Augustine on the Psalms. Psalms 79 - 84
1. Over the title of this Psalm, being so short and so simple, I think we need not tarry. But the prophecy which here we read sent before, we know to be evidently fulfilled. For when these things were being sung in the times of King David, nothing of such sort, by the hostility of the Gentiles, as yet had befallen the city Jerusalem, nor the Temple of God, which as yet was not even builded. For that after the death of David his son Salomon made a temple to God, who is ignorant? That is spoken of therefore as though past, which in the Spirit was seen to be future.
"O God, the Gentiles have come into Thine inheritance" (ver. 1). Under which form of expression other things which were to come to pass, are spoken of as having been done. Nor must this be wondered at, that these words are being spoken to God. For they are not being represented to Him not knowing, by whose revelation they are foreknown; but the soul is speaking with God with that affection of godliness, of which God knoweth.(5) For even the things which Angels proclaim to men, they proclaim to them that know them not; but the things which they proclaim to God, they proclaim to Him knowing, when they offer our prayers, and in ineffable manner consult the eternal Truth respecting their actions, as an immutable law. And therefore this man of God is saying to God that which he is to learn of God, like a scholar to a master, not ignorant but judging; and so either approving what he hath taught, or censuring what he hath not taught: especially because under the appearance of one praying, [the Prophet is transforming into himself those who should be at the time when these things were to come to pass.(6) But in praying it is customary to declare those things to God which He hath done in taking vengeance, and for a petition to be added, that henceforth He should pity and spare. In this way here also by him the judgments are spoken of by whom they are foretold, as if they were being spoken of by those whom they befell, and the very lamentation and prayer is a prophecy.
2. "They have defiled Thy holy Temple, they have made Jerusalem for a keeping of apples." "They have made the dead bodies of Thy servants morsels for the fowls of heaven, the fleshes of Thy saints for the beasts of the earth" (ver. 2). "They have poured forth their blood like water in the circuit of Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them" (ver. 3). If in this prophecy any one of us shall have thought that there must be understood that laying waste of Jerusalem, which was made by Titus the Roman Emperor, when already the Lord Jesus Christ, after His Resurrection and Ascension, was being preached among the Gentiles, it doth not occur to me how that people could now have been called the inheritance of God, as not holding to Christ, whom having rejected and slain, that people became reprobate, which not even after His Resurrection would believe in Him. and even killed His Martyrs. For out of that people Israel whosoever have believed in Christ; to whom the offer of Christ was made, and in a manner the healthful and fruitful fulfilment of the promise; concerning whom even the Lord Himself saith, "I am not sent but to the sheep which have been lost of the house of Israel,"(1) the same are they that out of them are the sons of promise; the same are counted for a seed;(2) the same do belong to the inheritance of God. From hence are Joseph that just man, and the Virgin Mary who bore Christ:(3) hence John Baptist the friend of the Bridegroom, and his parents Zacharias and Elisabeth:(4) hence Symeon the old,(5) and Anna the widow, who heard not Christ speaking by the sense of the body; but while yet an infant not speaking, by the Spirit perceived Him: hence the blessed Apostles: hence Nathanael, in whom guile was not:(6) hence the other Joseph, who himself too looked for the kingdom of God:(7) hence that so great multitude who went before and followed after His beast, saying, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord:"(8) among whom was also that company of children, in whom He declared to have been fulfilled, "Out of the mouth of infants and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise."(9) Hence also were those after His resurrection, of whom on one day three and on another five thousand were baptized,(10) welded into one soul and one heart by the fire of love; of whom no one spoke of anything as his own, but to them all things were common.(11) Hence the holy deacons, of whom Stephen was crowned with martyrdom before the Apostles.(12) Hence so many Churches of Judaea, which were in Christ, unto whom Paul was unknown by face,(13) but known for an infamous ferocity, and more known for Christ's most merciful grace. Hence even he, according to the prophecy sent before concerning him, "a wolf ravening, in the morning carrying off, and in the evening dividing morsels;"(14) that is, first as persecutor carrying off unto death, afterwards as a preacher feeding unto life. These are they that are out of that people the inheritance of God. ... So then even at this time a remnant through election of Grace have been saved. This remnant out of that nation doth belong to the inheritance(15) of God: not those concerning whom a little below he saith, "But the rest have been blinded." For thus he saith. "What then? That which Israel sought, this he hath not obtained: but the election hath obtained it: but the rest have been blinded."(16) This election then, this remnant, that people of God, which God hath not cast off, is called His inheritance. But in that Israel, which hath not obtained this, in the rest that were blinded, there was no longer an inheritance of God, in reference to whom it is possible that there should be spoken, after the glorification of Christ in the Heavens, in the time of Titus the Emperor, "O God, there have come the Gentiles unto Thine inheritance," and the other things which in this Psalm seem to have been foretold concerning the destruction of both the temple and city belonging to that people.
3. Furthermore herein we ought either to perceive those things which were done by other enemies, before Christ had come in the flesh: at that time when there were even the holy prophets, when the carrying away into Babylon took place,(17) and that nation was grievously afflicted, and at the time when under Antiochus also the Maccabees, having endured horrible sufferings, were most gloriously crowned.(18) Or certainly if after the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord the inheritance of God must be understood to be here spoken of; such things must be understood herein, as at the hands of worshippers of idols, and enemies of the name of Christ, His Church, in such a multitude of endured martyrs. ... This Church then, this inheritance of God, out of circumcision and uncircumcision hath been congregated, that is, out of the people of Israel, and out of the rest of the nations, by means of the Stone which the builders rejected, and which hath become for the Head of the corner,(19) in which corner as it were two walls coming from different quarters were united. "For Himself is our peace, who hath made both one, that He might build two into Himself, making peace, and might unite together(20) both in one Body unto God:(21) in which Body we are sons of God, "crying, Abba Father."(22) Abba, on account of their language; Father, on account of ours. For Abba is the same as Father. ...
4. But now in that which followeth, "they have made Jerusalem for a keeping of apples;" even the Church herself is rightly understood under this name, even the free Jerusalem our mother,(23) concerning whom hath been written, "many more are the sons of the forsaken, than of her that hath the husband."(1) The expression, "for a keeping of apples," I think must be understood of the desertion which the wasting of persecution hath effected: that is, like a keeping of apples; for the keeping of apples is abandoned, when the apples have passed away. And certes when through the persecuting Gentiles the Church seemed to be forsaken, unto the celestial table, like as it were many and exceeding sweet apples from the garden of the Lord, the spirits of the martyrs did pass away.
5. "They have made," he saith, "the dead bodies of Thy servants morsels for the fowls of heaven, the fleshes of Thy saints for the beasts of the earth" (ver. 2). The expression, "dead bodies," hath been repeated in "fleshes:" and the expression, "of Thy servants," hath been repeated in, "of Thy saints." This only hath been varied, "to the fowls of heaven, and to the beasts of the earth." Better have they interpreted who have written "dead," than as some have it, "mortal." For "dead" is only said of those that have died; but mortal is a term applied even to living bodies. When then, as I have said, to their Husbandman the spirits of martyrs like apples had passed away, their dead bodies and their fleshes they set before the fowls of heaven and the beasts of the earth: as if any part of them could be lost to the resurrection, whereas out of the hidden recesses of the natural world He will renew the whole, by whom even our hairs have been numbered.(2)
6. "They have poured forth their blood like water," that is, abundantly and wantonly, "in the circuit of Jerusalem" (ver. 3). If we herein understand the earthly city Jerusalem, we perceive the shedding of their blood in the circuit thereof, whom the enemy could find outside the walls. But if we understand it of that Jerusalem, concerning whom hath been said, "many more are the sons of her that was forsaken, than of her that hath the husband,"(1) the circuit thereof is throughout the universal earth. For in that lesson of the Prophet, wherein is written, "many more are the sons of her that was forsaken, than of her that hath the husband:" a little after unto the same is said, "and He that hath delivered thee, shall be called the God of Israel of the universal earth." The circuit then of this Jerusalem in this Psalm must be understood as followeth: so far as at that time the Church had been expanded, bearing fruit, and growing in the universal world, when in every part thereof persecution was raging, and was making havoc of the Martyrs, whose blood was being shed like water, to the great gain of the celestial treasuries. But as to that which hath been added, "and there was no one to bury:" it either ought not to seem to be an incredible thing that there should have been so great a panic in some places, that not any buriers at all of holy bodies came forward: or certes that unburied corpses in many places might lie long time, until being by the religious in a manner stolen they were buried.
7. "We have become," he saith, "a reproach to our neighbours" (ver. 4). Therefore precious not in the sight of men, from whom this reproach was, but "precious(5) in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."(6) "A scoffing and derision :" or, as some have interpreted it, "a mockery to them that are in our circuit." It is a repetition of the former sentence. For that which above hath been called, "a reproach," the same hath been repeated in, "a scoffing and derision:" and that which above hath been said in, "to our neighbours," the same hath been repeated in, "to them that are in our circuit." Moreover, in reference to the earthly Jerusalem, the neighbours, and those in the circuit of that nation, are certainly understood to be other nations. But in reference to the free Jerusalem our mother,(7) there are neighbours even in the circuit of her, among whom, being her enemies, the Church dwelleth in the circuit of the round world.
8. In the second place now giving utterance to an evident prayer, whence it may be perceived that the calling to remembrance of former affliction is not by way of information but prayer; "How long," he saith, "O Lord, wilt Thou be angry, unto the end? shall Thy jealousy burn like fire?" (ver. 5). He is evidently asking God not to be angry unto the end, that is, that this so great oppression and tribulation and devastation may not continue even unto the end; but that He moderate His chastening, according to that which is said in another Psalm, "Thou shalt feed us with the bread of tears, and Thou shalt give us to drink of tears in measure."(8) For the, "how long, O Lord, wilt Thou be angry, unto the end?" hath been spoken in the same sense as if it had been said, Be not, O Lord, angry unto the end. And in that which followeth, "shall Thy jealousy burn like fire?" both words must be understood, both, "how long," and, "unto the end: "just as if there had been said, how long shall there burn like fire Thy jealousy unto the end? For these two words must be understood in the same manner as that word which was used a little higher up, namely, "they-have-made." For while the former sentence hath, "they have made the dead bodies of Thy servants morsels for the fowls of heaven:"(9) this word the latter sentence hath not, wherein is said, "the fleshes of Thy saints for the beasts of the earth;" but there is surely understood what the former hath, namely, "they have made."
Moreover, the anger and jealousy of God(1) are not emotions of God; as some do charge upon the Scriptures which they do not understand:(2) but under the name of anger is to be understood the avenging of iniquity; under the name of jealousy, the exaction of chastity; that the soul may not despise the law of her Lord, and perish by departing in fornication from the Lord. These then in their actual operation in men's affliction are violent; but in the disposal of God they are calm, unto whom hath been said, "But Thou, O Lord of virtues, with calmness dost judge."(3) But it is clearly enough shown by these words, that for sins these tribulations do befall men, though they be faithful: although hence may bloom the Martyrs' glory by occasion of their patience, and the yoke of discipline godly endured as the scourge of the Lord. Of this the Maccabees amid sharp tortures,(4) of this the three men amid flames innocuous,(5) of this the holy Prophets in captivity, do testify. For although paternal correction most bravely and most godly they endure, yet they do not hide the fact, that these things have befallen them for the deservings of their sins.(6) ...
9. But that which he addeth, "Pour forth Thine anger upon the nations which have not known Thee, and upon the kingdoms which have not called upon Thy name" (ver. 6); this too is a prophecy, not a wish. Not in the imprecation of malevolence are these words spoken, but foreseen by the Spirit they are predicted: just as in the case of Judas the traitor, the evil things which were to befall him have been so prophesied as if they were wished. For in like manner as the prophet doth not command Christ, though in the imperative mood he giveth utterance to what he saith, "Gird Thou Thy sword about Thy thigh, O Most Mighty: in Thy beauty and in Thy goodliness, both go on, and prosperously proceed, and reign :"(7) so he doth not wish, but doth prophesy, who saith, "Pour forth Thine anger upon the nations which have not known Thee." Which in his usual way he repeateth, saying, "And upon the kingdoms which have not called upon Thy name." For nations have been repeated in kingdoms: and that they have not known Him, hath been repeated in this, that they have not called upon His name. How then must be understood, what the Lord saith in the Gospel s concerning stripes, "the many and the few"? if greater the anger of God is against the nations, which have not known the Lord? For in this which he saith, "Pour forth Thine anger," with this word he hath clearly enough pointed out, how great anger he hath willed that there should be understood. Whence afterwards he saith, "Render to our neighbours seven times as much."(9) Is it not that there is a great difference between servants, who, though they know not the will of their Lord, do yet call upon His name, and those that are aliens from the family of so great a Master, who are so ignorant of God, as that they do not even call upon God? For in place of Him they call upon either idols or demons, or any creature they choose; not the Creator, who is blessed for ever. For those persons, concerning whom he is prophesying this, he doth not even intimate to be so ignorant of the will of their God, as that still they fear the Lord Himself; but so ignorant of the Lord Himself, that they do not even call upon Him, and that they stand forth as enemies of His name. There is a great difference then between servants not knowing the will of their God, and yet living in His family and in His house, and enemies not only setting the will against knowing the Lord Himself, but also not calling upon His name, and even in His servants fighting against it.
10. Lastly, there followeth, "For they have eaten up Jacob, and his place they have made desolate" (ver. 7). ... How we should view" the place" of Jacob, must be understood. For rather the place of Jacob may be supposed to be that city, wherein was also the Temple, whither-unto the whole of that nation for the purpose of sacrifice and worship, and to celebrate the Passover, the Lord had commanded to assemble. For if the assemblies of Christians, letted and suppressed by persecutors, has been what the Prophet would have to be understood, it would seem that he should have said, places made desolate, not place. Still we may take the singular number as put for the plural number; as dress for clothes, soldiery for soldiers, cattle for beasts: for many words are usually spoken in this manner, and not only in the mouths of vulgar speakers, but even in the eloquence of the most approved authorities. Nor to divine Scripture herself is this form of speech foreign. For even she hath put frog for frogs, locust for locusts,(10) and countless expressions of the like kind. But that which hath been said, "They have eaten up Jacob," the same is well understood, in that many men into their own evil-minded body, that is, into their own society, they have constrained to pass.
11. ... He subjoineth, "Remember not our iniquities of old" (ver. 8). He saith not by-gone, which might have even been recent; but "of old," that is, coming from parents. For to such iniquities judgment, not correction, is(1) owing. "Speedily let Thy mercies anticipate us." Anticipate, that is, at Thy judgment. For "mercy exalteth above in judgment."(2) Now there is "judgment without mercy," but to him that hath not showed mercy. But whereas he addeth, "for we have become exceeding poor:" unto this end he willeth that the mercies of God should be understood to anticipate us; that our own poverty, that is, weakness, by Him having mercy, should be aided to do His commandments, that we may not come to His judgment to be condemned.
12. Therefore there followeth, "Help us, O God, our healing(3) One" (ver. 9). By this word Which he saith, "our healing One," he doth sufficiently explain what sort of poverty he hath willed to be understood, in that which he had said, "for we have become exceeding poor." For it is that very sickness, to which a healer is necessary. But while he would have us to be aided, he is neither ungrateful to grace, nor doth he take away free-will. For he that is aided, doth also of himself something. He hath added also, "for the glory of Thy Name, O Lord, deliver us:" in order that he who glorieth, not in himself, but in the Lord may glory.(4) "And merciful be Thou," he saith, "to our sins for Thy Name's sake:" not for our sake. For what else do our sins deserve, but due and condign punishments? But "merciful be Thou to our sins, for Thy Name's sake." Thus then Thou dost deliver us, that is, dost rescue us from evil things, while Thou dost both aid us to do justice, and art merciful to our sins, without which in this life we are not. For "in Thy sight shall no man living be justified."(5) But sin is iniquity.(6) And "if Thou shalt have marked iniquities, who shall stand?"(7)
13. But that which he addeth, "lest at any time they should say among the Gentiles, Where is their God?" (ver. 10) must be taken as rather for the Gentiles themselves. For to a bad end they come that have despaired of the true God, thinking that either He is not, or doth not help His own, and is not merciful to them. But this which followeth, "and that there may be known among the nations before our eyes the vengeance of the blood of Thy servants which hath been shed:" is either to be understood as of the time, when they believe in the true God that used to persecute His inheritance; because even that is vengeance, whereby is slain the fierce iniquity of them by the sword of the Word of God, concerning which hath been said, "Gird Thou Thy sword:"(8) or when obstinate enemies at the last are punished. For the corporal ills which they suffer in this world, they may have in common with good men. There is also another kind of vengeance; that wherein the Church's enlargement and fruitfulness in this world after so great persecutions, wherein they supposed she would utterly perish, the sinner and unbeliever and enemy seeth, and is angry; "with his teeth he shall gnash, and shall pine away."(9) For who would dare to deny that even this is a most heavy punishment? But I know not whether that which he saith, "before our eyes," is taken with sufficient elegance, if by this sort of punishment we understand that which is done in the inmost recesses of the heart, and doth torment even those who blandly smile at us, while by us there cannot be seen what they suffer in the inner man. But the fact, that whether in them believing their iniquity is slain, or whether the last punishment is rendered to them persevering in their naughtiness, without difficulty of doubtfulness is understood in the saying, "that there may be known before our eyes vengeance among the nations."
14. And this indeed, as we have said, is a prophecy, not a wish. ... And the Lord in the Gospel(10) hath set before us the widow for an example, who longing to be avenged, did intercede with the unjust judge, who at length heard her, not as being guided by justice, but overcome with weariness: but this the Lord hath set before us, to show that much more the just God will speedily make the judgment of His elect, who cry unto Him day and night, Thence is also that cry of the Martyrs under the altar of God(11) that they may be avenged in the judgment of God. Where then is the, "Love your enemies, do good unto them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute you"? Where is also the, "Not rendering evil for evil, nor cursing for cursing :"(13) and, "unto no man rendering evil for evil"?(14) ... For when the Lord was exhorting us to love enemies, He set before us the example of our Father, who is in Heaven, "who maketh His sun to rise upon good men and evil men, and raineth upon just men and unjust men:"(15) cloth He yet therefore not chasten even by temporal correction, or not condemn at the last the obstinately hardened? Let therefore an enemy be so loved as that the Lord's justice whereby he is punished displease us not, and let the justice whereby he is punished so please us, as that the joy is not at his evil but at the good Judge. But a malevolent soul is sorrowful, if his enemy by being corrected shall have escaped punishment: and when he seeth him punished, he is so glad that he is avenged, that he is not delighted with the justice of God, whom he loveth not, but with the misery of that man whom he hateth: and when he leaveth judgment to God, he hopeth that God will hurt more than he could hurt: and when he giveth food to his hungering enemy, and drink to him thirsty, he hath an evil-minded sense of that which is written, "For thus doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head."(1) ... In such sort then under the appearance of one asking in this Psalm, future vengeance on the ungodly is prophesied of, as that we are to understand that holy men of God have loved their enemies, and have wished no one anything but good, which is godliness in this world, everlasting life in that to come; but in the punishments of evil men, they have taken pleasure not in the ills of them, but in God's good judgments; and wheresoever in the holy Scriptures we read of their hatreds against men, they were the hatreds of vices, which every man must needs hate in himself, if he loveth himself.
15. But now in that which followeth, "Let there come in before Thy sight," or, as some copies have it, "In Thy sight, the groans of the fettered:" not easily doth any one discover that the Saints were thrown into fetters by persecutors; and if this doth happen amid so great and manifold a variety of punishments, so rarely it doth happen, that it must not be believed that the prophet had chosen to allude to this especially in this verse. But, in fact, the fetters are the infirmity and the corruptibleness of the body, which do weigh down the soul. For by means of the frailty thereof, as a kind of material for certain pains and troubles, the persecutor might constrain her unto ungodliness. From these fetters the Apostle was longing to be unbound, and to be with Christ;(2) but to abide in the flesh was necessary for their sakes unto whom he was ministering the Gospel. Until then this corruptible put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality,(3) like as it were with fetters, the weak flesh doth let the willing spirit.(4) These fetters then not any do feel, but they that in themselves do groan being burthened, desiring to be clothed upon with the tabernacle which is from Heaven;(5) because both death is a terror, and mortal life is sorrow. In behalf of these men groaning the Prophet doth redouble his groaning, that their groaning may "come in in the sight of the Lord." They also may be understood to be fettered, who are enchained with the precepts of wisdom, the which being patiently supported are turned into ornaments: whence it hath been written, "Put thy feet into her fetters."(6) "According to the greatness," he saith, "of Thy arm, receive Thou unto adoption the sons of them that are put to death:"(7) or, as is read in some copies, "Possess Thou sons by the death of the punished."(8) Wherein the Scripture seemeth to me to have sufficiently shown, what hath been the groan of the fettered, who for the name of Christ endured most grievous persecutions, which in this Psalm are most clearly prophesied. For being beset with divers sufferings, they used to pray for the Church, that their blood might not be without fruit to posterity; in order that the Lord's harvest might more abundantly flourish by the very means whereby enemies thought that she would perish. For "sons of them that were put to death" he hath called them who were not only not terrified by the sufferings of those that went before, but in Him for whose name they knew them to have suffered, being inflamed with their glory which did inspire them to the like, in most ample hosts they believed. Therefore he hath said, "According to the greatness of Thine arm." For so great a wonder followed in the case of Christian peoples, as they, who thought they would prevail aught by persecuting her, no wise believed would follow.
16. "Render," he saith, "to our neighbours seven times so much into their bosoms" (ver. 13). Not any evil things he is wishing, but things just he is foretelling and prophesying as to come. But in the number seven, that is, in sevenfold retribution, he would have the completeness of the punishment to be perceived, for with this number fulness is wont to be signified. Whence also there is this saying for the good, "He shall receive in this world seven times as much:"(9) which hath been put for all. "As if having nothing, and possessing all things."(10) Of neighbours he is speaking, because amongst them dwelleth the Church even unto the day of severing: for not now is made the corporal separation. "Into their bosoms," he saith, as being now in secret, so that the vengeance which is now being executed in secret in this life, hereafter may be known among the nations before our eyes. For when a man is given over to a reprobate mind, in his inward bosom he is receiving what he deserveth of future punishments. "Their reproach wherewith they have reproached Thee, O Lord." This do Thou render to them sevenfold into their bosoms, that is, in return for this reproach, most fully do Thou rebuke them in their secret places. For in this they have reproached Thy Name, thinking to efface Thee from the earth in Thy servants.
17. "But we Thy people" (ver. 14), must be taken generally of all the race of godly and true Christians. "We," then, whom they thought they had power to destroy, "Thy people, and the sheep of thy flock:" in order that he that glorieth may glory in the Lord,(1) "will confess to Thee for an age." But some copies have it, "will confess to Thee for everlasting." Out of a Greek ambiguity this diversity hath arisen. For that which the Greek hath, eis ton aipna, may be interpreted both by "for everlasting," and "for an age;" but according to the context we must understand which is the better interpretation. The sense then of this passage seemeth to me to show, that we ought to say "for an age," that is, even unto the end of time. But the following verse after the manner of the Scriptures, and especially of the Psalms, is a repetition of the former with the order changed, putting that before which in the former case was after, and that after which in the former case was before. For whereas in the former case there had been said, "we will confess to Thee," instead of the same herein hath been said, "We will proclaim Thy praise." And so whereas in the former case there had been said, "for an age," instead of the same herein hath been said, "for generation and generation." For this repetition of generation doth signify perpetuity: or, as some understand it, it is because there are two generations, an old and a new. ... But in many places of holy Scriptures we have already made known to you that confession is also put for praise: as in this passage it is, "These words ye shall say in confession, 'That the works of the Lord are very good.'"(2) And especially that which the Saviour Himself saith, who had not any sin at all, which by repentance to confess: "I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes."(3) I have said this, in order that it may be more clearly perceived how in the expression, "We will proclaim Thy praise," the same hath been repeated as had been said higher up, "We will confess to Thee."
1. ... If perchance things obscure demand the office of an interpreter, those things which are evident ought to require of me the office of a reader. The song here is of the Advent of the Lord and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His vineyard. But the singer of the song is that Asaph, as far as doth appear, enlightened and converted, by whose name ye know the synagogue to be signified. Lastly, the title of the Psalm is: "For the end in behalf of them that shall be changed;" that is, for the better. For Christ, the end of the Law, (5) hath come on purpose that He should change men for the better. And he addeth, "a testimony to Asaph himself." A good testimony of truth. Lastly, this testimony doth confess both Christ and the vineyard; that is, Head and Body, King and people, Shepherd and flock, and the entire mystery of all Scriptures, Christ and the Church. But the title of the Psalm doth conclude with, "for the Assyrians." The Assyrians are interpreted, "men guiding." Therefore it is no longer a generation which hath not guided the heart(6) thereof, but now a generation guiding. Therefore hear we what he saith in this testimony.
2. What is, "Thou that feedest Israel, hearken, Thou that conducteth Joseph like sheep"? (ver. 1). He is being invoked to come, He is being expected until He come, He is being yearned for until He come. Therefore may He find "men guiding:" "Thou that conductest," he saith, "Joseph like sheep: "Joseph himself like sheep. Joseph himself are the sheep, and Joseph himself is a sheep. Observe Joseph; for although even the interpretation of his name doth aid us much, for it signifieth increase; and He came indeed in order that the grain given to death(7) might arise manifold;(8) that is, that the people of God might be increased. ... "Thou that sittest upon the Cherubin." Cherubin is the seat of the glory of God, and is interpreted the fulness of knowledge. There God sitteth in the fulness of knowledge. Though we understand the Cherubin to be the exalted powers and virtues of the heavens: yet, if thou wilt, thou wilt be Cherubin.(9) For if Cherubin is the seat of God, hear what saith the Scripture: "The soul of a just man is the seat of wisdom." How, thou sayest, shall I be the fulness of knowledge? Who shall fulfil this? Thou hast the means of fulfilling it: "The fulness of the Law is love."(10) Do not run after many things, and strain thyself. The amplitude of the branches doth terrify thee: hold by the root, and of the greatness of the tree think not. Be there in thee love, and the fulness of knowledge must needs follow. For what doth he not know that knoweth love? Inasmuch as it hath been said, "God is love."(11) "Appear." For we went astray because Thou didst not appear. "Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasse" (ver. 2). Appear, I say, before the nation of the Jews, before the people of Israel. For there is Ephraim, there Manasses, there Benjamin. But to the interpretation let us look: Ephraim is fruit-bearing, Benjamin son of right hand, Manasses one forgetful. Appear Thou then before one made fruitful, before a son of the right hand: appear Thou before one forgetful, in order that he may be no longer forgetful, but Thou mayest come into his mind that hast delivered him. ... For weak Thou wast when it was being said, "If Son of God He is, let Him come down from the Cross."(1) Thou wast seeming to have no power: the persecutor had power over Thee: and Thou didst show this aforetime, for Jacob too himself prevailed in wrestling, a man with an angel. Would he at any time, except the angel had been willing? And man prevailed, and the angel was conquered: and victorious man holdeth the angel, and saith, "I will not let thee go, except thou shalt have blessed me."(2) A great sacrament! He both standeth conquered, and blesseth the conqueror. Conquered, because he willed it; in flesh weak, in majesty strong. ... Having been crucified of weakness, rise Thou in power:(3) "Stir up Thy power, and come Thou, to save us."
3. "O God, convert us." For averse we have been from Thee, and except Thou convert us, we shall not be converted. "And illumine Thy face, and we shall be saved" (ver. 3). Hath He anywise a darkened face? He hath not a darkened face, but He placed before it a cloud of flesh, and as it were a veil of weakness; and when He hung on the tree, He was not thought the Same as He was after to be acknowledged when He was sitting in Heaven. For thus it hath come to pass. Christ present on the earth, and doing miracles, Asaph knew not; but when He had died, after that He rose again, and ascended into Heaven, he knew Him. He was pricked to the heart, and he may have spoken(4) also of Him this testimony which now we acknowledge in this Psalm. Thou didst cover Thy face, and we were sick: illumine Thou the same, and we shall be whole.
4. "O Lord God of virtues, how long wilt Thou be angry with the prayer of Thy servant?" (ver. 4). Now Thy servant. Thou wast angry at the prayer of Thy enemy, wilt Thou still be angry with the prayer of Thy servant? Thou hast converted us, we know Thee, and wilt Thou still be angry with the prayer of Thy servant? Thou wilt evidently be angry, in fact, as a father correcting, not as a judge condemning. In such manner evidently Thou wilt be angry, because it hath been written, "My son, drawing near unto the service of God, stand thou in righteousness and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation."(5) Think not that now the wrath of God hath passed away, because thou hast been converted. The wrath of God(6) hath passed away from thee, but only so that it condemn not for everlasting. But He scourgeth, He spareth not: because He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth,(7) If thou refusest to be scourged, why dost thou desire to be received? He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. He who did not spare even His only Son, scourgeth every one. But nevertheless, "How long wilt Thou be angry with the prayer of Thy servant?" No longer thine enemy: but, "Thou wilt be angry with the prayer of Thy servant," how long? There followeth: "Thou wilt feed us with the bread of tears, and wilt give us to drink with tears in measure" (ver. 5). What is, "in measure"? Hear the Apostle: "Faithful is God, who doth not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear."(8) The measure is, according to your powers: the measure is, that thou be instructed, not that thou be crushed.
5. "Thou hast set us for a contradiction to our neighbours" (ver. 6). Evidently this did come to pass: for out of Asaph were chosen they that should go to the Gentiles and preach Christ, and should have it said to them, "Who is this proclaimer of new demons?"(9) "Thou hast set us for a contradiction to our neighbours." For they were preaching Him who was the subject of the contradiction. Whom did they preach? That after He was dead, Christ rose again. Who would hear this? Who would know this? It is a new thing. But signs did follow, and to an incredible thing miracles gave credibility. He was contradicted, but the contradictor was conquered, and from being a contradictor was made a believer. There, however, was a great flame: there the martyrs fed with the bread of tears, and given to drink in tears, but in measure, not more than they are able to bear; in order that after the measure of tears there should follow a crown of joys. "And our enemies have sneered at us." And where are they that sneered? For a long while it was said, Who are they that worship the Dead One, that adore the Crucified? For a long while so it was said. Where is the nose of them that sneered? Now do not they that censure flee into caves, that they may not be seen? But ye see what followeth: "O Lord God of virtues, convert us, and show Thy face, and we shall be whole" (ver. 7). "A vineyard out of Egypt Thou hast brought over, Thou hast cast out the nations, and hast planted her" (ver. 8). It was done, we know. How many nations were cast out? Amorites, Cethites, Jebusites, Gergesites, and Evites: after whose expulsion and overthrow, there was led in the people delivered out of Egypt, into the land of promise. Whence the vineyard was cast out, and where she was planted, we have heard. Let us see what next was done, how she believed, how much she grew, what ground she covered.
6. "A way Thou hast made in the sight of her, and hast planted the roots of her, and she hath filled the land" (ver. 9). Would she have filled the land, unless a way had been made in the sight of her? What was the way which was made in the sight of her? "I am," He saith, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."(1) With reason she hath filled the land. That hath now been said of this vineyard, which hath been accomplished at the last. But in the mean time what? "She hath covered the mountains with her shadow, and with her branch the cedars of God" (ver. 10). "Thou hast stretched out her boughs even unto the sea, and even unto the river her shoots" (ver. 11). This requireth the office of an expositor, that of a reader and praiser(2) doth not suffice: aid me with attention; for the mention of this vineyard in this Psalm is wont to overcloud with darkness the inattentive. ... But nevertheless the first Jewish nation was this vine But the Jewish nation reigned as far as the sea and as far as the river. As far as the sea; it appeareth in Scripture(3) that the sea was in the vicinity thereof. And as far as the river Jordan. For on the other side of Jordan some part of the Jews was established, but within Jordan was the whole nation. Therefore, "even unto the sea and even unto the river," is the kingdom of the Jews, the kingdom of Israel: but not "from sea even unto sea, and from the river even unto the ends of the round world;"(4) this is the future perfection of the vineyard, concerning which in this place he hath foretold. When, I say, he had foretold to thee the perfection, he returneth to the beginning, out of which the perfection was made. Of the beginning wilt thou hear? "Even unto the river." Of the end wilt thou hear? "He shall have dominion from sea even unto sea:"(4) that is, "she hath filled the earth." Let us look then to the testimony of Asaph, as to what was done to the first vineyard, and what must be expected for the second vineyard, nay to the same vineyard. ... What then, the vineyard before the sight whereof a way was made, that she should fill the earth, at first was where? "Her shadow covered the mountains." Who are the mountains? The Prophets. Why did her shadow cover them? Because darkly they spake the things which were foretold as to come. Thou hearest from the Prophets, Keep the Sabbath-day, on the eighth day circumcise a child, offer sacrifice of ram, of calf, of he-goat. Be not troubled, her shadow doth cover the mountains of God; there will come after the shadow a manifestation. "And her shrubs the cedars of God," that is, she hath covered the cedars of God; very lofty, but of God. For the cedars are types of the proud, that must needs be overthrown. The "cedars of Lebanon," the heights of the world, this vineyard did cover in growing, and the mountains of God, all the holy Prophets and Patriarchs.
7. Then what? "Wherefore hast Thou thrown down her enclosure?" (ver. 12). Now ye see the overthrow of that nation of the Jews: already out of another Psalm ye have heard, "with axe and hammers they have thrown her down."(6) When could this have been done, except her enclosure had been thrown down. What is her enclosure? Her defence. For she bore herself proudly against her planter. The servants that were sent to her and demanded a recompense, the husbandmen they scourged, beat, slew: there came also the Only Son, they said, "This is the Heir; come, let us kill Him, and our own the inheritance will be:" they killed Him, and out of the vineyard they cast Him forth.(7) When cast forth, He did more perfectly possess the place whence He was cast forth. For thus He threatens her through Isaiah, "I will throw down her enclosure." Wherefore? "For I looked that she should bring forth grapes, but she brought forth thorns."(8) I looked for fruit from thence, and I found sin. Why then dost thou ask, O Asaph, "Why hast Thou thrown down her enclosure?" For knowest thou not why? I looked that she should do judgment, and she did iniquity. Must not her enclosure needs be thrown down? And there came the Gentiles when the enclosure was thrown down, the vineyard was assailed, and the kingdom of the Jews effaced. This at first he is lamenting, but not without hope. For of directing the heart he is now speaking, that is, for the "Assyrians," for "men directing," the Psalm is. "Wherefore hast Thou thrown down her enclosure: and there pluck off her grapes all men passing along the way." What is "men passing along the way?" Men having dominion for a time.
8. "There hath laid her waste the boar from the wood" (ver. 13). In the boar from the wood what do we understand? To the Jews a swine is an abomination, and in a swine they imagine as it were the uncleanness of the Gentiles. But by the Gentiles was overthrown the nation of the Jews: but that king who overthrew, was not only an unclean swine, but was also a boar. For what is a boar but a savage swine, a furious swine? "A boar from the wood hath laid her waste." "From the wood," from the Gentiles. For she was a vineyard, but the Gentiles were woods. But when the Gentiles believed, there was said what? "Then there shall exult all the trees of the woods."(1) "The boar from the wood hath laid her waste; and a singular wild beast hath devoured her." "A singular wild beast" is what? The very boar that laid her waste is the singular wild beast. Singular, because proud. For thus saith every proud one, It is I, it is I, and no other.
9. But with what profit is this? "O God of virtues turn Thou nevertheless" (ver. 14). Although these things have been done, "Turn Thou nevertheless." "Look from heaven and see, and visit this vineyard." "And perfect Thou her whom Thy right hand hath planted" (ver. 15). No other plant Thou, but this make Thou perfect. For she is the very seed of Abraham, she is the very seed in whom all nations shall be blessed:(2) there is the root where is borne the grafted wild olive. "Perfect Thou this vineyard which Thy right hand hath planted." But wherein doth He perfect? "And upon the Son of man, whom Thou hast strengthened to Thyself." What can be more evident? Why do ye still expect, that we should still explain to you in discourse, and should we not rather cry out with you in admiration, "Perfect Thou this vineyard which Thy right hand hath planted, and upon the Son of man" perfect her? What Son of man? Him "whom Thou hast strengthened to Thyself." A mighty stronghold: build as much as thou art able. "For other foundation no one is able to lay, except that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus."(3)
10. "Things burned with fire, and dug up, by the rebuke of Thy countenance shah perish" (ver. 16). What are the things burned with fire and dug up which shall perish from the rebuke of His countenance? Let us see and perceive what are the things burned with fire and dug up. Christ hath rebuked what? Sins: by the rebuke of His countenance sins have perished. Why then are sins burned with fire and dug up? Of all sins, two things are the cause in man, desire and fear(4) Think, examine, question your hearts sift your consciences, see whether there can be sins, except they be either of desire, or of fear. There is set before thee a reward to induce thee to sin, that is, a thing which delighteth thee thou doest it, because thou desirest it. But perchance thou wilt not be allured by bribes thou art terrified with menaces, thou doest it because thou fearest. A man would bribe thee, for example, to bear false witness. Countless cases there are, but I am setting before you the plainer cases, whereby ye may imagine the rest. Hast thou hearkened unto God, and hast thou said in thy heart, "What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but of his own soul suffer loss?"(5) I am not allured by a bribe to lose my soul(6) to gain money. He turneth himself to stir up fear within thee, he who was not able to corrupt thee with a bribe, beginneth to threaten loss, banishment, massacres, perchance, and death. Therein now, if desire prevailed not, perchance fear will prevail to make thee sin. ... What had evil fear done? It had dug up, as it were. For love doth inflame, fear doth humble: therefore, sins of evil love, with fire were lighted: sins of evil fear were dug up. On the one hand, evil fear doth humble, and good love doth light; but in different ways respectively. For even the husbandman interceding for the tree, that it should not be cut down, saith, "I will dig about it, and will apply a basket of dung."(7) The dug trench doth signify the godly humility of one fearing, and the basket of dung the profitable squalid state of one repenting. But concerning the fire of good love the Lord saith, "Fire I have come to send into the world."(8) With which fire may the fervent in spirit burn, and they too that are inflamed with the love of God and their neighbour. And thus, as all good works are wrought by good fear and good love, so by evil fear and evil love all sins are committed. Therefore, "Things set alight with fire and dug up," to wit, all sins, "by the rebuke of Thy countenance shall perish."
11. "Let Thy hand be upon the Man of Thy right hand, and upon the Son of Man whom Thou hast strengthened Thyself" (ver. 17). "And we depart not from Thee. ... Thou wilt quicken us, and Thy Name we will invoke" (ver. 18). Thou shalt be sweet to us, "Thou wilt quicken us." For aforetime we did love earth, not Thee: but Thou hast mortified our members which are upon the earth.(9) For the Old Testament, having earthly promises, seemeth to exhort that God should not be loved for nought, but that He should be loved because He giveth something on earth. What dost thou love, so as not to love God? Tell me. Love, if thou canst, anything which He hath not made. Look round upon the whole creation, see whether in any place thou art held with the birdlime of desire, and hindered from loving the Creator, except it be by that very thing which He hath Himself created, whom thou despisest. But why dost thou love those things, except because they are beautiful? Can they be as beautiful as He by whom they were made? Thou admirest these things, because thou seest not Him: but through those things which thou admirest, love Him whom thou seest not. Examine the creation; if of itself it is, stay therein: but if it is of Him, for no other reason is it prejudicial to a lover, than because it is preferred to the Creator. Why have I said this? With reference to this verse, brethren. Dead, I say, were they that did worship God that it might be well with them after the flesh: "For to be wise after the flesh is death:"(1) and dead are they that do not worship God gratis, that is, because of Himself He is good, not because He giveth such and such good things, which He giveth even to men not good. Money wilt thou have of God? Even a robber hath it. Wife, abundance of children, soundness of body, the world's dignity, observe how many evil men have. Is this all for the sake of which thou dost worship Him? Thy feet will totter,(2) thou wilt suppose thyself to worship without cause, when thou seest those things to be with them who do not worship Him. All these things, I say, He giveth even to evil men, Himself alone He reserveth for good men. "Thou wilt quicken us;" for dead we were, when to earthly things we did cleave; dead we were, when of the earthly man we did bear the image. "Thou wilt quicken us;" Thou wilt renew us, the life of the inward man Thou wilt give us. "And Thy Name we will invoke;" that is, Thee we will love. Thou to us wilt be the sweet forgiver of our sins, Thou wilt be the entire reward of the justified. "O Lord God of virtues, convert us, and show Thy face, and we shall be whole "(ver. 20).
1. For a Title this Psalm hath, "Unto the end for the presses, on the fifth of the Sabbath, a Psalm to Asaph himself." Into one title many mysteries are heaped together, still so that the lintel of the Psalm indicates the things within. As we have to speak of the presses, let no one expect that we shall speak of a vat, of a press, of olive baskets;(4) because neither the Psalm hath this, and therefore it indicateth the greater mystery. ...
No such thing did ye hear in this when it was reading. Therefore take the presses for the mystery of the Church, which is now transacting. In the presses we observe three things, pressure, and of the pressure two things, one to be laid up, the other to be thrown away. There takes place then in the press a treading, a crushing, a weight: and with these the oil strains out secretly into the vat,(5) the lees run openly down the streets. Look intently on this great spectacle. For God ceaseth not to exhibit to us that which we may look upon with great joy, nor is the madness of the Circus to be compared with this spectacle. That belongeth to the lees, this to the oil. When therefore ye hear the blasphemers babble impudently and say that distresses abound in Christian times; for ye know that they love to say this:and it is an old proverb, yet one that began from Christian times," God gives no rain; count it to the Christians!"(6) Although it was those of old that said thus. But these now say also, "That God sends rain, count it to the Christians! God sends no rain; we sow not. God sends rain; we reap not!" And they wilfully make that an occasion of showing pride, which ought to make them more earnest in supplication, choosing rather to blaspheme than to pray.
When therefore they talk of such things, when they make such boasts, when they say these things, and say them in defiance, not with fear, but with loftiness, let them not disturb you. For suppose that pressures abound; be thou oil. Let the lees, black with the darkness of ignorance, be insolent; and let it, as though cast away in the streets, go gibing publicly: but do thou by thyself in thy heart, where He who seeth in secret will requite thee, strain off into the vat.
... To name some one thing about which even they murmur who make them: How great plunderings, they say, are there in our times, how great distresses of the innocent, how great robberies of other men's goods! Thus indeed thou takest notice of the lees, that other men's goods are seized; to the oil thou givest no heed, that to the poor are given even men's own. The old time had no such plunderers of other men's goods: but the old time had no such givers of their own goods. ...
2. Wherefore also "on the fifth of the sabbath"?(7) What is this? Let us go back to the first works of God, if perchance we may not there find somewhat in which we may also understand a mystery. For the sabbath is the seventh day, on which "God rested from all His works," intimating the great mystery of our future resting from all our works. First of the sabbath then is called that first day, which we also call the Lord's day; second of the sabbath, the second day; ... and the sabbath itself the seventh day. See ye therefore to whom this Psalm speaketh. For it seems to me that it speaketh to the baptized. For on the fifth day God from the waters created animals: on the fifth day, that is, on the "fifth of the sabbath," God said, "Let the waters bring forth creeping things of living souls."(1) See ye, therefore, ye in whom the waters have already brought forth creeping things of living souls. For ye belong to the presses, and in you, whom the waters have brought forth, one thing is strained out, another is thrown away. For there are many that live not worthily of the baptism which they have received. For how many that are baptized have chosen rather to be filling the Circus than this Basilica! How many that are baptized are either making booths in the streets, or complaining that they are not made!
But this Psalm, "For the presses," and "on the fifth of the sabbath," is sung "unto Asaph." Asaph was a certain man called by this name, as Idithun, as Core, as other names that we find in the titles of the Psalms: yet the interpretation of this name intimates the mystery of a hidden truth. Asaph, in fact, in Latin is interpreted "congregation." Therefore," For the presses, on the fifth of the sabbath," it is sung "unto Asaph," that is, for a distinguishing pressure, to the baptized, born again of water, the Psalm is sung to the Lord's congregation. We have read the title on the lintel, and have understood what it means by these "presses." Now if you please let us see the very house of the composition, that is, the interior of the press. Let us enter, look in, rejoice, fear, desire, avoid. For all these things ye are to find in this inward house, that is, in the text of the Psalm itself, when we shall have begun to read, and, with the Lord's help, to speak what He grants us.
3. Behold yourselves, O Asaph, congregation of the Lord. "Exult ye unto God our helper" (vet. 1). Ye who are gathered together to-day, ye are this day the congregation of the Lord, if indeed unto you the Psalm is sung, "Exult ye unto God our helper." Others exult unto the Circus, ye unto God: others exult unto their deceiver, do ye exult unto your helper: others exult unto their god their belly, do ye exult unto your God your helper. "Jubilate unto the God of Jacob." Because ye also belong to Jacob: yea, ye are Jacob, the younger people to which the elder is servant.(2) "Jubilate unto the God of Jacob." Whatsoever ye cannot explain in words, ye do not therefore forbear exulting: what ye shall be able to explain, cry out: what ye cannot, jubilate. For from the abundance of joys, he that cannot find words sufficient, useth to break out into jubilating; "Jubilate unto the God of Jacob."
4. "Take the Psalm and give the tabret" (ver. 2). Both "take," and "give." What is, "take"? what, "give"? "Take the Psalm, and give the tabret." The Apostle Paul saith in a certain place,(3) reproving and grieving, that no one had communicated with him in the matter of giving and receiving. What is, "in the matter of giving and receiving," but that which he hath openly set forth in another place.(4) "If we have sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your carnal things." And it is true that a tabret, which is made of hide, belongs to the flesh. The Psalm, therefore, is spiritual, the tabret, carnal. Therefore, people of God, congregation of God, "take ye the Psalm, and give the tabret:" take ye spiritual things, and give carnal. This also, is what at that blessed Martyr's table(5) we exhorted you, that receiving spiritual things ye should give carnal. For these which are built for the time, are needful for receiving the bodies either of the living or of the dead, but in time that is passing by. Shall we after God's judgment take up these buildings to Heaven? Yet without these we shall not be able to do at this time the things which belong to the possessing of Heaven. If therefore ye are eager in getting spiritual things, be ye devout in expending carnal things. "Take the Psalm, and give the tabret:" take our voice, return your hands.
5. "The pleasant psaltery,(6) with the harp." I remember that we once intimated to your charity the difference of psaltery and harp.(7) ... For heavenly is the preaching of the word of God. But if we wait for heavenly things, let us not be sluggish in working at earthly things; because, "the psaltery is pleasant," but, "with the harp." The same is expressed in another way as above, "Take the Psalm, and give the tabret:" here for "Psalm," is put "psaltery," for "tabret," "harp." Of this, however, we are admonished, that to the preaching of God's word we make answer by bodily works.
6. "Sound the trumpet" (ver. 3). This is, Loudly and boldly preach, be not affrighted! as the Prophet says in a certain place, "Cry out, and lift up as with a trumpet thy voice."(8) Sound the trumpet in the beginning of the month of the trumpet." It was ordered, that in the beginning of the month there should be a sounding of the trumpet: and this even now the Jews do in bodily sort, after the spirit they understand it not. For the beginning of the month, is the new moon: the new moon, is the new life. What is the new moon? "If any, then, is in Christ, he is a new creature."(1) What is, "sound the trumpet in the beginning of the month of the trumpet"? With all confidence preach ye the new life, fear not the noise of the old life.
7. "Because it is a commandment for Israel, and a judgment for the God of Jacob" (ver. 4). Where a commandment, there judgment. For, "They that have sinned in the Law, by the Law shall be judged."(2) And the very Giver of the commandment, the Lord Christ, the Word made flesh, saith, "For judgment I am come into the world, that they that see not may see, and they that see may be made blind."(3) What is, "That they that see not may see, they that see be made blind," but that the lowly be exalted, the proud thrown down? For not they that see are to be made blind, but those who to themselves seem to see are to be convicted of blindness. This is brought about in the mystery of the press, that they who see may not see, and they that see be made blind.
8. "A testimony in Joseph He made that" (ver 5). Look you, brethren, what is it? Joseph is interpreted augmentation. Ye remember, ye know of Joseph sold into Egypt: Joseph sold into Egypt(4) is Christ passing over to the Gentiles. There Joseph after tribulations was exalted, and here Christ, after the suffering of the Martyrs, was glorified. Thenceforth to Joseph the Gentiles rather belong, and thenceforth augmentation; because, "Many are the children of her that was desolate, rather than of her that hath the husband."(5) "He made it, till he should go out of the land of Egypt." Observe that also here the "fifth of the sabbath" is signified: when Joseph went out from the land of Egypt, that is, the people multiplied through Joseph, he was caused to pass through the Red Sea. Therefore then also the waters brought forth creeping things of living souls.(6) No other thing was it that there in figure the passage of that people through the sea foreshowed, than the passing of the Faithful through Baptism; the apostle is witness: for "I would not have you ignorant, brethren," he said, "that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea."(7) Nothing else then the passing through the sea did signify, but the Sacrament of the baptized; nothing else the pursuing Egyptians, but the multitude of past sins. Ye see most evident mysteries. The Egyptians press, they urge; so then sins follow close, but no farther than to the water. Why then dost thou fear, who hast not yet come, to come to the Baptism of Christ, to pass through the Red Sea? What is "Red "? Consecrated with the Blood of the Lord. Why fearest thou to come? The consciousness, perhaps, of some huge offences goads and tortures in thee thy mind, and says to thee that it is so great a thing thou hast committed, that thou mayest despair to have it remitted thee. Fear lest there remain anything of thy sins, if there lived any one of the Egyptians!(8)
But when thou shalt have passed the Red Sea, when thou shalt have been led forth out of thine offences "with a mighty hand and with a strong arm,"(9) thou wilt perceive mysteries that thou knowest not: since Joseph himself too, "when he came out of the land of Egypt, heard a language which he knew not." Thou shalt hear a language which thou knowest not: which they that know now hear and recognise, bearing witness and knowing. Thou shalt hear where thou oughtest to have thy heart:(10) which just now when I said many understood and answered by acclamation, the rest stood mute, because they have not heard the language which they knew not. Let them hasten, then, let them pass over, let them learn.
9. "He turned away from burdens his back" (ver. 6). Who "turned away from burdens his back," but He that cried, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden"?(11) In another manner this same thing is signified. What the pursuit of the Egyptians did, the same thing do the burdens of sins. As if thou shouldest say, From what burdens? "His hands in the basket did serve." By the basket are signified servile works; to cleanse, to manure, to carry earth, is done with a basket,(12) such works are servile: because "every one that doeth sin, is the slave of sin;" and "if the Son shall have made you free, then will ye be free indeed."(13) Justly also are the rejected things of the world counted as baskets, but even baskets did God fill with morsels; "Twelve baskets"(14) did He fill with morsels; because "He chose the rejected things of this world to confound the things that were mighty."(15) But also when with the basket Joseph did serve, he then carried earth, because he did make bricks. "His hands in the basket did serve."
10. "In tribulation thou didst call on Me, and I delivered thee" (ver. 8). Let each Christian conscience recognise itself, if it have devoutly passed the Red Sea,(16) if with faith in believing and observing it hath heard a strange language which it knew not, let it recognise itself as having been heard in its tribulation. For that was a great tribulation, to be weighed down with loads of sins. How does the conscience, lifted from the earth, rejoice. Lo, thou art baptized, thy conscience which was yesterday overladen, to-day rejoiceth thee. Thou hast been heard in tribulation, remember thy tribulation. Before thou camest to the water, what anxiety didst thou bear on thee! what fastings didst thou practise! what tribulations didst thou carry in thy heart! what inward, pious, devout prayers! Slain are thine enemies; all thy sins are blotted out. In tribulation thou didst call upon Me, and I delivered thee.
11. "I heard thee in the hidden part of the tempest." Not in a tempest of the sea, but in a tempest of the heart. "I proved thee in the water of contradiction." Truly, brethren, truly, he that was heard in the hidden part of the tempest ought to be proved in the water of contradiction. For when he hath believed, when he hath been baptized, when he hath begun to go in the way of God, when he hath striven to be strained into the vat, and hath drawn himself out from the lees that run in the street, he will have many disturbers, many insulters, many detractors, many discouragers, many that even threaten where they can, that deter, that depress. This is all the "water of contradiction." I suppose there are some here to-day, for instance, I think it likely there are some here whom their friends wished to hurry away to the circus, and to I know not what triflings of this day's festivity: perchance they have brought those person's with them to church. But whether they have brought those with them or whether they have by them not permitted themselves to be led away to the circus, in the "water of contradiction" have they been tried. Do not then be ashamed to proclaim what thou knowest, to defend even among blasphemers what thou hast believed. ... However much the bad that are aliens may rage, O that our own bad people would not help them!
Ye recollect what was said of Christ, that He was thus born for "the fall of many, and the rising again of many, and for a sign to be spoken against."(1) We know, we see: the sign of the Cross has been set up, and it has been spoken against. There has been speaking against the glory of the Cross: but there was a title over the Cross which was not to be corrupted. For there is a title in the Psalm,(2) "For the inscription of the title, corrupt thou not." It was a sign to be spoken against: for the Jews said, "Make it not, King of the Jews, but make it, that He said I am the King of the Jews."(3) Conquered was the contradiction; it was answered, "What I have written, I have written."
12. All this, from the beginning of the Psalm up to this verse, we have heard of the oil of the press. What remains is rather for grief and warning: for it belongs to the lees of the press, even to the end; perchance also not without a meaning in the interposition of the "Diapsalma." But even this too is profitable to hear, that he who sees himself already of the oil may rejoice; he that is in danger of running among the lees may beware. To both give heed, choose the one, fear the other.
"Hear, O My people, and I will speak, and will bear witness unto thee"(ver. 8). For it is not to a strange people, not to a people that belongs not to the press: "Judge ye," He saith, "between Me and My vineyard."(4)
13. "Israel, if thou shalt have heard Me, there shall not be in thee any new god" (ver. 9). A "new god" is one made for the time: but our God is not new, but from eternity to eternity. And our Christ is new, perchance, as Man,(5) but eternal God. For what before the beginning? And truly, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."(6) And our Christ Himself is the Word made flesh, that He might dwell in us.(7) Far be it, then, that there should be in any one a new god. A new god is either a stone or a phantom. He is not, saith one, a stone; I have a silver and a gold one. Justly did he choose to name the very costly things, who said, "The idols of the nations are silver and gold." Great are they, because they are of gold and silver; costly they are, shining they are; but yet, "Eyes they have, and see not"(8) New are these gods. What newer than a god out of a workshop? Yea, though those now old ones spiders' webs have covered over, they that are not eternal are new. So much for the Pagans.(9) ...
14. For if there be error in thee, Thou wilt not worship a strange god. If thou think not of a false god, thou wilt not worship a manufactured god: for "there will not" be in thee any strange god. "For I am." Why wouldest thou adore what is not? "For I am the Lord thy God" (ver. 10). Because "I am I that Am," and indeed "I Am" He saith, I that Am, over every creature: yet to thee what good have I afforded in time? "Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt." Not to that people alone is it said. For we all were brought out of the land of Egypt, we have all passed through the Red Sea; our enemies pursuing us have perished in the water. Let us not be ungrateful to our God; let us not forget God that abideth, and fabricate in ourselves a new god. "I, who led thee out of the land of Egypt," saith God. "Open wide thy mouth, and I will fill it." Thou sufferest straitness in thyself because of the new god set up in thy heart; break the vain image, cast down from thy conscience the feigned idol: "open wide thy mouth," in confessing, in loving: "and I will fill it," because with me is the fountain of life.
15. "And My people obeyed not My voice" (ver. 11). For He would not speak these things except to His own people. For, "we know that whatsoever things the Law saith, it saith to them that are in the Law."(1) "And Israel did not listen to Me." Who? To whom? Israel to Me. O ungrateful soul! Through Me the soul, by Me the soul called, by Me brought back to hope, by Me washed from sins! "And Israel did not listen to Me!" For they are baptized and pass through the Red Sea: but on the way they murmur, gainsay, complain, are stirred with seditions, ungrateful to Him who delivered them from pursuing enemies, who leads through the dry land, through the desert, yet with food and drink, with light by night and shade by day.
16. "And I let them go according to the affections of their heart" (ver. 12). Behold the press: the orifices are open, the lees run. "And I let them go," not according to the healthfulness of My commands; but, according to the affections of their heart: I gave them up to themselves. The Apostle also saith, "God gave them up to the desires of their own hearts."(2) "I let them go according to the affection of their heart, they shall go in their own affections." There is what ye shudder at, if at least ye are straining out into the hidden vats of the Lord if at least ye have conceived a hearty love for His storehouses, there is what ye shudder at. Some stand up for the circus, some for the amphitheatre, some for the booths in the streets some for the theatres, some for this, some for that, some finally for their "new gods;" "they shall go in their own affections."
17. "If My people would have heard Me, if Israel would have walked in My ways" (ver. 13). For perchance that Israel saith, Behold I sin, it is manifest, I go after the affections of my own heart: but what can I do?(3) The devil doth this. Demons do this. What is the devil? Who are the demons? Certainly thine enemies. "Unto nothing all their enemies I would have brought down; and on them that oppress them I would have sent forth My hand" (ver. 14). But now what have they to do to complain of enemies? Themselves are become the worse enemies. For how? What followeth? Of enemies ye complain, yourselves, what are ye?
18. "The enemies of God have lied unto Him" (ver. 15). Dost thou renounce? I renounce.(4) And he returns to what he renounced. In fact, what things dost thou renounce, except bad deeds, diabolical deeds, deeds to be condemned of God, thefts, plunderings, perjuries, manslayings, adulteries, sacrileges, abominable rites, curious arts.(5) ...
19. If therefore all those works "shall not possess the kingdom of God" (yea not the works, but "they that do such things;"(6) for such works there shall be none in the fire: for they shall not, while burning in that fire, be committing theft or adultery; but "they that do such things shall not possess the kingdom of God"); they shall not therefore be on the right hand, with those to whom it shall be said, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom:" because, "they that do such things shall not possess the kingdom of God." If therefore on the right they shall not be, there remaineth not but that they must be on the left. To those on the left what shall He say? "Go ye into eternal fire." Because, "their time shall be for ever."
20. Explain to us, then, saith one, how those that build wood, hay, stubble, on the foundation, do not perish, but "are saved, yet so as by fire"? An obscure question indeed that, but as I am able I tell you briefly. Brethren, there are men altogether despisers of this world, to whom nothing is pleasant that flows in the course of time, they cling not by love to any earthly works, holy, chaste, continent, just, perchance even selling all their goods and distributing to the poor, or "possessing as though they possessed not, and using this world as though not using it."(7) But there are others who cling to things allowed to infirmity with a degree of affection. He robs not another of his estate, but so loves his own, that if he loses it he will be disturbed. He does not covet another's wife, but so clings to his own, so cohabits with his own, as not therein to keep the measure prescribed in the laws, for the sake of begetting children. He does not take away other men's things, but reclaims his own, and has a law-suit with his brother. For to such it is said, "Now indeed there is altogether a fault among you, because ye have law-suits with each other."(8) But these very suits he orders to be tried in the Church, not to be dragged into court, yet he says they are faults. For a Christian contends for earthly things more than becomes one to whom the kingdom of Heaven is promised. Not the whole of his heart doth he raise upward, but some part of it he draggeth on the earth. ... Therefore if thou lovest thy possession, yet dost not for its sake commit violence, dost not for its sake bear false witness, dost not for its sake commit man-slaughter, dost not for its sake swear falsely, dost not for its sake deny Christ: in that thou wilt not for its sake do these things, thou hast Christ for a foundation. But yet because thou lovest it, and art saddened if thou losest it, upon the foundation thou hast placed, not gold, or silver, or precious stones, but wood, hay, stubble. Saved therefore thou wilt be, when that begins to burn which thou hast built, yet so as by fire. For let no one on this foundation building adulteries, blasphemies, sacrileges, idolatries, perjuries, think he shall be "saved through fire," as though they were the "wood, hay, stubble:" but he that buildeth the love of earthly things on the foundation of the kingdom of Heaven, that is upon Christ, his love of temporal things shall be burned, and himself shall be saved through the right(1) foundation.
21. ... "And He fed them of the fat of wheat, and from the rock with honey He satisfied them" (ver. 16). In the wilderness from the rock He brought forth water,(2) not honey. "Honey" is wisdom, holding the first place for sweetness among the viands of the heart. How many enemies of the Lord, then, that lie unto the Lord, are fed not only of the fat of wheat, but also from the rock with honey, from the wisdom of Christ? How many are delighted with His word, and with the knowledge of His sacraments, with the unfolding of His parables, how many are delighted, how many applaud with clamour! And this honey is not from any chance person, but "from the rock." But "the Rock was Christ."(3) How many, then, are satisfied with that honey, cry out, and say, It is sweet; say, Nothing better, nothing sweeter could be thought or said! and yet the enemies of the Lord have lied unto Him. I like not to dwell any more on matters of grief; although the Psalm endeth in terror to this purpose, yet from the end of it, I pray you, let us return to the heading: "Exult unto God our Helper." Turned unto God.(4)
1. This Psalm, like others similarly named, was so entitled either from the name of the man who wrote it, or from the explanation of that same name, so as to refer in meaning to the Synagogue, which Asaph signifies; especially as this is intimated in the first verse. For it begins, "God stood in the synagogue of gods" (ver. 1). Far however be it from us to understand by these Gods the gods of the Gentiles, or idols, or any creature in heaven or earth except men; for a little after this verse the same Psalm relates and explains what Gods it means in whose synagogue God stood, where it says, "I have said, Ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Most High: but ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." In the synagogue of these children of the Most High, of whom the same Most High said by the mouth of Isaiah, "I have begotten sons and brought them up, but they despised Me,"(6) stood God. By the synagogue we understand the people of Israel, because synagogue is the word properly used of them, although they were also called the Church. Our congregation, on the contrary, the Apostles never called synagogue, but always Ecclesia; whether for the sake of the distinction, or because there is some difference between a congregation whence the synagogue has its name, and a convocation whence the Church is called Ecclesia:(7) for the word congregation (or flocking together) is used of cattle, and particularly of that kind properly called "flocks,"(8) whereas convocation (or calling together) is more of reasonable creatures, such as men are. ... I think then that it is clear in what synagogue of gods God stood.
2. The next question is, whether we should understand the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, or the Trinity, "to have stood among the congregation of gods, and in the midst to distinguish the gods;" because Each One is God, and the Trinity itself is One God. It is not indeed easy to make this clear, because it cannot be denied that not a bodily but a spiritual presence of God, agreeable to His nature, exists with created things in a wonderful manner, and one which but a few do understand, and that imperfectly: as to God it is said, "If I shall ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I shall go down into hell, Thou art there also."(9) Hence it is rightly said, that God stands in the congregation of men invisibly, as He fills heaven and earth, which He asserts of Himself by the Prophet's mouth; 10 and He is not only said, but is, in a way, known to stand in those things which He hath created, as far as the human mind can conceive, if man also stands and hears Him, and rejoices greatly on account of His voice within. But I think that the Psalm intimates something that took place at a particular time, by God's standing in the congregation of gods. For that standing by which He fills heaven and earth, neither belongs peculiarly to the synagogue, nor varies from time to time. "God," therefore, "stood in the congregation of gods;" that is, He who said of Himself, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."(1) The cause too is mentioned; "but in the midst, to judge of the gods." ...
3. "How long will ye judge unrighteously, and accept the persons of the ungodly" (ver. 2); as in another place, "How long are ye heavy in heart?"(2) Until He shall come who is the light of the heart? I have given a law, ye have resisted stubbornly: I sent Prophets, ye treated them unjustly, or slew them, or connived at those who did so. But if they are not worthy to be even spoken to, who slew the servants of God that were sent to them, ye who were silent when these things were doing, that is, ye who would imitate as if they were innocent those who then were silent, "how long will ye judge unrighteously, and accept the persons of the ungodly?" If the Heir comes even now, is He to be slain? Was He not willing for your sake to become as it were a child under guardians? Did not He for your sake hunger and thirst like one in need? Did He not cry to you, "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart"?(3) Did He not "become poor, when He was rich, that by His poverty we might be made rich"?(4) "Give sentence," therefore, "for the fatherless(5) and the poor man, justify the humble and needy" (ver. 3). Not them who for their own sake are rich and proud, but Him who for your sake was humble and poor, believe ye to be righteous: proclaim Him righteous. But they will envy Him, and will not at all spare Him, saying, "This is the Heir, come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours." "Deliver," then, "the poor man, and save the needy from the hands of the ungodly" (ver. 4). This is said that it might be known, that in that nation where Christ was born and put to death, those persons were not guiltless of so great a crime, who being so numerous, that, as the Gospel says, the Jews feared them, and therefore dared not lay hands on Christ, afterwards consented, and permitted Him to be slain by the malicious and envious Jewish rulers: yet if they had so willed, they would still have been feared, so that the hands of the wicked would never have prevailed against Him. For of these it is said elsewhere, "Dumb dogs, they know not how to bark." Of them too is that said, "Lo, how the righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart."(6) He perished(7) as far as lay in them who would have Him to perish; for how could He perish by dying, who in that way rather was seeking again what had perished? If then they are justly blamed and deservedly rebuked, who by their dissembling suffered such a wicked deed to be committed; how must they be blamed, or rather not only blamed, but how severely must they be condemned, who did this of design and malice?
4.To all of them, verily, what follows is most fitly suited: "They did not know nor understand, they walk on in darkness" (ver. 5). "For if even they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory: "(8) and those others, if they had known, would never have consented to ask that Barabbas should be freed, and Christ should be crucified. But as the above-mentioned blindness happened in part unto Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in, this blindness of that People having caused the crucifixion of Christ, "all the foundations of the earth shall be moved." So have they been moved, and shall they be moved, until the predestined fulness of the Gentiles shall come in. For at the actual death of the Lord the earth was moved, and the rocks rent.(9) And if we understand by the foundations of the earth those who are rich in the abundance of earthly possessions, it was truly foretold that they should be moved, either by wondering that lowliness, poverty, death, should be so loved and honoured in Christ, when it is to their mind great misery; or even in that themselves should love and follow it, and set at nought the vain happiness of this world. So are all the foundations of the earth moved, while they partly admire, and partly are even altered. For as without absurdity we call foundations of heaven those on whom the kingdom of heaven is built up in the persons of saints and faithful; whose first foundation is Christ Himself, born of the Virgin, of whom the Apostle says, "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus;"(10) next the Apostles and Prophets themselves, by whose authority the heavenly place is chosen," that by obeying them we may be builded together with them; whence he says to the Ephesians, "Ye are built upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief corner stone." ... But the kingdom of earthly happiness is pride, to oppose which came the lowliness of Christ, rebuking those whom He wished by lowliness to make the children of the Most High, and blaming them: "I said, Ye are gods, ye are all the children of the Most High" (ver. 6). "But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes" (ver. 7). Whether to those He said this, "I said, Ye are gods," and to those particularly who to eternal life are unpredestined and to the other, "But ye shall die like men," etc., "and shall fall like one of the princes," in this way also distinguishing the gods; or whether He blames all together, in order to distinguish the obedient and those who received correction, "I said, Ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Most High:" that is, to all of you I promised celestial happiness, "but ye,"through the infirmity of your flesh, "shall die like men," and through haughtiness of soul, "like one of the princes," that is, the devil, shall not be exalted, but "shall fall." As if He said: Though the days of your life are so few, that ye speedily die like men, this avails not to your correction: but like the devil, whose days are many in this world, because he dies not in the flesh, ye are lifted up so that ye fall. For by devilish pride it came to pass that the perverse and blind rulers of the Jews envied the glory of Christ: by this will it came to pass, and still does, that the lowliness of Christ crucified unto death is lightly esteemed in the eyes of them who love the excellence of this world.
5. And therefore that this vice may be cured, in the person of the Prophet himself it is said, "Arise, O God, and judge the earth" (ver. 8); for the earth swelled high when it crucified Thee: rise from the dead, and judge the earth. "For Thou shall destroy among all nations." What, but the earth? that is, destroying those who savour of earthly things, or destroying the feeling itself of earthly lust and pride in believers; or separating those who do not believe, as earth to be trodden under foot and to perish. Thus by His members, whose Conversation is in heaven, He judges the earth, and destroys it among all nations. But I must not omit to remark, that some copies have, "for Thou shalt inherit among all nations." This too may be understood agreeably to the sense, nor does anything prevent both meanings existing at once. His inheritance takes place by love, which in that He cultivates by His commands and gracious mercy, He destroys earthly desires.
1. Of this Psalm the title is, "A song of a Psalm of Asaph." We have already often said what is the interpretation of Asaph, that is, congregation. That man, therefore, who was called Asaph, is named in representation of the congregation of God's people in the titles of many Psalms. But in Greek, congregation. is called synagogue, which has come to be held for a kind of proper name for the Jewish people, that it should be called The Synagogue; even as the Christian people is more usually called The Church, in that it too is congregated.
2. The people of God, then, in this Psalm saith, "O God, who shall be like unto Thee?" (ver. 1). Which I suppose to be more fitly taken of Christ, because, being made in the likeness of men,(2) He was thought by those by whom He was despised to be comparable to other men: for He was even "reckoned among the unrighteous,"(3) but for this purpose, that He might be judged. But when He shall come to judge, then shall be done what is here said, "O God, who is like unto Thee?" For if the Psalms did not use to speak to the Lord Christ, that too would not be spoken which not one of the faithful can doubt was spoken unto Christ. "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom."(4) To him therefore also now it is said, "O God, who shall be like unto Thee?" For unto many Thou didst vouchsafe to be likened in Thy humiliation, even so far as to the robbers that were crucified with Thee: but when in glory Thou shalt come, "who shall be like unto Thee?" ...
3. "For lo Thine enemies have sounded, and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head" (ver. 2). He seems to me to signify the last days, when these things that are now repressed by fear are to break forth into free utterance, but quite irrational, so that it should rather be called a "sound," than speech or discourse. They will not, therefore, then begin to hate, but "they that hate Thee" will then "lift up the head." And not "heads," but "head;" since they are to come even to that point, that they shall have that head, which "is lifted up above all that is called God, and that is worshipped;"(5) so that in him especially is to be fulfilled, "He that exalteth himself shall be abased;"(6) and when He to whom it is said, "Keep not silence, nor grow mild, O God," shall "slay him with the breath of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming."(7) "Upon Thy people they have malignantly taken counsel" (ver. 3). Or, as other copies have it, "They have cunningly devised counsel, and have devised against Thy saints." In scorn this is said. For how should they be able to hurt the nation or people of God, or His saints, who know how to say, "If God be for us, who shall be against us?"(8)
4. "They have said, Come, and let us destroy them from a nation" (ver. 4). He has put the singular number for the plural: as it is said, "Whose is this cattle," even though the question be of a flock, and the meaning "these cattle." Lastly, other copies have "from nations," where the translators have rather followed the sense than the word. "Come, and let us destroy them from a nation." This is that sound whereby they "sounded" rather than spake, since they did vainly make a noise with vain sayings. "And let it not be mentioned of the name of Israel any more." This others have expressed more plainly," and let there not be remembrance of the name of Israel any more." Since, "let it be mentioned of the name" (memoretur nominis), is an unusual phrase in the Latin language; for it is rather customary to say, "let the name be mentioned" (memoretur nomen); but the sense is the same. For he who said, "let it be mentioned of the name," translated the Greek phrase. But Israel must here be understood in fact of the seed of Abraham, to which the Apostle saith, "Therefore ye are the seed of Abraham, according to the promise heirs."(1) Not Israel according to the flesh, of which he saith," Behold Israel after the flesh."
5. "Since they have imagined with one consent; together against Thee have they disposed a testament" (ver. 5): as though they could be the stronger. In fact, "a testament" is a name given in the Scriptures not only to that which is of no avail till the death of the testators, but every convenant and decree they used to call a testament. For Laban and Jacob made a testament,(2) which was certainly to have force between the living; and such cases without number are read in the words of God. Then he begins to make mention of the enemies of Christ, under certain proper names of nations; the interpretation of which names sufficiently indicates what he would have to be understood. For by such names are most suitably figured the enemies of the truth. "Idumaeans," for instance, are interpreted either "men of blood," or "of earth." "Ismaelites," are "obedient to themselves," and therefore not to God, but to themselves. "Moab," "from the father;" which in a bad sense has no better explanation, than by considering it so connected with the actual history, that Lot, a father, by the illicit intercourse procured by his daughter, begat him; since it was from that very circumstance he was so named.(3) Good, however, was his father, but as "the Law is good if one use it lawfully,"(4) not impurely and unlawfully. "Hagarens," proselytes, that is strangers, by which name also are signified, among the enemies of God's people, not those who become citizens, but those who persevere in a foreign and alien mind, and when an opportunity of doing harm occurs, show themselves. "Gebal," "a vain valley," that is, humble in pretence. "Amon," "an unquiet people," or "a people of sadness." "Amalech," "a people licking;" whence elsewhere it is said, "and his enemies shall lick the earth."(5) The "alien race," though by their very name in Latin, they sufficiently show themselves to be aliens, and for this cause of course enemies, yet in the Hebrew are called "Philistines," which is explained, "falling from drink," as of persons made drunken by worldly luxury. "Tyre" in Hebrew is called Sor; which whether it be interpreted straitness or tribulation, must be taken in the case of these enemies of God's people in that sense, of which the Apostle speaks, "Tribulation and straitness on every soul of man that doeth evil."(6) All these are thus enumerated in the Psalms: "The tabernacles of the Edomites, Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagarenes, Gebal, and Amon, and Amalech, and the Philistines with those who inhabit Tyre."
6. And as if to point out the cause why they are enemies of God's people, he adds, "For Assur came with them." Now Assur is often used figuratively for the devil, "who works in the children of disobedience,"(7) as in his own vessels, that they may assail the people of God. "They have holpen the children of Lot," he saith: for all enemies, by the working in them of the devil, their prince, "have holpen the children of Lot," who is explained to mean "one declining." But the apostate angels are well explained as the children of declension, for by declining from truth they swerved to become followers of the devil. These are they of whom the Apostle speaks: "Ye wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."(8) Those invisible(9) enemies are holpen then by unbelieving men, in whom they work in order to assail the people of God.
7. Now let us see what the prophetic spirit prays may fall upon them, rather foretelling than cursing. "Do thou to them," he saith, "as unto Madian and Sisera, as unto Jabin at the brook of Kishon" (ver. 9). "They perished at Endor, they became as the dung of the earth"(ver. 10). All these, the history relates, were subdued and conquered by Israel, which then was the people of God: as was the case also with those whom he next mentions: "Make their princes like Oreb and Zeb, and Zebee and Salmana"(ver. 11). The meaning of these names is as follows: Madian is explained a perverted judgment: Sisera, shutting out of joy: Jabin, wise.(10) But in these enemies conquered by God's people is to be understood that wise man of whom the Apostle speaketh, "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?"(11) Oreb is dryness, Zeb, wolf, Zebee, a victim, namely of the wolf; for he too has his victims; Salmana, shadow of commotion. All these agree to the evils which the people of God conquer by good. Moreover Kishon, the torrent in which they were conquered, is explained, their hardness. Endor, where they perished, is explained, the Fountain of generation, but of the carnal generation namely, to which they were given up, and therefore perished, not heeding the regeneration which leadeth unto life, where they shall neither marry nor be given in marriage,(1) for they shall die no more. Rightly then it is said of these: "they became as the dung of the earth," in that nothing was produced of them but fruitfulness of the earth. As then all these were in figure conquered by the people of God, as figures, so he prays that those other enemies may be conquered in truth.
8. "All their princes, who said, Let us take to ourselves the sanctuary of God in possession" (ver. 12). This is that vain noise, with which, as said above, Thy enemies have made a murmuring. But what must be understood by "the sanctuary of God," except the temple of God? as saith the Apostle: "For the temple of God is holy,(2) which temple ye are."(3) For what else do the enemies aim at, but to take into possession, that is, to make subject to themselves the temple of God, that it may give in to their ungodly wills?
9. But what follows? "My God, make them like unto a wheel" (ver. 13). This is fitly taken as meaning that they should be constant in nothing that they think; but I think it may also be rightly explained, make them like unto a wheel, because a wheel is lifted up on the part of what is behind,(4) is thrown down on the part of what is in front; and so it happens to all the enemies of the people of God. For this is not a wish, but a prophecy. He adds: "as the stubble in the face of the wind." By face he means presence; for what face hath the wind, which has no bodily features, being only a motion, in that it is a kind of wave of air? But it is put for temptation, by which light and vain hearts are hurried away.
10. This levity, by which consent is easily given to what is evil, is followed by severe torment; therefore he proceeds:--
"Like as the fire that burneth up the wood, and as the flame that consumeth the mountains" (ver. 14): "so shall Thou persecute them with Thy tempest, and in Thy anger shalt disturb them" (ver. 15). Wood, he saith, for its barrenness, mountains for their loftiness; for such are the enemies of God's people, barren of righteousness, full of pride. When he says, "fire" and "flame," he means to repeat under another term, the idea of God judging and punishing. But in saying, "with Thy tempest," he means, as he goes on to explain, "Thy anger:" and the former expression, "Thou shall persecute," answers to, "Thou shalt disturb." We must take care, however, to understand, that the anger of God is free from any turbulent emotion; for His anger is an expression for His just method of taking vengeance: as the law might be said to be angry when its ministers are moved to punish by its sanction.
11. "Fill their faces with shame, and they shall seek Thy name, O Lord" (ver. 16). Good and desirable is this which he prophesieth for them: and he would not prophesy thus, unless there were even in that company of the enemies of God's people, some men of such kind that this would be granted to them before the last judgment: for now they are mixed together, and this is the body of the enemies, in respect of the envy whereby they rival the people of God. And now, where they can, they make a noise and lift up their head: but severally, not universally as they will do at the end of the world, when the last judgment is about to fall. But it is the same body, even in those who out of this number shall believe and pass into another body (for the faces of these are filled with shame, that they may seek the name of the Lord), as well as in those others who persevere unto the end in the same wickedness, who are made as stubble before the wind, and are consumed like a wood and barren mountains. To these he again returns, saying, "They shall blush and be vexed for ever and ever" (ver. 17). For those are not vexed for ever and ever who seek the name of the Lord, but having respect unto the shame of their sins, they are vexed for this purpose, that they may seek the name of the Lord, through which they may be no more vexed.
12. Again, he returns to these last, who in the same company of enemies are to be made ashamed for this purpose, that they may not be ashamed for ever: and for this purpose to be destroyed in as far as they are wicked, that being made good they may be found alive for ever. For having said of them, "Let them be ashamed and perish," he instantly adds, "and let them know that Thy name is the Lord, Thou art only the Most Highest in all the earth" (ver. 18). Coming to this knowledge, let them be so confounded as to please God: let them so perish, as that they may abide. "Let them know," he says, "that Thy name is the Lord:" as if whoever else are called lords are named so not truly but by falsehood, for they rule but as servants, and compared with the true Lord are not lords; as it is said, I AM THAT I AM:(5) as if those things which are made are not, compared with Him by whom they are made. He adds, "Thou only art the Most Highest in all the earth:" or, as other copies have it, "over all the earth;" as it might be said, in all the heaven, or over all the heaven: but he used the latter word in preference, to depress the pride of earth. For earth ceaseth to be proud, that is, man ceaseth, to whom it was said, "Thou art dust;"(1) and "why is earth and ashes proud?"(2) when he saith that the Lord is the Most Highest above all the earth, that is, that no man's thoughts avail against those "who are called according to His purpose," and of whom it is said, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"(3)
1. This Psalm is entitled," For the winepresses." And, as you observed with me, my beloved (for I saw that you attended most closely), nothing is said in its text either of any press, or wine-basket, or vat, or of any of the instruments or the building of a winepress; nothing of this kind did we hear read; so that it is no easy question what is the meaning of this title inscribed upon it, "for the winepresses." For certainly, if after the title it mentioned anything about such things as I enumerated, carnal persons might have believed that it was a song concerning those visible wine-presses; but as it has this title, yet says nothing afterwards of those winepresses which we know so well, I cannot doubt that there are other wine-presses, which the Spirit of God intended us to look for and to understand here. Therefore, let us recall to mind what takes place in these visible winepresses, and see how this takes place spiritually in the Church. The grape hangs on the vines, and the olive on its trees. For it is for these two fruits that presses are usually made ready; and as long as they hang on their boughs, they seem to enjoy free air; and neither is the grape wine, nor the olive oil, before they are pressed. Thus it is with men whom God predestined before the world to be conformed to the image of His only-begotten Son,(5) who has been first and especially pressed in His Passion, as the great Cluster. Men of this kind, therefore, before they draw near to the service of God, enjoy in the world a kind of delicious liberty, like hanging grapes or olives: but as it is said, "My son, when thou drawest near to the service of God, stand in judgment and fear, and make thy soul ready for temptation:"(6) so each, as he draweth near to the service of God, findeth that he is come to the winepress; he shall undergo tribulation, shall be crushed, shall be pressed, not that he may perish in this world, but that he may flow down into the storehouses of God. He hath the coverings of carnal desires stripped off from him, like grape-skins: for this hath taken place in him in carnal desires, of which the Apostle speaks, "Put ye off the old man, and put on the new man."(7) All this is not done but by pressure: therefore the Churches of God of this time are called winepresses.
2. But who are we who are placed in the wine-presses? "Sons of Core." For this follows: "For the winepresses, to the sons of Core." The sons of Core has been explained, sons of the bald: as far as those could explain it to us, who know that language, according to their service due to God.(8) ...
3. But being placed under pressure, we are crushed for this purpose, that for our love by which we were borne towards those worldly, secular, temporal, unstable, and perishable things, having suffered in them, in this life, torments, and tribulations of pressures, and abundance of temptations, we may begin to seek that rest which is not of this life, nor of this earth; and the Lord becomes, as is written, "a refuge for the poor man."(9) What is, "for the poor man"? For him who is, as it were, destitute, without aid, without help, without anything on which he may rest, in earth. For to such poor men, God is present. For though men abound in money on earth, ... they are filled more with fear than with enjoyment. For what is so uncertain as a rolling thing? It is not unfitly that money itself is stamped round, because it remains not still. Such men, therefore, though they have something, are yet poor. But those who have none of this wealth, but only desire it, are counted also among rich men who will be rejected; for God takes account not of power, but of will. The poor then are destitute of all this world's substance, for even though it abounds around them, they know how fleeting it is; and crying unto God, having nothing in this world with which they may delight themselves, and be held down, placed in abundant pressures and temptations, as if in winepresses, they flow down, having become oil or wine. What are these latter but good desires? For God remains their only object of desire; now they love not earth. For they love Him who made heaven and earth; they love Him, and are not yet with Him. Their desire is delayed, in order that it may increase; it increases, in order that it may receive. For it is not any little thing that God will give to him who desires, nor does he need to be little exercised to be made fit to receive so great a good: not anything which He hath made will God give, but Himself who made all things. Exercise thyself to receive God: that which thou shalt have for ever, desire thou for a long time. ...
4. Wherefore, most beloved, as each can, make vows, and perform to the Lord God(1) what each can: let no one look back, no one delight himself with his former interests, no one turn away from that which is before to that which is behind: let him run until he arrive: for we run not with the feet but with the desire. But let no one in this life say that he hath arrived. For who can be so perfect as Paul?(2) Yet he saith, "Brethren, I count not myself to have attained."
5. If therefore thou feelest the passions of this world, even when thou art happy, thou understandest now that thou art in the winepress. ... If therefore the world smile upon thee with happiness, imagine thyself in the winepress, and say, "I found trouble and heaviness, and I did call upon the name of the Lord."(3) He said not, I found trouble, without meaning, of such a kind as was hidden: for some troubles are hidden from some in this world, who think they are happy while they are absent from God. "For as long as we are in the body," he saith, "we are absent from the Lord."(4) If thou wert absent from thy father, thou wouldest be unhappy: art thou absent from the Lord, and happy? There are then some who think it is well with them. But those who understand, that in whatever abundance of wealth and pleasures, though all things obey their beck, though nothing troublesome creep in, nothing adverse terrify, yet that they are in a bad case as long as they are absent from the Lord; with a most keen eye these have found trouble, and grief, and have called on the name of the Lord. Such is he who sings in this Psalm. Who is he? The Body of Christ. Who is that? You, if you will: all we, if we will: for Christ's Body is one. ...
"How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts" (ver. 1). He was in some tabernacles, that is, in winepresses: but he longed for other tabernacles, where is no pressure: in this he sighed for them, from these, he, as it were, flowed down into them by the channel of longing desire.
6. And what follows? "My soul longeth and faileth for the courts of the Lord" (ver. 2). It is not enough that it "longeth and faileth:" for what doth it fail? "For the courts of the Lord." The grape when pressed hath failed: but for what? So as to be changed into wine, and to flow into the vat, and into the rest of the storeroom, to be kept there in great quiet. Here it is longed for, there it is received: here are sighs, there joy: here prayers, there praises: here groans, there rejoicing. Those things which I mentioned, let no one while here turn from ashamed: let no one be unwilling to suffer. There is danger, lest the grape, while it fears the winepress, should be devoured by birds or by wild beasts. ...
7. Thou hast heard a groan in the winepress, "My soul longeth and faileth for the courts of the Lord:" hear how it holdeth out, rejoicing in hope: "My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God." Here they have rejoiced for that cause. Whence cometh rejoicing, but of hope? Wherefore have they rejoiced? "In the living God." What has rejoiced in thee? "My heart and my flesh." Why have they rejoiced? "For," saith he, "the sparrow hath found her a house, and the turtle-dove a nest, where she may lay her young" (ver. 3). What is this? He had named two things, and he adds two figures of birds which answer to them: he had said that his heart rejoiced and his flesh, and to these two he made the sparrow and turtle-dove to correspond: the heart as the sparrow, the flesh as the dove. The sparrow hath found herself a home: my heart hath found itself a home. She tries her wings in the virtues of this life, in faith, and hope, and charity, by which she may fly unto her home: and when she shall have come thither, she shall remain; and now the complaining voice of the sparrow, which is here, shall no longer be there. For it is the very complaining sparrow of whom in another Psalm he saith, "Like a sparrow alone on the housetop."(5) From the housetop he flies home. Now let him be on the housetop, treading on his carnal house: he shall have a heavenly house, a perpetual home: that sparrow shall make an end of his complaints. But to the dove he hath given young, that is, to the flesh: "the dove hath found a nest, where she may lay her young." The sparrow a home, the dove a nest, and a nest too where she may lay her young. A home is chosen as for ever, a nest is framed for a time: with the heart we think upon God, as if the sparrow flew to her home: with the flesh we do good works. For ye see how many good works are done by the flesh of the saints; for by this we work the things we are commanded to work, by which we are helped in this life. "Break thy bread to the hungry, and bring the poor and roofless into thy house; and if thou see one naked, clothe him:"(6) and other such things which are commanded us we work only through the flesh. ... We speak, brethren, what ye know: how many seem to do good works without the Church?(7) how many even Pagans feed the hungry, clothe the naked, receive the stranger, visit the sick, comfort the prisoner? how many do this? The dove seems, as it were, to bring forth young: but finds not herself a nest. How many works may heretics do not in the Church; they place not their young in a nest. They shall be trampled on and crushed: they shall not be kept, shall not be guarded. ...In that faith lay thy young: in that nest work thy works. For what the nests are, what that nest is, follows at once· Having said, And the dove hath found herself a nest, where she may lay her young; as if thou hadst asked, What nest? "Thy altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God." What is, "My King and my God?" Thou who rulest me, who hast created me.
8. ... "Blessed are those who dwell in Thy house" (ver. 4). ... If thou hast thy own house, thou art poor; if God's, thou art rich. In thy own house thou wilt fear robbers; of the house of God, He is Himself the wall. Therefore "blessed are those who dwell in Thy house." They possess the heavenly Jerusalem, without constraint, without pressure, without difference and division of boundaries; all have it, and each have all. Great are those riches· Brother crowdeth not brother: there is no want there. Next, what will they do there? For among men it is necessity which is the mother of all employments. I have already said, in brief, brethren, run in your mind through any occupations, and see if it is not necessity alone which produces them. Those very eminent arts which seem so powerful in giving help to others, the art of speaking in their defence or of medicine in healing, for these are the most excellent employments in this life; take away litigants, who is there for the advocate to help? take away wounds and diseases? what is there for the physician to cure? And all those employments of ours which are required and done for our daily life, arise from necessity. To plough, to sow, to clear fallow ground, to sail; what is it which produces all these works, but necessity and want? Take away hunger, thirst, nakedness; who has need of all these things? ... For instance, the injunction, "Break thy bread to the hungry." For whom could you break bread, if there were nobody hungry? "Take in the roofless poor into thy house."(1) What stranger is there to take in, where all live in their own country? What sick person to visit, where they enjoy perpetual health? What litigants to reconcile, where there is everlasting peace? What dead to bury, where there is eternal life? None of those honourable actions which are common to all men will then be your employment, nor any of these good works; the young swallows will then fly out of their nest.
What then? You have said already what we shall have; "Those who dwell in Thy house are blessed." Say now what they shall do, for I see not then any need to induce me to action. Even what I am now saying and arguing springs from some need. Will there be any such argument there to teach the ignorant, or remind the forgetful? Or will the Gospel be read in that country where the Word of God Itself shall be contemplated? ... "They shall be always praising Thee." This shall be our whole duty, an unceasing Hallelujah. Think not, my brethren, that there will be any weariness there: if ye are not able to endure long here in saying this, it is because(2) some want draws you away from that enjoyment. If what is not seen gives not so much joy here, if with so much eagerness under the pressure and weakness of the flesh we praise that which we believe, how shall we praise that which we see? "When death shall be swallowed up in victory, when this mortal shall have put on immortality,"(3) no one will say, "I have been standing a long time;" no one will say, "I have fasted a long time," "I have watched a long time." For there shall be great endurance, and our immortal bodies shall be sustained in contemplation of God. And if the word which we now dispense to you keeps your weak flesh standing so long, what will be the effect of that joy? how will it change us? "For we shall be like Him, since we shall see Him as He is."(4) Being made like Him, when shall we ever faint? what shall draw us off? Brethren, we shall never be satiated with the praise of God, with the love of God. If love could fail, praise could fail. But if love be eternal, as there will there be beauty inexhaustible, fear not lest thou be not able to praise for ever Him whom thou shalt be able to love for ever. For this life let us sigh.
9. But how shall we come thither? "Happy is the man whose strength is in Thee"(ver. 5). He knew where he was, and that by reason of the frailty of his flesh he could not fly to that state of blessedness: he thought upon his own burden, as it is said elsewhere; "For the corruptible body weighs down the soul, and the earthly house depresses the understanding which has many thoughts."(5) The Spirit calls upward, the weight of the flesh calls back again downward: between the double effort to raise and to weigh down, a kind of struggle ensues: this struggle goes toward the pressure of the wine-press. Hear how the Apostle describes this same struggle of the winepress, for he was himself afflicted there, there he was pressed. ... "Miserable man that I am: who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord."(1) ... "For I delight in the Law of God according to the inner man." But what shall I do? how shall I fly? how shall I arrive thither? "I see another law in my members," etc. ... And as in the words of the Apostle, that difficulty and that almost inextricable struggle is alleviated by the addition, "The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord;" so here, when he sighed in the ardent longing for the house of God, and those praises of God, and when a kind of despair arose at the feeling of the burden of the body and the weight of the flesh, again he awoke to hope, and said (ver. 5), "Blessed is the man whose taking up is in Thee."
10. What then does God supply by His grace to him whom He taketh hold of to lead him on? He goes on to say: "He hath placed steps(3) in his heart." ... Where does it place steps? "In his heart, in the valley of weeping" (ver. 6). So here thou hast for a winepress the valley of weeping, the very pious tears in tribulation are the new wine of those that love. ...They went forth "weeping," he says, "casting their seed."(4) Therefore, by the grace of God may upward steps be placed in thy heart. Rise by loving. Hence the Psalm "of degrees" is called. ... "He hath placed steps of ascent to the place which He hath appointed" (ver. 7). Now we lament; whence proceed our lamentations, but from that place where the steps of our ascent are placed? Whence comes our lamentation, but from that cause wherefore the Apostle exclaimed that he was a wretched man, because he saw another law in his members, warring against the law in his mind?(5) And whence does this proceed? From the penalty of sin. And we thought that we could easily be righteous as it were by our own strength, before we received the command; "but when the command came, sin revived; but I died,"(6) saith the Apostle. For a law was given to men, not such as could save them at once, but it was to show them in what severe sickness they were lying. ... But when sin was made manifest by the law given, sin was but increased, for it is both sin, and against the Law; "Sin," saith he, "taking occasion by the command, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence."(7) What does he mean by "taking occasion by the law"? Having received the command, men tried as by their own strength to obey it; conquered by lust, they became guilty of transgression of this very command also. But what saith the Apostle? "Where sin abounded, grace hath much more abounded;"(8) that is, the disease increased, the medicine became of more avail. Accordingly, my brethren, did those five porches of Solomon, in the middle of which the pool lay, heal the sick at all? The sick, says the Evangelist, lay in the five porches.(9) In the Gospel we have and read it. Those five porches are the law in the five books of Moses. For this cause the sick were brought forth from their houses that they might lie in the porches. So the law brought the sick men forth, but did not heal them: but by the blessing of God the water was disturbed, as by an Angel descending into it. At the sight of the water troubled, the one person who was able, descended and was healed. That water surrounded by the five porches, was the people of the Jews shut up in their law. The Lord came and disturbed this people, so that He Himself was slain. For if the Lord had not troubled the Jews by coming down to them, would He have been crucified? So that the troubled water signified the Passion of the Lord, which arose from His troubling the Jewish people. The sick man who believeth in this Passion, like him who descended into the troubled water, is healed thereby. He whom the Law could not heal, that is, while he lay in the porches, is healed by grace, by faith in the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. ...
11. "He shall give blessing," saith he, "who gave the law." ... Grace shall come after the law, grace itself is the blessing. And what has that grace and blessing given unto us? "They shall go from virtue to virtue." For here by grace many virtues are given. "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith, to another the gift of healing, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues, to another prophecy."(10) Many virtues, but necessary for this life; and from these virtues we go on to "a virtue." To what "virtue"? To "Christ the Virtue of God and the Wisdom of God."(11) He giveth different virtues in this place, who for all the virtues which are necessary and useful in this valley of weeping shall give one virtue, Himself. For in Scripture and in many writers four virtues are described useful for life: prudence, by which we discern between good and evil; justice, by which we give each person his due, "owing no man anything,"(12) but loving all men: temperance, by which we restrain lusts; fortitude, by which we bear all troubles. These virtues are now by the grace of God given unto us in the valley of weeping: from these virtues we mount unto that other virtue. And what will that be, but the virtue of the contemplation of God alone? ... It follows in that place: "They shall go from virtue to virtue." What virtue? That of contemplation. What is contemplation? "The God of Gods shall appear in Sion." The God of Gods, Christ of the Christians. ... When all is finished, that mortality makes necessary, He shall appear to the pure in heart, as He is, "God with God," The Word with the Father, "by which all things were made."
12. And again, from the thought of those joys he returns to his own sighs. He sees what has come before in hope, and where he is in reality. ... Therefore returning to the groans proper to this place, he saith, "O Lord God of virtues, hear my prayer: hearken, O God of Jacob" (ver. 8): for Jacob himself also Thou hast made Israel out of Jacob. For God appeared unto him, and he was called Israel,(1) seeing God. Hear me therefore, O God of Jacob, and make me Israel. When shall I become Israel? When the God of Gods shall appear in Sion.
13. "Behold, O God our defender. And look on the face of Thy Christ" (ver. 9). For when doth God not look upon the face of His Christ? What is this, "Look on the face of Thy Christ"? By the face we are known What is it then, Look on the face of Thy Christ? Cause Thy Christ to become known to all. Look on the face of Thy Christ: let Christ become known to all, that we may be able to go from strength to strength, that grace may abound, since sin hath abounded.
14. "For one day in Thy courts is better than a thousand" (ver. 10). Those courts they were for which he sighed, for which he fainted. "My soul longeth and faileth for the courts of the Lord:"(2) one day there is better than a thousand days. Men long for thousands of days, and wish to live here long: let them despise these thousands of days, let them long for one day, which has neither rising nor setting: one day, an everlasting day, to which no yesterday yields, which no to-morrow presses. Let this one day be longed for by us. What have we to do with a thousand days? We go from the thousand days to one day; let us hasten to that one day,(3) as we go from strength to strength.
15. "I have chosen to be cast away in the house of the Lord, rather than to dwell in the tents of sinners" (ver. 11). For he found the valley of weeping, he found humility by which he might rise: he knoweth that if he would raise himself he shall fall, if he humble himself he shall be exalted: he hath chosen to be cast away, that he may be raised up. How many beside this tabernacle of the Lord's winepress, that is beside the Catholic Church, wishing to be lifted up, and loving their honours, refuse to see the truth. If this verse had been in their heart, would they not cast away honours, and run to the valley of weeping, and hence find in their heart the way of ascent, and hence go from virtues to virtue, placing their hope in Christ, not in some man or another? A good word is this, a word to rejoice in, a word to be chosen. He himself chose to be cast away in the house of the Lord; but He who invited him to the feast, when he chose a lower place calleth him to a higher one, and saith unto him, "Go up higher."(4) Yet he chose not but to be in the house of the Lord, in any part of it, so that he were not outside the threshold.
16. Wherefore did he choose? ... "Because God loveth mercy and truth" (ver. 12). The Lord loveth mercy, by which He first came to my help: He loveth truth, so as to give to him that believeth what He has promised.(5) Hear in the case of the Apostle Paul, His mercy and truth, Paul who was first Saul the persecutor. He needed mercy, and he has said that it was shown towards him: "I who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, that in me Christ Jesus might show forth all longsuffering towards those who shall believe in Him unto life eternal."(6) So that, when Paul received pardon of such great crimes, no one should despair of any sins whatever being forgiven him. Lo! Thou hast Mercy. ... Lo, we see that Paul holdeth Him a debtor, having received mercy, demanding truth. The Lord, he says, shall give back in that day. What shall He give thee back, but that which He oweth thee? How oweth He unto thee? What hast thou given Him? "Who hath first given unto Him, and it shall be restored to him again."(5) The Lord Himself hath made Himself a debtor, not by receiving, but by promising: it is not said unto Him, Restore what Thou hast received: but, Restore what Thou hast promised. He hath shown mercy unto me, he saith, that He might make me innocent: for before I was a blasphemer and injurious: but by His grace I have been made innocent. But He who first showed mercy, can He deny His debt? "He loveth mercy and truth. He will give grace and glory." What grace, but that of which the same one said: "By the grace of God I am what I am"?(7) What glory, but that of which he said, "There is laid up. for me a crown of glory"?(8)
17. Therefore "the Lord will not withhold good from those who walk in innocence" (ver. 12). Why then, O men, are ye unwilling to keep innocence, except in order that ye may have good things? ... Thou seest wealth in the hands of robbers, of the impious, the wicked, the base; in the hands of scandalous and criminal men thou seest wealth: God giveth them these things on account of their fellowship in the human race, for the abundant overflowing of His goodness: who also "maketh His sun to rise upon the good and the evil, and causeth it to rain upon the righteous and upon the sinners."(1) Giveth He so much to the wicked, and keepeth nothing for thee? He keepeth something: be at ease, He who had mercy on thee when thou wast impious, doth He desert thee when thou hast become pious? He who gave to the sinner the free gift of His Son's death, what keepeth He for the saved through that death? Therefore be at ease. Hold Him a debtor, for thou hast believed in Him promising. What then remains for us here, in the winepress, in affliction, in hardship, in our present dangerous life? What remains for us, that we may arrive thither? "O Lord God of virtues, blessed is the man that putteth his hope in Thee."
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