Augustine on the Psalms. Psalms 38 - 40
A PSALM TO DAVID HIMSELF, ON THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE SABBATH.
1. What doth this recollection of the Sabbath mean? What is this Sabbath? For it is with groaning that he "calls it to recollection." You have both heard already when the Psalm was read, and you will now hear it when we shall go over it, how great is his groaning, his mourning, his tears, his misery. But happy he who is wretched after this manner! Whence the Lord also in the Gospels called some who mourn blessed. "How should he be blessed if he is a mourner? How blessed, if he is miserable?" Nay rather, he would be miserable, if he were not a mourner. Such an one then let us understand here too, calling the Sabbath to remembrance (viz.), some mourner or other: and would that we were ourselves that "some one or other"! For there is here some person sorrowing, groaning, mourning, calling the Sabbath to remembrance. The Sabbath is rest. Doubtless he was in some disquietude, who with groaning was calling the Sabbath to remembrance. ...
2. "O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine indignation; neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure" (ver. 1). For it will be that some shall be chastened in God's "hot displeasure," and rebuked in His "indignation." And haply not all who are "rebuked" will be "chastened;" yet are there some that are to be saved in the chastening. So it is to be indeed, because it is called "chastening," but yet it shall be "so as by fire." But there are to be some who will be "rebuked," and will not be "corrected." For he will at all events "rebuke" those to whom He will say, "I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat." ... "Neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure;" so that Thou mayest cleanse me in this life, and make me such, that I may after that stand in no need of the cleansing fire, for those "who are to be saved, yet so as by fire." Why? Why, but because they "build upon the foundation, wood, stubble, and hay." Now they should build on it, "gold, silver, and precious stones;" and should have nothing to fear from either fire: not only that which is to consume the ungodly for ever, but also that which is to purge those who are to escape through the fire. For it is said, "he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." And because it is said, "he shall be saved," that fire is thought lightly of. For all that, though we should be "saved by fire," yet will that fire be more grievous than anything that man can suffer in this life whatsoever. ...
3. Now on what ground does this person pray that he may not be "rebuked in indignation, nor chastened in hot displeasure"? (He speaks) as if he would say unto God, "Since the things which I already suffer are many in number, I pray Thee let them suffice;" and he begins to enumerate them, by way of satisfying God; offering what he suffers now, that he may not have to suffer worse evils hereafter.
4. "For Thine arrows stick fast in me, and Thy hand presseth me sore" (ver. 2). "There is no soundness in my flesh, from the face of Thine anger" (ver. 3). He has now begun telling these evils, which he is suffering here: and yet even this already was from the wrath of the Lord, because it was of the vengeance of the Lord. "Of what vengeance?" That which He took upon Adam. For think not that punishment was not inflicted upon him, or that God had said to no purpose, "Thou shall surely die;" or that we suffer anything in this life, except from that death which we earned by the original sin. ... Whence then do His "arrows stick fast in" him? The very punishment, the very vengeance, and haply the pains both of mind and of body, which it is necessary for us to suffer here, these he describes by these self-same "arrows." For of these arrows holy job also made mention, and said that the arrows of the Lord stuck fast in him, whilst he was labouring under those pains. We are used, however, to call God's words also arrows; but could he grieve that he should be struck by these? The words of God are arrows, as it were, that inflame love, not pain. ... We may then understand the "arrows sticking fast," thus: Thy words are fixed fast in my heart; and by those words themselves is it come to pass, that I "called the Sabbath to remembrance:" and that very remembrance of the Sabbath, and the non-possession of it at present, prevents me from rejoicing at present; and causes me to acknowledge that there "is neither health in my very flesh," neither ought it to be so called when I compare this sort of soundness to that soundness which I am to possess in the everlasting rest; where "this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality," and see that in comparison with that soundness this present kind is but sickness.
5. "Neither is there any rest in my bones, from the face of my sin." It is commonly enquired, of what person this is the speech; and some understand it to be Christ's, on account of some things which are here said of the Passion of Christ; to which we shall shortly come; and which we ourselves shall acknowledge to be spoken of His Passion. But how could He who had no sin, say, "There is no rest in my bones, from the face of my sin." ... For if we were to say that they are not the words of Christ, those words, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" will also not be the words of Christ. For there too you have, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" "The words of mine offences are far from my health." Just as here you have, "from the face of my sins," so there also you have, "the words of my offences." And if Christ is, for all that, without "sin," and without "offences," we begin to think those words in the Psalm also not to be His. And it is exceedingly harsh and inconsistent that that Psalm should not relate to Christ, where we have His Passion as clearly laid open as if it were being read to us out of the Gospel. For there we have, "They parted My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture." Why should I mention that the first verse of that Psalm was pronounced by the Lord Himself while hanging, on the Cross, with His own mouth, saying, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" What did He mean to be inferred from it, but that the whole of that Psalm relates to Him, seeing He Himself, the Head of His Body, pronounced it in His own Person? Now when it goes on to say, "the words of mine offences, it is beyond a doubt that they are the words of Christ. Whence then come "the sins," but from the Body, which is the Church? Because both the Head and the Body of Christ are speaking. Why do they speak as if one person only? Because "they twain," as He hath said, "shall be one flesh." "This" (says the Apostle) "is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the Church." ... For why should He not say, "my sins," who said, "I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in. I was sick and in prison, and ye visited Me not." Assuredly the Lord was not in prison. Why should He not say this, to whom when it was said, "When saw we Thee a hungred, and athirst, or in prison; and did not minister unto Thee?" He replied, that He spake thus in the person of His Body. "Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of Mine, ye did it not unto Me." Why should He not say, "from the face of my sins," who said to Saul, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me," who, however, being in Heaven, now suffered from no persecutors? But just as, in that passage, the Head spake for the Body, so here too the Head speaks the words of the Body; whilst you hear at the same time the accents of the Head Itself also. Yet do not either, when you hear the voice of the Body, separate the Head from it; nor the Body, when you hear the voice of the Head: because "they are no more twain, but one flesh."
6. "There is no soundness in my flesh from the face of thine anger." But perhaps God is unjustly angry with thee, O Adam; unjustly angry with thee, O son of man; because now brought to acknowledge that thy punishment, now that thou art a man that hath been placed in Christ's Body, thou hast said, "There is no soundness in my flesh from the face of Thine anger." Declare the justice of God's anger: lest thou shouldest seem to be excusing thyself, and accusing Him. Go on to tell whence the "anger" of the Lord proceeds. "There is no soundness in my flesh from the face of Thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones." He repeats what he said before, "There is no soundness in my flesh;" for, "There is no rest in my bones," is equivalent to this. He does not however repeat "from the face of Thine anger;" but states the cause of the anger of God. "There is no rest in my bones from the face of my sins."
7. "For mine iniquities have lifted up my head; and are like a heavy burden too heavy for me to bear" (ver. 4). Here too he has placed the cause first, and the effect afterwards. What consequence followed, and from what cause, he has told us. "Mine iniquities have lift up mine head." For no one is proud but the unrighteous man, whose head is lifted up. He is "lifted up," whose "head is lifted up on high" against God. You heard when the lesson of the Book of Ecclesiasticus was read: "The beginning of pride is when a man departeth from God." He who was the first to refuse to listen to the Commandment, "his head iniquity lifted up" against God. And because his iniquities have lifted up his head, what hath God done unto him? They are "like a heavy burden, too heavy for me to bear"! It is the part of levity to lift up the head, just as if he who lifts up his head had nothing to carry. Since therefore that which admits of being lifted up is light, it receives a weight by which it may be weighed down. For "his mischief returns upon his own head, and his violent dealing comes down upon his own pate." " They are like a heavy burden, too heavy for me to bear."
8. "My wounds stink and are corrupt" (ver. 5). Now he who has wounds is not perfectly sound. Add to this, that the wounds "stink and are corrupt." Wherefore do they "stink"? Because they are "corrupt:" now in what way this is explained in reference to human life, who doth not understand? Let a man but have his soul's sense of smelling sound, he perceives how foully sins stink. The contrary to which stink of sin, is that savour of which the Apostle says, "We are the sweet savour of Christ unto God, in every place, unto them which be saved. But whence is this, except from hope? Whence is this, but from our "calling the Sabbath to remembrance"? For it is a different thing that we mourn over in this life, from that which we anticipate in the other. That which we mourn over is stench, that which we reckon upon is fragrance. Were there not therefore such a perfume as that to invite us, we should never call the Sabbath to remembrance. But since, by the Spirit, we have such a perfume, as to say to our Betrothed," Because of the savour of Thy good ointments we will run after Thee;" we turn our senses away from our own unsavourinesses, and turning ourselves to Him, we gain some little breathing-time. But indeed, unless our evil deeds also did smell rank in our nostrils, we should never confess with those groans, "My wounds stink and are corrupt." And wherefore? "from the face of my foolishness." From the same cause that he said before, "from the face of my sins;" from that same cause he now says, "from the face of my foolishness."
9. "I am troubled, I am bowed down even unto the end" (ver. 6). Wherefore was he "bowed down"? Because he had been "lifted up." If thou art "humble, thou shalt be exalted;" if thou exaltest thyself, thou shalt be "bowed down;" for God will be at no loss to find a weight wherewith to bow thee down. ...Let him groan on these things; that he may receive the other; let him "call the Sabbath to remembrance," that he may deserve to arrive at it. For that which the Jews used to celebrate was but a sign. Of what thing was it the sign? Of that which he calls to remembrance, who saith," I am troubled, and am bowed down even unto the end." What is meant by even "unto the end"? Even to death.
"I go mourning all the day long." "All day long," that is, "without intermission." By "all the day long," he means, "all my life long." But from what time hath he known it? From the time that he began to "call the Sabbath to remembrance." For so long as he "calls to remembrance" what he no longer possesses, wouldest thou not have him "go mourning"? "All the day long have I gone mourning."
10. "For my soul is filled with illusions, and there is no soundness in my flesh" (ver. 7). Where there is the whole man, there there is soul and flesh both. The "soul is filled with illusions;" the flesh hath "no soundness." What does there remain that can give joy? Is it not meet that one should "go mourning"? "All the day long have I gone mourning." Let mourning be our portion, until our soul be divested of its illusions; and our body be clothed with soundness. For true soundness is no other than immortality. How great however are the soul's illusions, were I even to attempt to express, when would the time suffice me? For whose soul is not subject to them? There is a brief particular that I will remind yon of, to show how our soul is filled with illusions. The presence of those illusions sometimes scarcely permits us to pray. We know not how to think of material objects without images, and such as we do not wish, rush in upon the mind; and we wish to go from this one to that, and to quit that for another. And sometimes you wish to return to that which you were thinking of before, and to quit that which you are now thinking of; and a fresh one presents itself to you; you wish to call up again what you had forgotten; and it does not occur to you; and another comes instead which you would not have wished for. Where meanwhile was the one that you had forgotten? For why did it afterwards occur to you, when it had ceased to be sought after; whereas, while it was being sought for, innumerable others, which were not desired, presented themselves instead of it? I have stated a fact briefly; I have thrown out a kind of hint or suggestion to you, brethren, taking up which, you may yourselves suggest the rest to yourselves, and discover what it is to mourn over the "illusions" of our "soul." He hath received therefore the punishment of illusion; he hath forfeited Truth. For just as illusion is the soul's punishment, so is Truth its reward. But when we were set in the midst of these illusions, the Truth Itself came to us, and found us overwhelmed by illusions, took upon Itself our flesh, or rather took flesh from us; that is, from the human race. He manifested himself to the eyes of the Flesh, that He might "by faith" heal those to whom He was going to reveal the Truth hereafter, that Truth might be manifested to the now healed eye. For He is Himself "the Truth, which He promised unto us at that time, when His Flesh was to be seen by the eye, that the foundation might be laid of that Faith, of which the Truth was to be the reward. For it was not Himself that Christ showed forth on earth; but it was His Flesh that He showed. For had He showed Himself, the Jews would have seen and known Him; but had they "known Him, they would never have crucified the Lord of Glory." But perhaps His disciples saw Him, when they said unto Him, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;" and He, to show that it was not Himself that had been seen by them, added: "Have I been so long with you, and have ye not known Me, Philip? He that seeth Me, seeth the Father also." If then they saw Christ, wherefore did they yet seek for the Father? For if it were Christ whom they saw, they would have seen the Father also. They did not therefore yet see Christ, who desired that the Father should be shown unto them. To prove that they did not yet see Him, hear that, in another place, He promised it by way of reward, saying, "He who loveth Me, keepeth My commandments; and whoso loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father; and I will love Him and" (as if it were said to Him, "what wilt Thou give unto him, as Thou lovest him?" He saith), "I will manifest Myself unto him." If then He promises this by way of a reward unto them that love Him, it is manifest that the vision of the Truth, promised to us, is of such a nature, that, when we have seen it, we shall no longer say, "My soul is filled with illusions."
11. "I am become feeble, and am bowed down greatly" (ver. 8). He who calls to mind the transcendent height of the Sabbath, sees how "greatly" he is himself "bowed down." For he who cannot conceive what is that height of rest, sees not where he is at present. Therefore another Psalm hath said, "I said in my trance, I am cast out of the sight of Thine eyes." For his mind being taken up thither, he beheld something sublime; and was not yet entirely there, where what he beheld was; and a kind of flash, as it were, if one may so speak, of the Eternal Light having glanced upon him, when he perceived that he was not yet arrived at this, which he was able after a sort to understand, he saw where he himself was, and how he was cramped and "bowed down" by human infirmities. And he says, "I said in my trance, I am cast out of the sight of Thine eyes." Such is that certain something which I saw in my trance, that thence I perceive how far off I am, who am not already there. He was already there who said that he was "caught up into the third Heaven, and there heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." But he was recalled to us, in order that, as requiring to be made perfect, he might first mourn his infirmity, and afterwards be clothed with might. Yet encouraged for the ministration of his office by having seen somewhat of those things, he goes on saying, "I heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." Now then what use is it for you to ask, either of me or of any one, the "things which it is not lawful for man to utter." If it was not lawful for him to utter them, to whom is it lawful to hear them? Let us however lament and groan in Confession; let us own where we are; let us "call the Sabbath to remembrance," and wait with patience for what He has promised, who hath, in His own Person also, showed forth an example of patience to us. "I am become feeble, and bowed down greatly."
12. "I have roared with the groaning of my heart." You observe the servants of God generally interceding with groaning; and the reason of it is asked, and there is nothing apparent, but the groaning of some servant of God, if indeed it does find its way at all to the ears of a person placed near him. For there is a secret groaning, which is not heard by man: yet if the thought of some strong desire has taken so strong hold of the heart, that the wound of the inner man finds expression in some uttered exclamation, the reason of it is asked; and a man says to himself, "Perhaps this is the cause of his groaning;" and, "Perhaps this or that hath befallen him." Who can determine, but He in whose Eyes and Ears he groaned? Therefore he says, "I roared with the groaning of mine heart;" because if men ever hear a man's groanings, they for the most part hear but the groaning of the flesh; they do not hear him who groans "with the groaning of his heart." Some one hath carried off his goods; he "roareth," but not "with the groaning of his heart:" another because he has buried his son, another his wife; another because his vineyard has been injured by a hailstorm; another because his cask has turned sour; another because some one hath stolen his beast; another because he has suffered some loss; another because he fears some man who is his enemy: all these "roar" with the "groaning of the flesh." The servant of God, however, because he "roareth" from the recollection of the Sabbath, where the Kingdom of God is, which flesh and blood shall not possess, says, "I have roared with the groaning of my heart."
13. And who observed and noticed the cause of his groaning? "All my desire is before Thee" (ver. 9). For it is not before men who cannot see the heart, but it is before Thee that all my desire is open! Let your desire be before Him; and "the Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee." For it is thy heart's desire that is thy prayer; and if thy desire continues uninterrupted, thy prayer continueth also. For not without a meaning did the Apostle say, "Pray without ceasing." Are we to be "without ceasing" bending the knee, prostrating the body, or lifting up our hands, that he says, "Pray without ceasing"? Or if it is in this sense that we say that we "pray," this, I believe, we cannot do "without ceasing." There is another inward kind of prayer without ceasing, which is the desire of the heart. Whatever else you are doing, if you do but long for that Sabbath, you do not cease to pray. If you would never cease to pray, never cease to long after it. The continuance of thy longing is the continuance of thy prayer. You will be ceasing to speak, if you cease to long for it. Who are those who have ceased to speak? They of whom it is said "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." The freezing of charity is the silence of the heart; the burning of charity is the cry of the heart. If love continues still you are still lifting up your voice; if you are always lifting up your voice, you are always longing after something; if always longing for something absent, you are calling "the Sabbath rest to remembrance." And it is important you should understand too before whom the "roaring of thine heart" is open. Now then consider what sort of desires those should be, that are before the eyes of God. Should it be the desire for the death of our enemy? a thing which men flatter themselves they lawfully wish for? For sometimes we pray for what we ought not. Let us consider what they flatter themselves they pray for lawfully! For they pray that some person may die, and his inheritance come to them. But let those too, who pray for the death of their enemies, hear the Lord saying, "Pray for your enemies." Let them not pray for this, that their enemies may die; but rather pray for this, that they may be reclaimed; then will their enemies be dead; for from the time that they are reclaimed, henceforth they will be enemies no longer. "And all my desire is before Thee." What if we suppose that our desire is before Him, and that yet that very "groaning" is not before Him? How can that be, since our desire itself finds its expression in "groaning"? Therefore follows, "And my groaning is not hid from Thee."
From Thee indeed it is not hid; but from many men it is hid. The servant of God sometimes seems to be saying in humility, "And my groaning is not hid from Thee." Sometimes also he seems to smile. Is then that longing dead in his heart? If however there is the desire within, there is the "groaning" also. It does not always find its way to the ears of man; but it never ceases to sound in the ears of God.
14. "My heart is troubled" (ver. 10). Wherefore is it troubled? "And my courage hath failed me." Generally something comes upon us on a sudden; the "heart is troubled;" the earth quakes; thunder is sent from Heaven; a formidable attack is made upon us, or a horrible sound heard. Perhaps a lion is seen on the road; the "heart is troubled." Perhaps robbers lie in wait for us; the "heart is troubled:" we are filled with a panic fear; from every quarter something excites anxiety. Wherefore? Because "my courage hath failed me." For what would be feared, did that courage still remain unmoved? Whatever bad tidings were brought, whatever threatened us, whatever sound was heard, whatever were to fall, whatever appeared horrible, would inspire no terror. But whence that trouble? "My courage faileth me." Wherefore hath my courage failed me? "The light of mine eyes also is gone from me." Thus Adam also could not see "the light of his eyes." For the "light of his eyes" was God Himself, whom when he had offended, he fled to the shade, and hid himself among the trees of Paradise. He shrunk in alarm from the face of God: and sought the shelter of the trees; thenceforth among the trees he had no more "the light of his eyes," at which he had been wont to rejoice. ...
15. "My lovers;" why should I henceforth speak of my enemies? "My lovers and my neighbours drew nigh, and stood over against me" (ver. 11). Understand this that he saith, "Stood over against me." For if they stood over against me, they fell against themselves. "My lovers and my neighbours drew nigh and stood over against me." Let us now recognise the words of the Head speaking; now let our Head in His Passion begin to dawn upon us. Yet again when the Head begins to speak, do not sever the Body from it. If the Head would not separate itself from the words of the Body, should the Body dare to separate itself from the sufferings of the Head? Do thou suffer in Christ's suffering: for Christ, as it were, sinned in thy infirmity. For just now He spoke of thy sins, as if speaking in His own Person, and called them His own. ...To those who wished to be near His exaltation, yet thought not of His humility, He answered and said to them, "Can ye drink of the cup that I shall drink of?" Those sufferings of the Lord then are our sufferings also: and were each individual to serve God well, to keep faith truly, to render to each their dues, and to conduct himself honestly among men, I should like to see if he does not suffer even that which Christ here details in the account of His Passion. "My lovers and my neighbours drew nigh, and stood over against me."
16. "And my neighbours stood afar off" Who were the "neighbours" that drew nigh, and who were those who stood afar off? The Jews were "neighbours" because "near kinsmen," they drew near even when they crucified Him: the Apostles also were His "neighbours;" and they also "stood afar off," that they might not have to suffer with Him. This may also be understood thus: "My friends," that is, those who feigned themselves" My friends:" for they feigned themselves His friends, when they said," We know that. Thou teachest the way of God in truth; " when they wished to try Him, whether tribute ought to be paid to Caesar; when He convinced them out of their own mouth, they wished to seem to be His friends. "But He needed not that any should testify of man, for He Himself knew what was in man; " so that when they spoke unto Him words of friendship, He answered them, "Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites?" "My friends and my neighbours" then "drew near and stood over against me, and my neighbours stood afar off." You understand what I said. I called those neighhours who "drew nigh," and at the same time "stood afar off." For they "drew nigh" in the body, but "stood afar off" in their heart. Who were in the body so near to Him as those who lifted Him on the Cross? Who in heart so far off as those who blasphemed Him? Hear this sort of distance described by the Prophet Isaiah; observe this nearness and distance at one and the same time. "This people honours Me with their lips:" behold, with their body they draw near; "but their heart is far from Me." The same persons are at the same time "near" and "afar off" also: with their lips they are near, in heart afar off. However, because the Apostles also stood afar off, through fear, we understand it more simply and properly of them; so that we mean by it, that some drew near, and others stood afar off; since even Peter, who had followed more boldly than the rest, was still so far off, that being questioned and alarmed, he thrice denied the Lord, with whom he had promised to "be ready to die." Who afterwards that, from being afar off, he might be made to draw nigh, heard after the resurrection the question, "Lovest thou Me?" and said, "I love Thee;" and by so saying was brought "nigh," even as by denying Him, he had become "far off;" till with the threefold confession of love, he had put away from him his threefold denial. "And my neighbours stood afar off."
17. "They also that sought after my soul were preparing violence against me" (ver. 12). It is now plain who "sought after His soul;" viz. those who had not His soul, in that they were not in His Body. They who were "seeking after His soul," were far removed from His soul; but they were "seeking it" to destroy it. For His soul may be "sought after" in a right way also. For in another passage He finds fault with some persons, saying, "There is no man to care for My soul." He finds fault with some for not seeking after His soul; and again, with others for seeking after it. Who is he that seeketh after His soul in the right way? He who imitates His sufferings. Who are they that sought after His soul in the wrong way? Even those who "prepared violence against Him," and crucified Him.
18. He goes on: "Those who sought after My faults had spoken vanity." What is, "sought after My faults"? They sought after many things, and found them not. Perhaps He may have meant this: "They sought for criminal charges against me." For they sought for somewhat to say against Him, and "they found not." For they were seeking to find evil things to say of "the Good;" crimes of the Innocent; When would they find such things in Him, who had no sin? But because they had to seek for sins in Him who had no sin, it remained for them to invent that which they could not find. Therefore, "those who sought after My faults have spoken vanity," i.e., untruth, "and imagined deceit all the day long;" that is, they meditated treachery without intermission. You know how atrocious false-witness was borne against the Lord, before He suffered. You know how atrocious false-witness was borne against Him, even after His resurrection. For those soldiers who watched His sepulchre of whom Isaiah spake, "I will appoint the wicked for His burial" (for they were wicked men, and would not speak the truth, and being bribed they disseminated a lie), consider what "vanity" they spake. They also were examined, and they said, "While we slept, His disciples came and stole Him away." This it is, "to speak vanity." For if they were sleeping, how could they know what had been done?
19. He saith then, "But I as a deaf man heard not" (ver. 13). He who replied not to what He heard, did, as it were, not hear them. "But I as a deaf man heard not. And I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth." And he repeats the same things again.
"And I became as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs" (ver. 14). As if He had nothing to say unto them, as if He had nothing wherewith to reproach them. Had He not already reproached them for many things? Had He not said many things, and also said, "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees," and many things besides? Yet when He suffered, He said none of these things; not that He had not what to say, but He waited for them to fulfil all things, and that all the prophecies might be fulfilled of Him, of whom it had been said, "And as a sheep before her shearer is dumb, so openeth He not His mouth." It behoved Him to be silent in His Passion, though not hereafter to be silent in Judgment. For He had come to be judged, then, who was hereafter coming to judge; and who was for this reason to come with great power to judge, that He had been judged in great humility.
20. "For in Thee, O Lord, do I hope; Thou wilt hear, O Lord, my God" (ver. 15). As if it were said to Him, "Wherefore openedst thou not thy mouth? Wherefore didst Thou not say, 'Refrain'? Wherefore didst Thou not rebuke the unrighteous, while hanging on the Cross?" He goes on and says," For in Thee, O Lord, do I hope; Thou, O Lord my God, wilt hear." He warns you what to do, should tribulation haply befall. For you seek to defend yourself, and perhaps your defence is not listened to by any one. Then are you confounded, as if you had lost your cause; because you have none to defend or to bear testimony in your favour. "Keep" but your "innocence" within, where no one can pervert thy cause. False-witness has prevailed against you before men. Will it then prevail before God, where your cause has to be pleaded? When God shall be Judge, there shall be no other witness than your own conscience. In the presence of a just judge, and of your own conscience, fear nothing but your own cause. If you have not a bad cause, you will have no accuser to dread; no false-witness to confute, nor witness to the truth to look for. Do but bring into court a good conscience, that you may say, "For in Thee, O Lord, do I hope; Thou, O Lord my God, wilt hear."
21. "For I said, Let not mine enemies ever rejoice over me. And when my feet slip, they magnify themselves against me" (ver. 16). Again He returns to the infirmity of His Body: and again the Head takes heed of Its "feet." The Head is not in such a manner in Heaven, as to forsake what It has on earth; He evidently sees and observes us. For sometimes, as is the way of this life, our feet are "turned aside," and they slip by falling into some sin; there the tongues of the enemy rise up with the bitterest malignity. From this then we discern what they really had in view, even while they kept silence. Then they speak with an unsparing harshness; rejoicing to have discovered what they ought to have grieved for. "And I said, Lest at any time my adversaries should rejoice over me." I said this indeed; and yet it was perhaps for my correction that Thou hast caused them to "magnify themselves against me, when my feet slipped;" that is to say, when I stumbled, they were elated, and said many things. For pity, not insult, was due from them to the weak; even as the Apostle speaks: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness;" and he combines the reason why: "considering thyself also, lest thou also be tempted." Not such as these were the persons of whom He speaks: "And when my feet slipped, they rejoiced greatly against me;" but they were such as those of whom He says elsewhere: "They that hate me will rejoice if I fall?"
22. "For I am prepared for the scourges" (ver. 17). Quite a magnificent expression; as if He were saying, "It was even for this that I was born; that I might suffer." For He was not to be born, but from Adam, to whom the scourge is due. But sinners are in this life sometimes not scourged at all, or are scourged less than their deserts: because the wickedness of their heart is given over as already desperate. Those, however, for whom eternal life is prepared, must needs be scourged in this life: for that sentence is true: "My son, faint not under the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary when thou art rebuked of Him." "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." Let not mine enemies therefore insult over me; let" them not magnify themselves;" and if my Father scourgeth me, "I am prepared for the scourge;" because there is an inheritance in store for me. Thou wilt not submit to the scourge: the inheritance is not bestowed upon thee. For "every son" must needs be scourged. So true it is that "every son" is scourged, that He spared not even Him who had no sin. For "I am prepared for the scourges."
23. " And my sorrow is continually before me." What "sorrow" is that? Perhaps, a sorrow for my scourge. And, in good truth, my brethren, in good truth, let me say unto you, men do mourn for their scourges, not for the causes on account of which they are scourged. Not such was the person here. Listen, my brethren: If any person suffers any loss, he is more ready to say, "I did not deserve to suffer it," than to consider why he suffered it, mourning the loss of money, not mourning over that of righteousness. If thou hast sinned, mourn for the loss of thy inward treasure. Thou hast nothing in thy house, but perhaps thou art still more empty in heart; but if thine heart is full of its Good, even thy God, why dost thou not say, "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; as it pleased the Lord was it done. Blessed be the Name of the Lord." Whence then was it that He was grieving? Was it for the "scourging" wherewith He was scourged? God forbid. "And my sorrow "(says He) "is continually before me." And as if we were to say, "What sorrow? whence comes that sorrow?" he says: "For I declare mine iniquity; and I will have a care for my sin" (ver. 18). See here the reason for the sorrow! It is not a sorrow occasioned by the scourge; not one for the remedy, not for the wound. For the scourge is a remedy against sins. Hear, brethren; We are Christians, and yet if any one's son dies, he mourns for him but does not mourn for him if he sins. It is then, when he sees him sinning, that he ought to make mourning for him, to lament over him. It is then he should restrain him, and give him a rule to live by; should impose a discipline upon him: or if he has done so, and the other has not taken heed, then was the time when he ought to have been mourned over; then he was more fatally dead whilst living in luxury, than when, by death, he brought his luxury to its close: at that time, when he was doing such things in thine house, he was not only "dead, but he stank also." These things were worthy to be lamented, the others were such as might well be endured; those, I say, were tolerable, these worthy to be mourned over. They were to be mourned over in the same way that you have heard this person mourn over them: "For I declare mine iniquity. I will have a care for my sin." Be not free from anxiety when you have confessed your sin, as if always able to confess thy sin, and to commit it again. Do thou "declare thine iniquity in such a manner, as to have a care for thy sin." What is meant by "having a care of thy sin"? To have a care of thy wound. If you were to say, "I will have a care of my wound," what would be meant by it, but I will do my endeavour to have it healed. For this is "to have a care for one's sin," to be ever struggling, ever endeavouring, ever exerting one's self, earnestly and zealously, to heal one's wound. Behold ! thou art from day to day mourning over thy sins; but perhaps thy tears indeed flow, but thy hands are unemployed. Do alms, redeem thy sins, let the poor rejoice of thy bounty, that thou also mayest rejoice of the Grace of God. He is in want; so art thou in want also: he is in want at thy hands; so art thou also in want at God's hand. Dost thou despise one who needs thy aid; and shall God not despise thee when thou needest His? Do thou therefore supply the needs of him who is in want of thine aid; that God may supply thy needs within. This is the meaning of, "I will have a care for my sin." I will do all that ought to be done, to blot out and to heal my sin. "And I will have a care for my sin."
24. "But mine enemies live" (ver. 19). They are well off: they rejoice in worldly prosperity, while I am suffering, and "roaring with the groaning of my heart." In what way do His enemies "live," in that He hath said of them already, that they have "spoken vanity"? Hear in another Psalm also: "Whose sons are as young plants; firmly rooted." But above He had said, "Whose mouth speaketh vanity. Their daughters polished after the similitude of a temple: their garners full bursting forth more and more; their cattle fat, their sheep fruitful, multiplying in their streets; no hedge failing into ruin; no cry in their streets." "Mine enemies" then "live." This is their life; this life they praise; this they set their hearts upon: this they hold fast to their own ruin. For what follows? They pronounce "the people that is in such a case" blessed. But what sayest thou, who "hast a care for thy sin"? What sayest thou, who "confessest thine iniquity"? He says, "Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord."
"But mine enemies live, and are strengthened against me, and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied." What is "hate me wrongfully"? They hate me, who wish their good, whereas were they simply requiting evil for evil, they would not be righteous; were they not to requite with good the good done to them, they would be ungrateful: they, however, who "hate wrongfully," actually return evil for good. Such were the Jews; Christ came unto them with good things; they requited Him evil for good. Beware, brethren, of this evil; it soon steals upon us. Let no one of you think himself to be far removed from the danger, because we said, "Such were the Jews." Should a brother, wishing your good, rebuke you, and you hate him, you are like them. And observe, how easily, how soon it is produced; and avoid an evil so great, a sin so easily committed.
25. "They also that render evil for good, were speaking evil of me, because I have pursued the thing that is just" (ver. 20). Therefore was it that I was requited evil for good. What is meant by "pursued after the thing that is just"? Not forsaken it. That you might not always understand persecutio in a bad sense, He means by persecutus pursued after, thoroughly followed. "Because I have followed the thing that is just." Hear also our Head crying with a lamentable voice in His Passion: "And they cast Me forth, Thy Darling, even as a dead man in abomination." Was it not enough that He was "dead"? wherefore "in abomination" also? Because He was crucified. For this death of the Cross was a great abomination in their eyes, as they did not perceive that it was spoken in prophecy, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." For He did not Himself bring death; but He found it here, propagated from the curse of the first man; and this same death of ours, which had originated in sin, He had taken upon Himself, and hung on the Tree. Lest therefore some persons should think (as some of the Heretics think), that our Lord Jesus Christ had only a false body of flesh; and that the death by which He made satisfaction on the Cross was not a real death, the Prophet notices this, and says, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." He shows then that the Son of God died a true death, the death which was due to mortal flesh: lest if He were not "accursed," you should think that He had not truly died. But since that death was not an illusion, but had descended from that original stock, which had been derived from the curse, when He said, "Ye shall surely die:" and since a true death assuredly extended even to Him, that a true life might extend itself to us, the curse of death also did extend to Him, that the blessing of life might extend even unto us. "And they cast Me forth, Thy Darling, even as a dead man in abomination."
26. "Forsake me not, O Lord; O my God, depart not from me" (ver. 21). Let us speak in Him, let us speak through Him (for He Himself intercedeth for us), and let us say, "Forsake me not, O Lord my God." And yet He had said, "My God ! My God ! why hast Thou forsaken Me?" and He now says, "O My God, depart not from Me." If He does not forsake the body, did He forsake the Head? Whose words then are these but the First Man's? To show then that He carried about Him a true body of flesh derived from him, He says, "My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?" God had not forsaken Him. If He does not forsake Thee, who believest in Him, could the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, One God, forsake Christ? But He had transferred to Himself the person of the First Man. We know by the words of an Apostle, that "our old man is crucified with Him." We should not, however, be divested of our old nature, had He not been crucified "in weakness." For it was to this end that He came that we may be renewed in Him, because it is by aspiration after Him, and by following the example of His suffering, that we are renewed. Therefore that was the cry of infirmity; that cry, I mean, in which it was said, "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Thence was it said in that passage above, "the words of mine offences." As if He were saying, These words are transferred to My Person from that of the sinner.
27. "Depart not from me. Make haste to help me, Lord of my salvation" (ver. 22). This is that very "salvation," Brethren, concerning which, as the Apostle Peter saith, "Prophets have enquired diligently," and though they have enquired diligently, yet have not found it. But they searched into it, and foretold of it; while we have come and have found what they sought for. And see, we ourselves too have not as yet received it; and after us shall others also be born, and shall find, what they also shall not receive, and shall pass away, that we may, all of us together, receive the "penny of salvation in the end of the day," with the Prophets, the Patriarchs, and the Apostles. For you know that the hired servants, or labourers, were taken into the vineyard at different times; yet did they all receive their wages on an equal footing. Apostles, then, and Prophets, and Martyrs, and ourselves also, and those who will follow us to the end of the world, it is in the End itself that we are to receive everlasting salvation; that beholding the face of God, and contemplating His Glory, we may praise Him for ever, free from imperfection, free from any punishment of iniquity, free from every perversion of sin: praising Him; and no longer longing after Him, but now clinging to Him for whom we used to long to the very end, and in whom we did rejoice, in hope. For we shall be in that City, where God is our Bliss, God is our Light, God is our Bread, God is our Life; whatever good thing of ours there is, at being absent from which we now grieve, we shall find in Him. In Him will be that "rest," which when we "call to remembrance" now, we cannot choose but grieve. For that is the "Sabbath" which we "call to remembrance;" in the recollection of which, so great things have been said already; and so great things ought to be said by us also, and ought never to cease being said by us, not with our lips indeed, but in our heart: for therefore do our lips cease to speak, that we may cry out with our hearts.
1. The title of this Psalm, which we have just chanted and proposed to discuss, is, "On the end, for Idithun, a Psalm for David himself" Here then we must look for, and must attend to, the words of a certain person who is called Idithun; and if each one of ourselves may be Idithun, in that which he sings he recognises himself, and hears himself speak. For thou mayest see who was called Idithun, according to the ancient descent of man; let us, however, understand what this name is translated, and seek to comprehend the Truth in the translation of the word. According therefore to what we have been able to discover by enquiry in those names which have been translated from the Hebrew tongue into the Latin, by those who study the sacred writings, Idithun being translated is "over-leaping them." Who then is this person "over-leaping them"? or who those whom he hath "over-leaped"?... For there are some persons, yet clinging to the earth, yet bowed down to the ground, yet setting their hearts on what is below, yet placing their hopes in things that pass away, whom he who is called "over-leaping them" hath "over-leaped."
2. You know that some of the Psalms are entitled, "Songs of Degrees;" and in the Greek it is obvious enough what the word anabaqmpn means. For anabaqmoi are degrees (or steps) of them that ascend, not of them that descend. The Latin, not being able to express it strictly, expresses it by the general term; and in that it called them "steps," left it undetermined, whether they were "steps" of persons ascending or descending. But because there is no "speech or language where their voices are not heard among them,"  the earlier language explains the one which comes after it: and what was ambiguous in one is made certain in another. Just then as there the singer is some one who is "ascending," so here is it some one who is "over-leaping." . . . Let this Idithun come still to us; let him "over-leap" those whose delight is in things below, and take delight in these things, and let him rejoice in the Word of the Lord; in the delight of the law of the Most High. ...
3. "I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue" (ver. 1) ....For it is not without reason that the tongue is set in a moist place, but because it is so prone to slip. Perceiving therefore how hard it was for a man to be under the necessity of speaking, and not to say something that he will wish unsaid, and filled with disgust at these sins, he seeks to avoid the like. To this difficulty is he exposed who is seeking to "leap beyond." . . . Although I have "leaped beyond" the pleasures of earth, although the fleeting passions for things temporal ensnare me not, though now I despise these things below, and am rising up to better things than these, yet in these very better things the satisfaction of knowledge in the sight of God is enough for me. Of what use is it for me to speak what is to be laid hold of, and to give a handle to cavillers? Therefore, "I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue. I keep my mouth with a bridle." Wherefore is this? Is it on account of the religious, the thoughtful, the faithful, the holy ones? God forbid ! These persons hear in such a manner, as to praise what they approve; but as for what they disapprove, perhaps, among much that they praise they rather excuse than cavil at it; on account of what persons then dost thou "take heed to thy ways," and place a guard on thy lips "that thou mayest not sin with thy tongue"? Hear: it is, "While the wicked standeth over against me." It is not "by me" that he takes up his station, but "against me." Why?...Even the Lord Himself says," I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." And the Apostle, "I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal." Yet not as to persons to be despaired of, but as to those who still required to be nourished. For he goes on to say, "As babes in Christ, I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able." Well, tell it unto us even now. "Neither yet now are ye able." Be not therefore impatient to hear that which as yet thou art not capable of; but grow that thou mayest be "able to bear it." It is thus we address the little one, who yet requires to be fed with kindly milk in the bosom of Mother Church, and to be rendered meet for the "strong meat" of the Lord's Table. But what can I say even of that kind to the sinner, who "taketh his stand against me," who either thinks or pretends himself capable of what he "cannot bear;" so that when I say anything unto him, and he has failed to comprehend it, he should not suppose that it was not he that had failed to comprehend, but I who had broken down. Therefore because of this sinner, who "taketh up his stand against me, I keep my mouth as it were with a bridle."
4. "I became deaf, and was humbled, I held my peace from good" (ver. 2). For this person, who is "leaping beyond," suffers some difficulty in a certain stage to which he hath already attained; and he desires to advance beyond, even from thence, to avoid this difficulty. I was afraid of committing a sin; so that I spoke not; that I imposed on myself the necessity of silence: for I had spoken thus, "I will take heed to my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue." Whilst I was too much afraid of saying anything wrong, I kept silence from all that is good. For whence could I say good things, except that I heard them? "It is Thou that shalt make me to hear of joy and gladness." And the "friend of the bridegroom standeth and heareth Him, and rejoiceth on account of the bridegroom's voice," not his own. That he may speak true things, he hears what he is to say. For it is he that "speaketh a lie," that "speaketh of his own." ... When therefore I had "put a bridle," as it were, "on my lips;" and constrained myself to silence, because I saw that everywhere speech was dangerous, then, says he, that came to pass upon me, which I did not wish, "I became deaf, and was humbled;" not humbled myself, but was humbled; "and I held my peace even from good." Whilst afraid of saying any evil, I began to refrain from speaking what is good: and I condemned my determination; for "I was holding my peace even from what is good."
"And my sorrow was stirred up again" (ver. 2). Inasmuch as I had found in silence a kind of respite from a certain "sorrow," that had been inflicted upon me by those who cavilled at my words, and found fault with me: and that sorrow that was caused by the cavillers, had ceased indeed; but when "I held my peace even from good, my sorrow was stirred up again." I began to be more grieved at having refrained from saying what I ought to have said, than I had before been grieved by having said what I ought not. "And my sorrow was stirred up again.
5. "And while I was musing, the fire burned" (ver. 3). ... I reflected on the words of my Lord, "Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou oughtest to have put My money to the exchangers, and I at My coming should receive it again with usury." And that which follows may God avert from those who are His stewards! Bind him hand and foot, and let him be cast into outer darkness;" the servant, who was not a waster of his master's goods, so as to destroy them, but was slothful in laying them out to improve them. What ought they to expect, who have wasted them in luxury, if they are condemned who through slothfulness have kept them? "As I was musing, the fire burned." And as he was in this state of wavering suspense, between speaking and holding his peace, between those who are prepared to cavil and those who are anxious to be instructed, ... in this state of suspense, he prays for a better place, a place different from this his present stewardship, in which man is in such difficulty and in such danger, and sighing after a certain "end," when he was not to be subject to these things, when the Lord is to say to the faithful dispenser," Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord," he says, "Then spake I with my tongue." In this fluctuation, in the midst of these dangers and these difficulties, because, that in consequence of the abundance of offences "the love of many is waxing cold," although the law of the Lord inspires delight, in this fluctuation then, (I say), "then spake I with my tongue." To whom? not to the hearer whom I would fain instruct; but to Him who heareth and taketh heed also, by whom I would fain be instructed myself. "I spake with my tongue" to Him, from whom I inwardly hear whatever I hear that is good or true.--What saidst thou?
"Lord, make me to know mine end" (ver. 4). For some things I have passed by already; and I have arrived at a certain point, and that to which I have arrived is better than that from which I have advanced to this; but yet there remains a point, which has to be left behind. For we are not to remain here, where there are trials, offences, where we have to bear with persons who listen to us and cavil at us. "Make me to know mine end;" the end, from which I am still removed, not the course which is already before me.
6. The "end" he speaks of, is that which the Apostle fixed his eye upon, in his course; and made confession of his own infirmity, perceiving in himself a different state of things from that which he looked for elsewhere. For he says, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfect. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended." And that you might not say, "If the Apostle hath not apprehended, have I apprehended? If the Apostle is not perfect, am I perfect?" ...
7. "And the number of my days, what it is." I ask of" the number of my days, what it is." I can speak of "number" without number, and understand "number without number," in the same sense as "years without years" may be spoken of. For where there are years, there is a sort of "number" at all events, also. But yet, "Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail." "Make me to know the number of my days;" but "to know what it is." What then? that number in which thou art, think you that it "is" not? Assuredly, if I weigh the matter well, it has no being; if I linger behind, it has a sort of being; if I rise above it, it has none. If, shaking off the trammels of these things, I contemplate things above, if I compare things that pass away with those that endure, I see what has a true being, and what rather seems to be, than really is. Should I say that these days of mine "are;" and shall I rashly apply this word so full of meaning to this course of things passing away? To such a degree have I my own self almost ceased to "be, failing" as I am in my weakness, that He escaped from my memory, who said, "I AM HE THAT IS." Hath then any number of days any existence? In truth it hath, and it is "number without end." ... Everything is swept on by a series of moments, fleeting by, one after the other; there is a torrent of existences ever flowing on and on; a "torrent," of which He "drank in the way," who hath now "lift up His Head." These days then have no true being; they are gone almost before they arrive; and when they are come, they cannot continue; they press upon one another, they follow the one the other, and cannot check themselves in their course. Of the past nothing is called back again; what is yet to be, is expected as something to pass away again: it is not as yet possessed, whilst as yet it is not arrived; it cannot be kept when once it has arrived. He asks then concerning "the number of his days, which is;" not that which is "not:" and (which confounds me by a still greater and more perplexing difficulty) at once "is," and "is not." We can neither say that "is," which does not continue; nor that it "is not," when it has come and is passing. It is that absolute "IS," that true "IS," that "IS" in the true sense of the word, that I long for; that "IS;" which "is" in that "Jerusalem" which is "the Bride" of my Lord; where there will not be death, there will not be failing; there will be a day that passeth not away, but continueth: which has neither a yesterday to precede it, nor a to-morrow pressing, close upon it. This "number of my days, which is," this (I say), "make Thou me to know."
8. "That I may know what is wanting to me." For while I am struggling here, "this" is wanting unto me: and so long as it is wanting unto me, I do not call myself perfect. So long as I have not received it, I say, "not that I have already attained, either am already perfect; but I am pressing towards the prize of God's high calling." This let me receive as the prize of my running the race! There will be a certain rest-ing-place, to terminate my course; and in that resting-place there will be a Country, and no pilgrimage, no dissension, no temptation. Make me then to know "this number of my days, which is, that I may know what is wanting unto me;" because I am not there yet; lest I should be made proud of what I already am, that "I may be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness." ...
9. "Behold, thou hast made my days old" (ver. 5). For these days are "waxing old." I long for new days "that never shall wax old," that I may say, "Old things have passed away; behold, things are become new." Already new in hope; then in reality. For though, in hope and in faith, made new already, how much do we even now do after our old nature! For we are not so completely "clothed upon" with Christ, as not to bear about with us anything derived from Adam. Observe that Adam is "waxing old" within us, and Christ is being "renewed" in us. "Though our outward man is perishing, yet is our inward man being renewed day by day." Therefore, while we fix our thoughts on sin, on mortality, on time, that is hastening by, on sorrow, and toil, and labour, on stages of life following each other in succession, and continuing not, passing on insensibly from infancy even to old age; whilst, I say, we fix our eyes on these things, let us see here "the old man," the "day that is waxing old;" the Song that is out of date; the Old Testament; when however we turn to the inner man, to those things that are to be renewed in place of these which are to be changed, let us find the "new man," the "new day," the "new song," the "New Testament;" and that "newness," let us so love, as to have no fears of its "waxing old." ... This man, therefore, who is hasting forward to those things which are new, and "reaching forward to those things which are before," says, "Lord, make me to know mine end, and the number of my days, which really is, that I may know what is wanting unto me." See he still drags with him Adam; and even so he is hasting unto Christ. "Behold," saith he, "thou hast made my days old." It is those days that are derived from Adam, those days, I say, that thou hast made old. They are waxing old day by day: and so waxing old, as to be at some day or other consumed also. "And my substance is as nothing before Thee." "Before Thee, O Lord, my substance is as nothing." "Before Thee;" who seest this; and I too, when I see it, see it only when "before Thee." When "before men" I see it not. For what shall I say? What words shall I use to show, that which I now am is nothing in comparison of That which truly "IS"? But it is within that it is said; it is within that it is felt, so far as it is felt. "Before Thee, O Lord," where Thine eyes are; and not where the eyes of men are. And where Thine eyes are, what is the state of things? "That which I am is as nothing."
10. "But, verily, every man living is altogether vanity." "But, verily." For what was he saying above? Behold, I have already "leaped beyond" all mortal things, and despised things below, have trampled under foot the things of earth, have soared upwards to the delights of the law of the Lord, I have been afloat in the dispensation of the Lord, have yearned for that" End" which Itself is to know no end, have yearned for the number of my days that truly "is," because the number of days like these hath no real being. Behold, I am already such a one as this; I have already overleaped so much; I am longing for those things which abide. "But verily," in the state in which I am here, so long as I am here, so long as I am in this world, so long as I bear mortal flesh, so long as the life of man on earth is a trial, so long as I sigh among causes of offence, as long as while I "stand" I am in "fear lest I fall," as long as both my good and my ill hangs in uncertainty, "every man living is altogether vanity." ...
11. "Albeit man walketh in the Image" (ver. 6). In what "Image," save that of Him who said, "Let Us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness." "Albeit man walks in the Image." For the reason he says "albeit," is, that this is some great thing. And this "albeit" is followed by "nevertheless," that the "albeit" which you have already heard, should relate to what is beyond the sun; but this "nevertheless," which is to follow, to what is "under the sun," and that the one should relate to the Truth, the other to "vanity." "Albeit," then, "that man walketh in the Image, nevertheless he is disquieted in vain." Hear the cause of his "disquieting," and see if it be not a vain one; that thou mayest trample it under foot, that thou mayest "leap beyond it," and mayest dwell on high, where that "vanity" is not. What "vanity" is that? "He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not for whom he may be gathering them together." O infatuated vanity! "Blessed is the man that maketh the Lord his trust, and hath not respected vanities, nor lying deceits." To you indeed, O covetous man, to you I seem to be out of my senses, these words appear to you to be "old wives' tales." For you, a man of great judgment, and of great prudence, to be sure, are daily devising methods of acquiring money, by traffic, by agriculture, by eloquence perhaps, by making yourself learned in the law, by warfare, perhaps you even add that of usury. Like a shrewd man as you are, you leave nothing untried, whereby you may pile coin on coin; and may store it up more carefully in a place of secrecy. You plunder others; you guard against the plunderer; you are afraid lest you should yourself suffer the wrong, that you yourself do; and even what you do suffer, does not correct you. ... Examine your own heart, and that prudence of yours, which leads you to deride me, to think me out of my senses for saying these things: and tell me now, "You are heaping up treasures; for whom are you gathering them together?" I see what you would tell me; as if what you would say had not occurred to the person described here; you will say, I am keeping them for my children? This is the voice of parental affection; the excuse of injustice. "I am keeping them" (you say) "for my children." So then you are keeping them for your children, are you? Did not Idithun then know this? Assuredly he did; but he reckoned it one of the things of the "old days," that have waxed old, and therefore he despised it: because he was hastening on to the new "days." ...
12. For He, "by whom all things were made," hath built "mansions" for all of us: thither He would have that which we have go before us; that we may not lose it on earth. When, however, you have kept them on earth, tell me for whom you are to "gather them together"? You have children: add one more to their number; and give something to Christ also. "He is disquieted in vain."
13. "And now" (ver. 7). "And now," saith this Idithun,--looking back on a certain "vain" show, and looking up to a certain Truth, standing midway where he has something beyond him, and something also behind him, having below him the place from which he took his spring, having above him that toward which he has stretched forth;--"And now," when I have "over-leaped" some things, when I have trampled many things under foot, when I am no longer captivated by things temporal; even now, I am not perfect, "I have not yet apprehended." "For it is by hope that we are saved; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." Therefore he says: "And now what wait I for? Is it not for the Lord?" He is my expectation, who hath given me all those things, that I might despise them. He will give unto me Himself also, even He who is above all, and "by whom all things were made," and by whom I was made amongst all; even He, the Lord, is my Expectation! You see Idithun, brethren, you see in what way he waiteth for Him! Let no man therefore call himself perfect here; he deceives and imposes upon himself; he is beguiling himself, he cannot have perfection here, and what avails it that he should lose humility? ...
"And my substance is ever before Thee." Already advancing, already tending towards Him, and to some extent already beginning to "be," still (he says) "my substance is ever before Thee." Now that other substance is also before men. You have gold, silver, slaves, estates, trees, cattle, servants. These things are visible even to men. There is a certain "substance that is ever before Thee."
14. "Deliver me from all my transgressions" (ver. 8). I have "over-leaped" a great deal of ground, a very great deal of ground already; but, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us." I have "over-leaped" a great deal: but still do I "beat my breast," and say, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Thou therefore art "my expectation!" my "End." For "Christ is the end of the Law unto righteousness, unto every man that believeth." From all mine offences:" not only from those, that I may not relapse into those which I have already "overleaped;" but from all, without exception, of those on account of which I now beat my breast, and say, "Forgive us our debts." "Deliver me from all mine offences:" me being thus minded, and holding fast what the Apostle said, "As many of us as be perfect, let us be thus minded." For at the time that he said that he was not "already perfect," he then immediately goes on and says, "As many of us as be perfect, let us be thus minded." ... Art thou then, O Apostle, not perfect, and are we perfect? But hath it escaped you, that he did just now call himself "perfect "? For he does not say," As many of you as are perfect, be ye thus minded;" but "As many of us as be perfect, let us be thus minded;" after having said a little before, "Not that I have already attained; either am already perfect." In no other way then can you be perfect in this life, than by knowing that you cannot be perfect in this life. This then will be your perfection, so to have "over-leaped" some things, as to have still some point to which you are hastening on: so as to have something remaining, to which you will have to leap on, when everything else has been passed by. It is such faith as this that is secure; for whoever thinks that he has already attained, is "exalting himself," so as to be "abused" hereafter. ...
15. "Thou hast made me the reproach of the foolish." Thou hast so willed it, that I should live among those, and preach the Truth among those, who love vanity; and I cannot but be a laughing-stock to them. "For we have been made a spectacle unto this world, and unto angels, and unto men:" to angels who praise, to men who censure, us; or rather to angels, some of whom praise, some of whom are censuring us: and to men also, some of whom are praising, and some censuring us. ... Both the one and the other are arms to us: the one "on the right hand," the other "on the left:" arms however they are both of them; both of these kinds of arms, both those "on the right hand," and those "on the left;" both those who praise, and those who censure; both those who pay us honour, and those who heap dishonour upon us; with both these kinds I contend against the devil; with both of these I smite him; I defeat him with prosperity, if I be not corrupted by it; by adversity, if I am not broken in spirit by it.
16. "I became dumb; and I opened not my mouth" (ver. 9). But it was to guard against "the foolish man," that "I became dumb, and opened not my mouth." For to whom should I tell what is going on within me? "For I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me; for He will speak peace unto His people." But "There is no peace," saith the Lord, "to the wicked." "I was dumb, and opened not my mouth; because it is Thou that madest me." Was this the reason that thou openedst not thy mouth, "because God made thee"? That is strange; for did not God make thy mouth, that thou shouldest speak? "He that planted the ear, doth He not hear? He that formed the eye, doth He not see?" God hath given thee a mouth to speak with; and dost thou say, "I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because Thou madest me"? Or does the clause, "Because Thou madest me," belong to the verse that follows? "Remove Thy stroke away from me" (ver. 10). Because it is "Thou that hast made me," let it not be Thy pleasure to destroy me utterly; scourge, so that I may be made better, not so that I faint; beat me, so that I may be beaten out to a greater length and breadth, not so that I may be ground to powder. "By the heaviness of Thy hand I fainted in corrections." That is, I "fainted" while Thou wast correcting me. And what is meant by "correcting" me? except what follows.
17. "Thou with rebukes hast chastened man for iniquity; Thou hast made my life to consume away like a spider" (ver. 11). There is much that is discerned by this Idithun; by every one who discerns as he does; who overleaps as he does. For he says, that he has fainted in God's corrections; and would fain have the stroke removed away from him, "because it is He who made him." Let Him renew me, who also made me; let Him who created me, create me anew. But yet, Brethren, do we suppose that there was no cause for his fainting, so that he wishes to be "renewed," to be "created anew"? It is "for iniquity," saith he, "that Thou hast chastened man." All this, my having fainted, my being weak, my "crying out of the deep," all of this is because of "iniquity;" and in this Thou hast not condemned, but hast "chastened" me. "Thou hast chastened man for sin." Hear this more plainly from another Psalm: "It is good for me that Thou hast afflicted me, that I might learn Thy righteousness." I have been "afflicted," and at the same time "it is good for me;" it is at once a punishment, and an act of favour. What hath He in store for us after punishment is over, who inflicts punishment itself by way of favour? For He it is of whom it was said, "I was brought low, and He made me whole:" and, "It is good for me that Thou hast afflicted me, that I might learn Thy righteousness." "Thou chastenest man for iniquity." And that which is written, "Thou formest my grief in teaching me," could only be said unto God by one who was "leaping beyond" his fellows; "Thou formest my grief in teaching me;" Thou makest, that is to say, a lesson for me out of my sorrow. It is Thou that formest that very grief itself; Thou dost not leave it unformed, but formest it; and that grief, that has been inflicted by Thee, when formed, will be a lesson unto me, that I may be set free by Thee. For the word tinges is used in the sense of "forming," as it were moulding, my grief; not in the sense of" feigning" it; in the same way that fingit is applied to the artist, in the same sense that figulus is derived from fingere. Thou therefore "hast chastened man for iniquity." I see myself in afflictions; I see myself under punishment; and I see no unrighteousness in Thee. If I therefore am under punishment, and if there is no unrighteousness with Thee, it remains that Thou must have been "chastening man for iniquity."
18. And by what means hast Thou "chastened" him? Tell us, O Idithun, the manner of thy chastening; tell us in what way thou hast been "chastened." "And Thou hast made my life consume like a spider." This is the chastening! What consumes away sooner than the spider? I speak of the creature itself; though what can be more liable to "consume away" than the spider's webs? Observe too how liable to decay is the creature itself. Do but set your finger lightly upon it, and it is a ruin: there is nothing at all more easily destroyed. To such a state hast Thou brought my life, by chastening me "because of iniquity." When chastening makes us weak, there is a kind of strength that would be a fault. ... It was by a kind of strength that man offended, so as to require to be corrected by weakness: for it was by a certain "pride" that he offended; so as to require to be chastened by humility. All proud persons call themselves strong men. Therefore have many "come from the East and the West," and have attained "to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of Heaven." Wherefore was it that they so attained? Because they would not be strong. What is meant by "would not be strong"? They were afraid to presume of their Own merits. They did not "go about to establish their own righteousness," that they might "submit themselves to the righteousness of God." ... Behold! you are mortal; and you bear about you a body of flesh that is corrupting away: "And ye shall fall like one of the princes. Ye shall die like men," and shall fall like the devil What good does the remedial discipline of mortality do you? The devil is proud, as not having a mortal body, as being an angel. But as for you, who have received a mortal body, and to whom even this does no good, so as to humble you by so great weakness, you shall "fall like one of the princes." This then is the first grace of God's gift, to bring us to the confession of our infirmity, that whatever good we can do, whatever ability we have, we may be that in Him; that "He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord." "When I am weak," saith he, "then am I strong."
19. "But surely every man living disquieteth himself in vain." He returns to what he mentioned a little before. Although he be improving here, yet for all that, "every man living disquieteth himself in vain;" forasmuch as he lives in a state of uncertainty. For who has any assurance even of his own goodness? "He is disquieted in vain." Let him "cast upon the Lord the burden" of his care; let him cast upon Him whatever causes him anxiety. "Let Him sustain thee;" let Him keep thee. For on this earth what is there that is certain, except death? Consider the whole sum of all the good or the ill of this life, either those belonging to righteousness, or those belonging to unrighteousness; what is there that is certain here, except death? Have you been advancing in goodness? You know what you are to-day; what you will be to-morrow, you know not! Are you a sinner? you know what you are to-day; what you will be to-morrow, you know not! You hope for wealth; it is uncertain whether it will fall to your lot. You hope to have a wife; it is uncertain whether you will obtain one, or what sort of one you will obtain. You hope for sons: it is uncertain whether they will be born to you. Are they born? it is uncertain whether they will live: if they live, it is uncertain whether they will grow up in virtue, or whether they will fall away. Whichever way you turn, all is uncertain, death alone is certain. Art thou poor? It is uncertain whether thou wilt grow rich. Art thou unlearned? It is uncertain whether thou wilt become learned. Art thou in feeble health, it is uncertain whether thou wilt regain thy strength. Art thou born? It is certain that thou wilt die: and in this certainty of death itself, the day of thy death is uncertain. Amidst these uncertainties, where death alone is certain, while even of that the hour is uncertain, and while it alone is studiously guarded against, though at the same time it is in no way to be escaped, "every man living disquieteth himself in vain." ...
20. "Hear my prayer, O Lord" (ver. 12). Whereof shall I rejoice? Whereof should I groan? I rejoice on account of what is past, I groan longing for these which are not yet come. "Hear my prayer, and give ear unto my cry. Hold not Thy peace at my tears." For do I now no longer weep, because I have already "passed by," have "left behind" so great things as these? "Do I not weep much the more?" For, "He that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow." The more I long for what is not here, do I not so much the more groan for it until it comes? do I not so much the more weep until it comes? ...
21. "For I am a sojourner with Thee." But with whom am I a "sojourner"? When I was with the devil, I was a "sojourner;" but then I had a bad host and entertainer; now, however, I am with Thee; but I am a "sojourner" still. What is meant by a sojourner? I am a "sojourner" in the place from which I am to remove; not in the place where I am to dwell for ever. The place where I am to abide for ever, should be rather called my home. In the place from which I am to remove I am a "sojourner;" but yet it is with my God that I am a sojourner, with whom I am hereafter to abide, when I have reached my home. But what home is that to which you are to remove from this estate of a sojourner? Recognise that home, of which the Apostle speaks, "We have an habitation of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens." If this house is eternal in the Heavens, when we have come to it, we shall not be sojourners any more. For how should you be a sojourner in an eternal home? But here, where the Master of the house is some day to say to you, "Remove," while you yourself know not when He will say it, be thou in readiness. And by longing for your eternal home, you will be keeping yourself in readiness for it. And be not angry with Him, because He gives thee notice to remove, when He Himself pleases. For He made no covenant with thee, nor did He bind Himself by any engagement; nor didst thou enter upon the tenancy of this house on a certain stipulation for a definite term: thou art to quit, when it is its Master's pleasure. For therefore is it that you now dwell there free of charge. "For I am a sojourner with Thee, and a stranger." Therefore it is there is my country: it is there is my home. "I am a sojourner with Thee, and a stranger." Here too is understood "with Thee." For many are strangers with the devil: but they who have already believed and are faithful, are, it is true, "strangers" as yet, because they have not yet come to that country and to that home: but still they are strangers with God. For so long as we are in the body, we are strangers from the Lord, and we desire, whether we are strangers, or abiding here, "we may be accepted with Him." I am a "sojourner with Thee; and a stranger, as all my fathers were." If then I am as all my fathers were, shall I say that I will not remove, when they have removed? Am I to lodge here on other terms, than those on which they lodged here also? ...
22. "Grant me some remission, that I may be refreshed before I go hence" (ver. 13). Consider well, Idithun, consider what knots those are which thou wouldest have "loosed" unto thee, that thou mightest be "refreshed before thou goest hence." For thou hast certain fever-heats from which thou wouldest fain be refreshed, and thou sayest, "that I may be refreshed," and "grant me a remission." What should He remit, or loosen unto thee, save that difficulty under which, and in consequence of which, thou sayest, "Forgive us our debts. Grant me a remission before I go hence, and be no more." Set me free from my sins, "before I go hence," that I may not go hence with my sins. Remit them unto me, that I may be set at rest in my conscience, that it may be disburthened of its feverish anxiety, the anxiety with which "I am sorry for my sin. Grant me a remission, that I may be refreshed" (before everything else), "before I go hence, and be no more." For if thou grantest me not a "remission, that I may be refreshed," I shall "go and be no more." "Before I go" thither, where if I go, I shall thenceforth "be no more. Grant me a remission, that I may be refreshed." A question has suggested itself, how he will be no more. ... What is meant then by "shall be no more," unless Idithun is alluding to what is true "being," and what is not true "being." For he was beholding with the mind, with which he could do so, with the "mind's eye," by which he was able to behold it, that end, which he had desired to have shown unto him, saying, "Lord, make me to know mine end." He was beholding "the number of his days, which truly is;" and he observed that all that is below, in comparison of that true being, has no true being. For those things are permanent; these are subject to change; mortal, and frail, and the eternal suffering, though full of corruption, is for this very reason not to be ended, that it may ever be being ended without end. He alluded therefore to that realm of bliss, to the happy country, to the happy home, where the Saints are partakers of eternal Life, and of Truth unchangeable; and he feared to "go" where that is not, where there is no true being; longing to be there, where "Being" in the highest sense is! It is on account of this contrast then, while standing midway between them, he says, "Grant me a remission, that I may be refreshed before I go hence and be no more." For if Thou "grantest me not a remission" of my sins, I shall go from Thee unto all eternity! And from whom shall I go to all eternity? From Him who said, I AM HE THAT AM: from Him who said, "Say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you." He then who goes from Him, in the contrary direction, goes to non-existence. ...
1. Of all those things which our Lord Jesus Christ has foretold, we know part to have been already accomplished, part we hope will be accomplished hereafter. All of them, however, will be fulfilled, because He is "the Truth" who speaks them, and requires of us to be as "faithful," as He Himself speaks them faithfully. ...
2. Let us say then what this Psalm says. "I waited patiently for the Lord" (ver. 1). I waited patiently for the promise of no mere mortal who can both deceive and be himself deceived: I waited for the consolation of no mere mortal, who may be consumed by sorrow of his own, before he gives me comfort. Should a brother mortal attempt to comfort me, when he himself is in sorrow likewise? Let us mourn in company; let us weep together, let us "wait patiently" together, let us join our prayers together also. Whom did I wait for but for the Lord? The Lord, who though He puts off the fulfilment of His promises, yet never recalls them? He will make it good; assuredly He will make it good, because He has made many of His promises good already: and of God's truth we ought to have no fears, even if as yet He had made none of them good. Lo! let us henceforth think thus, "He has promised us everything; He has not as yet given us possession of anything; He is a sponsible Promiser; a faithful Paymaster: do you but show yourself a dutiful exactor of what is promised; and if you be "weak," if you be one of the little ones, claim the promise of His mercy. Do you not see tenders lambs striking their dams' teats with their heads, in order that they may get their fill of milk? ... "And He took heed unto me, and heard my cry." He took heed to it, and He heard it. See thou hast not waited in vain. His eyes are over thee. His ears turned towards thee. For, "the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry." What then? Did He not see thee, when thou usedst to do evil and to blaspheme Him? What then becomes of what is said in that very Psalm, "The face of the Lord is upon them that do evil"? But for what end? "that He may cut off the remembrance of them from the earth." Therefore, even when thou wert wicked, He "took heed of thee;" but He "took no heed to thee." So then to him who "waited patiently for the Lord," it was not enough to say, "He took heed of me, He says, "He took heed to me;" that is, He took heed by comforting me, that He might do me good. What was it that He took heed to? "and He heard my cry."
3. And what hath He accomplished for thee? What hath He done for thee? "He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings" (ver. 2). He hath given us great blessings already: and still He is our debtor; but let him who hath this part of the debt repaid already, believe that the rest will be also, seeing that he ought to have believed even before he received anything. Our Lord has employed facts themselves to persuade us, that He is a faithful promiser, a liberal giver. What then has He already done? "He has brought me out of a horrible pit." What horrible pit is that? It is the depth of iniquity, from the lusts of the flesh, for this is meant by "the miry clay." Whence hath He brought thee out? Out of a certain deep, out of which thou criedst out in another Psalm, "Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord." And those who are already "crying out of the deep," are not absolutely in the lowest deep: the very act of crying is already lifting them up. There are some deeper in the deep, who do not even perceive themselves to be in the deep. Such are those who are proud despisers, not pious entreaters for pardon; not tearful criers for mercy: but such as Scripture thus describes. "The sinner when he comes into the depth of evil despiseth." For he is deeper in the deep, who is not satisfied with being a sinner, unless instead of confessing he even defends his sins. But he who has already "cried out of the deep," hath already lifted up his head in order that he might "cry out of the deep," has been heard already, and has been "brought out of the horrible pit, and out of the mire and clay." He already has faith, which he had not before; he has hope, which he was before without; he now walks in Christ, who before used to go astray in the devil. For on that account it is that he says, "He hath set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." Now "that Rock was Christ." Supposing that we are "upon the rock," and that our "goings are ordered," still it is necessary that we continue to walk; that we advance to something farther. For what did the Apostle Paul say when now upon the Rock, when his "goings had now been established"? "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended." What then has been done for thee, if thou hast not apprehended? On what account dost thou return thanks, saying, "But I have obtained mercy"? Because his goings are now established, because he now walks on the Rock? ... Therefore, when he was saying, "I press forward toward the prize of my high calling," because "his feet were now set on the Rock," and "his goings were ordered," because he was now walking on the right way, he had something to return thanks for; something to ask for still; returning thanks for what he had received already, while he was claiming that which still remained due. For what things already received was he giving thanks? For the remission of sins, for the illumination of faith; for the strong support of hope, for the fire of charity. But in what respects had he still a claim of debt on the Lord? "Henceforth," he says, "there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness." There is therefore something due me still. What is it that is due? "A crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day." He was at first a loving Father to "bring him forth from the horrible pit;" to forgive his sins, to rescue him from "the mire and clay;" hereafter he will be a "righteous Judge," requiting to him walking rightly, what He promised; to him (I say), unto whom He had at the first granted that power to walk rightly. He then as a "righteous Judge" will repay; but whom will he repay? "He that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved."
4. "And He hath put a new song in my mouth." What new song is this? "Even a hymn unto our God" (ver. 3). Perhaps you used to sing hymns to strange gods; old hymns, because they were uttered by the "old man," not by the "new man;" let the "new man" be formed, and let him sing a "new song;" being himself made "new," let him love those "new" things by which he is himself made new. For what is more Ancient than God, who is before all things, and is without end and without beginning? He becomes "new" to thee, when thou returnest to Him; because it was by departing from Him, that thou hadst become old; and hadst said, "I have waxed old because of all mine enemies." We therefore utter "a hymn unto our God;" and the hymn itself sets us free. "For I will call upon the Lord to praise Him, and I will be safe from all mine enemies." For a hymn is a song of praise. Call on God to "praise" Him, not to find fault with Him. ...
5. If haply any one asks, what person is speaking in this Psalm? I would say briefly, "It is Christ." But as ye know, brethren, and as we must say frequently, Christ sometimes speaks in His own Person, in the Person of our Head. For He Himself is "the Saviour of the Body." He is our Head; the Son of God, who was born of the Virgin, suffered for us, "rose again for our justification," sitteth "at the right hand of God," to "make intercession for us:" who is also to recompense to the evil and to the good, in the judgment, all the evil and the good that they have done. He deigned to be come our Head; to become "the Head of the Body," by taking of us that flesh in which He should die for us; that flesh which He also raised up again for our sakes, that in that flesh He might place before us an instance of the resurrection; that we might learn to hope for that of which we heretofore despaired, and might henceforth have our feet upon the rock, and might walk in Christ. He then sometimes speaks in the name of our Head; sometimes also He speaks of us who are His members. For both when He said, "I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat," He spoke on behalf of His members, not of Himself: and when He said, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" the Head was crying on behalf of its members: and yet He did not say, "Why dost thou persecute My members?" but, "Why persecutest thou Me?" If He suffers in us, then shall we also be crowned in Him. Such is the love of Christ. What is there can be compared to this? This is the thing on account of which "He hath put a hymn in our mouth," and this He speaks on behalf of His members.
6. "The just shall see, and shall fear, and shall trust in the Lord." "The just shall see." Who are the just? The faithful; because it is "by faith that the just shall live." For there is in the Church this order, some go before, others follow; and those who go before make themselves "an example" to those who follow; and those who follow imitate those who go before. But do those then follow no one, who exhibit themselves as an ensample to them that come after? If they follow no one at all, they will fall into error. These persons then must themselves also follow some one, that is, Christ Himself. ... "The just," therefore, "shall see, and shall fear." They see a narrow way on the one hand; on the other side, "a broad road:" on this side they see few, on the other many. But thou art a just man; count them not, but weigh them; bring "a just balance," not a "deceitful" one: because thou art called just. "The just shall see, and fear," applies to thee. Count not therefore the multitudes of men that are filling the "broad ways," that are to fill the circus to-morrow; celebrating with shouts the City's Anniversary, while they defile the City itself by evil living. Look not at them; they are many in number; and who can count them? But there are a few travelling along the narrow road. Bring forth the balance, I say. Weigh them; see what a quantity of chaff you lift up on the one side, against a few grains of corn on the other. Let this be done by "the just," the "believers," who are to follow. And what shall they who precede do? Let them not be proud, let them not "exalt themselves;" let them not deceive those who follow them. How may they deceive those who follow them? By promising them salvation in themselves. What then ought those who follow to do? "The just shall see, and fear: and shall trust in the Lord;" not in those who go before them. But indeed they fix their eyes on those who go before them, and follow and imitate them; but they do so, because they consider from Whom they have received the grace to go before them; and because they trust in Him. Although therefore they make these their models, they place their trust in Him from whom the others have received the grace whereby they are such as they are. "The just shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." Just as in another Psalm, "I lift up mine eyes unto the hills," we understand by hills, all distinguished and great spiritual persons in the Church; great in solidity, not by swollen inflation. By these it is that all Scripture hath been dispensed unto us; they are the Prophets, they are the Evangelists; they are sound Doctors: to these" I lift up mine eyes, from whence shall come my help." And lest you should think of mere human help, he goes on to say, "My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. The just shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." ...
7. "Blessed is that man that maketh the name of the Lord his trust, and hath not respected vanities or lying madnesses" (ver. 4). Behold the way by which thou wouldest fain have gone. Behold the "multitude that fill the Broad way." It is not without reason "that" road leads to the amphitheatre. It is not without reason it leads to Death. The "broad way" leads unto death, its breadth delights for time: its end is straitness to all eternity. Aye; but the multitudes murmur; the multitudes are rejoicing together; the multitudes are hastening along; the multitudes are flocking together! Do not thou imitate them; do not turn aside after them: they are "vanities, and lying mad-nesses." Let the Lord thy God be thy hope. Hope for nothing else from the Lord thy God; but let the Lord thy God Himself be thine hope. For many persons hope to obtain from God's hands riches, and many perishable and transitory honours; and, in short, anything else they hope to obtain at God's hands, except only God Himself. But do thou seek after thy God Himself: nay, indeed, despising all things else, make thy way unto Him! Forget other things, remember Him. Leave other things behind, and "press forward" unto Him. Surely it is He Himself, who set thee right, when turned away from the right path; who, now that thou art set in the right path, guides thee aright, who guides thee to thy destination. Let Him then be thy hope, who both guides thee, and guides thee to thy destination. Whither does worldly covetousness lead thee? And to what point does it conduct thee at the last? Thou didst at first desire a farm; then thou wouldest possess an estate; thou wouldest shut out thy neighbours; having shut them out, thou didst set thy heart on the possessions of other neighbours; and didst extend thy covetous desires till thou hadst reached the shore: arriving at the shore, thou covetest the islands: having made the earth thine own, thou wouldest haply seize upon heaven. Leave thou all thy loves. He who made heaven and earth is more beautiful than all.
8. "Blessed is the man that maketh the name of the Lord his hope, and who hath not regarded vanities and lying madnesses." For whence is it that "madness" is called "lying"? Insanity is a lying thing, even as it is sanity that sees the Truth. For what thou seest as good things, thou art deceived; thou art not in thy sound senses: a violent fever has driven thee to frenzy: that which thou art in love with is not a reality. Thou applaudest the charioteer; thou cheerest the charioteer; thou art madly in love with the charioteer. It is "vanity;" it is "a lying madness." "It is 'not'" (he cries). "Nothing can be better; nothing more delightful." What can I do for one in a state of high fever? Pray ye for such persons, if you have any feelings of compassion in you. For the physician himself also in a desperate case generally turns to those in the house, who stand around weeping; who are hanging on his lips to hear his opinion of the patient who is sick and in danger. The physician stands in a state of doubt: he sees not any good to promise; he fears to pronounce evil, lest he should excite alarm. He devises a thoroughly modest sentence: "The good God can do all things. Pray ye for him." Which then of these madmen shall I check? Which of them will listen to me? Which of them would not call us miserable? Because they suppose us to have lost great and various pleasures, of which they are madly fond, in that we are not as madly in love with them as they are: and they do not see that they are "lying" pleasures. ... "And hath not respected vanities, and lying madnesses." "Such a one has won," he cries; "he harnessed such and such a horse," he proclaims aloud. He would fain be a kind of diviner; he aspires to the honours of divination by abandoning the fountain of Divinity; and he frequently pronounces an opinion, and is frequently mistaken. Why is this? Even because they are "lying madnesses." But why is it that what they say sometimes comes true? That they may lead astray the foolish ones; that by loving the semblance of truth there, they may fall into the snare of falsehood: let them be left behind, let them be "given over," let them be "cut off." If they were members of us, they must be mortified. "Mortify," he says, "your members which are upon the earth." Let our God be our hope. He who made all things, is better than all! He who made what is beautiful, is more beautiful than all that is such. He who made whatever is mighty, is Himself mightier. He who made whatever is great, is Himself greater. He will be unto you everything that you love. Learn in the creature to love the Creator; and in the work Him who made it. Let not that which has been made by Him detain thine affections, so that thou shouldest lose Him by whom thou thyself wert made also. "Blessed," then, "is the man that maketh the Name of the Lord his trust, and hath not respected vanities and lying madnesses." ...
9. We will give him other sights in exchange for such sights as these. And what sights shall we present to the Christian, whom we would fain divert from those sights? I thank the Lord our God; He in the following verse of the Psalm hath shown us what sights we ought to present and offer to spectators who would fain have sights to see? Let us now suppose him to be weaned from the circus, the theatre, the amphitheatre; let him be looking after, let him by all means be looking after, some sight to see; we do not leave him without a spectacle. What then shall we give in exchange for those? Hear what follows.
"Many, O Lord my God, are the wonderful works which Thou hast made" (ver. 5). He used to gaze at the "wonderful works" of man; let him now contemplate the wonderful works of God. "Many are the wonderful works" that God "has made." Why are they become vile in his eyes? He praises the charioteer guiding four horses; running all of them without fault and without stumbling. Perhaps the Lord has not made such "wonderful works" in things spiritual. Let him control lust, let him control cowardice, let him control injustice, let him control imprudence, I mean, the passions which falling into excess produce those vices; let him control these and bring them into subjection, and let him hold the reins, and not suffer himself to be carried away; let him guide them the way he himself would have them go; let him not be forced away whither he would not. He used to applaud the charioteer, he himself shall be applauded for his own charioteering; he used to call out that the charioteer should be invested with a dress of honour; he shall himself be clothed with immortality. These are the spectacles, these the sights that God exhibits to us. He cries out of heaven," My eyes are upon you. Strive, and 'I will' assist you; triumph, and I will crown you."
"And in Thy thought there is none that is like unto Thee." Now then look at the actor! For the man hath by dint of great pains learnt to walk upon a rope; and hanging there he holds thee hanging in suspense. Turn to Him who exhibits spectacles far more wonderful. This man hath learned to walk upon the rope; but hath he caused another to walk on the sea? Forget now thy theatre; behold our Peter; not a walker on the rope, but, so to speak, a walker on the sea. And do thou also walk on other waters (though not on those on which Peter walked, to symbolize a certain truth), for this world is a sea. It hath a deleterious bitterness; it hath the waves of tribulations, the, tempests of temptations; it hath men in it who, like fish, delight in their own ruin, and prey upon each other; walk thou here, set thou thy foot on this. Thou wouldest see sights; be thyself a "spectacle." That thy spirit may not sink, look on Him who goes before thee, and says, "We have been made a spectacle unto this world, and unto angels, and unto men." Tread thou on the waters; suffer not thyself to be drowned in the sea. Thou wilt not go there, thou wilt not "tread it under foot," unless it be His bidding, who was Himself the first to walk upon the sea. For it was thus that Peter spoke. "If Thou art, bid me come unto Thee on the waters." And because "He was," He heard him when praying; He granted his wish to him when expressing his desire; He raised him up when sinking. These are the "wonderful works" that the "Lord hath made," Look on them; let faith be the eye of him who would behold them. And do thou also likewise; for although the winds alarm thee, though the waves rage against thee, and though human frailty may have inspired thee with some doubt of thy salvation, thou hast it in thy power to "cry out," thou mayest say" Lord, I perish." He who bids thee walk there, suffers thee not to perish. For in that thou now walkest "on the Rock," thou fearest not even on the sea! If thou art without "the Rock," thou must sink in the sea; for the Rock on which thou must walk is such an one as is not sunk in the sea,
10. Observe then the "wonderful works" of God. "I have declared, and have spoken; they are multiplied beyond number." There is "a number," there are some over and above the number. There is a fixed number that belongs to that heavenly Jerusalem. For "'the Lord knoweth them that are His;" the Christians that fear Him, the Christians that believe, the Christians that keep the commandments, that walk in God's ways, that keep themselves from sins; that if they fall confess: they belong to "the number." But are they the only ones? There are also some "beyond the number." For even if they be but a few (a few in comparison of the numbers of the larger majority), with how great numbers are our Churches filled, crowded up to the very walls; to what a degree do they annoy each other by the pressure, and almost choke each other by their overflowing numbers. Again, out of these very same persons, when there is a public spectacle, there are numbers flocking to the amphitheatre; these are over and above "the number." But it is for this reason that we say this, that they may be in "the number." Not being present, they do not hear this from us; but when ye have gone from hence, let them hear it from you. "I have declared," he says, "and have spoken." It is Christ who speaks. "He hath declared it," in His own Person, as our Head. He hath Himself declared it by His members. He Himself hath sent those who should "declare" it; He Himself hath sent the Apostles. "Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world." How great the number of believers that are gathered together; how great the multitudes that flock together; many of them truly converted, many but in appearance: and those who are truly converted are the minority; those who are so but in appearance are the majority: because "they are multiplied beyond the number."
11. ... These are the "wonderful works" of God; these are the "thoughts" of God, to which "no man's thoughts are like;" that the lover of sight-seeing may be weaned from curiosity: s and with us may seek after those more excellent, those more profitable things, in which, when he shall have attained unto them, he will rejoice. ...
12. "Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire" (ver, 6), saith the Psalm to God. For the men of old time, when as yet the true Sacrifice, which is known to the faithful, was foreshown in figures, used to celebrate rites that were figures of the reality that was to be hereafter; many of them understanding their meaning; but more of them in ignorance of it. For the Prophets and the holy Patriarchs understood what they were celebrating; but the rest of the "stiff-necked people" were so carnal, that what was done by them was but to symbolize the things that were to come afterwards; and it came to pass, when that first sacrifice was abolished; when the burnt-offerings of "rams, of goats, and of calves," and of other victims, had been abolished, "God did not desire them." Why did God not desire them? And why did He at the first desire them? Because all those things were, as it were, the words of a person making a promise; and the expressions conveying a promise, when the thing that they promise is come, are no longer uttered. ... Those sacrifices then, as being but expressions of a promise, have been abrogated. What is that which has been given as its fulfilment? That "Body;" which ye know; which ye do not all of you know; which, of you who do know it, I pray God all may not know it unto condemnation. Observe the time when it was said; for the person is Christ our Lord, speaking at one time for His members, at another in His own person. "Sacrifice and offering," said He, "Thou didst not desire." What then? Are we left at this present time without a sacrifice? God forbid!
"But a Body hast Thou perfected for me." It was for this reason that Thou didst not desire the others; that Thou mightest "perfect" this; before Thou "perfectedst" this, Thou didst desire the others. The fulfilment of the promise has done away with the words that express the promise. For if they still hold out a promise, that which was promised is not yet fulfilled. This was promised by certain signs; the signs that convey the promise are done away; because the Substance that was promised is come. We are in this "Body." We are partakers of this "Body." We know that which we ourselves receive; and ye who know it not yet, will know it bye and bye; and when ye come to know it, I pray ye may not receive it unto condemnation. "For he that eateth and drinketh un-worthily, eateth and drinketh damnation unto himself." "A Body" hath been "perfected" for us; let us be made perfect in the Body.
13. "Burnt-offerings also for sin hast Thou not required." "Then said I, Lo, I come!" (ver. 7). It is time that what "was promised should come;" because the signs, by means of which they were promised, have been put away. And indeed, Brethren, observe these put away; those fulfilled. Let the Jewish nation at this time show me their priest, if they can! Where are their sacrifices? They are brought to an end; they are put away now. Should we at that time have rejected them? We do reject them now; because, if you chose to celebrate them now, it were unseasonable; unfitting at the time; incongruous. You are still making promises; I have already received! There has remained to them a certain thing for them to celebrate; that they might not remain altogether without a sign. ... In such a case then are they; like Cain with his mark. The sacrifices, however, which used to be performed there, have been put away; and that which remained unto them for a sign like that of Cain, hath by this time been fulfilled; and they know it not. They slay the Lamb; they eat the unleavened bread. "Christ has been sacrificed for us, as our Passover." Lo, in the sacrifice of Christ, I recognise the Lamb that was slain! What of the unleavened bread? "Therefore," says he, "let us keep the feast; not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of wickedness" (he shows what is meant by "old;" it is "stale" flour; it is sour), "but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." They have continued in the shade; they cannot abide the Sun of Glory. We are already in the light of day. We have "the Body" of Christ, we have the Blood of Christ. If we have a new life, let us "sing a new song, even a hymn unto our God." "Burnt offerings for sin Thou didst not desire. Then said I, Lo, I come!"
14. "In the head of the Book it is written of me, that I should fulfil Thy will: O my God, I am willing, and Thy Law is within my heart" (ver. 8). Behold! He turns His regards to His members. Behold! He hath Himself" fulfilled the will" of the Father. But in what "beginning of a Book" is it written of Him? Perhaps in the beginning of this Book of Psalms. For why should we seek far for it, or examine into other books for it? Behold! It is written in the beginning of this Book of Psalms! "His will is in the Law of the Lord;" that is," ' O my God, I am willing,' and 'Thy Law is within my heart ;'" that is the" same as, "And in His Law doth he meditate day and night."
15. "I have well declared Thy righteousness in the great congregation" (ver. 9). He now addresses His members. He is exhorting them to do what He has already done. He has "declared;" let us declare also. He has suffered; let us "suffer with Him." He has been glorified; we shall be "glorified with Him." "I have declared Thy righteousness in the great congregation." How great an one is that? In all the world. How great is it? Even among all nations. Why among all nations? Because He is "the Seed of Abraham, in whom all nations shall be blessed." Why among all nations? "Because their sound hath gone forth into all lands." "Lo! I will not refrain my lips, O Lord, and that Thou knowest." My lips speak; I will not "refrain" them from speaking. My lips indeed sound audibly in the ears of men; but "Thou knowest" mine heart. "I will not refrain my lips, O Lord; that Thou knowest." It is one thing that man heareth; another that God "knoweth." That the "declaring" of it should not be confined to the lips alone, and that it might not be said of us," Whatsoever things they say unto you, do; but do not after their works;" or lest it should be said to the people, "praising God with their lips, but not with their heart," "This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me;" do thou make audible confession with thy lips; draw nigh with thine heart also. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." In case like unto which that thief was found, who, hanging on the Cross with the Lord, did on the Cross acknowledge the Lord. Others had refused to acknowledge Him while working miracles; this man acknowledged Him when hanging on the Cross. That thief had every other member pierced through; his hands were fastened by the nails; his feet were pierced also; his whole body was fastened to the tree; the body was not disengaged in its other members; the heart and the tongue were disengaged; "with the heart" he "believed; with the tongue" he made "confession." "Remember me, O Lord," he said, "when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." He hoped for the coming of his salvation at a time far remote; he was content to receive it after a long delay; his hope rested on an object far remote. The day, however, was not postponed ! The answer was, "This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." Paradise hath happy trees! This day hast thou been with Me on "the Tree" of the Cross. This day shalt thou be with Me on "the Tree" of Salvation. ...
16. "I have not hid my righteousness within my heart" (ver. 10). What is meant by "my righteousness"? My faith. For," the just shall live by faith." As suppose the persecutor under threat of punishment, as they were once allowed to do, puts you to the question, "What art thou? Pagan or Christian?" "A Christian." That is his "righteousness." He believeth; he "lives by faith." He doth not "hide his righteousness within his heart." He has not said in his heart, "I do indeed believe in Christ; but I will not tell what I believe to this persecutor, who is raging against me, and threatening me. My God knoweth that inwardly, within my heart, I do believe. He knoweth that I renounce Him not." Lo! you say that you have this inwardly within your heart! What have you upon your lips? "I am not a Christian." Your lips bear witness against your heart. "I have not hid my righteousness within my heart." ...
17. "I have declared Thy Truth and. Thy Salvation." I have declared Thy Christ. This is the meaning of, "I have declared Thy Truth and Thy Salvation." How is "Thy Truth" Christ? "I am the Truth." How is Christ "His Salvation"? Simeon recognised the infant in His Mother's hands in the Temple, and said, "For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation." The old man recognised the little child; the old man having himself "become a little child" in that infant, having been renewed by faith. For he had received an oracle from God; and it said this, "The Lord had said unto him, that he was not to depart out of this life, until he had seen the "Salvation of God." This "Salvation of God" it is a good thing to have shown unto men; but let them cry, "Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy Salvation." ...
18. "I have not concealed Thy mercy and Thy Truth from the great congregation." Let us be there; let us also be numbered among the members of this Body: let us not keep back "the mercy" of the Lord, and "the Truth" of the Lord. Wouldest thou hear what "the mercy of the Lord" is? Depart from thy sins; He will forgive thy sins. Wouldest thou hear what "the truth" of the Lord is? Hold fast righteousness. Thy righteousness shall receive a crown. For mercy is announced to you now; "Truth" is to be shown unto thee hereafter. For God is not merciful in such a way as not to be just, nor just in such a way as not to be merciful. Does that mercy seem to thee an inconsiderable one? He will not impute unto thee all thy former sins: thou hast lived ill up to this present clay; thou art still living; this day live well; then thou wilt not "conceal" this" mercy." If this is meant by "mercy," what is meant by "truth"? ...
19. "Remove not Thou Thy mercies far from me, O Lord" (ver. 11). He is turning his attention to the wounded members. Because I have not "concealed Thy mercy and Thy Truth from the great congregation," from the Unity of the Universal Church, look Thou on Thy afflicted members, look on those who are guilty of sins of omission, and on those who are guilty of sins of commission: and withhold not Thou Thy mercies. "Thy mercy and Thy Truth have continually preserved me." I should not dare to turn from my evil way, were I not assured of remission; I could not endure so as to persevere, if I were not assured of the fulfilment of Thy promise. ...
"Innumerable evils have compassed me about" (ver. 12). Who can number sins? Who can count his own sins, and those of others? A burden under which he was groaning, who said, "Cleanse Thou me from my secret faults; and from the faults of others, spare Thou Thy servant, O Lord." Our own are too little; those "of others" are added to the burden. I fear for myself; I fear for a virtuous brother, I have to bear with a wicked brother; and under such burthen what shall we be, if God's mercy were to fail? "But Thou, Lord, remove not afar off." Be Thou near unto us! To whom is the Lord near? "Even" unto them that" are of a broken heart." He is far from the proud: He is near to the humble. "For though the Lord is high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly." But let not those that are proud think themselves to be unobserved: for the things that are high, He "beholdeth afar off." He "beheld afar off" the Pharisee, who boasted himself; He was near at hand to succour the Publican, who made confession The one extolled his own merits, and concealed his wounds; the other boasted not of his merits, but laid bare his wounds. He came to the Physician; he knew that he was sick, and that he required to be made whole; he" dared not lift up his eyes to Heaven: he smote upon his breast." He spared not himself, that God might spare him; he acknowledged himself guilty, that God might "ignore" the charge against him. He punished himself, that God might free him from punishment. ...
20. "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I could not see." There is a something for us "to see;" what prevents us so that we see it not? Is it not iniquity? From beholding this light your eye is prevented perhaps by some humour penetrating into it; perhaps by smoke, or dust, or by something else that has been thrown into it: and you have not been able to raise your wounded eye to contemplate this light of day. What then? Will you be able to lift up your wounded heart unto God? Must it not be first healed, in order that thou mayest see? Do you not show your pride, when you say, "First let me see, and then I will believe"? Who is there who says this? For who that would fain see, says, "Let me see, and then I will believe"? I am about to manifest the Light unto thee; or rather the Light Itself would fain manifest Itself to thee! To whom? It cannot manifest Itself to the blind. He does not see. Whence is it that he seeth not? It is that the eye is clogged by the multitude of sins. ...
21. "They are more than the hairs of my head." He subjects the number of the "hairs of his head" to calculation. Who is there can calculate the number of the hairs of his head? Much less can he tell the number of his sins, which exceed the number of the hairs of his head. They seem to be minute; but they are many in number. You have guarded against great ones; you do not now commit adultery, or murder; you do not plunder the property of others; you do not blaspheme; and do not bear false witness; those are the weightier kind of sins. You have guarded against great sins, what are you doing about your smaller ones? You have cast off the weight; beware lest the sand overwhelm you. "And my heart hath forsaken me." What wonder if thine heart is forsaken by thy God, when it is even "forsaken" by itself? What is meant by "faileth me," "forsaketh me"? Is not capable of knowing itself. He means this: "My heart hath forsaken me." I would fain see God with mine heart, and cannot from the multitude of my sins: that is not enough; mine heart does not even know itself. For no one thoroughly knows himself: let no one presume upon his own state. Was Peter able to comprehend with his own heart the state of his own heart, who said, "I will be with Thee even unto death"? There was a false presumption in the heart; there was lurking in that heart at the same time a real fear: and the heart was not able to comprehend the state of the heart. Its state was unknown to the sick heart itself: it was manifest to the physician. That which was foretold of him was fulfilled. God knew that in him which he knew not in himself: because his heart had forsaken him, his heart was unknown to his heart.
22. "Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me" (ver. 13). As if he were saying, "' If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.' Be pleased to deliver me. O Lord, look upon me to help me." Look, that is, on the penitent members, members that lie in pain, members that are writhing under the instruments of the surgeon; but still in hope.
23. "Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it" (ver. 14). For in a certain passage he makes an accusation, and says, "I looked upon my right hand, and beheld; and there was no man who sought after my soul;" that is, there was no man to imitate Mine example. Christ in His Passion is the Speaker. "I looked on my right hand," that is, not on the ungodly Jews, but on Mine own right hand, the Apostles,--"and there was no man who sought after My soul." So thoroughly was there no man to "seek after My soul," that he who had presumed on his own strength, "denied My soul." But because a man's soul is sought after in two ways, either in order that you may enjoy his society; or that you may persecute him; therefore he here speaks of others, whom he would have "confounded and ashamed," who are "seeking after his soul." But lest you should understand it in the same way as when he complains of some who did not "seek after his soul," He adds, "to destroy it;" that is, they seek after my soul in order to my death. ...
24. "Let them be turned backward and put to shame that wish me evil." "Turned backwards." Let us not take this in a bad sense. He wishes them well; and it is His voice, who said from the Cross, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Wherefore then cloth he, say to them, that they should return "backwards"? Because they who before were proud, so that they fell, are now become humble, so that they may rise again. For when they are before, they are wishing to take precedence of their Lord; to be better than He; but if they go behind Him, they acknowledge Him to be better than they; they acknowledge that He ought to go before; that He should precede? they follow. Thence He thus rebukes Peter giving Him evil counsel. For the Lord, when about to suffer for our salvation, also foretold what was to happen concerning that Passion itself; and Peter says, "Be it far from Thee," "God forbid it!" "This shall not be!" He would fain have gone before his Lord; would have given counsel to his Master! But the Lord, that He might make him not go before Him, but follow after Him, says, "Get thee behind, Satan !" It is for this reason He said "Satan," because thou art seeking to go before Him, whom thou oughest to follow; but if thou art behind, if thou follow Him, thou wilt henceforth not be "Satan." What then? "Upon this Rock I will build My Church." ...
25. "Let them speedily bear away their own confusion, that say unto me, Well done! Well done!" (ver. 15). They praise you without reason. "A great man! A good man! A man of education and of learning; but why a Christian?" They praise those things in you which you should wish not to be praised; they find fault with that at which you rejoice. But if perhaps you say, "What is it you praise in me, O man? That I am a virtuous man? A just man? If you think this, Christ made me this; praise Him." But the other says, "Be it far from you. Do yourself no wrong! You yourself made yourself such." "Let them be confounded who say unto me, Well done! Well done!" And what follows?
"Let all those that seek Thee, O Lord, rejoice and be glad" (ver. 16). Those who "seek" not me, but "Thee;" who say not to me, "Well done! Well done!" but see me "glory in Thee," if I have anything whereof to glory; for "he who glories, let him glory in the Lord." "Let all those who seek Thee, Lord, rejoice and be glad."
"And say continually, the Lord be magnified." For even if the sinner becometh righteous, thou shouldest give the glory to "Him who justifieth the ungodly." Whether therefore it be a sinner, let Him be praised who calls him to forgiveness; or one already walking in the way of righteousness, let Him be praised who callus him to receive the crown! Let the Name of the Lord be magnified continually by "such as love Thy salvation."
"But I" (ver. 17). I for whom they were seeking evil, I whose "life they were seeking, that they might take it away." But turn thee to another description of persons. But I to whom they said, "Well done! Well done!" "I am poor and needy." There is nothing in me that may be praised as mine own. Let Him rend my sackcloth in sunder, and cover me with His robe, For, "Now I live, not I myself; but Christ liveth in me." If it is Christ that "liveth in thee," and all that thou hast is Christ's, and all that thou art to have hereafter is Christ's also; what art thou in thyself? "I am poor and needy." Now I am not rich, because I am not proud. He was rich who said, "Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are;" but the publican was poor, who said, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!" The one was belching from his fulness; the other from want was crying piteously, "I am poor and needy!" And what wouldest thou do, O poor and needy man? Beg at God's door; "Knock, and it shall be opened unto thee."--"As for me, I am poor and needy. Yet the Lord careth for me."--"Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall bring it to pass." What canst thou effect for thyself by taking care? what canst thou provide for thyself? Let Him who made thee "care for thee." He who cared for thee before thou wert, how shall He fail to have a care of thee, now that thou art what He would have thee be? For now thou art a believer, now thou art walking in the "way of righteousness." Shall not He have a care for thee, who "maketh His sun rise on the good and on the evil, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust"? ...
"Thou art my Help, and my Deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God" (ver. 17). He is calling upon God, imploring Him, fearing lest he should fall away: "Make no tarrying." What is meant by "make no tarrying"? We lately read concerning the days of tribulation: "Unless those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved." The members of Christ--the Body of Christ extended everywhere--are asking of God, as one single person, one single poor man, and beggar! For He too was poor, who "though He was rich, yet became poor, that ye through His poverty might be made rich." It is He that maketh rich those who are the true poor; and maketh poor those who are falsely rich. He crieth unto Him; "From the end of the earth I cried unto Thee, when my heart was in heaviness." There will come days of tribulations, and of greater tribulations; they will come even as the Scripture speaks: and as days advance, so are tribulations increased also. Let no one promise himself what the Gospel doth not promise. ...
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