EXPOSITIONS ON THE BOOK OF PSALMS.
[Translated by the Rev. J. E. Tweed, M.A., chaplain of Christ Church, Oxford; T. Scratton, Esq., M.A., of Christ Church; the Rev. H.M. Wilkins, M.A., of Merton College, Oxford; the Rev. Charles Marriot, of Oriel College; the Rev. H. Walford, Vice-Principal of St. Edmund's Hall; at least one anonymous contributor. Abridged from the six volumes of the Oxford Series by A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D.]
PSALMS 86-89: THE END OF THE 3RD BOOK OF THE PSALMS. PSALMS 90-94: THE BEGINNING OF THE 4TH BOOK OF THE PSALMS.
1. No greater gift could God have given to men than in making His Word, by which He created all things, their Head, and joining them to Him as His members: that the Son of God might become also the Son of man, one God with the Father, one Man with men; so that when we speak to God in prayer for mercy, we do not separate the Son from Him; and when the Body of the Son prays, it separates not its Head from itself: and it is one Saviour of His Body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who both prays for us, and prays in us, and is prayed to by us. He prays for us, as our Priest; He prays in us, as our Head; He is prayed to by us, as our God. Let us therefore recognise in Him our words, and His words in us. Nor when anything is said of our Lord Jesus Christ, especially in prophecy, implying a degree of humility below the dignity of God, let us hesitate to ascribe it to Him who did not hesitate to join Himself unto us. ... He is prayed to in the form of God, in the form of a servant He prayeth; there the Creator, here created; assuming unchanged the creature, that it might be changed, and making us with Himself one Man, Head and Body. Therefore we pray to Him, through Him, in Him; and we speak with Him, and He speaks with us; we speak in Him, He speaks in us the prayer of this Psalm, which is entitled," A Prayer of David." For our Lord was, according to the flesh, the son of David; but according to His divine nature, the Lord of David, and his Maker. ... Let no one then, when he hears these words, say, Christ speaketh not; nor again say, I speak not; nay rather, if he own himself to be in the Body of Christ, let him say both, Christ speaks, and I speak. Be thou unwilling to say anything without Him, and He saith nothing without thee. ...
2. "Bow down Thine ear, O Lord, and hear me" (ver. 1). He speaks in the form of a servant: speak thou, O servant, in the form of thy Lord: "Bow down Thine ear, O Lord." He bows down His ear, if thou dost not lift up thy neck: for unto the humble He draweth near: from him that is exalted He removes afar off, except whom He Himself hath exalted from being humble, God then bows down His ear unto us. For He is above, we below: He in a high place, we in a lowly one, yet not deserted. "For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. For scarcely for a just man will one die: yet for a good man peradventure one would even dare to die:"(1) but our Lord died for the wicked. For no merits of ours had gone before, for which the Son of God should die: but the more, because there were no merits, was His mercy great. How sure then, how firm is the promise, by which for the righteous He keepeth His life, who for the wicked gave His own death "For I am poor and in misery." To the rich then He boweth not down His ear: unto the poor and him that is in misery He boweth down His ear, that is, unto the humble, and him that confesseth, unto him that is in need of mercy: not unto him that is full, who lifteth up himself and boasteth, as if he wanted nothing, and saith, "I thank Thee that I am not as this Publican." For the rich Pharisee boasted of his merits: the poor Publican confessed his sins.(2)
3. Yet do not take what I have said, my brethren, in such a way, as if God does not hear those who have gold and silver, and a household, and farms, if they happen to be born to this estate, or hold such a rank in the world: only let them remember the Apostle's words: "Charge those who are rich in this world, that they be not highminded."(3) For those that are not high-minded are poor in God, and to the poor and needy and those in want He inclines His ear. For they know that their hope is not in gold and silver, nor in those things in which for a time they seem to abound. It is enough that riches ruin them not; it is enough that they do them no harm: for good they can do them none. What certainly profiteth is a work of mercy, done by a rich or by a poor man: by a rich man, with will and deed; by a poor man, with will alone. When therefore he is such an one as despiseth in himself everything which is wont to swell men with pride, he is one of God's poor: He inclines unto him His ear, for He knows that his heart is contrite. ... Was it really for the merit of his poverty that the poor man was carried away by Angels,(4) or was it for the sin of his riches that the rich man was sent away to be tormented? In that poor man is signified the honour which is paid to humility, in that rich man the condemnation which awaits pride. I will prove shortly that it was not riches but pride which was tormented in that rich man. It is certain that the poor man was carried into the bosom of Abraham: of Abraham himself Scripture saith that he had here very much gold and silver, and was rich on the earth.(5) If every one that is rich is hurried away to be tormented, how could Abraham have gone before that poor man, so as to be ready to receive him when carried to his bosom? But Abraham in his riches was poor, humble, reverencing all commands, and obeying them. So true was it that he counted all those riches for nothing, that on God's command he was ready to sacrifice his son,(6) for whom he was keeping his riches. Learn therefore ye to be poor and needy, whether ye have anything in this world, or whether ye have not. ...
4. "Preserve Thou My Soul, for I am holy" (ver. 2). I know not whether any one could say this, "I am holy," but He who was in the world without sin: He by whom all sins were not committed but remitted.(1) We own it to be His voice saying, "Preserve Thou My Soul, for I am holy;" of course in that form of a servant which He had assumed. For in that was flesh, in that, was also a Soul. For He was not, as some(2) have said, only Flesh and the Word: but Flesh and Soul also, and the Word, and all this, One Son of God, One Christ, One Saviour; in the forth of God equal to the Father, in the form of a servant the Head of the Church. When therefore I hear, "for I am holy," I recognise His voice: yet do I exclude my own? Surely He speaks inseparably from His body when He speaks thus. Shall I then dare to say, "For I am holy"? If holy as making holy, and as needing none to sanctify, I should be proud and false: but if holy as made holy, as it is written, "Be ye holy, for I am holy,"(3) then the body of Christ may venture, and that one Man "crying from the end of the earth,"(4) may venture with his Head, and under his Head, to say, "For I am holy." For he hath received the grace of holiness, the grace of Baptism, and of remission of sins.(5) ... Say unto thy God, I am holy, for Thou hast sanctified me: because I received, not because I had: because Thou gavest, not because I deserved. For on another side thou art beginning to do an injury to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. For if all Christians who are faithful and have been baptized in Him have put Him on, as the Apostle saith, "As many as are baptized in Christ have put on Christ:"(6) if they have been made members of His body, and say that they are not holy, they do injury to their Head, of whom they are members, and yet not holy. Look thou where thou art and from thy Head assume dignity. For thou weft in darkness, "but now light in the Lord."(7) "Ye were sometime darkness," he saith: but did ye remain darkness? Was it for this the Enlightener came, that ye might still remain darkness, or that in Him ye might become light? Therefore, every Christian by himself, therefore also the whole body of Christ, may say, it may cry everywhere, while it suffers tribulations, various temptations and offences, it may say, "Preserve Thou my soul, for I am holy: my God, save Thy servant, that putteth his trust in Thee." See thou, that holy man is not proud, since he putteth his trust in God.
5. "Be merciful unto me, O Lord, for I have cried unto Thee all day" (ver. 3). Not "one day:" understand "all day" to mean continually: from the time that the body of Christ groans being in afflictions, until the end of the world, when afflictions pass away, that man groaneth and calleth upon God: and each one of us after his measure hath his part in that cry in the whole body. Thou hast cried in thy days, and thy days have passed away: another hath come after thee, and cried in his days: and thou here, he there, another elsewhere: the body of Christ crieth all the day, its members departing and succeeding one another. One Man it is that reaches to the end of the world: the same members of Christ cry, and some members already rest in Him, some still cry, some when we shall be at rest will cry, and after them others will cry. It is the whole body of Christ whose voice He hears, saying, "Unto Thee have I cried all the day." Our Head on the right hand of the Father intercedes for us: some members He recovereth, others He scourgeth, others He cleanseth, others He comforteth, others He is creating, others calling, others recalling, others correcting, others restoring.
6. "Make glad the soul of Thy servant: for unto Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul" (ver. 4). Make it glad, for unto Thee have I lifted it up. For it was on earth, and from the earth it felt bitterness: lest it should wither away in bitterness, lest it should lose all the sweetness of Thy grace, I lifted it up unto Thee: make Thou it glad with Thyself. For Thou alone art gladness: the whole world is full of bitterness. Surely with reason He admonishes His members to lift up their hearts. May they hear and do it: may they lift up unto Him what on earth is ill. There the heart decayeth not, if it be lifted up to God. It thou hadst corn in thy rooms below, thou wouldest take it up higher, lest it should grow rotten. Wouldest thou remove thy corn, and dost thou suffer thy heart to rot on the earth? Thou wouldest take thy corn up higher: lift up thy heart to heaven. And how can I, dost thou say? What ropes are needed? what machines? what ladders? Thy affections are the steps: thy will the way. By loving thou mountest, by neglect thou descendest. Standing on the earth thou art in heaven, if thou lovest God. For the heart is not so raised as the body is raised: the body to be lifted up changes its place: the heart to be lifted up changes its will.
7. "For Thou, Lord, art good and gracious" (ver. 5). ...Even prayers are often hindered by vain thoughts, so that the heart scarcely remains fixed on God: and it would hold itself I so as to be fixed, and somehow flees from itself, and finds no frames in which it can enclose itself, no bars by which it may keep in its flights and wandering movements, and stand still to be made glad by its God. Scarcely does one such prayer occur amongst many. Each one might say that this happened to him, but that it happened not to others, if we did not find in the holy Scripture David praying in a certain place, and saying, "Since I have found my heart, O Lord, so that I might pray unto Thee."(1) He said that he had found his heart, as if it were wont to flee from him, and he to follow it like a fugitive, and not be able to catch it, and to cry to God, "For my heart hath deserted me."(2) Therefore, my brethren, thinking over what he saith here, I think I see what he meaneth by "gracious." I seem to feel that for this reason he calls God gracious, because He bears with those failings of ours, and yet expects prayer from us, in order to make us perfect: and when we have given it to Him, He receives it gratefully, and listens to it, and remembers not those many prayers which we pour out unthinkingly, and accepts the one which we can scarcely find. For what man is there, my brethren, who, on being addressed by his friend, when he wishes to answer his address, sees his friend turn away from him and speak to another, who is there who would bear this? Or if you appeal to a judge, and set him up to hear you, and all at once, while you are speaking to him, pass from him, and begin to converse with your friend, who would endure this? Yet God endures the hearts of so many persons who pray and think of different things. ... What then? Must we despair of mankind, and say that every man is already condemned into whose prayers any wandering thoughts have crept and interrupted them? If we say this, my brethren, I know not what hope remains. Therefore because there is some hope before God, because His mercy is great, let us say unto Him, "For unto Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul." And how have I lifted it up? As I could, as Thou gavest me strength, as I could catch it when it fled away. ... From infirmity I sink: heal Thou me, and I shall stand: strengthen Thou me, and I shall be strong. But until Thou do this, Thou bearest with me: "For Thou, Lord, art good and gracious, and of great mercy." That is, not only "of mercy," but "of great mercy:" for as our iniquity abounds, so also aboundeth Thy mercy. "Unto all that call upon Thee." What is it then which Scripture saith in many places: "They shall call, and I will not hear them"?(3) Yet surely Thou art merciful to all that call upon Thee; but that some call, yet call not upon Him, of whom it is said, "They have not called upon God."(4) They call, but not on God. Thou callest upon whatever thou lovest: thou callest upon whatever thou callest unto thyself, whatever thou wishest to come unto thee. Therefore if thou callest upon God for this reason, in order that money may come unto thee, that an inheritance may come unto thee, that worldly rank may come unto thee, thou callest upon those things which thou desirest may come unto thee: but thou makest God the helper of thy desires, not the listener to thy needs. God is good, if He gives what thou wishest. What if thou wishest ill, will He not then be more merciful by not giving? Then, if He gives not, then is God nothing to thee; and thou sayest, How much I have prayed, how often I have prayed, and have not been heard! Why, what didst thou ask? Perhaps that thy enemy might die. What if he at the same time were praying for thy death? He who created thee, created him also: thou art a man, he too is a man; but God is the Judge: He hears both, and He grants their prayer to neither. Thou art sad, because thou wast not heard when praying against him; be glad, because his prayer was not heard against thee. But thou sayest, I did not ask for this; I asked not for the death of my enemy, but for the life of my child; what ill did I ask? Thou askedst no ill, as thou didst think. What if "he was taken away, lest wickedness should alter his understanding."(5) But he was a sinner, thou sayest, and therefore I wished him to live, that he might be corrected. Thou wishedst him to live, that he might become better; what if God knew, that if he lived he would become worse? ... If, therefore, thou callest on God as God, be confident thou shalt be heard: thou hast part in that verse: "And of great mercy unto all that call upon Thee." ...
8. Think, brethren, and reflect what good things God giveth unto sinners: and learn hence what He keepeth for His own servants. To sinners who blaspheme Him every day He giveth the sky and the earth, He giveth springs, fruits, health, children, wealth, abundance: all these good things none giveth but God. He who giveth such things to sinners, what thinkest thou He keeps for His faithful ones? Is this to be believed of Him, that He who giveth such things to the bad, keepeth nothing for the good? Nay verily He doth keep, not earth, but heaven for them. Too common a thing perhaps I say when I say heaven; Himself rather, who made the heaven. Fair is heaven, but fairer is the Maker of heaven. But I see the heavens, Him I see not. Because thou hast eyes to see the heavens: a heart thou hast not yet to see the Maker of heaven: therefore came He from heaven to earth, to cleanse the heart, that He may be seen who made heaven and earth. But wait thou with full patience for salvation. By what treatment to cure thee, He knoweth: by what cutting, what burning, He knoweth. Thou hast brought sickness on thyself by sinning: He comes not only to nurse, but also to cut and to burn. Seest thou not how much men suffer under the hands of physicians, when a man promises them an uncertain hope? Thou wilt be cured, says the physician: thou wilt be cured, if I cut. It is a man who speaks, and to a man that he speaks: neither is he sure who speaks, nor he who hears, for he who is speaking to the man hath not made man, and knows not perfectly what is passing in man: yet at the words of a man who knows not what is passing in man, man sooner believeth, submits his limbs, suffers himself to be bound, often without being bound is cut or burned; and receives perhaps health for a few days, even when just healed not knowing when he may die: perhaps, while being healed, dies; perhaps cannot be healed. But to whom hath God promised anything, and deceived him?
9 "Fix my prayer in Thy ears, O Lord" (ver. 6). Great earnestness of him who prays! That is, let not my prayer go out of Thine ears, fix it then in Thine ears. How did he travail that he might fix his prayer in the ears of God? Let God answer and say to us; Wouldest thou that I fix thy prayer in My ears? Fix My law in thy heart; "and attend to the voice of my prayer."
10. "In the day of my trouble I have cried unto Thee, for Thou hast heard me" (ver. 7). A little before he had said, All the day have I cried, all the day have I been troubled. Let no Christian then say that there is any day in which he is not troubled. By "all the day" we have understood the whole of time. What then, is there trouble even when it is well with us? Even so, trouble. How is there trouble? Because "as long as we are in the body we are absent from the Lord."(1) Let what will abound here, we are not yet in that country whither we are hastening to return. He to whom foreign travel is sweet, loveth not his country: if his country is sweet, travel is bitter; if travel is bitter, all the day there is trouble. When is there not trouble? When there is joy in one's country. "At Thy right hand are delights for evermore."(2) "Thou shalt fill me with joy," he saith," with Thy countenance: that I may see the delight of the Lord."(3) There toil and groaning shall pass away: there shall be not prayer but praise; there Alleluia, there Amen, the voice in concord with Angels; there vision without failing and love without weariness. So long therefore as we are not there, ye see that we are not in that which is good. But do all things abound? If all things abound, see if thou art assured that all things perish not. But I have what I had not: more money is come to me which I had not before. Perhaps more fear too is come, which thou hadst not before: perhaps thou wast so much the more secure as thou wast the poorer. In fine, be it that thou hast wealth, that thou hast redundance of this world's affluence, that thou hast assurance given thee that all this shall not perish; besides this, that God say unto thee, Thou shalt remain for ever in these things, they shall be for ever with thee, but My face thou shalt not see. Let none ask counsel of the flesh: ask ye counsel of the Spirit: let your heart answer you; let hope, faith, charity, which has begun to be in you, answer. If then we were to receive assurance that we should always be in affluence of worldly goods, and if God were to say to us, My face ye shall not see, would ye rejoice in these goods? Some one might perhaps choose to rejoice, and say, These things abound unto me, it is well with me, I ask no more. He hath not yet begun to be a lover of God: he hath not yet begun to sigh like one far from home. Far be it, far be it from us: let them retire, all those seductions: let them retire, those false blandishments: let them be gone, those words which they say daily unto us, "Where is thy God?" Let us pour out our soul(4) over us,(5) let us confess in tears, let us groan in confession, let us sigh in misery. Whatever is present with us besides our God, is not sweet: we would not have all things that He hath given, if He gives not Himself who gave all things.
11. "Among the gods there is none like unto Thee, O Lord" (ver. 8). What did he say? "Among the gods," etc. Let the Pagans make for themselves what gods they will; let them bring workmen in silver and in gold, furbishers, sculptors; let them make gods. What kind of gods? Having eyes, and seeing not;(6) and the other things which the Psalm mentions in what follows. But we do not worship these, he says; we do not worship them, these are symbols. What then do ye worship? Something else that is worse: for the gods of the gentiles are devils. What then? Neither, say they, do we worship devils. Ye have certainly nothing else in your temples, nothing else inspires your prophets than a devil.(7) But what do ye say? We worship Angels, we have Angels as gods. Ye know not altogether what Angels are. Angels worship the one God, and favour not men who wish to worship Angels and not God. For we find Angels of high rank s forbidding men to adore them, and commanding them to adore the true God.(9) But when they say Angels, suppose they mean men, since it is said, "I have said, Ye are Gods, and all the children of the Most Highest."(10) Whatever(11) man thinks to the contrary, that which was made is not like Him who made it. Except God, whatever else there is in the universe was made by God. What a difference there is between Him who made, and that which was made, who can worthily imagine? Therefore this man said, "there is none like unto Thee, O Lord: there is not one that can do as thou doest." But how much God is unlike them he said not, because it cannot be said. Let your Charity attend: God is ineffable: we more easily say what He is not than what He is. Thou thinkest of the earth; this is not God: thou thinkest of the sea; this is not God: of all things which are in the earth, men and animals; this is not God: of all things which are in the sea, which fly through the air; this is not God: whatever shines in the sky, the stars, sun and moon; this is not God: the heaven itself; this is not God: think of the Angels, Virtues, Powers, Archangels, Thrones, Seats, Principalities; this is not God. What is He then? I could only tell thee, what He is not. Askest thou what He is? What "the eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, nor hath risen up into the heart of man."(1) ...
12. "All nations that Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord" (ver.9). He has announced the Church: "All nations." If there is any nation which God hath not made, it will not worship Him: but there is no nation which God hath not made; because God made Adam and Eve, the source of all nations, thence all nations sprang. All nations therefore hath God made. When was this said? When before Him there worshipped none but a few holy men in one people of the Hebrews, then this was said: and see now what it is which was said: "All nations that Thou hast made," etc. When these things were spoken, they were not seen, and they were believed: now that they are seen, why are they denied? "All nations that Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord, and shall glorify Thy Name."
13. "For Thou art great, and doing wondrous things: Thou alone art the great God" (ver. 10). Let no man call himself great. Some were to be who would call themselves great: against these it is said, "Thou alone art the great God." For what great thing is ascribed to God, when it is said that He alone is the great God? Who knows not that He is the great God? But because there were to be some who would call themselves great and make God little, against these it is said, "Thou alone art the great God." For what Thou sayest is fulfilled, not what those say who call themselves great. What hath God said by His Spirit? "All nations." What saith he, whoever he is, who calleth himself great? "Far from it: God is not worshipped in all nations: all nations have perished, Africa alone remains." This thou sayest, who callest thyself great:(2) another thing He saith who alone is the great God. What saith He, who alone is the great God? "All nations." I see what the only great God hath said: let man be silent, who is falsely great; great only in appearance, because he disdains to be small. Who disdains to be small? He who saith this. Whoever will be great among you, said the Lord, shall be your servant.(3) If that man had wished to be the servant of his brethren, he would not have separated them from their mother: but when he wishes to be great, and wishes not to be small, as would be for his welfare, God, who resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble,(4) because He alone is great, fulfilleth all things which He predicted, and contradicteth those who blaspheme. For such persons blaspheme against Christ, who say that the Church has perished from the whole world, and is left only in Africa. If thou wert to say to him, Thou wilt lose thy villa, he would perhaps scarcely keep from laying his hand upon thee: and yet he says, that Christ has lost His inheritance, redeemed by His own Blood! See now what a wrong he does, my brethren. The Scripture says, "In a wide nation is the king's honour; but in the domination of the people is the affliction s of a prince."(6) This wrong then thou dost unto Christ, to say that His people is diminished to that small number. Was it for this thou wast born, for this thou tallest thyself a Christian, that thou mayest grudge Christ His glory, whose sign thou sayest that thou bearest on thy forehead, and hast lost out of thy heart? In a wide nation is the king's honour: acknowledge thy King: give Him glory, give Him a wide nation. What wide nation shall I give Him, dost thou say? Choose not to give Him from thy own heart, and thou wilt give aright. Whence am I to give? thou wilt say. Lo, give from hence: "All nations that Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord." Say this, confess this, and thou hast given a wide nation: for all nations in One are one: this is very oneness. For as there is a Church and Churches, and those are Churches which also are a Church, so that is a nation which was nations: formerly nations, many nations, now one nation. Why one nation? Because one faith, one hope, one charity, one expectation. Lastly, why not one nation, if one country? Our country is heavenly, our country is Jerusalem: whoever is not a citizen of it, belongs not to that nation: but whoever is a citizen of it is in that one nation of God. And this nation, from the east to the west, from the north and the sea, is extended through the four quarters of the whole world. This God saith: From the east and west, from the north and the sea, give glory to God. This He foretold, this He fulfilled, who alone is great. Let him therefore who would not be little cease from saying this against Him who alone is great: for there cannot be two great, God and Donatus.(1)
14. "Lead me, O Lord, in Thy way, and I will walk in Thy truth" (ver. 11). Thy way, Thy truth, Thy life, is Christ. Therefore belongeth the Body to Him, and the Body is of Him. I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.(2) "Lead me, O Lord, in Thy way." In what way? "And I will walk in Thy truth." It is one thing to lead to the way, another to guide in the way. Behold man everywhere poor, everywhere in need of help. Those who are beside the way are not Christians, or not yet Catholics: let them be guided to the way: but when they have been brought to the way and made Catholics in Christ, they must be guided by Him in the way itself, lest they fall.(3) Now assuredly they walk in the way. "Lead me, O Lord, in Thy way:" surely I am now in Thy way, lead me there. "And I will walk in Thy truth:" while Thou leadest I shall not err: if Thou let me go, I shall err. Pray then that He let thee not go, but lead thee even to the end. How doth He lead thee? By always admonishing, always giving thee His hand. And the arm of the Lord, to whom is it revealed?(4) For in giving His Christ He giveth His hand: in giving His hand, He giveth His Christ. He leadeth to the way, in leading to His Christ: He leadeth in the way, by leading in His Christ, and Christ is truth. "Lead me," therefore, "O Lord, in Thy way, and I will walk in Thy truth:" in Him verily who said, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life."(2) For Thou who leadest in the way and the truth, whither leadest Thou, but unto life? In Him then, unto Him Thou leadest.
15. "Let my heart be made glad, so that it may fear Thy name." There is then fear in gladness. How can there be gladness, if fear? Is not fear wont to be painful? There will hereafter be gladness without fear, now gladness with fear; for not yet is there perfect security, nor perfect gladness. If there is no gladness, we faint: if full security, we rejoice wrongly. Therefore may He both sprinkle on us gladness, and strike fear into us, that by the sweetness of gladness He may lead us to the abode of security; by giving us fear, may cause us not to rejoice wrongly, and to withdraw from the way. Therefore saith the Psalm: "Serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling:"(5) so also saith the Apostle Paul; "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you."(6) Whatever prosperity comes then, my brethren, is rather to be feared: those things which ye think to be prosperous, are rather temptations. An inheritance cometh, there cometh wealth, there is an abundant overflow of some happiness: these are temptations: take care that they corrupt you not. Whatever prosperity also there is according to Christ, and the true love of Christ: if perhaps thou hast gained thy wife, who was of the party of Donatus: if thy sons have been made believers who were Pagans: if perhaps thou hast gained thy friend who wished to draw thee away to the theatres, and thou hast drawn him to the church: if some hostile opponent of thine who was furiously mad against thee, laying aside his fury, has become gentle, and owned God, and now barks at thee no more, but cries with thee against wickedness: these things are pleasant. For what do we rejoice for, if we do not rejoice for these things? Or what other are our joys, but these? But because tribulations also abound, and temptations, and dissensions, and schisms, and other evils,(7) without which this world cannot be, until iniquity pass away: let not that rejoicing make us secure, but let our heart be so made glad, as to fear the name of the Lord, lest it be made glad on one side, be stricken on another. Expect not security in journeying: if ever we wish for it here, it will be the birdlime of the body,(8) not the safety of the man. "Let my heart be made glad, so that it may fear Thy name."
16. "I will confess unto Thee, O Lord my God, in my whole heart, and I will glorify Thy name for ever" (ver. 12): "for great is Thy mercy toward me, and Thou hast delivered my soul from the nethermost hell" (ver. 13). Do not be angry, brethren, if I do not explain what I have said as though I were certain. For I am a man, and as much as is granted to me concerning the sacred Scriptures, so much I venture to speak: nothing of myself. Hades(9) I have not yet seen, nor have you: and there will be perhaps another way for us, and not through Hades. These things are uncertain. But because Scripture, which cannot be gainsaid, says, "Thou hast delivered my soul from the nether-most hell," we understand that there are as it were two hells, an upper one and a lower one: for how can there be a lower hell, unless because there is also an upper? The one would not be called lower, except by comparison with that upper part. It appears then, my brethren, that there is some heavenly abode of Angels: there is there a life of ineffable joys, there immortality and incorruption, there all things abiding according to the gift and grace of God. That part of the creation is above. If then that is above, but this earthly part, where is flesh and blood, where is corruptibleness, where is nativity and mortality, departure and succession, changeableness and inconstancy, where are fears, desires, horrors, uncertain joys, frail hope, perishable existence; I suppose that all this part cannot be compared with that heaven of which I was just now speaking; if then this part cannot be compared with that, the one is above, the other below. And whither do we go after death, unless there is a depth deeper than this depth(1) in which we are in the flesh and in this mortal state? For "the body is dead," saith the Apostle, "because of sin."(2) Therefore even here are the dead; that thou mayest not wonder because it is called infernum, if it abounds with the dead. For he saith not, the body is about to die: but, "the body is dead." Even now surely our body hath life: and yet compared with that body which is to be like the bodies of Angels, the body of man is found to be dead, although still having life. But again, from this infernum, that is from this part of Hades, there is another lower, whither the dead go: from whence God would rescue our souls, even sending thither His own Son. For it was on account of these two hells, my brethren, that the Son of God was sent, on all, sides setting free. To this hell he was sent by being born, to that by dying. Therefore it is His voice in that Psalm, not according to any man's conjecture, but an Apostle explaining, when he saith, "For Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell."(3) Therefore it is here also either His voice, "Thou hast delivered my soul from the nethermost hell:" or our voice by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself: for on this account He came even unto hell, that we might not remain in hell.
17. I will mention another opinion also. For perhaps even in hell itself there is some lower part where are thrust the ungodly who have sinned most.(4) For whether in hell there were not some places where Abraham was, we cannot define sufficiently. For not yet had the Lord come to hell that He might rescue from thence the souls of all the saints who had gone before,(5) and yet Abraham was there in repose.(6) And a certain rich man when he was in torments in hell, when he saw Abraham, lifted up his eyes. He could not have seen him by lifting up his eyes, unless the one was above, the other below. And what did Abraham answer unto him, when he said, "send Lazarus." "My son," he said, "remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is at rest, but thou art tormented. And besides this," he said, "between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that neither can we go to you, nor can any, one come from thence to us."(7) Therefore between these two hells, perhaps, in one of which the souls of the just have gotten rest, in the other the souls of the ungodly are tormented, one waiting and praying here, placed here in the body of Christ, and praying in the voice of Christ, said that God had delivered his soul from the nethermost hell, because He delivered him from such sins as might have been the means of drawing him down to the torments of the nethermost hell. ... Some one having a troublesome cause was to be sent to prison: another comes and defends him; what does he say when he thanks him? Thou hast delivered my soul out of prison. A debtor was to be hanged up:(8) his debt is paid; he is said to be delivered from being hanged up. They were not in all these evils: but because they were in such due course towards them,(9) that unless aid had been brought, they would have been in them, they rightly say that they are delivered from thence, whither they were not suffered by their deliverers to be taken. Therefore, brethren, whether it be this or that, consider me to be herein an inquirer into the word of God, not a rash assertor.(10)
18. "O God, the transgressors of the law have arisen up against me" (ver. 14). Whom calleth he transgressors of the law? Not the Pagans, who have not received the law: for no one transgresseth that which he hath not received; the Apostle saith clearly, "For where there is no law, there is no prevarication."(11) Transgressors of the law he calls "prevaricators." Whom then do we understand, brethren? If we take this word from our Lord Himself, the transgressors of the law were the Jews. ... They did not keep the law, and accused Christ as if He transgressed the law. And we know what the Lord suffered. Thinkest thou His Body suffers no such thing now? How can this be? "If they called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more those of his household? The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord."(12) The body also suffereth transgressors of the law, and they rise up against the Body of Christ. Who are the transgressors of the law? Do the Jews perchance dare to rise up against Christ? No: for it is not they that cause us much trouble. For they have not yet believed: they have not yet owned their salvation. Against the Body of Christ bad Christians rise up, from whom the Body of Christ daily suffereth trouble. All schisms, all heresies, all within who live wickedly and engraft their own character on those who live well, and draw them over to their own side, and with evil communications corrupt good manners these persons "transgressing the law rose up against Me."(1) Let every pious soul speak, let every Christian soul speak. That one which suffers not this, let it not speak. But if it is a Christian soul, it knows that it suffers evils: if it owns in itself its own sufferings, let it own herein its own voice; but if it is without suffering, let it(2) also be without the voice; but that it may not be without suffering, let it walk along the narrow way,(3) and begin to live godly in Christ: it must of necessity suffer this persecution. For "all," saith the Apostle, "who will live godly in Christ, suffer persecution."(4)
"And the synagogue of the powerful have sought after My soul." The synagogue of the powerful is the congregation of the proud. The synagogue of the powerful rose up against the Head, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ, crying and saying with one mouth, Crucify Him, crucify Him:(5) of whom it is said, "The sons of men, their teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword."(6) They did not strike, but cried: by crying they struck, by crying they Crucified Him. The will of those who cried was fulfilled, when the Lord was crucified: 'And they did not place Thee before their eyes." How did they not place Him before them? They did not know Him God. They should have spared him as Man: what they saw, according to this they should have walked. Suppose that He was not God, He was man: was He therefore to be slain? Spare Him a man, and own Him God.
19. "And Thou, Lord God, art One who hast compassion and merciful, longsuffering, and very pitiful, and true" (ver. 15). Wherefore longsuffering and very pitiful, and One who hast compassion? Because hanging on the Cross He said: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."(7) Whom prayeth He to? for whom doth He pray? Who prayeth? Where prayeth He? The Son prays to the Father, crucified for the ungodly, in the midst of very insults, not of words but of death inflicted, hanging on the Cross; as if for this He had His hands stretched out, that thus He might pray for them, that His "prayer might be directed like incense in the sight of the Father, and the lifting up of His hands like an evening sacrifice."(8)
20. If therefore Thou art" true," "Look upon me, and have mercy upon me: give power unto Thy servant." Because Thou art "true," "give power unto Thy servant" (ver. 16). Let the time of patience pass away, the time of judgment come. How, "give power"? The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.(9) He rising again will come even to earth Himself to judge: He will appear terrible who appeared despicable. He will show His power, who showed His patience; on the Cross was patience; in the judgment will be power. For He will appear as Man judging, but in glory: because "as ye saw Him go," said the Angels, "so He will come."(10) His very form shall come to judgment; therefore the ungodly also shall see Him: for they shall not see the form of God. For blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.(11) ... In the vision of the Father there is also the vision of the Son: and in the vision of the Son there is also the vision of the Father. Therefore He adds a consequence, and says: "Know ye not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?"(12) that is, both in Me seen the Father is seen, and in the Father seen the Son too is seen. The vision of the Father and the Son cannot be separated: where nature and substance is not separated, there vision cannot be separated. For that ye may know that the heart ought to be made ready for that place, to see the Divinity of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, in which though not seen we believe, and by believing cleanse the heart that there may be able to be sight: the Lord Himself saith in another place, "He that hath My commands and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved by My Father: and I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him."(13) Did they not see Him, with whom He was talking? They both saw Him, and did not see Him? they saw something, they believed something: they saw Man, they believed in God. But in the Judgment they shall see the same Lord Jesus Christ as Man, together with the wicked: after the Judgment, they shall see God, apart from the wicked.
21. "And save the Son of Thine handmaid." The Lord is the Son of the handmaid. Of what handmaid? Her who when He was announced as about to be born of her, answered and said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to Thy word."(14) He saved the Son of His handmaid, and His own Son: His own Son, in the Form of God;(15) the Son of His handmaid in the form of a servant. Of the handmaid of God, therefore, the Lord was born in the form of a servant; and He said, "Save the Son of Thine handmaid." And He was saved from death, as ye know, His flesh, which was dead, being raised again. ... And each several Christian placed in the Body of Christ may say, "Save the Son of Thine handmaid." Perhaps he cannot say, "Give power unto Thy servant:" because it was He, the Son, who received power. Yet wherefore saith He not this also? Was it not said to servants, "Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel"?(1) and the servants say, "Know ye not that we shall judge Angels?"(2) Each one therefore of the saints receiveth also power, and each several saint is the son of His handmaid. What if he is born of a pagan mother, and has become a Christian? How can the son of a pagan be the son of His handmaid: He is indeed the son of a pagan mother after the flesh, but the son of the Church after the Spirit.
22. "Show me a sign for good" (ver. 17). What sign, but that of the Resurrection? The Lord says: "This wicked and provoking generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of the Prophet Jonah."(3) Therefore in our Head a sign has been shown already for good; each one of us also may say, "Show me a sign for good:" because at the last trumpet, at the coming of the Lord, both "the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."(4) This will be a sign for good. "That they who hate me may see it, and be ashamed." In the judgment they shall be ashamed unto their destruction, who will not now be ashamed unto their healing. Now therefore let them be ashamed: let them accuse their own ways, let them keep the good way: because none of us liveth without being ashamed, unless he first be ashamed and live anew. Now God grants them the approach of a healthy shame, if they despise not the medicine of confession: but if they will not now be ashamed, then they shall be ashamed, when "their iniquities shall convince them to their face."(5) How shall they be ashamed? When they shall say, "These are they whom we had sometimes in derision, and a parable of reproach. We fools counted their life madness: how are they numbered among the children of God! What hath pride profited us?"(6) Then shall they say this: let them say it now, and they say it to their health. For let each one turn humbly to God, and now say, What hath my pride profited me? and hear from the Apostle, "For what glory had ye in those things of which ye are now ashamed?"(7) Ye see that there is even now a wholesome shame while there is a place of penitence: but then one which will be late, useless, fruitless. ...
23. "For Thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me." "Hast holpen me," in struggle; "and comforted me," in sorrow. For no one seeketh comfort, but he who is in misery. Would ye not be consoled? Say that ye are happy, and ye hear, "My people" (now ye answer, and I hear a murmur, as of persons who remember the Scriptures.(8) May God, who hath written this in your hearts, confirm it in your deeds. Ye see, brethren, that those who say unto you, Ye are happy, seduce you), "O My people, they that call you happy cause you to err, and disturb the way of your feet."(9) So also from the Epistle of the Apostle James: "Be afflicted, and mourn: let your laughter be turned to mourning."(10) Ye see what ye have heard read: when would such things be said unto us in the land of security? This surely is the land of offences, and temptations, and of all evils, that we may groan here, and deserve to rejoice there; here to be troubled, and there to be comforted, and to say, "For Thou hast delivered mine eyes from tears, my feet from falling: I will please the Lord in the land of the living."(11) This is the land of the dead. The land of the dead passeth, the land of the living cometh. In the land of the dead is labour, grief, fear, tribulation, temptation, groaning, sighing: here are false happy ones, true unhappy, because happiness is false, misery is true. But he that owneth himself to be in true misery, will also be in true happiness: and yet now because thou art miserable, hear the Lord saying, "Blessed are they that mourn."(12) O blessed they that mourn! Nothing is so akin to misery as mourning: nothing so remote and contrary to misery as blessedness: Thou speakest of those who mourn, and Thou callest them blessed! Understand, He saith, what I say: I call those who mourn blessed. Wherefore blessed? In hope. Wherefore mourning? In act. For they mourn in this death, in these tribulations, in their wandering: and because they own themselves to be in this misery, and mourn, they are blessed. Wherefore do they mourn? The blessed Cyprian was put to sorrow in his passion: now he is comforted with his crown; now though comforted, he was sad. For our Lord Jesus Christ still intercedeth for us: all the Martyrs who are with Him intercede for us. Their intercessions pass not away, except when our mourning is passed away: but when our mourning shall have passed away, we all with one voice, in one people, in one country, shall receive comfort, thousands of thousands joined with Angels playing upon harps, with choirs of heavenly powers living in one city. Who mourneth there? Who there sigheth? Who there toileth? Who there needeth? Who dieth there? Who there showeth mercy? Who breaketh bread to the hungry there, where all are satisfied with the bread of righteousness? No one saith unto thee, Receive a stranger; there no one will be a stranger to thee: all live in their own country. No one saith unto thee, Set at one thy friends disputing; in everlasting peace they enjoy the Face of God. No one sixth unto thee, Visit the sick; health and immortality abide for ever. No one saith unto thee, Bury the dead; all shall be in everlasting life. Works of mercy stop, because misery is found not. And what shall we do there? Shall we perhaps sleep? If now we fight against ourselves, although we carry about a house of sleep, this flesh of ours, and keep watch with these lights, and this solemn feast gives us a mind to watch; what wakefulness shall that day give unto. Therefore we shall be awake, we shall not sleep. What shall we do?(1) There will be no works of mercy, because there will be no misery. Perhaps there will be these necessary works which there are here now, of sowing, ploughing, cooking, grinding, weaving? None of these, for there will be no want. Thus there will be no works of mercy, because misery is past away: where there is no want nor misery, there will be neither works of necessity nor of mercy. What will be there? What business shall we have? What action? Will there be no action, because there is rest? Shall we sit there, and be torpid, and do nothing? If our love grow cold, our action will grow cold. How then will that love resting in the face of God, for whom we now long, for whom we sigh, how will it inflame us, when we shall have come to Him? He for whom while as yet we see Him not, we so sigh, how will He enlighten us, when we shall have come to Him? How will He change us? What will He make of us? What then shall we do, brethren? Let the Psalm tell us: "Blessed are they who dwell in Thy house." Why? "They shall praise Thee for ever and ever."(2) This will be our employment, praise of God. Thou lovest and praisest. Thou wilt cease to praise, if thou cease to love. But thou wilt not cease to love, because He whom thou seest is such an One as offends thee not by any weariness: He both satisfies thee, and satisfies thee not. What I say is wonderful. If I say that He satisfies thee, I am afraid lest as though satisfied thou shouldest wish to depart, as from a dinner or from a supper. What then do I say? doth He not satisfy thee? I am afraid again, that if I say, He doth not satisfy thee, thou shouldest seem to be in want: and shouldest be as it were empty, and there should be in thee some void which ought to be filled. What then shall I say, except what can be said, but can hardly be thought? He both satisfies thee, and satisfies thee not: for I find both in Scripture. For while He said, "Blessed are the hungry, for they shall be filled;"(3) it is again said of Wisdom, "Those who eat Thee shall hunger again, and those who drink shall thirst again."(4) Nay, but He did not say "again," but he said, "still:" for "shall thirst again" is as if once having been filled he departed and digested, and returned to drink. So it is, "Those who eat Thee shall still hunger:' thus when they eat they hunger: and those who drink Thee, even thus when drinking, thirst. What is it, to thirst in drinking? Never to grow weary. If then there shall be that ineffable and eternal sweetness, what doth He now seek of us, brethren, but faith unfeigned, firm hope, pure charity? and man may walk in the way which the Lord hath given, may bear troubles, and receive consolations.
1. The Psalm which has just been sung is short, if we look to the number of its words, but of deep interest in its thoughts.(6) ... The subject of song and praise in that Psalm is a city, whose citizens are we, as far as we are Christians: whence we are absent, as long as we are mortal: whither we are tending: through whose approaches, undiscoverable among the brakes and thorns that entangle them, the Sovereign of the city made Himself a path(7) for us to reach it. Walking thus in Christ, and pilgrims till we arrive, and sighing as we long for a certain ineffable repose that dwells within that city, a repose of which it is promised, that "the eye of man hath never seen" such, "nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into his heart to conceive;" let us chant the song of a longing heart: for he who truly longs, thus sings within his soul, though his tongue be silent: he who does not, however he may resound in human ears, is voiceless to God. See what ardent lovers of that city were they by whom these words were composed, by whom they have been handed down to us; with how deep a feeling were they sung by those! A feeling that the love of that city created in them: that love the Spirit of God inspired; "the love of God," he saith, "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." Fervent with this Spirit then, let us listen to what is said of that city.
2. "Her foundations are upon the holy hills" (ver. 1). The Psalm had as yet said nothing of the city: it begins thus, and says, "Her foundations are upon the holy hills." Whose? There can be no doubt that foundations, especially among the hills, belong to some city. Thus filled with the Holy Spirit, and with many thoughts of love and longing for that city, as if after long internal meditation, that citizen bursts out, "Her foundations are upon the holy hills;" as if he had already said something concerning it. And how could he have said nothing on a subject, respecting which in his heart he had never been silent? For how could "her foundations" have been written, of which nothing had been said before? But, as I said, after long and silent travailing in contemplation of that city in his mind, crying to God, he bursts out into the ears of men thus: "Her foundations are upon the holy hills." And, supposing persons who heard to enquire of what city he spoke he adds, "the Lord loveth the gates of Sion." Behold, then, a city whose foundations are upon the holy hills, a city called Sion, whose gates the Lord loveth, as he adds, "above all the dwellings of Jacob." But what doth this mean, "her foundations on the holy hills"? What are the holy hills upon which this city is built? Another citizen tells us this more explicitly, the Apostle Paul: of this was the Prophet a citizen, of this the Apostle citizen: and they spoke to exhort the other citizens. But how are these, I mean the Prophets and Apostles, citizens? Perhaps in this sense; that they are themselves the hills, upon which are the foundations of this city, whose gates the Lord loveth Let then another citizen state this clearly, that I may not seem to guess. Speaking to the Gentiles, and telling them how they were returning, and being, as it were, framed together into the holy structure, "built," he says, "upon the foundations of the Apostles and Prophets:" and because neither the Apostles nor Prophets, upon whom the foundations of that city rest, could stand by their own power, he adds, "Jesus Christ Himself being the head comer stone."(1) That the Gentiles, therefore, might not think they had no relation to Sion: for Sion was a certain city of this world, which bore a typical resemblance as a shadow to that Sion of which he presently speaketh, that Heavenly Jerusalem, of which the Apostle saith, "which is the mother of us all;"(2) they might not be said to bear no relation to Sion, on the ground that they did not belong to the Jewish people, he addresses them thus: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets."(3) Thou seest the structure of so great a city: yet whereon does all that edifice repose, where does it rest, that it may never fall? "Jesus Christ Himself," he saith, "being the head corner stone."
3. ... But that ye may know that Christ is at once the earliest and the highest foundation, the Apostle saith, "Other foundation can no man lay than is laid, which is Christ Jesus."(4) How, then, are the Prophets and Apostles foundations, and yet Christ so, than whom nothing can be higher? How, think you, save that as He is openly styled, Saint of saints, so figuratively Foundation of foundations? Thus if thou art thinking of mysteries, Christ is the Saint of saints: if of a subject flock, the Shepherd of shepherds: if of a structure, the Pillar of pillars. In material edifices, the same stone cannot be above and below: if at the bottom, it cannot be at the top: and vice versa: for almost all bodies are liable to limitations in space: nor can they be everywhere or for ever; but as the Godhead is in every place, from every place symbols may be taken for It; and not being any of these things in external properties, It can be everything in figure. Is Christ a door, in the same sense as the doors we see made by carpenters? Surely not; and yet He said, "I am the door." Or a shepherd, in the same capacity as those who guard sheep? though He said, "I am the Shepherd." Both these names occur in the same passage: in the Gospel, He said, that the shepherd enters by the door: the words are, "I am the good Shepherd;" and in the same passage, "I am the door:"(5) and who is the shepherd who enters by the door? "I am the good Shepherd:" and what is the door by which Thou, Good Shepherd, enterest? How then art Thou all things? In the sense in which everything is through Me. To explain: when Paul enters by the door, does not Christ? Wherefore? Not because Paul is Christ: but since Christ is in Paul: and Paul acts through Christ. The Apostle says, "Do ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me?"(6) When His saints and faithful disciples enter by the door, does not Christ enter by the door? How are we to prove this? Since Saul, not yet called Paul, was persecuting those very saints, when He called to him from Heaven, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"(7) Himself then is the foundation, and corner stone: rising from the bottom: if indeed from the bottom: for the base of this foundation is the highest exaltation of the building: and as the support of bodily fabrics rests upon the ground, that of spiritual structures reposes on high. Were we building up ourselves upon the earth, we should lay our foundation on the lowest level: but since our edifice is a heavenly one, to Heaven our Foundation has gone before us: so that our Saviour, the corner stone, the Apostles, and mighty Prophets, the hills that bear the fabric of the city, constitute a sort of living structure. This building now cries from your hearts; that you may be built up into its fabric, the hand of God, as of an artificer, worketh even through my tongue. Nor was it without a meaning that Noah's ark was made of "square beams,"(1) which were typical of the form of the Church. For what is it to be made square? Listen to the resemblance of the squared stone: like qualities should the Christian have: for in all his trials he never falls: though pushed, and, as it were, turned over, he falls not: and thus too, whichever way a square stone is turned, it stands erect. ... In earthly cities, one thing is the structure of buildings: another thing are the citizens that dwell therein: that city is builded of its own inmates, who are themselves the blocks that form the city, for the very stones are living "Ye also," says the Apostle, "as living stones, are built up a spiritual house,(2) words that are addressed to ourselves. Let us then pursue the contemplation of that city.
4. "The Lord loveth the gates of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob" (ver. 2). I have made the foregoing remarks, that ye may not imagine the gates are one thing, the foundations another. Why are the Apostles and Prophets foundations? Because their authority is the support of our weakness. Why are they gates? because through them we enter the kingdom of God: for they proclaim it to us: and while we enter by their means, we enter also through Christ, Himself being the Gate. And twelve gates of Jerusalem are spoken of,(3) and the one gate is Christ, and the twelve gates are Christ for Christ dwells in the twelve gates, hence was twelve the number of the Apostles. There is a deep mystery in this number of twelve "Ye shall sit," says our Saviour, "on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."(4) If there are twelve thrones there, there will be no room for the judgment-seat of Paul, the thirteenth Apostle, though he says that he shall judge not men only, but even Angels; which, but the fallen Angels? "Know ye not, that we shall judge Angels,"(5) he writes. The world would answer, Why dost thou boast that thou shalt be a judge? Where will be thy throne? Our Lord spoke of twelve thrones for the twelve Apostles: one, Judas, fell, and his place being supplied by Matthias, the number of twelve thrones was made up:(6) first, then, discover room for thy judgment-seat; then threaten that thou wilt judge. Let us, therefore, reflect upon the meaning of the twelve thrones. The expression is typical of a sort of universality, as the Church was destined to prevail throughout the whole world: whence this edifice is styled a building together into Christ: and because judges come from all quarters, the twelve thrones are spoken of, just as the twelve gates, from the entering in from all sides into that city. Not only therefore have those twelve, and the Apostle Paul, a claim to the twelve thrones, but, from the universal signification, all who are to sit in judgment: in the same manner as all who enter the city, enter by one or the other of the twelve gates. There are four quarters of the globe: East, West, North, and South: and they are constantly alluded to in the Scriptures. From all those four winds; our Lord declares in the Gospel that He will call his sheep "from the four winds;"(7) therefore from all those four winds is the Church called. And how called? On every side it is called in the Trinity: no otherwise is it called than by Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: four then being thrice taken, twelve are found. Knock, therefore, with all your hearts at these gates: and let Christ cry within you: "Open me the gates of righteousness."(8) For He went before us the Head: He follows Himself in His Body. ...
5. "Very excellent things are said of thee, thou city of God" (ver. 3). He was, as it were, contemplating that city of Jerusalem on earth: for consider what city he alludes to, of which certain very excellent things are spoken. Now the earthly city has been destroyed: after suffering the enemy's rage, it fell to the earth; it is no longer what it was: it exhibited the emblem, and the shadow hath passed away. Whence then are "very excellent things spoken of thee, thou city of God"? Listen whence: "I will think upon Rahab and Babylon, with them that know Me" (ver. 4). In that city, the Prophet, in the person of God, says, "I will think upon Rahab and Babylon." Rahab belongs not to the Jewish people;(9) Babylon belongs not to the Jewish people; as is clear from the next verse: "For the Philistines(10) also, and Tyre, with the Ethiopians, were there." Deservedly then, "very excellent things are spoken of thee, thou city of God:" for not only is the Jewish nation, born of the flesh of Abraham, included therein, but all nations also, some of which are named that all may be understood. "I will think," he says, "upon Rahab:" who is that harlot? That harlot in Jericho, who received the spies and conducted them out of the city by a different road: who trusted beforehand in the promise, who feared God, who was told to hang out of the window a line of scarlet thread, that is, to bear upon her forehead the sign of the blood of Christ. She was saved there, and thus represented the Church of the Gentiles: whence our Lord said to the haughty Pharisees, "Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."(1) They go before, because they do violence: they push their way by faith, and to faith a way is made, nor can any resist, since they who are violent take it by force. For it is written, "The kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."(2) Such was the conduct of the robber, more courageous on the cross than in the place of ambush.(3) "I will think upon Rahab and Babylon." By Babylon is meant the city of this world: as there is one holy city, Jerusalem; one unholy, Babylon: all the unholy belong to Babylon, even as all the holy to Jerusalem. But he slideth(4) from Babylon to Jerusalem. How, but by Him who justifieth the ungodly: Jerusalem is the city of the saints; Babylon of the wicked: but He cometh who justifieth the ungodly: since it is said, "I will think" not only "upon Rahab," but "upon Babylon," but with whom? "with them that know Me." ...
6. Listen now to a deep mystery. Rahab is there through Him, through whom also is Babylon, now no longer Babylon, but beginning to be Jerusalem. The daughter is divided against her mother, and will be among the members of that queen to whom is said, "Forget thine own people, and thy father's house, so shall the king have pleasure in thy beauty."(5) For how could Babylon aspire to Jerusalem? How could Rahab reach those foundations? How could the Philistines, or Tyre, or the people of the Ethiopians? Listen to this verse, "Sion, my mother, a man shall say."(6) There is then a man who saith this: through whom all those I have mentioned make their approach. Who is this man? It tells if we hear, if we understand. It follows, as if a question had been raised, through whose aid Rahab, Babylon, the Philistines, Tyre, and the Morians, gained an entrance. Behold, through whom they come; "Sion, my mother, a man shall say; and a man was born in her, and Himself the Most High hath founded her" (ver. 5). What, my brethren, can be clearer? Truly, because "very excellent things are spoken of thee, thou city of God." Lo, "Sion, O mother, a man shall say." What man? "He who was born in her."(7) It is then the man who was born in her, and He Himself hath rounded her. Yet how can He be born in the city which He Himself founded? It had already been founded, that therein He might be born. Understand it thus, if thou canst: "Mother Sion, he shall say;" but it is "a man" that "shall say, Mother Sion; yea, a man was born in her:" and yet "he hath founded her" (not a man, but), "the Most High." As He created a mother of whom He would be born, so He founded a city in which He would be born. What hope is ours, brethren! On our behalf the Most High, who founded the city, addresses that city as a mother: and "He was born in her, and the Most High hath founded her."
7. As though it were said, How do ye know this? All of us have sung these Psalms: and Christ, Man for our sake, God before us, sings within us all. But is this much to say, "before us," of Him who was before heaven and earth and time? He then, born for our sakes a man, in that city, also founded her when He was the Most High. Yet how are we assured of this? "The Lord shall rehearse it when He writeth up the people" (ver. 6), as the following verse has it. "The Lord shall declare, when He writeth up the people, and their princes." What princes?(8) "Those who were born in her;" those princes who, born within her walls, became therein princes: for before they could become princes in her, God chose the despised things of the world to confound the strong. Was the fisherman, the publican, a prince? They were indeed princes: but because they became such in her. Princes of what kind were they? Princes come from Babylon, believing monarchs of this world, came to the city of Rome, as to the head of Babylon: they went not to the temple of the Emperor, but to the tomb of the Fisherman. Whence indeed did they rank as princes? "God chose the weak things of the world to confound the strong, and the foolish things He hath chosen, and things which are not as though they were, that things which are may be brought to nought."(9) This He doth who "from the ground raises the helpless, and from the dunghill exalts the poor."(10) For what purpose? "That He may set him with the princes, even with the princes of His people."(11) This is a mighty deed, a deep source of pleasure and exultation. Orators came later into that city, but they could never have done so, had not fishermen preceded them. These things are glorious indeed, but where could they take place, but in that city of God, of whom very excellent things are spoken?
8. So thus, after drawing together and mingling every source of joyous exultation, how doth he conclude? "The dwelling as of all that shall be made joyous is in Thee" (ver. 7). As if all made joyous, all rejoicing, shall dwell in that city. Amid our journeyings here we suffer bruises: our last home shall be the home of joy alone. Toil and groans shall perish: prayers pass away, hymns of praise succeed. There shall be the dwelling of the happy; no longer shall there be the groans of those that long, but the gladness of those who enjoy. For He will be present for whom we sigh: we shall be like Him, as we shall see Him as He is:(1) there it will be our whole task to praise and enjoy the presence of God: and what beyond shall we ask for, when He alone satisfies us, by whom all things were made? We shall dwell and be dwelt in; and shall be subject to Him, that God may be all in all.(2) "Blessed," then, "are they that dwell in Thy house." How blessed? Blessed in their gold, and silver, their numerous slaves, and multiplied offspring? "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: for ever and ever they will be praising Thee."(3) Blessed in that sole labour(4) which is rest! Let this then be the one and only object of our desire, my brethren, when we shall have reached this pass. Let, us prepare ourselves to rejoice in God: to praise Him. The good works which conduct us thither, will not be needed there. I described, as far as I could, only yesterday,(5) our condition there: works of charity there will be none, where there will be no misery: thou shalt not find one in want, one naked, no one will meet you tormented with thirst, there will be no stranger, no sick to visit, no dead to bury, no disputants to set at peace. What then wilt thou find to do? Shall we plant new vines, plough, traffic, make voyages, to support the necessities of the body? Deep quiet shall be there; all toilsome work, that necessity demands, will cease: the necessity being dead, its works will perish too. What then will be our state? As far as possible, the tongue of a man thus told us. "As it were, the dwelling of all who shall be made perfect is in Thee."(6) Why does he say, "as it were'? Because there shall be such joy there as we know not here. Many pleasures do I behold here, and many rejoice in this world, some in one thing, others in another; but there is nothing to compare with that delight, but it shall be "as it were" being made joyful. For if I say joyfulness, men at once think of such joyfulness as men use to have in. wine, in feasting, in avarice, and in the world's distinctions. For men are elated by these things, and mad with a kind of joy: but "there is no joy, saith the Lord, unto the wicked."(7) There is a sort of joyfulness which the ear of man hath not heard, nor his eye seen, nor hath it entered into his heart to conceive.(8) "As it were, the dwelling of all who shall be made joyful is in Thee." Let us prepare for other delights: for a kind of shadow is what we find here, not the reality: that we may not expect to enjoy such things there as here we delight in: otherwise our self-denial will be avarice. Some persons, when invited to a rich banquet, where there are many and costly dishes yet to come on, abstain from breaking their fast: if you ask the reason, they tell you that they are fasting: which is indeed a great work, a Christian work. Yet be not hasty in praising them: examine their motives: it is their belly, not religion, that they are consulting. That their appetite may not be palled by ordinary dishes, they abstain till more delicate food is set before them. This fast then is for the gullet's sake. Fasting is undoubtedly important: it fights against the belly and the palate; but sometimes it fights for them. Thus, my brethren, if ye imagine that we shall find any such pleasures in that country to which the heavenly trumpet urges us on, and on that account abstain from present enjoyments, that ye may receive the like more plentifully there, ye imitate those I have described, who fast only for greater feasting, and abstain only for greater indulgence. Do not ye like this: prepare yourselves for a certain ineffable delight: cleanse your hearts from all earthly and secular affections. We shall see something, the sight of which will make us blessed: and that alone will suffice for us. What then? Shall we not eat? Yes: we shall eat: but that shall be our food, which will ever refresh, and never fail. "In Thee is the dwelling of all who shall be, as it were, made joyful." He has already told us how we shall be made joyful. "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: for ever and ever they will be praising Thee."(3) Let us praise the Lord as far as we are able, but with mingled lamentations: for while we praise we long for Him, and as yet have Him not. When we have, all our sorrows will be taken from us, and nothing will remain but praise, unmixed and everlasting. Now let us pray.(9)
1. The Title of this eighty-seventh Psalm contains a fresh subject for enquiry: the words occurring here, "for Melech to respond," being nowhere else found. We have already given our opinion on the meaning of the titles Psalmus Cantici and Canticum Psalmi:(1) and the words, "sons of Core," are constantly repeated, and have often been explained: so also "to the end;" but what comes next in this title is peculiar. For "Melech" we may translate into Latin "for the chorus," for chorus is the sense of the Hebrew word Melech.(2) ... The Passion of our Lord is here prophesied. Now the Apostle Peter saith, "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps;"(3) this is the meaning of "to respond." The Apostle John also saith, "As Christ laid down His life for us, so ought we also to lay down our lives for the brethren;"(4) this also is to respond. But the choir signifies concord, which consists in charity: whoever therefore in imitation of our Lord's Passion gives up his body to be burnt, if he have not charity, does not answer in the choir, and therefore it profiteth him nothing.(5) Further, as in Latin the terms Precentor and Succentor are used to denote in music the performer who sings the first part, and him who takes it up; just so in this song of the Passion, Christ going before is followed by the choir of martyrs Unto the end of gaining crowns in Heaven. This is sung by" the sons of Core," that is, the imitators of Christ's Passion: as Christ was crucified in Calvary, which is the interpretation of the Hebrew word Core.(6) This also is "the understanding of Aeman the Israelite:"(7) words occurring at the end of this title. Aeman is said to mean, "his brother:" for Christ deigns to make those His brethren, who understand the mystery of His Cross, and not only are not ashamed of it, but faithfully glory in it, not praising themselves for their own merits, but grateful for His grace: so that it may be said to each of them, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile,"(8) just as holy Scripture says of Israel himself, that he was without guile.(9)
2. "O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before Thee" (ver. 1). Let us therefore now hear the voice of Christ singing before us in prophecy, to whom His own choir should respond either in imitation, or in thanksgiving.
"O let my prayer enter into Thy presence, incline Thine ear unto my calling" (ver. 2). For even our Lord prayed, not in the form of God, but in the form of a servant; for in this He also suffered. He prayed both in prosperous times, that is, by "day," and in calamity, which I imagine is meant by "night." The entrance of prayer into God's presence is its acceptance: the inclination of His ear is His compassionate listening to it: for God has not such bodily members as we have. The passage is however, as usual, a repetition.(10)
3. "For my soul is filled with evils, and my life draweth nigh unto hell" (ver. 3). Dare we speak of the Soul of Christ as" filled with evils," when the passion had strength as far as it had any, only over the body? ... The soul therefore may feel pain without the body: but without the soul the body cannot. Why therefore should we not say that the Soul of Christ was full of the evils of humanity, though not of human sins? Another Prophet says of Him, that He grieved for us:(11) and the Evangelist says, "And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy:" and our Lord Himself saith unto them of Himself, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."(12) The Prophet who composed this Psalm, foreseeing that this would happen, introduces Him saying, "My soul is full of evils, and My life draweth nigh unto hell." For the very same sense is here expressed in other words, as when He said, "My soul is sorrowful, even unto death." The words, "My soul is sorrowful," are like these, "My soul is full of evils:" and what follows, "even unto death," like, "my life draweth nigh unto hell." These feelings of human infirmity our Lord took upon Him, as He did the flesh of human infirmity, and the death of human flesh, not by the necessity of His condition, but by the free will of His mercy, that He might transfigure into Himself His own body, which is the Church (the head of which He deigned to be), that is, His members in His holy and faithful disciples: that if amid human temptations any one among them happened to be in sorrow and pain, he might not therefore think that he was separated from His favour: that the body, like the chorus following its leader, might learn from its Head, that these sorrows were not sin, but proofs of human weakness. We read of the Apostle Paul, a chief member in this body, and we hear him confessing that his soul was full of such evils, when he says, that he feels "great heaviness and continual sorrow in heart for his brethren according to the flesh, who are Israelites."(1) And if we say that our Lord was sorrowful for them also at the approach of His Passion, in which they would incur the most atrocious guilt, I think we shall not speak amiss. Lastly, the very thing said by our Saviour on the Cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,"(2) is expressed in this Psalm below, "I am counted as one of them that go down into the pit" (ver. 4): by them who knew not what they were doing, when they imagined that He died like other men, subjected to necessity, and overcome by it. The word "pit" is used for the depth of woe or of Hell. "I have been as a man that hath no help."
4. "Free among the dead" (ver. 5). In these words our Lord's Person is most clearly shown: for who else is free among the dead but He who though in the likeness of sinful flesh is alone among sinners without sin?(3) ... He therefore, "free among the dead," who had it in His power to lay down His life, and again to take it; from whom no one could take it, but He laid it down of His own free will; who could revive His own flesh, as a temple destroyed by them, at His will; who, when all had forsaken Him on the eve of His Passion, remained not alone, because, as He testifies, His Father forsook Him not;(4) was nevertheless by His enemies, for whom He prayed, who knew not what they did, ... counted "as one who hath no help; like unto them that are wounded, and lie in the grave." But he adds, "Whom thou dost not yet remember:" and in these words there is to be remarked a distinction between Christ and the rest of the dead. For though He was wounded, and when dead laid in the tomb,(5) yet they who knew not what they were doing, or who He was, regarded Him as like others who had perished from their wounds, and who slept in the tomb, who are as yet out of remembrance of God, that is, whose hour of resurrection has not yet arrived. For thus the Scripture speaks of the dead as sleeping, because it wishes them to be regarded as destined to awake, that is, to rise again. But He, wounded and asleep in the tomb, awoke on the third day, and became "like a sparrow that sitteth alone on the housetop,"(6) that is, on the right hand of His Father in Heaven: and now "dieth no more, death shall no more have dominion over Him."(7) Hence He differs widely from those whom God hath not yet remembered to cause their resurrection after this manner: for what was to go before in the Head, was kept for the Body in the end. God is then said to remember, when He does an act: then to forget, when He does it not: for neither can God forget, as He never changes, nor remember, as He can never forget. "I am counted" then, by those who know not what they do, "as a man that hath no help:" while I am "free among the dead," I am held by these men "like unto them that are wounded, and lie in the grave." Yet those very men, who account thus of Me, are further said to be "cut away from Thy hand," that is, when I was made so by them, "they were cut away from Thy hand;" they who believed Me destitute of help, are deprived of the help of Thy hand: for they, as he saith in another Psalm,(8) have digged a pit before me, and are fallen into the midst of it themselves. I prefer this interpretation to that which refers the words, "they are cut away from Thy hand," to those who sleep in the tomb, whom God hath not yet remembered: since the righteous are among the latter, of whom, even though God hath not yet called them to the resurrection, it is said, that their "souls are in the hands of God,"(9) that is, that "they dwell under the defence of the Most High; and shall abide under the shadow of the God of Heaven."(10) But it is those who are cut away from the hand of God, who believed that Christ was cut off from His hand, and thus accounting Him among the wicked, dared to slay Him.
5. "They laid Me in the lowest pit" (ver. 6), that is, the deepest pit. For so it is in the Greek. But what is the lowest pit, but the deepest woe, than which there is none more deep? Whence in another Psalm it is said, "Thou broughtest me out also of the pit of misery."(11) "In a place of darkness, and in the shadow of death," whiles they knew not what they did, they laid Him there, thus deeming of Him; they knew not Him "whom none of the princes of this world knew."(12) By the "shadow of death," I know not whether the death of the body is to be understood, or that of which it is written, "That they walked in darkness and in the land of the shadow of death, a light is risen on them,"(13) because by belief they were brought from out of the darkness and death of sin into light and life. Such an one those who knew not what they did thought our Lord, and in their ignorance accounted Him among those whom He came to help, that they might not be such themselves.
6. "Thy indignation lieth hard upon Me" (ver. 7), or, as other copies have it, "Thy anger;" or, as others, "Thy fury:" the Greek word thumo`s having undergone different interpretations. For where the Greek copies have orgh`, no translator hesitated to express it by the Latin ira; but where the word is thumo`s, most object to rendering it by ira, although many of the authors of the best Latin style, in their translations from Greek philosophy, have thus rendered the word in Latin. But I shall not discuss this matter further: only if I also were to suggest another term, I should think "indignation" more tolerable than "fury," this word in Latin not being applied to persons in their senses. What then does this mean, "Thy indignation lieth hard upon Me," except the belief of those, who knew not the Lord of Glory?(1) who imagined that the anger of God was not merely roused, but lay hard upon Him, whom they dared to bring to death, and not only death, but that kind, which they regarded as the most execrable of all, namely, the death of the Cross: whence saith the Apostle, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth upon a tree."(2) On this account, wishing to praise His obedience which He carried to the extreme of humility, he says, "He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death;" and as this seemed little, he added, "even the death of the Cross;"(3) and with the same view as far as I can see, he says in this Psalm, "And all thy suspensions," or, as some translate "waves," others "tossings," "Thou hast brought over Me." We also find in another Psalm, "All thy suspensions and waves are come in upon Me,"(4) or, as some have translated better, "have passed over Me:" for it is dih^lthon in Greek, not eish^lthon: and where both expressions are employed, "waves" and "suspensions," one cannot be used as equivalent to the other. In that passage we explained "suspensions" as threatenings, "waves" as the actual sufferings: both inflicted by God's judgment: but in that place it is said, "All have passed over Me," here, "Thou hast brought all upon Me." In the other case, that is, although some evils took place, yet, he said, all those which are here mentioned passed over; but in this case, "Thou hast brought them upon Me." Evils pass over when they do not touch a man, as things which hang over him, or when they do touch him, as waves. But when he uses the word "suspensions," he does not say they passed over, but, "Thou hast brought them upon Me," meaning that all which impended had come to pass. All things which were predicted of His Passion impended, as long as they remained in the prophecies for future fulfilment.
7." Thou hast put Mine acquaintance far from Me (ver. 8). If we understand by acquaintance those whom He knew, it will be all men; for whom knew He not? But He calls those acquaintance, to whom He was Himself known, as far as they could know Him at that season: at least so far forth as they knew Him to be innocent, although they considered Him only as a man, not as likewise God. Although He might call the righteous whom He approved, acquaintance, as He calls the wicked unknown, to whom He was to say at the end, "I know you not."(5) In what follows, "and they have set Me for an abhorrence to themselves;" those whom He called before "acquaintance," may be meant, as even they felt horror at the mode of that death: but it is better referred to those of whom He was speaking above as His persecutors. "I was delivered up, and did not get forth." Is this because His disciples were without, while He was being tried within?(6) Or are we to give a deeper meaning to the words, "I cannot get forth" as signifying, "I remained hidden in My secret counsels, I showed not who I was, I did not reveal Myself, was not made manifest"? And so it follows,--
"My eyes became weak from want" (ver. 9). For what eyes are we to understand? If the eyes of the flesh in which He suffered, we do not read that His eyes became weak from want, that is, from hunger, in His Passion, as is often the case; as He was betrayed after His Supper, and crucified on the same day: if the inner eyes, how were they weakened from want, in which there was a light that could never fail? But He meant by His eyes those members in the body, of which He was Himself the head, which, as brighter and more eminent and chief above the rest, He loved. It was of this body that the Apostle was speaking, when he wrote, taking his metaphor from our own body, "If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?" etc.(7) What he wished understood by these words, he has expressed more clearly, by adding, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."(8) Wherefore as those eyes, that is, the holy Apostles, to whom not flesh and blood, but the Father which is in Heaven had revealed Him, so that Peter said, "Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God,"(9) when they saw Him betrayed, and suffering such evils, saw Him not such as they wished, as He did not come forth, did not manifest Himself in His virtue and power, but still hidden in His secrecy,(10) endured everything as a man overcome and enfeebled, they became weak for want, as if their food, their Light, had been withdrawn from them.
8. He continues, "And I have called upon Thee." This indeed He did most clearly, when upon the Cross. But what follows? "All the day I have stretched forth My hands unto Thee," must be examined how it must be taken. For if in this expression we understand the tree of the Cross, how can we reconcile it with the "whole day"? Can He be said to have hung upon the Cross during the whole day, as the night is considered a part of the day? But if day, as opposed to night, was meant by this expression, even of this day, the first and no small portion had passed by at the time of His crucifixion. But if we take "day" in the same sense of time (especially as the word is used in the feminine, a gender which is restricted to that sense in Latin, although not so in Greek, as it is always used in the feminine, which I suppose to be the reason for its translation in the same gender in our own version), the knot of the question will be drawn tighter: for how can it mean for the whole space of time, if He did not even for one day stretch forth His hands on the Cross? Further, should we take the whole for a part, as Scripture sometimes uses this expression, I do not remember an instance in which the whole is taken for a part, when the word "whole" is expressly added. For in the passage of the Gospel where the Lord saith, "The Son of Man shall be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,"(1) it is no extraordinary licence to take the whole for the part, the expression not being for three "whole" days and three whole nights: since the one intermediate day was a whole one, the other two were parts, the last being part of the first day, the first part of the last. But if the Cross is not meant here, but the prayer, which we find in the Gospel that He poured forth in the form of a servant to God the Father, where He is said to have prayed long before His Passion, and on the eve of His Passion, and also when on the Cross, we do not read anywhere that He did so throughout the whole day. Therefore by the stretched-out hands throughout the whole day, we may understand the continuation of good works in which He never ceased from exertion.
9. But as His good works profited only the predestined to eternal salvation, and not all men, nor even all those among whom they were done, he adds, "Dost thou show wonders among the dead?" (ver. 10). If we suppose this relates to those whose flesh life has left, great wonders have been wrought among the dead, inasmuch as some of them have revived:(2) and in our Lord's descent into Hell, and His ascent as the conqueror of death, a great wonder was wrought among the dead. He refers then in these words, "Dost Thou show wonders among the dead?" to men so dead in heart, that such great works of Christ could not rouse them to the life of faith: for he does not say that wonders are not shown to them because they see them not, but because they do not profit them. For, as he says in this passage, "the whole day have I stretched forth My hands to Thee:" because He ever refers all His works to the will of His Father, constantly declaring that He came to fulfil His Father's will:(3) so also, as an unbelieving people saw the same works, another Prophet saith, "I have spread out my hands all day unto a rebellious people, that believes not, but contradicts."(4) Those then are dead, to whom wonders have not been shown, not because they saw them not, but since they lived not again through them. The following verse, "Shall physicians revive them, and shall they praise Thee?" means, that the dead shall not be revived by such means, that they may praise Thee. In the Hebrew there is said to be a different expression: giants being used where physicians are here: but the Septuagint translators, whose authority is such that they may deservedly be said to have interpreted by the inspiration of the Spirit of God owing to their wonderful agreement, conclude, not by mistake, but taking occasion from the resemblance in sound between the Hebrew words expressing these two senses, that the use of the word is an indication of the sense in which the word giants is meant to be taken. For if you suppose the proud meant by giants, of whom the Apostle saith, "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?"(5) there is no incongruity in calling them physicians, as if by their own unaided skill they promised the salvation of souls: against whom it is said, "Of the Lord is safety."(6) But if we take the word giant in a good sense, as it is said of our Lord, "He rejoiceth as a giant to run his course;"(7) that is Giant of giants, chief among the greatest and strongest, who in His Church excel in spiritual strength. Just as He is the Mountain of mountains; as it is written, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be manifested in the top of the mountains:"(8) and the Saint of saints: there is no absurdity in styling these same great and mighty men physicians. Whence saith the Apostle, "if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them."(9) But even such physicians, even though they cure not by their own power (as not even of their own do those of the body), yet so far forth as by faithful ministry they assist towards salvation, can cure the living, but not raise the dead: of whom it is said, "Dost Thou show wonders among the dead?" For the grace of God, by which men's minds in a certain manner are brought to live a fresh life, so as to be able to hear the lessons of salvation from any of its ministers whatever, is most hidden and mysterious. This grace is thus spoken of in the Gospel. "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him;"(1) ... in order to show, that the very faith by which the soul believes, and springs into fresh life from the death of its former affections, is given us by God. Whatever exertions, then, the best preachers of the word,(2) and persuaders of the truth through miracles, may make with men, just like great physicians: yet if they are dead, and through Thy grace have not a second life, "Dost Thou show wonders among the dead, or shall physicians raise them? and shall they" whom they raise "praise Thee"? For this confession declares that they live: not, as it is written elsewhere, "Thanksgiving perisheth from the dead, as from one that is not."(3)
10. "Shall one show Thy loving-kindness in the grave, or Thy faithfulness in destruction?" (ver. 11). The word "show" is of course understood as if repeated, Shall any show Thy faithfulness in destruction? Scripture loves to connect loving-kindness and faithfulness, especially in the Psalms. "Destruction" also is a repetition of "the grave," and signifies them who are in the grave, styled above "the dead," in the verse, "Dost thou show wonders among the dead?" for the body is the grave of the dead soul; whence our Lord's words in the Gospel, "Ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but within are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."(4)
11. "Shall thy wondrous works be known in the dark, and thy righteousness in the land where all things are forgotten?" (ver. 12), the dark answers to the land of forgetfulness: for the unbelieving are meant by the dark, as the Apostle saith, "For ye were sometimes darkness;"(5) and the land where all things are forgotten, is the man who has forgotten God; for the unbelieving soul can arrive at darkness so intense, "that the fool saith in his heart, There is no God."(6) Thus the meaning of the whole passage may thus be drawn out in its connection: "Lord, I have called upon Thee," amid My sufferings; "all day I have stretched forth my hands unto Thee" (ver. 13). I have never ceased to stretch forth My works to glorify, Thee. Why then do the wicked rage against Me, unless because "Thou showest not wonders among the dead"? because those wonders move them not to faith, nor can physicians restore them to life that they may praise Thee, because Thy hidden grace works not in them to draw them unto believing: because no man cometh unto Me, but whom Thou hast drawn. Shall then "Thy loving- kindness be showed in the grave"? that is, the grave of the dead soul, which lies dead beneath the body's weight: "or Thy faithfulness in destruction"? that is, in such a death as cannot believe or feel any of these things. "For how then in the darkness" of this death, that is, in the man who in forgetting Thee has lost the light of his life, "shall Thy wondrous works and Thy righteousness be known." ...
12. But that those prayers, the blessings of which surpass all words, may be more fervent and more constant, the gift that shall last unto eternity is deferred, while transitory evils are allowed to thicken. And so it follows: "Lord, why hast Thou cast off my prayer?" (ver. 14), which may be compared with another Psalm:(7) "My God, My God, look upon me; why hast Thou forsaken me?" The reason is made matter of question, not as if the wisdom of God were blamed as doing so without a cause; and so here. "Lord, why hast Thou cast off my prayer?" But if this cause be attended to carefully, it will be found indicated above; for it is with the view that the prayers of the Saints are, as it were, repelled by the delay of so great a blessing, and by the adversity they encounter in the troubles of life, that the flame, thus fanned, may burst into a brighter blaze.
13. For this purpose he briefly sketches in what follows the troubles of Christ's body. For it is not in the Head alone that they took place, since it is said to Saul too, "Why persecutest thou Me?"(8) and Paul himself, as if placed as an elect member in the same body, saith, "That I may fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh."(9) "Why then, Lord, hast Thou cast off my soul? why hidest Thou Thy face from me?"
"I am poor, and in toils from my youth up: and when lifted up, I was thrown down, and troubled" (ver. 15).
"Thy wraths went over me: Thy terrors disturbed me" (ver. 16).
"They came round about me all day like water: they compassed me about together" (ver. 17).
"A friend Thou hast put far from me: and mine acquaintance from my misery" (ver. 18). All these evils have taken place, and are happening in the limbs of Christ's body, and God turns away His face from their prayers, by not hearing as to what they wish for, since they know not that the fulfilment of their wishes would not be good for them. The Church is "poor," as she hungers and thirsts in her wanderings for that food with which she shall be filled in her own country: she is "in toils from her youth up," as the very Body of Christ saith in another Psalm, "Many a time have they overcome me from my youth."(1) And for this reason some of her members are lifted up even in this world, that in them may be the greater lowliness. Over that Body, which constitutes the unity of the Saints and the faithful, whose Head is Christ, go the wraths of God: yet abide not: since it is of the unbelieving only that it is written, that "the wrath of God abideth upon him."(2) The terrors of God disturb the weakness of the faithful, because all that can happen, even though it actually happen not, it is prudent to fear; and sometimes these terrors so agitate the reflecting soul with the evils impending around, that they seem to flow around us on every side like water, and to encircle us in our fears. And as the Church while on pilgrimage is never free from these evils, happening as they do at one moment in one of her limbs, at another in another, he adds, "all day," signifying the continuation in time, to the end of this world. Often too, friends and acquaintances, their worldly interests at stake, in their terror forsake the Saints; of which saith the Apostle, "all men forsook me: may it not be laid to their charge."(3) But to what purpose is all this, but that early in the morning, that is, after the night of unbelief, the prayers of this holy Body may in the light of faith prevent God, until the coming of that salvation, which we are at present saved by hoping for, not by having, while we await it with patience and faithfulness. Then the Lord will not repel our prayers, as there will no longer be anything to be sought for, but everything that has been rightly asked, will be obtained: nor will He turn His face away from us, since we shall see Him as He is:(4) nor shall we be poor, because God will be our abundance, all in all:(5) nor shall we suffer, as there will be no more weakness: nor after exaltation shall we meet with humiliation and confusion, as there will be no adversity there: nor bear even the transient wrath of God, as we shall abide in His abiding love: nor will His terrors agitate us, because His promises realized will bless us: nor will our friend and acquaintance, being terrified, be far from us, where there will be no foe to dread.
1. Understand, beloved, this Psalm, which I am about to explain, by the grace of God, of our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, and be of good cheer, because He who promised, will fulfil all, as He has fulfilled much: for it is not our own merit, but His mercy, that gives us confidence in Him. He Himself is meant, in my belief, by "the understanding of AEthan the Israelite:"(7) which has given this Psalm its title. You see then, who is meant by AEthan: but the meaning of the word is "strong." No man in this world is strong, except in the hope of God's promises: for as to our own deservings, we weak, in His mercy we are strong. Weak then in himself, strong in God's mercy, the Psalmist thus begins: "I will sing of Thy mercies, O Lord, for ever: with my mouth will I make known Thy truth unto all generations" (ver. 1).
2. Let my limbs, he saith, serve the Lord: I speak, but it is of Thine I speak. "With my mouth will I make known Thy truth:" if I obey not Thee, I am not Thy servant: if I speak on my own part, I am a liar. To speak then from Thee,(8) and in my own person, are two things: one mine, one Thine: Truth Thine, language mine. Let us hear then what faithfulness he maketh known, what mercies he singeth.
3. "For Thou hast said, Mercy shall be built up for ever" (ver. 2). It is this that I sing: this is Thy truth, for the making known of which my mouth serveth. In such wise Thou sayest, I build, as not to destroy: for some Thou destroyest and buildest not; and some whom Thou destroyest Thou dost rebuild. For unless there were some who were destroyed to be rebuilt, Jeremiah would not have written, "See, I have this day set thee to throw down and to build."(9) And indeed all who formerly worshipped images and stones could not be built up in Christ, without being destroyed as to their old error. While, unless some were destroyed not to be built up, it would not be written, "He shall destroy them, and not build them up."(10)... In what follows, he joins these two words, mercy and faithfulness; "For Thou hast said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: Thy truth shall be established in the Heavens:" in which mercy and truth are repeated, "for all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth,"(11) for truth in the fulfilment of promises could not be shown, unless mercy in the remission of sins preceded. Next, as many things were promised in prophecy even to the people of Israel that came according to the flesh from the seed of Abraham, and that people was increased that the promises of God might be fulfilled in it; while yet God did not close the fountain of His goodness even to the Gentiles, whom He had placed under the rule of the Angels, while He reserved the people of Israel as His own portion: the Apostle expressly mentions the Lord's mercy and truth as referring to these two parties. For he calls Christ "a minister of the Circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers."(1) See how God deceived not; see how He cast not off His people, whom He foreknew. For while the Apostle is treating of the fall of the Jews, to prevent any from believing them so far disowned(2) of God, that no wheat from that floor's fanning could reach the granary, he saith, "God hath not cast away His people, whom He foreknew; for I also am an Israelite."(3) If all that nation are thorns, how am I who speak unto you wheat? So that the truth of God was fulfilled in those Israelites who believed, and one wall from the circumcision is thus brought to meet the corner stone. But this stone would not form a corner, unless it received another wall from the Gentiles: so that the former wall relates in a special manner to the truth, the latter to the mercy of God. "Now I say," says the Apostle, "that Jesus Christ was a minister of the Circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promise made unto the fathers: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy."(4) Justly then is it added, "Thy truth shall Thou stablish in the Heavens:" for all those Israelites who were called to be Apostles became as Heavens which declare the glory of God: as it is written by them, "The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handywork."(5) . . . Since, although they were taken up from hence before the Church tilled the I whole world, yet as "their words reached to the ends of the world," we are right in supposing this which we have just read, "Thy truth shalt Thou stablish in the Heavens," fulfilled in them.
4. "Thou hast said, I have made a covenant with My chosen" (ver. 3). What covenant, but the new, by which we are renewed to a fresh inheritance, in our longing desire and love of which we sing a new song. "I have made a covenant with My chosen," saith the Psalmist: "I have sworn unto David My servant." How confidently does he speak, who understands, whose mouth serves truth! I speak without fear; since "Thou hast said." If Thou makest me fearless, because Thou hast said, how much more so dost Thou make me, when Thou hast sworn! For the oath of God is the assurance of a promise. Man is justly forbidden to swear:(6) lest by the habit of swearing, since a man may be deceived, he fall into perjury. God alone swears securely, because He alone is infallible.
5. Let us see then what God hath sworn. "I have sworn," He saith, "to David My servant; thy seed will I establish for ever" (ver. 4). But what is the seed of David, but that of Abraham. And what is the seed of Abraham? "And to thy seed," He saith, "which is Christ."(7) But perhaps that Christ, the Head of the Church, the Saviour of the body,(8) is the seed of Abraham, and therefore of David; but we are not Abraham's seed? We are assuredly; as the Apostle saith, "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."(9) In this sense, then, let us take the words, brethren, "Thy seed will I stablish for ever," not only of that Flesh of Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, but also of all of us who believe in Christ, for we are limbs of that Head. This body cannot be deprived of its Head: if the Head is in glory for ever, so are the limbs, so that Christ remains entire for ever. "Thy seed will I stablish for ever: and set up thy throne to generation and generation." We suppose he saith, "for ever," because it is "to generation and generation:" since he has said above, with "my mouth will I ever be showing Thy truth to generation and generation." What is "to generation and generation"? To every generation: for the word needed not as many repetitions, as the coming and passing away of the several generations. The multiplication of generations is signified and set forth to notice by the repetition. Are possibly two generations to be understood, as ye are aware, my beloved brethren, and as I have before explained? for there is now a generation of flesh and blood: there will be a future generation in the resurrection of the dead. Christ is proclaimed here: He will be proclaimed(10) there: here He is proclaimed, that He may be believed in: there, He will be welcomed, that He may be seen. "I will set up Thy throne from one generation to another." Christ hath now a throne in us, His throne is set up in us: for unless he sate enthroned within us, He would not rule us: but if we were not ruled by Him, we should be thrown down by ourselves. He therefore sits within us, reigning over us: He sits also in another generation, which will come from the resurrection of the dead. Christ will reign for ever over His Saints. God has promised this; He hath said it: if this is not enough, God hath sworn it. As then the promise is certain, not on account of our deservings, but of His pity, no one ought to be afraid in proclaiming that which he cannot doubt of. Let that strength then inspire our hearts, whence Aethan received his name, "strong in heart:" let us preach the truth of God, the utterance of God, His promises, His oath; and let us, strengthened on every side by these means, glorify God, and by bearing Him along with us, become Heavens.
6. "O Lord, the very Heavens shall praise Thy wondrous works" (ver. 5). The Heavens will not praise their own merits, but Thy wondrous works, O Lord. For in every act of mercy on the lost, of justification of the unrighteous, what do we praise but the wondrous works of God? Thou praisest Him, because the dead have risen: praise Him yet more, because the lost are redeemed. What grace, what mercy of God! Thou seest a man yesterday a whirlpool of drunkenness, to-day an ornament of sobriety: a man yesterday the sink of luxury, to-day the beauty of temperance: yesterday a blasphemer of God, to-day His praiser: yesterday the slave of the creature, to-day the worshipper of the Creator. From all these desperate states men are thus converted: let them not look at their own merits: let them become Heavens, and praise the wondrous works of Him by whom they were made Heavens. ...
7. "For who is he among the clouds, who shall be compared unto Thee, Lord!" (ver. 6). Is this to be the praise of the Heavens, is this to be their rain? What? are the preachers confident, because "none among the clouds shall be compared unto the Lord"? Does it appear to you, brethren, a high ground of praise, that the clouds cannot be compared with their Creator? If it is taken in its literal, not in its mystical meaning, it is not so: what? are the stars that are above the clouds to be compared with the Lord? what? can the Sun, Moon, Angels, Heavens, be even compared with the Lord? Why is it then that he says, as if he meant some high praise, "For who is he among the clouds?" etc. We understand, my brethren, those clouds, as the Heavens, to be the preachers of truth; Prophets, Apostles, the announcers of the word of God. ... If therefore the clouds are the preachers of the truth, let us first enquire why they are clouds. For the same men are Heavens and clouds: Heavens from the brightness of the truth, clouds from the hidden things of the flesh: for all clouds are obscure, owing to their mortality: and they come and go. It is on account of these very obscurities of the flesh, that is, of the clouds, that the Apostle saith, "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness."(1) You see at this moment what a man is saying: but what he has in his heart, you cannot see: what is forced from the cloud, you see, what is kept within the cloud, you see not. For whose eyes pierce the cloud? The clouds therefore are the preachers of the truth in the flesh. The Creator of all things Himself came in the flesh. ... We are called clouds on account of the flesh, and we are preachers of the truth on account of the showers of the clouds: but our flesh comes in one way, His by another. We too are called sons of God, but He is the Son of God in another sense. His cloud comes from a Virgin, He is the Son from eternity, co-eternal(2) with the Father. "Who is he then among the clouds, that shall be compared unto the Lord? and what is he among the sons of God, that shall be like unto the Lord?" Let the Lord Himself say whether He can find one like unto Himself. "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" Because I appear, because I am seen, because I walk among you, and perhaps at present I am become common; say, whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? Surely when they see a son of man, they see a cloud; but say, "Whom do men say that I am?" In answer they gave Him the reports of men; "Some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets." Many clouds and sons of God are here mentioned: for because they were righteous and holy, as the sons of God, Jeremias, Elias, and John are called also sons of God: in their character of preachers of God, they are styled clouds. Ye have said what clouds men imagine Me to be: do ye too say, "Whom say ye that I am?" Peter replying in behalf of all, one for those who were one,(3) answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;"(4) not like those sons of God who are not made equal to Thee: Thou hast come in the flesh: but not as the clouds, who are not to be compared unto Thee.
8. ... "God is very greatly to be feared in the counsel of the righteous, and to be had in dread of all them that are round about Him" (ver. 7). God is everywhere; who therefore are round about Him, who is everywhere? For if He has some round about Him, He is represented as finite on every side. Moreover, if it is truly said to God s and of God, "of His greatness there is no end;"(6) who remain, who are round about Him, except because He who is everywhere, chose to be born of the flesh on one spot, to dwell among one nation, in one place to be crucified, from one spot to rise again and ascend into Heaven. Where He did this, the Gentiles are round about Him. If He remained where He did these things, He would not be "great, and be had in dread of all them that are round about Him;" but since He preached when there in such a manner as to send preachers of His own name through all nations over the whole world; by working miracles among His servants, He is become "great, and to be had in dread of all them that are round about Him."
9. "O Lord God of Hosts, who is like unto Thee? Thy truth, most mighty Lord, is on every side" (ver. 8). Great is Thy power Thou hast made Heaven and earth, and all things that in them are: but greater still is thy loving-kindness, which has shown forth Thy truth to all around Thee. For if Thou hadst been preached only on the spot where Thou didst deign to be born, to suffer, to rise again, to ascend; the truth of that promise of God would have been fulfilled, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: but the promise, "that the Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy,"(1) would not have been fulfilled, had not that truth been explained, and diffused to those around Thee from the spot where Thou didst deign to appear. On that spot Thou didst thunder out of Thy own cloud: but to scatter rain upon the Gentiles round about, Thou hast sent other clouds. Truly in Thy power hast Thou fulfilled what Thou hast said, "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of Heaven."(2)
10. ... For ye have heard, like men accustomed to the watering of the clouds of God, "Thy truth" then "is in the circuit of Thee." But when without persecutions, when without opposition, since it is said, that "He was born for a sign which shall be spoken against"?(3) Since then that nation, where Thou didst deign to be born, and to dwell, was as a land separated from the waves of the heathen, so that it appeared dry and ready for watering with rain, while the rest of the nations were as a sea in the bitterness of their sterility; what do Thy preachers who scatter Thy truth in circuit of Thee, when the waves of that sea rage furiously? "Thou rulest the power of the sea" (ver. 9). For what was the result of the sea raging thus, but the day which we are now keeping holy? It slew Martyrs, scattered seeds of blood, the harvest of the Church sprang up. Safely then let the clouds go forth: let them diffuse Thy truth in circuit of Thee, let them not fear the savage waves. "Thou rulest the power of the sea." The sea swells, buffets, and roars: but "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted beyond what ye are able:"(4) and so, "Thou stillest the waves thereof when they rise."
11. Lastly, what hast Thou done in the sea itself, to pacify its rage, and to weaken it? "Thou hast humbled the proud(5) as one that is wounded" (ver. 10). There is a certain proud serpent in the sea, of which another passage of Scripture speaks, "I will command the serpent, and he shall bite him;"(6) and again, "There is that Leviathan, whom Thou hast made to mock him,"(7) whose head He bruises above the water. "Thou," he says," hast humbled the proud, as one that is wounded." Thou hast humbled Thyself, and the proud was humbled: for the proud held the proud ones through pride: but the great One is humbled, and by believing in Him become small. While the little one is nourished by the example of One who from greatness descended to humility, the devil has lost what he held: because the proud held only the proud. When such an example of humility was displayed before them, men learned to condemn their own pride, and to imitate the humility of God. Thus also the devil, by losing those whom he had in his power, has even himself been humbled; not chastened, but thrown prostrate. "Thou hast humbled the proud like one that is wounded." Thou hast been humbled, and hast humbled others: Thou hast been wounded, and hast wounded others: for Thy blood, as it was shed to blot the handwriting of sins,(8) could not but wound him. For what was the ground of his pride, except the bond which he held against us. This bond, this handwriting, Thou hast blotted out with Thy blood: him therefore hast Thou wounded, from whom Thou hast rescued so many victims. You must understand the devil wounded, not by the piercing of the flesh, which he has not, but by the bruising of his proud heart. "Thou hast scattered Thine enemies abroad with Thy mighty arm."
12. "The heavens are thine, the earth also is Thine" (ver. 11). From Thee, over Thy earth they rain. Thine are the heavens, by whom is preached Thy truth in circuit of Thee; "Thine is the earth," which has received Thy truth in circuit of Thee; and what has resulted from that rain? "Thou hast laid the foundation of the round world, and all that therein is." "Thou hast created the north and the seas" (ver. 12). For nothing has any power against Thee, against its Creator. The world indeed may rage through its own malice, and the perversity of its will; does it nevertheless pass over the bound laid down by the Creator, who made all things? Why then do I fear the north wind? Why do I fear the seas? In the north indeed is the devil, who said, "I will sit in the sides of the north; I will be like the Most High;"(1) but Thou hast humbled, as one wounded, the proud one. Thus what Thou hast done in them has more force for Thy dominion, than their own will has for their wickedness. "Thou hast created the north and the seas."
13. "Thabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy name." Those mountains are here understood, but they have a meaning. "Thabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy name." Thabor, when interpreted, signifies an approaching light. But whence comes the light of which it is said, "Ye are the light of the world,"(2) unless from Him concerning whom it is written, "That was the true light, which lighteth every man coming into the world"?(3) The light then which is the light of the world comes from that light which is not kindled from any other source, so that there is no fear lest it be extinguished. The light then comes from Him, who is that candle which is not set beneath the bushel, but on a candlestick, Thabor the coming light. Hermon means his curse. Justly the light comes and is made the curse of him. Of whom but the devil, the wounded one, the proud one? Our illumination then is given from Thee; that he is held accursed of us, who kept us in his own error and pride, is from Thee. "Thabor and Hermon, therefore, shall rejoice," not in their own merits, "but in Thy name." For they shall say, "Not unto us, Lord, not unto us, but to Thy name give the praise," on account of the raging sea: lest "the heathen say, Where is now their God?"(4)
14. "Thou hast a mighty arm" (ver. 13). Let no man arrogate anything to himself. "Thou hast a mighty arm:" by Thee we were created, by Thee we have been defended. "Thou hast a mighty arm: strong be Thy hand, and high be Thy right hand."
15. "Righteousness and judgment are the preparation of Thy seat" (ver. 14). Thy righteousness and judgment will appear in the end: they are now hidden. Of Thy righteousness it is treated in another Psalm,(5) "on the hidden things of the Son." There will then be a manifestation of Thy righteousness and judgment: some will be set on the right, others on the left hand:(6) and the unbelieving will tremble, when they see what now they mock at, and believe not: the righteous will rejoice, when they shall see what they now see not, yet believe. "Righteousness and judgment are the preparation of Thy seat:" especially in the Day of Judgment. What then now? "mercy and truth go before Thy face." I should fear the preparation of Thy seat, Thy justice, and Thy coming judgment, did not mercy and truth go before Thee: why should I at the end fear Thy righteousness, when with Thy mercy going before Thee Thou blottest out my sins, and by showing forth Thy truth fulfillest Thy promises? "Mercy and truth go before Thy face." For "all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth."(7)
16. In all these things shall we not rejoice? or shall we contain our joy? or shall words suffice for our gladness? or shall the tongue be able to express our rejoicing? If therefore no words suffice, "Blessed is the people, O Lord, that knoweth glad shouting" (ver. 15). O blessed people! dost thou conceive aright, dost thou understand, glad shouting? For except thou understand glad shouting, thou canst not be blessed. What do I mean by understanding glad shouting? Whether thou knowest the source of that rejoicing which is beyond words to express. For this joy is not of thyself, since "he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."(8) Rejoice not then in thy own pride, but in God's grace. See that that grace is such, that the tongue fails to express its greatness, and then thou understandest glad shouting. ... O Lord, "they shall walk in the light of Thy countenance." "They shall rejoice in Thy name all the day "(ver. 16). That Thabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy name: all day shall they rejoice, if they will, in Thy name; but if they will rejoice in their own name, they hall not rejoice all day: for they shall not continue in their joy, when they shall delight in themselves, and fall through pride. That they may rejoice all day, therefore, "they shall rejoice in Thy name, and in Thy righteousness shall they be exalted." Not in their own, but in Thine: lest they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For some are noted by the Apostle, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge, "being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own," and not rejoicing in Thy light, and thus "not submitting themselves unto the righteousness of God."(9) And why? because "they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." But the people who knoweth glad shouting (for the former err from want of knowledge, but blessed is the people not that knoweth not, but that knoweth glad shouting), whence ought it to shout, whence to rejoice, but in Thy name, walking in the light of Thy countenance? And it shall deserve to be exalted, but in Thy righteousness: let every man take away altogether his own righteousness, and be trembled: the righteousness of God shall come, and he shall be exalted, "and in Thy righteousness shall they be exalted."
17. "For Thou art the glory of their strength: and in Thy good pleasure Thou shall lift up our horns" (ver. 17): because it has seemed good to Thee, not because we are worthy.
18. "For of the Lord is our taking up" (ver. 18). For I was moved like a heap of sand, that I might fall; and I should have fallen, had not the Lord taken me up. "For of the Lord is (our(1)) taking up: and of the Holy One of Israel our King." Himself is thy taking up, Himself thy illumination: in His light thou art safe, in His light thou walkest, in His righteousness thou art exalted. He took thee up, He, guards thy weakness: He gives thee strength of Himself, not of thyself.
19. "Thou spakest sometime in vision unto Thy sons, and saidst" (ver. 19). Thou spakest in thy vision. Thou didst reveal this to Thy Prophets. For this reason Thou spakest in vision, that is, in revelation: whence Prophets were called seers. They saw something within, which they were to speak without: and secretly they heard what they preached openly.(2) Then "Thou spakest in vision unto Thy sons, and saidst, I have laid help upon One that is mighty." Ye understand Who is meant by mighty? "I have exalted One chosen out of the people." And Who is meant by chosen? One who, ye rejoice, is already exalted.
20. "I have found David My servant:" that David from David's seed: "with My holy oil have I anointed Him" (ver. 20): for it is said of Him, "God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows."(3)
21. "My hand shall hold Him fast, and My arm shall strengthen Him" (ver. 21): because there was a taking up of man; because flesh was assumed in the Virgin's womb,(4) because by Him who in the form of God is coequal with the Father, the form of a servant was taken, and He became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.(5)
22. "The enemy shall not be able to do him violence" (ver. 22). The enemy rages indeed but he shall not be able to do Him violence: he is wont to hurt, but he shall not hurt. How then shall he afflict Him? he will exercise Him, but he shall not hurt Him. There shall be profit in his raging; for those against whom he rages shall be crowned in their conquering. For how is he conquered, if he rages not against us? or where is God our helper, if we fight not? The enemy therefore shall do what is in his power; but "he shall not be able to do Him violence: the son of wickedness shall not come nigh to hurt Him."
23. "I will cut in pieces His enemies before His face" (ver. 23). They are cut in pieces from their conspiracy, and in that they believe they are cut in pieces; for they believe by degrees; as when the calf's head was ground small, they will come to be the drink of God's people. For Moses ground down the calf's head, and sprinkled it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink it.(6) All the unbelieving are ground: they believe by degrees; and they are drunk by the people of God, and pass into Christ's body. "I will cut in pieces His foes before His face: and put to flight them that hate Him."
24. "My truth also and My mercy is with Him" (ver. 24). All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth. Remember, as much as ye can, how often these two attributes are urged upon us, that we render them back to God. For as He showed us mercy that He might blot out our sins, and truth in fulfilling His promises; so also we, walking in His path, ought to give back to Him mercy and truth; mercy, in pitying the wretched; truth, in not judging unjustly. Let not truth rob you of mercy, nor mercy hinder truth: for if through mercy you shall have judged contrary to truth, or by rigorous truth shall have forgotten mercy, you will not be walking in the path of God, where "mercy and truth meet together."(7) "And in My name shall His horn be exalted." Why should I say more? Ye are Christians, recognise Christ.
25. "I will set His hand also in the sea" (ver. 25): that is, He shall rule over the Gentiles; "and His right hand in the floods." Rivers run into the sea: avaricious men roll onwards into the bitterness of this world: yet all these kinds of men will be subject to Christ.
26. "He shall call me, Thou art My Father, and the lifter up of My salvation" (ver. 26).
"And I will make Him my first-born; higher than the kings of the earth" (ver. 27). Our Martyrs, whose birthdays we are celebrating, shed their blood on account of these things, which were believed though not yet seen; how much more brave ought we to be, as we see what they believed? For they had not yet seen Christ raised on high among the kings of the earth: as yet princes were taking counsel together against the Lord and His Anointed: what follows in the same Psalm was not then fulfilled, "Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be learned, ye that are judges of the earth."(8) Now indeed Christ has been exalted among the kings of the earth.
27. "My mercy will I keep for Him for ever: and my Testament faithful with Him" (ver. 28). On His account, the Testament is faithful: in Him the Testament is mediated: He is the Sealer, the Mediator of the Testament, the Surety of the Testament, the Witness of the Testament, the Heritage of the Testament, the Coheir of the Testament.
28. "His seed will I make to endure world without end" (ver. 29). Not only for this world, but unto the world without end:(1) whither His seed, which is His heritage, the seed of Abraham, which is Christ, will pass.(2) But if ye are Christ's, ye are also Abraham's seed: and if ye are destined His heirs for ever, "He will establish His seed unto world without end: and His throne as the days of Heaven." The thrones of earthly kings are as the days of the earth: different are the days of Heaven from those of earth. The days of Heaven are those years of which it is said, "Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail."(3) The days of the earth are soon overtaken by their successors: those which precede are shut out from us: nor do those which succeed remain: but they come that they may go, and are almost gone before they are come. Such are the days of earth. But the days of Heaven, which are also the "One day" of Heaven,(4) and the never failing years, have neither beginning nor end: nor is any day there narrowed between yesterday and to-morrow: no one there expects the future, nor loses the past: but the days of Heaven are always present, where His throne shall be for ever and ever.(5) ...
29. This is a strong pledge of the promise of God. The sons of this David are the children of the Bridegroom; all Christians therefore are called His sons. But it is much indeed that God promises, that if Christians, that is, "If his children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments" (ver. 30); "if they profane My statutes, and keep not My commandments" (ver. 31); I will not spurn them, nor will I send them away from Me in perdition: but what will I do? "I will visit their offences with the rod, and their sin with scourges" (ver. 32). It is not the mercy of one that calls them only; but also that chastises and scourges them. Let therefore thy Father's hand be upon thee, and if thou art a good son, repel not chastening; for "what son is there, to whom his father giveth not chastening?"(6) Let Him chasten him, so long as He takes not from him His mercy: let Him beat him when obstinate, as long as He does not disinherit him. If thou hast well understood the promises of thy Father, fear not to be scourged, but to be disinherited: "for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth: and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."(7) Does the sinful son spurn chastening, when he sees the only Son without sin scourged? "I will visit their offences with the rod." Thus too the Apostle threatens: "What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod?"(8) Let not pious sons say, if Thou art coming with a rod, come not at all. For it is better to be taught with the Father's rod, than to perish in the caresses of the robber.
30. "Nevertheless, My mercy will I not utterly take from Him" (ver. 33). From whom? From that David to whom I gave these promises, whom "I anointed with my holy oil of gladness above His fellows."(9) Do you recognise Him from whom God will not utterly take away His mercy? That no one may anxiously say, since He speaks of Christ as Him from whom He will not take away His mercy, What then will become of the sinner? Did He say anything like this, "I will not take My loving-kindness utterly from them"? "I will visit," He saith, "their offences with the rod, and their sin with scourges." Thou didst expect for thy own security, "I will not utterly take my loving-kindness from" them. And indeed this is the reading of some books, but not of the most accurate: though, where they have it, it is a reading by no means inconsistent with the real meaning. For how can it be said that He will not utterly take His mercy from Christ? Has the Saviour of the body committed aught of sin either in Heaven or in earth, "who sitteth even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us"?(10) Yet it is from Christ: but from His members, His body which is the Church. For in this sense He speaks of it as a great thing that He will not take away His mercies from Him, supposing us not to recognise the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father;(11) for there the Man is not counted for His Person, but the One Person is God and Man. He therefore does not utterly take His mercies from Him, when He takes not His mercy from His body, His members,(12) in which, even while He was enthroned in Heaven, He was still suffering persecutions on earth; and when He cried from Heaven, "Saul, Saul," not why persecutest thou My servants, nor why persecutest thou My saints, nor My disciples, but, "why persecutest thou Me?" 13 As then, while no one persecuted Him when sitting in Heaven, He cried out, "Why persecutest thou Me?" when the Head recognised its limbs, and His love allowed not the Head to separate Himself from the union of the body: so, when He taketh not away His mercies from Him, it is surely that He taketh it not from us, who are His limbs and body. Yet ought we not on that account to sin not without apprehension, and perversely to assure ourselves that we shall not perish, be our actions what they may. For there are certain sins and certain offences, to define and discourse of which it is either impossible for me, or if it were possible, it would be too tedious for the time we have at present. For no man can say that he is without sin; for if he says so, he will lie; "if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."(1) Each one therefore is needfully scourged for his own sins; but the mercy of God is not taken away from him, if he be a Christian. Certainly if thou committest such offences as to repel the hand of Him who chasteneth, the rod of Him who scourgeth thee, and art angry at the correction of God, and fliest from thy Father when He chasteneth thee, and wilt not suffer Him to be thy Father, because He spares thee not when thou dost sin; thou hast estranged thyself from thy heritage, He has not thrown thee off; for if thou wouldest abide being scourged, thou wouldest not abide disinherited. "Nor will I do hurt in My truth." For His mercy in setting free shall not be taken away, lest His truth in taking vengeance do harm.
31. "My covenant will I not profane, nor reject the thing that is gone out of my lips" (ver. 34). Because his sons sin, I will not on this account be found false: I have promised; I will do. Suppose they choose to sin even as past hope, and so fall into sins as to offend their Father's countenance, and deserve to be disinherited; is it not still God Himself, of whom it is said, "From these stones" He "will raise up sons to Abraham"?(2) Therefore I tell you, brethren, many Christians sin venially,(3) many are scourged and so corrected for their sin, chastened, and cured; many turn away altogether, striving with a stiff neck against the discipline of the Father, even wholly refusing God as their Father, though they have the mark of Christ, and so fall into such sins, that it can only be announced against them, "that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."(4) Nevertheless, Christ shall not be destitute of an inheritance on their account: not for the chaff's sake shall the wheat also perish:(5) nor on account of bad fish shall nothing be cast into the vessels from that net.(6) "The Lord knows them that are His."(7) For He who predestined us before we were born, promised undoubtingly: "For whom He did predestinate, them. He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified."(8) Let desperate sinners sin as far as they choose: let the members of Christ reply, "If God is with us, who shall be against us?" God will not therefore do hurt in His truth, nor will He "profane His Testament." His Testament remains immovable, because in His foreknowledge He predestined His heirs; and "He will not reject the thing that is gone out of His lips."
32. Listen for thy confirmation in hope, for thy security, if thou knowest thyself to be among the members of Christ. "I have sworn once by My holiness that I will not lie unto David" (ver. 35). Dost thou wait till God swear a second time? How often is He to swear, if in one oath He is false? One oath He made for our life, who sent His Only One to die for us. "I have sworn once by My holiness, that I will not lie unto David." "His seed shall endure for ever" (ver. 36). His seed endures for ever; because the Lord knows them that are His. "And His seat is like as the sun before me:" "and as the moon perfect for evermore: and the faithful witness in heaven" (ver. 37). They are His seat, in whom He sits and reigns. But if His seat, His members also; because even our members are the seat of our head. See how all our other members sustain our head: but the head supports nothing above itself, but is itself supported by the rest of our limbs, as if the whole body of a man were the seat of his head. His seat, therefore, all in whom God reigns, "shall be like as the sun before Me," He saith: because the righteous in the kingdom of My Father "shall shine like the sun."(9) But the sun is meant in a spiritual, not a bodily sense, as that which shines from Heaven, which He maketh to rise upon the just and unjust.(10) Finally, that sun is not before men's eyes only, but even those of cattle and the smallest insects; for which of the vilest animals sees not that sun? What does he say to distinguish the sun meant here? "Like as the sun before Me." Not before men, before the flesh, before mortal animals, but "before Me, and as the moon." But what moon? one "that is perfect for evermore." For although that moon which we know becomes perfect, the next day she begins to wane, after her orb is full. "He shall be as the moon perfect for evermore," He saith. His seat shall be made perfect as the moon, but that moon is one which will be perfect for evermore. If as the sun, why also as the moon? the Scriptures usually signify by the moon the mortality of this flesh, because of its increasings and decreasings, because of its transitory nature. The moon is also interpreted as Jericho: one who was descending from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among robbers:(11) for he was descending from immortality to mortality. Similar then is the flesh to that moon, which every month suffers increase and decrease: but that flesh of ours will be perfect in the resurrection: "and a faithful witness in heaven." Thus then, if it was our mind only that would be perfected, he would compare us only to the sun: if our body only, to the moon; but as God will perfect us in both, in respect of the mind it is said, "like as the sun before Me," because God only seeth the mind: and "as the moon," so is the flesh: which "shall be made perfect for evermore," in the resurrection of the dead: "and a faithful witness in Heaven," because all that was asserted of the resurrection of the dead was true. I beseech you, hear this again more clearly, and remember it: for I know that some understated, while others are yet enquiring perhaps what I meant. There is no article of the Christian faith which has encountered such contradiction as that of the resurrection of the flesh. Finally, He who was born for a sign that should be spoken against,(1) resumed His own flesh after death to meet the caviller; and He who could have so completely cured His wounds that their scars would have entirely vanished, retained those scars in His body, that He might cure the wounds of doubt in the heart. Indeed nothing has been attacked with the same pertinacious, contentious contradiction, in the Christian faith, as the resurrection of the flesh. On the immortality of the soul many Gentile philosophers have disputed at great length, and in many books they have left it written that the soul is immortal: when they come to the resurrection of the flesh, they doubt not indeed, but they most openly deny it, declaring it to be absolutely impossible that this earthly flesh can ascend to Heaven. Thus that moon shall be perfect for evermore, and shall be the faithful witness in heaven against all gainsayers.
33. These promises, so sure, so firm, so open, so unquestioned, were made concerning Christ. For although some are mysteriously veiled, yet some are so clear, that all that is obscure is easily revealed by them. Such being the case, see what follows: "But Thou hast approved and brought to nothing and forsaken Thine Anointed" (ver. 38). "Thou hast overthrown the testament of Thy servant, and profaned His holiness on the ground" (ver. 39). "Thou hast broken down all His hedges, and made His strongholds a terror" (ver. 40). ... How is this? Thou hast promised all those things: and Thou hast brought to pass their reverse. Where are now the promises which but a little before filled us with delight? which we so joyfully applauded, which we so fearlessly made our boast of? It is as if one promised, and another destroyed. And this is the mystery: for the words are not "another," but "Thou," Thou who didst promise, who didst even swear in condescension to human doubt, Thou hast promised this, and done thus! Whence shall I get Thy oath, where shall I find Thy promise fulfilled? Would then God promise, or swear thus falsely? and yet why then these promises, and these acts? I answer, that He acted thus in fulfilment of those promises. But who am I, to say this? Let us see therefore whether it is the language of the Truth; what I say will not then be without foundation. It was David to whom the fulfilment of these promises in his seed, that is, in Christ, was promised: and as they were addressed to David, men expected their completion in David. Further, lest when any Christian asserted these promises to have referred to Christ, another by applying them to David, because he described the fulfilment of all of them in David, might thus err; He cancelled them in David, thus obliging us when we see them unfulfilled in David, to look to another quarter for their fulfilment. Thus also in the case of Esau and Jacob, we find the elder worshipped by the younger, though it is written, "The elder shall serve the younger;"(12) so when you see it unfulfilled in those two brothers, you look for two peoples in whom to discover the completion of what God in His truth deigns to promise. "From the fruit of thy body," saith the Lord unto David, "shall I set upon thy sea."(3) He promised from his seed something for evermore: and, Solomon, born to him, became master of such wisdom? that the promise of God respecting the fruit of David's body was believed to have been fulfilled in him; but Solomon fell,(5) and gave room for hoping for Christ; that since God can neither be deceived nor deceive, He might not make His promise to rest in one who He knew would fall, but you might after the fall of Solomon look back to God, and demand His promise. Hast Thou, O Lord, deceived? Hast Thou failed to fulfil Thy promise? Dost Thou not exhibit what Thou hast sworn? Perhaps God might reply, I swore and promised: but Solomon would not persevere. What then? Didst not Thou, Lord God, know beforehand that he would not persevere? Indeed Thou didst know. Why then didst Thou promise me what should be eternal in one who would not persevere? Hast Thou not answered; "But if his children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments; if they keep not My statutes, and profane My testament;" yet My promise shall remain, and My oath shall be fulfilled: "I have sworn once in My Holiness," within, in a certain mystery, in the very spring whence the Prophets drank, whence they burst forth to us of these things, "I have sworn once "that I will not fail David. Show forth then what Thou hast sworn, give us what Thou hast promised. The fulfilment is taken from that David, that it might not be looked for in that David: wait therefore for what I have promised.
34. Even David himself knew this. Consider his words; "Thou hast rejected and brought him down to nothing." Where then is Thy promise? "Thou hast put off Thine anointed." This expression cheers us, among much that is sorrowful: for the promise of God is still valid; for(1) Thou hast put off Thine Anointed, not taken Him away. See then what was the fate of that David, in whom the ignorant hoped for the fulfilment of the promises of God, in order that those promises might be more firmly relied upon for their fulfilment in another. "Thou hast put off Thine Anointed: Thou hast overthrown the testament of Thy servant." For where is the Old Testament of the Jews? where that land of promise, in which they sinned while they dwelt in it, on the overthrow of which they wandered afar? Ask you for the kingdom of the Jews; it exists not: you ask for the altar of the Jews; it is not: you ask for the sacrifice of the Jews; it is not: you ask for the priesthood of the Jews; it is not. "Thou hast overthrown the testament of Thy servant, and profaned his holiness on the earth." Thou hast shown that what they thought holy, was earthly. "Thou hast broken down all his hedges," with which Thou hast entrenched him: for how could he have been spoiled unless his hedges had been broken down? "Thou hast made his strongholds a terror." Why terror? That it should be said to the sinners, "For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee."(2)
"All they that go by the way have spoiled him:" that is, all the heathen that go by the way, meaning, all who pass through this life, have spoiled Israel, have spoiled David. First of all, see his fragments in all nations: for it is of the Jews that it is said, "They shall be a portion for foxes."(3) For the Scripture calls wicked, crafty, and cowardly kings, whom another's virtue terrifies, foxes. Thus when our Lord Himself was speaking of the threatening Herod, He said, "Go ye, and tell that fox."(4) The king who fears no man, is not a fox: like that Lion of Judah, of whom it is said, "Stooping down Thou didst rise up, and didst sleep as a lion."(5) At Thy will Thou didst stoop down, at Thy will didst rise; because Thou wouldest, Thou didst sleep. And thus in another Psalm he says, "16 slept."(7) Was not the sentence complete, "I slept, and took rest, and rose up again, because the Lord shall uphold Me"? Why is the word ego added? and thus with a strong emphasis on the word I, they raged against Me, they troubled Me: but had I not willed, I had not slept. Those then concerning whom it was declared that they should be a portion for foxes, are now spoken of as follows; "All they that go by have spoiled him: and he is become a reproach to his neighbours" (ver. 41). "Thou hast set up the right hand of his enemies, and made all his adversaries to rejoice" (ver. 42). Look at the Jews, and see all things fulfilled that were predicted. "Thou hast turned away the help of his sword." How they were used to fight few in number, and to strike down many. "Thou hast turned away the help of his sword, and Thou givest him not victory in the battle" (ver. 43). Naturally(8) then is he conquered, naturally taken prisoner, naturally made an outcast from his kingdom, naturally scattered abroad: for he lost that land, for which he slew the Lord. "Thou hast loosed him from cleansing" (ver. 44). What is this? Amongst all the evils, this is a matter for great fear; for howsoever God may beat, howsoever He may be wroth, howsoever He may flog and scourge, yet let Him scourge him bound, whom He is to cleanse, not "loose him from cleansing." For if He loose him from being purified, he becomes incapable of cleansing, and must be an outcast. From what cleansing then is the Jew loosed? From faith; for by faith we live:(9) and it is said of faith, "purifying their hearts by faith:"(10) and as it is only the faith of Christ that cleanses; by disbelief in Christ, they are loosed from purification. "Thou hast loosed him from cleansing, and cast his throne down to the ground." And so Thou hast broken it. "The days of his seat hast Thou shortened" (ver. 45). They imagined that they should reign for ever. "And covered him with confusion." All these things happened to the Jews, Christ yet not being taken away, but His advent deferred.
35. Let us therefore see whether God fulfils His promises. After these stern penalties which have been recorded as having been inflicted upon this people and kingdom, that God might not be supposed to have fulfilled His promises in it, and so not to grant another kingdom in Christ, of which kingdom there shall be no end; the Prophet addresses Him in these words, "Lord, how long wilt Thou hide Thyself unto the end?" (ver. 46). For possibly it was not from them and to the end; because "blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved."(1) But in the mean while "shall Thy wrath burn like fire."
36. "O remember what my substance is" (ver. 47). That David, who was placed among the Jews in the flesh, in Christ in hope, speaks "Remember what is my substance." For not because the Jews fell away, did my substance fail: for from that people came the Virgin Mary, and from her the flesh of Christ; that Flesh sins not, but purifies sins; there, saith David, is my substance. "O remember what my substance is." For the root has not entirely perished; the seed shall come to whom the promise was made, ordained by Angels in the hand of a Mediator.(2) "For Thou hast not made all the sons of men for nought" (ver. 47). Lo! all the sons of men have gone into vanity: yet Thou hast not made them for nought. If then all went into vanity, whom Thou hast not made for nought; hast Thou not reserved some instrument to purify them from vanity? This which Thou hast reserved to Thyself to cleanse men from vanity is Thy Holy One, in Him is my substance: for from Him are all, whom Thou hast not made for nought, purified from their own vanity. To them it is said, "O ye sons of men, how long are ye heavy in heart? Wherefore have ye such pleasure in vanity, and seek after leasing?"(3) Perhaps they might become anxious, and turn from their vanity, and when they found themselves polluted with it, might seek for purification from it: then help them, make them secure. "Know this also, that the Lord hath made wonderful His Holy One."(4) He has made His Holy One to be admired: thence He has purified all from their vanity: there, saith David, is my substance: O remember it! "For Thou hast not made all the sons of men for nought." Thou hast therefore reserved something to purify them: and who is He whom Thou hast reserved? "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?" This man then who shall live and not see death, shall purify them from nothingness. For He made not all men for nought, nor can He who made them so despise His own creatures, as not to convert and purify them.
37. "What man is he that shall live, and shall not see death?" (ver. 48). For being raised from the dead He dieth no more, and death hath no more dominion over Him.(5) And as in another Psalm it is said, "Thou shalt not leave my soul in Hell, neither shalt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption,"(6) the Apostolic teaching takes up this testimony, and in the Acts of the Apostles(7) thus argues against the unbelieving; Men and brethren, we know that the patriarch David is dead and buried, and his flesh hath seen corruption. Therefore it cannot be said of him, "neither shall Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption." Of whom then is it said? "What man is he that shall live, and shall not see death?" Perhaps there is no man such. Nay, but "who is it?" is said to make thee inquire, not despair. But perhaps there may be some man "that shall live, and shall not see death," and yet perhaps he did not speak of Christ, who died? There is no man "that shall live, and shall not see death," except Him who died for mortals. That thou mayest be assured that it is said of Him, consider the sequel; "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?" Did He never die then? He did. How then shall He live, and never see death? "He shall deliver His own soul from the hands of Hell." He is spoken of alone indeed, in that He alone of all others "shall live, and shall not see death: He shall deliver His own soul from the hand of Hell," because although the rest of His faithful shall rise from the dead, and shall themselves live for evermore, without seeing death; yet they shall not themselves deliver their own souls from the hands of Hell. He who delivers His own soul from the hands of Hell, Himself delivers those of His believers: they cannot do so of themselves. Prove that He delivers His own soul. "I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again. No man taketh 'it from Me;' for I Myself slept, but I lay it down of Myself, and take it again,"(8) because it is He Himself who delivers His own soul from the hands of Hell.
38. But in the very faith in Christ great difficulties occurred, and the heathen in their rage long said, "When shall he die, and his name perish?" On account of these then who have now long believed in Christ, but were destined to doubt for some time, these words follow, "Lord, where are Thy old loving-kindnesses?" (ver. 49). We have now acknowledged Christ our purifier, we now possess Him in whom Thy promises were to be fulfilled; show forth in Him what Thou hast promised. It is He Himself that shall live, and not see death: Himself who delivers His own soul from the hand of Hell: and yet we are still in suffering. Thus spoke the Martyrs, whose birthdays we are celebrating. He shall live, and not see death: He delivers His soul from the hands of Hell: yet "for Thy sake we are killed all the day long: and are counted as sheep appointed to be slain."(9) "Lord, where are Thy old loving-kindnesses which Thou swarest unto David in Thy truth?"
39. "Remember, Lord, the rebuke that Thy servants have" (ver. 50). Even while Christ was living, and while He was sitting on His Father's right hand, reproaches were cast against the Christians: they long were reproached with the name of Christ. That widowed one who brought forth, and whose children were more than those of the married wife,(1) heard ill names, heard reproaches: but the Church, multiplied as she is, extending right and left, no longer remembers the reproach of her widowhood. "Remember, Lord," in the memory of whom there is abundant sweetness. "Remember," forget not. Remember what? "the rebuke that Thy servants have: and how I do bear in my bosom the rebukes of many people." I went, saith he, to preach of Thee, and I heard reproaches, and bore them in my bosom, because I was fulfilling the prophecy. "Being defamed we entreat: we are made as the filth of the earth, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day."(2) Long the Christians bore reproaches in their bosom, in their heart: nor dared resist their revilers; before, when it was a crime to answer a heathen: it is now a crime to remain a heathen. Thanks be to the Lord! He remembered our rebukes: He raised the horn of His Anointed on high, He made Him the Wonderful among the kings of the earth. Now no one insults Christians, or if he does, it is not in public: he speaks as if he were still more fearful of being heard, than anxious to be believed. "I bear in my bosom the rebukes of many people."
40. "Wherewith Thine enemies have blasphemed Thee, O Lord" (ver. 51), both Jews and Pagans. "Wherewith they have blasphemed." Wherewith have they blasphemed Thee? "With the change of Thine Anointed."(3) They objected that Christ died, and was crucified. Madmen, what is your reproach? Although there is now no one to use it: yet supposing some still remaining that so speak, what is your reproach? that Christ died? He was not destroyed, but changed. He is styled "dead" on account of the three days. Wherewith then have thine enemies blasphemed Thee? Not with the loss, not with the perdition of Thine Anointed, but with His "change." He was changed from temporal to eternal life: He was changed from the Jews to the Gentiles; He was changed from earth to heaven. Let then Thy vain enemies blaspheme Thee still for the change of Thine Anointed. Would that they may be changed: they will not in that case blaspheme the change of Christ, which displeases them since they themselves will not be changed. "For there is no change with them, and they fear not God."(4)
41. They have blasphemed the change of Christ; but what dost thou answer? "The blessing of(5) the Lord for evermore. Amen and Amen" (ver. 52). Thanks to His mercy,(6) thanks to His grace. We express our thanks: we do not give them, nor return them, nor repay them: we express our thanks in words, while in fact we retain our sense of them.(7) He saved us for no reward, He heeded not our impieties: He searched us out when we searched not for Him, He found, redeemed, emancipated us from the bondage of the devil and the power of his wicked angels: He drew us to Him to purify us by that faith, from which He releases those enemies only who believe not, and who for that reason cannot be purified. Let those who still remain infidels say every day what they choose; day by day they shall be fewer and fewer that remain; let them revile, mock, accuse, not the death, but the change of Christ. Do they not see that, when they say these things, they fail in purpose either by believing or by dying? For their curse is temporal: but the blessing of the Lord "for evermore." To confirm that blessing is added, "Amen and Amen." This is the signature of the bond of God. Secure then of His promises, let us believe the past, recognise the present, hope for the future. Let not the enemy lead us astray from the way, that He, who gathers us like chickens under His wings, may foster us: lest we stray from His wings, and the hawk of the air carry us off while yet unfledged. For the Christian ought not to hope in himself: if he hopes to be strong, let him be reared by his mother's warmth. This is the hen who gathers her young together; whence is the reproach of our Saviour against the unbelieving Jerusalem. "Behold, your house shall be left unto you desolate."(8) Hence was it said, "Thou hast made his strongholds a terror." Since then they would not be gathered together under the wings of this hen, and have given as a warning to teach us to dread the unclean spirits that fly in the air, seeking daily what they may devour; let us gather ourselves under the wings of this hen, the divine Wisdom, since she is weakened even unto death of her chickens. Let us love our Lord God, let us love His Church: Him as a Father, Her as a Mother: Him as a Lord, Her as His Handmaid, as we are ourselves the Handmaid's sons. But this marriage is held together by a bond of great love: no man offends the one, and wins favour of the other. Let no man say, "I go indeed to the idols, I consult possessed ones and fortune- tellers: yet I abandon not God's Church; I am a Catholic." While thou holdest to thy Mother, thou hast offended thy Father. Another says, Far be it from me; I consult no sorcerer, I seek out no possessed one, I never ask advice by sacrilegious divination, I go not to worship idols, I bow not before stones; though I am in the party of Donatus. What does it profit you not to have offended your Father, if he avenges your offended Mother? what does it serve you, if you acknowledge the Lord, honour God, preach His name, acknowledge His Son, confess that He sitteth by His right hand; while you blaspheme His Church? Does not the analogy of human marriages convince you? Suppose you have some patron, whom you court every day, whose threshold you wear with your visits, whom you daily not only salute, but even worship, to whom you pay the most loyal courtesy; if you utter one calumny against his wife, could you re-enter his house? Hold then, most beloved, hold all with one mind to God the Father, and the Church our Mother. Celebrate with temperance the birthdays of the Saints, that we may imitate those who have gone before us, and that they who pray for you may rejoice over you; that "the blessing of the Lord may abide on you for evermore. Amen and Amen."
1. This Psalm is entitled, "The prayer of Moses the man of God," through whom, His man, God gave the law to His people, through whom He freed them from the house of slavery, and led them forty years through the wilderness. Moses was therefore the Minister of the Old, and the Prophet of the New Testament. For "all these things," saith the Apostle, "happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, unto whom the ends of the world come."(2) In accordance therefore with this dispensation which was vouchsafed to Moses, this Psalm is to be examined, as it has received its title from his prayer.
2. "Lord," he saith, "Thou hast been our refuge from one generation to another" (ver. 1): either in every generation, or in two generations, the old and new: because, as I said, he was the Minister of the Testament that related to the old generation, and the Prophet of the Testament which appertained to the new. Jesus Himself, the Surety of that covenant, and the Bridegroom in the marriage which He entered into in that generation, saith, "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me."(3) Now it is not to be believed that this Psalm was entirely the composition of that Moses, as it is not distinguished by any of those of his expressions(4) which are used in his songs: but the name of the great servant of God is used for the sake of some intimation, which should direct the attention of the reader or listener. "Lord," he saith, "Thou hast been our refuge from one generation to the other."
3. He adds, how He became our refuge, since He began to be that, viz. a refuge, to us which He had not been before, not that He had not existed before He became our refuge: "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made: and from age even unto age Thou art" (ver. 2). Thou therefore who art for ever, and before we were, and before the world was, hast become our refuge ever since we turned to Thee. But the expression, "before the mountains," etc., seems to me to contain a particular meaning; for mountains are the higher parts of the earth, and if God was before even the earth were formed (or, as some books have it, from the same Greek word, "framed"(5)) , since it was by Him that it was formed, what is the need of saying that He was before the mountains, or any certain parts of it, since God was not only before the earth, but before heaven and earth, and even the whole bodily and spiritual creation? But it may certainly be that the whole rational creation is marked by this distinction; that while the loftiness of Angels is signified by the mountains, the lowliness of man is meant by the earth. And for this reason, although all the works of creation are not improperly said to be either made or formed; nevertheless, if there is any propriety in these words, the Angels are "made;" for as they are enumerated among His heavenly works, the enumeration itself is thus concluded: "He spake the word, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created;"(6) but the earth was "formed," that man might thence be created in the body. For the Scripture uses this word, where we read, God made, or "God formed man out of the dust of the ground."(7) Before then the noblest parts of the creation (for what is higher than the rational part of the Heavenly creation) were made: before the earth was made, that Thou mightest have worshippers upon the earth; and even this is little, as all these had a beginning either in or with time; but "from age to age Thou art." It would have been better, from everlasting to everlasting: for God, who is before the ages, exists not from a certain age, nor to a certain age, which has an end, since He is without end. But it often happens in the Scripture, that the equivocal Greek word causes the Latin translator to put age for eternity and eternity for age. But he very rightly does not say, Thou wast from ages, and unto ages Thou shalt be: but puts the verb in the present, intimating that the substance of God is altogether immutable. It is not, He was, and Shall be, but only Is. Whence the expression, I Am that I am; and, I am "hath sent me unto you;"(1) and, "Thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail."(2) Behold then the eternity that is our refuge, that we may fly thither from the mutability of time, there to remain for evermore.
4. But as our life here is exposed to numerous and great temptations, and it is to be feared lest we may be turned aside by them from that refuge, let us see what in consequence of this the prayer of the man of God seeks for. "Turn not Thou man to lowness" (ver. 3): that is, let not man, turned aside from Thy eternal and sublime things, lust for things of time, savour of earthly things. This prayer is what God has Himself enjoined us, in the Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation,"(3) He adds, "Again Thou sayest, Come again, ye children of men." As if he said, I ask of Thee what Thou hast commanded me to ask: giving glory to His grace, that "he that glorieth, in the Lord he may glory:"(4) without whose help we cannot by an exertion of our own will overcome the temptations of this life. "Turn not Thou man to lowness: again thou sayest, Turn again, ye children of men." But grant what Thou has enjoined, by hearing the prayer s of him who can at least pray, and aiding the faith of the willing soul.
5. "For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday, which is past by" (ver. 4): hence we ought to turn to Thy refuge, where Thou art without any change, from the fleeting scenes around us; since however long a time may be wished for for this life, "a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday:" not as to-morrow, which is to come: for all limited periods of time are reckoned as having already passed. Hence the Apostle's choice is rather to aim at what is before,(6) that is, to desire things eternal, and to forget things behind, by which temporal matters should be understood. But that no one may imagine a thousand years are reckoned by God as one day, as if with God days were so long, when this is only said in contempt of the extent of time: he adds, "and as a watch in the night:" which only lasts three hours. Nevertheless men have ventured to assert their knowledge of times, to the pretenders to which our Lord said, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power:"(7) and they allege that this period may be defined six thousand years, as of six days. Nor have they heeded the words, "are but as one day which is past by:" for, when this was uttered, not a thousand years only had passed, and the expression, "as a watch in the night," ought to have warned them that they might not be deceived by the uncertainty of the seasons: for even if the six first days in which God finished His works seemed to give some plausibility to their opinion, six watches, which amount to eighteen hours, will not consist with that opinion.
6. Next, the man of God, or rather the Prophetic spirit, seems to be reciting some law written in the secret wisdom of God, in which He has fixed a limit to the sinful life of mortals, and determined the troubles of mortality, in the following words: "Their years are as things which are nothing worth: in the morning let it fade away like the grass" (ver. 5). The happiness therefore of the heirs of the old covenant, which they asked of the Lord their God as a great boon, attained to receive this Law in His mysterious Providence. Moses seems to be reciting it: "Their years shall be things which are esteemed as nothing." Such are those things which are not before they are come: and when come, shall soon not be: for they do not come to be here, but to be gone. "In the morning," that is, before they come, "as a heat(8) let it pass by;" but "in the evening," it means after they come, "let it fall, and be dried up, and withered" (ver. 6). It is "to fall" in death, be "dried up" in the corpse, "withered" in the dust. What is this but flesh, wherein is the accursed lust of fleshly things? "For all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness of man as the flower of the field; the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of the Lord abideth for ever."(9)
7. Making no secret that this fate is a penalty inflicted for sin, he adds at once, "For we consume away in Thy displeasure, and are troubled at Thy wrathful indignation" (ver. 7): we consume away in our weakness, and are troubled from the fear of death; for we are become weak, and yet fearful to end that weakness. "Another," saith He, "shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not:"(10) although not to be punished, but to be crowned, by martyrdom; and the soul of our Lord, transforming us into Himself, was sorrowful even unto death: for "the Lord's going out" is no other than in "death."
8. "Thou hast set our misdeeds before Thee" (ver. 8): that is, Thou hast not dissembled Thine anger: "and our age in the light of Thy countenance." "The light of Thy countenance" answers to "before Thee," and to "our misdeeds," as above.
9. "For all our days are failed, and in Thine anger we have failed (ver. 9). These words sufficiently prove that our subjection to death is a punishment. He speaks of our days failing, either because men fail in them from loving things that pass away, or because they are reduced to so small a number; which he asserts in the following lines: "our years are spent in thought like a spider."(1) "The days of our age are threescore years and ten; and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years, yet is more of them but labour and sorrow" (ver. 10). These words appear to express the shortness and misery of this life: since those who have reached their seventieth year are styled old men. Up to eighty, however, they appear to have some strength; but if they live beyond this, their existence is laborious through multiplied sorrows. Yet many even below the age of seventy experience an old age the most infirm and wretched: and old men have often been found to be wonderfully vigorous even beyond eighty years. It is therefore better to search for some spiritual meaning in these numbers. For the anger of God is not greater on the sins of Adam (through whom alone "sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men"),(2) because they live a much shorter time than the men of old; since even the length of their days is ridiculed in the comparison of a thousand years to yesterday that is past, and to three hours: especially since at the very time when they provoked the anger of God to send the deluge in which they perished, their life was at its longest span.
10. Moreover, seventy and eighty years equal a hundred and fifty; a number which the Psalms clearly insinuate to be a sacred one. One hundred and fifty have the same relative signification as fifteen, the latter number being composed of seven and eight together: the first of which points to the Old Testament through the observation of the Sabbath; the latter to the New, referring to the resurrection of our Lord. Hence the fifteen steps in the Temple. Hence in the Psalms, fifteen "songs of degrees." Hence the waters of the deluge overtopped the highest mountains by fifteen cubits:(3) and many other instances of the same nature. "Our years are passed in thought like a spider." We were labouring in things corruptible, corruptible works were we weaving together: which, as the Prophet Isaiah saith, by no means covered us.(4) "The days of our years are in themselves," etc. A distinction is here made between themselves and their strength:(5) "in themselves," that is, in the years or days themselves, may mean in temporal things, which are promised in the Old Testament, signified by the number seventy; "but if" not in themselves, but "in their strength," refers not to temporal things, but to things eternal, "fourscore years," as the New Testament contains the hope of a new life and resurrection for evermore: and what is added, that if they pass this latter period,(6) "their strength is labour and sorrow," intimates that such shall be the fate of him who goes beyond this faith, and seeks for more. It may also be understood thus: because although we are established in the New Testament, which the number eighty signifies, yet still our life is one of labour and sorrow, while "we groan within ourselves, awaiting the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body; for we are saved by hope; and if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."(7) This relates to the mercy of God, of which he proceeds to say, "Since thy mercy cometh over us,(8) and we shall be chastened:" for "the Lord chasteneth whom He loveth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth,"(9) and to some mighty ones He giveth a thorn in the flesh, to buffet them, that they may not be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, so that strength be made perfect in weakness.(10) Some copies read, we shall be "taught," instead of "chastened," which is equally expressive of the Divine Mercy; for no man can be taught without labour and sorrow; since strength is made perfect in weakness.
11. "For who knoweth the power of Thy wrath: and for the fear of Thee to number Thine anger?" (ver. 11). It belongs to very few men, he saith, to know the power of Thy wrath; for when Thou dost spare, Thy anger is so far heavier against most men; that we may know that labour and sorrow belong not to wrath, but rather to Thy mercy, when Thou chastenest and teachest those whom Thou lovest, to save them from the torments of eternal punishment: as it is said in another Psalm,(11) "The sinner hath provoked the Lord: He will not require it of him according to the greatness of His wrath." With this also is understood, "Who knoweth?" Such is the difficulty of finding any one who knoweth how to number Thine anger by Thy fear, that he adds this, meaning that it is to the purpose that Thou appearest to spare some, with whom Thou art more angry, that the sinner may be prospered in his path, and receive a heavier doom at the last. For when the power of human wrath hath killed the body, it hath nothing more to do: but God hath power both to punish here, and after the death of the body to send into Hell, and by the few who are thus taught, the vain and seductive prosperity of the wicked is judged to be greater wrath of God.(1) ...
12. "Make Thy right hand so well known" (ver. 12). This is the reading of most of the Greek copies: not of some in Latin, which is thus, "Make Thy right hand well known to me." What is, "Thy right hand," but Thy Christ, of whom it is said, And to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed?(2) Make Him so well known, that Thy faithful may learn in Him to ask and to hope for those things rather of Thee as rewards of their faith, which do not appear in the Old Testament, but are revealed in the New: that they may not imagine that the happiness derived from earthly and temporal blessings is to be highly esteemed, desired, or loved, and thus their feet slip,(3) when they see it in men who honour Thee not: that their steps may not give way, while they know not how to number Thine anger. Finally, in accordance with this prayer of the Man that is His,(4) He has made His Christ so well known as to show by His sufferings that not these rewards which seem so highly prized in the Old Testament, where they are shadows of things to come, but things eternal, are to be desired. The right hand of God may also be understood in this sense, as that by which He will separate His saints from the wicked: because that hand becomes well known, when it scourgeth every son whom He receiveth, and suffers him not, in greater anger, to prosper in his sins, but in His mercy scourgeth him with the left,(5) that He may place him purified on His right hand.(6) The reading of most copies, "make Thy right hand well known to me," may be referred either to Christ, or to eternal happiness: for God has not a right hand in bodily shape, as He has not that anger which is aroused into violent passion.
13. But what he addeth,(7) "and those fettered in heart in wisdom;" other copies read, "instructed," not "lettered:" the Greek verb, expressing both senses, only differing by a single syllable.(8) But since these also, as it is said, put their "feet in the fetters" of wisdom, are taught wisdom (he means the feet of the heart, not of the body), and bound by its golden chains(9) depart not from the path of God, and become not runaways from him; whichever reading we adopt, the truth in the meaning is safe. Them thus lettered, or instructed in heart in wisdom, God makes so well known in the New Testament, that they despised all things for the Faith which the impiety of Jews and Gentiles abhorred; and allowed themselves to be deprived of those things which in the Old Testament are thought high promises by those who judge after the flesh.
14. And as when they became so well known, as to despise these things, and by setting their affections on things eternal, gave a testimony through their sufferings (whence they are called witnesses or martyrs in the Greek), they endured for a long while many bitter temporal afflictions. This man of God giveth heed to this, and the prophetic spirit under the name of Moses continues thus, "Return, O Lord, how long? and be softened concerning Thy servants" (ver. 13). These are the words of those, who, enduring many evils in that persecuting age, become known because their hearts are bound in the chain of wisdom so firmly, that not even such hardships can induce them to fly from their Lord to the good things of this world. "How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me, O Lord?"(10) occurs in another Psalm, in unison with this sentence, "Return, O Lord, how long?" And that they who, in a most carnal spirit, ascribe to God the form of a human body, may know that the "turning away" and "turning again" of His countenance is not like those motions of our own frame, let them recollect these words from above in the same Psalm, "Thou hast set our misdeeds before Thee, and our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance." How then does he say in this passage, "Return," that God may be favourable, as if He had turned away His face in anger; when as in the former he speaks of God's anger in such a manner, as to insinuate that He had not turned away His countenance from the misdeeds and the course of life of those He was angry with, but rather had set them before Him, and in the light of His countenance? The word, "How long," belongs to righteousness beseeching, not indignant impatience. "Be softened," some have rendered by a verb, "soften." But "be softened" avoids an ambiguity; since to soften is a common verb: for he may be said to soften who pours out prayers, and be to whom they are poured out: for we say, I soften thee, and I soften toward thee.(11)
15. Next, in anticipation of future blessings, of which he speaks as already vouchsafed, he says, "We are satisfied with Thy mercy in the morning" (ver. 14). Prophecy has thus been kindled for us, in the midst of these toils and sorrows of the night, like a lamp in the darkness, until day dawn, and the Day-star arise in our hearts.(12) For blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God: then shall the righteous be filled with that blessing for which they hunger and thirst now,(1) while, walking in faith, they are absent from the Lord.(2) Hence are the words, "In Thy presence is fulness of joy:"(3) and, "Early in the morning they shall stand by, and shall look up:"(4) and as other translators have said it, "We shall be satisfied with Thy mercy in the morning;" then they shall be satisfied. As he says elsewhere, "I shall be satisfied, when Thy glory shall be revealed."(5) So it is said, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us:" and our Lord Himself answereth, "I will manifest Myself to Zion;"(6) and until this promise is fulfilled, no blessing satisfies us, or ought to do so, lest our longings should be arrested in their course, when they ought to be increased until they gain their objects. "And we rejoiced and were glad all the days of our life." Those days are days without end: they all exist together: it is thus they satisfy us: for they give not way to days succeeding: since there is nothing there which exists not yet because it has not reached us, or ceases to exist because it has passed; all are together: because there is one day only, which remains and passes not away: this is eternity itself. These are the days respecting which it is written, "What man is he that lusteth to live, and would fain see good days?"(7) These days in another passage are styled years: where unto God it is said, "But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail:"(8) for these are not years that are accounted for nothing, or days that perish like a shadow: but they are days which have a real existence, the number of which he who thus spoke, "Lord, let me know mine end" (that is, after reaching what term I shall remain unchanged, and have no further blessing to crave), "and the number of my days, what it is" (what is, not what is not): prayed to know. He distinguishes them from the days of this life, of which he speaks as follows, "Behold, Thou hast made my days as it were a span long,"(9) which are not, because they stand not, remain not, but change in quick succession: nor is there a single hour in them in which our being is not such, but that one part of it has already passed, another is about to come, and none remains as it is. But those years and days, in which we too shall never fail, but evermore be refreshed, will never fail. Let our souls long earnestly for those days, let them thirst ardently for them, that there we may be filled, be satisfied, and say what we now say in anticipation, "We have been satisfied," etc. "We have been comforted again now, after the time that Thou hast brought us low, and for the years wherein we have seen evil" (ver. 15).
16. But now in days that are as yet evil, let us speak as follows. "Look upon Thy servants, and upon Thy works" (ver. 16). For Thy servants themselves are Thy works, not only inasmuch as they are men, but as Thy servants, that is, obedient to Thy commands. For we are His workmanship, created not merely in Adam, but in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them:(10) "for it is God which worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure."(11) "And direct their sons:" that they may be right in heart, for to such God is bountiful; for "God is bountiful to Israel, to those that are right in heart." ...
17. "And let the brightness of the Lord our God be upon us" (ver. 17); whence the words, "O Lord, the light of Thy countenance is marked upon us."(12) And, "Make Thou straight the works of our hands upon us:" that we may do them not for hope of earthly reward: for then they are not straight, but crooked. In many copies the Psalm goes thus far, but in some there is found an additional verse at the end, as follows, "And make straight the work of our hands." To these words the learned have prefixed a star, called an asterisk, to show that they are found in the Hebrew, or in some other Greek translations, but not in the Septuagint. The meaning of this verse, if we are to expound it, appears to me this, that all our good works are one work of love: for love is the fulfilling of the Law.(13) For as in the former verse he had said, "And the works of our hands make Thou straight upon us," here he says "work," not works, as if anxious to show, in the last verse, that all our works are one, that is, are directed with a view to one work. For then are works righteous, when they are directed to this one end: "for the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned."(14) There is therefore one work, in which are all, "faith which worketh by love:"(15) whence our Lord's words in the Gospel, "This is the work of God, that ye believe in Him whom He hath sent."(16) Since, therefore, in this Psalm, both old and new life, life both mortal and everlasting, years that are counted for nought, and years that have the fulness of loving-kindness and of true joy, that is, the penalty of the first and the reign of the Second Man, are marked so very clearly; I imagine, that the name of Moses, the man of God, became the title of the Psalm, that pious and right-minded readers of the Scriptures might gain an intimation that the Mosaic laws, in which God appears to promise only, or nearly only, earthly rewards for good works, without doubt contains under a veil some such hopes as this Psalm displays. But when any one has passed over to Christ, the veil will be taken away:(1) and his eyes will be unveiled, that he may consider the wonderful things in the law of God, by the gift of Him, to whom we pray, "Open Thou mine eyes, and I shall see the wondrous things of Thy law.(2)
1. This Psalm is that from which the Devil dared to tempt our Lord Jesus Christ: let us therefore attend to it, that thus armed, we may be enabled to resist the tempter, not presuming in ourselves, but in Him who before us was tempted, that we might not be overcome when tempted. Temptation to Him was not necessary: the temptation of Christ is our learning, but if we listen to His answers to the devil, in order that, when ourselves are tempted, we may answer in like manner, we are then entering through the gate, as ye have heard it read in the Gospel. For what is to enter by the gate? To enter by Christ, who Himself said, "I am the door:"(4) and to enter through Christ, is to imitate His ways. ... He urges us to imitate Him in those works which He could not have done had He not been made Man; for how could He endure sufferings, unless He had become a Man? How could He otherwise have died, been crucified, been humbled? Thus then do thou, when thou sufferest the troubles of this world, which the devil, openly by men, or secretly, as in Job's case, inflicts; be courageous, be of long suffering; "thou shall dwell under the defence of the Most High," as this Psalm expresses it: for if thou depart from the help of the Most High, without strength to aid thyself, thou wilt fall.
2. For many men are brave, when they are enduring persecution from men, and see them openly rage against themselves: imagining they are then imitating the sufferings of Christ, in case men openly persecute them; but if assailed by the hidden attack of the devil, they believe they are not being crowned by Christ. Never fear when thou dost imitate Christ. For when the devil tempted our Lord, there was no man in the wilderness; he tempted Him secretly; but he was conquered, and conquered too when openly attacking Him. This do thou, if thou wishest to enter by the door, when the enemy secretly assails thee, when he asks for a man that he may do him some hurt by bodily troubles, by fever, by sickness, or any other bodily sufferings, like those of Job. He saw not the devil, yet he acknowledged the power of God. He knew that the devil had no power against him, unless from the Almighty Ruler of all things he received that power: the whole glory he gave to God, power to the devil he gave not. ...
3. He then who so imitates Christ as to endure all the troubles of this world, with his hopes set upon God, that he falls into no snare, is broken down by no panic fears, he it is "who dwelleth under the defence of the Most High, who shall abide under the protection of God" (ver. 1), in the words with which the Psalm, which you have heard and sung, begins. You will recognise the words, so well known, in which the devil tempted our Lord, when we come to them. "He shall say unto the Lord, Thou art my taker up, and my refuge: my God" (ver. 2). Who speaks thus to the Lord? "He who dwelleth under the defence of the Most High:" not under his own defence. Who is this? He dwelleth under the defence of the Most High, who is not proud, like those who ate, that they might become as Gods, and lost the immortality in which they were made. For they chose to dwell under a defence of their own, not under that of the Most High: thus they listened to the suggestions of the serpent? and despised the precept of God: and discovered at last that what God threatened, not what the devil promised, had come to pass in them.
4. Thus then do thou say also, "In Him will I trust. For He Himself shall deliver me" (ver. 3), not I myself. Observe whether he teaches anything but this, that all our trust be in God, none in man. Whence shall he deliver thee? "From the snare of the hunter, and from a harsh word." Deliverance from the hunter's net is indeed a great blessing: but how is deliverance from a harsh word so? Many have fallen into the hunter's net through a harsh word. What is it that I say? The devil and his angels spread their snares, as hunters do: and those who walk in Christ tread afar from those snares: for he dares not spread his net in Christ: he sets it on the verge of the way, not in the way. Let then thy way be Christ, and thou shall not fall into the snares of the devil. ...
But what is, "from a harsh word"? The devil has entrapped many by a harsh word: for instance, those who profess Christianity among Pagans suffer insult from the heathen: they blush when they hear reproach, and shrinking out of their path in consequence, fall into the hunter's snares. And yet what will a harsh word do to you? Nothing. Can the snares with which the enemy entraps you by means of reproaches, do nothing to you? Nets are usually spread for birds at the end of a hedge, and stones are thrown into the hedge: those stones will not harm the birds. When did any one ever hit a bird by throwing a stone into a hedge? But the bird, frightened at the harmless noise, falls into the nets; and thus men who fear the vain reproaches of their calumniators, and who blush at unprovoked insults, fall into the snares of the hunters, and are taken captive by the devil... Just as among the heathen, the Christian who fears their reproaches falls into the snare of the hunter: so among the Christians, those who endeavour to be more diligent and better than the rest, are doomed to bear insults from Christians themselves. What then doth it profit, my brother, if thou occasionally find a city in which there is no heathen? No one there insults a man because he is a Christian, for this reason, that there is no Pagan therein: but there are many Christians who lead a bad life, among whom those who are resolved to live righteously, and to be sober among the drunken, and chaste among the unchaste, and amid the consulters of astrologers sincerely to worship God, and to ask after no such things, and among spectators of frivolous shows will go only to church, suffer from those very Christians reproaches, and harsh words, when they address such a one, "Thou art the mighty, the righteous, thou art Elias thou art Peter: thou hast come from heaven." They insult him: whichever way he turns, he hears harsh sayings on each side: and if he fears, and abandons the way of Christ, he falls into the snares of the hunters. But what is it, when he hears such words, not to swerve from the way? On hearing them, what comfort has he, which prevents his heeding them, and enables him to enter by the door? Let him say; What words am I called, who am a servant and a sinner? To my Lord Jesus they said, "Thou hast a devil."(1) You have just heard the harsh words spoken against our Lord: it was not necessary for our Lord to suffer this, but in doing so He has warned thee against harsh words, lest thou fall into the snares of the hunters.
5. "He shall defend thee between His shoulders, and thou shall hope under His wings" (ver. 4). He says this, that thy protection may not be to thee from thyself, that thou mayest not imagine that thou canst defend thyself; He will defend thee, to deliver thee from the hunter's snare, and from an harsh word. The expression, "between His shoulders," may be understood both in front and behind: for the shoulders are about the head; but in the words, "thou shalt hope under His wings," it is clear that the protection of the wings of God expanded places thee between His shoulders, so that God's wings on this side and that have thee in the midst, where thou shalt not fear lest any one hurt thee: only be thou careful never to leave that spot, where no foe dares approach. If the hen defends her chickens beneath her wings; how much more shalt thou be safe beneath the wings of God, even against the devil and his angels, the powers who fly about in mid air like hawks, to carry off the weak young one? For the comparison of the hen to the very Wisdom of God is not without ground; for Christ Himself, our Lord and Saviour, speaks of Himself as likened to a hen; "how often would I have gathered thy children," etc.(2) That Jerusalem would not: let us be willing. ... If you consider other birds, brethren, you will find many that hatch their eggs, and keep their young warm: but none that weakens herself in sympathy with her chickens, as the hen does. We see swallows, sparrows, and storks outside their nests, without being able to decide whether they have young or no: but we know the hen to be a mother by the weakness of her voice, and the loosening of her feathers: she changes altogether from love for her chickens: she weakens herself because they are weak. Thus since we were weak, the Wisdom of God made Itself weak, when the Word was made flesh, and dwelt in us,(3) that we might hope under His wings.
6. "His truth shall surround thee with a shield" (ver. 5). What are "the wings," the same is "the shield:" since there are neither wings nor shield. If either were literally, how could the one be the same as the other? can wings be a shield or a shield wings? But all these expressions, indeed, are figuratively used through likenesses. If Christ were really a Stone,(4) He could not be a Lion; if a Lion,(5) He could not be a Lamb: but He is called both Lion, and Lamb,(6) and Stone, and Calf, and anything else of the sort, metaphorically, because He is neither Stone, nor Lion, nor Lamb, nor Calf, but Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all of us, for these are likenesses, not literal names. "His truth shall be thy shield," it is said: a shield to assure us that He will not confound those whose trust is in themselves with those who hope in God. One is a sinner, and the other a sinner: but suppose one that presumes upon himself is a despiser, confesses not his sins, and he will say, if my sins displeased God, He would not suffer me to live. But another dared not even raise his eyes, but beat upon his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner."(7) Both this was a sinner, and that: but the one mocked, the other mourned: the one was a despiser, the other a confessor, of his sins. But the truth of God, which respects not persons, discerns the penitent from him who denies his sin, the humble from the proud, him who presumes upon himself from him who presumes on God. "Thou shall not be afraid for any terror by night."
7. "Nor for the arrow that flieth by day, for the matter(1) that walketh in darkness, nor for the ruin and the devil that is in the noonday" (ver. 6). These two clauses above correspond to the two below; "Thou shall not fear" for "the terror by night, from the arrow that flieth by day:" both because of "the terror by night," from "the matter that walketh in darkness:" and because of "the arrow that flieth by day," from "the ruin of the devil of the noon-day." What ought to be feared by night, and what by day? When any man sins in ignorance, he sins, as it were, by night: when he sins in full knowledge, by day. The two former sins then are the lighter: the second are much heavier; but this is obscure, and will repay your attention, if, by God's blessing, I can explain it so that you may understand it. He calls the light temptation, which the ignorant yield to, "terror by night:" the light temptation, which assails men who well know, "the arrow that flieth by day." What are light temptations? Those which do not press upon us so urgently, as to overcome us, but may pass by quickly if declined. Suppose these, again, heavy ones. If the persecutor threatens, and frightens the ignorant grievously, I mean those whose faith is as yet unstable, and know not that they are Christians that they may hope for a life to come; as soon as they are alarmed with temporal ills, they imagine that Christ has forsaken them, and that they are Christians to no purpose; they are not aware that they are Christians for this reason, that they may conquer the present, and hope for the future: the matter that walketh in darkness has found and seized them. But some there are who know that they are called to a future hope; that what God has promised is not of this life, or this earth; that all these temptations must be endured, that we may receive what God hath promised us for evermore; all this they know: when however the persecutor urges them more strenuously, and plies them with threats, penalties, tortures, at length they yield, and although they are well aware of their sin, yet they fall as it were by day.
8. But why does he say, "at noon-day"? The persecution is very hot; and thus the noon signifies the excessive heat. ... The demon that is "in the noon-day," represents the heat of a furious persecution: for these are our Lord's words, "The sun was up; and because they had no root, they withered away:" and when explaining it, He applies it to those who are offended when persecution ariseth, "Because they have not root in themselves." We are therefore right in understanding by the demon that destroyeth in the noon- day, a violent persecution. Listen, beloved, while I describe the persecution, from which the Lord hath rescued His Church. At first, when the emperors and kings of the world imagined that they could extirpate from the earth the Christian name by persecution, they proclaimed, that any one who confessed himself a Christian, should be smitten. He who did not choose to be smitten, denied that he was a Christian, knowing the sin he was committing: the arrow that flieth by day reached him. But whoever regarded not the present life, but had a sure trust in a future one, avoided the arrow, by confessing himself a Christian; smitten in the flesh, he was liberated in the spirit: resting with God, he began peacefully to await the redemption of his body in the resurrection of the dead: he escaped from that temptation, from the arrow that flieth by day. "Whoever professes himself a Christian, let him be beheaded;" was as the arrow that flieth by day. The "devil that is in the noon-day" was not yet abroad, burning with a terrible persecution, and afflicting with great heat even the strong. For hear what followed; when the enemy saw that many were hastening to martyrdom, and that the number of fresh converts increased in proportion to that of the sufferers, they said among themselves, We shall annihilate the human race, so many thousands are there who believe in His Name; if we kill all of them, there will hardly be a survivor on earth. The sun then began to blaze, and to glow with a terrible heat. Their first edict had been, Whoever shall confess himself a Christian, let him be smitten. Their second edict was, Whoever shall have confessed himself a Christian, let him be tortured, and tortured even until he deny himself a Christian. ...Many therefore who denied not,(2) failed amid the tortures; for they were tortured until they denied. But to those who persevered in professing Christ, what could the sword do, by killing the body at one stroke, and sending the soul to God? This was the result of protracted tortures also: yet who could be found able to resist such cruel and continued torments? Many failed: those, I believe, who presumed upon themselves, who dwelt not under the defence of the Most High, and under the shadow of the God of Heaven; who said not to the Lord, "Thou art my lifter up:" who trusted not beneath the shadow of His wings, but reposed much confidence in their own strength. They are thrown down by God, to show them that it is He that protects them, He overrules their temptations, He allows so much only to befall them, as each person can sustain.
9. Many then fell before the demon of the noon-day. Would ye know how many? He goes on, and says, "A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee" (ver. 7). To whom, brethren, but to Christ Jesus, is this said? ... For the members, the body, and the head, are not separate from one another: the body and the head are the Church and her Saviour. How then is it said," A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand by thy right hand"? Because they shall fall before the devil, that destroyeth at noon. It is a terrible thing, my brethren, to fall from beside Christ, from His right hand but how shall they fall from beside Him? Why the one beside Him, the other at His right hand? Why a thousand beside Him, ten thousand at His right hand? Why a thousand beside Him? Because a thousand are fewer than the ten thousand who shall fall at His right hand. Who these are will soon be clear in Christ's name; for to some He promised that they should judge with Him, namely, to the Apostles, who left all things, and followed Him. ... Those judges then are the heads of the Church, the perfect. To such He said, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor."(1) What means the expression, "if thou wilt be perfect"? it means, if thou wilt judge with Me, and not be judged. ...Many such at that period, who had distributed their all to the poor, and already promised themselves a seat beside Christ in judgment of the nations, failed amid their torments under the blazing fire of persecution, as before the demon of the noon-day, and denied Christ. These are they who have fallen "beside" Him: when about to sit with Christ for the judgment of the world, they fell.
10. I will now explain who are they who fall on the right hand of Christ. ... And because many have fallen from that hope of being judges, but yet many, many more from that of being on His right hand, the Psalmist thus addresses Christ, "A thousand shall fall beside Thee, and ten thousand at Thy right hand." And since there shall be many, who regarded not all these things, with whom, as it were with His own limbs, Christ is one, he adds, "But it shall not come nigh Thee." Were these words addressed to the Head alone? Surely not; surely neither (doth it come nigh) to Paul, nor Peter, nor all the Apostles, nor all the Martyrs, who failed not in their torments. What then do the words," it shall not come nigh," mean? Why were they thus tortured? The torture came nigh the flesh, but it did not reach the region of faith. Their faith then was far beyond the reach of the terrors threatened by their torturers. Let them torture, terror will not come nigh; let them torture, but they will mock the torture, putting their trust in Him who conquered before them, that the rest might conquer. And who conquer, except they who trust not in themselves? ... Who will not fear? He who trusts not in himself, but in Christ. But those who trust in themselves, although they even hope to judge at the side of Christ, although they hoped they should be at His right hand, as if He said to them, "Come, ye blessed of My Father," etc.; yet the devil that is at noon overtook them, the raging heat of persecution, terrifying with violence; and many fell from the hope of the seat of judgment, of whom it is said, "A thousand shall fall beside thee;" many too fell from the hope of reward for their duties,(2) of whom it was said, "And ten thousand at thy right hand." But this downfall and devil that is at noon-day "shall not come nigh thee," that is, the Head and the body; for the Lord knows who are His.(3)
11. "Nevertheless, with thine eyes shall thou behold, and see the reward of the ungodly" (ver. 8). What is this? Why "nevertheless"? Because the wicked were allowed to tyrannize over Thy servants, and to persecute them. Will they then have been allowed to persecute Thy servants with impunity? Not with impunity, for although Thou hast permitted them, and Thine own have thence received a brighter crown, "nevertheless," etc. For the evil which they willed, not the good they unconsciously were the agents of, will be recompensed them. All that is wanting is the eye of faith, by which we may see that they are raised for a time only, while they shall mourn for evermore; and to those into whose hands is given temporal power over the servants of God, it shall be said, "Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."(4) But if every man have but eyes in the sense in which it is said, "With thine eyes shalt thou behold," it is no unimportant thing to look upon the wicked flourishing in this life, and to have an eye to him, to consider what will become of him in the end, if he fail to reform his ways: for those who now would thunder upon others, will afterwards feel the thunderbolt themselves.
12. "For Thou, Lord, art my hope" (ver. 9). He has now come to the power Which rescues him from falling by the "downfall and the devil of the noon-day." "For Thou, Lord, art my hope: Thou hast set Thy house of defence very high." What do the words "very high" mean? For many make their house of defence in God a mere refuge from temporal persecution; but the defence of God is on high, and very secret, whither thou mayest fly from the wrath to come. Within "Thou hast set thine house of defence very high. There shall no evil happen unto Thee: neither shall any plague come nigh Thy dwelling" (ver. 10).
13. The Holy City is not the Church of this country only, but of the whole world as well: not that of this age only, but from Abel himself down to those who shall to the end be born and believe in Christ, the whole assembly of the Saints, belonging to one city; which city is Christ's body, of which Christ is the Head. There, too, dwell the Angels, who are our fellow-citizens: we toil, because we are as yet pilgrims: while they within that city are awaiting our arrival. Letters have reached us too from that city, apart from which we are wandering: those letters are the Scriptures, which exhort us to live well. Why do I speak of letters only? The King himself descended, and became a path to us in our wanderings: that walking in Him, we may neither stray, nor faint nor fall among robbers, nor be caught in the snares that are set near our path. This character, then, we recognise in the whole Person of Christ, together with the Church. ... He Himself is our Head, He is God, co-equal with the Father, the Word of God, by whom all things were made:(1) but God to create, Man to renew; God to make, Man to restore. Looking upon Him, then, let us hear the Psalm. Listen, beloved. This is the teaching and doctrine of this school, which may enable you to understand, not this Psalm only, but many, if ye keep in mind this rule. Sometimes a Psalm, and all prophecy as well, in speaking of Christ, praises the Head alone, and sometimes from the Head goes to the Body, that is, the Church, and without apparently changing the Person spoken of: because the Head is not separate from the Body, and both are spoken of as one. ...
14. What then, my brethren, what is said of our Head? "For Thou, Lord, art my hope," etc. Of this we have spoken, "for He hath given His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee in all Thy ways" (ver. 11). You heard these words but now, when the Gospel was being read; attend therefore. Our Lord, after He was baptized, fasted. Why was He baptized? That we might not scorn to be baptized. For when John said to our Lord, "Comest Thou to me to be baptized? I ought to be baptized by Thee;" and our Lord replied, "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness;"(2) He wished to fulfil all humility, so that He should be washed, who had no defilement. ... Our Lord, then, was baptized, and after baptism He was tempted; He fasted forty days, a number which has, as I have often mentioned, a deep meaning. All things cannot be explained at once, lest needful time be too much taken up. After forty days He was an hungred. He could have fasted without ever feeling hunger; but then how could He be tempted? or had He not overcome the tempter, how couldest thou learn to struggle with him? He was hungry; and then the tempter said, "If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." Was it a great thing for our Lord Jesus Christ to make bread out of stones, when He satisfied so many thousands with five loaves? He made bread out of nothing. For whence came that quantity of food, which could satisfy so many thousands? The sources of that bread are in the Lord's hands. This is nothing wonderful; for He Himself made out of five loaves bread enough for so many thousands? who also every day out of a few seeds raises up on earth immense harvests. These are the miracles of our Lord: but from their constant operation they are disregarded. What then, my brethren, was it impossible for the Lord to create bread out of stones? He made men even out of stones, in the words of John the Baptist himself, "God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham."(4) Why then did He not so? That he might teach thee how to answer the tempter, so that if thou wast reduced to any straits and the tempter suggested, if thou wast a Christian and belongedst to Christ, would He desert thee now? ... Listen to our Lord: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Dost thou think the word of God bread? If the Word of God, through which all things were made, was not bread, He would not say, "I am the bread which came down from heaven."(5) Thou hast therefore learnt to answer the tempter, when pressed with hunger.
15. What if he tempt thee in these words: If thou wast a Christian, thou wouldest do miracles, as many Christians have done? Thou, deceived by a wicked suggestion, wouldest tempt the Lord thy God, so as to say to Him, If I am a Christian, and am before Thine eyes, and Thou dost account me at all in the number of Thine own, let me also do something like the many works which Thy Saints have done. Thou hast tempted God, as if thou weft not a Christian, unless thou didst this. Many who desired such things have fallen. For that Simon the sorcerer desired such gifts of the Apostles, when he wished to buy the Holy Spirit for money.(6) He loved the power of working miracles, but loved not the imitation of humility. ... What then, if he tempt thee thus, "work miracles"? that thou mayest not tempt God, what shouldest thou answer? What our Lord answered. The devil said to Him, "Cast Thyself down; for it is written, He shall give His Angels charge concerning Thee," etc. If Thou shalt cast Thyself down, Angels shall receive Thee. And it might indeed, my brethren, happen, if our Lord had cast Himself down, the attending Angels would receive our Lord's flesh; but what does He say to him? "It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."(1) Thou thinkest Me a man. For the devil came to Him with this view, that he might try whether He were the Son of God. He saw His Flesh; but His might appeared in His works: the Angels had borne witness. He saw that He was mortal, so that he might tempt Him, that by Christ's temptation the Christian might be taught. What then is written? "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Let us not then tempt the Lord, so as to say, If we belong to Thee, let us work a miracle.
16. Let us return to the words of the Psalm. "They shall bear Thee in their hands, lest at any time Thou hurt Thy foot against a stone" (ver. 12). Christ was raised up in the hands of Angels, when He was taken up into heaven: not that, if Angels had not sustained Him, He would have fallen: but because they were attending on their King. Say not, Those who sustained Him are better than He who was sustained. Are then cattle better than men, because they sustain the weakness of men? And we ought not to speak thus either; for if the cattle withdraw their support, their riders fall. But how ought we to speak of it? For it is said even of God, "Heaven is My throne."(2) Because then heaven supports Him, and God sits thereon, is therefore heaven the better? Thus also in this Psalm we may understand it of the service of the Angels: it does not pertain to any infirmity in our Lord, but to the honour they pay, and to their service. ...What the finger of God is, the Gospel explaineth to us; for the finger of God is the Holy Ghost. How do we prove this? Our Lord, when answering those who accused Him of casting out devils in the name of Beelzebub, saith, "If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God;"(3) and another Evangelist, in relating the same saying, saith, "If I with the finger of God cast out devils."(4) What therefore is in one stated clearly, is darkly expressed in another. Thou didst not know what was the finger of God, but another Evangelist explains it by terming it the Spirit of God. The Law then written by the finger of God was given on the fiftieth day after the slaughter of the lamb, and the Holy Ghost descended on the fiftieth day after the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lamb was slain, the Passover was celebrated, the fifty days were completed, and the Law was given. But that Law was to cause fear, not love: but that fear might be changed into love, He who was truly righteous was slain: of whom that lamb whom the Jews were slaying was the type. He arose from the dead: and from the day of our Lord's Passover, as from that of the slaying of the Paschal lamb, fifty days are counted; and the Holy Ghost descended, now in the fulness of love, not in the punishment of fear.(5) Why have I said this? For this then our Lord arose, and was glorified, that He might send His Holy Spirit. And I said long ago that this was so, because His head is in heaven, His feet on earth. If His head is in heaven, His feet on earth; what means our Lord's feet on earth? Our Lord's saints on earth. Who are our Lord's feet? The Apostles sent throughout the whole world. Who are our Lord's feet? All the Evangelists, in whom our Lord travelleth over all nations. ... We need not therefore wonder that our Lord was raised up to heaven by the hands of Angels, that His foot might not dash against a stone: lest those who on earth toiled in His body, while they were travelling over the whole world might become guilty of the Law, He took from them fear, and filled them with love. Through fear Peter thrice denied Him,(6) for he had not yet received the Holy Ghost: afterwards, when he had received the Holy Spirit, he began to preach with confidence. ... Our Lord so dealt with him, as if He said, thrice thou hast denied Me through fear: thrice confess Me through love. With that love and that charity He filled His disciples. Why? Because He hath set His house of defence very high: because when glorified He sent the Holy Ghost, He released the faithful from the guilt of the Law, that His feet might not dash against a stone.
17. "Thou(7) shall go upon the asp and the basilisk; the lion and the dragon shalt thou tread under thy feet" (ver. 13). Ye know who the serpent is, and how the Church treadeth upon him, as she is not conquered, because she is on her guard against his cunning. And after what manner he is a lion and a dragon, I believe you know also, beloved. The lion openly rages, the dragon lies secretly in covert: the devil hath each of these forces and powers. When the Martyrs were being slain, it was the raging lion: when heretics are plotting, it is the dragon creeping beneath us. Thou hast conquered the lion; conquer also the dragon: the lion hath not crushed(8) thee, let not the dragon deceive thee. ... A few women in the Church have bodily virginity: but the virginity of the heart all the faithful have. In the very matter of faith he feared that the heart's virginity would be corrupted by the devil: and those who have lost it, are uselessly virgins in their bodies. What does a woman who is corrupt in heart preserve in her body? Thus a Catholic married woman is before a virgin heretic. For the first is not indeed a virgin in her body, but the second has become married in her heart; and married not unto God as her husband, but unto the dragon. But what shall the Church do? The basilisk is the king of serpents, as the devil is the king of wicked spirits.
18. These are the words of God to the Church. "Because he hath set his love in me, therefore will I deliver him" (ver. 14). Not only therefore the Head, which now sits in heaven, because He hath set His house of defence very high, to which no evil shall happen, neither shall any plague come nigh His dwelling; but we also who are toiling on earth, and are still living in temptations, whose steps are feared for, lest they fall into snares, may hear the voice of the Lord our God consoling us, and saying to us, "Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him up, because he hath known my name."
19. "He shall call upon me, and I will hear him: yea, I am with him in trouble" (ver. 15). Fear not when thou art in trouble, as if the Lord were not with thee. Let faith be with thee, and God is with thee in thy trouble. There are waves on the sea, and thou art tossed in thy bark, because Christ sleepeth. Christ slept in the ship, while the men were perishing.(1) If thy, faith sleep in thy heart, Christ is as it were sleeping in thy ship: because Christ dwelleth in thee through faith, when thou beginnest to be tossed, awake Christ sleeping: rouse up thy faith, and thou shalt be assured that He deserts thee not. But thou thinkest thou art forsaken, because He rescueth thee not when thou thyself dost wish. He delivered the Three Children from the fire?(2) Did He, who did this, desert the Maccabees?(3) God forbid! He delivered both of these: the first bodily, that the faithless might be confounded; the last spiritually, that the faithful might imitate them. "I will deliver him, and bring him to honour."
20. "With length of days will I satisfy him" (ver. 16). What is length of days? Eternal life. Brethren, imagine not that length of days is spoken of in the same sense as days are said to be long in summer, short in winter. Hath he such days to give us? That length is one that hath no end, eternal life, that is promised us in long days. And truly, since this sufficeth, with reason he saith, "will I satisfy him." What is long in time, if it hath an end, satisfieth us not: for that reason it should not be even called long. And if we are covetous, we ought to be covetous of eternal life: long for such a life, as hath no end. Lo, a line in which our covetousness may be extended. Dost thou wish money without limit? Long for eternal life without limit. Dost thou wish that thy possession may have no end? Seek for eternal life. "I will show him my salvation." Nor is this, my brethren, to be briefly passed over. "I will show him my salvation:" He means, I will show him Christ Himself. Why? Was He not seen on earth? What great thing hath He to show us? But He did not appear such as we shall see Him. He appeared in that shape in which those who saw Him crucified Him: behold, those who saw Him, crucified Him: we have not seen Him, yet we have believed. They had eyes, have not we? yea, we too have the eyes of the heart: but, as yet we see through faith, not by sight. When will it be sight? When shall we, as the Apostle saith, see Him "face to face"?(4) which God promiseth us as the high reward of all our toils. Whatever thou toilest in, thou toilest for this purpose, that thou mayest see Him. Some great thing it is we are to see, since all our reward is seeing; and our Lord Jesus Christ is that very great sight. He who appeared humble, will Himself appear great, and will rejoice us, as He is even now seen of His Angels. ... Let us love and imitate Him: let us run after his ointments, as is said in the Song of Solomon: "Because of the savour of thy good ointments, we will run after thee."(5) For He came, and gave forth a savour that filled the world. Whence was that fragrance? From heaven. Follow then towards heaven, if thou do not answer(6) falsely when it is said, "Lift up your hearts," lift up your thoughts, your love, your hope: that it may not rot upon the earth. ... "For wherever thy treasure is, there will be thy heart also."(7)
1. ... We are not Christians, except on account of a future life: let no one hope for present blessings, let no one promise himself the happiness of the world, because he is a Christian: but let him use the happiness he hath, as he may, in what manner he may, when he may, as far as he may. When it is present, let him give thanks for the consolation of God: when it is wanting, let him give thanks to the Divine justice. Let him always be grateful, never ungrateful: let him be grateful to his Father, who soothes and caresses him: and grateful to his Father when He chasteneth him with the scourge, and teacheth him: for He ever loveth, whether He caress or threaten: and let him say what ye have heard in the Psalm: "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord; and to sing praises unto Thy Name, Thou Most Highest" (ver. 1).
2. This Psalm is entitled, a Psalm to be sung on the Sabbath day. Lo, this day is the Sabbath, which the Jews at this period observe by a kind of bodily rest, languid and luxurious. They abstain from labours, and give themselves up to trifles; and though God ordained the Sabbath, they spend it in actions which God forbids. Our rest is from evil works, theirs from good; for it is better to plough than to dance. They abstain from good, but not from trifling, works. God proclaims to us a Sabbath. What sort of Sabbath? First consider, where it is. It is in the heart, within us; for many are idle with their limbs, while they are disturbed in conscience. ... That very joy in the tranquillity of our hope, is our Sabbath. This is the subject of praise and of song in this Psalm, how a Christian man is in the Sabbath of his own heart, that is, in the quiet, tranquillity, and serenity of his conscience, undisturbed; hence he tells us here, whence men are wont to be disturbed, and he teaches thee to keep Sabbath in thine own heart.
3. ... Accuse thyself, and thou receivest indulgence. Besides, many do not accuse Satan but their fate. My fate led me, saith one when you ask him, why did you do it? why did you sin? he replies, by my evil fate. Lest he should say, I did it; he points to God as the source of his sin: with his tongue he blasphemes. He saith not this indeed openly as yet, but listen, and see that he saith this. You ask of him, what is fate: and he replies, evil stars. You ask, who made, who appointed the stars; he can only answer, God. It follows, then, that whether he doth so directly or indirectly,(1) still he accuseth God, and when God punisheth sins, he maketh God the author of his own sins. It cannot be that God punishes what He hath wrought: He punisheth what thou doest, that He may set free what He hath wrought. But sometimes, setting aside everything else, they attack God directly: and when they sin, they say, God willed this; if God had not willed it, I should not have sinned. Does He warn thee for this, that not only He may not be listened to, to keep thee from sin, but even be accused because thou dost sin? What then doth this Psalm teach us? "It is a good thing to confess(2) unto the Lord." What is to confess unto the Lord? In both cases: both in thy sins, because thou hast done them; and in thy good works, confess unto the Lord, because He hath done them. Then shalt thou "sing unto the Name of God, the Most Highest:" seeking the glory of God, not thine own; His Name, not thine. For if thou seekest the Name of God, He also seeketh thy name; but if thou hast neglected the Name of God, He also doth blot out thine. ...
4. "To tell of Thy mercy early in the morning, and of Thy truth in the night season" (ver. 2). What is the meaning of this; that the mercy of God is to be told us in the morning, and in the night the truth of God? The morning is, when it is well with us; the night, the sadness of tribulation. What then did he say in brief? When thou art prosperous, rejoice in God, for it is His mercy. Now, perhaps thou wouldest say, If I rejoice in God, when I am prosperous, because it is His mercy; what am I to do when I am in sorrow, in tribulation? It is His mercy, when I am prosperous; is it then His cruelty, when I am in adversity? If I praise His mercy when it is well with me, am I then to exclaim against His cruelty when it is ill? No. But when it is well, praise His mercy: when ill, praise His truth: because He scourgeth sins, He is not unjust. ... During the night Daniel confessed the truth of God: he said in his prayer, "We have sinned, and committed iniquity, and have done wickedly. O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee: but unto us confusion of face."(3) He told of the truth of God during the night-season. What is it to tell of the truth of God in the night-season? Not to accuse God, because thou sufferest aught of evil: but to attribute it to thy sins, His correction: to tell of His loving-kindness early in the morning, and of His truth in the night-season. When thou doest this, thou dost always praise God, always confess to God, and sing unto His Name.
5. "Upon a psaltery of ten strings, with a song, and upon the harp" (ver. 3). Ye have not heard of the psaltery of ten strings for the first time: it signifies the ten commandments of the Law. But we must sing upon that psaltery, and not carry it only. For even the Jews have the Law: but they carry it: they sing not. ... "And upon the harp." This means, in word and deed; "with a song," in word; "upon the harp," in work. If thou speakest words alone, thou hast, as it were, the song only, and not the harp: if thou workest, and speakest not, thou hast the harp only. On this account both speak well and do well, if thou wouldest have the song together with the harp.
6. "For Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through Thy works; and I will rejoice in giving praise for the operations of Thy hands" (ver. 4). Ye see what he saith. Thou hast made me living well, Thou hast formed me: if by chance I do aught of good, I will rejoice in the work of Thy hands: as the Apostle saith, "For we are His workmanship, created unto good works."(1) For unless He formed thee to good works, thou wouldest not know any works but evil. ... Because thou canst not have truth from thy own self, it remains that thou drink it thence, whence it floweth: as if thou hast gone back from the light, thou art in darkness: as a stone glows not with its own heat, but either from the sun or fire, and if thou withdraw it from the heat, it cools: there it appears, that the heat was not its own; for it became heated either by the sun or by fire: thus thou also, if thou withdraw from God, wilt become cold; if thou approach God, thou wilt warm: as the Apostle saith "fervent in spirit."(2) Also what saith he of the light? If thou approach Him, thou wilt be in light; therefore saith the Psalm, "Look upon Him, and be lightened; and your faces shall not be ashamed."(3) Because therefore thou canst do no good, unless lightened by the light of God, and warmed by the spirit of God; when thou shalt see thyself working well, confess unto God, and say what the Apostle saith; say unto thyself, that thou be not puffed up, "For what hast thou that thou didst not receive?"(4) ...
7. That wretched man who doeth good, and suffereth evils, seeth him, becometh disturbed, and saith, O God, the wicked, I imagine, please Thee, and Thou hatest the good, and lovest those who work iniquity. ... The Sabbath being now lost in the inner man, and the tranquillity of his heart being shut out, and good thoughts repelled, he now beginneth to imitate him whom he seeth flourishing amid his evil deeds; and turneth himself also to evil works. But God is long-suffering, because He is eternal,(5) and he knoweth the day of His own judgment, where He weigheth all things.
8. Teaching us this, what saith he? "O Lord, how glorious are Thy works: Thy thoughts are made very deep" (ver. 5). Verily, my brethren, there is no sea sodeep as these thoughts of God, who maketh the wicked flourish, and the good suffer: nothing so profound, nothing so deep: therein every unbelieving soul is wrecked, in that depth, in that profundity. Dost thou wish to cross this depth? Remove not froth the wood of Christ's Cross: thou shall not sink: hold thyself fast to Christ. What do I mean by this, hold fast to Christ? It was for this reason that He chose to suffer on earth Himself. Ye have heard, while the prophet was being read, how He "did not turn away His back from the smiters, and His face from the spittings of men," how "He turned not His cheek from their hands;"(6) wherefore chose He to stiffer all these things, but that He might console the suffering? He could have raised His flesh at the last day: but then thou wouldest not have had thy ground of hope, since thou hadst not seen Him. He deferred not His resurrection, that thou mightest not still be in doubt. Suffer then tribulation in the world with the same end as that which thou hast observed in Christ: and let not those who do evil, and flourish in this life, move thee. "Thy thoughts are very deep." Where is the thought of God? Rejoice not as the fish who is exulting in his bait: the fisherman hath not drawn his hook: the fish hath as yet the hook in his jaws. And what seemeth to thee long, is short; all these things pass over quickly. What is the long life of man to the eternity of God? Dost thou wish to be of long-suffering? Consider the eternity of God. For thou regardest thy few days, and in thy few days thou dost wish all things to be fulfilled. What things? The condemnation of all the wicked: and the crowning of all the good: dost thou wish these things to be fulfilled in thy days? God fulfilleth them in His own time. Why dost thou suffer weariness? He is eternal: He waiteth: He is of long-suffering: but thou sayest, I am not of long-suffering, because I am mortal. But thou hast it in thy power to become so: join thy heart to the eternity of God, and with Him thou shalt be eternal. ...
9. For this reason, after saying," Thy thoughts are very deep," he at once subjoins: "An unwise man doth not well consider this, and a fool doth not understand it" (ver. 6). What are the things which an unwise man cloth not well consider, and which a fool doth not understand? "When the ungodly are green as the grass." What is, "as the grass"? They flourish when it is winter, but they will wither in the summer. Thou observest the flower of the grass? What more quickly passeth by? What is brighter? What is greener? Let not its verdure delight thee, but fear its withering. Thou hast heard of the ungodly being green as the grass: hear also of the righteous: "For lo." In the mean while, consider the ungodly; they flourish as the grass; but who are they who understand it not? The foolish and unwise. "When the ungodly are green as the grass, and all men look upon the workers of iniquity" (ver. 7). All who in their heart think not aright of God, look upon the ungodly when they are as green as grass, that is, when they flourish for a time. Why do they look upon them? "That they may be destroyed for ever." For they regard their momentary bloom, they imitate them, and wishing to flourish with them for a time, perish for evermore: this is, "That they may be destroyed for ever."
10. "But Thou, Lord, art the Most Highest for evermore" (ver. 8). Waiting above in Thy eternity until the season of the wicked be past, and that of the just come. "For lo." Listen, brethren. Already he who speaketh (for he speaketh in our person, in the person of Christ's body, for Christ speaketh in His own body, that is, in His Church), hath joined himself unto the eternity of God: as I a little before was saying unto you, God is long- suffering and patient, and alloweth all those evil deeds which He seeth to be done by wicked men. Wherefore? because He is eternal, and seeth what He keepeth for them. Dost thou also wish to be long-suffering and patient? Join thyself to the eternity of God: together with Him wait for those things which are beneath thee: for when thy heart shall have cleaved unto the Most Highest, all mortal things will be beneath thee: say then what follows, "For lo, thine enemies shall perish." Those who now flourish, shall afterwards perish. Who are the enemies of God? Brethren, perhaps ye think those only enemies of God who blaspheme? They indeed are so, and those wicked men who neither in tongue nor in thought cease to injure God. And what do they do to the eternal, most high God? If thou strike with thy fist upon a pillar, thou art hurt: and thinkest thou that where thou strikest God with thy blasphemy, thou art not thyself broken? for thou doest nothing to God. But the enemies of God are openly blasphemers, and daily they are found hidden. Beware of such enmities of God. For the Scripture revealeth some such secret enemies of God: that because thou knowest them not in thy heart, thou mayest know in God's Scriptures, and beware of being found with them. James saith openly in his Epistle, "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?"(1) Thou hast heard. Dost thou wish not to be an enemy of God? Be not a friend of this world: for if thou art a friend of this world, thou wilt be an enemy of God. For as a wife cannot be an adulteress, unless she be an enemy to her own husband: so a soul which is an adulteress through its love of worldly things, cannot but be an enemy to God. It feareth, but loveth not: it feareth punishment but is not delighted with righteousness. All lovers of the world, therefore, are enemies of God, all the curious after trifles, all consulters of diviners astrologers, and evil spirits. Let them enter, or not enter, Churches: they are enemies of God. They may flourish for a season like grass, but they will perish, when He beginneth to visit them, and pronounce His sentence upon all flesh. Join thyself to the Scripture of God, and say with this Psalm, "For lo, thine enemies shall perish" (ver. 9). Be not found there, where they shall perish. "And all the workers of iniquity shall be destroyed."
11. ... "But mine horn shall be exalted like the horn of an unicorn" (ver. 10). Why did He say, "like the horn of an unicorn"? Sometimes an unicorn signifies pride, sometimes it means the lifting up of unity; because unity is lifted up, all heresies shall perish with the enemies of God. And" mine horn shall be exalted like an unicorn." When will it be so? "And mine old age shall be in the fatness of mercy."(2) Why did he say, "my old age"? He means, my last days; as our old age is the last season in our lives, so the whole of what the body of Christ at present suffereth in labours, in cares, in watchings, in hunger, in thirst, in stumbling-blocks, in wickednesses, in tribulations, is its youth: its old age, that is, its last days, will be in joy. And beware, beloved, that ye think not death meant also, in that he hath spoken of old age: for man groweth old in the flesh for this reason, that he may die. The old age of the Church will be white with good works, but it shall not decay through death. What the head of the old man is, that our works will be. Ye see how the head groweth old, and whiteneth, as fast as old age approacheth. Thou sometimes dost seek in the head of one who groweth old duly in his own course a black hair, yet thou findest it not: thus when our life shall have been such, that the blackness of sins may be sought, and none found, that old age is youthful, is green, and ever will be green. Ye have heard of the grass of sinners, hear ye of the old age of the righteous: "My old age shall be in the fathers of mercy."
12. "And Mine eye hath beheld on mine enemies" (ver. 11). Whom doth he call his enemies? All the workers of iniquity. Do not observe whether thy friend be wicked: let an occasion come, and then thou provest him. Thou beginnest to go contrary to his iniquity, and then thou shalt see that when he was flattering thee, he was thy enemy; but thou hadst not yet knocked, not to raise in his heart what was not there, but that what was there might break out. "Mine eye also hath looked upon mine enemies: and mine ear shall hear his desire of the wicked that rise up against me." When? In my old age. What is, in old age? In the last times. And what shall our ear hear? Standing on the right hand, we shall hear what shall be said to them that are on the left.(3)
13. The grass withereth, the flower of sinners dieth away: what of the righteous? "The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree" (ver. 12). The ungodly are green as grass; "The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree." By the palm tree he signifieth height. Possibly he had also this meaning in the palm, that in its extremities it is beautiful: so that thou mayest trace its beginning from the earth, its end in its topmost branches, wherein its whole beauty dwelleth. The rough root appeareth in the earth, the beautiful foliage toward the sky. Thy beauty too, then, shall be in the end. Thy root is fixed fast: but our root is upward. For our root is Christ, who hath ascended into heaven. Humbled, he shall be exalted; "he shall spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus." See what trees he spoke of: the righteous shall flourish like a palm-tree: and shall spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus. When the sun hath gone forth, doth the palm-tree wither? Doth the cedar die? But when the sun hath been glowing for some hours, the grass drieth up. The judgment, therefore, shall come, that sinners may wither, and the faithful flourish.
14. "Such as are planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of the house of our God" (ver. 12). "They shall be yet more increased in fruitful old age, and shall be quiet, that they may show it forth" (ver. 13). Such is the Sabbath, which but a little while ago I commended unto you, whence the Psalm hath its title. "They shall be quiet, that they may show it forth." Wherefore are they quiet that show it forth? The grass of sinners moveth them not: the cedar and palm-tree not even in tempests are bent. They are therefore quiet, that they may show it forth: and with reason, since at present they must show it forth even unto men who mock at it. O wretched men, who are lovers of the world! Those who are planted in the house of the Lord, show it to you: those who praise the Lord with song and lute, in word and deed, show it forth to you, and tell you. Be not seduced by the prosperity of the wicked, admire not the flower of grass: admire not those who are happy only for a season, but miserable unto eternity. ... If ye wish to flourish like a palm-tree, and to spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus, and not to wither like grass when the sun is hot; as those who appear to flourish when the sun is absent. If then ye wish not to be as grass, but as the palm-tree and the cedar, what will ye show forth? "How true the Lord my strength is: and that there is no unrighteousness in Him." How is it there is no unrighteousness? A man committeth so great crimes; he is well, he hath sons, a plentiful house, he is full of pride, is exalted by his honours, is revenged on his enemies, and doeth every evil deed; another man, innocent, attending to his own affairs, not robbing another's goods, doing nothing against any one, suffereth in chains, in prison, tosseth and sigheth in poverty. How is it that there is no unrighteousness in Him? Be quiet, and thou shall know: for thou art disturbed, and in thy chamber thou dost darken thy light. The eternal God doth wish to shine upon thee: do not then make thee cloudy weather from thy own disturbed mind. Be quiet within thyself, and see what I say unto thee. Because God is eternal, because for the present He spareth the bad, bringing them to repentance: He scourgeth the good, instructing them in the way unto the kingdom of heaven: "There is no unrighteousness in Him:" fear not. ... What, if He leaveth this man unpunished now, because he is doomed to hear, "Depart into everlasting fire." But when? when thou shalt be placed at the right hand, then shall it be said to those placed on the left, "Depart into the everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels." Let not therefore those things move thee: Be quiet, keep Sabbath, and show "how true the Lord my strength is: and that there is no unrighteousness in Him."
1. ... It is entitled, "The Song of praise of David himself, on the day before the Sabbath, when the earth was rounded." Remembering then what God did through all those days, when He made and ordained all things, from the first up to the sixth day (for the seventh He sanctified, because He rested on that day after all the works, which He made very good), we find that He created on the sixth day (which day is here mentioned, in that he saith, "before the Sabbath") all animals on the earth; lastly, He on that very day created man in His own likeness and image. For these days were not without l reason ordained in such order, but for that ages also were to run in a like course, before we rest in God.(2) But then we rest if we do good works. As a type of this, it is written of God, "God r rested on the seventh day," when He had made all His works very good.(3) For He was not wearied, so as to need rest, nor hath He now left off to work, for our Lord Christ saith openly, "My Father worketh hitherto."(4) For He saith this unto the Jews, who thought carnally of God, and understood not that God worketh in quiet, and always worketh, and is always in quiet. We also, then, whom God willed then to figure in Himself, shall have rest after all good works. ... And because these good works are doomed to pass away, that sixth day also, when those very good works are perfected, hath an evening; but in the Sabbath we find no evening, because our rest shall have no end: for evening is put for end. As therefore God made man in His own image on the sixth day: thus we find that our Lord Jesus Christ came into the sixth age, that man might be formed anew after the image of God. For the first period, as the first day, was from Adam until Noah: the second, as the second day, from Noah unto Abraham: the third, as the third day, from Abraham unto David: the fourth, as the fourth day, from David unto the removal to Babylon: the fifth period, as the fifth day, from the removal to Babylon unto the preaching of John. The sixth day beginneth from the preaching of John, and lasteth unto the end: and after the end of the sixth day, we reach our rest. The sixth day, therefore, is even now passing.(1) And it is now the sixth day, see what the title hath; "On the day before the Sabbath, when the earth was founded." Let us now listen to the Psalm itself: let us enquire of it, how the earth was made, whether perhaps the earth was then made: and we do not read so in Genesis. When, therefore, was the earth founded? when, unless when that which hath been but now read in the Apostle taketh place: "If," he saith, "ye are stedfast, immovable."(2) When all who believe throughout all the earth are stedfast in faith, the earth is founded: then man is made in the image of God. That sixth day in Genesis signifieth this. ...
2. "The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with beauty; the Lord is clothed with strength, and is girded" (ver. 1). We see that He hath clothed Himself with two things: beauty and strength. But why? That He might found the earth. So it followeth, "He hath made the round world so sure, that it cannot be moved." Whence hath He made it so sure? Because He hath clothed Himself in beauty. He would not make it so sure, if He put on beauty only, and not strength also. Why therefore beauty, why strength? For He hath said both. Ye know, brethren, that when our Lord had come in the flesh, of those to whom He preached the Gospel, He pleased some, and displeased others. For the tongues of the Jews were divided against one another: "Some said, He is a good Man; others said, Nay, but He deceiveth the people."(3) Some then spoke well, others detracted from Him, tore Him, bit and insulted Him. Towards those therefore whom He pleased, "He put on beauty;" towards those whom He displeased, "He put on strength." Imitate then thy Lord, that thou mayest become His garment: be with beauty towards those whom thy good works please: show thy strength against detractors. ...
3. Perhaps we should enquire respecting this word also, why he said, "He is girded." Girding signifieth work: for every man then girdeth himself, when he is about to work. But wherefore did he use the word praecinctus, instead of cinctus? For he saith in another Psalm,(4) "Gird Thee with Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Thou most mighty: the people shall fall under Thee:" using the word accingere, not cingere, nor praecingere: this word being applied to the act of attaching anything to the side by girding it. The sword of the Lord, wherewith He conquered the round world by killing iniquity, is the Spirit of God in the truth of the word of God. Wherefore is He said to bind His sword around His thigh? In another place, on another Psalm we have spoken in another manner of girding: but nevertheless, since it hath been mentioned, it ought not to be passed over. What is the girding on of the sword around the thigh? He meaneth the flesh by the thigh. For the Lord would not otherwise conquer the round world, unless the sword of truth came into the flesh. Why therefore is He here said to be girded in front (praecinctus)? He who girdeth himself before, placeth something before himself, wherewith he is girded; whence it is said, He girded Himself before with a towel, and began to wash the disciples' feet. Because He was humble when He girded Himself with a towel. He washed the feet of His own disciples. But all strength is in humility: because all pride is fragile: therefore when He was speaking of strength, he added, "He is girded:" that thou mayest remember how thy God was girded in humility, when He washed His disciples' feet.(5) ... After He had washed their feet, again He sat down; He said unto them, "Ye call me Lord and Master: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; how ought ye also to do to one another's feet?" If therefore strength is in humility, fear not the proud. The humble are like a rock: the rock seems to lie downwards: but nevertheless it is firm. What are the proud? Like smoke: although they are lofty, they vanish. We ought therefore to ascribe our Lord's being girded to His humility, according to the mention of the Gospel, that He was girded, that He might wash His disciples' feet.
4. ... " For He hath made the round world sure, which cannot be moved." ... What then is the round world, "which cannot be moved"? This He would not mention specially, if there were not also a round world that can be moved. There is a round world that shall not be moved. There is a round world that shall be moved. For the good who are stedfast in the faith are the round world: that no man may say,(1) they are only in part of it; while the wicked who abide not in faith, when they have felt any tribulation, are throughout the whole world. There is therefore a round world movable: there is a world immovable: of which the Apostle speaketh. Behold, the round world movable. I ask thee, of whom speaketh the Apostle in these words, "Of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already: and overthrow the faith of some?"(2) Did these belong to the round world, that shall not be moved? But they were chaff: and as he saith," they overthrow the faith of some." ... "Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure; having his seal,"--what seal hath it as its sure foundation?--" The Lord knoweth them that are His." This is the round world that shall not be moved; "The Lord knoweth them that are His." And what seal hath it? "And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from unrighteousness." Let him depart from unrighteousness: for he cannot depart from the unrighteous, for the chaff is mixed with the wheat until it is fanned. ...
5. "Thy throne is established from thence, O Lord" (ver. 2). What is, "from thence"? From that time. As if he said, What is the throne of God? Where doth God sit? In His Saints. Dost thou wish to be the throne of God? Prepare a place in thy heart where He may sit. What is the throne of God, except where God dwelleth? Where doth God dwell, except in His temple? What is His temple? Is it surrounded with walls? Far from it. Perhaps this world is His temple, because it is very great, and a thing worthy to contain God. It contains not Him by whom it was made. And wherein is He contained? In the quiet soul, in the righteous soul: that is it that containeth Him. ... He who said, "Before Abraham was, I am:"(3) not before Abraham only, but before Adam: not only before Adam, but before all the angels, before heaven and earth; since all things were made through Him: he added, lest thou, attending to the day of our Lord's nativity, mightest think He commenced from that time, "Thy throne is established, O God." But what God? "Thou art from everlasting:" for which he uses ap' aiw^nos, in the Greek version; that word being sometimes used for an age, sometimes for everlasting. Therefore, O Thou who seemest to be born "from thence," Thou art from everlasting! But let not human birth be thought of, but Divine eternity. He began then from the time of His birth; He grew:(4) ye have heard the Gospel. He chose disciples, He replenished them, His disciples began to preach. Perhaps this is what he speaketh of in the following verse.
6. "The floods lift up their voices" (ver. 3). What are these floods, which have lift up their voices? We heard them not: neither when our Lord was born, did we hear rivers speak, nor when He was baptized, nor when He suffered; we heard not that rivers did speak. Read the Gospel, ye find not that rivers spoke. It is not enough that they spoke: "They have lift up their voice:" they have not only spoken, but bravely, mightily, in a lofty voice. What are those rivers which have spoken? ... The Spirit itself was a mighty river, whence many rivers were filled. Of that river the Psalmist saith in another passage, "The rivers of the flood thereof shall make glad the city of God."(5) Rivers then were made to flow from the belly of the disciples, when they received the Holy Spirit: themselves were rivers, when they had received that Holy Spirit. Whence did those rivers lift their voices? wherefore did they lift them up? Because at first they feared. Peter was not yet a river, when at the question of the maid-servant he thrice denied Christ: "I do not know the man."(6) Here he lieth through fear: he lifteth not his voice as yet: he is not yet the river. But when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the Jews sent for them, and enjoined them not to preach at all, nor to teach in the name of Jesus. ... For when the Apostles had been dismissed from the council of the Jews, they came to their own friends, and told them what the priests and elders said unto them: but they on hearing lifted up their voices with one accord unto the Lord, and said, "Lord, it is Thou who hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is;"(7) and the rest which floods lifting up their voices might say, "Wonderful are the hangings of the sea" (ver. 4). For when the disciples had lifted up their voices unto Him, many believed, and many received the Holy Spirit, and many rivers instead of few began to lift up their voice. Hence there followeth, "from the voices of many waters, wonderful are the hangings of the sea;" that is, the waves of the world. When Christ had begun to be preached by so powerful voices, the sea became enraged, persecutions began to thicken. When therefore the rivers had lift up their voice, "from the voices of many waters, wonderful" were "the hangings of the sea." To be hung aloft is to be lifted up; when the sea rages, the waves are hung as from above. Let the waves hang over as they choose; let the sea roar as it chooseth; the hangings of the sea indeed are mighty, mighty are the threatenings, mighty the persecutions; but see what followeth: "but yet the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier." Let therefore the sea restrain itself, and sometime become calmed; let peace be granted by Christians. The sea was disturbed, the vessel was tossed; the vessel is the Church: the sea, the world. The Lord came, He walked over the sea, and calmed the waves. How did the Lord walk over the sea? Above the heads of those mighty foaming waves. Principalities and kings believed; they were subdued unto Christ. Let us not therefore be frightened; because "the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier."
7. "Thy testimonies, O Lord, are very surely believed" (ver. 5). The Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier than the mighty overhangings of the sea. "Thy testimonies are very surely believed." "Thy testimonies," because He had said beforehand, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation." ... He added, "but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."(1) If then He saith, "I have overcome the world," cling unto Him who overcame the world, who overcame the sea. Rejoice in Him, because the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier, and, "Thy testimonies are very surely believed." And what is the end of all these? "Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord!" Thine house, the whole of Thine house, not here and there: but the whole of Thine house, throughout the whole world. Why throughout the whole of the round world? "Because He hath set aright the round world, which cannot be moved."(2) The Lord's house will be strong: it will prevail throughout the whole world: many shall fall: but that house standeth; many shall be disturbed, but that house shall not be moved. Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord!" For a short time only? No. "Unto length of days."
1. As we listened with much attention, while the Psalm was in reading, so let us listen attentively, while the Lord revealeth the mysteries which He hath deigned to obscure in this passage. For some mysteries in the Scriptures are shut up for this reason, not that they may be denied, but that they may be opened unto those who knock. If therefore ye knock with affection of piety, and sincere heartfelt love, He, who seeth from what motives ye knock, will open unto you.(4) It is known unto all of us (and I wish we may not be among their number), that may murmur against God's long- suffering, and grieve either that impious and wicked men live in this world, or that they have great power; and what is more, that the bad generally have great power against the good, and that the bad often oppress the good; that the wicked exult, while the good suffer; the evil are proud, while the good are humbled. Observing such things in the human race (for they abound), impatient and weak minds are perverted, as if they were good in vain; since God averteth, or seemeth to avert, His eyes from the good works of the pious and faithful, and to promote the wicked in those pleasures which they love. Weak men, therefore, imagining that they live well in vain, are induced either to imitate the wickedness of those whom they see flourishing: or if either through bodily or mental weakness they are deterred from doing wrong by a fear of the penal laws of the world; not because they love justice, but, to speak more openly, fearing the condemnation of men among men, they refrain indeed from wicked deeds, but refrain not from wicked thoughts. And among their wicked thoughts, the chief is the wickedness which leadeth them impiously to imagine that God is neglectful, and regardless of human affairs: and that He either holdeth in equal estimation the good and the wicked: or even, and this is a still more pernicious notion, that He persecuteth the good, and favoureth the wicked. He who thinketh thus, although he doth no harm to any man, doth the greatest to himself, and is impious against himself, and by his wickedness hurteth not God, but slayeth himself. ...
2. The Psalm hath this title, that is, this inscription: "A Psalm of David himself, on the fourth day of the week." This Psalm is about to teach patience in the sufferings of the righteous: it enjoineth patience against the prosperity of the wicked, and buildeth up patience. This is the drift of the whole of it, from beginning to end. Wherefore then hath it such a title, "on the fourth of the week"? The first of the week is the Lord's day: the second, is the second week-day, which people of the world call the Moon's day: the third, is the third weekday, which they term Mars' day. The fourth of the Sabbaths therefore is the fourth week-day, which by Pagans is styled Mercury's day, and also by many Christians; but I would not call it so: and I wish they would change for the better, and cease to do so; for they have a phrase of their own, which they may use. For these terms are not of universal use: many nations have severally different names for them: so that the mode of speech used by the Church better beseemeth the mouth of a Christian.(5) Yet if custom hath induced any person to utter that with his tongue which his heart doth disapprove, let him remember, that all those whose names the stars bear were men, and that the stars did not commence their existence in the sky, when those men began theirs, but were there long before; but on account of some mortal services rendered unto mortals, those men in their own times, because they had great power, and were eminent in this life, since they were beloved by men, not on account of eternal life, but of temporal services, received divine honours. For then men of the old world, in being deceived and wishing to deceive, pointed to the stars in heaven, to flatter those who had done them any good service in their affection for this life, saying, that that was the star of such a man, this of another; while the man who had not beheld them before, so as to see that those stars were there before the birth of the man, were deceived into a belief: and thus this vain opinion was conceived. This erroneous opinion the devil strengthened, Christ overthrew. According to our mode of speech, then, the fourth of the week is taken for the fourth day from the Lord's day. Attend, therefore, beloved, to what this title meaneth. Here is a great mystery, and a truly hidden one. ... Let us therefore recall from the holy Scripture in Genesis, what was created on the first day; we find light: what was created on the second day; we find the firmament, which God called heaven: what was created on the third day; we find the form of earth and sea, and their separation, that all the gathering together of the waters was called sea, and all that was dry, the earth. On the fourth day, the Lord made the lights in heaven:(1) "The sun to rule the day: the moon and stars to govern the night:"(2) this was the work of the fourth day. What then is the reason that the Psalm hath taken its title from the fourth day: the Psalm in which patience is enjoined against the prosperity of the wicked, and the sufferings of the good. Thou findest the Apostle Paul speaking. "Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life."(3) ...
3. Let us now attend to the Psalm. "The Lord is the God of vengeance; the God of vengeance hath dealt confidently" (ver. 1). Dost thou think that He doth not punish? "The God of vengeance" punisheth. What is, "The God of vengeance"? The God of punishments. Thou murmurest surely because the bad are not punished: yet do not murmur, lest thou be among those who are punished. That man hath committed a theft, and liveth: thou murmurest against God, because he who committed a theft on thee dieth not. ... Therefore, if thou wouldest have another correct his hand, do thou first correct thy tongue: thou wouldest have him correct his heart towards man, correct thy heart towards God; lest perchance, when thou desirest the vengeance of God, if it come, it find thee first. For He will come: He will come, and will judge those who continue in their wickedness, ungrateful for the prolongation of His mercy, for His long-suffering, treasuring up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds:(4) because, "The Lord is the God of vengeance," therefore hath He "dealt confidently." ... Our safety is our Saviour: in Him He would place the hope of all the needy and poor. And what saith He? "I will deal confidently in Him." What meaneth this? He will not fear, will not spare the lusts and vices of men. Truly, as a faithful physician, with the healing knife of preaching in His hand, He hath cut away all our wounded parts. Therefore such as He was prophesied and preached beforehand, such was He found. ... How great things then did He, of whom it is said, "He taught them as one having authority," say unto them? "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"(5) What great things did He say unto them, before their face? He feared no one. Why? Because He is the God of vengeance. For this reason He spared them not in words, that they might remain for Him after to spare them in judgment; because if they were unwilling to accept the healing of His word, they would afterwards incur their Judge's doom. Wherefore? Because He hath said, "The Lord is the God of vengeance, the God of vengeance hath dealt confidently;" that is, He hath spared no man in word. He who spared not in word when about to suffer, will He spare in judgment when about to judge? He who in His humility feared no man, will He fear any man in His glory? From His dealing thus confidently in time past, imagine how He will deal at the end of time. Murmur not then against God, who seemeth to spare the wicked; but be thou good, and perhaps for a season He may not spare thee the rod, that He may in the end spare thee in judgment. ...
4. And what followed, because He dealt confidently? "Be exalted, Thou Judge of the world" (ver. 2). Because they imprisoned Him when bumble, thinkest thou they will imprison Him when exalted? Because they judged Him when mortal, will they not be judged by Him when immortal? What then saith He? "Be exalted," Thou, who hast dealt confidently, the confidence of whose word the wicked bore not, but thought they did a glorious deed, when they seized and crucified Thee; they who ought to have seized on Thee with faith, seized Thee with persecution. Thou then who hast among the wicked dealt confidently, and hast feared no man, because Thou hast suffered, "be exalted;" that is, arise again, depart into heaven. Let the Church also bear with long-suffering what the Church's Head hath borne with long- suffering. "Be exalted, Thou Judge of the world: and reward the proud after their deserving." He will reward them, brethren. For what is this, "Be exalted, Thou Judge of the world: and reward the proud after their deserving"? This is the prophecy of one who doth predict, not the boldness of one who commandeth. Not because the Prophet said, "Be exalted, Thou Judge of the world," did Christ obey the Prophet, in arising from the dead, and ascending into heaven; but because Christ was to do this, the Prophet predicted it. He seeth Christ abased in the spirit, abased he seeth Him: fearing no man, in speech sparing no man, and he saith, "He hath dealt confidently." He seeth how confidently He hath dealt, he seeth Him arrested, crucified, humbled, he seeth Him rising from the dead, and ascending into heaven, and from thence to come in judgment of those, among whose hands He had suffered every evil: "Be exalted," he saith, "Thou Judge of the world, and reward the proud after their deserving." The proud He will thus reward, not the humble. Who are the proud? Those to whom it is little to do evil: but they even defend their own sins. For on some of those who crucified Christ, miracles were afterwards performed, when out of the number of the Jews themselves there were found believers, and the blood of Christ was given unto them. Their hands were impious, and red with the blood of Christ. He whose blood they had shed, Himself washed them. They who had persecuted His mortal body which they had seen, became part of His very body, that is, the Church. They shed their own ransom, that they might drink their own ransom. For afterwards more were converted. ...
5. "Lord, how long shall the ungodly, how long shall the ungodly triumph?" (ver. 3). "They answer, and will speak wickedness, they all will speak that work unrighteousness" (ver. 4). What is their saying, but against God, when they say: What profiteth it us that we live thus? What wilt thou reply? Doth God truly regard our deeds? For because they live, they imagine that God knoweth not their actions. Behold, what evil happeneth unto them! If the officers(1) knew where they were, they would arrest them; and they therefore avoid the officer's eyes, that they may escape instant apprehension; but no one can escape the eye of God, since He not only seeth within the closet, but within the recesses of the heart. Even they themselves believe that nothing can escape God: and because they do evil, and are conscious of what they have done, and see that they live while God knoweth, though they would not live if the officer discovered them; they say unto themselves, These things please God: and, in truth, if they displeased Him, as they displease kings, as they displease judges, as they displease governors, as they displease recorders? yet could we escape the eye of God, as we do escape the eyes of those authorities? Therefore these things please God. ... Some righteous man cometh, and saith, Do not commit iniquity. Wherefore? That thou mayest not die. Behold, iniquity I have committed: why do I not die? That man wrought righteousness: and he is dead: why is he dead? I have wrought iniquity: why hath not God carried me off? Behold, that man did righteously: and why hath He thus visited him? why suffereth He thus? They answer; this is the meaning of the word "answer:" for they have a reply to make; because they are spared, from the long-suffering of God, they discover an argument for their reply. He spareth them for one reason, they answer for another, because they still live. For the Apostle telleth us wherefore He spareth, he expoundeth the grounds of the long-suffering of God: "And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the long-suffering of God leadeth thee to repentance ?" "But thou," that is, he who answereth and saith, If I displeased God, He would not spare me, hear what he worketh for himself; hear the Apostle; "but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up into thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds."(3) He therefore increaseth His long-suffering, thou increasest thine iniquity. His treasure will consist in eternal mercy towards those who have not despised His mercy; but thy treasure will be discovered in wrath, and what thou daily layest up by little and little, thou wilt find in the accumulated mass; thou layest up by the grain, but thou wilt find the whole heap. Omit not to watch thy slightest daily sins: rivers are filled from the smallest drops.
6. ... "They have humbled Thy people, O Lord; and have troubled Thine heritage" (ver. 5). "They have murdered the widow, and the fatherless: and slain the proselyte" (ver. 6); that is, the traveller, the pilgrim: the comer from far, as the Psalmist calleth himself. Each of these expressions is too clear in meaning to make it worth while to dwell upon them.
7. "And they have said, The Lord shall not see" (ver. 7): He observeth not, regardeth not these things: He careth for other matters, He understandeth not. These are rite two assertions of the wicked: one which I have just quoted, "These things hast thou done, and I held my tongue, and thou thoughtest unrighteousness, that I will be like thyself." What meaneth, "that I will be like thyself"? Thou thinkest that I see thy deeds, and that they are pleasing unto Me, because I do not punish them. There is another assertion of the wicked: because God neither regardeth these things, nor observeth that He may know how I live, God heedeth me not. Doth then God make any reckoning of me? or doth He even take account of me? or of men in general? Unhappy man! He cared for thee, that thou mightest exist: doth He not care that thou live well? Such then are the words of these last; "and yet they have said, The Lord shall not see: neither shall the God of Jacob regard it."
8. "Take heed now, ye that are unwise among the people: O ye fools, some time understand!" (ver. 8). He teacheth His people whose feet might slip: any one among them seeth the prosperity of the wicked, himself living well among the Saints of God, that is, among the number of the sons of the Church: he seeth that the wicked flourish, and work iniquity, he envieth, and is led to follow them in their actions; because he seeth that apparently it profiteth him nothing that he liveth well in humility, hoping for his reward here. For if he hopeth for it in future, he loseth it not; because the time is not yet come for him to receive it. Thou art working in a vineyard: execute thy task, and thou shall receive thy pay. Thou wouldest not exact it from thy employer, before thy work was finished, and yet dost thou exact it from God before thou dost work? This patience is part of thy work, and thy pay dependeth upon thy work: thou who dost not choose to be patient, choosest to work less upon the vineyard: since this act of patience belongeth to thy labouring itself, which is to gain thy pay. But if thou art treacherous, take care, lest thou shouldest not only not receive thy pay, but also suffer punishment, because thou hast chosen to be a treacherous labourer. When such a labourer beginneth to do ill, he watcheth his employer's eyes, who hired him for his vineyard, that he may loiter when his eye is turned away; but the moment his eyes are turned towards him, he worketh diligently. But God, who hired thee, averteth not His eyes: thou canst not work treacherously: the eyes of thy Master are ever upon thee: seek an opportunity to deceive Him, and loiter if thou canst. If then any of you had any such ideas, when ye saw the wicked flourishing, and if such thoughts caused your feet to slip in the path of God; to you this Psalm speaketh: but if perchance none of you be such, through you it doth address others, in these words, "Take heed now;" since they had said, "The Lord shall not see: neither shall the God of Jacob regard it." "Take heed," it saith, "now, ye that are unwise among the people: and ye fools, some time understand!"(1)
9. "He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? or He that made the eye, doth He not consider?" (ver. 9) "or He that instructeth the nations, shall He not reprove?" (ver. 10). This is what God is at present doing: He is instructing the nations: for this reason he sent His word to man throughout the world: He sent it by Angels, by Patriarchs, by Prophets, by servants, through so many heralds going before the Judge. He sent also His own Word Himself, He sent His own Son in Person: He sent the servants of His Son, and in these very servants His own Son. Throughout the world is everywhere preached the word of God. Where is it not said unto men, Abandon your former wickedness, and turn yourselves to right paths? He spareth, that ye may correct yourselves: He punished not yesterday, in order that to-day ye may live well. He teacheth the heathen, shall He not therefore reprove? will He not hear those whom He teacheth? will He not judge those to whom He hath beforehand sent and sown lessons of warning? If thou wast in a school, wouldest thou receive a task, and not repeat it? When therefore thou receivest it from thy master, thou art being taught: the Master giveth thy task into thy hands, and shall He not exact it from thee when thou comest to repeat it? or when thou hast begun to repeat it, shalt thou not be in fear of stripes? At present then we are receiving our work: afterwards we are placed before the Master, that we may give up to Him all our past tasks, that is, that we may give an account of all those things which are now being bestowed upon us. Hear the Apostle's words: "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ," etc.(1) "It is He that teacheth man knowledge." Doth He not know, who maketh thee to know?
10. "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are but vain" (ver. 11). For although thou knowest not the thoughts of God, that they are righteous; "He knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are but vain." Even men have known the thoughts of God: but those to whom He hath become a friend, it is to them He showeth His counsel. Do not, brethren, despise yourselves: if ye approach the Lord with faith, ye hear the thoughts of God; these ye are now learning, this is told you, and for this reason ye are taught, why God spareth the wicked m this life, that ye may not murmur against God, who teacheth man knowledge. "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are but vain." Abandon therefore the thoughts of man, which are vain: that ye may take hold on the thoughts of God, which are wise. But who is he who taketh hold on the thoughts of God? He who is placed in the firmament of heaven. We have already chanted that Psalm, and have expounded this expression therein.
11. "Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord: and teachest him from Thy law" (ver. 12). Behold, thou hast the counsel of God, wherefore He spareth the wicked: the pit is being digged for the sinner. Thou wishest to bury him at once: the pit is as yet being dug for him: do not be in haste to bury him. What mean the words, "until the pit be digged up for the sinner "? or whom cloth He mean by sinner? One man? No. Whom then? The whole race of such that are sinners? No; them that are proud; for he had said before, "Reward the proud after their deserving." For that publican, who would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but "smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner,"(2) was a sinner; but since he was not proud, and since God will render a recompense to the proud; the pit is being dug not for him, but for them that are such, until He render a recompense to the proud. In the words then, "until the pit be digged up for the ungodly," understand the proud. Who is the proud? He who doth not by confession of his sins do penance, that he may be healed through his humility. Who is the proud? He who chooseth to arrogate to himself those few good things which he seemeth to possess, and who doth detract from the mercy of God. Who is the proud? He who although he doth ascribe unto God his good works, yet insulteth those who do not those good works, and raiseth himself above them. ... This then is the Christian doctrine: no man doeth anything well except by His grace. A man's bad acts are his own: his good he doth of God's bounty. When he hath begun to do well, let not him ascribe it unto himself: when he hath not attributed it to himself, let him give thanks to Him from whom he hath received it. But when he doeth well, let him not insult him who doth not as he doth nor exalt himself above him: for the grace of, God is not stayed at him, so that it cannot reach another.
12. "That Thou mayest give him patience in days of malice: until the pit be digged up for the ungodly" (ver. 13). Have patience therefore every one, if thou art a Christian, in time of malice. Days of malice are those in which the ungodly appear to flourish, and the righteous to suffer; but the suffering of the righteous is the rod of the Father, and the prosperity of the ungodly is their own snare. For because God giveth you patience in time of adversity, until the pit be digged up for the ungodly, do not think that the Angels are standing in some place with mattocks, and are digging that great pit which shall be able to contain the whole race of the ungodly; and because ye see that the wicked are many, and say unto yourselves carnally: Truly what pit can contain so great a multitude of the wicked, such a crowd of sinners? where is a pit of such dimensions, as to contain all, dug? when finished? therefore God spareth them. This is not so: their very prosperity is the pit of the wicked: for into that shall they fall, as it were into a pitfall. Attend, brethren, for it is a great thing to know that prosperity is called a pitfall: "until the pit be digged up for the ungodly." For God spareth him whom He knoweth to be ungodly and impious, in His own hidden justice: and this very sparing of God, causeth him to be puffed up through his impunity. ... The proud man raiseth himself up against God: God sinketh him: and he sinketh by the very act of raising himself up against God. For in another Psalm(3) he thus saith, "Thou hast cast them down, while they were being exalted." He said not, Thou hast cast them down, because they were exalted; or, Thou hast cast them down, after they were exalted; so that the period of their exaltation be one, of their casting down another: but in the very act of their exaltation were they cast down. For in proportion as the heart of man is proud, so doth it recede from God; and if it recede from God, it sinketh down into the deep. On the other hand, the humble heart bringeth God unto it from heaven, so that He becometh very near unto it. Surely God is lofty, God is above all the heavens, He surpasseth all the Angels: how high must these be raised, to reach that exalted One? Do not burst thyself by enlarging thyself; I give thee other advice, lest perchance in enlarging thyself thou burst, through pride: surely God is lofty: do thou humble thyself, and He will descend unto thee.
13. ... Do thou rejoice beneath the scourge: because the heritage is kept for thee, "for the Lord will not cast off His people" (ver. 14). He chasteneth for a season, He condemneth not for ever: the others He spareth for a season, and will condemn them for evermore. Make thy choice: dost thou wish temporary suffering, or eternal punishment? temporal happiness, or eternal life? What doth God threaten? Eternal punishment. What doth He promise? Eternal rest. His scourging the good, is temporary: His sparing the wicked, is also temporary. "Neither will He forsake His inheritance."
14. "Until righteousness," he saith, "turn again unto judgment, and all they that have it are right in heart" (ver. 15). Listen now, and gain righteousness: for judgment thou canst not yet have. Thou shouldest gain righteousness first; but that very righteousness of thine shall turn unto judgment. The Apostles had righteousness here on earth, and bore with the wicked. But what is said unto them? "Ye shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."(1) Their righteousness therefore shall turn unto judgment. For whoever is righteous in this life, is so for this reason, that he may endure evils with patience: let him suffer patiently the period of suffering, and the day of judging cometh. But why do I speak of the servants of God? The Lord Himself, who is the Judge of all living and dead, first chose to be judged, and then to judge. Those who have righteousness at present, are not yet judges. For the first thing is to have righteousness, and afterwards to judge: He first endureth the wicked, and afterwards judgeth them. Let there be righteousness now: afterwards it shall turn again unto judgment. And so long He endureth wicked men, as God doth will, as long as God's Church shall endure them, that she may be taught through their wickedness. Nevertheless, God will not cast off His people, "all such as have it are right in heart." Who are those who are right in heart? Those whose will is the will of God. He spareth sinners: thou dost wish Him at once to destroy sinners. Thy heart is crooked and thy will perverted, when thy will is one way and the will of God another. God wisheth to spare sinners: thou dost not wish sinners spared. God is of long-suffering to sinners: thou dost not wish to endure sinners. ... Wish not to bend the will of God to thy will, but rather correct thy will to His. The will of God is like a rule: behold, suppose, thou hast twisted the rule: whence canst thou be set straight? But the rule itself continueth straight: for it is immutable. As long as the rule is straight, thou hast whither to turn thyself, and straighten thy perversity; thou hast a means of correcting what is crooked in thee. But what do men will? It is not enough that their own will is crooked; they even wish to make the will of God crooked according to their own heart, that God may do what they themselves will, when they ought to do that which God willeth. ...
15. "Who will rise up for me against the wicked? or who will take my part against the evil doers?" (ver. 16). Many persuade us to divers evils: the serpent ceaseth not to whisper to thee to work iniquity: whichever way thou shalt turn, if perchance thou hast done well, thou seekest to live well with some one, and thou hardly findest any one; many wicked men surround thee, for there are few grains of wheat, and much chaff. This floor hath its grains of corn, but as yet they suffer. Therefore the whole mass of the wheat, when separated from the chaff, will be great: the grains are few, but when compared with the chaff, still many in themselves. When therefore the wicked cry out on every side, and say, Why livest thou thus? Art thou the only Christian? Why dost thou not do what others also do? Why dost thou not frequent the theatres, as others do? Why dost thou not use charms and amulets? Why dost thou not consult astrologers and soothsayers, even as others do? And thou crossest(2) thyself, and sayest, I am Christian, that thou mayest repel them, whosoever they are; but the enemy presses on, urges his attacks; what is worse, by the example of Christians he choketh Christians. They toil on, in the midst of heat: the Christian soul suffereth tribulation: yet it hath power to conquer: hath it such power of itself? For this reason remark what he saith. For he answereth, What doth it profit me that I now find charms for myself, and gain a few days? I depart hence from this life, and repair unto my Lord, who shall send me into the flames; because I have preferred a few days to life eternal, He shall send me into hell. What hell? That of the eternal judgment of God. Is it really so (the enemy answereth), unless indeed thou really believest that God careth how men live? And perhaps it is not an acquaintance who speaketh thus to thee in the street, but thy wife at home, or possibly the husband to the faithful and holy wife, her deceiver. If it be the woman to her husband, she is as Eve unto him; if as the husband unto the wife, he is as the devil unto her: either she is herself as Eve unto thee, or thou art a serpent unto her. Sometimes the father would incline his thoughts to his son, and findeth him wicked, utterly depraved: he is in a fever of misery, he wavers, he seeketh how to subdue him, he is almost drawn in, and consenteth: but may God be(1) near him. ...
16. "If the Lord," he saith, "had not helped me: within a little my soul had dwelt in hell" (ver. 17). I had almost plunged into that pit which is preparing for sinners: that is, my soul had dwelt in hell. Because he already began to waver, and nearly to consent, he looked back unto the Lord. Suppose, for example's sake, he was insulted to tempt him to iniquity. For sometimes the wicked flock together, and insult the good; especially if they are more in number, and if they have taken him alone, as there is often much chaff about one grain of wheat (though there will not be when the heap hath been fanned); he is then taken among many wicked ones, is insulted, and surrounded; they wish to place themselves over him, they torment him and insult him for his very righteousness. A great Apostle! say they; Thou hast flown] into heaven, as Elias did! Men do these things, so that sometime, when he listeneth to the tongue of men, he is ashamed to be good among the wicked. Let him therefore resist the evil; but not of his own strength, lest he become proud, and when he wishes to escape the proud, himself increase their number. ...
17. "If I said, My foot hath slipt; Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up" (ver. 18). See how God loveth confession. Thy foot hath slipt, and thou sayest not, my foot hath slipt; but thou sayest thou art firm, when thou art slipping. The moment thou beginnest to slip or waver, confess thou that slip, that thou mayest not bewail thy total fall; that He may help, so that thy soul be not in hell. God loveth confession, loveth humility. Thou hast slipped, as a man; God helpeth thee, nevertheless: yet say, "My foot hath slipt." Why dost thou slip, and yet sayest, I am firm? "When I said, My foot hath slipt, Thy mercy, O Lord, hath held me up." Just as Peter presumed, but not in strength of his own. The Lord was seen to walk upon the sea, trampling on the heads of all the proud in this life. In walking upon the foaming waves, He figured His own course when He trampleth on the heads of the proud. The Church too doth trample upon them: for Peter is the Church Herself. Nevertheless, Peter dared not by himself walk upon the waters; but what said he? "Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water." He in His own power, Peter by His order; "bid me," he saith, "come unto Thee." He answered, "Come." For the Church also trampleth on the heads of the proud; but since it is the Church, and hath human weakness, that these words might be fulfilled, "If I said, My foot hath slipt," Peter tottered on the sea, and cried out, "Lord, save me!"(3) and so what is here put, "If I said, My foot hath slipt," is put there, "Lord, I perish." And what is here, "Thy mercy, O Lord, hath held me up," is there put, "And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, saying, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"(4) It is wonderful how God proveth men: our very dangers render Him who rescueth us sweeter unto us. For see what followeth: because he said, "If I said, My foot hath slipt, Thy mercy, O Lord, hath held me up." The Lord hath become especially sweet unto him, in rescuing him from danger; and thus speaking of this very sweetness of the Lord, he exclaimeth and saith, "O Lord, in the multitude of the sorrows that I had in my heart, Thy comforts have refreshed my soul" (ver. 19). Many sorrows, but many consolations: bitter wounds, and sweet remedies.
18. "Wilt Thou have anything to do with the stool of iniquity, who makest sorrow in learning?" (ver. 20). He hath said this, No wicked man sitteth with Thee, nor shall Thou have anything to do with the stool of iniquity. And he giveth an account whereof he understandeth this, "For Thou makest sorrow in learning." For from this, because Thou hast not spared us, do I understand that Thou hast nothing to do with the stool of iniquity. Thou hast this in the Epistle of the Apostle Peter, and for this reason he hath adduced a testimony from the Scripture: "for the time is come," he saith, "that judgment must begin at the house of God;" that is, the time is come for the judgment of those who belong to the house of God. If sons are scourged, what must the most wicked slaves expect? For which reason he added: "And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God?" To which he added this testimony: "For if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?"(5) How then shall the wicked be with Thee, if Thou dost not even spare Thy faithful, in order that Thou mayest exercise and teach them?(6) But as He spareth them not, for this reason, that He may teach them: he saith, "For Thou makest sorrow in learning." "Makest," that is, formest: from whence comes the word figulus (from fingo), and a potter's vessel is called fictile: not in the meaning of fiction, a falsehood, but of forming so as to give anything being and some sort of form; as before he said, "He that fabricated (finxit) the eye, shall He not see?"(7) Is that, "fabricated the eye" a falsehood? Nay, it is understood He fashioned the eye, made the eye. And is He not a potter when He makes men frail, weak, earthly? Hear the Apostle: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels."(1) ... Behold our Lord Himself, how He showeth Himself a potter.(2) Because He had made man of clay, He anointed him with clay, for whom He had not made eyes in the womb. And so when he saith, "Hast Thou anything to do," etc., he saith, out of grief makest learning for us, so that grief itself becomes our instruction. How is sorrow our learning? When He scourgeth thee who died for thee, and who doth not promise bliss in this life, and who cannot deceive, and when He giveth not here what thou seekest. What will He give? when will He give? how much will He give, who giveth not here, who here teacheth, who maketh sorrow in learning? Thy labour is here, and rest is promised thee. Thou takest thought that thou hast toil here: but take thought what sort of rest He promiseth. Canst thou conceive it? If thou couldest, thou wouldest see that thy toil here is nothing toward an equivalent. ...
19. Attend, brethren; it is for sale.(3) What I have is for sale, saith God unto thee, buy it. What hath He for sale? I have rest for sale; buy it by thy toil. Attend, that we may be in Christ's name brave Christians: the remainder of the Psalm is but a little, let us not be weary. For how can he be strong in doing, who faileth in hearing? The Lord will help us to expound unto you the remainder. Attend then: God hath, as it were, proclaimed the kingdom of heaven for sale. Thou sayest unto Him, What is its value? The price is toil: if He were to say, its price is gold, it would not suffice to say this only, but thou wouldest seek to know how much gold; for there is a mass of gold, and half an ounce, and a pound, and the like. He said "price," that thou mightest not be at pains to inquire, how long thou shouldest find it. The price of the commodity is toil: how much toil is it? Now seek how much thou shouldest toil for it. Thou art not as yet told how great that toil is doomed to be, or how much toil is required of thee: God saith this unto thee, I show thee how great that rest will be; do thou judge with what measure of toil it should be bought.
20. ... He promised rest: suffer trouble. He threateneth eternal fire; despise temporal pains: and while Christ doth watch, let thy heart be calmed, that thou also mayest reach the harbour For He would not fail to prepare a harbour, who provided a vessel. "Hast Thou anything to do with the stool of iniquity, Thou who makest sorrow in learning?" He trieth us with the wicked, and by their persecution He teacheth us. By means of the malice of the wicked the good is scourged, through the slave the son is chastened: thus is learning taught by sorrow. What God alloweth them power to do, that do wicked men, whom He spareth for a season, do.
21. For what followeth? "They will be captious against the soul of the righteous "(ver. 21 ). Why will they be captious? Because they can find no true ground of accusation. For how were they captious against our Lord? They made up false accusations,(4) because they could not find true ones. "And will condemn the innocent blood." Why all this taketh place, he will show in the sequel.
22. "And the Lord is become my refuge" (ver. 22), he saith. Thou wouldest not seek such a refuge, if thou wert not in danger: but thou hast therefore been in danger, that thou mightest seek for it: for He teacheth us by sorrow. He causeth me tribulation from the malice of the wicked: pricked with that tribulation, I begin to seek a refuge which I had ceased to seek for in that worldly prosperity. For who, that is always prosperous, and rejoiceth in present hopes, findeth it easy to remember God? Let the hope of this life give way, and the hope of God advance; that thou mayest say, "And the Lord is become my refuge:" may I sorrow for this end that the Lord may become my refuge! "And my God the help of my hope." For as yet the Lord is our hope, since as long as we are here, we are in hope, and not in possession. But lest we fail in hope, there is near us a provision to encourage us, and to mitigate those very evils which we suffer. For it is not said in vain, "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be [tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it: "(5) who will so put us into that furnace of tribulation, that the vessel may be hardened, but not broken. "And the Lord is become my refuge: and my God the help of my hope." Why then did He seem to thee to be as it were unjust, in that He spareth the evil? See then how the Psalm is now set right, and be thou set right together with the Psalm: for, for this reason the Psalm contained thy words. What words? "Lord, how long shall the ungodly, how long shall the ungodly triumph?"(6) The Psalm just now used thy words: use therefore thyself the Psalm's words in thy turn.
23. "And the Lord shall recompense them according to their works, and after their own malice; the Lord our God shall destroy them" (ver. 23). The words, "after their own malice," are not said without meaning. I am benefited through them: and yet it is said to be their malice, and not their benefits. For assuredly He trieth us, scourgeth us, by means of the wicked. To prepare us for what doth He scourge us? Confessedly for the kingdom of heaven. "For He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?"(1) and when God doth this, He is teaching us in order to an eternal heritage: and this learning He often giveth us by means of wicked men, through whom He trieth and perfecteth our love, which He doth will to be extended even to our enemies.(2) ... Thus also they who persecuted the Martyrs, by persecuting them on earth, sent them into heaven: knowingly they caused them the loss of the present life, while unconsciously they were bestowing upon them the gain of a future life: but, nevertheless, unto all who persevered in their wicked hatred of the righteous, will God recompense after their own iniquities, and in their own malice will He destroy them. For as the goodness of the righteous is hurtful unto the wicked, so is the iniquity of the wicked beneficial unto the righteous. ...
24. Let therefore the righteous bear with the ungodly; let the temporal suffering of the righteous bear with the temporal impunity of the wicked; for "the just shall live by faith."(3) For there is no righteousness of man in this life except to live by faith, "which worketh by love."(4) But if he liveth by faith, let him believe both that he will himself inherit rest after his present toil, and that they will suffer eternal torments after their present exultation. And if faith worketh by love, let him love his enemies also, and, as far as in him lies, have the will to profit them; for thus he will prevent their injuring him when they have the will. And whenever perchance they have received power to hurt and tyrannize; let him lift his heart above, where no man hurteth him, well taught and chastened in the law of God, that he may "have patience given him in the days of adversity, until the pit be digged up for the ungodly." ...
25. This I say, brethren, that ye may profit from what ye have heard, and ruminate within yourselves: permit not yourselves to forget, not only by thinking over again upon these subjects, and discoursing upon them, but also by so living. For a good life which is led after God's commands, is like a pen, because it is heard writing in our hearts. If it were written on wax, it would easily be blotted out: write it in your hearts, in your character, and it shall never be blotted out.