But the sinners shall perish,
and the enemies of the Lord altogether,
when they glorify and exalt themselves;
like smoke they shall vanish away
Ps 36:20, Septuagint
Recognize from the comparison itself the thing which he intimates.
Smoke, breaking forth from the place where fire has been, rises up high,
and by the very act of rising up, it swells into a large volume.
But the larger that volume is, the more unsubstantial does it become;
for from that very largeness of volume, which has no foundation or consistency,
but is merely loose, shifting, and evanescent,
it passes into air, and dissolves;
so that you perceive its very largeness to have been fatal to it.
For the higher it ascends, the farther it is extended, the wider the circumference which it spreads itself over,
the thinner, and the more rare and wasting and evanescent does it become…
Of such as these was it said,
“Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth:
men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith” (2 Tim 3:8).
How is it that they resist the Truth, except by the vain inflation of their swelling pride,
while they raise themselves up on high, as if great and righteous persons,
though on the point of passing away into empty air?
But what does he say of them?
As if speaking of smoke, he says,
“They will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was” (2 Tim 3:9).
St. Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms