the Writer from Alexandria. He Addresses Himself to It Again, with Thanks for His Deliverance, and Prayer for Guidance.
When a house is being built which is to be made as strong as possible, the building takes place in fine weather and in calm, so that nothing may hinder the structure from acquiring the needed solidity. And thus it turns out so strong and stable that it is able to withstand the rush of the flood, and the dashing of the river, and all the agencies accompanying a storm which are apt to find out what is rotten in a building and to show what parts of it have been properly put together. And more particularly should that house which is capable of sheltering the speculations of truth, the house of reason, as it were, in promise or in letters, be built at a time when God can add His free co-operation to the projector of so noble a work, when the soul is quiet and in the enjoyment of that peace which passes all understanding, when she is turned away from all disturbance and not buffeted by any billows. This, it appears to me, was well understood by the servants of the prophetic spirit and the ministers of the Gospel message; they made themselves worthy to receive that peace which is in secret from Him who ever gives it to them that are worthy and who said, |Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you.| And look if some similar lesson is not taught under the surface with regard to David and Solomon in the narrative about the temple. David, who fought the wars of the Lord and stood firm against many enemies, his own and those of Israel, desired to build a temple for God. But God, through Nathan, prevents him from doing so, and Nathan says to him, |Thou shalt not build me an house, because thou art a man of blood.| But Solomon, on the other hand, saw God in a dream, and in a dream received wisdom, for the reality of the vision was kept for him who said, |Behold a greater than Solomon is here.| The time was one of the profoundest peace, so that it was possible for every man to rest under his own vine and his own fig-tree, and Solomon's very name was significant of the peace which was in his days, for Solomon means peaceful; and so he was at liberty to build the famous temple of God. About the time of Ezra, also, when |truth conquers wine and the hostile king and women,| the temple of God is restored again. All this is said by way of apology to you, reverend Ambrosius. It is at your sacred encouragement that I have made up my mind to build up in writing the tower of the Gospel; and I have therefore sate down to count the cost, if I have sufficient to finish it, lest I should be mocked by the beholders, because I laid the foundation but was not able to finish the work. The result of my counting, it is true, has been that I do not possess what is required to finish it; yet I have put my trust in God, who enriches us with all wisdom and all knowledge. If we strive to keep His spiritual laws we believe that He does enrich us; He will supply what is necessary so that we shall get on with our building, and shall even come to the parapet of the structure. That parapet it is which keeps from falling those who go up on the house of the Word; for people only fall off those houses which have no parapet, so that the buildings themselves are to blame for their fall and for their death. We proceeded as far as the fifth volume in spite of the obstacles presented by the storm in Alexandria, and spoke what was given us to speak, for Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves of the sea. We emerged from the storm, we were brought out of Egypt, that God delivering us who led His people forth from there. Then, when the enemy assailed us with all bitterness by his new writings, so directly hostile to the Gospel, and stirred up against us all the winds of wickedness in Egypt, I felt that reason called me rather to stand fast for the conflict, and to save the higher part in me, lest evil counsels should succeed in directing the storm so as to overwhelm my soul, rather to do this than to finish my work at an unsuitable season, before my mind had recovered its calm. Indeed, the ready writers who usually attended me brought my work to a stand by failing to appear to take down my words. But now that the many fiery darts directed against me have lost their edge, for God extinguished them, and my soul has grown accustomed to the dispensation sent me for the sake of the heavenly word, and has learned from necessity to disregard the snares of my enemies, it is as if a great calm had settled on me, and I defer no longer the continuation of this work. I pray that God will be with me, and will speak as a teacher in the porch of my soul, so that the building I have begun of the exposition of the Gospel of John may arrive at completion. May God hear my prayer and grant that the body of the whole work may now be brought together, and that no interruption may intervene which might prevent me from following the sequence of Scripture. And be assured that it is with great readiness that I now make this second beginning and enter on my sixth volume, because what I wrote before at Alexandria has not, I know not by what chance, been brought with me. I feared I might neglect this work, if I were not engaged on it at once, and therefore thought it better to make use of this present time and begin without delay the part which remains. I am not certain if the part formerly written will come to light, and would be very unwilling to waste time in waiting to see if it does. Enough of preamble, let us now attend to our text.