Augustine on Psalms 72-75
1. "For Salomon" indeed this Psalm's title is fore-noted: but things are spoken of therein which could not apply to that Salomon king of Israel after the flesh, according to those things which holy Scripture speaketh concerning him: but they can most pertinently apply to the Lord Christ. Whence it is perceived, that the very word Salomon is used in a figurative sense, so that in him Christ is to be taken. For Salomon is interpreted peace-maker: and on this account such a word to Him most truly and excellently cloth apply, through Whom, the Mediator, having received remission of sins, we that were enemies are reconciled to God. For "when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son."(11) The Same is Himself that Peace-maker .... Since then we have found out the true Salomon, that is, the true Peacemaker: next let us observe what the Psalm cloth teach concerning Him.
2. "O God, Thy judgment to the King give Thou, and Thy justice to the King's Son" (ver. I). The Lord Himself in the Gospel saith, "The Father judgeth not any one, but all judgment He hath given to the Son:"(12) this is then, "O God, Thy judgment to the King give Thou." He that is King is also the Son of the King: because God the Father also is certainly King. Thus it hath been written, that the King made a marriage for His Son.(1) But after the manner of Scripture the same thing is repeated. For that which he hath said in, "Thy judgment;" the same he hath otherwise expressed in, "Thy justice:" and that which he hath said in, "the King," the same he hath otherwise expressed in, "to the King's Son." ... But these repetitions do much commend the divine sayings, whether the same words, or whether in other words the same sense be repeated: and they are mostly found in the Psalms, and in the kind of discourse whereby the mind's affection is to be awakened.
3. Next there followeth, "To judge Thy people in justice, and Thy poor in judgment" (ver. 2). For what purpose the royal Father gave to the royal Son His judgment and His justice is sufficiently shown when he saith," To judge Thy people in justice;" that is, for the purpose of judging Thy people. Such an idiom is found in Salomon: "The Proverbs of Salomon, son of David, to know wisdom and discipline:"(2) that is, the Proverbs of Salomon, for the purpose of knowing wisdom and discipline. So, "Thy judgment give Thou, to judge Thy people:" that is, "Thy judgment" give Thou for the purpose of judging Thy people. But that which he saith before in, "Thy people," the same he saith afterwards in, "Thy poor:" and that which he saith before in, "in justice;" the same afterward in, "in judgment:" according to that manner of repetition. Whereby indeed he showeth, that the people of God ought to be poor, that is, not proud, but humble. For, "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."(3) In which poverty even blessed Job was poor even before he had lost those great earthly riches. Which thing for this reason I thought should be mentioned, because there are certain persons who are more ready to distribute all their goods to the poor,(4) than themselves to become the poor of God. For they are puffed up with boasting wherein they think their living well should be ascribed to themselves, not to the grace of God: and therefore now they do not even live well, however great the good works which they seem to do. ...
4. But seeing that he hath changed the order of the words (though he had first said, "O God, Thy judgment to the King give Thou, and Thy justice to the King's 'Son," putting judgment first, then justice), and hath put justice first, then judgment, saying, "To judge Thy people in justice, and Thy poor in judgment:" he doth more clearly show that he hath called judgment justice, proving that there is no difference made by the order in which the word is placed, because it signifieth the same thing. For it is usual to say "wrong judgment" of that which is unjust: but justice iniquitous or unjust we are not wont to speak of. For if wrong and unjust it be; no longer must it be called justice. Again, by putting clown judgment and repeating it under the name of justice, or by putting down justice and repeating it under the name of judgment, he clearly showeth that he specially nameth that judgment which is wont to be put instead of justice, that is, that which cannot be understood of giving an evil judgment. For in the place where He saith, "Judge not according to persons, but right judgment judge ye;"(5) He showeth that there may be a wrong judgment, when He saith, "right judgment judge ye:" lastly, the one He doth forbid, the other He doth enjoin. But when without any addition He speaketh of judgment, He would at once have just judgment to be understood: as is that which He saith, "Ye forsake the weightier matters of the Law, mercy and judgment."(6) That also which Jeremiah saith is, "making his riches not with judgment."(7) He saith not, making his riches by wrong or unjust judgment, or not with judgment right or just, but not with judgment: calling not anything judgment but what is right and just.
5. "Let the mountains bear peace to the people, and the hills justice" (ver. 3). The mountains are the greater, the hills the less. These are without doubt those which another Psalm hath, "little with great."(8) For those mountains did exult like rams, and those hills like lambs of the sheep, at the departure of lsrael out of Egypt, that is, at the deliverance of the people of God from this world's servitude. Those then that are eminent in the Church for passing sanctity, are the mountains, who are meet to teach other men also,(9) by so speaking as that they may be faithfully taught, by so living as that they may imitate them to their profit: but the hills are they that follow the excellence of the former by their own obedience. Why then "the mountains peace: and the hills justice"?(10) Would there perchance have been no difference, even if it had been said thus, Let the mountains bear justice to the people and the hills peace? For to both justice, and to both peace is necessary: and it may be that under another name justice herself may have been called peace. For this is true peace, not such as unjust men make among them. Or rather with a distinction not to be overlooked must that be understood which he saith, "the mountains peace, and the hills justice"? For men excelling in the Church ought to counsel for peace with watchful care; lest for the sake of their own distinctions by acting proudly they make schisms and dissever the bond of union. But let the hills so follow them by imitation and obedience, that they prefer Christ to them: lest being led astray by the empty authority of evil mountains (for they seem to excel), they tear themselves away from the Unity of Christ. ...
6. Thus also most pertinently may be understood, "let the mountains bear peace to the people," namely, that we understand the peace to consist in the reconciliation whereby we are reconciled to God: for the mountains receive this for His people. ... "Let the mountains, therefore, receive peace for the people, and the hills justice:" so that in this manner, both being at one, there may come to pass that which hath been written, "justice and peace have kissed one another."(1) But that which other copies have, "let the mountains receive peace for the people, and let the hills:" I think must be understood of all sorts of preaching of Gospel peace, whether those that go before, or those that follow after. But in these copies this followeth, "in justice He shall judge the poor of the people." But those copies are more approved of which have that which we have expounded above, "let the mountains bear peace to the people, and the hills justice." But some have, "to Thy people;" some have not to "Thy," but only "to the people."
7. "He shall judge the poor of the people, and shall save the sons of the poor" (ver. 4). The poor and the sons of the poor seem to me to be the very same, as the same city is Sion and the daughter of Sion. But if it is to be understood with a distinction, the poor we take to be the mountains, but the sons of the poor the hills: for instance, Prophets and Apostles, the poor, but the sons of them, that is, those that profit under their authority, the sons of the poor. But that which hath been said above, "shall judge;" and afterwards, "shall save;" is as it were a sort of exposition in what manner He shall judge. For to this end He shall judge, that He may save, that is, may sever from those that are to be destroyed and condemned, those to whom He giveth "salvation ready to be revealed at the" last time.(2) For by such men to Him is said, "Destroy not with ungodly men my soul:"(3) and, "Judge Thou me, O God, and sever my cause from the nation unholy."(4) We must observe also that he saith not, He shall judge the poor people, but, "the poor of the people." For above when he had said, "to judge Thy people in justice and Thy poor in judgment,"(5) the same he called the people of God as His poor, that is, only the good and those that belong to the right hand side. But because in this world those for the right and those for the left feed together, who, like lambs and goats at the last are to be put asunder;(6) the whole, as it is mingled together, he hath called by the name of the People. And because even here he putteth judgment in a good sense, that is, for the purpose of saving: therefore he saith, "He shall judge the poor of the people," that is, shall sever for salvation those that are poor among the people. "And He shall humble the false-accuser." No false-accuser can be more suitably recognised here than the devil. False accusation in his business. "Doth Job worship God gratis?"(7) But the Lord Jesus doth humble him, by His grace aiding His own, in order that they may worship God gratis, that is, may take delight in the Lord.(8) He humbled him also thus; because when in Him the devil, that is, the prince of this world, had found nothing? he slew Him by the false accusations of the Jews, whom the false-accuser made use of as his vessels, working in the sons of unbelief.(10) ...
8. "And He shall endure to the sun," or, "shall endure with the sun" (ver. 5). For thus some of our writers have thought would be more exactly translated that which in the Greek is Qumparamenei. But if in Latin it could have been expressed in one word, it must have been expressed by campermanbit: however, because in Latin the word cannot be expressed, in order that the sense at least might be translated, it hath been expressed by, "He shall endure with the sun." For He shall co-endure to the sun is nothing else but, "He shall endure with the sun." But what great matter is it for Him to endure with the sun, through whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made,(11) save that this prophecy hath been sent before for the sake of those who think that the religion of the Christian name up to a particular time in this world will live, and afterwards will be no more?(12) "He shall endure" therefore "with the sun," so long as the sun riseth and setteth, that is, so long as these times revolve, there shall not be wanting the Church of God, that is, Christ's body on earth. But that which he addeth, "and before the moon, generations of generations:" he might have expressed by, and before the sun, that is, both with the sun and before the sun: which would have been understood by both with times and before times. That then which goeth before time is eternal: and that is truly to be held eternal which by no time is changed, as, "in the beginning was the Word."(1) But by the moon he hath chosen rather to intimate the waxings and wanings of things mortal. Lastly, when he had said, "before the moon," wishing in a manner to explain for what purpose he inserted the moon, "generations," he saith, "of generations." As though he were saying, before the moon, that is, before the generations of generations which pass away in the departure and succession of things mortal, like the lunar wanings and waxings. And thus what is better to be understood by His enduring before the moon, than that He taketh precedence of all mortal things by immortality? Which also as followeth may not impertinently be taken, that whereas now, having humbled the false-accuser, He sitteth at the right hand of the Father, this is to endure with the sun. For the brightness of the eternal glory is understood to be the Son:(2) as though the Sun were the Father, and the Brightness of Him His Son. But as these things may be spoken of the invisible Substance of the Creator, not as of that visible creation wherein are bodies celestial, of which bright bodies the sun hath the pre-eminence, from which this similitude hath been drawn: just as they are drawn even from things earthly, to wit, stone, lion, lamb, man having two sons, and the like: therefore having humbled the false-accuser, He endureth with the sun: because having vanquished the devil by the Resurrection, He sitteth at the right hand of the Father,(3) where He dieth no more, and death no longer over Him shall have dominion.(4) This too is before the moon, as though the First-born from the dead were going before the Church, which is passing on in the departure and succession of mortals. These are "the generations of generations." Or perchance it is because generations are those whereby we are begotten mortally; but generations of generations those whereby we are begotten again immortally. And such is the Church which He went before, in order that He might endure before the moon, being the First-born of the dead. To be sure, that which is in the Greek Geneas genepn, some have interpreted, not "generations," but, "of a generation of generations:" because geneas is of ambiguous case in Greek, and whether it be the genitive singular ths geneas, that is, of the generation, or the accusative plural ths geneas that is, the generations, doth not clearly appear, except that deservedly that sense hath been preferred wherein, as though explaining What he had called "the moon," he added in continuation, "generations of generations,"
9. "And He shall come down like rain into a fleece, and like drops distilling upon the earth" (ver. 6). He hath called to our minds and admonished us, that what was done by Gedeon the Judge, in Christ hath its end. For he asked a sign of the Lord, that a fleece laid on the floor should alone be rained upon, and the floor should be dry; and again, the fleece alone should be dry, and the floor should be rained upon; and so it came to pass.s Which thing signified, that, being as it were on a floor in the midst of the whole round world, the dry fleece was the former people Israel. The same Christ therefore Himself came down like rain upon a fleece, when yet the floor was dry: whence also He said, "I am not sent but to the sheep which were lost of the house of lsrael."(6) There He chose out a Mother by whom to receive the form of a servant, wherein He was to appear to men: there the disciples, to whom He gave this same injunction, saying, "Into the way of the nations go ye not away, and into the cities of the Samaritans enter ye not: go ye first to the sheep which are lost of the house of Israel."(7) When He saith, go ye first to them, He showeth also that hereafter, when at length the floor was to be rained upon, they would go to other sheep also, which were not of the old people Israel, concerning whom He saith, "I have other sheep which are not of this fold, it behoveth Me to bring in them also, that there may be one flock and one Shepherd."(8) Hence also the Apostle: "for I say," he saith, "that Christ was a minister of the Circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises of the fathers."(9) Thus rain came down upon the fleece, the floor being yet dry. But inasmuch as he continueth, "but that the nations should glorify God for His mercy:"(10) that when the time came on, that should be fulfilled which by the Prophet He saith, "a people whom I have not known hath served Me, in the hearkening of the ear it hath obeyed Me:"(11) we now see, that of the grace of Christ the nation of the Jews hath remained dry, and the whole round world through all nations is being rained upon by clouds full of Christian grace. For by another word he hath indicated the same rain, saying, "drops distilling:" no longer upon the fleece, but "upon the earth." For what else is rain but drops distilling? But that the above nation under the name of a fleece is signified, I think is either because they were to be stripped of the authority of teaching, just as a sheep is stripped of its skin; or because in a secret place He was hiding that same rain, which He willed not should be preached to uncircumcision, that is, be revealed to uncircumcised nations.
10. "There shall arise in His days justice and abundance of peace, until the moon be taken away" (ver. 7). The expression tollatur some have interpreted by "be taken away," but others by "be exalted," translating one Greek word, which is there used, antanaireqh,just as each of them thought good. But they who have said, "be removed," and they who have said, "be taken away," do not so very much differ. For by the expression, "be removed," custom doth teach us that there should be rather implied, that a thing is taken away and is no more, than that it is raised to a higher place: but "be taken away" can be understood in no other way at all, than that a thing is destroyed: that is, it is no more: but by "be exalted," only that it is raised to a higher place. Which indeed when it is put in a bad sense is wont to signify pride: as is the passage, "In thy wisdom be not exalted."(1) But in a good sense it belongeth to a more exceeding honour, as, for instance, when anything is being raised; as is, "In the nights exalt ye your hands unto holy places, and bless ye the Lord."(2) Here then if we have understood the expression, "be removed," what will be, "until the moon be removed," but that it be so dealt with that it be no more? For perchance he willed this also to be perceived, that mortality is to be no longer, "when the last enemy shall be destroyed, death:"(3) so that abundance of peace may be brought down so far as that nothing may withstand the felicity of the blessed from the infirmity of mortality: which will come to pass in that age, of which we have the faithful promise of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, concerning which it is said, "There shall arise in His days justice and abundance of peace:" until, death being utterly overcome and destroyed, all mortality be consumed. But if under the term moon, not the mortality of the flesh through which the Church is now passing, but the Church Herself in general hath been signified, which is to endure for everlasting, being delivered from this mortality, thus must be taken the expression, "There shall arise in His days justice and abundance of peace, until the moon be exalted;" as though it were said, There shall arise in His days justice, to conquer the contradiction and rebellion of the flesh, and whereby there may be made a peace so increasing and abundant, until the moon be exalted, that is, until the Church be lifted up, through the glory of the Resurrection to reign with Him, who went before Her in this glory, the first-born of the dead, that He might sit at the right hand of the Father;(4) thus with the sun s enduring before the moon, in the place whereunto hereafter was to be exalted the moon also.
11. "And He shall be Lord from sea even unto sea, and from the river even unto the ends of the round world" (ver. 8): He to wit concerning whom he had said, "There shall arise in His days justice and abundance of peace, until the moon be exalted."(6) If the Church here is properly signified under the term moon, in continuation he showed how widely that same Church He was going to spread abroad, when He added, "and He shall be Lord from sea even unto sea." For the land is encircled by a great sea which is called the Ocean: from which there floweth in some small part in the midst of the lands, and maketh those seas known to us, which are frequented by ships. Again, in "from sea even unto sea" He hath said, that from any one end of the earth even unto any other end, He would be Lord, whose name and power in the whole world were to be preached and to prevail exceedingly. To which, that there might not be understood in any other manner, "from sea even unto sea:" He immediately added, "and from the river even unto the ends of the round world." Therefore that which He saith in "even unto the ends of the round world," the same He had said before in "from sea even unto sea." But in that which now He saith, "from the river," He hath evidently expressed that He willed Christ to publish at length His power from that place from whence also He began to choose His disciples, to wit from the river Jordan, where upon the Lord, on His baptism, when the Holy Ghost descended, there sounded a voice from Heaven, "This is My beloved Son."(7) From this place then His doctrine and the authority of the heavenly ministry setting out, is enlarged even unto the ends of the round world, when there is preached the Gospel of the kingdom in the whole world, for a testimony unto all nations: and then shall come the end.(8)
12. "In His presence shall fall down the Ethiopians, and His enemies shall lick the earth" (ver. 9). By the Ethiopians, as by a part the whole, He hath signified all nations, selecting that nation to mention especially by name, which is at the ends of the earth. By "in His presence shall fall down" hath been signified, shall adore Him. And because there were to be schisms in divers quarters of the world, which would be jealous of the Church Catholic spread abroad in the whole round world, and again those same schisms dividing themselves into the names of men, and by loving the men under whose authority they had been rent, opposing themselves to the glory of Christ which is throughout all lands; so when He had said, "in His presence shall fall down the Ethiopians," He added, "and His enemies shall lick the earth:" that is, shall love men, so that they shall be jealous of the glory of Christ, to whom hath been said, "Be Thou exalted above the Heavens, O God, and above all the earth Thy glory."(1) For man earned to hear, "Earth thou art, and unto earth thou shall go."(2) By licking this earth, that is, being delighted with the vainly talking authority of such men, by loving them, and by counting them for the most pleasing of men, they gainsay the divine sayings, whereby the Catholic Church hath been foretold, not as to be in any particular quarter of the world, as certain schisms are, but in the whole universe by bearing fruit and growing so as to attain even unto the very Ethiopians, to wit, the remotest and foulest of mankind.(3)
13.(4) "The kings of Tharsis and the isles shall offer gifts, the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall lead(5) presents" (ver. 10). This no longer requireth an expounder but a thinker; yea it doth thrust itself upon the sight not only of rejoicing believers, but also of groaning unbelievers--except perchance we must inquire why there hath been said, "shall lead presents." For there are wont to be led those things which can walk. For could it by any means have been spoken with reference to the sacrifice of victims? Far be it that such "righteousness" should arise in His days. But those gifts which have been foretold as to be led, seem to me to signify men, whom into the fellowship of the Church of Christ the authority of kings doth lead: although even persecuting kings have led gifts, knowing not what they did, in sacrificing the holy Martyrs. "And there shall adore Him all kings of the earth, all nations shall serve Him" (ver. 11).
14. But while he is explaining the reasons why so great honour is paid Him by kings, and He is served of all nations: "because He hath delivered," he saith, "the needy man from the mighty, and the poor man, to whom was no helper"(ver. 12). This needy and poor man is the people of men believing in Him. In this people are also kings adoring Him. For they do not disdain to be needy and poor, that is, humbly confessing sins, and needing the glory of God(6) and the grace of God, in order that this King, Son of the King, may deliver them from the mighty one. For this same mighty one is he who above was called the Slanderer: whom mighty to subdue men to himself, and to hold them bound in captivity, not his virtue did make, but men's sins. The same is himself also called strong; therefore here mighty also. But He that hath humbled the slanderer and hath entered into the house of the strong man to bind him and to spoil his vessels,(7) He "hath delivered the needy and the poor man." For this neither the virtue of any one could accomplish, nor any just man, nor any Angel. When then there was no helper, by His coming He saved them Himself.
15. But it might occur to one; if because of sins man was held by the devil, have sins pleased Christ, who saved the needy man from the mighty? Far be it. But "He it is that shall spare the helpless and poor man" (ver. 13): that is, shall remit sins to the man, humble and not trusting in his own merits, or hoping for salvation because of his own virtue, but needing the grace of his Saviour. But when he hath added, "and the souls of the poor He shall save:" he hath recommended to our notice both the aids of grace; both that which is for the remission of sins, when he saith, "He shall spare the poor and needy man;" and that which doth consist in the imparting of righteousness, when he hath added, "and the souls of the poor He shall save." For no one is meet of himself for salvation (which salvation is perfect righteousness), unless God's grace aid: because the fulness of the law is nought but love, which doth not exist in us of ourselves, but is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which hath been given unto us.(8)
16. "From usuries and iniquity He shall redeem the souls of them" (ver. 14). What are these usuries but sins, which are also called debts?(9) But I think they have been called usuries, because more of ill is found in the punishments than hath been committed in the sins. For, for example's sake, while a man-slayer killeth only the body of a man, but can no wise hurt the soul; of himself both soul and body is destroyed in hell. Because of such despisers of present commandment and deriders of future punishment hath been said, "I coming would have exacted with usuries,"(10) from these usuries are redeemed the souls of the poor by that blood which hath been shed for the remission of sins. He shall redeem, I say, from usuries, by remitting sins which owed larger punishments: but He shall redeem from iniquity, by helping them by grace even to do righteousness. Therefore the same two things have been repeated which were said above. For in that which is above, "He shall spare the helpless and poor man,"(11) there is understood "from usuries:" but in that which there he saith, "and the souls of the poor He shall save;" there seemeth to have been implied, "from iniquity:" so that the words "He shall redeem," are understood with both. So when He shall spare the poor and helpless man, and shall save the souls of the poor: thus "from usuries and iniquity He shall redeem the souls of them. And honourable shall be the name of Him in the presence of them." For they give honour to His name for so great benefits, and they respond that "meet and right it is"(1) to render thanks to the Lord their God. Or, as some copies have it, "and honourable is the name of them in the presence of Him:" for even if Christians seem despicable to this world, the name of them in the presence of Him is honourable, who to them hath given it, no longer remembering those names in His lips, whereby before they used to be called, when they were bound fast by the superstitions of the Gentiles, or signed with names derived from their own evil deserts, before they were Christians, which name is honourable in the presence of Him, even if it seemeth despicable to enemies.
17. "And He shall live, and there shall be given to Him of the gold of Arabia" (ver. 15). There would not have been said, "and He shall live "(for of whom could not this be said, though living for ever so brief a space of time on this earth?) unless that life were being recommended to our notice, wherein He "dieth no more, and death over Him shall have no more dominion."(2) And thus, "and He shall live,': that was despised in death: for, as another Prophet saith, "there shall be taken away from the earth the life of Him."(3) But what is, "and there shall be given to Him of the gold of Arabia"? For the fact that from thence even the former Salomon received gold, in this Psalm hath been in a figure transferred unto another true Salomon, that is the true Peace-maker. For the former did not have dominion "from the river even unto the ends of the round world."(4) Thus then hath been prophesied, that even the wise men of this world in Christ would believe. But by Arabia we understand the Gentiles; by gold wisdom which doth as much excel among all doctrines as gold among metals. Whence hath been written, "Receive ye prudence as silver,(5) and wisdom as proved gold."(6) " And they shall pray concerning Himself alway." That which the Greek hath, peri autou, some have interpreted by "concerning Himself," some "for Himself," or "for Him." But what is, "concerning Himself," except perchance that for which we pray, saying, "Thy kingdom com"?(7) For Christ's coming shall make present to believers the kingdom of God. But how to understand "for Him" is difficult; except that when prayer is made for th Church, for Himself prayer is made, because she is His Body. For concerning Christ and the Church hath been sent before a great Sacrament,(8) "there shall be two in one flesh." But now that which followeth, "all the day long," that is, in all time, "they shall bless Him," is sufficiently evident.
18. "And there shall be a firmament on the earth, on the tops of the mountains" (ver. 16). For, "all the promises of God in Him are Yea,"(9) that is, in Him are confirmed: because in Him hath been fulfilled whatever hath been propheseid for our salvation. For the tops ;of the mountains it is meet to understand as the authors of the divine Scriptures, that is, those persons through whom they were supplied: wherein He is indeed Himself the Firmament: for unto Him all things that have been divinely written are ascribed. But this He willed should be on earth; because for the sake of those that are upon earth, they were written. Whence He came also Himself upon earth, in order that He might confirm all these things, that is, in Himself might show them to have ben fulfilled. "For it wa necessary," He saith, "for all things to be fulfilled which were written in the Law, and the Prophets, and Psalms, concerning Me:"(10) that is, "in the tops of the mountain."(11) For so there cometh in the last time the evident Mount of the Lord, prepared on the summit of the mountains: of which here he speaketh, "in the tops of the mountains." "Highly superexalted above Libanus shall be His fruit." Libanus we are wont to take as this world's dignity: for Libanus is a mountain bearing tall trees, and the name itself is interpreted whiteness.(12) For what marvel, if above every brilliant state of this world there is superexalted the fruit of Christ, of which fruit the lovers have contemned all secular dignities? But if in a good sense we take Libanus, because of the "cedars of Libanus which He hath planted:"(13) what other fruit must be understood, that is being exalted above this Libanus, except that whereof the Apostle speaketh when he is going to speak concerning that love of his, "yet a pre-eminent way to you I show"?(14) For this is put forward even in the first rank of divine gifts, in the place where he saith, "but the fruit of the Spirit of love:"(15) and with this are conjoined the remaining words as consequent. "And they shall flourish from the city like hay of the earth." Because city is used ambigously, and there is not annexed of Him, or of God, for there hath not been said, "from the city" of Him, or "from the city" of God, but only "from the city:" in a good sense it is understood, in order that from the city of God, that is, from the Church, they may flourish like grass; but grass bearing fruit, as is that of wheat: for even this is called grass(1) in Holy Scripture; as in Genesis(2) there is a command for the earth to bring forth every tree and every grass, and there is not added every wheat: which without doubt would not have been passed over unless under the name of grass this also were understood; and in many other passages of the Scriptures this is found. But if we must take, "and they shall flourish like the grass of the earth," in the same manner as is said, "all flesh is grass, and the glory of a man like the flower of grass :"(3) certainly then that city must be understood which doth intimate this world's society: for it was not to no purpose that Cain was the first to build a city.(4) Thus the fruit of Christ being exalted above Libanus, that is, above enduring trees and undecaying timbers, because He is the everlasting fruit, all the glory of a man according to the temporal exaltation of the world is compared to grass; for by believers and by men already hoping for life eternal temporal felicity is despised, in order that there may be fulfilled that which hath been written, "all flesh is grass, and all the glory of flesh as the flower of grass the grass hath dried, the flower hath fallen off, but the word of the Lord doth endure for ever." There is the fruit of Him exalted above Libanus. For always flesh hath been grass, and the glory of flesh as the flower of grass: but because it was not clearly proved what felicity ought to have been chosen and preferred, the flower of grass was esteemed for a great matter: not only it was by no means despised, but it was even chiefly sought after. As if therefore at that time He shall have begun to be thus, when there is reproved and despised whatever used to flourish in the world, thus hath been said, "superexalted above Libanus shall be the fruit of Him, and they shall flourish from the city like grass of the earth:" that is, glorified above all things shall be that which is promised for everlasting, and compared to the grass of the earth shall be whatever is counted a great matter in the world.
19. "Be," therefore, "the name of Him blessed for ever: before the sun endureth the name of Him" (ver. 17). By the sun times are signified. Therefore for everlasting endureth the name of Him. For eternity doth precede times, and is not bounded by time. "And there shall be blessed in Him all the tribes of the earth." For in Him is fulfilled that which hath been promised to Abraham. "For He saith not, In seeds, as though in many; but as though in one, And to thy Seed, which is Christ."(5) But to Abraham is said, "In thy Seed shall be blessed all the tribes of the earth."(6) And not the sons of the flesh but the sons of promise are counted in the Seed.(7) "All nations shall magnify Him." As if in explanation there is repeated that which above hath been said. For because they shall be blessed in Him, they shall magnify Him; not of themselves making Him to be great, that of Himself is great, but by praising and confessing Him to be great. For thus we magnify God: thus also we say, "Hallowed be Thy name,"(8) which is indeed always holy.
20. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath done wonderful things alone" (ver. 18). Contemplating all things above spoken of, a hymn bursteth(9) forth; and the Lord God of Israel is blessed. For that is being fulfilled which hath been spoken to that barren woman, "and He that hath delivered Thee, the God of Israel, shall Himself be called of the whole earth."(10) "He doeth" Himself "marvellous things alone:" for whosoever do them, He doth Himself work in them, "who doeth wonderful things alone." "And blessed be the name of His glory(11) for everlasting, and for age of age" (ver. 19). For what else should the Latin interpreters have said, who could not have said for everlasting, and for everlasting of everlasting? For it soundeth as if one thing were meant in the expression "for everlasting," and another thing in the expression "for age:" but the Greek hath eis ton aipna, kai eis ton aipna tou aipnos, which perchance more meetly might have been rendered by, "for age, and for age of age:" so that by "for age," might have been understood as long as this age(12) endureth; but "for age of age," that which after the end of this is promised to be. "And there shall be fufilled with the glory of Him every land: so be it, so be it." Thou hast commanded, O Lord, so it is coming to pass: so it is coming to pass, until that which began with the river, may attain fully even unto the ends of the round world.
1. This Psalm hath an inscription, that is, a title, "There have failed the hymns of David, the son of Jesse.(14) A Psalm(15) of Asaph himself." So many Psalms we have on the titles whereof is written the name David, nowhere there is added, "son of Jesse," except in this alone. Which we must believe hath not been done to no purpose, nor capriciously. For everywhere God doth make intimations to us, and to the understanding thereof doth invite the godly study of love. What is, "there have failed the hymns of David, the son of Jesse"? Hymns are praises of God accompanied with singing: hymns are songs containing the praise of God. If there be praise, and it be not of God, it is no hymn: if there be praise, and God's praise, and it be not sung, it is no hymn. It must needs then, if it be a hymn, have these three things, both praise, and that of God, and singing. What is then, "there have failed the hymns"? There have failed the praises which are sung unto God. He seemeth to tell of a thing painful, and so to speak deplorable. For he that singeth praise, not only praiseth, but only praiseth with gladness: he that singeth praise, not only singeth, but also loveth him of whom he singeth. In praise, there is the speaking forth of one confessing; in singing, the affection of one loving. "There have failed" then "the hymns of David," he saith: and he hath added, "the son of Jesse." For David was king of Israel, son of Jesse,(1) at a certain time of the Old Testament, at which time the New Testament was therein hidden, like fruit in a root. For if thou seek fruit in a root, thou wilt not find, and yet dost thou not find any fruit in the branches, except that which hath gone forth from the root. ... And in like manner as Christ Himself to be born after the flesh was hidden in the root, that is in the seed of the Patriarchs, and at a certain time must be revealed, as at the fruit appearing, according as it is written, "there hath flourished a shoot from the root of Jesse:"(2) so also the New Testament itself which is in Christ, in those former times was hidden, being known to the Prophets alone, and to the very few godly men, not by the manifestation of things present, but by the revelation of things future. For what meaneth it, brethren (to mention but one thing), that Abraham sending his faithful servant to espouse a wife for his only son, maketh him swear to him, and in the oath saith to him, "Put thy hand under my thigh, and swear"?(3) What was there in the thigh of Abraham, where he put his hand in swearing? What was there there, except that which even then was promised to him, "In thy seed shall be blessed all nations"?(4) Under the name of thigh, flesh is signified. From the flesh of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, and not to mention many names, through Mary was our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. But that the root was in the Patriarchs, how shall we show? Let us question Paul. The Gentiles now believing in Christ, and desiring as it were to boast over the Jews who crucified Christ; although also from that same people there came another wall, meeting in the corner, that is, in Christ Himself, the wall of uncircumcision, that is, of the Gentiles, coming from a different quarter: when, I say, the nations were lifting up themselves, he doth thus depress them. "For if thou," he saith, "being cut out of the natural wild olive, hast been grafted in among them, do not boast against the branches: for if thou boastest, thou dost not bear the root, but the root thee."(5) Therefore he speaketh of certain branches broken off from the root of the Patriarchs because of unbelief, and the wild olive therein grafted in, that it might be partaker of the fatness of the olive, that is, the Church coming out of the Gentiles. And who doth graft the wild olive on the olive? The olive is wont to be grafted on the wild olive; the wild olive on the olive we never saw. For whosoever may have done so will find no berries but those of the wild olive. For that which is grafted in, the same groweth, and of that kind the fruit is found. There is not found the fruit of the root but of the graft. The Apostle showing that God. did this thing by His Omnipotence, namely, that the wild olive should be grafted into the root of the olive, and should not bear wild berries, but olive--ascribing it to the Omnipotence of God, the Apostle saith this, "If thou hast been cut out of the natural wild olive and against nature hast been grafted into a good(6) olive, do not boast," he saith, "against the branches."(7) ...
3. In the time then of the Old. Testament, brethren, the promises from our God to that carnal people were earthly and temporal. There was promised an earthly kingdom, there was promised that land into which they were also led, after being delivered from Egypt: by Jesus(8) son of Nave they were led into the land of promise, where also earthly Jerusalem was builded, where David reigned: they received the land, after being delivered from Egypt, by passing through the Red Sea. ... Such were also those promises, which were not to endure, through which however were figured future promises which were to endure, so that all that course of temporal promises was a figure and a sort of prophecy of things future. Accordingly when that kingdom was failing, where reigned David, the son of Jesse, that is, one that was a man, though a Prophet, though holy, because he saw and foresaw Christ to come, of whose seed also after the flesh He was to be born: nevertheless a man, nevertheless not yet Christ, nevertheless not yet our King Son of God, but king David son of Jesse: because then that kingdom was to fail, through the receiving of which kingdom at that time God was praised by carnal men; for this thing alone they esteemed a great matter, namely, that they were delivered temporally from those by whom they were being oppressed, and that they had escaped from persecuting enemies through the Red Sea, and had been led through the desert, and had found country and kingdom: for this alone they praised God, not yet perceiving the thing which God was designing beforehand and promising in these figures. In the failing therefore of those things for which the carnal people, over whom reigned that David, was praising God, "there failed the hymns of David," not the Son of God, but the "son of Jesse." ...
4. Whose voice is the Psalm? "Of Asaph."(1) What is Asaph? As we find in interpretations from the Hebrew language into the Greek, and those again translated to us from the Greek into the Latin, Asaph is interpreted Synagogue. It is the voice therefore of the Synagogue. But when thou hast heard Synagogue, do not forthwith abhor it, as if it were the murderer of the Lord. That Synagogue was indeed the murderer of the Lord, no man doubteth it: but remember, that from the Synagogue were the rams whereof we are the sons. Whence it is said in a Psalm, "Bring ye to the Lord the sons of rams."(2) What rams are thence? Peter, John, James, Andrew, Bartholomew, and the rest of the Apostles. Hence also he too at first Saul, afterwards Paul: that is, at first proud, afterwards humble. ...Therefore even Paul came to us from the Synagogue, and Peter and the other Apostles from the Synagogue. Therefore when thou hast heard the voice of the Synagogue, do not look to the deserving thereof, but observe the offspring. There is speaking therefore in this Psalm, the Synagogue, after the failing of the hymns of David, the son of Jesse that is, after the failing of things temporal, through which God was wont to be praised by the carnal people. But why did these fail, except in order that others might be sought for? That there might be sought for what? Was it things which were not there? No, but things which were there being hidden in figures: not which were not yet there,(3) but which there as it were in a sort were concealed in certain secret things of mysteries. What things? "These," saith the Apostle himself, "were our figures."(4) ...
5. It was the Synagogue therefore, that is, they that there worshipped God after a godly sort, but yet for the sake of earthly things, for the sake of these present things (for there are ungodly men who seek the blessings of present things from demons: but this people was on this account better than the Gentiles, because although it were blessings present and temporal, yet they sought them from the One God, who is the Creator of all things both spiritual and corporal). When therefore those godly men after the flesh were observing--that is that Synagogue which was made up of good men, men for the time good, not spiritual men, such as were the Prophets therein, such as were the few that understood the kingdom heavenly, eternal--that Synagogue, I say, observed what things it received from God, and what things God promised to that people, abundance of things earthly, land, peace, earthly felicity: but in all these things were figures, and they not perceiving what was there concealed in things figured, thought that God gave this for a great matter, and had nothing better to give to men loving Him and serving Him: they remarked and saw certain sinners, ungodly, blasphemers, servants of demons, sons of the Devil, living in great naughtiness and pride, yet abounding in such things earthly, temporal, for which sort of things they were serving God themselves: and there sprang up a most evil thought in the heart, which made the feet to totter, and almost slip out of God's way. And behold this thought was in the people of the Old Testament: I would it be not in our carnal brethren, when now openly there is being proclaimed the felicity of the New Testament. ...
6. "How good is the God of Israel!" But to whom? "To men right in heart" (ver. 1). To men perverse what? Perverse He seemeth. So also in another Psalm He saith: "With a holy man holy Thou shall be, and with the innocent man innocent Thou shall be, and with the perverse man perverse Thou shalt be."(5) What is, perverse Thou shall be with the perverse man? Perverse the perverse man shall think Thee. Not that by any means God is made perverse. Far be it: what He is, He is. But in like manner as the sun appeareth mild to one having clear, sound, healthy, strong eyes, but against weak eyes doth dart hard spears, so to say; the former looking at it it doth invigorate, the latter it doth torture, though not being itself Changed, but the man being changed: so when thou shalt have begun to be perverse, and to thee God shall seem to be perverse, thou art changed, not He. That therefore to thee will be punishment which to good men is joy. He calling to mind this thing, saith, "How good is the God of Israel to men right in heart!"
7. But what to thee? "But my feet were almost moved" (ver. 2). When were the feet moved, except when the heart was not right? Whence was the heart not right? Hear: "My steps were well nigh overthrown." What he hath meant by "almost," the same he hath meant by "well nigh:" and what he hath meant by "my feet were almost moved," the same he hath meant by "my steps were overthrown." Almost my feet were moved, almost my steps were overthrown. Moved were the feet: but whence were the feet moved and the steps overthrown? Moved were the feet to going astray, overthrown were the steps to falling: not entirely, but "almost." But what is this? Already I was going to stray, I had not gone: already I was failing, I had not fallen.
8. But why even this? "For I was jealous," he saith, "in the case of sinners, looking on the peace of sinners" (ver. 3). I observed sinners, I saw them to have peace. What peace? Temporal, transient, falling, and earthly: but yet such as I also was desiring of God. I saw them that served not God to have that which I desired in; order that I might serve God: and my feet were moved and my steps were almost overthrown. But why sinners have this, he saith briefly: "Because there is no avoidance of their death, and there is a firmament in their scourge" (ver. 4). Now I have perceived, he saith, why they have peace, and flourish on the earth; because of their death there is no avoidance, because death sure and eternal doth await them, which neither doth avoid them, nor can they avoid it, "because there is no avoidance of their death, and there is a firmament in their scourge." And there is a firmament in their scourge. For their scourge is not temporal, but firm for everlasting. Because of these evil things then which are to be to them eternal, now what? "In the labours of men they are not, and with men they shall not be scourged" (ver. 5). Doth not even the devil himself escape scourging with men, for whom nevertheless an eternal punishment is being prepared?
9. Wherefore on this account what do these men, while they are not scourged, while they labour not with men? "Therefore," he saith "there hath holden them pride" (ver. 6). Observe these men, proud, undisciplined; observe the bull, devoted for a victim, suffered to stray at liberty; and to damage whatever he may, even up to the day of his slaughter. Now it is a good thing, brethren, that we should hear in the very words of a prophet of this bull as it were, whereof I have spoken. For thus of him the Scripture doth make mention in another place: he saith that they are, as it were, made ready as for a victim, and that they are spared for an evil liberty.(1) "Therefore," he saith, "there hath holden them pride." What is, "there hath holden them pride"? "They have been clothed about with their iniquity and ungodliness." He hath not said, covered; but, "clothed about," on all sides covered up with their ungodliness. Deservedly miserable, they neither see nor are seen, because they are clothed about; and the inward parts of them are not seen. For whosoever could behold the inward parts of evil men, that are as it were happy for a time, whosoever could see their torturing consciences, whosoever could examine their souls racked with such mighty perturbations of desires and fears, would see them to be miserable even when they are called happy. But because "they are clothed about with their iniquity and ungodliness," they see not; but neither are they seen. The Spirit knew them, that saith these words concerning them: and we ought to examine such men with the same eye as that wherewith we know that we see, if there is taken from our eyes the covering of ungodliness. ...
10. At first these men are being described. "There shall go forth as if out of fat their iniquity" (ver. 7). ...A poor beggar committeth a theft; out of leanness hath gone forth the iniquity: but when a rich man aboundeth in so many things, why doth he plunder the things of others? Of the former the iniquity out of leanless, of the other out of fatness, hath gone forth. Therefore to the lean man when thou sayest, Why hast thou done this? Humbly afflicted and abject he replieth, Need hath compelled me. Why hast thou not feared God? Want was urgent. Say to a rich man, Why doest thou these things, and fearest not God?--supposing thee to be great enough to be able to say it--see if he even deigneth to hear; see if even against thyself(2) there will not go forth iniquity out of his fatness. For now they declare war with their teachers and reprovers, and become enemies of them that speak the truth, having been long accustomed to be coaxed with the words of flatterers, being of tender ear, of unsound heart. Who would say to a rich man, Thou hast ill done in robbing other men's goods? Or perchance if any man shall have dared to speak, and he is such a man as he could not withstand, what doth he reply? All that he saith is in contempt of God. Why? Because he is proud. Why? Because he is fat. Why? Because he is devoted for a victim. "They have passed over unto purpose of heart." Here within they have passed over. What is, "they have passed over"? They have crossed over the way. What is, "they have passed over"? They have exceeded the bounds of mankind, men like the rest they think not themselves. They have passed over, I say, the bounds of mankind. When thou sayest to such a man, Thy brother this beggar is; when thou sayest to such a man, Thy brother(1) this poor man is; the same parents ye have had, Adam and Eve: do not heed thy haughtiness, do not heed the vapour unto which thou hast been elevated; although an establishment waiteth about thee, although countless gold and silver, although a marbled house doth contain thee, although fretted ceilings cover thee, thou and the poor man together have for covering that roof of the universe, the sky; but thou art different from the poor man in things not thine own, added to thee from without: thyself see in them, not them in thee. Observe thyself, how thou art in relation to the poor man; thyself, not that which thou hast. For why dost thou despise thy brother? In the bowels of your mothers ye were both naked. Forsooth, even when ye shall have departed this life, and these bodies shall have rotted, when the soul hath been breathed forth, let the bones of the rich and poor man be distinguished! I am speaking of the equality of condition, of that very lot of mankind, wherein all men are born:(2) for both here doth a man become rich, and a poor man will not alway be here: and as a rich man doth not come rich, so neither doth he depart rich; the very same is the entrance of both, and like is the departure. I add, that perchance ye will change conditions. Now everywhere the Gospel is being preached: observe a certain poor man full of sores, who was lying before the gate of a rich man? and was desiring to be filled with crumbs, which used to fall from the table of the rich man; observe also that likeness(4) of thine who was clothed with purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. It chanced, I say, for that poor man to die, and to be borne by the Angels into the bosom of Abraham: but the other died and was buried; for the other's burial perchance no one cared. ... Brethren, how great was the toil of the poor man! Of how long duration were the luxuries of the rich man! But the condition which they have received in exchange is everlasting. ... Deservedly too late he will say, "Send Lazarus,"(5) "let him tell even my brethren;" since to himself there is not granted the fruit of repentance. For it is not that repentance(6) is not given, but everlasting will be the repentance, and no salvation after repentance. Therefore these men "have passed over unto purpose of heart."
11. "They have thought and have spoken spitefulness" (ver. 8). But men do speak spitefulness even with fear: but these men how? "Iniquity on high they have spoken." Not only they have spoken iniquity; but even openly, in the hearing of all, proudly; "I will do it;" "I will show you;" "thou shall know with whom thou hast to do;" "I will not let thee live." Thou(7) mightest have but thought such things, not have given utterance to them! Within the chambers of thought at least the evil desire might have been confined, he might have at least restrained it within his thought. Why? Is he perchance lean? "There shall go forth as if out of fatness the iniquity of them." "Iniquity on high they have spoken."
12. "They have set against Heaven their mouth, and their tongue hath passed over above the earth "(ver. 9). For this, "hath passed over above the earth" is, they pass over all earthly things? What is it to pass over all earthly things? He doth not think of himself as a man that can die suddenly, when he is speaking; he doth menace as if he were alway to live: his thought doth transcend earthly frailty, he knoweth not with what sort of vessel he is enwrapped; he knoweth not what hath been written in another place concerning such men: "His spirit shall go forth, and he shall return unto his earth, in that day shall perish all his thoughts."(8) But these men not thinking of their last clay, speak pride,(9) and unto Heaven they set their mouth, they transcend the earth. If a robber were not to think of his last day, that is, the last day of his trial, when sent to prison, nothing would be more monstrous than he: and yet he might escape. Whither dost thou flee to escape death? Certain will that day be. What is the long time which thou hast to live? How much is the long time which hath an end, even if it were a long time? To this there is added that it is nought: and the very thing which is called long time is not a long time, and is uncertain. Why doth he not think of this? Because he hath set against Heaven his mouth, and his tongue hath passed over above the earth. "And full days shall be found in them."
13. "Therefore there shall return hither My people" (ver. 10). Now Asaph himself is returning hither. For he saw these things abound to unrighteous men, he saw them abound to proud men: he is returning to God, and is beginning to inquire and discuss. But when? "When full days shall be found in them." What is "full days"? "But when there came the fulness of time, God sent His Son."(10) This is the very fulness of time, when He came to teach men that things temporal should be despised, that they should not esteem as a great matter whatever object evil men covet, that they should suffer whatever evil men fear. He became the way, He recalled us to inward thought, admonished us of what should be sought of God. And see from what thought reacting upon itself, and in a manner recalling the waves of its impulse, he doth pass over unto choosing true things.
14. "And they said, How hath God known, and is there knowledge in the Most High?" (ver. 11). See through what thought they pass. Behold unjust men are happy, God doth not care for things human. Doth He indeed know what we do? See what things are being said. We are inquiring, brethren, "How hath God known," etc. (no longer let Christians say it). For how doth it appear to thee that God knoweth not, and that there is no knowledge in the Most High? He replieth, "Lo! themselves they are sinners, and in the world they have gotten abundant riches, (ver. 12). Both sinners they are, and in the world they have gotten abundant riches. He confessed that he willed not to be a sinner in order that he might have riches. A carnal soul for things visible and earthly would have sold its justice. What sort of justice is that which is retained for the sake of gold, as if gold were a more precious thing than justice herself, or as if when a man denieth the deposit of another man's goods, he to whom he denied them should suffer a greater loss, than he that denieth them to him. The former doth lose a garment, the latter fidelity. "Lo! they are themselves sinners, and in the world they have gotten abundant riches." On this account therefore God knoweth not, and on this account there is no knowledge in the Most High.
15. "And I said, therefore(1) without cause I have justified my heart" (ver. 13). In that I serve God, and have not these things; they serve him not, and they abound in these things: "therefore without cause I have justified my heart, and have washed among the innocent my hands." This without cause I have done. Where is the reward of my good life? Where is the wage of my service? I live well and am in need; and the unjust man doth abound. "And I have washed among the innocent my hands. And I have been scourged all the day long" (ver. 14). From me the scourges of God do not impart. I serve well, and I am scourged; he serveth not, and is honoured. He hath proposed to himself a great question. The soul is disturbed, the soul doth pass over things which are to pass away unto despising things earthly and to desiring things eternal. There is a passage of the soul herself in this thought; where she doth toss in a sort of tempest she will reach the harbour. And it is with her as it is with sick persons, who are less violently sick, when recovery is far off: when recovery is at hand they are in higher fever; physicians call it the "critical(2) accession" through which they pass to health: greater fever is there, but leading to health: greater heat, but recovery is at hand. So also is this man enfevered. For these are dangerous words, brethren, offensive, and almost blasphemous, "How hath God known?" This is why I say, "and almost;" He hath not said, God hath not known: he hath not said, there is no knowledge in the Most High: but as if inquiring, hesitating, doubting. This is the same as he said a little before, "My steps were almost overthrown."(3) He doth not affirm it, but the very doubt is dangerous. Through danger he is passing to health. Hear now the health: "Therefore in vain I have justified my heart, and have washed among the innocent my hands: and I have been scourged all the day long, and my chastening was in the morning." Chastening is correction. He that is being chastened is being corrected. What is, "in the morning"? It is not deferred. That of the ungodly is being deferred, mine is not deferred: the former is too late or is not at all; mine is in the morning.
16. "If I said, I shall declare thus; behold, the generation of Thy sons I have reprobated" (ver. 15): that is, I will teach thus. How wilt thou teach? that there is no knowledge in the Most High, that God doth not know? Wilt thou propound this opinion, that without cause men live justly who do live justly; that a just man hath lost his service, because God doth. more show favour to evil men, or else He doth care for no one? Wilt thou tell this, declare this? He doth restrain himself by an authority repressing him. What authority? A man wisheth some time to break out in this sentiment: but he is recalled by the Scriptures directing us alway to live well, saying, that God doth care for things human, that He maketh a distinction between a godly man and an ungodly man. Therefore this man also wishing to put forth this sentiment, doth recollect himself. And what saith he? "I have reprobated the generation of Thy sons." If I shall declare thus, the generation of just men I shall reprobate. As also some copies have it, "Behold, the generation of thy sons with which I have been in concert:" that is, with which consisting of Thy sons I have been in concert; that is, with which I have agreed, to which I have been conformed: I have been out of time with all, if so I teach. For he doth sing in concert who giveth the tune together; but he that giveth not the tune together doth not sing in concert. Am I to say something different from that which Abraham said, from that which Isaac said, from that which Jacob said, from that which the Prophets said? For all they said that God doth care for things human, am I to say that He careth not? Is there greater wisdom in me than in them? Greater understanding in me than in them? A most wholesome authority hath called back his thought from ungodliness. And what followeth? That he might not reprobate, he did what? "And I undertook to know" (ver. 16). May God be with him in order that he may know. Meanwhile, brethren, from a great fall he is being withheld, when he doth not presume that he already knoweth, but hath undertaken to know that which he knew not. For but now he was willing to appear as if knowing, and to declare that God hath no care of things human. For this hath come to be a most naughty and ungodly doctrine of unrighteous men. Know, brethren, that many men dispute and say that God careth not for things human, that by chances all things are ruled, or that our wills have been made subject to the stars, that each one is not dealt with according to his deserts, but by the necessity of his stars,--an evil doctrine, an impious doctrine. Unto these thoughts was going that man whose feet were almost moved, and whose steps were all but overthrown, into this error he was going; but because he was not in tune with the generation of the sons of God, he undertook to know, and condemned the knowledge wherein with God's just men he agreed not. And what he saith let us hear; how that he undertook to know, and was helped, and learned something, and declared it to us. "And I undertook," he saith, "to know." "In this labour is before me." Truly a great labour; to know in what manner both God doth care for things human, and it is well with evil men, and good men labour. Great is the importance of the question; therefore, "and this labour is before me." As it were there is standing in my face a sort of wall, but thou hast the voice of a Psalm, "In my God I shall pass over the wall."(1)
17. ... And he hath done this; for he saith how long labour is before him; "until I enter into the sanctuary of God, and understand upon the last things" (ver. 17). A great thing it is, brethren: now for a long time I labour, he saith, and before my face I see a sort of insuperable labour, to know in what manner both God is just, and doth care for things human, and is not unjust because men sinning and doing wicked actions have happiness on this earth; but the godly and men serving God are wasted ofttimes in trials and in labours; a great difficulty it is to know this, but only "until I enter into the Sanctuary of God." For in the Sanctuary what is presented to thee, in order that thou mayest solve this question? "And I understand," he saith, "upon the last things:" not present things. I, he saith, from the Sanctuary of God stretch out mine eye unto the end, I pass over present things. All that which is called the human race, all that mass of mortality is to come to the balance, is to come to the scale, thereon will be weighed the works of men. All things now a cloud doth enfold: but to God are known the merits of each severally. "And I understand," he saith, "upon the last things:" but not of myself; for before me there is labour. Whence "may I understand upon the last things"? Let me enter into the Sanctuary of God. In that place then he understood also the reason why these men now are happy.
18. To wit, "because of deceitfulness Thou hast set upon them" (ver. 18). Because deceitful they are, that is fraudulent; because deceitful they are, they suffer deceits. What is this, because fraudulent they are they suffer a fraud? They desire to play a fraud upon mankind in all their naughtinesses, they themselves also suffer a frand, in choosing earthly good things, and in forsaking the eternal. Therefore, brethren, in their very playing off a fraud they suffer a fraud. In that which but now I said, brethren, "What manner of wit(2) hath he who to gain a garment doth lose his fidelity?" hath he whose garment he hath taken suffered a fraud, or he that is smitten with so great a loss? If a garment is more precious than fidelity, the former doth suffer the greater loss: but if incomparably good faith doth surpass the whole world, the latter shall seem to have sustained the loss of a garment; but to the former is said, "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?"(3) Therefore what hath befallen them? "Because of deceitfulness Thou hast set for them: Thou didst throw them down while they were being exalted." He hath not said, Thou didst throw them down because they were lifted up: not as it were after that they were lifted up Thou didst throw them down; but in their very lifting up they were thrown down.For thus to be lifted up is already to fall.
19. "How have they become a desolation suddenly?" (ver. 19). He is wondering at them, understanding unto the last things. "They have vanished." Truly like smoke, which while it mounteth upward, doth vanish, so they have vanished. How doth he say, "They have vanished"? In the manner of one who understandeth the last things: "they have perished because of their iniquity." "Like as the dream of one rising up" (ver. 20). How have they vanished? As vanisheth the dream of one rising up. Fancy a man in sleep to have seen himself find treasures; he is a rich man, but only until he awaketh. "Like as the dream of one rising up:" so they have vanished, like the dream of one awaking. It is sought then and it is not: there is nothing in the hands, nothing in the bed. A poor man he went to sleep, a rich man in sleep he became: had he not awoke, he were a rich man: he woke up, he found the care which he had lost while sleeping. And these men shall find the misery which they had prepared for themselves. When they shall have awoke from this life, that thing doth pass away which was grasped as if in sleep. "Like as the dream of one rising up." And that there might not be said, "What then? a small thing doth their glory seem to thee, a small thing doth their state seem to thee, small things seem to thee inscriptions, images, statues, distinctions, troops of clients?" "O Lord," he saith, "in Thy city their image(1) Thou shall bring to nothing." ... He hath taken away the pride of rich men, he giveth counsel.(2) As if they(3) were saying, We are rich men, thou dost forbid us to be proud, dost prohibit us from boasting of the parade of our riches what then are we to do with these riches? Is it come to this, that there is nothing which they may do therewith? "Be they rich," he saith, "in good works; let them readily distribute communicate."(4) And what doth this profit? "Let them treasure unto themselves a good foundation for the future, that they may lay hold of true life."(5) Where ought they to lay up treasure for themselves? In that place whereunto he set his eye, when entering into the Sanctuary of God. Let there shudder all our rich brethren, abounding in money, gold, silver, household, honours, let them shudder at that which but now hath been said, "Thou shall bring to nothing their image." Are they not worthy to suffer these things, to wit that God bring to nothing their image in His city, because also they have themselves brought to nothing the image of God in their earthly city?
20. "Because my heart was delighted" (ver. 21). He is saying with what things he is tempted: "because my heart was delighted," he saith, "my reins also were changed." When those temporal things delighted me, my reins were changed. It may also be understood thus: "because my heart was delighted" in God, "my reins also were changed, that is, my lusts were changed, and I became wholly chaste. "My reins were changed." And hear how. "And I was brought unto nothing, and I knew not" (ver. 22). I, the very man, who now say these things of rich men, once longed for such things: therefore "even I was brought to nothing" when my steps were almost overthrown. "And I was brought unto nothing, and I knew not." We must not therefore despair even of them, against whom I was saying such things.
21. What is,"I knew not"? "As it were a beast I became to Thee, and I am alway with Thee "(ver. 23). There is a great difference between this man and others. He became as it were a beast in longing for earthly things, when being brought to nothing he knew not things eternal: but he departed not from his God, because he did not desire these things of demons, of the devil. For this I have already brought to your notice. The voice is from the Synagogue, that is, from that people which served not idols. A beast indeed I became, when desiring from my God things earthly: but I never departed from That my God.
22. Because then, though having become a beast, I departed not from my God, there followeth, "Thou hast held the hand of my right hand." He hath not said my right hand, but "the hand of my right hand." If the hand of the right hand it is, a hand hath a hand. "The hand Thou hast held of my right hand," in order that Thou mightest conduct me. For what hath he put hand? For power. For we say that a man hath that in his hand which he hath in his power: just as the devil said to God concerning Job, "Lay to Thine hand, and take away the things which he hath."(6) What is, lay to Thine hand? Put(7) forth power. The hand of God he hath called the power of God: as hath been written in another place, "death and life are in the hands of the tongue."(8) Hath the tongue hands? But what is, in the hands of the tongue? In the power of the tongue. What is, in the power of the tongue? "Out of thy mouth thou shalt be justified, and out of thy mouth thou shall be condemned."(9) "Thou hast held," therefore, "the hand of my right hand," the power of my right hand. What was my right hand? That I was alway with Thee. Unto the left I was holding, because I became a beast, that is, because there was an earthly concupiscence in me: but the right was mine, because I was alway with thee. Of this my fight hand Thou hast held the hand, that is, hast directed the power. What power? "He gave them power to become sons of God."(10) He is beginning now to be among the sons of God, belonging to the New Testament. See in what manner the hand of his right hand was held. "In Thy will Thou hast conducted me." What is, "in thy will"? Not in my merits. What is, "in Thy will"? Hear the apostle, who was at first a beast longing for things earthly, and living after the Old Testament. He saith what? "I that at first was a blasphemer, and persecutor, and injurious: but mercy I obtained."(1) What is, "in Thy will"? "By the grace of God I am what I am."(2) "And in(3) glory Thou hast taken me up." Now to what glory he was taken up, and in what glory, who can explain, who can say? Let us await it, because in the Resurrection it will be, in the last things it will be.
23. And he is beginning to think of that same Heavenly felicity, and to reprove himself, because he hath been a beast, and hath longed for things earthly. "For what have I in Heaven, and from Thee what have I willed upon earth?" (ver. 35). By your voice I see that ye have understood.(4) He compared with his earthly will the heavenly reward which he is to receive; he saw what was there being reserved for him; and while thinking and burning at the thought of some ineffable thing, which neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor into the heart of man hath ascended? he hath not said, this or that I have in Heaven, but," what have I in Heaven?" What is that thing which I have in Heaven? What is it? How great is it? Of what sort is it? "And," since that which I have in heaven doth not pass away, "from Thee what have I willed upon earth?"(6)... Thou reservest, he saith, for me in Heaven riches immortal, even Thyself, and I have willed from Thee on earth that which even ungodly men have, which even evil men have, which even abandoned men have, money, gold, silver, jewels, households, which even many. wicked men have: which even many profligate women have, many profligate men: these things as a great matter I have desired of my God upon earth: though my God reserveth Himself for me in Heaven!
24. "My heart and my flesh hath failed, O God of my heart" (ver. 26). This then for me in Heaven hath been reserved, "God of my heart, and my portion is my God." What is it, brethren? Let us find out our riches, let mankind choose their parts. Let us see men torn with diversity of desires: let some choose warservice, some advocacy, some divers and sundry offices of teaching, some merchandise, some farming, let them take their portions in human affairs: let the people of God cry, "my portion is my God." Not for a time "my portion;" but "my portion is my God for everlasting." Even if I alway have gold, what have I? Even if I did not alway have God, how great a good should I have? To this is added, that He promiseth Himself to me, and He promiseth that I shall have this for everlasting. So great a thing I have, and never have it not. Great felicity: "my portion is God!" How long? "For everlasting." For behold and see after what sort He hath loved him; He hath made his heart chaste: "God of my heart, and my portion is God for everlasting." become chaste for His heart hath become chaste, for nought now God is loved, from Him is not sought any other reward. He that doth seek any other reward from God, and therefore is willing to serve God, more precious doth make that which he willeth to receive, than Him from whom he willeth to receive. What then, is there no reward belonging to God? None except Himself. The reward belonging to God, is God Himself. This he loveth, this he esteemeth; if any other thing he shall have loved, the love will not be chaste. Thou art receding from the Fire immortal, thou wilt grow cold, wilt be corrupted. Do not recede. Recede not, it will be thy corruption, it will be thy fornication. Now he is returning, now he is repenting, now he is choosing repentance, now he is saying, "my portion is God." And after what sort is he delighted with that Same, whom he hath chosen for his portion.
25. "Behold, they that put themselves afar from Thee shall perish" (ver. 27). He therefore departed from God, but not far: for "I have become as it were a beast," he saith, and "I am alway with Thee."(7) But they have departed afar, because not only things earthly they have desired, but have sought them from demons and the Devil. "They that put themselves afar from Thee shall perish." And what is it, to become afar from God? "Thou hast destroyed every man that committeth fornication away from Thee." To this fornication is opposed chaste love. What is chaste love? Now the soul doth love her Bridegroom: what doth she require of Him, from Her Bridegroom whom she loveth? Perchance in like manner as women choose for themselves men either as sons-in-law or as bridegrooms: she perchance chooseth riches, and loveth his gold, and estates, and silver and cattle and horses, and household, and the like. Far be it. He doth love Him alone, for nought he doth love Him: because in Him he hath all things, for "by Him were made all things."(8)
26. But thou doest what? "But for me to cleave to God is a good thing" (ver. 28). This is whole good. Will ye have more? I grieve at your willing. Brethren, what will ye have more? Than to cleave to God nothing is better, when we shall see Him face to face.(9) But now what? For yet as a stranger I am speaking: "to cleave," he saith, "to God is a good thing:" but now in my sojourning (for not yet hath come the substance), I have "to put in God my hope." So long therefore as thou hast not yet cloven, therein put thy hope. Thou art wavering, cast forward an anchor to the land.(1) Not yet dost thou cleave by presence, cleave fast by hope. "To put in God my hope." And by doing what here wilt thou put in God thy hope? What will be thy business, but to praise Him whom thou lovest, and to make others to be fellow-lovers of Him with thee? Lo, if thou shouldest love a charioteer, wouldest thou not carry along other men to love him with thee? A lover of a charioteer whithersoever he goeth doth speak of him in order that as well as he others also may love him. For nought are loved abandoned men, and from God is reward required in order that He may be loved? Love thou. God for nought, grudge God to no one. ...For what followeth? "In order that I may tell forth all Thy praises in the courts of the daughter of Sion." "In the courts: "for the preaching of God beside the Church is vain. A small thing it is to praise God and to tell forth all His praise. In the courts of the daughter of Sion tell thou forth. Make for unity, do not divide the people; but draw them unto one, and make them one. I have forgotten how long I have been speaking. Now the Psalm being ended, even judging by this closeness,(2) I suppose I have held a long discourse: but it doth not suffice for your zeal; ye are too impetuous.(3) O that with this impetuosity ye would seize upon the kingdom of Heaven.
1. This Psalm's Title is, "Of the Understanding of Asaph." Asaph in Latin is translated congregation, in Greek Synagogue. Let us see what this Synagogue hath understood. But let us understand firstly Synagogue: from thence we shall understand what the Synagogue hath understood. Every congregation is spoken of under the general name of Synagogue: one both of beasts and of men may be called a congregation; but here there is no congregation of beasts when we heard "understanding." ... For this the Psalm's Title doth prescribe, saying, "Of the understanding of Asaph." It is therefore a certain understanding congregation whereof we are about to hear the voice. But since properly Synagogue is said of the congregation of the people of Israel, so that wheresoever we may have heard Synagogue, we are no longer wont to understand any but the people of the Jews; let us see whether perchance the voice in this Psalm be not of that same people. But of what sort of Jews and of what sort of people of Israel? For they are not of the chaff, but perchance of the grain;(5) not of the broken branches, but perchance of those that are strengthened. "For not all that are of Israel are Israelites."(6) ... There are therefore certain Israelites, of whom was he concerning whom was said, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom guile is not."(7) I do not say in the same manner as we are Israelites, for we also are the seed of Abraham. For to the Gentiles the Apostle was speaking, when he said, "Therefore the seed of Abraham ye are, heirs according to promise."(8) According to this therefore all we are Israelites, that follow the footsteps of the faith of our father Abraham. But let us understand here the voice of the Israelites in the same manner as the Apostle saith, "For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin."(9) Here therefore let us understand that whereof the Prophets have spoken, "a remnant shall be saved."(10) Of the remnant therefore saved let us hear in this place the voice; in order that there may speak that Synagogue which had received the Old Testament, and was intent upon carnal promises; and by this means it came to pass that their feet were shaken. For in another Psalm, where too the title hath Asaph, there is said what? "How good is the God of lsrael to men right in heart. But my feet were almost moved."(11) And as if we were saying, whence were thy feet moved? "Well nigh," he saith, "my steps were overthrown, because I was jealous in the case of sinners, looking on the peace of sinners."(12) For while according to the promises of God belonging to the Old Testament he was looking for earthly felicity, he observed it to abound with ungodly men; that they who worshipped not God were enriched with those things which he was looking for from God: and as though without cause he had served God, his feet tottered. ... But opportunely it hath chanced not by our own but by God's dispensation, that just now we heard out of the Gospel, that "the Law was given by Moses, Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ"(13) For if we distinguish between the two Testaments, Old and New, there are not the same Sacraments(14) nor the same promises;(15) nevertheless, the same commandments(16) for the most part. ... When examined they are either all found to be the same, or there are scarce any in the Gospel which have not been spoken by the Prophets. The Commandments are the same, the Sacraments are not the same, the Promises are not the same. Let us see wherefore the commandments are the same; because according to these we ought to serve God. The Sacraments are not the same, for some Sacraments there are giving Salvation, others promising a Saviour. The Sacraments of the New Testament give Salvation, the Sacraments of the Old Testament did promise a Saviour.(1) When therefore thou hast now the things promised, why dost thou seek the things promising, having now the Saviour? ... God through the New Testament hath taken out of the hands of His sons those things which are like the playthings of boys, in order that He might give something more useful to them growing up, on that account must He be supposed not to have given those former things Himself. He gave both Himself. But the Law itself through Moses was given, Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ:(2) Grace because there is fulfilled through love that which by the letter was being enjoined, Truth because there is being rendered that which was promised. This thing therefore this Asaph hath understood. In a word, all things which to the Jews had been promised have been taken away. Where is their kingdom? Where the Temple? Where the Anointing? Where is Priest? Where are now the Prophets among them? From what time there came He that by the Prophets was foretold, in that nation there is now nothing of these things; now she hath lost things earthly, and not yet doth seek things Heavenly.
2. Thou shouldest not therefore hold fast things earthly, although God doth bestow them. ... See ye how that in fearing to lose things earthly, the Jews slew the King of Heaven. And what was done to them? They lost even those very things earthly: and in the place where they slew Christ, there they were slain: and when, being unwilling to lose the land, they slew the Giver of life, that same land being slain they lost; and at that very time when they slew Him, in order that by that very time they might be admonished of the reason wherefore they suffered these things. For when the city of the Jews was overthrown, they were celebrating the Passover, and with many thousands of men the whole nation itself had met together for the celebration of that festival.(3) In that place God (through evil men indeed, but yet Himself good; through unjust men, but Himself just and justly) did so take vengeance upon them, that there were slain many thousands of men, and the city itself was overthrown. Of this thing in this Psalm "the understanding of Asaph" doth complain, and in the very plaint the understanding as it were doth distinguish things earthly from things heavenly, doth distinguish the Old Testament from the New Testament: in order that thou mayest see through what things thou art passing, what thou shouldest look for, what to forsake, to what to cleave. Thus then he beginneth.
3. "Wherefore hast Thou repelled us, O God, unto the end? "(ver. 1). "Hast repelled unto the end," in the person of the congregation which is properly called Synagogue. "Wherefore hast Thou repelled us, O God, unto the end?" He censureth not, but inquireth "wherefore," for what purpose, because of what hast Thou done this? What hast Thou done? "Thou hast repelled us unto the end." What is, "unto the end"? Perchance even unto the end of the world. Hast Thou repelled us unto Christ, who is the End to every one believing?(4) For, "Wherefore hast Thou repelled us, O God, unto the end?" "Thy spirits hath been wroth at the sheep of Thy flock." Wherefore wast Thou wroth at the sheep of Thy flock, but because to things earthly we were cleaving, and the Shepherd we knew not?
4. "Remember Thou Thy congregation, which Thou hast possessed from the beginning" (ver. 2). Can this by any means be the voice of the Gentiles? Hath He possessed the Gentiles from the beginning? Nay, but He hath possessed the seed of Abraham, the people of Israel even according to the flesh, born of the Patriarchs our fathers: of whom we have become the sons, not by coming out of their flesh, but by imitating their faith. But those, possessed by God from the beginning, what befell them? "Remember Thy congregation which Thou hast possessed from the beginning. Thou hast redeemed the rod of Thine inheritance." That same congregation of Thine, being the rod of Thine inheritance, Thou hast redeemed. This same congregation he hath called "the rod of the inheritance." Let us look back to the first thing that was done, when He willed to possess that same congregation, delivering it from Egypt, what sign He gave to Moses, when Moses said to Him, "What sign shall I give that they may believe me, that Thou hast sent me? And God saith to him, What dost thou bear in thine hand? A rod. Cast it on to the ground," etc.(6) What doth it intimate? For this was not done to no purpose. Let us inquire of the writings of God. To what did the serpent persuade man? To death.(7) Therefore death is from the serpent. If death is from the serpent, the rod in the serpent is Christ in death.(1) Therefore also when by serpents in the desert they were being bitten and being slain, the Lord commanded Moses to exalt a brazen serpent in the desert, and admonish the people that whosoever by a serpent had been bitten, should look thereupon and be made whole.(2) Thus also it was done: thus also men, bitten by serpents, were made whole of the venom by looking upon a serpent.(3) To be made whole of a serpent is a great Sacrament. What is it to be made whole of a serpent by looking upon a serpent? It is to be made whole of death by believing in one dead. And nevertheless Moses feared and red.(4) What is it that Moses fled from that serpent? What, brethren, save that which we know to have been done in the Gospel? Christ died and the disciples feared, and withdrew from that hope wherein they had been.(5) ... But, at that time some thousands of the Jews themselves, the crucifiers of Christ, believed: and because they had been found at hand, they so believed as that they sold all that they had, and the price of their goods before the feet of the Apostles they laid.(6) Because then this thing was hidden, and the redemption of the rod of God was to be more conspicuous in the Gentiles: he explaineth of what he saith that which he hath said, "Thou hast redeemed the rod of Thine inheritance." This he hath said not of the Gentiles in whom it was evident. But of what? "Mount Sion." Yet even Mount Sion can be otherwise understood. "That one which(7) Thou hast dwelled in the same." In the place where the People was aforetime, where the Temple was set up, where the Sacrifices were celebrated, where at that time were all those necessary things giving promise of Christ. A promise, when the thing promised is bestowed is now become superfluous. ...
5. "Lift up Thine hand upon their pride at the end" (ver. 3). As Thou didst repel us at the end, so "lift up Thine hand upon the pride of them at the end." The pride of whom? Of those by whom Jerusalem was overthrown. But by whom was it, but by the kings of the Gentiles? Well was the hand of Him lifted up upon the pride of them at the end: for they too have now known Christ. "For the end of the Law is Christ for righteousness to every one believing."(8) How well doth he wish for them As if angry he is speaking, and he is seeming to speak evil:(9) and O that there would come to pass the evil which he speaketh: nay now in the name of Christ that it is coming to pass let us rejoice. Now they holding the sceptre are being made subject to the Word of the Cross: now is coming to pass that which was foretold, "there shall adore Him all the kings of the earth, all nations shall serve Him."(10) Now on the brows of kings more precious is the sign of the Cross, than the jewel of a crown. "Lift up Thine hand upon the pride of them at the end. How great things hath the enemy of malice wrought in Thy holy places!" In those which were Thy holy places, that is, in the temple, in the priesthood, in all those sacraments which were at that time. In good sooth the enemy at that time wrought. For the Gentiles at that time who did this, were worshipping false Gods, were adoring idols, were serving demons: nevertheless they wrought many evil things on the Saints of God. When could they if they had not been permitted? But when would they have been permitted, unless those holy things, at first promised, were no longer necessary, when He that had promised was Himself holden? Therefore, "how great things hath the enemy of malice wrought in Thy holy places!"
6. "And all they have boasted, that hate Thee" (ver. 4). Observe the servants of demons, the servants of idols: such as at that time the Gentiles were, when they overthrew the temple and city of God, "and they boasted." "In the midst of Thy festival." Remember what I said, that Jerusalem was overthrown at the time when the very festival was being celebrated: at which festival they crucified the Lord. Gathered together they raged, gathered together they perished. "They have set signs, their own signs, and they have not known" (ver. 5). They had signs to place there, their standards, their eagles, their own dragons, the Roman signs; or even their statues which at first in the temple they placed; or perchance "their signs" are the things which they heard from the prophets of their demons. "And they have not known." Have not known what? How "thou shouldest have had no power against Me, except it had been given thee from above."(11) They knew not how that not on themselves honour was conferred, to afflict, to take, or overthrow the city, but their ungodliness was made as it were the axe of God. They were made the instrument of Him enraged, not so as to be the kingdom of Him pacified. For God doth that which a man also ofttime doth. Sometimes a man in a rage catcheth up a rod lying in the way, perchance any sort of stick, he smiteth therewith his son, and then throweth the stick into the fire and reserveth the inheritance for his son: so sometime God through evil men doth instruct good men, and through the temporal power of them that are to be condemned He worketh the discipline of them that are to be saved. For why do you suppose, brethren, that discipline was even thus inflicted upon that nation, in order that it might perish utterly? How many out of this nation did afterwards believe, how many are yet to believe? Some are chaff, others grain; over both however there cometh in the threshing-drag; but under one threshing-drag the one is broken up, the other is purged. How great a good hath God bestowed upon us by the evil of Judas the traitor! By the very ferocity of the Jews how great a good was bestowed upon believing Gentiles! Christ was slain in order that there might be on the Cross One for him to look to who had been stung by the serpent.(1) ...
7. Now let us hasten over the verses following after the destruction of Jerusalem, for the reason that they are both evident, and it doth not please me to tarry over the punishment even of enemies. "As if in a forest of trees with axes, they have cut down the doors thereof at once; with mattock and hammer they have thrown Her down" (ver. 6). That is, conspiring together, with firm determination, "with mattock and hammer" they have thrown Her down. "They have burned with fire Thy Sanctuary, they have defiled on the ground the Tabernacle of Thy name" (ver. 7).
8. "They have said in their heart (the kindred of them is in one)"--Have said what? "Come ye, let us suppress the solemnities of the Lord from the land" (ver. 8). "Of the Lord," hath been inserted in the person of this man, that is, in the person of Asaph. For they raging would not have called Him the Lord whose temple they were overthrowing. "Come ye, let us suppress all the solemnities of the Lord from the land." What of Asaph? What understanding hath Asaph in these words? What? Doth he not profit even by the discipline accorded? Is not the mind's crookedness made straight? Overthrown were all things that were at first: nowhere is there priest, nowhere Altar of the Jews, nowhere victim, nowhere Temple. Is there then no other thing to be acknowledged which succeeded this departing? Or indeed would this promissory sign have been taken away, unless there had come that which was being promised? Let us see therefore in this place now the understanding of Asaph, let us see if he profiteth by tribulation. Observe what he saith: "Our signs we have not seen, no longer is there prophet, and us He will not know as yet" (ver. 9). Behold those Jews who say that they are not known as yet, that is, that they are yet in captivity, that not yet they are delivered, do yet expect Christ. Christ will(2) come, but He will come as Judge; the first time to call, afterwards to sever. He will come, because He hath come,(3) and that He will come is evident; but hereafter from above He will come. Before thee He was, O Israel. Thou wast bruised because thou didst stumble against Him lying down: that thou mayest not be ground to powder, observe Him coming from above. For thus it was foretold by the prophet: "Whoever shall stumble upon that stone shall be bruised, and upon whomsoever it shall have come, it shall grind him to powder."(4) He doth bruise when little, He shall grind to powder when great. Now thy signs thou seest not, now there is no prophet: and thou sayest, "and us He will not know as yet:" because yourselves know not Him as yet. "No longer is there a prophet; and us He will not know as yet."
9. "How long, O God, shall the enemy revile?" (ver. 10). Cry out as if forsaken, as if deserted: cry out like a sick man, who hast chosen rather to smite the physician than to be made whole: not as yet doth He know thee. See what He hath done, who doth not know thee as yet. For they to whom there hath been no preaching of Him, shall see; and they that have not heard shall understand: and thou yet criest out, "No longer is there a prophet, and us He will not know as yet."(5) Where is thine understanding? "The adversary doth provoke Thy name at the end."(6) For this purpose the adversary doth provoke Thy name at the end, that being provoked Thou mayest reprove, reproving Thou mayest know them at the end: or certainly, "at the end," in the sense of even unto the end.
10. "Wherefore dost Thou turn away Thine hand, and Thy right hand from the midst of Thy bosom unto the end?" (ver. 11). Again, another sign which was given to Moses. For in like manner as above from the rod was a sign, so also from the right hand now. For when that thing had been done concerning the rod, God gave a second sign: "thrust," He saith, "thine hand into thy bosom, and he thrust it: draw it forth, and he drew it forth: and it was found white,"(7) that is, unclean. For whiteness on the skin is leprosy,(8) not fairness of complexion. For the heritage of God itself, that is, His people, being cast out became unclean. But what saith He to him? Draw it back into thy bosom. He drew it back, and it was restored to its own colour. When doest Thou this, saith this Asaph? How long dost Thou alienate Thy fight hand from Thy bosom, so that being without unclean it remaineth? Draw it back, let it return to its colour, let it acknowledge the Saviour. "Wherefore dost thou turn away Thine hand, and Thy right hand from the midst of Thy bosom unto the end?" These words he crieth, being blind, not understanding, and God doeth what He doeth. For wherefore came Christ? "Blindness in part happened unto Israel, in order that the fulness of the Gentiles might enter in, and so all Israel might be saved."(1) Therefore now, O Asaph, acknowledge that which hath gone before, in order that thou mayest at least follow, if thou wast not(2) able to go before. For not in vain came Christ, or in vain was Christ slain, or in vain did the corn fall into the ground; but it fell that it might rise manifold.(3) A serpent was lifted up in the desert, in order that it might cure of the poison him that was smitten.(4) Observe what was done. Do not think it to be a vain thing that He came: lest He find thee evil, when He shall have come a second time.
11. Asaph hath understood, because on the Title of the Psalm there is, "understanding of Asaph." And what saith he? "But God, our King before the worlds, hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth" (ver. 12). On the one hand we cry, "No longer is there prophet, and us He will not know as yet:"(5) but on the other hand, "our God, our King, who is before the worlds" (for He is Himself in the beginning of the Word(6) by whom were made the worlds), "hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth." "God therefore, our King before the worlds," hath done what? "hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth:" and I am yet crying as if forsaken! ... Now the Gentiles are awake, and we are snoring, and as though God hath. forsaken us, in dreams we are delirious. "He hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth."
12. Now therefore, O Asaph, amend thyself according to thy understanding, tell us what sort of Salvation God hath wrought in the midst of the earth. When that earthly Salvation of yours was overthrown, what did He do, what did He promise? "Thou didst confirm in Thy virtue the sea" (ver. 13). As though the nation of the Jews were as it were dry land severed from the waves, the Gentiles in their bitterness were the sea, and on all sides they washed about that land: behold," Thou hast confirmed in Thy virtue the sea," and the land remained thirsting for Thy rain. "Thou hast confirmed in Thy virtue the sea, Thou hast broken in pieces the heads of dragons in the water." Dragons' heads, that is, demons' pride, wherewith the Gentiles were possessed, Thou hast broken in pieces upon the water: for those persons whom they were possessing, Thou by Baptism hast delivered.
13. What more after the heads of dragons? For those dragons have their chief, and he is himself the first great dragon. And concerning him what hath He done that hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth? Hear: "Thou hast broken the head of the dragon" (ver. 14). Of what dragon? We understand by dragons all the demons that war under the devil: what single dragon then, whose head was broken, but the devil himself ought we to understand? What with him hath He done? "Thou hast broken the head of the dragon." That is, the beginning of sin. That head is the part which received the curse, to wit that the seed of Eve should mark the head of the serpent? For the Church was admonished to shun the beginning of sin. Which is that beginning of sin, like the head of a serpent? The beginning of all sin is pride.(8) There hath been broken therefore the head of the dragon, hath been broken pride diabolical. And what with him hath He done, that hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth? "Thou hast given him for a morsel to the Ethiopian peoples." What is this? How do I understand the Ethiopian peoples? How but by these all nations? And properly by black men: for Ethiopians are black. They are themselves called to the faith who were black; the very same indeed, so that there is said to them, "for ye were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord."(9) ... Thence was also that calf which the people worshipped, unbelieving, apostate, seeking the gods of the Egyptians, forsaking Him who had delivered them from the slavery of the Egyptians: whence there was enacted that great Sacrament. For when Moses was thus wroth with them worshipping and adoring the idol,(10) and, inflamed with zeal for God, was punishing temporally, in order that he might terrify them to shun death everlasting; yet the head itself of the calf he cast into the fire, and ground to powder, destroyed, strawed on the water, and gave to the people to drink: so there was enacted a great Sacrament. O anger prophetic, and mind not perturbed but enlightened! He did what? Cast it into the fire, in order that first the form itself may be obliterated; piece by piece grind it down, in order that little by little it may be consumed: cast it into the water, give to the people to drink! What is this but that the worshippers of the devil were become the body of the same? In the same manner as men confessing Christ become the Body of Christ; so that to them is said, "but ye are the Body of Christ and the members."(1) The body of the devil was to be consumed, and that too by Israelites was to be consumed. For out of that people were the Apostles, out of that people the first Church. ... Thus the devil is being consumed with the loss of his members. This was figured also in the serpent of Moses. For the magicians did likewise, and casting down their rods they exhibited serpents: but the serpent of Moses swallowed up the rods of all those magicians.(2) Let there be perceived therefore even now the body of the devil: this is what is coming to pass, he is being devoured by the Gentiles who have believed, he hath become meat for the Ethiopian peoples. This again, may be perceived in, "Thou hast given him for meat to the Ethiopian peoples," how that now all men bite him. What is, bite him? By reproving, blaming, accusing. Just as hath been said, by way of prohibition indeed, but yet the idea expressed: "but if ye bite and eat up one another, take heed that ye be not consumed of one another."(3) What is, bite and eat up one another? Ye go to law with one another, ye detract from one another, ye heap revilings upon one another. Observe therefore now how that with these bitings the devil is being consumed. What man, when angry with his servant, even a heathen, would not say to him, Satan?(4) Behold the devil given for meat. This saith Christian, this saith Jew, this saith heathen:(4) him he worshippeth, and with him he curseth! ...
14. "Thou hast cleft the fountains and torrents" (ver. 15): in order that they might flow with the stream of wisdom, might flow with the riches of the faith, might water the saltness of l the Gentiles, in order that they might convert all unbelievers into the sweetness of the faith by their watering. ... In some men the Word of God becometh a well of water springing up unto life eternal;(5) but others hearing the Word, and not so keeping it as that they live well, yet not keeping silence with tongue, they become torrents. For they are properly called torrents which are not perennial: for sometimes also in a secondary sense torrent is used for river: as hath been said, "with the torrent of Thy pleasures Thou shalt give them to drink."(6) For that torrent shall not ever be dried up. But torrents properly are those rivers named, which in summer fail, but with winter rains are flooded and run. Thou seest therefore a man sound in faith, that will persevere even unto the end, that will not forsake God in any trial; for the sake of the truth, not for the sake of falsehood and error, enduring all difficulties. Whence is this man so vigorous, but because the Word hath become in him a well of water springing up unto life eternal?(5) But the other receiveth the Word, he preacheth, he is not silent, he runneth: but summer proveth whether he be fountain or torrent. Nevertheless through both be the earth watered, by Him who hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth: let the fountains overflow, let the torrents run.
15. "Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham" (ver. 15). ... What is Etham? For the word is Hebrew. What is Etham interpreted? Strong, stout. Who is this strong and stout one, whose rivers God drieth up? Who but that very dragon? For "no one entereth into the house of a strong man that he may spoil his vessels, unless first he shall have bound fast the strong man."(7) This is that strong man on his own virtue relying, and forsaking God: this is that strong man, who saith, "I will set my seat by the north, and I will be like the Most High."(8) Out of that very cup of perverse strength he hath given man to drink. Strong they willed to be, who thought that they would be Gods by means of the forbidden food. Adam became strong, over whom was reproachfully said, "Behold, Adam hath become like one of us."(9) ... As though they were strong, "to the righteousness of God they have not been made subject."(10) Observe ye that a man hath put out of the way his own strength, and remained weak, needy, standing afar off, not daring even to raise his eyes to Heaven; but smiting his breast, and saying, "O Lord, merciful be Thou to me a sinner."(11) Now he is weak, now he confesseth his weakness, he is not strong: dry land he is, be he watered with fountains and torrents. They are as yet strong who rely on their own virtue. Be their rivers dried up, let there be no advancement in the doctrines of the Gentiles, of wizards, of astrologers, of magic arts: for dried up are the rivers of the strong man: "Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham." Let there dry up that doctrine; let minds be flooded with the Gospel of truth.
16. "Thine own is the day and Thine own is the night" (ver. 16). Who is ignorant of this, seeing that He hath Himself made all these things; for by the Word were made all things?(12) To that very One Himself who hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth, to Him is said, "Thine own is the night." Something here we ought to perceive which belongeth to that very Salvation which He hath wrought in the midst of the earth. "Thine own is the day." Who are these? The spiritual. "And Thine own is the night." Who are these? The carnal. ... "Thou hast made perfect sun and moon:" the sun, spiritual men, the moon, carnal men. As yet carnal he is, may he not be forsaken, and may he too be made perfect. The sun, as it were a wise man: the moon, as it were an unwise man: Thou hast not however forsaken. For thus it is written, "A wise man endureth as the sun, but a foolish man as the moon is changed."(1) What then? Because the sun endureth, that is, because the wise man endureth as the sun, a foolish man is changed like the moon, is one as yet carnal, as yet unwise, to be forsaken? And where is that which hath been said by the Apostle, "To the wise and unwise a debtor I am"?(2)
17. "Thou hast made all the ends of the earth" (ver. 17). ... Behold in what manner He hath made the ends of the earth, that hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth. "Thou hast made all the ends of the earth. Summer and spring Thou hast made them." Men fervent in the Spirit are the summer. Thou, I say, hast made men fervent in the Spirit: Thou hast made also the novices in the Faith, they are the "spring." "Summer and Spring Thou hast made them." They shall not glory as if they have not received: "Thou hast made them."
18. "Mindful be Thou of this Thy creature" (ver. 18). Of what creature of Thine? "The enemy hath reviled the Lord." O Asaph, grieve over thine old blindness in understanding: "the enemy hath reviled the Lord." It was said to Christ in His own nation, "a sinner is this Man: we know not whence He is:" we know Moses, to him spake God; this Man is a Samaritan.(3) "And the unwise people hath provoked Thy name." The unwise people Asaph was at that time, but not the understanding of Asaph at that time. What is said in the former Psalm? "As it were a beast I have become unto Thee, and I am alway with Thee:"(4) because He went not to the gods and idols of the Gentiles. Although he knew not, being like a beast, yet he knew again as a man. For he said, "alway I am with Thee, like a beast:" and what afterwards in that place in the same Psalm, where Asaph is? "Thou hast held the hand of my right hand, in Thy will Thou hast conducted me, and with glory Thou hast taken me up."(5) In Thy will, not in my righteousness: by Thy gift, not by my work. Therefore here also, "the enemy hath reviled the Lord: and the unwise people hath provoked Thy name." Have they all then perished? Far be it. ... For even the Apostle Paul through unbelief had been broken, and through faith unto the root he was restored. So evidently "the unwise people provoked Thy name," when it was said, "If Son of God He is let Him come down from the Cross."(6)
19. But what sayest thou, O Asaph, now in understanding? "Deliver not to the beasts a soul confessing to Thee" (ver. 19). ... To what beasts, save to those the heads whereof were broken in pieces upon the water? For the same devil is called, beast, lion, and dragon. Do not, he saith, give to the Devil and his Angels a soul confessing to Thee. Let the serpent devour, if still I mind things earthly, if for things earthly I long, if still in the promises of the Old Testament, after the revealing of the New, I remain. But forasmuch as now I have laid down pride, and my own righteousness I will not acknowledge, but Thy Grace; against me let proud beasts have no power. "The souls of Thy poor forget Thou not unto the end." Rich we were, strong we were: but Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham: no longer we establish our own righteousness, but we acknowledge Thy Grace; poor we are, bearken to Thy beggars. Now we do not dare to lift our eyes to Heaven, but smiting our breasts we say, "O Lord, be Thou merciful to me a sinner."(7)
20. "Have regard unto Thy Testament"(8) (ver. 20). Fulfil that which Thou hast promised: the tables we have, for the inheritance we are looking. "Have regard unto Thy Testament," not that old one: not for the sake of the land of Canaan I ask, not for the sake of the temporal subduing of enemies, not for the sake of carnal fruitfulness of sons, not for the sake of earthly riches, not for the sake of temporal welfare: "Have regard unto Thy Testament," wherein Thou hast promised the kingdom of Heaven. Now I acknowledge Thy Testament: now understanding is Asaph, no beast is Asaph, now he seeth that which was spoken of, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, and I will accomplish with the House of Israel and of Juda a new Testament, not after the Testament which I ordered(9) with their Fathers."(10) "Have regard unto Thy Testament: for they that have been darkened have been filled of the earth of unrighteous houses:" because they had unrighteous hearts. Our "houses" are our hearts: therein gladly dwell they that are blessed with pure heart.(11) "Have regard," therefore, "unto Thy Testament:" and let the remnant be saved:(12) for many men that give heed to earth are darkened, and filled with earth. For there hath entered into their eyes dust, and it hath blinded them, and they have become dust which the wind sweepeth from the face of the earth.(13) "They that have been darkened have been filled of the earth of unrighteous houses." For by giving heed to earth they have been darkened, concerning whom there is said in another Psalm, "Let their eyes be blinded, that they see not, and their back ever bow Thou down." With earth, then, "they that have been darkened have been filled, with the earth of unrighteous houses:" because they have unrighteous hearts. ...
21. "Let not the humble man be turned away confounded" (ver. 21). For them pride hath confounded. "The needy and helpless man shall praise Thy name." Ye see, brethren, how sweet ought to be poverty: ye see that poor and helpless men belong to God, but "poor in spirit, for of them is the Kingdom of Heaven." Who are the poor in spirit? The humble, men trembling at the words of God, confessing their sins, neither on their own merits, nor on their own righteousness relying. Who are the poor in spirit? They who when they do anything of good, praise God, when anything of evil, accuse themselves. "Upon whom shall rest My Spirit," saith the Prophet, "but upon the humble man, and peaceful, and trembling at My words?" Now therefore Asaph hath understood, now to the earth he adhereth not, now the earthly promises out of the Old Testament he requireth not. ...
22. "Arise, O Lord, judge Thou my cause" (ver. 22) .... Because I am not able to show my God, as if I were following an empty thing, they revile me. And not only Heathen, or Jew, or heretic; but sometimes even a Catholic brother doth make a grimace when the promises of God are being preached, when a future resurrection is being foretold. And still even he, though already washed with the water of eternal Salvation, bearing the Sacrament of Christ, perchance saith, "and what man hath yet risen again?" And, "I have not heard my father speaking out of the grave, since I buried him!" "God hath given to His servants a law for time, to which let them betake themselves: for what man cometh back from beneath?" And what shall I do with such men? Shall I show them what they see not? I am not able: for not for the sake of them ought God to become visible .... I see not, he saith: what am I to believe? Thy soul is seen then, I suppose? Fool, thy body is seen: thy soul who doth see? Since therefore thy body alone is seen, why art thou not buried? He marvelleth that I have said, If body alone is seen, why art thou not buried? And he answereth (for he knoweth as much as this), Because I am alive. How know I that thou art alive, of whom I see not the soul? How know I? Thou wilt answer, Because I speak, because I walk, because I work. Fool, by the operations of the body I know thee to be living, by the works of creation canst thou not know the Creator? And perchance he that saith, when I shall be dead, afterwards I shall be nothing; hath both learned letters, and hath learned this doctrine from Epicurus, who was a sort of doting philosopher, or rather lover of folly not of wisdom, whom even the philosophers themselves have named the hog: who said that the "chief good" was pleasure of body; this philosopher they have named the hog, wallowing in carnal mire. From him perchance this lettered man hath learned to say, I shall not be, after I have died. Dried be the rivers of Etham! Perish those doctrines of the Gentiles, flourish the plantations of Jerusalem ! Let them see what they can, in heart believe what they cannot see! Certainly all those things which throughout the world now are seen, when God was working Salvation in the midst of the earth, when those things were being spoken of, they were not then as yet: and behold at that time they were foretold, now they are shown as fulfilled, and still the fool saith in his heart, "there is no God." Woe to the perverse hearts: for so will there come to pass the things which remain, as there have come to pass the things which at that time were not, and were being foretold as to come to pass. Hath God indeed performed to us all the things which He promised, and concerning the Day of Judgment alone hath He deceived us? Christ was not on the earth; He promised, He hath performed: no virgin had conceived; He promised, He hath performed: the precious Blood had not been shed whereby there should be effaced the handwriting of our death; He promised, He hath performed: not yet had flesh risen again unto life eternal; He promised, He hath performed: not yet had the Gentiles believed; He promised, He hath performed: not yet heretics armed with the name of Christ, against Christ were warring; He foretold, He hath performed: not yet the idols of the Gentiles from the earth had been effaced; He foretold, He hath performed: when all these things He hath foretold and performed, concerning the Day of Judgment alone hath He lied? It will come by all means as these things came; for even these things before they came to pass were future, and as future were first foretold, and afterwards they came to pass. It will come, my brethren. Let no one say, it will not come: or, it will come, but far off is that which will come. But to thyself it is near at hand to go hence. ... If thou shall have done that which the devil doth suggest, and shalt have despised that which God hath commanded; there will come the Judgment Day, and thou wilt find that true which God hath threatened, and that false which the devil hath promised. ... "Remember Thy reproaches, those which are from the imprudent man all the day long." For still Christ is reviled: nor will there be wanting all the day long, that is, even unto the end of time, the vessels of wrath. Still is it being said, "Vain things the Christians do preach:" still is it being said, "A fond thing is the resurrection of the dead." "Remember Thy reproaches." But what reproaches, save those "which are from the imprudent man all the day long?" Doth a prudent man say this? Nay, for a prudent man is said to be one far-seeing. If a prudent man is one far-seeing, by faith he seeth afar: for with eyes scarce that before the feet is seen.
23. "Forget not the voice of them that implore Thee" (ver. 23). While they groan for and expect now that which Thou hast promised from the New Testament, and walk by that same Faith, "do Thou not forget the voice of them imploring Thee." But those still say, "Where is Thy God? Let the pride of them that hate Thee come up always to Thee." Do not forget even their pride. Nor doth He forget: no doubt He doth either punish or amend.
1. .... The Title of this Psalm thus speaketh: "At the end, corrupt not." What is, "corrupt not?" That which Thou hast promised, perform. But when? "At the end." To this then let the mind's eye be directed, "unto the end." Let all the things which have occurred in the way be passed over, in order that we may attain to the end. Let proud men exult because of present felicity, let them swell with honours, glitter in gold, overflow with domestics, be encircled with the services of clients: these things pass away, they pass away like a shadow. When that end shall have come, when all who now hope in the Lord are to rejoice, then to them shall come sorrow without end. When the meek shall have received that which the proud deride, then the vapouring of the proud shall be turned into mourning. Then shall there be that voice which we know in the Book of Wisdom: for they shall say at that time when they see the glory of the Saints, who, when they were in humiliation, endured them; who, when they were exalted, consented not--at that time then they shall say, "These are they whom sometime we have had in derision." Where they also say, "What hath pride profited us, and the boasting of riches hath bestowed upon us what?" All things have passed away like a shadow. Because on things corruptible they relied, their hope shall be corrupted: but our own hope at that time shall be substance. For in order that the promise of God may remain whole and sure and certain towards us, we have said out of a heart of faith, "at the end corrupt not." Fear not, therefore, lest any mighty man should corrupt the promises of God. He doth not corrupt, because He is truthful; He hath no one more mighty by whom His promise may be corrupted: let us be then sure concerning the promises of God; and let us sing now from the place where the Psalm beginneth.
2. "We will confess to Thee, O Lord, we will confess to Thee, and will invoke Thy name" (ver. 1 ). Do not invoke, before thou confess: confess, and invoke. For Him whom thou art invoking, unto thyself thou callest. For what is it to invoke, but unto thyself to call? If He is invoked by thee, that is, if He is called to thee, unto whom doth He draw near? To a proud man He draweth not near. High indeed He is, one lifted up attaineth not unto Him. In order that we may reach all exalted objects, we raise ourselves, and if we are not able to reach them, we look for some appliances or ladders, in order that being exalted we may reach exalted objects: contrariwise God is both high, and by the lowly He is reached. It is written, "Nigh is the Lord to them that have bruised the heart." The bruising of the heart is Godliness, humility. He that bruiseth himself is angry with himself. Let him make himself angry in order that he may make Him merciful; let him make himself judge, in order that he may make Him Advocate. Therefore God doth come when invoked. Unto whom doth He come? To the proud man He cometh not.
... Take heed therefore what ye do: for if He knoweth, He is not unobservant. It is better therefore that He be unobservant than known. For what is that same being unobservant, but not knowing? What is, not to know? Not to animadvert. For even as the act of one avenging animadversion is wont to be spoken of. Here one praying that He be unobservant: "Turn away Thy face from my sins." What then wilt thou do if He shall have turned away His face from thee? A grievous thing it is, and to be feared, lest He forsake thee. Again, if He turn not away His face, He animadverteth. God knoweth this thing, God can do this thing, namely, both turn away face from one sinning, and not turn away from one confessing. ... Confess therefore and invoke. For by confessing thou purgest the Temple, into which He may come, when invoked. Confess and invoke. May He turn away face from thy sins, not turn away from thee: turn away face from that which thou hast wrought, not turn away from that which He hath Himself wrought. For thee, as man, He hath Himself wrought, thy sins thou hast thyself wrought ....
3. But that there is a strengthening of the sense in repetition, by many passages of the Scriptures we are taught. Thence is that which the Lord saith, "Verily, Verily." Thence in certain Psalms is, "So be it, So be it." To signify the thing, one "So be it" would have been sufficient: to signify confirmation, there hath been added another" So be it." ... Count less passages of such sort there are throughout all the Scriptures. With these it is sufficient that we have commended to your notice a way of speaking which ye may observe in all like cases: now to the substance attend: "We will confess to Thee," he saith, "and we will invoke." I have said why before invocation confession doth precede: because whom thou dost invoke, him thou dost invite. But he willeth not to come when invoked, if thou shall have been lifted up: lifted up if thou shall have been, thou wilt not be able to confess. And thou deniest not any things to God that He knoweth not. Therefore thy confession doth not teach Him, but it purgeth thee.
4. ... Hear ye now the words of Christ. For these seemed not as it were to be His words, "We will confess to Thee, O God, we will confess to Thee, and will invoke Thy name." Now beginneth the discourse in the person of the Head. But whether Head speaketh or whether members speak, Christ speaketh: He speaketh in the person of the Head, He speaketh in the person of the Body. But what hath been said? There shall be two in one flesh. "This is a great Sacrament:" "I," he saith, "speak in Christ and in the Church." And He Himself in the Gospel, "Therefore no longer two, but one flesh."  For in order that ye may know these in a manner to be two persons, and again one by the bond of marriage, as one He speaketh in Isaiah, and saith, "As upon a Bridegroom he hath bound upon me a mitre, and as a Bride he hath clothed me with an ornament." A Bridegroom He hath called Himself in the Head, a Bride in the Body. He is speaking therefore as One, let us hear Him, and in Him let us also speak. Let us be the members of Him, in order that this voice may possibly be ours also. "I will tell forth," he saith, "all Thy marvellous things." Christ is preaching Himself, He is preaching Himself even in His members now existing, in order that He may guide unto Him others, and they may draw near that were not, and may be united with those members of Him, through which members of Him the Gospel hath been preached; and there may be made one Body under one Head, in one Spirit, in one Life.
5. And he saith what? "When I shall have received," he saith, "the time,  I will judge justices" (ver. 2). When shall He judge justices? When He shall have received the time. Not yet is the precise time. Thanks to His mercy: He first preacheth justices, and then He judgeth justices. For if He willed to judge before He willed to preach, who would be found that should be delivered: who would meet Him that should be absolved? Now therefore is the time of preaching: "I will tell," he saith," all Thy marvellous works." Hear Him telling, hear Him preaching : for if thou shalt have despised Him, "when I shall have received the time," He saith, "I will judge justices." I forgive, He saith, now sins to one confessing, I will not spare hereafter one despising. ... He hath received a time as Son of Man; He doth govern times as Son of God. Hear how as Son of Man He hath received the time of judging. He saith in the Gospel, "He hath given to Him power to execute judgment, because Son of Man He is." According to His nature as Son of God, He hath never received power of judging, because He never lacked the power of judging: according to His nature as Son of Man He hath received a time, as of being born, and of suffering, as of dying, and of rising again, and of ascending, so of coming and of judging. In Him His Body also saith these words, for not without them He will judge. For He saith in the Gospel, "Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Therefore whole Christ saith, that is, Head and Body in the Saints, "when I shall have received the time, I will judge justices."
6. But now what? "The earth hath flowed down" (ver. 3). If the earth hath flowed down, whence hath it flowed down except by sins? Therefore also they are called delinquencies. To delinquish is as it were by a kind of liquidity to slip down from the stability of firmness in virtue and righteousness. For it is through desire of lower things that every man sinneth: as he is strengthened by the love of higher things, so he falleth down and as it were melteth away by desire of lower things. This flux of things by the sins of man the merciful forgiver observing, being a merciful forgiver of sins, not yet an exactor of punishments, He observeth and saith: The earth herself indeed hath flowed down by them that dwell in her. That which followeth is an exposition, not an addition. As though thou wert saying, in what manner hath the earth flowed down? Have the foundations been withdrawn, and hath anything therein been swallowed up in a sort of gulf? What I mean by earth is all they that dwell therein. I have found, he saith, the earth sinful. And I have done what? "I have strengthened the pillars thereof." What are the pillars which He hath strengthened? Pillars He hath called the Apostles. So the Apostle Paul concerning his fellow-Apostles saith, "who seemed to be pillars." And what would those pillars have been, except by Him they had been strengthened? For on occasion of a sort of earthquake even these very pillars rocked: at the Passion of the Lord all the Apostles despaired. Therefore those pillars which rocked at the Passion of the Lord, by the Resurrection were strengthened. The Beginning of the building hath cried out through the pillars thereof, and in all those pillars the Architect Himself hath cried out. For the Apostle Paul was one pillar of them when he said, "Would ye receive a proof of Him that speaketh in me--Christ?" Therefore, "I," he saith, "have strengthened the pillars thereof:" I have risen again, I have shown that death is not to be feared, I have shown to them that fear, that not even the body itself doth perish in the dying. There terrified them wounds, there strengthened them scars. The Lord Jesus could have risen again without any scar: for what great matter were it for that power, to restore the frame of the body to such perfect soundness, as that no trace at all of past wound should appear? He had power whence He might make it whole even without scar: but He willed to have that whereby He might strengthen the rocking pillars.
7. We have heard now, brethren, that which day by day is not kept secret: let us hear now what He hath cried through these pillars. ... He crieth what? "I have said to unjust men, Do not unjustly" (ver. 4). ... But already they have done, and they are guilty: already there hath flowed down the earth, and all they that dwell therein. Pricked to the heart were they that crucified Christ, they acknowledged their sin, they learned something of the Apostle, that they might not despair of the pardon of the Preacher. For as Physician He had come, and therefore had not come to the whole. "For there is no need," He saith, "to the whole of a physician, but to them that are sick. I have not come to call righteous men, but sinners to repentance." Therefore, "I have said to unjust men, Do not unjustly." They heard not. For of old to us it was spoken: we heard not, we fell, were made mortal, were begotten mortal: the earth flowed down. Let them hear the Physician even now in order that they may rise, Him that came to the sick man, Him whom they would not hear when whole in order that they might not fall, let them hear when lying down in order that they may rise. ... "I have said to unjust men, Do not unjustly; and to the delinquent, Do not exalt your horn." There shall be exalted in you the horn of Christ, if your horn be not exalted. Your horn is of iniquity, the horn of Christ is of majesty.
8. "Be not therefore lifted up: speak not iniquity against God" (ver. 5). ... What saith He in another Psalm? "These things thou hast done," having enumerated certain sins. "These things thou hast done," He saith, "and was silent." What is, "I was silent"? He is never silent with commandment, but meanwhile He is silent with punishment: He is keeping still from vengeance, He doth not pronounce sentence against the condemned. But this man saith thus, I have done such and such things, and God hath not taken vengeance; behold I am whole, nought of ill hath befallen me. "These things thou hast done, and I was silent: thou hast suspected iniquity, that I shall be like unto thee." What is, "that I shall be like unto thee"? Because thou art unjust, even Me thou hast deemed unjust; as though an approver of thy misdeeds, and no adversary, no avenger thereof. And what afterwards saith He to thee? "I will convict thee, and will set thee before thine own face"? What is this? Because now by sinning behind thy back thou settest thyself, seest not thyself, examinest not thyself; I will set thee before thyself, and will bring upon thee punishment from thyself. So also here, "Speak not iniquity against God." Attend. Many men speak this iniquity; but dare not openly, lest as blasphemers they be abhorred by godly men: in their heart they gnaw upon these things, within they feed upon such impious food; it delighteth them to speak against God, and if they break not out with tongue, in heart they are not silent. Whence in another Psalm is said, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."  The fool hath said, but he hath feared men: he would not say it where men might hear; and he said it in that place where He might Himself hear concerning whom he said it. Therefore here also in this Psalm (dearly beloved attend), whereas that which He said, "Do not speak iniquity against God," this He saw many men do in heart, He hath also added, "for neither from East, nor from West, nor from the deserts of the mountains (ver. 6), for God is Judge" (ver. 7). Of thine iniquities God is Judge. If God He is, everywhere He is present. Whither wilt thou take thyself away from the eyes of God, so that in some quarter thou mayest speak that which He may not hear? If from the East God judgeth, withdraw into the West, and say what thou wilt against God: if froth the West, go into the East, and there speak: if from the deserts of the mountains He judgeth, go into the midst of the peoples, where thou mayest murmur to thyself. From no place judgeth He that everywhere is secret, everywhere open; whom it is allowed no one to know as He is, and whom no one is permitted not to know. Take heed what thou doest. Thou art speaking iniquity against God. "The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the round world" (another Scripture saith this), "and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice: wherefore he that speaketh unjust things cannot be hid." Do not therefore think God to be in places: He is with thee such an one as thou shall have been. What if such an one as thou shalt have been? Good, is, thou shall have been good; and evil to thee He will seem, if evil thou shall have been; but a Helper, if good thou shalt have been; an Avenger, if evil thou shall have been. There thou hast a Judge in thy secret place. Willing to do something of evil, from the public thou retirest into thy house, where no enemy may see; from those places of thine house which, are open and before the eyes of men, thou removest thyself into a chamber; thou fearest even in thy chamber some witness from some other quarter, thou retirest into thy heart, there thou meditatest: He is more inward than thy heart. Whithersoever therefore thou shalt have fled, there He is. From thyself whither wilt thou flee? Wilt thou not follow thyself whithersoever thou shalt flee? But since there is One more inward even than thyself, there is no place whither thou mayest flee from God angry, but to God reconciled. There is no place at all whither thou mayest flee. Wilt thou flee from Him? Flee to Him. ... What then shall we do now? "Let us come before His face," en exologhsei, come before in confession: He shall come gentle whom thou hadst made angry. "Neither from the deserts of the mountains, for God is Judge:" not from the East, not from the West, not from the deserts of the mountains. Wherefore? "For God is Judge." If in any place He were, He would not be God: but because God is Judge, not man, do not expect Him out of places. His place thou wilt be, if thou art good, if after having confessed thou shalt have invoked Him.
9. "One He humbleth, and another He exalteth" (ver. 7). Whom humbleth, whom exalteth this Judge? Observe these two men in the temple, and ye see whom He humbleth and whom He exalteth. "They went up into the Temple to pray," He saith, "the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican. ... "Verily I say unto you, that Publican went down justified more than that Pharisee: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Thus hath been explained a verse of this Psalm. God the Judge doth what? "One He humbleth, and another He exalteth:" He humbleth the proud, He exalteth the humble.
10. "For the cup in the hand of the Lord of pure wine is full of mixed" (ver. 8). Justly so. "And He hath poured out of this Upon this man; nevertheless, the dreg thereof hath not been emptied; there shall drink all the sinners of earth." Let us be somewhat recruited; there is here some obscurity. ... The first question that meeteth us is this, "of pure wine it is full of mixed." How "of pure," if "of mixed"? But when he saith, "the cup in the hand of the Lord" (to men instructed in the Church of Christ I am speaking), ye ought not indeed to paint in your heart God as it were circumscribed with a human form, lest, though the temples are shut up, ye forge images in your hearts. This cup therefore doth signify something. We will find out this. But "in the hand of the Lord," is, in the power of the Lord. For the hand of God is spoken of for the power of God. For even in reference to men ofttimes is said, in hand he hath it: that is, in his power he hath it, when he chooseth he doth it. "Of pure wine it is full of mixed." In continuation he hath himself explained: "He hath inclined," he saith, "from this unto this man; nevertheless the dreg thereof hath not been emptied." Behold how it was full of mixed wine. Let it not therefore terrify you that it is both pure and mixed: pure because of the genuineness thereof, mixed because of the dreg. What then in that place is the wine, and what the dreg? And what is, "He hath inclined from this unto this man," in such sort that the dreg thereof was not emptied?
11. Call ye to mind from whence he came to this: "one He humbleth, and another He exalteth." That which was figured to us in the Gospel through two men, a Pharisee and a Publican, this let us, taking in a wider sense, understand of two peoples, of Jews and of Gentiles: the people of the Jews that Pharisee was, the people of the Gentiles that Publican. ... As those by being proud have withdrawn, so these by confessing have drawn near. The cup therefore full of pure wine in the hand of the Lord, as far as the Lord giveth me to understand, ... the cup of pure wine full of the mixed, seemeth to me to be the Law, which was given to the Jews, and all that Scripture of the Old Testament, as it is called; there are the weights of all manner of sentences. For therein the New Testament lieth concealed, as though in the dreg of corporal Sacraments. The circumcision of the flesh is a thing of great mystery, and there is understood from thence the circumcision of the heart. The Temple of Jerusalem is a thing of great mystery, and there is understood from it the Body of the Lord. The land of promise is understood to be the Kingdom of Heaven. The sacrifice of victims and of beasts hath a great mystery: but in all those kinds of sacrifices is understood that one Sacrifice and only victim of the Cross, the Lord, instead of all which sacrifices we have one; because even those figured these, that is, with those these were figured. That people received the Law, they received commandments just and good. What is so just as, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not speak false testimony, honour thy father and mother, thou shalt not covet the property of thy neighbour, one God thou shalt adore, and Him alone thou shalt serve, all these things belong to the wine. But those things carnal have as it were sunk down in order that they might remain with them, and there might be poured forth from thence all the spiritual understanding. But "the cup in the hand of the Lord," that is, in the power of the Lord: "of pure wine," that is, of the mere Law: "is full of mixed," that is, is together with the dreg of corporal Sacraments. And because the one He humbleth, the proud Jew, and the other He exalteth, the confessing Gentile; "He hath inclined from this unto this," that is, from the Jewish people unto the Gentile people. Hath inclined what? The Law. There hath distilled from thence a spiritual sense. "Nevertheless, the dreg thereof hath not been emptied," for all the carnal Sacraments have remained with the Jews. "There shall drink all the sinners of the earth." Who shall drink? "All the sinners of the earth." Who are the sinners of the earth? The Jews were indeed sinners, but proud: again, the Gentiles were sinners, but humble. All sinners shall drink, but see, who the dreg, who the wine. For those by drinking the dreg have come to nought: these by drinking the wine have been justified. I would dare to speak of them even as inebriated, and I shall not fear: and O that all ye were thus inebriated. Call to mind, "Thy cup inebriating, how passing beautiful!" But why? Do ye think, my brethren, that all those who by confessing Christ even willed to die, were sober? So drunk they were, that they knew not their friends. All their kindred, who strove to divert them from the hope of Heavenly rewards by earthly allurements, were not acknowledged, were not heard by them drunken. Were they not drunken, whose heart had been changed? Were they not drunken, whose mind had been alienated from this world? "There shall drink," he saith, "all the sinners of the earth." But who shall drink the wine? Sinners shall drink, but in order that they may not remain sinners; in order that they may be justified, in order that they may not be punished.
12. "But I," for all drink, but separately I, that is, Christ with His Body, "for ever will rejoice, I will Psalm to the God of Jacob" (ver. 9): in that promise to be at the end, whereof is said, "corrupt not." "And all the horns of sinners I will break, and there shall be exalted the horns of the Just" (ver. 10). This is, the one He humbleth, the other He exalteth. Sinners would not have their horns to be broken, which without doubt will be broken at the end. Thou wilt not have Him then break them, do thou to-day break them. For thou hast heard above, do not despise it: "I have said to unjust men, Do not unjustly, and to the delinquents, Do not exalt the horn." When thou hast heard, do not exalt the horn, thou hast despised and hast exalted the horn: thou shalt come to the end, where there shall come to pass, "All the horns of sinners I will break, and there shall be exalted the horns of the Just." The horns of sinners are the dignities of proud men: the horns of the Just are the gifts of Christ. For by horns exultations are understood. Thou hatest on earth earthly exultation, in order that thou mayest have the heavenly. Thou lovest the earthly, He doth not admit thee to the Heavenly: and unto confusion will belong thy horn which is broken, just as unto glory it will belong, if thy horn is exalted. Now therefore there is time for making choice, then there will not be. Thou wilt not say, I will be let go and will make choice. For there have preceded the words, "I have said to the unjust." If I have not said, make ready an excuse, make ready a defence: but if I have said, seize first upon confession, lest thou come unto damnation; for then confession will be too late, and there will be no defence.