Augustine on the Psalms. Psalms 76 - 78
1. The Jews are wont to glory in this Psalm which we have sung, saying, "Known in Judaea is God, in Israel great is the name of Him :" and to revile the Gentiles to whom God is not known, and to say that to themselves alone God is known; seeing that the Prophet saith," Known in Judaea is God." In other places therefore He is unknown. But God is known in very deed in Judaea, if they understand what is Judaea. For indeed God is not known except in Judaea. Behold even we say this, that except a person shall have been in Judaea, known to him God cannot be. But what saith the Apostle? He that in secret is a Jew, he that is so in circumcision of the heart, not in letter but in spirit. There are therefore Jews in circumcision of the flesh, and there are Jews in circumcision of the heart. Many of our holy fathers had both the circumcision of the flesh, for a seal of the faith, and circumcision of the heart, for the faith itself. From these fathers these men degenerating, who now in the name do glory, and have lost their deeds; from these fathers, I say, degenerating, they have remained Jews in flesh, in heart Heathens. For these are Jews, who are out of Abraham, from whom Isaac was born, and out of him Jacob, and out of Jacob the twelve Patriarchs, and out of the twelve Patriarchs the whole people of the Jews. But they were generally called Jews for this reason, that Judah was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, a Patriarch among the twelve, and from his stock the Royalty came among the Jews. For all this people after the number of the twelve sons of Jacob, had twelve tribes. What we call tribes are as it were distinct houses and congregations of people. That people, I say, had twelve tribes, out of which twelve tribes one tribe was Judah, out of which were the kings; and there was another tribe, Levi, out of which were the priests. But because to the priests serving the temple no land was allotted, but it was necessary that among twelve tribes all the Land of promise should be shared: there having been therefore taken out one tribe of higher dignity, the tribe of Levi, which was of the priests, there would have remained eleven, unless by the adoption of the two sons of Joseph the number twelve were completed.
What this is, observe. One of the twelve sons of Jacob was Joseph. ... This Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasse. Jacob, dying, as though by will, received those his grandsons into the number of sons, and said to his son Joseph, "The rest that are born shall be to thee; but these to me, and they shall divide the land with their brethren." As yet there had not been given nor divided the land of promise, but he was speaking in the Spirit, prophesying. The two sons therefore of Joseph being added, there were made up nevertheless twelve tribes, since now there are thirteen. For instead of one tribe of Joseph, two were added, and there were made thirteen. There being taken out then the tribe of Levi, that tribe of priests which did serve the Temple, and lived by the tithes of all the rest unto whom the land was divided, there remain twelve. In these twelve was the tribe of Judah, whence the kings were. For at first from another tribe was given King Saul, and he was rejected as being an evil king; after there was given from the tribe of Judah King David, and out of him from the tribe of Judah were the Kings. But Jacob had spoken of this, when he blessed his sons, "there shall not fail a prince out of Judah, nor a leader from his thighs, until there come He to whom the promise hath been made." But from the tribe of Judah there came Our Lord Jesus Christ. For He is, as the Scripture saith, and as ye have but now heard, out of the seed of David born of Mary, But as regardeth the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein He is equal with the Father, He is not only before the Jews, but also before Abraham himself; nor only before Abraham, but also before Adam; nor only before Adam, but also before Heaven and earth and before ages: for all things by Himself were made, and without Him there was made nothing? Because therefore in prophecy hath been said, "there shall not fail a prince out of Judah," etc.: former times are examined, and we find that the Jews always had their kings of the tribe of Judah, and had no foreign king before that Herod who was king when the Lord was born. Thence began foreign kings, from Herod. Before Herod all were of the tribe of Judah, but only until there should come He to whom the promise had been made. Therefore when the Lord Himself came, the kingdom of the Jews was overthrown, and removed from the Jews. Now they have no king; because they will not acknowledge the true King. See now whether they must be called Jews. Now ye do see that they must not be called Jews. They have themselves with their own voice resigned that name, so that they are not worthy to be called Jews, except only in the flesh. When did they sever themselves from the name? They said, "We have no king but Caesar." O ye who are called Jews and are not, if ye have no king but Caesar, there hath failed a Prince of Judah: there hath come then He to whom the promise hath been made. They then are more truly Jews, who have been made Christians out of Jews: the rest of the Jews, who in Christ have not believed, have deserved to lose even the very name. The true Judaea, then, is the Church of Christ, believing in that King, who hath come out of the tribe of Judah through the Virgin Mary; believing in Him of whom the Apostle was just now speaking, in writing to Timothy, "Be thou mindful that Jesus Christ hath risen from the dead, of the seed of David, after my Gospel." For of Judah is David, and out of David is the Lord Jesus Christ. We believing in Christ do belong to Judah: and we acknowledge Christ. We, that with eyes have not seen, in faith do keep Him. Let not therefore the Jews revile, who are no longer Jews. They said themselves, "We have no king but Caesar." For better were it for them that their king should be Christ, of the seed of David, of the tribe of Judah. Nevertheless because Christ Himself is of the seed of David after the flesh, but God above all things blessed for ever? He is Himself our King and our God; our King, inasmuch as born of the tribe of Judah, after the flesh, was Christ the Lord, the Saviour; but our God, who is before Judah, and before Heaven and earth, by whom were made all things, both spiritual and corporal. For if all things by Himself were made; even Mary herself, out of whom He was born, by Himself was made. ...
2. "Known in Judaea is God, in Israel great is the Name of Him" (ver. 1). Concerning Israel also we ought so to take it as we have concerning Judaea: as they were not the true Jews, so neither was that the true Israel. For what is Israel said to be? One seeing God. And how have they seen God, among whom He walked in the flesh; and while they supposed Him to be man, they slew Him? ... "In Israel great is His Name." Wilt thou be Israel? Observe that man concerning whom the Lord saith, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom guile is not." If a true Israelite is he in whom guile is not, the guileful and lying are not true Israelites. Let them not say then, that with them is God, and great is His name in Israel. Let them prove themselves Israelites, and I grant that "in Israel great is His Name."
3. "And there hath been made in peace a place for Him, and His habitation is in Sion" (ver. 2). Again, Sion is as it were the country of the Jews; the true Sion is the Church of Christians. But the intrepretation of the Hebrew names is thus handed down to us: Judaea is interpreted confession, Israel, one seeing God. After Judaea is Israel. Wilt thou see God? First do thou confess, and then in thyself there is made a place for God; because "there hath been made in peace a place for Him." So long as then thou confessest not thy sins, in a manner thou art quarrelling with God. For how art thou not disputing with Him, who art praising that which displeaseth Him? He punisheth a thief, thou dost praise theft: He doth punish a drunken man, thou dost praise drunkenness. Thou art disputing with God, thou hast not made for Him a place in thy heart: because in peace is His place. And how dost thou begin to have peace with God? Thou beginnest with Him in confession. There is a voice of a Psalm, saying, "Begin ye to the Lord in confession." What is, "Begin ye to the Lord in confession"? Begin ye to be joined to the Lord. In what manner? So that the same thing may displease you as displeaseth Him. There displeaseth Him thy evil life; if it please thyself, thou art disunited from Him; if it displease thee, through confession to Him thou art united. ...
4. "There He hath broken the strength of bows, and the shield, and the sword, and the battle" (ver. 3). Where hath He broken? In that eternal peace, in that perfect peace. And now, my brethren, they that have rightly believed see that they ought not to rely on themselves: and all the might of their own menaces, and whatsoever is in them whetted for mischief, this they break in pieces; and whatsoever they deem of great virtue wherewith to protect themselves temporally, and the war which they were waging against God by defending their sins, all these things He hath broken there.
5. "Thou enlightening marvellously from the eternal mountains" (ver. 4). What are the eternal mountains? Those which He hath Himself made eternal; which are the great mountains, the preachers of truth. Thou dost enlighten, but from the eternal mountains: the great mountains are first to receive Thy light, and from Thy light which the mountains receive, the earth also is clothed. But those great mountains the Apostles have received, the Apostles have received as it were the first streaks of the rising light. ... Wherefore also, in another place, a Psalm saith what? "I have lifted up mine eyes unto the mountains, whence there shall come help to me." What then, in the mountains is thy hope, and from thence to thee shall there come help? Hast thou stayed at the mountains? Take heed what thou doest. There is something above the mountains: above the mountains is He at whom the mountains tremble. "I have lifted up," he saith, "mine eyes unto the mountains, whence there shall come help to me." But what followeth? "My help," he saith, "is from the Lord, who hath made Heaven and earth." Unto the mountains indeed I have lifted up eyes, because through the mountains to me the Scriptures were displayed: but I have my heart in Him that doth enlighten all mountains. ...
6. "There have been troubled all the unwise in heart" (ver. 5). ... How have they been troubled? When the Gospel is preached. And what is life eternal? And who is He that hath risen from the dead? The Athenians wondered, when the Apostle Paul spake of the resurrection of the dead, and thought that he spake but fables. But because he said that there was another life which neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it gone up into the heart of man? therefore the unwise in heart were troubled. But what hath befallen them? "They have slept their sleep, and all men of riches have found nothing in their hands." They have loved things present, and have gone to sleep in the midst of things present: and so these very present things have become to them delightful: just as he that seeth in a dream himself to have found treasure, is so long rich as he waketh not. The dream hath made him rich, waking hath made him poor. Sleep perchance hath held him slumbering on the earth, and lying on the hard ground, poor and perchance a beggar; in sleep he hath seen himself to lie on an ivory or golden bed, and on feathers heaped up; so long as he is sleeping, he is sleeping well, waking he hath found himself on the hard ground, whereon sleep had taken him. Such men also are these too: they have come into this life, and through temporal desires, they have as it were slumbered here; and them riches, and vain pomps that fly away, have taken, and they have passed away: they have not understood how much of good might be done therewith. For if they had known of another life, there they would have laid up unto themselves the treasure which here was doomed to perish: like as Zacchaeus, the chief of the Publicans, saw that good when he received the Lord Jesus in his house, and he saith, "The half of my goods I give to the poor, and if to any man I have done any wrong, fourfold I restore." This man was not in the emptiness of men dreaming, but in the faith of men awake. ...
7. "By Thy chiding, O God of Jacob, there have slept all men that have mounted horses" (ver. 6). Who are they that have mounted horses? They that would not be humble. To sit on horseback is no sin; but it is a sin to lift up the neck of power against God, and to deem one's self to be in some distinction. Because thou art rich, thou hast mounted; God doth chide, and thou sleepest. Great is the anger of Him chiding, great the anger. Let your Love observe the terrible thing. Chiding hath noise, the noise is wont to make men wake. So great is the force of God chiding, that he said, "By Thy chiding, O God of Jacob, there have slept all men that have mounted horses." Behold what a sleep that Pharaoh slept who mounted horses. For he was not awake in heart, because against chiding he had his heart hardened. For hardness of heart is slumber. I ask you, my brethren, how they sleep, who, while the Gospel is sounding, and the Amen, and the Hallelujah, throughout the whole world, yet will not condemn their old life, and wake up unto a new life. There was the Scripture of God in Judaea only, now throughout the whole world it is sung. In that one nation one God who made all things was spoken of, as to be adored and worshipped; now where is He unsaid? Christ hath risen again, though derided on the Cross; that very Cross whereon He was derided, He hath now imprinted on the brows of kings: and men yet sleep. ...
8. "Thou art terrible, and who shall withstand Thee at that time by Thine anger?" (ver. 7). Now they sleep, and perceive not Thee angry; but for cause that they should sleep, He was angry. Now that which sleeping they perceived not, at the end they shall perceive. For there shall appear the Judge of quick and dead. "And who shall withstand Thee at that time by Thine anger?" For now they speak that which they will, and they dispute against God and say, who are the Christians? or who is Christ? or what fools are they that believe that which they see not, and relinquish the pleasures which they see, and follow the faith of things which are not displayed to their eyes! Ye sleep and snore, ye speak against God, as much as ye are able. "How long shall sinners, O Lord, how long shall sinners glory, they answer and will speak iniquity?" But when doth no one answer and no one speak, except when he turneth himself against himself? ...
9. "From Heaven Thou hast hurled judgment: the earth hath trembled, and hath rested" (ver. 8). She which now doth trouble herself, she which now speaketh, hath to fear at the end and to rest. Better had she now rested, that at the end she might have rejoiced. Rested? When? "When God arose unto judgment, that He might save all the meek in heart" (ver. 9). Who are the meek in heart? They that on snorting horses have not mounted, but in their humility have confessed their own sins. "For the thought of a man shall confess to Thee, and the remnants of the thought shall celebrate solemnities to Thee" (ver. 10). The first is the thought, the latter are the remnants of the thought. What is the first thought? That from whence we begin, that good thought whence thou wilt begin to confess. Confession uniteth us to Christ. But now the confession itself, that is, the first thought, doth produce in us the remnants of the thought: and those very "remnants of thought shall celebrate solemnities to Thee." What is the thought which shall confess? That which condemneth the former life, that where-unto that which it was is displeasing, in order that it may be that which it was not, is itself the first thought. But because thus thou oughtest to withdraw from sins, with the first thought after having confessed to God, that it may not escape thy memory that thou hast been a sinner; in that thou hast been a sinner, thou dost celebrate solemnities to God. Furthermore it is to be understood as followeth. The first thought hath confession, and departure from the old life. But if thou shalt have forgotten from what sins thou hast been delivered, thou dost not render thanks to the Deliverer, and dost not celebrate solemnities to thy God. Behold the first confessing thought of Saul the Apostle, now Paul, who at first was Saul, when he heard a voice from Heaven! ... He put forth the first thought of obedience: when he heard, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest," "O Lord," he saith, "what dost Thou bid me to do?" This is a thought confessing: now he is calling upon the Lord, whom he persecuted. In what manner the remnants of the thought shall celebrate solemnities, in the case of Paul ye have heard, when the Apostle himself was being read: "Be thou mindful that Christ Jesus hath risen from the dead, of the seed of David, after my Gospel." What is, be thou mindful? Though effaced from thy memory be the thought, whereby at first thou hast confessed: be the remnant of the thought in the memory. ...
10. Even once was Christ sacrificed for us, when we believed; then was thought; but now there are the remnants of thought, when we remember Who hath come to us, and what He hath forgiven us; by means of those very remnants of thought, that is, by means of the memory herself, He is daily so sacrificed for us, as if He were daily renewing us, that hath renewed us by His first grace. For now the Lord hath renewed us in Baptism, and we have become new men, in hope indeed rejoicing, in order that in tribulation we may be patient nevertheless, there ought not to escape from our memory that which hath been bestowed upon us. And if now thy thought is not what it was,--for the first thought was to depart from sin: but now thou dost not depart, but at that time didst depart,--be there remnants of thought, test He who hath made whole escape from memory. ...
11. "Vow ye, and pay to the Lord our God" (ver. 11). Let each man vow what he is able, and pay it. Do not vow and not pay: but let every man vow, and pay what he can. Be ye not slow to vow: for ye will accomplish the vows by powers not your own. Ye will fail, if on yourselves ye rely: but if on Him to whom ye vow ye rely, ye will be safe to pay. "Vow ye, and pay to the Lord our God." What ought we all in common to vow? To believe in Him, to hope from Him for life eternal, to live godly according to a measure common to all. For there is a certain measure common to all men. To commit no theft is not a thing enjoined merely upon one devoted to continence, and not enjoined upon the married woman: to commit no adultery is enjoined upon all men: not to love wine-bibbing, whereby the soul is swallowed up, and doth corrupt in herself the Temple of God, is enjoined to all alike: not to be proud, is enjoined to all men alike: not to slay man, not to hate a brother, not to lay a plot to destroy any one, is enjoined to all in common. The whole of this we all ought to vow. There are also vows proper for individuals: one voweth to God conjugal chastity, that he will know no other woman besides his wife: so also the woman, that she will know no other man besides her husband. Other men also vow, even though they have used such a marriage, that beyond this they will have no such thing, that they will neither desire nor admit the like: and these men have vowed a greater vow than the former. Others vow even virginity from the beginning of life, that they will even know no such thing as those who having experienced have relinquished: and these men have vowed the greatest vow. Others vow that their house shall be a place of entertainment for all the Saints that may come: a great vow they vow. Another voweth to relinquish all his goods to be distributed to the poor, and go into a community, into a society of the Saints: a great vow he doth vow. "Vow ye, and pay to the Lord our God." Let each one vow what he shall have willed to vow; let him give heed to this, that he pay what he hath vowed. If any man doth look back with regard to what he hath vowed to God, it is an evil. Some woman or other devoted to continence hath willed to marry: what hath she willed? The same as any virgin. What hath she willed? The same as her own mother. Hath she willed any evil thing? Evil certainly. Why? Because already she had vowed to the Lord her God. For what hath the apostle Paul said concerning such? Though he saith that young widows may marry if they will: nevertheless he saith in a certain passage, "but more blessed she will be, if so she shall have remained, after my judgment." He showeth that she is more blessed, if so she shall have remained; but nevertheless that she is not to be condemned, if she shall have willed to marry. But what saith he concerning certain who have vowed and have not paid? "Having," he saith, "judgment, because the first faith they have made void." What is, "the first faith they have made void"? They have vowed, and have not paid. Let no brother therefore, when placed in a monastery, say, I shall depart from the monastery: for neither are they only that are in a monastery to attain unto the kingdom of Heaven, nor do those that are not there not belong unto God. We answer him, but they have not vowed; thou hast vowed, thou hast looked back. When the Lord was threatening them with the day of judgment, He saith what? "Remember Lot's wife." To all men He spake. For what did Lot's wife? She was delivered from Sodom, and being in the way she looked back. In the place where she looked back, there she remained. For she became a statue of salt, in order that by considering her men might be seasoned, might have sense, might not be infatuated, might not look back, lest by giving a bad example they should themselves remain and season others. For even now we are saying this to certain of our brethren, whom perchance we may have seen as it were weak in the good they have purposed. And wilt thou be such an one as he was? We put before them certain who have looked back. They are savourless in themselves, but they season others, inasmuch as they are mentioned, in order that fearing their example they may not look back. "Vow ye, and pay." For that wife of Lot to all doth belong. A married woman hath had the will to commit adultery; from her place whither she had arrived she looked back. A widow who had vowed so to remain hath willed to marry, she hath willed the thing which was lawful to her who hath married, but to herself was not lawful, because from her place she hath looked back. There is a virgin devoted to continence, already dedicated to God; let her have also the other gifts which truly do adorn virginity itself, and without which that virginity is unclean. For what if she be uncorrupt in body and corrupt in mind? What is it that he hath said? What if no one hath touched the body, but if perchance she be drunken, be proud, be contentious, be talkative? All these things God doth condemn. If before she had vowed, she had married, she would not have been condemned: she hath chosen something better, hath overcome that which was lawful for her; she is proud, and doth commit so many things unlawful. This I say, it is lawful for her to marry before that she voweth, to be proud is never lawful. O thou virgin of God, thou hast willed not to marry, which is lawful: thou dost exalt thyself, which is not lawful. Better is a virgin humble, than a married woman humble: but better is a married woman humble, than a virgin proud. But she that looked back upon marriage is condemned, not because she hath willed to marry; but because she had already gone before, and is become the wife of Lot by looking back. Be ye not slow, that are able, whom God doth inspire to seize upon higher callings: for we do not say these things in order that ye may not vow, but in order that ye may vow and may pay. Now because we have treated of these matters, thou perchance wast willing to vow, and now art not willing to vow. But observe what the Psalm hath said to thee. It hath not said, "Vow not;" but, "Vow and pay." Because thou hast heard, "pay," wilt thou not vow? Therefore wast thou willing to vow, and not to pay? Nay, do both. One thing is done by thy profession, another thing will be perfected by the aid of God. Look to Him who doth guide thee, and thou wilt not look back to the place whence He is leading thee forth. He that guideth thee is walking before thee; the place from whence He is guiding thee is behind thee. Love Him guiding, and He doth not condemn thee looking back)
12. "All they that are in the circuit of Him shall offer gifts." Who are in the circuit of Him? ... Whatever is common to all is in the midst. Why is it said to be in the midst? Because it is at the same distance from all, and at the same proximity to all. That which is not in the middle, is as it were private. That which is public is set in the middle, in order that all they that come may use the same, may be enlightened. Let no one say, it is mine: test he should be wanting to make his own share of that which is in the midst for all. What then is, "All they that are in the circuit of Him shall offer gifts"? All they that understand truth to be common to all, and who do not make it as it were their own by being proud concerning it, they shall offer gifts; because they have humility: but they that make as it were their own that which is common to all, as though it were set in the middle, are endeavouring to lead men astray to a party, these shall not offer gifts. ... "To Him terrible." Let therefore all men fear that are in the circuit of Him. For therefore they shall fear, and with trembling they shall praise; because they are in the circuit of Him, to the end that all men may attain unto Him, and He may openly meet all, and openly enlighten all. This is, to stand in awe with others. When thou hast made him as it were thine own, and no longer common, thou art exalted unto pride; though it is written, "Serve ye the Lord in fear, and exult unto Him with trembling." Therefore they shall offer gifts, who are in the circuit of Him. For they are humble who know truth to be common to all.
13. To whom shall they offer gifts? "To Him terrible, and to Him that taketh away the spirit of princes" (ver. 12). For the spirits of princes are proud spirits. They then are not His Spirits; for if they know anything, their own they will it to be, not public; but, that which setteth Himself forth as equal toward all men, that setteth Himself in the midst, in order that all men may take as much as they can, whatever they can; not of what is any man's, but of what is God's, and therefore of their own because they have become His. Therefore they must needs be humble: they have lost their own spirit, and they have the Spirit of God. ... For if thou shalt have confessed thyself dust, God out of dust doth make man. All they that are in the circuit of Him do offer gifts. All humble men do confess to Him, and do adore Him. "To Him terrible they offer gifts." Whence to Him terrible exult ye with trembling: "and to Him that taketh away the spirit of princes:" that is, that taketh away the haughtiness of proud men. "To Him terrible among the kings of the earth." Terrible are the kings of the earth, but He is above all, that doth terrify the kings of the earth. Be thou a king of the earth, and God will be to thee terrible. How, wilt thou say, shall I be a king of the earth? Rule the earth, and thou wilt be a king of the earth. Do not therefore with desire of empire set before thine eyes exceeding wide provinces, where thou mayest spread abroad thy kingdoms; rule thou the earth which thou bearest. Hear the Apostle ruling the earth: "I do not so fight as if beating air, but I chasten my body, and bring it into captivity, lest perchance preaching to other men, I myself become a reprobate." ...
1. This Psalm's lintel is thus inscribed: "Unto the end, for Idithun, a Psalm to Asaph himself." What "Unto the end" is, ye know. Idithun is interpreted "leaping over those men," Asaph is interpreted "a congregation." Here therefore there is speaking "a congregation that leapeth over," in order that it may reach the End, which is Christ Jesus. ...
2. "With my voice," he saith, "to the Lord I have cried" (ver. 1). But many men cry unto the Lord for the sake of getting riches and avoiding losses, for the safety of their friends, for the security of their house, for temporal felicity, for secular dignity, lastly, even for mere soundness of body, which is the inheritance of the poor man. For such and such like things many men do cry unto the Lord; scarce one for the sake of the Lord Himself. For an easy thing it is for a man to desire anything of the Lord, and not to desire the Lord Himself; as if forsooth that which He giveth could be sweeter than Himself that giveth. Whosoever therefore cloth cry unto the Lord for the sake of any other thing, is not yet one that leapeth over. ... He doth indeed hearken to thee at the time when thou dost seek Himself, not when through Himself thou dost seek any other thing. It hath been said of some men, "They cried, and there was no one to save them; to the Lord, and He hearkened not unto them." For why? Because the voice of them was not unto the Lord. This the Scripture doth express in another place, where it saith of such men, "On the Lord they have not called." Unto Him they have not ceased to cry, and yet upon the Lord they have not called. What is, upon the Lord they have not called? They have not called the Lord unto themselves: they have not invited the Lord to their heart, they would not have themselves inhabited by the Lord. And therefore what hath befallen them? "They have trembled with fear where fear was not." They have trembled about the loss of things present, for the reason that they were not full of Him, upon whom they have not called. They have not loved gratis, so that after the loss of temporal things they could say, "As it hath pleased the Lord, so hath been done, be the name of the Lord blessed." Therefore this man saith, "My voice is unto the Lord, and He doth hearken unto me." Let him show us how this cometh to pass.
3. "In the day of tribulation I have sought out God" (ver. 2). Who art thou that doest this thing? In the day of thy tribulation take heed what thou seekest out. If a jail be the cause of tribulation, thou seekest to get forth from jail: if fever be the cause of tribulation, thou seekest health: if hunger be the cause of tribulation, thou seekest fulness: if losses be the cause of tribulation, thou seekest gain: if expatriation be the cause of tribulation, thou seekest the home of thy flesh. And why should I name all things, or when could I name all things? Dost thou wish to be one leaping over? In the day of thy tribulation seek out God: not through God some other thing, but out of tribulation God, that to this end God may take away tribulation, that thou mayest without anxiety cleave unto God. "In the day of my tribulation, I have sought out God:" not any other thing, but "God I have sought out." And how hast thou sought out? "With my hands in the night before Him." ...
4. Tribulation must not be thought to be this or that in particular. For every individual that doth not yet leap over, thinketh that as yet to be no tribulation, unless it be a thing which may have befallen this life of some sad occasion: but this man, that leapeth over, doth count this whole life to be his tribulation. For so much doth he love his supernal country, that the earthly pilgrimage is of itself the greatest tribulation. For how can this life be otherwise than a tribulation, I pray you? how can that not be a tribulation, the whole whereof hath been called temptation? Thou hast it written in the book of Job, is not human life a temptation upon earth? Hath he said, human life is tempted upon earth? Nay, but life itself is a temptation. If therefore temptation, it must surely be a tribulation. In this tribulation therefore, that is to say in this life, this man that leapeth over hath sought out God. How? "With my hands," he saith. What is, "with my hands"? With my works. For he was not seeking any thing corporeal, so that he might find and handle something which he had lost, so that he might seek with hands coin, gold, silver, vesture, in short everything which can be held in the hands. Howbeit, even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself willed Himself to be sought after with hands, when to His doubting disciple He showed the scars. ... What then, to us belongeth not the seeking with hands? It belongeth to us, as I have said, to seek with works. When so? "In the night." What is, "in the night"? In this age. For it is night until there shine forth day in the glorified advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. For would ye see how it is night? Unless we had here had a lantern, we should have remained in darkness. For Peter saith," We too have more sure the prophetic discourse, whereunto ye do well to give heed, as to a lantern shining in a dark place, until day shine, and the day-star arise in your hearts." There is therefore to come day after this night, meanwhile in this night a lantern is not lacking. And this is perchance what we are now doing: by explaining these passages, we are bringing in a lantern, in order that we may rejoice in this night. Which indeed ought alway to be burning in your houses. For to such men is said, "The Spirit quench ye not." And as though explaining what he was saying, he continueth and saith, "Prophecy despise ye not:" that is, let the lantern alway shine in you. And even this light by comparison with a sort of ineffable day is called night. For the very life of believers by comparison with the life of unbelievers is day. ... Night and day--day in comparison with unbelievers, night in comparison with the Angels. For the Angels have a day, which we have not yet. Already we have one that unbelievers have not: but not yet have believers that which Angels have: but they will have, at the time when they will be equal to the Angels of God, that which hath been promised to them in the Resurrection. In this then which is now day and yet night; night in comparison with the future day for which we yearn, day in comparison with the past night which we have renounced: in this night then, I say, let us seek God with our hands. Let not works cease, let us seek God, be there no idle yearning. If we are in the way, let us expend our means in order that we may be able to reach the end. With hands let us seek God. ... "With my hands in the night before Him, and I have not been deceived."
5. ... "My soul hath refused to be comforted" (ver. 2). So great weariness did here possess me, that my soul did close the door against all comfort. Whence such weariness to him? It may be that his vineyard hath been hailed on, or his olive hath yielded no fruit, or the vintage hath been interrupted by rain. Whence the weariness to him? Hear this out of another Psalm. For therein is the voice of the same: "weariness hath bowed me down, because of sinners forsaking Thy law." He saith then that he was overcome with so great weariness because of this sort of evil thing; so as that his soul refused to be comforted. Weariness had well nigh swallowed him up, and sorrow had ingulfed him altogether beyond remedy, he refuseth to be comforted. What then remained? In the first place, see whence he is comforted. Had he not waited for one who might condole with him? ... "I have been mindful of God, and I have been delighted" (ver. 3). My hands had not wrought in vain, they had found a great comforter. While not being idle, "I have been mindful of God, and I have been delighted." God must therefore be praised, of whom this man being mindful, hath been delighted, and hath been comforted in sorrowful case, and refreshed when safety was in a manner despaired of: God must therefore be praised. In fine, because he hath been comforted, in continuation he saith, "I have babbled." In that same comfort being made mindful of God, I have been delighted, and have "babbled." What is, "I have babbled"? I have rejoiced, I have exulted in speaking. For babblers they are properly called, that by the common people are named talkative, who at the approach of joy are neither able nor willing to be silent. This man hath become such an one. And again he sixth what? "And my spirit hath fainted."
6. With weariness he had pined away; by calling to mind God, he had been delighted, again in babbling he had fainted: what followeth? "All mine enemies have anticipated watches" (ver. 4). All mine enemies have kept watch over me; they have exceeded in keeping watch over me; in watching they have been beforehand with me. Where do they not lay traps? Have not mine enemies anticipated all watches? For who are these enemies, but they of whom the Apostle saith, "Ye have not wrestling against flesh and blood." ... Against the devil and his angels we are waging hostilities. Rulers of the world he hath called them, because they do themselves rule the lovers of the world. For they do not rule the world, as if they were rulers of heaven and earth: but he is calling sinners the world. ... With the devil and his angels there is no concord. They do themselves grudge us the kingdom of Heaven. They cannot at all be appeased towards us: because "all mine enemies have anticipated watches." They have watched more to deceive than I to guard myself. For how can they have done otherwise than anticipate watches, that have set everywhere scandals, everywhere traps? Weariness doth invest the heart, we have to fear lest sorrow swallow us up: in joy to fear lest the spirit faint in babbling: "all mine enemies have anticipated watches." In fine, in the midst of that same babbling, whiles thou art speaking, and art speaking without fear, how much is oft-times found which enemies would lay hold of and censure, whereon they would even found accusation and slander--" he said so, he thought so, he spake so!" What should man do, save that which followeth? "I have been troubled, and I spake not." Therefore when he was troubled, lest in his babbling enemies anticipating watches should seek and find slanders, he spake not. ...
7. "I have thought on ancient days" (ver. 5). Now he, as if he were one who had been beaten out of doors, hath taken refuge within: he is conversing in the secret place of his own heart. And let him declare to us what he is doing there. It is well with him. Observe what things he is thinking of, I pray you. He is within, in his own house he is thinking of ancient days. No one saith to him, thou hast spoken ill: no one saith to him, thou hast spoken much: no one saith to him, thou hast thought perversely. Thus may it be well with him, may God aid him: let him think of the ancient days, and let him tell us what he hath done in his very inner chamber, whereunto he hath arrived, over what he hath leaped, where he hath abode. "I have thought on ancient days; and of eternal years I have been mindful." What are eternal years? It is a mighty thought. See whether this thought requireth anything but great silence. Apart from all noise without, from all tumult of things human let him remain quiet within, that would think of those eternal years. Are the years wherein we are eternal, or those wherein our ancestors have been, or those wherein our posterity are to be? Far be it that they should be esteemed eternal. For what part of these years doth remain? Behold we speak and say, "in this year:" and what have we got of this year, save the one day wherein we are. For the former days of this year have already gone by, and are not to be had; but the future days have not yet come. In one day we are, and we say, in this year: nay rather say thou, to-day, if thou desirest to speak of anything present. For of the whole year what hast thou got that is present? Whatsoever thereof is past, is no longer; whatsoever thereof is future, is not yet: how then, "this year"? Amend the expression: say, to-day. Thou speakest truth, henceforth I will say, "to-day." Again observe this too, how to-day the morning hours have already past, the future hours have not yet come. This too therefore amend: say, in this hour. And of this hour what hast thou got? Some moments thereof have already gone by, those that are future have not yet come. Say, in this moment. In what moment? While I am uttering syllables, if I shall speak two syllables, the latter doth not sound until the former hath gone by: in a word, in that same one syllable, if it chance to have two letters, the latter letter doth not sound, until the former hath gone by. What then have we got of these years? These years are changeable: the eternal years must be thought on, years that stand, that are not made up of days that come and depart; years whereof in another place the Scripture saith to God, "But Thou art the Self-same, and Thy years shall not fail." On these years this man that leapeth over, not in babbling without, but in silence hath thought.
8. "And I have meditated in the night with my heart" (ver. 6). No slanderous person seeketh for snares in his words, in his heart he hath meditated. "I babbled." Behold there is the former babbling. Watch again, that thy spirit faint not. I did not, he saith, I did not so babble as if it were abroad: in another way now. How now? "I did babble, and did search out my spirit." If he were searching the earth to find veins of gold, no one would say that he was foolish; nay, many men would call him wise, for desiring to come at gold: how great treasures hath a man within, and he diggeth not! This man was examining his spirit, and was speaking with that same his spirit, and in the very speaking he was babbling. He was questioning himself, was examining himself, was judge over himself. And he continueth; "I did search my spirit." He had to fear lest he should stay within his own spirit: for he had babbled without; and because all his enemies had anticipated watches, he found there sorrow, and his spirit fainted. He that did babble without, lo, now doth begin to babble within in safety, where being alone in secret, he is thinking on eternal years. ...
9. And thou hast found what? "God will not repel for everlasting" (ver. 7). Weariness he had found in this life; in no place a trustworthy, in no place a fearless comfort. Unto whatsoever men he betook himself, in them he found scandal, or feared it. In no place therefore was he free from care. An evil thing it was for him to hold his peace, lest perchance he should keep silence from good words; to speak and babble without was painful to him, lest all his enemies, anticipating watches, should seek slanders in his words. Being exceedingly straitened in this life, he thought much of another life, where there is not this trial. And when is he to arrive thither? For it cannot but be evident that our suffering here is the anger of God. This thing is spoken of in Isaiah, "I will not be an avenger unto you for everlasting, nor will I be angry with you at all times." ... Will this anger of God alway abide? This man hath not found this in silence. For he saith what? "God will not repel for everlasting, and He will not add any more that it should be well-pleasing to Him still." That is, that it should be well-pleasing to Him still to repel, and He will not add the repelling for everlasting. He must needs recall to Himself His servants, He must needs receive fugitives returning to the Lord, He must needs hearken to the voice of them that are in fetters. "Or unto the end will He cut off mercy from generation to generation?" (ver. 8).
10. "Or will God forget to be merciful?" (ver. 9). In thee, from thee unto another there is no mercy unless God bestow it on thee: and shall God Himself forget mercy? The stream runneth: shall the spring itself be dried up? "Or shall God forget to be merciful: or shall He keep back in anger His mercies?" That is, shall He be so angry, as that He will not have mercy? He will more easily keep back anger than mercy.
11. "And I said." Now leaping over himself he hath said what? "Now I have begun:" (ver. 10), when I had gone out even from myself. Here henceforth there is no danger: for even to remain in myself, was danger. "And I said, Now I have begun: this is the changing of the right hand of the Lofty One." Now the Lofty One hath begun to change me: now I have begun something wherein I am secure: now I have entered a certain palace of joys, wherein no enemy is to be feared: now I have begun to be in that region, where all mine enemies do not anticipate watches. "Now I have begun: this is the changing of the right hand of the Lofty One."
12. "I have been mindful of the works of the Lord" (ver. 11). Now behold him roaming among the works of the Lord. For he was babbling without, and being made sorrowful thereby his spirit fainted: he babbled within with his own heart, and with his spirit, and having searched out that same spirit he was mindful of the eternal years, was mindful of the mercy of the Lord, how God will not repel him for everlasting; and he began now fearlessly to rejoice in His works, fearlessly to exult in the same. Let us hear now those very works, and let us too exult. But let even us leap over in our affections, and not rejoice in things temporal. For we too have our bed. Why do we not enter therein? Why do we not abide in silence? Why do we not search out our spirit? Why do we not think on the eternal years? Why do we not rejoice in the works of God? In such sort now let us hear, and let us take delight in Himself speaking, in order that when we shall have departed hence, we may do that which we used to do while He spake; if only we are making the beginning of Him whereof he spake in," Now I have begun." To rejoice in the works of God, is to forget even thyself, if thou canst delight in Him alone. For what is a better thing than He? Dost thou not see that, when thou returnest to thyself, thou returnest to a worse thing? "for I shall be mindful from the beginning of Thy wonderful works.
13. "And I will meditate on all Thy works, and on Thy affections I will babble" (ver. 12). Behold the third babbling! He babbled without, when he hinted; he babbled in his spirit within, when he advanced: he babbled on the works of God, when he arrived at the place toward which he advanced. "And on Thy affections:" not on any affections. What man doth live without affections? And do ye suppose, brethren, that they who fear God, worship God, love God, have not any affections? Wilt thou indeed suppose and dare to suppose, that painting, the theatre, hunting, hawking, fishing, engage the affections, and the meditation on God doth not engage certain interior affections of its own, while we contemplate the universe, and place before our eyes the spectacle of the natural world, and therein labour to discover the Maker, and find Him nowhere unpleasing, but pleasing above all things?
14. "0 God, Thy way is in the Holy One" (ver. 13). He is contemplating now the works of the mercy of God around us, out of these he is babbling, and in these affections he is exulting. At first he is beginning from thence, "Thy way is in the Holy One?" What is that way of Thine which is in the Holy One? "I am," He saith," the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Return therefore, ye men, from your affections. ... "Who is a great God, like our God?" Gentiles have their affections regarding their gods, they adore idols, they have eyes and they see not; ears they have and they hear not; feet they have and they walk not. Why dost thou walk to a God that walketh not? I do not, he saith, worship such things, and what dost thou worship? The divinity which is there. Thou dost then worship that whereof hath been said elsewhere, "for the Gods of the nations are demons." Thou dost either worship idols, or devils. Neither idols, nor devils, he saith. And what dost thou worship? The stars, sun, moon, those things celestial. How much better Him that hath made both things earthly and things celestial. "Who is a great God like our God?"
15. "Thou art the God that doest wonderful things alone" (ver. 14). Thou art indeed a great God, doing wonderful things in body, in soul; alone doing them. The deaf have heard, the blind have seen, the feeble have recovered, the dead have risen, the paralytic have been strengthened. But these miracles were at that time performed on bodies, let us see those wrought on the soul. Sober are those that were a little before drunken, believers are those that were a little before worshippers of idols: their goods they bestow on the poor that did rob before those of others. ..."Wonderful things alone." Moses too did them, but not alone: Elias too did them, even Eliseus did them, the Apostles too did them, but no one of them alone. That they might have power to do them, Thou wast with them: when Thou didst them they were not with Thee. For they were not with Thee when Thou didst them, inasmuch as Thou didst make even these very men. How "alone"? Is it perchance the Father, and not the Son? Or the Son, and not the Father? Nay, but Father and Son and Holy Ghost. For it is not three Gods but one God that doeth wonderful things alone, and even in this very leaper-over. For even his leaping over and arriving at these things was a miracle of God: when he was babbling within with his own spirit, in order that he might leap over even that same spirit of his, and might delight in the works of God, he then did wonderful things himself. But God hath done what? "Thou hast made known unto the people Thy power." Thence this congregation of Asaph leaping over; because He hath made known in the peoples His virtue. What virtue of His hath He made known in the peoples? "But we preach Christ crucified, ... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." If then the virtue of God is Christ, He hath made known Christ in the peoples. Do we not yet perceive so much as this; and are we so unwise, are we lying so much below, do we so leap over nothing, as that we see not this?
16. "Thou hast redeemed in Thine arm Thy people" (ver. 15). "With Thine arm," that is, with Thy power. "And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" "Thou hast redeemed in Thine arm Thy people, the sons of Israel and of Joseph." How as if two peoples, "the sons of Israel and of Joseph"? Are not the sons of Joseph among the sons of Israel? ... He hath admonished us of some distinction to be made. Let us search out our spirit, perchance God hath placed there something--God whom we ought even by night to seek with our hands, in order that we may not be deceived-- perchance we shall discover even ourselves in this distinction of "sons of Israel and of Joseph." By Joseph He hath willed another people to be understood, hath willed that the people of the Gentiles be understood. Why the people of the Gentiles by Joseph? Because Joseph was sold into Egypt by his brethren. That Joseph whom the brethren envied, and sold him into Egypt, when sold into Egypt, toiled, was humbled; when made known and exalted, flourished, reigned. And by all these things he hath signified what? What but Christ sold by His brethren, banished from His own land, as it were into the Egypt of the Gentiles? There at first humbled, when the Martyrs were suffering persecutions: now exalted, as we see; inasmuch as there hath been fulfilled in Him, "There shall adore Him all kinds of the earth, all nations shall serve Him."(1) Therefore Joseph is the people of the Gentiles, but Israel the people of the Hebrew nation. God hath redeemed His people, "the sons of Israel and of Joseph." By means of what? By means of the corner stone,(2) wherein the two walls have been joined together.
17. And he continueth how? "The waters have seen Thee, O God, and they have feared and the abysses have been troubled" (ver. 16). What are the waters? The peoples. What are these waters hath been asked in the Apocalypse,(3) the answer was, the peoples. There we find most clearly waters put by a figure for peoples. But above he had said, "Thou hast made known in the peoples Thy virtue."(4) With reason therefore, "the waters have seen Thee, and they have feared." They have been changed because they have feared. What are the abysses? The depths of waters. What man among the peoples is not troubled, when the conscience is smitten? Thou seekest the depth of the sea, what is deeper than human conscience? That is the depth which was troubled, when God redeemed with His arm. His people. In what manner were the abysses troubled? When all men poured forth their consciences in confession.
18. In praises of God, in confessions of sins, in hymns and in songs, in prayers, "There is a multitude of the sound of waters. The clouds have uttered a voice" (ver. 17). Thence that sound of waters, thence the troubling of the abysses, because "the clouds have uttered a voice." What clouds? The preachers of the word of truth. What clouds? Those concerning which God doth menace a certain vineyard, which instead of grape had brought forth thorns and He saith, "I will command My clouds, that they rain no rain upon it."(5) In a word, the Apostles forsaking the Jews, went to the Gentiles: in preaching Christ among all nations, "the clouds have uttered a voice." "For Thine arrows have gone through." Those same voices of the clouds He hath again called arrows. For the words of the Evangelists were arrows. For these things are allegories. For properly neither an arrow is rain, nor rain is an arrow: but yet the word of God is both an arrow because it doth smite; and rain because it doth water. Let no one therefore any longer wonder at the troubling of the abysses, when "Thine arrows have gone through." What is, "have gone through"? They have not stopped in the ears, but they have pierced the heart. "The voice of Thy thunder is in the wheel" (ver. 18). What is this? How are we to understand it? May the Lord give aid. When boys we were wont to imagine, whenever we heard thunderings from Heaven, that carriages were going forth as it were from the stables. For thunder doth make a sort of rolling like carriages. Must we return to these boyish thoughts, in order to understand," the voice of Thy thunder is in the wheel," as though God hath certain carriages in the clouds, and the passing along of the carriages doth raise that sound? Far be it. This is boyish, vain, trifling. What is then, "The voice of Thy thunder is in the wheel"? Thy voice rolleth. Not even this do I understand. What shall we do? Let us question Idithun himself, to see whether perchance he may himself explain what he hath said: "The voice," he saith, "of Thy thunder is in the wheel." I do not understand. I will hear what thou sayest: "Thy lightnings have appeared to the round world." Say then, I had no understanding. The round world is a wheel.(6) For the circuit of the round world is with reason called also an "orb:" whence also a small wheel is called an "orbiculus." "The voice of Thy thunder is in the wheel:" Thy "lightnings have appeared to the round world." Those clouds in a wheel have gone about the round world, have gone about with thundering and with lightning, they have shaken the abyss, with commandments they have thundered, with miracles they have lightened. "Unto every land hath gone forth the sound of them, and unto the ends of the orb the words of them."(7) "The land hath been moved and made to tremble:" that is, all men that dwell in the land. But by a figure the land itself is sea. Why? Because all nations are called by the name of sea, inasmuch as human life is bitter, and exposed to storms and tempests. Moreover if thou observe this, how men devour one another like fishes, how the stronger doth swallow up the weaker--it is then a sea, unto it the Evangelists went.
19. "Thy way is in the sea" (ver. 19). But now Thy way was in the Holy One, now "Thy way is in the sea:" because the Holy One Himself is in the sea, and with reason even did walk upon the waters of the sea.(8) "Thy way is in the sea," that is, Thy Christ is preached among the Gentiles. ..."Thy way is in the sea, and Thy paths in many waters," that is, in many peoples. "And Thy footsteps will not be known." He hath touched certain, and wonder were it if it be not those same Jews. Behold now the mercy of Christ hath been so published to the Gentiles, that "Thy way is in the sea. Thy footsteps will not be known." How so, by whom will they not be known, save by those who still say, Christ hath not yet come? Why do they say, Christ hath not yet come? Because they do not yet recognise Him walking on the sea.
20. "Thou hast led home Thy people like sheep in the hand of Moses and of Aaron" (ver. 20). Why He hath added this is somewhat difficult to discover. ... They banished Christ sick as they were, they would not have Him for their Saviour; but He began to be among the Gentiles, and among all nations, among many peoples. Nevertheless, a remnant of that people hath been saved. The ungrateful multitude hath remained without, even the halting breadth of Jacob's thigh.(1) For the breadth of the thigh is understood of the multitude of lineage, and among the greater part of the Israelites a certain multitude became vain and foolish, so as not to know the steps of Christ on the waters. "Thou hast led home Thy people like sheep," and they have not known Thee. Though Thou hast done such great benefits unto them, hast divided sea, hast made them pass over dry land between waters, hast drowned in the waves pursuing enemies, in the desert hast rained manna for their hunger, leading them home "by the hand of Moses and Aaron:" still they thrust Thee from them, so that in the sea was Thy Way, and Thy steps they knew not.
1. This Psalm(3) doth contain the things which are said to have been done among the old people: but the new and latter people is being admonished, to beware that it be not ungrateful regarding the blessings of God, and provoke His anger against it, whereas it ought to receive His grace. ... The Title thereof doth first move and engage our attention. For it is not without reason inscribed, "Understanding(4) of Asaph :" but it is perchance because these words require a reader who doth perceive not the voice which the surface uttereth, but some inward sense. Secondly, when about to narrate and mention all these things, which seem to need a hearer more than an expounder: "I will open," he saith, "in parables my mouth, I will declare propositions from the beginning."(5) Who would not herein be awakened out of sleep? Who would dare to hurry over the parables and propositions, reading them as if self-evident, while by their very names they signify that they ought to be sought out with deeper view? For a parable hath on the surface thereof the similitude of something: and though it be a Greek word, it is now used as a Latin word. And it is observable, that in parables, those which are called the similitudes of things are compared with things with which we have to do. But propositions, which in Greek are called problhmata, are questions having something therein which is to be solved by disputation. What man then would read parables and propositions cursorily? What man would not attend while hearing these words with watchful mind, in order that by understanding he may come by the fruit thereof?
2. "Hearken ye," He saith, "My people, to My law" (ver. 1). Whom may we suppose to be here speaking, but God? For it was Himself that gave a law to His people, whom when delivered out of Egypt He gathered together, the which gathering together is properly named a Synagogue, which the word Asaph is interpreted to signify. Hath it then been said, "Understanding of Asaph," in the sense that Asaph himself hath understood; or must it be figuratively understood, in the sense that the same Synagogue, that is, the same people, hath understood, unto whom is said, "Hearken, My people, unto My law"? Why is it then that He is rebuking the same people by the mouth of the Prophet, saying, "But Israel hath not known Me, and My people hath not understood"?(6) But, in fact, there were even in that people they that understood, having the faith which was afterwards revealed, not pertaining to the letter of the law, but the grace of the Spirit. For they cannot have been without the same faith, who were able to foresee and foretell the revelation thereof that should be in Christ, inasmuch as even those old Sacraments were significants of those that should be. Had the prophets alone this faith, and not the people too? Nay indeed, but even they that faithfully heard the Prophets, were aided by the same grace in order that they might understand what they heard. But without doubt the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven was veiled in the Old Testament, which in the fulness of time should be unveiled in the New.(8) "For," saith the Apostle, "they did drink of the Spiritual Rock following them, but the Rock was Christ."(1) In a mystery therefore theirs was the same meat and drink as ours, but in signification the same, not in form;(2) because the same Christ was Himself figured to them in a Rock, manifested to us in the Flesh. "But," he saith, "not in all of them God was well pleased."(3) All indeed ate the same spiritual meat and drank the same spiritual drink, that is to say, Signifying something spiritual: but not in all of them was God well pleased. When; he saith," not in all:" there were evidently there some in whom was God well pleased; and although all the Sacraments were common, grace, which is the virtue of the Sacraments, was not common to all. Just as in our times, now that the faith hath been revealed, which then was veiled, to all men that have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,(4) the Layer of regeneration is common; but the very grace whereof these same are the Sacraments, whereby the members of the Body of Christ are to reign s together with their Head, is not common to all. For even heretics have the same Baptism, and false brethren too, in the communion of the Catholic name.
3. Nevertheless, neither then nor now without profit is the voice of him, saying, "Hearken ye, My people, to My law." Which expression is remarkable in all the Scriptures, how he saith not, "hearken thou," but, "hearken ye." For of many men a people doth consist: to which many that which followeth is spoken in the plural number. "Incline ye your ear unto the words of My mouth." "Hearken ye," is the same as, "Incline your ear:" and what He saith there, "My law," this He saith here in, "the words of My mouth." For that man doth godly hearken to the law of God, and the words of His mouth, whose ear humility doth incline: not he whose neck pride doth lift up. For whatever is poured in is received on the concave surface of humility, is shaken off from the convexity of swelling. Whence in another place, "Incline," he saith, "thine ear, and receive the words of understanding."(6) We have been therefore sufficiently admonished to receive even this Psalm of this understanding of Asaph,(7) to receive, I say, with inclined ear, that is, with humble piety. And it hath not been spoken of as being of Asaph himself, but to Asaph himself. Which thing is evident by the Greek article, and is found in certain Latin copies. These words therefore are of understanding, that is, of intelligence, which hath been given to Asaph himself: which we had better understand not as to one man, but as to the congregation of the people of God; whence we ought by no means to alienate ourselves. For although properly we say "Synagogue" of Jews, but "Church" of Christians, because a "Congregation"(8) is wont to be understood as rather of beasts, but a "convocation" as rather of men: yet that too we find called a Church, and it perhaps is more suitable for us(9) to say, "Save us, O Lord, our God, and congregate us from the nations, in order that we may confess to Thy Holy Name."(10) Neither ought we to disdain to be, nay we ought to render ineffable thanks, for that we are, the sheep of His hands, which He foresaw when He was saying, "I have other sheep which are not of this fold, them too I must lead in, that there may be one flock and one Shepherd:"(11) that is to say, by joining the faithful people of the Gentiles with the faithful people of the Israelites, concerning whom He had before said, "I have not been sent but to the sheep which have strayed of the house of Israel."(12) For also there shall be congregated before Him all nations, and He shall sever them as a shepherd the sheep from the goats.(13) Thus then let us hear that which hath been spoken. "Hearken ye, My people, to My law, incline ye your ear unto the words of My mouth:" not as if addressed to Jews, but rather as if addressed to ourselves, or at least as if these words were said as well to ourselves (as to them(14)). For when the Apostle had said, "But not in all them was God well pleased," thereby showing that there were those too in whom God was well pleased: he hath forthwith added, "For they were overthrown in the desert:"(15) secondly he hath continued, "but these things have been made our figures."... To us therefore more particularly these words have been sung. Whence in this Psalm among other things there hath been said, "That another generation may know, sons who shall be born and shall arise." (16) Moreover, if that death by serpents, and that destruction by the destroyer, and the slaying by the sword, were figures, as the Apostle evidently doth declare, inasmuch as it is manifest that all those things did happen: for he saith not, in a figure they were spoken, or, in a figure they were written, but, in a figure, he saith, they happened to them: with how much greater diligence of godliness must those punishments be shunned whereof those were the figures? For beyond a doubt as in good things there is much more of good in that which is signified by the figure, than in the figure itself: so also in evil things very far worse are the things which are signified by the figures, while so great are the evil things which as figures do signify. For as the land of promise, whereunto that people was being led, is nothing in comparison with the Kingdom of Heaven, whereunto the Christian people is being led: so also those punishments which were figures, though they were so severe, are nothing in comparison with the punishments which they signify. But those which the Apostle hath called figures, the same this Psalm, as far as we are able to judge, calleth parables and propositions: not having their end in the fact of their having happened, but in those things whereunto they are referred by a reasonable comparison. Let us therefore hearken unto the law of God--us His people--and let us incline our ear unto the words of His mouth.
4. "I will open," he saith, "in parables My mouth, I will declare propositions from the beginning" (ver. 2). From what beginning he meaneth, is very evident in the words following. For it is not from the beginning, what time the Heaven and earth were made, nor what time mankind was created in the first man: but what time the congregation that was led out of Egypt; in order that the sense may belong to Asaph, which is interpreted a congregation. But O that He that hath said, "I will open in parables My mouth," would also vouchsafe to open our understanding unto them! For if, as He hath opened His mouth in parables, He would in like sort open the parables themselves: and as He declareth "propositions," He would declare in like sort the expositions thereof, we should not be here toiling: but now so hidden and closed are all things, that even if we are able by His aid to arrive at anything, whereon we may feed to our health, still we must eat the bread in the sweat of our face; and pay the penalty of the ancient sentence(1) not with the labour of the body only, but also with that of the heart. Let him speak then, and let us hear the parables and propositions.
5. "How great things we have heard, and have known them, and our fathers have told them to us" (ver. 3). The Lord was speaking higher up. For of what other person could these words be thought to be, "Hearken ye, O My people, to My law"?(2) Why is it then that now on a sudden a man is speaking, for here we have the words of a man, "our fathers have told them to us." Without doubt God, now about to speak by a man's ministry, as the Apostle saith, "Will ye to receive proof of Him that is speaking in me, Christ?"(3) in His own person at first willed the words to be uttered, lest a man speaking His words should be despised as a man. For it is thus with the sayings of God which make their way to us through our bodily sense. The Creator moveth the subject creature by an invisible working; not so that the substance is changed into anything corporal and temporal, when by means of corporal and temporal signs, whether belonging to the eyes or to the ears, as far as men are able to receive it, He would make His will to be known. For if an angel is able to use air, mist, cloud, fire, and any other natural substance or corporal species;(4) and man to use face, tongue, hand, pen, letters, or any other significants, for the purpose of intimating the secret things of his own mind: in a word, if, though he is a man, he sendeth human messengers, and he saith to one, "Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to his servant, Do this, and he doeth it;"(5) with how much greater and more effectual power doth God, to whom as Lord all things together are subject, use both the same angel and man, in order that He may declare whatsoever pleaseth Him? ... For those things were heard in the Old Testament which are known in the New: heard when they were being prophesied, known when they were being fulfilled. Where a promise is performed, hearing is not deceived. "And our fathers," Moses and the Prophets, "have told unto us."
6. "They have not been hidden from their sons in another generation" (ver. 4). This is our generation wherein there hath been given to us regeneration. "Telling forth the praises of the Lord and His powers, and His wonderful works which He hath done." The order of the words is, "and our fathers have told unto us, telling forth the praises of the Lord." The Lord is praised, in order that He may be loved. For what object can be loved more to our health? "And He hath raised up a testimony in Jacob, and hath set a law in Jacob" (ver. 5). This is the beginning whereof hath been spoken above, "I will declare propositions from the beginning."(6) So then the beginning is the Old Testament, the end is the New. For fear doth prevail in the law? "But the end of the law is Christ for righteousness to every one believing;"(8) at whose bestowing "love is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which hath been given to us:"(9) and love made perfect doth cast out fear,(10) inasmuch as now without the Law the righteousness of God hath been made manifest. But inasmuch as He hath a testimony by the Law and the Prophets," therefore, "He hath raised up a testimony in Jacob." For even that Tabernacle which was set up with a work so remarkable and full of such wondrous meanings, is named the Tabernacle of Testimony, wherein was the veil over the Ark of the Law, like the veil over the face of the Minister of the Law;(1) because in that dispensation there were "parables and propositions." For those things which were being preached and were coining to pass were hidden in veiled meanings, and were not seen in unveiled manifestations. But "when thou shall have passed over unto Christ," saith the Apostle, "the veil shall be taken away."(2) For "all the promises of God in Him are yea, Amen."(3) Whosoever therefore doth cleave to Christ, hath the whole of the good which even in the letters of the Law he perceiveth not: but whosoever is an alien from Christ, doth neither perceive, nor hath. "He hath set a law in Israel." After his usual custom he is making a repetition. For "He hath raised up a testimony," is the same as, "He hath set a law," and "in Jacob," is the same as "in Israel." For as these are two names of one man, so law and testimony are two names of one thing. Is there any difference, saith some one, between "hath raised up" and "hath set"? Yea indeed, the same difference as there is between "Jacob" and "Israel:" not because they were two persons, but these same two names were bestowed upon one man for different reasons; Jacob because of supplanting, for that he grasped the foot of his brother at his birth:(4) but Israel because of the vision of God.(5) So "raised up" is one thing, "set" is another. For, "He hath raised up a testimony," as far as I can judge, hath been said because by it something has been raised up; "For without the Law," saith the Apostle, "sin was dead: but I lived sometime without the Law: but at the coming in of the commandment sin revived."(6) Behold that which hath been raised up by the testimony, which is the Law, so that what was lying hidden might appear, as he saith a little afterwards: "But sin, that it might appear sin, through a good thing hath wrought in me death."(7) But "He hath set a law," hath been said, as though it were a yoke upon sinners, whence hath been said," For upon a just man law hath not been imposed." s It is a testimony then, so far forth as it doth prove anything; but a law so far forth as it doth command; though it is one and the same thing. Wherefore just as Christ is a stone, but to believers for the Head of the corner, while to unbelievers a stone of offence and a rock of scandal;(9) so the testimony of the Law to them that use not the Law lawfully,(10) is a testimony whereby sinners are to be convicted as deserving of punishment; but to them that use the same lawfully, is a testimony whereby sinners are shown unto whom they ought to flee in order to be delivered. ...
7. "How great things," he saith, "He hath commanded our fathers, to make the same known to their sons?" (ver. 5). "That another generation may know, sons who shall be born and shall rise up, and they may tell to their sons" (ver. 6). "That they may put their hope in God, and may not forget the works of God, and may seek out His commandments" (ver. 7). "That they may not become, like their fathers, a crooked and embittering generation: a generation that hath not guided their heart, and the spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God" (ver. 8). These words do point out two peoples as it were, the one belonging to the Old Testament, the other to the New: for in that he saith, he hath implied that they received the commandments, "to make them known to their sons," but that they did not know or do them: but they received them themselves, to the end "that another generation might know," what the former knew not. "Sons who shall be born and shall arise." For they that have been born have not arisen: because they had not their heart above, but rather on the earth. For the arising is with Christ: whence hath been said, "If ye have arisen with Christ, savour ye the things which are above." "And they may tell them," he saith, "to their sons, in order that they may put their hope in God." ... "And may not forget the works of God:" that is to say, in magnifying and vaunting their own works, as though they did them themselves; while "God it is that worketh," in them that work good things, "both to will and to work according to good will."(12) "And may search out His commandments." ... The commandments which He hath commanded. How then should they still search out, whereas they have already learned them, save that by putting their hope in God, they do then search out His commandments, in order that by them, with His aid, they may be fulfilled? And he saith why, by immediately subjoining, "and its spirit hath not been trusted with God," that is, because it had no faith, which doth obtain what the Law doth enjoin. For when the spirit of man doth work together with the Spirit of God working, then there is fulfilled that which God hath commanded: and this doth not come to pass, except by believing in Him that doth justify an ungodly man.(13) Which faith the generation crooked and embittering had not: and therefore concerning the same hath been said, "The spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God." For this hath been said much more exactly to point out the grace of God, which doth work not only remission of sins, but also doth make the spirit of man to work together therewith in the work of good deeds, as though he were saying, his spirit hath not believed in God. For to have the spirit trusted with God, is, not to believe that his spirit is able to do righteousness without God, but with God. For this is to believe in God: which is surely more than to believe God. For ofttimes we must believe even a man, though in him we must not believe. To believe in God therefore is this, in believing to cleave unto God who worketh good works, in order to work with Him well. ...
8. Lastly, "The sons of Ephrem bending and shooting bows, have been turned back in the day of war" (ver. 9). Following after the law of righteousness, unto the law of righteousness they have not attained.(1) Why? Because they were not of faith. For they were that generation whereof the spirit hath not been trusted with God: but they were, so to speak, of works: because they did not, as they bended and shot their bows (which are outward actions, as of the works of the law), so guide their heart also, wherein the just man doth live by faith, which worketh by love; whereby men cleave to God, who worketh in man both to will and work according to good will(2) For what else is bending the bow and shooting, and turning back in the day of war, but heeding and purposing in the day of hearing, and deserting in the day of temptation; flourishing arms, so to speak, beforehand, and at the hour of the action refusing to fight? But whereas he saith, "bending and shooting bows," when it would seem that he ought to have said, bending bows and shooting arrows. ... Some Greek copies to be sure are said to have "bending and shooting with bows," so that without doubt we ought to understand arrows. But whereas by the sons of Ephrem he hath willed that there be understood the whole of that embittering generation, it is an expression signifying the whole by a part. And perhaps this part was chosen whereby to signify the whole, because from these men especially some good thing was to have been expected. ... Although set at the left hand by his father as being the younger, Jacob nevertheless blessed with his right hand, and preferred him before his eider brother with a benediction of hidden meaning.(3) ... For there was being figured how they were to be last that were first, and first were to be they that were last? through the Saviour's coming, concerning whom hath been said, "He that is coming after me was made before me."(5) In like manner righteous Abel was preferred before the elder brother; so to Ismael Isaac; so to Esau, though born before him, his twin brother Jacob; so also Phares himself preceded even in birth his twin brother, who had first thrust a hand out of the womb, and had begun to be born: 6 so David was preferred before his elder brother:(7) and as the reason why all these parables and others like them preceded, not only of words but also of deeds, in like manner to the people of the Jews was preferred the Christian people, for redeeming the which as Abel by Cain(8) so by the Jews was slain Christ. This thing was prefigured even when Jacob stretching out his hands cross-wise, with his right hand touched Ephrem standing on the left; and set him before Manasse standing on the right, whom he himself touched with the left hand.(3)
9. But what that is which he saith, "they have been turned back in the day of war," the following words do teach, wherein he hath most clearly explained this: "they have not kept," he saith, "the testament of God, and in His law they would not walk" (ver. 10). Behold what is, "they have been turned back in the day of war:" they have not kept the testament of God. When they were bending and shooting bows, they did also utter the words of most forward promise, saying, "Whatsoever things the Lord our God hath spoken we will do, and we will hear."9 "They have been turned back in the day of war:" because the promise of obedience not hearing but temptation doth prove. But he whose spirit hath been trusted with God, keepeth hold on God, who is faithful, and "cloth not suffer him to be tempted above that which he is able; but will make with the temptation a way of escape also,"(10) that he may be able to endure, and may not be turned back in the day of war. ... Therefore these men have been thus branded: "a generation," he saith, "which hath not directed their heart."(11) It hath not been said, works, but heart. For when the heart is directed, the works are right; but when the heart is not directed, the works are not right, even though they seem to be right. And how the crooked generation hath not directed the heart, hath sufficiently been shown, when he saith, "and the spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God."(11) For God is right: and therefore by cleaving to the right, as to an immutable rule, the heart of a man can be made right, which in itself was crooked. ...
10. "And they forgat His benefits, and the wonderful works of Him which He showed to them; before their fathers the wonderful things which He did" (ver. 11). What this is, is not a question to be negligently passed over. Concerning those very fathers he was speaking a little before, that they had been a generation crooked and embittering. ... What fathers, inasmuch as these are the very fathers, whom he would not have posterity to be like? If we shall take them to be those out of whom the others had derived their being, for example, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, by this time they had long since fallen asleep, when God showed wonderful things in Egypt. For there followeth, "in the land of Egypt, in the plain of Thanis" (ver. 12): where it is said that God showed to them wonderful things before their fathers. Were they perchance present in spirit? For of the same the Lord saith in the Gospel, "for all do live to Him."(1) Or do we more suitably understand thereby the fathers Moses and Aaron, and the other elders who are related in the same Scripture also to have received the Spirit, of which also Moses received, in order that they might aid him in ruling and bearing the same people?(2) For why should they not have been called fathers? It is not in the same manner as God is the One Father, who doth regenerate with His Spirit those whom He doth make sons for an everlasting inheritance; but it is for the sake of honour, because of their age and kindly carefulness: just as Paul the elder saith, "Not to confound you I am writing these things, but as my dearly beloved sons I am admonishing you:"(3) though he knew of a truth that it had been said by the Lord, "Call ye no man your father on earth, for One is your Father, even God."(4) And this was not said in order that this term of human honour should be erased from our usual way of speaking: but lest the grace of God whereby we are regenerated unto eternal life, should be ascribed either to the power or even sanctity of any man. Therefore when he said," I have begotten you;" he first said," in Christ," and "through the Gospel;" lest that might be thought to be of him, which is of God. ... Accordingly, the land of Egypt must be understood for a figure of this world. "The plain of Thanis" is the smooth surface of lowly commandment. For lowly commandment is the interpretation of Thanis. In this world therefore let us receive the commandment of humility, in order that in another world we may merit to receive the exaltation which He hath promised, who for our sake here became lowly.
11. For He that "did burst asunder the sea and made them go through, did confine the waters as it were in bottles" (ver. 13), in order that the water might stand up first as if it were shut in, is able by His grace to restrain the flowing and ebbing tides of carnal desires, when we renounce this world, so that all sins having been thoroughly washed away, as if they were enemies, the people of the faithful may be made to pass through by means of the Sacrament of Baptism. He that "led them home in the cloud of the day, and in the whole of the night in the illumination of fire" (ver. 14), is able also spiritually to direct goings if faith crieth to Him, "Direct Thou my goings after Thy word." Of Whom m another place(6) is said, For Himself shall make thy courses right, and shall prolong thy goings in peace"(7) through Jesus Christ our Lord, whose Sacrament in this world, as it were in the day, is manifest in the flesh, as if in a cloud; but in the Judgment it will be manifest like as in a terror by night; for then there will be a great tribulation of the world like as it were fire, and it shall shine for the just and shall burn for the unjust. "He that burst asunder the rock in the desert, and gave them water as in a great deep" (ver. 15); "and brought out water from the rock, and brought down waters like rivers" (ver. 16), is surely able upon thirsty faith to pour the gift of the Holy Spirit (the which gift the performance of that thing did spiritually signify), to pour, I say, from the Spiritual Rock that followed, which is Christ: who did stand and cry, "If any is athirst, let him come to Me:"(8) and, "he that shall have drunk of the water which I shall give, rivers of living water shall flow out of his bosom."(9) For this He spake, as is read in the Gospel,(10) to the Spirit, which they were to receive that believed in Him, unto whom like the rod drew near the wood of the Passion, in order that there might flow forth grace for believers.
12. And yet, "they," like a generation crooked and embittering, "added yet to sin against Him" (ver. 17): that is, not to believe. For this is the sin, whereof the Spirit doth convict the world, as the Lord saith, "Of sin indeed because they have not believed on Me."(11) "And they exasperated the Most High in drought," which other copies have, "in a place without water," which is a more exact translation from the Greek, and doth signify no other thing than drought. Was it in that drought of the desert, or rather in their own? For although they had drank of the rock, they had not their bellies but their minds dry, freshening with no fruitfulness of righteousness. In that drought they ought the more faithfully to have been suppliant unto God, in order that He who had given fulness unto their jaws, might give also equity to their manners. For unto him the faithful soul doth cry, "Let mine eyes see equity."(12)
13. "And they tempted God in their hearts, in order that they might seek morsels for their souls" (ver. 18). It is one thing to ask in believing, another thing in tempting. Lastly there followeth, "And they slandered God, and said, Shall God be able to prepare a table in the desert?" (ver. 19). "For He smote the rock, and the waters flowed, and torrents gushed forth: will He be able to give bread also, or to prepare a table for His people?" (ver. 20). Not believing therefore, they sought morsels for their souls. Not so the Apostle James doth enjoin a morsel to be asked for the mind, but doth admonish that it be sought by believers, not by such as tempt and slander God. "But if any one of you," he saith, "doth lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who doth give to all men abundantly, and doth not upbraid, and it shall be given to him: but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering."(1) This faith had not that generation which" had not directed their heart, and the spirit thereof had not been trusted with God."
14. "Wherefore the Lord heard, and He delayed, and fire was lighted in Jacob, and wrath went up into Israel" (ver. 21). He hath explained what he hath called fire. He hath called anger fire: although in strict propriety fire did also burn up many men. What is therefore this that he saith, "The Lord heard, and He delayed"? Did He delay to conduct them into the land of promise, whither they were being led: which might have been done in the space of a few days, but on account of sins they must needs be wasted in the desert, where also they were wasted during forty years? Anti if this be so, He did then delay the people, not those very persons who tempted and slandered God: for they all perished in the desert, and their children journeyed into the land of promise. Or did He delay punishment, in order that He might first satisfy unbelieving concupiscence, lest He might be supposed to be angry, because they were asking of Him what He was not able to do? "He heard," then, "and He delayed to avenge:" and after He had done what they supposed He was not able to do, then "anger went up upon Israel."
15. Lastly, when both these things have been briefly touched, afterwards he is evidently following out the order of the narrative. "Because they believed not in God, nor hoped in His saving health" (ver. 22). For when he had told why fire was lighted in Jacob, and anger went up upon Israel, that is to say, "because they believed not in God, nor hoped in His saving health:" immediately subjoining the evident blessings for which they were ungrateful, he saith, "and He commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of Heaven" (ver. 23). "And He rained upon them manna to eat, and gave them bread of Heaven" (ver. 24). "Bread of angels man did eat: dainties He sent them in abundance" (ver. 25). He brought over the South Wind from Heaven, and in His virtue He led in the South West Wind" (ver. 26). "And He rained upon them fleshes like dust, and winged fowls like the sand of the sea" (ver. 27 ). "And they fell in the midst of their camp, around their tabernacles" (ver. 28). "And they ate and were filled exceedingly; and their desire He brought to them: they were not deprived of their desire" (ver. 29). Behold why He had delayed. But what He had delayed let us hear. "Yet the morsel was in their mouths, and the anger of God came down upon them" (ver. 30). Behold what He had delayed. For before "He delayed:" and afterwards, "fire was lighted in Jacob and anger went up upon Israel." He had delayed therefore in order that He might first do what they had believed that He could not do, and then might bring upon them what they deserved to suffer. For if they placed their hope in God, not only would their desires of the flesh but also those of the spirit have been fulfilled. For he that ... opened the doors of Heaven, and rained upon them manna to eat," that He might fill the unbelieving, is not without power to give to believers Himself the true Bread from Heaven, which the manna did signify: which is indeed the food of Angels, whom being incorruptible the Word of God doth incorruptibly feed: the which in order that man might eat, He became flesh, and dwelled in us.(2) For Himself the Bread by means of the Evangelical clouds is being rained over the whole world, and, the hearts of preachers like heavenly doors, being opened, is being preached not to a murmuring and tempting synagogue, but to a Church believing and putting hope in Him. He is able also to feed the feeble faith of such as tempt not, but believe, with the signs of words uttered by the flesh and speeding through the air, as though it were fowls: not however with such as come from the north, where cold and mist do prevail, that is to say, eloquence which is pleasing to this world, but by bringing over the South Wind from Heaven; whither, except to the earth? In order that they who are feeble in faith, by hearing things earthly may be nourished up to receive things heavenly. ...
16. But as to unbelievers, being a crooked and embittering generation, as it were, while the morsel was yet in their mouths, "the anger of God went up upon them, and it slew among the most of them" (ver. 31): that is, the most of them, or as some copies have it, "the fat ones of them," which however in the Greek copies which we had, we did not find. But if this be the truer reading, what else must be understood by "the fat ones of them," than men mighty in pride, concerning whom is said, "their iniquity shall come forth as if out of fat"?(1) "And the elect of Israel He lettered." Even there there were elect, with whose faith the generation crooked and embittering was not mixed. But they were fettered, so that they might in no sort profit them for whom they desired that they might provide from a fatherly affection. For what is conferred by human mercy, on those with whom God is angry? Or rather hath He willed it to be understood, how that even the elect were fettered at the same time with them, in order that they who were diverse both in mind and in life, might endure sufferings with them for an example not only of righteousness, but also of patience? For we have learned that holy men were even led captive with sinners for no other reason; since in the Greek copies we read not enepodisen, which is "fettered;" but sunepodisen, which is rather "fettered together with."
17. But the generation crooked and embittering, "in all these things sinned yet more, and they believed not in His wonderful works" (ver. 32). "And in their days failed in vanity" (ver. 33 ). Though they might, if they had believed have had days in truth without failing, with Him to whom hath been said, "Thy years shall not fail."(2) Therefore, "their days failed in vanity, and their years with haste." For the whole life of mortal men is hastening, and that which seemeth to be longer is but a vapour of somewhat longer duration.
18. Nevertheless, "when he slew them they sought Him:" not for the sake of eternal life, but fearing to end the vapour too soon. There sought Him then, not indeed those whom, He had slain, but they that were afraid of being slain according to the example of them. But the Scripture hath so spoken of them as if they sought God who were slain; because they were one people, and it is spoken as if of one body: "and they returned, and at dawn they came to God" (ver. 34). "And they remembered that God is their Helper, and the High God is their Redeemer" (ver. 35). But all this is for the sake of acquiring temporal good things, and for avoiding temporal evil things. For they that did seek God for the sake of temporal blessings, sought not God indeed, but things. Thus with those God is worshipped with slavish fear, not free love. Thus then God is not worshipped, for that thing is worshipped which is loved. Whence because God is found to be greater and better than all things, He must be loved more than all things, in order that He may be worshipped.
19. Lastly, here let us see the words following: "And they loved Him," he saith, "in their mouth, and in their tongue they lied unto Him" (ver. 36). "But their heart was not right with Him, and they were not counted faithful in His Testament" (ver. 37). One thing on their tongue, another thing in their heart He found, unto whom the secret things of men are naked, and without any impediment He saw what they loved rather. Therefore the heart is right with God, when it doth seek God for the sake of God. For one thing he desired of the Lord, the same he will require, that he may dwell always in the House of the Lord, and may meditate on the pleasantness of Him.(3) Unto Whom saith the heart of the faithful, I will be filled, not with the flesh-pots of the Egyptians, nor with melons and gourds, and garlick and onions, which a generation crooked and embittering did prefer even to bread celestial,(4) nor with visible manna, and those same winged fowls; but, "I will be filled, when Thy glory shall be made manifest."(5) For this is the inheritance of the New Testament, wherein they were not counted faithful; whereof however the faith even at that time, when it was veiled, was in the elect, and now, when it hath already been revealed, it is not in many that are called. "For many have been called, but few are elect."(6) Of such sort therefore was the generation crooked and embittering, even when they were seeming to seek God, loving in mouth, and in tongue lying; but in heart not right with God, while they loved rather those things, for the sake of which they required the help of God.
20. "But He is Himself merciful, and will become propitious to their sins, and He will not destroy them. And He will abound to turn away His anger, and He will not kindle all his anger" (ver. 38). By these words many men promise to themselves impunity for their iniquity from the Divine Mercy, even if they shall have persevered in being such, as that generation is described, "crooked and embittering; which hath not directed their heart, and the spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God:" with whom it is not profitable to agree. For if, to speak in their words, God will perchance not destroy no not even bad men, without doubt He will not destroy good men. Why then do we not rather choose that wherein there is no doubt? For they that lie to Him in their tongue, though their heart doth hold some other thing, do think indeed, and will, even God to be a liar, when He doth menace upon such men eternal punishment. But whilst they do not deceive Him with their lying, He doth not deceive them with speaking the truth. These words therefore of divine sayings, concerning which the crooked generation doth cajole itself, let it not make crooked like its own heart: for even when it is made crooked, they continue right. For at first they may be understood according to that which is written in the Gospel, "that ye may be like your Father who is in the Heavens, who maketh His sun to rise upon good men and evil men, and raineth upon just men and unjust men."(1) For who could not see, how great is the long-suffering of mercy with which He is sparing evil men? But before the Judgment, He spared then that nation in such sort, that He kindled not(1) all His anger, utterly to root it up and bring it to an end: which thing in His words and in the intercession for their sins of His servant Moses doth evidently appear, where God saith, "Let Me blot them out, and make thee into a great nation:"(3) he intercedeth, being more ready to be blotted out for them than that they should be; knowing that he is doing this before One Merciful, who inasmuch as by no means He would blot out him, would even spare them for his sake. For let us see how greatly He spared, and doth still spare. ...
21. In the second place, that we may not seem to do violence to divine words, and lest in the place where there was said, "He will not destroy them,"(4) we should say, "But hereafter He will destroy them: "concerning this very present Psalm let us turn to a very common phrase of the Scripture, whereby this question may be more diligently and more truly solved. Speaking of these same persons a little lower down, when He had made mention of the things which the Egyptians because of them had endured, He saith, ... "And He led them unto the mount of His sanctification, the mount which His fight hand won. And He cast out from their face the nations, and by lot distributed to them the land in the cord of distribution."(5) If any one at these words should press a question upon us, and should say, How doth he make mention of all these things as having been bestowed upon them, when the same persons were not led into the land of promise, as were delivered from Egypt, inasmuch as they were dead? What shall we reply but that they were spoken of, because they were the self-same people by means of a succession of sons? ...
22. "And He remembered that they are flesh, a spirit(6) going and not returning" (ver. 39). Therefore calling them and pitying them through His grace, He called them back Himself, because of themselves they could not return. For how doth flesh return, "a spirit walking and not turning back,"(7) while a weight of evil deserts doth weigh it down unto the lowest and far places of evil, save through the election of grace? ... For thus also is solved this no unimportant question, how it is written in the Proverbs, when the Scripture was speaking of the way of iniquity, "all they that walk in her shall not return."(8) For it hath been so spoken as if all ungodly men were to be despaired of: but the Scripture did only commend grace; for of himself man is able to walk in that way, but is not able of himself to return, except when called back by grace.
23. I say then of these crooked and embittering persons, "How often they exasperated Him in the desert, and provoked Him to wrath in the waterless place!" (ver. 40). "And they turned themselves and tempted God, and exasperated the Holy One of Israel" (ver. 41). He is repeating that same unbelief of theirs, of which He had made mention above. But the reason of the repetition is, in order that there may be mentioned also the plagues which He inflicted on the Egyptians for their sakes: all which things they certainly ought to have remembered, and not to be ungrateful. Lastly, there followeth what? "They remembered not His hands, in the day when He redeemed them from the hand of the troubler" (ver. 42). And he beginneth to speak of what things He did to the Egyptians: "He set in Egypt His signs, and His prodigies in the plain of Thanis" (ver. 43): "and He turned their rivers into blood, and their showers lest they should drink" (ver. 44), or rather, "the flowings of waters," as some do better understand by what is written in Greek, ta ombrhmata, which in Latin we call scaturigines, waters bubbling from beneath. "He sent upon them the dog-fly, and it ate them up; and the frog, and it destroyed them" (ver. 45). "And He gave their fruit to the mildew, and their labours to the locust" (ver. 46). "And He slew with hail their vineyards, and their mulberry trees with frost" (ver. 47). "And He gave over to the hail their beasts of burden, and their possessions to the fire" (ver. 48). "He sent upon them the anger of His indignation, indignation and anger and tribulation, a visitation through evil angels" (ver. 49). He made a way to the course of His anger, and their beasts of burden He shut up in death" (ver. 50). "And He smote every first-born thing in the land of Egypt, the first-fruits of their labours in the tabernacles of Cham" (ver. 51).
24. All these punishments of the Egyptians may be explained by an allegorical interpretation, according as one shall have chosen to understand them, and to compare them to the things whereunto they must be referred. Which we too will endeavour to do; and shall do it the more properly, the more we shall have been divinely aided. For to do this, those words of this Psalm do constrain us, wherein it was said, "I will open in parables my mouth, I will declare propositions from the beginning."(1) For for this cause even some things have been here spoken of, which that they befell the Egyptians at all we read not, although all their plagues are most carefully related in Exodus according to their order, so that while that which is not there mentioned we are sure hath not been mentioned in the Psalm to no purpose, and we can interpret the same only figuratively, we may at the same time understand that even the rest of the things which it is evident did happen, were done or described for the sake of some figurative meaning. For the Scripture doth so do in many passages of the prophetic sayings. ...In the plagues therefore of the Egyptians, which are in the book which is called Exodus, where the Scripture hath been especially careful, that those things whereby they were afflicted should be all related in order, there is not found what this Psalm hath, "and He gave to the mildew their fruits." This also wherein, when he had said, "and He gave over to the hail their beasts," he hath added, "and their possession to the fire :" of the beasts slain with hail is read in Exodus;(2) but how their possession was burned with fire, is not read at all. Although voices and fires do come together with hail, just as thunderings do commonly accompany lightnings; nevertheless, it is not written that anything was given over to the fire that it should be burned. Lastly, the soft things which the hail could not hurt, are said not to have been smitten, that is, hurt with hard blows; which things the locust devoured afterwards. Also that which is here spoken of, "and their mulberry trees with hoar-frost," is not in Exodus. For hoar-frost doth differ much from hail; for in the clear winter nights the earth is made white with hoar-frost.
25. What then those things do signify, let the interpreter say as he can, let reader and hearer judge as is just. The water turned into blood seemeth to me to signify a carnal view of the causes of things. Dog-fly, are the manners of dogs? who see not even their parents when first they are born. The frog is very talkative vanity. Mildew doth hurt secretly, which also some have interpreted by rust, others black mould: which evil thing to what vice is it more appropriately compared, than to what doth show itself least readily, like the trusting much in one's self? For it is a blighting air which doth work this secretly among fruits: just like in morals, secret pride, when a man thinketh himself to be something, though he is nothing.(4) The locust is malice hurting with the mouth, that is, with unfaithful testimony. The hail is iniquity taking away the goods of others; whence theft, robberies, and depredations do spring: but more by his wickedness the plunderer himself is plundered. The hoar-frost doth signify the fault wherein the love of one's neighbour by the darkness of foolishness, like as it were by the cold of night, is frozen up. But the fire, if here it is not that which is mentioned which was in the hail out of the lightning clouds, forasmuch as he hath said here, "He gave over their possession to the fire," where he implieth that a thing was burned, which by that fire we read not to have been done,--it seemeth to me, I say, to signify the savageness of wrath, whereby even man-slaying may be committed. But by the death of beasts was figured, as far as I judge, the loss of chastity. For concupiscence, whereby offspring do arise, we have in common with beasts. To have this therefore tamed and ordered, is the virtue of chastity. The death of the first-born things, is the putting off of the very justice whereby a man doth associate with mankind. But whether the figurative significations of these things be so, or whether they are better understood in another way, whom would it not move, that with ten plagues the Egyptians are smitten, and with ten commandments the tables are inscribed,(5) that thereby the people of God should be ruled? Concerning the comparing of which one with the other, inasmuch as we have spoken elsewhere, there is no need to load the exposition of this Psalm therewith: thus much we remind you, that here too, though not in the same order, yet ten plagues of the Egyptians are commemorated, forasmuch as in the place of three which are in Exodus and are not here, to wit, lice, boils, darkness; other three are commemorated, which are not there, that is to say, mildew, hoarfrost, and fire; not of lightning, but that where-unto their possession was given over, which is not read of in that place.
26. But it hath been clearly enough intimated, that by the judgment of God these things befell them through the instrumentality of evil angels, in this wicked world, as though it were in Egypt and in the plain of Thanis, where we ought to be humble, until there come that world, wherein we may earn to be exalted out of this humiliation. For even Egypt in the Hebrew tongue doth signify darkness or tribulations, in which tongue, Thanis,(6) as I have observed, is understood to be humble commandment. Concerning the evil angels therefore in this Psalm, while he was speaking of those very plagues, there hath been something inserted, which must not be passed over cursorily: "He sent upon them," he saith, "an infliction through evil angels." Now that the devil and his angels are so very evil, that for them everlasting fire is prepared, no believer is ignorant: but that there should be sent by means of them an infliction from the Lord God upon certain whom He judgeth to be deserving of this punishment, seemeth to be a hard thing to those who are little prone to consider, how the perfect justice of God doth use well even evil things. For these indeed, as far as regardeth their substance, what other person but Himself hath made? But evil He hath not made them: yet He doth use them, inasmuch as He is good, well, that is, conveniently and justly: just as on the other hand unrighteous men do use His good creatures in evil manner. God therefore doth use evil angels not only to punish evil men, as in the case of all those concerning whom the Psalm doth speak, as in the case of king Achab, whom a spirit of lying by the will of God did beguile, in order that he might fall in war:(1) but also to prove and make manifest good men, as He did in the case of Job. But as far as regardeth that corporal matter of visible elements, I suppose that thereof angels both good and evil are able to make use, according to the power given to each: just as also men good and evil do use such things, as far as they are able, according to the measure of human infirmity. For we use both earth and water, and air, and fire, not only in things necessary for our support, but also in many operations superfluous and playful, and marvellously artificial. For countless things, which are called mhcanhmata, are moulded out of these elements scientifically employed. But over these things angels have a far more extended power, both the good and the evil, though greater is that which the good have;(2) but only so far as is commanded or permitted by the will and providence of God; on which terms also we have it. For not even in these cases are we able to do all that we will. But in a book the most unerring we read that the devil was able even to send fire from Heaven, to burn up with wonderful and awful fierceness so great a number of the cattle of a holy man:(3) which thing no one of the faithful would dare perchance to ascribe to the devil, except it were read on the authority of Holy Scripture. But that man, being by the gift of God just and firm, and of godly knowledge, saith not, The Lord hath given, the devil hath taken away: but, "The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away:"(4) very well knowing that even what the devil was able to do with these elements, he would still not have done to a servant of God, except at his Lord's will and permission; he did confound the malice of the devil, forasmuch as he knew who it was that was making use thereof to prove him. In the sons then of unbelief like as it were in his own slaves, he doth work,(5) like men with their beasts, and even therewith only so far as is permitted by the just judgment of God. But it is one thing when his power is restrained from treating even his own as he pleases, by a greater power; another thing when to him power is given even over those who are alien from him. Just as a man with his beast, as men understand it, doeth what he will, and yet doth not indeed, if he be restrained by a greater power: but with another man's beast to do something, he doth wait until power be given from him unto whom it belongeth. In the former case the power which there was is restrained, in the latter that which there was not is conceded.
27. And if such be the case, if through evil angels God did inflict those plagues upon the Egyptians, shall we dare to say that the water also was turned into blood by means of those same angels, and that frogs were created by means of the same, the like whereunto even the magicians of Pharaoh were able to make by their enchantments;(6) so as that evil angels stood on both sides, on the one side afflicting them, on the other side deceiving them, according to the judgment and dispensation(7) of the most just and most omnipotent God, who doth justly make use of even the naughtiness of unrighteous men? I dare not to say so. For whence was it that the magicians of Pharaoh could by no means make lice?(8) Was it not because even these same evil angels were not suffered to do this? Or, to speak more truly, is not the cause hidden, and it doth exceed our powers of inquiry? For if we shall have supposed that God wrought those things by means of evil angels, because punishments were being inflicted, and not blessings being bestowed, as though God doth inflict punishments upon no one by means of good angels, but by means of those executioners as it were of the heavenly wrath; the consequence will be that we must believe that even Sodom was overthrown by means of evil angels, and that Abraham and Lot would seem to have entertained under their roof evil angels;(9) the which, as being contrary to the most evident Scriptures, far be it that we should think. It is clear then that these things might have been done to men by means of good and evil angels. What should be done or when it should be done doth escape me: but Him that doeth it, it escapeth not, and him unto whom He shall have willed to reveal it. Nevertheless, as far as divine Scripture doth yield to our application thereto, on evil men that punishments are inflicted both by means of good angels, as upon the Sodomites, and by means of evil angels, as upon the Egyptians, we read: but that just men with corporal penances by means of good angels are tried and proved, doth not occur to me.
28. But as far as regardeth the present passage of this Psalm, if we dare not ascribe those things which were marvellously formed out of creatures, to evil angels; we have a thing which without doubt we can ascribe to them; the dyings of the beasts, the dyings of the first-born, and this especially whence all these things proceeded, namely, the hardening of heart, so that they would not let go the people of God.(1) For when God is said to make this most iniquitous and malignant obstinacy, He maketh it not by suggesting and inspiring, but by forsaking, so that they work in the sons of unbelief that which God doth duly and justly permit.(2) ... Moreover, those evil manners which we said were signified by these corporal plagues, on account of that which was said before, "I will open in parables my mouth,"(3) are most appropriately believed by means of evil angels to have been wrought in those that are made subject to them by Divine justice. For neither when that cometh to pass of which the apostle speaketh, "God gave them over into the lusts of their heart, that they should do things which are not convenient,"(4) can it be but that those evil angels dwell and rejoice therein, as in the matter of their own work: unto whom most justly is human haughtiness made subject, in all save those whom grace doth deliver. "And for these things who is sufficient?" (5) Whence when he had said, "He sent unto them the anger of His indignation, indignation and anger and tribulation, an infliction through evil angels;" for this which he hath added, "a way He hath made for the path of His anger "(ver. 50), whose eye, I pray, is sufficient to penetrate, so that it may understand and take in the sense lying hidden in so great a profundity? For the path of the anger of God was that whereby He punished the ungodliness of the Egyptians with hidden justice: but for that same path He made a way, so that drawing them forth as it were from secret places by means of evil angels unto manifest offences, He most evidently inflicted punishment upon those that were most evidently ungodly. From this power of evil angels nothing doth deliver man but the grace of God, whereof the Apostle speaketh, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and l hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love:"(6) of which things that people did bear the figure, when they were delivered from the power of the Egyptians, and translated into the kingdom of the land of promise flowing with milk and honey, which doth signify the sweetness of grace.
29. The Psalm proceedeth then after the commemoration of the plagues of the Egyptians (ver. 51) and saith, "And He took away like sheep His people, and He led them through like a flock in the desert" (ver. 52). "And He led them down in hope, and they feared not, and their enemies the sea covered" (Ver, 53). This cometh to pass to so much the greater good, as it is a more inward thing, wherein being delivered from the power of darkness, we are in mind translated into the Kingdom of God, and with respect to spiritual pastures we are made to become sheep of God, walking in this world as it were in a desert, inasmuch as to no one is our faith observable: whence saith the Apostle, "Your life is hidden with Christ in God."(7) But we are being led home in hope, "For by hope we are saved."(8) Nor ought we to fear. For, "If God be for us, who can be against us"(9) And our enemies the sea hath covered, He hath effaced them in baptism by the remission of sins.
30. In the next place there followeth, "And He led them into the mountain of His sanctification" (ver. 54). How much better into Holy Church! "The mountain which His right hand hath gotten." How much higher is the Church which Christ hath gotten, concerning whom has been said, "And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?(10) (ver. 55). "And He cast forth from the face of them the nations." And(11) from the face of His faithful. For nations in a manner are the evil spirits of Gentile errors. "And by lot He divided unto them the land in the cord of distribution." And in us "all things one and the same Spirit doth work, dividing severally to every one as He willeth."(12)
31. "And He made to dwell in their tabernacles the tribes of Israel." In the tabernacles, he saith, of the Gentiles He made the tribes of Israel to dwell, which I think can better be explained spiritually, inasmuch as unto celestial glory, whence sinning angels have been cast forth and cast down, by Christ's grace we are being uplifted. For that generation crooked and embittering, inasmuch as for these corporal blessings they put not off the coat of oldness, "Did tempt" yet, "and provoked the high God, and His testimonies they kept not (ver. 56): and they turned them away, and they kept not the covenant, like their fathers" (ver. 57). For under a sort of covenant and decree they said, "All things which our Lord God hath spoken we will do, and we will hear."(13) It is a remarkable thing indeed which he saith, "like their fathers:" while throughout the whole text of the Psalm he was seeming to speak of the same men as it were, yet now it appeareth that the words did concern those who were already in the land of promise, and that the fathers spoken of were of those who did provoke in the desert. "They were turned," he saith, "into a crooked," or, as some copies have it, "into a perverse bow" (ver. 58). But what this is doth better appear in that which followeth, where he saith, "And unto wrath they provoked Him with their hills" (ver. 59). It doth signify that they leaped into idolatry. The bow then was perverted, not for the name of the Lord, but against the name of the Lord: who said to the same people, "Thou shalt have none other Gods but Me."(1) But by the bow He doth signify the mind's intention. This same idea, lastly, more clearly working out, "And in their graven idols," he saith, "they provoked Him to indignation."
32. "God heard, and He despised:" that is, He gave heed and took vengeance. "And unto nothing He brought Israel exceedingly" (ver. 60). For when God despised, what were they who by God's help were what they were? But doubtless he is commemorating the doing of that thing, when they were conquered by the Philistines in the time of Heli the priest, and the Ark of the Lord was taken, and with great slaughter they were laid low.(2) This it is that he speaketh of. "And He rejected the tabernacle of Selom, His tabernacle, where He dwelled among men" (ver. 61). He hath elegantly explained why He rejected His tabernacle, when he saith, "where He dwelled among men." When therefore they were not worthy for Him to dwell among, why should He not reject the tabernacle, which indeed not for Himself He had established, but for their sakes, whom now He judged unworthy for Him to dwell among. "And He gave over unto captivity their strength, and their beauty unto the hands of the enemy." The very Ark whereby they thought themselves invincible, and whereon they plumed themselves, he calleth their "virtue" and "beauty." Lastly, also afterward, when they were living ill, and boasting of the temple of the Lord, He doth terrify them by a Prophet, saying, "See ye what I have done to Selom, where was My tabernacle."(3) "And He ended with the sword His people, and His inheritance He despised" (ver. 62). "Their young men the fire devoured:" that is, wrath. "And their virgins mourned not" (ver. 63). For not even for this was there leisure, in fear of the foe. "Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows were not lamented" (ver. 64). For there fell by the sword the sons of Heli, of one of whom the wife being widowed, and presently dying in child-birth,(4) because of the same confusion could not be mourned with the distinction of a funeral. "And the Lord was awakened as one sleeping" (ver. 65). For He seemeth to sleep, when He giveth His people into the hands of those whom He hateth, when there is said to them, "Where is thy God?"(5) "He was awakened, then, like one sleeping, like a mighty man drunken with wine." No one would dare to say this of God, save His Spirit. For he hath spoken, as it seemeth to ungodly men reviling; as if like a drunken man He sleepeth long, when He succoureth not so speedily as men think.(6)
33. "And He smote His enemies in the hinder parts" (ver. 66): those, to wit, who were rejoicing that they were able to take His Ark: for they were smitten in their back-parts.(7) Which seemeth to me to be a sign of that punishment, wherewith a man will be tortured, if he shall have looked back upon things behind; which, as saith the Apostle, he ought to value as dung.(8) For they that do so receive the Testament of God, as that they put not off from them the old vanity, are like the hostile nations, who did place the captured Ark of the Testament beside their own idols. And yet those old things even though these be unwilling do fall: for "all flesh is hay, and the glory of man as the flower of hay. The hay hath dried up, and the flower hath fallen off:"(9) but the Ark of the Lord "abideth for everlasting," to wit, the secret testament of the kingdom of Heaven, where is the eternal Word of God. But they that have loved things behind, because of these very things most justly shall be tormented. For "everlasting reproach He hath given to them." (ver. 67).
34. "And He rejected," he saith," the tabernacle of Joseph, and the tribe of Ephraim(10) He chose not" (ver. 68). "And He chose the tribe of Judah" (ver. 69). He hath not said, He rejected the tabernacle of Reuben, who was the first-born son of Jacob;(11) nor them that follow, and precede Judah in order of birth; so that they being rejected and not chosen, the tribe of Judah was chosen. For it might have been said that they were deservedly rejected; because even in the blessing of Jacob wherewith he blessed his sons, he mentioneth their sins,(12) and deeply abhorreth them; though among them the tribe of Levi merited to be the priestly tribe, whence also Moses was.(1) Nor hath he said, He rejected the tabernacle of Benjamin, or the tribe of Benjamin He chose not, out of which a king already had begun to be; for thence there had been chosen Saul;(2) whence because of the very proximity of the time, when he had been rejected and refused, and David chosen,(3) this might conveniently have been said; but yet was not said: but he hath named those especially who seemed to excel for more surpassing merits. For Joseph fed in Egypt his father and his brethren, and having been impiously sold, because of his piety, chastity, wisdom, he was most justly exalted;(4) and Ephraim by the blessing of his grandfather Jacob was preferred before his eider brother:(5) and yet God "rejected the tabernacle of Joseph, and the tribe of Ephraim He chose not." In which place by these names of renowned merit, what else do we understand but that whole people with old cupidity requiring of the Lord earthly rewards, rejected and refused, but the tribe of Judah chosen not for the sake of the merits of that same Judah? For far greater are the merits of Joseph, but by the tribe of Judah, inasmuch as thence arose Christ according to the flesh, the Scripture doth testify of the new people of Christ preferred before that old people, the Lord opening in parables His mouth. Moreover, thence also in that which followeth, "the Mount Sion which He chose," we do better understand the Church of Christ, not worshipping God for the sake of the carnal blessings of the present time, but from afar looking for future and eternal rewards with the eyes of faith: for Sion too is interpreted a "looking out."
35. Lastly there followeth, "and He builded like as of unicorns His sanctification" (ver. 70): or, as some interpreters have made thereof a new word, "His sanctifying.:"(6) The unicorns are rightly understood to be those, whose firm hope is uplifted unto that one thing, concerning which another Psalm saith, "One thing I have sought of the Lord, this I will require."(7) But the sanctifying of God, according to the Apostle Peter, is understood to be a holy people and a royal priesthood.(8) But that which followeth, "in the land which He founded for everlasting:" which the Greek copies have eis ton aipna, whether it be called by us "for everlasting," or "for an age," is at the pleasure of the Latin translators; forasmuch as it doth signify either: and therefore the latter is found in some Latin copies, the former in others. Some also have it in the plural, that is, "for ages:" which in the Greek copies which we have had we have not found. But which of the faithful would doubt, that the Church, even though, some going, others coming, she doth pass out of this life in mortal manner, is yet founded for everlasting?
36. "And He chose David His servant" (yet. 71). The tribe, I say, of Judah, for the sake of David: but David for the sake of Christ: the tribe then of Judah for the sake of Christ. At whose passing by blind men cried out," Have pity on us, Son of David:"(9) and forthwith by His pity they received light, because true was the thing which they cried out. This then the Apostle doth not cursorily speak of, but doth heedfully notice, writing to Timothy, "Be thou mindful, that Christ Jesus hath risen from the dead, of the seed of David," etc.(10) Therefore the Saviour Himself, made according to the flesh of the seed of David, is figured in this passage under the name of David, the Lord opening in parables His mouth. And let it not move us, that when he had said, "and hie chose David," under which name he signified Christ, he hath added, "His servant," not His Son. Yea even hence we may perceive, that not the substance of the Only-Begotten coeternal with the Father, but the "form of a servant" was taken of the seed of David.
37. "And He took him from the flocks of sheep, from behind the teeming sheep He received him: to feed Jacob His servant, and Israel His inheritance" (ver. 72). This David indeed, of whose seed the flesh of Christ is, from the pastoral care of cattle was translated to the kingdom of men: but our David, Jesus Himself, from men to men, from Jews to Gentiles, was yet according to the parable from sheep to sheep taken away and translated. For there are not now in that land "Churches of Judaea in Christ," which belonged to them of the circumcision after the recent Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, of whom saith the Apostle," But I was unknown by face to the Churches of Judaea, which are in Christ," etc.(11) Already from hence those Churches of the circumcised people have passed away: and thus in Judaea, which now doth exist on the earth, there is not now Christ.(12) He hath been removed thence, now He doth feed flocks of Gentiles. Truly from behind teeming sheep He hath been taken thence. For those former Churches were of such sort, as that of them it is said in the Song of Songs, "Thy teeth--are like a flock of shorn ewes going up from the washing, (13) all of which do bear twins, and a barren one is not among them." (14) For they then laid aside like as it were fleeces the burdens of the world,(15) when before the feet of the Apostles they laid the prices of their sold goods,(16) going up from that Layer, concerning which the apostle Peter doth admonish them, when they were troubled because they had shed the blood of Christ, and he saith, "Repent ye, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and your sins shall be forgiven you."(1) But twins they begat, the works, to wit, of the two commandments of twin love, love of God, and love of one's neighbour: whence a barren one there was not among them. From behind these teeming sheep our David having been taken, doth now feed other flocks among the Gentiles, and those too "Jacob" and "Israel." For thus hath been said, "to feed Jacob His servant, and Israel His inheritance." ... Unless perchance any one be willing to make such a distinction as this; viz. that in this time Jacob serveth; but he will be the eternal inheritance of God, at that time when he shall see God face to face, whence he hath received the name Israel.(2)
38. "And He fed them," he saith, "in the innocence of His heart" (ver. 73). What can be more innocent than He, who not only had not any sin whereby to be conquered, but even not any to conquer? "And in the understanding of His hands He led them home:" or, as some copies have it, "in the understandings of His hands." Any other man might suppose that it would have been better had it been said thus, "in innocence of hands and understanding of heart;" but He who knew better than others what He spake, preferred to join with the heart innocence, and with the hands understanding. It is for this reason, as far as I judge; because many men think themselves innocent, who do not evil things because they fear lest they should suffer if they shall have done them; but they have the will to do them, if they could with impunity. Such men may seem to have innocence of hands, but yet not that of heart. And what, I pray, or of what sort is that innocence, if of heart it is not, where man was made after the image of God?(3) But in this which he saith, "in understanding (or intelligence) of His hands He led them home," he seemeth to me to have spoken of that intelligence which He doth Himself make in believers: and so "of His hands:" for making cloth belong to the hands, but in the sense wherein the hands of God may be understood; for even Christ was a Man in such sort, that He was also God. ...
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