XLI. (1.238) Why then do we any longer wonder, if God at times assumes the likeness of the angels, as he sometimes assumes even that of men, for the sake of assisting those who address their entreaties to him? so that when he says, “I am the God who was seen by thee in the place of God;”{57}{#ge 31:13.} we must understand this, that he on that occasion took the place of an angel, as far as appearance went, without changing his own real nature, for the advantage of him who was not, as yet, able to bear the sight of the true God; (1.239) for as those who are not able to look upon the sun itself, look upon the reflected rays of the sun as the sun itself, and upon the halo around the moon as if it were the moon itself; so also do those who are unable to bear the sight of God, look upon his image, his angel word, as himself. (1.240) Do you not see that encyclical instruction, that is, Hagar, says to the angel, “Art thou God who seest Me?”{58}{#ge 16:13.} for she was not capable of beholding the most ancient cause, inasmuch as she was by birth a native of Egypt. But now the mind begins to be improved, so as to be able to contemplate the governor of all the powers; (1.241) on which account he says himself, “I am the Lord God,”{59}{#ge 31:13.} I whose image you formerly beheld instead of me, and whose pillar you set up, engraving on it a most sacred inscription; and the inscription indicated that I stood alone, and that I established the nature of all things, bringing disorder and irregularity into order and regularity, and supporting the universe firmly, so that it might rest on a firm and solid foundation, my own ministering word.

XLII. (1.242) For the pillar is the symbol of three things; of standing, of dedication, and of an inscription: now the standing and the inscription have been described, but the dedication it is necessary should be explained to all men. (1.243) For heaven and the world are an offering dedicated to God who made them; and all the cosmopolitan and God-loving souls, which dedicate and consecrate themselves to him, not allowing any mortal thing to drag them in an opposite direction, are never weary of hallowing their own life, and adorning it with every kind of beauty as a meet offering for him. (1.244) And he is a foolish man who does not set up a pillar to God, but who erects one to himself instead, attributing stability to the things of creation, which is tossed about in every direction, and thinking those things worthy of inscriptions and panegyrics, which are in reality full of matter for blame and accusation, and which as such had better never have been mentioned in an inscription at all, or if they had, had better have been speedily erased again. (1.245) On which account the holy scripture says distinctly, “Thou shalt not set up a pillar to Thyself;”{60}{deuteronomy 16:22.} for in truth there is nothing belonging to man that is stable, no, not though some persons persist even so obstinately in affirming it. (1.246) But they not only think that they stand firmly, but also that they are worthy of honours and inscriptions, forgetting him who is alone worthy of honour, and who is alone firmly fixed; for while they are turning aside and wandering away from the path which leads to virtue, the outward sense leads them still more astray, that is to say, the woman who is akin to them, she also compels them to run ashore; (1.247) therefore, the whole soul, like a ship, {61}{mangey thinks that this passage is corrupt, and proposes to alter naus into apnous, “dead,” but it seems unnecessary.} being shut in all around, is offered up as a pillar; for the sacred scriptures tell us that Lot’s wife having turned back to look behind her, became a pillar of salt, (1.248) and this is said very naturally and fitly; for if any one does not look forwards at those things which are worthy of being seen and heard (and these things are the virtues and the actions done in accordance with virtue), but looks backwards at the things which are behind him, at deaf glory, and blind riches, and senseless vigour of body, and an empty elegance of mind, pursuing these objects only, and such as are akin to them, he will lie as a lifeless pillar melting away by itself; for salt is not a thing to preserve his firmness.