At destruction and famine you shall laugh: neither shall you be afraid of the beasts of the earth.
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Gregory The Dialogist
47. For the lost shall then suffer ‘destruction and famine,’ when, being condemned in the last Judgment, they are parted asunder from the sight of ‘the Bread’ eternal. For it is written, Let the wicked be taken away, that he see not the glory of God. [Is. 26, 10. lxx.] And the Lord declares by His own lips, I am the living Bread, Which came down from heaven. [John 6, 51] Thus at one and the same time both ‘destruction and famine’ combine to torture those, who not only feel torments without, but farther suffer death within by the plague of starvation. Hell ‘destroys,’ in that it burns, famine kills, in that the Redeemer hides His face from them. For well and justly they have their recompense both within and without, in that the wretched people both by thought and by deed did commit offence. Whence it is well said by the Psalmist, Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of Thine anger: the Lord shall confound them in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them. [Ps. 21, 9] For that, which is ‘devoured’ by fire, is kindled from the outside. But an oven is set on fire within. And so in the time of God's anger all the unrighteous are both ‘made as a fiery oven,’ and also ‘devoured by the fire,’ in that at the appearing of the Judge, when all the multitude of them is banished from the sight of Him, both within the conscience is set on fire from the misery of want [‘Desiderium’], and without hell torments the flesh.
48. ‘The scourge of the tongue’ too may be understood to mean the sentence of the final doom, whereby the Just Judge saith to the lost, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. [Matt. 25, 41] The righteous man then is ‘hidden from the scourge of the tongue,’ and from the coming woe, because in that exceeding strictness of doom, he is then comforted with the, mild voice of the Judge, when it is said, For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. [ver. 35, 36.] Before which it is premised; Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. [ver. 34.] Therefore ‘in destruction and famine’ the righteous man ‘shall laugh;’ for, when the final vengeance smites all the wicked, he himself joys in the glory of a meet reward. Nor does he at that time any longer compassionate the damned by virtue of his human nature. For, incorporated into the Divine Justice by resemblance [per speciem], he is, by the unshaken force of interior strictness, made thoroughly firm. For the souls of the Elect, being reared up in the clear light of the Righteousness above, are touched by no sense of compassion, in that the height of their bliss makes them strangers to misery. Hence also it is well said by the Psalmist; The righteous also shall see this, and shall fear, and shall laugh at him, and shall say, Lo, this is the man that made not God his helper. [Ps. 52, 6. 7.] For now the righteous see the wicked and fear, then they shall see and laugh. For because they may now fall in imitation of them, here they are holden of fear, but because they cannot then advantage the damned, there they entertain no sympathy. Therefore, that they should not commiserate those that are doomed to eternal woe, they read in that very justice of the Judge wherein they exist in bliss. For, a thing which it is not right to imagine of them, they lower the character of the happiness vouchsafed them, if, when placed in the kingdom, they wish for something which they never can accomplish. But whosoever orders himself after the precepts of life, already tastes here below the first-fruits of that secure estate which shall last for ever, so that he has no fear of our old enemy; nor at the coming on of the crisis of death in any degree dreads his violent assault. For to the righteous the beginning of their recompense is most commonly nothing else than the very security of their minds in dying. Hence it is rightly added,
Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beast of the earth.
49. For our crafty foe is called ‘a beast of the earth,’ in that he ravins with the violence of his savage nature, to seize upon the souls of sinners at the hour of their death. For those whom he deludes by flattery during their lifetime, he seizes with cruelty when they are dying. Contrary whereunto the Lord gives a promise concerning the Church of the Elect through the Prophet, The evil beast shall not go up thereon. They then in dying fear the ‘beast of the earth,’ who when living fear not the power of their Maker. For good men, because they submit themselves from the core of their heart to the dread of God, put away every weight of fear arising from the adversary's coming. For it is hence that the Psalmist beseeches the Lord, in these words, Lest he tear my soul as a lion. [Ps. 7, 2] Hence again he says, Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer, preserve my soul from fear of the enemy. [Ps. 64, 1. 2.] For while they live they perfectly fear the Judge, that when they die they may not dread the accuser. Well then is it said, Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beast of the earth. As if it were in plain words, ‘Forasmuch as thou art not now overcome by the enemy in his alluring address, thou shalt not hereafter fear him in his rage. But when we live well, it is very needful to be on our guard, that the mind, looking down upon others, be not lifted up by the pride of standing alone. Hence it is that the blessing of fellowship is fitly called to mind, where the words are immediately introduced thereupon.