Augustine on the Psalms. Psalms 139 - 145
1. ... Our Lord Jesus Christ speaketh in the Prophets, sometimes in His own Name, sometimes in ours, because He maketh Himself one with us; as it is said, "they twain shall be one flesh." Wherefore also the Lord saith in the Gospel, speaking of marriage, "therefore they are no more twain, but one flesh." One flesh, because of our mortality He took flesh; not one divinity, for He is the Creator, we the creature. Whatsoever then our Lord speaketh!in the person of the Flesh He took upon Him, belongeth both to that Head which hath already ascended into heaven, and to those members which still toil in their earthly wandering. Let us hear then our Lord Jesus Christ speaking in prophecy. For the Psalms were sung long before the Lord was born of Mary, yet not before He was Lord: for from everlasting He was the Creator of all things, but in time He was born of His creature. Let us believe that Godhead, and, so far as we can, understand Him to be equal to the Father. But that Godhead equal to the Father. was made partaker of our mortal nature, not of His own store, but of ours; that we too might be made partakers of His Divine Nature, not of our store, but of His.
2. "Lord, Thou hast tried me, and known me" (ver. 1). Let the Lord Jesus Christ Himself say this; let Him too say," Lord," to the Father. For His Father is not His Lord, save because He hath deigned to be born according to the flesh. He is Father of the God, Lord of the Man. Wouldest thou know to whom He is Father? To the coequal Son. The Apostle saith, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God."(1) To this "Form" God is Father, the "Form" equal to Himself, the only-begotten Son, begotten of His Substance. But forasmuch as for our sakes, that we might be re-made, and made partakers of His Divine Nature, being renewed unto life eternal, He was made partaker of our mortal nature, what saith the Apostle of Him? He saith, "yet He emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and was found in fashion as a man." He was in the Form of God, equal to the Father; He took upon Him the form of a servant, so as therein to be less than the Father. ...
3. "Thou hast known My down-sitting and Mine up-rising" (ver. 2). What here is "down-sitting," what "up-rising "? He who sitteth, humbleth himself. The Lord then "sat" in His Passion, "up-rose" in His Resurrection. "Thou," he saith, hast known this; that is, Thou hast willed, Thou hast approved; according to Thy will was it done. But if thou choosest to take the words of the Head in the person of the Body: man sitteth when he humbleth himself in penitence, he riseth up when his sins are forgiven, and he is lifted up to the hope of everlasting life. Lift not up yourselves, unless ye have first been humbled. For many wish to rise before they have sat down, they wish to appear righteous, before they have confessed that they are sinners. ...
4. "Thou hast understood my thoughts from afar; Thou hast tracked out my path and may limit" (ver. 3); "and all my ways Thou hast seen beforehand" (ver. 4). What is, "from afar "? While I am yet in my pilgrimage, before I reach that, my true country, Thou hast known my thoughts. ... The younger son went into a far country. After his toil and suffering and tribulation and want, he thought on his father, and desired to return, and said, "I will arise, and go to my father." "I will arise," said he, for before he had sat. Here then thou mayest recognise him saying, "Thou hast known my down-sitting and up-rising." I sat, in want; I arose, in longing for Thy Bread. "Thou hast understood my thoughts from afar." For far indeed had I gone; but where is not He whom I had left? Wherefore the Lord saith in the Gospel, that his father met him as he was coming. Truly; for "he had understood his thoughts from afar." "My path," he saith; what, but a bad path, the path he had walked to leave his father? ... What is, "my path "? that by which I have gone. What is, "my limit "? that whereunto I have reached. "Thou hast tracked out my path and my limit." That limit of mine, far distant as it was, was not far from Thine eyes. Far had I gone, and yet Thou wast there. "And all my ways Thou hast seen beforehand." He said not, "hast seen," but, "hast seen beforehand." Before I went by them, before I walked in them, Thou didst see them beforehand; and Thou didst permit me in toil to go my own ways, that, if I desired not to toil, I might return into Thy ways. "For there is no deceit in my tongue."(2) What meant he by this? Lo, I confess to Thee, I have walked in my own way, I am become far from Thee, I have departed from Thee, with whom it was well with me, and to my good it was ill with me without Thee. ...
5. "Behold Thou, Lord, hast known all my last doings, and the ancient ones" (ver. 5). Thou hast known my latest doings, when I fed swine; Thou hast known my ancient doings, when I asked of Thee my portion of goods. Ancient doings were the beginnings to me of latest ills: ancient sin, when we fell; latest punishment, when we came into this toilsome and dangerous mortality. And would that this may be "latest" to us; it will be, if now we will to return. For there is another "latest" for certain wicked ones, to whom it shall be said, "Go ye into everlasting fire."(3) ... "Thou hast fashioned me,and hast laid Thine hand upon me." "Fashioned me," where? In this mortality; now, to the toils whereunto we all are born. 'For none is born, but God has fashioned him in his mother's womb; nor is there any creature, whereof God is not the Fashioner. But "Thou hast fashioned me" in this toil, "and laid Thine hand upon me," Thine avenging hand, putting down the proud. For thus healthfully hath He cast down the proud, that He may lift him up humble.
6. "Thy skill hath displayed itself wonderfully in me: it hath waxed mighty: I shall not be able to attain unto it" (ver. 6). Listen now and hear somewhat, which is obscure indeed, yet bringeth no small pleasure in the understanding thereon. Moses, the holy servant of God, with whom God spake by a cloud, for, speaking after human fashion, He must needs speak to His servant through some work of His hands which He assumed, ... longed and desired to see the true appearance of God, and said to God, who was conversing with him, "If now I have found grace in Thy sight, show me Thyself."(4) When this he desired vehemently, and would extort from God in that sort of friendly familiarity, if we may so speak, wherewith God deigned to treat him, that he might see His Glory and His Face, in such wise as we can speak of God's Face, He said unto him, "Thou canst not see My Face; for no one hath seen My Face, and lived;"(1) but I will place thee in a clift of the rock, and will pass by, and will set My hand upon thee; and when I have passed by, thou shalt see My back parts. And from these words there ariseth another enigma, that is, an obscure figure of the truth. "When I have passed by," saith God, "thou shalt see My back parts;" as though He hath on one side His face, on another His back. Far be it from us to have any such thoughts of that Majesty! For whoso hath such thoughts of God, what advantageth it him that the temples are closed? He is building an idol in his own heart. In these words then are mighty mysteries. ... They who raged against the Lord, whom they saw, now seek counsel how they may be saved; and it is said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ, and your sins shall be forgiven you."(2) Behold, they saw the back parts of Him, whose face they could not see. For His Hand was upon their eyes, not for ever, but while He passed by. After He had passed He took away His Hand from their eyes. When the hand was taken from their eyes, they say to the disciples, "What shall we do?" At first they are fierce, afterwards loving; at first angry, afterwards fearful; at first hard, then pleasant; at first blind, then enlightened. ...
7. Behold thou findest that the runaway in a far country cannot escape His eyes, from whom he fleeth. And whither can he go now, whose "limit is tracked out "? Behold, what saith he? "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?" (ver. 7). Who can in the world flee from that Spirit, with whom the world is filled?(3) "And whither shall I flee from Thy Face?" He seeketh a place whither to flee from the wrath of God. What place will shelter God's runaway? Men who shelter runaways, ask them from whom they have fled; and when they find any one a slave of some master less powerful than themselves, him they shelter as it were without any fear, saying in their hearts, "he hath not a master by whom he can be tracked out." But when they are told of a powerful master, they either shelter not, or they shelter with great fear, because even a powerful man can be deceived. Where is God not? Who can deceive God? Whom doth not God see? From whom doth not God demand His runaway? Whither then shall that runaway go from the Face of God? He turneth him hither and thither, as though seeking a spot to flee to.
8. "If I go up," saith he, "to heaven, Thou art there: if I go down to Hades, Thou art present" (ver. 8). At length, miserable runaway, thou hast learnt, that by no means canst thou make thyself far from Him, from whom thou hast wished to remove far away. Behold, He is everywhere; thou, whither wilt thou go? He hath found counsel, and that inspired by Him, who now deigneth to recall him. ... If by sinning I go down to the depths of wickednesses, and spurn to confess, saying, "Who seeth me" (for "in Hades who shall confess to Thee?" 4) there also Thou art present, to punish. Whither then shall I go that I may flee from Thy presence, that is, not find Thee angry? This plan he found: So will I flee, saith he, from Thy Face, so will I flee from Thy Spirit; from Thy avenging Spirit, Thy avenging Face thus will I flee. How? "If I take again my wings right forward, and abide in the utmost parts of the sea" (ver. 9). So can I flee from Thy Face. If he will flee to the utmost part of the sea from the Face of God, will not He from whom he fleeth be there? ... For what are "the utmost parts of the sea," but the end of the world? Thither let us now flee in hope and longing, with the wings of twofold love; let us have no rest, save in "the utmost parts of the sea." For if elsewhere we wish for rest, we shall be hurled headlong into the sea. Let us fly even to the ends of the sea, let us bear ourselves aloft on the wings of twofold love; meanwhile let us flee to God in hope, and in faithful hope let us meditate on that "end of the sea."
9. Now listen who may bring us thither. The very same One whose face in wrath we wish to flee from. For what followeth? "Even thither shall Thy hand conduct me, and Thy right hand lead me" (ver. 10). This let us meditate on, beloved brethren, let this be our hope, this our consolation. Let us take again through love the wings we lost through lust. For lust was the lime of our wings, it clashed us down from the freedom of our sky, that is, the free breezes of the Spirit of God. Thence dashed down we lost our wings, and were, so to speak, imprisoned in the power of the fowler; thence" He" redeemed us with His Blood, whom we fled from to be caught. He maketh us wings of His commandments; we raise them aloft now free from lime. ... Needs then must we have wings, and needs must He conduct us, for He is our Helper. We have free-will; but even with that free-will what can we do, unless He help us who commandeth us?
10. And considering the length of the way, what said he to himself? "And I said, Peradventure the darkness shall overwhelm me" (ver. 11). Lo, now I have believed in Christ, now am I wafted aloft on the wings of twofold love. ... Regarding the length of the way, i said to myself, "And the night was light in my delight." The night was made to me light, because in the night I despaired of being able to cross so great a sea, to surmount so long a journey, to reach the utmost parts by persevering to the end Thanks to Him who sought me when a runaway, who smote my back with strokes of the scourge, who by calling me recalled me from destruction, who made my night light. For it is night so long as we are passing through this life. How was the night made light? Because Christ came down into the night. ...
11. "For darkness shall not be darkened by Thee" (ver. 12). Do not thou then darken thy darkness; God darkeneth it not, but enlighteneth it yet more; for to Him is said in another Psalm, "Thou, Lord, shalt light my candle: my God shall enlighten my darkness."(1) But who are they who "darken their darkness," which God darkeneth not? Evil men, perverse men; when they sin, verily they are darkness; when they confess not their sins which they have committed but go on to defend them, they "darken their darkness." Wherefore now if thou hast sinned thou art in darkness, but by confessing thy darkness thou shall obtain to have thy darkness lightened; by defending thy darkness, thou shall "darken thy darkness." And where wilt thou escape from double darkness, who wast in difficulty in single darkness? ... Let us not "darken our darkness" by defending our sins, and "the night shall be light in our delight."
12. "And night shall be lightened as the day." "Night, as the day." "Day" to us is worldly prosperity, night adversity in this world: but, if we learn that it is by the desert of our sins that we suffer adversities, and our Father's scourges are sweet to us, that the Judge's sentence may not be bitter to us, so shall we find the darkness of this night to be, as it were, the light of this night. ... But when Christ our Lord has come, and has dwelt in the soul by faith, and promised other light, and inspired and given patience, and warned a man not to delight in prosperity or to be crushed by adversity, the man, being faithful, begins to treat this world with indifference; not to be lifted up when prosperity befalls him, nor crushed when adversity, but in all things to praise God, not only when he aboundeth, but also when he loseth; not only when he is in health, but also when he is sick.(2) ... "As is His darkness, so is also His light." His darkness overwhelms me not, because His light lifts me not up.
13. "For Thou, O Lord, hast possessed my reins" (ver. 13). The Possessor is within; He occupieth not only the heart, but also the reins; not only the thoughts, but also the delights: He then possesseth that whence I should feel delight at any light in this world: He occupieth my reins: I know not delight, save from the inward light of His Wisdom. What then? Dost thou not delight that thy affairs are very prosperous, times fortunate to thee? dost thou not delight in honour, in riches, in thy family? "I do not," saith he. Wherefore? Because "Thou hast possessed my reins, O Lord; Thou hast taken me up from my mother's womb." While I was in my mother's womb, I did not regard with indifference the darkness of that night and the light of that night. ... Now, having been taken up froth the womb of that our mother, we look on them with indifference, and say, "As is His darkness, so is also His light." Neither doth earthly prosperity make us happy, nor earthly adversity wretched. We must maintain righteousness, love faith, hope in God, love God, love our neighbours also. After these toils we shall have unfailing light, day without setting. Fleeting is all the light and darkness of this night.
14. "I will confess to Thee, O Lord, for terribly hast Thou been made wonderful: wondrous are Thy works, and my soul knoweth it right well" (ver. 14). Aforetime "Thy knowledge was made wonderful from me, it had waxed great, nor could I attain unto it." From me then "it had waxed great." Whence doth "my soul" now "know right well," save because the "night is light in my delight?" save because Thy grace hath come unto me, and enlightened my darkness? save because Thou hast possessed my reins? save because Thou hast taken me up from my mother's womb?
15. "My bone is not hid from Thee, which Thou hast made in secret" (ver. 15). "His bone," he saith. What the people call ossum, is in Latin called as. This is the word in the Greek.(3) For we might think the word as is here the one which makes in the plural ora, not os (short), which makes ossa. He saith then, I have a certain bone (ossum) in secret. For this word let us prefer to use; better is it that scholars find fault with us, than that the people understand us not. "There is then," saith he, "a certain bone of mine, within, hidden; Thou hast made within a bone for me in secret, yet is it not hidden from Thee. In secret hast Thou made it, but hast Thou therefore hidden it from Thyself? This my bone made by Thee in secret men see not, men know not: Thou knowest, who hast made. What" bone" then meaneth he, brethren? Let us seek it, it is "in secret." But because as Christians we are speaking in the Name of the Lord to Christians, now we find what bone is of this kind. It is a sort of inward strength; for strength and fortitude are understood to be in the bones. There is then a sort of inward strength of the soul, wherein it is not broken. Whatever tortures, whatever tribulations, whatever adversities rage around, that which God hath made strong in secret in us, cannot be broken, yieldeth not. For by God is made a certain strength of patience, of which is said in another Psalm," But my soul shall be subjected to God, for of Him is my patience."(1) ... Wherein dost thou glory? "In tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience."(2) See how that strength is fashioned within in his heart: "because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." So is fashioned and made strong that hidden bone, that it maketh us even to glory in tribulations. But to men we seem wretched, because that' which we have within is hidden from them. "And my substance is in the lower parts of the earth." Behold, in flesh is my substance, yet have I a bone within, which Thou hast fashioned, such as to cause me never to yield to any persecutions of this lower region, where still my substance is. For what great matter is it, if an Angel be brave? This is a great matter, if flesh is brave. And whence is flesh brave, whence is an earthen vessel brave, save because in it is made a bone in secret?
16. ... "Thine eyes did see Mine imperfect one, and in Thy book shall all be written" (ver. 16), not only the perfect, but also the imperfect. Let not the imperfect fear, only let them advance. Nor yet, because I have said, "let them not fear," let them love their imperfection, and remain there, where they are found. Let them advance, as far as in them lieth. Daily let them add, daily let them approach; yet let them not fall back from the Body of the Lord: that, compacted in one Body and among these members, they may be counted worthy to have that said of them. "By day shall they wander, and none among them." "The Day" was yet on earth, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Whence He said, "Walk while ye have the day."(3) But "by day shall" His imperfect ones "wander." They too thought that our Lord Jesus Christ was only man, that He had not within Him the hidden Godhead, that He was not secretly God, but that He was that only which was seen: this they too thought. ... But what is, "In the day they shall wander"? Shall they perish? Where then is, "In Thy book shall all be written "? When then did they "wander in the day "? When they understood not the Lord set upon earth. And what followeth? "But to me Thy friends are made very honourable, O God" (ver. 17); those very ones, who "wandered in the day, and none was in them," became Thy friends, and were made very honourable to me. That bone was made in them in secret after the resurrection of the Lord, and they suffered for His Name, at whose death they had been amazed. "Mightily strengthened were their chieftainships." They became Apostles, they became leaders of the Church, they became rams leading their flocks, "mightily strengthened."
17. "I will number them, and they shall be multiplied above the sand" (ver. 18). By means of them, who "wandered in the day," lo! there has been born all this great multitude, which now is like the sand innumerable, save by God. For He said, "they shall be multiplied above the sand," and yet He had said, "I will number them." The very same who are numbered, "shall be multiplied above the sand." For by Him is the sand numbered, by whom "the very hairs of our head are numbered."(4) "I have risen, and yet am I with Thee." Already have I suffered, saith He, already have I been buried; lo! I have risen, and not yet do they understand that I am with them. "Yet am I with Thee," that is, not yet with them, for not yet do they recognise Me. For thus do we read in the Gospel, that after the resurrection of oar Lord Jesus Christ, when He appeared to them, they did not at once know Him. There is another meaning also: "I have risen, and yet am I with Thee," as though He would signify this present time, wherein He is as yet hidden at the right hand of the Father, before He is revealed in the brightness, wherein He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
18. And then He telleth what meanwhile, during this whole time when He already has risen, and remaineth still with the Father, He suffereth by the intermixture of sinners in His Body, the Church, and by the separation of heretics. "If Thou, O God, shalt slay the sinners (since Thou shall say in Thy thought, Depart from Me, ye men of blood), they shall receive in vanity their cities" (ver. 19, 20). The words seem to be connected in this order; "If Thou, O God, shall slay the sinners, they shall receive in vanity their cities." Thus are sinners slain, because, "having their understandings darkened, they are alienated from the life of God."(5) For on account of elation they lose confession, and so they are slain, and in them is fulfilled what Scripture saith, "Confession perisheth from the dead, as from one that is not."(6) And so "they receive in vanity their cities," that is, their vain peoples, who follow their vanity; when, puffed up by the name of righteousness, they(1) persuade men to burst the bond of unity, and blindly and ignorantly follow them, as being more righteous. ... But now the Body of Christ, the Church, saith, Why do the proud speak falsely against me, as though I were stained by other men's sins, and so, by separating themselves, "receive in vanity their cities "? "Have not I hated those who hated Thee, Lord?" (ver. 21). Why do those who are worse themselves require of me to separate myself in body as well as spirit from the wicked, so as to root up the wheat, together with the tares, before the time of harvest, that before the time of winnowing I lose my power of enduring the chaff; that before all the different sorts of fishes are brought to the end of the world, as to the shore, to be separated, I tear the nets of peace and unity? Are the sacraments which I receive, those of evil men? Do I; by consent, communicate in their life and deeds? ... But where is, "Love your enemies"? Is it because He said "yours," not "God's"? "Do good to them that hate you."(2) He saith not, "who hate God." So he followeth the pattern, and saith, "Have not I hated those who hated Thee; Lord?" He saith not, "Who have hated me." "And at Thine enemies did I waste away." "Thine," he said, not "mine." But those who hate us and are enemies unto us, only because we serve Him, what else do they but hate Him, and are His enemies. Ought we then to love such enemies as these? Or do not they suffer persecution for God's sake, to whom it is said, "Pray for them that persecute you "? Observe then what followeth. "With a perfect hatred did I hate them" (ver. 22). What is, "with a perfect hatred"? I hated in them their iniquities, I loved Thy creation. This it is to hate with a perfect hatred, that neither on account of the vices thou hate the men, nor on account of the men love the vices. For see what he addeth, "They became mine enemies." Not only as God's enemies, but as his own too doth he now describe them. How then will he fulfil in them both his own saying, "Have not I hated those that hated Thee, Lord," and the Lord's command," Love your enemies"? How will he fulfil this, save with that" perfect hatred," that he hate in them that they are wicked, and love that they are men? For in the time even of the Old Testament, when the carnal people was restrained by visible punishments, how did Moses, the servant of God, who by understanding belonged to the New Testament, how did he hate sinners when he prayed for them, or how did he not hate them when he slew them, save that he "hated them with a perfect hatred "? For with such perfection did he hate the iniquity which he punished, as to love the manhood for which he prayed.
19. Since then the Body of Christ is in the end to be severed in body also from the unholy and wicked, but now meanwhile groaneth among them, what doeth the "love of Christ among the daughters, as the lily among thorns"?(3) What are her words? what her conscience? what is the "appearance of the king's daughter within"?(4) Lo, hear what she saith. "Prove me, O God, and know my heart" (ver. 23). Do Thou, O God, Thou prove me, Thou know; not man, not an heretic, who neither knoweth how to prove, nor can know my heart, whereas Thou provest, and knowest that I consent not to the deeds of the wicked, while they think that I can be defiled by the sins of others; so that, while I in my long wandering do what I mourn in another Psalm, that is, while I "labour for peace among them that hate peace,"(5) until I come to that Vision of peace, which is called Jerusalem, "which is the mother of us all," the city "eternal in the heavens;" they, contending, and falsely accusing and separating themselves, may "receive," not, evidently, in eternity, but "in vanity, their cities." Why this? Observe what followeth.
20. "And see," saith he, "if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (ver. 24). "Search," he saith, "my paths," that is, my counsels and thoughts. What else saith he, but "lead me in Christ"? For who is "the way everlasting," save He that is the life everlasting? For everlasting is He who said, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life."(6) If then thou findest anything in my way which displeaseth Thine eyes, since my way is mortal, do Thou "lead me in the way everlasting," wherein is no iniquity; for even "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins;"(7) He is "the Way everlasting" without sin; He is the Life everlasting without punishment.
21. These are great mysteries, brethren. How doth the Spirit of God speak with us? how doth it make us delights in this night.? What is this, we ask you, brethren, whence are they sweeter, the darker they are? He mixeth us our potion after His love, in certain wondrous ways. He maketh His own sayings wondrous, so that while we were speaking what ye already knew, yet forasmuch as it was dug out of passages which seemed obscure, the knowledge itself seemed to be made new. Did ye not know, brethren, that the wicked are to be tolerated in the Church, and schisms not to be made? Did ye not already know, that within those nets which hold both good and bad fishes, we must abide even to the shore, nor must the nets be burst, because on the shore the good shall be separated into vessels, and the bad thrown away? Ye know this already; but these verses of this Psalm ye did not understand; that which ye did not understand is explained; that which ye knew has been renewed.
1. Our Lords have bidden me, brethren, and in them the Lord of all, to bring this Psalm to your understanding, so far as God giveth me to. May He help your prayers, that I may say those things which I ought to say, ye to hear, that to all of us the Word of God may be profitable. For all it doth not profit, for "all have not faith."(2) ...
2. What this Psalm containeth, I believe that ye perceived when it was being chanted;' for therein the Church of Christ, set in the midst of the wicked, complaineth and groaneth, and poureth out prayer to God. For her voice is in every such prophecy the voice of one in need and want, not yet satisfied, "hungering and thirsting after righteousness,"(3) for whom a certain fulness in the end hath been promised, and is reserved. ...
3. "To the end, a Psalm to David himself." No other end mayest thou look to, than is laid down for thee by the Apostle himself. For "Christ is the end."(4) ... He was of the seed of David, not after His Godhead, whereby He is the Creator of David, but after the flesh; therefore He deigned to be called David in prophecy: look to this "end," for the Psalm is chanted "to David Himself;" hear the voice of His Body; be in His Body. Let the voice which thou hast heard be thine, and pray, and say what followeth.
4. "Deliver me, O Lord, from the wicked man" (ver. 1). Not from one only, but from the class; not from the vessels only, but from their prince himself, that is, the devil. Why "from man," if he meaneth from the devil? Because he rod is called a man in a figure.(5)... Now then being made light, not in ourselves, but in the Lord,(6) let us pray not only against darkness, that is, against sinners, whom still the devil possesseth, but also against their prince, the devil himself, who worketh in the children of disobedience. "Deliver me from the unrighteous man." The same as "from the wicked man." For he called him wicked because unrighteous, lest perchance thou shouldest think that any unrighteous man could be a good man. For many unrighteous men seem to be harmless; they are not fierce, are not savage, do not persecute nor oppress; yet are they unrighteous, because, following some other habit, they are luxurious, drunkards, given to pleasure. ... Wicked then is every unrighteous man, who must needs be harmful, whether he be gentle or fierce. Whoever falls in his way, whoever is taken by his snares, will find how harmful is that which he thought harmless. For, brethren, even thorns prick not with their roots. Pull up thorns from the ground, handle their roots, and see whether thou feelest pain. Yet that in the upgrowth which causeth thee pain, proceeded from that root. Let not then men please you who seem gentle and kind, yet are lovers of carnal pleasure, followers of polluted lusts, let them not please you. Though as yet they seem gentle, they are roots of thorns. ... And so, my brethren, body of Christ, members of Christ groaning among such wicked men, whomsoever ye find hurrying headlong into evil lusts and deadly pleasures, at once chide, at once punish, at once burn. Let the root be burnt, and there remaineth not whence the thorn may grow up. If ye cannot, be sure that ye will have them as enemies. They may be silent, they may hide their enmity, but they cannot love you. But since they cannot love you, and since they who hate you must needs seek your harm, let not your tongue and heart be slow to say to God, "Deliver me, O Lord, from the unrighteous man."
5. "Who have imagined unrighteousnesses in their heart" (ver. 2). ... From them free me, from them let Thy hand be most powerful to deliver me. For easy is it to avoid open enmities, easy is it to turn aside from an enemy declared and manifest, while iniquity is in his lips as well as his heart; he is a troublesome enemy, he is secret, he is with difficulty avoided, who beareth good things in his lips, while in his heart he concealeth evil things. "All the day long did they make war." What is, "war"? They made for me what I was to fight against all the day. For from thence, from such hearts as these, ariseth all that the Christian fighteth against. Be it sedition, be it schism, be it heresy, be it turbulent opposition, it springeth not save from these imaginings which were concealed, and while they spake good words with their lips, "all the day long did they make war." Ye hear words of peace, yet making war departeth not from their thoughts. For the words, "all the day long," signify without intermission, throughout the whole time. "They have sharpened their tongues like serpents" (ver. 3). If still thou seekest to make out the man, behold a comparison. In the serpent above all beasts is there cunning and craft to hurt; for therefore does it creep.(1) It hath not even feet, so that its footsteps when it cometh may be heard. In its progress it draweth itself, as it were, gently along, yet not straightly. Thus then do they creep and crawl to hurt, having poison hidden even trader a gentle touch. And so it followeth, "the poison of asps is under their lips." Behold, it is "under" their lips, that we may perceive one thing under their lips, another in their lips. ...
6. "Preserve me, O Lord, from the hand of the sinner, from unrighteous men deliver me" (ver. 4). Here they wear their real colours, they are known; here we have no need to understand, but to act: we have need to pray, not to ask who they are. But how thou shouldest pray against such men, he explaineth in what followeth. For many pray unskilfully against wicked men. "Who have imagined," saith he, "to trip up my steps." Thus far it may be understood carnally. Every one has enemies, who seek to cheat him in trade, to rob him of money, where they are engaged together in business; every one has some neighbour his enemy, who deviseth how to bring mischief upon his family, to injure in some way his property and surely he deviseth this by deceit, by fraud, by devilish devices he endeavoureth to accomplish this: no one can doubt it. Yet not for these reasons are they to be guarded against, but lest they lay in wait for thee and draw thee to themselves, that is, separate thee from the Body of Christ, and make thee of their body. For as Christ is the Head of the good, so is the devil their head. What is, "to trip up my steps"? Not as though thou shouldest be deceived in the business thou hast with him, or he cheat thee in a case which thou hast with him in the law courts. He hath "tripped up thy steps," if he have hindered thee in the way of God; so that what thou didst direct aright may stumble, or fall from the way, or fall m the way, or draw back from the way, or stop on the way, or go back to the place from whence it had come. Whatsoever hath done this to thee, hath tripped thee up, hath deceived thee. Against such snares as these pray thou, lest thou lose thy heavenly inheritance, lest thou lose Christ thy Joint-heir, for thou art destined to live for ever with Him, who hath made thee an heir. For thou art made an heir, not by one whom thou art to succeed after his death, but One together with whom thou art to live for ever.
7. "The proud have hidden a trap for me" (ver. 5). He hath briefly described the whole body of the devil, when he saith, "the proud." Hence is it that for the most part they call themselves righteous when they are unrighteous. Hence is it that nothing is so grievous to them as to confess their sins. They are men who, being falsely righteous, must needs envy the truly righteous. For none envieth another in that which he wisheth not either to be or to seem. ... Hence come all allurings and trippings up of others. This the devil first wished, when falling himself he envied man who stood. ...
8. But those "proud ones have hidden a trap for me;" they have sought to trip up my steps. And what have they done? "And have stretched lout cords as traps." What cords? The word is well known in holy Scripture, and elsewhere we find what "cords" signify. For "each one is holden with the cords of his sins,"(2) saith Scripture. And Esaias saith openly, "Woe to them that draw sin like a long rope."(3) And why is it called a "cord"? Because every sinner who persevereth in his sins, addeth sin to sin; and when he ought by accusing his sins to amend, by defending he doubleth what by confession he might have removed, and often seeketh to fortify himself by other sins, on account of the sins he hath already committed. ... But these their sins they "spread" for the righteous, when they persuade them to do the evils which they themselves do. Therefore he said, "they spread cords and traps;" that is, by their sins they desired to overthrow me. And where did they this? "Beside the paths have they laid a stumbling-block for me:" not in the paths," but, "beside the paths." Thy "paths" are the commandments of God. They have "laid stumbling-blocks beside the paths;" do not thou withdraw out of the paths, and thou wilt not rush upon stumbling-blocks. Yet will I not that thou shouldest say, "God should prevent them from laying stumbling-blocks beside my paths, and then they would not lay them." Nay, rather, God permitted them to "lay stumbling-blocks beside thy paths," that thou shouldest not leave the paths.
9. And what remaineth? what remedy amid such ills, in such temptations, such dangers? "I said unto the Lord, Thou art my God" (ver. 6). Loud is the voice of prayer, it exciteth confidence. Is He not the God of the others? Of whom is not He God, who is the true God? Yet is He specially theirs, who enjoy Him, who serve Him, who willingly submit to Him. For the wicked too, though unwillingly, are subject to Him. ... "Hear with Thine ears the voice of my prayer." He did not say, "Hear with Thine ears my prayer;" but, as though expressing more plainly the affection of his heart, "the voice of my prayer," the life of my prayer, the soul of my prayer, not that which soundeth in my words, but that which giveth life to my words. For all other noises without life may be called sounds, but not words. Words belong to those that have souls, to the living. But how many pray to God, yet have neither perception of God, nor right thoughts concerning God! These may have the sound of prayer, the voice they cannot, for there is no life in them. This was the voice of the prayer of one who was alive, forasmuch as he understood that God was his God, saw by Whom he was freed, perceived from whom he was freed.
10. Commending this to the ears of God, let him say," Lord, Lord." Thou Lord-Lord, that is, most truly Lord, not like unto the lords-men, not like the lords who buy with money-bags, but the Lord who buyeth with His Blood. "Lord, Lord, Thou strength of my health" (ver. 7), that is, who givest strength to my health. What is the meaning of "strength of my health "? He complained of the stumbling-blocks and snares of sinners, of wicked men, vessels of the devil, that barked around him and laid snares around him, of the proud that envy the righteous. But He forthwith added a comfort, "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." This he observed and feared, and, distressed at the abundance of iniquities, turned himself to hope. Verily I shall be saved, if I endure unto the end: but endurance, so as to win salvation, pertaineth unto strength; Thou art "the strength of my salvation;" Thou makest me to endure, that I may attain salvation. ... Toiling then in this warfare, he looked back to the grace of God; and because already he had begun to be heated and parched, he found, as it were, a shade, whereunder to live. "Thou hast overshadowed my head in the day of battle:" that is, in the heat, lest I be heated, lest I be parched.
11. "Deliver me not over, O Lord, by my own longing to the sinner" (ver. 8). Behold to what end Thy overshadowing shall avail for me, that I suffer not heat from myself. And what could that "sinner" do to me, rage as he would? For wicked men raged against the martyrs, dragged them away, bound them with chains, shut them up in prisons, slew them with the sword, exposed them to wild beasts, consumed them with fire: all this they did; yet did not God deliver them over to the sinners, because they were not delivered over by their own longing. This then pray with all thy might, that God "delivered thee not over by thine own longing to the sinner." For thou by thine own longing givest place to the devil. For lo, the devil hath set before thee gain, invited thee to dishonesty; thou canst not have the gain, unless thou commit the dishonesty: the gain is the bait, dishonesty the snare: do thou so look on the bait, that thou see the snare also; for thou canst not obtain the gain, unless thou commit the dishonesty; and if thou commit the dishonesty, thou wilt be caught. ... Hence is thine head overshadowed in the day of battle. For longing causeth heat, but the overshadowing of the Lord tempers longing, that we may be able to bridle that whereby we were being hurried away, that we be not so heated as to be drawn to the snare. "They have thought against me; leave me not, lest perchance they be exalted." Thou hast in another place, "They that oppress me will exult if I be moved."(1) Such are they, because such is the devil also himself. ...
12. "The head of their going about, the toil of their own lips shall cover them" (ver. 9). Me, he saith, the shadow of Thy wings shall cover: for, "Thou hast covered me in the day of battle." Them what shall cover? "The head of their going about;" that is, pride. What is, "their going about"? How they go about and stand not, how they go in the circle of error, where is journeying without end. He who goeth in a straight line, beginneth from some point, endeth at some point: he who goeth in a circle, never endeth. That is the toil of the wicked, which is set forth yet more plainly in another Psalm, "The wicked walk in a circle."(2) But "the head of their going about" is pride, for pride is the beginning of every sin. But whence is pride "the toil of their own lips"? Every proud man is false, and every false man is a liar. Men toil in speaking falsehood; for truth they could speak with entire facility. For he toileth, who maketh what he saith: he who wisheth to speak the truth, toileth not, for truth herself speaketh without toil. ...
13. "Coals of fire shall fall upon them upon earth, and Thou shalt cast them down" (ver. 10). What is, "upon earth"? Here, even in this life, here "coals of fire shall fall upon them." What are, "coals of fire"? We know these coals. Are they different from those of which we are about to speak? For these I see avail for punishment, those that I am about to speak of, for salvation. For we have spoken of certain coals, when man was seeking aid against a treacherous tongue. ... The examples of the "coals" are added to the wound of the arrows (for I need not fear to say "the wound," when the Spouse herself saith, "I am wounded with love "3), and then the hay is consumed, and so they are called "devouring coals." The hay is devoured, but the gold is purified, and the man exchanges death for life, and begins to be himself too a burning coal; such a coal as was the Apostle, "who before was a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious," a coal black and extinguished; but when he had obtained mercy, he was set on fire from heaven, the voice of Christ set him on fire, all the blackness in him perished, he began to be fervent in spirit, to set others on fire with that wherewith he was set on fire himself. ...
14. "A man full of words shall not be guided upon earth" (ver. 11). "A man full of words" loveth lies. For what pleasure hath he, save in speaking? He careth not what he speaketh, so long as he speaks. It cannot be that he will be guided. What then ought the servant of God to do, who is kindled with these "coals," and himself made a coal of salvation, what should he do? He should wish rather to hear than to speak; as it is written, "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak."(1) And if it may be so, let him desire this, not to be obliged to speak and talk and teach. ... I can quickly tell you wherein each one may prove himself, not by never speaking, but by requiring a case where it is his duty to speak; let him be glad to be silent, in will, let him speak to teach, when he must. For when must thou needs speak and teach? When thou meetest with one ignorant, when thou theetest with one unlearned. If it delight thee always to teach, thou wishest always to have some ignorant one to teach. ... "Evil shall hunt the unrighteous man to destruction." Evils come, and he standeth not; therefore said he, "they shall hunt him to destruction." For many good men, many righteous men evils have befallen, evils have, as it were, found them. Therefore when the evil pursued the good, that is, our martyrs, when they seized them, they "hunted" them, but not "to destruction." For the flesh was pressed down, the spirit was crowned; the spirit was cast out from the body, yet was nought done to the flesh which might hinder it for the future. Let the flesh be burned, scourged, mangled; is it therefore withdrawn from its Creator, because it is given into the hands of its persecutor? Will not He who created it from nothing, remake it better than it was?
15. "I know that the Lord will maintain the right of the needy" (ver. 12). This "needy" one is not "full of words;" for he that is full of words, wisheth to abound, knoweth not to hunger. He is "needy" of whom it is said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."(2) They groan among the stumbling-blocks of the wicked, they pray to their Head, "to be delivered from the wicked man. "And the cause of the poor." These then are they whose cause the Lord will not neglect; although now they suffer hardships, their glory shall appear, when their Head appeareth. For to such while placed here it is said, "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."(3) So then we are poor, our life is hid; let us cry to Him that is our Bread.(4) ...
16. "But the just shall confess to Thy Name" (ver. 13). Both when Thou shalt plead their cause, and when Thou shalt maintain their right, they "shall confess to Thy Name;" nought shall they attribute to their own merits, all they shall attribute to nought save to Thy mercy. ... Therefore see what followeth, see wherewith he concludeth. "The upright shall dwell with Thy Countenance." For ill was it with them in their own countenance; well will it be with them with Thy Countenance. For when they loved their own countenance, "In the sweat of their countenance did they eat bread."(5) Thy Countenance shall come to them with abundance to satisfy them. Nought more shall they seek, for nought better have they; no more shall they abandon Thee, nor be abandoned by Thee. For after His Resurrection, what was said of the Lord? "Thou shalt fill me with joy with Thy Countenance."(6) Without His Countenance He would not give us joy. For this do we cleanse our countenance, that we may rejoice in His Countenance.(7). .. Because too, "blessed are the poor in heart, for they shall see God; "(8) He gave the Form of Man both to good and evil, the Form of God He preserved for the pure and good, that we may rejoice in Him, and it may be well with us for ever with His Countenance.
1. ... The Psalm which we have just sung is in many parts somewhat obscure. When by the help of the Lord what has been said shall begin to be expounded and explained, ye will see that ye are hearing things which ye knew already. But for this cause are they said in manifold ways, that variety of expression may remove all weariness of the truth. ...
2. "Lord, I have cried unto Thee, hear Thou me" (ver. 1). This we all can say'. This not I alone say: whole Christ saith it. But it is said rather in the name of the Body: for He too, when He was here and bore our flesh, prayed; and when He prayed, drops of blood streamed down from His whole Body. So is it written in the Gospel: "Jesus prayed earnestly, and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood."(10) What is this flowing of sweat from His whole Body, but the suffering of martyrs from the whole Church? "Listen unto the voice of my prayer, while I cry unto Thee." Thou thoughtest the business of crying already finished, when thou saidst, "I have cried unto Thee." Thou hast cried; yet think not thyself safe. If tribulation be finished, crying is finished: but if tribulation remain for the Church, for the Body of Christ, even to the end of the world, let it not only say, "I have cried unto Thee," but also, "Listen unto the voice of my prayer."
3. "Let my prayer be set forth in Thy sight as incense, and the lifting up of my hands an evening sacrifice" (ver. 2). That this is wont to be understood of the Head Himself, every Christian acknowledgeth. For when the day was now sinking towards evening, the Lord upon the Cross "laid down His life to take it again,"(1) did not lose it against His will. Still we too are figured there. For what of Him hung upon the tree, save what He took of us? And how can it be that the Father should leave and abandon His only begotten Son, especially when He is one God with Him? Yet, fixing our weakness upon the Cross, where, as the Apostle saith, "our old man is crucified with Him,"(2) He cried out in the voice of that our "old man," "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?"(3) That then is the "evening sacrifice," the Passion of the Lord, the Cross of the Lord, the offering of a salutary Victim, the whole burnt-offering acceptable to God. That "evening sacrifice" produced, in His Resurrection, a morning offering. Prayer then, purely directed from a faithful heart, riseth like incense from a hallowed altar. Nought is more delightful than the odour of the Lord: such odour let all have who believe.
4. ... "Set, O Lord, a watch before my mouth, and a door of restraint around my lips" (ver. 3). He said not a barrier of restraint, but "a door of restraint." A door is opened as well as shut. If then it be a "door," let it be both opened and shut; opened, to confession of sin; closed, to excusing sin. So will it be a "door of restraint," not of ruin. For what doth this "door of restraint" profit us? What doth Christ pray in the name of His Body? "That Thou turn not aside My heart to wicked words" (ver. 4). What is, "My heart"? The heart of My Church; the heart, that is, of My Body. ...
5. But when thine heart hath not been turned aside, O member of Christ, when thy heart hath not been turned aside "to wicked words, to making excuses in sins, with men that work in iniquity," thou shalt also not unite with their elect. For this followeth, "And I will not unite with their elect." Who are "their elect"? Those who justify themselves. Who are their elect? Those "who trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others," as the Pharisee said in the temple, "Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are."(4) Who are their elect? "This Man, if He were a prophet, would know what manner of woman this is that touched His feet."(5) Here thou recognisest the words of that other Pharisee, who invited our Lord to his house; when the woman of that city, who was a sinner, came and approached His Feet. ...
For even this woman herself, "if her heart had turned aside to wicked words," would not have lacked wherewith to defend her sins. Do not women daily, her equals in defilement, but not her equals in confession, harlots, adulteresses, doers of shameful deeds, defend their sins? If they have not been seen, they deny them: if they have been caught and convicted, or have done their deeds openly, they defend them. And how easy is their defence, how ready, yet how headlong; how common, yet how blasphemous! "Had God not willed it, I had not done it: God willed it: fortune willed it: fate willed it." ... These are the defences of "the elect" of this world. But 'let the members of Christ, the Body of Christ, say, let Christ say in the name of His Body, "Turn not Thou aside, My Heart, to wicked words," etc., "and I will not unite with their elect." ...
6. "With men that work wickedness." What wickedness? Let me mention some sinful wickedness of theirs. Let me tell you one open sinful wickedness, which they acknowledge. They say, it is better for a man to be an usurer than a husbandman. Thou askest the reason, and they assign one. ... He vexeth the members of Christ, who cleanseth the earth with a furrow: he vexeth the members of Christ, who pulleth grass from the earth: he vexeth the members of Christ, who plucketh an apple from a tree. To avoid committing their imaginary murders in the farm, he committeth real murders in usury. He dealeth no bread to the needy. See whether there can be greater unrighteousness than this righteousness.(6) He dealeth not bread to the hungry. Thou askest, wherefore? Lest the beggar receive the life which is in the bread, which they call a member of God, the substance of God, and bind it in flesh. What then do ye? why do ye eat? Have ye not flesh? Yes; but we, they say, forasmuch as we are enlightened by faith in Manes,(7) by our prayers and our Psalms, forasmuch as we are elect, we cleanse thereby that bread, and transmit it into the treasure-house of the heavens. Such are the elect, that they are not to be saved by God, but saviours of God. And this is Christ, they say, crucified in the whole universe. I received in the Gospel Christ a Saviour, but ye are in your books the saviours of Christ. Plainly ye are blasphemers of Christ, and therefore not to be saved by Christ. Therefore lest a crumb be given to the hungry, and in the crumb a member of Christ suffer, is the hungry to die of hunger? False mercy to a crumb causeth true murder of a man. But who are their elect? "Turn not thou aside, my heart, to wicked words, and I will not unite with their elect."
7. "The righteous One shall amend me in mercy, and convict me" (ver. 5). Behold the sinner confessing. He desireth to be amended in mercy, rather than praised deceitfully. ..."Shall convict me," but "in mercy:" shall convict, yet hateth not: yea, shall all the more convict, because He hateth not. And why doth he therefore give thanks? Because, "rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee."(1) The righteous One shall amend me." Because He persecuteth thee? God forbid. He requireth rather amending himself, who amendeth in hate. Wherefore then doth He amend? "In mercy. And shall convict me." Wherein? "In mercy. For the oil of a sinner shall not enrich my head." My head shall not grow by flattery. Undue praise is flattery: undue praise of a flatterer is "the oil of a sinner." Therefore men too, when they have mocked any one with false praise, say, "I have anointed his head." Love then to be "convicted by the righteous One in mercy;" love not to be praised by a sinner in mockery. Have oil in yourselves, and ye shall not seek the "oil of a sinner."(2) ...
8. Thou sayest to me, What am I doing? I am beset with flatterers; they cease not to besiege me; they praise in me what I would not, that praise in me what I hold in little esteem; what I hold dear they blame in me; flatterers, treacherous, deceivers. For instance, "Gaiuseius(3) is a great man, great, learned, wise; but why is he a Christian? For great is his learning, great his reading, great his wisdom." If great is his wisdom, approve of his being a Christian; if great his learning, learnedly hath he chosen. In fine, what thou revilest, that pleaseth him whom thou praisest. But what? That praise sweeteneth not: it is "the oil of a sinner." Yet ceaseth be not to speak so. Let him not therewith "fatten thy head;" that is, rejoice not in such things; agree not to such things; consent not to such things; rejoice not in such things; and then, if he have applied to thee the oil of flattery, yet hath thy head remained as it was, it has not been puffed up, it hath not swollen. ... "For still shall My word be well-pleasing to them." Wait awhile: now they revile Me, saith Christ. In the early times of the Christians, the Christians were blamed on all sides. Wait as yet; and "My word shall be well-pleasing to them." The time shall come when they shall conquer thousands of men, who shall beat their breasts, and say, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive. our debtors." Even now, how many remain who blush to beat their breasts? Let them then blame us: let us bear it. Let them blame; let them hate, accuse, detract; "still shall My word be well-pleasing to them;" the time shall come when My word shall please them. ... O wordy defence of iniquity! Verily now whole nations say this, and the thunder of nations beating their breasts ceaseth not. Rightly do the clouds thunder, wherein now God dwelleth. Where is now that wordiness, where that boasting, "I am righteous; nought of ill have I done"? Verily, when thou hast contemplated in Holy Scripture the law of righteousness, how far soever thou hast advanced, thou shall find thyself a sinner.' ... What sort of man am I now speaking of, brethren? I speak of him who worshippeth God alone, who confesseth Christ, who knoweth the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost to be one God; who committeth not fornication against Him; who worshippeth not devils; who seeketh him not aid from the devil; who holdeth the Catholic Church; whom no one complaineth of as cheating; under whose oppression no weak neighbour groaneth; who assaileth not another's wife; who is content with his own, or even without his own, in such wise as is lawful, and as Apostolical discipline permitteth, with consent of both,(4) or when she is not yet married. Even he who is such as this, is yet overtaken in such things as I have mentioned. For all these daily sins then what is our hope, save to say with humble heart in the Lord's Prayer, while we defend not our sins, but confess them," Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;"(5) and to "have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," that He may be "the propitiation for our sins"?(6) See what followeth: "their judges have been swallowed up beside the Rock" (ver. 6). What is, "swallowed up beside the Rock? That Rock was Christ.(7) They have been swallowed up beside the Rock." "Beside," that is, compared, as judges, as mighty, powerful, learned: they are called "their judges," as judging about morals, and laying down their opinions. This Aristotle said. Set him beside the Rock, and he is swallowed up. Who is Aristotle? let him hear, "Christ hath said," and he trembleth among the dead. This Pythagoras said, that Plato said. Set them beside the Rock, compare their authority to the authority of the Gospel, compare the proud to the Crucified. Say we to them "Ye have written your words in the hearts of the proud; He hath planted His Cross in the hearts(1) of kings: finally, He died, and rose again; ye are dead, and I will not ask how ye rise again." So "their judges have been swallowed up beside" that "Rock." So long do their words seem somewhat, till they are compared with the Rock. Therefore if any of them be found to have said what Christ too hath said, we congratulate him, but we follow him not. But he came before Christ. If any man speak what is true, is he therefore before the Truth itself? Regard Christ, O man, not when He came to thee, but when He made thee. The sick man too might say, "But I took to my bed before the physician came to me." Why, for that very reason has He come last, because thou first has sickened.
9. "They shall hear My Words, for they have prevailed." My Words have prevailed over their words. They have spoken clever things, I true things. To praise one who talketh well is one thing, to praise One who speaketh truth is another. "They shall hear My Words, for they have prevailed." How have they prevailed? Who of them has been taken offering sacrifice, when such things were forbidden by the law, and has not denied it? Who of them has been taken worshipping an idol, and has not exclaimed, "I did it not," and feared lest he should be convicted? Such servants hath the devil. But how have the Words of the Lord prevailed? "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Fear not those who kill the body," etc.(2) He gave them fear, He suggested hope, He kindled love. "Fear not death," He saith. Do ye fear death? I die first. Fear ye, lest a hair of your head perish? I first rise again in the flesh uninjured. Rightly have ye heard His Words, for they have prevailed. They spake, and were slain; they fell, and yet stood. And what was the result of so many deaths of martyrs, save that those words prevailed, and the earth being, so to speak, watered by the blood of Christ's witnesses, the cross of the Church shot up everywhere? How have they "prevailed "? We have said already, when they were preached by men who feared not. Feared not what? Neither banishment, nor losses, nor death, nor crucifixion: for it was not death alone that they did not fear; but even crucifixion, a death than which none was thought more accursed. It the Lord endured, that His disciples might not only not fear death, but not even that kind of death. When then these things are said by men that fear not, they have prevailed.
10. What then have all those deaths of the martyrs accomplished? Listen: "As the fatness of the earth is spread over the earth, our bones have been scattered beside the pit" (ver. 7). "The bones" of the martyrs, that is, the bodies of the witnesses of Christ. The martyrs were slain, and they who slew them seemed to prevail. They prevailed by persecution, that the words of Christ might prevail by preaching. And what was the result of the deaths of the saints? What meaneth, "the fatness of the earth is spread over the earth"? We know that everything that is refuse is the fatness of the earth. The things which are, as it were, contemptible to men, enrich the earth. ... "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."(3) As it is contemptible to the world, so is it precious to the husbandman. For he knoweth the use thereof, and its rich juice; he knoweth what he desireth, what he seeketh, whence the fertile crop ariseth; but this world despiseth it. Know ye not that "God hath chosen the contemptible things of the world, and those which are not, like as those which are, that the things which are may be brought to nought"?(4) From the dunghill was Peter lifted up, and Paul; when they were put to death, they were despised: now, the earth having been enriched by them, and the cross of the Church springing up, behold, all that is noble and chief in the world, even the emperor himself, cometh to Rome, and whither does he hasten? to the temple of the emperor, or the memorial of the fisherman?
11. "For unto Thee, Lord, are mine eyes; in Thee have I hoped, take not Thou away my life" (ver. 8). For they were tortured in persecutions, and many failed. It occurreth to him that many have failed, many have been in hazard, and as it were in the midst of the tribulation of persecution is sent forth the voice of one praying; "For unto Thee, Lord, are mine eyes:" I care not what they threaten who stand around, "unto Thee, Lord, are mine eyes." More do I fix mine eye on Thy promises than on their threats. I know what Thou hast suffered for me, what Thou hast promised me.
12. "Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me" (ver. 9). What was the trap? "If thou consentest, I spare thee." In the trap was set the bait of the present life; if the bird love this bait, it falleth into the trap: but if the bird be able to say, "The day of man have I not desired: Thou knowest:"(5) "He shall pluck his feet out of the net," etc.(9) Two things he hath mentioned to be distinguished the one from the other: the trap he said was set by persecutors; the stumbling-blocks came from those who have consented and apostatised: and from both he desires to be guarded. On the one side they threaten and rage, on the other consent and fall: I fear lest the one be such, that I fear him; the other such, that I imitate him. "This I do to thee, if thou consent not." "Keep me from the trap," etc. "Behold, thy brother hath already consented." "And from the stumbling-blocks," etc.
13. "Sinners shall fall into his nets" (ver. 10). Not all sinners: certain sinners, who are so great sinners, as to love this life to such a degree as to prefer it to everlasting life, "shall fall into his trap." But what sayest thou? Shall they that are such, thinkest thou, fall into his nets? what of Thy disciples, O Christ? Behold, when persecution was raging, when they all "left Thee alone, and went every one to his own:"(1) lo! they who were closest to Thee, in Thy trial and persecution, when Thine enemies demanded Thee to be crucified, abandoned Thee. And that bold one, who had promised Thee that he would go with Thee even unto death, heard from the Physician what was being done in him, the sick man. For being in a fever, he had said he was whole; but the Lord touched the vein of his heart. Then came the trial; then came the test; then came the accusation; and now, questioned not by some great power, but by a humble slave, and that a woman, questioned by a handmaid, he yielded; he denied thrice. ... "He wept bitterly," it saith. Not yet was he fitted to suffer. To him was said, "Thou shall follow Me afterwards."(2) Hereafter he was to be firm, having been strengthened by the Lord's Resurrection. Not yet then was it time that those "bones" should be "scattered beside the pit." For see how many failed, even to those who first hung on His mouth; even they failed. Wherefore? "I am alone, until I pass over:" for this followeth in the Psalm. ...
14. Pascha, as they say who know, and who have explained to us what to read, meaneth "Passover." When then the Lord's Passion was about to come, the Evangelist, as though he would use this very word, saith, "When the hour was come that Jesus should pass over to the Father."(3) We hear then of Pascha in this verse, "I am alone, until I pass over." After Pascha I shall no longer be alone, after passing-over I shall no longer be alone. Many shall imitate Me, many shall follow Me. And if afterward they shall follow, what shall be the case now? "I am alone, until I pass over." What is it that the Lord saith in this Psalm, "I am alone, until I pass over"? What is it that we have expounded? If we have understood it, listen to His own words in the Gospel. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit."(4) ... Therefore He was alone before He was put to death. ... So far was any from dying for the Name, that is, for confessing the Name of Christ, before that Corn of wheat fell into the ground, that even John, who was slain just before Him, being given by a wicked king to a dancing woman, was not put to death because he confessed Christ. Of course he might have been put to death for this, and that by many. If for another reason he was put to death by one man, how much more might he have been put to death by those very men, who put Christ to death? For John gave testimony to Christ. They who heard Christ, wished to slay Him; the man who gave testimony to Him they slew not. ... He is not slain by the Jews who gave free testimony to Christ, whom the Jews slew; he is slain by Herod, because he said to him, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife."(5) For his brother had not died without issue.(6) For the law of truth, for equity, for righteousness' sake, he did die: therefore is he a saint, therefore a martyr; but yet he died not for that Name whereby we are Christians, wherefore, save that the saying might be fulfilled, "I am alone, until I pass over."
1. ... "With my voice have I cried unto the Lord" (ver. 1). It were enough to say, "with voice: "not for nothing perhaps has" my" been added. For many cry unto the Lord, not with their own voice, but with the voice of their body. Let the "inner man" then, in whom "Christ" hath begun. to "dwell by faith," s cry unto the Lord, not with the din of his lips, but with the affection of his heart. God heareth not, where man heareth: unless thou criest with the voice of lungs and side and tongue, man heareth thee not: thy thought is thy cry to the Lord. "With my voice have I prayed unto the Lord." What he meant by, "I have cried," he explained when he said, "I have prayed." For they too who blaspheme, cry unto the Lord. In the former part he set down his crying, in the latter he explained what it was. As though it were demanded, With what cry hast thou cried unto the Lord? Unto the Lord, saith he, I have prayed. My cry is my prayer, not reviling, not murmuring, not blaspheming.
2. "I will pour out before Him my prayer" (ver. 2). What is, "before Him"? In His sight. What is, in His sight? Where He seeth. But where doth He not see? For so do we say, 'where He seeth,' as though somewhere He seeth not. But in this assemblage of bodily substances men too see, animals too see: He seeth where man seeth not. For thy thoughts no man seeth, but God seeth. There then pour out thy prayer, where He alone seeth, who rewardeth. For the Lord Jesus Christ bade thee pray in secret: but if thou knowest what "thy closet" is, and cleansest it, there thou prayest to God. "But thou," saith He, "when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and shut the door, and pray to thy Father in secret, and He who seeth in secret shall reward thee."(1) If men are to reward thee, pour out thy prayer before men: if God is to reward thee, pour out thy prayer before Him; and close the door, lest the tempter enter. Therefore the Apostle, because it is in our power to shut the door, the door of our hearts, not of our walls, for in it is our "closet,"--because it is in our power to shut this door, saith, "neither give place to the devil."(2) But what is to "shut the door"? This door hath as it were two leaves, desire and fear. Either thou desireth something earthly, and he enters by this; or thou fearest something earthly, and he enters by that. Close then the door of fear and desire against the devil, open it to Christ. How dost thou open these folding doors to Christ? By desiring the kingdom of heaven, by fearing the fire of hell. By desire of this world the devil entereth, by desire of eternal life Christ entereth; by fear of temporal punishment the devil entereth, by fear of everlasting fire Christ entereth. ...
3. "My tribulation I will proclaim in His sight." There is a repetition, both in the two preceding sentences, and in these which follow: the sentiments are two, but both twice expressed. ... For, "in His sight," is the same as "before Him;. ... I will proclaim my tribulation," is the same as, "I will pour out my prayer." When doest thou this? Being set in the midst of persecution, he saith, "while my spirit failed from me" (ver. 3). Wherefore hath thy spirit failed, O martyr, set in tribulation? That I may not claim my strength as mine own, that I may know that Another worketh in me the goodness I have. And men perhaps have heard that my spirit hath failed within me, and have despaired of me, and have said, "we have taken him captive, we have overpowered him;" "and Thou hast known my paths." They thought me cast down, Thou didst see me standing upright. They who persecuted me and had seized me, thought my feet entangled, "but their feet were entangled, and they fell, but we are risen, and stand upright."(3) For mine eyes are ever unto the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net."(4) I have persevered in walking, for "lie that shall persevere unto the end, the same shall be saved."(5) They thought me overpowered, but I continued walking. Where did I walk? In paths which they saw not, who thought me prisoner, in the paths of Thy righteousness, in the paths of Thy commandments. ... For every path is a way, but not every way is a path. Why then are those ways called paths, save because they are narrow? Broad is the way of the wicked, narrow the way of the righteous. That which is "the way" is also "the ways," just as "the Church" is also "the Churches," the "heaven" also the "heavens:" they are spoken of in the plural, they are spoken of also in the singular. On account of the unity of the Church it is one Church; "My dove is one, she is the only one of her mother."(6) On account of the congregation of brethren in various places there are many Churches. "The Churches of Judaea which are in Christ rejoiced," saith Paul,(7) "and they glorified God in me." Thus he spake of Churches; and of one Church he thus speaketh, "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God." ...
4. "In this way, wherein I was walking, they hid a trap for me." This "way wherein I was walking," is Christ; there have they laid a trap for me, who persecute me in Christ, for Christ's Name's sake. There then "have they hid for me a trap." What in me do they hate, what in me do they persecute? That I am a Christian. ... For the heretics too wish to hide a stumbling-block for us in the Name of Christ, and are themselves deceived. What they think that they put in the way, they put outside the way, for they themselves are outside the way. They cannot set a trap where themselves are not. ... The Pagan thinketh to put a stumbling-block in the way, when he saith to me, "Thou worshippest a crucified God." He findeth fault with the Cross of Christ, which he understandeth not. He thinketh that he setteth in Christ, what he setteth near the way. I will not depart from Christ, so shall I not fall from the way into the trap. Let him mock at Christ crucified, let me see the Cross of Christ on the foreheads of kings. What he laugheth at, therein am I saved. Nought is prouder than a sick man, who laugheth at his own medicine. If he laughed not at it, he would take it, and be healed. The Cross is the sign of humility, but he through excess of pride acknowledgeth not that whereby may be healed the swelling of his soul. But if I acknowledge, I am walking in the way. So far am I from blushing at the Cross, that in no secret place do I keep the Cross of Christ, but bear it on my forehead. Many sacraments we receive, one in one way another in another: some as ye know we receive with the mouth, some we receive over the whole body. But because the forehead is the seat of the blush of shame, He who said, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me before men, of him will I be ashamed before My Father which is in heaven,"(1) set, so to speak, that very ignominy which the Pagans mock at, in the seat of our shame. Thou hearest a man assail a shameless man and say, "He hath no forehead." What is, "He hath no forehead"? He hath no shame. Let me not have a bare forehead, let the Cross of my Lord cover it ...
5. "I considered upon the right hand, and saw"(ver. 4). He considered upon the right hand, and saw: whoso considereth upon the left hand, is blinded. What is to consider on the right hand? Where they will be to whom shall be said, "Come, ye blessed of My Father," etc.,(2) ... He goeth on to say, "and there was none that knew me." For when thou fearest all things, who knoweth what thou regardest, whether thou directest thine eyes to the right hand or to the left? If, in bearing, thou seekest the praise of men, thou hast regarded the left: if, in bearing, thou seekest the promises of God, thou hast regarded the right hand. Hast thou regarded the right hand, thou shalt see: hast thou regarded the left hand, thou shalt be blinded. But even when thou seest on the right hand, there will be none to know thee. For who comforteth thee save the Lord? "Flight hath perished from me." He speaketh as though he were hemmed in. Let the persecutors rejoice over him; he is overpowered, he is taken, he is hemmed in, he is conquered. "Flight hath perished" from him who fleeth not. But he who fleeth not, suffereth whatever he can for Christ: that is, he fleeth not in soul. For in body it is lawful to flee; it is allowed, it is permitted; for the Lord saith, "When they persecute you in one city, flee to another."(3) He then who fleeth not in soul, from him "flight hath perished." But it maketh a difference why he fleeth not; whether because he is hemmed in, because he is caught, or because he is brave. For both from him that is caught flight hath perished, and from him that is brave flight hath perished. What flight then is to be avoided? what flight shall we allow to perish from us? That whereof the Lord speaketh in the Gospel, "The Good Shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, when he seeth the wolf coming, fleeth." When he seeth the ravager, why fleeth he? "Because he careth not for the sheep."(4) ... In two ways a man's life is sought, either by his persecutors or by his lovers.(5) So then "there is none to seek my life," he said of them; verily they persecute my life, and they seek not my life. But if they seek my life, they will find it clinging to Thee: and if they know to seek it, they know also to imitate it.
6. "Unto thee have I cried, O Lord: I have said, Thou art my hope" (ver. 5). When I endured, when I was in tribulation, "I said, Thou art my hope." My hope here, therefore I endure. But "my portion," not here, but "in the land of the living." God giveth a portion in the land of the living; but not something from Himself without Himself. What will He give to one that loveth Him, save Himself?
7. "Give heed unto my prayer, for much have I been humbled (ver. 6). Humbled by persecutors, humbled in confession. He humbleth himself out of the sight of man: he is humbled by enemies in their sight· Therefore is he lifted up by Him both visibly and invisibly. Invisibly are the martyrs already lifted up; visibly shall they be lifted up, "when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption" in the resurrection of the dead; when this very part of him, against which alone her persecutors could rage, shall be renewed. "Fear not them that kill the body, but cannot kill the soul."(6) And what perisheth? what kill they? ... Why then art thou anxious about the rest of thy members, when thou shall not lose even a hair?(7) "Deliver me from them that persecute me." From whom thinkest thou that he prayeth to be delivered? From men who persecuted him? Is it so? are merely men our enemies? We have other enemies, invisible, who persecute us in another way. Man persecuteth, that he may slay the body; another persecuteth, that he ensnare the soul.(8) ... There are then other enemies of ours too, from whom we ought to pray God to deliver us, lest they lead us astray, either by crushing us with troubles of this world, or alluring us by its enticements. Who are these enemies? Let us see whether they are plainly described by any servant of the Lord, by any soldier, now perfected, who hath engaged with them. Hear the Apostle saying, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood:"(9) as though he would say, Turn not your hatred against men; think not them your enemies; think not that it is by their hostility you are being bruised; these men whom ye fear are flesh and blood. ... "For they are strengthened over me." Who said, "they are strengthened over me"? The Body of Christ crieth out; it is the voice of the Church; the members of Christ cry out, "Much hath the number of sinners increased." "Because iniquity hath abounded, the love of many waxeth cold."(10)
8. "Bring forth my soul out of prison, that it may confess to Thy Name" (ver. 7). This "prison" has been variously understood by former writers. And perhaps it is the prison which is called in the title, "the cave." For the title of this Psalm runneth thus: "Of understanding to David himself, a prayer when he was in the cave." That which is the cave, the same is also the prison. Two things have we set before us to understand, but when we have understood one, both will be understood. A man's deserts make a prison. For in one dwelling place one man finds a house, another a prison. ... To some then it has seemed that the "cave" and "prison" are this world; and this the Church prayeth, that it may be brought out of prison, that is, from this world, from under the sun, where all is vanity. Beyond this world then God promiseth that we shall be in some sort of rest; therefore perhaps do we cry concerning this place, "Bring my soul out of prison." Our soul by faith and hope is in Christ; "Your life is hid with Christ in God." But our body is in this prison, in this world. ... But some have said, that this prison and cave is this body, so that this is the meaning of, "Bring my soul out of prison." But this interpretation too is somewhat at fault. For what great thing is it to say, "Bring my soul out of prison," bring my soul out of the body? Do not the souls of robbers and wicked men go forth from the body, and go into worse punishment than here they have endured? What great request then is this, "Bring my soul out of prison," when, sooner or later, it must needs come forth? Perhaps the righteous saith, "Let me die now; bring forth my soul from this prison of the body." If he be too hasty, he hath not love. He ought indeed to long for and desire, as the Apostle saith, "having a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ, which is far better." But where is love? Therefore it followeth, "but to abide in the flesh is needful for you." Let God then lead us forth from the body, when He will. Our body too might be said to be a prison, not because that is a prison which God hath made, but because it is under punishment and liable to death. For there are two things to be considered in our body, God's workmanship, and the punishment it has deserved. ... Perhaps then he meant by, "Bring my soul out of prison," bring my soul out of corruption. If thus we understand it, it is no blasphemy, the meaning is consistent. Lastly, brethren, as I think, he meant this; "Bring my soul out of prison," bring it out of straitness. For to one who rejoiceth, even a prison is wide; to one in sorrow, a field is strait. Therefore prayeth he to be brought out of straitness. For though in hope he have enlargement, yet in reality at at present he is straitened. ... It is not the body that weigheth down the soul, but the corruptible body. It is not the body then that maketh the prison, but the corruption. "Bring my soul out of prison, that it may give thanks to Thy Name." Now the words which follow seem to come from the Head, our Lord Jesus Christ. And they are the same as yesterday's last words. Yesterday's last words, if ye remember, were, "I am alone, until I pass over." And here what are the last words? "The righteous shall sustain me, until thou recompense me."
1. ... The title of the Psalm is, "To David himself, when his son was pursuing him." We know from the Books of Kings(3) that this happened: ... but we must recognise here another David, truly "strong in hand," which is the explanation of David, even our Lord Jesus Christ. For all those events of past time were figures of things to come. Let us seek then in this Psalm our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, announcing Himself beforehand in His prophecy, and foretelling what should happen at this time by things which were done long ago. For He Himself foretold Himself in the Prophets: for He is the Word of God. Nor did they say ought of this kind, save when filled with the Word of God. They announced then Christ, being filled with Christ? they went before Him about to come, and He deserted not them going before. ...
2. Let then our Lord speak; let Christ with us, whole Christ, speak. "Lord, hear my prayer, receive with Thine ears my entreaty" (ver. 1). "Hear" and "receive with ears" are the same thing. It is repetition, it is confirmation. "In Thy truth hear me, in Thy righteousness." Take it not without emphasis when it is said, "in Thy righteousness." For it is a commendation of grace, that none of us think his righteousness his own. For this is the righteousness of God, which God hath given thee to possess. For what saith the Apostle of them, who would boast of their own righteousness? Speaking of the Jews, he saith, "they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge."(5) ... Thou art perverse, because thou imputest what thou hast done ill to God, what well to thyself: thou wilt be right, when thou imputest what thou hast done ill to thyself, what well to God. ... Behold, "in Thy righteousness hear me." For when I look upon myself, nought else do I find mine own, save sin.
3. "And enter not into judgment with Thy servant" (ver. 2). Who are willing to enter into judgment with Him, save they who, "being ignorant of the righteousness of God, go about to establish their own? ... Wherefore have we fasted, and Thou hast not seen; wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and Thou takest no knowledge?"(1) As though they would say," We have done what Thou hast commanded, wherefore dost Thou not render to us. what Thou hast promised?" God answereth thee: I will give to thee to receive what I have promised: I have given thee that thou shouldest do that whereby thou mayest receive. Finally, to such proud ones the Prophet speaketh; "Wherefore will ye plead with Me? ye have all transgressed against Me, saith the Lord."(2) Why will ye enter into judgment with Me, and recount your own righteousnesses? ... "For before Thee every one living shall not be justified." "Every one living;" living, that is, here, living in the flesh, living in expectation of death; born a man; deriving his life of man; sprung from Adam, a living Adam; every one thus living may perhaps be justified before himself, but not before Thee. How before himself? By pleasing himself, displeasing Thee. Enter not then into judgment with me, O Lord my God. How straight soever I seem to myself, Thou bringest forth a standard from Thy storehouse, Thou fittest me to it, and I am found crooked. Well is it said, "with Thy servant." It is unworthy of Thee to enter into judgment with Thy servant, or even with Thy friend.(3) ... What of the Apostles themselves? ... That ye may perceive it at once, they learnt to pray what we pray: to them was given the pattern of prayer by the heavenly Counsellor. "After this manner," saith He, "pray ye."(4) And having set down certain things first, He laid down this too to be said by the leaders of the sheep, the chief members of the Shepherd and Gatherer(5) of the one flock; even they learnt to say, "Forgive us our debts."(6) They said not, "Thanks be to Thee, who hast forgiven us our debts, as we too forgive our debtors," but," Forgive, as we forgive." But surely the faithful prayed then, surely the Apostles prayed then, for this Lord's Prayer was given rather to the faithful. If those debts only were meant which are forgiven by Baptism, it would befit catechumens rather to say, "Forgive us our debts." Let the Apostles then say, yea let them say, "Forgive us our debts." And when it is said to them, "Wherefore say ye this? what are your debts?" let them answer, "for in Thy sight every one living shall not be justified."
4. "For the enemy hath persecuted my soul: he hath humbled my life on the earth" (ver. 3). Here we speak, here our Head speaketh for us. Manifestly both the devil persecuted the Soul of Christ and Judas the Soul of his Master: and now too the same devil remaineth to persecute the Body of Christ, and one Judas succeedeth another. There lacketh not then of whom the Body too may say, "For the enemy hath persecuted my soul." For what doth each one who persecuteth us endeavour save to make us abandon our heavenly hope, and savour of the earth, yield to our persecutor, and love earthly things? "They have laid me in dark places, as the dead of the world." This ye hear more readily from the Head; this ye perceive more readily in the Head. For He died indeed for us, yet was He not one of the "dead of the world." For who are the "dead of the world "? And how was not He one of the "dead of the world"? "The dead of the world" are those who have died of their own desert, receiving the reward of iniquity, deriving death from the sin transmissed to them; according as it is said, "For I was conceived in iniquity."(7) ... In dying, saith He, I do the will of My Father, but I am not deserving of death. Nought have I done wherefore I should die, yet is it Mine own doing that I die, that by the death of an innocent One, they may be freed who had wherefore they should die. "They set me in places," as though in Hades, as though in the tomb, as though in His very Passion, "as the dead of the world."(8)
5. "And My Spirit within me," saith He, "suffered weariness" (ver. 4). Remember, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."(9) Here we see one voice. Do we not see plainly the transition from the Head to the members, from the members to the Head? ...
6. But we too were there. He goes to the members. "I have called to mind the days of old" (ver. 5). Did He "call to mind the days of old," by whom every day was made? No, but the body speaketh, each one who has been justified by His grace, who dwelleth in Him in love and devout humility, speaketh and saith, "I have meditated upon all Thy works:" plainly because Thou hast made all things good, and nothing would have stood fast, which was not established by Thee. Thy creation is made a spectacle unto me: I have sought in the work the Artificer, in all that is made the Maker. Wherefore this, to what purpose this, save that he might understand, that whatever there was of good in himself was made by Him. ... Look back then upon the Framer of thy life, the Author of thy substance, of thy righteousness, and of thy salvation: "meditate upon the works of His hands," for the righteousness too which is in thee, thou wilt find to pertain to His hand. Hear the Apostle teaching thee this, "not of works," he saith, "lest any should boast." Have we no good work? Plainly we have: but see what follows; "for we are His workmanship,"(1) saith he. "We are His workmanship:" perhaps in thus speaking of workmanship, he meant to mention the nature whereby we are men? Evidently not: he was speaking of works. But let us not make conjectures; let the text go on, "for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." Think not then that thou thyself doest anything, save in so far as thou art evil. ... "Work out your own salvation," saith the Apostle, "with fear and trembling."(2) If we do work out our own salvation, wherefore with fear, wherefore with trembling, when what we work is in our own power? Hear wherefore with fear and trembling: "for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of His good pleasure." Therefore "with fear and trembling," that it may delight our Maker to work in the lowly valley. ...
7. "I stretched forth," saith he, "my hands to Thee: my soul is as a land without water to Thee" (ver. 6). Rain upon me, saith he, to bring forth from me good fruit. "For the Lord shall give sweetness, that our land may give her fruit."(3) "I have stretched forth my hands to Thee; my soul is as a land without water," not to me, but "to Thee." I can thirst for Thee, I cannot water myself.
8. "Speedily hear me, Lord" (ver. 7). For what need of delay to inflame my thirst, when already I thirst so eagerly? Thou didst delay the rain, that I might drink and imbibe, not reject, Thy inflowing. If then Thou didst for this cause delay, now give; for "my spirit hath failed." Let Thy Spirit fill me. This is the reason why Thou shouldest speedily hear me. I am now become "poor in spirit," make Thou me "blessed in the kingdom of heaven."(4) For he in whom his own spirit liveth, is proud, is puffed up with his own spirit against God. ...
9. "Turn not Thou away Thy Face from me." Thou didst turn it away from me when proud. For once I was full, and in my fulness I was puffed up. Once "in my fulness I said, I shall never be moved." "I said in my fulness, I shall not be moved," knowing not Thy Righteousness, and establishing mine own; but "Thou, Lord, in Thy Will hast afforded strength to my beauty." "I said in my fulness, I shall not be moved," but from Thee came whatever) fulness I had. And to prove to me that it was from Thee, "Thou didst turn away Thy Face from me, and I was troubled."(5) After this trouble, where into I was cast, because Thou didst turn away Thy Face, after the weariness of my spirit, after my heart was troubled within me, because Thou didst turn away Thy Face, then became I "like a land without water to Thee: turn not Thou away Thy Face." Thou turnedst it away from me when proud; give it back to me now I am humble. Because, if Thou turn it away, "I shall be like to them that go down into the pit. What is, that go down into the pit"? When the sinner has come into the depth of sins, he will show contempt. They "go down into the pit," who lose even confession; against which is said, "Let not the pit close her mouth over me."(6) This depth Scripture calleth mostly "a pit," into which depth when a sinner hath come, "he showeth contempt" What is, "he showeth contempt"? He no longer believeth in Providence, or if he do believe, he thinketh that he has no longer aught to do with it. ...
10. "Make me to hear in the morning Thy mercy, for in Thee have I hoped" (ver. 8). Behold, I am in the night, yet "in Thee have I hoped," until the iniquity of the night pass away. "For we have," as Peter saith, "a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the daystar arise in your hearts." "Morning" then he calleth the time after the end of the world, when we shall see what in this world we believe. But what here, until the morning come? For it is not enough to hope for the morning; we must do somewhat. Why do somewhat? God is to be sought with the hands in the night. What is, "with the hands"? By good works. Since then we must thus hope for the morning, and bear this night, and persevere in this patience until the day dawn, what meanwhile must we do here? lest perchance thou think that thou wilt do aught of thyself, whereby thou mayest earn to be brought to the morning. "Make known to me, O Lord, the way wherein I must walk." Therefore did He kindle the lamp of prophecy, therefore did He send the Lord in the vessel,(7) as it were, of the flesh, who should even say, "My strength is dried up like a potsherd."(8) Walk by prophecy, walk by the lamp of future things predicted, walk by the word of God. ...
11. "Deliver me from mine enemies, O Lord, for unto Thee have I fled for refuge" (ver. 9). I who once fled from Thee, now flee to Thee. For Adam fled from the Face of God, and hid himself among the trees of Paradise, so that of him was said in the Book of Job, "As a servant that fleeth from his Lord, and findeth a shadow."(9) He fled from the Face of his Lord, and found a shadow. Woe to him, if he continue in the shade, lest it be said afterward, "All things are passed away like a shadow."(10) The rulers of this world, of this darkness, the rulers of the wicked; against these ye wrestle. Great is your conflict, not to see your enemies, and yet to conquer. Against the rulers of this world, of this darkness, the devil, that is, and his angels not the rulers of that world, whereof is said, "the world was made by Him," but that world whereof is said, "the world knew Him not." "For unto Thee have I fled for refuge." . . Whither should I flee? "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?"(2)
12. "Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God" (ver. 10). Glorious confession! glorious rule! "For Thou," saith he, "art my God." To another will I hasten to be re-made, if by another I was made. Thou art my all, "for Thou art my God." Shall I seek a father to get an inheritance? "Thou art my God," not only the Giver of mine inheritance, but mine Inheritance itself. "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance."(3) Shall I seek a patron, to obtain redemption? "Thou art my God." Lastly, having been created, do I desire to be re-created? "Thou art my God," my Creator, who hast created me by Thy Word, and re-created me by Thy Word. "Teach Thou me :" for it cannot be that Thou art my God, and yet I am to' be mine own master. See how grace is commended to us. This hold fast, this drink in, this let none drive out of your hearts, lest ye have "a zeal, of God, but not according to knowledge."(4) Say then this: "Thy good Spirit," not my bad one, "Thy good Spirit shall lead me into the right land." For my bad spirit hath led me into a crooked land. And what have I deserved? What can be reckoned as my good works without Thy aid, through which I might obtain and be worthy to be led by Thy Spirit into the right land?
13. Listen, then, with all your power, to the commendation of Grace, whereby ye are saved without price. "For Thy Name's sake, O Lord, Thou shalt quicken me in Thy righteousness" (ver. 11); not in mine own: not because I have deserved, but because Thou hast mercy. For were I to show mine own desert, nought should I deserve of Thee, save punishment. Thou hast pruned off from me mine own merits; Thou hast grafted in Thine own gifts. "Thou shalt bring forth my soul out of tribulation." "And in thy mercy shalt bring mine enemies to destruction: and thou shalt destroy all them that afflict my soul; for I am Thy servant" (ver. 12).
1. The title of this Psalm is brief in number of words, but heavy in the weight of its mysteries. "To David himself against Goliath." This battle was fought in the time of our fathers, and ye, beloved, remember it with me from Holy Scripture. ... David put five stones in his scrip, he hurled but one. The five Books were chosen, but unity conquered. Then, having smitten and overthrown him, he took the enemy's sword, and with it cut off his head. This our David also did, He overthrew the devil with his-own weapons: and when his great ones, whom he had in his power, by means of whom he slew other souls, believe, they turn their tongues against the devil, and so Goliath's head is cut off with his own sword.
2. "Blessed be the Lord my God, who teacheth my hands for battle, my fingers for war" (ver. 1). These are our words, if we be the Body of Christ. It seems a repetition of sentiment; "our hands for battle," and "our fingers for war," are the same. Or is there some difference between "hands" and "fingers"? Certainly both hands and fingers work. Not then without reason do we take "fingers" as put for "hands." But still in the " fingers" we recognise the division of operation, yet still a sort of unity. Behold that grace! the Apostle saith,(6) To one, this; to another, that; "there are diversities of operations; all these worketh one and the self-same Spirit;" there is the root of unity. With these "fingers" then the Body of Christ fighteth, going forth to" war," going forth to "battle." ... By works of Mercy our enemy is conquered, and we could not have works of mercy unless we had charity, and charity we could have none unless we received it by the Holy Ghost; He then "teacheth our hands for battle, and our fingers for war:" to Him rightfully do we say, "My Mercy," from whom we have also that we are merciful: "for he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy."(7)
3. My Mercy and my Refuge, my Upholder and my Deliverer" (ver. 2). Much toileth this combatant, having his flesh lusting against his spirit. Keep what thou hast. Then shalt thou have in full what thou wishest, when "death shall have been swallowed up in victory;"(8) when this mortal body has been raised, and is changed into the condition of the angels, and rises aloft to a heavenly quality. ... There is life, there are good days, where nought lusteth against the spirit, where it is not said, "Fight," but "Rejoice." But who is he that lusteth for these days? Every man certainly saith, "I do." Hear what followeth. I see that thou art toiling, I see that thou art engaged in battle, and in danger; hear what followeth: ... "Depart from evil, and do good:" let not the poor first weep under thee, that the poor may rejoice through thee. For what reward, since now thou art fighting? "Seek peace, and ensue it." Learn and say, "My Mercy and my Refuge, mine Upholder and my Deliverer, my Protector:" "mine Upholder," lest I fall; "my Deliverer," lest I stick; "my Protector," lest I be stricken. In all these things, in all my toil, in all my battles, in all my difficulties, in Him have I hoped, "who subdueth my people under me." Behold, our Head speaketh together with us.
4. "Lord, what is man, that Thou hast become known unto him?" (ver. 3). All is included in "that Thou hast become known unto him." "Or the son of man, that Thou valuest him?" Thou valuest him, that is, Thou makest him of such importance, Thou countest him of such price, Thou knowest under what Thou placest him, over what Thou placest him. For valuing is considering the price of a thing. How greatly did He value man, who for him shed the blood of His only-begotten Son! For God valueth not man in the same way as one man valueth another he, when he findeth a slave for sale, giveth a higher price for a horse than for a man. Consider how greatly He valued thee, that thou mayest be able to say, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" And how greatly did He value thee, "who spared not His own Son"? "How shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?(1) He who giveth this food to the combatant, what keepeth He in store for the conqueror? ...
5. "Man is made like unto vanity: his days pass away like a shadow" (ver. 4). What vanity? Time, which passeth on, and floweth by. For this "vanity" is said in comparison of the Truth, which ever abideth, and never faileth: for it too is a work of His Hand, in its degree. "For," as it is written, "God filled the earth with His good things."(2) What is "His"? That accord with Him. But all these things, being earthly, fleeting, transitory, if they be compared to that Truth, where it is said, "I Am That I Am,"(3 ) all this which passeth away is called "vanity." For through time it vanisheth, like stroke into the air. And why should I say more than that which the Apostle James said, willing to bring down proud men to humility, "What is," saith he, "your life? It is even a vapour, which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."(4) ... Work then, though it be in the night, with thine hands, that is, by good works seek God, before the day come which shall gladden thee, lest the day come which shall sadden thee. For see how safely thou workest, who art not left by Him whom thou seekest; "that thy Father which seeth in secret may reward thee openly."(5) ...
6. "Lord, bow Thy heavens, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke" (ver. 5). "Flash Thy lightning, and Thou shall scatter them; send forth Thine arrows, and Thou shall confound them" (ver. 6). "Send forth Thy Hand from above, and deliver me, and draw me out of many waters" (ver. 7). The Body of Christ, the humble David, full of grace, relying on God, fighting in this world, calleth for the help of God. What are "heavens bowed down"? Apostles humbled. For those "heavens declare the glory of God;" and of these heavens declaring the glory of God it is presently said, "There is neither speech nor language, but their voices are heard among them," etc.(6) When then these heavens sent forth their voices through all lands, and did wonderful things, while the Lord flashed and thundered from them by miracles and commandments, the gods were thought to have come down from heaven to men. For certain of the Gentiles, thinking this, desired even to sacrifice to them. ... But they commended to these the Lord Jesus Christ, humbling themselves, that God might be praised; because "the heavens" were "bowed," that "God" might "come down." ... "Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke." So long as they are not touched, they seem to themselves great: they are now about to say," Great art Thou, O Lord:"(7) the mountains also are about to say, "Thou only art the Most Highest over all the earth."(8)
7. But there are some that conspire, that "gather themselves together against the Lord, and against His Christ."(9) They have come together, they have conspired. "Flash forth Thy lightnings, and Thou shall scatter them." Abound with Thy miracles, and their conspiracy shall be broken. ... "Send forth Thine arrows, and Thou shall confound them." Let the unsound be wounded, that, being well wounded, they may be made sound; and let them say, being set now in the Church, in the Body of Christ, let them say with the Church, "I am wounded with Love."  "Send forth Thine Hand from on high." What afterward? What in the end? How conquereth the Body of Christ? By heavenly aid. "For the Lord Himself shall come with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God shall He descend from heaven,"(11) Himself the Saviour of the body, the Hand of God. What is, "Out of many waters"? From many peoples. What peoples? Aliens, unbelievers, whether assailing us from without, or laying snares within. Take me out of many waters, in which Thou didst discipline me, in which Thou didst roll me, to free me from my filth. This is the "water of contradiction."(12) ... "From the hand of strange children." Hear, brethren, among whom we are, among whom we live, from whom we long to be delivered. "Whose mouth hath spoken vanity" (ver. 8). All of you to-day, if ye had not gathered yourselves together to these divine shows(1) of the word of God, and were not at this hour engaged in them, how great vanities would ye be hearing! "whose mouth hath spoken vanity:" when, in short, would they, speaking vanity, hear you speaking vanity? "And their right hand is a right hand of iniquity." What doest thou among them with thy pastoral scrip with five stones in it? Say it to me in another form: that same law which thou hast signified by five stones, signify in some other way also. "I will sing a new song unto Thee, O God" (ver. 9). "A new song" is of grace; "a new song" is of the new man; "a new song" is of the New Testament. But lest thou shouldest think that grace departeth from the law, whereas rather by grace the law is fulfilled, "upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing unto Thee." Upon the law of ten commandments: therein may I sing to Thee; therein may I rejoice to Thee; therein may "I sing to Thee a new song;" for," Love is the fulfilling of the law."(2) But they who have not love may carry the psaltery, sing they cannot. Contradiction cannot make my psaltery to be silent.
8. "Who giveth salvation to kings, who redeemeth David His servant" (ver. 10). Ye know who David is; be yourselves David. Whence "redeemeth He David His servant"? Whence redeemeth He Christ? Whence redeemeth He the Body of Christ? "From the sword of ill intent deliver me." "From the sword" is not sufficient; he addeth, "of ill intent." Without doubt there is a sword of good intent. What is the sword of good intent? That whereof the Lord saith, "I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword."(3) For He was about to separate believers from unbelievers, sons from parents, and to sever all other ties, while the sword cut off what was diseased, but healed the members of Christ. Of good intent then is the sword twice sharpened, powerful with both edges, the Old and New Testaments, with the narration of the past and the promise of the future. That then is the sword of good intent: but the other is of ill intent, wherewith they talk vanity, for that is of good intent, wherewith God speaketh verity. For truly "the sons of men have teeth which are spears and arrows, and their tongue is a sharp sword."(4) "From" this "sword deliver me" (ver. 11). "And. take me out of the hand of strange children, whose mouth hath spoken vanity:" just as before. And that which followeth, "their right hand is a right hand of iniquity," the same he had set down before also, when he called them "many waters." For lest thou shouldest think that the "many waters" were good waters, he explained them by the "sword of ill intent."
9. "Whose sons are like young vines firmly planted in their youth" (ver. 12). He wisheth to recount their happiness. Observe, ye sons of light, sons of peace: observe, ye sons of the Church, members of Christ; observe whom he calleth "strangers," whom he calleth "strange children," whom he calleth "waters of contradiction," whom he calleth a" sword of ill intent." Observe, I beseech you, for among them ye are in peril, among their tongues ye fight against the desires of your flesh, among their tongues, set in the hand of the devil wherewith he fighteth.(5) ... What vanity hath their mouth spoken, and how is their right hand a right hand of iniquity? "Their daughters are fitted and adorned after the similitude of a temple." "Their garners are full, bursting out from one store to another: their sheep are fruitful, multiplying in their streets" (ver. 13): "their oxen are fat: their hedge is not broken down, nor their road, nor is their crying in their streets" (ver. 14). Is not this then happiness? I ask the sons of the kingdom of heaven, I ask the offspring of everlasting resurrection, I ask the body of Christ, the members of Christ, the temple of God. Is not this then happiness, to have sons safe, daughters beautiful, garners full, cattle abundant, no downfall, I say not of a wall, but not even of a hedge, no tumult and clamour in the streets, but quiet, peace, abundance, plenty of all things in their houses and in their cities? Is not this then happiness? or ought the righteous to shun it? or findest thou not the house of the righteous too abounding with all these things, full of this happiness? Did not Abraham's house abound with gold, silver, children, servants, cattle? What say we? is not this happiness? Be it so, still it is on the left hand. What is, on the left hand? Temporal, mortal, bodily. I desire not that thou shun it, but that thou think it not to be on the right hand. ... For what ought they to have set on the right hand? God, eternity, the years of God which fail not, whereof is said, "and Thy years shall not fail."(6) There should be the right hand, there should be our longing. Let us use the left for the time, let us long for the fight for eternity. "If riches increase, set not your heart upon them."(7)
10. "They have called the people blessed who have these things" (ver. 15). O men that speak vanity! They have lost the true right hand, wicked and perverse, they have put on the benefits of God inversely. O wicked ones, O speakers of vanity, O strange children! What was on the left hand, they have set on the right. What dost thou, David? What dost thou, Body of Christ? What do ye, members of Christ? What do ye, not strange children, but children of God? ... What say ye? Say ye with us, "Blessed is the people whose Lord is their God."
1. ...The title is, "Praise, to David himself." Praise to Christ Himself. And since He is called David, who came to us of the seed of David, yet He was our King, ruling us, and bringing us into His kingdom, therefore "Praise to David himself" is understood to mean, Praise to Christ Himself. Christ according to the flesh is David, because He is the Son of David: but according to His Divine Nature He is the Creator of David, and Lord of David. "I will exalt Thee, my God, my King; and I will bless Thy Name for the age, and age upon age" (ver. 1). Ye see that the praise of God is here begun, and this praise is carried on even to the end of the Psalm. ... Now then begin to praise, if thou intendest to praise for ever. He who will not praise in this transitory "age," will be silent when "age upon age" has come. But lest any one should in any otherwise also understand what he saith, "I will praise Thy Name for the age," and should seek another age, wherein to praise, he saith, "Every day will I bless Thee" (ver. 2). Praise then and bless the Lord thy God every day, that when single days have passed, and there has come one day without end, thou mayest go from praise to praise, as "from strength to strength."(2) No day shall pass by, wherein I bless Thee not. And it is no wonder, if in thy day of joy thou bless the Lord. What if perchance some day of sorrow hath dawned on thee, as is natural in the circumstances of our mortal nature, as there is abundance of offences, as temptations are multiplied; what, if something sad befall thee, a man; wilt thou cease to praise God? wilt thou cease to bless thy Creator? If thou cease, thou hast lied in saying, "every day," etc. But if thou cease not, although it scent to thee to be ill with thee in the day of thy sorrow, yet in thy God it shall be well with thee. ...
2. "Great is the Lord, and very much to be praised" (ver. 3). How much was he about to say? what terms was he about to seek? How vast a conception hath he included in the one word, "very much"? Imagine what thou wilt, for how can that be imagined, which cannot be contained? "He is very much to be praised. And of His Greatness there is no end;" therefore said he "very much:" lest perchance thou begin to wish to praise, and think that thou canst reach the end of His praises, whose Greatness can have no end. Think not then that He, whose Greatness has no end, can ever be enough praised by thee. Is it not then better that as He has no end, so neither should thy praise have end? His Greatness is without end; let thy praise also be without end. ...
3. For how great things besides has His boundless Goodness and illimitable Greatness made, which we do not know! When we lift the gaze of our eyes even to the heaven, and then recall it from sun, moon, and stars to the earth, and there is all this space where our sight can wander; beyond the heavens who can extend the eyesight of his mind, not to say of his flesh? So far then as His works are known to us, let us praise Him through His works.(3) "Generation and generation shall praise Thy works" (ver. 4). Every generation shall praise Thy works. For perhaps every generation is meant by "generation and generation." ... Did he perchance mean to imply two generations by that repetition? For we are in this generation sons of God, we shall be in another generation sons of the Resurrection. Scripture hath called us "sons of the Resurrection;" the Resurrection itself it hath called Regeneration. "In the regeneration," it saith, "when the Son of Man shall be seated in His Majesty."(4) So also in another place; "For they shall not marry, nor be given in marriage, for they are the sons of the Resurrection." s Therefore "generation and generation shall praise Thy works. ... And they shall tell out Thine excellence." For neither shall they praise Thy works, save in order to "tell out Thine excellence." Boys at school are set to praise, and all such things are set before them to be praised, as God hath wrought: a mortal is set to praise the sun, the sky, the earth; to come to even lesser things, to praise a rose., or a laurel; all these are works of God: they are set, they are undertaken, they are praised: the works are lauded, of the Worker they are silent. I desire in the works to praise the Creator: I love not a thankless praiser. Dost thou praise what He hath made, and art silent of Him who made? In that which thou seest, what is it that thou praisest? The form, the usefulness, some virtue, some power in the things. If beauty delight thee, what is more beautiful than the Maker? If usefulness be praised, what more useful than He who made all things? If excellence be praised, what more excellent than He by whom all things were made? ...
4. "They shall speak of the magnificence of the glory of Thy Holiness, and shall record Thy wondrous deeds" (ver. 5). "And the excellence of Thy fearful works shall they speak of: and Thy greatness, they shall relate it" (ver. 6). "The remembrance of the abundance of Thy sweetness they shall pour forth" (ver. 7): none but Thine. See whether this man, meditating on Thy works, hath turned aside from the Worker to the work: see whether he hath sunk from Him who made, to the things which He made. Of the things which He hath made, he hath made a step up to Him, not a descent from Him to them. For if thou love. these more than Him, thou wilt not have Him. And what profit is it to thee to overflow with the works, if the Worker leave thee? Truly thou shouldest love them; but love Him more, and love them for His sake. For He doth not hold out promises, without holding out threats also: if He held out no promises, there would be no encouragement; if He held out no threats, there would be no correction. They that praise Thee therefore shall "speak" also "of the excellence of Thy terrible deeds;" the excellence of that work of Thy hands which punisheth and administereth discipline, they shall speak of, they shall not be silent: for they shall not proclaim Thine everlasting kingdom, and be silent about Thine everlasting fire. For the praise of God, setting thee in the way, ought to show thee both what thou shouldest love, and what thou shouldest fear; what thou shouldest seek, and what thou shouldest shun; what thou shouldest choose, and what thou shouldest avoid. The time of choice is now, the time of receiving will be hereafter. Let then the excellence of Thy terrible things be told. Unlimited as it is, though "of Thy greatness there is no end," they shall not be silent about it. How shall they recount it, if there is no end of it? They shall recount it when they praise it; and because there is no end of it, so of His praise also there shall be no end.(1)
5. "The remembrance of the abundance of Thy sweetness they shall pour forth." O happy feasts! What shall they eat, who thus shall "pour forth"! ... So eat, that thou mayest pour forth again; so receive, that thou mayest give. Thou eatest, when thou learnest; thou pourest forth again, when thou teachest: thou eatest, when thou hearest; thou pourest forth again, when thou preachest; but that thou pourest forth, which thou hast first eaten. Finally, that most eager feaster John, to whom the very table of the Lord sufficed not, unless he leaned on the Lord's breast, and of his inmost heart drank in divine secrets; what did he pour forth? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God."(2) How is it that it sufficeth not to say, "Thy remembrance;" or, "the remembrance of Thine abundance"? Because, what availeth it if it be abundant, yet not sweet? So also it is annoying if it be sweet but too little.
6. ... By "pouring forth" this, His preachers "shall exult in His righteousness" not in their own. What then hast Thou done unto us, O Lord, whom we praise, that we should be, that we should praise, that we should "exult in Thy righteousness," that we should "utter forth the remembrance of the abundance of Thy sweetness"? Let us tell it, and, as we tell, let us praise.
7. "Merciful and pitiful is the Lord long-suffering, and very merciful (ver. 8). "Sweet is the Lord to all, and His compassions reach into all His works" (ver. 9). Were. He not such as this, there would be no seeking to recover us. Consider thyself: what didst thou deserve, O sinner? Despiser of God, what didst thou deserve? See if aught occur to thee but penalty, if aught occur to thee but punishment. Thou seest then what was due to thee, and what He hath given, who gave gratis. There was given pardon to the sinner; there was given the spirit of justification; there was given charity and love, wherein thou mayest do all good works; and beyond this, He will give thee also life everlasting, and fellowship with the angels: all of His mercy. ... Hear the Scripture: "I will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn, and live."(3) By these words of God, he is brought back to hope; but there is another snare to be feared, lest through this very hope he sin the more. What then didst thou also say, thou who through hope sinnest yet more? "Whensoever I turn, God will forgive me all; I will do whatsoever I will." Say not then, "To-morrow I will turn, to-morrow I will please God; and all to-day's and yesterday's deeds shall be forgiven me." Thou sayest true: God hath promised pardon to thy conversion; He hath not promised a to-morrow to thy delay.(4)
8. "Sweet is the Lord to all, and His compassions are over all His works." Why then doth He condemn? why doth He scourge? Are not they whom He condemneth, whom He scourgeth, His works? Plainly they are. And wilt thou know how "His compassions are over all His works"? Thence is that long-suffering, whereby "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good."(5) Are not "His compassions over all His works, who sendeth rain upon the just and upon the unjust"? In His long-suffering He waiteth for the sinner, saying, "Turn ye to Me, and I will turn to you."(6) Are not "His compassions over all His works"? And when He saith, "Go ye into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,"(1) this is not His compassion, but His severity. His compassion is given to His works: His severity is not over His works, but over thy works. Lastly, if thou remove thine own evil works, and there remain in thee nought but His work, His compassion will not leave thee: but if thou leavest not thy works, there will be severity over thy works, not over His works.
9. "Let all Thy works, O Lord, confess to Thee, and let Thy saints bless Thee" (ver. 10). How so? Is not the earth His work? Are not the trees His work? Cattle, beasts, fish, fowl, are not they His works? Plainly they too are. And how shall these too confess to Him? I see indeed in the angels that His works confess to Him, for the angels are His works: and men are His works; and when men confess to Him, His works confess to Him; but have trees and stones the voice of confession? Yes, verily; "let all" His "works confess to" Him. What sayest thou? even the earth and the trees? ... But there ariseth the same question in regard of praise, as in regard of confession. For if earth and all things devoid of sensation therefore cannot confess, because they have no voice to confess with; neither will they be able to praise, because they have no voice to proclaim with. But do not those Three Children enumerate all things, as they walked amid the harmless flames, who had leisure not only not to fear, but even to praise God? They say to all things, heavenly and earthly, "Bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him for ever."(2) Behold how they praise. Let none think that the dumb stone or dumb animal hath reason wherewith to comprehend God. They who have thought this, have erred far from the truth. God hath ordered everything, and made everything: to some He hath given sense and understanding and immortality, as to the angels; to some He hath given sense and understanding with mortality, as to man; to some He hath given bodily sense, yet gave them not understanding, or immortality, as to cattle: to some He hath given neither sense, nor understanding, nor immortality, as to herbs, trees, stones: yet even these cannot be wanting in their kind, and by certain degrees He hath ordered His creation, from earth up to heaven, from visible to invisible, from mortal to immortal. This framework of creation, this most perfectly ordered beauty, ascending from lowest to highest, descending from highest to lowest, never broken, but tempered together of things unlike, all praiseth God. Wherefore then doth all praise God? Because when thou considerest it, and seest its beauty, thou in it praisest God. The beauty of the earth is a kind of voice of the dumb earth. ... And this which thou hast found in it, is the very voice of its confession, that thou praise the Creator. When thou hast thought on the universal beauty of this world, doth not its very beauty as it were with one voice answer thee, "I made not myself, God made me"?
10. For when Thy saints bless Thee, what say they? "They shall tell the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy Power" (ver. 11). How powerful is God, who hath made the earth! how powerful is God, who hath filled the earth with good things! how powerful is God, who hath given to the animals each its own life! how powerful is God, who hath given different seeds to the womb of the earth, that they might make to spring up such various shoots, such beautiful trees! how powerful, how great is God! Do thou ask, creation answereth, and by its answer, as by the confession of the creature, thou, O saint of God, blessest God, and "talkest of His power."
11. "That they may make known to the sons of men Thy power, and the glory of the greatness of the beauty of Thy kingdom" (ver. 12). Thy saints then commend "the glory of the greatness of the beauty of Thy kingdom," the glory of the greatness of its beauty. There is a certain "greatness of the beauty of Thy kingdom:" that is, Thy kingdom hath beauty, and great beauty. Since whatever hath beauty, hath beauty from Thee, how great beauty hath Thy whole kingdom! Let not the kingdom frighten us: it hath beauty also, wherewith to delight us. For what is that beauty, which the saints shall hereafter enjoy, to whom it shall be said, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, enjoy the kingdom"?(3) Whence shall they come? whither shall they come? Behold, brethren, and, if ye can, as far as ye can, think of the beauty of that kingdom which is to come; whence our prayer saith, "Thy kingdom come." For that kingdom we desire may come, that kingdom the saints proclaim to be coming. Observe this world: it is beautiful. How beautiful are earth, sea, air, heavens, stars. Do not all these frighten him who considereth them? Is not the beauty of them so conspicuous, that it seemeth as though nothing more beautiful could be found? And here, in this beauty, in this fairness almost unspeakable, here worm and mice and all creeping things of the earth live with thee, they live with thee in all this beauty. How great is the beauty of that kingdom where none but angels live with Thee! There is a greatness of a certain beauty; let it be loved before it is seen, that when it is seen, it may be retained.
12. "Thy kingdom." What kingdom mean I? "a kingdom of all ages." For the kingdom of this age too hath its own beauty, but there is not in it that greatness of beauty, such as in the "kingdom of all ages." "And Thy dominion is in every generation and generation" (ver. 13). This is the repetition we noticed, signifying either every generation, or the generation which will be after this generation. "Faithful is the Lord in His words, and holy in all His works."(1) "Faithful is the Lord in His words:" for what hath He promised that He hath not given? "Faithful is the Lord in His words." Hereto there are certain things which He hath promised, and hath not given; but let Him be believed from the things which He hath given. We might well believe Him, if He only spake: He willed not that we should believe Him speaking, but that we should have His Scriptures in our hands: ... as though a kind of bond of God's, which all who pass by might read, and might keep to the path of its promise. And how great things hath He already paid in accordance with that bond! Do men hesitate to believe Him concerning the Resurrection of the dead and the Life to come, which alone now remaineth to be paid, when, if He come to reckon with the unbelievers, the unbelievers must blush? If God say to thee, "Thou hast My bond: I have promised judgment, the separation of good and bad, everlasting life for the faithful, and wilt thou not believe? There in My bond read all that I have promised, reckon with me: verily even by counting up what I have paid, thou canst believe that I shall pay what still I owe. In that bond thou hast My only-begotten Son promised, "Whom I spared not, but gave Him up for you all:"(2) reckon this then among what is paid. Read the bond: I promised therein that I would give by My Son the earnest of the Holy Spirit: reckon that as paid. I promised therein the blood and the crowns of the glorious Martyrs; let the White Mass(3) remind you that My debt has been paid. ... He setteth before the eyes of all His payment of His debts: some He hath paid in the time of our ancestors, which we saw not: some He hath paid in our times, which they saw not; throughout all generations He hath paid what was written. And what remaineth? Do men not believe Him, when He hath paid all this? What remaineth? Behold thou hast reckoned: all this He hath paid: is He become unfaithful for the few things which remain? God forbid! Wherefore? Because "the Lord is faithful in His words, and holy in all His works."
13. "The Lord strengtheneth all that are falling" (ver. 14). But who are "all that are falling"? All indeed fall in a general sense, but he meaneth those who fall in a particular way. For many fall froth Him, many also fall from their own imaginations. If they had evil imaginations, they fall from them, and "God strengthened all that are falling." They who lose anything in this world, yet are holy, are as it were dishonoured in this world, from rich become poor, from honoured of low estate, yet are they God's saints; they are, as it were, falling. But "God strengtheneth." For "the just falleth seven times, and riseth again; but the wicked shall be weakened in evils."(4) When evils befall the wicked, they are weakened thereby; when evils befall the righteous, "the Lord strengtheneth all that are falling." ... "And lifteth up all those that have been cast down:" all, that is, who belong to him; for" God resisteth the proud."(5)
14. "The eyes of all hope upon Thee, and Thou givest them food in due season" (ver. 15). Just as when thou refreshest a sick man in due season, when he ought to receive, then Thou givest, and what he ought to receive, that Thou givest. Sometimes then men long, and he giveth not: he who tendeth, knoweth the time to give. Wherefore say I this, brethren? Lest any one be faint, if perchance he hath not been heard, when making some righteous request of God. For when he maketh any unrighteous request, he is heard to his punishment: but when making some righteous request of God, if perchance he have not been heard, let him not be down-hearted, let him not faint, let his eyes wait for the food, which He giveth in due season. When He giveth not, He therefore giveth not, lest that which He giveth do harm.(6) ... "Thou givest them meat in due season."
15. "Thou openest Thine Hand, and fillest every living thing with blessing" (ver. 16). Though sometimes Thou givest not, yet "in due season" Thou givest: Thou delayest, not deniest, and that in due season." "Righteous is the Lord in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (ver. 17). Both when He smiteth and when He healeth, He is righteous, and in Him unrighteousness is not. Finally, all His saints, when set in the midst of tribulation, have first praised His righteousness, and so sought His blessings. They first have said, "What Thou doest is righteous." So did Daniel ask, and other holy men: "Righteous are Thy judgments: rightly have we suffered: deservedly have we suffered." They laid not unrighteousness to God, they laid not to Him injustice and folly. First they praised Him scourging, and so they felt Him feeding.
16. "The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him" (ver. 18). Where then is that, "Then shall they call upon Me, and I will not hear them"?(1) See then what follows: "all who call upon Him in truth." For many call upon Him, but not in truth. They seek something else from Him, but seek not Himself. Why lovest thou God? "Because He hath made me whole." That is clear: it was He that made thee so. For from none else cometh health, save Him. "Because He gave me," saith another, "a rich wife, whereas I before had nothing, and one that obeyeth me." This too He gave: thou sayest true. "He gave me," saith another, "sons many and good, He gave me a household, He gave me all good things." Dost thou love Him for this? ... Therefore if God is good, who hath given thee what thou hast, how much more blessed wilt thou be when He hath given thee Himself! Thou hast desired all these things of Him: I beseech thee desire of Him Himself also. For these things are not truly sweeter than He is, nor in any way are they to be compared to Him. He then who preferreth God Himself to all the things which he has received, whereat he rejoiceth, to the things he has received, he "calleth upon God in truth." ...
17. "He will perform the will of them that fear Him" (ver. 19). He will perform it, He will perform it: though He perform it not at once, yet He will perform it. Certainly if therefore thou fearest God, that thou mayest do His will, behold even He in a manner ministereth to thee; He doeth thy will. "And He shall hear their prayer, and save them." Thou seem that for this purpose the Physician hears, that He may save. When? Hear the Apostle telling thee. "For we are saved in hope: but hope which is seen is not hope: but if what we see not we hope for, then do we with patience wait for it:(2) "the salvation," that is, which Peter calleth "ready to be revealed in the last time."(3)
18. "The Lord guardeth all that love Him, and all sinners He will destroy" (ver. 20). Thou seest that there is severity with Him, with whom is so great sweetness. He will save all that hope in Him, all the faithful, all that fear Him, all that call upon Him in truth: "and all sinners He will destroy." What "all sinners," save those who persevere in sin; who dare to blame God, not themselves; who daily argue against God; who despair of pardon for their sins, and from this very despair heap up their gins; or who perversely promise themselves pardon, and through this very promise depart not from their sins and impiety? The time will come for all these to be separated, and for the two divisions to be made of them, one on the right hand, the other on the left; and for the righteous to receive the everlasting Kingdom, the wicked to go into everlasting fire. Since this is so, and we have heard the blessing of the Lord, the works of the Lord, the wondrous things of the Lord, the mercies of the Lord, the severity of the Lord, His Providence over all His works, the confession of all His works; observe how He concludeth in His praise, "My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless His holy Name for ever and ever" (ver. 21).
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