Augustine on the Psalms. Psalms 1 - 7
1. "Blessed is the man that hath not gone away in the counsel of the ungodly" (ver. 1). This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Man.(1) "Blessed is the man that hath not gone away in the counsel of the ungodly," as "the man of earth did,"(2) who consented to his wife deceived by the serpent, to the transgressing the commandment of God. "Nor stood in the way of sinners." For He came indeed in the way of sinners, by being born as sinners are; but He "stood" not therein, for that the enticements of the world held Him not. And hath not sat in the seat of pestilence." He willed not an earthly kingdom, with pride, which is well taken for "the seat of pestilence;" for that there is hardly any one who is free from the love of rule, and craves not human glory. For a "pestilence" is disease widely spread, and involving all or nearly all. Yet "the seat of pestilence" may be more appropriately understood of hurtful doctrine; "whose word spreadeth as a canker."(3) The order too of the words must be considered: "went away, stood, sat." For he "went away," when he drew back from God. He "stood," when he took pleasure in sin. He "sat," when, confirmed in his pride, he could not go back, unless set free by Him, who neither "hath gone away in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of pestilence.
2. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law will he meditate by day and by night (ver. 2). The law is not made for a righteous man," 4 says the Apostle. But it is one thing to be in the law, another under the law. Whoso is in the law, acteth according to the law; whoso is under the law, is acted upon according to the law: the one therefore is free, the other a slave. Again, the law, which is written and imposed upon the servant, is one thing; the law, which is mentally discerned by him who needeth not its "letter," is another thing. "He will meditate by day and by night," is to be understood either as without ceasing; or "by day" in joy," by night" in tribulations. For it is said, "Abraham saw my day, and was glad:"(5) and of tribulation it is said, "my reins also have instructed me, even unto the night."(6)
3. "And he shall be like a tree planted hard by the running streams of waters" (ver. 3); that is either Very "Wisdom,"(7) which vouchsafed to assume man's nature for our salvation; that as man He might be "the tree planted hard by the running streams of waters;" for in this sense can that too be taken which is said in another Psalm, "the river of God is full of water."(8) Or by the Holy Ghost, of whom it is said, "He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost;"(9) and again, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink;"(10) and again, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that asketh water of thee, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water, of which whoso drinketh shall never thirst, but it shall be made in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."(11) Or, "by the running streams of waters" may be by the sins of the people, because first the waters are called "peoples" in the Apocalypse;(12) and again, by "running stream" is not unreasonably understood "fall," which hath relation to sin. That "tree" then, that is, our Lord, from the running streams of water, that is, from the sinful people's drawing them by the way into the roots of His discipline, will "bring forth fruit," that is, will establish Churches; "in His season," that is, after He hath been glorified by His Resurrection and Ascension into heaven. For then, by the sending of the Holy Ghost to the Apostles, and by the confirming of their faith in Him, and their mission to the world, He made the Churches to "bring forth fruit." "His leaf also shall not fall," that is, His Word shall not be in vain. For, "all flesh is grass, and the glory of man as the flower of grass; the grass withereth, and the flower falleth, but the word of the Lord abideth for ever.(1) And whatsoever He doeth shall prosper" that is, whatsoever that tree shall bear; which all must be taken of fruit and leaves, that is, deeds and words.
4. "The ungodly are not so," they are not so, "but are like the dust which the wind casteth forth from the face of the earth" (ver. 4). "The earth" is here to be taken as that stedfastness in God, with a view to which it is said, "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, yea, I have a goodly heritage."(2) With a view to this it is said, "Wait on the Lord and keep His ways, and He shall exalt thee to inherit the earth."(3) With a view to this it is said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."(4) A comparison too is derived hence, for as this visible earth supports and contains the outer man, so that earth invisible the inner man. "From the face of" which "earth the wind casteth forth the ungodly," that is, pride, in that it puffeth him up. On his guard against which he, who was inebriated by the richness of the house of the Lord, and drunken of the torrent stream of its pleasures, saith, "Let not the foot of pride come against me."(5) From this earth pride cast forth him who said, "I will place my seat in the north, and I will be like the Most High."(6) From the face of the earth it cast forth him also who, after that he had consented and tasted of the forbidden tree that he might be as God, hid himself from the Face of God.(7) That his earth has reference to the inner man, and that man(8) is cast forth thence by pride, may be particularly seen in that which is written, "Why is earth and ashes proud ? Because, in his life, he cast forth his bowels."(9) For, whence he hath been cast forth, he is not unreasonably said to have cast forth himself.
5. "Therefore the ungodly rise not in the judgment" (ver. 5): "therefore," namely, because "as dust they are cast forth from the face of the earth." And well did he say that this should be taken away from them, which in their pride they court, namely, that they may judge; so that this same idea is more clearly expressed in the following sentence, "nor sinners in the counsel of the righteous." For it is usual for what goes before,(10) to be thus repeated more clearly. So that by "sinners" should be understood the "ungodly;" what is before "in the judgment," should be here "in the counsel of the righteous." Or if indeed the ungodly are one thing, and sinners another, so that although every ungodly man is a sinner, yet every sinner is not ungodly; "The ungodly rise not in the judgment," that is, they shall rise indeed, but not that they should be judged, for they are already appointed to most certain punishment. But "sinners" do not rise "in counsel of the just" that is that the may, judge, but perad venture that they may be judged; so as of these it were said, "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall then suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
6. "For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous" (ver. 6). As it is said, medicine knows health, but knows not disease, and yet disease is recognised by the art of medicine. In like manner can it be said that "the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous," but the way of the ungodly He knoweth not. Not that the Lord is ignorant of anything, and yet He says to sinners, "I never knew you."(11) "But the way of the ungodly shall perish;" is the same as if it were said, the way of the ungodly the Lord knoweth not. But it is expressed more plainly that this should be not to be known of the Lord, namely, to "perish;" and this to be known of the Lord, namely, to "abide;" so as that to be should appertain to the knowledge of God, but to His not knowing not to be. For the Lord saith, "I AM that I AM," and, "I AM hath sent me."(12)
1. "Why do the heathen rage, and the people meditate vain things?" (ver. 1). "The kings of the earth have stood up, and the rulers taken counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Christ" (ver. 2). It is said, "why?" as if it were said, in vain. For what they wished, namely, Christ's destruction, they accomplished not; for this is spoken of our Lord's persecutors, of whom also mention is made in the Acts of the Apostles.(13)
2. "Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yoke from us" (ver. 3). Although it admits of another acceptation, yet is it more fitly understood as in the person of those who are said to "meditate vain things." So that "let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yoke from us," may be, let us do our endeavour, that the Christian religion do not bind us, nor be imposed upon us.
3. "He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn, and the Lord shall have them in derision" (ver. 4). The sentence is repeated; for "He who dwelleth in the heavens," is afterwards put, "the Lord;" and for "shall laugh them to scorn," is afterwards put, "shall have them in derision." Nothing of this however must be taken in a carnal sort, as if God either laugheth with cheek, or derideth with nostril; but it is to be understood of that power which He giveth to His saints, that they seeing things to come, namely, that the Name and rule of Christ is to pervade posterity and possess all nations, should understand that those men "meditate a vain thing." For this power whereby these things are foreknown is God's "laughter" and "derision." "He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn." If by "heavens" we understand holy souls, by these God, as foreknowing what is to come, will "laugh them to scorn, and have them in derision."
4. "Then He shall speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure" (ver. 5). For showing more clearly how He will "speak unto them," he added, He will "vex them;" so that "in His wrath," is, "in His sore displeasure." But by the "wrath and sore displeasure" of the Lord God must not be understood any mental perturbation; but the might whereby He most justly avengeth, by the subjection of all creation to His service. For that is to be observed and remembered which is written in the Wisdom of Solomon, "But Thou, Lord of power, judgest with tranquillity, and with great favour orderest us." The "wrath" of God then is an emotion which is produced in the soul which knoweth the law of God, when it sees this same law transgressed by the sinner. For by this emotion of righteous souls many things are avenged. Although the "wrath" of God can be well understood of that darkening of the mind, which overtakes those who transgress the law of God.
5. "Yet am I set by Him as King upon Sion, His holy hill, preaching His decree" (ver. 6). This is clearly spoken in the Person of the very Lord our Saviour Christ. But if Sion signify, as some interpret, beholding, we must not understand it of anything rather than of the Church, where daily is the desire raised of beholding the bright glory of God, according to that of the Apostle, "but we with open face beholding the glory of the Lord."(2) Therefore the meaning of this is, Yet I am set by Him as King over His holy Church; which for its eminence and stability He calleth a mountain. "Yet I am set by Him as King." I, that is, whose "bands" they were meditating "to break asunder," and whose "yoke" to "cast away." "Preaching His decree." Who doth not see the meaning of this, seeing it is daily practised?
6. "The Lord hath said unto me, Thou artMy Son, to-day have I begotten Thee" (ver. 7)., Although that day may also seem to be prophetically spoken of, on which Jesus Christ was born according to the flesh ;. and in eternity there is nothing past as if it had ceased to be, nor future as if it were not yet, but present only, since whatever is eternal, always is; yet as "today" intimates presentiality, a divine interpretation is given to that expression, "To-day have I begotten Thee," whereby the uncorrupt and Catholic faith proclaims the eternal generation of the power and Wisdom of God, who is the Only-begotten Son.
7. "Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance" (ver. 8). This has at once a temporal sense with reference to the Manhood which He took on Himself, who offered up Himself as a Sacrifice in the stead of all sacrifices, who also maketh intercession for us; so that the words, "ask of Me," may be referred to all this temporal dispensation, which has been instituted for mankind, namely, that the "nations" should be joined to the Name of Christ, and so be redeemed from death, and possessed by God. "I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance," which so possess them for their salvation, and to bear unto Thee spiritual fruit. "And the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession." The same repeated, "The uttermost parts of the earth," is put for "the nations;" but more clearly, that we might understand all the nations. And "Thy possession" stands for "Thine inheritance."
8. "Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron," with inflexible justice, and "Thou shall break them like a potter's vessel" (ver. 9); hat is, "Thou shalt break" in them earthly lusts, and the filthy doings of the old man, and whatsoever hath been derived and inured from the sinful clay. "And now understand, ye kings" (ver. 10). "And now;" that is, being now renewed, your covering of clay worn out, that is, the carnal vessels of error which belong to your past life, "now understand," ye who now are "kings;" that is, able now to govern all that is servile and brutish in you, able now too to fight, not as "they who beat the air, but chastening your bodies, and bringing them into subjection."(3) "Be instructed, all ye who judge the earth." This again is a repetition; "Be instructed" is instead of "understand; and" ye who judge the earth instead of ye kings. For He signifies the spiritual by "those who judge the earth." For whatsoever we judge, is below us; and whatsoever is below the spiritual man, is with good reason called "the earth;" because it is defiled with earthly corruption.
9. "Serve the Lord with fear;" lest what is said, "Ye kings and judges of the earth," turn into pride: "And rejoice with trembling" (ver. 11). Very excellently is "rejoice" added, lest "serve the Lord with fear" should seem to tend to misery. But again, lest this same rejoicing should run on to unrestrained inconsiderateness, there is added "with trembling," that it might avail for a warning, and for the careful guarding of holiness. It can also be taken thus, "And now ye kings understand;" that is, And now that I am set as King, be ye not sad, kings of the earth, as if your excellency were taken from you, but rather "understand and be instructed." For it is expedient for you, that ye should be under Him, by whom understanding and instruction are given you. And this is expedient for you, that ye lord it not with rashness, but that ye "serve the Lord" of all "with fear," and "rejoice" in bliss most sure and most pure, with all caution and carefulness, lest ye fall therefrom into pride.
10. "Lay hold of discipline,(1) lest at any time the Lord be angry, and ye perish from the righteous way" (ver. 12). This is the same as, "understand," and, "be instructed." For to understand and be instructed, this is to lay hold of discipline. Still in that it is said, "lay hold of," it is plainly enough intimated that there is some protection and defence against all things which might do hurt unless with so great carefulness it be laid hold of. "Lest at any time the Lord be angry," is expressed with a doubt, not as regards the vision of the prophet to whom it is certain, but as regards those who are warned; for they, to whom it is not openly revealed, are wont to think with doubt of the anger of God. This then they ought to say to themselves, let us "lay hold of discipline, lest at any time the Lord be angry, and we perish from the righteous way." Now, how "the Lord be angry" is to be taken, has been said above. And "ye perish from the righteous way." This is a great punishment, and dreaded by those who have had any perception of the sweetness of righteousness; for he who perisheth from the way of righteousness, in much misery will wander through the ways of unrighteousness.
11. "When His anger shall be shortly kindled, blessed are all they who put their trust in Him;" that is, when the vengeance shall come which is prepared for the ungodly and for sinners, not only will it not light on those "who put their trust in" the Lord, but it will even avail for the foundation and exaltation of a kingdom for them. For he said not, "When His anger shall be shortly kindled," safe "are all they who put their trust in Him," as though they should have this only thereby, to be exempt from punishment; but he said, "blessed ;" in which there is the sum and accumulation of all good things. Now the meaning of "shortly" I suppose to be this, that it will be something sudden, whilst sinners will deem it far off and long to Come.
A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN HE FLED FROM THE FACE OF ABESSALON HIS SON.
1. The words, "I slept, and took rest; and rose, for the Lord will take me up," lead us to believe that this Psalm is to be understood as in the Person of Christ; for they sound more applicable to the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, than to that history in which David's flight is described from the face of his rebellious son. And, since it is written of Christ's disciples, "The sons of the bridegroom fast not as long as the bridegroom is with them;"(3) it is no wonder if by his undutiful(4) son be here meant that undutiful(4) disciple who betrayed Him. From whose face although it may be understood historically that He fled, when on his departure He withdrew with the rest to the mountain; yet in a spiritual sense, when the Son of God, that is the Power and Wisdom of God, abandoned the mind of Judas; when the Devil wholly occupied him; as it is written, "The Devil entered into his heart,"(5) may it be well understood that Christ fled from his face; not that Christ gave place to the Devil, but that on Christ's departure the Devil took possession. Which departure, I suppose, is called a flight in this Psalm, because of its quickness; which is indicated also by the word of our Lord, saying, "That thou doest, do quickly."(5) So even in common conversation we say of anything that does not come to mind, it has fled from me; and of a man of much learning we say, nothing flies from him. Wherefore truth fled from the mind of Judas, when it ceased to enlighten him. But Absalom, as some interpret, in the Latin tongue signifies, Patris pax, a father's peace. And it may seem strange, whether in the history of the kings, when Absalom carried on war against his father; or in the history of the New Testament, when Judas was, the betrayer of our Lord; how "father's peace" can be understood. But both in the former place they who read carefully, see that David in that war was at peace with his son, who even with sore grief lamented his death, saying, "O Absalom, my son, would God I had died for thee!"(6) And in the history of the New Testament by that so great and so wonderful forbearance of our Lord; in that He bore so long with him as if good, when He was not ignorant of his thoughts; in that He admitted him to the Supper in which He committed and delivered to His disciples the figure of His Body and Blood; finally, in that He received the kiss of peace at the very time of His betrayal; it is easily understood how Christ showed peace to. His betrayer, although he was laid waste by the intestine war of so abominable a device. And therefore is Absalom called "father's peace," because his father had the peace, which he had not.
2. "O Lord, how are they multiplied that trouble me!" (ver. 1). So multiplied indeed were they, that one even from the number of His disciples was not wanting, who was added to the number of His persecutors. "Many rise up against me; many say unto my soul, There is no salvation for him in his God" (ver. 2). It is clear that if they had had any idea that He would rise again, assuredly they would not have slain Him. To this end are those speeches, "Let Him come down from the cross, if He be the Son of God;" and again, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save."(1) Therefore, neither would Judas have betrayed Him, if he had not been of the number of those who despised Christ, saying, "There is no salvation for Him in His God."
3. "But Thou, O Lord, art my taker."(2) It is said to God in the nature of man, for the taking of man is, the Word made Flesh. "My glory." Even He calls God his glory, whom the Word of God so took, that God became one with Him. Let the proud learn, who unwillingly hear, when it is said to them, "For what hast thou that thou didst not receive ? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?"(3) " And the lifter up of my head" (ver. 3). I think that this should be here taken of the human mind, which is not unreasonably called the head of the soul;(4) which so inhered in, and in a sort coalesced with, the supereminent excellency of the Word taking man, that it was not laid aside by so great humiliation of the Passion.
4. "With my voice have I cried unto the Lord" (ver. 4); that is, not with the voice of the body, which is drawn out with the sound of the reverberation of the air; but with the voice of the heart, which to men speaks not, but with God sounds as a cry. By this voice Susanna was heard; (5) and with this voice the Lord Himself commanded that prayer should be made in closets,(6) that is, in the recesses of the heart noiselessly. Nor would one easily say that prayer is not made with this voice, if no sound of words is uttered from the body; since even when in silence we pray within the heart, if thoughts interpose alien from the mind of one praying, it cannot yet be said, "With my voice have I cried unto the Lord." Nor is this rightly said, save when the soul alone, taking to itself nothing of the flesh, and nothing of the aims of the flesh, in prayer, speaks to God, where He only hears. But even this is called a cry by reason of the strength of its intention. "And He heard me out of His holy mountain." We have the Lord Himself called a mountain by the Prophet, as it is written, "The stone that was cut out without hands grew to the size of a mountain."(7) But this cannot be taken of His Person, unless peradventure He would speak thus, out of myself, as of His holy mountain He heard me, when He dwelt in me, that is, in this very mountain. But it is more plain and unembarrassed, if we understand that God out of His justice heard. For it was just that He should raise again from the dead the Innocent who was slain, and to whom evil had been recompensed for good, and that He should render to the persecutor a meet reward, who repaid Him evil for good. For we read, "Thy justice is as the mountains of God."(8)
5. "I slept, and took rest"(9) (ver. 5). It may be not unsuitably remarked, that it is expressly said," I," to signify that of His own Will He underwent death, according to that, "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again."(10) Therefore, saith He, you have not taken Me as though against My will, and slain Me; but "I slept, and took rest; and rose, for the Lord will take me up." Scripture contains numberless instances of sleep being put for death; as the Apostle says, "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep."(11) Nor need we make any question why it is added, "took rest," seeing that it has already been said, "I slept." Repetitions of this kind are usual in Scripture, as we have pointed out many in the second Psalm. But some copies have, "I slept, and was cast into a deep sleep."(12) And different copies express it differently, according to the possible renderings of the Greek words, egw de ekokoimhQhn kei upnwse. Unless perhaps sleeping(13) may be taken of one dying, but sleep(1) of one dead: so that sleeping may be the transition into sleep, as awakening is the transition into wakefulness. Let us not deem these repetitions in the sacred writings empty ornaments of speech. "I slept, and took rest," is therefore well understood as "I gave Myself up to My Passion, and death ensued." "And I rose, for the Lord will take Me up."(2) This is the more to be remarked, how that in one sentence the Psalmist has used a verb of past and future time. For he has said, both "I rose," which is the past, and "will take Me up," which is the future; seeing that assuredly the rising again could not be without that taking up. But in prophecy the future is well joined to the past, whereby both are signified. Since things which are prophesied of as yet to come in reference to time are future; but in reference to the knowledge of those who prophesy they are already to be viewed as done. Verbs of the present tense are also mixed in, which shall be treated of in their proper place when they occur.
6. "I will not fear the thousands of people that surround me" (ver. 6). It is written in the Gospels how great a multitude stood around Him as He was suffering, and on the cross. "Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God" (ver. 7). It is not said to God, "Arise," as if asleep or lying down, but it is usual in holy Scripture to attribute to God what He doeth in us; not indeed universally, but where it can be done suitably; as when He is said to speak, when by His gift Prophets speak, and Apostles, or whatsoever messengers of the truth. Hence that text, "Would you have proof of Christ, who speaketh in me?"(3) For he doth not say, of Christ, by whose enlightening or order I speak; but he attributes at once the speaking itself to Him, by whose gift he spake.
7. "Since Thou hast smitten all who oppose me without a cause." It is not to be pointed as if it were one sentence, "Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God; since Thou hast smitten all who oppose me without a cause." For He did not therefore save Him, because He smote His enemies; but rather He being saved, He smote them. Therefore it belongs to what follows, so that the sense is this; "Since Thou hast smitten all who oppose me without a cause, Thou hast broken the teeth of the sinners;" that is, thereby hast Thou broken the teeth of the sinners, since Thou hast smitten all who oppose me. It is for-sooth the punishment of the opposers, whereby. their teeth have been broken, that is, the words of sinners rending with their cursing the Son of God, brought to nought, as it were to dust; so that we may understand "teeth" thus, as words of cursing. Of(4) which teeth the Apostle speaks, "If ye bite one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."(5) The teeth of sinners can also be taken as the chiefs of sinners; by whose authority each one is cut off from the fellowship of godly livers, and as it were incorporated with evil livers. To these teeth are opposed the Church's teeth, by whose authority believers are cut off from the error of the Gentiles and divers opinions, and are translated into that fellowship which is the body of Christ. With these teeth Peter was told to eat the animals when they bad been killed, that is, by killing in the Gentiles what they were, and changing them into what he was himself. Of these teeth too of the Church it is said, "Thy teeth are as a flock of shorn sheep, coming up from the bath, whereof every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them."(6) These are they who prescribe rightly, and as they prescribe, live; who do what is written, "Let your works shine before men, that they may bless your Father which is in heaven."(7) For moved by their authority, they believe God who speaketh and worketh through these men; and separated from the world, to which they were once conformed, they pass over into the members of the Church. And rightly therefore are they, through whom such things are done, called teeth like to shorn sheep; for they have laid aside the burdens of earthly cares, and coming up from the bath, from the washing away of the filth of the world by the Sacrament of Baptism, every one beareth twins. For they fulfil the two commandments, of which it is said, "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets;"(8) loving God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their mind, and their neighbour as themselves. "There is not one barren among them," for much fruit they render unto God. According to this sense then it is to be thus understood, "Thou hast broken the teeth of the sinners," that is, Thou hast brought the chiefs of the sinners to nought, by smiting all who oppose Me without a cause. For the chiefs according to the Gospel history persecuted Him, whilst the lower people honoured Him.
8. "Salvation is of the Lord; and upon Thy people be Thy blessing" (ver. 8). In one sentence the Psalmist has enjoined men what to believe, and has prayed for believers. For when it is said, "Salvation is of the Lord," the words are addressed to men. Nor does it follow, "And upon Thy people" be" Thy blessing," in such wise as that the whole is spoken to men, but there is a change into prayer addressed to God Himself, for the very people to whom it was said, "Salvation is of the Lord." What else r then doth he say but this? Let no man presume on himself, seeing that it is of the Lord to save from the death of sin; for, "Wretched man that
I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord."(1) But do Thou, O Lord, bless Thy people, who look for salvation from Thee.
9. This Psalm can be taken as in the Person of Christ another way; which is that whole Christ should speak? I mean by whole, with His body, of which He is the Head, according to the Apostle, who says, "Ye are the body of Christ, and the members."(3) He therefore is the Head of this body; wherefore in another place be saith, "But doing the truth in love, we may increase in Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ, from whom the whole body is joined together and compacted.(4) In the Prophet then at once, the Church, and her Head (the Church rounded amidst the storms of persecution throughout the whole world, which we know already to have come to pass), speaks, "O Lord, how are they multiplied that trouble me! many rise up against me;" wishing to exterminate the Christian name. "Many say unto my soul, There is no salvation for him in his God." For they would not otherwise hope that they could destroy the Church, branching out so very far and wide, unless they believed that God had no care thereof. "But Thou, O Lord, art my taker;" in Christ of course. For into that flesh s the Church too hath been taken by the Word," who was made flesh, and dwelt in us;"(6) for that "In heavenly places hath He made us to sit together with Him."(7) When the Head goes before, the other members will follow; for, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"(8) Justly then does the Church say, "Thou art my taker. My glory;" for she doth not attribute her excellency to herself, seeing that she knoweth by whose grace and mercy she is what she is. "And the lifter up of my head," of Him, namely, who, "the First-born from the dead,"(9) ascended up into heaven. "With my voice have I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me out of His holy mountain." This is the prayer of all the Saints, the odour of sweetness, which ascends up in the sight of the Lord. For now the Church is heard out of this mountain, which is also her head; or, out of that justice of God, by which both His elect are set free, and their persecutors punished. Let the people of God also say, "I slept, and took rest; and rose, for the Lord will take me up; "that they may be joined, and cleave to their Head? For to this people is it said, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall lay hold on thee."(11) Since they are taken out of sinners, of whom it is said generally," But they that sleep, sleep in the night."(12) Let them say moreover, "I will not fear the thousands of people that surround me;" of the heathen verily that compass me about to extinguish everywhere, if they could, the Christian name. But how should they be feared, when by the blood of the martyrs in Christ, as by oil, the ardour of love is inflamed? "Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God." The body can address this to its own Head. For at His rising the body was saved; who "ascended up on high, led captivity captive, gave gifts unto men."(13) For this is said by the Prophet, in the secret purpose of God,(14) until that ripe harvest ,s which is spoken of in the Gospel, whose salvation is in His Resurrection, who vouchsafed to die for us, shed out our Lord to the earth. "Since Thou hast smitten all who oppose me without a cause, Thou hast broken the teeth of the sinners." Now while the Church hath rule, the enemies of the Christian name are smitten with confusion; and, whether their curses or their chiefs, brought to nought. Believe then, O man, that "salvation is of the Lord: and," Thou, O Lord, may "Thy blessing" be "upon Thy people."
10. Each one too of us may say, when a multitude of vices and lusts leads the resisting mind in the law of sin, "O Lord, how are they multiplied that trouble me! many rise up against me." And, since despair of recovery generally creeps in through the accumulation of vices, as though these same vices were mocking the soul, or even as though the Devil and his angels through their poisonous suggestions were at work to make us despair, it is said with great truth, "Many say unto my soul, There is no salvation for him in his God. But Thou, O Lord, art my taker." For this is our hope, that He hath vouchsafed to take the nature of man in Christ. "My glory;" according to that rule, that no one should ascribe ought to himself. "And the lifter up of my head;" either of Him, who is the Head of us all, or of the spirit of each several one of us, which is the head of the soul and body. For "the head of the woman is the man, and the head of the man is Christ."(16) But the mind is lifted up, when it can be said already, "With the mind I serve the law of God;" (17) that the rest of man may be reduced to peaceable submission, when in the resurrection of the flesh "death is swallowed up in victory."(1) With my voice I have cried unto the Lord;" with that most inward and intensive voice. "And He heard me out of His holy mountain;"(2) Him, through whom He hath succoured us, through whose mediation He heareth us. "I slept, and took rest; and rose, for the Lord will take me up." Who of the faithful is not able to say this, when he calls to mind the death of his sins, and the gift of regeneration? "I will not fear the thousands of people that surround me." Besides those which the Church universally hath borne and beareth, each one also hath temptations, by which, when compassed about, he may speak these words, "Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God:" that is, make me to arise. "Since Thou hast smitten all who oppose me without a cause:" it is well in God's determinate a purpose said of the Devil and his angels; who rage not only against the whole body of Christ, but also against each one in particular. "Thou hast broken the teeth of the sinners." Each man hath those that revile him, he hath too the prime authors of vice, who strive to cut him off from the body of Christ. But "salvation is of the Lord." Pride is to be guarded against, and we must say, "My soul cleaved after Thee."(4) "And upon Thy people" be "Thy blessing:" that is, upon each one of us.
TO THE END, A PSALM SONG TO(5) DAVID.
1. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."(6) For this "end" signifies perfection, not consumption. Now it may be a question, whether every Song be a Psalm, or rather every Psalm a Song; whether there are some Songs which cannot be called Psalms, and some Psalms which cannot be called Songs. But the Scripture must be attended to, if haply "Song" do not denote a joyful theme. But those are called Psalms which are sung to the Psaltery; which the history as a high mystery declares the Prophet David to have used.(7) Of which matter this is not the place to discourse; for it requires prolonged inquiry, and much discussion. Now meanwhile we must look either for the words of the Lord Man s after the Resurrection, or of man in the Church believing and hoping on Him.
2. "When I called, the God of my righteousness heard me" (ver. 1). When I called, God heard me, the Psalmist says, of whom is my righteousness. "In tribulation Thou hast enlarged me." Thou hast led me from the straits of sadness into the broad ways of joy. For, "tribulation and straitness is on every soul of man that doeth evil."(9) But he who says, "We rejoice in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience;" up to that where he says, "Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us;"(10) he hath no straits of heart, they be heaped on him outwardly by them that persecute him. Now the change of person, for that from the third person, where he says, "He heard," he passes at once to the second, where he says, "Thou hast enlarged me;" if it be not done for the sake of variety and grace, it is strange why the Psalmist should first wish to declare to men that he had been heard, and afterwards address Him who heard him. Unless perchance, when he had declared how he was heard, in this very enlargement of heart he preferred to speak with God; that he might even in this way show what it is to be enlarged in heart, that is, to have God already shed abroad in the heart, with whom he might hold converse interiorly. Which is rightly understood as spoken in the person of him who, believing on Christ, has been enlightened; but in that of the very Lord Man, whom the Wisdom of God took, I do not see how this can be suitable. For He was never deserted by It. But as His very prayer against trouble is a sign rather of our infirmity, so also of that sudden enlargement of heart the same Lord may speak for His faithful ones, whom He has personated also when He said, "I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink,"(11) and so forth. Wherefore here also He can say, "Thou hast enlarged me," for one of the least of His, holding converse with God, whose "love" he has "shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us."(12) "Have mercy upon me and hear my prayer." Why does he again ask, when already he declared that he had been heard and enlarged? It is for our sakes, of whom it is said, "But if we hope for that we see not, we wait in patience;"(13) or is it, that in him who has believed that which is begun may be perfected?
3. "O ye sons of men, how long heavy in heart" (ver. 2). Let your(14) error, says he, have lasted at least up to the coming of the Son of God; why then any longer are ye heavy in heart? When will ye make an end of crafty wiles, if now when the truth is present ye make it not? "Why do ye love vanity, and seek a lie?" Why would ye be blessed by the lowest things? Truth alone, from which all things are true, maketh blessed. For, "vanity is of deceivers, and all is vanity."(1) "What profit hath a man of all his labour, wherewith he laboureth under the sun?" Why then are ye held back by the love of things temporal? Why follow ye after the last things, as though the first, which is vanity and a lie? For you would have them abide with you, which all pass away, as doth a shadow.
4. "And know ye that the Lord hath magnified his Holy One" (ver. 3). Whom but Him, whom He raised up from below, and placed in heaven at His right hand? Therefore doth he chide mankind, that they would turn at length from the love of this world to Him. But if the addition of the conjunction (for he says, "and know ye") is to any a difficulty, he may easily observe in Scripture that this manner of speech is usual in that language, in which the Prophets spoke. For you often find this beginning, "And" the Lord said unto him, "And" the word of the Lord came to him. Which joining by a conjunction, when no sentence has gone before, to which the following one may be annexed, peradventure admirably conveys to us, that the utterance of the truth in words is connected with that vision which goes on in the heart. Although in this place it may be said, that the former sentence, "Why do ye love vanity, and seek a lie?" is as if it were written, Do not love vanity, and seek a lie. And being thus read, it follows in the most direct construction, "and know ye that the Lord hath magnified His Holy One." But the interposition of the Diapsalma forbids our joining this sentence with the preceding one. For whether this be a Hebrew word, as some would have it, which means, so be it; or a Greek word, which marks a pause in the psalmody (so as that Psalma should be what is sung in psalmody, but Diapsalma an interval of silence in the psalmody; that as the coupling of voices in singing is called Sympsalma, so their separation Diapsalma, where a certain pause of interrupted continuity is marked): whether I say it be the former, or the latter, or something else, this at least is probable, that the sense cannot rightly be continued and joined, where the Diapsalma intervenes.(2)
5. "The Lord will hear me, when I cry unto Him." I believe that we are here warned, that with great earnestness of heart, that is, with an inward and incorporeal cry, we should implore help of God. For as we must give thanks for enlightenment in this life, so must we pray for rest after this life. Wherefore in the person, either of the faithful preacher of the Gospel, or of our Lord Himself, it may be taken, as if it were written, the Lord will hear you, when you cry unto Him.
6. "Be ye angry, and sin not" (ver. 4) For the thought occurred, Who is worthy to be heard? or how shall the sinner not cry in vain unto the Lord? Therefore, "Be ye angry," saith he, "and sin not." Which may be taken two ways: either, even if ye be angry, do not sin; that is, even if there arise an emotion in the soul, which now by reason of the punishment of sin is not in our power, at least let not the reason and the mind, which is after God regenerated within, that with the mind we should serve the law of God, although with the flesh we as yet serve the law of sin? consent thereunto; or, repent ye, that is, be ye angry with yourselves for your past sins, and henceforth cease to sin. "What you say in your hearts:" there is understood, "say ye:" so that the complete sentence is, "What ye say in your hearts, that say ye;" that is, be ye not the people of whom it is said, "with their lips they honour Me, but their heart is far from Me.(4) In your chambers be ye pricked." This is what has been expressed already "in heart." For this is the chamber, of which our Lord warns us, that we should pray within, with closed doors.(5) But, "be ye pricked," refers either to the pain of repentance, that the soul in punishment should prick itself, that it be not condemned and tormented in God's judgment; or, to arousing, that we should awake to behold the light of Christ, as if pricks were made use of. But some say that not, "be ye pricked," but, "be ye opened," is the better reading; because in the Greek Psalter it is katanughte, which refers to that enlargement of the heart, in order that the shedding abroad of love by the Holy Ghost may be received.
7. "Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, and hope in the Lord" (ver. 5). He says the same in another Psalm, "the sacrifice for God is a troubled spirit."(6) Wherefore that this is the sacrifice of righteousness which is offered through repentance it is not unreasonably here understood. For what more righteous, than that each one should be angry with his own sins, rather than those of others, and that in self-punishment he should sacrifice himself unto God? Or are righteous works after repentance the sacrifice of righteousness? For the interposition of Diapsalma(7) not unreasonably perhaps intimates even a transition from the old life to the new life: that on the old man being destroyed or weakened by repentance, the sacrifice of righteousness, according to the regeneration of the new man, may be offered to God; when the soul now cleansed offers and places itself on the altar of faith, to be encompassed by heavenly fire, that is, by the Holy Ghost. So that this may be the meaning, "Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, and hope in the Lord;" that is, live uprightly, and hope for the gift of the Holy Ghost, that the truth, in which you have believed, may shine upon you.
8. But yet, "hope in the Lord," is as yet expressed without(1) explanation. Now what is hoped for, but good things? But since each one would obtain from God that good, which he loves; and they are not easy to be found who love interior goods, that is, which belong to the inward man, which alone should be loved, but the rest are to be used for necessity, not to be enjoyed for pleasure; excellently did he subjoin, when he had said, "hope in the Lord" (ver. 6), "Many say, Who showeth us good things?" This is the speech, and this the daily inquiry of all the foolish and unrighteous; whether of those who long for the peace and quiet of a worldly life, and from the frowardness of mankind find it not; who even in their blindness dare to find fault with the order of events, when involved in their own deservings they deem the times worse than these which are past: or, of those who doubt and despair of that future life, which is promised us; who are often saying, Who knows if it's true? or, who ever came from below, to tell us this? Very exquisitely then, and briefly, he shows (to those, that is, who have interior sight), what good things are to be sought; answering their question, who say, "Who showeth us good things?" "The light of Thy countenance," saith he, "is stamped on us, O Lord." This light is the whole and true good of man, which is seen not with the eye, but with the mind. But he says, "stamped on us," as a penny is stamped with the king's image. For man was made after the image and likeness of God,(2) which he defaced by sin: therefore it is his true and eternal good, if by a new birth he be stamped. And I believe this to be the bearing of that which some understand skilfully; I mean, what the Lord said on seeing Caesar's tribute money, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's."(3) As if He had said, In like manner as Caesar exacts from you the impression of his image, so also does God: that as the tribute money is rendered to him, so should the soul to God, illumined and stamped with the light of His countenance. (Ver. 7.)"Thou hast put gladness into my heart." Gladness then is not to be sought without by them, who, being still heavy in heart, "love vanity, and seek a lie;" but within, where the light of God's countenance is stamped. For Christ dwelleth in the inner man,(4) as the Apostle says; for to Him doth it appertain to see truth, since He hath said, "I am the truth."(5) And again, when He spake in the Apostle, saying, "Would you receive a proof of Christ, who speaketh in me?"(6) He spake not of course from without to him, but in his very heart, that is, in that chamber where we are to pray.
9. But men (who doubtless are many) who follow after things temporal, know not to say aught else, than, "Who showeth us good things?" when the true and certain good within their very selves they cannot see. Of these accordingly is most justly said, what he adds next: "From the time of His corn, of wine, and oil, they have been multiplied." For the addition of His, is not superfluous. For the corn is God's: inasmuch as He is "the living bread which came down from heaven."(7) The wine too is God's: for, "they shall be inebriated," he says, "with the fatness of thine house."(8) The oil too is God's: of which it is said, "Thou hast fattened my head with oil." But those many, who say, "Who showeth us good things?" and who see not that the kingdom of heaven is within them: these, "from the time of His corn, of wine, and oil, are multiplied." For multiplication does not always betoken plentifulness, and not, generally, scantiness: when the soul, given up to temporal pleasures, burns ever with desire, and cannot be satisfied; and, distracted with manifold and anxious thought, is not permitted to see the simple good. Such is the soul of which it is said, "For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth on many things."(10) A soul like this, by the departure and succession of temporal goods, that is, "from the time of His corn, wine, and oil," filled with numberless idle fancies, is so multiplied, that it cannot do that which is commanded, "Think on the Lord in goodness, and in simplicity of heart seek Him."(11) For this multiplicity is strongly opposed to that simplicity. And therefore leaving these, who are many, multiplied, that is, by the desire of things temporal, and who say, "Who showeth us good things?" which are to be sought not with the eyes without, but with simplicity of heart within, the faithful man rejoices and says, "In peace, together, I will sleep, and take rest" (ver. 8). For such men justly hope for all manner of estrangement of mind from things mortal, and forgetfulness of this world's miseries; which is beautifully and prophetically signified under the name of sleep and rest, where the most perfect peace cannot be interrupted by any tumult. But this is not had now in this life, but is to be hoped for after this life. This even the words themselves, which are in the future tense, show us. For it is not said, either, I have slept, and taken rest; or, I do sleep, and take rest; but, "I will sleep, and take rest." Then shall "this corruptible put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality; then shall death be swallowed up in victory."(1) Hence it is said, "But if we hope for that we see not, we wait in patience."(2)
10. Wherefore, consistently with this, he adds the last words, and says, "Since Thou, O Lord, in singleness hast made me dwell in hope." Here he does not say, wilt make; but, "hast made." In whom then this hope now is, there will be assuredly that which is hoped for. And well does he say, "in singleness." For this may refer in opposition to those many, who being multiplied from the time of His corn, of wine, and oil, say, "Who showeth us good things?" For this multiplicity perishes, and singleness is observed among the saints: of whom it is said in the Acts of the Apostles, "and of the multitude of them that believed, there was one soul, and one heart."(3) In singleness, then, and simplicity, removed, that is, from the multitude and crowd of things, that are born and die, we ought to be lovers of eternity, and unity, if we desire to cleave to the one God and our Lord.
1. The title of the Psalm is, "For her who receiveth the inheritance." The Church then is signified, who receiveth for her inheritance eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ; that she may possess God Himself, in cleaving to whom she may be blessed, according to that, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth."(4) What earth, but that of which it is said, "Thou art my hope, my portion in the land of the living"?(5) And again more clearly, "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup."(6) And conversely the word Church is said to be God's inheritance according to that, "Ask of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance."(7) Therefore is God said to be our inheritance, because He feedeth and sustaineth(8) us: and we are said to be God's inheritance, because He ordereth and ruleth us. Wherefore it is the voice of the Church in this Psalm called to her inheritance, that she too may herself become the inheritance of the Lord.
2. "Hear my words, O Lord" (ver. 1). Being called she calleth upon the Lord; that the same Lord being her helper, she may pass through the wickedness of this world, and attain unto Him. "Understand my cry." The Psalmist well shows what this cry is; how from within, from the chamber of the heart, without the body's utterance,(9) it reaches unto God: for the bodily voice is heard, but the spiritual is understood. Although this too may be God's hearing, not with carnal ear, but in the omnipresence of His Majesty.
3. "Attend Thou to the voice of my supplication;" that is, to that voice, which he maketh request that God would understand: of which what the nature is, he hath already intimated, when he said, "Understand my cry. Attend Thou to the voice of my supplication, my King, and my God" (ver. 2). Although both the Son is God, and the Father God, and the Father and the Son together One God; and if asked of the Holy Ghost, we must give no other answer than that He is God; and when the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are mentioned together, we must understand nothing else, than One God; nevertheless Scripture is wont to give the appellation of King to the Son. According then to that which is said, "By Me man cometh to the Father,"(10) rightly is it first, "my King;" and then, "my God." And yet has not the Psalmist said, Attend Ye; but, "Attend Thou." For the Catholic faith preaches not two or three Gods, but the Very Trinity, One God. Not that the same Trinity can be together, now the Father, now the Son, now the Holy Ghost, as Sabellius believed: but that the Father must be none but the Father, and the Son none but the Son, and the Holy Ghost none but the Holy Ghost, and this Trinity but One God. Hence when the Apostle had said, "Of whom are all things, by whom are all things, in whom are all things,"(11) he is believed to have conveyed an intimation of the Very Trinity; and yet he did not add, to Them be glory; but, "to Him be glory."
4. "Because I will pray unto Thee (ver. 3). O Lord, in the morning Thou wilt hear my voice." What does that, which he said above, "Hear Thou," mean, as if he desired to be heard immediately? But now he saith," in the morning Thou wilt hear;" not, hear Thou: and, "I will pray unto Thee;" not, I do pray unto Thee: and, as follows, "in the morning I will stand by Thee, and will see;" not, I do stand by Thee, and do see. Unless perhaps his former prayer marks the invocation itself: but being in darkness amidst the storms of this world, he perceives that he does not see what he desires, and yet does not cease to hope," For hope that is seen, is not hope."(1) Nevertheless, he understands why he does not see, because the night is not yet past, that is, the darkness which our sins have merited. He says therefore, "Because I will pray unto Thee, O Lord;" that is, because Thou art so mighty to whom I shall make my prayer, "in the morning Thou wilt hear my voice." Thou art not He, he says, that can be seen by those, from whose eyes the night of sins is not yet withdrawn: when the night then of my error is past, and the darkness gone, which by my sins I have brought upon myself, then "Thou wilt hear my voice." Why then did he say above not, "Thou wilt hear," but "hear Thou"? Is it that after the Church cried out, "hear Thou," and was not heard, she perceived what must needs pass away to enable her to be heard? Or is it that she was heard above, but doth not yet understand that she was heard, because she doth not yet see by whom she hath been heard; and what she now says, "In the morning Thou wilt hear," she would have thus taken, In the morning I shall understand that I have been heard? Such is that expression, "Arise, O Lord,"(2) that is, make me arise. But this latter is taken of Christ's resurrection: but at all events that Scripture, "The Lord your God proveth you, that He may know whether ye love Him,(3) cannot be taken in any other sense, than, that ye by Him may know, and that it may be made evident to yourselves, what progress ye have made in His love.
5. "In the morning I will stand by Thee, and will see" (ver. 3). What is, "I will stand," but "I will not lie down"? Now what else is, to lie down, but to take rest on the earth, which is a seeking happiness in earthly pleasures? "I will stand by," he says, "and will see." We must not then cleave to things earthly, if we would see God, who is beheld by a clean heart. "For Thou art not a God who hast pleasure in iniquity. The malignant man shall not dwell near Thee, nor shall the unrighteous abide before Thine eyes. Thou hast hated all that work iniquity, Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie. The man of blood, and the crafty man, the Lord will abominate" (vers. 4-6). Iniquity, malignity, lying, homicide, craft, and all the like, are the night of which we speak: on the passing away of which, the morning dawns, that God may be seen. He has unfolded the reason, then, why he will stand by in the morning, and see: "For," he says, "Thou art not a God who hast pleasure in iniquity." For if He were a God who had pleasure in iniquity, He could be seen even by the iniquitous, so that He would not be seen in the morning, that is, when the night of iniquity is over.
6. "The malignant man shall not dwell near Thee:" that is, he shall not so see, as to cleave to Thee. Hence follows, "Nor shall the unrighteous abide before Thine eyes." For their eyes, that is, their mind is beaten back by the light of truth, because of the darkness of their sins; by the habitual practice of which they are not able to sustain the brightness of right understanding. Therefore even they who see sometimes, that is, who understand the truth, are yet still unrighteous, they abide not therein through love of those things, which turn away from the truth. For they carry about with them their night, that is, not only the habit, but even the love, of sinning. But if this night shall pass away, that is, if they shall cease to sin, and this love and habit thereof be put to flight, the morning dawns, so that they not only understand, but also cleave to the truth.
7. "Thou hast hated all that work iniquity." God's hatred may be understood from that form of expression, by which every sinner hates the truth. For it seems that she too hates those, whom she suffers not to abide in her. Now they do not abide, who cannot bear the truth. "Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie." For this is the opposite to truth. But lest any one should suppose that any substance or nature is opposite to truth, let him understand that "a lie" has relation to that which is not, not to that which is. For if that which is be spoken, truth is spoken: but if that which is not be spoken, it is a lie.(4) Therefore saith he, "Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie;" because drawing back from that which is, they turn aside to that which is not. Many lies indeed seem to be for some one's safety or advantage, spoken not in malice, but in kindness: such was that of those midwives in Exodus,(5) who gave a false report to Pharaoh, to the end that the infants of the children of Israel might not be slain.(6) But even these are praised not for the fact, but for the disposition shown; since those who only lie in this way, will attain in time to a freedom from all lying. For in those that are perfect, not even these lies are found. For to these it is said, "Let there be in your mouth, yea, yea; nay, nay; whatsoever is more, is of evil."(7) Nor is it without reason written in another place, "The mouth that lieth slayeth the soul:"(8) lest any should imagine that the perfect and spiritual man ought to lie for this temporal life, in the death of which no soul is slain, neither his own, nor another's. But since it is one thing to lie, another to conceal the truth (if indeed it be one thing to say what is false, another not to say what is true), if haply one does not wish to give a man up even to this visible death, he should be prepared to conceal what is true, not to say what is false; so that he may neither give him up, nor yet lie, lest he slay his own soul for another's body. But if he cannot yet do this, let him at all events admit only lies of such necessity, that he may attain to be freed even from these, if they alone remain, and receive the strength of the Holy Ghost, whereby he may despise all that must be suffered for the truth's sake. In fine, there are two kinds of lies, in which there is no great fault,(1) and yet they are not without fault, either when we are in jest, or when we lie that we may do good. That first kind, in jest, is for this reason not very hurtful, because there is no deception. For he to whom it is said knows that it is said for the sake of the jest. But the second kind is for this reason the more inoffensive, because it carries with it some kindly intention. And to say truth, that which has no duplicity, cannot even be called a lie. As if, for example, a sword be intrusted to any one, and he promises to return it, when he who intrusted it to him shall demand it: if he chance to require his sword when in a fit of madness, it is clear it must not be returned then, lest he kill either himself or others, until soundness of mind be restored to him. Here then is no duplicity, because he, to whom the sword was intrusted, when he promised that he would return it at the other's demand, did not imagine that he could require it when in a fit of madness. But even the Lord concealed the truth, when He said to the disciples, not yet strong enough, "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now:"(2) and the Apostle Paul when he said, "I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal."(3) Whence it is clear that it is not blamable, sometimes not to speak what is trite. But to say what is false is not found to have been allowed to the perfect.
8. "The man of blood, and the crafty man, the Lord will abominate." What he said above, "Thou hast hated all that work iniquity, Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie," may well seem to be repeated here: so that one may refer "the man of blood" to "the worker of iniquity," and "the crafty man" to; the "lie." For it is craft, when one thing is done, another pretended. He used an apt word too, when he said, "will abominate." For the disinherited are usually called: abominated. Now this Psalm is, "for her who receiveth the inheritance;" and she adds the exulting joy of her hope, in saying, "But I, in the multitude of Thy mercy, will enter into Thine house" (vet. 7). "In the multitude of mercy:" perhaps he means in the multitude of perfected and blessed men, of whom that city shall consist, of which the Church is now in travail, and is bearing few by few. Now that many men regenerated and perfected, are rightly called the multitude of God's mercy, who can deny; when it is most truly said, "What is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him?(4) I will enter into Thine house:" as a stone into a building, I suppose, is the meaning. For what else is the house of God than the Temple of God, of which it is said, "for the temple of God is holy,(5) which temple ye are"? Of which building He is the cornerstone,(6) whom the Power and Wisdom of God coeternal with the Father assumed.
9. "I will worship at Thy holy temple, in Thy fear." "At the temple," we understand as, "near" the temple. For he does not say, I will worship "in" Thy holy temple; but, "I will worship at Thy holy temple." It must be understood too to be spoken not of perfection, but of progress toward perfection: so that the words, "I will enter into Thine house," should signify perfection. But that this may come to a happy issue, "I will" first, he says, "worship at Thy holy temple." And perhaps on this account he added, "in Thy fear;" which is a great defence to those that are advancing toward salvation. But when any one shall have arrived there, in him comes to pass that which is written, "perfect love casteth out fear."(7) For they do not fear Him who is now their friend, to whom it is said, "henceforth I will not call you servants, but friends,"(8) when they have been brought through to that which was promised.
10. "O Lord, lead me forth in Thy justice because of mine enemies" (ver. 8). He has here sufficiently plainly declared that he is on his onward road, that is, in progress toward perfection, not yet in perfection itself, when he desires eagerly that he may be led forth. But, "in Thy justice," not in that which seems so to men. For to return evil for evil seems justice: but it is not His justice of whom it is said, "He maketh His sun to rise on the good and on the evil:" for even when God punishes sinners, He does not inflict His evil on them, but leaves them to their own evil. "Behold," the Psalmist says, "he travailed with injustice, he hath conceived toil, and brought forth iniquity: he hath opened a ditch, and digged it, and hath fallen into the pit which he wrought: his pains shall be turned on his own head, and his iniquity shall descend on his own pate."(1) When then God punishes, He punishes as a judge those that transgress the law, not by bringing evil upon them from Himself, but driving them on to that which they have chosen, to fill up the sum of their misery. But man, when he returns evil for evil, does it with an evil will: and on this account is himself first evil, when he would punish evil.
11. "Direct in Thy sight my way." Nothing is clearer, than that he here sets forth that time, in which he is journeying onward. For this is a way which is traversed not in any regions of the earth, but in the affections of the heart. "In Thy sight," he says, "direct my way:" that is, where no man sees; who are not to be trusted in their praise or blame. For they can in no wise judge of another man's conscience, wherein the way toward God is traversed. Hence it is added, "for truth is not in their mouth" (ver. 9). To whose judgment of course then there is no trusting, and therefore must we fly within to conscience, and the sight of God. "Their heart is vain." How then can truth be in their mouth, whose heart is deceived by sin, and the punishment of sin? Whence men are called back by that voice, "Wherefore do ye love vanity, and seek a lie?"
12. "Their throat is an open sepulchre." It may be referred to signify gluttony, for the sake of which men very often lie by flattery. And admirably has he said, "an open sepulchre:" for this gluttony is ever gaping with open mouth, not as sepulchres, which, on the reception of corpses, are closed up. This also may be understood hereby, that with lying and blind flattery men draw to themselves those whom they entice to sin; and as it were devour them, when they turn them to their own way of living. And when this happens to them, since by sin they die, those by whom they are led along, are rightly called open sepulchres: for themselves too are in a manner lifeless, being destitute of the life of truth; and they take in to themselves dead men, whom having slain by lying words and a vain heart, they turn unto themselves. "With their own tongues they dealt craftily:" that is, with evil tongues. For this seems to be signified, when he says "their own." For the evil have evil tongues, that is, they speak evil, when they speak craftily. To whom the Lord saith, "How can ye, being evil, speak good things?"(2)
13. "Judge them, O God: let them fall from their own thoughts" (ver. 10). It is a prophecy, not a curse. For he does not wish that it should come to pass; but he perceives what will come to pass. For this happens to them, not because he appears to have wished for it, but because they are such as to deserve that it should happen. For so also what he says after wards, "Let all that hope in Thee rejoice," he says by way of prophecy; since he perceives that they will rejoice. Likewise is it said prophetically, "Stir up Thy strength, and come:"(3) for he saw that He would come. Although the words, "Let them fall from their own thoughts," may be taken thus also, that it may rather be believed to be a wish for their good by the Psalmist, whilst they fall from their evil thoughts, that is, that they may no more think evil. But what follows, "drive them out," forbids this interpretation. For it can in no wise be taken in a favourable sense, that one is driven out by God. Wherefore it is understood to be said prophetically, and not of ill will; when this is said, which must necessarily happen to such as chose to persevere in those sins, which have been mentioned. "Let them," therefore, "fall from their own thoughts," is, let them fall by their self-accusing thoughts, "their own conscience also bearing witness," as the Apostle says, "and their thoughts accusing or excusing, in the revelation of the just judgment of God."(4)
14. "According to the multitude of their ungodlinesses drive them out:" that is, drive them out far away. For this is "according to the multitude of their ungodlinesses,"(5) that they should be driven out far away. The ungodly then are driven out from that inheritance, which is possessed by knowing and seeing God: as diseased eyes are driven out from the shining of the light, when what is gladness to others is pain to them. Therefore these shall not stand in the morning,(6) and see. And that expression is as great a punishment, as that which is said, "But for me it is good to cleave to the Lord,"(7) is a great reward. To this punishment is opposed, "Enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord;"(8) for similar to this expulsion is, "Cast him into outer darkness."(9)
15. "Since they have embittered Thee, O Lord: I am," saith He, "the Bread which came down from heaven;"(10) again, "Labour for the meat which wasteth not;"(11) again, "Taste and see that the Lord is sweet."(12) But to sinners the bread of truth is bitter. Whence they hate the mouth of him that speaketh the truth. These then have embittered God, who by sin have fallen into such a state of sickliness, that the food of truth, in which healthy souls delight, as if it were bitter as gall, they cannot bear.
16. "And let all rejoice that hope in Thee;" those of course to whose taste the Lord is sweet. "They will exult for evermore, and Thou wilt dwell in them" (ver. 11). This will be the exultation for evermore, when the just become the Temple of God, and He, their Indweller, will be their joy. "And all that love Thy name shall glory in Thee:" as when what they love is present for them to enjoy. And well is it said, "in Thee," as if in possession of the inheritance, of which the title of the Psalm speaks: when they too are His inheritance, which is intimated by, "Thou wilt dwell in them." From which good they are kept back, whom God, according to the multitude of their ungodlinesses, driveth out.
17. "For Thou wilt bless the just man" (ver. 12). This is blessing, to glory in God, and to be inhabited by God. Such sanctification is given to the just. But that they may be justified, a calling goes before: which is not of merit, but of the grace of God. "For all have sinned, and want the glory of God."(1) "For whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He, justified, them He also glorified."(2) Since then calling is not of our merit, but of the goodness and mercy of God, he went on to say, "O Lord, as with the shield of Thy good will Thou hast crowned us." For God's good will goes before our good will, to call sinners to repentance. And these are the arms whereby the enemy is overcome, against whom it is said, "Who will bring accusation against God's elect?" Again, "if God be for us, who can be against us? Who spared not His Only Son, but delivered Him up for us all."(3) "For if, when we were enemies, Christ died for us; much more being reconciled shall we be saved from wrath through Him."(4) This is that unconquerable shield, whereby the enemy is driven back, when he suggests despair of our salvation through the multitude of tribulaions and temptations.
18. The whole contents of the Psalm, then, are a prayer that she may be heard, from the words, "hear my words, O Lord," unto, "my King, and my God." Then follows a view of those things which hinder the sight of God, that is, a knowledge that she s is heard, from the words, "because I shall pray unto Thee, O Lord, in the morning Thou wilt hear my voice," unto, "the man of blood and the crafty man the Lord will abominte." Thirdly, she hopes that she, who is to be the house of God, even now begins to draw near to Him in fear, before that perfection which casteth out fear, from the words, "but I in the multitude of Thy mercy," unto, "I will worship at Thy holy temple in Thy fear." Fourthly, as she is progressing and advancing amongst those very things which she feels to hinder her, she prays that she may be assisted within, where no man seeth, lest she be turned aside by evil tongues, for the words, "O Lord, lead me forth in Thy justice because of my enemies," unto, "with their tongues they dealt craftily." Fifthly, is a prophecy of what punishment awaits the ungodly, when the just man shall scarcely be saved; and of what reward the just shall obtain, who, when they were called, came, and bore all things manfully, till they were brought to the end, from the words, "judge them, O God," unto the end of the Psalm.
TO THE END, IN THE HYMNS OF THE EIGHTH,(6) A PSALM TO DAVID.(7)
1. "Of the eighth," seems here obscure. For the rest of this title is more clear. Now it has seemed to some to intimate the day of judgment, that is, the time of the coming of our Lord, when He will come to judge the quick and dead. Which coming, it is believed, is to be, after reckoning the years from Adam, seven thousand years: so as that seven thousand years should pass as seven days, and afterwards that time arrive as it were the eighth day. But since it has been said by the Lord, "It is not yours to know the times, which the Father hath put m His own power:"(8) and, "But of the day and that hour knoweth no man, no, neither angel, nor Power, neither the Son, but the Father alone:"(9) and again, that which is written, "that the day of the Lord cometh as a thief,"(10) shows clearly enough that no man should arrogate to himself the knowledge of that time, by any computation of years. For if that day is to come after seven thousand years, every man could learn its advent by reckoning the years. What comes then of the Son's even not knowing this? Which of course is said with this meaning, that men do not learn this by the Son, not that He by Himself doth not know it: according to that form of speech, "the Lord your God trieth you that He may know;"(11) that is, that He may make you know: and, "arise, O Lord;"(12) that is, make us arise. When therefore the Son is thus said not to know this day; not because He knoweth it not, but because He causeth those to know it not, for whom it is not expedient to know it, that is, He doth not show it to them; what does that strange presumption mean, which, by a reckoning up of years, expects the day of the Lord as most certain after seven thousand years?(13)
2. Be we then willingly ignorant of that which the Lord would not have us know: and let us inquire what this title, "of the eighth," means. The day of judgment may indeed, even without any rash computation of years, be understood by the eighth, for that immediately after the end of this world, life eternal being attained, the souls of the righteous will not then be subject unto times: and, since all times have their revolution in a repetition of those seven days, that per-adventure is called the eighth day, which will not have this variety. There is another reason, which may be here not unreasonably accepted, why the judgment should be called the eighth, because it will take place after two generations, one relating to the body, the other to the soul, For from Adam unto Moses the human race lived of the body, that is, according to the flesh: which is called the outward and the old man,(1) and to which the Old Testament was given, that it might prefigure the spiritual things to come by operations, albeit religious, yet carnal. Through this entire season, when men lived according to the body, "death reigned," as the Apostle saith, "even over those that had not sinned." Now it reigned "after the similitude of Adam's transgression,"(2) as the same Apostle saith; for it must be taken of the period up to Moses, up to which time the works of the law, that is, those sacraments of carnal observance, held even those bound, for the sake of a certain mystery, who were subject to the One God. But from the coming of the Lord, from whom there was a transition from the circumcision of the flesh to the circumcision of the heart, the call was made, that man should live according to the soul, that is, according to the inner man, who is also called the "new man"(3) by reason of the new birth and the renewing of spiritual conversation. Now it is plain that the number four has relation to the body, from the four well known elements of which it consists, and the four qualities of dry, humid, warm, cold. Hence too it is administered by four seasons, spring, summer, autumn, winter. All this is very well known. For of the number four relating to the body we have treated elsewhere somewhat subtilly, but obscurely: which must be avoided in this discourse, which we would have accommodated to the unlearned. But that the number three has relation to the mind may be understood from this, that we are commanded to love God after a threefold manner,(4) with the whole heart, with the whole soul, with the whole mind:(5) of each of which severally we must treat, not in the Psalms, but in the Gospels: for the present, for proof of the relation of the number three to the mind, I think what has been said enough. Those numbers then of the body which have relation to the old man and the Old Testament, being past and gone, the numbers too of the soul, which have relation to the new man and the New Testament, being past and gone, a septenary so to say being passed; because everything is done in time, four having been distributed to the body, three to the mind; the eighth will come, the day of judgment: which assigning to deserts their due, will transfer at once the saint, not to temporal works, but to eternal life; but will condemn the ungodly to eternal punishment.
3. In fear of which comdemnation the Church prays in this Psalm, and says," Reprove me not, O Lord, in Thine anger" (ver. 1). The Apostle too mentions the anger of the judgment; "Thou treasurest up unto thyself," he says, "anger against the day of the anger of the just judgment of God."(6) In which he would not be reproved, whosoever longs to be healed in this life. "Nor in Thy rage chasten me." "Chasten," seems rather too mild a word; for it availeth toward amendment. For for him who is reproved, that is, accused, it is to be feared lest his end be condemnation. But since "rage" seems to be more than "anger," it may be a difficulty, why that which is milder, namely, chastening, is joined to that which is more severe, namely, rage. But I suppose that one and the same thing is signified by the two words. For in the Greek qumos, which is in the first verse, means the same as orgh, which is in the second verse.(7) But when the Latins themselves too wished to use two distinct words, they looked out for what was akin to "anger," and "rage"(8) was used. Hence copies vary. For in some "anger" is found first, and then "rage:" in others, for "rage," "indignation" or "choler" is used. But whatever the reading, it is an emotion of the soul urging to the infliction of punishment. Yet this emotion must not be attributed to God, as if to a soul, of whom it is said, "but Thou, O Lord of power, judgest with tranquillity."(9) Now that which is tranquil, is not disturbed. Disturbance then does not attach to God as judge: but what is done by His ministers, in that it is done by His laws, is called His anger. In which anger, the soul, which now prays, would not only not be reproved, but not even chastened, that is, amended or instructed. For in the Greek it is, Paideuhs, that is, instruct. Now in the day of judgment all are "reproved" that hold not the foundation, which is Christ. But they are amended, that is, purged, who "upon this foundation build wood, hay, stubble. For they shall suffer loss, but shall be saved, as by fire."(10) What then does he pray, who would not be either reproved or amended in the anger of the Lord? what else but that he may be healed? For where sound health is, neither death is to be dreaded, nor the physician's hand with caustics or the knife.
4. He proceeds accordingly to say, "Pity me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled" (ver. 2), that is, the support of my soul, or strength: for this is the meaning of "bones." The soul therefore says, that her strength is troubled, when she speaks of bones. For it is not to be supposed, that the soul has bones, such as we see in the body. Wherefore, what follows tends to explain it," and my soul is troubled exceedingly" (ver. 3), lest because he mentioned bones, they should be understood as of the body. "And Thou, O Lord, how long?" Who does not see represented here a soul struggling with her diseases; but long kept back by the physician, that she may be convinced what evils she has plunged herself into through sin? For what is easily healed, is not much avoided: but from the difficulty of the healing, there will be the more careful keeping of recovered health. God then, to whom it is said, "And Thou, O Lord, how long?" must not be deemed as if cruel: but as a kind convincer of the soul, what evil she hath procured for herself. For this soul does not yet pray so perfectly, as that it can be said to her, "Whilst thou art yet speaking I will say, Behold, here I am."(1) That she may at the same time also come to know, if they who do turn meet with so great difficulty, how great punishment is prepared for the ungodly, who will not turn to God: as it is written in another place, "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and ungodly appear?"(2)
5. "Turn, O Lord, and deliver my soul" (ver. 4). Turning herself she prays that God too would turn to her: as it is said, "Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord."(3) Or is it to be understood according to that way of speaking, "Turn, O Lord," that is make me turn, since the soul in this her turning feels difficulty and toil? For our perfected turning findeth God ready, as says the Prophet, "We shall find Him ready as the dawn."(4) Since it was not His absence who is everywhere present, but our turning away that made us lose Him; "He was in this world," it is said, "and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not."(5) If, then, He was in this world, and the world knew Him not, our impurity doth not endure the sight of Him. But whilst we are turning ourselves, that is, by changing our old life are fashioning our spirit; we feel it hard and toilsome to be wrested back from the darkness of earthly lusts, to the serene and quiet and tranquillity of the divine light. And in such difficulty we say, "Turn, O Lord," that is, help us, that that turning may be perfected in us, which findeth Thee ready, and offering Thyself for the fruition of them that love Thee. And hence after he said, "Turn, O Lord," he added, "and deliver my soul:" cleaving as it were to the entanglements of this world, and suffering, in the very act of turning, from the thorns, as it were, of rending and tearing desires. "Make me whole," he says, "for Thy pity's sake." He knows that it is not of his own merits that he is healed: for to him sinning, and transgressing a given command, was just condemnation due. Heal me therefore, he says, not for my merit's sake, but for Thy pity's sake.
6. "For in death there is no one that is mindful of Thee" (ver. 5). He knows too that now is the time for turning unto God: for when this life shall have passed away, there remaineth but a retribution of our deserts.(6) "But in hell who shall confess to Thee?"(7) That rich man, of whom the Lord speaks, who saw Lazarus in rest, but bewailed himself in torments, confessed in hell, yea so as to wish even to have his brethren warned, that they might keep themselves from sin, because of the punishment which is not believed to be in hell. Although therefore to no purpose, yet he confessed that those torments had deservedly lighted upon him; since he even wished his brethren to be instructed, lest they should fall into the same. What then is, "But in hell who will confess to Thee?" Is hell to be understood as that place, whither the ungodly will be cast down after the judgment, when by reason of that deeper darkness they will no more see any light of God, to whom they may confess aught? For as yet that rich man by raising his eyes, although a vast gulf lay between, could still see Lazarus established in rest: by comparing himself with whom, he was driven to a confession of his own deserts. It may be understood also, as if the Psalmist calls sin, that is committed in contempt of God's law, death: so as that we should give the name of death to the sting of death, because it procures death. "For the sting of death is sin."(8) In which death this is to be unmindful of God, to despise His law and commandments: so that by hell the Psalmist would mean that blindness of soul which overtakes and enwraps the sinner, that is, the dying. "As they did not think good," the Apostle says, "to retain God in "their" knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind."(1) From this death, and this hell, the soul earnestly prays that she may be kept safe, whilst she strives to turn to God, and feels her difficulties.
7. Wherefore he goes on to say, "I have laboured in my groaning." And as if this availed but little, he adds, "I will wash each night my couch" (ver. 6). That is here called a couch, where the sick and weak soul rests, that is, in bodily gratification and in every worldly pleasure. Which pleasure, whoso endeavours to withdraw himself from it, washes with tears. For he sees that he already condemns carnal lusts; and yet his weakness is held by the pleasure, and willingly lies down therein, from whence none but the soul that is made whole can rise. As for what he says, "each night," he would perhaps have it taken thus: that he who, ready in spirit, perceives some light of truth, and yet, through weakness of the flesh, rests sometime in the pleasure of this world, is compelled to suffer as it were days and nights in an alternation of feeling: as when he says, "With the mind I serve the law of God," he feels as it were day; again when he says, "but with the flesh the law of sin,"(2) he declines into night: until all night passeth away, and that one day comes, of which it is said, "In the morning I will stand by Thee, and will see."(3) For then he will stand, but now he lies down, when he is on his couch; which he will wash each night, that with so great abundance of tears he may obtain the most assured remedy from the mercy of God. "I will drench my bed with tears." It is a repetition.(4) For when he says, "with tears," he shows with what meaning he said above, "I will wash." For we take "bed" here to be the same as "couch" above. Although, "I will drench," is something more than, "I will wash:" since anything may be washed superficially, but drenching penetrates to the more inward parts; which here signifies weeping to the very bottom of the heart. Now the variety of tenses which he uses; the past, when he said, "I have laboured in my groaning;" and the future, when he said, "I will wash each night my couch;" the future again, "I will drench my bed with tears;" this shows what every man ought to say to himself, when he labours in groaning to no purpose. As if he should say, It hath not profited when I have done this, therefore I will do the other.
8. "Mine eye is disordered by anger" (ver. 7): is it by his own, or God's anger, in which he maketh petition that he might not be reproved, or chastened? But if anger in that place intimate the day of judgment, how can it be understood now? Is it a beginning of it, that men here suffer pains and torments, and above all the loss of the understanding of the truth; as I have already quoted that which is said, "God gave them over to a reprobate mind"?(1) For such is the blindness of the mind. Whosoever is given over thereunto, is shut out from the interior light of God: but not wholly as yet, whilst he is in this life. For there is "outer darkness,"(5) which is understood to belong rather to the day of judgment; that he should rather be wholly without God, whosoever whilst there is time refuses correction. Now to be wholly without God, what else is it, but to be in extreme blindness? If indeed God "dwell in inaccessible light,"(6) whereinto they enter, to whom it is said, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."(7) It is then the beginning of this anger, which in this life every sinner suffers. In fear therefore of the day of judgment, he is in trial and grief; lest he be brought to that, the disastrous commencement of which he experiences now. And therefore he did not say, mine eye is extinguished, but, "mine eye is disordered by anger." But if he mean that his eye is disordered by his own anger, there is no wonder either in this. For hence perhaps it is said, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath;"(8) because the mind, which, from her own disorder, is not permitted to see God, supposes that the inner sun, that is, the wisdom of God, suffers as it were a setting in her.
9. "I have grown old in all mine enemies." He had only spoken of anger (if it were yet of his own anger that he spoke): but thinking on his other vices, he found that he was entrenched by them all. Which vices, as they belong to the old life and the old man, which we must put off, that we may put on the new man,(9) it is well said, "I have grown old." But "in all mine enemies," he means, either amidst these vices, or amidst men who will not be converted to God. For these, even if they know them not, even if they bear with them, even if they use the same tables and houses and cities, with no strife arising between them, and in frequent converse together with seeming concord: notwithstanding, by the contrariety of their aims, they are enemies to those who turn unto God. For seeing that the one love and desire this world, the others wish to be freed from this world, who sees not that the first are enemies to the last? For if they can, they draw the others into punishment with them. And it is a great grace, to be conversant daily with their words, and not to depart from the way of God's commandments. For often the mind which is striving to go on to God-ward, being rudely handled in the very road, is alarmed; and generally fulfils not its good intent, lest it should offend those with whom it lives, who love and follow after other perishable and transient goods. From such every one that is whole is separated, not in space, but in soul. For the body is contained in space, but the soul's space is her affection.
10. Wherefore after the labour, and groaning, and very frequent showers of tears, since that cannot be ineffectual, which is asked so earnestly of Him, who is the Fountain of all mercies, and it is most truly said, "the Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart:"(1) after difficulties so great, the pious soul, by which we may also understand the Church, intimating that she has been heard, see what she adds: "Depart from me, all ye that work iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping" (ver. 8). It is either spoken prophetically, since they will depart, that is, the ungodly will be separated from the righteous, when the day of judgment arrives, or, for this time present. For although both are equally found in the same assemblies, yet on the open floor the wheat is already separated from the chaff, though it be hid among the chaff. They can therefore be associated together, but cannot be carried away by the wind together.
11. "For the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping; The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord hath received my prayer" (ver. 9). The frequent repetition of the same sentiments shows not, so to say, the necessities of the narrator, but the warm feeling of his joy. For they that rejoice are wont so to speak, as that it is not enough for them to declare once for all the object of their joy. This is the fruit of that groaning in which there is labour, and those tears with which the couch is washed, and-bed drenched: for, "he that sows in tears, shall reap in joy:"(2) and, "blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
12. "Let all mine enemies be ashamed and vexed" (ver. 10). He said above, "depart from me all ye:" which can take place, as it has been explained, even in this life: but as to what he says, "let them be ashamed and vexed," I do not see how it can happen, save on that day when the rewards of the righteous and the punishments of the sinners shall be made manifest. For at present so far are the ungodly from being ashamed, that they do not cease to insult us. And for the most part their mockings are of such avail, that they make the weak to be ashamed of the name of Christ. Hence it is said, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me before men, of him will I be ashamed before My Father."(3) But now whosoever would fulfil those sublime commands, to disperse, to give to the poor, that his righteousness may endure for ever;(4) and selling all his earthly goods, and spending them on the needy, would follow Christ, saying, "We brought nothing into this world, and truly we can carry nothing out; having food and raiment, let us be therewith content;"(5) incurs the profane raillery of those men, and by those who will not be made whole, is called mad; and often to avoid being so called by desperate men, he fears to do, and puts off that, which the most faithful and powerful of all physicians hath ordered. It is not then at present that these can be ashamed, by whom we have to wish that we be not made ashamed, and so be either called back from our proposed journey, or hindered, or delayed. But the time will come when they shall be ashamed, saying as it is written, "These are they whom we had sometimes in derision, and a parable of reproach: we fools counted their life madness, and their end to be without honour: how are they numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints? Therefore have we erred from the way of truth, and the light of rightousness hath not shined into us, nor the sun risen upon us: we have been filled with the way of wickedness and destruction, and have walked through rugged deserts, but the way of the Lord we have not known. What hath pride profited us, or what hath the vaunting of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow."(6)
13. But as to what he says, "Let them be turned and confounded," who would not judge it to be a most righteous punishment, that they should have a turning unto confusion, who would not have one unto salvation? After this he added, "exceeding quickly." For when the day of judgment shall have begun to be no longer looked for, when they shall have said, "Peace, then shall sudden destruction come upon them."(7) Now whensoever it come, that comes very quickly, of whose coming we give up all expectation; and nothing makes the length of this life be felt but the hope of living. For nothing seems more quick, than all that has already passed in it. When then the day of judgment shall come, then will sinners feel how that all the life which passeth away is not long. Nor will that any way possibly seem to them to have come tardily, which shall have come without their desiring, or rather without their believing. Although it can too be taken in this place thus, that inasmuch as God has heard, so to say, her groans, and her long and frequent tears, she may be understood to be freed from her sins, and to have tamed every disordered impulse of carnal affection: as she saith, "Depart from me, all ye that work iniquity, for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping:" and when she has had this happy issue, it is no marvel if she be already so perfect as to pray for her enemies. The words then, "Let all mine enemies be ashamed, and vexed," may have this meaning; that they should repent of their sins, which cannot be effected without confusion and vexation. There is then nothing to hinder us from taking what follows too in this sense, "let them be turned and ashamed," that is, let them be turned to God, and be ashamed that they sometime gloried in the former darkness of their sins; as the Apostle says, "For what glory had ye sometime in those things of which ye are now ashamed?"(2) But as to what he added, "exceeding quickly," it must be referred either to the warm affection of her wish, or to the power of Christ; who converteth to the faith of the Gospel in such quick time the nations, which in their idols' cause did persecute the Church.
A PSALM TO DAVID HIMSELF, WHICH HE SUNG TO THE LORD, FOR THE WORDS OF CHUSI, SON OF JEMINI.(2)
1. Now the story which gave occasion to this prophecy may be easily recognised in the second book of Kings.(3) For there Chusi, the friend of king David, went over to the side of Abessalon, his son, who was carrying on war against his father, for the purpose of discovering and reporting the designs which he was taking against his father, at the instigation of Achitophel, who had revolted from David's friendship, and was instructing by his counsel, to the best of his power, the son against the father. But since it is not the story itself which is to be the subject of consideration in this Psalm, from which the prophet hath taken a veil of mysteries, if we have passed over to Christ, let the veil be taken away.(4) And first let us inquire into the signification of the very names, what it means. For there have not been wanting interpreters, who investigating these same words, not carnally according to the letter, but spiritually, declare to us that Chusi should be interpreted silence; and Gemini, right-handed; Achitophel, brother's ruin. Among which interpretations, Judas, that traitor, again meets us, that Abessalon should bear his image, according to that interpretation of it as a father's peace; in that his father was full of thoughts of peace toward him: although he in his guile had war in his heart, as was treated of in the third Psalm. Now as we find in the Gospels that the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ are called sons,(5) so in the same Gospels we find they are called brethren also. For the Lord on the resurrection saith, "Go and say to My brethren."(6) And the Apostle calls Him "the first begotten among many brethren." The ruin then of that disciple, who betrayed Him, is rightly understood to be a brother's ruin, which we said is the interpretation of Achitophel. Now as to Chusi, from the interpretation of silence, it is rightly understood that our Lord contended against that guile in silence, that is, in that most deep secret, whereby "blindness happened in part to Israel,"(7) when they were persecuting the Lord, that the fulness of the Gentiles might enter in, and "so all Israel might be saved." When the Apostle came to this profound secret and deep silence, he exclaimed, as if struck with a kind of awe of its very depth, "O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the wind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor?"(8) Thus that great silence he does not so much discover by explanation, as he sets forth its greatness in admiration. In this silence the Lord, hiding the sacrament of His adorable passion, turns the brother's voluntary ruin, that is, His betrayer's impious wickedness, into the order of His mercy and providence: that what he with perverse mind wrought for one Man's destruction, He might by providential overruling dispose for all men's salvation. The perfect soul then, which is already worthy to know the secret of God, sings a Psalm unto the Lord, she sings" for the words of Chusi," because she has attained to know the words of that silence: for among unbelievers and persecutors there is that silence and secret. But among His own, to whom it is said," Now I call you no more servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you:(9) among His friends, I say, there is not the silence, but the words of the silence, that is, the meaning of that silence set forth and manifested. Which silence, that is, Chusi, is called the son of Gemini, that is, righthanded. For what was done for the Saints was not to be hidden from them. And yet He saith," Let not the left hand know what the right hand doeth."(10) The perfect soul then, to which that secret has been made known, sings in prophecy "for the words of Chusi," that is, for the knowledge of that same secret. Which secret God at her fight hand, that is, favourable(11) and propitious unto her, has wrought. Wherefore this silence is called the Son of the right hand, which is, "Chusi, the son of Gemini."
2. "O Lord my God, in Thee have I hoped: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me" (ver. 1). As one to whom, already perfected, all the war and enmity of vice being overcome, there remaineth no enemy but the envious devil, he says, "Save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me (ver. 2): lest at any time he tear my soul as a lion." The Apostle says, "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.'' (1) Therefore when the Psalmist said in the plural number, "Save me from all them that persecute me:" he afterwards introduced the singular, saying, "lest at any time he tear my soul as a lion." For he does not say, lest at any time they tear: he knew what enemy and violent adversary of the perfect soul remained. "Whilst there be none to redeem, nor to save:" that is, lest he tear me, whilst Thou redeemest not, nor savest. For, if God redeem not, nor save, he tears.(2)
3. And that it might be clear that the already perfect soul, which is to be on her guard against the most insidious snares of the devil only, says this, see what follows. "O Lord my God, if I have done this" (ver. 3). What is it that he calls "this"? Since he does not mention the sin by name, are we to understand sin generally? If this sense displease us, we may take that to be meant which follows: as if we had asked, what is this that you say, "this"? He answers, "If there be iniquity in my hands." Now then it is clear that it is said of all sin," If I have repaid them that recompense me evil" (ver. 4). Which none can say with truth, but the perfect. For so the Lord says, "Be ye perfect, as your Father which is in heaven; who maketh His sun to rise upon the good and the evil, and raineth on the just and the unjust."(3) He then who repayeth not them that recompense evil, is perfect. When therefore the perfect soul prays "for the words of Chusi, the son of Jemini," that is, for the knowledge of that secret and silence, which the Lord, favourable to us and merciful, wrought for our salvation, so as to endure, and with all patience bear, the guiles of this betrayer: as if He should say to this perfect soul, explaining the design of this secret, For thee ungodly and a sinner, that thine iniquities might be washed away by My blood-shedding, in great silence and great patience I bore with My betrayer; wilt not thou imitate me, that thou too mayest not repay evil for evil? Considering then, and understanding what the Lord has done for him, and by His example going on to perfection, the Psalmist says, "If I have repaid them that recompense me evil:" that is, if I have not done what Thou hast taught me by Thy example: "may I therefore fall by mine enemies empty." And he says well, not, If I have repaid them that do me evil; but, who "recompense." For who so recompenseth, had received somewhat already. Now it is an instance of greater patience, not even to repay him evil, who after receiving benefits returns evil for good, than if without receiving any previous benefit he had had a mind to injure. If therefore he says, "I have repaid them that recompense me evil:" that is, If I have not imitated Thee in that silence, that is, in Thy patience, which Thou hast wrought for me, "may I fall by mine enemies empty." For he is an empty boaster, who, being himself a man, desires to avenge himself on a man; and whilst he openly seeks to overcome a man, is secretly himself overcome by the devil, rendered empty by vain and proud joy, because he could not, as it were, be conquered. The Psalmist knows then where a greater victory may be obtained, and where "the Father which seeth in secret will reward."(4) Lest then he repay them that recompense evil, he overcomes his anger rather than another man, being instructed too by those writings, wherein it is written, "Better is he that overcometh his anger, than he that taketh a city."(5) "If I have repaid them that recompense me evil, may I therefore fall by my enemies empty." He seems to swear by way of execration, which is the heaviest kind of oath, as when one says, If I have done so and so, may I suffer so and so. But swearing in a swearer's mouth is one thing, in a prophet's meaning another. For here he mentions what will really befall men who repay them that recompense evil; not what, as by an oath, he would imprecate on himself or any other.
4. "Let the enemy" therefore "persecute my soul and take it" (ver. 5). By again naming the enemy in the singular number, he more and more clearly points out him whom he spoke of above as a lion. For he persecutes the soul, and if he has deceived it, will take it. For the limit of men's rage is the destruction of the body; but the soul, after this visible death, they cannot keep in their power: whereas whatever souls the devil shall have taken by his persecutions, he will keep. "And let him tread my life upon the earth:" that is, by treading let him make my life earth, that is to say, his food. For he is not only called a lion, but a serpent too, to whom it was said, "Earth shalt thou eat."(6) And to the sinner was it said, "Earth thou art, and into earth shalt thou go."(1) "And let him bring down my glory to the dust." This is that dust which "the wind casteth forth from the face of the earth,"(2) to wit, vain and silly boasting of the proud, puffed up, not of solid weight, as a cloud of dust carried away by the wind. Justly then has he here spoken of the glory, which he would not have brought down to dust. For he would have it solidly established in conscience before God, where there is no boasting. "He that glorieth," saith the Apostle, "let him glory in the Lord."(3) This solidity is brought down to the dust if one through pride despising the secrecy of conscience, where God only proves a man, desires to glory before men. Hence comes what the Psalmist elsewhere says, "God shall bruise the bones of them that please men."(4) Now he that has well learnt or experienced the steps in overcoming vices, knows that this vice of empty glory is either alone, or more than all, to be shunned by the perfect. For that by which the soul first fell, she overcomes the last. "For the beginning of all sin is pride:" and again, "The beginning of man's pride is to depart from God."(5)
5. "Arise, O Lord, in Thine anger" (ver. 6). Why yet does he, who we say is perfect, incite God to anger? Must we not see, whether he rather be not perfect, who, when he was being stoned, said, "O Lord, lay not this sin to their charge"?(6) Or does the Psalmist pray thus not against men, but against the devil and his angels, whose possession sinners and the ungodly are? He then does not pray against him in wrath, but in mercy, whosoever prays that that possession may be taken from him by that Lord "who justifieth the ungodly."(7) For when the ungodly is justified, from ungodly he is made just, and from being the possession of the devil he passes into the temple of God. And since it is a punishment that a possession, in which one longs to have rule, should be taken away from him: this punishment, that he should cease to possess those whom he now possesses, the Psalmist calls the anger of God against the devil. "Arise, O Lord; in Thine anger." "Arise" (he has used it as "appear"), in words, that is, human and obscure; as though God sleeps, when He is unrecognised and hidden in His secret workings. "Be exalted in the borders of mine enemies." He means by borders the possession itself, in which he wishes that God should be exalted, that is, be honoured and glorified, rather than the devil, while the ungodly are justified and praise God. "And arise, O Lord my God, in the commandment that Thou hast given:" that is, since Thou hast enjoined humility, appear in humility; and first fulfil what Thou hast enjoined; that men by Thy example overcoming pride may not be possessed of the devil, who against Thy commandments advised to pride, saying, "Eat, and your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods."(8)
6. "And the congregation of the people shall surround Thee." This may be understood two ways. For the congregation of the people can be taken, either of them that believe, or of them that persecute, both of which took place in the same humiliation of our Lord: in contempt of which the multitude of them that persecute surrounded Him; concerning which it is said, "Why have the heathen raged, and the people meditated vain things?"(9) But of them that believe through His humiliation the multitude so surrounded Him, that it could be said with the greatest truth, "blindness in part is happened unto Israel, that the fulness of the Gentiles might come in:"(10) and again, "Ask of me, and I will give Thee the Gentiles for Thine inheritance, and the boundaries of the earth for Thy possession."(11) "And for their sakes return Thou on high:" that is, for the sake of this congregation return Thou on high: which He is understood to have done by His resurrection and ascension into heaven. For being thus glorified He gave the Holy Ghost, which before His exaltation could not be given, as it is written in the Gospel, "for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified."(12) Having then returned on high for the sake of the congregation of the people, He sent the Holy Ghost: by whom the preachers of the Gospel being filled, filled the whole world with Churches.
7. It can be taken also in this sense: "Arise, O Lord, in Thine anger, and be exalted in the borders of mine enemies:" that is, arise in Thine anger, and let not mine enemies understand Thee; so that to "be exalted," should be this, become high,(13) that Thou mayest not be understood; which has reference to the silence spoken of above. For it is of this exaltation thus said in another Psalm, "And He ascended upon Cherubim, and flew:" and, "He made darkness His secret place."(14) In which exaltation, or concealment, when for their sins' desert they shall not understand Thee, who shall crucify Thee, "the congregation" of believers "shall surround Thee." For in His very humiliation He was exalted, that is, was not understood. So that, "And arise, O Lord my God, in the commandment that Thou hast given:" may have reference to this, that is, when Thou showest Thyself, be high or deep that mine enemies may not understand Thee. Now sinners are the enemies of the just man, and the ungodly of the godly man. "And the congregation of the people shall surround Thee:" that is, by this very circumstance, that those who crucify Thee understand Thee not, the Gentiles shall believe on Thee, and so "shall the congregation of the people surround Thee." But what follows, if this be the true meaning, has in it more pain, that it begins already to be perceived, than joy that it is understood. For it follows, "and for their sakes return Thou on high," that is, and for the sake of this congregation of the human race, wherewith the Churches are crowded, return Thou on high, that is, again cease to be understood. What then is, "and for their sakes," but that this congregation too will offend Thee, so that Thou mayest most truly foretell and say, "Thinkest Thou when the Son of man shall come, He will find faith on the earth?"(1) Again, of the false prophets, who are understood to be heretics, He says, Because of their iniquity the love of many shall wax cold."(2) Since then even in the Churches, that is, in that congregation of peoples and nations, where the Christian name has most widely spread, there shall be so great abundance of sinners, which is already, in great measure, perceived; is not that famine of the word(3) here predicted, which has been threatened by another prophet also? Is it not too for this congregation's sake, who, by their sins, are estranging from themselves that light of truth, that God returns on high, that is, so that faith, pure and cleansed from the corruption of all perverse opinions, is held and received, either not at all, or by the very few of whom it was said, "Blessed is he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved"?(4) Not without cause then is it said, "and for the sake of this" congregation "return Thou on high:" that is, again withdraw into the depth of Thy secrecy, even for the sake of this congregation of the peoples, that hath Thy name, and doeth not Thy deeds.
8. But whether the former exposition of this place, or this last be the more suitable, without prejudice to any one better, or equal, or as good, it follows very consistently, "the Lord judgeth the people." For whether He returned on high, when, after the resurrection, He ascended into heaven, well does it follow, "The Lord judgeth the people: "for that He will come from thence to judge the quick and the dead. Or whether He return on high, when the understanding of the truth leaves sinful Christians, for that of His coming it has been said, "Thinkest thou the Son of Man on His coming will find faith on the earth?"(1) "The Lord" then "judgeth the people." What Lord, but Jesus Christ? "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son."(5) Wherefore this soul which prayeth perfectly, see how she fears not the day of judgment, and with a truly secure longing says in her prayer, "Thy kingdom come: judge me," she says, "O Lord, according to my righteousness." In the former Psalm a weak one was entreating, imploring rather the mercy of God, than mentioning any desert of his own: since the Son of God came "to call sinners to repentance.(6)Therefore he had there said," Save me, O Lord, for Thy mercy's sake;"(7) that is, not for my desert's sake. But now, since being called he hath held and kept the commandments which he received, he is bold to say, "Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to my harmlessness, that is upon me." This is true harmlessness, which harms not even an enemy. Accordingly, well does he require to be judged according to his harmlessness, who could say with truth, "If I have repaid them that recompense me evil." As for what he added, "that is upon me," it can refer not only to harmlessness, but can be understood also with reference to righteousness; that the sense should be this, Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to my harmlessness, which righteousness and harmlessness is upon me. By which addition he shows that this very thing, that the soul is righteous and harmless, she has not by herself, but by God who giveth brightness and light. For of this he says in another Psalm, "Thou, O Lord, wilt light my candle."(8) And of John it is said, that "he was not the light, but bore witness of the light."(9) "He was a burning and shining candle."(10) That light then, whence souls, as candles, are kindled, shines forth not with borrowed, but with original, brightness, which light is truth itself. It is then so said, "According to my righteousness, and according to my harmlessness, that is upon me," as if a burning and shining candle should say, Judge me according to the flame which is upon me, that is, not that wherewith(11) I am myself, but that whereby I shine enkindled of thee.
9. "But let the wickedness of sinners be consummated" (ver. 9). He says, "be consummated," be completed, according to that in the Apocalypse, "Let the righteous become more righteous, and let the filthy be filthy still."(2) For the wickedness of those men appears consummate, who crucified the Son of God; but greater is theirs who will not live uprightly, and hate the precepts of truth, for whom the Son of God was crucified. "Let the wickedness of sinners," then he says, "be consummated," that is, arrive at the height of wickedness, that just judgment may be able to come at once. But since it is not only said, "Let the filthy be filthy still;" but it is said also, "Let the righteous become more righteous;" he joins on the words, "And Thou shalt direct the righteous, O God, who searcheth the hearts and reins." How then can the righteous be directed but in secret? when even by means of those things which, in the commencement of the Christian ages, when as yet the saints were oppressed by the persecution of the men of this world, appeared marvellous to men, now that the Christian name has begun to be in such high dignity, hypocrisy, that is pretence, has increased; of those, I mean, who by the Christian profession had rather please men than God. How then is the righteous man directed in so great confusion of pretence, save whilst God searcheth the hearts and reins; seeing all men's thoughts, which are meant by the word heart; and their delights, which are understood by the word reins? For the delight in things temporal and earthly is rightly ascribed to the reins; for that it is both the lower part of man, and that region where the pleasure of carnal generation dwells, through which man's nature is transferred into this life of care, and deceiving joy, by the succession of the race. God then, searching our heart, and perceiving that it is there where our treasure is, that is, in heaven; searching also the reins, and perceiving that we do not assent to flesh and blood, but delight ourselves in the Lord, directs the righteous man in his inward conscience before Him, where no man seeth, but He alone who perceiveth what each man thinketh, and what delighteth each. For delight is the end of care; because to this end does each man strive by care and thought, that he may attain to his delight. He therefore seeth our cares, who searcheth the heart. He seeth too the ends of cares, that is delights, who narrowly searcheth the reins; that when He shall find that our cares incline neither to the lust of the flesh, nor to the lust of the eyes, nor to the pride of life,(1) all which pass away as a shadow, but that they are raised upward to the joys of things eternal, which are spoilt by no change, He may direct the righteous, even He, the God who searcheth the hearts and reins. For our works, which we do in deeds and words, may be known unto men; but with what mind they are done, and to what end we would attain by means of them, He alone knoweth, the God who searcheth the hearts and reins.
10. "My righteous help is from the Lord, who maketh whole the upright in heart" (ver. 10). The offices of medicine are twofold, on the curing infirmity, the other the preserving health. According to the first it was said in the preceding Psalm, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak;"(2) according to the second it is said in this Psalm, "If there be iniquity in my hands, if I have repaid them that recompense me evil, may I therefore(3) fall by my enemies empty." For there the weak prays that he may be delivered, here one already whole that he may not change for the worse. According to the one it is there said, "Make me whole for Thy mercy's sake;" according to this other it is here said," Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness." For there he asks for a remedy to escape from disease; but here for protection from falling into disease. According to the former it is said, "Make me whole, O Lord, according to Thy mercy:" according to the latter it is said, "My righteous help is from the Lord, who maketh whole the upright in heart." Both the one and the other maketh men whole; but the former removes them from sickness into health, the latter preserves them in this health. Therefore there the help is merciful, because the sinner hath no desert, who as yet longeth to be justified, "believing on Him who justifieth the ungodly;"(4) but here the help is righteous, because it is given to one already righteous. Let the sinner then who said, "I am weak," say in the first place, "Make me whole, O Lord, for Thy mercy's sake;" and here let the righteous man, who said, "If I have repaid them that recompense me evil," say, "My righteous help is from the Lord, who maketh whole the upright in heart." For if he sets forth the medicine, by which we may be healed when weak, how much more that by which we may be kept in health. For if "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, how much more being now justified shall we be kept whole from wrath through Him."(5)
11. "My righteous help is from the Lord, who maketh whole the upright in heart." God, who searcheth the hearts and reins, directeth the righteous; but with righteous help maketh He whole the upright in heart. He doth not as He searcheth the hearts and reins, so make whole the upright in heart and reins; for the thoughts are both bad in a depraved heart, and good in an upright heart; but delights which are not good belong to the reins, for they are more low and earthly; but those that are good not to the reins, but to the heart itself. Wherefore men cannot be so called upright in reins, as they are called upright in heart, since where the thought is, there at once the delight is too; which cannot be, unless when things divine and eternal are thought of. "Thou hast given," he says, "joy in my heart," when he had said, "The light of Thy countenance has been stamped on us, O Lord."(1) For although the phantoms of things temporal, which the mind falsely pictures to itself, when tossed by vain and mortal hope, to vain imagination oftentimes bring a delirious and maddened joy; yet this delight must be attributed not to the heart, but to the reins; for all these imaginations have been drawn from lower, that is, earthly and carnal things. Hence it comes, that God, who searcheth he hearts and reins, and perceiveth in the heart upright thoughts, in the reins no delights, affordeth righteous help to the upright in heart, where(2) heavenly delights are coupled with clean thoughts. And therefore when in another Psalm he had said, "Moreover even to-night my reins have chided me;" he went on to say as touching help, "I foresaw the Lord alway in my sight, for He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved."(3) Where he shows that he suffered suggestions only from the reins, not delights as well; for he had suffered these, then he would of course be moved. But he said, "The Lord is on my right hand, that I should not be moved;" and then he adds, "Wherefore was my heart delighted;" that the reins should have been able to chide, not delight him. The delight accordingly was produced not in the reins, but there, where against the chiding of the reins God was foreseen to be on the right hand, that is, in the heart.
12. "God the righteous judge, strong(4) (in endurance) and long-suffering" (yet. 11). What God is judge, but the Lord, who judgeth the people? He is righteous; who "shall render to every man according to his works."(5) He is strong (in endurance); who, being most powerful, for our salvation bore even with ungodly persecutors. He is long-suffering; who did not immediately, after His resurrection, hurry away to punishment, even those that persecuted Him, but bore with them, that they might at length turn from that ungodliness to salvation: and still He beareth with them, reserving the last penalty for the last judgment, and up to this present time inviting sinners to repentance. "Not bringing in anger every day." Perhaps "bringing in anger" is a more significant expression than being angry (and so we find it in the Greek(6) copies); that the anger, whereby He punisheth, should not be in Him, but in the minds of those ministers who obey the commandments of truth through whom orders are given even to the lower ministries, who are called angels of wrath, to punish sin: whom even now the punishment of men delights not for justice' sake, in which they have no pleasure, but for malice' sake. God then doth not "bring in anger every day," that is, He doth not collect His ministers for vengeance every day. For now the patience of God inviteth to repentance: but in the last time, when men "through their hardness and impenitent heart shall have treasured up for themselves anger in the day of anger, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,(7) then He will brandish His sword."
13. "Unless ye be converted," He says, "He will brandish His sword" (ver. 12). The Lord Man Himself may be taken to be God's double-edged sword, that is, His spear, which at His first coming He will not brandish, but hideth as it were in the sheath of humiliation: but He will brandish it, when at the second coming to judge the quick and dead, in the manifest splendour of His glory, He shall flash light on His righteous ones, and terror on the ungodly. For in other copies, instead of," He shall brandish His sword," it has been written, "He shall make bright His spear:" by which word I think the last coming of the Lord's glory most appropriately signified: seeing that is understood of His person, which another Psalm has, "Deliver, O Lord, my soul from the ungodly,(8) Thy spear from the enemies of Thine hand. He hath bent His bow, and made it ready." The tenses of the words must not be altogether overlooked, how he has spoken of "the sword" in the future, "He will brandish;" of "the bow" in the past, "He hath bent:" and these words of the past tense follow after.(9)
14. "And in it He hath prepared the instruments of death: He hath wrought His arrows for the burning" (ver. 13). That bow then I would readily take to be the Holy Scripture, in which by the strength of the New Testament, as by a sort of string, the hardness of the Old has been bent and subdued. From thence the Apostles are sent forth like arrows, or divine preachings are shot. Which arrows "He has wrought for the burning," arrows, that is, whereby being stricken they might be inflamed with heavenly love. For by what other arrows was she stricken, who saith, "Bring me into the house of wine, place me among perfumes, crowd me among honey, for I have been wounded with love"?(10) By what other arrows is he kindled, who, desirous of returning to God, and coming back from wandering, asketh for help against crafty tongues, and to whom it is said, "What shall be given thee, or what added to thee against the crafty tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with devastating coals:"(11) that is, coals, whereby, when thou art stricken and set on fire, thou mayest burn with so great love of the kingdom of heaven, as to despise the tongues of all that resist thee, and would recall thee from thy purpose, and to deride their persecutions, saying, "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am persuaded," he says, "that neither death, nor life, nor angel, nor principality, nor things present, not things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."(1) Thus for the burning hath He wrought His arrows. For in the Greek copies it is found thus, "He hath wrought His arrows for the burning." But most of the Latin copies(2) have "burning arrows." But whether the arrows themselves burn, or make others burn, which of course they cannot do unless they burn themselves, the sense is complete.
15. But since he has said that the Lord has prepared not arrows only, but "instruments of death" too, in the bow, it may be asked, what are "instruments of death"? Are they, per-adventure, heretics? For they too, out of the same bow, that is, out of the same Scriptures, light upon souls not to be inflamed with love but destroyed with poison: which does not happen but after their deserts: wherefore even this dispensation is to be assigned to the Divine Providence, not that it makes men sinners, but that it orders them after they have sinned. For through sin reaching them with an ill purpose, they are forced to understand them ill, that this should be itself the punishment of sin: by whose death, nevertheless, the sons of the Catholic Church are, as it were by certain thorns, so to say, aroused from slumber, and make progress toward the understanding of the holy Scriptures. "For there must be also heresies, that they which are approved," he says, "may be made manifest among you:"(3) that is, among men, seeing they are manifest to God. Or has He haply ordained the same arrows to be at once instruments of death for the destruction of unbelievers, and wrought them burning, or for the burning, for the exercising of the faithful? For that is not false that the Apostle says, "To the one we are the savour of life unto life, to the other the savour of death unto death; and who is sufficient for these things?"(4) It is no wonder then if the same Apostles be both instruments of death in those from whom they suffered persecution, and fiery arrows to inflame the hearts of believers.
16. Now after this dispensation righteous judgment will come: of which the Psalmist so speaks, as that we may understand that each man's punishment is wrought out of his own sin, and his iniquity turned into vengeance: that we may not suppose that that tranquillity and ineffable light of God brings forth from Itself the means of punishing sin; but that it so ordereth sins, that what have been delights to man in sinning, should be instruments to the Lord avenging. "Behold," he says, "he hath travailed with injustice." Now what had he conceived, that he should travail with injustice? "He hath conceived," he says, "toil." Hence then comes that, "In toil shall thou eat thy bread."(5) Hence too that, "Come unto Me all ye that toil and are heavy laden; for My yoke is easy, and My burden light."(6) For toil will never cease, except one love that which cannot be taken away against his will. For when those things are loved which we can lose against our wilt, we must needs toil for them most miserably; and to obtain them, amid the straitnesses of earthly cares, whilst each desires to snatch them for himself, and to be beforehand with another, or to wrest it from him, must scheme injustice. Duly then, and quite in order, hath he travailed with injustice, who has conceived toil. Now he bringeth forth what, save that with which he hath travailed, although he has not travailed with that which he conceived? For that is not born, which is not conceived; but seed is conceived, that which is formed from the seed is born. Toil is then the seed of iniquity, but sin the conception of toil, that is, that first sin, to "depart from God."(7) He then hath travailed with injustice, who hath conceived toil. "And he hath brought forth iniquity." "Iniquity" is the same as "injustice:" he hath brought forth then that with which he travailed. What follows next?
17. "He hath opened a ditch, and digged it" (ver. 15). To open a ditch is, in earthly matters, that is, as it were in the earth, to prepare deceit, that another fall therein, whom the unrighteous man wishes to deceive. Now this ditch is opened when consent is given to the evil suggestion of earthly lusts: but it is digged when after consent we press on to actual work of deceit. But how can it be, that iniquity should rather hurt the righteous man against whom it proceeds, than the unrighteous heart whence it proceeds? Accordingly, the stealer of money, for instance, while he desires to inflict painful harm upon another, is himself maimed by the wound of avarice. Now who, even out of his right mind, sees not how great is the difference between these men, when one suffers the loss of money, the other of innocence? "He will fall" then "into the pit which he hath made." As it is said in another Psalm, "The Lord is known in executing judgments; the sinner is caught in the works of his own hands."(1)
18. "His toil shall be turned on his head, and his iniquity shall descend on his pate "(ver. 16). For he had no mind to escape sin: but was brought under sin as a slave, so to say, as the Lord saith, "Whosoever sinneth is a slave."(2) His iniquity then will be upon him, when he is subject to his iniquity; for he could not say to the Lord, what the innocent and upright say, "My glory, and the lifter up of my head."(3) He then will be in such wise below, as that his iniquity may be above, and descend on him; for that it weigheth him down and burdens him, and suffers him not to fly back to the rest of the saints. This occurs, when in an ill regulated man reason is a slave, and lust hath dominion.
19. "I will confess to the Lord according to His justice" (ver. 17). This is not the sinner's confession: for he says this, who said above most truly, "If there be iniquity in my hands:" but it is a confession of God's justice, in which we speak thus, Verily, O Lord, Thou art just, in that Thou both so protectest the just, that Thou enlightenest them by Thyself; and so orderest sinners, that they be punished not by Thine, but by their own malice. This confession so praises the Lord, that the blasphemies of the ungodly can avail nothing, who, willing to excuse their evil deeds, are unwilling to attribute to their own fault that they sin, that is, are unwilling to attribute their fault to their fault. Accordingly they find either fortune or fate to accuse, or the devil, to whom He who made us hath willed that it should be in our power to refuse consent: or they bring in another nature, which is not of God: wretched waverers, and erring, rather than confessing to God, that He should pardon them. For it is not fit that any be pardoned, except he says, I have sinned. He, then, that sees the deserts of souls so ordered by God, that while each has his own given him, the fair beauty of the universe is in no part violated, in all things praises God: and this is not the confession of sinners, but of the righteous. For it is not the sinner's confession when the Lord says, "I confess to Thee, O Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise, and revealed them to babes."(4) Likewise in Ecclesiasticus it is said, "Confess to the Lord in all His works: and in confession ye shall say this, All the works of the Lord are exceeding good."(5) Which can be seen in this Psalm, if any one with a pious mind, by the Lord's help, distinguish between the rewards of the righteous and the penalties of the sinners, how that in these two the whole creation, which God made and rules, is adorned with a beauty wondrous and known to few. Thus then he says, "I will confess to the Lord according to His justice," as one who saw that darkness was not made by God, but ordered nevertheless. For God said, "Let light be made, and light was made."(6) He did not say, Let darkness be made, and darkness was made: and yet He ordered it. And therefore it is said, "God divided between the light, and the darkness: and God called the light day, and the darkness He called night."(7) This is the distinction, He made the one and ordered it: but the other He made not, but yet He ordered this too. But now that sins are signified by darkness, so is it seen in the Prophet, who says, "And thy darkness shall be as the noon day:"(8) and in the Apostle, who says, "He that hateth his brother is in darkness:"(9) and above all that text, "Let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light."(10) Not that there is any nature of darkness. For all nature, in so far as it is nature, is compelled to be. Now being belongs to light: not-being to darkness. He then that leaves Him by whom he was made, and inclines to that whence he was made, that is, to nothing, is in this sin endarkened: and yet he does not utterly perish, but he is ordered among the lowest things. Therefore after the Psalmist said, "I will confess unto the Lord:" that we might not understand it of confession of sins, he adds lastly, "And I will sing to the name of the Lord most high." Now singing has relation to joy, but repentance of sins to sadness.
20. This Psalm can also be taken in the person of the Lord Man: if only that which is there spoken in humiliation be referred to our weakness, which He bore.(11)
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