We are taught by David and Solomon how to take counsel with our own heart. Scipio is not to be accounted prime author of the saying which is ascribed to him. The writer proves what glorious things the holy prophets accomplished in their time of quiet, and shows, by examples of their and others' leisure moments, that a just man is never alone in trouble.
1. The prophet David taught us that we should go about in our heart as though in a large house; that we should hold converse with it as with some trusty companion. He spoke to himself, and conversed with himself, as these words show: |I said, I will take heed to my ways.| Solomon his son also said: |Drink water out of thine own vessels, and out of the springs of thy wells; | that is: use thine own counsel. For: |Counsel in the heart of a man is as deep waters.| |Let no stranger,| it says, |share it with thee. Let the fountain of thy water be thine own, and rejoice with thy wife who is thine from thy youth. Let the loving hind and pleasant doe converse with thee.|
2. Scipio, therefore, was not the first to know that he was not alone when he was alone, or that he was least at leisure when he was at leisure. For Moses knew it before him, who, when silent, was crying out; who, when he stood at ease, was fighting, nay, not merely fighting but triumphing over enemies whom he had not come near. So much was he at ease, that others held up his hands; yet he was no less active than others, for he with his hands at ease was overcoming the enemy, whom they that were in the battle could not conquer. Thus Moses in his silence spoke, and in his ease laboured hard. And were his labours greater than his times of quiet, who, being in the mount for forty days, received the whole law? And in that solitude there was One not far away to speak with him. Whence also David says: |I will hear what the Lord God will say within me.| How much greater a thing is it for God to speak with any one, than for a man to speak with himself!
3. The apostles passed by and their shadows cured the sick. Their garments were touched and health was granted.
4. Elijah spoke the word, and the rain ceased and fell not on the earth for three years and six months. Again he spoke, and the barrel of meal failed not, and the cruse of oil wasted not the whole time of that long famine.
5. But -- as many delight in warfare -- which is the most glorious, to bring a battle to an end by the strength of a great army, or, by merits before God alone? Elisha rested in one place while the king of Syria waged a great war against the people of our fathers, and was adding to its terrors by various treacherous plans, and was endeavouring to catch them in an ambush. But the prophet found out all their preparations, and being by the grace of God present everywhere in mental vigour, he told the thoughts of their enemies to his countrymen, and warned them of what places to beware. And when this was known to the king of Syria, he sent an army and shut in the prophet. Elisha prayed and caused all of them to be struck with blindness, and made those who had come to besiege him enter Samaria as captives.
6. Let us compare this leisure of his with that of others. Other men for the sake of rest are wont to withdraw their minds from business, and to retire from the company and companionship of men; to seek the retirement of the country or the solitude of the fields, or in the city to give their minds a rest and to enjoy peace and quietness. But Elisha was ever active. In solitude he divided Jordan on passing over it, so that the lower part flowed down, whilst the upper returned to its source. On Carmel he promises the woman, who so far had had no child, that a son now unhoped for should be born to her. He raises the dead to life, he corrects the bitterness of the food, and makes it to be sweet by mixing meal with it. Having distributed ten loaves to the people for food, he gathered up the fragments that were left after they had been filled. He makes the iron head of the axe, which had fallen off and was sunk deep in the river Jordan, to swim by putting the wooden handle in the water. He changes leprosy for cleanness, drought for rain, famine for plenty.
7. When can the upright man be alone, since he is always with God? When is he left forsaken who is never separated from Christ? |Who,| it says, |shall separate us from the love of Christ? I am confident that neither death nor life nor angel shall do so.| And when can he be deprived of his labour who never can be deprived of his merits, wherein his labour receives its crown? By what places is he limited to whom the whole world of riches is a possession? By what judgment is he confined who is never blamed by any one? For he is |as unknown yet well known, as dying and behold he lives, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.| For the upright man regards nothing but what is consistent and virtuous. And so although he seems poor to another, he is rich to himself, for his worth is taken not at the value of the things which are temporal, but of the things which are eternal.