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Chapter XV.—Allegorical Explanation of the Firmament and Upper Works, Ver. 6.

16. Or who but Thou, our God, made for us that firmament12601260    Gen. i. 6. of authority over us in Thy divine Scripture?12611261    See sec. 33, below, and references there given. As it is said, For heaven shall be folded up like a scroll;12621262    Isa. xxxiv. 4, and Rev. vi. 14. and now it is extended over us like a skin.12631263    Ps. civ. 2; in the Vulg. being, “extendens cælum sicut pellem.” The LXX. agrees with the Vulg. in translating כַּיְרִיעָה, “as a curtain,” by “as a skin.” For Thy divine Scripture is of more sublime authority, since those mortals through whom Thou didst dispense it unto us underwent mortality. And Thou knowest, O Lord, Thou knowest, how Thou with skins didst clothe men12641264    Gen. iii. 21. Skins he makes the emblems of mortality, as being taken from dead animals. See p. 112, note 8, above. when by sin they became mortal. Whence as a skin hast Thou stretched out the firmament of Thy Book;12651265    That is, the firmament of Scripture was after man’s sin stretched over him as a parchment scroll,—stretched over him for his enlightenment by the ministry of mortal men. This idea is enlarged on in Ps. viii. 4, sec. 7, etc., xviii. sec. 2, xxxii. 6, 7, and cxlvi. 8, sec. 15. that is to say, Thy harmonious words, which by the ministry of mortals Thou hast spread over us. For by their very death is that solid firmament of authority in Thy discourses set forth by them more sublimely extended above all things that are under it, the which, while they were living here, was not so eminently extended.12661266    We have the same idea in Ps. ciii. sec. 8: “Cum enim viverent nondum erat extenta pellis, nondum erat extentum cælum, ut tegeret orbem terrarum.” Thou hadst not as yet spread abroad the heaven like a skin; Thou hadst not as yet noised everywhere the report of their deaths.

17. Let us look, O Lord, “upon the heavens, the work of Thy fingers;”12671267    Ps. viii. 3. clear from our eyes that mist with which Thou hast covered them. There is that testimony of Thine which giveth wisdom unto the little ones.12681268    Ps. xix. 7. See p. 62, note 6, above. Perfect, O my God, Thy praise out of the mouth of babes and sucklings.12691269    Ps. viii. 2. Nor have we known any other books so destructive to pride, so destructive to the enemy and the defender,12701270    He alludes to the Manichæans. See notes, pp. 67, 81, and 87. who resisteth Thy reconciliation in defence of his own sins.12711271    See part 2 of note 8 on p. 76, above. I know not, O Lord, I know not other such “pure”12721272    Ps. xix. 8. words which so persuade me to confession, and make my neck submissive to Thy yoke, and invite me to serve Thee for nought. Let me understand these things, good Father. Grant this to me, placed under them; because Thou hast established these things for those placed under them.


18. Other “waters” there be “above” this “firmament,” I believe immortal, and removed from earthly corruption. Let them praise Thy Name,—those super-celestial people, Thine angels, who have no need to look up at this firmament, or by reading to attain the knowledge of Thy Word,—let them praise Thee. For they always behold Thy face,12731273    Matt. xviii. 10. and therein read without any syllables in time what Thy eternal will willeth. They read, they choose, they love.12741274    “Legunt, eligunt, et diligunt.” They are always reading; and that which they read never passeth away. For, by choosing and by loving, they read the very unchangeableness of Thy counsel. Their book is not closed, nor is the scroll folded up,12751275    Isa. xxxiv. 4. because Thou Thyself art this to them, yea, and art so eternally; because Thou hast appointed them above this firmament, which Thou hast made firm over the weakness of the lower people, where they might look up and learn Thy mercy, announcing in time Thee who hast made times. “For Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.”12761276    Ps. xxxvi. 5. The clouds pass away, but the heaven remaineth. The preachers of Thy Word pass away from this life into another; but Thy Scripture is spread abroad over the people, even to the end of the world. Yea, both heaven and earth shall pass away, but Thy Words shall not pass away.12771277    Matt. xxiv. 35. Because the scroll shall be rolled together,12781278    Isa. xxxiv. 4. and the grass over which it was spread shall with its goodliness pass away; but Thy Word remaineth for ever,12791279    Isa. xl. 6–8. The law of storms, and that which regulates the motions of the stars or the ebbing and flowing of the tides, may change at the “end of the world.” But the moral law can know no change, for while the first is arbitrary, the second is absolute. On the difference between moral and natural law, see Candlish, Reason and Revelation, “Conscience and the Bible.” which now appeareth unto us in the dark image of the clouds, and through the glass of the heavens, not as it is;12801280    1 Cor. xiii. 12. because we also, although we be the well-beloved of Thy Son, yet it hath not yet appeared what we shall be.12811281    1 John iii. 2. He looketh through the lattice12821282    Cant. ii. 9. of our flesh, and He is fair-speaking, and hath inflamed us, and we run after His odours.12831283    Cant. i. 3. But “when He shall appear, then shall we be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”12841284    1 John iii. 2. As He is, O Lord, shall we see Him, although the time be not yet.

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