Augustine on the Psalms. Psalms 114 - 118
1. The river Jordan, when they were entering across it into the land of promise, when touched by the feet of the priests who bore the Ark, stood still from above with bridled stream, while it flowed down from below, where it ran on into the sea, until the whole people passed over, the priests standing on the dry ground.(1) We know these things, but yet we should not imagine in this Psalm, to which we have now answered by chanting Allelujah, that it is the purpose of the Holy Spirit, that while we call to mind those deeds of the past, we should not consider things like unto them yet to take place. For "these things," as the Apostle saith, "happened unto them for ensamples."(2)
2. "When Israel came out of Egypt, and the house of Jacob from among the strange people" (ver. 1), "Judah was His sanctuary, and Israel His dominion" (ver. 2); "the sea saw that and fled, Jordan was driven back" (ver. 3). Think not that past deeds are related unto us, but rather that the future is predicted; since, while those miracles also were going on in that people, things present indeed were happening, but not without an intimation of things future. ... Some things he has related differently to what we have learnt and read there: that he might not truly be thought to be repeating past acts rather than to be prophesying future things. For in the first place, we read not that the Jordan was driven back, but that it stood still on the side nearest the source of its streams, while the people were passing through; next, we read not of the mountains and hills skipping: all which he hath added, and repeated. For after saying, "The sea saw that, and fled; Jordan was driven back:" he added," The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like young sheep" (ver. 4): and then asketh, "What aileth thee, O thou sea, that thou reddest: and thou, Jordan, that thou wast driven back?" (ver. 5 ). "Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like young sheep?" (ver. 6).
3. Let us therefore consider what we are taught here; since both those deeds were typical of us, and these words exhort us to recognise ourselves. For if we hold with a firm heart the grace of God which hath been given us, we are Israel, the seed of Abraham: unto us the Apostle saith, "Therefore are ye the seed of Abraham."(3) ... Let therefore no Christian consider himself alien to the name of Israel. For we are joined in the corner stone with those among the Jews who believed, among whom we find the Apostles chief. Hence our Lord in another passage saith, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, that there may be one fold and one Shepherd."(4) The Christian people then is rather Israel, and the same is preferably the house of Jacob; for Israel and Jacob are the same. But that multitude of Jews, which was deservedly reprobated for its perfidy, for the pleasures of the flesh sold their birthright, so that they belonged not to Jacob, but rather to Esau. For ye know that it was said with this hidden meaning, "That the eider shah serve the younger." (5)
4. But Egypt, since it is said to mean affliction, or one who afflicteth, or one who oppresseth, is often used for an emblem of this world; from which we must spiritually withdraw, that we may not be bearing the yoke with unbelievers.(6) For thus each one becometh a fit citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, when he hath first renounced this world; just as that people could not be led into the land of promise, save first they had departed from Egypt. But as they did not depart thence, until freed by Divine help; so no man is turned away in heart from this world, unless aided by the gift of the Divine mercy. For what was there once prefigured, the same is fulfilled in every faithful one in the daily travailings of the Church, in this end of the world, in this, as the blessed John writeth, last time.(7) Hear the Apostle the teacher of the Gentiles, thus instructing us: "I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples."(8) What more do ye wish, most beloved brethren? For it is surely clear, not from human conjecture, but from the declaration of an Apostle, that is, of God and our Lord: for God spoke in them, and though from clouds of flesh, yet it was God who thundered: surely then it is clear by so great testimony that all these things which were done in figure, are now fulfilled in our salvation; because then the future was predicted, now the past is read, and the present observed.
5. Hear what is even more wonderful, that the hidden and veiled mysteries of the ancient books are in some degree revealed by the ancient books. For Micah the prophet speaketh thus. "According to the days of thy coming out of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things, etc.(9) ... In this Psalm, therefore, although the wonderful spirit of prophecy doth look into the future, yet it seemeth, as it were, to be merely detailing to the past. "Judah," he saith, "was His sanctuary: the sea saw that and fled:" "was," "saw," and" fled," are words of the past tense; and "Jordan was driven back, and the mountains skipped, and the earth trembled," in like manner have a past expression, without, however, any difficulty in understanding by them the future. ... For though it was so long after the departure of that people from Egypt, and so long before these seasons of the Church, that he sang what I have quoted; nevertheless, he withesseth that he is foretelling the future without any question. "According to the days," he saith, "of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things." "The nations shall see and be confounded." This is what is here said, "The sea saw that, and fled:" for if in this passage, through words of the past tense the future is secretly revealed, as is the case; who would venture to explain the words, "shall see and be confounded," of past events? And a little lower down he(1) alludeth more clearly than light itself to those very enemies of ours, who followed us flying, that they might slay us, that is, our sins, which are overwhelmed and extinguished in Baptism, just as the Egyptians were drowned in the sea, saying, since "He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He is of good will and merciful, He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us, He will drown our iniquities: and Thou wilt east all their sins into the depths of the sea."
6. What is it, most beloved? ye who know yourselves to be Israelites according to Abraham's seed, ye who are of the house of Jacob, heirs according to promise, know that even ye have gone forth from Egypt, since ye have renounced this world; that ye have gone forth from a foreign people, since by the confession of piety, ye have separated yourselves from the blasphemies of the Gentiles. For it is not your tongue, but a foreign one, which knoweth not how to praise God, to whom ye sing Allelujah. For "Judah" hath become "His sanctuary" in you; for "he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and by circumcision of the heart."(2) Examine then your hearts, if faith hath circumcised them, if confession hath cleansed them; in you "Judah" hath become "His sanctuary," in you "Israel" hath become "His dominion." For" He gave" unto you" the power to become the sons of God."(3) ...
7. But I would not that ye should seek without yourselves, how the Jordan was turned back, I would not ye should augur anything evil. For the Lord chideth those who have "turned" their "back" unto Him, "and not their face."(4) And whoever forsaketh the source of his being, and turneth away from his Creator; as a river into the sea, he glides into the bitter wickedness of this world. It is therefore good for him that he turn back, and that God whom he had set behind his back, may be before his face as he returneth; and that the sea of this world, which he had set before his face, when he was gliding on towards it, may become behind him; and that he may so forget what is behind him, that he may "reach forward to what is before him;"(5) which is profitable for him when once converted. ...
8. "Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob" (ver. 7). What meaneth, "at the presence of the Lord," save at the presence of Him who said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."(6) For the earth trembled; but because it had remained slothful, it was made to tremble, so that it might be more firmly fixed at the presence of the Lord.
9. "Who turned the hard rock into standing waters, and the flint stone into springing wells" (ver. 8). For He melted Himself, and what may be called His hardness to water those who believe on Him, that He might in them become "a fountain of water gushing forth unto everlasting life;"(7) because formerly, when He was not known, He seemed hard. Hence they who said, "This is an hard saying, who can bear it?(8) were confounded, and waited not until He should flow and stream upon them when the Scriptures were revealed. The rock, that hardness, was turned into pools of water, that stone into fountains of waters, when on His resurrection, "He expounded unto them, commencing with Moses and all the prophets, how Christ ought to suffer thus;"(9) and sent the Holy Ghost, of whom He said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink."(10)
1. "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give the praise" (ver. 1). For that grace of the water that gushed from the rock ("now that rock was Christ "12), was not given on the score of works that had gone before, but of His mercy "that justifieth the ungodly."(13) For "Christ died for sinners,"(14) that men might not seek any glory of their own, but in the Lord's Name.
2. "For Thy loving mercy, and for Thy truth's sake" (ver. 2). Observe how often these two qualities, loving mercy and truth, are joined together in the holy Scriptures. For in His loving mercy He called sinners, and in His truth He judgeth those who when called refused to come. "That the heathen may not say, Where is now their God?" For at the last, His loving mercy and truth will shine forth, when "the sign of the Son of man shall appear in heaven, and then shall all tribes of the earth cry woe;"(1) nor shall they then say, "Where is their God?" when He is no longer preached unto them to be believed in, but displayed before them to be trembled at.
3. "As for our God, He is in heaven above" (ver. 3). Not in heaven, where they see the sun and moon, works of God which they adore, but "in heaven above," which overpasseth all heavenly and earthly bodies. Nor is our God in heaven in such a sense, as to dread a fall that should deprive Him of His throne, if heaven were withdrawn from under Him. "In heaven and earth He hath made whatsoever pleased Him." Nor doth He stand in need of His own works, as if He had place in them where He might abide; but endureth in His own eternity, wherein He abideth and hath done whatsoever pleased Him, both in heaven and earth; for they did not support Him, as a condition of their being created by Him: since, unless they had been created, they could not have supported Him. Therefore, in whatsoever He Himself dwelleth, He, so to speak, containeth this as in need of Himself, He is not contained by this as if He needed it. Or it may be thus understood: "In heaven and in earth He hath done whatsoever pleased Him," whether among the higher or the lower orders of His people, He hath made His grace His free gift, that no man may boast in the merits of his own works. ...
4. "Their idols," he saith, "are silver and gold, even the work of men's hands" (ver. 4). That is, although we cannot display our God to your carnal eyes, whom ye ought to recognise through his works; yet be not seduced by your vain pretences, because ye can point with the finger to, the objects of your worship. For it were much worthlet for you not to have what to point to, than that your hearts' blindness should be displayed in what is exhibited to these eyes by you: for what do ye exhibit, save gold and silver? They have indeed both bronze, and wood, and earthenware idols, and of different materials of this description; but the Holy Spirit preferred mentioning the more precious material, because when every man hath blushed for that which he sets more by, he is much more easily turned away from the worship of meaner objects. For it is said in another passage of Scripture concerning the worshippers of images, "Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth."(2) But lest that man who speaketh thus not to a stone or stock, but to gold and silver, seem wiser to himself; let him look this way, let him turn hitherwards the ear of his heart: "The idols of the Gentiles are gold and silver." Nothing mean and contemptible is here mentioned: and indeed to that mind which is not earth, both gold and silver is earth, but more beautiful and brilliant, more solid and firm. Employ not then the hands of men, to create a false Deity out of that metal which a true God hath created; nay, a false man, whom thou mayest worship for a true God. ...
5. "For they have mouths, and speak not: eyes have they, and see not" (ver. 5). "They have ears, and hear not: noses have they, and smell not" (ver. 6). "They have hands, and handle not; feet have they, and walk not; neither cry they through their throat" (vet. 7). Even their artist therefore surpasseth them, since he had the faculty of moulding them by the motion and functions of his limbs: though thou wouldest be ashamed to worship that artist. Even thou surpassest them, though thou hast not made these things, since thou doest what they cannot do. Even a beast doth excel them; for unto this it is added, "neither cry they through their throat." For after he had said above, "they have mouths, and speak not;" what need was there, after he had enumerated the limbs from head to feet, to repeat what he had said of their crying through their throat; unless, I suppose, because we perceive that what he mentioned of the other members, was common to men and beasts? For they see, and hear, and smell, and walk, and some, apes for instance, handle with hands. But what he had said of the mouth, is peculiar to men: since beasts do not speak. But that no one might refer what hath been said to the works of human members alone, and prefer men only to the gods of the heathen; after all this he added these words, "neither cry they through their throat:" which again is common to men and cattle. ... How 'much better then do mice and serpents, and other animals of like sort, judge of the idols of the heathen, so to speak, for they regard not the human figure in them when they see not the human life. For this reason they usually build nests in them, and unless they are deterred by human movements, they seek for themselves no safer habitations. A man then moveth himself, that he may frighten away a living beast from his own god; and yet worshippeth that god who cannot move himself, as if he were powerful, from whom he drove away one better than the object of his worship . ... Even the dead surpasseth a deity who neither liveth nor hath lived . ...
6. But they seem to themselves to have a purer religion, who say, I neither worship an idol, nor a devil; but in the bodily image I behold an emblem 3 of that which I am bound to worship. ... They presume to reply, that they worship not the bodies themselves, but the deities which preside over the government of them. One sentence of the Apostle, therefore, testifieth to their punishment and condemnation; "Who," he saith, "have changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever."(1) For in the former part of this sentence he condemned idols; in the latter, the account they give of their idols: for by designating images wrought by an artificer by the names of the works of God's creation, they change the truth of God into a lie; while, by considering these works themselves as deities, and worshipping them as such, they serve the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever . ...
7. But, it will be said, we also have very many instruments and vessels made of materials or metal of this description for the purpose of celebrating the Sacraments, which being consecrated by these ministrations are called holy, in honour of Him who is thus worshipped for our salvation: and what indeed are these very instruments or vessels, but the work of men's hands? But have they mouth, and yet speak not? have they eyes, and see not ? do we pray unto them, because through them we pray to God ? This is the chief cause of this insane profanity, that the figure resembling the living person, which induces men to worship it, hath more influence in the minds of these miserable persons, than the evident fact that it is not living, so that it ought to be despised by the living.(2)
8. The result that ensueth is that described in the next verse: "They that make them are like unto them, and so are all such as put their trust in them" (ver. 8). Let them therefore see with open eyes, and worship with shut and dead understandings, idols that neither see nor live. "But the house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord" (ver. 9). "For hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for ? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."(3) But that this patience may endure to the end, "He is their helper and defender." Do perhaps spiritual persons (by whom carnal minds are built up in "the spirit of meekness," 4 because they pray as higher for lower minds) already see, and is that already to them reality which to the lower is hope ? It is not so. For even "the house of Aaron hath hope in the Lord" (ver. 10). Therefore, that they also may stretch forward perseveringly towards those things which are before them, and may run perseveringly, until they may apprehend that for which they are apprehendeds,(5) and may know even as they are known,(6) "He is their helper and defender." For both "fear the Lord, and have hoped in the Lord: He is their helper and defender" (ver. 11).
9. For we do not by our deservings prevent the mercy of God; but, "The Lord hath been mindful of us, and hath blessed us. He hath blessed the house of Israel, He hath blessed the house of Aaron" (ver. 12). But in blessing both of these, "He hath blessed all that fear the Lord" (ver. 13). Dost thou ask, who are meant by both of these? He answereth, "both small and great." That is, the house of Israel with the house of Aaron, those who among that nation believed in Jesus the Saviour . ... For in the character of those who out of that nation believed, it is said, "Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha."(7) Seed, because when it has been scattered over the earth, it multiplied.
10. For the great ones, of the house of Aaron, have said, "May the Lord increase you more and more, you and your children" (ver. 14). And thus it hath happened. For children that have been raised even from the stones have flocked unto Abraham:(8) sheep which were not of this fold, have flocked unto him, that there might be one flock, and one shepherd;(9) the faith of all nations was added, and the number grew, not only of wise priests, but of obedient peoples; the Lord increasing not only their fathers more and more, who in Christ might show the way to the rest who should imitate them, but also their children, who should follow their fathers' pious footsteps.
11. Therefore the Prophet saith unto these great and small, the mountains and the little hills, the rams and the young sheep, what followeth: "Ye are the blessed of the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (vet. 15). As if he should say, Ye are the blessed of the Lord, who made the heaven in the great, earth in the small: not this visible heaven, studded with luminaries which are objects to these eyes. For "The heaven of heavens is the Lord's" (ver. 16); who hath elevated the minds of some saints to such a height, that they became teachable by no man, but by God Himself; in comparison of which heaven, whatever is discerned with carnal eyes is to be called earth; which "He hath given to the children of men;" that when it is contemplated, whether in that region which illumineth above, as that which is called heaven, or in that which is illumined beneath, which is properly called earth (since in comparison with that which is called heaven of heaven, the whole, as we have said, is earth;) the whole therefore of this earth He hath given to the children of men, that by the consideration of it, as far as they can, they may conceive of the Creator, whom with their yet weak hearts they cannot see without that aid to their conception.
12 . ... But nevertheless since they derive the truth and richness of wisdom, not from man nor through man, but through God Himself, they have received little ones who shall be heaven, that they may know that they are heaven of heaven; as yet however earth, unto which they say, "I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase."(1) For to those very sons of men whom He made heaven, He who knoweth how to provide for the earth through heaven, hath given earth upon which they work. May they therefore abide, heaven and earth, in their God, who made them, and let them live from Him, confessing unto Him, and praising Him; for if they choose to live from themselves, they shall die, as it is written, "From the dead, as though he were not, confession ceaseth."(2) But, "The dead praise not Thee, O Lord, neither all they that go down into silence" (ver. 17). For the Scripture in another passage proclaimeth, "The sinner, when he cometh into the abyss of wickednesses, scorneth."(3) "But we, who live, will praise the Lord, from this time forth for evermore" (ver. 18).
1. "I have loved, since the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer" (ver. 1). Let the soul that is sojourning in absence from the Lord sing thus, let that sheep which had strayed sing thus, let that son who had "died and returned to life," who had "been lost and was found;"(5) let our soul sing thus, brethren, and most beloved sons. Let us be taught, and let us abide, and let us sing thus with the Saints: "I have loved: since the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer." Is this a reason for having loved, that the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer? and do we not rather love, because He hath heard, or that He may hear? What then meaneth, "I have loved, since the Lord will hear"? Doth he, because hope is wont to inflame love, say that he hath loved, since he hath hoped that God will listen to the voice of his prayer?
2. But whence hath he hoped for this ? Since, he saith, "He hath inclined His ear unto me: and in my days I have called upon Him" (ver. 2). I loved, therefore, because He will hear; He will hear, "because He hath inclined His ear unto me." But whence knowest thou, O human soul, that God hath inclined His ear unto thee, except thou sayest, "I have believed"? These three things, therefore, "abide, faith, hope, charity:"(6) because thou hast believed, thou hast hoped; because thou hast hoped, thou hast loved . ...
3. And what are thy days, since thou hast said, "In my days I have called upon Him "? Are they those perchance, in which "the fulness of time came," and "God sent His Son,"(7) who had already said, "In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee"?(8) ... I may rather call my days the days of my misery, the days of my mortality, the days according to Adam, full of toil and sweat, the days according to the ancient corruption. "For I lying, stuck fast in the deep mire,"(9) in another Psalm also have cried out, "Behold, Thou hast made my days old; . ... in these days of mine have I called upon Thee. For my days are different from the days of my Lord. I call those my days, which by my own daring I have made for myself, whereby I have forsaken Him: and, since He reigneth everywhere, and is all-powerful, and holdeth all things, I have deserved prison; that is, I have received the darkness of ignorance, and the bonds of mortality . ... For in these days of mine, "The snares of death compassed me round about, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me" (ver. 3): pains that would not have overtaken me, had I not wandered from Thee. But now they have overtaken me; but I found them not, while I was rejoicing in the prosperity of the world, in which the snares of hell deceive the more.
4. But after" I too found trouble and heaviness, I called upon the Name of the Lord" (ver. 4). For trouble and profitable sorrow I did not feel; trouble, wherein He giveth aid, unto whom it is said, "O be Thou our help in trouble: and vain is the help of man."(11) For I thought I might rejoice and exult in the vain help of man; but when I had heard from my Lord, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted:"(12) I did not wait until I should lose those temporal blessings in which I rejoiced, and should then mourn: but I gave heed to that very misery of mine which caused me to rejoice in such things, which I both feared to lose, and yet could not retain; I gave heed to it firmly and courageously, and I saw that I was not only agonized by the adversities of this world, but even bound by its good fortune; and thus "I found the trouble and heaviness" which had escaped me, "and called upon the Name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul." Let then the holy people of God say, "I called upon the Name of the Lord:" and let the remainder of the heathen hear, who do not as yet call upon the Name of the Lord; let them hear and seek, that they may discover trouble and heaviness, and may call upon the Name of the Lord, and be saved . ...
5. "Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful" (ver. 5 ). He is gracious, righteous, and merciful. Gracious in the first place, because He hath inclined His ear unto me; and I knew not that the ear of God had approached my lips, till I was aroused by those beautiful feet, that I might call upon the Lord's Name: for who hath called upon Him, save he whom He first called ? Hence therefore He is in the first place "gracious;" but "righteous," because He scourgeth; and again, "merciful," because He receiveth; for "He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth;" nor ought it to be so bitter to me that He scourgeth, as sweet that He receiveth. For how should not "The Lord, who keepeth little ones" (ver. 6), scourge those whom, when of mature age, He seeketh to be heirs; "for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?(1) "I was in misery, and He helped me." He helped me, because I was in misery; for the pain which the physician causeth by his knife is not penal, but salutary.
6. "Turn again then unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath done good to thee" (ver. 7): not for thy deservings, or through thy strength; but because the Lord hath done good to thee. "Since," he saith," He hath delivered my soul from death" (ver. 8). It is wonderful, most beloved brethren, that, after he had said that his soul should turn unto rest, since the Lord had rewarded him; he added, since "He hath delivered my soul from death." Did it turn unto rest, because it was delivered from death? Is not rest more usually said of death? What is the action of him whose life is rest, and death disquietude? Such then ought to be the action of the soul, as may tend to a quiet security, not one that may increase restless toil; since He hath delivered it from death, who, pitying it, said, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," etc.(2) Meek therefore and humble, following, so to speak, Christ as its path, should the action of the soul be that tendeth towards repose; nevertheless, not slothful and supine; that it may finish its course, as it is written, "In quietness make perfect thy works."(3) "Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling." Whoever feeleth the chain of this flesh, chanteth these things as fulfilled in hope towards himself. For it is truly said, "I was in misery, and He delivered me;" but the Apostle saith this also truly, that we are saved by hope.(4) And that we are delivered from death, is well said to be already fulfilled, so that we may understand the death of unbelievers, of whom he saith, "Leave the dead to bury their dead."(5) ... He will then clear our eyes of tears, when He shall save our feet from falling. For there will then be no slipping of our feet as they walk, when there will be no sliding of the weak flesh. But now, however firm our path, which is Christ, be: yet since we place flesh, which we are enjoined to subdue, beneath us; in the very work of chastening and subduing it, it is a great thing not to fall: but not to slip in the flesh, who can attain? "I shall please in the sight of the Lord, in the land of the living" (ver. 9) . ... We "labour" indeed now, because we are awaiting "the redemption of our body:(6) but, "when death shall have been swallowed up in victory, and this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality;"(7) then there will be no weeping, because there will be no falling; and no filling, because no corruption. And therefore we shall then no longer labour to please, but we shall be entirely pleasing in the sight of the Lord, in the land of the living.
7 . ... "I believed," saith he, "and therefore did I speak. But I was sorely brought down" (ver. 10). For he suffered many tribulations, for the sake of the word which he faithfully held, faithfully preached; and he was sorely brought down; as they feared who loved the praise of men better than that of God. But what meaneth, "But I"? He should rather say, I believed, and therefore I have spoken, and I was sorely brought down: why did he add, "But I," save because a man may be sorely brought down by those who oppose the truth, the truth itself cannot, which he believeth and speaketh? Whence also the Apostle, when he was speaking of his chain, saith, "the word of God is not bound."(8) So this man also, since there is one person of the holy witnesses, that is, of the Martyrs of God, saith, "I believed, and therefore will I speak." "But I;" not that which I believed, not the word which I have delivered; "but I was sorely brought down."
8. "I said in my trance, All men are liars" (ver. 11). By trance he meaneth fear, which when persecutors threaten, and when the sufferings of torture or death impend, human weakness suffereth. For this we understand, because in this Psalm the voice of Martyrs is heard. For trance is used in another sense also, when the mind is not beside itself by fear, but is possessed by some inspiration of revelation. "But I said in my haste, All men are liars." In consternation he hath had regard to his infirmity, and hath seen that he ought not to presume on himself; for as far as pertaineth to the man himself, he is a liar, but by the grace of God he is made true; lest yielding to the pressure of his enemies he might not speak what he had believed, but might deny it; even as it happened to Peter, since he had trusted in himself, and was to be taught that we ought not to trust in man. And if every one ought not to trust in man, surely not in himself; because he is a man. Rightly therefore in his fear did he perceive that every man was a liar; since they also whom no fear robs of their presence of mind, so that they never lie by yielding to the persecutors, are such by the gifts of God, not by their own strength . ...
9. "What," he asketh, "what reward shall I give unto the Lord, for all the benefits that He hath returned unto me?" (ver. 12). He saith not, for all the benefits that He hath done unto me but "for all the benefits that He hath returned unto me." What deeds then on the man's Dart had preceded, that all the benefits of God were not said to be given, but returned? What had preceded, on the man's part, save sins? God therefore repayeth good for evil, whilst unto Him men repay evil for good; for such was the return of those who said, "This is the heir: come, let us kill him."(1)
10. But this man seeketh what he may return unto the Lord, and findeth not, save out of those things which the Lord Himself returneth. "I will receive," he saith, "the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord" (ver. 13). "My vows will I render to the Lord, before all His people" (ver. 14). Who hath given thee the cup of salvation, which when thou takest, and callest upon the Name of the Lord, thou shalt return unto Him a reward for all that He hath returned unto thee? Who, save He who saith, "Are ye able to drink the cup that I shall drink of?"(2) Who hath given unto thee to imitate His sufferings, save He who hath suffered before for thee? And therefore, "Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints" (ver. 15). He purchased it by His Blood, which He first shed for the salvation of slaves, that they might not hesitate to shed their blood for the Lord's Name; which, nevertheless, would be profitable for their own interests, not for those of the Lord.
11. Let therefore the slave purchased at so great a price confess his condition, and say, "Behold, O Lord, how that I am Thy servant: "I am Thy servant, and the son of Thine hand-maid" (ver. 16) . ... This, therefore, is the son of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is above, the free mother of us all.(3) And free indeed from sin she is, but the handmaid of righteousness; to whose sons still pilgrims it is said, "Ye have been called unto liberty;"(4) and again he maketh them servants, when he saith, "but by love serve one another." ... Let therefore that servant say unto God, Many call themselves martyrs, many Thy servants, because they hold Thy Name in various heresies and errors; but since they are beside Thy Church, they are not the children of Thy hand-maid. But "I am Thy servant, and the son of Thine handmaid." "Thou hast broken my bonds asunder."
12. "I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of praise" (ver. 17). For I have not found any deserts of mine, since Thou hast broken my bonds asunder; I therefore owe Thee the sacrifice of praise; because, although I will boast that I am Thy servant, and the son of Thy hand-maid, I will glory not in myself, but in Thee, my Lord, who hast broken asunder my bonds, that when I return from my desertion, I may again be bound unto Thee.
13. "I will pay my vows unto the Lord" (vet. 18). What vows wilt thou pay? What victims hast thou vowed? what burnt-offerings, what hob ocausts? Dost thou refer to what thou hast said a little before, "I will receive the cup of salvation, and will call upon the Name of the Lord;" and, "I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving"? and indeed whosoever well considereth what he is vowing to the Lord, and what vows he is paying, let him vow himself, let him pay himself as a vow: this is exacted, this is due. On looking at the coin, the Lord saith, "Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things which are God's:"(5) his own image is rendered unto Caesar: let His image be rendered unto God.
14. "In the courts," he saith, "of the Lord's house" (ver. 19). What is the Lord's house, the same is the Lord's handmaid: and what is God's house, save all His people? It therefore followeth, "In the sight of all His people." And now he more openly nameth his mother herself. For what else is His people, but what followeth, "In the midst of thee, O Jerusalem"? For than that which is returned grateful, if it be returned from peace, and in peace. But they who are not sons of this hand-maid, have loved war rather than peace . ...
1. "O praise the Lord, all ye heathen: praise Him, all ye nations" (ver. 1). These are the courts of the Lord's house, this all His people, this the true Jerusalem. Let those rather listen who have refused to be the children of this city, since they have cut themselves off from the communion of all nations.(1) "For His merciful kindness is ever more and more towards us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever" (ver. 2). These are those two things, loving-kindness and truth, which in the CXVth Psalm I admonished you should be committed to memory. But "the merciful kindness of the Lord is ever more and mere towards us," since the furious tongues of hostile nations have yielded to His Name, through which we have been freed: "and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever," whether in those things which He promised to the righteous, or in those which He hath threatened to the ungodly.
1. ... We are taught in this Psalm, when we chaunt Allelujah, which meaneth, Praise the Lord, that we should, when we hear the words, "Confess unto the Lord" (ver. 1), praise the Lord. The praise of God could not be expressed in fewer words than these, ''For He is good." I see not what can be more solemn than this brevity, since goodness is so peculiarly the quality of God, that the Son of God Himself when addressed by some one as "Good Master," by one, namely, who beholding His flesh, and comprehending not the fulness of His divine nature, considered Him as man only, replied, "Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God."(3) And what is this but to say, If thou wishest to call Me good, recognise Me as God ? But since it is addressed, in revelation of things to come, to a people freed from all toil and wandering in pilgrimage, and from all admixture with the wicked, which freedom was given it through the grace of God, who not only doth not evil for evil, but even returneth good for evil; it is most appropriately added, "Because His mercy endureth for ever."
2. "Let Israel now confess that He is good, and that His mercy endureth for ever" (ver. 2). "Let the house of Aaron now confess that His mercy endureth for ever" (ver. 3). "Yea, let all now that fear the Lord confess that His mercy endureth for ever" (ver. 4). Ye remember, I suppose, most beloved, what is the house of Israel, what is the house of Aaron, and that both are those that fear the Lord. For they are "the little and the great,"(4) who have already in another Psalm been happily introduced into your hearts: in the number of whom all of us should rejoice that we are joined together, in His grace who is good, and whose mercy endureth for ever; since they were listened to who said, "May the Lord increase you more and more, you and your children;"(5) that the host of the Gentiles might be added to the Israelites who believed in Christ, of the number of whom are the Apostles our fathers, for the exaltation of the perfect and the obedience of the little children; that all of us when made one in Christ, made one flock under one Shepherd, and the body of that Head, like one man, may say, "I called upon the Lord in trouble, and the Lord heard me at large" (ver. 5). The narrow straits of our tribulation are limited: but the large way whereby we pass along hath no end. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"(6)
3. "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man doeth unto me" (ver. 6). But are men, then, the only enemies that the Church hath? What is a man devoted to flesh and blood, save flesh and blood? But the Apostle saith, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against," ... he saith, "spiritual wickedness in high places;"(7) that is, the devil and his angels; that devil whom elsewhere he calleth "the prince of the power of the air."(8) Hear therefore what followeth: "The Lord is my helper: therefore shall I despise mine enemies" (ver. 7). From what class soever my enemies may arise, whether from the number of evil men, or from the number of evil angels; in the Lord's help, unto whom we chant the confession of praise, unto whom we sing Allelujah, they shall be despised.
4. But, when my enemies have been brought to contempt, let not my friend present himself unto me as a good man, so as to bid me repose my hope in himself: for "It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put any confidence in man" (ver. 8). Nor let any one, who may in a certain sense be styled a good angel, be regarded by myself as one in whom I ought to put my trust: for "no one is good, save God alone;"(9) and when a man or an angel appear to aid us, when they do this of sincere affection, He doth it through them, who made them good after their measure. "It is" therefore "better to trust in the Lord, than to put any confidence in princes" (ver. 9). For angels also are called princes, even as we read in Daniel, "Michael, your prince."(10)
5. "All nations compassed me round about, but in the Name of the Lord have I taken vengeance on them" (ver. 10). "They kept me in on every site, they kept me in, I say, on every side; but in the Name of the Lord have I taken vengeance on them" (ver. 11). He signifieth the toils and the victory of the Church; but, as if the question were asked how she could have overcome so great evils, he looketh back to the example, and declareth what she had first suffered in her Head, by adding what followeth, "They kept me in on every side:" and the words, "All nations," are with reason not repeated here, because this was the act of the Jews alone. There that very religious nation (which is the body of Christ, and in behalf of which was done all that was done in mortal form with immortal power, by that inward divinity, through the outward flesh), suffered from persecutors, of whose race that flesh was assumed and hung upon the cross.
6 "They came about me as bees do. a hive and burned up even as the fire among the thorns: and in the Name of the Lord have I taken vengeance on them" (ver. 12). Here then the order of the words corresponds with the order of events. For we rightly understand that our Lord Himself, the Head of the Church, was surrounded by persecutors, even as bees surround a hive. For the Holy Spirit is speaking with mystic subtlety of what was done by those who knew not what they did. For bees make honey in the hives: while our Lord's persecutors, unconscious as they were, rendered Him sweeter unto us even by His very Passion; so that we may taste and see how sweet is the Lord,' "Who died for our sins, and arose for our justification."(2) But what followeth, "and burned up even as the fire among the thorns," is better understood of His Body, that is, of a people spread abroad, whom all nations compassed about, since it was gathered together from all nations. They consumed this sinful flesh, and the grievous piercings of this mortal life, in the flame of persecution. "Taken vengeance on them:" either because they themselves, that wickedness, which in them persecuted the righteous, having been extinguished, were joined with the people of Christ; or because the rest of them, who have at this time scorned the mercy of Him who calleth them, will at the end feel the truth of Him who judgeth them.
7. "I have been driven on like a heap of sand, so that I was falling, but the Lord upheld me" (ver. 13). For though there were a great multitude of believers, that might be compared to the countless sand, and brought into one communion as into one heap; yet "what is man, save Thou be mindful of Him?"(3) He said not, the multitude of the Gentiles could not surpass the abundance of my host, but, "the Lord," he saith, "hath upheld me." The persecution of the Gentiles succeeded not in pushing forward, to its overthrow, the host of the faithful dwelling together in the unity of the faith.
8. "The Lord is my strength and my praise, and is become my salvation" (ver. 14). Who then fall, when they are pushed, save they who choose to be their own strength and their own praise ? For no man falleth in the contest, except he whose strength and praise faileth. He therefore whose strength and praise is the Lord, falleth no more than the Lord falleth. And for this reason He hath become their salvation; not that He hath become anything which He was not before, but because they, when they believed on Him, became what they were not before, and then He began to be salvation unto them when turned towards Him, which He was not to them when turned away from Himself.
9. "The voice of joy and health is in the dwellings of the righteous" (ver. 15); where they who raged against their bodies thought there was the voice of sorrow and destruction. For they did not know the inward joy of the saints in their future hope. Whence the Apostle also saith, "As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing;"(4) and again, "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also."(5)
10. "The right hand of the Lord hath brought mighty things to pass" (ver. 16). What mighty things? saith he. "The right hand of the Lord," he saith, "hath exalted me." It is a mighty thing to exalt the humble, to deify the mortal, to bring perfection out of infirmity, glory from subjection, victory from suffering, to give help, to raise from trouble; that the true salvation of God might be laid open to the afflicted, and the salvation of men might remain of no avail to the persecutors. These are great things: but what art thou surprised at? hear what he repeateth: "The right hand of the Lord hath brought mighty things to pass."
11. "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord" (ver. 17). But they, while they were dealing havoc and death on every side, thought that the Church of Christ was dying. Behold, he now declareth the works of the Lord. EVerywhere Christ is the glory of the blessed Martyrs. By being beaten He conquered those who struck Him; by being patient of torments, the tormentors;(6) by loving, those who raged against Him.
12. Nevertheless, let him point out to us, why the body of Christ, the holy Church, the people of adoption, suffered such indignities. "The Lord," he saith," hast chastened and corrected me, but He hath not given me over unto death" (ver. 18). Let not then the boastful wicked imagine that aught hath been permitted to their power: they would not have that power, were it not given them from above. Oft doth the father of a family command his sons to be corrected by the most worthless slaves; though he designeth the heritage for the former, fetters for the latter. What is that heritage? Is it of gold, or silver, or jewels, or farms, or pleasant estates? Consider how we enter into it: and learn what it is.
13. "Open me," he saith, "the gates of righteousness (ver 19). Behold, we have heard of the gates. What is within? "That I may," he saith, "go into them, and give thanks unto the Lord." This is the confession of praise full of wonder, "even unto the house of God, in the voice of joy and confession of praise, among such as keep holiday:"(1) this is the everlasting bliss of the righteous, whereby they are blessed who dwell in the Lord's house, praising Him for evermore.(2)
14. But consider how the gates of righteousness are entered into. "These are the gates of the Lord" he saith, "the righteous shall enter into them" (ver. 20). At least let no wicked man enter there, that Jerusalem which receiveth not one uncircumcised, where it is said, "Without are dogs."(3) Be it enough, that in my long pilgrimage "I have had my habitation among the tents of Kedar:"(4) I endured even unto the end the intercourse of the wicked, but "these are the gates of the Lord: the righteous shall enter into them."
15. "I will confess unto Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation" (ver. 21). How often is that confession proved to be one of praise, that doth not point out wounds to the physician, but giveth thanks for the health it hath received. But the Physician Himself is the Salvation.
16. But who is this whom we speak of? "The Stone which the builders rejected" (ver. 22); for "It hath become the head Stone of the corner" to "make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body;"(5) circumcision, to wit, and uncircumcision.
17. "By the Lord was it made unto it" (ver. 53): that is, it is made into the head stone of the corner by the Lord. For although He would not have become this, had He not suffered: yet He became not this through those from whom He suffered. For they who were building, refused Him: but in the edifice which the Lord was secretly raising, that was made the head stone of the corner which they rejected. "And it is marvellous in our eyes :" in the eyes of the inner man, in the eyes of those that believe, those that hope, those that love; not in the carnal eyes of those who, through scorning Him as if He were a man, rejected Him.
18. "This is the day which the Lord hath made" (ver. 24). This man remembereth that he had said in former Psalms," Since He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live;"(6) making mention of his old days; whence he now saith, "This is the day which the Lord hath made;" that is, wherein He hath given me Salvation. This is the day whereof He said, "In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of Salvation have I helped thee;"(7) that is, a day wherein He, the Mediator, hath become the head Stone of the corner. "Let us rejoice," therefore, "and be glad in Him."
19. "Save me now, O Lord: prosper Thou well my way, O Lord" (ver. 25). Because it is the day of Salvation, "save me:" because we, returning from a long pilgrimage, are separated from those who hated peace, with whom we were peaceful, and who, when we spoke to them, made war upon us without a cause; "prosper well our way" as we return, since Thou hast become our Way.
20. "Blessed be He that cometh in the Name of the Lord" (ver. 26). Cursed, therefore, is he that cometh in his own name; as He saith in the Gospel: "if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."(8) "We have blessed you out of the house of God." I believe that these are the words of the great to the little, of those great ones, to wit, who in spirit commune with God the Word, who is with God, as they may in this life; and yet temper their discourse for the sake of the little ones, so that they may sincerely say what the Apostle saith: "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us."(9) They bless the little children from the inner house of the Lord, where that praise faileth not age after age: consider therefore what they proclaim from thence.(10)
21. "God is the Lord, who hath showed us light" (ver. 27). That Lord, who came in the Lord's Name, whom the builders refused, and who became the head Stone of the corner,(11) that "Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ,"(12) is God, He is equal with the Father, He hath showed us light, that we might understand what we believed, and declare it to you who understand it not as yet, but already believe it. But that ye also may understand, "Declare a holy day in full assemblies, even unto the horns of the altar;" that is, even unto the inner house of God, from which we have blessed you, where are the high places of the altar. "Declare a holy day," not in a slothful manner, but "in full assemblies" (ver. 28). For this is the voice of joyfulness among those that keep holy day, who walk "in the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even unto the house of God."(1) For if there be there the spiritual sacrifice, the everlasting sacrifice of praise, both the Priest is everlasting, and the peaceful mind of the righteous an everlasting altar. ...
22. And what shall we sing there, save His praises? What else shall we say there, save, "Thou art my God, and I will confess unto Thee; Thou art my God, and I will praise Thee I wilt confess unto Thee, for Thou hast heard me, and art become my Salvation." We will not say these things in loud words; but the love that abideth in Him of itself crieth out in these words, and these words are love itself. Thus as he began with praise, so he endeth: "Confess unto the Lord, for He is gracious, and His mercy endureth for ever" (ver. 29). With this the Psalm commenceth, with this it endeth; since, as from the commencement which we have left behind, so in the end, whither we are returning, there is not anything that can more profitably please us, than the praise of God, and Allelujah evermore.
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