Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book XIII/Chapter 17

Chapter XVII.—Allegorical Explanation of the Sea and the Fruit-Bearing Earth—Verses 9 and 11.

20. Who hath gathered the embittered together into one society? For they have all the same end, that of temporal and earthly happiness, on account of which they do all things, although they may fluctuate with an innumerable variety of cares. Who, O Lord, unless Thou, saidst, Let the waters be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear,[1] which “thirsteth after Thee”?[2] For the sea also is Thine, and Thou hast made it, and Thy hands prepared the dry land.[3] For neither is the bitterness of men’s wills, but the gathering together of waters called sea; for Thou even curbest the wicked desires of men’s souls, and fixest their bounds, how far they may be permitted to advance,[4] and that their waves may be broken against each other; and thus dost Thou make it a sea, by the order of Thy dominion over all things.

21. But as for the souls that thirst after Thee, and that appear before Thee (being by other bounds divided from the society of the sea), them Thou waterest by a secret and sweet spring, that the earth may bring forth her fruit,[5] and, Thou, O Lord God, so commanding, our soul may bud forth works of mercy according to their kind,[6]—loving our neighbour in the relief of his bodily necessities, having seed in itself according to its likeness, when from our infirmity we compassionate even to the relieving of the needy; helping them in a like manner as we would that help should be brought unto us if we were in a like need; not only in the things that are easy, as in “herb yielding seed,” but also in the protection of our assistance, in our very strength, like the tree yielding fruit; that is, a good turn in delivering him who suffers an injury from the hand of the powerful, and in furnishing him with the shelter of protection by the mighty strength of just judgment.


FootnotesEdit

  1. Gen. i. 9. In his comment on Psalm lxiv. 6 (sec. 9), he interprets “the sea,” allegorically, of the wicked world. Hence were the disciples called “fishers of men.” If the fishers have taken us in the nets of faith, we are to rejoice, because the net will be dragged to the shore. On the providence of God, regulating the wickedness of men, see p. 79, note 4, above.
  2. Ps. cxliii. 6, and lxiii. 1.
  3. Ps. xcv. 5.
  4. Ps. civ. 9, and Job xxxviii. 11, 12.
  5. Gen. i. 11. As he interprets (see sec. 20, note, above) the sea as the world, so he tells us in Ps. lxvi. 6, sec. 8, that when the earth, full of thorns, thirsted for the waters of heaven, God in His mercy sent His apostles to preach the gospel, whereon the earth brought forth that fruit which fills the world; that is, the earth bringing forth fruit represents the Church.
  6. Ps. lxxxv. 11.