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Nicene and Post Nicene-Fathers, Vol. I:
The Confessions: Chapter XV

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XV.—Allegorical Explanation of the Firmament and Upper Works, Ver. 6.

16. Or who but Thou, our God, made for us that firmament 1260 of authority over us in Thy divine Scripture? 1261 As it is said, For heaven shall be folded up like a scroll; 1262 and now it is extended over us like a skin. 1263 For Thy divine Scripture is of more sublime authority, since those mortals through whom Thou didst dispense it unto us underwent mortality. And Thou knowest, O Lord, Thou knowest, how Thou with skins didst clothe men 1264 when by sin they became mortal. Whence as a skin hast Thou stretched out the firmament of Thy Book; 1265 that is to say, Thy harmonious words, which by the ministry of mortals Thou hast spread over us. For by their very death is that solid firmament of authority in Thy discourses set forth by them more sublimely extended above all things that are under it, the which, while they were living here, was not so eminently extended. 1266 Thou hadst not as yet spread abroad the heaven like a skin; Thou hadst not as yet noised everywhere the report of their deaths.

17. Let us look, O Lord, “upon the heavens, the work of Thy fingers;” 1267 clear from our eyes that mist with which Thou hast covered them. There is that testimony of Thine which giveth wisdom unto the little ones. 1268 Perfect, O my God, Thy praise out of the mouth of babes and sucklings. 1269 Nor have we known any other books so destructive to pride, so destructive to the enemy and the defender, 1270 who resisteth Thy reconciliation in defence of his own sins. 1271 I know not, O Lord, I know not other such “pure” 1272 words which so persuade me to confession, and make my neck submissive to Thy yoke, and invite me to serve Thee for nought. Let me understand these things, good Father. Grant this to me, placed under them; because Thou hast established these things for those placed under them.

p. 196

18. Other “waters” there be “above” this “firmament,” I believe immortal, and removed from earthly corruption. Let them praise Thy Name,—those super-celestial people, Thine angels, who have no need to look up at this firmament, or by reading to attain the knowledge of Thy Word,—let them praise Thee. For they always behold Thy face, 1273 and therein read without any syllables in time what Thy eternal will willeth. They read, they choose, they love. 1274 They are always reading; and that which they read never passeth away. For, by choosing and by loving, they read the very unchangeableness of Thy counsel. Their book is not closed, nor is the scroll folded up, 1275 because Thou Thyself art this to them, yea, and art so eternally; because Thou hast appointed them above this firmament, which Thou hast made firm over the weakness of the lower people, where they might look up and learn Thy mercy, announcing in time Thee who hast made times. “For Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.” 1276 The clouds pass away, but the heaven remaineth. 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. Yea, both heaven and earth shall pass away, but Thy Words shall not pass away. 1277 Because the scroll shall be rolled together, 1278 and the grass over which it was spread shall with its goodliness pass away; but Thy Word remaineth for ever, 1279 which now appeareth unto us in the dark image of the clouds, and through the glass of the heavens, not as it is; 1280 because we also, although we be the well-beloved of Thy Son, yet it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. 1281 He looketh through the lattice 1282 of our flesh, and He is fair-speaking, and hath inflamed us, and we run after His odours. 1283 But “when He shall appear, then shall we be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1284 As He is, O Lord, shall we see Him, although the time be not yet.



Gen. 1.6.


See sec. 33, below, and references there given.


Isa. 34.4, and Rev. 6.14.


Ps. 104.2; in the Vulg. being, “extendens cælum sicut pellem.” The LXX. agrees with the Vulg. in translating כַּיְרִיעָה, “as a curtain,” by “as a skin.”


Gen. 3.21. Skins he makes the emblems of mortality, as being taken from dead animals. See p. 112, note 8, above.


That is, the firmament of Scripture was after man’s sin stretched over him as a parchment scroll,—stretched over him for his enlightenment by the ministry of mortal men. This idea is enlarged on in Ps. viii. 4, sec. 7, etc., xviii. sec. 2, xxxii. 6, 7, and cxlvi. 8, sec. 15.


We have the same idea in Ps. ciii. sec. 8: “Cum enim viverent nondum erat extenta pellis, nondum erat extentum cælum, ut tegeret orbem terrarum.”


Ps. 8.3.


Ps. 19.7. See p. 62, note 6, above.


Ps. 8.2.


He alludes to the Manichæans. See notes, pp. 67, 81, and 87.


See part 2 of note 8 on p. 76, above.


Ps. 19.8.


Matt. 18.10.


“Legunt, eligunt, et diligunt.”


Isa. 34.4.


Ps. 36.5.


Matt. 24.35.


Isa. 34.4.


Isa. 40.6-8. The law of storms, and that which regulates the motions of the stars or the ebbing and flowing of the tides, may change at the “end of the world.” But the moral law can know no change, for while the first is arbitrary, the second is absolute. On the difference between moral and natural law, see Candlish, Reason and Revelation, “Conscience and the Bible.”


1 Cor. 13.12.


1 John 3.2.


Song. 2.9.


Song. 1.3.


1 John 3.2.

Next: Chapter XVI