Augustine on the Psalms. Psalms 146 - 150
1. ... Behold the Psalm soundeth; it is the voice of some one (and that some one are ye, if ye will), of some one encouraging his soul to praise God, and saying to himself, "Praise the Lord, O my soul" (ver. 1). For sometimes in the tribulations and temptations of this present life, whether we will or no, our soul is troubled; of which troubling he speaketh in another Psalm.(5) But to remove this troubling, he suggesteth joy; not as yet in reality, but in hope; and saith to it when troubled and anxious, sad and sorrowing, "Hope in God, for I will yet confess to Him." ...
2. But who saith it, and to whom saith he it? What shall we say, brethren? Is it the flesh that saith, "Praise thou the Lord, O my soul"? And can the flesh suggest good counsel to the soul? However much the flesh be conquered, and subjected as a servant to us through strength which the Lord imparteth, that it serve us entirely as a bond slave, enough for us that it hinder us not. ... For the body, inasmuch as it is the body, is even beneath the soul; and every soul, however vile, is found more excellent than the most excellent body. And let not this seem to you to be wonderful, that even any vile and sinful soul is better than any great and most surpassing body. It is better, not in deserts, but in nature. The soul indeed is sinful, is stained with certain defilements of lusts; yet gold, though rusted, is better than the most polished lead. Let your mind then run over every part of creation, and ye will see that what we are saying is not incredible, that a soul, however blameable, is yet more praiseworthy than a praiseworthy body. There are two things, a soul and a body. The soul I chide, the body I praise: the soul I chide, because it is sinful; the body I praise, because it is sound. Yet it is in its own kind that I praise the soul, and in its own kind that I blame the soul: and so in its own kind I praise the body, or blame it. If you ask me which is better, what I have blamed or what I have praised, wondrous is the answer thou wilt receive. ... So you speak of the best horse and the worst man: yet thou preferrest the man thou findest fault with to the horse thou praisest. ... The nature of the soul is more excellent than the nature of the body: it surpasseth it by far, it is a thing spiritual, incorporeal, akin to the substance of God. It is somewhat invisible, it ruleth the body, moveth the limbs, guideth the senses, prepareth thoughts, putteth forth actions, taketh in images of countless things; who is there, in short, beloved brethren, who may suffice for the praises of the soul? And yet such is the grace given to it, that this man saith, "Praise the Lord, O my soul." ... It is not the flesh that saith it. Let the body be angel-like, still it is inferior to the soul, it cannot give advice to its superior. The flesh when duly obedient is the handmaid of the soul: the soul rules, the body obeys; the soul commands, the body performs; how then can the flesh give this advice to the soul? Is it then perchance the soul herself, who saith to herself, and in a manner commandeth herself, and exhorteth and asketh herself? For through certain passions in one part of her nature she wavered; but in another part, which they call the reasonable mind, the wisdom whereby she thinks, clinging to God, and now sighing towards Him, she perceives that certain inferior parts of her are troubled by worldly emotions, and by a certain excitement of earthly desires, betake them to outward things, leaving God who is within; so she recalleth herself from things outward to inward, from lower to higher, and says, "Praise the Lord, O my soul." ... The soul itself giveth itself counsel from the light of God by the reasonable mind, whereby it conceiveth the wisdom fixed in the everlasting nature of its Author. It readeth there of somewhat to be feared, to be praised, to be loved, to be longed for, and sought after: as yet it graspeth it not, it comprehendeth it not; it is, as it were, dazzled with brightness; it has not strength to abide there. Therefore it gathers itself, as it were, into a sound state, and saith, "Praise the Lord, O my soul." ... And then the soul, weighed down, as it were, and unable to stand up as is fitting, answereth the mind, "I will praise the Lord in my life" (ver. 2). What is, "in my life"? Because now I am in my death. Therefore first encourage thyself, and say, "Praise the Lord, O my soul." Thy soul answereth thee, I do praise so far as I can, slightly, poorly, weakly. Wherefore? Because, "while we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord."(1) ...
3. "In my life." Now what has it? It might answer thee, "My death." Whence, "My death"? because I am absent from the Lord. For if to cling to Him is life, to depart from Him is death. But what comforteth thee? Hope. Now thou livest in hope: in hope praise, in hope sing. Thy death is from the sadness of this life, thou livest in hope of a future life. And how wilt thou praise thy Lord? "I will sing unto my God, as long as I have my being." What sort of praise is this, "I will sing unto my God as long as I have being"? Behold, my brethren, what sort of being this will be; where there will be everlasting praise, there will be also everlasting being. Behold, now thou hast being: dost thou sing unto God as long as thou hast being? Behold, thou wast singing, and hast turned thyself away to some business, thou singest no longer, yet thou hast being: thou hast being, yet thou singest not. It may be also thy desire turneth thee to somewhat; not only dost thou not sing, but thou even offendest His ears, yet thou hast being. What praise will that be, when thou praisest as long as thou bast being? But what meaneth, "as long as I have being"? Will there be any time when he will not be? Nay, rather, that "long" will be everlasting, and therefore it will be truly "long." For whatever hath end in time, however prolonged it is, is yet not "long." ...
4. "Put not your trust in princes" (ver. 3). Brethren, here we receive a mighty task; it is a voice from heaven, from above it soundeth to us. For now through some kind of weakness the soul of man, whensoever it is in tribulation here, despaireth of God, and chooseth to rely on man. Let it be said to one when set in some affliction, "There is a great man, by whom thou mayest be set free;" he smileth, he rejoiceth, he is lifted up. But if it is said to him, "God freeth thee," he is chilled, so to speak, by despair. The aid of a mortal is promised, and thou rejoicest; the aid of the Immortal is promised, and art thou sad? It is promised thee that thou shalt be freed by one who needeth to be freed with thee, and thou exultest, as at some great aid: thou art promised that Liberator, who needeth none to free Him, and thou despairest, as though it were but a fable. Woe to such thoughts: they wander far; truly there is sad and great death in them. Approach, begin to long, begin to seek and to know Him by whom thou wast made. For He will not leave His work, if He be not left by His work.
5. ... "His breath shall go forth, and he shall return to his earth: in that day shall all his thoughts perish" (ver. 4). Where is swelling? where is pride? where is boasting? But perhaps he will have passed to a good place, if indeed he have passed. For I know not whither he who spake thus hath passed. For he spake in pride; and I know not whither such men pass, save that I look into another Psalm, and see that their passage is an evil one. "I beheld the wicked lifted up above the cedars of Libanus, and I passed by, and, lo, he was not; and I sought him, and his place was not found."(1) The good man, who passed by, and found not the wicked, reached a place where the wicked is not. Wherefore, brethren, let us all listen: brethren, beloved of God, let us all listen; in whatsoever tribulation, in whatsoever longing for the heavenly gift, "let us not trust in princes, nor in sons of men, in whom is no salvation." All this is mortal, fleeting, perishable.
What then must we do, if we are not to hope in sons of men, nor in princes? What must we do? "Blessed is he whose Helper is the God of Jacob" (ver. 5): not this man or that man; not this angel or that angel; but," blessed is he whose Helper is the God of Jacob:" for to Jacob also so great an Helper was He, that of Jacob He made him Israel. O mighty help! now he is Israel, "seeing God." While then thou art placed here, and a wanderer not yet seeing God, if thou hast the God of Jacob for thy Helper, from Jacob thou wilt become Israel, and wilt be "seeing God," and all toil and all groans shall come to an end, gnawing cares shall cease, happy praises shall succeed. "Blessed is he whose Helper is the God of Jacob;" of this Jacob. Wherefore is he happy? Meanwhile, while yet groaning in this life, "his hope is in the Lord his God." ... Who is this, "Lord his God"? ... "To us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things."(2) Therefore let Him be thy hope, even the Lord thy God; in Him let thy hope be. His hope too is in the lord his god, who worshippeth Saturn; his hope is in the lord his god, who worshippeth Neptune or Mercury; yea more, I add, who worshippeth his belly, of whom is said, "whose god is their belly."(3) The one is the god of the one, the other of the other. Who is this "blessed" one? for "his hope is in the Lord his God." But who is He? "Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them" (ver. 6). My brethren, we have a great God; let us bless His holy Name, that He hath deigned to make us His possession. As yet thou seest not God; thou canst not fully love what as yet thou seest not. All that thou seest, He hath made. Thou admirest the world; why not the Maker of the world? Thou lookest up to the heavens, and art amazed: thou considerest the whole earth, and tremblest; when canst thou contain in thy thought the vastness of the sea? Look at the countless number of the stars, look at all the many kind of seeds, all the different sorts of animals, all that swimmeth in the water, creepeth on the earth, flieth in the sky, hovereth in the air; how great are all these, how beautiful, how fair, how amazing! Behold, He who made all these, is thy God. Put thy hope in Him, that thou mayest be happy. "His hope is in the Lord his God." Observe, my brethren, the mighty God, the good God, who maketh all these things. ... If he mentioned these things only, perhaps thou wouldest answer me, "God, who made heaven and earth and sea, is a great God: but doth He think of me ?" It would be said to thee, "He made thee." How so? am I heaven, or am I earth, or am I sea? Surely it is plain; I am neither heaven, nor earth, nor sea: yet I am on earth. At least thou grantest me this, that thou art on earth. Hear then, that God made not only heaven and earth and sea: for He "made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them." If then He made all that is in them, He made thee also. It is too little to say, thee; the sparrow, the locust, the worm, none of these did He not make, and He careth for all. His care refers not to His commandment, for this commandment He gave to man alone. ... As regards then the tenor of the commandment, "God doth not take care for oxen:"(4) as regards His providential care of the universe, whereby He created all things, and ruleth the world, "Thou, Lord, shall save both man and beast." Here perhaps some one may say to me, "God careth not for oxen," comes from the New Testament: "Thou, Lord, shalt save both man and beast," is from the Old Testament. There are some who find fault and say, that these two Testaments agree not with one another. ... Let us hear the Lord Himself, the Chief and Master of the Apostles: "Consider," saith He, "the fowls of the air; they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and your heavenly Father feedeth them."(5) Therefore even beside men, these animals are objects of care to God, to be fed, not to receive a law. As far then as regards giving a law, "God careth not for oxen:" as regards creating, feeding, governing, ruling, all things have to do with God. "Are not two sparrows sold for one farthing?" saith our Lord Jesus Christ, "and one of them shall not fall to the ground without the will of your Father: how much better are ye than they."(6) Perhaps thou sayest, God counteth me not in this great multitude. There follows here a wondrous passage in the Gospel: "the hairs of your head are all numbered."(7)
6. Who keepeth truth for ever." What "truth for ever"? what "truth" doth He "keeps" and wherein doth "He keep it for ever"? "Who executeth judgment for them that suffer wrong" (ver. 7). He avengeth them that suffer wrong. There cometh at once to thee the voice of the Apostle: "now therefore there is altogether a fault among you, that ye go to law one with another: why do ye not rather suffer wrong?"(1) He urged thee not to suffer annoyance, but to suffer wrong: for not every annoyance is wrong. For whatever thou sufferest lawfully is not a wrong; lest perchance thou shouldest say, I also am among those who have suffered wrong, for I have suffered such a thing in such a place, and such a thing for such a reason. Consider whether thou hast suffered a wrong. Robbers suffer many things, but they suffer no wrong. Wicked men, evil doers, house-breakers, adulterers, seducers, all these suffer many evils, yet is there no wrong. It is one thing to suffer wrong; it is another to suffer tribulation, or penalty, or annoyance, or punishment. Consider where thou art; see what thou hast done; see why thou art suffering; and then thou seest what thou art suffering. Right and wrong are contraries. Right is what is just. For not all that is called right, is right. What if a man lay down for you unjust right? nor indeed is it to be called right, if it is unjust. That is true right, which is also just. Consider what thou hast done, not what thou art suffering. If thou hast done right, thou art suffering wrong; if thou hast done wrong, thou art suffering right. ...
7. "Who giveth food to the hungry." Behold, from thee I look for nothing: "God giveth food to the hungry." Who are "the hungry"? All. What is, all? To all things that have life, to all men He giveth food: doth He not reserve some food for His beloved? If they have another kind of hunger, they have also another kind of food. Let us first enquire what their hunger is, and then we shall find their food. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."(2) We ought to be God's hungry ones. ... "The Lord looseth them that are lettered; the Lord lifteth up them that are dashed down; the Lord maketh wise them that are blind" (ver. 8). Perfectly hath he by this last sentence explained to us all the preceding ones: lest perchance, when he had said, "the Lord looseth them that are fettered," we should refer it to those fettered ones, who for some crime are bound in irons by their masters: and in that he said, "He lifteth up them that are dashed down," there should occur to our minds some one stumbling or falling, or thrown from a horse. There is another kind of fall, there are other kinds of fetters, just as there is other darkness and other light. Whereas he said, "He maketh the blind wise;" he would not say, He enlightened the blind, lest thou shouldest understand this also in reference to the flesh, as the man was enlightened by the Lord, when He anointed his eyes with clay made with spittle, and so healed him: that thou mightest not look for anything of this sort, when He is speaking of spiritual things, he pointeth to a sort of light of wisdom, wherewith the blind are enlightened. Therefore in the same way as the blind are enlightened with the light of wisdom, so are the fettered set free, and those who are dashed down are lifted up. Whereby then have we been fettered? whereby dashed down? Our body was once an ornament to us: now, we have sinned, and thereby have had fetters put on us. What are our fetters? Our mortality. ... "The Lord loveth the righteous." And who are the "righteous"? How far are they righteous now? Just as thou hast; "the Lord, guardeth proselytes" (ver. 9). "Proselytes" are strangers. Every Church of the Gentiles is a stranger. For it cometh in to the Fathers, not sprung of their flesh, but their daughter by imitating them. Yet the Lord, not any man, guardeth them. "The orphan and widow He will take up." Let none think that He taketh up the orphan for his inheritance, or the widow for any business of hers. True, God doth help them; and in all the duties of the human race, he doeth a good work, who taketh care of an orphan, who abandoneth not a widow: but in a certain way we are all orphans, not because our Father is dead, but because He is absent.(3). ...
8. "And the way of sinners He shall root out." What is, "the way of sinners"? To mock at these things which we say. "Who is an orphan, who a widow? What kingdom of heaven, what punishment of hell is there? These are fables of the Christians. To what I see, to that will I live: "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."(4) Beware lest such men persuade you of aught: let them not enter through your ears into your heart; let them find thorns in your ears: let him, who seeketh to enter thus, go away pierced: for "evil communications corrupt good manners."(5) But here perhaps thou wilt say, "Wherefore then are they prosperous? Behold, they worship not God, and commit every kind of evil daily: yet they abound in those things, through want of which I toil." Be not envious against sinners. What they receive, thou seest; what is in store for them, seest thou not? ... Wilt thou not believe even the Lord thy God, who saith, "Broad and spacious is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that walk by it"?(6) This "way the Lord will root out." And, when "the way of sinners" has been "rooted out," what remaineth for us? "Come, ye blessed of My father, enjoy the Kingdom;"(1) "The Lord shall reign for ever" (ver. 10). "O Sion, thy God" shall reign for ever; surely thy God will not reign without thee. "For generation and generation." He hath said it twice, because he could not say it for ever. And think not that eternity is bounded by finite words. The word eternity consists of four syllables; in itself it is without end. It could not be commended to thee, save thus," for generation and generation." Too little hath he said: if he spoke it all day long, it were too narrow: if he spoke it all his life, must he not at length hold his peace? Love eternity: without end shalt thou reign, if Christ be thine End, with whom thou shalt reign for ever and ever. Amen.
1. It is said to us," Praise the Lord" (ver. 1). This is said to all nations, not to us alone. And these words, sounded forth through separate places by the Readers, each Church heareth separately; but the one same Voice of God proclaimeth unto all, that we praise Him. And as though we asked wherefore we ought to praise the Lord, behold what reason he hath brought forward: "Praise the Lord," he saith, "for a Psalm is good." Is this all the reward of them that praise? ... The "Psalm "is praise of God. This then he saith, "Praise the Lord, for it is good to praise the Lord." Let us not thus pass over the praise of the Lord. It is spoken, and hath passed: it is done, and we are silent: we have praised, and then rested; we have sung, and then rested. We go forth to some business which awaits us, and when other employments have found us, shall the praise of God cease in us? Not so: thy tongue praiseth but for a while, let thy life ever praise. Thus then "a Psalm is good."
2. For a "Psalm" is a song, not any kind of song, but a song to a psaltery. A psaltery is a kind of instrument of music, like the lyre and the harp, and such kinds of instruments, which were invented for music. He therefore who singeth Psalms, not only singeth with his voice, but with a certain instrument besides, which is called a psaltery, he accompanieth his voice with his hands. Wilt thou then sing a Psalm? Let not thy voice alone sound the praises of God; but let thy works also be in harmony with thy voice. ... To please then the ear, sing with thy voice; but with thy heart be not silent, with thy life be not still. Thou devisest no fraud in thy heart: thou singest a Psalm to God. When thou eatest and drinkest, sing a Psalm: not by intermingling sweet sounds suited to the ear, but by eating and drinking moderately, frugally, temperarely: for thus saith the Apostle, "whether ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God."(3) ... If by immoderate voracity thou exceedest the due bounds of nature, and gluttest thyself in excess of wine, however great praises of God thy tongue sound, yet thy life blasphemeth Him. After food and drink thou liest down to sleep: in thy bed neither commit any pollution, nor go beyond the license given by the law of God: let thy marriage bed be kept chaste with thy wife: and if thou desire to beget children, yet let there not be unbridled sensuality of lust: in thy bed give honour to thy wife,(4) for ye are both members of Christ, both made by Him, both renewed by His Blood: so doing thou praisest God, nor will thy praise be altogether silent. What, when sleep has come over thee? Let not an evil conscience rouse thee from rest: so doth the innocence of thy sleep praise God. ...
3. "Let praises be pleasant to our God." How? If He be praised by our good lives. Hear that then praise will be pleasant to Him. In another place it is said, "Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner."(5) If then in the mouth of a sinner praise is not seemly, neither is it pleasant, for that only is pleasant which is seemly. ... For praise may be pleasant to a man, when he heareth one praising with neat and clever sentiments, and with a sweet voice; but "let praise be pleasant to our God," whose ears are open not to the mouth, but to the heart; not to the tongue, but to the life of him that praiseth.
4. Who is "our God," that praise should be pleasant to Him? He maketh Himself sweet to us, He commendeth Himself to us; thanks to His condescension. ... "But God commendeth His love to us" ... "in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."(6) ... Let us see whether it be the commendation which the Apostle speaketh of, that Christ died for the sinners and ungodly: "the Lord who buildeth up Jerusalem, and gathereth the dispersions of Israel" (ver. 2). For the people of Jerusalem are the people of Israel. It is Jerusalem "eternal in the heavens," whereof the Angels are citizens also. ... All the citizens then of that city, through "seeing God," rejoice in that great and wide and heavenly city; they gaze upon God Himself. But we are wanderers from that city, driven out by sin, that we should not remain there; weighed down by mortality, that we should not return thither. God looked back on our wandering, and He who "buildeth up Jerusalem," restored the part that had fallen. How restored He the part that bad fallen? ... He sent then to our captive estate His Son as a Redeemer. Take with Thee, said He, a bag, bear therein the price of the captives. For He put on Him our mortal flesh, and therein was the Blood, by the shedding of which we were to be redeemed. With that Blood He "gathered the dispersions of Israel." And if He gathered them that before were dispersed, how must we strive that they be gathered who now are dispersed? If the dispersed have been gathered, that in the Hand of the Builder they might be fashioned into the building, how should they be gathered who through disquiet have fallen from the Hand of the Builder? Behold whom we praise; behold to whom we owe praise all our life long.
5. How doth He gather? What doeth He in order to gather? "Who healeth the bruised in heart" (ver. 3). Behold the way in which the dispersions of Israel are gathered, by the healing of the bruised in heart. They who are not of a bruised heart, are not healed. What is to bruise the heart? Let it be known, brethren, let it be done, that ye may be able to be healed. For it is told in many other places of Scripture; ... "the sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit, a bruised and contrite heart God will not despise." He healeth then the bruised in heart, for He draweth nigh unto them to heal them; as is said in another place, "the Lord is nigh unto them who have bruised their heart."(1) Who are they that have "bruised their heart"? The humble. Who are they that have not "bruised their heart"? The proud. The bruised heart shall be healed, the puffed up heart shall be dashed down. For for this purpose perhaps is it dashed down, that being bruised it may be healed. Let not our heart then, brethren, desire to be set upright, before it be upright. It is ill for that to be uplifted which is not first corrected. ...
6. What are the means whereby He "bindeth up their bruises"? Just as physicians bind up fractures. For sometimes (observe this, beloved; it is well known to those who have observed it, or have heard it from physicians), sometimes when limbs are sound, but are crooked and distorted, physicians break them in order to set them straight, and make a new wound, because the soundness which was distorted was amiss. ...
7. What are these means whereby He bindeth? The sacraments of this present life, whereby in the mean time we obtain our comfort: and all the words we speak to you, words which sound and pass away, all that is done in the Church in this present time, are the means whereby "He bindeth up our bruises." For just as, when the limb has become perfectly sound, the physician taketh off the bandage; so in our own city Jerusalem, when we shall have been made equal to the Angels, think ye that we shall receive there, what we have received here? Will it be needful then that the Gospel be read to us, that our faith may abide? or that hands be laid upon us by any Bishop? All these are means of binding up fractures; when we have attained perfect soundness, they will be taken off; but we should never attain it, if they were not bound up.
8. "Who telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names" (ver. 4). What great matter is it for God to "tell the number of the stars"! Men even have endeavoured to do this; whether they have been able to achieve it, is their concern; they would not however attempt it, did they not think that they should achieve it. Let us leave alone what they can do, and how far they have attained; for God I think it no great matter to count all the stars. Or doth He perhaps go over the number, lest He should forget it? Is it any great thing for God to number the stars, by whom "the very hairs of your head are numbered"?(2) The stars are certain lights in the Church comforting our night;all--of whom the Apostle saith, "In the didst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding the Word of life."(3) These stars God counteth; all who shall reign with Him, all who are to be gathered into the Body of His only-begotten Son, He hath counted, and still counteth them. Whoso is unworthy, is not even counted. Many too have believed, or rather may, with a kind of shadowy appearance of faith, have attached themselves to His people: yet He knoweth what He counteth, what He winnoweth away. For so great is the height of the Gospel, that it hath come to pass as was said, "I have declared, and have spoken: they are multiplied above number:"(4) there are then among the people certain supernumeraries, so to speak. What do I mean by supernumeraries? More than will be there. Within these walls are more than will be in the kingdom of God, in the heavenly Jerusalem; these are above the number. Let each one of you consider whether he shineth in darkness, whether he refuseth to be led astray by the dark iniquity of the world; if he be not led astray, nor conquered, he will be, as it were, a star, which God already humbereth. "And calling them all by their names," he saith. Herein is our whole reward. We may have certain names with God, that God know our names, this we ought to wish, for this to act, for this to busy ourselves, as far as we are able; not to rejoice in other things, not even in certain spiritual gifts. ... When the disciples returned from their mission exulting, and saying, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us in Thy Name"(1)--then He (knowing that many would say, "have we not in Thy Name cast out devils?" to whom He should say, "I know you not") said, "In this rejoice not, that the devils are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven."(2)
9. "Great is our Lord" (ver. 5). The Psalmist is filled with joy, he hath poured out his words wonderfully: yet somewhat he was unable to speak, and how availed he to think on it? "And great is His power, and of His understanding is no numbering" He who "numbereth the stars," Himself cannot be numbered. Who can expound this? who can worthily even imagine what is meant by, "and of His understanding is no number"? ... Whatsoever then that is infinite this world containeth, though it be infinite to man, yet is not to God: too little is it to say, to God: even by the angels it is numbered. His understanding surpasses all calculators; it cannot be counted by us. Numbers themselves who numbereth? What than is there with God? wherewith made He all things, and where made He all things, to whom it is said, "Thou hast arrayed all things in measure, number, and weight"?(3) Or who can number, or measure, or weigh, measure and number and weight themselves, wherein God hath ordered all things? Therefore, "of His understanding is no number." Let human voices be hushed, human thoughts still: let them not stretch themselves out to incomprehensible things, as though they could comprehend them, but as though they were to partake of them, for partakers we shall be. ... Partakers then we shall be: let none doubt it: Scripture saith it. And of what shall we be partakers, as though these were parts in God, as though God were divided into parts? Who then can explain how many become partakers of one single substance? Require not then that which I think ye see cannot fitly be said: but return to the healing of the Saviour, bruise your heart. He will guide it, He will bind it up where it is broken, He will make it perfectly sound; and then those things will not be impossible with us, which now are impossible. For it is good that he confess weakness, who desireth to attain to the divine nature.
10. "The Lord taketh up the gentle" (ver. 6). For example; thou understandest not, thou failest to understand, canst not attain: honour God's Scripture, honour God's Word, though it be not plain: in reverence wait for understanding. Be not wanton to accuse either the obscurity or seeming contradiction of Scripture. There is nothing in it contradictory: somewhat there is which is obscure, not in order that it may be denied thee, but that it may exercise him that shall afterward receive it. When then it is obscure, that is the Physician's doing, that thou mayest knock. He willed that thou shouldest be exercised in knocking; He willed it, that He might open to thee when thou knockest. By knocking thou shalt be exercised; exercised, thou shalt be enlarged; enlarged, thou shall contain what is given. Be not then indignant for that it is shut; be mild, be gentle. Kick not against what is dark, nor say, It were better said, if it were said thus. For how canst thou thus say, or judge how it is expedient it be said? It is said as it is expedient it be said. Let not the sick man seek to amend his remedies: the Physician knoweth how to temper them: believe Him who careth for thee. Therefore what cometh next? ... "The Lord taketh up the gentle, but humbleth the sinners even to the ground," he intended a certain sort of sinners to be understood, from the gentleness mentioned first. By sinners then in this place, we understand the fierce, and those who are not gentle. Wherefore doth He "humble them even to the l earth"? They carp at objects of understanding, they shall perceive only things earthly.(4)
11. "Begin to the Lord in confession" (ver. 7). Begin with this, if thou wouldest arrive at a clear understanding of the truth. If thou wilt be brought from the road of faith to the profession of the reality, "begin in confession." First accuse thyself: accuse thyself, praise God. What after confession ? Let good works follow. "Sing unto our God upon the harp." What is, "Upon the harp"? As I have already explained, just like the Psalm upon the psaltery, so also is the "harp:" not with voice only, but with works.
12. ... "Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth" (ver. 8). Now thou art alarmed, because thou canst not see the heaven: when it hath rained thou shalt gather fruit, and shalt see clear sky. Perhaps our God hath done this. For had we not the obscurity of Scripture as an occasion, we should not say to you those things wherein ye rejoice. This then perhaps is the rain whereat ye rejoice. It would not be possible for it to be expressed to you by our tongue, were it not that God covereth with clouds of figures the heaven of the Scriptures. For this purpose willed He that the words of the Prophets should be obscure, that the servants of God might afterwards have that by interpreting which they might flow over the ears and hearts of men, that they might receive from the clouds of God the fatness of spiritual joy. "Who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains, and herb for the service of men." Behold the fruit of the rain. "Who maketh," saith he, "grass to grow upon the mountains." Doth it not also grow upon the low ground? Yes, but it is a great thing that it groweth "on the mountains." ... For nothing could be more barren than the hard mountains. "And herb for the service of men." What "service"? Listen to Paul himself. "And ourselves," saith he, "your servants for Jesus Christ's sake."(1) He who said," If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your carnal things?" yet said, that he was a "servant." For we are your servants, brethren. Let none of us speak of himself, as though he were greater than you. We shall be greater if we are more humble. "But whosoever will be great among you" (it is the Lord's saying), "shall be your servant."(2) Paul the Apostle, indeed, living by his own labour, refused even to receive "the grass of the mountains;" he chose to want; nevertheless, the mountains gave "grass." Because he chose not to receive, ought the mountains therefore not to give, and so to remain barren? Fruit is due to the rain, food is due to the servant, as the Lord saith, "Eat such things as they give you:" and that they should not think that they gave aught of their own, He added, "for the labourer is worthy of his hire."(3)
13. ... Just now has been read, "Give to every one that asketh of thee;"(4) and in another place Scripture s saith, "Let alms sweat in thy hand, till thou findest a righteous man to whom to give it." One there is who seeketh thee, another thou oughtest to seek. Leave not indeed him who seeketh thee empty, for, "give to every one that asketh of thee;" yet still there is another whom thou oughtest to seek; "find a righteous man to whom to give it." Ye will never do this, unless ye have somewhat set aside from your substance, each what pleaseth him according to the needs of his family, as a sort of debt to be paid to the treasury. If Christ have not a state(6) of His own, neither hath He a treasury? . . . Cut off then and prune off some fixed s sum either from thy yearly profits or thy daily gains, else thou seemest as it were to give of thy capital, and thy hand must needs hesitate, when thou puttest it forth to that which thou hast not vowed. Cut off some part of thy income; a tenth if thou choosest, though that is but little. For it is said that the Pharisees gave a tenth; "I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess."(9) And what saith the Lord? "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."(10) He whose righteousness thou oughtest to exceed, giveth a tenth: thou givest not even a thousandth. How wilt thou surpass him whom thou matchest not? "Who prepareth rain for the earth."
14. "And giveth unto the cattle their food" (ver. 9). These are the cattle he meaneth, even God's flocks. God defraudeth not His flock of their food through men, for whose "service He maketh the grass to grow." "And to the young of the ravens that call upon Him." Shall we perchance think this, that the ravens call upon God to give them their food? Think not that the unreasoning creature calls upon God: no creature knows how to call upon God, save the reasonable alone. Consider it as spoken in a figure, lest thou think, as some evil men say, that the souls of men migrate into cattle, dogs, swine, ravens. Give this no place in your hearts or in your faith. The soul of man is made after the image of God: He will not give His image to dog or swine. Who are "the young of the , ravens"? The Israelites used to say that they alone were righteous, because to them the Law had been given: all other men of every nation they used to call sinners. And in truth all nations were given up to sin, to idolatry, to the worship of stones and stocks: but did they continue so? Although the ravens themselves, our fathers, did not, yet we, "the young of the ravens," do call upon God." . . . For "the young of the ravens," who seemed to worship the images of their forefathers, have advanced, and turned to God. And now thou hearest "the young of the ravens" calling upon the one God. What then? Sayest thou to "the young of the ravens, "hast thou left thy father?" Plainly I have, saith he; for he is a raven who calls not upon God.I, "the young of the raven," do call upon God.
15. "In the power of an horse He will not take pleasure" (ver. 10). The power "of an horse" is pride. For the horse seemeth adapted as it were to bear a man aloft, that he may be more uplifted as he goes. And in truth he has a neck which typifieth a sort of pride. Let not men exalt themselves upon their worth, let them not think themselves uplifted by their distinctions; let them beware test they be thrown by an untamed horse.(1)..."Nor in the tabernacle of a man will He delight." For the tabernacle of the Lord is the Holy Church spread throughout the whole world. Heretics, separating themselves from the Church's tabernacles, have set up tabernacles for themselves. For if perchance it be the lot of any, who is good and pious, who confesseth his own weakness, who is "the young of a raven that calleth on God," not to enjoy worldly distinction, he goeth not out of the Church, he setteth not up for himself a tent outside the Church, wherein God will not delight. But what saith he? "I have chosen to be cast away in the house of God, rather than to dwell in the tents of sinners."(2)
16. But what addeth he? "The Lord will delight in them that fear Him, and in them that hope in His mercy" (ver. 11). A robber is feared, and a wild beast is feared, and an unjust and powerful man is much feared. "The Lord will delight in them that hope in His mercy." Behold, Judas, who betrayed our Lord, feared, but he did not hope in His mercy. ... It is well indeed that thou hast feared, but only if thou trustedst in His mercy, whom thou hast feared. He in despair "went and hanged himself." In such wise then fear the Lord, that thou trust in His mercy. ...
17. "Praise in unison, O Jerusalem, thy God" (ver. 12). Abiding yet in captivity, they behold those flocks, or rather, the one flock of all its citizens, gathered from all sides into that city; they see the joy of the mass, now after threshings and winnowings placed in the garner, fearing nothing, suffering no toil nor trouble; and, as yet abiding here, in the midst of the threshing they send forward their joy of hope, and pant for it, joining as it were their hearts to the Angels of God, and to that people which shall abide with them in joy for ever. For what wilt thou then do, O Jerusalem? Surely toil and groaning will pass away. What wilt thou do? wilt thou plough, or sow, or plant vines, or make voyages, or trade? What wilt thou do? Will it still be thy duty to be engaged in the works thou now doest, good though they are, and spring from mercy? Consider thy numbers, consider on all sides thy company: see whether any hungers, for thee to give bread to; see whether any thirsts, for thee to give a cup of cold water to; see whether any is a stranger, for thee to take in; see whether any is sick, for thee to visit; see whether any is at strife, for thee to reconcile him; see whether any is dying, for thee to bury him. What then wilt thou do? "Praise in unison, O Jerusalem, thy God." Behold, this is thy business. As is wont to be said in inscriptions, "Use it and be happy."(3)
18. Be ye Jerusalem; remember of whom it is said, "Lord, in Thy city their image Thou shall bring to nought."(4) These are they who now rejoice in such pomps; among them are they who have not come hither to-day because there is a show. To whom is it a gift?(5) to whom is it a loss? or why is it a gift? why is it a loss? For not they only who exhibit such shows are smitten with loss, but with much greater loss are they smitten who delight in gazing on them. The former have their chest drained of its gold, the latter have their breast robbed of the riches of righteousness. Most of the exhibiters of shows have to mourn for selling their estates; how ought the sinners to mourn, for losing their souls: Was it then for this that the Lord cried out on the Lord's Day, "Watch ye," that to-day men should watch in this way. I beseech you, ye citizens of Jerusalem, I beseech you by the peace of Jerusalem, by the Redeemer, the Builder, the Ruler of Jerusalem, that ye address your prayers to God for them. May they see, may they feel, that they are trifling; and, intent as they are on the sights which please them, may at length look on themselves, and be displeased. For in many we rejoice that this has already been done: and once we too sat there and were mad: and how many think we now sit there, who shall yet be, not only Christians, but also Bishops! From what is past, we conjecture what is to be: from what has already been done, we announce beforehand what God will do. Let your prayers be wakeful, ye groan not for nothing. Certainly they who have already escaped, praying for those who are still in danger, because they too having been among those in danger, are heard; and God shall drag His people out of the captivity of Babylon; by all means He shall redeem and deliver them, and the number of the saints who bear the image of God shall be perfected. ... "Praise in unison," because thou consistest of many: "praise," because thou hast been made one.(6) "We being many," saith the Apostle, "are one in Christ."(7) As then we are many, "we praise in unison;" as we are one, we "praise." The same are many and one, because He in whom they are one(6) is ever One.(8)
19. Wherefore, saith this Jerusalem, do I praise m unison the Lord, and, as Sion, praise my God? Jerusalem is the same as Sion. For different reasons has it the two names. Jerusalem meaneth "visions of peace;" Sion meaneth "watching."(1) See whether these words do not sound like sights;(2) that the Gentiles may not think that they have sights and we haste none. Sometimes after the theatre or amphitheatre breaks up, when the crowd of lost ones begins to be vomited forth from that den, sometimes, retaining in their minds images of their vain amusements, and feeding their memory with things not only useless but even hurtful, rejoicing in them as if they were sweet, while they are really deadly; they see often, it may be, the servants of God pass by, they recognise them by their garb or headdress, or they know them by sight,(3) and they say to one another, or inwardly, "Wretched people, how much they lose!" Brethren, let us return their good will (for they do mean it well) with prayers to the Lord. They wish us well; but "he that loveth iniquity, hateth his own soul."(4) If he hateth his own soul, how shall he love my soul? Yet with a perverse, and empty, and vain good will, if indeed it may be called good will, they grieve that we lose what they love: let us pray that they lose not what we love. Behold of what character that Jerusalem is to be which he exhorteth to praise, or rather foreseeth will praise. For the praises of that city, when we shall see and love and praise, will not need to be urged on and stirred up by the voice of prophecy; but the Prophets now say this, to drink in as far as while they remain in this flesh they can, the future joys of the blessed, and then giving them forth into our ears, to arouse in us love of that city. Let us burn with longing, let us not be slothful in spirit. "Praise thy God, O Sion."
20. He saith, "He hath made strong the bars of thy gates" (ver. 13). The making bars strong is not for open gates, but shut ones, wherefore most manuscripts read, "He hath made strong the bolts s of thy gates." Observe, beloved. He biddeth Jerusalem when closed in to praise the Lord. We praise in unison now, we praise now; but it is amid offences. Many where we wish not, enter in: many though we wish it not, go out: therefore offences are frequent. "And because iniquity hath abounded," saith the Truth," the love of many waxeth cold:"(6) because men come in whom we cannot discern, because men go out whom we cannot retain. Wherefore is this? Because not yet is there perfection, not yet is there the bliss that shall be. Wherefore is this? Because as yet it is the threshing-floor, not yet the garner. What therefore will be then, save no fear that aught of this kind will happen? He said not only, He hath set, but, "He hath made strong the bars of thy gates." Let none. go out, let none come in. Let none go out, we rejoice: let none come in, we fear. Nay, fear not this: when thou hast entered it will be said: only be thou in the number of virgins, who carried their oil with them. ...
21. "He hath blessed thy children within thee." Who? He "who hath set peace as thy borders." How ye all exult!(7) Love peace, my brethren. Greatly are we delighted, when the love of peace crieth from your hearts. How greatly doth it delight you! I had said nothing: I had explained nothing: I but read the verse, and ye shouted. What was it that shoutedin you? The love of peace. ... children of the kingdom, O citizens of Jerusalem, in Jerusalem is the vision of peace: and all who love peace are blest in her, and they enter in, when the doors are being shut, and the bars made strong. This, which when but named ye so love and esteem, this follow after, this long for: this love in your home, in your business, in your wives, in your sons, in your slaves, in your friends, in your enemies. ...
22. What ye cried out a while ago at the very mention of peace, ye cried from longing: your cry was from thirst, not from fulness; for there will be perfect righteousness where will be perfect peace. Now we hunger and thirst after righteousness. "They shall be filled."(8) How shall they be filled? When we have arrived at peace. Therefore when he had said, "Who hath set peace for thy borders," because there is fulness and no want, he added at once, "and filleth thee with the fat of wheat" (ver. 14). ...
23. "Who sendeth forth His Word to the earth" (ver. 15). Behold, on earth we toil, weary, fainting, sluggish, cold: when should we be raised up to the fat of wheat that satisfieth, did not He send His Word to the earth, whereby we were weighed down, to the earth, whereby we were hindered from returning? He sent. His Word, He deserted us not even in the wilderness, He rained manna from heaven. "Who sendeth forth His Word to the earth;" and to earth His Word came. How? or what is His Word? "Even unto swiftness His Word runneth." He said not, "His Word is swift," but, "His Word runneth even unto swiftness." Let us understand, my brethren: He could not have chosen a better word. He who is hot grows hot by heat, he who is cold grows cold by cold, he who is swift becometh swift by swiftness. ... To what degree then doth it run? "Even to swiftness." Increase as much as you will the swiftness of the Word, and say, It is as swift as this or that, as birds, as the winds, as the Angels; is any of these as great as swiftness itself, "even unto swiftness"? What is swiftness itself, brethren? It is everywhere; it is not in part. This belongeth to the Word of God, not to be in part, to be everywhere by Himself the Word, whereby He is "the Power of God and the Wisdom of God,"(1) before He had taken flesh upon Him. If we think of God in the Form of God, the Word equal to the Father, this is the Wisdom of God, of which is said, "It reacheth from one end to the other mightily."(2) What mighty speed! "It reacheth from one end to the other mightily." ...
24. We then are burdened by the sluggishness of this cold body, and the bonds of this earthly and corruptible life; have we no hope of receiving "the Word," which "runneth even unto swiftness"? or hath abandoned us, though by the body we are depressed to the lowest depths? Did not He predestinate us, before we were born in this mortal and sluggish body? He then, who predestinated us, gave snow to the earth, even ourselves. For now let us come to those somewhat obscure verses of the Psalm, let those entanglements begin to be unrolled. Behold, we are sluggish on this earth, and are as it were frozen here. And just as happens to the flakes of snow, for they freeze above, then fall down; so as love groweth cold, human nature falleth down to this earth, and involved in a sluggish body becometh like snow. But in that snow are predestined sons of God. For, "He giveth snow like wool" (ver. 16). What is "like wool"? It meaneth, of the snow which He hath given, of these, who are as yet slow in spirit and cold, whom He hath predestinated, He is about to make somewhat. For wool is the material of a garment: when we see wool, we look on it as a sort of preparation for a garment. Therefore since He hath predestinated these, who at present are cold and creep on earth, and as yet glow not with the spirit of love (for as yet He speaketh of predestination), God hath given these as a sort of wool: He is about to make of them a garment. Rightly did the "raiment" of Christ "shine" on the mountain, "like snow."(3) The raiment of Christ did shine like snow, as though of that snow a garment had already been made: of which wool, that is, of the snow which He gave like wool, they being as yet predestined, were sluggish: but wait, see what followeth. Since He gave them as wool, a garment is made of them. For as the Church is called the Body of Christ, so is the Church also called the garment of Christ: hence cometh that which is said by the Apostle, "that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle."(4) Let Him then present unto Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle; let Him make Himself a garment of that wool, which He had predestinated in the snow. While men are yet unbelieving. and cold, and sluggish, let Him make a garment of this wool. That it may be washed from spots, let it be cleansed by faith: that it may have no wrinkle, let it be stretched out upon the cross. ...
25. "He scattereth mist like ashes." "He scattereth," saith the Psalmist, "mist like ashes." Who? He "who giveth snow like wool." For whom He predestined, He calleth to repentance; for "whom He predestined, them He also called." But "ashes" are connected with repentance. Hear Him calling to repentance, when He upbraided certain cities, saying, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they had long ago repented in dust and ashes."(5) Therefore, "He scattereth mist like ashes." What is, "He scattereth mist like ashes"? When a man is called to learn about God, and it is said to him, "Receive the truth;" he beginneth to wish to receive the Truth, but is not able; he seeth that He is under a sort of darkness, which before he saw not. ... Wander not in the mist, follow in faith. But forasmuch as thou endeavourest to see and art not able, repent of thy sins, for mist is scattered like ashes. Repent thee now of having been obstinate against God, repent of having followed thine own evil ways. Thou hast come into this state where it is difficult for thee to see the vision of bliss, and the mist will be healthful to thee, which God scattereth like ashes. Thou thyself art as yet a mist, but like ashes. For they that are penitent, as yet roll themselves in ashes, my brethren, testifying, as it were, that they are like it, saying unto God, "I am ashes." For a certain Scripture saith, "I have despised myself, and wasted away, I have reckoned myself earth and ashes."(6) This is the humility of the penitent. When Abraham speaketh to his God, and wisheth the burning of Sodore to be disclosed to him, he saith, "I am but earth and ashes."(7) How hath this humility ever been found m great and holy men!
26. "Who sendeth His crystal like morsels of bread" (ver. 17). We need not spend our toil again in saying what crystal is. We have already said it, and I do not think that ye, beloved, have forgotten it. What is then, "He sendeth His crystal like morsels of bread"? What is "crystal"? It is very hard, it is very tightly congealed; it can not, like snow, be easily melted. Snow, hardened by many years' duration, and by the succession of ages, is called "crystal," and this "He sendeth like morsels of bread." What meaneth this? They were too hard, no longer fit to be compared to snow, but to crystal; but they too are predestinated and called, and some of them even so as to feed others, to be useful to others also. And what need is there to enumerate many, whom we happen to know, this one and that one? Every one when he thinks can recall to mind how hardened and obstinate some of those whom he knows have been, how they have struggled against the truth; yet now they preach the truth, they have been made morsels of bread. Who is that one Bread? "We being many," saith the Apostle, "are one Body in Christ;"(1) he saith also, "we being many are one Bread and one Body."(2) If then the whole Body of Christ is one Bread, the members of Christ are morsels of Bread. Of some that are hard He maketh members of Himself, and useful for feeding others. ... Behold, the Apostle Paul was a crystal, hard, resisting the truth, crying out against the Gospel, hardening himself, as it were, against the sun. ... Since then he was crystal, he appeared clear and white, but he was hard and very cold. How was he bright and white? "An Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee." Behold the brightness of crystal. Now hear the hardness of crystal. "As touching zeal, persecuting the Church"(3) of Christ. Among the stoners of the holy martyr Stephen, was he, hard, perhaps harder than all. "For he kept the raiment of all who were stoning,"(4) so that he stoned by the hands of all.
27. Thus then we see "the snow, the mist, the crystal:" it is good that He blow and thaw them. For if He blow not, if He Himself thaw not the hardness of this ice, "in the face of His cold who shall stand?" He abandoneth a sinner, behold, He calleth him not; behold, He openeth not his perception; behold, He poureth not in grace; let the man thaw himself, if he can, from the ice of folly. He cannot. Wherefore can he not? "In the face of His cold who shall stand?" Behold him then growing harder, and saying, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Behold, I am growing cold, behold, I am growing hard, what heat shall thaw me that I may run? "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?. ... In the face of His cold who shall stand?" And who shall free himself, if God abandon him? Who is it that freeth? "The grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord."(5) Are we then to despair? God forbid. For it goeth on, "He shall send out His Word, and melt them" (ver. 18). Let not then the snow despair, nor the mist, nor the crystal. For of the snow, as of wool, a garment is being made. That mist findeth safety in repentance: for, "whom He predestinated, them He also called." But even though they be the very hardest among the predestinated, though they have been for a long time hardening, and are become crystal, they will not be hard to the mercy of God. "He shall send out His Word, and melt them." What is "melt"? Understand not "melt" in an ill sense: it meaneth, He shall liquefy, He shall thaw them. For they are hard through pride. Rightly is pride called also dulness: for whatever is dull, is also cold. ... Despair not even of the crystal. Hear a saying of the crystal. "Who before was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious."(6) But whereof ore doth God melt the crystal? That the snow despair not of itself. For he saith, "For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them that hereafter should believe on Him unto eternal life."(7) God then calleth unto the Gentiles, "Be melted, O crystal; come, ye snows." "His Spirit shall blow, and the waters shall flow." Lo, the" crystal" and the "snows" are melted, they turn into water, "let them that thirst, come and drink."(8) Saul, hard as crystal, persecuted Stephen unto death; Paul, now in the living water,(9) calleth the Gentiles to the Fount. ...
28. "Announcing His Word unto Jacob, His Righteousnesses and Judgments unto Israel" (ver. 19). What" Righteousnesses," what "Judgments"? Because whatever mankind had suffered here before, when it was "snow" and "mist" and "crystal," it suffered for the deserts of its pride and uplifting against God. Let us go back to the origin of our fall, and see that most truly is it sung in the Psalm, "Before I was troubled I went wrong."(10) But he who says, "Before I was troubled I went wrong," saith also, "It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I may learn Thy Righteousnesses."(11) These righteousnesses Jacob learnt from God, who made him to wrestle with an Angel; under the guise of which Angel, God Himself wrestled with him He held Him, he exerted violence to hold Him he prevailed to hold Him: He caused Himself to be held, in mercy, not in weakness. Jacob therefore wrestled, and prevailed: he held Him and when he seemed to have conquered Him asked to be blessed of Him? How did he understand with Whom he had wrestled, Whom he had held? Wherefore did he wrestle violently, and hold Him? Because "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."(13) Wherefore then did he wrestle? Because it is with toil. Wherefore do we with difficulty hold, what we so easily lose? Lest, easily getting back what we have lost, we learn to lose that which we hold. Let man have toil to hold: he will hold firmly, what he has only held after toil. These His judgments therefore God manifested to Jacob and Israel. ...
29. "He hath not done so to the whole race" (ver. 20). Let none deceive you: it is not announced to any nation, this judgment of God; namely, how the righteous and the unrighteous suffer, how all suffer for their deserts, how the righteous themselves are freed by the grace of God, not in their own merits. This is not announced to the whole race, but only to Jacob, only to Israel. What then do we, if He hath not announced it to the whole race, but only to Jacob, only to Israel? Where will we be? In Jacob. "He hath not manifested His judgments to them." To whom? To all nations. How then are the "snows" called, when the crystal is melted? How are the nations called, now Paul is justified? How, save to be in Jacob? The wild olive is cut off from its stock, to be grafted into the olive: now they belong to the olive, no longer ought they to be called nations,(1) but one nation in Christ, the nation of Jacob, the nation of Israel ... What is Israel? "Seeing God." Where shall he see God? In peace. What peace? The peace of Jerusalem; for, saith he, "He hath set peace for thy borders." There shall we praise: there shall we all be one, in One, unto One: for then, though many, we shall not be scattered.
1. The subject of our meditation in this present life should be the praises of God; for the everlasting exaltation of our life hereafter will be the praise of God, and none can become fit for the life hereafter, who hath not practised himself for it now. So then now we praise God, but we pray to Him too. Our praise is marked by joy, our prayer by groans. ... On account of these two seasons, one, that which now is in the temptations and tribulations of this life, the other, that which is to be hereafter in everlasting rest and exultation; we have established also the celebration of two seasons, that before Easter and that after Easter. That which is before Easter signifieth tribulation, in which we now are; that which we are now keeping after Easter, signifieth the bliss in which we shall hereafter be. The celebration then which we keep before Easter is what we do now: by that which we keep after Easter we signify what as yet we have not. Therefore we employ that time in fastings and prayer, this present time we spend in praises, and relax our fast. This is the Halleluia which we sing, which, as you know, meaneth (in Latin), Praise ye the Lord. Therefore that period is before the Lord's Resurrection, this, after His Resurrection: by which time is signified the future hope which as yet we have not: for what we represent after the Lord's Resurrection, we shall have after our own. For in our Head both are figured, both are set forth. The Baptism of the Lord setteth forth to us this present life of trial, for in it we must toil, be harassed, and, at last, die; but the Resurrection and Glorification of the Lord setteth forth to us the life which we are to have hereafter, when He shall come to recompense due rewards, evil to the evil, good to the good. And now indeed all the evil men sing with us, Halleluia; but, if they persevere in their wickedness, they may utter with their lips the song of our life hereafter; but the life itself, which will then be in the reality which now is typified, they cannot obtain, because they would not practise it before it came, and lay hold on what was to come.
2. "Halleluia." "Praise the Lord," thou sayest to thy neighbour, he to thee: when all are exhorting each other, all are doing what they exhort others to do. But praise with your whole selves: that is, let not your tongue and voice alone praise God, but your conscience also, your life, your deeds. For now, when we are gathered together in the Church, we praise: when we go forth each to his own business, we seem to cease to praise God. Let a man not cease to live well, and then he ever praiseth God. ... It is impossible for a man's acts to be evil, whose thoughts are good. For acts issue from thought: nor can a man do anything or move his limbs to do aught, unless the bidding of his thought precede: just as in all things which ye see done throughout the provinces, whatsoever the Emperor biddeth goeth forth from the inner part of his palace throughout the whole Roman Empire.(3) How great commotion is caused at one bidding by the Emperor as he sits in his palace! He but moveth his lips, when he speaketh: the whole province is moved, when what he speaketh is being executed. So in each single man too, the Emperor is within, his seat is in the heart. If he be good and biddeth good things, good things are done: if he be bad and biddeth evil things, evil things are done. When Christ sitteth there, what can He bid, but what is good? When the devil is the occupant, what can he bid, but evil? But God hath willed that it should be in thy choice for whom thou wilt prepare room, for God, or for the devil: when thou hast prepared it, he who is occupant will also rule. Therefore, brethren, attend not only to the sound; when ye praise God, praise with your whole selves: let your voice, your life, your deeds, all sing.
3. "Praise ye the Lord from heaven" (ver. 1). As though he had found things in heaven holding their peace in the praise of the Lord, he exhorteth them to arise and praise. Never have things in heaven held their peace in the praises of their Creator, never have things on earth ceased to praise God. But it is manifest that there are certain things which have breath to praise God in that disposition wherein God pleaseth them. For no one praiseth aught, save what pleaseth him. And there are other things which have not breath of life and understanding to praise God, but yet, because they also are good, and duly arranged in their proper order, and form part of the beauty of the universe, which God created, though they themselves with voice and heart praise not God, yet when they are considered by those who have understanding, God is praised in them; and, as God is praised in them, they themselves too in a manner praise God.(1) ...
4. "Praise ye the Lord from heaven: praise Him in the high places."(2) First he saith, "from heaven," then from earth; for it is God that is praised, who made heaven and earth. All in heaven is calm and peaceful; there is ever joy, no death, no sickness, no vexation; there the blessed ever praise God; but we are still below: yet, when we think how God is praised there, let us have our heart there, and let us not hear to no purpose, "Lift up your hearts." Let us lift up our heart above, that it become not corrupted on earth: for we take pleasure in what the Angels do there. We do it now in hope: hereafter we shall in reality, when we have come thither. "Praise Him" then "in the high places."
5. "Praise Him, all ye angels of His, praise Him, all His powers" (ver. 2). ". Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all ye stars and light" (ver. 3). "Praise Him, ye heaven of heavens, and waters that are above the heavens" (ver. 4). "Let them praise the Name of the Lord" (ver. 5). When can he unfold all in his enumeration? Yet he hath in a manner touched upon them all summarily, and included all things in heaven praising their Creator. And as though it were said to him, "Why do they praise Him? what hath He conferred on them, that they should praise Him?" he goeth on, "for He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created." No wonder if the works praise the Worker, no wonder if the things that are made praise the Maker, no wonder if creation praise its Creator. In this Christ also is mentioned, though we seem not to have heard His Name. ... By what were they made? By the Word?(3) How doth he show in this Psalm, that all things were made by the Word? "He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created." No one speaketh, no one commandeth, save by word.
6. "He hath established them for the age, and for age upon age" (ver. 6). All things m heaven, all things above, all powers and angels, a certain city on high, good, holy, blessed; from whence because we are wanderers, we are wretched; whither because we are to return, we are blessed in hope; whither when we shall have returned, we shall be blessed indeed; "He hath given them a law which shall not pass away." What sort of command, think ye, have things in heaven and the holy angels received? What sort of command hath God given them? What, but that they praise Him? Blessed are they whose business is to praise God! They plough not, they sow not, they grind not, they cook not; for these are works of necessity, and there is no necessity there. They steal not, they plunder not, they commit no adultery; for these are works of iniquity, and there is no iniquity there. They break not bread for the hungry, they clothe not the naked, they take not in the stranger, they visit not the sick, they set not at one the contentious, they bury not the dead; for these are works of mercy, and there there is no misery, for mercy to be shown to. O blessed they! Think we that we too shall be like this? Ah! let us sigh, let us groan in sighing. And what are we, that we should be there? mortal, outcast, abject, earth and ashes! But He, who hath promised, is almighty. ...
7. Let him then turn himself to things on earth too, since he hath already spoken the praises of things in heaven. "Praise ye the Lord from the earth" ever. 7). For wherewith began he before? "Praise ye the Lord from heaven:" and he went through things in heaven: now hear of things on earth. "Dragons and all abysses." "Abysses" are depths of water: all the seas, and this atmosphere of clouds, pertain to the "abyss." Where there are clouds, where there are storms, where there is rain, lightning, thunder, hail, snow, and all that God willeth should be done above the earth, by this moist and misty atmosphere, all this he hath mentioned under the name of earth, because it is very changeable and mortal; unless ye think that it raineth from above the stars.(4) All these things happen here, close to the earth. Sometimes even men are on the tops of mountains, and see the clouds beneath them, and often it raineth: and all commotions which arise from the disturbance of the atmosphere, those who watch carefully see that they happen here, in this lower part of the universe. ... Thou seest then what kind all these things are, changeable, troublous, fearful, corruptible: yet they have their place, they have their rank, they too in their degree fill up the beauty of the universe, and so they praise the Lord. He turns then to them, as though He would exhort them too, or us, that by considering them we may praise the Lord. "Dragons" live about the water, come out from caverns, fly through the air; the air is set in motion by them: "dragons" are a huge kind of living creatures, greater there are not upon the earth. Therefore with them he beginneth, "Dragons and all abysses." There are caves of hidden waters, whence springs and streams come forth: some come forth to flow over the earth, some flow secretly beneath; and all this kind, all this damp nature of waters, together with the sea and this lower air, are called abyss, or "abysses," where dragons live and praise God. What? Think we that the dragons form choirs, and praise God? Far from it. But do ye, when ye consider the dragons, regard the Maker of the dragon, the Creator of the dragon: then, when ye admire the dragons, and say, "Great is the Lord who made these," then the dragons praise God by your voices.
8. "Fire, hail, snow, ice, wind of storms, which do His word" (ver. 8). Wherefore added he here, "which do His word"? Many foolish men, unable to contemplate and discern creation, in its several places and rank, performing its movements at the nod and commandment of God think that God doth indeed rule all things above, but things below He despiseth, casteth aside, abandoneth, so that He neither careth for them, nor guideth, nor ruleth them; but that they are ruled by chance, how they can, as they can: and they are influenced by what they say sometimes to one another: e.g. "If it were God that gave rain, would He rain into the sea? What sort of providence," they say, "is this? Getulia is thirsty, and it rains into the sea." They think that they handle the matter cleverly. One should say to them, "Getulia does at all events thirst, thou dost not even thirst." For good were it for thee to say to God, "My soul hath thirsted for Thee."(1) For he that thus argueth is already satisfied; he thinketh himself learned, he is not willing to learn, therefore he thirsteth not. For if he thirsted, he would be willing to learn, and he would find that everything happeneth upon earth by God's Providence, and he would wonder at the arrangement of even the limbs of a flea. Attend, beloved. Who hath arranged the limbs of a flea and a gnat, that they should have their proper order, life, motion? Consider one little creature, even the very smallest, whatever thou wilt. If thou considerest the order of its limbs, and the animation of life whereby it moveth; how doth it shun death, love life, seek pleasures, avoid pain, exert divers senses, vigorously use movements suitable to itself! Who gave its sting to the gnat, for it to suck blood with? How narrow is the pipe whereby it sucketh! Who arranged all this? who made all this? Thou art amazed at the smallest things; praise Him that is great. Hold then this, my brethren, let none shake you from your faith or from sound doctrine. He who made the Angel in heaven, the Same also made the worm upon earth: the Angel in heaven to dwell in heaven, the worm upon earth to abide on earth. He made not the Angel to creep in the mud, nor the worm to move in heaven. He hath assigned dwellers to their different abodes; incorruption He assigned to incorruptible abodes, corruptible things to corruptible abodes. Observe the whole, praise the whole. He then who ordered the limbs of the worm, doth He not govern the clouds? And wherefore raineth Heinto the sea? As though there are not in the sea things which are nourished by rain; as though He made not fishes therein, as though He made not living creatures therein. Observe how the fishes run to sweet water. And wherefore, saith he, doth He give rain to the fishes, and sometimes giveth not rain to me? That thou mayest consider that thou art in a desert region, and in a pilgrimage of life; that so this present life may grow bitter to thee, that thou mayest long for the life to come: or else that thou mayest be scourged, punished, amended. And how well doth He assign their properties to regions. Behold, since we have spoken of Getulia, He raineth here nearly every year, and giveth corn every year; here the corn cannot be kept, it soon rotteth, because it is given every year; there, because it is given seldom, both much is given, and it can be kept for long. But dost thou perchance think that God there deserteth man, or that they do not there after their own manner of rejoicing both praise and glorify God? Take a Getulian from his country, and set him amid our pleasant trees; he will wish to flee away, and return to his bare Getulia. To all places then, regions, seasons, God hath assigned and arranged what fits them. Who could unfold it? Yet they who have eyes see many things therein: when seen, they please; pleasing, they are praised; not they really, but He who made them; thus shall all things praise God.
9. It was in thought of this that the spirit of the Prophet added the words, "which do His word." Think not then that these things are moved by chance, which in every motion of theirs obey God. Whither God willeth, thither the fire spreads, thither the cloud hurries, whether it carry in it rain, or snow, or hail. And wherefore cloth the lightning sometimes strike the mountain, yet strikes not the robber? ... Perhaps He yet seeketh the robber's conversion, and therefore is the mountain which feareth not smitten, that the man who feareth may be changed. Thou also sometimes, when maintaining discipline, smitest the ground to terrify a child. Sometimes too He smiteth a man, whom He will. But thou say-est to me, Behold, He smiteth the more innocent, and passeth over the more guilty. Wonder not; death, whencesoever it come, is good to the good man. And whence dost thou know what punishment is reserved in secret for that more guilty man, if he be unwilling to be converted? Would not they rather be scorched by lightning, to whom it shall be said in the end, "Depart into everlasting fire"?(1) The needful thing is, that thou be guileless. Why so? Is it an evil thing to die by shipwreck, and a good thing to die by fever? Whether he die in this way or in that, ask what sort of man he is who dieth; ask whither he will go after death, not how he is to depart from life. ... Whatever then happeneth here contrary to our wish, thou wilt know that it happeneth not, save by the will of God, by His providence, by His ordering, by His nod, by His laws: and if we understand not why anything is done, let us grant to His providence that it is not done without reason: so shall we not be blasphemers. For when we begin to argue concerning the works of God, "why is this?" "why is that?" and, "He ought not to have done this," "He did this ill;" where is the praise of God? Thou hast lost thy Halleluia. Regard all things in such wise as to please God and praise the Creator. For if thou wert to happen to enter the workshop of a smith, thou wouldest not dare to find fault with his bellows, his anvils, his hammers. But take an ignorant man, who knows not for what purpose each thing is, and he findeth fault with all. But if he have not the skill of the workman, and have but the reasoning power of a man, what saith he to himself? Not without reason are the bellows placed here: the workman knoweth wherefore, though I know not. In the shop he dareth not to find fault with the smith, yet in the universe he dareth to find fault with God. Therefore just as "fire, hail, snow, ice, wind of storms, which do His word," so all things in nature, which seem to foolish persons to be made at random, simply "do His word," because they are not made save by His command.
10. Then he mentioneth, that they may praise the Lord, "mountains and hills, fruitful trees and all cedars" (ver. 9): "beasts and all cattle, creeping things, and winged fowls" (ver. 10). Then he goeth to men; "kings of the earth and all people, princes and all judges of the earth" (ver. 11): "young men and maidens, old men and young, let them praise the Name of the Lord" (ver. 12). Ended is the praise from heaven, ended is the praise from earth. "For His Name only is exalted" (ver. 13). Let no man seek to exalt his own name. Wilt thou be exalted? Subject thyself to Him who cannot be humbled. "His confession is in earth and heaven" (ver. 14). What is "His confession"? Is it the confession wherewith He confesseth? No, but that whereby all things confess Him, all things cry aloud: the beauty of all things is in a manner their voice, whereby they praise God. The heaven crieth out to God, "Thou madest me, not I myself." Earth crieth out, "Thou createdst me, not I myself." How do they cry out? When thou regardest them, and findest this out, they cry out by thy voice, they cry out by thy regard. Regard the heavens, it is beautiful: observe the earth, it is beautiful: both together are very beautiful. He made them, He ruleth them, by His nod they are swayed, He ordereth their seasons, He reneweth their movements, by Himself He reneweth them. All these things then praise Him, whether in stillness or in motion, whether from earth below or from heaven above, whether in their old state or in their renewal. When thou seest all these things, and rejoicest, and art lifted up to the Maker, and gazest on" His invisible things understood by the things which are made,"(2) "His confession is in earth and heaven:" that is, thou confesseth to Him from things on earth, thou confesseth to Him from things in heaven. And since He made all things, and nought is better than He, whatsoever He made is less than He, and whatsoever in these things pleaseth thee, is less than He. Let not then what He hath made so please thee, as to withdraw thee from Him who made: if thou lovest what He made, love much more Him who made. If the things which He hath made are beautiful, how much more beautiful is He who made them. "And He shall exalt the horn of His people." Behold what Haggai and Zachariah prophesied. Now the "horn of His people" is humble in afflictions, in tribulations, in temptations, in beating of the breast; when will He "exalt the horn of His people"? When the Lord hath come, and our Sun is risen, not the sun which is seen with the eye, and "riseth upon the good and the evil,"(3) but That whereof is said, To you that hear God, "the Sun of Righteousness shall rise, and healing in His wings;"(1) and of whom the proud and wicked shall hereafter say, "The light of righteousness hath not shined unto us, and the sun of righteousness rose not upon us."(2) This shall be our summer. Now during the winter weather the fruits appear not on the stock; thou observest, so to say, dead trees during the winter. He who cannot see truly, thinketh the vine dead; perhaps there is one near it which is really dead; both are alike during winter; the one is alive, the other is dead, but both the life and death are hidden: summer advanceth; then the life of the one shineth brightly, the death of the other is manifested: the splendour of leaves, the abundance of fruit, cometh forth, the vine is clothed in outward appearance from what it hath in its stock. Therefore, brethren, now we are the same as other men: just as they are born, eat, drink, are clothed, pass their life, so also do the saints. Sometimes the very truth deceiveth men, and they say, "Lo, he hath begun to be a Christian: hath he lost his headache?" or, "because he is a Christian, what gaineth he from me?" O dead vine, thou observest near thee a vine that is bare indeed in winter, yet not dead. Summer will come, the Lord will come, our Splendour, that was hidden in the stock, and then "He shall exalt the horn of His people," after the captivity wherein we live in this mortal life. ...
11. "An hymn to all His Saints." Know ye what an hymn is? It is a song with praise of God. If thou praisest God and singest not, thou utterest no hymn: if thou singest and praisest not God, thou utterest no hymn: if thou praisest aught else, which pertaineth not to the praise of God, although thou singest and praisest, thou utterest no hymn. An hymn then containeth these three things, song, and praise, and that of God. Praise then of God in song is called an hymn. What then meaneth, "An hymn to all His Saints"? Let His Saints receive an hymn: let His hints utter an hymn: for this is what they are to receive in the end, an everlasting hymn. ...
1. Let us praise the Lord both in voice, and in understanding, and in good works; and, as this Psalm exhorteth, let us sing unto Him a new song. It beginneth: "Sing ye to the Lord a new song. His praise is in the Church of the Saints" (ver. 1). The old man hath an old song, the new man a new song. The Old Testament is an old song, the New Testament a new song. In the Old Testament are temporal and earthly promises. Whoso loveth earthly things singeth an old song: let him that desireth to sing a new song, love the things of eternity. Love itself is new and eternal; therefore is it ever new, because it never groweth old. ... And this song is of peace, this song is of charity. Whoso severeth himself from the union of the saints, singeth not a new song; for he hath followed old strife, not new charity. In new charity what is there? Peace, the bond of an holy society, a spiritual union, a building of living stones. Where is this? Not in one place, but throughout the whole world. This is said in another Psalm, "Sing unto the Lord, all the earth."(4) From this is understood, that he who singeth not with the whole earth, singeth an old song, whatever words proceed out of his mouth. ... We have already said, brethren, that all the earth singeth a new song. He who singeth not with the whole earth a new song, let him sing what he will, let his tongue sound forth Halleluia, let him utter it all day and all night, my ears are not so much bent to hear the voice of the singer, but I seek the deeds of the doer. For I ask, and say, "What is it that thou singest?" He answereth, "Halleluia." What is "Halleluia"? "Praise ye the Lord." Come, let us praise the Lord together. If thou praisest the Lord, and I praise the Lord, why are we at variance? Charity praiseth the Lord, discord blasphemeth the Lord." ...
2. The field of the Lord is the world, not Africa. It is not with the Lord's field, as it is without these fields of ours, where Getulia bears sixty or an hundred fold, Numidia only ten fold: everywhere fruit is borne to Him, both an hundred fold, and sixty fold, and thirty fold: only do thou choose what thou wilt be, if thou thinkest to belong to the Lord's Cross. "The Church" then "of the saints" is the Catholic Church. The Church of the saints is not the Church of heretics. The Church of the saints is that which God first prefigured before it was seen, and then set forth that it might be seen. The Church of the saints was heretofore in writings, now it is in nations: the Church of the saints was heretofore only read of, now it is both read of and seen. When it was only read of, it was believed; now it is seen, and is spoken against. His praise is in the "children of the kingdom," that is, "the Church of the saints."
3. "Let Israel rejoice in Him who made Him" (ver. 2). What is, "Israel"? "Seeing God." He who seeth God, rejoiceth in Him by whom he was made. What is it then, brethren? we have said that we belong to the Church of the saints: do we already see God? and how are we Israel, if we see not? There is one kind of sight belonging to this present time; there will be another belonging to the time hereafter: the sight which now is, is by faith; the sight which is to be will be in reality. If we believe, we see; if we love, we see: see what? God. Ask John: "God is love;"(1) let us bless His holy Name, and rejoice in God by rejoicing in love. Whoso hath love, why send we him afar to see God? Let him regard his own conscience, and there he seeth God. ... "And let the sons of Sion exult in their King." The sons of the Church are Israel. For Sion indeed was one city, which fell: amid its ruins certain saints dwelt after the flesh: but the true Sion, the true Jerusalem (for Sion and Jerusalem are one), is "eternal in the heavens,"(2) and is "our mother."(3) She it is that hath given us birth, she is the Church of the saints, she hath nourished us, she, who is in part a pilgrim, in part abiding in the heavens. In the part which abideth in heaven is the bliss of angels, in the part which wandereth in this world is the hope of the righteous. Of the former is said, "Glory to God in the highest;" of the latter, "and on earth peace to men of good will."(4) Let those then who, being in this life, groan, and long for their country, run by love, not by bodily feet; let them seek not ships but wings, let them lay hold on the two wings of love. What are the two wings of love? The love of God, and of our neighbour. For now we are pilgrims, we sigh, we groan. There has come to us a letter from our country: we read it to you. "And the sons of Sion shall exult in their King." The Son of God, who made us, was made one of us: and He rules us as our King, because He is our Creator, who made us. But He by whom we were made is the same as He by whom we are ruled, and we are Christians because He is Christ. He is called Christ from Chrism, that is, Anointing. ... Give to the Priest somewhat to offer. What could man find which he could give as a clean victim? What victim? what clean thing can a sinner offer? O unrighteous, O sinful man, whatever thou offerest is unclean, and somewhat that is clean must be offered for thee. ... Let then the Priest that is clean offer Himself, and cleanse thee. This is what Christ did. He found in man nothing clean for Him to offer for than: He offered Himself as a clean Victim. Happy Victim, true Victim, spotless Offering. He offered not then what we gave Him; yea rather, He offered what He took of us, and offered it clean. For of us He took flesh, and this He offered. But where took He it? In the womb of the Virgin Mary, that He might offer it clean for us unclean. He is our King, He is our Priest, in Him let us rejoice.
4. "Let them praise His Name in chorus" (ver. 3). What meaneth "chorus"? Many know what a "chorus" is: nay, as we are speaking in a town, almost all know. A "chorus" is the union of singers. If we sing "in chorus," let us sing in concord. If any one's voice is out of harmony in a chorus of singers, it offendeth the ear, and throweth the chorus into confusion. If the voice of one echoing discordantly tronbleth the harmony of them who sing, how doth the discord of heresy throw into confusion the harmony of them who praise. The whole world is now the chorus of Christ. The chorus of Christ soundeth harmoniously from east to west.(5) "Let them sing a psalm unto Him with timbrel and psaltery." Wherefore taketh he to him the "timbrel and psalter)"? That not the voice alone may praise, but the works too. When timbrel and psaltery are taken, the hands harmonize with the voice. So too do thou, whensoever thou singest "Halleluia," deal forth thy bread to the hungry, clothe the naked, take in the stranger: then doth not only thy voice sound, but thy hand soundeth in harmony with it, for thy deeds agree with thy words. Thou hast taken to thee an instrument, and thy fingers agree with thy tongue. Nor must we keep back the mystical meaning of the "timbrel and psaltery." On the timbrel leather is stretched, on the psaltery gut is stretched; on either instrument the flesh is crucified. How well did he "sing a psalm on timbrel and psaltery," who said, "the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world"?(6) This psaltery or timbrel He wishes thee to take up, who loveth a new song, who teacheth thee, saying to thee, "Whosoever willeth to be My disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."(7) Let him not set down his psaltery, let him not set down his timbrel, let him stretch himself out on the wood, and be dried from the lust of the flesh. The more the strings are stretched, the more sharply do they sound. The Apostle Paul then, in order that his psaltery might sound sharply, what said he? "Stretching forth unto those things which are before," etc.(8) He stretched himself: Christ touched him; and the sweetness of truth sounded.
5. "For the Lord hath dealt kindly among His people" (ver. 4). What dealing so kindly, as to die for the ungodly? What dealing so kindly, as with righteous Blood to blot out the handwriting against the sinner? What dealing so kindly, as to say, "I regard not what ye were, be ye now what ye were not"? He dealeth kindly in converting him that was turned away, in aiding him that is fighting, in crowning the conqueror. "And the meek He shall lift up in salvation." For the proud too are lifted up, but not in salvation: the meek are lifted in salvation, the proud in death: that is, the proud lift up themselves, and God humbleth them: the meek humble themselves, and God lifteth them up.
6. "The saints shall exult in glory" (ver. 5). I would say somewhat important about the glory of the saints. For there is no one who loveth not glory. But the glory of fools, popular glory as it is called, hath snares to deceive, so that a man, influenced by the praises of vain men, shall be willing to live in such fashion as to be spoken of by men, whosoever they be, in whatsoever way. Hence it is that men, rendered mad, and puffed up with pride, empty within, without swollen, are willing ever to ruin their fortunes by bestowing them on stage-players, actors, men who fight with wild beasts, charioteers. What sums they give, what sums they spend! They lavish the powers not only of their patrimony, but of their minds too. They scorn the poor, because the people shouteth not that the poor should be given to, but the people to shout that the fighter with wild beasts be given to. When then no shout is raised to them, they refuse to spend; when madmen shout to them, they are mad too: nay, all are mad, both performer, and spectator, and the giver. This mad glory is blamed by the Lord, is offensive in the eyes of the Almighty. ... Thou choosest to clothe the fighter with wild beasts, who may be beaten, and make thee blush: Christ is never conquered; He hath conquered the devil, He hath conquered for thee, and to thee, and in thee; such a conqueror as this thou choosest not to clothe. Wherefore? Because there is less shouting, less madness about it. They then who delight in such glory, have an empty conscience. Just as they drain their chests, to send garments as presents, so do they empty their conscience, so as to have nothing precious therein.
7. But the saints who "exult in glory," no need is there for us to say how they exult: just hear the verse of the Psalm which followeth: "The saints shall exult in glory, they shall rejoice in their beds:" not in theatres, or amphitheatres, or circuses, or follies, or market places, but "in their chambers." What is, "in their chambers"? In their hearts.(1) Hear the Apostle Paul exulting in his closet: "For this is our glory, the testimony of our conscience."(2) On the other hand, there is reason to fear lest any be pleasing to himself, and so seem to be proud, and boast of his conscience. For every one ought to exult with fear, for that wherein he exulteth is God's gift, not his own desert. For there be many that please themselves, and think themselves righteous; and there is another passage which goeth against them, which saith, "Who shall boast that he hath a clean heart, and that he is pure from sin?"(3) There is then, so to speak, a limit to glorying in our conscience, namely, to know that thy faith is sincere, thy hope sure, thy love without dissimulation. "The exultations of God are in their mouths" (ver. 6). In such wise shall they "rejoice in their closets," as not to attribute to themselves that they are good, but praise Him from whom they have what they are, by whom they are called to attain to what they are not, and from whom they hope for perfection, to whom they give thanks, because He hath begun.
8. "And swords(4) sharpened on both sides in their hands." This sort of weapon contains a great mystical meaning, in that it is sharp on both sides. By "swords sharpened on both sides," we understand the Word of the Lord:(5) it is one sword, but therefore are they called many, because there are many mouths and many tongues of the saints. How is it two edged? It speaks of things temporal, it speaks also of things eternal. In both cases it proveth what it saith, and him whom it strikes, it severeth from the world. Is not this the sword whereof the Lord said, "I am not come to send peace upon earth, but a sword"?(6) Observe how He came to divide, how He came to sever. He divideth the saints, He divideth the ungodly, He severeth from thee that which hindereth thee. The son willeth to serve God, the father willeth not: the sword cometh, the Word of God cometh, and severeth the son from the father. ...Wherefore then is it in their hands, not in their tongues? "And swords," it saith, "sharpened on both sides in their hands." By "in their hands," he meaneth in power. They received then the word of God in power, to speak where they would, to whom they would, neither to fear power, nor to despise poverty. For they had in their hands a sword; where they would they brandished it, handled it, smote with it: and all this was in the power of the preachers. For if the Word be not in their hands, why is it written, "The Word of the Lord was put in the hand of the Prophet Haggai"?(7) Surely, brethren, God set not His Word in His fingers. What is meant by, "was put in his hand"? It was put into his power to preach the Word of the Lord. Lastly, we can understand these "hands" in another way also. For they who spake had the word of God in their tongues, they who wrote, in their hands.
9. Now, brethren, ye see the saints armed: observe the slaughter, observe their glorious battles. For if there be a commander, there must be soldiers; if soldiers, an enemy; if a warfare, a victory. What have these done who had in their hands swords sharpened on both sides? "To do vengeance on the nations." See whether vengeance have not been done on the nations. Daily is it done: we do it ourselves by speaking. Observe how the nations of Babylon are slain. She is repaid twofold: for so is it written of her, "repay her double for what she hath done."(1) How is she repaid double? The saints wage war, they draw their "swords twice sharpened;" thence come defeats, slaughters, severances: how is she repaid double? When she had power to persecute the Christians, she slew the flesh indeed, but she crushed not God: now she is repaid double, for the Pagans are extinguished and the idols are broken. ... And lest thou shouldest think that men are really smitten with the sword, blood really shed, wounds made in the flesh, he goeth on and explaineth, "upbraidings among the peoples." What is "upbraidings"? Reproof. Let the "sword twice sharpened" go forth from you, delay not. Say to thy friend, if yet thou hast one(2) left to whom to say it, "What kind of man art thou, who hast abandoned Him by whom thou wast made, and worshippest what He made? Better is the Workman, than that which He worketh." When he beginneth to blush, when he beginneth to feel compunction, thou hast made a wound with thy sword, it hath reached the heart, he is about to die, that he may live.
10. "That they may bind their kings in fetters, and their nobles in bonds of iron" (ver. 8). "To execute upon them the judgment written" (ver. 9). The kings of the Gentiles are to be bound in fetters, "and their nobles in fetters," and that "of iron." ... For these verses which we are beginning to explain are obscure. For for this purpose God willed to set down some of His verses obscurely, not that anything new should be dug out of them, but that what was already well known, might be made new by being obscurely set forth. We know that kings have been made Christians; we know that the nobles of the Gentiles have been made Christians. They are being made so at this day; they have been, they shall be; the "swords twice sharpened" are not idle in the hands of the saints. How then do we understand their being bound in fetters and chains of iron? Ye know, beloved and learned brethren (learned I call you, for ye have been nourished in the Church, and are accustomed to hear God's Word read),(3) that "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the strong, and the foolish things of the world hath God chosen to confound the wise, and things which are not, just as things which are, that the things which are may be brought to nought."(4) ... It is said by the Lord, "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and come, follow Me, and thou shall have treasure in heaven."(5) Many of the nobles did this, but they ceased to be nobles of the Gentiles, they chose rather to be poor in this world, noble in Christ. But many retain their former nobility, retain their royal powers, and yet are Christians. These are, as it were," in fetters and in bonds of iron." How so? they received fetters, to keep them from going to things unlawful, the "fetters of wisdom,"(6) the fetters of the Word of God. Wherefore then are they bonds of iron and not bonds of gold? They are iron so long as they fear: let them love, and they shall be golden. Observe, beloved, what I say. Ye have heard just now the Apostle John, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment."(7) This is the bond of iron. And yet unless a man begin through fear to worship God, he will not attain to love. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."(8) The beginning then is bonds of iron, the end a collar of gold. For it is said of wisdom, "a collar of gold around thy neck."(9) ... There cometh to us a man powerful in this world, his wife offendeth him, and perhaps he hath desired another man's wife who is more beautiful, or another woman who is richer, he wisheth to put away the one he hath, yet he doeth it not. He heareth the words of the servant of God, he heareth the Prophet, he heareth the Apostle, and he doeth it not; he is told by one in whose hands is a "sword twice sharpened," "Thou shalt not do it: it is not lawful for thee: God alloweth thee not to put away thy wife, "save for the cause of fornication."(10) He heareth this, he feareth, and doeth it not. ...Listen, young men; the bonds are of iron, seek not to set your feet within them; if ye do, ye shall be bound more tightly with fetters. Such fetters the hands of the Bishop make strong for you. Do not men who are thus fettered fly to the Church, and are here loosed? Men do fly hither, desiring to be rid of their wives: here they are more tightly bound: no man looseth these fetters. "What God joined together, let not man put asunder."(11) But these bonds are hard. Who but knows it? This hardness the Apostles grieved at, and said, "If this be the case with a wife, it is not good to marry."(1) If the bonds be of iron, it is not good to set our feet within them. And the Lord said, "All men cannot receive this saying, but let him that can receive it, receive it."(2) "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be freed," for thou art bound with bonds of iron. "Art thou free from a wife, seek not a wife;" bind not thyself with bonds of iron.
11. "To do in them the judgment that is written." This is the judgment which the saints rio throughout all nations. Wherefore "written"? Because these things were before written, and now are fulfilled. Behold now they are being done: erst they were read, and were not done. And he hath concluded thus," this glory have all His saints." Throughout the whole world, throughout entire nations, this the saints do, thus are they glorified, thus do they "exalt God with their mouths," thus do they "rejoice in their beds," thus do they "exult in their glory," thus are they "lifted up in salvation," thus do they "sing a new song," thus in heart and voice and life they say Halleluia. Amen.
1. Although the arrangement of the Psalms, which seems to me to contain the secret of a mighty mystery, hath not yet been revealed unto me, yet, by the fact that they in all amount to one hundred and fifty, they suggest somewhat even to us, who have not as yet pierced with the eye of our mind the depth of their entire arrangement, whereon we may without being over-bold, so far as God giveth, be able to speak. Firstly, the number fifteen, whereof it is a multiple this number fifteen, I say, signifieth the agreement of the two Testaments. For in the former is observed the Sabbath, which signifieth rest; in the latter the Lord's Day, which signifieth resurrection. The Sabbath is the seventh day, but the Lord's Day, coming after the seventh, must needs be the eighth, and is also to be reckoned the first. For it is called the first day of the week,(4) and so from it are reckoned the second, third, fourth, and so on to the seventh day of the week, which is the Sabbath. But from Lord's Day to Lord's Day is eight days, wherein is declared the revelation of the New Testament, which in the Old was as it were veiled under earthly promises. Further, seven and eight make fifteen. Of the same number too are the Psalms which are called "of the steps," because that was the number of the steps of the Temple. Further too, the number fifty in itself also containeth a great mystery.(5) For it consisteth of a week of weeks, with the addition of one as an eighth to complete the number of fifty. For seven times seven make forty-nine, whereto one is added to make fifty. And this number fifty is of so great meaning, that it was after the completion of that number of days from the Lord's Resurrection, that, on the fiftieth day exactly, the Holy Spirit came upon those who were gathered together in Christ. And this Holy Spirit is in Scripture especially spoken of by the number seven, whether in Isaiah or in the Apocalypse, where the seven Spirits of God are most directly mentioned, on account of the sevenfold operation of one and the self-same Spirit.(6) And this sevenfold operation is mentioned in Isaiah.(7) ... Hence also the Holy Spirit is spoken of under the number seven. But this period of fifty the Lord divided into forty and ten: for on the fortieth day after His Resurrection He ascended into heaven, and then after ten days were completed He sent the Holy Spirit: under the number forty setting forth to us the period of temporal sojourn in this world. For the number four prevaileth in forty; and the world and the year have each four parts; and by the addition of the number ten, as a sort of reward added for the fulfilment of the law in good works, eternity itself is figured. This fifty the number one hundred and fifty containeth three times, as though it were multiplied by the Trinity. Wherefore for this reason too we make out that this number of the Psalm is not unsuitable.(8)
2. Now in that some have believed that the Balms are divided into five books, they have been led by the fact, that so often at the end of Psalms are the words, "so be it, so be it." But when I endeavoured to make out the principle of this division, I was not able; for neither are the five parts equal one to another, neither in quantity of contents, nor yet even in number of Psalms, so as for each to contain thirty. And if each book end with, "so be it, so be it," we may reasonably ask, why the fifth and last book hath not the same conclusion. We however, following the authority of canonical Scripture, where it is said, "For it is written in the book of Psalms,"(9) know that there is but one book of Psalms. And I see indeed how this can be true, and yet the other be true also, without contravening it. For it may be that there was some custom in Hebrew literature, whereby that is called one book which yet consists of more than one, just as of many churches one church consisteth, and of many heavens one heaven,(1) ... and one land of many lands. For it is our everyday habit to say, "the globe(2) of the earth," and "the globe of the lands." And when it is said, "It is written in the book of Psalms," though the customary way of speaking is such that he seem to have wished to suggest that there is but one book, yet to this it may be answered, that the words mean "in a book of the Psalms," that is, "in any one of those five books." And this is in common language so unprecedented, or at least so rare, that we are only convinced that the twelve Prophets made one book, because we read in like manner," As it is written in the book of the Prophets."(3) There are some too who call all the canonical Scriptures together one book,(4) because they agree in a very wondrous and divine unity. ...
3. Whichever then of these is understood, this book, in its parts of fifty Psalms each, gives an answer important and very worthy of consideration. For it seems to me not without significance, that the fiftieth is of penitence, the hundredth of mercy and judgment, the hundred and fiftieth of the praise of God in His saints. For thus do we advance to an everlasting life of happiness, first by condemning our own sins, then by living aright, that, having condemned our ill life, and lived a good life, we may attain to everlasting life. Our predestination is not wrought in ourselves, but in secret with Him, in His foreknowledge.(5) But we are called by the preaching of repentance. We are justified in the calling of mercy and fear of judgment. He feareth not judgment, who hath previously attained salvation. Being called, we renounce the devil by repentance, that we may not continue under his yoke: being justified, we are healed by mercy, that we may not fear judgment: being glorified, we pass into everlasting life, where we praise God without end. ... The verse wherewith this Psalm concludeth is the voice of life everlasting.
4. "Praise the Lord in His saints," that is, in those whom He hath glorified: "praise Him in the firmament of His power" (ver. 1). "Praise Him in His deeds of strength;" or, as others have explained it, "in His deeds of power: praise Him according to the multitude of His greatness" (ver. 2). All these His saints are; as the Apostle saith, "But we may be the righteousness of God in Him."(6) If then they be the righteousness of God, which He hath wrought in them, why are they not also the strength of Christ which He hath wrought in them, that they should rise again from the dead? For in Christ's resurrection, "strength" is especially set forth to us, for in His Passion was weakness, as the Apostle saith.(7) And well doth it say, "the firmament of His power." For it is the "firmament of His power" that He "dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him."(8) Why should not they also be called "the works of" God's "strength," which He hath done in them: yea rather, they themselves are the works of His strength; just as it is said, "We are the righteousness of God in Him." For what more powerful than that He should reign for ever, with all His enemies put under His feet? Why should not they also be "the multitude of His greatness"? not that whereby He is great, but whereby He hath made them great, many as they are, that is, thousands of thousands. Just as righteousness too is understood in two ways, that whereby He is righteous, and that which He worketh in us, so as to make us His righteousness. These same saints are signified by all the musical instruments in succession, to praise God in. For what the Psalmist began with, saying, "Praise the Lord in His saints," that he carrieth out, signifying in various ways these same saints of His.
5. "Praise Him in the sound of the trumpet" (ver. 3): on account of the surpassing clearness of note of their praise. "Praise Him in the psaltery and harp." The psaltery praiseth God from things above, the harp praiseth God from things below; I mean, from things in heaven, and things in earth, as He who made heaven and earth. We have already in another Psalm,(9) explained that the psaltery hath that board, whereon the series of strings rests that it may give a better sound, above, whereas the harp has it below. "Praise Him in the timbrel and choir" (ver. 4). The "timbrel" praiseth God when the flesh is now changed, so that there is in it no weakness of earthly corruption. For the timbrel is made of leather dried and strengthened. The "choir" praiseth God when society made peaceful praiseth Him. "Praise Him on the strings and organ." Both psaltery and harp, which have been mentioned above, have strings. But "organ" is a general name for all instruments of music, although usage has now obtained that those are specially called organ which are inflated with bellows: but I do not think that this kind is meant here.(10) For since organ is a Greek word, applied generally, as I have said, to all musical instruments, this instrument, to which bellows are applied, is called by the Greeks by another name: but it being called organ is rather a Latin and conversational usage. When then he saith, "on the strings and organ," he seemeth to me to have intended to signify some instrument which hath strings. For it is not psalteries and harps only that have strings: but, because in the psaltery, and harp, on account of the sound from things below and things above, somewhat has been found which can be understood after this distinction, he hath suggested to us to seek some other meaning in the strings themselves: for they too are flesh, but flesh now set free from corruption. And to those, it may be, he added the organ, to signify that they sound not each separately, but sound together in most harmonious diversity, just as they are arranged in a musical instrument. For even then the saints of God will have their differences, accordant, not discordant, that is, agreeing, not disagreeing, just as sweetest harmony arises from sounds differing indeed, but not opposed to one another.
6. "Praise Him on the well-sounding cymbals, praise Him on cymbals of jubilation" (ver. 5). Cymbals touch one another in order to sound, and therefore are by some compared to our lips. But I think it better to understand that God is in a manner praised on the cymbal, when each is honoured by his neighbour, not by himself, and then honouring one another, they give praise to God. But lest any should under stand such cymbals as sound without life, therefore I think he added, "on cymbals of jubilation." For "jubilation" that is, unspeakable praise, proceedeth not, save from life. Nor do I think that I should pass over what musicians say, that there are three kinds of sounds, by voice, by breath, by striking: by voice, uttered by throat and windpipe, when man singeth without any instrument; by breath, as by pipe, or anything of that sort: by striking, as by harp, or anything of that kind. None then of these kinds is omitted here: for there is voice in the choir, breath in the trumpet, striking in the harp, representing mind, spirit, body,(1) but by similitudes, not in the proper sense of the words. When then he proposed, "Praise God in His saints," to whom said he this, save to themselves? And in whom are they to praise God, save in themselves? For ye, saith he, are "His saints;" ye are "His strength," but that which He wrought in you; ye are "His mighty works, an d the multitude of His greatness," which He hath wrought and set forth in you. Ye are "trumpet, psaltery, harp, timbrel, choir, strings, and organ, cymbals of jubilation sounding well," because sounding in harmony. All these are ye: let nought that is vile, nought that is transitory, nought that is ludicrous, be here thought of. And since to savour of the flesh is death, "let every spirit praise the Lord" (ver. 6).
PRAYER OF ST. AUGUSTINE
Which he was wont to use after his Sermons and Lectures. TURN we to the Lord God, the Father Almighty, and with pure hearts offer to Him, so far as our meanness can, great and true thanks, with all our hearts praying His exceeding kindness, that of His good pleasure He would deign to hear our prayers, that by His Power He would drive out the enemy from our deeds and thoughts, that He would increase our faith, guide our understandings, give us spiritual thoughts, and lead us to His bliss, through Jesus Christ His Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Him, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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