VI. (17) On this account too, Abraham, when he had come unto the place which God had told him of, “On the third day, looking up, saw the place afar Off.”{6}{#ge 22:4.} What kind of place? Was it the place to which he came? And how was it still afar off, if he had already come to it? (18) But perhaps the meaning which is intended under this expression may be something like this:–The wise man, being always desirous to comprehend the nature of the Ruler of the universe, when he is proceeding along the road which leads by knowledge and wisdom, previously meets with words of God, among which he rests for a while; and though he had previously determined to proceed by some other road, he now stops and hesitates; for the eyes of his mind being opened, he sees more clearly that he had entered upon a chase after a thing which was difficult to overtake, which constantly retreated before him, and was always at a distance, and which outstripped its pursuers by placing an immeasurable distance between them. (19) You think, therefore, rightly that all the speediest things which are under heaven would appear to be standing still if compared with the rapidity of the sun, and moon, and other stars. And yet the whole heaven was made by God; and the maker always goes before that which is made. So that, of necessity, not only the other things which exist among us, but also that which has the most rapid motion of all, namely, the mind, may fall short of a proper comprehension of the great cause of all things by an undescribable distance. But the stars, as they are themselves in motion, pass by all things that move; but, though it seems incredible, God, while standing still, outstrips everything. (20) And it is said that he, at the same moment, is close to us and at a great distance, touching us with his creative or his punishing powers, which are close to each individual, and yet at the same time driving away the creature to an excessive distance from his nature as existing according to its essence, so that it cannot touch him without even the unalloyed and incorporeal efforts of the intellect. (21) Therefore we sympathise in joy with those who love God and seek to understand the nature of the living do, even if they fail to discover it; for the vague investigation of what is good is sufficient by itself to cheer the heart, even if it fail to attain the end that it desires. But we participate in indignation against that lover of himself, Cain; because he has left his soul without any conception whatever of the living God, having of deliberate purpose mutilated himself of that faculty by which alone he might have been able to see him.

VII. (22) It is worth while also to consider the wickedness into which a man who flies from the face of God is driven, since it is called a tempest. The law-giver showing, by this expression, that he who gives way to inconsiderate impulses without any stability or firmness exposes himself to surf and violent tossing, like those of the sea, when it is agitated in the winter season by contrary winds, and has never even a single glimpse of calm or tranquillity. But as when a ship having been tossed in the sea is agitated, it is then no longer fit to take a voyage or to anchor in harbour, but being tossed about hither and thither it leans first to one side and then to the other, and struggles in vain against the waves; so the wicked man, yielding to a perverse and insane disposition, and being unable to regulate his voyage through life without disaster, is constantly tossed about in perpetual expectation of an overturning of his life. (23) But the connection of the consequence affects me in no moderate degree; for it happens that that which comes near to him who is standing still longs for tranquillity, as being something which resembles itself. Now that which stands still without any deviation is God, and that which is moved is the creature, so that he who comes near to God desires stability; but he who departs from him, as by so doing he is approaching a creature easily overturned, is borne towards that which resembles it.