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Chapter V.—The Malignity of the Devil as an Imitator in All Things; Two Kinds of Fig-Trees and Vines.

The fig-tree, as I said, from the sweetness and excellence of its fruit, being taken as a type of the delights of paradise, the devil, having beguiled the man by its imitations, led him captive, persuading him to conceal the nakedness of his body by fig-leaves; that is, by their friction he excited him to sexual pleasure. Again, those that had been saved from the deluge, he intoxicated with a drink which was an imitation of the vine of spiritual joy; and again he mocked them, having stripped them of virtue. And what I say will hereafter be more clear.

The enemy, by his power, always imitates27902790    [Diabolus simia Dei, an idea very common to the Fathers. He is the malignant caricature of the Most High, exulting in the deformity which he gives to his copies. Exod. vii. 11.] the forms of virtue and righteousness, not for the purpose of truly promoting its exercise, but for deception and hypocrisy. For in order that those who fly from death he may entice to death, he is outwardly dyed with the colours of immortality. And hence he wishes to seem a fig-tree or vine, and to produce sweetness and joy, and is “transformed into an angel of light,”27912791    2 Cor. xi. 14. ensnaring many by the appearance of piety.

For we find in the Sacred Writings that there are two kinds of fig-trees and vines, “the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil;”27922792    Jer. xxiv. 3. “wine that maketh glad the heart of man,”27932793    Ps. civ. 15. and wine which is the poison of dragons, and the incurable 350venom of asps.27942794    Deut. xxxii. 33. But from the time when chastity began to rule over men, the fraud was detected and overcome, Christ, the chief of virgins, overturning it. So both the true fig-tree and the true vine yield fruit after that the power of chastity has laid hold upon all men, as Joel the prophet preaches, saying: “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field; for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for He hath given you food unto righteousness;”27952795    Joel ii. 21–23. The last words of the quotation are from the LXX. version.—Tr. calling the former laws the vine and the fig, trees bearing fruit unto righteousness for the children of the spiritual Zion, which bore fruit after the incarnation of the Word, when chastity ruled over us, when formerly, on account of sin and much error, they had checked and destroyed their buds. For the true vine and the true fig-tree were not able to yield such nourishment to us as would be profitable for life, whilst as yet the false fig-tree, variously adorned for the purpose of fraud, flourished. But when the Lord dried up the false branches, the imitations of the true branches, uttering the sentence against the bitter fig-tree, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever,”27962796    Matt. xxi. 19. then those which were truly fruit-bearing trees flourished and yielded food unto righteousness.

The vine, and that not in a few places, refers to the Lord Himself,27972797    John xv. 1. and the fig-tree to the Holy Spirit, as the Lord “maketh glad the hearts of men,” and the Spirit healeth them. And therefore Hezekiah is commanded27982798    2 Kings xx. 7; Isa. xxxviii. 21. first to make a plaster with a lump of figs—that is, the fruit of the Spirit—that he may be healed—that is, according to the apostle—by love; for he says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance;”27992799    Gal. v. 22, 23. which, on account of their great pleasantness, the prophet calls figs. Micah also says, “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid.”28002800    Micah iv. 4. Now it is certain that those who have taken refuge and rested under the Spirit, and under the shadow of the Word, shall not be alarmed, nor frightened by him who troubles the hearts of men.

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