Gregory the Great on Job–‘who can do these things, but the Lord? And yet a man is asked, in order that he may learn that he is unable to do these things’

After the loss of his goods, the death of his children, the wounds of his body, the words of his wife persuading him to evil, the insulting language of his comforters, and the darts of so many sorrows boldly received, blessed Job ought to have been praised by his Judge for such great power of constancy, if he had been now going to be called out of this present world. But after he is here about to receive back yet two-fold, after he is restored to his former health, to enjoy longer his restored possessions, Almighty God is obliged to reprove with strict justice him, whom He preserves alive, lest his very victory should lay him low with the sword of pride. For what commonly slays a soul more fatally than consciousness of virtue? For while it puffs it up with self-consideration, it deprives it of the fulness of truth; and while it suggests that it is sufficient of itself for the attainment of rewards, it diverts it from the intention improvement. Job, therefore, was just before his scourges but he remained more just after his scourges; and, having been praised before by the voice of God, he afterward; increased from the blow. For as a ductile tube is length ened by being hammered, so was he raised the higher in praise of God, as he was smitten with heavier chastisement But he who stood thus firm in his virtues, when prostrated by wounds, needed to be humbled. He needed to be humbled, lest the weapons of pride should pierce that most sturdy breast, which it was plain that even the wounds that had been inflicted had not overcome. It was doubtless necessary to find out a person, by comparison with whom he would have been surpassed. But what is this, which is said of him by the voice of the Lord; Thou hast seen My servant Job, that there is no man like him upon the earth. Job 1:8; 2:3. By comparison with whom then could he be surpassed, of whom it is said, on the witness of God, that he cannot be equalled, on comparison with any man? What then must be done, except for the Lord Himself to relate to him His own virtues, and to say to him, Canst thou bring forth the morning star in its season, and canst thou make the evening star to rise over the sons of men? Job 38:32. And again, Have the gates of death been opened to thee, and hast thou seen the gloomy doors? ib. 17. Or certainly; Hast thou commanded the dawn after thy rising, and hast thou shewn the morning its place? ib. 12. But who can do these things, but the Lord? And yet a man is asked, in order that he may learn that he is unable to do these things; in order that a man, who has increased with such boundless virtues, and is surpassed by the example of no man, may, that he should not be elated, be surpassed on comparison with God.

—-Gregory the Great (540-604), Book of Morals6.Preface.1

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Posted in Church History, Theology: Scripture

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