Augustine on the Psalms. Psalms 132 - 138
1. It was right indeed, most beloved, that we should rather hear our Brother,(6) my colleague, when present before all of us. And just now he refused not, but put us off; for he extorted from me that he might now listen to me, on the condition that I also may listen to him, for in charity itself we are all listening unto Him, who is our One Master in heaven. Attend therefore to the Psalm, entitled A Song of Degrees; considerably longer than the rest under the same title. Let us not therefore linger, save where necessity shall compel us: that we may, if the Lord permit, explain the whole. For ye also ought not to hear everything as men untaught; ye ought in some degree to aid us from your past listenings, so that it may not be needful that everything should be declared to you as though new.(7)
2. "Lord, remember David, and all his meekness" (ver. 1). David according to the truth of history was one man, king of Israel, son of Jesse. He was indeed meek, as the Divine Scriptures themselves mark and command him, and so meek that he did not even render evil for evil to his persecutor Saul. He preserved towards him so great humility, that he acknowledged him a king, and himself a dog: and answered the king not proudly nor rudely, though he was more powerful in God; but he rather endeavoured to appease him by humility, than to provoke him by pride. Saul was even given into his power, and this by the Lord God, that he might do to him what he listed: but since he was not commanded to slay him, but had it only placed in his power (now a man is permitted to use his power), he rather turned towards mercy what God gave him. ... The humility of David is therefore commended, the meekness of David is commended; and it is said to God, "Lord, remember David, and all his meekness." For what purpose? "How he sware unto the Lord, and vowed a vow unto the Almighty God of Jacob" (ver. 2). Therefore remember for this, that he may fulfil what he hath promised. David himself vowed as though he had it in his power, and he prayeth God to fulfil his vow: there is devotion in the vow, but there is humility in the prayer. Let no one presume to think he fulfilled by his own strength what he hath vowed. He who exhorteth thee to vow, Himself aideth thee to fulfil. Let us therefore see what he vowed, and hence we comprehend how David should be understood in a figure. "David" is interpreted, "Strong of hand," for he was a great warrior. Trusting indeed in the Lord his God, he despatched all wars, he laid low all his enemies, God helping him, according to the dispensation of that kingdom; prefiguring nevertheless some One strong of hand to destroy His enemies, the devil and his angels. These enemies the Church warreth against, and conquereth. ... What then doth he mean, "How he sware," etc.? Let us see what vow is this. We can offer God nothing more pleasing than to swear.(8) Now to swear is to promise firmly.(9) Consider this vow, that is, with what ardour he vowed what he vowed, with what love, with what longing; nevertheless, he prayeth the Lord to fulfil it in these words, "O Lord, remember David, and all his meekness." In this temper he vowed his vow, and there should be a house of God: "I will not come within the tabernacle of mine house, nor climb up into my bed" (ver. 3). "I will not suffer mine eyes to sleep, nor mine eyelids to slumber" (ver. 4). This seemeth not enough; he adds, "Neither the temples of my head to take any rest, until I find out a place for the Lord; an habitation for the God of Jacob" (ver. 5). Where did he seek a place for the Lord? If he was meek, he sought it in himself. For how is one a place for the Lord? Hear the Prophet: "Upon whom shall My Spirit rest? Even upon him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My words."(1) Dost thou wish to be a place for the Lord? Be thou poor in spirit, and contrite, and trembling at the word of God, and thou wilt thyself be made what thou seekest. For if what thou seekest be not realized in thyself, what doth it profit thee in another. ...
3. How many thousands believed, my brethren, when they laid down the price of their possessions at the Apostles' feet! But what saith Scripture of them? Surely they are become a temple of God; not only each respectively a temple of God, but also all a temple of God together. They have therefore become a place for the Lord. And that ye may know that one place is made for the Lord in all, Scripture saith, They were of one heart and one soul toward God.(2) But many, so as not to make a place for the Lord, seek their own things, love their own things, delight in their own power, are greedy for their private interests. Whereas he who wisheth to make a place for the Lord, should rejoice not in his private, but the common good. ...
4. Let us therefore, brethren, abstain from the possession of private property; or from the love of it, if we may not from its possession; and we make a place for the Lord. It is too much for me, saith some one. But consider who thou art, who art about to make a place for the Lord. If any senator wished to be entertained at your house, I say not senator, the deputy of some great man of this world, and should say, something offends me in thy house; though thou shouldest love it, thou wouldest remove it, nevertheless, lest thou shouldest offend him, whose friendship thou wast courting. And what doth man's friendship profit thee? ... Desire the friendship of Christ without fear: He wishes to be entertained at thy house; make room for Him. What is, make room for Him? Love not thyself, love Him. If thou love thyself, thou shuttest the door against Him; if thou love Him, thou openest unto Him: and if thou open and He enter, thou shalt not be lost by loving thyself, but shalt find thyself with Him who loveth thee. ...
5. "Lo, we heard of the same at Ephrata" (ver. 6). What? A place for the Lord. "We heard of it at Ephrata: and found it in the plains of the forests."(3) Did he hear it where he found it? or did he hear it in one place, find it in another? Let us therefore enquire what Ephrata is, where he heard it; let us also enquire what mean the plains of the forests, where he found it. Ephrata, a Hebrew word, is rendered in Latin by Speculum,(4) as the translators of Hebrew words in the Scriptures have handed down to us, that we might understand them. They have translated from Hebrew into Greek, and from Greek we have versions into Latin. For there have been who watched in the Scriptures. If therefore Ephrata meaneth a mirror, that house which was found in the woodland plains, was heard of in a mirror. A mirror hath an image: all prophecy is an image of things future. The future house of God, therefore, was declared in the image of prophecy. "We have found it in the plains of the forests." What are the "plains of the forests"?(5) Saltus is not here used in its common sense, as a plot of ground of so many hundred acres;(6) saltus properly signifies a spot as yet untilled and woody. For some copies read, in the plains of the wood. What then were the woodland plains, save nations yet untilled? what were they, save regions yet covered with the thorns of idolatry? Thus, though there were thorns of idolatry there, still we find a place for the Lord there, a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. What was declared in the image to the Jews, was manifested in the faith of the Gentiles.
6. "We will go into His tabernacles" (ver. 7). Whose? Those of the Lord God of Jacob. They who enter to dwell therein, are the very same who enter that they may be dwelt in. Thou enterest into thy house, that thou mayest dwell therein; into the house of God, that thou mayest be dwelt in. For the Lord is better, and when He hath begun to dwell in thee, He will make thee happy. For if thou be not dwelt in by Him, thou wilt be miserable. That son who said, "Father, give me the portion of the goods," etc.,(7) wished to be his own master. It was well kept in his father's hands, that it might not be wasted with harlots. He received it, it was given into his own power; going to a far country, he squandered it all with harlots. At length he suffered hunger, he remembered his father; he returned, that he might be satisfied with bread. Enter therefore, that thou mayest be dwelt in; and mayest be not thine own, so to speak, but His: "We will go into His tabernacles. We will worship on the spot where His feet stood." Whose feet? The Lord's, or those of the house of the Lord itself? For that is the Lord's house, wherein he saith He ought to be worshipped. Beside His house, the Lord heareth not unto eternal life; for he belongeth to God's house, who hath in charity been built in with living stones. But he who hath not charity, falleth; and while he falls, the house stands. ...
7. But if ye incline to understand it of the house itself, where the feet of that house have stood; let thy feet stand in Christ. They will then stand, if thou shall persevere in Christ. For what is said of the devil? "He was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth."(1) The feet of the devil therefore stood not. Also what saith he of the proud? "O let not the foot of pride come against me; and let not the hand of the ungodly cast me down. There are they fallen, all that work wickedness: they are cast down, and were not able to stand."(2) That then is the house of God, whose feet stand. Whence John rejoicing, saith: what? "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom standeth and heareth him." If he stand not, he heareth him not. Justly he standeth, because "he rejoiceth on account of the bridegroom's voice." Now therefore ye see why they fell, who rejoice because of their own voice.(3) That friend of the Bridegroom said, "The same is He which baptizeth."(4) Some say, We baptize: rejoicing in their own voice, they could not stand; and belong not to that house of which it is said, "where His feet stood."
8. "Arise, O Lord, into Thy resting place" (ver. 8). He saith unto the Lord sleeping, "Arise." Ye know already who slept, and who rose again. ... "Thou, and the ark of Thy sanctification:" that is, Arise, that the ark of Thy sanctification, which Thou hast sanctified, may arise also. He is our Head; His ark is His Church: He arose first, the Church will arise also. The body would not dare to promise itself resurrection, save the Head arose first. The Body of Christ, that was born of Mary, hath been understood by some to be the ark of sanctification; so that the words mean, Arise with Thy Body, that they who believe not may handle.
9. "Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Thy saints sing with joyfulness" (ver. 9). When Thou risest from the dead, and goest unto Thy Father, let that royal Priesthood be clothed with faith, since "the righteous liveth by faith;"(5) and, receiving the pledge of the Holy Spirit, let the members rejoice in the hope of resurrection, which went before in the Head: for to them the Apostle saith, "Rejoicing in hope."(6)
10. "For Thy servant David's sake, turn not away the face of Thine Anointed" (ver. 10). These words are addressed unto God the Father. "For Thy servant David's sake, turn not away the face of Thine Anointed." The Lord was crucified in Judaea; He was crucified by the Jews; harassed by them, He slept. He arose to judge those among whose savage hands He slept: and He saith elsewhere, "Raise Thou Me up again, and I shall reward them."(7) He both hath rewarded them, and will reward them. The Jews well know themselves how great were their sufferings after the Lord's death. They were all expelled from the very city, where they slew Him. What then? have all perished even from the root of David and from the tribe of Judah? No: for some of that stock believed, and in fact many thousands of men of that stock believed, and this after the Lord's resurrection. They raged and crucified Him: and afterwards began to see miracles wrought in the Name of Him Crucified; and they trembled still more that His Name should have so much power, since when in their hands He seemed unable to work any; and pricked at heart, at length believing that there was some hidden divinity in Him whom they had believed like other men, and asking counsel of the Apostles, they were answered, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of our LOrd Jesus Christ."(8) Since then Christ arose to judge those by whom He had been crucified, and turned away His Presence from the Jews, turning His Presence towards the Gentiles; God is, as it seemeth, besought in behalf of the remnant of Israel; and it is said unto Him, "For Thy servant David's sake, turn not away the presence of Thine Anointed." If the chaff be condemned, let the wheat be gathered together. May the remnant be saved, as Isaiah saith, "And the remnant hath" clearly "been saved:"(9) for out of them were the twelve Apostles, out of them more than five hundred brethren, to whom the Lord showed Himself after His Resurrection:(10) out of their number were so many thousands baptized,(11) who laid the price of their possessions at the Apostles' feet. Thus then was fulfilled the prayer here made to God: "For Thy servant David's sake, turn not away the presence of Thine Anointed."
11. "The Lord hath made a faithful oath unto David, and He shall not repent "(ver. 11). What meaneth, "hath made an oath"? Hath confirmed a promise through Himself. What meaneth, "He shall not repent"? He will not change. For God suffereth not the pain of repentance, nor is He deceived in any matter, so that He would wish to correct that wherein He hath erred. But as when a man repents of anything, he wisheth to change what he hath done; thus where thou hearest that God repenteth, look for an actual change. God doth it differently from thee, although He calleth it by the name of repentance; for thou dost it, because thou hadst erred; while He doth it, because He avengeth, or freeth. He changed Saul's kingdom, when He repented, as it is said: and in the very passage where the Scripture saith, "It repented Him;" it is said a little after, "for He is not a man that He should repent."(1) When therefore He changeth His works through His immutable counsel, He is said to repent on account of this very change, not of His counsel, but of His work. But He promised this so as not to change it. Just as this passage also saith: "The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec;"(2) so also since this was promised so that it should not be changed, because it must needs happen and be permanent; he saith, "The Lord hath made a faithful oath unto David, and He shall not repent; Of the fruit of thy body shall I set upon thy seat." He might have said, "of the fruit of thy loins," wherefore did He choose to say, "Of the fruit of thy body"? Had He said that also, it would have been true; but He chose to say with a further meaning, Ex fructu ventris, because Christ was born of a woman without the man.
12. What then? "The Lord hath made a faithful oath unto David, and He shall not shrink from it; Of the fruit of thy body shall I set upon thy seat. If thy children will keep My covenant and My testimonies that I shall learn them, their children also shall sit upon thy seat for evermore" (ver. 12). If thy children keep My covenant, their children also shall sit for evermore. The parents establish a desert on behalf of their children. What if his children should keep the covenant, and their children should not keep it? Why is the happiness of the children promised in relation to their parents' deservings? For what saith He, "If thy children will keep My covenant, their children also shall sit for evermore"--He saith not, if thy children keep My covenant, they shall sit upon thy seat; and if their children keep My covenant, they also shall sit upon thy seat: but he saith, "If thy children keep My covenant, their children also shall sit upon thy seat for evermore"--except because He here wished their fruit to be understood by their children? "If thy children," He saith, "will keep My covenant, and if thy children shall keep My testimonies that I shall learn them; their children also shall sit upon thy seat:" that is, this will be their fruit, that they sit upon thy seat. For in this life, brethren, do all of us who labour in Christ, all of us who tremble at His words, who in any way endeavour to execute His will, and groan while we pray His help that we may fulfil what He commandeth; do we already sit in those seats of bliss which are promised us? No: but holding His commandments, we hope this will come to pass. This hope is spoken of under the figure of sons; because sons are the hope of man living in this life, sons are his fruit. For this reason also men, when excusing their avarice, allege that they are reserving for their children what they hoard up; and, unwilling to give to the destitute, excuse themselves under the name of piety, because their children are their hope. For all men who live according to this world, declare it to be their hope, to be fathers of children they may leave behind them. Thus then He describes hope generally under the name of children, and saith, "If thy children will keep My covenant and My testimonies that I shall learn them, their children also shall sit upon thy seat for evermore:" that is, they shall have such fruits, that their hope shall not deceive them, that they may come there where they hope to come. At present therefore they are as fathers, men of hope for the future; but when they have attained what they hope, they are children; because they have brought forth and produced in their works that which they gain. And this is preserved unto them for the future,(3) because futurity(4) itself commonly signifieth children.
13. Or if thou understand actual men to be meant by children, the words, "If thy children will keep My covenant and My testimonies that I shall teach them," may mean, "If thy children will keep My covenant and testimonies that I shall teach them, and their children also;" that is, if they too keep My covenant; so that here thou must make a slight pause, and then infer that "they shall sit upon thy seat for evermore;" that is, both thy children and their children, but all if they keep My covenant. What then, if they keep it not? Hath the promise of God failed? No: but it is said and promised for this reason, that God foresaw: what, save that they would believe? But that no man should as it were threaten God's promises, and prefer to place in his own power the fulfilment of what God promised: for this reason he saith, "He made an oath:" whereby he showeth that it will without doubt take place. How then hath He said here, "If they will keep My covenant"? Glory not in the promises, and leave out thy failing to keep the covenant. Then wilt thou be the son of David, if thou shalt keep the covenant; but if thou dost not keep it, thou wilt not be David's son. God promised to the sons of David. Say not, I am David's son if thou degenerate. If the Jews, who were born of this very stock, say not this (nay, they say it, but they are under a delusion. For the Lord saith openly, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham."(1) He thereby denied them to be children, because they did not the works), how do we call ourselves David's children, who are not of his race according to the flesh? It follows then that we are not children, save by imitating his faith, save by worshipping God, as he worshipped. If therefore what thou hopest not through descent, thou wilt not endeavour to obtain by works; how shall the sitting upon David's seat be fulfilled in thee? And if it shall not be fulfilled in thee, thinkest thou that it shall not be fulfilled at all? And how hath He found it in the woodland tracts? and how did His feet stand? Whatsoever then thou mayest be, that house will stand.
14. "For the Lord hath chosen Sion to be an habitation for Himself" (ver. 13). Sion is the Church Herself; She is also that Jerusalem unto whose peace we are running, who is in pilgrimage not in the Angels, but in us, who in her better part waiteth for the part that will return; whence letters have come unto us, which are every day read. This city is that very Sion, whom the Lord hath chosen.
15. "This shall be My rest for ever"(ver. 14). These are the words of God. "My rest:" I rest there. How greatly doth God love us, brethren, since, because we rest, He saith that He also resteth! For He is not sometimes Himself disturbed, nor doth He rest as we do; but He saith that He resteth there, because we shall have rest in Him. "Here will I dwell: for I have a delight therein."
16. "I will bless her widow with blessings, and will satisfy her poor with bread" (ver. 15). Every soul that is aware that it is bereft of all help, save of God alone, is widowed. For how doth the Apostle describe a widow? "She that is a widow indeed and desolate, trusteth in God."(2) He was speaking of those whom we all call Widows in the Church. He saith, "She that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth;" and he numbereth her not among the widows. But in describing true widows, what saith he? "She that is a widow indeed and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day." Here he addeth, "but she that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth." What then makes a widow? That she hath no aid from any other source, save from God alone. They that have husbands, take pride in the protection of their husbands: widows seem desolate, and their aid is a stronger one. The whole Church therefore is one widow, whether in men or in women, in married men or married women, in young men or in old, or in virgins: the whole Church is one widow, desolate in this world, if she feel this, if she is aware of her widowhood: for then is help at hand for her. Do ye not recognise this widow in the Gospel, my brethren, when the Lord declared "that men ought always to pray and not to faint"? "There was in a city a judge," He said, "which feared not God, neither regarded man. And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him day by day, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary." The widow, by daily importunity, prevailed with him: for the judge said within himself, "Though I fear not God; neither regard man, yet because this woman troubleth me, I will avenge her."(3) If the wicked judge heard the widow, that he might not be molested; heareth not God His Church, whom He exhorteth to pray?
17. Also, "I will satisfy her poor with bread;" what meaneth this, brethren? Let us be poor, and we shall then be satisfied. Many who trust in the world, and are proud, are Christians; they worship Christ, but are not satisfied; for they have been satisfied, and abound in their pride. Of such it is said, "Our soul is filled with the scornful reproof of the wealthy, and with the despitefulness of the proud:"(4) these have abundance, and therefore eat, but are not satisfied. And what is said of them in the Psalm? "All such as be fat upon the earth have eaten and worshipped."(5) They worship Christ, they venerate Christ, they pray unto Christ; but they are not satisfied with His wisdom and righteousness. Wherefore? Because they are not poor. For the poor, that is the humble in heart, the more they hunger, the more they eat; and the more empty they are of the world, the more hungry they are. He who is full refuseth whatsoever thou wilt give him, because he is full. Give me one who hungereth; give me one of whom it is said, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled:"(6) and these will be the poor of whom he hath just said, "And will satisfy her poor with bread." For in the very Psalm where it is said, "All such as be fat upon the earth have eaten and worshipped;" this is said of the poor also, and exactly in the same manner as in this Psalm, "The poor shall eat, and be satisfied: they that seek after the Lord shall praise Him."(1) Where it is said, "All such as be fat upon earth have eaten and worshipped: "it is said, "the poor shall eat, and be satisfied." Why, when the rich are said to have worshipped, are they not said to be satisfied; yet when the poor are mentioned, they are said to be satisfied? And whence are they satisfied? What is the nature, brethren, of this satisfying? God Himself is their bread. The bread came down upon the earth, that He might become milk unto us; and said to His own," I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven."(2) Hence these words in the Psalm, "The poor shall eat, and be satisfied." From what source shall they be satisfied? Hear what followeth: "And they that seek after the Lord shall praise Him."
18. Be ye therefore poor, be ye among the members of that widow, let your help be solely in God alone. Money is nought; not thence will ye have aid. Many have been cast headlong down for money's sake, many have perished on account of money; many for the sake of their riches have been marked out by plunderers; they would have been safe, had they not had what made men hunt for them. Many have presumed in their more powerful friends: they in whom they presumed have fallen, and have involved in their ruin those who trusted in them. Look back upon the instances to be seen in the human race. Is it anything singular that I am telling you? We speak these things not only from these Scriptures; read them in the whole world. Take heed that ye presume not in money, in a friend, in the honour and the boasting of the world. Take away all these things: but if thou hast them, thank God if thou despisest them. But if thou art puffed up by them; think not when thou wilt be the prey of men; already art thou the Devil's prey. But if thou ham not trusted in these things, thou wilt be among the members of that widow, who is the Church, of whom it is said, "I will bless her widow with blessings;" thou wilt also be poor, and one of those of whom it is said, "And will-satisfy her poor with bread."
19. Sometimes, however, and we must not pass over this without mention, thou findest a poor man proud, and a rich man humble: we daily endure such persons. Thou hearest a poor man groaning beneath a rich man, and when the more powerful rich man presseth upon him, then thou seest him humble: sometimes not even then, but even then proud; whence thou seest what he would have been, had he any property. God's poor one is therefore poor in spirit, not in his purse. Sometimes a man goeth forth having a full house, rich lands, many estates, much gold and silver; he knoweth that he must not trust in these, he humbleth himself before God, he doth good with them; thus his heart is raised unto God, so that he is aware that not only dO riches themselves profit him nothing, but that they even impede his feet, save He rule them, and aid them: and he is counted among the poor who are satisfied with bread. Thou findest another a proud beggar, or not proud only because he hath nothing, nevertheless seeking whereby he may be puffed up. God doth not heed the means a man hath, but the wish he hath, and judgeth him according to his wish for temporal blessings, not according to the means which it is not his lot to have. Whence the Apostle saith of the rich, "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy." What therefore should they do with their riches? He goeth on to say: "That they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate." And see that they are poor in this world: "Laying up in store for themselves," he addeth, "a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life."(3) When they have laid hold of eternal life, then will they be rich; but since they have it not as yet, they should know that they are poor. Thus it is that God counteth among His poor all the humble in heart, who are established in that twofold charity,(4) whatever they may have in this world--among His poor, whom He satisfieth with bread.
20. "I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice and sing" (ver. 16). We are now at the end of the Psalm; attend for a short space, Beloved. "I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice and sing." Who is our salvation, save our Christ? What meaneth, therefore, "I will clothe her priests with salvation"? "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ."(5) "And her saints shall rejoice and sing." Whence shall they rejoice and sing? Because they have been clothed with salvation: not in themselves. For they have become light, but in the Lord; for they were darkness before.(6) Therefore he hath added, "There will I raise up the horn of David" (ver. 17): this will be David's height, that trust be put in Christ. For horn signifieth height: and what sort of height? Not carnal. Therefore, while all the bones are wrapped up in flesh, the horn goeth beyond the flesh. Spiritual altitude is a horn. But what is spiritual loftiness, save to trust in Christ? not to say, It is my work, I baptize;(1) but, "He it is who baptizeth."(2) There is the horn of David: and that ye may know that there is the horn of David, heed what followeth: "I have ordained a lantern for mine Anointed." What is a lantern? Ye already know the Lord's words concerning John: "He was a burning and a shining light."(3) And what saith John? "He it is who baptizeth." Herein therefore shall the saints rejoice, herein the priests shall rejoice: because all that is good in themselves, is not of themselves, but of Him who hath the power of baptizing. Fearlessly therefore doth every one who hath received baptism come unto His temple; because it is not man's, but His who made the horn of David to flourish.
21. "Upon Him shall My sanctification flourish" (ver. 18). Upon whom? Upon Mine Anointed. For when He saith, "Mine anointed," it is the voice of the Father, who saith, "I will bless her widow with blessings, and will satisfy her poor with bread. I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice and sing." He who saith, "There will I raise up the horn of David," is God. He Himself saith," I have ordained a lantern for Mine Anointed," because Christ is both ours and the Father's: He is our Christ, when He saveth us and ruleth us, as He is also our Lord: He is the Son of the Father, but both our Christ and the Father's. For if He were not the Father's Christ, it would not be said above, "For Thy servant David's sake, turn not Thou away the presence of Thine Anointed." "Upon Him shall My sanctification flourish." It flourisheth upon Christ. Let none of men assume this to himself, that he himself sanctifieth: otherwise it will not be true, "Upon Him shall My sanctification flourish." The glory of sanctification shall flourish. The sanctification of Christ therefore in Christ Himself, is the power of the sanctification of God in Christ. In that he saith, "shall flourish," he refers to His glory: for when trees flourish, then are they beautiful. Sanctification therefore is in Baptism: thence it flourisheth, and is brightened. Why hath the world yielded to this beauty? Because it flourisheth in Christ; for, put it in man's power, and how doth it then flourish? since "all flesh in grass, and all the goodliness thereof as the flower of the grass."
1. This is a short Psalm, but one well known and quoted. "Behold, how good and how pleasant is it, that brethren should dwell together in unity" (ver. 1). So sweet is that sound, that even they who know not the Psalter, sing that verse. ...
2. For these same words of the Psalter, this sweet sound, that honeyed melody, as well of the mind as of the hymn, did even beget the Monasteries. By this sound were stirred up the brethren who longed to dwell together. This verse was their trumpet. It sounded through the whole earth, and they who had been divided, were gathered together. The summons of God, the summons of the Holy Spirit, the summons of the Prophets, were not heard in Judah, yet were heard through the whole world. They were deaf to that sound, amid whom it was sung; they were found with their ears open, of whom it was said, "They shall see him, who were not told of him; they shall understand who heard not."(5) Yet, most beloved, if we reflect, the very blessing hath sprung from that wall(6) of circumcision. For have all the Jews perished? and whence were the Apostles, the sons of the Prophets, the sons of the exiles?(7) He speaks as to them who know. Whence those five hundred, who saw the Lord after His resurrection, whom the Apostle Paul commemorates?(8) Whence those hundred and twenty,(9) who were together in one place after the resurrection of the Lord, and His ascension into heaven, on whom when gathered into one place the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost, sent down from heaven, sent, even as He was promised?(10) All were from thence, and they first dwelt together in unity; who sold all they had, and laid the price of their goods at the Apostles' feet, as is read in the Acts of the Apostles.(11) And distribution was made to each one as he had need,(12) and none called anything his own, but they had all things common. And what is "together in unity"? They had, he saysays, one mind and one heart God-wards.(13) So they were the first who heard, Behold how good and how pleasant is it, that brethren dwell together. They were the first to hear, but heard it not alone. ...
3. From the words of this Psalm was taken the name of Monks, that no one may reproach you who are Catholics by reason of the name. When you with justice reproach heretics by reason of the Circelliones,(14) that they may be saved by shame, they reproach you on the score of the Monks. ...
4. Moreover, beloved, there are they who are false Monks, and we know men of this kind; but the pious brotherhood is not annulled, because of them who profess to be what they are not. There are false Monks, as there are false men among the Clergy, and among the faithful.(1) ...
5. Since the Psalm says, "Behold, how good and how pleasant is it, that brethren should dwell together in one," why then should we not call Monks so? for Monos(2) is one. Not one in any manner, for a man in a crowd is one, but though he can be called one along with others, he cannot be Monos, that is, alone, for Monos means "one alone." They then who thus live together as to make one man, so that they really possess what is written, "one mind and one heart,"(3) many bodies, but not many minds; many bodies, but not many hearts; can rightly be called Monos, that is, one alone.(4) ...
6. Let the Psalm tell us what they are like. "As the ointment on the head, which descended to the beard, to Aaron's beard, which descended to the fringe of his garment" (ver. 2). What was Aaron? A priest. Who is a priest, except that one Priest, who entered into the Holy of Holies? Who is that priest, save Him, who was at once Victim and Priest? save Him who when he found nothing clean in the world to offer, offered Himself? The ointment is on his head, because Christ is one whole with the Church, but the ointment comes from the head. Our Head is Christ crucified and buried; He rose again, and ascended into heaven; and the Holy Spirit came from the head. Whither? To the beard. The beard signifies the courageous; the beard distinguishes the grown men, the earnest, the active, the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man. Thus that ointment descended first upon the Apostles, descended upon those who bore the first assaults of the world, and therefore the Holy Spirit descended on them. For they who first began to dwell together in unity, suffered persecution. but because the ointment descended to the beard, they suffered, but were not conquered. ...
7. "As the dew of Hermon, which fell upon the hills of Sion" (ver. 3). He would have it understood, my brethren, that it is of God's grace that brethren dwell together in unity. ...
8. But ye should know what Hermon is. It is a mountain far distant from Jerusalem, that is, from Sion. And so it is strange that he says thus: As the dew of Hermon, which fell upon the mountains of Sion, since mount Hermon is far distant from Jerusalem, for it is said to be over Jordan. Let us then seek out some interpretation of Hermon. The word is Hebrew, and we learn its meaning from them who know that language. Hermon is said to mean, a light set on a high place. For from Christ comes the dew. No light is set on a high place, save Christ. How is He set on high? First on the cross, afterwards in heaven. Set on high on the cross when He was humbled; humbled, but His humiliation could not but be high. The ministry of man grew less and less, as was signified in John; the ministry of God in our Lord Jesus Christ increased, as was shown at their birth. The former was born, as the tradition of the Church shows, on the 24th of June, when the days begin to shorten. The Lord was born on the 25th of December, when the days begin to lengthen. Here John himself confessing, "He must increase, but I must decrease."(5) And the passion of each shows this. The Lord was exalted on the cross; John was diminished by beheading. Thus the light set on high is Christ, whence is the dew of Hermon. ... But if he have the dew of Hermon, which fell on the hill of Sion, he is quiet, peaceable, humble, submissive, pouring forth prayer in place of murmuring. For murmurers are admirably described in a certain passage of the Scriptures, "The heart of a fool is as the wheel of a cart."(6) What is the meaning of "the heart of a fool is as the wheel of a cart"? It carries hay, and creaks. The wheel of a cart cannot cease from creaking. Thus there are many brethren, who do not dwell together, save in the body. But who are they who dwell together? They of whom it is said, "And they had one mind and one heart towards God."(3)
9. "Because there the Lord commanded blessing." Where did He command it? Among the brethren who dwell together. There He enjoined blessing, there they who dwell with one heart bless God. For thou blessest not God in division of heart. ... Art thou straitened on earth? Depart, have thy habitation in heaven. How shall I, a man clothed in flesh, enslaved to the flesh, thou wilt say, have my habitation in heaven. First go in heart, whither thou wouldest follow in the body. Do not hear, "Lift up your hearts," with a deaf ear. Keep thy heart lifted up, and no one will straiten thee in heaven.
1. "Behold, now, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord" (ver. 1), "who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God" (ver. 2). Why has he added, "in the courts"? Courts mean the wider spaces of a house. He who stands in the courts is not straitened, is not confined, in some fashion is enlarged. Remain in this enlargement, and thou canst love thy enemy, because thou lovest not things in which an enemy could straiten thee. How canst thou be understood to stand in the courts? Stand in charity, and thou standest in the courts.Breadth lies in charity, straitness in hatred.
2. "Lift up your hands by night in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord" (ver. 2). It is easy to bless by day. What is "by day"? In prosperity. For night is a sad thing, day a cheerful. When it is well with thee, thou dost bless the Lord. Thy son was sick, and he is made whole, thou dost bless the Lord. Thy son was sick, perchance thou hast sought an astrologer, a soothsayer, perchance a curse against the Lord has come, not from thy tongue, but from thy deeds, from thy deeds and thy life. Boast not, because thou blessest with thy tongue, if thou cursest with thy life. Wherefore bless ye the Lord. When? By night. When did Job bless? When it was a sad night. All was taken away which he possessed; the children for whom his goods were stored were taken away. How sad was his night! Let us however see whether he blesseth not in the night. "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; it is as the Lord willed; blessed be the name of the Lord."(2) And black was the night. ...
3. "The Lord out of Zion bless thee, who made heaven and earth" (ver. 3). He exhorts many to bless, and Himself blesseth one, because He maketh one out of many, since "it is good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in one."(3) It is a plural number, brethren, and yet singular, to dwell together in one. Let none of you say, It cometh not to me. Knowest thou of whom he speaks, "the Lord bless thee out of Zion." He blessed one. Be one,(4) and the blessing cometh to thee.
1. Very pleasant ought it be to us, and we should rejoice because it is pleasant, to which this Psalm exhorteth us. For it says, "Praise the name of the Lord" (ver. 1). And it forthwith appends the reason, why it is just to praise the name of the Lord. "Praise the Lord, ye servants." What more just? what more worthy? what more thankful? ... For if He teaches His own servants who have deserved well of Him, the preachers of His Word, the rulers of His Church, the worshippers of His name, the obeyers of His command, that in their own conscience they should possess the sweetness of their life, lest they be corrupted by the praise or disheartened by the reproach of men; how much the more is He above all, the unchangeable One, who teacheth these things, neither the greater if thou praisest, or the less if thou reproachest. ... For ye will do nothing out of place, by praising your Lord, as servants. And if ye were to be for ever only servants, ye ought to praise the Lord; how much more ought ye servants to praise the Lord, that ye may hereafter gain the privilege of sons?
2. ... Therefore, "Ye who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God, praise the Lord" (ver. 2). Be thankful; ye were without, and ye stand within. Since then ye stand, is it a small thing for you to think where He should be praised, who raised you when you were cast down, and caused you to stand in His house, to know Him, and to praise Him? Is it a small boon, that we stand in the house of the Lord? ... If one thinks of this, and is not unthankful, he will utterly despise himself in comparison with the love of his Lord, who hath done so great things for him. And since he hath nothing wherewith to repay God for so great benefits, what remains for him but to give Him thanks, not to repay Him? It belongs to the very act of thanksgiving, to "receive the cup of the Lord, and to call upon His name."(6) For what can the servant repay the Lord for all that He hath given him?(7)
3. What reason shall I give why you should praise Him? "Because the Lord is good" (ver. 3). Briefly in one word is here explained the praise of the Lord our God. "The Lord is good;" good, not in the same manner as the things which He here made are good. For God made all things very good;(8) not only good, but also very good. He made the sky and earth, and all things which are in them good, and He made them very good. If He made all these things good, of what sort is He who made them? ...
4. How far can we speak of His goodness? Who can conceive in his heart, or apprehend how good the Lord is? Let us however return to ourselves, and in us recognise Him, and praise the Maker in His works, because we are not fit to contemplate Him Himself. And in hope that we may be able to contemplate Him, when our heart hath been purified by faith, that hereafter it may rejoice in the Truth; now as He cannot be seen by us, let us look at His works, that we may not live without praising Him. So I(1) have said, "Praise the Lord, for He is good; sing praises unto His Name, for He is sweet. ... He is Mediator, and thereupon is sweet. What is sweeter than angels' food? How can God not be sweet, since man ate angels' food? For men and angels live not on different meat. That is truth, that is wisdom, that is the goodness of God, but thou canst not enjoy it in like wise with the angels. ... That man might eat angels' food, the Creator of the angels was made man.(2) If ye taste, sing praises; if ye have tasted how sweet the Lord is, sing praises; if that which ye have tasted has a good savour, praise it; who is so unthankful to cook or purveyor, as not to return thanks by praising what he tastes, if he be pleased by any food. If we are not silent on such occasions, shall we be silent concerning Him, who has given us all things? ...
5. "For the Lord hath chosen Jacob to Himself, Israel for His own possession" (ver. 4). ... Let not Jacob therefore extol himself, let him not boast himself, or ascribe it to his own merits. He was known before, predestinated before, elected before, not elected for his own merits, but found out, and gifted with life by the grace of God. So with all the Gentiles; for how did the wild-olive deserve, that it should be grafted in, from the bitterness of its berries, the barrenness of its wildness? It was the wood of the wilderness, not of the Lord's field, and yet He of His mercy grafted the wild-olive into the (true) olive. But up to this time the wild-olive was not grafted in.
6. ... "Because," says he," I know that the Lord is great, and our God is above all gods" (ver. 5). If we should say to him, we ask thee, explain to us His greatness; would he not perchance answer us, He whom I see is not so very great, if He be able to be expounded by me. Let him then return to His works, and tell us. Let him hold in his conscience the greatness of God, which he has seen, which he has committed to our faith, whither he could not lead our eyes, and enumerate some of the things which the Lord hath done here; that unto us, who cannot see His greatness as he can, He may become sweet through the works of His which we can comprehend. ...
7. "All whatsoever the Lord willed, He made in the heaven, and in the earth, in the sea, and in all its deep places" (ver. 6). Who can comprehend these things? Who can enumerate the works of the Lord in the heaven and earth, in the sea, and in all deep places? Yet if we cannot comprehend them all, we should believe and hold them without question, because whatever creature is in heaven, whatever is in earth, whatever is in the sea and in all deep places, has been made by the Lord. ...
8. "Raising the clouds from the ends of the earth" (ver. 7). We see these works of God in His creation. For the clouds come from the ends of the earth to the midst thereof, and rain; thou scannest not whence they arise. Hence the prophet signifies this, from "the ends of the earth," whether it be from the bottom, or from the circumference of the ends of the earth, whencesoever He wills He raises the clouds. only from the earth. "He hath made lightnings into rain." For lightnings without rain would frighten thee, and bestow nothing on thee. "He maketh lightnings unto rain." It lightens, and thou tremblest; it rains, thou rejoicest. "He hath made lightnings unto rain." He who terrified thee, Himself causest that thou shouldest rejoice. "Who bringeth the winds out of His treasures," their causes are hidden, thou knowest not whence they come. When the wind blows, thou feelest it; why it blows, or from what treasure of His wisdom it is brought forth, thou knowest not;(3) yet thou owest to God the worship of faith, for it would not blow unless He had bidden who made it, unless He had brought it forth who created it.
9. We see therefore these things in that work of His; we praise, we marvel at, we bless God; let us see what He has done among men for His people. "Who smote the first-born of Egypt" (ver. 8). But withal those divine doings are told which thou mightest love, those are not told which thou mightest fear. Attend, and see that also when He is angry, He doeth what He willeth. "From man even unto beast. He sent signs and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt!" (ver. 9). Ye know, ye have read what the hand of the Lord did by Moses in Egypt, to crush and cast down the proud Egyptians, "on Pharaoh and on all his servants." Little did He in Egypt: what did He after His people was led out thence? "Who smote many nations (ver. 10), who possessed that land, which God willed to give His people. "And slew mighty kings, Sehon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan" (ver. 11). All these things which the Psalm records simply, do we read likewise in others of the Lord's books, and there the hand of the Lord is great. When thou seest what has been done to the wicked, take heed lest it be done to thee. ... But when the good man sees what the wicked has suffered, let him cleanse himself from all iniquity, lest he fall into a like punishment, a like chastisement. Then ye have thoroughly understood these things. What did God then? He drove out the wicked, "And he gave their land for an inheritance, even an inheritance to Israel His servant" (ver. 12).
10. Then follows the loud cry of His praise. "Thy Name, O Lord, is for ever and ever" (ver. 13), after all these things which Thou hast done. For what do I see that Thou hast done? I behold Thy creation which Thou hast made in heaven, I behold this lower part, where we dwell, and here I see Thy gifts of clouds, and winds, and rain. I regard Thy people; Thou leddest them from the house of bondage, and didst signs and wonders upon their enemies. Thou punishedst those who caused them trouble, Thou dravest the wicked from their land, Thou killedst their kings, Thou gavest their land to Thy people: I have seen all these things, and filled with joy have said," Lord, Thy Name is for ever and ever." ...
11. All these things then did God overthrow, in the body at that time, when our fathers were led out of the land of Egypt, in the spirit now. Nor does His Hand cease until the end. Therefore deem not that these mighty deeds of God were then finished and have ceased. "Thy Name, O Lord," he says, "is for ever."(1) That is, Thy loving-kindness ceaseth not, Thy hand ceaseth not for ever from doing these things, which then Thou didst afore declare in a figure. "But they are written for our admonition, on whom the end of the ages is come."(2) One generation and another generation; the generation by which we are made the faithful, and are born again by baptism; the generation by which we shall rise again from the dead, and shall live with the Angels for ever. Thy Memorial, O Lord, is above this generation, and above that; for neither doth He now forget to call us, nor then will He forget to crown us.
12. "The Lord hath judged His people, and will be called upon among His servants" (ver. 14). Already hath He judged the people. Save the final judgment, the people of the Jews is judged. What is "judged"? The just are taken away, the unjust are left. But if I lie, or am thought to lie, because I have said, it is already judged, hear the Lord saying, "I have come for judgment into this world, that they who see not may see, and they who see may be made blind."(3) The proud are made blind, the lowly are enlightened. Therefore, "He hath judged His people." Isaiah spake the judgment. "And now, thou house of Jacob, come ye, let us walk in the light of the Lord."(4) This is a small matter; but what follows? "For He hath put away His people, the house of Israel." The house of Jacob is the house of Israel; for he who is Jacob, the same is Israel. ... Therefore God had judged His people, by separating the evil and the good; that is to say, "He shall be called upon among His servants." By whom? By the Gentiles. For how vast are the nations who have come in by faith. How many farms and desert places now come in to us? They come thence no one can tell how numerously; they would believe. We say to them, What will ye? They answer, To know the glory of God. Believe, my brethren, that we wonder and rejoice at such a claim of these rustic people. They come I know not whither, roused up by I know not whom. How shall I say, I know not by whom? I know indeed by whom, because He says, "No one cometh to Me, save whom the Father draweth."(5) They come suddenly from the woods, the desert, the most distant and lofty mountains, to the Church; and many of them, nay, near all hold this language, so that we see of a truth that God teacheth them within.(6) The prophecy of Scripture is fulfilled, when it says, "And they shall all be taught of God."(7) We say to them, What do ye long for? And they answer, To see the glory of God.(8) "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."(9) They believe, they are sanctified, they will to have clergy ordained for them. Is it not fulfilled, "and He will be called upon among His servants"?
13. Lastly, after all that arrangement and dispensation, the Spirit of God turns itself to reproaching and ridiculing those idols, which are now ridiculed by their very worshippers. "The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold" (ver. 15). As God made all these things, who made whatever He would in heaven and earth, what can anything that man maketh be, but an object of ridicule, not adoration? Was He perchance about to speak of "the idols of the Gentiles," that we might despise them all? was He about to speak of the idols of the heathen, stones and wood, plaster and pottery? I say not these, they are mean materials. I speak of that which they specially love, that which they specially honour. "The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold, the work of men's hands." Surely it is gold, surely it is silver: because silver glitters, and gold glitters, have they therefore eyes, or do they see? ... But as these things are senseless, why make ye men of silver and gold to be gods? See ye not that the gods which ye make see not? "They have a mouth, and will not speak; they have eyes, and will not see" (ver. 16); "they have ears, and will not hear; neither is there any breath in their mouth" (ver. 17); "they have nostrils, and will not smell; they have hands, and will not work; they have feet, and will not walk." All these things could the carpenter, the silversmith, the goldsmith make, both eyes, and ears, and nostrils, and mouth, and hands, and feet, but he could give neither sight to the eyes, nor hearing to the ears, nor speech to the mouth, nor smell to the nostrils, nor motion to the hands, or going to the feet.
14. And man, thou laughest doubtless at what thou hast made, if thou knowest by whom thou art made. But of them who know not, what is said? "All they who make them, and all they who trust in them, are like them" (ver. 18). And ye believe, brethren, that there is a likeness to these idols expressed not in their flesh, but in their inner man. For "they have ears, and hear not." GOd calls to them indeed, "He who hath ears to hear, let him hear."(1) They have eyes, and see not, for they have the eyes of the body, and not the eyes of faith. Lastly, this prophecy is fulfilled among all the nations. ... Is it not fulfilled? Is it not seen, as it is written? And they who remain have eyes, and see not; have nostrils, and smell not. They perceive not that savour. "We are a good savour of Christ,"(2) as the apostle says everywhere. What profiteth it, that they have nostrils, and smell not that so sweet savour of Christ? Truly it is done in them, and truly it is said of them, "All they who make them," etc.
15. But daily do men believe through the miracles of Christ our Lord; daily the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf are opened, the nostrils of the senseless are breathed into, the tongues of the dumb are loosed, the hands of the palsied are strengthened, the feet of the lame are guided; sons of Abraham are raised up of these stones? to all of whom be it said, "Bless the Lord, ye house of Israel" (ver. 19). All are sons of Abraham; and if sons of Abraham are raised up from these stones, it is plain that they are rather the house of Israel who belong to the house of Israel, the seed of Abraham, not by the flesh, but by faith. But even granting that it is said of that house, and the people of Israel is meant, from thence did the Apostles and thousands of the circumcised believe? "Bless the Lord, ye house of Aaron. Bless the Lord, ye house of Levi" (ver. 20). Bless the Lord, ye nations, this is, the "house of Israel" generally; bless Him, ye leaders, this is, the "house of Aaron;" bless Him, ye servants, this is, the "house of Levi." What of the other nations? "Ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord."
16. Let us also with one voice say what follows: "Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, who dwelleth in Jerusalem" (ver. 21). Out of Zion is Jerusalem too. Zion is "watching," Jerusalem the "vision of peace." In what Jerusalem will He dwell now? In that which has fallen? Nay, but in that which is our mother, which is in the heavens, of which it is said, "The desolate hath more children than she which hath a husband."(4) For now the Lord is from Zion, because we watch when He will come; now as long as we live in hope, we are in Zion. When our way is ended, we shall dwell in that city which will never fall, because the Lord dwelleth in her, and keepeth her, which is the vision of peace, the eternal Jerusalem; for the praise of which, my brethren, language sufficeth not; where we shall find no enemy, either within the Church or without the Church, neither in our flesh, nor in our thoughts. For "death shall be swallowed up in victory,"(5) and we shall be free to see God in eternal peace, being made citizens of Jerusalem, the city of God.
1. "Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever" (ver. 1). This Psalm contains the praise of God, and all its verses finish in the same way. Wherefore although many things are related here in praise of God, yet His mercy is most commended;(7) for without this plain commendation, he, whom the Holy Spirit used to utter this Psalm, would have no verse be ended. Although after the judgment, by which at the end of the world the quick and the dead must be judged, the just being sent into life eternal, the unjust into everlasting fire,(8) there will not afterwards be those, whom God will have mercy on, yet rightly may His future mercy be understood to be for ever, which He bestows on His saints and faithful ones, not because they will be miserable for ever, and therefore will need His mercy for ever, but because that very blessedness, which He mercifully bestows on the miserable, that they cease to be miserable, and begin to be happy, will have no end, and therefore "His mercy is for ever." For that we shall be just from being unjust, whole from being unsound, alive from being dead, immortal from being mortal, happy from being wretched, is of His mercy. But this that we shall be, will be for ever, and therefore "His mercy is for ever." Wherefore, "give thanks to the Lord;" that is, praise the Lord by giving thanks, "for He is good:" nor is it any temporal good you will gain from this confession, for, "His mercy endureth for ever;" that is, the benefit which He bestows mercifully upon you, is for ever.(1)
2. Then follows, "Give thanks to the God of gods, for His mercy endureth for ever" (ver. 2). "Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His mercy endureth for ever" (ver. 3). We may well enquire, Who are these gods and lords, of whom He who is the true God is God and Lord? And we find written in another Psalm, that even men are called gods.(2) The Lord even takes note of this testimony in the Gospel, saying, "Is it not written in your Law, I have said, Ye are gods?"(3) ... It is not therefore because they are all good, but because "the word of God came tO them," that they were called gods. For were it because they are all good, He would not thus distinguish between them. He saith, "He judgeth between the gods." Then follows, "How long do ye judge iniquity!"(4) and the rest, which He says certainly not to all, but to some, because He saith it in distinguishing, and yet He distinguisheth between the gods.
3. But it is asked, If men are called gods to whom the word of the Lord came, are the Angels to be called gods, when the greatest reward which is promised to just and holy men is the being equal to Angels? In the Scriptures I know not whether it can, at least easily, be found, that the Angels are openly called gods; but when it had been said of the Lord God, "He is terrible, above all gods," he adds, as by way of exposition Thy he says this, "for the gods of the heathen are devils,"(5) that we might understand what had been expressed in the Hebrew, "the gods of the Gentiles are idols," meaning rather the devils which dwell in the idols.(6) For as regards images, which in Greek are called idols, a name we now use in Latin, they have eyes and see not, and all the other things which are said of them, because they are utterly without sense; wherefore they cannot be frightened, for nothing which has no sense can be frightened. How then can it be said of the Lord, "He is terrible above all gods, because the gods of the Gentiles are idols," if the devils which may be terrified are not understood to be in these images. Whence also the Apostle says, "We know that an idol is nothing."(7) This refers to its earthy senseless material. But that no one may think, that there is no living and sentient nature, which delights in the Gentile sacrifices, he adds, "But what the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: I would not have you partaken with devils."(8) If therefore we never find in the divine words that the holy Angels are called gods, I think the best reason is, that men may not be induced by the name to pay that ministry and service of religion (which in Greek is called leitourgia or latria) to the holy Angels, which neither would they have paid by man at all, save to that God, who is the God of themselves and men.(9) Hence they are much more correctly called Angels, which in Latin is Nuntii, that by the name of their function, not their substance, we may plainly understand that they would have us worship the God, whom they announce. The whole then of that question the Apostle has briefly expounded, when he says, "For though there be who are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, as there are gods many and lords many; yet we have one God the Father, from whom are all, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him."(10)
4. Let us therefore "give thanks to the God of gods, and the Lord of lords, for His mercy," etc. "Who alone did wonderful things" (ver. 4). As at the last part of every verse, it is written, "For His mercy endureth for ever," so we must understand at the beginning of each, though it be not written, "Give thanks." Which indeed in the Greek is very plain. It would be so in Latin, if our translators had been able to make use of that expression. Which indeed they could have done in this verse, if they had said, "To Him who doeth(11) wonderful things." For where we have," who did wonderful things," the Greek has tp poihQanti, where we must necessarily understand, "give thanks." And I would they had added the pronoun, and said to Him, "who did," or to Him "who doeth," or to Him "who made sure;" because then one might easily understand, "let us give thanks." For now it is so obscurely rendered, that he who either knows not or cares not to examine a Greek manuscript may think, "who made the heavens, who made sure the earth, who made the luminaries, for His mercy endureth for ever,"(12) has been so said, because He did these things for this reason, "because His mercy endureth for ever:" whereas they, whom He has freed from misery, belong to His Mercy: but not that we should believe that He makes sky, earth, and luminaries, of His Mercy; since they are marks of His Goodness, who created all things very good.(1) For He created all things, that they might have their being;(2) but it is the work of His Mercy, to cleanse us from our sins, and deliver us from everlasting misery. And so the Psalm thus addresses us, "Give thanks unto the God of gods, give thanks unto the Lord of lords." Give thanks to Him, "who alone doeth great wonders;" give thanks to Him, "who by His wisdom made the heavens;" give thanks to Him, "who stretched out the earth above the waters;" give thanks to Him, "who alone made great lights." But why we are to praise, he setteth down at the end of all the verses, "for His mercy endureth for ever."
5. But what meaneth, "who alone doeth great wonders"? Is it because many wonderful things He hath done by means of angels and men? Some wonderful things there are which God doeth alone, and these he enumerates, saying, "who by His wisdom made the heavens" (ver. 5), "who stretched out the earth above the waters" (ver. 6), "who alone made great lights" (ver. 7). For this reason did he add "alone" in this verse also, because the other wonders which he is about to tell of, God did by means of man. For having said," who alone made great lights," he goes on to explain what these are, "the sun to rule the day" (ver. 8), "the moon and stars to govern the night" (ver. 9); then he begins to tell the wonders which He did by means of angels and men: "who smote Egypt with their first-born" (ver. 10), and the rest. The whole creation then God manifestly made, not by means of any creature, but "alone;" and of this creation he hath mentioned certain more eminent parts, that they might make us think on the whole; the heavens we can understand,(3) and the earth we see. And as there are visible heavens too, by mentioning the lights in them, he has bid us look on the whole body of the heavens as made by Him.
6. However, whether by what he saith, "who made the heavens in understanding," or, as others have rendered it, "in intelligence," he meant to signify, the heavens we can understand, or that He in His understanding or intelligence, that is, in His wisdom made the heavens (as it is elsewhere written, "in wisdom hast Thou made them all"(4)), implying thereby the only-begotten Word, may be a question. But if it be so, that we are to understand that "God by His wisdom made the heavens," why saith He this only of the heavens, whereas God made all things by the same wisdom? It is that it needed only to be expressed there, so that in the rest it might be understood without being written. How then could it be "alone," if "in understanding" or "in intelligence" means "by His wisdom," that is, by the only-begotten Word? Is it that, inasmuch as the Trinity is not three Gods, but one God, he states that God made these things alone, because He made not creation by means of any creature?
7. But what is, "who laid out the earth above the waters"? For it is a difficult question, because the earth seemeth to be the heavier, so that it should be believed not so much to be borne on the waters, as to bear the waters. And that we may not seem contentiously to maintain our Scriptures against those who think that they have discovered these matters on sure principles, we have a second interpretation to give, that the earth which is inhabited by men, and contains the living creatures of the earth, is "laid out above the waters" because it stands out above the waters which surround it. For when we speak of a city on the sea being built "above the waters," it is not meant that the sea is under it in the same way as the waters are under the chambers of caverns, or under ships sailing over them; but it is said to be "above" the sea, because it stands up above the sea below it.
8. But if these words further signify something else which more closely concerns us, God "by His wisdom made the heavens," that is, His saints, spiritual men, to whom He has given not only to believe, but also to understand things divine; those who cannot yet attain to this, and only hold their faith firmly, as being beneath the heavens, are figured by the name of earth. And because they abide with unshaken belief upon the baptism they have received, therefore it is said, "He laid out the earth above the waters." Further, since it is written of our Lord Jesus Christ, that "in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,"(5) and that these two, wisdom and knowledge, differ somewhat from one another is testified by other utterances of Scripture, especially in the words of holy Job,(6) where both are in a manner defined; not unsuitably then do we understand wisdom to consist in the knowledge and love of That which ever is and abideth unchangeable, which is God. For where he saith, "piety(7) is wisdom," in Greek is qeoQebeia, and to express the whole of this in Latin, we may call it worship of God.(8) But to depart from evil, which he calls knowledge, what else is it but to walk cautiously and heedfully "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,"(9) in the night, as it were, of this world, that each one by keeping himself from iniquity may avoid being confounded with the darkness, distinguished by the light of his proper gift. ...
9. "Who brought out Israel from the midst of them" (ver. 11). He brought out also His saints and faithful ones from the midst of the wicked. "With a mighty Hand and stretched-out Arm" (ver. 12). What more powerful, what more out-stretched, than that of which is said "To whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed?"(1) "Who divided the Red Sea in two parts" (ver. 13). He divided also in such wise, that the same baptism should be to some unto life, to others unto death. "And brought out Israel through the midst of it" (ver. 14). So too He brings out His renewed people through the layer of regeneration. "And overthrew Pharaoh and his power in the Red Sea" (ver. 15). He quickly destroyeth both the sin of His people and the guilt thereof by baptism. "Who led His people through the wilderness" (ver. 16). Us too He leadeth through the drought and barrenness of this world, that we perish not therein. "Who smote great kings" (ver. 17), "and slew famous kings" (ver. 18). From us too He smites and slays the deadly powers of the devil. "Sehon king of the Amorites" (ver. 19), an "useless shoot," or "fiery temptation," for so is Sehon interpreted: the king of "them who cause bitterness," for such is the meaning of Amorites. "And Og, the king of Basan" (ver. 20). The "heaper-together," such is the meaning of Og, and, king of "confusion," which Basan signifies. For what else doth the devil heap together but confusion? "And gave away their land for an heritage" (ver. 21), "even an heritage unto Israel His servant" (ver. 22). For He giveth them, whom once the devil owned, for an heritage to the seed of Abraham, that is, Christ. "Who remembered us in our low estate" (ver. 23), "and redeemed us from our enemies" (ver. 24) by the Blood of His only-begotten Son. "Who giveth food to all flesh" (ver. 25), that is, to the whole race of mankind, not Israelites only, but Gentiles too; and of this Food is said, "My Flesh is meat indeed." "Give thanks unto the God of Heaven" (ver. 26). "Give thanks unto the Lord of lords" (ver. 27). For what he here says, "the God of Heaven," I suppose that he meant to express in other words what He had before said, "the God of gods." For what there he subjoined, he has here also repeated. "Give thanks unto the Lord of lords." "But to us there is but one God," etc., "and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him;"(2) to whom we confess that "His mercy endureth for ever."
1. ...But to-day we have sung, "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered Sion" (ver. 1). ...
2. Observe "the waters of Babylon." "The waters of Babylon" are all things which here are loved, and pass away. One man, for example, loveth to practise husbandry, to grow rich thereby, to employ his mind therein, thence to gain pleasure: let him observe the issue, and see that what he hath loved is not a foundation of Jerusalem, but a stream of Babylon. Another saith, It is a grand thing to be a soldier: all husbandmen fear those who are soldiers. ...
3. But then other citizens of the holy Jerusalem, understanding their captivity, mark how the natural wishes and the various lusts of men hurry and drag them hither and thither, and drive them into the sea; they see this, and they throw not themselves into the waters of Babylon, but "sit down and weep," either for those who are being carried away by them, or themselves whose deserts have placed them in Babylon, but sitting, that is, humbling themselves. O holy Sion, where all stands firm and nothing flows! Who hath thrown us headlong into this? Why have we left thy Founder and thy society? Behold, placed where all things are flowing and gliding away, scarce one, if he can grasp the tree, shall be snatched from the stream and escape. Humbling ourselves then in our captivity, let us "sit by the waters of Babylon," let us not dare to plunge ourselves in those streams, nor to be proud and lifted up in the evil and sadness of our captivity, but let us sit, and so weep. Let us sit "by" the waters, not beneath the waters, of Babylon; such be our humility, that it overwhelm us not. Sit "by" the waters, not "in" the waters, not "under" the waters; but yet sit, in humble fashion, talk not as thou wouldest in Jerusalem. ...
4. For many weep with the weeping of Babylon, because they rejoice also with the joy of Babylon. When men rejoice at gains and weep at losses, both are of Babylon. Thou oughtest to weep, but in the remembrance of Sion. If thou weepest in the remembrance of Sion, thou oughtest to weep even when it is well with thee in Babylon. ...
5. "On the willows in the midst thereof we hung up our instruments of music" (ver. 2). The citizens of Jerusalem have their "instruments of music," God's Scriptures, God's commands, God's promises, meditation on the life to come; but while they are dwelling "in Babylon," they "hang up their instruments." Willows are unfruitful trees, and here so placed, that no good whatever can be understood of them: elsewhere perhaps there may. Here understand barren trees, growing by the waters of Babylon. These trees are watered by the waters of Babylon, and bring forth no fruit; just as there are men greedy, covetous, barren in good works, citizens of Babylon in such wise, that they are even trees of that region; they are fed there by these pleasures of transitory things, as though watered by "the waters of Babylon." Thou seekest fruit of them, and nowhere findest it. ... Therefore by deferring to apply the Scriptures to them, "we hang up our instruments of music upon the willows." For we hold them not worthy to carry our instruments. We do not therefore insert our instruments into them and bind them to them, but defer to use them, and so hang them up. For the willows are the unfruitful trees of Babylon, fed by temporal pleasures, as by the "waters of Babylon."
6. "For there they that led us captive demanded of us words of songs, and they that led us away, an hymn" (ver. 3). They demanded of us words of songs and an hymn, who led us captive. ... We are tempted by the delights of earthly things, and we struggle daily with the suggestions of unlawful pleasures; scarce do we breathe freely even in prayer: we understand that we are captives. But who led us captive? what men? what race? what king? If we are redeemed, we once were captives. Who hath redeemed us? Christ. From whom hath He redeemed us? From the devil. The devil then and his angels led us captive: and they would not lead us, unless we consented. ...
7. "Those" then" who have led us captive," the devil and his angels, when have they spoken unto us: "Sing us one of the songs of Sion"? What answer we? Babylon beareth thee, Babylon containeth thee, Babylon nourisheth thee, Babylon speaks by thy mouth, thou knowest not to take in save what glitters for the present, thou knowest not how to meditate on things of eternity, thou takest not in what thou askest. "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (ver. 4). Truly, brethren, so it is. Begin to wish to preach the truth in such measure as ye know it, and see how needful it is for you to endure such mockers, persecutors of the truth, full of falsehood. Reply to them, when they ask of you what they cannot take in, and say in full confidence of your holy song, "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land!"
8. But take heed how thou dwellest among them, O people of God, O body of Christ, O high-born band of wanderers (for thy home is not here, but elsewhere), lest when thou lovest them, strivest for their friendship, and fearest to displease such men, Babylon begin to delight thee and thou forget Jerusalem. In fear then of this, see what the Psalmist subjoins, see what follows. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem" (ver. 5), amid the speeches of those who hold me captive, amid the speeches of treacherous men, amid the speeches of men who ask with ill intent, asking, yet unwilling to learn. ... What then? "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget me."
9. "Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I remember not thee" (ver. 6). That is, let me be dumb, he saith, if I remember not thee. For what word, what sound doth he utter, who uttereth not songs of Sion? That is our tongue, the song of Jerusalem. The song of the love of this world is a strange tongue, a barbarous tongue, which we have learnt in our captivity. Dumb then will he be to God, who forgetteth Jerusalem. And it is not enough to remember: for her enemies too remember her, desiring to overthrow her. "What is that city?" say they; "who are the Christians? what sort of men are the Christians? would they were not Christians." Now the captive band hath conquered its capturers; still they murmur, and rage, and desire to slay the holy city that dwells as a stranger among them. Not enough then is it to remember: take heed how thou rememberest. For some things we remember in hate, some in love. And so, when he had said, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem," etc., he added at once, "if I prefer not Jerusalem in the height of my joy." For there is the height of joy where we enjoy God, where we are safe of united brotherhood, and the union of citizenship. There no tempter shall assail us, no one be able so much as to urge us on to any allurement: there nought will delight us but good: there all want will die, there perfect bliss will dawn on us.
10. Then he turneth to God in prayer against the enemies of that city. "Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom" (ver. 7). Edom is the same who is also called Esau: for ye heard just now the words of the Apostle read, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."(1) ... Esau then signifieth all the carnal, Jacob all the spiritual. ... All carnal persons are enemies to spiritual persons, for all such, desiring present things, persecute those whom they see to long for things eternal. Against these the Psalmist, looking back to Jerusalem, and beseeching God that he may be delivered from captivity, saith--what? "Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom." Deliver us from carnal men, from those who imitate Esau, who are elder brethren, yet enemies. They were first-born, but the last-born have won the pre-eminence, for the lust of the flesh hath cast down the former, the contempt of lust hath lifted up the latter. The other live, and envy, and persecute. "In the day of Jerusalem." The day of Jerusalem, wherein it was tried, wherein it was held captive, or the day of Jerusalem's happiness, wherein it is freed, wherein it reaches its goal, wherein it is made partaker of eternity? "Remember," saith he, "O Lord," forget not those "who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof." Remember then, it means, that day wherein they willed to overthrow Jerusalem. For how great persecutions hath the Church suffered I How did the children of Edom, that is, carnal men, servants of the devil and his angels, who worshipped stocks and stones, and followed the lusts of the flesh, how did they say, "Extirpate the Christians, destroy the Christians, let not one remain, overthrow them even to the foundation!" Have not these things been said? And when they were said, the persecutors were rejected, the martyrs crowned. ...
11. Then he turneth himself to her, "0 daughter of Babylon, unhappy;" unhappy in thy very exulting, thy presumption, thine enmity; "unhappy daughter of Babylon!" (ver. 8). The city is called both Babylon, and daughter of Babylon: just as they speak of "Jerusalem" and "the daughter of Jerusalem," "Sion" and "the daughter of Sion," "the Church" and "the daughter of the Church." As it succeedeth the other, it is called "daughter;" as it is preferred before the other, it is called "mother." There was a former Babylon; did the people remain in it? Because it succeedeth to Babylon, it is called daughter of Babylon. O daughter of Babylon, "unhappy" thou! ...
12. "Happy shall he be that repayeth thee, as thou hast served us." What repayment meaneth he? Herewith the Psalm closeth, "Happy, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the rock" (ver. 9). Her he calleth unhappy, but him happy who payeth her as she hath served us. Do we ask, what reward? This is the repayment. For what hath that Babylon done to us? We have already sung in another Psalm, "The words of the wicked have prevailed against us."(1) For when we were born, the confusion of this world found us, and choked us while yet infants with the empty notions of divers errors. The infant that is born destined to be a citizen of Jerusalem, and in God's predestination already a citizen, but meanwhile a prisoner for a time, when learneth he to love ought, save what his parents have whispered into his ears? They teach him and train him in avarice, robbery, daily lying, the worship of divers idols and devils, the unlawful remedies of enchantments and amulets. What shall one yet an infant do, a tender soul, observing what its elders do, save follow that which it seeth them doing. Babylon then has persecuted us when little, but God hath given us when grown up knowledge of ourselves, that we should not follow the errors of our parents. ...How shall they repay her? As she hath served us. Let her little ones be choked in turn: yea let her little ones in turn be dashed, and die. What are the little ones of Babylon? Evil desires at their birth. For there are, who have to fight with inveterate lusts. When lust is born, before evil habit giveth it strength against thee, when lust is little, by no means let it gain the strength of evil habit; when it is little, dash it. But thou fearest, lest though dashed it die not; "Dash it against the Rock; and that Rock is Christ."(2)
13. Brethren, let not your instruments of music rest in your work: sing one to another songs of Sion. Readily have ye heard; the more readily do what ye have heard, if ye wish not to be willows of Babylon fed by its streams, and bringing no fruit. But sigh for the everlasting Jerusalem: whither your hope goeth before, let your life follow; there we shall be with Christ. Christ now is our Head; now He ruleth us from above; in that city He will fold us to Himself; we shall be equal to the Angels of God. We should not dare to imagine this of ourselves, did not the Truth promise it. This then desire, brethren, this day and night think on. Howsoever the world shine happily on you, presume not, parley not willingly with your lusts. Is it a grown-up enemy? let it be slain upon the Rock. Is it a little enemy? let it be dashed against the Rock. Slay the grown-up ones on the Rock, and dash the little ones against the Rock. Let the Rock conquer. Be built upon the Rock, if ye desire not to be swept away either by the stream, or the winds, or the rain. If ye wish to be armed against temptations in this world, let longing for the everlasting Jerusalem grow and be strengthened in your hearts. Your captivity will pass away, your happiness will come; the last enemy shall be destroyed, and we shall triumph with our King, without death.
1. The title of this Psalm is brief and simple, and need not detain us; since we know whose resemblance David wore, and since in him we recognise ourselves also, for we too are members of that Body. The whole title is, "To David himself." Let us see then, what is to David himself. The title of the Psalm is wont to tell us what is treated of within it: but in this, since the title informs us not of this, but tells us only to Whom it is chanted, the first verse tells us what is treated of in the whole Psalm, "I will confess to Thee." This confession then let us hear. But first I remind you, that the term confession in Scripture, when we speak of confession to God, is used in two senses, of sin, and of praise. But confession of sin all know, confession of praise few attend to. So well known is confession of sin, that, wherever in Scripture we hear the words, "I will confess to Thee, O Lord," or, "we will confess to Thee," forthwith, through habitually understanding in this way, our hands hurry to beating our breast: so entirely are men wont not to understand confession to be of aught, save of sin. But was then our Lord Jeans Christ Himself too a sinner, who saith in the Gospel, "I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth "?(1) He goeth on to say what He confesseth, that we might understand His confession to be of praise, not of sin, "I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." He praised the Father, he praised God, because He despiseth not the humble, but the proud. And such confession are we now going to hear, of praise of God, of thanksgiving. "With my whole heart." My whole heart I lay upon the altar of Thy praise, an whole burnt-offering(2) of praise I offer to Thee. ... "I will confess to Thee, 0 Lord, with my whole heart: for Thou hast heard the words of my mouth" (ver. 1). What mouth, save my heart? For there have we the voice which God heareth, which ear of man knoweth not at all. We have then a mouth within, there do we ask, thence do we ask, and if we have prepared a lodging or an house for God, there do we speak, there are we heard. "For He is not far from every one of us, for in Him we live, and move, and have our being."(3) Nought maketh thee far off from God, save sin only. Cast down the middle wall of sin, and thou art with Him whom thou askest.
2. "And before the Angels will I sing unto Thee." Not before men will I sing, but before the Angels. My song is my joy; but my joy in things below is before men, my joy in things above before the Angels. For the wicked knoweth not the joy of the just: "There is no joy. saith my God, to the wicked."(4) The wicked rejoiceth in his tavern, the martyr in his chain. In what did that holy Crispina rejoice, whose festival is kept to-day? She rejoiced when she was being seized, when she was being carried before the judge, when she was being put into prison, when she was being brought forth bound, when she was being lifted up on the scaffold,(5) when she was being heard, when she was being condemned: in all these things she rejoiced; and the wretches thought her wretched, when she was rejoicing before the Angels.
3. "I will worship toward Thy holy Temple" (ver. 2). What holy Temple? That where we shall dwell, where we shall worship. For we hasten that we may adore· Our heart is pregnant and cometh to the birth, and seeketh where it may bring forth. What is the place where God is to be worshipped? ... "The Temple of God is holy," saith the Apostle, "which Temple ye are."(6) But assuredly, as is manifest, God dwelleth in the Angels. Therefore when our joy, being in spiritual things, not in earthly, taketh up a song to God, to sing before the Angels, that very assembly of Angels is the Temple of God, we worship toward God's Temple. There is a Church below, there is a Church above also; the Church below, in all the faithful; the Church above, in all the Angels. But the God of Angels came down to the Church below, and Angels ministered to Him on earth? while He ministered to us; for, "I came not," saith He, "to be ministered unto, but to minister."(8) ... The Lord of Angels died for man. Therefore, "I will worship toward Thy holy Temple;" I mean, not the temple made with hands, but that which Thou hast made for Thyself.
4. "And I will confess to Thy Name in Thy mercy and Thy truth." ... These also which Thou hast given to me, do I according to my power give to Thee in return: mercy, in siding others; truth, in judging. By these God aideth us, by these we win God's favour. Rightly, therefore, "All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth." No other ways are there whereby He can come to us, no other whereby we can come to Him. "For Thou hast magnified Thy holy Name over everything." What sort of thanksgiving is this, brethren? He hath magnified His holy Name over Abraham. Of Abraham was born Isaac; over that house God was magnified; then Jacob; God was magnified, who said, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then came his twelve sons. The name of the Lord was magnified over Israel. Then came the Virgin Mary. Then Christ our Lord, "dying for our sins, rising again for our justification,"(9) filling the faithful with His Holy Spirit, sending forth men to proclaim throughout the Gentiles, "Repent ye," etc.(10) Behold, "He hath magnified His holy Name above all things."
5. "In what day soever I call upon Thee, do Thou quickly hear me" (ver. 3). Wherefore, "quickly "? Because Thou hast said, "While yet thou art speaking I will say, Lo, here I am."(11) Wherefore, "quickly "? Because now I seek not earthly happiness, I have learnt holy longings from the New Testament. I seek not earth, nor earthly abundance, nor temporal health, nor the overthrow of my enemies, nor riches, nor rank: nought of these do I seek: therefore "quickly hear me." Since Thou hast taught me what to seek, grant what I seek. ...
6. Let us see then what he seeketh, with what right he hath said, "quickly hear me." For what seekest thou, that thou shouldest quickly be heard? "Thou shalt multiply me." In many ways may multiplication be understood. ... For men are multiplied in their soul with cares: a man seemeth to be multiplied in soul, in whom vices even are multiplied. That is the multiplication of want, not of fulness. What then dost thou desire, thou who hast said, "quickly hear me," and hast withdrawn thyself entirely from the body, from every earthly thing, from every earthly desire, so as to say to God, "Thou shalt multiply me in my soul"? Explain yet further what thou desirest. Thou shalt multiply me, saith he, in my soul "with virtue." ...
7. "Let all the kings of the earth confess to Thee, O Lord" (ver. 4). So shall it be, and so it is, and that daily; and it is shown that it was not said in vain, save that it was future. But neither let them, when they confess to Thee, when they praise Thee, desire earthly things of Thee. For what shall the kings of the earth desire? Have they not already sovereignty? Whatever more a man desire on earth, sovereignty is the highest point of his desire. What more can he desire? It must needs be some loftier eminence. But perhaps the loftier it is, the more dangerous. And therefore the more exalted kings are in earthly eminence, the more ought they to humble themselves before God. What do they do? "Because they have heard all the words of Thy mouth." In a certain nation were hidden the Law and the Prophets, "all the words of Thy mouth:" in the Jewish nation alone were "all the words of Thy mouth," the nation which the Apostle praiseth, saying, "What advantage hath the Jew? Much every way; chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." These were the words of God.(1) ... What meant Gideon's fleece? It is like the nation of the Jews in the midst of the world, which had the grace of sacraments, not indeed openly manifested, but hidden in a cloud, or in a veil, like the dew in the fleece? The time came when the dew was to be manifested in the floor; it was manifested, no longer hidden. Christ alone is the sweetness of dew: Him alone thou recognisest not in Scripture, for whom Scripture was written. But yet, "they have heard all the words of thy mouth."
8. "And let them sing in the paths of the Lord, that great is the glory of the Lord" (ver. 5). Let all the kings of the earth sing in the paths of the Lord. In what paths? Those that are spoken of above, "in Thy mercy and Thy truth." Let not then the kings of the earth be proud, let them be humble. Then let them sing in the ways of the Lord, if they be humble: let them love, and they shall sing. We know travellers that sing; they sing, and hasten to reach the end of their journey. There are evil songs, such as belong to the old man; to the new man belongeth a new song. Let then the kings of the earth too walk in Thy paths, let them walk and sing in Thy paths, Sing what? that "great is the glory of the Lord," not of kings.
9. See how he willed that kings should sing on their way, humbly bearing the Lord, not lifting themselves up against the Lord. For if they lift themselves up, what follows? "For the Lord is high, and hath respect unto the lowly" (ver. 6). Do kings then desire that He have respect unto them? Let them be humble. What then? if they lift themselves up to pride, can they escape His eyes? Lest perchance, because thou hast heard, "He hath respect unto the lowly," thou choose to be proud, and say in thy soul, God hath respect unto the lowly, He hath not respect unto me, I will do what I will. O foolish one! wouldest thou say this, if thou knewest what thou oughtest to love? Behold, even if God willeth not to see thee, dost thou not fear this very thing, that He willeth not to see thee? ... The lofty then, it seemeth, He hath not respect unto, for it is the lowly He respecteth. "The lofty"--what? "He considereth from afar." What then gaineth the proud? To be seen from afar, not to escape being seen. And think not that thou must needs be safe on that account, for that He seeth less clearly, who seeth thee from afar. For thou indeed seest not clearly, what thou seest from afar; God, although He see thee from afar, seeth thee perfectly, yet is He not with thee. This thou gainest, not that thou art less perfectly seen, but that thou art not with Him by whom thou art seen. But what doth the lowly gain? "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart." Let the proud then lift himself up as much as he will, certainly God dwelleth on high, God is in heaven: wishest thou that He come nigh to thee? Humble thyself. For the higher will He be above thee, the more thou liftest thyself up.
10. "If I walk in the midst of tribulation, Thou shalt revive me" (ver. 7). True it is: whatsoever tribulation thou art in, confess, call on Him; He freeth thee, He reviveth thee. ... Love the other life, and thou shalt see that this life is tribulation, whatever prosperity it shine with, whatever delights it abound and overflow with; since not yet have we that joy most safe and free from all temptation, which God reserveth for us in the end, without doubt it is tribulation. Let us understand then what tribulation he meaneth here too, brethren. Not as though he said, "If perchance there shall any tribulation have befallen me, Thou shall free me therefrom." But how saith he? "If I walk," etc.; that is, otherwise Thou wilt not revive me, unless I walk in the midst of tribulation.
11. "Thou hast stretched forth Thine hand over the wrath of mine enemies, and Thy right hand hath made me safe." Let mine enemies rage: what can they do? They can take my money, strip, proscribe, banish me; afflict me with grief and tortures; at last, if they be allowed, even kill me: can they do aught more? But over that which mine enemies can do, Thou hast stretched forth Thine hand. For mine enemies cannot separate me from Thee: but Thou avengest me the more, the more Thou as yet delayest. ... Yet not to make me despair; for it follows, "and Thy right hand hath made me safe."
12. "Thou, Lord, shalt recompense for me (ver. 8). I recompense not: Thou shalt recompense. Let mine enemies rage their full: Thou shall recompense what I cannot. ... "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves," saith the Apostle, "but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord."(1) There is here another sense not to be neglected, perhaps even to be preferred. "Lord" Christ, "Thou shall repay for me." For I, if I repay, have seized; Thou hast paid what Thou hast not seized. Lord, Thou shall "repay for me." Behold Him repaying for us. They came to Him, who exacted tribute:(2) they used to demand as tribute a didrachma, that is, two drachmas for one man; they came to the Lord to pay tribute; or rather, not to Him, but to His disciples, and they said to them, "Doth not your Master pay tribute?" They came and told Him. He saith unto Peter, "lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up: and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shall find a staler:(3) that take, and give for Me and thee." The first that riseth from the sea, is the First-begotten from the dead. In His mouth we find two didrachmas, that is, four drachmas: in His mouth we find the four Gospels. By those four drachmas we are free from the claims of this world, by the four Evangelists we remain no longer debtors; for there the debt of all our sins is paid. He then hath repaid for us, thanks to His mercy. He owed nothing: He repaid not for Himself: He repaid for us. ...
13. "Lord, Thy mercy is for everlasting." ... Not for a time only do I desire to be freed. "Thy mercy is for everlasting," wherewith Thou hast freed the martyrs, and so hast quickly taken them from this life. "Despise not Thou the works of Thine own hands." I say not, Lord, "despise not the works of my hands:" of mine own works I boast not. "I sought," indeed, "the Lord with my hands in the night season before Him, and have not been deceived;" but yet I praise not the works of mine own hands; I fear lest, when Thou shall look into them, Thou find more sins in them than deserts. Behold in me Thy Work, not mine: for mine if Thou seest, Thou condemnest; Thine, if Thou seest, Thou crow nest. For whatever good works there be of mine, from Thee are they to me; and so they are more. Thine than mine.(4) Therefore whether in regard that we are men, or in regard that we have been changed and justified from our iniquity, Lord, "despise not Thou the works of Thine own hands."
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