St Basil On Psalm 48

Source: Internet Archive

Unto the End, a Psalm for the Sons of Core on the Prosperity of the Wicked (ON PSALM 48)

EVEN AMONG THE GENTILES certain men have formed ideas concerning the end of man and have arrived at various opinions about the end. Some declared that the end was knowledge; others, practical activity; others, a different use of life and body; but the sensual men declared that the end was pleasure. For us, however, the end for which we do all things and toward which we hasten is the blessed life in the world to come. And this will be attained when we are ruled by God. Up to this time nothing better than the latter idea has been found in rational nature, and to it the Apostle stirs us when he says: ‘Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father.’ This same thing Sophonia likewise set forth in prophecy, saying in the person of God: Tor my judgment is to assemble the Gentiles, to receive the kings, to pour out upon them my indignation. For in the fire of my jealousy shall all the earth be devoured; because then I will restore for many peoples a tongue for its generation, that all may call upon the name of the Lord and may serve him under one yoke.’ To this end, therefore, I think the advantages from the psalms refer, since they have this heading. Those persons also are in accord with this idea, who have written, ‘For a Victory,’ or ‘A Song of Victory,’ or ‘To the Victor,’ for, since ‘Death is swallowed up in victory,’ and it has been utterly destroyed by Him who says, I have overcome the world,’ and since all things have been conquered by Christ, and ‘At his name every knee shall bend of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth,’ perhaps, the Holy Spirit is proclaiming beforehand in triumphal odes what things are reserved for us.

‘Hear these things, all ye nations; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world. All you that are earthborn, and you sons of men: both rich and poor together.’ The place of assembly is very great since the psalm summons to the hearing all the nations as well as all who fill the world with their dwellings. With this lofty proclamation it attracts, I believe, not only the earthborn and the sons of men, but also the rich and the poor, and invites them to listen. What sort of a watchtower stands up so high over all the earth, as to see all the nations from afar off and to embrace all the world with the eyes? What herald is so loud-voiced as to shout out so as to be heard by so many ears at the same time? What place is able to hold those assembling? How great and how wise is the teacher, that he finds instructions worthy of so great an assembly? Wait a little and you will learn that what follows is worthy of the promise. For, He who is assembling and summoning all by the proclamation is the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, who brings together through prophets and apostles those who are saved; of whom, since ‘Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth; and their words unto the ends of the world,’ therefore, it says: ‘Hear, all ye nations, and all ye inhabitants of the world.’ Wherefore, the Church has been collected from all classes of life, in order that no one may be left without its aid.

There are three pairs of groups called, in which every race of men is included pagans and the inhabitants of the world, earthborn and the sons of men, rich and poor. Whom, then, has it left out of the audience? Those who are outsiders to the faith were called through the calling of the pagans. Those who are inhabitants of the world are those who are in the Church. The earthborn are they who are wise in earthly matters and cleave to the pleasures of the flesh. The sons of men are they who exercise some care for and who train their reason, for reasoning is characteristic of man. The rich and the poor have their identity known from themselves: the first, exceeding in the possession of the necessities of life; the second, standing in want of them.

Since the Physician of souls did not come to call the just, but the sinners to repentance, in his summons he placed first in each pair the group that was condemned. For, the pagans are worse than the inhabitants of the world, but nevertheless, they were preferred in the summons in order that those who were ill might first share the aid of the Physician. Again, the earthborn were placed before the sons of men, and the rich before the poor. The group which was despaired of and which held salvation difficult was summoned before the poor. Such is the kindness of the Physician; He gives a share of aid to the weaker first. At the same time the sharing of the summons is a uniting in peace, so that those who were, up to this time, opposed to each other because of customs might, through gathering together, become habituated to each other in love. Let the rich man know that he has been summoned by the same proclamation as the poor man. ‘Both rich and poor together,’ he says. Leaving outside the superiority toward the more needy and the insolence of wealth, in this way enter into the Church of God. Let not the rich, then, treat the poor man disdainfully, nor the poor man cower beneath the power of the prosperous. And let not the sons of men despise the earthborn, nor again, the earthborn alienate themselves from them. Let the pagans become accustomed to the inhabitants of the world, and let the inhabitants of the world through charity take them to themselves as guest friends by covenants.

(2) ‘My mouth shall speak wisdom: and the meditation of my heart understanding.’ Since, according to the Apostle, ‘With the heart a man believes unto justice, and with the mouth profession of faith is made unto salvation,’ truly, the action of both in men suggests perfection; therefore, the sentence has brought the two together in the same place, the action of the mouth and the attention of the heart. If, indeed, goodness had not been stored up beforehand in the heart, how would he who did not possess it in secret bring forth the treasure through his mouth? And if, having good things in his heart, he would not make them public by speech, it will be said to him: ‘Wisdom that is hid, and treasure that is not seen: what profit is there in them both?’ Therefore, for the profit of others let my mouth speak wisdom, and for our own progress let my heart meditate prudence.

‘I will incline my ear to a parable; I will open my proposition on the psaltery.’ The prophet still introduces his own person, in order that his words may not be despicable as if brought forward from human invention. The things that I teach, he says, from the Spirit, these I proclaim to you, saying nothing of my own, nothing human; but, since I have been hearkening to the propositions of the Spirit, who hands down in mystery to us the wisdom of God, I am opening for you and am making manifest the proposition; moreover, I am opening not otherwise than through the psaltery. The psaltery is a musical instrument which gives out its sounds harmoniously with the melody of the voice. Accordingly, the rational psaltery is opened especially at that time when actions in harmony with the words are displayed. And he is a spiritual psaltery who has acted and has taught. He it is who opens the proposition in the psalms, setting forth the possibility of the teaching from his own example. As, therefore, he is conscious that there is nothing incongruous or out of tune in his life, so with confidence he utters the following words: ‘Why shall I fear in the evil day? The iniquity of my heel shall encompass me.’ By the evil day he means the day of judgment, concerning which it is said: ‘The day of the Lord, an incurable day, will come upon all the nations.’ ‘in which,’ says the prophet, ‘his own devices will beset each.’ At that time, then, because I have done nothing lawless on the way of life, I shall not fear the evil day. For, the signs of sinners will not stand around me nor beset me, in silent accusation bringing the proof against me. No one else will stand as accuser except yourself, or your deeds themselves, each standing near in its own form adultery, theft, fornication with the night, with the manner, with the peculiar circumstances characterising it, and in general, each sin with its own character will be at hand bearing a clear reminder. The signs of sinners, then, will not beset me, ‘because I inclined my ear to a parable, I opened my proposition on the psaltery.’

(3) ‘They that trust in their own strength, and glory in the multitude of their riches.’ This sentence is directed by the prophet to two types of persons: to the earthborn and to the rich. He speaks to the first to overthrow their false notions due to their power; to the second, their pride due to the abundance of their possessions. You, he says, who trust in your own strength. These are the earthborn, who put their trust in strength of body and believe that human nature is sufficient for ably accomplishing what they wish. And you, he says, who trust in the uncertainty of riches, listen. You have need of ransoms that you may be transferred to the freedom of which you were deprived when conquered by the power of the devil, who taking you under his control, does not free you from his tyranny until, persuaded by some worthwhile ransom, he wishes to exchange you. And the ransom must not be of the same kind as the things which are held in his control, but must differ greatly, if he would willingly free the captives from slavery. Therefore, a brother is not able to ransom you. For, no man can persuade the devil to remove from his power him who has once been subject to him, not he, at any rate, who is incapable of giving God a propitiatory offering even for his own sins. How, then, will he have power to do this for the other? And what could he possess so great in this world that he would have a sufficient exchange price for a soul which is precious by nature, since it was made according to the image of its Creator? What labour of the present age is sufficient for the human soul as a means and provisions for the future life?

So far we have considered these things rather simply. Even if he seems to be one of the very powerful men in this life, even if he is surrounded with a great number of possessions, these words teach him to descend from such a notion and to humble himself under the mighty hand of God, not to trust to a reputed power, and not to glory in the multitude of his riches. Nevertheless, it is possible to mount a little higher in thought, and for those who are trusting in their own power and those glorying in the multitude of their riches to take thought concerning the powers of the soul, inasmuch as not even the soul is complete in itself for salvation. For, if there should be anyone perfect among the sons of men, if the wisdom of God is lacking, he will be reputed as nothing. Even if he will have acquired for himself a multitude of theories from the wisdom of the world, and have obtained by lot some wealth of knowledge, let him hear the whole truth of the matter: that every human soul has bowed down under the evil yoke of slavery imposed by the common enemy of all and, being deprived of the very freedom which it received from the Creator, has been led captive through sin. Every captive has need of ransoms for his freedom. Now, neither a brother can ransom his brother, nor can anyone ransom himself, because he who is ransoming must be much better than he who has been overcome and is now a slave. But, actually, no man has the power with respect to God to make atonement for a sinner, since he himself is liable for sin. ‘All have sinned and have need of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’ our Lord.

(4) ‘He shall not give to God his ransom, nor the price of the redemption of his soul.’ Do not, then, seek your brother for your ransoming, but Him who surpasses your nature, not a mere man, but the Man God Jesus Christ, who alone is able to give ransom to God for all of us, because ‘God has set him forth as a propitiation by his blood through faith.’ Moses was the brother of Israel, and yet he was not able to redeem him. How, then, will any ordinary man be ransomed? Wherefore, the one sentence declares: ‘No brother can redeem,’ and the other with gravity adds interrogatively: ‘Will man redeem?’ Moses did not free his people from sin, but he begged from God the exemption of the punishment due to sin. However, he was not able to give his own ransom when he was in sin, because, after the many and great wonders and signs which he saw, he uttered those words expressive of doubt: ‘Hear me, ye rebellious and incredulous: Can we bring you forth water out of this rock?’ Therefore, the Lord, because of this word, said to Moses and Aaron: ‘Because you have not believed me to sanctify me before the children of Israel, you shall not bring these people into the land which I have given them.’ ‘He shall not, then, give to God his ransom.’

In fact, what can man find great enough that he may give it for the ransom of his soul? But, one thing was found worth as much as all men together. This was given for the price of ransom for our souls, the holy and highly honoured blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He poured out for all of us; therefore, we were bought at a great price. If, then, a brother does not redeem, will man redeem? But, if man cannot redeem us, He who redeems us is not a man. Now, do not assume, because He sojourned with us ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh,’ that our Lord is only man, failing to discern the power of the divinity, who had no need to give God a ransom for Himself nor to redeem His own soul because ‘He did no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.’ No one is sufficient to redeem himself, unless He comes who turns away the captivity of the people, not with ransoms nor with gifts, as it is written in Isaiah, but in His own blood.

Although we are not His brothers, but have become His enemies by our transgressions, He, who is not mere man, but God, after the freedom which He bestowed on us, also calls us His brothers. ‘I will declare thy name,’ He says, ‘to my brethren.’ Now, He who has redeemed us, if you examine His nature, is neither brother nor man; but, if you examine His condescension to us through grace, He calls us brothers and descends to our human nature, who ‘shall not give to God his own ransom,’ but that of the whole world. He does not need a ransom, but He Himself is the propitiation. ‘For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and become higher than the heavens. He does not need to offer sacrifices daily (as the other priests did) , first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people.’ Then he says: ‘And he laboured forever, and shall live unto the end.’ His self-existence, His might, His untiring nature laboured in this life, when ‘wearied from the journey, he was sitting at the well.’

(5) ‘He shall not see destruction, when he shall see the wise dying’ (for, the Father will not permit His Holy One to see corruption), when they shall die who boast of their wisdom which is ceasing. But, if you wish to take the words in reference to just men, remember the saying of Job: ‘Man is born to labor,’ and again, that of the Apostle: I have laboured more than any of them,’ and also: ‘In many more labours,’ He, then, who has laboured in this life will live unto the end; but he who spends his time in softness and all laxity because of his luxurious living, ‘who is clothed in purple and fine linen, and feasting every day in splendid fashion,’ and flees the labours imposed by virtue, has neither laboured in this life nor will he live in the future, but he will see life afar off, while being racked in the fire of the furnace. But, he who has sweated in numberless contests for the sake of virtue, and who, to attain it, has been proved in many more labours, he is the one who is going to live unto the end, just as Lazarus, who laboured much in afflictions, and just as Job, who was very weary in the contests against the adversary. ‘For, there,’ he says, ‘the wearied are at rest.’ Therefore, the Lord calls to rest those who labor and are burdened.

Now, how are those who are labouring in good works said to be burdened? Because ‘Going they went and wept, casting their seeds. But coining they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves’ full of fruits, which were rendered to them in the proportion in which they were sown. So they are said to be burdened, who, because ‘they sow bountifully, also reap bountifully,’ and with everlasting joy lay upon their shoulders the sheaves of spiritual fruits. He, then, who has been redeemed by God who gave the ransom for him, laboured for this life, but, after this he will live unto the end. He also ‘shall not see destruction, when he will see the wise dying.’

He who chose the narrow and wearisome road instead of the smooth and open one, at the time of the visitation of God, when those who did not believe in the words of God, but went after the desires of their vain hearts, will be led away to everlasting punishment, he, I say, will not see the everlasting destruction, the eternal misery. But he says, indeed, that the wise are skilled in knavery, and Jeremiah says concerning them: ‘They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge,’ Or, he says also, that the wise are the disciples of the perishing princes of this world, who, ‘While professing to be wise, have become fools.’ For, ‘The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.’ And because this wisdom makes men foolish, God says that He will destroy the wisdom of the wise and will set at naught the prudence of the prudent. Therefore, these persuasions of falsely called knowledge provide a cause of death to those who receive them. But, this death he will not see who was redeemed by Him who was well pleased to save those trusting in the foolishness of His proclamation.

(6) ‘The senseless and the fool shall perish together, and they shall leave their riches to strangers; and their sepulchres shall be their houses forever. Their dwelling places to all generations; they have called their lands by their names.’ Above, he called the wise by one general name, whom now subdividing, he says are senseless and fools. Openly he said that they are wise, borrowing the term from their own opinion. As he calls those gods, who are not so by nature, following the practice of those who are deceived, so also he calls the senseless and foolish, wise. Therefore, it is possible to separate the senseless from the foolish in our thinking.

The senseless is, in fact, one who lacks common sense and who is not clear-sighted as regards ordinary human affairs. In the same way, custom calls those prudent who in the affairs of life discern the useful and the harmful, as it is expressed in the Gospel: Tor, the children of this world are in relation to their own generation more prudent than are the children of the light.’ They are not absolutely more prudent, but in respect to the manner of their present life in the flesh. They are also called the ministers of injustice because of their prudence in the management of their life. According to this meaning, the prudent are also serpents, who prepare hiding places for themselves and who in dangers avoid in every manner blows on the head.

A fool is said to be one who does not have the qualities characteristic of man. These are an understanding of God the Father and the acceptance of the Word, which ‘was in the beginning with God’; 50 also the light which comes from the Holy Spirit. And those persons have this mind who are able to say with Paul: ‘But we have the mind of Christ.’ Nevertheless, the practice of Scripture has used these words reversely, saying that the impious man is senseless, in the following words: ‘The fool hath said in his heart: “There is no God,” ‘ and again, he calls that which is harmful to life, foolish, as the Apostle does in speaking about those who fall into foolish and harmful desires. Thus the senseless and the fool are borne down to one common end, destruction. And one can say that he who lives as the heathens has been called senseless, but he who conducts his life as a Jew according to the bare observance of the law is a fool. For, God said to this senseless man because of the godlessness present in him: ‘Thou fool, this night do they demand thy soul of thee.’ But Israel which followed the flesh was called a fool according to the prophet, who says: ‘And Ephraim was like a foolish dove; they called upon Egypt, and they went to the Assyrians.’ Since these were completely destroyed by their own ignorance, we aliens become the heirs of their wealth. The commandments are ours, the prophets and patriarchs are ours, and so are the just in the world ours. They who perished in their own folly left us their wealth.

However, the houses of these, of the senseless and of the fool, are their sepulchres forever. For, the sepulchres of those whose life is filled with works which are dead from every kind of sin, are their houses forever, He who is dead through sins does not dwell in a house, but a sepulchre, since his soul is dead. Now, Jacob, guileless in manner and simple, dwelt in a house. Concerning him it has been written that he was “A plain and good man dwelling in a house.’ But, the thoroughly depraved man dwells in a sepulchre, and does not even lay down a foundation of penance because of his dead works, but is like a whited sepulchre, which outwardly is very conspicuous, but inwardly is full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness.’ Therefore, when such a one speaks, he does not open his mouth in the word of God, but he has an open sepulchre as his throat. If, then, one who believes in Christ does not make his actions consistent with his faith, he, because he has given his attention to depraved doctrines and because he has perverted the meaning of Scripture, hews out in the rock a sepulchre for himself.

(7) ‘Their dwelling places to all generations,’ that is to say, the sepulchres are their houses forever. Then, explaining what he means by sepulchres, in order that he might show that he was speaking about the bodies in which the souls, destroyed by their wickedness, dwell, he added these words: ‘Their dwelling places to all generations’; for, human bodies are always called dwelling places.

These also have called their lands by their names. For, the name of an impious man is not written in the book of the living, nor is he counted with the Church of the first-born which is numbered in heaven; but, their names remain on earth, because they have preferred this transient and briefly enduring life to the eternal dwellings. Do you not see how those who are building markets and schools in the cities, raising walls, constructing aqueducts, have placed their names on these earthly buildings? Already some, having stamped their names upon the herds of horses, have formed plans to stretch out their memory for a long time in life; and having displayed magnificence in their sepulchres, they have put their names on their monuments. These are they who are wise in earthly things and who think that the present glory and remembrance by men are sufficient for them for happiness. Even if you should see one of those who are exceedingly proud in their falsely named knowledge and who devote themselves to certain depraved doctrines to which they have assented, and instead of the name of Christians, have named themselves from one of the heresiarchs, Marcion, or Valentinus, or one of those fashionable at present, understand that these have called their lands by their names, devoting themselves to destructible men and, in short, to earthly things.

(8) ‘And man when he was in honour did not understand; he is compared to senseless beasts, and is become like to them. This way of theirs is a stumbling block to them: and afterwards they shall delight in their mouth.’ ‘Man is a great thing, and pitiful man is something honourable,’ who has his honour in his natural constitution. For, what other things on earth have been made according to the image of the Creator? To which of the animals that live on the land, or in the water, or in the air, has the rule and power over all things been given? He has fallen a little below the dignity of the angels because of his union with the earthly body. In fact, He made man from the earth, ‘And his ministers a flame of fire.’ But still, the power of understanding and recognising their own Creator and Maker also belongs to men. ‘And he breathed into his nostrils,’ that is to say, He placed in man some share of His own grace, in order that he might recognise likeness through likeness. Nevertheless, being in such great honour because he was created in the image of the Creator, he is honoured above the heavens, above the sun, above the choirs of stars. For, which of the heavenly bodies was said to be an image of the most high God? What sort of an image of his Creator does the sun preserve? What the moon? What the other stars? They possess only inanimate and material bodies that are clearly discernible, but in which nowhere there is a mind, no voluntary motions, no free will; on the contrary, they are servile through the necessity imposed upon them, through which they always behave precisely the same in the same circumstances.

Man, then, having been advanced above these things in honour, did not understand; and neglected to follow God and to become like his Creator, and, becoming a slave of the passions of the flesh, ‘He is compared to senseless beasts, and is become like to them’: now he is like an amorous horse which neighs after his neighbour’s wife, now like a ravenous wolf, lying in wait for strangers, but at another time, because of his deceit toward his brother, he makes himself like the villainous fox. Truly, there is excessive folly and beast-like lack of reason, that he, made according to the image of the Creator, neither perceives his own constitution from the beginning, nor even wishes to understand such great dispensations which were made for his sake, at least, to learn his own dignity from them, but that he is unmindful of the fact that, throwing aside the image of the heavenly, he has taken up the image of the earthly. In order that he might not remain in sin, for his sake ‘The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us/ 69 and He humbled Himself to such an extent as to become ‘obedient to death, even to death on a cross.’ If you are not mindful of your first origin, because of the price paid for you, accept at least some idea of your dignity; look at that which was given in exchange for you and realise your own worth. You were bought with the precious blood of Christ; do not become a slave of sin. Understand your own honour, in order that you may not be made like the senseless beasts.

‘This way of theirs is a stumbling block to them,’ God, who manages our affairs, hinders us from walking through evil, placing obstacles and hindrances for us, in order that, recoiling from an irrational life, ‘afterwards we may delight in our mouth,’ ‘with the heart believing unto justice, and with the mouth making profession of faith unto salvation.’ Paul persecuted the Church of Christ, he plundered it, he pressed on his course toward evil; afterwards he delighted in his mouth, declaring in the synagogue ‘that this is the Christ.’

(9) ‘They are laid in hell like sheep: death shall feed upon them.’ He, who carries away into captivity those who are beast-like and who are compared to senseless herds, like the sheep, which have neither the intelligence nor the ability to defend themselves, since he is an enemy, has already cast them down into his own prison and has handed them over to death to feed. For, death tended them from the time of Adam until the administration of Moses, until the true Shepherd came, who laid down His own life for His sheep and who thus, making them rise together and leading them out from the prison of hell to the early morning of the Resurrection, handed them over to the righteous, that is to say, to His holy angels, to tend them.

‘And the just shall have dominion over them in the morning.’ With each of the faithful there is an angel associated, who is worthy to look upon the Father in heaven. These righteous, then, shall have dominion over them when they have been freed from their most bitter slavery and ‘shall have dominion over them’ when they have come forth ‘in the early morning,’ that is to say, when they are advancing into the rising of the light. Contemplate the whole series of the written words. ‘Man when he was in honour did not understand; he is compared to senseless beasts.’ He who through his condition has dignity, but who does not know himself because of the sin which dwells in him, was compared to senseless beasts. Then, because he estranged himself from the word of God, having become a brute beast, the enemy carried him away, like an untended sheep, and cast him into hell, handing him over to death to tend. Therefore, having been ransomed from there and freed from the evil shepherd, he says, ‘The Lord ruleth me.’ And no longer death, but life; no longer a fall, but a resurrection; no longer deceit, but truth.

‘And their help shall decay in hell.’ It may be that he is speaking about death, since it had not been able with all its help to retain those who were being herded by it because of the One who destroyed him who holds the power over death; for all of their help is old and weak. At that time the help of those men who were deceived in mind and who were proud because of wealth and glory and power will be proved false.  In hell it shall decay’ since their weakness is proved. Or, perhaps, the help o the just who have been redeemed by the Lord will be delayed in hell For, not yet had they received the promises, since God had something better in view for us, namely, that those who preceded ‘should not be perfected without us.’ ‘But God will redeem my soul from the hand of hell, when he shall receive me.’ Clearly he predicts the descent of the Lord into hell, who will redeem the soul of the prophet along with the others, so that he may not remain there.

(10) ‘Be not thou afraid, when a man shall be made rich, and when the glory of his house shall be increased.’ ‘Be not thou afraid,’ he says, ‘when a man shall be made rich.’ This proclamation is necessary to the inhabitants of the world, both to the earthborn and to the sons of men, to the rich and also to the poor. ‘Be not thou afraid, when a man shall be made rich/ When you see, he says, the unjust man becoming rich and the just man poor, do not fear for yourself; do not be dismayed in mind, as if the providence of God is nowhere looking upon human affairs, or perhaps, somewhere there is a divine watchfulness, but it does not reach to places near the earth, so as to watch over our affairs; for, if there were a providence, it would be apportioning to each man what is proper to him, so that the just, who understand how to use wealth, would be rich, but the wicked, who have wealth as the instrument of their wickedness, would be poor.

Now, since there are many in the nations and among the earthborn who have such notions and who, because of the apparent inconsistency of the distribution of the fortunes of life, assume that the world is not the work of providence, the Scripture addresses these to calm their uninstructed emotion. In the very beginning it had also invited them to hear the doctrines. And surely, it alludes particularly to only the person of the poor when It says; ‘Be not thou afraid, when a man shall be made rich.’ These, especially, need consolation, so as not to cower before the more powerful. For, it says, a rich man has no advantage when he is dying, since he is not able to take his wealth with him; at any rate, he gained only as much from the enjoyment of it as for his soul to be deemed happy in this life by flatterers. But, in dying he will not take all these possessions, it says; he will take only just the garment that covers his shame, and this, if it shall seem best to those of his household who are clothing him. He must be content to obtain a little earth; and, since this is given to him through pity by those who are burying him, they provide it for him out of reverence for our common human nature, not granting a favour to him, but honouring humanity. Do not, then, be faint about present affairs, but await that blessed and everlasting life. Then you will see that poverty and contempt and the lack of luxuries befall the just man for his good. And do not be troubled now about imagined good things, as though they were unjustly divided. You will hear how it will be said to a certain rich man: ‘Thou in thy lifetime hast received good things,’ but to the poor man that he receives evils in his life. As a consequence, therefore, the latter is consoled, but the former suffers pain.

‘And he will praise thee when thou shalt do well to him.’ Concerning the earthly man and him who thinks that the only good things are the advantages of this life wealth and health and power concerning him, indeed, he says that such a man will praise God when he has fared well, but in precarious circumstances he will utter a curse. Leaving the poor man, he now addresses his words to God; in the charge against the rich man he takes up the fact that he gives thanks to God only in prosperity, but no longer remains the same when some of the circumstances are darker. Such is also the accusation employed in the charge o the devil against Job, that Job did not reverence the Lord gratuitously, but he had a reward for Ms piety-wealth and the rest of his possessions. Therefore, for a proof of the virtue of the man, God stripped him of what he had in order that the gratitude of the man toward God might shine through all things.

(11) ‘You shall go in to the generations of your fathers.’ I believe that he is saying about the sinner that he knows God as much as the practice of his fathers has handed down, but that he has acquired nothing more by his own power of thinking, nor has he added to his knowledge of the truth by himself. You, O God, he says, are as near and he has as great an idea about You as existed in the generation of his fathers. And here he displays the idle, wholly earthly and carnal spirit of a man who rolls in riches and luxury and who has his mind choked with the cares of life. Therefore, ‘he shall never see light.’ Having entrusted their guidance to blind teachers, they have deprived themselves of the advantage of light. This saying: ‘He shall go in to the generations of his fathers,’ also has some such meaning. That is to say, as regards those who are overtaken in an evil life and in doctrines coming, indeed, from their fathers, but alien to piety, not only will You punish them but You will also seek out the authors of the depraved teachings. This is what is meant by: ‘He shall go in to the generations of his fathers.’ Not only he who has evil thoughts about God is blameworthy, but also he who has led others to this destruction. Such are they who have received this evil from their forefathers, and who, because it has been strengthened by long continued custom, have difficulty in washing it out. ‘He shall never see light.’ For, they are sent Into the darkness outside, there will be the weeping, and the gnashing of teeth.’ This they endure according to the just judgment of God, since in this life they hated the light because they did evil. ‘Man when he was in honour did not understand: he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them.’ An abominable statement! Man? He who is ‘a little lower than the angels,’ concerning whom Solomon says: ‘Man is a great thing, and pitiful man is something honourable’? He, because he did not perceive his own dignity but bowed down to the passions of the flesh, ‘hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them.’