Augustine on the Psalms. Psalms 104 - 113
1. ... "Bless the Lord, O my soul." Let the soul of us all, made one in Christ, say this. "O Lord my God, Thou art magnified exceedingly!" (ver. 1). Where art Thou magnified? "Confession and beauty Thou hast put on." Confess ye, that ye may be beautified, that He may put you on. "Clothed with light as a garment" (ver. 2). Clothed with His Church, because she is made" light" in Him, who before was darkness in herself, as the apostle saith: "Ye were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord."(4) "Stretching out the heaven like a skin:" either as easily as thou dost a skin, if it be "as easily," so that thou mayest take it after the letter; or let us understand the authority of the Scriptures, spread out over the whole world, under the name of a skin; because mortality is signified in a skin? but all the authority of the Divine Scriptures was dispensed unto us through mortal men, whose fame is still spreading abroad now they are dead.
2. "Who covereth with waters the upper parts thereof" (ver. 3). The upper parts of what? Of Heaven. What is Heaven? Figuratively only we said, the Divine Scripture. What are the upper parts of the Divine Scripture? The commandment of love, than which there is none more exalted.(6) But wherefore is love compared to waters? Because "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us."(7) Whence is the Spirit Himself water? because "Jesus stood and cried, He that believeth on Me, out of his bosom shall flow rivers of living water."(8) Whence do we prove that it was said of the Spirit? Let the Evangelist himself declare, who followeth it up, and saith, "But this spake He of the Spirit, which they were to receive, who should believe on Him." "Who walketh above the wings of the winds;" that is, above the virtues of souls. What is the virtue of a soul? Love itself. But how doth He walk above it? Because the love of God toward us is greater than ours toward God.
3. "Who maketh spirits His angels, and flaming fire His ministers" (ver. 4): that is, those who are already spirits, who are spiritual, not carnal, He maketh His Angels, by sending them to preach His gospel. "And flaming fire His ministers." For unless the minister that preacheth be on fire, he enflameth not him to whom he preacheth.
4. "He hath founded the earth upon its firmness (ver. 5). He hath founded the Church upon the firmness of the Church. What is the firmness of the Church, but the foundation of the Church. What is the foundation of the Church, but that of which the Apostle saith, "Other foundation can no man lay but that is laid, which is Christ Jesus."(9) And therefore, grounded on such a foundation, what hath she deserved to hear? "It shall not be bowed forever and ever." "He founded the earth on its firmness." What is, He hath founded the Church upon Christ the foundation. The Church will totter if the foundation totter; but when shall Christ totter, before whose coming unto us, and taking flesh on Him, "all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made;"(10) who holdeth all things by His Majesty," and us by His goodness? Since Christ faileth not, "she shall not be bowed for ever and ever." Where are they(12) who say that the Church hath perished from the world, when she cannot even be bowed. ...
5. "The deep, like a garment, is its clothing" (ver. 6). Whose? Is it perchance God's? But he had already said of His clothing," Clothed with light as with a garment."(13) I hear of God clothed in light, and that light, if we will, are we. What is, if we will? if we are no longer darkness. Therefore if God is clothed with light, whose clothing, again, is the deep? For an immense mass of waters is called the deep. All water, all the moist nature, and the substance everywhere shed abroad through the seas, and rivers, and hidden caves, is all together called by one name, the Deep. Therefore we understand the earth, of which he said, "He hath founded the earth." Of it I believe he said, "The deep, like a gar merit is its clothing." For the water is as it were the clothing of the earth, surrounding it and covering it. ...
6. "Above the mountains the waters shall stand:" that is, the clothing of the earth, which is the deep, so increased, that the waters stood even above the mountains. We read of this taking place in the deluge. ... The Prophet minding to foretell future things, not to relate the past, therefore said it, because he would have it understood that the Church should be in a deluge of persecutions. For there was a time when the floods of persecutors had covered God's earth, God's Church, and had so covered it, that not even those great ones appeared, who are the mountains. For when they fled everywhere, how did they but cease to appear? And perchance of those waters is that saying, "Save me, O God, for the waters are come in even unto my soul."(1) Especially the waters which make the sea, stormy, unfruitful. For whatsoever earth the sea-water may have covered, it will not rather make it fruitful than bring it to barrenness. For there were also mountains beneath the waters, because above the mountains waters stood.(2) ... Why were the Apostles hidden by flight? Because "above the mountains the waters stood."(2) The power of the waters was great, but how long? Hear what followeth.
7. "From Thy rebuke they shall fly" (ver. 7). And this was done, brethren; from God's rebuke the waters did fly; that is, they went back from pressing on the mountains. Now the mountains themselves stand forth, Peter and Paul: how do they tower! They who before were pressed down by persecutors, now are venerated by emperors. For the waters are fled from the rebuke of God; because "the heart of kings is in the hand of God, He hath bent it whither He would;"(3) He commanded peace to be given by them to the Christians; the authority of the Apostles sprang up and towered high. ... The waters fled from the rebuke of God. "From the voice of Thy thunder they shall be afraid." Now who is there that would not be afraid, from the voice of God through the Apostles, the voice of God through the Scriptures, through His clouds? The sea is quieted, the waters have been made afraid, the mountains have been laid bare, the emperor hath given the order. But who would have given the order, unless God had thundered? Because God willed, they commanded, and it was done. Therefore let no one of men arrogate anything to himself.
8. "The mountains ascend, and the plains go down, into the place which Thou hast rounded for them" (ver. 8). He is still speaking of waters. Let us not here understand mountains as of earth; nor plains, as of earth: but waves so great that they may be compared to mountains. The sea did sometime toss, and its waves were as mountains, which could cover those mountains the Apostles. But how long do the mountains ascend and the plains go down? They raged, and they are appeased. When they raged they were mountains: now they are appeased they are become plains: for He hath founded a place for them. There is a certain channel? as it were a deep place, into which all those lately raging hearts of mortals have retired. ... They were mountains formerly, now they are plains: yet, my brethren, even a dead calm s is sea. For wherefore are they not now violent? wherefore do they not rage? Wherefore do they not try, if they cannot overthrow our earth, at least to cover it? Wherefore not?
9. Hear. "Thou hast set a bound which they shall not pass over, neither shall they turn again to cover the earth" (ver. 9). What then, because now the bitterest waves have received a measure, that we must be allowed to preach such things even with freedom; because they have had their due limit assigned, because they cannot pass over the bound that is set, nor shall they return to cover the earth; what is doing in the earth itself? What workings take place therein, now that the sea hath left it bare? Although at its beach slight waves do make their noise, although Pagans still murmur round; the sound of the shores I hear, a deluge I dread not. What then; what is doing in the earth? "Who sendeth out springs in the little valleys" (ver. 10). "Thou sendest out," he saith, "springs in the little valleys." Ye know what little valleys are, lower places among the lands. For to hills and mountains, valleys and little valleys are opposed in contrary shape. Hills and mountains are swellings of the land: but valleys and little valleys, lownesses of the lands. Do not despise low places, thence flow springs. "Thou sendest out springs in the little valleys." Hear a mountain. The Apostle saith, "I laboured more than they all." A certain greatness is brought before us: yet immediately, that the waters may flow, he hath made himself a valley: "Yet not I, but the grace of God with me."(6) It is no contradiction that they who are mountains be also valleys: for as they are called mountains because of their spiritual greatness, so also valleys because of the humility of their spirit. "Not I," he saith, "but the grace of God with me." ...
10. What is, "In the midst between the mountains the waters shall pass through"? We have heard who are the "mountains," the great Preachers of the word, the exalted Angels of God, though still in mortal flesh; lofty not by their own power, but by His grace; but as far as relates to themselves, they are valleys, in their humility they send forth springs. "In the midst," he saith, "between the mountains, the waters shall pass through." Let us suppose this said thus, "In the midst between the Apostles shall pass through the preachings of the Word of Truth." What is, in the midst between the Apostles? What is called in the midst, is common. A common property, from which all alike live, is in the midst, and belongs not to me, but neither belongs it to thee, nor yet to me. ... For if they are not in the midst, they are as it were private, they flow not for public use, and I have mine, and he has his own, it is not in the midst for both me and him to have it; but such is not the preaching of peace. ... Therefore, brethren, let what we have said to your Love serve to this purpose, because of the springs: that they may flow from you, be ye valleys, and communicate with all that which ye have from God. Let the waters flow in the midst, envy ye no one, drink, be filled, flow forth when ye are filled. Everywhere let the common water of God have the glory, not the private falsehoods of men. ...
11. For it follows, "All the beasts of the wood shall drink" (ver. 11). We do indeed see this also in the visible creation, that the beasts of the wood drink of springs, and of streams that run between the mountains: but now since it hath pleased God to hide His own wisdom in the figures of such things, not to take it away from earnest seekers, but to close it to them that care not, and open it to them that knock; it hath also pleased our Lord God Himself to exhort you by us to this, that in all these things which are said as if of the bodily and visible creation, we may seek something spiritually hidden, in which when found we may rejoice. The beasts of the wood, we understand the Gentiles, and Holy Scripture witnesses this in many places. ...
12. These beasts, then, drink those waters, but passing; not staying, but passing; for all that teaching which in all this time is dispensed passeth. ... Unless perchance your love thinketh that in that city to which it is said, "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, praise thy God, O Sion; for He hath made strong the bars of thy gates;"(1) when the bars are now strengthened and the city closed, whence, as we said some time since,(2) no friend goeth out, no enemy entereth;(3) that there we shall have a book to read, or speech to be explained as it is now explained to you. Therefore is it now treated, that there it may be held fast: therefore is it now divided by syllables, that there it may be contemplated whole and entire. The Word of God will not be wanting there: but yet not by letters, not by sounds, not by books,(4) not by a reader, not by an expositor. How then? As, "In the beginning was the Word," etc.(5) For He did not so come to us as to depart from thence; because He was in this world, and the world was made by Him. Such a Word are we to contemplate. For "the God of gods shall appear in Zion."(6) But this when? After our pilgrimage, when the journey is done: if however after our journey is done we be not delivered to the Judge, that the Judge may send us to prison. But if when our journey is ended, as we hope, and wish, and endeavour, we shall have reached our Country, there shall we contemplate What we shall ever praise; nor shall That fail which is present to us, nor we, who enjoy: nor shall he be cloyed that eateth, nor shall that fail which he eateth. Great and wonderful shall be that contemplation. ...
13. "The onagers shall take for their thirst." By onagers he meaneth some great beasts. For who knoweth not that wild asses are called onagers? He meaneth, therefore, some great untrained ones. For the Gentiles had no yoke of the Law: many nations lived after their own customs, ranging in proud boastfulness as in a wilderness. And so indeed did all the beasts, but the wild asses are put to signify the greater sort. They too shall drink for their thirst, for for them too the waters flow. Thence drinks the hare, thence the wild ass: the hare little, the wild ass great; the hare timid, the wild ass fierce: either sort drinks thence, but each for his thirst. ... So faithfully and gently doth it flow, as at once to satisfy the wild ass, and not to alarm the hare. The sound of Tully's voice rings out, Cicero is read, it is some book, it is a dialogue of his, whether his own, or Plato's, or by whatever such writer: some hear that are unlearned, weak ones of less mind; who dareth t,o aspire to such a thing? It is a sound of water, and that perchance turbid, but certainly flowing so violently, that a timid animal dare not draw near and drink. To whom soundeth a Psalm, and he saith, It is too much for me? Behold now what the Psalm soundeth; certainly they are hidden mysteries, yet so it soundeth, that even children are delighted to hear, and the unlearned come to drink, and when filled burst forth in singing. ...
14. Then the Psalm goes on in its text, "Upon them(1) the fowls of the heaven shall inhabit"(ver. 12). ... Upon the mountains, then, the fowls of the air shall have their habitation. We see these birds dwell upon the mountains, but many of them dwell in plains, many in valleys, many in groves, many in gardens, not all upon mountains. There are some fowls that dwell not save on the mountains. Some spiritual souls doth this name denote. Fowls are spiritual hearts, which enjoy the free air. In the clearness of heaven these birds delight, yet their feeding is on the mountains, there will they dwell. Ye know the mountains, they have been already treated of. Mountains are Prophets, mountains are Apostles, mountains are all preachers of the truth. ...
15. But think not that those "fowls of heaven" follow their own authority; see what the Psalm saith: "From the midst of the rocks they shall give their voice." Now, if I shall say to you, Believe, for this said Cicero, this said Plato, this said Pythagoras: which of you will not laugh at me? For I shall be a bird that shall send forth my voice not from the rock. What ought each one of you to say to me? what ought he who is thus instructed to say? "If any one shall have preached unto you a gospel other than that ye have received, let him be anathema."(2) What dost thou tell me of Plato, and of Cicero, and of Virgil? Thou hast before thee the rocks of the mountains, from the midst of the rocks give me thy voice. Let them be heard, who hear from the rock: let them be heard, because also in those many rocks the One Rock is heard: for "the Rock was Christ."(3) Let them therefore be willingly heard, giving their voice from the midst of the rocks. Nothing is sweeter than such a voice of birds. They sound, and the rocks resound: they sound; spiritual men discuss: the rocks resound, testimonies of Scripture give answer. Lo! thence the fowls give their voice from the midst of the rocks, for they dwell on the mountains.
16. "Watering the mountains from the higher places" (ver. 13). Now if a Gentile uncircumcised man comes to us, about to believe in Christ, we give him baptism, and do not call him back to those works of the Law. And if a Jew asks us why we do that, we sound froth the rock, we say, This Peter did, this Paul did: from the midst of the rocks we give our voice. But that rock, Peter himself, that great mountain, when he prayed and saw that vision, was watered from above. ...
17. "From the fruit of Thy works shall the earth be satisfied." What is, "From the fruit of Thy works"? Let no man glory in his own works: but "he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."(4) With Thy grace he is satisfied, when he is satisfied: let him not say that grace was given for his own merits. If it is called grace, "it is gratuitously given;" if it is returned for works, wages are paid.(5) Freely therefore receive, because ungodly thou art justified.
18. "Bringing forth grass for the cattle, and green herb for the service of men" (ver. 14). This is true, I perceive; I recognise the creation: the earth doth bring forth grass for the cattle, and green herb for the service of men. But I perceive the words, "Thou shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox which treadeth out the corn: Doth God take care for oxen? For our sakes therefore the Scripture saith it."(6) How then doth the earth bring forth grass for the cattle? Because "the Lord hath ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel." He sent preachers, saying unto them, "Eat such things as are set before you of them: for the labourer is worthy of his hire."(7) ... They give spiritual, they receive carnal things; they give gold, they receive grass. ... "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things?"(8) This the Apostle said, a preacher so laborious, so indefatigable, so well tried, that he giveth this very grass to the earth. "Nevertheless," he saith, "we have not used this power." He showeth that it is due to him, yet he received it not; nor hath he condemned those who have received what was due. For those were to be condemned who exact what is not due, not they who accept their recompense: yet he gave up even his own recompense. Thou dost not cease to owe to another, because one hath given up his dues, otherwise thou wilt not be the watered earth which bringeth forth grass for the cattle. ... Thou receivest spiritual things, give carnal things in return: to the soldier they are due, to the soldier thou returnest them; thou art the paymaster(9) of Christ. "Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? I speak not thus, that it should be so done unto me."(10) There has been such a soldier as gave up his rations of food even to the paymaster: yet let the paymaster pay the rations...
19. "That it may bring forth bread out of the earth." What bread? Christ. Out of what earth? From Peter, from Paul, from the other stewards of the truth. Hear that it is from the earth: "We have," saith St. Paul, "this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."(1) He is the bread who descended from heaven,(2) that He might be brought forth out of the earth, when He is preached through the flesh of His servants. The earth bringeth forth grass, that it may bring forth bread from the earth. What earth bringeth forth grass? Pious, holy nations. That bread may be brought forth out of what earth? The word of God out of the Apostles, out of the stewards of God's Sacraments, who still walk upon the earth, who still carry an earthly body.
20. "And wine maketh glad the heart of man" (ver. 15). Let no man prepare himself for intoxication; nay, let every man prepare him for intoxication. "How excellent is Thy cup which maketh inebriate!"(3) We choose not to say, Let no man be drunk. Be inebriated; yet beware, from what source. If the excellent cup of the Lord doth saturate you, your ebriety shall be seen in your works, it shall be seen in the holy love of righteousness, it shall, lastly, be seen in the estrangement of your mind, but from things earthly to heavenly. "To make him a cheerful countenance with oil." ... What is the making the countenance cheerful with oil? The grace of God; a sort of shining for manifestation; as the Apostle saith, "The Spirit is given to every man for manifestation."(4) A certain grace which men can clearly see in men, to conciliate holy love, is termed oil, for its divine splendour; and since it appeared most excellent in Christ, the whole world loveth Him; who though while here He was scorned, is now worshipped by every nation: "For the kingdom is the Lord's, and He shall be Governor among the people."(5) For such is His grace, that many, who do not believe on Him, praise Him, and declare that they are unwilling to believe on Him, because no man can fulfil what He doth command. They who with reproaches once raged against Him, are hindered by His very praises. Yet by all is He loved, by all is He preached; because He is excellently anointed, therefore He is Christ: for He is called Christ from the Chrism or anointing which He had. Messiah in the Hebrew, Christ in the Greek, Unctus in the Latin: but He anointeth over His whole Body. All therefore who come, receive grace, that their countenances may be made glad with oil.
21. "And bread strengtheneth man's heart." What is this, brethren? As it were, he hath forced us to understand what bread he was l speaking of For while that visible bread strengtheneth the stomach, feedeth the body, there is another bread which strengtheneth the heart, in that it is the bread of the heart. ... There is therefore a wine that truly maketh glad the heart, and knoweth not to do aught else than to gladden the heart. But that thou mayest not imagine that this indeed should be taken of the spiritual wine, but not of that spiritual bread; He hath shown this very point, that it is also spiritual: "and bread," he saith, "strengtheneth man's heart." So understand it therefore of the bread as thou dost understand it of the wine; hunger inwardly, thirst inwardly: "Blessed are they," saith our Lord, "who hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled."(6) That bread is righteousness, that wine is righteousness: it is truth, Christ is truth? "I am," He said, "the living bread, who came down from heaven;"(8) and, "I am the Vine, and ye are the branches."(9)
22. "The trees of the plain shall be satisfied" (ver. 16): but with this grace, brought forth out of the earth. "The trees of the plain," are the lower orders of the nations. "And the cedars of Libanus which He hath planted." The cedars of Libanus, the powerful in the world, shall themselves be filled. The bread, and wine, and oil of Christ hath reached senators, nobles, kings; the trees of the plain are filled. First the humble are filled; next also the cedars of Libanus, yet those which He hath planted; pious cedars, religious faithful; for such hath He planted. For the ungodly also are cedars of Libanus; for, "The Lord shall break the cedars of Libanus."(10) For Libanus is a mountain: there are those trees, even according to the letter most long-lived and most excellent. But Libanus is interpreted, as we read in those who have written of these things, a brightness: and this brightness seemeth to belong to this world, which at present shineth and is refulgent with its pomps. There are the cedars of Libanus, which the Lord hath planted; those which the Lord hath planted shall be filled. ...
23. "There shall the sparrows build their nests: their leader is the house of the coot" (ver. 17). Where shall the sparrows build? In the cedars of Libanus. ... Who are the sparrows? Sparrows are birds indeed, and fowls of the air, but small fowls are wont to be called sparrows. There are therefore some spiritual ones that build in the cedars of Libanus: that is, there are certain servants of God who hear in the Gospel, "Sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow Me."(11) ... Let him who hath resigned many things, not be proud. We know that Peter was a fisherman: what then could he give up, to follow our Lord? Or his brother Andrew, or John and James the sons of Zebedee, themselves also fishermen;(1) and yet what did they say? "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee.''(2) Our Lord said not to him, Thou hast forgotten thy poverty; what hast thou resigned, that thou shouldest receive the whole world? He, my brethren, who resigned not only what he had, but also what he longed to have, resigned much. ...
24. But although the sparrows will build in the cedars of Libanus, "the house of the coot is their leader." What is the house of the coot? The coot, as we all know, is a water bird, dwelling either among the marshes, or on the sea. It hath rarely or never a home on the shore; but in places in the midst of the waters, and thus usually in rocky islets, surrounded by the waves. We therefore understand that the rock is the fit home of the coot, it never dwelleth more securely than on the rock. On what sort of rock? One placed in the sea. And if it is beaten by the waves, yet it breaketh the waves, is not broken by them: this is the excellency of the rock in the sea. How great waves beat on our Lord Jesus Christ? The Jews dashed against Him; they were broken, He remained whole. And let every one who doth imitate Christ, so dwell in this world, that is, in this sea, where he cannot but feel storms and tempests, that he may yield to no wind, to no wave, but remain whole, while he meets them all. The home of the coot, therefore, is both strong and weak. The coot hath not a home on lofty spots; nothing is more firm and nothing more humble than that home. Sparrows build indeed in cedars, on account of actual need: but they hold that rock as their leader, which is beaten by the waves, and yet not broken; for they imitate the sufferings of Christ. ...
25. What then followeth? "The loftiest hills are for the stags" (ver. 18). The stags are mighty, spiritual, passing in their course over all the thorny places of the thickets and woods. "He maketh my feet like harts' feet, and setteth me up on high."(3) Let them hold to the lofty hills, the lofty commandments of God; let them think on sublime subjects, let them hold those which stand forth most in the Scriptures, let them be justified in the highest: for those loftiest hills are for the stags. What of the humble beasts? what of the hare? what of the hedgehog? The hare is a small and weak animal: the hedgehog is also prickly: the one is a timid animal, the other is covered with prickles. What do the prickles signify, except sinners? He who sinneth daily, although not great sins, is covered over with the smallest prickles. In his timidity he is a hare: in his being covered with the minutest sins, he is a hedgehog: and he cannot hold those lofty and perfect commandments. For "the loftiest hills are for the stags." What then? do these perish? No. For so "is the rock the refuge for the hedgehogs and the hares."(4) For the Lord is a refuge for the poor. Place that rock upon the land, it is a refuge for hedgehogs, and for hares: place it on the sea, it is the home of the coot. Everywhere the rock is useful. Even in the hills it is useful: for the hills without the rock's foundation would fall into the deep. ...
26. "He appointed the Moon for certain seasons" (ver. 19). We understand spiritually the Church increasing from the smallest size, and growing old as it were from the mortality of this life; yet so, that it draweth nearer unto the Sun. I speak not of this moon visible to the eye, but of that which is signified by this name. While the Church was in the dark, while she as yet appeared not, shone not forth as yet, men were led astray, and it was said, This is the Church, here is Christ; so that "while the Moon was dark, they shot their arrows at the righteous in heart."(5) How blind is he who now, when the Moon is full, wandereth astray? "He appointed the Moon for certain seasons." For here the Church temporarily is passing away: for this subjection to death will not remain for ever: there will some tithe be an end of waxing and waning; it is appointed for certain seasons. "And the sun knoweth his going down." And what sun is this, but that Sun of righteousness, whom the ungodly will lament on the day of judgment never having risen for them; they who will say on that day, "Therefore we wandered from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness shone not on us, and the sun did not arise upon us."(6) That sun riseth for him who understandeth Christ. ...
27. Nor think, brethren, that the sun ought to be worshipped by some men, because the sun doth sometimes in the Scriptures signify Christ. For such is the madness of men;(7) as if we said that a creature should be worshipped, when it is said, the sun is an emblem of Christ. Then worship the rock also, for it also is a type of Christ.(5) "He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter:"(9) worship the lamb also, since it is a type of Christ. "The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed;"(10) worship the lion also, since it signifieth Christ. Observe how numerous are the types of Christ: all these are Christ in similitude, not in essence. ...
28. What then, when the sun went down, when our Lord suffered? There was a sort of darkness with the Apostles, hope failed, in those to whom He at first seemed great, and the Redeemer of all men. How so? "Thou didst make darkness, and it became night; wherein all the beasts of the forest shall move" (ver. 20). ... Here the beasts of the forest are used in different ways: for these things are always understood in varying senses; as our Lord Himself is at one time termed a lion, at another a lamb. What is so different as a lion and a lamb? But what sort of lamb? One that could overcome the wolf, overcome the lion. He is the Rock, He the Shepherd, He the Gate. The Shepherd entereth by the gate: and He saith," I am the good Shepherd:" and, "I am the Door of the Sheep."(1) ... Learn thus to understand, when these things are spoken figuratively; lest perchance when ye have read that the Rock signifieth Christ,(2) ye may understand it to mean Him in every passage. In one place it meaneth one thing, another in another, just as we can only understand the meaning of a letter by seeing its position.(3) "The lion's whelps roaring after their prey, do seek their meat from God" (ver. 21). Justly then our Lord, when nigh unto His going down, the very Sun of Righteousness recognising His going down, said to His disciples, as if darkness being about to come, the lion would roam about to seek whom he might devour, that that lion could devour no man, unless with leave: "Simon," said He, "this night Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not."(4) When Peter thrice denied,(5) was he not already between the lion's teeth? ...
29. "The Sun hath arisen, and they get them away together, and lay them down in their dens" (ver. 22). More and more as the Sun riseth, so that Christ is recognised by the round world, and glorified therein, do the lion's whelps get them away together; those devils recede from the persecution of the Church, who instigated men to persecute the house of God, by working in the sons of unbelief.(6) Now that none of them dareth persecute the Church, "the Sun hath arisen, and they get them away together." And where are they? "And they lay them down in their dens." Their dens are the hearts of the unbelieving. How many carry lions crouching in their hearts? They burst not forth thence, they make no assault upon the pilgrim Jerusalem. Wherefore do they not so? Because the Sun is already risen, and is shining over the whole world.
30. What art thou doing, O man of God? thou, O Church of God? what art thou, O body of Christ, whose Head is in Heaven? what art thou doing, O man, His unity? "Man," he saith, "shall go forth to his work" (ver. 23). Let therefore this man work good works in the security of the peace of the Church, let him work unto the end. For sometime there will be a sort of general darkening, and a sort of assault will be made, but in the evening, that is, in the end of the world: but now the Church doth work in peace and tranquillity; for" man shall go forth to his work, and to his labour, unto the evening."
31. "O Lord, how great are made Thy works!" (ver. 24). Justly great, justly sublime! where were those works made, that are so great? what was that station where God stood, or that seat whereupon He sat, when He did those works? what was the place where He worked thus? whence did those so beautiful works proceed at the first? To take it word for word, every ordained creation, running by ordinance, beautiful by ordinance, rising by ordinance, setting by ordinance, going through all seasons by ordinance, whence hath it proceeded? whence hath the Church herself received her rise, her growth, her perfection? In what manner is she destined to a consummation in immortality? with what heralding is she preached? by what mysteries is she recommended? by what types is she concealed? by what preaching is she revealed? where hath God done these things? I see great works. "How great are made Thy works, O Lord!" I ask where He hath made them: I find not the place: but I see what followeth: "In Wisdom hast Thou made them all." All therefore Thou hast made in Christ. ... "The earth is full of Thy creation." The earth is full of the creation of Christ. And how so? We discern how: for what was not made by the Father through the Son? Whatever walketh and doth crawl on earth, whatever doth swim in the waters, whatever flieth in the air, whatever doth revolve in heaven, how much more then the earth, the whole universe, is the work of God. But he seems to me to speak here of some new creation, of which the Apostle saith, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God."(7) All who believe in Christ, who put off the old man, and put on the new,(1) are a new creature. "The earth is full of Thy works." On one spot of the earth He was crucified, in one small spot that seed fell into the earth, and died; but brought forth great fruit. ...
32. "The earth is full of Thy creation." Of what creation of Thine is the earth full? Of all trees and shrubs, of all animals and flocks, and of the whole of the human race; the earth is full of the creation of God. We see, know, read, recognise, praise, and in these we preach of Him; yet we are not able to praise respecting these things, as fully as our heart doth abound with praise after the beautiful contemplation of them. But we ought rather to heed that creation, of which the Apostle saith, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."(2) What "old things have passed away"? In the Gentiles, all idolatry; in the Jews themselves, all that servitude unto the Law, all those sacrifices that were harbingers of the present Sacrifice. The oldness of man was then abundant; One came to renovate His own work, to melt His silver, to form His coin, and we now see the earth full of Christians believing in God, turning themselves away from their former uncleanness and idolatry, from a past hope to the hope of a new age: and behold it is not yet realized, but is already possessed in hope, and through that very hope we now sing, and say, "The earth is full of Thy creation." We do not as yet sing this in our country, nor yet in that rest which is promised, the bars of the gates of Jerusalem not being as yet made fast;(3) but still in our pilgrimage gazing upon the whole of this world, upon men who on every side are running unto the faith, fearing hell, despising death, loving eternal life, scorning the present, and filled with joy at such a spectacle, we say, "The earth is full of Thy creation."
33. ... "So is the great and wide sea also; wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts" (ver. 25). He speaketh of the sea as terrible. Snares creep in this world, and surprise the careless suddenly; for who numbereth the temptations that creep? They creep, but beware, lest they snatch us away. Let us keep watch on the Wood; even in the water? even on the waves, we are safe: let not Christ sleep, let not faith sleep; if He hath slept, let Him be awakened; He will command the winds; He will calm the sea;(5) the voyage will be ended, and we shall rejoice in our country. For I see in this terrible sea unbelievers still; for they dwell in barren and bitter waters: but they are both small and great. We know this: many little men of this world are still unbelievers, many great men of this world are so: there are living creatures, both small and great, in this sea. They hate the Church: the name of Christ is a burden to them: they rage not, because they are not permitted; the cruelty which cannot burst forth in deeds, is shut up within the heart. For all, whether small or great, "creeping things, both small and great," who at present grieve at the temples being shut, the altars overthrown, the images broken, the laws which make it a capital crime to sacrifice to idols; all who mourn on this account, are still in the sea. What then of us? And by what road then are we to journey unto our country? Through this very sea, but on the Wood. Fear not the danger; that wood which holdeth together the world doth bear thee up.
34. "There shall go the ships" (ver. 26). Lo, ships float upon that which alarmed you, and sink not. By ships we understand churches; they go among the storms, among the tempests of temptations, among the waves of the world, among the beasts, both small and great. Christ on the wood of His cross is the Pilot. "There shall go the ships." Let not the ships fear, let them not much mind where they float, but by Whom they are steered. "There shall go the ships." What voyage do they find tedious, when they feel that Christ is their Pilot? They will sail safely, let them sail diligently, they will reach their promised haven, they will be led to the land of rest.
35. There is also in that sea somewhat which transcends all creatures, great and small. What is this? Let us hear the Psalm: "There is that Leviathan, whom Thou hast formed to make sport of him." There are creeping things innumerable, both small and great beasts; there shall the ships go, and shall not fear, not only the creeping things innumerable, and beasts both small and great, but not even the serpent which is there; "whom Thou," he speaketh unto God, "hast made to make sport of him." This is a great mystery; and yet I am about to utter what ye already know. Ye know that a certain serpent is the enemy of the Church: ye have not seen him with the eyes of the flesh, but ye see him with the eyes of faith. ...
36. This serpent then, our ancient enemy, glowing with rage, cunning in his wiles, is in the mighty sea. "Here is that Leviathan, whom Thou hast formed to make sport of him." Do thou now make sport of the serpent: for for this end was this serpent made. He falling by his own sin from the sublime realms of the heavens, and made devil instead of angel, received a certain region of his own in this mighty and spacious sea. What thou thinkest his kingdom, is his prison. For many say: wherefore hath the devil received so great power, that he may rule in this world, and prevaileth so much, can do so much? How much prevaileth he? How much can he do? Unless by permission, he can do nothing. Do thou so act, that he may not be allowed to attack thee; or if he be allowed to tempt thee, he may depart vanquished, and may not gain thee. For he hath been allowed to tempt some holy men, servants of God: they overcame him, because they departed not from the way, they whose heel he watched, fell not. ...
37. He then, my brethren, who doth wish to watch the serpent's head, and safely to pass this sea; for it must be that this serpent dwelleth here, and, as I had commenced saying, the devil when he fell from heaven received this region; let him watch his head, on the part of the fear of the world, and of the lusts of the world. For it is hence that he suggesteth some object of fear or of desire; he trieth thy love, or thy fear. If thou learest hell, and lovest the kingdom of God, thou wilt watch his head. ... "There is no power but of God."(1) What then learest thou? Let the dragon be in the waters, let the dragon be in the sea: thou art to pass through it. He is made so as to be made sport of, he is ordained to inhabit this place, this region is given him. Thou thinkest that this habitation is a great thing for him, because thou knowest not the dwellings of the angels whence he fell:(2) what seemeth to thee his glory, is his damnation.
38. ... What then fearest thou? Perhaps he is about to try thy flesh: it is the scourge of thy 'Lord, not the power of thy tempter. His wish is to injure that salvation which is promised: but he is not allowed: but that he may not be allowed, have Christ for thy Head: repel the serpent's head: consent not unto his suggestion, slip not from thy path. "There is that Leviathan, whom Thou hast made to make sport of him."
39. Dost thou wish to see how incapable he is of hurting thee, unless permitted? "These," he saith, "wait all upon Thee, that Thou mayest give them meat in due season" (ver. 27). And this serpent wisheth to devour, but he devoureth not whom he wisheth. ... Thou hast heard what the serpent's meat is. Thou dost not wish that God give thee to be devoured by the serpent; because not the serpent's food: i.e. forsake not the Word of God. For where it is said to the serpent, "Dust thou shalt eat," it is said to the transgressor, "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shall return."(3) Thou dost not wish to be the serpent's food? be not dust. How, thou repliest, shall I not be dust? If thou hast not a taste for earthly things. Hear the Apostle, that thou mayest not be dust. For the body which thou wearest is earth: but do thou refuse to be earth. What meaneth this? "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."(4) If thou dost not set thy affections on earthly things, thou art not earth: if thou art not earth, thou art not devoured by the serpent, whose appointed food is earth. The Lord giveth the serpent his food when He will, what He will: but He judgeth rightly, he cannot be deceived, He giveth him not gold for earth. "When Thou hast given it them, they gather it." ...
40. "When thou openest Thy hand, they shall all be filled with good" (ver. 28). What is it, O Lord, that Thou openest Thy hand? Christ is Thy hand. "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"(5) To whom it is revealed, unto him it is opened: for revelation is opening. "When Thou openest Thy hand, they shall all be filled with good." When Thou revealest Thy Christ, "they shall all be filled with good." But they have not good from themselves; this is oftentimes proved unto them. "When Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled" (ver. 29). Many filled with good have attributed to themselves what they had, and have wished to boast as in their own righteousnesses, and have said to themselves, I am righteous; I am great: and have become self-complacent. Unto these the Apostle speaketh: "What hast thou, that thou didst not receive? "(6) But God, wishing to prove unto man that whatever he hath he hath from Him, so that with good he may gain humility also, sometimes troubleth him; He turneth away His face from him, and he falleth into temptation; and He showeth him that his righteousness, and his walking aright, was only under His government. ...
41. But wherefore dost Thou do this? wherefore dost Thou hide Thy face, that they may be troubled? "Thou shalt take away their breath, and they shall fail." Their breath was their pride; they boast, they attribute things to themselves, they justify themselves. Hide, therefore, Thy face, that they may be troubled: take away their breath, and let them fail; let them cry unto Thee, "Hear me, O Lord, and that soon, for my spirit waxeth faint: hide not Thy face from me."(7) "Thou shalt take away their breath, and they shall fail, and shall be turned to their dust." The man who repenteth of his sin discovereth himself, that he had not strength of himself; and doth confess unto God, saying, that he is earth and ashes. O proud one, thou art turned to thine own dust, thy breath hath been taken away; no longer dost thou boast thyself, no longer extol thyself, no longer justify thyself; thou seest that thou art made of dust, and when the Lord turneth away His face, thou hast fallen back into thine own dust. Pray, therefore, confess thy dust and thy weakness.
42. And see what followeth: "Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit,(1) and they shall be made" (ver. 30). Thou shalt take away their spirit, and send forth Thine own: Thou shalt take away their spirit: they shall have no spirit of their own. Are they then forsaken? "Blessed are the poor in spirit:"(2) but they are not forsaken. They refused to have a spirit of their own: they shall have the Spirit of God. Such were our Lord's words to the future martyrs:(3) "It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." Attribute not your courage to yourselves. If it is yours, He saith, and not Mine, it is obstinacy, not courage. "For we are His workmanship," saith the Apostle, "created unto good works."(4) From His Spirit we have received grace, that we may live unto righteousness: for it is He that justifieth the ungodly.(5) "Thou shall take away their spirit, and they shall fail; Thou shall send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be made: and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth:" that is, with new men, confessing themselves to have been justified, not righteous of their own power, so that the grace of God is in them. What then? When He hath taken away our spirit, we shall be turned again to our dust, beholding to our edification our weakness, that when we receive His Spirit we may be refreshed. See what followeth: "Be the glory of the Lord for ever" (ver. 31). Not thine, not mine, not his, or his; not for a season, but "for ever." "The Lord shall rejoice in His works." Not in thine, as if they were thine: because if thy works are evil, it is through thy iniquity; if good, it is through the grace of God. "The Lord shall rejoice in His works."
43. "Who looketh on the earth, and maketh it tremble; who toucheth the hills, and they shall smoke" (ver. 32). O earth, thou wast exulting in thy good, to thyself thou didst ascribe thy fulness and opulence; behold, the Lord looketh on thee, and causeth thee to tremble. May He look on thee, and make thee tremble: for the trembling of humility is better than the confidence of pride. . . . For it is God, he saith, which worketh in you. For this reason then with trembling, because God worketh in you. Because He gave, because what thou hast cometh not from thee, thou shall work with fear and trembling, for if thou fearest not Him, He will take away what He gave. Work, therefore, with trembling. Hear another Psalm: "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling."(6) If we must rejoice with trembling, God beholdeth us, there cometh an earthquake; when God looketh upon us, let our hearts tremble; then will God rest there. Hear Him in another passage: "Upon whom shall My Spirit rest? Even on him that is lowly and quiet, and who trembleth at My Word."(7)
"Who looketh on the earth, and maketh it tremble; who toucheth the hills, and they shall smoke" (ver. 32). The hills were proud, and boastful of themselves, God had not touched them: He toucheth them, and they shall smoke. What meaneth the smoking of the hills? That they pray unto the Lord. Behold great hills, proud hills, vast hills, prayed not to God: they wished themselves to be entreated, and entreated not Him who was above them. For what powerful, arrogant, proud man is there upon the earth, who deigneth humbly to entreat God? I speak of the ungodly, not of the "cedars of Libanus, which the Lord hath planted." Every ungodly man, unhappy soul, knoweth not how to entreat God, while he wisheth himself to be entreated by men. He is a hill; it is needful that God touch him, that he may smoke: when he hath begun to smoke, he will offer prayers unto God, as it were the sacrifice of his heart. He smoketh unto God, he then beateth his breast: he beginneth to weep, for smoke doth elicit tears.
44. "I will sing unto the Lord in my life" (ver. 33). What will sing? Everything that is willing. Let us sing unto the Lord in our life. Our life at present is only hope; our life will be eternity hereafter: the life of mortal life, is the hope of an everlasting life. "I will praise my God while I have my being." Since I am in Him for ever and ever, while I have my being, I will praise my God. Let us not imagine that, when we have commenced praising God in that state, we shall have any other work: our whole life will be for the praises of God. If we become weary of Him whom we praise, we may also become weary of praising. If He is ever loved, He is ever praised by us.
45. "Let my discourse be pleasing to Him: my joy shall be in the Lord" (ver. 34). What is the discourse of man unto God, save the confession of sins? Confess unto God what thou art, and thou hast discoursed with Him. Discourse unto Him, do good works, and discourse. "Wash you, make you clean," saith Isaiah.(8) What is it to discourse unto God? Unfold thyself to him who knoweth thee, that He may unfold Himself to thee who knowest not Him. Behold, it is thy discourse that pleaseth the Lord; the offering of thy humility, the tribulation of thy heart, the holocaust of thy life, this pleaseth God. But what is pleasing to thyself? "My joy shall be in the Lord." This is that discoursing which I meant between God and thyself: show thyself to Him who knoweth thee, and He showeth Himself unto thee who knowest not him. Pleasing unto Him is thy confession: sweet unto thee is His grace. He hath Spoken Himself unto thee. How?By the Word. What Word?
Christ. . . .
46. "Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth" (ver. 35). He seemeth angry! O holy soul, which here doth sing and groan! Would that our soul were with that very soul! Would that it were coupled with it, associated, conjoined with it! It shall behold also His loving-kindness when he is angry. For who but he who is filled with charity, understandeth this? Thou tremblest, because he curseth. And who doth curse? A saint. Without doubt he is listened to. But it is said unto the saints," Bless, and curse not."(1) What is then the sense of the words, "Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth"? Let them utterly be consumed; let their spirit be taken away, that He may send forth His own Spirit, and they may be restored. "And the ungodly, so that they be no more." In what that they be no more, save as wicked men? Let them therefore be justified, that they may no longer be ungodly. The Psalmist saw this, and was filled with joy, and repeateth the first verse of the Psalm: "Bless thou the Lord, O my soul]." Let our soul bless the Lord, brethren, since He hath deigned to give unto us both understanding and the power of language, and unto you attention and earnestness in hearing. Let each, as he can recall to mind what he hath heard, by mutual conversation stir up the food ye have received, ruminate on what ye have heard, let it not descend in you into the bowels of forgetfulness. Let the treasure to be desired(2) rest upon your lips. These matters have been sought out and discovered with great labour, with great labour have they been announced and discoursed of; may our toil be fruitful unto you, and may our soul bless the Lord.
1. This Psalm is the first of those to which is prefixed the word Allelujah; the meaning of which word, or rather two words, is, Praise the Lord. For this reason he beginneth with praises: "O confess unto the Lord, and call upon His Name" (ver. 1); for this confession is to be understood as praise, just as these words of our Lord, "I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth."(4) For after commencing with praise, calling upon God is wont to follow, whereunto he that prayeth doth next add s his longings: whence the Lord's Prayer itself hath at the commencement a very brief praise, in these words," Our Father which art in Heaven."(6) The things prayed for, then follow. . . . This also followeth, "Tell the people what things He hath done;"(7) or rather, to translate literally from the Greek, as other Latin copies too have it, "Preach the Gospel of His works among the Gentiles." Unto whom is this addressed, save unto the Evangelists in prophecy?
2. "O sing unto Him, and play on instruments unto Him" (ver. 2). Praise Him both by word and deed; for we sing with the voice, while we play with an instrument, that is, with our hands. "Let your talking be of all His wondrous works. Be ye praise in His holy Name" (ver. 3). These two verses may without any absurdity seem paraphrases of the two words above; so that, "Let your talking be of all His wondrous works," may express the words, "O sing unto Him;" and what followeth, "be ye praised in His holy Name," may be referred to the words, "and play on instruments unto Him;" the former relating to the "good word" wherewith we sing unto Him, in which His wondrous works are told; the latter to the good work, in which sweet music is played unto Him, so that no man may wish to be praised for a good work on the score of his own power to do it. For this reason, after saying, "be ye praised," which assuredly they who work well deservedly may, he added, "in His holy Name," since "he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."(8) . . . This is to be praised in His holy Name. Whence we read also in another Psalm: "My soul shall be praised in the Lord: let the meek hear thereof, and be glad; which here in a sense followeth, "Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord:" for thus the meek are glad, who do not rival with a bitter jealousy those whom they imitate as already workers of good.
3. "Seek the Lord, and be strengthened"(10) (ver. 4). This is very literally construed from the Greek, though it may seem not a Latin word: whence other copies have, "be ye confirmed;" others, "be ye corroborated." . . . While these words, then, "Come unto Him, and be enlightened,"(11) apply to seeing; those in the text relate to doing: "Seek the Lord, and be strengthened." . . . But what meaneth, "Seek His face evermore"? I know indeed that to cling unto God is good for me;(12) but if He is always being sought, when is He found? Did he mean by "evermore," the whole of the life we live here, whence we become conscious that we ought thus to seek, since even when found He is still to be sought? To wit, faith hath already found Him, but hope still seeketh Him. But love hath both found Him through faith, and seeketh to have Him by sight, where He will then be found so as to satisfy us, and no longer to need our search. For unless faith discovered Him in this life, it would not be said, "Seek the Lord." Also, if when discovered by faith, He were not still to be diligently sought, it would not be said, "For if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."(1) . . . And truly this is the sense of the words, "Seek His face evermore;" meaning that discovery should not terminate that seeking, by which love is testified, but with the increase of love the seeking of the discovered One should increase.
4. "Remember," he saith, "His marvellous works that He hath done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth" (ver. 5). This passage seemeth like that, "Thou shall say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you:" an expression which, in ever so small part, scarce a mind(2) taketh in. Then mentioning His own Name, He mercifully mingled in His grace towards men, saying, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; this is My Name for ever."(3) By which He would have it to be understood, that they whose God He declared Himself lived with Him for ever, and He said this, which might be understood even by children, that they who by the great powers of love knew how to seek His face for evermore, might according to their capacity comprehend, I AM THAT I AM.
5. Unto whom is it said, "O ye seed of Abraham His servant, ye children of Jacob, His chosen"? (ver. 6). . . . He next addeth, "He is the Lord our God: His judgments are in all the world" (yet. 7). Is He the God of the Jews only?(4) God forbid! "He is the Lord our God:" because the Church, where His judgments are preached, is in all the world. . . .
6. "He hath been alway mindful of His covenant" (ver. 8). Other copies read, "for evermore;" and this arises from the ambiguity of the Greek. But if we are to understand" alway" of this world and not of eternity, why, when he explaineth what covenant He was mindful of, doth he add, "The word that He made to a thousand generations"? Now this may be understood with a certain limitation; but he afterwards saith, "Even the covenant that He made with Abraham" (ver. 9): "and the oath that He sware unto Isaac; and appointed the same unto Jacob lot a law, anti to Israel for an everlasting,(5) testament" (ver. 10). But if in this passage the Old Testament is to be understood, on account of the land of Canaan; for thus the language of the Psalm runneth, "saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan: the lot of your inheritance" (ver. 11): how is it to be understood as everlasting, since that earthly inheritance could not be everlasting? And for this reason it is called the Old Testament, because it is abolished by the New. But a thousand generations do not seem to signify anything eternal, since they involve an end; and yet are also too numerous for this very temporal state. For by howsoever few years a generation is limited, such as in Greek is called genea, whereof the shortest period some have fixed is at fifteen years, after which period man hath the power of generation; what then are those "thousand generations," not only from the time of Abraham, when that promise was made him, unto the New Testament, but from Adam himself down to the end of the world? For who would dare to say that this world should last for 15000 years? Hence it seemeth to me that we ought not to understand here the Old Testament, which at said through the prophet was to be cancelled by the New: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant."(6) . . . After saying, "He hath been mindful of His covenant unto an age;" which we ought to understand as lasting for evermore, the covenant, namely, of justification and an eternal inheritance, which God hath promised to faith; he addeth, "and the Word that He commanded(7) unto a thousand generations." What meaneth "commanded"? . . . The command then was faith, that the righteous should live by faith;(8) and an eternal inheritance is set before this faith. "A thousand generations," then, are, on account of the perfect number, to be understood for all; that is, as long as generation succeedeth generation, so long is it commanded to us to live by faith. This the people of God doth observe, the sons of promise who succeed by birth, and depart by death, until every generation be finished; and this is signified by the number thousand; because the solid square of the number ten, ten times ten, and this taken ten times amounts to a thousand. "Even the covenant," he saith, "which He made with Abraham: and the oath that He sware unto Isaac; and appointed the same unto Jacob," that is, Jacob himself, "for a law." These are the very three patriarchs, whose God He calleth Himself in a special sense, whom the Lord also doth name in the New Testament, where He saith, "Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven."(1) This is everlasting inheritance. . . .
7. He next followeth out the history well known in the truth of the holy Scriptures. "When they were in small numbers, very few, and they strangers in the land" (vet. 12); that is, in the land of Canaan. . . . But some copies have the words "very few, and they strangers," in the accusative case,(2) the translator having turned the Greek phrase too literally into Latin. If we were to render the whole clause in this way, we must say, "that they were very few, and they strangers;" but the phrase, "while they were," is the meaning of the Greek; and the verb, "to be," takes not an accusative, but a nominative after it.(3)
8. "What time as they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people" (ver. 13). This is a repetition of what he had said, "from one nation to another." "He suffered no man to do them harm: but reproved even kings for their sakes" (ver. 14). "Touch not," He said, "Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm" (ver. 15). He declareth the words of God chiding or reproving kings, that they might not harm the holy fathers, while they were small in number, very few, and they strangers in the land of Canaan. Although these words be not read in the books of that history, yet they are to be understood as either secretly spoken, as God speaketh in the hearts of men by unseen and true visions, or even as announced through an Angel. For both the king of Gerar and the king of the Egyptians were warned from Heaven not to harm Abraham? and another king not to harm Isaac,(5) and others not to harm Jacob;(6) while they were very few, and strangers, before he went over into Egypt to sojourn with his sons: which is understood to be herein mentioned. But since it occurred to ask, before they passed over and multiplied in Egypt, how so few in number, and those strangers in a foreign land, could maintain themselves: he next addeth, "He suffered no man to do them wrong," etc.
9. But it may well excite a question, in what sense they were styled (Christs, or) anointed, before there was any unction, from which this title was given to the kings? . . . Whence then were those patriarchs at that tithe called "anointed"? For that they were prophets, we read concerning Abraham; and certainly, what is manifestly said of him, should be understood of them also. Are they styled "christs," because, even though secretly, yet they were already Christians? For although the flesh of Christ came from them, nevertheless Christ came before them; for He thus answered the Jews, "Before Abraham was, I am."(8) But how could they not know Him, or not believe in Him; since they are called prophets for this very reason, because, though somewhat darkly, they announced the Lord beforehand? Whence He saith Himself openly, "Your father Abraham desired to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad."(9) For no man was ever reconciled unto God outside of that faith which is in Christ Jesus, either before His Incarnation, or after: as it is most truly defined by the Apostle: "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus."(10)
10. He then beginneth to relate how it happened that they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people. "He calleth," he saith, "for a famine upon the land: and brake all the staff of bread" (ver. 16). Thus it happened that they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people. But the expressions of the holy Scriptures are not to be negligently passed by. "He called," he saith, "for a famine upon the land;" as if famine were some person, or some animated body, or some spirit that would obey Him who called. . . . Under this impression the old Romans consecrated some such deities, as the goddess Fever, and the god Paleness. Or meaneth it, as is more credible, He said there should be famine; so that calling be the same thing as mentioning by name; mentioning by name, as speaking; speaking, as commanding? Nor doth the Apostle say,(11) "He calleth those things which be not, that they may be;" but, "as though they were." For with God that hath already happened which, according to His disposition, is fixed for the future: for of Him it is elsewhere said, "He who made things to come."(12) And here when famine happened, then it is said to have been called, that is, that that which had been determined in His secret government, might be realized. Lastly, he at once expounds, how He called for the famine, saying, "He brake all the staff of bread."
11. "But He had sent a man before them" (ver. 17). What man? "Even Joseph." How did He send him? "Joseph was sold to be a bond-servant." When this happened, it was the sin of his brethren, and, nevertheless, God sent Joseph into Egypt. We should therefore medirate on this important and necessary subject, how God useth well the evil works of men, as they on the other hand use ill the good works of God.
12. Next he doth relate the story, mentioning what Joseph suffered in his low estate, and how he was raised on high. "His feet they hurt in the stocks: the iron entered into his soul, until his word came" (ver. 18). That Joseph was put in irons, we do not indeed read; but we ought no ways to doubt that it was so. For some things might be passed over in that history, which nevertheless would not escape the Holy Spirit, who speaketh in these Psalms. We understand by the iron which entered into his soul, the tribulation of stern necessity; for he did not say body, but "soul." There is a somewhat similar expression in the Gospel, where Simeon saith unto Mary, "A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also."(1) That is, the Passion of the Lord, which was a fall unto many, and in which the secrets of many hearts were revealed, since their sentiments respecting the Lord were extorted from them, without doubt made His own Mother exceeding sorrowful, heavily struck with human bereavement. Now Joseph was in this tribulation, "until his word came," with which he truly interpreted dreams: whence he was introduced to the king, that unto him also he might foretell what would happen in respect to his dreams.(2) But since he said, "Until his words were heard," that we might not altogether so understand "his," that any one might think so great an event was to be ascribed unto man; he at once added, "The word of the Lord inflamed him" (ver. 19); or, as other copies have it more closely from the Greek, "The word of the Lord fired him," that he also might be reputed amongst those to whom it is said, "Receive ye praise in His holy Name."(3)
13. "The king sent and loosed him, the prince of the peoples, and let him go free" (ver. 20). The "king" is the same as "the prince of the peoples:" he "loosed" him from his bonds "and let him go free" from his prison. "He made him lord also of his house: and ruler of all his substance" (ver. 21). "That he might inform his princes like unto himself, and teach his old men wisdom" (ver. 22). The Greek hath, "and teach his elders wisdom." Which might altogether be rendered to the letter thus; "Might inform his princes like unto himself, and make his eiders wise." The word translated old men being presbyters or elders, not gerontas, old men: and to teach wisdom being from the Greek to sophize, which cannot be rendered by a single word in Latin, and is from the word sophia, wisdom, different from prudence, which is in Greek phronesis. Yet we do not read this in the high elevation of Joseph, as we read not of fetters in his low estate. But how could it happen that so great a man, the worshipper of the One True God, whilst in Egypt, should have been intent upon the nourishing of bodies, and the government of carnal matters only, and have felt no anxiety for souls, and how he could render them better? But those things are written in that history, which, according to the intention of the writer, in whom was the Holy Spirit, were judged sufficient for signifying future events in that narration.
14. "Joseph also came into Egypt, and Jacob was a stranger in the land of Ham" (ver. 23). Israel is the same with Jacob, as is Egypt with the land of Ham. Here it is very plainly shown, that the Egyptian race sprang from the seed of Chain, the son of Noah, whose first-born was Canaan. So that in those copies wherein in this passage Canaan is read, we must alter the reading. It is better construed, "was a stranger," than "dwelt," as other copies have it: which would be the same as "was an inhabitant," for it meaneth nothing different; the very same word is used in the Greek passage above, where it is said, "Very few, and they strangers in the land." Moreover, the state of an incola or accola doth not signify a native, but a stranger. Behold how "they went from one nation to another." What had been briefly proposed, hath been briefly explained in the narration. But from what kingdom they passed over to another people may well be asked. For they were not yet reigning in the land of Canaan, because the kingdom of the people of Israel had not yet been established there. How then can it be understood, except by anticipation, because the kingdom of their seed was destined there to exist?
15. Next is related what happened in Egypt. "And He increased," he saith, "His people exceedingly, and made them stronger than their enemies" (ver. 24). Even the whole of this is briefly set forth, in order that the manner in which it took place may be afterwards related. For the people of God was not made stronger than their enemies the Egyptians, at the time when their male offspring were slain, or when they were worn out with making bricks; but when by His powerful hand, by the signs and portents of the Lord their God, they became objects of fear and of honour, until the opposition of the hardened king was overcome, and the Red Sea overwhelmed the persecutor with his army.
16. "And He turned their heart so, that they hated His people, and dealt untruly with His servants" (ver. 25 ). Is it to be in any wise understood or believed, that God turneth man's heart to do sin? . . . For they were not good before they hated His people; but being malignant and ungodly, they were such as would readily envy their prosperous sojourners. And so, in that He multiplied His own people, this bountiful act turned the wicked to envy. For envy is the hatred of another's prosperity. In this sense, therefore, He turned their heart, so that through envy they hated His people, and dealt untruly with His servants. It was not then by making their hearts evil, but by doing good to His people, that He turned their hearts, that were evil of their own accord, to hatred. For He did not pervert a righteous heart, but turned one perverted of its own accord to the hatred of His people, while He was to make a good use of that evil;(1) not by making them evil, but by lavishing blessings upon those, which the wicked might most readily envy.
17. The following verses, which are sung in praise of Him when Allelujah is chanted, show how He used this hatred of theirs, both for the trial of His own people, and for the glory of His Name, which is profitable for us. "He sent Moses His servant, and Aaron whom He had chosen him" (vet. 26). "Whom He had chosen," would be sufficient; but there is no difficulty in the addition of "him." It is a phrase of Scripture, as, "The land in which they shall dwell in it:"(2) a phrase which the divine pages are full of.
18. "He set forth in them the words of His tokens, and of His wonders in the land of Ham" (ver. 27). We ought not to understand by "the words of His tokens," words literally, words with which the tokens and wonders were worked, that is, which they uttered, that these tokens and wonders might take place. For many were performed without words, either with a rod, or with outstretched hand, or by ashes sent towards heaven. . . .
19. "He sent darkness, and made it dark" (ver. 28). This is also written among the plagues with which the Egyptians were smitten. But what followeth, is variously read in different copies. For some have, "and they provoked His words;" while others read, "and they provoked not His words;" but the reading first mentioned we have found in most; while, where the negative particle is added, we could hardly discover two copies. But perhaps the false reading has abounded owing to the easy sense; for what is easier understood than this, "They provoked His words," that is, by their contumacious rebellions? We have endeavoured to explain the other reading also according to some true sense: and this for the present occurs "They provoked not His words," that is, in Moses and Aaron; because they most patiently bore with a very stiffnecked people, until all things which God had determined to work by them, were fulfilled in order.
20. "He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish" (vet. 29). "He made their land frogs, yea, even in the king's chambers" (ver. 30): as if he were to say, He turned their land into frogs. For there was so great a multitude of frogs, that this might well be said by hyperbole.
21. "He spake the word, and there came all manner of flies, and lice in all their quarters" (vet. 31). If it be asked when He spake, it was in His Word before it took place; and there it was, without time, at what time it should take place: although even then He commanded it to be done, when it was to be done, through Angels, and through his servants Moses and Aaron.
22. "He made their rains hail" (ver. 32). It is a similar expression to the former, "He made their land frogs;" except that the whole land was not actually turned into frogs, though the whole of the rain may have been turned into hail. "A burning fire in their land:" understand, "He sent."
23. "He smote their vines also and fig-trees.; and brake every tree of their coasts" (ver. 33). This was done by the violence of the hail, and by lightnings; whence he spoke of the fire as "burning."
24. "He spake the word, and the locust came, and the caterpillar, of which there was no number" (ver. 34). The locusts and the caterpillars are one plague: of which the one is the parent, the other the offspring.
25. "And did eat up all the grass in their land, and devoured the fruit of the ground" (ver. 35). Even grass is fruit, as Scripture is wont to speak, which calleth even the ripe corn grass; but it wished these two things to harmonize in number with the two which it had spoken of before, that is, the locust and the caterpillar. But the whole of this doth belong to the variety of speech, which is a remedy for weariness, not to any difference of senses.
26. "He smote every first-born in their land: even the first-fruits of all their strength" (vet. 36). This is the last plague, excepting the death in the Red Sea. "The first-fruits of all their strength," I imagine to be an expression derived from the first-born of cattle. These plagues are ten in number, but they are not all mentioned, nor in the same order in which they are there read to have happened. For praise-giving is free from the law which bindeth one who is relating or composing a history. And since the Holy Spirit is the Author and Dictator, through the Prophet, of this praise; by the very same authority with which He guided him who wrote that history, he doth both mention something to have taken place which is not there read, and passeth over what is there read.
27. Now he addeth this also to the praises of God, that He led the Israelites out of Egypt enriched with silver and gold; because even they were then in such a condition, that they could not as yet despise the just and due, though temporal, reward of their toils. . . ."He brought them forth also in silver and gold" (ver. 37): this too is a Scripture idiom; for "in silver and gold" is said for the same as if it had been said "with silver and gold: there was not one feeble person among their tribes:" in body, not in mind. This also was a great blessing of God, that in this necessity of removal there was no infirm person.
28. "Egypt was glad at their departing: for their fear fell upon them" (ver. 38); that is, the fear of the Hebrews upon the Egyptians. For "their fear" is not that with which the Hebrews feared, but that with which they were feared. Some one will say, how then were the Egyptians unwilling to dismiss them? why did they let them go as if they expected them to return? why did they lend them gold and silver, as to men who were to return, and to repay them, if" Egypt was glad at their departing"? But we must understand, after that final destruction of the Egyptians, and the terrible overthrow of the mighty pursuing army in the Red Sea, that the rest of the Egyptians feared lest the Hebrews should return, and with great ease crush the relics of them: illustrating what he had stated, that He made His people stronger than their enemies.
29. He now proceedeth to the divine blessings which were conferred upon them as they wandered in the desert. "He spread out a cloud to be their covering: and fire to give them light in the night season" (ver. 39). This is as clear as it is well known.
30. "They asked, and the quail came" (ver. 40). They did not desire quails, but flesh. But since the quail is flesh, and in this Psalm he speaketh not of the provocation of those who did not please God, but of the faith of the elect, the true seed of Abraham; they are to be understood to have desired that that might come which might crush the murmurs of those who provoked. Then in the next line, "And He filled them with the bread of heaven," he has not indeed named manna, but it is obscure to none who hath read those records.
31. "He opened the rock of stone, and the waters flowed out: so that rivers ran in the dry places" (ver. 41). This fact too is understood as soon as read.
32. But in all these blessings of His, God doth commend in Abraham the merit of faith. For the Psalmist goeth on to say, "For why? He remembered His holy promise, which He made to Abraham His servant" (ver. 42). "And He brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen with gladness" (ver. 43). What he said, "His people," he has repeated in, "His chosen." So also what he said, "with joy," he has repeated in, "with gladness." "And gave them the lands of the heathen: and they took the labours of the people in possession" (ver. 44). "The lands of the heathen," and "the labours of the people," are the same; and the words, "He gave," are repeated in these, "they took in possession."
33. . . ."That they may keep His statutes, and seek out His law" (ver. 45). Lastly, since by the seed of Abraham he wished those to be understood here, who were truly the seed of Abraham, such as were not wanting even in that people; as the Apostle Paul clearly showeth, when he saith, "But not in all of them was God well pleased;"(1) for if He was not pleased with all, surely there were some in whom He was well pleased: since then this Psalm praiseth such men as this, he hath said nothing here of the iniquities and provocations and bitterness of those with whom God was not well pleased. But since not only the justice but also the mercy of Almighty God, the merciful, was shown even unto the wicked; concerning these attributes the rest of the Psalm pursueth the praises of God. And yet both sorts were in one people: nor did the latter pollute the good with the contagion of their iniquities. For "the Lord knoweth who are His;"(2) and if he cannot separate in this world from wicked men, yet, "let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." . . .
1. This Psalm also hath the title Allelujah prefixed to it: and this twice. But some say, that one Allelujah belongeth to the end of the former Psalm, the other to the beginning of this. And they assert, that all the Psalms bearing this title have Allelujah at the end, but not all at the beginning; so that they will not allow any Psalm which hath not Allelujah at the end, to have it at the beginning; supposing that what seemeth to belong to the commencement, really belongeth to the end of the former Psalm. But until they persuade us by some sure proofs that this is true, we will follow the general custom, which, whenever it findeth Allelujah, attributes it to the same Psalm, at the head of which it is found. For there are very few copies (and I have found this in none of the Greek copies, which I have been able to inspect) which have Allelujah at the end of the CLth Psalm; after which there is no other which belongeth to the same canon. But not even this could outweigh custom, although all the copies had it so. For it might be that, with some reference to the praise of God, the whole book of Psalms, which is said to consist of five books (for they say that the books severally end where it is written Amen, Amen), might be closed with this last Allelujah, after all that hath been sung; nor, on account of the end of the CLth Psalm, do I see that it is necessary that all the Psalms entitled Allelujah, should have Allelujah at the end. But when there is a double Allelujah at the head of a Psalm, why as our Lord sometimes once, sometimes twice over, saith Amen, in the same way Allelujah may not sometimes be used once, sometimes twice, I know not: especially, since as in this CVth, both the Allelujahs are placed after the mark by which the number of the Psalm is described, whereas the one, if it belonged to the end of the former Psalm, ought to have been placed before the number; and the Allelujah which belonged to the Psalm of this number, should have been written after the number. But per-halls even in this an ignorant habit hath prevailed, and some reason may be assigned of which we are as yet uninformed, so that the judgment of truth ought rather to be our guide than the prejudice of custom. In the mean time, before we are fully instructed in this matter, whenever we find Allelujah written, whether once or twice, after the number of the Psalm, according to the most usual custom of the Church, we will ascribe it to that Psalm to which the same number is prefixed; confessing that we both believe the mysteries of all the titles in the Psalms, and of the order of the same Psalms, to be important, and that we have not yet been able, as we wish to penetrate them.
2. But I find these two Psalms, the CVth and CVIth so connected, that in one of them, the first, the people of God is praised in the person of the elect, of whom there is no complaint, whom I imagine to have been there in those with whom God was well pleased;(1) but in the following Psalm those are mentioned among the same people who have provoked God; though the mercy of God was not wanting even to these. . . . This Psalm therefore beginneth like the former; "Confess ye unto the Lord?" But in that Psalm these words follow: "And call upon His Name:" whereas here, it is as follows "For He is gracious? and His mercy endureth for ever" (ver. 1). Wherefore in this passage a confession of sins may be understood; for after a few verses we read, "We have sinned with our fathers, we have done amiss, and dealt wickedly;" but in the words, "For He is gracious, and His mercy endureth for ever," there is chiefly the praise of God, and in His praise confession. Although when any one confesses his sins, he ought to do so with praise of God; nor is a confession of sins a pious one, unless it be without despair, and with calling upon the mercy of God. It therefore doth contain His praise, whether in words, when it calleth Him gracious and merciful, or in the feeling only, when he believeth this. . . . If that mercy be here understood, in respect of which no man can be happy without God; we may render it better, "for ever:" but if it be that mercy which is shown to the wretched, that they may either be consoled in misery, or even freed from it; it is better construed, "to the end of the world," in which there will never be wanting wretched persons to whom that mercy may be shown. Unless indeed any man ventured to say, that some mercy of God will not be wanting even to those who shall be condemned with the devil and his angels; not a mercy by which they may be freed from that condemnation, but that it may be in some degree softened for them: and that thus the mercy of God may be styled eternal, as exercised over their eternal misery.(3) . . .
3. "Who can express the mighty acts of the Lord?" (ver. 2). Full of the consideration of the Divine works, while he entreateth His mercy, "Who," he saith, "can express the mighty acts of the Lord, or make all His praises heard?" We must supply what was said above, to make the sense complete here, thus, "Who shall make all His praises heard?" that is, who is sufficient to make all His praises heard? "Shall make" then "heard," he saith; that is, cause that they be heard; showing, that the mighty acts of the Lord and His praises are so to be spoken of, that they may be preached to those who hear them. But who can make "all," heard? Is it that as the next words are, "Blessed are they that alway keep judgment, and do righteousness in every time" (ver. 3); he perhaps meant those praises of His, which are understood as His works in His commandments? "For it is God," saith the Apostle, "who worketh in you,"(4) . . . since He worketh in these things in a manner that cannot be spoken. "Who will do all His praises heard?" that is, who, when he hath heard them, doth all His praises? which are the works of His commandments. As far as they are done, although all which are heard are not performed, He is to be praised, who "worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure."(4) For this reason, while he might have said, all His commandments, or, all the works of His commandments; he preferred saying, "His praises." ...
4. But unless there were some difference between judgment and righteousness, we should not read in another Psalm, "Until righteousness turn again unto judgment."(1) The Scripture, indeed, loveth to place these two words together; as, "Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His seat;"(2) and this, "He shall make thy righteousness as clear as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day;"(3) where there is apparently a repetition of the same sentiment. And perhaps on account of the resemblance of signification one may be put for the other, either judgment for righteousness, or righteousness for judgment: yet, if they be spoken of in their proper sense, I doubt not that there is some difference; viz. that he is said to keep judgment who judgeth rightly, but he to do righteousness who acts righteously. And I think that the verse, "Until righteousness turn again unto judgment" may not absurdly be understood in this sense: that here also those are called blessed, who keep judgment in faith, and do righteousness in deed....
5. Next, since God justifieth, that is, maketh men righteous, by healing them from their iniquities, a prayer followeth: "Remember me, O Lord, according to the favour that Thou bearest unto Thy people" (ver. 4): that is, that we may be among those with whom Thou art well pleased; since God is not well pleased with them all. "0 visit me with Thy salvation." This is the Saviour Himself, in whom sins are forgiven, and souls healed, that they may be able to keep judgment, and do righteousness; and since they who here speak know such men to be blessed, they pray for this themselves...."Visit us," then, "with Thy salvation," that is, with Thy Christ. "To see the felicity of Thy chosen, and to rejoice in the gladness of Thy people" (ver. 5): that is, visit us for this reason with Thy salvation, that we may see the felicity of Thy chosen, and rejoice in the gladness of Thy people. For "felicity"(4) some copies read "sweetness;" as in the former passage, "For He is gracious;" where others read, "for He is sweet." And it is the same word in the Greek, as is elsewhere read, "The Lord shall show sweetness:"(5) which some have translated "felicity," others "bounty." But what meaneth, "Visit us to see the felicity of Thy chosen:" that is, that happiness which Thou givest to Thine elect: except that we may not remain blind, as those unto whom it is said, "But now ye say we see: therefore your sin remaineth."(6) For the Lord giveth sight to the blind,(7) not by their own merits, but in the felicity He giveth to His chosen, which is the meaning of "the felicity of Thy chosen:" as, the help of my countenance, is not of myself, but is my God.(8) And we speak of our daily bread, as ours, but we add, Give unto us.(9) ... "That Thou mayest be praised with Thine inheritance." I wonder this verse hath been so interpreted in many copies, since the Greek phrase is one and the same in these three verses.... But since this seemeth a doubtful expression, if that sense be true according to which interpreters have preferred, "That Thou mayest be praised," the two preceding verses also must be so understood, because, as I have said, there is one Greek expression in these three verses; so that the whole should be thus understood, "Visit us with Thy salvation, that Thou mayest see the felicity of Thy chosen;" that is, visit us for this purpose, that Thou mayest cause us to be there, and mayest see us there; that "Thou mayest rejoice in the gladness of Thy people," that is, that Thou mayest be said to rejoice, since they rejoice in Thee; that "Thou mayest be praised with Thine inheritance," that is, mayest be praised with it, since it may not be praised save for Thy sake....
6. But let us hear what they next confess: "we have sinned with our fathers: we have done amiss, and dealt wickedly" (ver. 6). What meaneth "with our fathers"? ... "Our fathers," he saith, "regarded not Thy wonders in Egypt" (ver. 7); and many other things also, he doth relate of their sins. Or is, "we have sinned with our fathers," to be understood as meaning, we have sinned like our fathers, that is, by imitating their sins? If it be so, it should be supported by some example of this mode of expression: which did not occur to me when I sought on this occasion an instance of any one saying that he had sinned, or done anything, with another, whom he had imitated by a similar act after a long interval of time. What meaneth then, "Our fathers understood not Thy wonders;" save this, they did not know what Thou didst wish to convince them of by these miracles? What indeed, save life eternal, (10) and a good, not temporal, but immutable, which is waited for only through endurance? For this reason they impatiently murmured, and provoked, and they asked to be blessed with present and fugitive blessings, "Neither were they mindful of the greatness of Thy mercy." He reproveth both their understanding and memory. Understanding there was need of, that they might meditate unto what eternal blessings God was calling them through these temporal ones; and of memory, that at least they might not forget the temporal wonders which had been wrought, and might faithfully believe, that by the same power which they had already experienced, God would free them from the persecutions of their enemies; whereas they forgot the aid which He had given them in Egypt, by means of such wonders, to crush their enemies. "And they provoked, as they went up to the sea, even to the Red Sea."(1) We ought especially to notice how the Scripture doth censure the not understanding that which ought to have been understood, and the not remembering that which ought to have been remembered; which men are unwilling to have ascribed to their own fault, for no other reason than that they may pray less, and be less humble unto God, in whose sight they should confess what they are, and might by praying for His aid, become what they are not. For it is better to accuse even the sins of ignorance and negligence, that they may be done away with, than to excuse them, so that they remain; and it is better to clear them off by calling upon God, than to clench them by provoking Him.
He addeth, that God acted not according to their unbelief. "Nevertheless," he saith, "He saved them for His Name's sake: that He might make His power to be known" (ver. 8): not on account of any deservings of their own.
7. "He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up" (ver. 9). We do not read that any voice was sent forth from Heaven to rebuke the sea; but he bath called the Divine Power by which this was effected, a rebuke: unless indeed any one may choose to say, that the sea was secretly rebuked, so that the waters might hear, and yet men could not. The power by which God acteth is very abstruse and mysterious, a power which He causeth that even things devoid of sense instantly obey at His will. "So He led them through the deeps, as through a wilderness." He calleth a multitude of waters the deeps. For some wishing to give the sense of this whole verse, have translated, "So He led them forth amid many waters." What then doth "through the deeps, as through a wilderness," mean, except that that had become as a wilderness from its dryness, where before had been the watery deeps?
8. "And He saved them from the hating ones"(2) (ver. 10). Some translators, in order to avoid an expression unusual in Latin, have rendered the word, by a circumlocution, "And He saved them from the hand of those that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy." What price was given in this redemption? Is it a prophecy, since this deed was a figure of Baptism, wherein we are redeemed from the hand of the devil at a great price, which price is the Blood of Christ? whence this is more consistently figured forth, not by any sea indiscriminately, but by the Red Sea; since blood hath a red colour.
9. "As for those that troubled them, the waters overwhelmed them: there was not one of them left" (ver. 11); not of all the Egyptians, but of those who pursued the departing Israelites, desirous either of taking or of killing them.
10. "Then believed they in His words" (ver. 12). The expression seemeth barely Latin, for he saith not "believed His word,"(3) or "on His words,"(4) but "in His words;"(5) yet it is very frequent in Scripture. "And praised praise unto Him;" such an expression as when we say, "This servitude he served," "such a life he lived." He is here alluding to that well-known hymn, commencing, "I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and the rider hath He thrown into the sea."(6)
11. "They acted hastily: they forgot His works" (ver. 13): other copies read more intelligibly, "They hastened, they forgot His works, and would not abide His counsel." For they ought to have thought, that so great works of God towards themselves were not without a purpose, but that they invited them to some endless happiness, which was to be waited for with patience; but they hastened to make themselves happy with temporal things, which give no man true happiness, because they do not quench insatiable longing: for "whosoever," saith our Lord, "shall drink of this water, shall thirst again."(7)
12. Lastly, "And they lusted a lust in the wilderness, and they tempted God in the dry land" (ver. 14). The "dry land," or land without water, and "desert," are the same: so also are, "they lusted a lust," and, "they tempted God." The form of speech is the same as above, "they praised a praise."(8)
13. "And He gave them their desire, and sent fulness withal into their souls" (ver. 15). But He did not thus render them happy: for it was not that fulness of which it is said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."(9) In this passage he doth not speak of the rational soul, but of the soul as giving animal life to the body; to the substance of which belong meat and drink, according to what is said in the Gospel, "Is not the soul more than meat, and the body than raiment?"(1) as if it belonged to the soul to eat, to the body to be clothed.
14. "And they angered Moses in the tents, and Aaron the saint of the Lord" (ver. 16). What angering, or, as some have more literally rendered it, what provocation,(2) he speaketh of, the following words sufficiently show.
15. "The earth opened," he saith, "and swallowed up Dathan, and covered over the congregation of Abiram" (ver. 17): "swallowed up" answereth to "covered over." Both Dathan and Abiram were equally concerned in a most sacrilegious schism.(3)
16. "And the fire was kindled in their company; the flame burnt up the sinners" (ver. 18). This word is not in Scripture usually applied to those, who, although they live righteously, and in a praiseworthy manner, are not without sin. Rather, as there is a difference between those who scorn and scorners, between men who murmur and murmurers, between men who are writing and writers, and so forth; so Scripture is wont to signify by sinners such as are very wicked, and laden with heavy loads of sins.
17. "And they made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the graven image" (ver. 19). "Thus they changed their glory, in the similitude of a calf that eateth hay" (ver. 20). He saith not "into" the likeness, but "in" the likeness. It is such a form of speech as where he said "and they believed in His words."(4) With great effect in truth he saith not, they changed the glory of God when they did this; as the Apostle also saith, "They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man:" (5) but "their glory." For God was their glory, if they would abide His counsel, and hasten not....
18. "They forgat God who saved them" (ver. 21). How did He save them? "Who did so great things in Egypt: Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and fearful things in the Red Sea" (ver. 22). The things that are wondrous, are also fearful; for there is no wonder without a certain fear: although these might be called fearful, because they beat down their adversaries, and showed them what they ought to fear.
19. "So He said, He would have destroyed them" (ver. 23). Since they forgot Him who saved them, the Worker of wondrous works, and made and worshipped a graven image, by this atrocious and incredible impiety they deserved death. "Had not Moses His chosen stood before Him in the breaking." He doth not say, that he stood in the breaking,(6) as if to break the wrath of God, but in the way of the breaking, meaning the stroke which was to strike them: that is, had he not put himself in the way for them, saying, "Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin;--and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book." Where it is proved how greatly the intercession of the saints in behalf of others prevaileth with God. For Moses, fearless in the justice of God, which could not blot him out, implored mercy, that He would not blot out those whom He justly might. Thus he "stood before Him in the breaking, to turn away His wrathful indignation, lest He should destroy them."
20. "Yea, they thought scorn of that pleasant land" (ver. 24). But had they seen it? How then could they scorn that which they had not seen, except as the following words explain," and believed not in His words." Indeed, unless that land which was styled the land that flowed with milk and honey,(7) signified something great, through which, as by a visible token, He was leading those who understood His wondrous works to invisible grace and the kingdom of heaven, they could not be blamed for scorning that land, whose temporal kingdom we also ought to esteem as nothing, that we may love that Jerusalem which is free, the mother of us all,(8) which is in heaven, and truly to be desired. But rather unbelief is here reproved, since they gave no credence to the words of God, who was leading them to great things through small things, and hastening to bless themselves with temporal things, which they carnally savoured of, they "abided not His counsel," as is said above.
21. "But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord" (ver. 25); who strongly forbade them to murmur.
22. "Then lift He up His hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness" (ver. 26); "to cast out their seed among the nations: and to scatter them in the lands" (ver. 27).
23. "They were initiated also unto Baalpeor;" that is, were consecrated to the Gentile idol; "and ate the offerings of the dead" (ver. 28). "Thus they provoked Him to anger with their own inventions; and destruction was multiplied among them" (ver. 29). As if He had deferred the lifting up of His hand which was to cast them down in the desert, and to cast out their seed among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands; as the Apostle saith: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient."(1) " 'Destruction,' therefore, 'was multiplied among them,' when they were heavily punished for their heavy sins."
24. "Then stood up Phineas, and appeased Him, and the shaking ceased" (ver. 30). He hath related the whole briefly, because he is not here teaching the ignorant, but reminding those who know the history. The word "shaking" here is the same as "breaking" before. For it is one word in the Greek. Lastly, so great was their wickedness, in being consecrated to the idol, and eating the sacrifices of the dead (that is, because the Gentiles(2) sacrificed to dead men as to God), that God would not be otherwise appeased than as Phineas the Priest appeased Him, when he slew a man and a woman together whom he found in adultery.(3) If he had done this from hatred towards them, and not from love, while zeal for the house of God devoured him, it would not have been counted unto him for righteousness.... Christ our Lord indeed, when the New Testament was revealed, chose a milder discipline; but the threat of hell is more severe, and this we do not read of in those threatenings held out by God in His temporal government.
25. "And that was counted unto him for righteousness among all posterities for evermore" (ver. 31). God counted this unto His Priest for righteousness, not only as long as posterity shall exist, but "for evermore;" for He who knoweth the heart, knoweth how to weigh with how much love for the people that deed was done.
26. "And they angered Him at the waters of strife: so that Moses was vexed for their sakes" (ver. 32); "because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake doubtfully(4) with his lips" (ver. 33). What is spake doubtfully? As if God, who had done so great wonders before, could not cause water to flow from a rock. For he touched the rock with his rod with doubt, and thus distinguished this miracle from the rest, in which he had not doubted. He thus offended, thus deserved to hear that he should die, without entering into the land of promise.(5) For being disturbed by the murmurs of an unbelieving people, he held not fast that confidence which he ought to have held. Nevertheless, God giveth unto him, as unto His chosen, a good testimony even after his death, so that we may see that this wavering of faith was punished with this penalty only, that he was not allowed to enter that land, whither he was leading the people....
27. But they of whose iniquities this Psalm speaketh, when they had entered into that temporal land of promise, "destroyed not the heathen, which the Lord commanded them" (ver. 34); "but were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works" (ver. 35). "Insomuch that they worshipped their idols, which became to them an offence" (ver. 36). Their not destroying them, but mingling with them, became to them an offence.
28. "Yea, they offered their sons and their daughters unto devils" (ver. 37); "and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they offered unto the idols of Canaan" (ver. 38). That history doth not relate that they offered their sons and daughters to devils and idols; but neither can that Psalm lie, nor the Prophets, who assert this in many passages of their rebukes. But the literature of the Gentiles is not silent respecting this custom of theirs. But what is it that followeth? "And the land was slain with bloods." We might suppose that this was a mistake of the writer, and that he had written interfecta for infecta, were it not for the goodness of God, who hath willed His Scriptures to be written in many languages; were it not that we see it written as in the text in many Greek(6) copies which we have inspected; "the land was slain with bloods." What meaneth then, "the land was slain," unless this be referred to the men who dwelt in the land, by a metaphorical expression.... For they themselves were slaying their own souls when they offered up their sons, and when they shed the blood of infants who were far from consent to this crime: whence it is said, "They shed innocent blood." "The land" therefore "was slain with bloods, and defiled by their works" (ver. 39), since they themselves were slain in soul, and defiled by their works; "and they went a whoring after their own inventions." By inventions are meant what the Greeks call epiGhdeumaGa: for this word doth occur in the Greek copies both in this and a former passage, where it is said, "They provoked Him to anger with their own inventions;" "inventions" in both instances signifying what they had initiated others in. Let no man therefore suppose inventions to mean what they had of themselves instituted, without any example before them to imitate. Whence other translators in the Latin tongue have perferred pursuits, affections, imitations, pleasures, to inventions: and the very same who here write inventions, have elsewhere written pursuits. I chose to mention this, lest the word inventions, applied to what they had not invented, but imitated from others, might raise a difficulty.
29. "Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against His own people" (ver. 40). Our translators have been unwilling to use the word anger, for the Greek qumos; though some have used it; while others translate by "indignation" or "mind."(1) Whichever of these terms be adopted, passion doth not affect God; but the power of punishing hath assumed this name metaphorically from custom.
30. "Insomuch that He abhorred His own inheritance; and He gave them over into the hanoi of the heathen: and they that hated them were lords over them" (ver. 41): "and their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought low trader their hands" (ver. 42). Since he hath called them the inheritance of God, it is clear that He abhorred them, and gave them over into their enemies' hands, not in order to their perdition, but for their discipline. Lastly, he saith, "Many a time did He deliver them." "But they provoked Him with their own counsels" (ver. 43). This is what he said above, "They did not abide His counsel." Now a man's counsel is pernicious to himself, when he seeketh those things which are his own only, not those which are God's.(2) In whose inheritance, which inheritance He Himself is to us, when He deigneth His presence for our enjoyment, being with the Saints, we shall suffer no straitening from the society, by our love of anything as our own possession. For that most glorious city, when it hath gained the promised inheritance, in which none shall die, none shall be born, will not contain citizens who shall individually rejoice in their own, for "God shall be all in all."(3) And whoever in this pilgrimage faithfully and earnestly doth long for this society, doth accustom himself to prefer common to private interests, by seeking not his own things, but Jesus Christ's: lest, by being wise and vigilant in his own affairs, he provoke God with his own counsel; but, hoping for what he seeth not, let him not hasten to be blessed with things visible; and, patiently waiting for that everlasting happiness which he seeth not, follow His counsel in His promises, whose aid he prayeth for in his prayers. Thus he will also become humble in his confessions; so as not to be like those, of whom it is said, "They were brought down in their wickedness."
31. Nevertheless, God, full of mercy, forsook them not. "And He saw when they were in adversity, when He heard their complaint" (ver. 44). "And He thought upon His covenant, and repented, according to the multitude of His mercies" (ver. 45). He saith, "He repented," because He changed that wherewith He seemed about to destroy them. With God indeed all things are arranged and fixed; and when He seemeth to act upon sudden motive, He doth nothing but what He foreknew that He should do from eternity; but in the temporal changes of creation, which He ruleth wonderfully, He, without any temporal change in Himself, is said to do by a sudden act of will what in the ordained causes of events He hath arranged in the unchangeableness of His most secret counsel, according to which He doth everything according to defined seasons, doing the present, and having already done the future. And who is capable of comprehending these things?(4) Let us therefore hear the Scripture, speaking high things humbly, giving food for the nourishment of children, and proposing subjects for the research of the older: that everlasting covenant "which He made with Abraham," not the old which is abolished, but the new which is hidden even in the old. "And pitied them," etc. He did that which He had covenanted, but He had foreknown that He would yield this to them when they prayed in their adversity; since even their very prayer, when it was not uttered, but was still to be uttered, undoubtedly was known unto God.
32. So "He gave them unto compassions, in in the sight of all that had taken them captive" (ver. 46). That they might not be vessels of wrath, but vessels of mercy.(5) The compassions unto which He gave them are named in the plural for this reason, I imagine, because each one hath a gift of his own from God, one in one way, another in another.(6) Come then, whosoever readest this, and dost recognise the grace of God, by which we are redeemed unto eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, by reading in the apostolical writings, and by searching in the Prophets, and seest the Old Testament revealed in the New, the New veiled in the Old; remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, where, when He driveth him out of the hearts of the faithful, He saith, "Now is the prince of this world cast out:"(7) and again of the Apostle, when he saith, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son."(8) Meditate on these and such like things, examine also the Old Testament, and see what is sung in that Psalm, the title of which is, When the temple was being built after the captivity:(9) for there it is said, "Sing unto the Lord a new song." And, that thou mayest not think it doth refer to the Jewish people only, he saith, "Sing unto the Lord, all the whole earth: sing unto the Lord, and praise His Name: declare," or rather, "give the good news of," or, to transfer the very word used in the Greek, "evangelize day from day, His salvation." Here the Gospel (Evangelium) is mentioned, in which is announced the Day that came from Day, our Lord Christ, the Light from Light, the Son from the Father. This also is the meaning of His salvation: for Christ is the Salvation of God, as we have shown above.(1) ...
33. "Deliver us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations (other copies read, "from the heathen"); that we may give thanks unto Thy holy Name, and make our boast of Thy praise" (ver. 47), Then he hath briefly added this very praise, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting, and world without end"(2) (ver. 48): by which we understand from everlasting to everlasting; because He shall be praised without end by those of whom it is said, "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be alway praising Thee."(3) This is the perfection of the Body of Christ on the third day, when the devils had been east out, and cures perfected, even unto the immortality of the body itself, the everlasting reign of those who perfectly praise Him, because they perfectly love Him; and perfectly love Him, because they behold Him face to face. For then shall be completed the prayer at the commencement of this Psalm:(4) "Remember us, O Lord, according to the favour that Thou bearest unto Thy people," etc. For from the Gentiles He doth not gather only the lost sheep of the house of Israel,(5) but also those which do not belong to that fold; so that there is one flock, as is said, and one Shepherd. But when the Jews suppose that that prophecy belongeth to their visible kingdom, because they know not how to rejoice in the hope of good things unseen, they are about to rush into the snares of him, of whom the Lord saith, "I am come in My Father's Name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."(6) Of whom the Apostle Paul saith: "that Man of Sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition," etc. And a little after he saith, "Then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming," etc.(7) ... Through that Apostate, through him who exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, it seemeth to me, that the carnal people of Israel will suppose that prophecy to be fulfilled, where it is said, "Deliver us, O Lord, and gather us from among the heathen;" that under His guidance, before the eyes of their visible enemies, who had visibly taken them captive, they are to have visible glory. Thus they will believe a lie, because they have not received the love of truth, that they might love not carnal, but spiritual blessings. ... For Christ had other sheep that were not of this fold:(8) but the devil and his angels had taken captive all those sheep, both among the Israelites and the Gentiles. The power, therefore, of the devil having been cast out of them, in the sight of the evil spirits who had taken them captive, their cry in this prophecy is, that they may be saved and perfected for evermore: "Deliver us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen." Not, as the Jews imagine it, fulfilled through Antichrist, but through our Lord Christ coming in the name of His Father, "Day from day, His salvation;" of whom it is here said, "0 visit us in Thy salvation! And let all the people say," the predestined people of the circumcision and of the uncircumcision, a holy race, an adopted people, "So be it! So be it!"(9)
1. This Psalm commendeth unto us the mercies of God, proved in ourselves, and is therefore the sweeter to the experienced. And it is a wonder if it can be pleasing to any one, except to him who has learned in his own case, what he hears in this Psalm. Yet was it written not for any one or two, but for the people of God, and set forth that it might know itself therein as in a mirror. Its title needeth not now to be treated, for it is Halleluia, and again Halleluia. Which we have a custom of singing at a certain time in our solemnities, after an old tradition of the Church: nor is it without a sacred meaning that we sing it on particular days.(11) Halleluia we sing indeed on certain days,(12) but every day we think it. For if in this word is signified the praise of God, though not in the mouth of the flesh, yet surely in the mouth of the heart. "His praise shall ever be in my mouth."(13) But that the title hath Halleluia not once only but twice, is not peculiar to this Psalm, but the former also hath it so. And as far as appears from its text, that was sung of the people of Israel, but this is sung of the universal Church of God, spread through the whole world. Perchance, it not unfitly hath Halleluia twice, because we cry, Abba, Father. Since Abba is nothing else but Father, yet not without meaning the Apostle said, "in whom we cry, Abba, Father;"(14) but because one wall indeed coming to the Corner Stone crieth Abba, but the other, from the other side crieth Father; viz., in that Corner Stone, "who is our Peace, who hath made both one." ...
2. "Confess unto the Lord that He is sweet, because for aye in His mercy" (ver. 1). This confess ye that He is sweet, if ye have tasted, confess. But he cannot confess, who hath not chosen to taste, for whence shall he say that that is sweet, which he knoweth not. But ye if ye have tasted how sweet the Lord is,(1) "Confess ye to the Lord that He is sweet." If ye have tasted with eagerness, break forth(2) with confession. "For aye is His mercy," that is, for ever. For here "for aye," is so put, since also in some other places of Scripture, for aye, that is, what in Greek is called eis aiwna, is understood for ever. For His mercy is not for a time, so as not to be for ever, since for this purpose His present mercy is over men, that they may live with the Angels for ever.
3. "Let them say who are redeemed of the Lord, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of their enemies" (ver. 2). Redeemed indeed it seems was also the people of Israel from the land of Egypt, from the hand of slavery, from fruitless labours, from miry works; yet let us see whether those who say these things, are they who were freed by the Lord from Egypt. It is not so. But who are they? "Those whom He redeemed." Still one might take it also of them, as redeemed from the hand of their enemies, that is, of the Egyptians. Let them be expressed exactly who they are, for whom this Psalm would be sung. "He gathered them from the lands;" these might still be the lands of Egypt, for there are many lands even in one province. Let him speak openly. "From the east and the west, from the north and the sea" (ver. 3). Now then we understand these redeemed, in the whole circle of the earth. This people of God, freed from a great and broad Egypt, is led, as through the Red Sea,(3) that in Baptism it may make an end of its enemies. For by the sacrament as it were of the Red Sea, that is by Baptism consecrated with the Blood of Christ, the pursuing Egyptians, the sins, are washed away...."But all these things happened to them in a figure, and were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come."(4) ...
4. "They wandered in the wilderness, in a dry place, they found not the way of a city to dwell in" (ver. 4). We have heard a wretched wandering; what of want? "Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them" (ver. 5). But wherefore did it faint? for what good? For God is not cruel, but He maketh Himself known, in that it is expedient for us, that He be entreated by us fainting, and that aiding us He be loved. And therefore after this wandering, and hunger, and thirst, "And they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distress" (ver. 6). And what did He for them, as they were wandering? "And He led them in the right way" (ver. 7). They found not the way of a city to dwell in, with hunger and thirst they were vexed and faint, "and He led them into the right way, that they might go into a city to dwell in." How He helped their hunger and thirst, He saith not, but even this expect ye: "Let them confess unto the Lord His mercies, and His wonders towards the children of men" (ver. 8). Tell them, ye that are experienced, to the inexperienced; ye that are already in the way, already directed towards finding the city, already at last free from hunger and thirst. "Because He hath satisfied the empty soul, and filled the hungry soul with good things" (ver. 9).
5. "Them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, fast bound in beggary and iron" (ver. 10). Whence this, but that thou wast attributing things to thyself? that thou wast not owning the grace of God? that thou wast rejecting the counsel of God s concerning thee? For see what He addeth: "Because they rebelled against the words of the Lord through pride" (ver. 11), not knowing the righteousness of God, and wishing to establish their own,(6) "and they were bitter against the counsel of the Most High." "And their heart was brought low in labour" (ver. 12). And now fight against lust; if God cease to aid thou mayest strive, thou canst not conquer. And when thou shalt be pressed by thine evil, thy heart will be brought low in labour, so that now with humbled heart thou mayest learn to cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"(7) ... Freed, thou wilt confess the mercies of the Lord. "And they cried unto the Lord when they were troubled, and He delivered them out of their distresses" (ver. 13). They were freed from the second temptation. There remains that of weariness and loathing. But first see what He did for them when freed. "And He led them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bonds asunder" (ver. 14). "Let them confess to the Lord His mercies, and His wonders to the children of men" (ver. 15). Wherefore? what difficulties hath He overcome? "Because He brake the gates of brass, and snapped the bars of iron" (ver. 16). "He took them up from the way of their iniquity, for because of their unrighteousnesses they were brought low" (ver. 17). Because they gave honour to themselves, not to God, because they were establishing their own righteousness, not knowing the righteousness of God,(1) they were brought low. They found that they were helpless without His aid, who were presuming on their own strength alone.
6. "Their soul abhorred all manner of meat" (ver. 18). Now they suffer satiety. They are sick of satiety. They are in danger from satiety. Unless perchance thou thinkest they could be killed with famine, but cannot with satiety. See what followeth. When he had said, "Their soul abhorred all manner of meat," lest thou shouldest think them, as it were, safe of their fulness, and not rather see that they would die of satiety: "And they came near," he saith, "even unto the gates of death." What then remaineth? That even when the word of God delighteth thee, thou account it not to thyself; nor for this be puffed up with any sort of arrogance, and having an appetite for food, proudly spurn at those who are in danger from satiety. "And they cried out unto the Lord when they were in trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses" (ver. 19). And because it was a sickness not to be pleased, "He sent His Word, and healed them" (ver. 20). See what evil there is in satiety; see whence He delivers, to whom he crieth that loathes his food. "He sent His Word, and healed them, and snatched them," from whence? not from wandering, not from hunger, not from the difficulty of overcoming sins, but "from their corruption." It is a sort of corruption of the mind to loathe what is sweet. Therefore also of this benefit, as of the others before, "Let them confess to the Lord His mercies, and His wonders unto the sons of men" (ver. 21). "And sacrifice the sacrifice of praise" (ver. 22). For now that He may be praised, the Lord is sweet, "and let them tell out His works with gladness." Not with weariness, not with sadness, not with anxiety, not with loathing, but "with gladness."
7. ... "They who go down on the sea in ships, doing their business on the mighty waters" (ver. 23); that is, amongst many peoples. For that waters are often put for peoples, the Apocalypse of John is witness, when on John's asking what those waters were, it was answered him, they are peoples. They then who do their business on mighty waters, "they have seen the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep" (ver. 24). For what is deeper than human hearts? hence often break forth winds; storms of sedition, and dissensions, disturb the ship. And what is done in them? God, willing that both they who steer, and they who are conveyed, should cry unto Him, "He spake, and the breath of the storm stood" (ver. 25). What is, stood? Abode, continued, still disturbeth long tosseth; rageth, and passeth not away. "For He spake, and the breath of the storm stood." And what did that breath of the storm? "They go up even to the heavens," in daring; "They go down even into the deeps" (ver. 26), in fearing. "Their soul wasted in miseries." "They were disturbed, and moved like a drunken man" (ver. 27). They who sit at the helm, and they who faithfully love the ship, feel what I say. Certainly, when they speak, when they read, when they interpret, they appear wise. Woe for the storm! "and all their wisdom," he saith, "was swallowed up." Sometimes all human counsels fail; whichever way one turns himself, the waves roar, the storm rageth, the arms are powerless: where the prow may strike, to what wave the side may be exposed, whither the stricken ship may be allowed to drift, from what rocks she must be kept back lest she be lost, is impossible for her pilots to see. And what is left but that which follows? "And they cried out unto the Lord when they were troubled, and He delivered them from their distresses" (ver. 28). "And He commanded the storm, and it stood unto clear air" (ver. 29), "and the waves of it were still." Hear on this point the voice of a steersman, one that was in peril, was brought low, was freed. "I would not," he saith, "have you ignorant, brethren, of our distress, which befell us in Asia, that "we were pressed above strength, and above measure" (I see all his "wisdom swallowed up"), "so that we were weary," he saith, "even of life."(2) ...
"And they were glad, because they were still, and He brought them into the haven of their desire" (ver. 30). "Let His mercies confess unto the Lord, and His wonders towards the sons of men" (ver. 31). Everywhere, without exception, let not our merits, not our strength, not our wisdom," confess unto the Lord," but, "His mercies." Let Him be loved in every deliverance of ours, who has been invoked in every distress.
8. "And let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the seat of the elders" (ver. 32). Let them exalt, let them praise, peoples and elders, merchants and pilots. For what hath He done in this assembly? What hath He established? Whence hath He rescued it? What hath He granted it? Even as He resisted the proud, and gave grace to the humble:(3) the proud, that is, the first people of the Jews, arrogant, and extolling itself on its descent from Abraham, and because to that nation "were entrusted the oracles of God."(4) These things did not avail them unto soundness, but unto pride of heart, rather to swelling than to greatness. What then did God, resisting the proud, but giving grace to the humble; cutting off the natural branches for their pride; grafting in the wild olive for its humility?
"He made the rivers a wilderness" (ver. 33). Waters did run there, prophecies were in course. Seek now a prophet among the Jews; thou findest none. For "He made the outgoings of waters to be thirst." Let them say, "Now there is no prophet more, and He will not know us any more."(1) "A fruitful land to be saltpools" (ver. 34). Thou seekest there the faith of Christ, thou findest not: thou seekest a prophet, thou findest not: thou seekest a sacrifice, thou findest not: thou seekest a temple, thou findest none. Wherefore this? "From the wickedness of them that dwell therein." Behold how He resisteth the proud: hear how He giveth grace to the humble. "He made the wilderness to be a standing water, and the dry ground to be outgoings of waters" (ver. 35). "And He caused the hungry to dwell there" (ver. 36). Because to Him it was said, "Thou art a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedec."(2) For thou seekest a sacrifice among the Jews; thou hast none after the order of Aaron. Thou seekest it after the order of Melchizedec; thou findest it not among them, but through the whole world it is celebrated in the Church. "From the rising of the sun to the setting thereof the name of the Lord is praised."(3) ... "And they sowed fields, and planted vineyards, and gat fruit of corn" (ver. 37): at which that workman rejoiceth, who saith, "Not because I desire a gift, but I seek fruit."(4) "And He blessed them, and they were multiplied exceedingly, and their cattle were not diminished" (ver. 38). This standeth. For "the foundation of God standeth sure; because the Lord knoweth them that are His."(5) They are called "beasts of burden," and "cattle," that walk simply in the Church, yet are useful; not much learned, but full of faith. Therefore, whether spiritual or carnal, "He blessed them."
9. "And they became few, and were vexed" (ver. 39). Whence this? From athwart? Nay, from within. For that they should "become few," "They went out from us, but they were not of us."(6) But therefore he speaketh as of these, of whom he spake before, that they may be discerned with understanding; because he speaketh as if of the same, because of the sacraments they have in common. For they belong to the people of God, though not by the virtue, yet surely by the appearance of piety: for concerning them we have heard the Apostle, "In the last times there shall come grievous times, for there shall be men lovers of themselves."(7) The first evil is, "lovers of themselves;" that is, as being pleased with themselves. Would that they were not pleasing to themselves, and were pleasing to God: would that they would cry out in their difficulties, and be freed from their distresses. But while they presumed greatly on themselves, "they were made few." It is manifest, brethren: all who separate themselves from unity become few. For they are many; but in unity, while they are not parted from unity. For when the multitude of unity hath begun no more to belong to them, in heresy and schism, they are few. "And they were vexed, from distress of miseries and grief." "Contempt was poured on princes" (ver. 40). For they were rejected by the Church of God, and the more because they wished to be princes, therefore they were despised, and became salt that had lost its savour, cast out abroad, so that it is trodden under foot of men.(8) "And He led them astray in the pathless place, and not in a way." Those above in the way, those directed to a city, and finally led thither, not led astray; but these, where there was no way, led astray. What is, "Led them astray"? God "gave them up to their own hearts' lusts."(9) For "led astray" means this, gave them up to themselves. For if thou enquire closely, it is they that lead themselves astray. ... "And He helped the poor out of beggary" (yet. 41). What meaneth this, brethren? Princes are despised, and the poor helped. The proud are cast aside, and the humble provided for. ... "And made him households like sheep." Thou understandest one poor man and one beggar of him concerning whom he said, "He hath helped the poor out of misery:" this poor man is now many households, this poor man is many nations; many Churches are one Church, one nation, one household, one sheep. These are great mysteries, great types, how profound, how full of hidden meanings; how sweetly discovered, since long hidden. Therefore, "the righteous will consider this, and rejoice: and the mouth of all wickedness shall be stopped" (ver. 42). That wickedness that doth prate against unity, and compelleth truth to be made manifest, shall be convicted, and have its mouth stopped.
10. "Who is wise? and he will consider these things; and will understand the mercies of the Lord" (ver. 43). ...Not his own deservings, not his own strength, not his own power; but "the mercies of the Lord;" who, when he was wandering and in want, led him back to the path, and fed him; who, when he was struggling against the difficulties of his sins, and bound down with the fetters of habit, released and freed him; who, when he loathed the Word of God, and was almost dying with a kind of weariness, restored him by sending him the medicine of His Word; who, when he was endangered among the risks of shipwreck and storm, stilled the sea, and brought him into port; who, finally, placed him in that people, where He giveth grace to the humble; not in that where he resisteth the proud; and hath made him His own, that remaining within he may be multiplied, not that going out he may be minished. The righteous see this, and rejoice. "The mouth," therefore, "of all wickedness shall be stopped."
1. I have not thought that the CVIIIth Psalm required an exposition; since I have already expounded it in the LVIIth Psalm,(2) and in the LXth, of the last divisions of which this Psalm consisteth. For the last part of the LVIIth is the first of this, as far as the verse, "Thy glory is above all the earth." Henceforth to the end, is the last part of the LXth: as the last part of the CXXXVth is the same as that of the CXVth,(3) from the verse, "The images of the heathen are but gold and silver: " as the XIVth(4) and LIIId,(5) with a few alterations in the middle, have everything the same from the beginning to the end. Whatever slight differences therefore occur in this CVIIIth Psalm, compared with those two, of parts of which it is composed, are easy to understand; just as we find in the LVIth,(6) "I will sing and give praise; awake, O my glory:" here," I will sing and give praise, with my glory."(7) Awake, is said there, that he may sing and give praise therewith. Also, there, "Thy mercy is great" (or, as some translate, "is lifted up") "unto the heavens;"(8) but here, "Thy mercy is great above the heavens."(9) For it is great unto the heavens, that it may be great in the heavens; and this is what he wished to express by "above the heavens." Also in the LXth, "I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem:"(10) here "I will be exalted, and will divide Shechem." (11) Where is shown what is signified in the division of Shechem, which it was prophesied should happen after the Lord's exaltation, and that this joy doth refer to that exaltation; so that He rejoiceth, because He is exalted. Whence he elsewhere saith, "Thou hast turned my heaviness into joy; Thou hast put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness."(12) Also there "Ephraim, the strength of my head:"(13) but here, "Ephraim the taking up of my head."(14) But strength cometh from taking up, that is, He maketh men strong by taking up, causing fruit in us; for the interpretation of Ephraim is, bearing fruit. But "taking up" may be understood of us, when we take up Christ; or of Christ, when He, who is Head of the Church, taketh us up. And the words, "them that trouble us," in the former Psalm,(15) are the same with "our enemies," in this.(16)
2. We are taught by this Psalm, that those titles which seem to refer to history are most rightly understood prophetically, according to the object of the composition of the Psalms. ... And yet this Psalm is composed of the latter portions of two,(17) whose titles are different. Where it is signified that each concur in a common object, not in the surface of the history, but in the depth of prophecy, the objects of both being united in this one, the title of which is, "A Song or Psalm of David :"(18) resembling neither of the former titles, otherwise than in the word David. Since, "in many places, and in diverse manners," as the Epistle to the Hebrews saith, "God spoke in former times to the fathers through the Prophets;"(19) yet He spoke of Him whom He sent afterwards, that the words of the Prophets might be fulfilled: for "all the promises of God in Him are yea."(20)
1. Every one who faithfully readeth the Acts of the Apostles, acknowledgeth that this Psalm containeth a prophecy of Christ; for it evidently appeareth that what is here written, "let his days be few, and let another take his office," is prophesied of Judas, the betrayer of Christ. ... For as some things are said which seem peculiarly to apply to the Apostle Peter, and yet are not clear in their meaning, unless when referred to the Church, whom he is acknowledged to have figuratively represented, on account of the primacy(22) which he bore among the Disciples; as it is written, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,"(23) and other passages of the like purport: so Judas doth represent those Jews who were enemies of Christ, who both then hated Christ, and now, in their line of succession, this species of wickedness continuing, hate Him. Of these men, and of this people, not only may what we read more openly discovered in this Psalm be conveniently understood, but also those things which are more expressly stated concerning Judas himself.
2. The Psalm, then, beginneth thus: "O God, be not silent as to my praise; for the mouth of the ungodly, yea, the mouth of the deceitful is opened upon me" (ver. 1). Whence it appeareth, both that the blame, which the ungodly and the deceitful is not silent of, is false, and that the praise, which God is not silent of, is true. "For God is true, but every man a liar;"(1) for no man is true, except him in whom God speaketh. But the highest praise is that of the only-begotten Son of God, in which He is proclaimed even that which He is, the only-begotten Son of God. But this did not appear, but, when His weakness appeared, lay hid, when the mouth of the ungodly and deceitful was opened upon Him; and for this reason his mouth was opened, because His virtue was concealed: and he saith, "the mouth of the deceitful was opened," because the hatred which was covered by deceit burst out into language.
3. "They have spoken against me with false tongues" (ver. 2): then chiefly when they praised him as a "good Master" with insidious adulation. Whence it is elsewhere said: "and they that praised me, are sworn together against me."(2) Next, because they burst into cries, "Crucify Him, crucify Him;"(3) he hath added, "They compassed me about also with words of hatred." They who with a treacherous tongue spoke words seemingly of love, and not of hatred, "against me," since they did this insidiously; afterwards "compassed me about with words" not of false and deceitful love, but of open "hatred, and fought against me without a cause." For as the pious love Christ for nought, so do the wicked hate Him for nought; for as truth is earnestly sought by the best men on its own account, without any advantage, external to itself, in view, so is wickedness sought by the worst men. Whence among secular authors it is said of a very bad man, "he was wicked and cruel for no object."(4)
4. "In place," saith he, "of loving me, they detracted from me" (ver. 3). There are six different acts of this class, which may, when mentioned, very easily be borne in mind;(1) to return good for evil,(2) not to return evil for evil;(3) to return good for good,(4) to return evil for evil;(5) not to return good for good,(6) to return evil for good. The two first of these belong to the good, and the first of these two is the better; the two last belong to the wicked, and the latter of the two is the worse; the two middle to a sort of middle class of persons, but the first of these borders upon the good, the latter on the bad. We should remark these things in the holy Scriptures. Our Lord Himself returneth good for evil, who "justifieth the ungodly;"(5) and who, when hanging upon the Cross, said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."(6) ...
5. But after he had said, "in place of loving me, they detracted from me; "what doth he add? "But I gave myself unto prayer." He said not indeed what he prayed, but what can we better understand than for them themselves? For they were detracting greatly from Him whom they crucified, when they ridiculed Him as if He were a man, whom in their opinion they had conquered; from which Cross He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do;" so that while they in the depth of their malignity were rendering evil for good, He in the height of His goodness was rendering good for evil. ... The divine words then teach us by our Lord's example, that when we feel others ungrateful to us, not only in that they do not repay us with good, but even return evil for good, we should pray; He indeed for others who were raging against Him, or in sorrow, or endangered in faith; but we for ourselves in the first place, that we may by the mercy and aid of God conquer our own mind, by which we are borne on to the desire of revenge, when any detraction is made from us, either in our presence or our absence. ...
6. He addeth, "Thus have they rewarded me evil for good" (ver. 4). And as if we asked, what evil? for what good? "And hatred," he saith, "for my good will." This is the sum total of their great guilt. For how could the persecutors injure Him who died of His own free-will, and not by compulsion? But this very hatred is the greatest crime of the persecutor, although it be the willing atonement of the sufferer. And he hath sufficiently explained the sense of the above words, "In place of loving me," since they owed love not as a general duty only, but in return for His love: in that he hath here added, "for my good will." This love He mentioneth in the Gospel, when He saith, "How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not!"(7)
7. He then beginneth to prophesy what they should receive for this very impiety; detailing their lot in such a manner, as if he wished its realization from a desire of revenge. Some not understanding this mode of predicting the future, under the appearance of wishing evil, suppose hatred to be returned for hatred, and an evil will for an evil will, since in truth it belongeth to few to distinguish, in what way the punishment of the wicked pleaseth the accuser, who longeth to satiate his enmity; and in how widely different a way it pleaseth the judge, who with a righteous mind punisheth sins. For the former returneth evil for evil: but the judge when he punisheth doth not return evil for evil, since he returneth justice to the unjust; and what is just, is surely good. He therefore punisheth not from delight in another's misery, which is evil for evil: but from love of justice, which is good for evil. ...
8. "Set thou an ungodly man to be ruler over him; and let Satan stand at his right hand" (ver. 5). Though the complaint had been before concerning many, the Psalm is now speaking of one. ... Since therefore he is here speaking of the traitor Judas, who, according to the Scripture in the Acts of the Apostles, was to be punished with the penalty due to him,(1) what meaneth, "set thou an ungodly man over him," save him whom in the next verse he mentioneth by name, when he saith, "and let Satan stand at his right hand "? He therefore who refused to be subject unto Christ, deserved this, that he should have the devil set over him, that is, that he should be subject unto the devil. ... For this reason also it is said of those who, preferring the pleasures of this world to God, styled the people blessed who have such and such things, "their right hand is a right hand of iniquity."(2) ...
9. "When sentence is given upon him, let him be condemned, and let his prayer be turned into sin" (ver. 6). For prayer is not righteous except through Christ, whom he sold in his atrocious sin: but the prayer which is not made through Christ, not only cannot blot out sin, but is itself turned into sin. But it may be inquired on what occasion Judas could have so prayed, that his prayer was turned into sin. I suppose that before he betrayed the Lord, while he was thinking of betraying Him; for he could no longer pray through Christ. For after he betrayed Him, and repented of it, if he prayed through Christ, he would ask for pardon; if he asked for pardon, he would have hope; if he had hope, he would hope for mercy; if he hoped for mercy, he would not have hanged himself in despair. ...
10. "Let his days be few" (ver. 7). By "his days," he meant the days of his apostleship, which were few; since before the Passion of our Lord, they were ended by his crime and death. And as if it were asked, What then shall become of that most sacred number twelve, within which our Lord willed, not without a meaning, to limit His twelve first Apostles? he at once addeth, "and let another take his office." As much as to say, let both himself be punished according to his desert, and let his number be filled up.
11. "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow" (ver. 8). After his death, both his children were fatherless, and his wife a widow. "Let his children be vagabonds, and be carried away, and beg their bread" (ver. 9). By "vagabonds" he meaneth, uncertain whither to go, destitute of all help. "Let them be driven from their habitations." He here explaineth what he had said above, "Let them be carried away." How all this happened to his wife and children, the following verses explain.
12. "Let the extortioner search out all his substance, and let the strangers spoil his labour" (ver. 10). "Let there be no man to help him" (ver. 11): that is, to guard his posterity; wherefore followeth, "nor to have compassion on his fatherless children"
13. But as even orphans may, without one to help them, and without a guardian, nevertheless increase amid trouble and want, and preserve their race by descent; he next saith, "Let his posterity be destroyed; and in the next generation let his name be clean put out" (ver. 12): that is, let what hath been generated by him generate no more, and quickly pass away.
14. But what is it that he next addeth? "Let the wickedness of his fathers be had in remembrance in the sight of the Lord, and let not the sin of his mother be done away" (ver. 13). Is it to be understood, that even the sins of his fathers shall be visited upon him? For upon him they are not visited, who hath been changed in Christ, and hath ceased to be the child of the wicked, by not having imitated their conduct.(3) ... And to these words, "I will visit the sins of the fathers upon the children,"(4) is added, "who hate Me;" that is, hate Me as their fathers hated Me: so that as the effect of imitating the good is that even their own sins are blotted out, so the imitation of the wicked causeth men to suffer not their own deservings only, but those also of those whom they have imitated. ...
15. "Let them alway be against s the Lord" (ver. 14). "Against the Lord," meaneth in the Lord's sight: for other translators have rendered this line, "let them be always in the sight of the Lord;" while others have rendered it, "let them be before the Lord alway;" as it is elsewhere said, "Thou hast set our misdeeds in Thy sight."(6) By "alway," he meaneth that this great crime should be without pardon, both here, and in a future life. "Let the memorial of them perish from off the earth:" that is, of his father and of his mother. By memorial of them, he meaneth, that which is preserved by successive generations: this he prophesied should perish from the earth, because both Judas himself, and his sons, who were the memorial of his father and mother, without any succeeding offspring, as it is said above, were consumed in the short space of one generation.(7) ...
16. "And that, because he remembered not to act mercifully" (ver. 15); either Judas, or the people itself. But "remembered not" is better understood of the people: for if they slew Christ, they might well remember the deed in penitence, and act mercifully towards His members, whom they most perseveringly persecuted. For this reason he saith, "but persecuted the poor man and the beggar" (ver. 16). It may indeed be understood of Judas; for the Lord did not disdain to become poor, when He was rich, that we might be enriched by His poverty.(1) But how shall I understand the word "beggar," save perhaps because He said to the Samaritan woman, "Give me to drink,"(2) and on the Cross He said, "I thirst."(3) But as to what followeth, I do not see how it can be understood of our Head Himself, that is, the Saviour of His own body, whom Judas persecuted. For after saying, "He persecuted the poor man and the beggar:" he addeth, "and to slay," that is, "that he might slay Him," for some have so rendered it," Him that was pricked at the heart." This expression is not commonly used except of the stings of past sins in the sorrows of penitence; as it is said of those who, when they had heard the Apostles after our Lord's ascension, were "pricked in heart," even they who had slain the Lord. ...
17. The Psalm then continueth: "His delight was in cursing, and it shall happen to him" (ver. 17). Although Judas loved cursing, both in stealing from the money bag, and selling and betraying the Lord: nevertheless, that people more openly loved cursing, when they said, "His blood be on us, and on our children."(4) "He loved not blessing, therefore it shall be far from him." Such was Judas indeed, since he loved not Christ, in whom is everlasting blessing; but the Jewish people still more decidedly refused blessing, unto whom he who had been enlightened by the Lord said, "Will ye also be His disciples?"(5) "He clothed himself with cursing, like as with a raiment:" either Judas, or that people. "And it came into his bowels like water."(6) Both without, then, and within; without, like a garment; within, like water: since he hath come before the judgment-seat of Him "who hath power to destroy both body and soul in hell;"(7) the body without, the soul within. "And like oil into his bones." He showeth that he worketh evil with delight, and storeth up cursing for himself, that is, everlasting punishment; for blessing is eternal life. For at present evil deeds are his delight, flowing like water into his bowels, like oil into his bones; but it is styled cursing, because God hath appointed torments for such men.
18. "Let it be unto him as the cloak which covereth him" (ver. 18). Since he hath before spoken of the cloak, why doth he repeat it? When he said, "He clothed himself with cursing as with a raiment;" doth the raiment with which he is "covered" differ from that with which he is "clothed"? For every man is clothed with his tunic, covered with his cloak; and what is this, save boasting in iniquity, even in the sight of men? "and as the girdle," he saith, "that he is alway girded withal." Men are girded chiefly that they may be better fit for toil, that they may not be hindered by the folds of their dress. He therefore girdeth himself with curses, who designeth an evil which he hath carefully contrived, not on a sudden impulse, and who learneth in such a manner to do evil, that he is always ready to commit it.
19. "This is the work of them that slander me before the Lord" (ver. 19). He said not, "their reward," but, "their work:" for it is clear that by the clothing, covering, water, oil, and girdle, he was describing the very works by which eternal curses are procured. It is not then one Judas, but many, of whom it is said, "This is the work of them that slander me before the Lord." Although indeed the plural number might have been put for the singular; even as, when Herod died, it was said by the Angel, "They are dead which sought the young Child's life."(8) But who slander Christ more before the Lord, than they who slander the very words of the Lord, by declaring that it is not He whom the Law of the Lord and His Prophets announced beforehand? "And of those that speak evil against my soul:" by denying that He, when He had willed, could have arisen: though He saith, "I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again."(9)
20. "But work Thou with me, O Lord God" (ver. 20). Some have thought "mercifully" should be understood, some have actually added it; but the best copies have the words thus: "But work Thou with me, O Lord God, for Thy Name's sake." Whence a higher sense should not be passed over, supposing the Son to have thus addressed the Father, "Deal Thou with Me," since the works of the Father and of the Son are the same. Where although we understand mercy,--for these words follow, "for sweet is Thy mercy,"--because he said not," In me," or, "over me;" or anything of this sort: but, "work Thou with Me;" we rightly understand that the Father and Son together work mercifully towards the vessels of mercy.(10) "Work with me,"(11) may also be understood to mean, help me. We use this expression in our daily language, when we are speaking of anything which is in our favour; "It works with us." For the Father aideth the Son, as far as the Deity aideth Man, on account of His having assumed the "form of a servant," to which Man, God, and to which "Form of a servant," the Lord too is Father. For in the "form of God," the Son needeth not aid, for He is equally all-powerful with the Father, on which account He also is the helper of men. ... And because when he had said, "Work Thou with me," he added, "for Thy Name's sake," he hath commended grace. For without previous deserving works, human nature was raised to such a height, that the whole in one, the Word and Flesh, that is, God and Man, was styled the Only-begotten Son of God. And this was done that that which had been lost might be sought by Him who had created it, through that which had not been lost; whence the following words, "For Thy mercy is sweet."
21. "O deliver me, for I am needy and poor" (ver. 21). Need and poverty is that weakness, through which He was crucified.(1) "And my heart is disturbed within me." This alludeth to those words which He spoke when His Passion was drawing near, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."(2)
22. "I go hence like a shadow that declineth" (ver. 22). By this he signified death itself. For as night comes of the shadow's declining, so death comes of mortal flesh. "And am driven away as the locusts." This I think would be more suitably understood of His members, that is, of His faithful disciples. That he might make it much plainer, he preferred writing "locusts" in the plural number: although many may be understood where the singular number is used, as in that passage, "He spake, and the locust came;"(3) but it would have been more obscure. His disciples, then, were driven away, that is, were put to flight by persecutors, either the multitude of whom He wished to be signified by the word locusts, or their passing from one place to another.
23. "My knees are weak through fasting" (ver. 23). We read, that our Lord Christ underwent a fast of forty days:(4) but had fasting so great power over Him, that His knees were weakened? Or is this more suitably understood of His members, that is, of His saints? "And my flesh is changed because of the oil;"(5) because of spiritual grace, Whence Christ was so called from the Greek word, chrisma, which signifies unction. But the flesh was changed through the oil, not for the worse, but for the better, that is, rising from the dishonour of death to the glory of immortality. ...His flesh was not yet changed. But whether the Holy Spirit be represented by water through the notion of ablution or irrigation, or by oil through that of exultation and the inflaming of charity; It doth not differ from Itself, because Its types are different. For there is a great difference between the lion and the lamb, and yet Christ is represented by both. ...
24. "I became also a reproach unto them" (ver. 24): through the death of the Cross. "For Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us."(6) "They looked upon Me, and shaked their heads." Because they beheld His crucifixion, without beholding His resurrection: they saw when His knees were weakened, they saw not when His flesh was changed.
25. "Help me, O Lord my God: O save me according to Thy mercy" (ver. 25). This may be referred to the whole, both to the Head and to the body: to the Head, owing to His having taken the form of a servant; to the body, on account of the servants themselves. For He might even in them have said unto God, "Help Me:" and, "O save Me:" as in them He said unto Paul, "Why persecutest thou Me"?(7) The following words, "according to Thy mercy," describe grace given gratuitously, not according to the merit of works.
26. "And let them know how that this is Thy Hand, and that Thou, Lord, hast made it" (ver. 26). He said, "Let them know," of those for whom He even prayed while they were raging; for even those who afterwards believed in Him were among the crowd who shook their heads in mockery of Him. But let those who ascribe unto God the shape of the human body, learn in what sense God hath a hand. Let us therefore understand, that the Hand of God meaneth Christ: whence it is elsewhere said, "Unto whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"(8)
27. "Though they curse, yet bless Thou" (ver. 27). Vain therefore and false is the cursing of the sons of men, that have pleasure in vanity, and seek a lie;(9) but when God blesseth, He doth what He saith. "Let them be confounded that rise up against me." For their imagining that they have some power against Me, is the reason that they rise up against Me; but when I shall have been exalted above the heavens, and My glory shall have commenced spreading over the whole earth, they shall be confounded. "But Thy servant shall rejoice:" either on the right hand of the Father, or in His members when they rejoice, both in hope among temptations, and after temptations for evermore.
28. "Let my slanderers be clothed with shame" (ver. 28): that is, let it shame them to have slandered me. But this may also be understood as a blessing, in that they are amended. "And let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a double cloak;" for diplois is a double cloak; that is, let them be confounded both within and without: both before God and before men.
29. "As for me, I will confess greatly(1) unto the Lord with my mouth" (ver. 29). ... Is He said to "praise among the multitude" because He is with His Church here even unto the end of the world;(2) so that we may understand by "among the multitude," that He is honoured by this very multitude? For he is said to be in the midst, unto whom the chief honour is paid. But if the heart is, as it were, that which is mid-most of a man, no better construction can be put on this passage than this, I will praise Him in the hearts of many. For Christ dwelleth through faith in our hearts;(3) and therefore he saith, "with my mouth," that is, with the mouth of my body, which is the Church.
30. "For He stood at the right hand of the poor" (ver. 30). It was said of Judas, "Let Satan stand at his right hand;" since he chose to increase his riches by selling Christ; but here the Lord stood at the right hand of the poor, that the Lord Himself might be the poor man's riches. "He stood at the right hand of the poor," not to multiply the years of a life that one day must end, nor to increase his stores, nor to render him strong in the strength of the body, or secure for a time; "but," he saith, "to save my soul from the persecutors." Now the soul is rendered safe from the persecutors, if we do not consent to them unto evil; but there is no such consent to them when the Lord standeth at the right hand of the poor, that he may not give way through his very poverty, that is, weakness. This aid was given to the Body of Christ in the case of all the holy Martyrs.
1. ... This Psalm is one of those promises, surely and openly prophesying our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; so that we are utterly unable to doubt that Christ is announced in this Psalm, since we are now Christians, and believe the Gospel. For when our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ asked of the Jews, whose Son they alleged Christ to be, and they had replied, "the Son of David;" He at once replied to their answer, "How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto My Lord?" etc. "If then," He asked, "David in the spirit call Him Lord, how is He his son?"(5) With this verse this Psalm beginneth.
2. "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" (ver. 1). We ought, therefore, thoroughly to consider this question proposed to the Jews by the Lord, in the very commencement of the Psalm. For if what the .Jews answered be asked of us, whether we confess or deny it; God forbid that we should deny it. it be said to us, Is Christ the Son of David, or not? if we reply, No, we contradict the Gospel for the Gospel of St. Matthew thus beginneth, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David."(6) The Evangelist declareth, that he is writing the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David. The Jews, then, when questioned by Christ, whose Son they believed Christ to be, rightly answered, the Son of David. The Gospel agreeth with their answer. Not only the suspicion of the Jews, but the faith of Christians, doth declare this. ... "If then David in the spirit called Him Lord, how is He his son?" The Jews were silent at this question: they found no further reply: yet they did not seek Him as the Lord, for they did not acknowledge Him to be Himself that Son of David. But let us, brethren, both believe and declare: for, "with the heart we believe unto righteousness: but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; "(7) let us believe, I say, and let us declare both the Son of David, and the Lord of David. Let us not be ashamed of the Son of David, lest we find the Lord of David angry with us.
3. ... We know that Christ sitteth at the right hand of the Father, since His resurrection from the dead, and ascent into heaven. It is already done: we saw not it, but we have believed it: we have read it in the Scripture, have heard it preached, and hold it by faith. So that by the very circumstance that Christ was David's Son, He became His Lord also. For That which was born of the seed of David was so honoured, that It was also the Lord of David. Thou wonderest at this, as if the same did not happen in human affairs. For if it should happen, that the son of any private person be made a king, will he not be his father's lord? What is yet more wonderful may happen, not only that the son of a private person, by being made a king, may become his father's lord; but that the son of a layman, by being made a Bishop, may become his father's father. So that in this very circumstance, that Christ took upon Him the flesh, that He died in the flesh, that He rose again in the same flesh, that in the same He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of His Father, in this same flesh so honoured, so brightened, so changed into a heavenly garb, He is both David's Son, and David's Lord. ...
4. Christ, therefore, sitteth at the right hand of God, the Son is on the right hand of the Father, hidden from us. Let us believe. Two things are here said: that God said, "Sit Thou on My right hand;" and added, "until I make Thy enemies Thy footstool;" that is, beneath Thy feet. Thou dost not see Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father: yet thou canst see this, how His enemies are made His footstool. While the latter is fulfilled openly, believe the former to be fulfilled secretly. What enemies are made His footstool? Those to whom imagining vain things it is said, "Why do the heathen so furiously rage together: and why do the people imagine a vain thing?" etc.(1) ... He therefore sitteth at the right hand of God, till His enemies be placed beneath His feet. This is going on, this is taking place: although it is accomplished by degrees, it is going on without end. For though the heathen rage, will they, taking counsel together against Christ, prevent the fulfilment of these words: "I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession"? ... "Their memorial is perished with a cry;" but, "The Lord shall endure for ever:"(2) as another Psalm, but not another Spirit, saith.
5. And what followeth? "The Lord shall send the rod of Thy power out of Sion" (ver. 2). It appeareth, brethren, it most clearly appeareth, that the Prophet is not speaking of that kingdom of Christ, in which He reigneth for ever with His Father, Ruler of the things which are made through Him: for when doth not God the Word reign, who is in the beginning with God?(3) For it is said," Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever."(4) To what eternal King? To one invisible, incorruptible. For in this, that Christ is with the Father, invisible and incorruptible, because He is His Word, and His Power, and His Wisdom, and God with God, through whom all things were made; He is "King eternal;" but, nevertheless, that reign of temporal government, by which, through the mediation of His flesh, He called us into eternity, beginneth with Christians; but of His reign there shall be no end. His enemies therefore are made His footstool, while He is sitting on the right hand of His Father, as it is written; this is now going on, this will go on unto the end. ...
6. When therefore He hath sent the rod of His power out of Sion: what shall happen? "Be Thou ruler, even in the midst among Thine enemies." First, "Be Thou ruler in the midst of Thine enemies:" in the midst of the raging heathen. For shall He rule "in the midst of His enemies" at a later season, when the Saints have received their reward, and the ungodly their condemnation? And what wonder if He shall then rule, when the righteous reign with Him for ever, and the ungodly burn with eternal punishments? What wonder, if He shall then? Now "in the midst of Thine enemies," now in this transition of ages, in this propagation and succession of human mortality, now while the torrent of time is gliding by, unto this is the rod of Thy power sent out of Sion, "that Thou mayest be Ruler in the midst of Thine enemies." Rule Thou, rule among Pagans, Jews, heretics, false brethren. Rule Thou, rule, O Son of David, Lord of David, rule in the midst of Pagans, Jews, heretics, false brethren. "Be Thou Ruler in the midst of Thine enemies." We understand not this verse aright, if we do not see that it is already going on. ...
7. "With Thee the beginning on the day of Thy power" (ver. 3). What is this day of His power, when is there beginning with Him, or what beginning, or in what sense is there beginning with Him, since He is the Beginning? ...
8. What meaneth, "With Thee is the beginning"? Suppose anything you please as the beginning. Of Christ Himself, it would rather have been said, Thou art the Beginning, than, With Thee is the beginning. For He answered to those who asked Him, "Who art Thou?" and said, "Even the same that I said unto you, the Beginning;"(5) since His Father also is the Beginning, of whom is the only-begotten Son, in which Beginning was the Word, for the Word was with God. What then, if both the Father and the Son are the beginning, are there two beginnings? God forbid! For as the Father is God, and the Son is God, but the Father and the Son are not two Gods, but one God: so is the Father Beginning and the Son Beginning, but the Father and the Son are not two, but one Beginning. "With Thee is the beginning." Then it shall appear in what sense the beginning is with Thee. Not that the beginning is not with Thee here also. For hast Thou not also said, "Behold, ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone; but I am not alone, because the Father is with Me"?(1) Here therefore also, the beginning is with Thee. For Thou hast said elsewhere also, "But the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth His works."(2) "With Thee is the beginning:" nor was the Father ever separated from Thee. But when the Beginning shall appear to be with Thee, then shall it be manifest unto all who are made like Thee; since they shall see Thee as Thou art;(3) for Philip saw Thee here, and sought the Father.(4) Then therefore shall be seen what now is believed: then shall "the beginning be with Thee" in the sight of the righteous, in the sight of saints; the ungodly being removed, that they may not see the brightness of the Lord. ...
9. Explain of what power thou speakest. Because here also, as is said, His power is mentioned, when the rod of His power is sent forth out of Sion, that He may be Ruler in the midst of His enemies. Of what power speakest thou, "In the splendour of the saints"? "In the splendour," he saith, "of the saints." He speaketh of that power when the saints shall be in splendour; not when still carrying about their earthly flesh, and groaning in a mortal and corruptible body. ...
10. But this is put off, this will be granted afterwards: what is there now? "From the womb I have begotten Thee, before the morning star." What is here? If God hath a Son, hath He also a womb? Like fleshly bodies, He hath not; for He hath not a bosom either; yet it is said, "He who is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared Him."(5) But that which is the womb, is the bosom also: both bosom and womb are put for a secret place. What meaneth, "from the womb"? From what is secret, from what is hidden; from Myself, from My substance; this is the meaning of "from the womb;" for, "Who shall declare His generation?" (6) Let us then understand the Father saying unto the Son, "From My womb before the morning star have I brought Thee forth." What then meaneth, "before the morning star"? The morning star is put for the stars, as if the Scripture signified the whole from a part, and from one conspicuous star all the stars. But how were those stars created? "That they may be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years."(7) ... This expression also, "before the morning star," is used both figuratively and literally, and was thus fulfilled. For the Lord was born at night from the womb of the Virgin Mary; the testimony of the shepherds doth assert this, who were "keeping watch over their flock."(8) So David: O Thou, my Lord, who sittest at the right hand of my Lord, whence art Thou my Son, except because, "From the womb before the morning star I have begotten Thee"?
11. And unto what art Thou born? "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent: Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec" (ver. 4). For unto this wast Thou born from the womb before the morning star, that Thou mightest be a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec. For in that character in which He was born of the Father, God with God, coeternal with Him who begot Him, He is not a Priest; but He is a Priest on account of the flesh which He assumed, on account of the victim which He was to offer for us received from us. "The Lord," then, "hath sworn." What then meaneth, the Lord hath sworn? Doth the Lord, who forbiddeth men to swear? Himself swear? Or doth He possibly forbid man to swear chiefly on this account, that he may not fall into perjury, and for this reason the Lord may swear, since He cannot be forsworn. For man, who, through a habit of swearing, may slip into perjury, is rightly forbidden to swear: for he will be farther from perjury in proportion as he is far from swearing. For the man who sweareth, may swear truly or falsely: but he who sweareth not, cannot swear falsely; for he sweareth not at all. Why then should not the Lord swear, since the Lord's oath is the seal of the promise? Let Him swear by all means. What then dost thou, when thou swearest? Thou callest God to witness: this is to swear, to call God to witness; and for this reason there must be anxiety, that thou mayest not call God to witness anything false. If therefore thou by an oath dost call God to witness, why then should not God also call Himself to witness with an oath? "I live, saith the Lord," this is the Lord's oath. ... "The Lord sware," then, that is, confirmed: "He will not repent," He will not change. What? "Thou art a Priest for ever. "For ever," for He will not repent. But Priest, in what sense? Will there be those victims, victims offered by the Patriarchs, altars of blood, and tabernacle, and those sacred emblems of the Old Covenant? God forbid! These things are already abolished; the temple being destroyed, that priesthood taken away, their victim and their sacrifice having alike disappeared, not even the Jews have these things. They see that the priesthood after the order of Aaron hath already perished, and they do not recognise the Priesthood after the order of Melchizedec. I speak unto believers. If catechumens understand not something, let them lay aside sloth, and hasten unto knowledge. It is not therefore needful for me to disclose mysteries here:(1) let the Scriptures intimate to you what is the Priesthood after the order of Melchizedec.
12. "The Lord on Thy right hand" (ver. 5). The Lord had said, "Sit Thou on My right hand;" now the Lord is on His right hand, as if they changed seats. ... That very Christ, the "Lord on Thy right hand," unto whom Thou hast sworn, and it will not repent Thee: what doth He, Priest for evermore? What doth He, who is at the right hand of God, and intercedeth for us,(2) like a priest entering into the inner places, and into the holy of holies, into the mysteries of heaven, He alone being without sin, and therefore easily purifying from sins.(3) He therefore "on Thy right hand shall wound even kings in the day of His wrath." What kings, dost thou ask? Hast thou forgotten? "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers took counsel together against the Lord, and against His Anointed."(4) These kings He wounded by His glory, and by the weight of His Name made kings weak, so that they had not power to effect what they wished. For they strove amain to blot out the Christian name from the earth, and could not; for "Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken."(5) Kings therefore fall on this "stone of offence," and are therefore wounded, when they say, Who is Christ? I know not what Jew or what Galilean He may have been, who died, who was slain in such a manner! The stone is before thy feet, lying, so to speak, mean and humble: therefore by scorning thou dost stumble, by stumbling thou fallest, by falling thou art wounded. ... "But on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder."(6) When therefore any one falleth upon it, it lieth as it were low; it then woundeth: but when it shall grind him to powder, then it will come from above. See how in these two words, it shall wound him and grind him to powder: he striketh upon it, and it shall come down upon him: are distinguished the two seasons, of the humiliation and the majesty of Christ, of hidden punishment and future judgment. He will not crush, when He cometh, that man whom He doth not wound when He lieth in a contemptible appearance. ...
13. "He shall judge among the heathen: He shall fill up what hath fallen" (ver. 6). Whoever thou art who art obstinate against Christ, thou hast raised on high a tower that must fall. It is good that thou shouldest cast thyself down, become humble, throw thyself at the feet of Him who sitteth on the right hand of the Father, that in thee a ruin may be made to be built up. For if thou abidest in thy evil height, thou shalt be cast down when thou canst not be built up. For of such the Scripture saith in another passage: "Therefore shall He break down, and not build them up."(7) Beyond doubt he would not say this of some, unless there were some whom He broke down so as to build them up again. And this is going on at this time, while Christ is judging among the heathen in such a manner as to fill up what hath fallen. "He shall smite many heads over the earth." Here upon the earth in this life He shall smite many heads. He maketh them humble instead of proud; and I dare to say, my brethren, that it is more profitable to walk here humbly with the head wounded, than with the head erect to fall into the judgment of eternal death. He will smite many heads when he causeth them to fall, but He will fill them up and build them up again.
14. "He shall drink of the brook(8) in the way, therefore shall he lift up his head" (ver. 7). Let us consider Him drinking of the brook in the way: first of all, what is the brook? the onward flow of human mortality: for as a brook is gathered together by the rain, overflows, roars, runs, and by running runs down, that is, finishes its course; so is all this course of mortality. Men are born, they live, they die, and when some die others are born, and when they die others are born, they succeed, they flock together, they depart and will not remain. What is held fast here? what doth not run? what is not on its way to the abyss as if it was gathered together from rain? For as a river suddenly drawn together from rain from the drops of showers runneth into the sea, and is seen no more, nor was it seen before it was collected from the rain; so this hidden rain is collected together from hidden sources, and floweth on; at death again it travelleth where it is hidden: this intermediate state soundeth and passeth away. Of this brook He drinketh, He hath not disdained to drink of this brook; for to drink of this brook was to Him to be born and to die. What this brook hath, is birth and death; Christ assumed this, He was born, He died. "Therefore hath He lifted up His head;" that is, because He was humble, and "became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross: therefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name; that at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ the Lord is in the glory of God the Father."(9)
1. The days have come for us to sing Allelujah.(2) ... Now these days come only to pass away, and pass away to come, again, and typify the clay which does not come and pass away, because it is neither preceded by yesterday to cause it to come, nor pressed upon by the morrow to cause it to pass. ... For as these days succeed in regular season, with a joyful cheerfulness, the past days of Lent, whereby the misery of this life before the Resurrection of the Lord's body is signified; so that day which after the Resurrection shall be given to the full body of the Lord, that is, to the holy Church, when all the troubles and sorrows of this life have been shut out, shall succeed with perpetual bliss. But this life demandeth from us self-restraint, that although groaning and weighed down with our toil and struggles, and desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven,(3) we may refrain from secular pleasures: and this is signified by the number of forty, which was the period of the fasts of Moses, and Elias,(4) and our Lord Himself. ... But by the number fifty after our Lord's resurrection, during which season we sing Allelujah, not the term and passing away of a certain season is signified, but that blessed eternity; because the denary(5) added to forty signifieth the reward paid to the faithful who toil in this life, which our Father hath prepared an equal share of for the first and for the last. Let us therefore hear the heart of the people of God full of divine praises. He representeth in this Psalm some one exulting in happy joyfulness, he prefigureth the people whose hearts are overflowing with the love of God, that is, the body of Christ, freed from all evil.
2. "I will make confession unto Thee, O Lord," he saith, "with my whole heart" (ver. 1). Confession is not always confession of sins, but the praise of God is poured forth in the devotion of confession. The former mourneth, the latter rejoiceth: the former showeth the wound to the physician, the latter giveth thanks for health. The latter confession signifieth some one, not merely freed from every evil, but even separate from all the ill-disposed. And for this reason let us consider the place where he confesseth unto the Lord with all his heart. "In the counsel," he saith, "of the upright, and in the congregation:" I suppose, of those who shall "sit upon the twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."(6) For there will be no longer an unjust man among them, the thefts of no Judas are allowed, no Simon Magus is baptized, wishing to buy the Spirit, whilst he designeth to sell it;(7) no coppersmith like Alexander doth many evil deeds? no man covered with sheep's clothing creepeth in with feigned fraternity; such as those among whom the Church must now groan, and such as she must then shut out, when all the righteous shall be gathered together.
"These are the great works of the Lord, sought out unto all His wills" (ver. 2): through which mercy forsaketh none who confesseth, no man's wickedness is unpunished.(9) ... Let man choose for himself what he listeth: the works of the Lord are not so constituted, that the creature, having free discretion allowed him, should transcend the will of the Creator, even though he act contrary to His will. God willeth not that thou shouldest sin; for He forbiddeth it: yet if thou hast sinned, imagine not that the man hath done what he willed, and that hath happened to God which He willed not. For as He would that man would not sin, so would He spare the sinner, that he may return and live; He so willeth finally to punish him who persisteth in his sin, that the rebellious cannot escape the power of justice. Thus whatever choice thou hast made, the Almighty will not be at a loss to fulfil His will concerning thee.
3. "Confession and glorious deeds are His work" (ver. 3). What is a more glorious deed than to justify the ungodly? But perhaps the work of man preventeth that glorious work of God, so that when he hath confessed his sins, he deserveth to be justified. ... This is the glorious work of the Lord: for he loveth most, to whom most is forgiven.(10) This is the glorious work of the Lord: for "where sin abounded, there did grace much more abound."(11) But perhaps a man would deserve justification from works. "Not," saith he, "of works, lest any man boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works"(12) For a man worketh not righteousness save he be justified: but by "believing on Him that justifieth the ungodly,"(13) he beginneth with faith; that good may not by preceding show what he hath deserved, but by following what he hath received. ...
4. "He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered" (ver. 4): by abasing this man, exalting that. Reserving unusual miracles for a fit season, that thus human weakness, intent upon novelty, may remember them, although His daily miracles be greater. He created so many trees throughout the whole earth, and no one wondereth: He dried up one with a word, and the hearts of mortals were thunderstruck.(14) For that miracle, which hath not through its frequency become common, will cling most firmly to the heart. But of what use were the miracles, save that He might be feared? What too would fear profit, unless "the gracious and merciful Lord" gave" meat unto them that fear Him"? (ver. 5). meat that doth not spoil, "bread that cometh down from heaven,"(1) which He gave to no deservings of ours. For "Christ died for the ungodly."(2) No one then would give such food, save a gracious and merciful Lord. But if He gave so much to this life, if the sinner who was to be justified received the Word made flesh; what shall he receive when glorified in a future world? For, "He shall ever be mindful of His covenant." Nor hath He who hath given a pledge, given the whole.
5. "He shall show His people the power of His works" (ver. 6). Let not the holy Israelites, who have left all their possessions and have followed Him, be saddened; let them not be sorrowful and say, "Who then can be saved?" For "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." For "with men these things are impossible, but with God all things are possible."(3) "That He may give them the heritage of the heathen." For they went to the heathen, and enjoined the rich of this world "not to be highminded, nor to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God,"(4) to whom that is easy which is difficult for men. For thus many were called, thus the heritage of the heathen has been occupied, thus it hath happened, that even many who have not abandoned all their possessions in this life in order to follow Him, have despised even life itself for the sake of confessing His Name; and like camels humbling themselves to bear the burden of troubles, have entered as it were through a needle's eye, through the piercing straits of suffering. He hath wrought these effects, unto whom all things are possible.
6. "The works of His hands are verity and judgment" (ver. 7). Let verity be held by those who are judged here. Martyrs are here sentenced, and brought to the judgment-seat, that they may judge not only those by whom they have been judged, but even give judgment on angels,(5) against whom was their struggle here, even when they seemed to be judged by men. Let not tribulation, distress, famine, nakedness, the sword, separate from Christ. For "all His commandments are true;"(6) He deceiveth not, He giveth us what He promised. Yet we should not expect here what He promised; we should not hope for it: but "they stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and equity" (ver. 8). It is equitable and just that we should labour here and repose there; since "He sent redemption unto His people" (ver. 9). But from what are they redeemed, save from the captivity of this pilgrimage? Let not therefore rest be sought, save in the heavenly country. God indeed gave the carnal Israelites an earthly Jerusalem, "which is in bondage with her children:" but this is the Old Covenant, pertaining unto the old man. But they who there understood the figure, even then were heirs of the New Covenant; for "Jerusalem which is above is free, which is our everlasting mother in heaven."(7) But that transitory promises were given in that Old Testament is proved by the fact itself: however, "He hath commended His covenant for ever." But what, but the New? Whosoever dost wish to be heir of this, deceive not thyself, and think not of a land flowing with milk and honey, nor of pleasant farms, nor of gardens abounding in fruits and shade: desire not how to gain anything of this sort, such as the eye of covetousness is wont to lust for. For since "covetousness is the root of all evils,"(8) it must be cut off, that it may be consumed here; not be put off, that it may be satisfied there. First escape punishments, avoid hell; before thou longest for a God who promiseth, beware of one who threateneth. For "holy and reverend is His Name."
7. ... "The fear of the Lord," therefore, "is the beginning of wisdom." "Understanding is good" (ver. 10). Who gainsayeth? But to understand, and not to do, is dangerous. It is "good," therefore, "to those that do there after." Nor let it lift up the mind unto pride; for, "the praise of Him," the fear of whom is the beginning of wisdom, "endureth for ever:" and this will be the reward, this the end, this the everlasting station and abode. There are found the true commandments, made fast for ever and ever; here is the very heritage of the New Covenant commanded for ever. "One thing," he saith, "I have desired of the Lord, which I will require: even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life."(9) For, "blessed are they that dwell in the house" of the Lord: "they will be alway praising. ...Him; for " His praise endureth for ever."
1. I believe, brethren, that ye remarked and committed to memory the title of this Psalm. "The conversion," he saith, "of Haggai and Zechariah." These prophets were not as yet in existence, when these verses were sung.(12) ... But both, the one within a year after the other, began to prophesy that which seemeth to pertain to the restoration of the temple, as was foretold so long before.(1) ... "For the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."(2) Whoever therefore converteth himself to the work of this building together, and to the hope of a firm and holy edifice, like a living stone from the miserable ruin of this world, understandeth the title of the Psalm, understandeth "the conversion of Haggai and Zechariah." Let him therefore chant the following verses, not so much with the voice of his tongue as of his life. For the completion of the building will be that ineffable peace of wisdom, the "beginning" of which is the "fear of the Lord:" let him therefore, whom this conversion buildeth together, begin thence.
2. "Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he will have great delight in His commandments" (ver. 1). God, who alone judgeth both truthfully and mercifully, will see how far he obeyeth His commandments: since "the life of man on earth is a temptation,"(3) as holy Job saith. But "He who judgeth us is the Lord."(4) ... He therefore will see how far each man profiteth in His commandments; yet he who loveth the peace of this building together, shall have great delight in them; nor ought he to despair, since there is "peace on earth for men of good will."(5)
3. Next follows, "His seed shall be mighty upon earth" (ver. 2). The Apostle witnesseth, that the works of mercy are the seed of the future harvest, when he saith, "Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap;"(6) and again, "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly."(7) But what, brethren, is more mighty than that not only Zacchæus should buy the kingdom of Heaven by the half of his goods,(8) but even the widow for two mites,(9) and that each should possess an equal share there? What is more mighty, than that the same kingdom should be worth treasures to the rich man, and a cup of cold water to the poor? ... "Glory and riches shall be in his house" (ver. 3). For his house is his heart; where, with the praise of God, he liveth in greater riches with the hope of eternal life, than with men flattering, in palaces of marble, with splendidly adorned ceilings, with the fear of everlasting death. "For his righteousness endureth for ever:" this is his glory, there are his riches. While the other's purple, and fine linen, and grand banquets, even when present, are passing away; and when they have come to an end, the burning tongue shall cry out, longing for a drop of water from the finger's end.(10)
4. "Unto the right-hearted there ariseth up light in the darkness" (ver. 4). Justly do the godly direct their heart unto their God, justly do they walk with their God, preferring His will to themselves; and having no proud presumption in their own. For they remember that they were some time in darkness, but are now light in the Lord.(11) "Merciful, pitying, and just is the Lord God." It delighteth us that He is "merciful and pitying," but it perhaps terrifieth us that the Lord God is "just." Fear not, despair not at all, happy man, who fearest the Lord, and hast great delight in His commandments; be thou sweet, be merciful and lend. For the Lord is just in this manner, that He judgeth without mercy him who hath not shown mercy;(12) but, "Sweet is the man who is merciful and lendeth" (ver. 5): God will not spew him out of His mouth as if he were not sweet. "Forgive," He saith, "and ye shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given unto you."(13) Whilst thou forgivest that thou mayest be forgiven, thou art merciful; whilst thou givest that it may be given unto thee, thou lendest. For though all be called generally mercy where another is assisted in his distress, yet there is a difference where thou spendest neither money, nor the toil of bodily labour, but by forgiving what each man hath sinned against thee, thou gainest free pardon for thine own sins also. ... He who is unwilling to give to the poor, seeketh riches; listen to what is written, "Thou shalt have treasure in heaven."(14) Thou wilt not then lose honour by forgiving: for it is a very laudable triumph to conquer anger: wilt not grow poor by giving; for a heavenly treasure is a more safe possession. The former verse, "Riches and plenteousness shall be in his house," was pregnant with this verse.
5. He therefore who doth these things, "shall guide his words with discretion." His deeds themselves are the words whereby he shall be defended at the Judgment; which shall not be without mercy unto him, since he hath himself shown mercy. "For he shall never be moved" (ver. 6): he who, called to the right hand, shall hear these words, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." For no works of theirs, save works of mercy, are there mentioned. He therefore shall hear, "Come, ye blessed of My Father;" for, "the generation of the right ones shall be blessed." Thus, "the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance." "He will not be afraid of any evil hearing; for his heart standeth fast and believeth in the Lord" (ver. 7). Such as the words which he will hear addressed to those on the left hand, "Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."(1) He therefore who seeketh here not his own things, but those of Jesus Christ,(2) most patiently endureth sufferings, waiteth for the promises with faith. Nor is he broken down by any temptations: "His heart is established, and will not shrink, until he see beyond his enemies" (ver. 8). His enemies wished to see good things here, and when invisible blessings were promised them, used to say, "Who will show us any good?"(3) Let our heart therefore be established, and shrink not, until we see beyond our enemies. For they wish to see good things of men in the land of the dying; we trust to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.(4)
6. But it is a great thing to have the heart established, and not to be moved, while they rejoice who love what they see, and mock at him who hopeth for what he seeth not; "what the Lord hath prepared for them that love Him." great is the value of this which is not seen, and it is bought for so much as each man is able to give for it. On this account he also "dispersed abroad, and gave to the poor" (ver. 9): he saw not, yet he kept buying; but He was storing up the treasure in heaven, who deigned to hunger and thirst in the poor on earth. It is no wonder then if "his righteousness remaineth for ever:" He who created the ages being his guardian. "His horn," whose humility was scorned by the proud, "shall be exalted with honour."
7. "The ungodly shall see it, and he shall be angered" (ver. 10): this is that late and fruitless repentance. For with whom rather than himself is he "angered," when he shall say, "Our pride, what hath it profiled us? the boast-fulnes of our riches, what hath it given us?"(6) seeing the horn of him exalted with honour, who "dispersed abroad, and gave to the poor." "He shall gnash with his teeth, and consume away:" for "there shall be weeping an d gnashing of teeth." For he will no more bring forth leaves and bloom, as would happen if he had repented in season but he will then repent, when "the desire of the ungodly shall perish," no consolation succeeding. "The desire of the ungodly shall perish," when "all things shall pass away like a shadow,"(7) when the flower shall fall down on the withering of the grass. "But the word of the Lord that endureth for ever,"(8) as it is mocked by the vanity of the falsely happy, so will laugh at the perdition of the same when truly miserable.
1. ... When ye hear sung in the Psalms, Praise the Lord, ye children" (ver. 1); imagine not that that exhortation pertaineth not unto you, because having already passed the youth of the body, ye are either blooming in (he prime of manhood, or growing gray with the honours of old age: for unto all of you the Apostle saith, "Brethren, be not children in understanding; howbeit, in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men."(10) What malice in particular, save pride? For it is pride that, presuming in false greatness, suffereth not man to walk along the narrow path, and to enter by the narrow gate; but the child easily entereth through the narrow entrance; and thus no man, save as a child, entereth into the kingdom of heaven. "Praise the Name of the Lord." ... Let Him therefore be alway proclaimed: "Blessed be the Name of the Lord, from this time forth for evermore" (ver. 2). Let Him be proclaimed everywhere: "From the rising up of the sun unto the going down. of the same, praise ye the Name of the Lord" (ver. 3).
2. If any of the holy children who praise the Name of the Lord were to ask of me and say to me, "for evermore" I understand to mean unto all eternity: but why" from this," and why is not the Name of the Lord blessed before this, and before all ages? I will answer the infant, who asketh not in contumacy. Unto you it is said, masters and children, unto you it is said, "Praise the Name of the Lord; blessed be the Name of the Lord:" let the Name of the Lord be blessed," from this," that is, from the moment ye speak these words. For ye begin to praise, but praise ye without end. ... Or, since in this passage he seemeth to signify rather humility than childhood, the contrary of which is the vain and false greatness of pride; and for this reason none but children praise the Lord, since the proud know not how to praise Him; let old age be childlike, and your childhood like old age; that is, that neither may your wisdom be with pride, nor your humility without wisdom, that ye may "praise the Lord from this for evermore." Wherever the Church of Christ is diffused in her childlike saints, "Praise ye the Name of the Lord;" that is, "from the rising up of the sun unto the going down of the same."
3. "The Lord is high above all heathen" (ver. 4). The heathen are men: what wonder if the Lord be above all men? They see with their eyes those whom they worship high above themselves to shine in heaven, the sun and moon and stars, creatures which they serve while they neglect the Creator. But not only "is the Lord high above all heathen;" but "His glory" also "is above the heavens." The heavens look up unto Him above themselves; and the humble have Him together with them, who do not worship the heavens instead of Him, though placed in the flesh beneath the heavens.
4. "Who is like unto the Lord our God, that hath His dwelling so high; and yet beholdeth the humble?" (ver. 5). Any one would think that He dwelleth in the lofty heavens, whence He may behold the humble things on earth; but "He beholdeth the humble things that are in heaven and earth" (ver. 6): what then is His high dwelling, whence He beholdeth the humble things that are in heaven and earth? Are the humble things He beholdeth His own high dwelling itself? For He thus exalteth the humble, so as not to make them proud. He therefore both dwelleth in those whom He raiseth high, and maketh them heaven for Himself, that is, His own abode; and by seeing them not proud, but constantly subject to Himself, He beholdeth even in heaven itself these very humble things, in whom raised on high He dwelleth. For the Spirit thus speaketh through Isaiah "thus saith the Highest that dwelleth on high, that inhabiteth eternity; the Lord Most High, dwelling in the holy." He hath expounded what He meant by dwelling on high, by the more full expression, "dwelling in the holy." ...
5. And he hath moved us also to enquire whether the Lord our God beholdeth the same humble things in heaven and in earth: or different humble things in heaven to what He beholdeth on earth. ... But if the Lord our God beholdeth other humble things in heaven to what He doth on earth; I suppose that He already beholdeth in heaven those whom He hath called, and in whom He dwelleth; while on earth He beholdeth those whom He is now calling, that He may dwell in them. For He hath the one with Him musing on heavenly things, the others He is waking, while they yet dream things earthly. But since it is difficult to call even those humble, who have not as yet submitted their necks in piety to the gracious yoke of Christ, since the divine writings throughout the whole Psalm warn us to understand holy by the word humble; there is also another interpretation, which, Beloved, ye may consider with me. I believe that those are now meant by heavens who shall sit upon twelve thrones, and shall judge with the Lord;(1) and under the name of the earth, the rest of the multitude of the blessed, who shall be set on the right hand, that through works of mercy they may be praised and received into everlasting habitations by those whom they have made friends to themselves from the mammon of unrighteousness in this mortal life.(2) ...
6. "He taketh up the destitute out of the dust, and lifteth the poor out of the mire" (ver. 7); "that He may set Him with the princes, even with the princes of His people" (ver. 8). Let not then the heads of the exalted disdain to be humble, beneath the Lord's right hand. For though the faithful steward of the Lord's money be placed together with the princes of the people of God, although he be destined to sit on the twelve seats, and even to judge angels;(1) yet he is taken up destitute from the dust, and lifted from out of the mire. Was not he possibly lifted up from the mire, who "served divers lusts and pleasures "? ...
7. What then, brethren, if we have already heard of those humble things which are in heaven, lifted up from the mire, that they might be set with the princes of the people; have we by consequence heard nothing of the humble things which the Lord beholdeth on the earth? For those friends who will judge with their Lord are fewer, while those whom they receive into everlasting habitations are more in number. For although the whole of a heap of corn compared with the separate chaff may seem to contain few in number; yet considered by itself, it is abundant. ... The Church then speaketh thus in that sense, wherein she seemeth to bear no offspring among those crowds who have not given up all things, that they might follow the Lord, and might sit upon the twelve thrones.(1) But how many in the same crowd, who make unto themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,(2) shall stand on the right hand through works of mercy? He not only then lifteth up from the mire him whom He is to place with the princes of His people; but also, "Maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children" (ver. 9): He who dwelleth on high, and beholdeth the humble things that are in heaven and earth, the seed of Abraham like the stars of heaven, holiness set on high in heavenly habitations; and like the sand on the sea shore, a merciful and countless multitude gathered together from the harmful waves, and the bitterness of impiety.
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