3. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.
3. Et prudentes fulgebunt quasi fulgor expansionis, 1 et qui justificant multos, 2 sicut stellae in seculum et seculum, id est, in perpetuum.
The word "prudent" means endued with intellect. Some take it transitively, and in this passage their opinion is probably correct, because the office of justifying will soon be assigned to these prudent ones. But the former sense suits chapter 11 better, and in verse 10 it will be put absolutely. Hence it means those who are endued with understanding. The angel here confirms what I have lately expressed concerning the final resurrection, and shews how we shall enjoy its fruits, because eternal glory is laid up for us in heaven. We ought not to complain of being treated unworthily, whenever we seem to suffer harshness at God's hands, because we ought to be satisfied with the glory of heaven, and with the perpetual existence of that life which has been promised to us. He says then, the teachers, or those who excel in understanding, shall shine forth as the light of heaven. If the word "teachers" is thought preferable, there will be a figure of speech, a part being put for the whole, and, therefore, I follow the usual explanation. He applies the phrase, "endued with understanding," to those who do not depart from the true and pure knowledge of God, as will be afterwards explained more fully. For the angel contrasts the profane who proudly and contemptuously rage against God, and the faithful whose whole wisdom is to submit themselves to God, and to worship him with the purest affection of their minds. We shall say more on this subject to-morrow. But he now says, those who retained sincere piety should be like the light of the firmament; meaning, they shall be heirs of the kingdom of heaven, where they shall enjoy that glory which surpasses all the splendor of the world. No doubt, the angel here uses figures to explain what is incomprehensible, implying, nothing can possibly be found in the world which answers to the glory of the elect people.
And those who shall justify many shall be like stars, says he. He repeats the same thing in other words, and now speaks of stars, having formerly used the phrase, the brightness of the firmament, in the same sense; and instead of "those who are endued with understanding," he says, those who shall have justified. Without doubt, the angel here especially denotes the teachers of the truth, but in my opinion he embraces also all the pious worshippers of God. No one of God's children ought to confine their attention privately to themselves, but as far as possible, every one ought to interest himself in the welfare of his brethren. God has deposited the teaching of his salvation with us, not for the purpose of our privately keeping it to ourselves, but of our pointing out the way of salvation to all mankind. This, therefore, is the common duty of the children of God, -- to promote the salvation of their brethren. By this word "justifying," the angel means, not that it is in the power of one man to justify another, but the property of God is here transferred to his ministers. Meanwhile, we are as clearly justified by any teaching which brings faith within our reach, as we are justified by the faith which springs from the teaching. Why is our justification ever ascribed to faith? Because our faith directs us to Christ in whom is the complete perfection of justification, and thus our justification may be ascribed equally to the faith taught and the doctrine which teaches it. And those who bring before us this teaching are the ministers of our justification. The assertion of the angel, in other words, is this, -- The sons of God, who being devoted entirely to God and ruled by the spirit of prudence, point out the way of life to others, shall not only be saved themselves, but shall possess surpassing glory far beyond anything which exists in this world. This is the complete explanation. Hence, we gather the nature of true prudence to consist in submitting ourselves to God in simple teachableness, and in manifesting the additional quality of carefully promoting the salvation of our brethren. The effect of this our labor ought to increase our courage and alacrity. For how great is the honor conferred upon us by our Heavenly Father, when he wishes us to be the ministers of his righteousness? As James says, We preserve those about to perish if we bring them back into the right way. (James 5:19.) James calls us preservers, just as the angel calls us justifiers; neither the angel nor the apostle wish to detract from the glory of God, but by these forms of speech the Spirit represents us as ministers of justification and salvation, when we unite in the same bonds with ourselves all those who have need of our assistance and exertions. It follows next: --