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Chapter XXXI.

On the fact that those men are more to be pitied to whom it is not given to be subjected to those temporal temptations.

But we ought to consider those men truly wretched and miserable in whose case, although they defile themselves with all kinds of sins and wickedness, yet not only is there no visible sign of the devil’s possession shown in them, nor is any temptation proportionate to their actions, nor any scourge of punishment brought to bear upon them. For they are vouchsafed no swift and immediate remedy in this world, whose “hardness and impenitent heart,” being too much for punishment in this life, “heapeth up for itself wrath and indignation in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” “where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.”15031503    Rom. ii. 5; Is. lxvi. 24. Against whom the prophet as if perplexed at the affliction of the saints, when he sees them subject to various losses and temptations, and on the other hand sees sinners not only passing through the course of this world without any scourge of humiliation, but even rejoicing in great riches, and the utmost prosperity in everything, inflamed with uncontrollable indignation and fervour of spirit, exclaims: “But as for me, my feet had almost gone, my treadings had well nigh slipped. For I was grieved at the wicked, when I saw the peace of sinners. For there is no regard to their death, nor is there strength in their stripes. They are not in the labour of men, neither shall they be scourged like other men,”15041504    Ps. lxxii. (lxxiii.) 2–5. since hereafter they shall be punished with the devils, to whom in this world it was not vouchsafed to be scourged in the lot and discipline of sons, together with men. Jeremiah also, when conversing with God on this prosperity of sinners, although he never professes to doubt about the justice of God, as he says “for Thou art just, O Lord, if I dispute with Thee,” yet in his inquiry as to the reasons of this inequality, proceeds to say: “But yet I will speak what is just to Thee. Why doth the way of the wicked prosper? Why is it well with all them that transgress and do wickedly? Thou hast planted them and they have taken root: they prosper and bring forth fruit. Thou art near in their mouth and far from their reins.”15051505    Jer. xii. 1, 2. And when the Lord mourns for their destruction by the prophet, and anxiously directs doctors and physicians to heal them, and in a manner urges them on to a similar lamentation and says: “Babylon is suddenly fallen: she is destroyed. Howl for her: take balm for her pain, if so she may be healed;” then, in their despair, the angels, to whom is entrusted the care of man’s salvation, make reply; or at any rate the prophet in the person of the Apostles and spiritual men and doctors who see the hardness of their soul, and their impenitent heart: “We have healed Babylon: but she is not cured. Let us forsake her, and let us go every man to his own land because her judgment hath reached even to 374the heavens, and is lifted up to the clouds.”15061506    Jer. li. 8, 9. Of their desperate feebleness then Isaiah speaks in the Person of God to Jerusalem: From the sole of the foot unto the top of the head there is no soundness therein: wounds and bruises and swelling sores: they are not bound up nor dressed nor fermented with oil.”15071507    Is. i. 6.

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