XXI. (98) But he says that the world perceptible to the outward senses is, as it were, the footstool of God on this account: first of all, that he may show that there is no efficient cause in the creatures; secondly, for the purpose of displaying that even the whole world has not a free and unrestrained spontaneous motion of its own, but God, the ruler of the universe, takes his stand upon it, regulating it and directing everything in a saving manner by the helm of his wisdom, using, in truth, neither hands nor feet, nor any other part whatever such as belongs to created objects; for God is not as man, but the reason why we at times represent him as such, for the sake of instruction, is because we are unable to advance out of ourselves, but derive our apprehension of the uncreate God from the circumstances with which we ourselves are surrounded. (99) And it is very beautifully said by Moses, in the form of a parable, when he speaks of the world as if it resembled a brick; for the world appears to stand and to be firmly fixed like a brick in a house, as far as the vision of the sight of the outward senses can inform us, but it has a very swift motion, and one which is able to outstrip all particular motions. (100) For the eyes of our body look upon the appearance of the sun by day and of the moon by night as standing still, and yet who is there who does not know that the rapidity of movements of these two bodies is incomparable, since they go round the whole heaven in one day? Thus, indeed, the universal heaven itself also, while appearing to stand still, revolves in a circle; its movements being detected and comprehended by the invisible and more divine eye which is placed in our mind.

XXII. (101) And they are represented as baking the bricks in the fire, for the purpose of intimating by this symbolical expression that they are strengthened and hardened as to their vices and their passions by warm and most energetic reason, so that they can never be overthrown by the body-guards of wisdom, by whom engines for their defeat are being continually put in operation. (102) On which account we have this further statement also made, “Their brick was to them for stone;” for the weak and lax character of that impetuosity which is not in company with reason, when it is closely pressed and condensed so as to assume a nature capable of solidity and resistance, owes this change to powerful reasons and most convincing demonstrations; the comprehension of such speculations being, in a manner, endowed with manliness and vigour, which comprehensions, while in a tender age, melt away by reason of the mixture of the soul, which is not as yet able to consolidate and preserve the character impressed upon it. (103) “And they had slime for mortar;” not, on the contrary, mortar for slime. For the wicked appear to strengthen and fortify what is weak against what is most powerful, and from their own resources to consolidate and preserve what melts and flows away from such things, in order that they may aim and shoot at virtue from a safe place. But the merciful God and father of the good will not permit their buildings to be established in indissoluble safety, their work of melting zeal not being able to withstand, but becoming like soft mud. (104) For, if their clay had become mortar, then perchance that earthy thing perceptible by the outward senses, which is for ever and ever in a continued state of flux, would have been able to arrive at a safe and unalterable power; but since, on the contrary, their mortar became mere slime, we must not despair, for there is in this, certain hope that the strong fortifications of vice may be overthrown by the might of God. (105) Therefore the just man, even in the great and incessant deluge of life, while he is not as yet able to see things really as they are by the energy of his soul alone without the assistance of the outward sense, will anoint “the ark,” by which I understand the body, “both within and without the Pitch,”{32}{#ge 6:14.} strengthening his imaginations and energies by his own resources; but when the danger has ceased and the violence of the flood abated, then he will come forth, availing himself of his incorporeal mind for the comprehension of truth. (106) For the good disposition being from the very birth of the man planted in virtue, and being spoken as of such, its name being Moses, dwelling in the whole world as his native city and country, becoming, as it were, a cosmopolite, being bound up in the body, smeared over as with “bitumen and Pitch,”{33}{#ex 2:3.} and appearing to be able to receive and to contain in security all the imaginations of all things which might be subjected to the outward senses, Weeps{34}{#ex 2:6.} at being so bound up, being overwhelmed with a desire for an incorporeal nature. And he weeps over the miserable mind of men in general as being wandering and puffed up with pride, inasmuch as, being elated with false opinion, it thinks that it has in itself something firm and safe, and, as a general fact, that there something immutable in some creature or other, though the example of perpetual stability, which is at all times the same, is set up in God alone.