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16. Now who but thee, our God, didst make for us that firmament
of the authority of thy divine Scripture to be over us?
For "the heaven shall be folded up like a scroll";
but now it is stretched over us like a skin. Thy divine
Scripture is of more sublime authority now that those mortal
men through whom thou didst dispense it to us have departed
this life. And thou knowest, O Lord, thou knowest how thou
didst clothe men with skins when they became mortal because
In something of the same way, thou hast stretched out the
firmament of thy Book as a skin--that is to say, thou hast
spread thy harmonious words over us through the ministry
of mortal men. For by their very death that solid firmament
of authority in thy sayings, spoken forth by them, stretches
high over all that now drift under it; whereas while they
lived on earth their authority was not so widely extended.
Then thou hadst not yet spread out the heaven like a skin;
thou hadst not yet spread abroad everywhere the fame of
17. Let us see, O Lord, "the heavens, the work of thy fingers," and clear away from our eyes the
fog with which thou hast covered them. In them
is that testimony of thine which gives wisdom even to the
little ones. O my God, out of the mouth of babes and sucklings,
perfect thy praise.
For we know no other books that so destroy man's pride,
that so break down the adversary and the self-defender who
resists thy reconciliation by an effort to justify his own
sins. I do not know, O Lord, I do not know any other such
pure words that so persuade me to confession and make my
neck submissive to thy yoke, and invite me to serve thee
for nothing else than thy own sake. Let me understand these
things, O good Father. Grant this to me, since I am placed
under them; for thou hast established these things for those
placed under them.
18. There are other waters that are above this firmament,
and I believe that they are immortal and removed from earthly
corruption. Let them praise thy name--this super-celestial
society, thy angels, who have no need to look up at this
firmament or to gain a knowledge of thy Word by reading
it--let them praise thee. For they always behold thy face
and read therein, without any syllables in time, what thy
eternal will intends. They read, they choose, they love.
They are always reading, and what they read never passes
away. For by choosing and by loving they read the very immutability
of thy counsel. Their book is never closed, nor is the scroll
folded up, because thou thyself art this to them, and art
this to them eternally; because thou didst range them above
this firmament which thou madest firm over the infirmities
of the people below the heavens, where they might look up
and learn thy mercy, which proclaims in time thee who madest
all times. "For thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and
thy faithfulness reaches to the clouds."
The clouds pass away, but the heavens remain. The preachers
of thy Word pass away from this life into another; but thy
Scripture is spread abroad over the people, even to the
end of the world. Indeed, both heaven and earth shall pass
away, but thy words shall never pass away.
The scroll shall be rolled together, and the "grass" over
which it was spread shall, with all its goodliness, pass
away; but thy Word remains forever--thy
Word which now appears to us in the dark image of the clouds
and through the glass of heaven, and not as it really is.
And even if we are the well-beloved of thy Son, it has not
yet appeared what we shall be.
He hath seen us through the entanglement
of our flesh, and he is fair-speaking, and he hath enkindled
us, and we run after his fragrance. But "when he shall appear, then
we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.''
As he is, O Lord, we shall see him--although that time is