truth says by His own mouth, These shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. [Matt. 25, 46] If, therefore, this is not true which He has threatened, neither is that true which He has promised. But they say, He threatened eternal punishment to sinners, in order to restrain them from the perpetration of sins; because He ought to threaten, not inflict, eternal punishments on His creature. To whom we reply at once: If He has made false threats in order to withdraw [‘corrigere’] from unrighteousness, He has also made false promises, in order to encourage to righteousness. And who can tolerate this madness of theirs, who, while they assert in their fair offers that the punishments of the reprobate are terminated, overthrow by their assertion the rewards, and recompenses, of the Elect also? Who can tolerate their madness, who endeavour to establish that that is not true which the Truth has threatened concerning eternal fire, and who, while busy in declaring God to he merciful, are not ashamed to proclaim Him to be false?
36. But they said, A fault, which has an end, ought not to he punished without end. Almighty God is doubtless just, and that which is not committed with eternal sin, ought not to be punished with eternal torment. To whom we reply at once, that they would say rightly, if the just and strict Judge at His coming considered not the hearts, but only the doings of men. For the wicked have sinned with a limit, because their life had a limit. For they would have wished to live without end, in order that they might continue in their sins without end. For they are more eager to sin than to live; and they therefore wish to live for ever here, in order that they may never cease to sin, as long as they live. It pertains then to the justice of the strict Judge, that they should never be free from punishment, whose mind desired when in this life never to be free from sin; and that no end of punishment should be granted to the wicked, because as long as he was able he wished to have no end to his sin.
37. But they say, No just person revels in cruelty, and an offending servant is ordered by his just master to be scourged, in order to be corrected of his wickedness. He is, therefore, scourged for some object, when his master delights not in his tortures. But to what end will the wicked ever burn, who have been consigned to the fires of hell? And because it is certain that the Merciful and Almighty God revels not in the tortures of the wicked, why are the wretched put to torture, if they make not expiation? To whom we reply at once, that Almighty God, because He is merciful, revels not in the torture of the wretched; but because He is just, He ceases not, even for ever, from punishing the wicked. But all the wicked are punished with eternal suffering, and indeed by their own iniquity; and yet they are burnt for some purpose, in order, namely, that all the just may behold in God the joys they experience, and may see in them the punishments they have escaped; in order that they may acknowledge that they are the more indebted to Divine grace, the more they see the eternal punishment of the sins, which by His help they were able to avoid.
38. But they say, And where then is their saintship, if they will not pray for their enemies, whom they will then see burning, though it is expressly said to them, Pray for your enemies? [Matt. 5, 44] But we reply at once, They pray for their enemies at that time when they are able to convert their hearts to fruitful penitence, and save them by this very conversion. For what else must we pray for our enemies, except that which the Apostle says, That God may give them repentance, and that they may recover themselves from the snares of the devil, by whom they are held captive unto his will? [2 Tim. 2, 25. 26.] And how will prayers be made at that time for them, when they can no longer be in any degree turned from iniquity to works of righteousness? There is, therefore, the same reason for not praying then for men condemned to eternal fire, as there is now for not praying for the devil and his angels who have been consigned to eternal punishment. And this is now the reason for holy men not praying for unbelieving and ungodly men who are dead; for they are unwilling that the merit of their prayer should be set aside, in that presence of the righteous Judge, when in behalf of those whom they know to be already consigned to eternal punishment. But if even now the just when alive do not sympathize with the unjust who are dead and condemned, (when they know that they themselves are still enduring from their flesh that which will be called into judgment,) how much more severely do they then regard the torments of the wicked, when, stripped of every sin of corruption, they will themselves cleave more closely and firmly to righteousness? For the power of severity so absorbs their minds, by means of their cleaving to the most righteous Judge, that they take no pleasure whatever in any thing which is at variance with the strictness of that inward rule. But because we have made these brief remarks against the followers of Origen [See Huetii Origeniana, B. 2. q. 11.], as the opportunity occurred, let us go back to the course of exposition, from which we have digressed. After the merciful Lord had pointed out the crafty machinations of this Leviathan, openly announcing all the fierce oppressions he inflicts outwardly on the Elect, and every thing which he infuses into the reprobate within by his flattering suggestion.