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 76-85: FROM THE 3RD BOOK OF THE PSALMS.
1. The Jews are wont to glory in this Psalm which we have sung, saying, "Known in Judaea is God, in Israel great is the name of Him :" and to revile the Gentiles to whom God is not known, and to say that to themselves alone God is known; seeing that the Prophet saith," Known in Judaea is God." In other places therefore He is unknown. But God is known in very deed in Judaea, if they understand what is Judaea. For indeed God is not known except in Judaea. Behold even we say this, that except a person shall have been in Judaea, known to him God cannot be. But what saith the Apostle? He that in secret is a Jew, he that is so in circumcision of the heart, not in letter but in spirit. There are therefore Jews in circumcision of the flesh, and there are Jews in circumcision of the heart. Many of our holy fathers had both the circumcision of the flesh, for a seal of the faith, and circumcision of the heart, for the faith itself. From these fathers these men degenerating, who now in the name do glory, and have lost their deeds; from these fathers, I say, degenerating, they have remained Jews in flesh, in heart Heathens. For these are Jews, who are out of Abraham, from whom Isaac was born, and out of him Jacob, and out of Jacob the twelve Patriarchs, and out of the twelve Patriarchs the whole people of the Jews. But they were generally called Jews for this reason, that Judah was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, a Patriarch among the twelve, and from his stock the Royalty came among the Jews. For all this people after the number of the twelve sons of Jacob, had twelve tribes. What we call tribes are as it were distinct houses and congregations of people. That people, I say, had twelve tribes, out of which twelve tribes one tribe was Judah, out of which were the kings; and there was another tribe, Levi, out of which were the priests. But because to the priests serving the temple no land was allotted, but it was necessary that among twelve tribes all the Land of promise should be shared: there having been therefore taken out one tribe of higher dignity, the tribe of Levi, which was of the priests, there would have remained eleven, unless by the adoption of the two sons of Joseph the number twelve were completed.
What this is, observe. One of the twelve sons of Jacob was Joseph. ... This Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasse. Jacob, dying, as though by will, received those his grandsons into the number of sons, and said to his son Joseph, "The rest that are born shall be to thee; but these to me, and they shall divide the land with their brethren." As yet there had not been given nor divided the land of promise, but he was speaking in the Spirit, prophesying. The two sons therefore of Joseph being added, there were made up nevertheless twelve tribes, since now there are thirteen. For instead of one tribe of Joseph, two were added, and there were made thirteen. There being taken out then the tribe of Levi, that tribe of priests which did serve the Temple, and lived by the tithes of all the rest unto whom the land was divided, there remain twelve. In these twelve was the tribe of Judah, whence the kings were. For at first from another tribe was given King Saul, and he was rejected as being an evil king; after there was given from the tribe of Judah King David, and out of him from the tribe of Judah were the Kings. But Jacob had spoken of this, when he blessed his sons, "there shall not fail a prince out of Judah, nor a leader from his thighs, until there come He to whom the promise hath been made." But from the tribe of Judah there came Our Lord Jesus Christ. For He is, as the Scripture saith, and as ye have but now heard, out of the seed of David born of Mary, But as regardeth the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein He is equal with the Father, He is not only before the Jews, but also before Abraham himself; nor only before Abraham, but also before Adam; nor only before Adam, but also before Heaven and earth and before ages: for all things by Himself were made, and without Him there was made nothing? Because therefore in prophecy hath been said, "there shall not fail a prince out of Judah," etc.: former times are examined, and we find that the Jews always had their kings of the tribe of Judah, and had no foreign king before that Herod who was king when the Lord was born. Thence began foreign kings, from Herod. Before Herod all were of the tribe of Judah, but only until there should come He to whom the promise had been made. Therefore when the Lord Himself came, the kingdom of the Jews was overthrown, and removed from the Jews. Now they have no king; because they will not acknowledge the true King. See now whether they must be called Jews. Now ye do see that they must not be called Jews. They have themselves with their own voice resigned that name, so that they are not worthy to be called Jews, except only in the flesh. When did they sever themselves from the name? They said, "We have no king but Caesar." O ye who are called Jews and are not, if ye have no king but Caesar, there hath failed a Prince of Judah: there hath come then He to whom the promise hath been made. They then are more truly Jews, who have been made Christians out of Jews: the rest of the Jews, who in Christ have not believed, have deserved to lose even the very name. The true Judaea, then, is the Church of Christ, believing in that King, who hath come out of the tribe of Judah through the Virgin Mary; believing in Him of whom the Apostle was just now speaking, in writing to Timothy, "Be thou mindful that Jesus Christ hath risen from the dead, of the seed of David, after my Gospel." For of Judah is David, and out of David is the Lord Jesus Christ. We believing in Christ do belong to Judah: and we acknowledge Christ. We, that with eyes have not seen, in faith do keep Him. Let not therefore the Jews revile, who are no longer Jews. They said themselves, "We have no king but Caesar." For better were it for them that their king should be Christ, of the seed of David, of the tribe of Judah. Nevertheless because Christ Himself is of the seed of David after the flesh, but God above all things blessed for ever? He is Himself our King and our God; our King, inasmuch as born of the tribe of Judah, after the flesh, was Christ the Lord, the Saviour; but our God, who is before Judah, and before Heaven and earth, by whom were made all things, both spiritual and corporal. For if all things by Himself were made; even Mary herself, out of whom He was born, by Himself was made. ...
2. "Known in Judaea is God, in Israel great is the Name of Him" (ver. 1). Concerning Israel also we ought so to take it as we have concerning Judaea: as they were not the true Jews, so neither was that the true Israel. For what is Israel said to be? One seeing God. And how have they seen God, among whom He walked in the flesh; and while they supposed Him to be man, they slew Him? ... "In Israel great is His Name." Wilt thou be Israel? Observe that man concerning whom the Lord saith, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom guile is not." If a true Israelite is he in whom guile is not, the guileful and lying are not true Israelites. Let them not say then, that with them is God, and great is His name in Israel. Let them prove themselves Israelites, and I grant that "in Israel great is His Name."
3. "And there hath been made in peace a place for Him, and His habitation is in Sion" (ver. 2). Again, Sion is as it were the country of the Jews; the true Sion is the Church of Christians. But the intrepretation of the Hebrew names is thus handed down to us: Judaea is interpreted confession, Israel, one seeing God. After Judaea is Israel. Wilt thou see God? First do thou confess, and then in thyself there is made a place for God; because "there hath been made in peace a place for Him." So long as then thou confessest not thy sins, in a manner thou art quarrelling with God. For how art thou not disputing with Him, who art praising that which displeaseth Him? He punisheth a thief, thou dost praise theft: He doth punish a drunken man, thou dost praise drunkenness. Thou art disputing with God, thou hast not made for Him a place in thy heart: because in peace is His place. And how dost thou begin to have peace with God? Thou beginnest with Him in confession. There is a voice of a Psalm, saying, "Begin ye to the Lord in confession." What is, "Begin ye to the Lord in confession"? Begin ye to be joined to the Lord. In what manner? So that the same thing may displease you as displeaseth Him. There displeaseth Him thy evil life; if it please thyself, thou art disunited from Him; if it displease thee, through confession to Him thou art united. ...
4. "There He hath broken the strength of bows, and the shield, and the sword, and the battle" (ver. 3). Where hath He broken? In that eternal peace, in that perfect peace. And now, my brethren, they that have rightly believed see that they ought not to rely on themselves: and all the might of their own menaces, and whatsoever is in them whetted for mischief, this they break in pieces; and whatsoever they deem of great virtue wherewith to protect themselves temporally, and the war which they were waging against God by defending their sins, all these things He hath broken there.
5. "Thou enlightening marvellously from the eternal mountains" (ver. 4). What are the eternal mountains? Those which He hath Himself made eternal; which are the great mountains, the preachers of truth. Thou dost enlighten, but from the eternal mountains: the great mountains are first to receive Thy light, and from Thy light which the mountains receive, the earth also is clothed. But those great mountains the Apostles have received, the Apostles have received as it were the first streaks of the rising light. ... Wherefore also, in another place, a Psalm saith what? "I have lifted up mine eyes unto the mountains, whence there shall come help to me." What then, in the mountains is thy hope, and from thence to thee shall there come help? Hast thou stayed at the mountains? Take heed what thou doest. There is something above the mountains: above the mountains is He at whom the mountains tremble. "I have lifted up," he saith, "mine eyes unto the mountains, whence there shall come help to me." But what followeth? "My help," he saith, "is from the Lord, who hath made Heaven and earth." Unto the mountains indeed I have lifted up eyes, because through the mountains to me the Scriptures were displayed: but I have my heart in Him that doth enlighten all mountains. ...
6. "There have been troubled all the unwise in heart" (ver. 5). ... How have they been troubled? When the Gospel is preached. And what is life eternal? And who is He that hath risen from the dead? The Athenians wondered, when the Apostle Paul spake of the resurrection of the dead, and thought that he spake but fables. But because he said that there was another life which neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it gone up into the heart of man? therefore the unwise in heart were troubled. But what hath befallen them? "They have slept their sleep, and all men of riches have found nothing in their hands." They have loved things present, and have gone to sleep in the midst of things present: and so these very present things have become to them delightful: just as he that seeth in a dream himself to have found treasure, is so long rich as he waketh not. The dream hath made him rich, waking hath made him poor. Sleep perchance hath held him slumbering on the earth, and lying on the hard ground, poor and perchance a beggar; in sleep he hath seen himself to lie on an ivory or golden bed, and on feathers heaped up; so long as he is sleeping, he is sleeping well, waking he hath found himself on the hard ground, whereon sleep had taken him. Such men also are these too: they have come into this life, and through temporal desires, they have as it were slumbered here; and them riches, and vain pomps that fly away, have taken, and they have passed away: they have not understood how much of good might be done therewith. For if they had known of another life, there they would have laid up unto themselves the treasure which here was doomed to perish: like as Zacchaeus, the chief of the Publicans, saw that good when he received the Lord Jesus in his house, and he saith, "The half of my goods I give to the poor, and if to any man I have done any wrong, fourfold I restore." This man was not in the emptiness of men dreaming, but in the faith of men awake. ...
7. "By Thy chiding, O God of Jacob, there have slept all men that have mounted horses" (ver. 6). Who are they that have mounted horses? They that would not be humble. To sit on horseback is no sin; but it is a sin to lift up the neck of power against God, and to deem one's self to be in some distinction. Because thou art rich, thou hast mounted; God doth chide, and thou sleepest. Great is the anger of Him chiding, great the anger. Let your Love observe the terrible thing. Chiding hath noise, the noise is wont to make men wake. So great is the force of God chiding, that he said, "By Thy chiding, O God of Jacob, there have slept all men that have mounted horses." Behold what a sleep that Pharaoh slept who mounted horses. For he was not awake in heart, because against chiding he had his heart hardened. For hardness of heart is slumber. I ask you, my brethren, how they sleep, who, while the Gospel is sounding, and the Amen, and the Hallelujah, throughout the whole world, yet will not condemn their old life, and wake up unto a new life. There was the Scripture of God in Judaea only, now throughout the whole world it is sung. In that one nation one God who made all things was spoken of, as to be adored and worshipped; now where is He unsaid? Christ hath risen again, though derided on the Cross; that very Cross whereon He was derided, He hath now imprinted on the brows of kings: and men yet sleep. ...
8. "Thou art terrible, and who shall withstand Thee at that time by Thine anger?" (ver. 7). Now they sleep, and perceive not Thee angry; but for cause that they should sleep, He was angry. Now that which sleeping they perceived not, at the end they shall perceive. For there shall appear the Judge of quick and dead. "And who shall withstand Thee at that time by Thine anger?" For now they speak that which they will, and they dispute against God and say, who are the Christians? or who is Christ? or what fools are they that believe that which they see not, and relinquish the pleasures which they see, and follow the faith of things which are not displayed to their eyes! Ye sleep and snore, ye speak against God, as much as ye are able. "How long shall sinners, O Lord, how long shall sinners glory, they answer and will speak iniquity?" But when doth no one answer and no one speak, except when he turneth himself against himself? ...
9. "From Heaven Thou hast hurled judgment: the earth hath trembled, and hath rested" (ver. 8). She which now doth trouble herself, she which now speaketh, hath to fear at the end and to rest. Better had she now rested, that at the end she might have rejoiced. Rested? When? "When God arose unto judgment, that He might save all the meek in heart" (ver. 9). Who are the meek in heart? They that on snorting horses have not mounted, but in their humility have confessed their own sins. "For the thought of a man shall confess to Thee, and the remnants of the thought shall celebrate solemnities to Thee" (ver. 10). The first is the thought, the latter are the remnants of the thought. What is the first thought? That from whence we begin, that good thought whence thou wilt begin to confess. Confession uniteth us to Christ. But now the confession itself, that is, the first thought, doth produce in us the remnants of the thought: and those very "remnants of thought shall celebrate solemnities to Thee." What is the thought which shall confess? That which condemneth the former life, that where-unto that which it was is displeasing, in order that it may be that which it was not, is itself the first thought. But because thus thou oughtest to withdraw from sins, with the first thought after having confessed to God, that it may not escape thy memory that thou hast been a sinner; in that thou hast been a sinner, thou dost celebrate solemnities to God. Furthermore it is to be understood as followeth. The first thought hath confession, and departure from the old life. But if thou shalt have forgotten from what sins thou hast been delivered, thou dost not render thanks to the Deliverer, and dost not celebrate solemnities to thy God. Behold the first confessing thought of Saul the Apostle, now Paul, who at first was Saul, when he heard a voice from Heaven! ... He put forth the first thought of obedience: when he heard, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest," "O Lord," he saith, "what dost Thou bid me to do?" This is a thought confessing: now he is calling upon the Lord, whom he persecuted. In what manner the remnants of the thought shall celebrate solemnities, in the case of Paul ye have heard, when the Apostle himself was being read: "Be thou mindful that Christ Jesus hath risen from the dead, of the seed of David, after my Gospel." What is, be thou mindful? Though effaced from thy memory be the thought, whereby at first thou hast confessed: be the remnant of the thought in the memory. ...
10. Even once was Christ sacrificed for us, when we believed; then was thought; but now there are the remnants of thought, when we remember Who hath come to us, and what He hath forgiven us; by means of those very remnants of thought, that is, by means of the memory herself, He is daily so sacrificed for us, as if He were daily renewing us, that hath renewed us by His first grace. For now the Lord hath renewed us in Baptism, and we have become new men, in hope indeed rejoicing, in order that in tribulation we may be patient nevertheless, there ought not to escape from our memory that which hath been bestowed upon us. And if now thy thought is not what it was,--for the first thought was to depart from sin: but now thou dost not depart, but at that time didst depart,--be there remnants of thought, test He who hath made whole escape from memory. ...
11. "Vow ye, and pay to the Lord our God" (ver. 11). Let each man vow what he is able, and pay it. Do not vow and not pay: but let every man vow, and pay what he can. Be ye not slow to vow: for ye will accomplish the vows by powers not your own. Ye will fail, if on yourselves ye rely: but if on Him to whom ye vow ye rely, ye will be safe to pay. "Vow ye, and pay to the Lord our God." What ought we all in common to vow? To believe in Him, to hope from Him for life eternal, to live godly according to a measure common to all. For there is a certain measure common to all men. To commit no theft is not a thing enjoined merely upon one devoted to continence, and not enjoined upon the married woman: to commit no adultery is enjoined upon all men: not to love wine-bibbing, whereby the soul is swallowed up, and doth corrupt in herself the Temple of God, is enjoined to all alike: not to be proud, is enjoined to all men alike: not to slay man, not to hate a brother, not to lay a plot to destroy any one, is enjoined to all in common. The whole of this we all ought to vow. There are also vows proper for individuals: one voweth to God conjugal chastity, that he will know no other woman besides his wife: so also the woman, that she will know no other man besides her husband. Other men also vow, even though they have used such a marriage, that beyond this they will have no such thing, that they will neither desire nor admit the like: and these men have vowed a greater vow than the former. Others vow even virginity from the beginning of life, that they will even know no such thing as those who having experienced have relinquished: and these men have vowed the greatest vow. Others vow that their house shall be a place of entertainment for all the Saints that may come: a great vow they vow. Another voweth to relinquish all his goods to be distributed to the poor, and go into a community, into a society of the Saints: a great vow he doth vow. "Vow ye, and pay to the Lord our God." Let each one vow what he shall have willed to vow; let him give heed to this, that he pay what he hath vowed. If any man doth look back with regard to what he hath vowed to God, it is an evil. Some woman or other devoted to continence hath willed to marry: what hath she willed? The same as any virgin. What hath she willed? The same as her own mother. Hath she willed any evil thing? Evil certainly. Why? Because already she had vowed to the Lord her God. For what hath the apostle Paul said concerning such? Though he saith that young widows may marry if they will: nevertheless he saith in a certain passage, "but more blessed she will be, if so she shall have remained, after my judgment." He showeth that she is more blessed, if so she shall have remained; but nevertheless that she is not to be condemned, if she shall have willed to marry. But what saith he concerning certain who have vowed and have not paid? "Having," he saith, "judgment, because the first faith they have made void." What is, "the first faith they have made void"? They have vowed, and have not paid. Let no brother therefore, when placed in a monastery, say, I shall depart from the monastery: for neither are they only that are in a monastery to attain unto the kingdom of Heaven, nor do those that are not there not belong unto God. We answer him, but they have not vowed; thou hast vowed, thou hast looked back. When the Lord was threatening them with the day of judgment, He saith what? "Remember Lot's wife." To all men He spake. For what did Lot's wife? She was delivered from Sodom, and being in the way she looked back. In the place where she looked back, there she remained. For she became a statue of salt, in order that by considering her men might be seasoned, might have sense, might not be infatuated, might not look back, lest by giving a bad example they should themselves remain and season others. For even now we are saying this to certain of our brethren, whom perchance we may have seen as it were weak in the good they have purposed. And wilt thou be such an one as he was? We put before them certain who have looked back. They are savourless in themselves, but they season others, inasmuch as they are mentioned, in order that fearing their example they may not look back. "Vow ye, and pay." For that wife of Lot to all doth belong. A married woman hath had the will to commit adultery; from her place whither she had arrived she looked back. A widow who had vowed so to remain hath willed to marry, she hath willed the thing which was lawful to her who hath married, but to herself was not lawful, because from her place she hath looked back. There is a virgin devoted to continence, already dedicated to God; let her have also the other gifts which truly do adorn virginity itself, and without which that virginity is unclean. For what if she be uncorrupt in body and corrupt in mind? What is it that he hath said? What if no one hath touched the body, but if perchance she be drunken, be proud, be contentious, be talkative? All these things God doth condemn. If before she had vowed, she had married, she would not have been condemned: she hath chosen something better, hath overcome that which was lawful for her; she is proud, and doth commit so many things unlawful. This I say, it is lawful for her to marry before that she voweth, to be proud is never lawful. O thou virgin of God, thou hast willed not to marry, which is lawful: thou dost exalt thyself, which is not lawful. Better is a virgin humble, than a married woman humble: but better is a married woman humble, than a virgin proud. But she that looked back upon marriage is condemned, not because she hath willed to marry; but because she had already gone before, and is become the wife of Lot by looking back. Be ye not slow, that are able, whom God doth inspire to seize upon higher callings: for we do not say these things in order that ye may not vow, but in order that ye may vow and may pay. Now because we have treated of these matters, thou perchance wast willing to vow, and now art not willing to vow. But observe what the Psalm hath said to thee. It hath not said, "Vow not;" but, "Vow and pay." Because thou hast heard, "pay," wilt thou not vow? Therefore wast thou willing to vow, and not to pay? Nay, do both. One thing is done by thy profession, another thing will be perfected by the aid of God. Look to Him who doth guide thee, and thou wilt not look back to the place whence He is leading thee forth. He that guideth thee is walking before thee; the place from whence He is guiding thee is behind thee. Love Him guiding, and He doth not condemn thee looking back)
12. "All they that are in the circuit of Him shall offer gifts." Who are in the circuit of Him? ... Whatever is common to all is in the midst. Why is it said to be in the midst? Because it is at the same distance from all, and at the same proximity to all. That which is not in the middle, is as it were private. That which is public is set in the middle, in order that all they that come may use the same, may be enlightened. Let no one say, it is mine: test he should be wanting to make his own share of that which is in the midst for all. What then is, "All they that are in the circuit of Him shall offer gifts"? All they that understand truth to be common to all, and who do not make it as it were their own by being proud concerning it, they shall offer gifts; because they have humility: but they that make as it were their own that which is common to all, as though it were set in the middle, are endeavouring to lead men astray to a party, these shall not offer gifts. ... "To Him terrible." Let therefore all men fear that are in the circuit of Him. For therefore they shall fear, and with trembling they shall praise; because they are in the circuit of Him, to the end that all men may attain unto Him, and He may openly meet all, and openly enlighten all. This is, to stand in awe with others. When thou hast made him as it were thine own, and no longer common, thou art exalted unto pride; though it is written, "Serve ye the Lord in fear, and exult unto Him with trembling." Therefore they shall offer gifts, who are in the circuit of Him. For they are humble who know truth to be common to all.
13. To whom shall they offer gifts? "To Him terrible, and to Him that taketh away the spirit of princes" (ver. 12). For the spirits of princes are proud spirits. They then are not His Spirits; for if they know anything, their own they will it to be, not public; but, that which setteth Himself forth as equal toward all men, that setteth Himself in the midst, in order that all men may take as much as they can, whatever they can; not of what is any man's, but of what is God's, and therefore of their own because they have become His. Therefore they must needs be humble: they have lost their own spirit, and they have the Spirit of God. ... For if thou shalt have confessed thyself dust, God out of dust doth make man. All they that are in the circuit of Him do offer gifts. All humble men do confess to Him, and do adore Him. "To Him terrible they offer gifts." Whence to Him terrible exult ye with trembling: "and to Him that taketh away the spirit of princes:" that is, that taketh away the haughtiness of proud men. "To Him terrible among the kings of the earth." Terrible are the kings of the earth, but He is above all, that doth terrify the kings of the earth. Be thou a king of the earth, and God will be to thee terrible. How, wilt thou say, shall I be a king of the earth? Rule the earth, and thou wilt be a king of the earth. Do not therefore with desire of empire set before thine eyes exceeding wide provinces, where thou mayest spread abroad thy kingdoms; rule thou the earth which thou bearest. Hear the Apostle ruling the earth: "I do not so fight as if beating air, but I chasten my body, and bring it into captivity, lest perchance preaching to other men, I myself become a reprobate." ...
1. This Psalm's lintel is thus inscribed: "Unto the end, for Idithun, a Psalm to Asaph himself." What "Unto the end" is, ye know. Idithun is interpreted "leaping over those men," Asaph is interpreted "a congregation." Here therefore there is speaking "a congregation that leapeth over," in order that it may reach the End, which is Christ Jesus. ...
2. "With my voice," he saith, "to the Lord I have cried" (ver. 1). But many men cry unto the Lord for the sake of getting riches and avoiding losses, for the safety of their friends, for the security of their house, for temporal felicity, for secular dignity, lastly, even for mere soundness of body, which is the inheritance of the poor man. For such and such like things many men do cry unto the Lord; scarce one for the sake of the Lord Himself. For an easy thing it is for a man to desire anything of the Lord, and not to desire the Lord Himself; as if forsooth that which He giveth could be sweeter than Himself that giveth. Whosoever therefore cloth cry unto the Lord for the sake of any other thing, is not yet one that leapeth over. ... He doth indeed hearken to thee at the time when thou dost seek Himself, not when through Himself thou dost seek any other thing. It hath been said of some men, "They cried, and there was no one to save them; to the Lord, and He hearkened not unto them." For why? Because the voice of them was not unto the Lord. This the Scripture doth express in another place, where it saith of such men, "On the Lord they have not called." Unto Him they have not ceased to cry, and yet upon the Lord they have not called. What is, upon the Lord they have not called? They have not called the Lord unto themselves: they have not invited the Lord to their heart, they would not have themselves inhabited by the Lord. And therefore what hath befallen them? "They have trembled with fear where fear was not." They have trembled about the loss of things present, for the reason that they were not full of Him, upon whom they have not called. They have not loved gratis, so that after the loss of temporal things they could say, "As it hath pleased the Lord, so hath been done, be the name of the Lord blessed." Therefore this man saith, "My voice is unto the Lord, and He doth hearken unto me." Let him show us how this cometh to pass.
3. "In the day of tribulation I have sought out God" (ver. 2). Who art thou that doest this thing? In the day of thy tribulation take heed what thou seekest out. If a jail be the cause of tribulation, thou seekest to get forth from jail: if fever be the cause of tribulation, thou seekest health: if hunger be the cause of tribulation, thou seekest fulness: if losses be the cause of tribulation, thou seekest gain: if expatriation be the cause of tribulation, thou seekest the home of thy flesh. And why should I name all things, or when could I name all things? Dost thou wish to be one leaping over? In the day of thy tribulation seek out God: not through God some other thing, but out of tribulation God, that to this end God may take away tribulation, that thou mayest without anxiety cleave unto God. "In the day of my tribulation, I have sought out God:" not any other thing, but "God I have sought out." And how hast thou sought out? "With my hands in the night before Him." ...
4. Tribulation must not be thought to be this or that in particular. For every individual that doth not yet leap over, thinketh that as yet to be no tribulation, unless it be a thing which may have befallen this life of some sad occasion: but this man, that leapeth over, doth count this whole life to be his tribulation. For so much doth he love his supernal country, that the earthly pilgrimage is of itself the greatest tribulation. For how can this life be otherwise than a tribulation, I pray you? how can that not be a tribulation, the whole whereof hath been called temptation? Thou hast it written in the book of Job, is not human life a temptation upon earth? Hath he said, human life is tempted upon earth? Nay, but life itself is a temptation. If therefore temptation, it must surely be a tribulation. In this tribulation therefore, that is to say in this life, this man that leapeth over hath sought out God. How? "With my hands," he saith. What is, "with my hands"? With my works. For he was not seeking any thing corporeal, so that he might find and handle something which he had lost, so that he might seek with hands coin, gold, silver, vesture, in short everything which can be held in the hands. Howbeit, even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself willed Himself to be sought after with hands, when to His doubting disciple He showed the scars. ... What then, to us belongeth not the seeking with hands? It belongeth to us, as I have said, to seek with works. When so? "In the night." What is, "in the night"? In this age. For it is night until there shine forth day in the glorified advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. For would ye see how it is night? Unless we had here had a lantern, we should have remained in darkness. For Peter saith," We too have more sure the prophetic discourse, whereunto ye do well to give heed, as to a lantern shining in a dark place, until day shine, and the day-star arise in your hearts." There is therefore to come day after this night, meanwhile in this night a lantern is not lacking. And this is perchance what we are now doing: by explaining these passages, we are bringing in a lantern, in order that we may rejoice in this night. Which indeed ought alway to be burning in your houses. For to such men is said, "The Spirit quench ye not." And as though explaining what he was saying, he continueth and saith, "Prophecy despise ye not:" that is, let the lantern alway shine in you. And even this light by comparison with a sort of ineffable day is called night. For the very life of believers by comparison with the life of unbelievers is day. ... Night and day--day in comparison with unbelievers, night in comparison with the Angels. For the Angels have a day, which we have not yet. Already we have one that unbelievers have not: but not yet have believers that which Angels have: but they will have, at the time when they will be equal to the Angels of God, that which hath been promised to them in the Resurrection. In this then which is now day and yet night; night in comparison with the future day for which we yearn, day in comparison with the past night which we have renounced: in this night then, I say, let us seek God with our hands. Let not works cease, let us seek God, be there no idle yearning. If we are in the way, let us expend our means in order that we may be able to reach the end. With hands let us seek God. ... "With my hands in the night before Him, and I have not been deceived."
5. ... "My soul hath refused to be comforted" (ver. 2). So great weariness did here possess me, that my soul did close the door against all comfort. Whence such weariness to him? It may be that his vineyard hath been hailed on, or his olive hath yielded no fruit, or the vintage hath been interrupted by rain. Whence the weariness to him? Hear this out of another Psalm. For therein is the voice of the same: "weariness hath bowed me down, because of sinners forsaking Thy law." He saith then that he was overcome with so great weariness because of this sort of evil thing; so as that his soul refused to be comforted. Weariness had well nigh swallowed him up, and sorrow had ingulfed him altogether beyond remedy, he refuseth to be comforted. What then remained? In the first place, see whence he is comforted. Had he not waited for one who might condole with him? ... "I have been mindful of God, and I have been delighted" (ver. 3). My hands had not wrought in vain, they had found a great comforter. While not being idle, "I have been mindful of God, and I have been delighted." God must therefore be praised, of whom this man being mindful, hath been delighted, and hath been comforted in sorrowful case, and refreshed when safety was in a manner despaired of: God must therefore be praised. In fine, because he hath been comforted, in continuation he saith, "I have babbled." In that same comfort being made mindful of God, I have been delighted, and have "babbled." What is, "I have babbled"? I have rejoiced, I have exulted in speaking. For babblers they are properly called, that by the common people are named talkative, who at the approach of joy are neither able nor willing to be silent. This man hath become such an one. And again he sixth what? "And my spirit hath fainted."
6. With weariness he had pined away; by calling to mind God, he had been delighted, again in babbling he had fainted: what followeth? "All mine enemies have anticipated watches" (ver. 4). All mine enemies have kept watch over me; they have exceeded in keeping watch over me; in watching they have been beforehand with me. Where do they not lay traps? Have not mine enemies anticipated all watches? For who are these enemies, but they of whom the Apostle saith, "Ye have not wrestling against flesh and blood." ... Against the devil and his angels we are waging hostilities. Rulers of the world he hath called them, because they do themselves rule the lovers of the world. For they do not rule the world, as if they were rulers of heaven and earth: but he is calling sinners the world. ... With the devil and his angels there is no concord. They do themselves grudge us the kingdom of Heaven. They cannot at all be appeased towards us: because "all mine enemies have anticipated watches." They have watched more to deceive than I to guard myself. For how can they have done otherwise than anticipate watches, that have set everywhere scandals, everywhere traps? Weariness doth invest the heart, we have to fear lest sorrow swallow us up: in joy to fear lest the spirit faint in babbling: "all mine enemies have anticipated watches." In fine, in the midst of that same babbling, whiles thou art speaking, and art speaking without fear, how much is oft-times found which enemies would lay hold of and censure, whereon they would even found accusation and slander--" he said so, he thought so, he spake so!" What should man do, save that which followeth? "I have been troubled, and I spake not." Therefore when he was troubled, lest in his babbling enemies anticipating watches should seek and find slanders, he spake not. ...
7. "I have thought on ancient days" (ver. 5). Now he, as if he were one who had been beaten out of doors, hath taken refuge within: he is conversing in the secret place of his own heart. And let him declare to us what he is doing there. It is well with him. Observe what things he is thinking of, I pray you. He is within, in his own house he is thinking of ancient days. No one saith to him, thou hast spoken ill: no one saith to him, thou hast spoken much: no one saith to him, thou hast thought perversely. Thus may it be well with him, may God aid him: let him think of the ancient days, and let him tell us what he hath done in his very inner chamber, whereunto he hath arrived, over what he hath leaped, where he hath abode. "I have thought on ancient days; and of eternal years I have been mindful." What are eternal years? It is a mighty thought. See whether this thought requireth anything but great silence. Apart from all noise without, from all tumult of things human let him remain quiet within, that would think of those eternal years. Are the years wherein we are eternal, or those wherein our ancestors have been, or those wherein our posterity are to be? Far be it that they should be esteemed eternal. For what part of these years doth remain? Behold we speak and say, "in this year:" and what have we got of this year, save the one day wherein we are. For the former days of this year have already gone by, and are not to be had; but the future days have not yet come. In one day we are, and we say, in this year: nay rather say thou, to-day, if thou desirest to speak of anything present. For of the whole year what hast thou got that is present? Whatsoever thereof is past, is no longer; whatsoever thereof is future, is not yet: how then, "this year"? Amend the expression: say, to-day. Thou speakest truth, henceforth I will say, "to-day." Again observe this too, how to-day the morning hours have already past, the future hours have not yet come. This too therefore amend: say, in this hour. And of this hour what hast thou got? Some moments thereof have already gone by, those that are future have not yet come. Say, in this moment. In what moment? While I am uttering syllables, if I shall speak two syllables, the latter doth not sound until the former hath gone by: in a word, in that same one syllable, if it chance to have two letters, the latter letter doth not sound, until the former hath gone by. What then have we got of these years? These years are changeable: the eternal years must be thought on, years that stand, that are not made up of days that come and depart; years whereof in another place the Scripture saith to God, "But Thou art the Self-same, and Thy years shall not fail." On these years this man that leapeth over, not in babbling without, but in silence hath thought.
8. "And I have meditated in the night with my heart" (ver. 6). No slanderous person seeketh for snares in his words, in his heart he hath meditated. "I babbled." Behold there is the former babbling. Watch again, that thy spirit faint not. I did not, he saith, I did not so babble as if it were abroad: in another way now. How now? "I did babble, and did search out my spirit." If he were searching the earth to find veins of gold, no one would say that he was foolish; nay, many men would call him wise, for desiring to come at gold: how great treasures hath a man within, and he diggeth not! This man was examining his spirit, and was speaking with that same his spirit, and in the very speaking he was babbling. He was questioning himself, was examining himself, was judge over himself. And he continueth; "I did search my spirit." He had to fear lest he should stay within his own spirit: for he had babbled without; and because all his enemies had anticipated watches, he found there sorrow, and his spirit fainted. He that did babble without, lo, now doth begin to babble within in safety, where being alone in secret, he is thinking on eternal years. ...
9. And thou hast found what? "God will not repel for everlasting" (ver. 7). Weariness he had found in this life; in no place a trustworthy, in no place a fearless comfort. Unto whatsoever men he betook himself, in them he found scandal, or feared it. In no place therefore was he free from care. An evil thing it was for him to hold his peace, lest perchance he should keep silence from good words; to speak and babble without was painful to him, lest all his enemies, anticipating watches, should seek slanders in his words. Being exceedingly straitened in this life, he thought much of another life, where there is not this trial. And when is he to arrive thither? For it cannot but be evident that our suffering here is the anger of God. This thing is spoken of in Isaiah, "I will not be an avenger unto you for everlasting, nor will I be angry with you at all times." ... Will this anger of God alway abide? This man hath not found this in silence. For he saith what? "God will not repel for everlasting, and He will not add any more that it should be well-pleasing to Him still." That is, that it should be well-pleasing to Him still to repel, and He will not add the repelling for everlasting. He must needs recall to Himself His servants, He must needs receive fugitives returning to the Lord, He must needs hearken to the voice of them that are in fetters. "Or unto the end will He cut off mercy from generation to generation?" (ver. 8).
10. "Or will God forget to be merciful?" (ver. 9). In thee, from thee unto another there is no mercy unless God bestow it on thee: and shall God Himself forget mercy? The stream runneth: shall the spring itself be dried up? "Or shall God forget to be merciful: or shall He keep back in anger His mercies?" That is, shall He be so angry, as that He will not have mercy? He will more easily keep back anger than mercy.
11. "And I said." Now leaping over himself he hath said what? "Now I have begun:" (ver. 10), when I had gone out even from myself. Here henceforth there is no danger: for even to remain in myself, was danger. "And I said, Now I have begun: this is the changing of the right hand of the Lofty One." Now the Lofty One hath begun to change me: now I have begun something wherein I am secure: now I have entered a certain palace of joys, wherein no enemy is to be feared: now I have begun to be in that region, where all mine enemies do not anticipate watches. "Now I have begun: this is the changing of the right hand of the Lofty One."
12. "I have been mindful of the works of the Lord" (ver. 11). Now behold him roaming among the works of the Lord. For he was babbling without, and being made sorrowful thereby his spirit fainted: he babbled within with his own heart, and with his spirit, and having searched out that same spirit he was mindful of the eternal years, was mindful of the mercy of the Lord, how God will not repel him for everlasting; and he began now fearlessly to rejoice in His works, fearlessly to exult in the same. Let us hear now those very works, and let us too exult. But let even us leap over in our affections, and not rejoice in things temporal. For we too have our bed. Why do we not enter therein? Why do we not abide in silence? Why do we not search out our spirit? Why do we not think on the eternal years? Why do we not rejoice in the works of God? In such sort now let us hear, and let us take delight in Himself speaking, in order that when we shall have departed hence, we may do that which we used to do while He spake; if only we are making the beginning of Him whereof he spake in," Now I have begun." To rejoice in the works of God, is to forget even thyself, if thou canst delight in Him alone. For what is a better thing than He? Dost thou not see that, when thou returnest to thyself, thou returnest to a worse thing? "for I shall be mindful from the beginning of Thy wonderful works.
13. "And I will meditate on all Thy works, and on Thy affections I will babble" (ver. 12). Behold the third babbling! He babbled without, when he hinted; he babbled in his spirit within, when he advanced: he babbled on the works of God, when he arrived at the place toward which he advanced. "And on Thy affections:" not on any affections. What man doth live without affections? And do ye suppose, brethren, that they who fear God, worship God, love God, have not any affections? Wilt thou indeed suppose and dare to suppose, that painting, the theatre, hunting, hawking, fishing, engage the affections, and the meditation on God doth not engage certain interior affections of its own, while we contemplate the universe, and place before our eyes the spectacle of the natural world, and therein labour to discover the Maker, and find Him nowhere unpleasing, but pleasing above all things?
14. "O God, Thy way is in the Holy One" (ver. 13). He is contemplating now the works of the mercy of God around us, out of these he is babbling, and in these affections he is exulting. At first he is beginning from thence, "Thy way is in the Holy One?" What is that way of Thine which is in the Holy One? "I am," He saith," the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Return therefore, ye men, from your affections. ... "Who is a great God, like our God?" Gentiles have their affections regarding their gods, they adore idols, they have eyes and they see not; ears they have and they hear not; feet they have and they walk not. Why dost thou walk to a God that walketh not? I do not, he saith, worship such things, and what dost thou worship? The divinity which is there. Thou dost then worship that whereof hath been said elsewhere, "for the Gods of the nations are demons." Thou dost either worship idols, or devils. Neither idols, nor devils, he saith. And what dost thou worship? The stars, sun, moon, those things celestial. How much better Him that hath made both things earthly and things celestial. "Who is a great God like our God?"
15. "Thou art the God that doest wonderful things alone" (ver. 14). Thou art indeed a great God, doing wonderful things in body, in soul; alone doing them. The deaf have heard, the blind have seen, the feeble have recovered, the dead have risen, the paralytic have been strengthened. But these miracles were at that time performed on bodies, let us see those wrought on the soul. Sober are those that were a little before drunken, believers are those that were a little before worshippers of idols: their goods they bestow on the poor that did rob before those of others. ..."Wonderful things alone." Moses too did them, but not alone: Elias too did them, even Eliseus did them, the Apostles too did them, but no one of them alone. That they might have power to do them, Thou wast with them: when Thou didst them they were not with Thee. For they were not with Thee when Thou didst them, inasmuch as Thou didst make even these very men. How "alone"? Is it perchance the Father, and not the Son? Or the Son, and not the Father? Nay, but Father and Son and Holy Ghost. For it is not three Gods but one God that doeth wonderful things alone, and even in this very leaper-over. For even his leaping over and arriving at these things was a miracle of God: when he was babbling within with his own spirit, in order that he might leap over even that same spirit of his, and might delight in the works of God, he then did wonderful things himself. But God hath done what? "Thou hast made known unto the people Thy power." Thence this congregation of Asaph leaping over; because He hath made known in the peoples His virtue. What virtue of His hath He made known in the peoples? "But we preach Christ crucified, ... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." If then the virtue of God is Christ, He hath made known Christ in the peoples. Do we not yet perceive so much as this; and are we so unwise, are we lying so much below, do we so leap over nothing, as that we see not this?
16. "Thou hast redeemed in Thine arm Thy people" (ver. 15). "With Thine arm," that is, with Thy power. "And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" "Thou hast redeemed in Thine arm Thy people, the sons of Israel and of Joseph." How as if two peoples, "the sons of Israel and of Joseph"? Are not the sons of Joseph among the sons of Israel? ... He hath admonished us of some distinction to be made. Let us search out our spirit, perchance God hath placed there something--God whom we ought even by night to seek with our hands, in order that we may not be deceived-- perchance we shall discover even ourselves in this distinction of "sons of Israel and of Joseph." By Joseph He hath willed another people to be understood, hath willed that the people of the Gentiles be understood. Why the people of the Gentiles by Joseph? Because Joseph was sold into Egypt by his brethren. That Joseph whom the brethren envied, and sold him into Egypt, when sold into Egypt, toiled, was humbled; when made known and exalted, flourished, reigned. And by all these things he hath signified what? What but Christ sold by His brethren, banished from His own land, as it were into the Egypt of the Gentiles? There at first humbled, when the Martyrs were suffering persecutions: now exalted, as we see; inasmuch as there hath been fulfilled in Him, "There shall adore Him all kinds of the earth, all nations shall serve Him."(1) Therefore Joseph is the people of the Gentiles, but Israel the people of the Hebrew nation. God hath redeemed His people, "the sons of Israel and of Joseph." By means of what? By means of the corner stone,(2) wherein the two walls have been joined together.
17. And he continueth how? "The waters have seen Thee, O God, and they have feared and the abysses have been troubled" (ver. 16). What are the waters? The peoples. What are these waters hath been asked in the Apocalypse,(3) the answer was, the peoples. There we find most clearly waters put by a figure for peoples. But above he had said, "Thou hast made known in the peoples Thy virtue."(4) With reason therefore, "the waters have seen Thee, and they have feared." They have been changed because they have feared. What are the abysses? The depths of waters. What man among the peoples is not troubled, when the conscience is smitten? Thou seekest the depth of the sea, what is deeper than human conscience? That is the depth which was troubled, when God redeemed with His arm. His people. In what manner were the abysses troubled? When all men poured forth their consciences in confession.
18. In praises of God, in confessions of sins, in hymns and in songs, in prayers, "There is a multitude of the sound of waters. The clouds have uttered a voice" (ver. 17). Thence that sound of waters, thence the troubling of the abysses, because "the clouds have uttered a voice." What clouds? The preachers of the word of truth. What clouds? Those concerning which God doth menace a certain vineyard, which instead of grape had brought forth thorns and He saith, "I will command My clouds, that they rain no rain upon it."(5) In a word, the Apostles forsaking the Jews, went to the Gentiles: in preaching Christ among all nations, "the clouds have uttered a voice." "For Thine arrows have gone through." Those same voices of the clouds He hath again called arrows. For the words of the Evangelists were arrows. For these things are allegories. For properly neither an arrow is rain, nor rain is an arrow: but yet the word of God is both an arrow because it doth smite; and rain because it doth water. Let no one therefore any longer wonder at the troubling of the abysses, when "Thine arrows have gone through." What is, "have gone through"? They have not stopped in the ears, but they have pierced the heart. "The voice of Thy thunder is in the wheel" (ver. 18). What is this? How are we to understand it? May the Lord give aid. When boys we were wont to imagine, whenever we heard thunderings from Heaven, that carriages were going forth as it were from the stables. For thunder doth make a sort of rolling like carriages. Must we return to these boyish thoughts, in order to understand," the voice of Thy thunder is in the wheel," as though God hath certain carriages in the clouds, and the passing along of the carriages doth raise that sound? Far be it. This is boyish, vain, trifling. What is then, "The voice of Thy thunder is in the wheel"? Thy voice rolleth. Not even this do I understand. What shall we do? Let us question Idithun himself, to see whether perchance he may himself explain what he hath said: "The voice," he saith, "of Thy thunder is in the wheel." I do not understand. I will hear what thou sayest: "Thy lightnings have appeared to the round world." Say then, I had no understanding. The round world is a wheel.(6) For the circuit of the round world is with reason called also an "orb:" whence also a small wheel is called an "orbiculus." "The voice of Thy thunder is in the wheel:" Thy "lightnings have appeared to the round world." Those clouds in a wheel have gone about the round world, have gone about with thundering and with lightning, they have shaken the abyss, with commandments they have thundered, with miracles they have lightened. "Unto every land hath gone forth the sound of them, and unto the ends of the orb the words of them."(7) "The land hath been moved and made to tremble:" that is, all men that dwell in the land. But by a figure the land itself is sea. Why? Because all nations are called by the name of sea, inasmuch as human life is bitter, and exposed to storms and tempests. Moreover if thou observe this, how men devour one another like fishes, how the stronger doth swallow up the weaker--it is then a sea, unto it the Evangelists went.
19. "Thy way is in the sea" (ver. 19). But now Thy way was in the Holy One, now "Thy way is in the sea:" because the Holy One Himself is in the sea, and with reason even did walk upon the waters of the sea.(8) "Thy way is in the sea," that is, Thy Christ is preached among the Gentiles. ..."Thy way is in the sea, and Thy paths in many waters," that is, in many peoples. "And Thy footsteps will not be known." He hath touched certain, and wonder were it if it be not those same Jews. Behold now the mercy of Christ hath been so published to the Gentiles, that "Thy way is in the sea. Thy footsteps will not be known." How so, by whom will they not be known, save by those who still say, Christ hath not yet come? Why do they say, Christ hath not yet come? Because they do not yet recognise Him walking on the sea.
20. "Thou hast led home Thy people like sheep in the hand of Moses and of Aaron" (ver. 20). Why He hath added this is somewhat difficult to discover. ... They banished Christ sick as they were, they would not have Him for their Saviour; but He began to be among the Gentiles, and among all nations, among many peoples. Nevertheless, a remnant of that people hath been saved. The ungrateful multitude hath remained without, even the halting breadth of Jacob's thigh.(1) For the breadth of the thigh is understood of the multitude of lineage, and among the greater part of the Israelites a certain multitude became vain and foolish, so as not to know the steps of Christ on the waters. "Thou hast led home Thy people like sheep," and they have not known Thee. Though Thou hast done such great benefits unto them, hast divided sea, hast made them pass over dry land between waters, hast drowned in the waves pursuing enemies, in the desert hast rained manna for their hunger, leading them home "by the hand of Moses and Aaron:" still they thrust Thee from them, so that in the sea was Thy Way, and Thy steps they knew not.
PSALM LXXVIII. (2)
1. This Psalm(3) doth contain the things which are said to have been done among the old people: but the new and latter people is being admonished, to beware that it be not ungrateful regarding the blessings of God, and provoke His anger against it, whereas it ought to receive His grace. ... The Title thereof doth first move and engage our attention. For it is not without reason inscribed, "Understanding(4) of Asaph:" but it is perchance because these words require a reader who doth perceive not the voice which the surface uttereth, but some inward sense. Secondly, when about to narrate and mention all these things, which seem to need a hearer more than an expounder: "I will open," he saith, "in parables my mouth, I will declare propositions from the beginning."(5) Who would not herein be awakened out of sleep? Who would dare to hurry over the parables and propositions, reading them as if self-evident, while by their very names they signify that they ought to be sought out with deeper view? For a parable hath on the surface thereof the similitude of something: and though it be a Greek word, it is now used as a Latin word. And it is observable, that in parables, those which are called the similitudes of things are compared with things with which we have to do. But propositions, which in Greek are called problh'mata, are questions having something therein which is to be solved by disputation. What man then would read parables and propositions cursorily? What man would not attend while hearing these words with watchful mind, in order that by understanding he may come by the fruit thereof?
2. "Hearken ye," He saith, "My people, to My law" (ver. 1). Whom may we suppose to be here speaking, but God? For it was Himself that gave a law to His people, whom when delivered out of Egypt He gathered together, the which gathering together is properly named a Synagogue, which the word Asaph is interpreted to signify. Hath it then been said, "Understanding of Asaph," in the sense that Asaph himself hath understood; or must it be figuratively understood, in the sense that the same Synagogue, that is, the same people, hath understood, unto whom is said, "Hearken, My people, unto My law"? Why is it then that He is rebuking the same people by the mouth of the Prophet, saying, "But Israel hath not known Me, and My people hath not understood"?(6) But, in fact, there were even in that people they that understood, having the faith which was afterwards revealed, not pertaining to the letter of the law, but the grace of the Spirit. For they cannot have been without the same faith, who were able to foresee and foretell the revelation thereof that should be in Christ, inasmuch as even those old Sacraments were significants of those that should be. Had the prophets alone this faith, and not the people too? Nay indeed, but even they that faithfully heard the Prophets, were aided by the same grace in order that they might understand what they heard. But without doubt the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven was veiled in the Old Testament, which in the fulness of time should be unveiled in the New.(8) "For," saith the Apostle, "they did drink of the Spiritual Rock following them, but the Rock was Christ."(1) In a mystery therefore theirs was the same meat and drink as ours, but in signification the same, not in form;(2) because the same Christ was Himself figured to them in a Rock, manifested to us in the Flesh. "But," he saith, "not in all of them God was well pleased."(3) All indeed ate the same spiritual meat and drank the same spiritual drink, that is to say, Signifying something spiritual: but not in all of them was God well pleased. When; he saith," not in all:" there were evidently there some in whom was God well pleased; and although all the Sacraments were common, grace, which is the virtue of the Sacraments, was not common to all. Just as in our times, now that the faith hath been revealed, which then was veiled, to all men that have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,(4) the Layer of regeneration is common; but the very grace whereof these same are the Sacraments, whereby the members of the Body of Christ are to reign s together with their Head, is not common to all. For even heretics have the same Baptism, and false brethren too, in the communion of the Catholic name.
3. Nevertheless, neither then nor now without profit is the voice of him, saying, "Hearken ye, My people, to My law." Which expression is remarkable in all the Scriptures, how he saith not, "hearken thou," but, "hearken ye." For of many men a people doth consist: to which many that which followeth is spoken in the plural number. "Incline ye your ear unto the words of My mouth." "Hearken ye," is the same as, "Incline your ear:" and what He saith there, "My law," this He saith here in, "the words of My mouth." For that man doth godly hearken to the law of God, and the words of His mouth, whose ear humility doth incline: not he whose neck pride doth lift up. For whatever is poured in is received on the concave surface of humility, is shaken off from the convexity of swelling. Whence in another place, "Incline," he saith, "thine ear, and receive the words of understanding."(6) We have been therefore sufficiently admonished to receive even this Psalm of this understanding of Asaph,(7) to receive, I say, with inclined ear, that is, with humble piety. And it hath not been spoken of as being of Asaph himself, but to Asaph himself. Which thing is evident by the Greek article, and is found in certain Latin copies. These words therefore are of understanding, that is, of intelligence, which hath been given to Asaph himself: which we had better understand not as to one man, but as to the congregation of the people of God; whence we ought by no means to alienate ourselves. For although properly we say "Synagogue" of Jews, but "Church" of Christians, because a "Congregation"(8) is wont to be understood as rather of beasts, but a "convocation" as rather of men: yet that too we find called a Church, and it perhaps is more suitable for us(9) to say, "Save us, O Lord, our God, and congregate us from the nations, in order that we may confess to Thy Holy Name."(10) Neither ought we to disdain to be, nay we ought to render ineffable thanks, for that we are, the sheep of His hands, which He foresaw when He was saying, "I have other sheep which are not of this fold, them too I must lead in, that there may be one flock and one Shepherd:"(11) that is to say, by joining the faithful people of the Gentiles with the faithful people of the Israelites, concerning whom He had before said, "I have not been sent but to the sheep which have strayed of the house of Israel."(12) For also there shall be congregated before Him all nations, and He shall sever them as a shepherd the sheep from the goats.(13) Thus then let us hear that which hath been spoken. "Hearken ye, My people, to My law, incline ye your ear unto the words of My mouth:" not as if addressed to Jews, but rather as if addressed to ourselves, or at least as if these words were said as well to ourselves (as to them(14)). For when the Apostle had said, "But not in all them was God well pleased," thereby showing that there were those too in whom God was well pleased: he hath forthwith added, "For they were overthrown in the desert:"(15) secondly he hath continued, "but these things have been made our figures."... To us therefore more particularly these words have been sung. Whence in this Psalm among other things there hath been said, "That another generation may know, sons who shall be born and shall arise." (16) Moreover, if that death by serpents, and that destruction by the destroyer, and the slaying by the sword, were figures, as the Apostle evidently doth declare, inasmuch as it is manifest that all those things did happen: for he saith not, in a figure they were spoken, or, in a figure they were written, but, in a figure, he saith, they happened to them: with how much greater diligence of godliness must those punishments be shunned whereof those were the figures? For beyond a doubt as in good things there is much more of good in that which is signified by the figure, than in the figure itself: so also in evil things very far worse are the things which are signified by the figures, while so great are the evil things which as figures do signify. For as the land of promise, whereunto that people was being led, is nothing in comparison with the Kingdom of Heaven, whereunto the Christian people is being led: so also those punishments which were figures, though they were so severe, are nothing in comparison with the punishments which they signify. But those which the Apostle hath called figures, the same this Psalm, as far as we are able to judge, calleth parables and propositions: not having their end in the fact of their having happened, but in those things whereunto they are referred by a reasonable comparison. Let us therefore hearken unto the law of God--us His people--and let us incline our ear unto the words of His mouth.
4. "I will open," he saith, "in parables My mouth, I will declare propositions from the beginning" (ver. 2). From what beginning he meaneth, is very evident in the words following. For it is not from the beginning, what time the Heaven and earth were made, nor what time mankind was created in the first man: but what time the congregation that was led out of Egypt; in order that the sense may belong to Asaph, which is interpreted a congregation. But O that He that hath said, "I will open in parables My mouth," would also vouchsafe to open our understanding unto them! For if, as He hath opened His mouth in parables, He would in like sort open the parables themselves: and as He declareth "propositions," He would declare in like sort the expositions thereof, we should not be here toiling: but now so hidden and closed are all things, that even if we are able by His aid to arrive at anything, whereon we may feed to our health, still we must eat the bread in the sweat of our face; and pay the penalty of the ancient sentence(1) not with the labour of the body only, but also with that of the heart. Let him speak then, and let us hear the parables and propositions.
5. "How great things we have heard, and have known them, and our fathers have told them to us" (ver. 3). The Lord was speaking higher up. For of what other person could these words be thought to be, "Hearken ye, O My people, to My law"?(2) Why is it then that now on a sudden a man is speaking, for here we have the words of a man, "our fathers have told them to us." Without doubt God, now about to speak by a man's ministry, as the Apostle saith, "Will ye to receive proof of Him that is speaking in me, Christ?"(3) in His own person at first willed the words to be uttered, lest a man speaking His words should be despised as a man. For it is thus with the sayings of God which make their way to us through our bodily sense. The Creator moveth the subject creature by an invisible working; not so that the substance is changed into anything corporal and temporal, when by means of corporal and temporal signs, whether belonging to the eyes or to the ears, as far as men are able to receive it, He would make His will to be known. For if an angel is able to use air, mist, cloud, fire, and any other natural substance or corporal species;(4) and man to use face, tongue, hand, pen, letters, or any other significants, for the purpose of intimating the secret things of his own mind: in a word, if, though he is a man, he sendeth human messengers, and he saith to one, "Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to his servant, Do this, and he doeth it;"(5) with how much greater and more effectual power doth God, to whom as Lord all things together are subject, use both the same angel and man, in order that He may declare whatsoever pleaseth Him? ... For those things were heard in the Old Testament which are known in the New: heard when they were being prophesied, known when they were being fulfilled. Where a promise is performed, hearing is not deceived. "And our fathers," Moses and the Prophets, "have told unto us."
6. "They have not been hidden from their sons in another generation" (ver. 4). This is our generation wherein there hath been given to us regeneration. "Telling forth the praises of the Lord and His powers, and His wonderful works which He hath done." The order of the words is, "and our fathers have told unto us, telling forth the praises of the Lord." The Lord is praised, in order that He may be loved. For what object can be loved more to our health? "And He hath raised up a testimony in Jacob, and hath set a law in Jacob" (ver. 5). This is the beginning whereof hath been spoken above, "I will declare propositions from the beginning."(6) So then the beginning is the Old Testament, the end is the New. For fear doth prevail in the law? "But the end of the law is Christ for righteousness to every one believing;"(8) at whose bestowing "love is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which hath been given to us:"(9) and love made perfect doth cast out fear,(10) inasmuch as now without the Law the righteousness of God hath been made manifest. But inasmuch as He hath a testimony by the Law and the Prophets," therefore, "He hath raised up a testimony in Jacob." For even that Tabernacle which was set up with a work so remarkable and full of such wondrous meanings, is named the Tabernacle of Testimony, wherein was the veil over the Ark of the Law, like the veil over the face of the Minister of the Law;(1) because in that dispensation there were "parables and propositions." For those things which were being preached and were coining to pass were hidden in veiled meanings, and were not seen in unveiled manifestations. But "when thou shall have passed over unto Christ," saith the Apostle, "the veil shall be taken away."(2) For "all the promises of God in Him are yea, Amen."(3) Whosoever therefore doth cleave to Christ, hath the whole of the good which even in the letters of the Law he perceiveth not: but whosoever is an alien from Christ, doth neither perceive, nor hath. "He hath set a law in Israel." After his usual custom he is making a repetition. For "He hath raised up a testimony," is the same as, "He hath set a law," and "in Jacob," is the same as "in Israel." For as these are two names of one man, so law and testimony are two names of one thing. Is there any difference, saith some one, between "hath raised up" and "hath set"? Yea indeed, the same difference as there is between "Jacob" and "Israel:" not because they were two persons, but these same two names were bestowed upon one man for different reasons; Jacob because of supplanting, for that he grasped the foot of his brother at his birth:(4) but Israel because of the vision of God.(5) So "raised up" is one thing, "set" is another. For, "He hath raised up a testimony," as far as I can judge, hath been said because by it something has been raised up; "For without the Law," saith the Apostle, "sin was dead: but I lived sometime without the Law: but at the coming in of the commandment sin revived."(6) Behold that which hath been raised up by the testimony, which is the Law, so that what was lying hidden might appear, as he saith a little afterwards: "But sin, that it might appear sin, through a good thing hath wrought in me death."(7) But "He hath set a law," hath been said, as though it were a yoke upon sinners, whence hath been said," For upon a just man law hath not been imposed." s It is a testimony then, so far forth as it doth prove anything; but a law so far forth as it doth command; though it is one and the same thing. Wherefore just as Christ is a stone, but to believers for the Head of the corner, while to unbelievers a stone of offence and a rock of scandal;(9) so the testimony of the Law to them that use not the Law lawfully,(10) is a testimony whereby sinners are to be convicted as deserving of punishment; but to them that use the same lawfully, is a testimony whereby sinners are shown unto whom they ought to flee in order to be delivered. ...
7. "How great things," he saith, "He hath commanded our fathers, to make the same known to their sons?" (ver. 5). "That another generation may know, sons who shall be born and shall rise up, and they may tell to their sons" (ver. 6). "That they may put their hope in God, and may not forget the works of God, and may seek out His commandments" (ver. 7). "That they may not become, like their fathers, a crooked and embittering generation: a generation that hath not guided their heart, and the spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God" (ver. 8). These words do point out two peoples as it were, the one belonging to the Old Testament, the other to the New: for in that he saith, he hath implied that they received the commandments, "to make them known to their sons," but that they did not know or do them: but they received them themselves, to the end "that another generation might know," what the former knew not. "Sons who shall be born and shall arise." For they that have been born have not arisen: because they had not their heart above, but rather on the earth. For the arising is with Christ: whence hath been said, "If ye have arisen with Christ, savour ye the things which are above." "And they may tell them," he saith, "to their sons, in order that they may put their hope in God." ... "And may not forget the works of God:" that is to say, in magnifying and vaunting their own works, as though they did them themselves; while "God it is that worketh," in them that work good things, "both to will and to work according to good will."(12) "And may search out His commandments." ... The commandments which He hath commanded. How then should they still search out, whereas they have already learned them, save that by putting their hope in God, they do then search out His commandments, in order that by them, with His aid, they may be fulfilled? And he saith why, by immediately subjoining, "and its spirit hath not been trusted with God," that is, because it had no faith, which doth obtain what the Law doth enjoin. For when the spirit of man doth work together with the Spirit of God working, then there is fulfilled that which God hath commanded: and this doth not come to pass, except by believing in Him that doth justify an ungodly man.(13) Which faith the generation crooked and embittering had not: and therefore concerning the same hath been said, "The spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God." For this hath been said much more exactly to point out the grace of God, which doth work not only remission of sins, but also doth make the spirit of man to work together therewith in the work of good deeds, as though he were saying, his spirit hath not believed in God. For to have the spirit trusted with God, is, not to believe that his spirit is able to do righteousness without God, but with God. For this is to believe in God: which is surely more than to believe God. For ofttimes we must believe even a man, though in him we must not believe. To believe in God therefore is this, in believing to cleave unto God who worketh good works, in order to work with Him well. ...
8. Lastly, "The sons of Ephrem bending and shooting bows, have been turned back in the day of war" (ver. 9). Following after the law of righteousness, unto the law of righteousness they have not attained.(1) Why? Because they were not of faith. For they were that generation whereof the spirit hath not been trusted with God: but they were, so to speak, of works: because they did not, as they bended and shot their bows (which are outward actions, as of the works of the law), so guide their heart also, wherein the just man doth live by faith, which worketh by love; whereby men cleave to God, who worketh in man both to will and work according to good will(2) For what else is bending the bow and shooting, and turning back in the day of war, but heeding and purposing in the day of hearing, and deserting in the day of temptation; flourishing arms, so to speak, beforehand, and at the hour of the action refusing to fight? But whereas he saith, "bending and shooting bows," when it would seem that he ought to have said, bending bows and shooting arrows. ... Some Greek copies to be sure are said to have "bending and shooting with bows," so that without doubt we ought to understand arrows. But whereas by the sons of Ephrem he hath willed that there be understood the whole of that embittering generation, it is an expression signifying the whole by a part. And perhaps this part was chosen whereby to signify the whole, because from these men especially some good thing was to have been expected. ... Although set at the left hand by his father as being the younger, Jacob nevertheless blessed with his right hand, and preferred him before his eider brother with a benediction of hidden meaning.(3) ... For there was being figured how they were to be last that were first, and first were to be they that were last? through the Saviour's coming, concerning whom hath been said, "He that is coming after me was made before me."(5) In like manner righteous Abel was preferred before the elder brother; so to Ismael Isaac; so to Esau, though born before him, his twin brother Jacob; so also Phares himself preceded even in birth his twin brother, who had first thrust a hand out of the womb, and had begun to be born: 6 so David was preferred before his elder brother:(7) and as the reason why all these parables and others like them preceded, not only of words but also of deeds, in like manner to the people of the Jews was preferred the Christian people, for redeeming the which as Abel by Cain(8) so by the Jews was slain Christ. This thing was prefigured even when Jacob stretching out his hands cross- wise, with his right hand touched Ephrem standing on the left; and set him before Manasse standing on the right, whom he himself touched with the left hand.(3)
9. But what that is which he saith, "they have been turned back in the day of war," the following words do teach, wherein he hath most clearly explained this: "they have not kept," he saith, "the testament of God, and in His law they would not walk" (ver. 10). Behold what is, "they have been turned back in the day of war:" they have not kept the testament of God. When they were bending and shooting bows, they did also utter the words of most forward promise, saying, "Whatsoever things the Lord our God hath spoken we will do, and we will hear."9 "They have been turned back in the day of war:" because the promise of obedience not hearing but temptation doth prove. But he whose spirit hath been trusted with God, keepeth hold on God, who is faithful, and "cloth not suffer him to be tempted above that which he is able; but will make with the temptation a way of escape also,"(10) that he may be able to endure, and may not be turned back in the day of war. ... Therefore these men have been thus branded: "a generation," he saith, "which hath not directed their heart."(11) It hath not been said, works, but heart. For when the heart is directed, the works are right; but when the heart is not directed, the works are not right, even though they seem to be right. And how the crooked generation hath not directed the heart, hath sufficiently been shown, when he saith, "and the spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God."(11) For God is right: and therefore by cleaving to the right, as to an immutable rule, the heart of a man can be made right, which in itself was crooked. ...
10. "And they forgat His benefits, and the wonderful works of Him which He showed to them; before their fathers the wonderful things which He did" (ver. 11). What this is, is not a question to be negligently passed over. Concerning those very fathers he was speaking a little before, that they had been a generation crooked and embittering. ... What fathers, inasmuch as these are the very fathers, whom he would not have posterity to be like? If we shall take them to be those out of whom the others had derived their being, for example, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, by this time they had long since fallen asleep, when God showed wonderful things in Egypt. For there followeth, "in the land of Egypt, in the plain of Thanis" (ver. 12): where it is said that God showed to them wonderful things before their fathers. Were they perchance present in spirit? For of the same the Lord saith in the Gospel, "for all do live to Him."(1) Or do we more suitably understand thereby the fathers Moses and Aaron, and the other elders who are related in the same Scripture also to have received the Spirit, of which also Moses received, in order that they might aid him in ruling and bearing the same people?(2) For why should they not have been called fathers? It is not in the same manner as God is the One Father, who doth regenerate with His Spirit those whom He doth make sons for an everlasting inheritance; but it is for the sake of honour, because of their age and kindly carefulness: just as Paul the elder saith, "Not to confound you I am writing these things, but as my dearly beloved sons I am admonishing you:"(3) though he knew of a truth that it had been said by the Lord, "Call ye no man your father on earth, for One is your Father, even God."(4) And this was not said in order that this term of human honour should be erased from our usual way of speaking: but lest the grace of God whereby we are regenerated unto eternal life, should be ascribed either to the power or even sanctity of any man. Therefore when he said," I have begotten you;" he first said," in Christ," and "through the Gospel;" lest that might be thought to be of him, which is of God. ... Accordingly, the land of Egypt must be understood for a figure of this world. "The plain of Thanis" is the smooth surface of lowly commandment. For lowly commandment is the interpretation of Thanis. In this world therefore let us receive the commandment of humility, in order that in another world we may merit to receive the exaltation which He hath promised, who for our sake here became lowly.
11. For He that "did burst asunder the sea and made them go through, did confine the waters as it were in bottles" (ver. 13), in order that the water might stand up first as if it were shut in, is able by His grace to restrain the flowing and ebbing tides of carnal desires, when we renounce this world, so that all sins having been thoroughly washed away, as if they were enemies, the people of the faithful may be made to pass through by means of the Sacrament of Baptism. He that "led them home in the cloud of the day, and in the whole of the night in the illumination of fire" (ver. 14), is able also spiritually to direct goings if faith crieth to Him, "Direct Thou my goings after Thy word." Of Whom m another place(6) is said, For Himself shall make thy courses right, and shall prolong thy goings in peace"(7) through Jesus Christ our Lord, whose Sacrament in this world, as it were in the day, is manifest in the flesh, as if in a cloud; but in the Judgment it will be manifest like as in a terror by night; for then there will be a great tribulation of the world like as it were fire, and it shall shine for the just and shall burn for the unjust. "He that burst asunder the rock in the desert, and gave them water as in a great deep" (ver. 15); "and brought out water from the rock, and brought down waters like rivers" (ver. 16), is surely able upon thirsty faith to pour the gift of the Holy Spirit (the which gift the performance of that thing did spiritually signify), to pour, I say, from the Spiritual Rock that followed, which is Christ: who did stand and cry, "If any is athirst, let him come to Me:"(8) and, "he that shall have drunk of the water which I shall give, rivers of living water shall flow out of his bosom."(9) For this He spake, as is read in the Gospel,(10) to the Spirit, which they were to receive that believed in Him, unto whom like the rod drew near the wood of the Passion, in order that there might flow forth grace for believers.
12. And yet, "they," like a generation crooked and embittering, "added yet to sin against Him" (ver. 17): that is, not to believe. For this is the sin, whereof the Spirit doth convict the world, as the Lord saith, "Of sin indeed because they have not believed on Me."(11) "And they exasperated the Most High in drought," which other copies have, "in a place without water," which is a more exact translation from the Greek, and doth signify no other thing than drought. Was it in that drought of the desert, or rather in their own? For although they had drank of the rock, they had not their bellies but their minds dry, freshening with no fruitfulness of righteousness. In that drought they ought the more faithfully to have been suppliant unto God, in order that He who had given fulness unto their jaws, might give also equity to their manners. For unto him the faithful soul doth cry, "Let mine eyes see equity."(12)
13. "And they tempted God in their hearts, in order that they might seek morsels for their souls" (ver. 18). It is one thing to ask in believing, another thing in tempting. Lastly there followeth, "And they slandered God, and said, Shall God be able to prepare a table in the desert?" (ver. 19). "For He smote the rock, and the waters flowed, and torrents gushed forth: will He be able to give bread also, or to prepare a table for His people?" (ver. 20). Not believing therefore, they sought morsels for their souls. Not so the Apostle James doth enjoin a morsel to be asked for the mind, but doth admonish that it be sought by believers, not by such as tempt and slander God. "But if any one of you," he saith, "doth lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who doth give to all men abundantly, and doth not upbraid, and it shall be given to him: but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering."(1) This faith had not that generation which" had not directed their heart, and the spirit thereof had not been trusted with God."
14. "Wherefore the Lord heard, and He delayed, and fire was lighted in Jacob, and wrath went up into Israel" (ver. 21). He hath explained what he hath called fire. He hath called anger fire: although in strict propriety fire did also burn up many men. What is therefore this that he saith, "The Lord heard, and He delayed"? Did He delay to conduct them into the land of promise, whither they were being led: which might have been done in the space of a few days, but on account of sins they must needs be wasted in the desert, where also they were wasted during forty years? Anti if this be so, He did then delay the people, not those very persons who tempted and slandered God: for they all perished in the desert, and their children journeyed into the land of promise. Or did He delay punishment, in order that He might first satisfy unbelieving concupiscence, lest He might be supposed to be angry, because they were asking of Him what He was not able to do? "He heard," then, "and He delayed to avenge:" and after He had done what they supposed He was not able to do, then "anger went up upon Israel."
15. Lastly, when both these things have been briefly touched, afterwards he is evidently following out the order of the narrative. "Because they believed not in God, nor hoped in His saving health" (ver. 22). For when he had told why fire was lighted in Jacob, and anger went up upon Israel, that is to say, "because they believed not in God, nor hoped in His saving health:" immediately subjoining the evident blessings for which they were ungrateful, he saith, "and He commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of Heaven" (ver. 23). "And He rained upon them manna to eat, and gave them bread of Heaven" (ver. 24). "Bread of angels man did eat: dainties He sent them in abundance" (ver. 25). He brought over the South Wind from Heaven, and in His virtue He led in the South West Wind" (ver. 26). "And He rained upon them fleshes like dust, and winged fowls like the sand of the sea" (ver. 27 ). "And they fell in the midst of their camp, around their tabernacles" (ver. 28). "And they ate and were filled exceedingly; and their desire He brought to them: they were not deprived of their desire" (ver. 29). Behold why He had delayed. But what He had delayed let us hear. "Yet the morsel was in their mouths, and the anger of God came down upon them" (ver. 30). Behold what He had delayed. For before "He delayed:" and afterwards, "fire was lighted in Jacob and anger went up upon Israel." He had delayed therefore in order that He might first do what they had believed that He could not do, and then might bring upon them what they deserved to suffer. For if they placed their hope in God, not only would their desires of the flesh but also those of the spirit have been fulfilled. For he that ... opened the doors of Heaven, and rained upon them manna to eat," that He might fill the unbelieving, is not without power to give to believers Himself the true Bread from Heaven, which the manna did signify: which is indeed the food of Angels, whom being incorruptible the Word of God doth incorruptibly feed: the which in order that man might eat, He became flesh, and dwelled in us.(2) For Himself the Bread by means of the Evangelical clouds is being rained over the whole world, and, the hearts of preachers like heavenly doors, being opened, is being preached not to a murmuring and tempting synagogue, but to a Church believing and putting hope in Him. He is able also to feed the feeble faith of such as tempt not, but believe, with the signs of words uttered by the flesh and speeding through the air, as though it were fowls: not however with such as come from the north, where cold and mist do prevail, that is to say, eloquence which is pleasing to this world, but by bringing over the South Wind from Heaven; whither, except to the earth? In order that they who are feeble in faith, by hearing things earthly may be nourished up to receive things heavenly. ...
16. But as to unbelievers, being a crooked and embittering generation, as it were, while the morsel was yet in their mouths, "the anger of God went up upon them, and it slew among the most of them" (ver. 31): that is, the most of them, or as some copies have it, "the fat ones of them," which however in the Greek copies which we had, we did not find. But if this be the truer reading, what else must be understood by "the fat ones of them," than men mighty in pride, concerning whom is said, "their iniquity shall come forth as if out of fat"?(1) "And the elect of Israel He lettered." Even there there were elect, with whose faith the generation crooked and embittering was not mixed. But they were fettered, so that they might in no sort profit them for whom they desired that they might provide from a fatherly affection. For what is conferred by human mercy, on those with whom God is angry? Or rather hath He willed it to be understood, how that even the elect were fettered at the same time with them, in order that they who were diverse both in mind and in life, might endure sufferings with them for an example not only of righteousness, but also of patience? For we have learned that holy men were even led captive with sinners for no other reason; since in the Greek copies we read not enepo'disen, which is "fettered;" but sunepo'disen, which is rather "fettered together with."
17. But the generation crooked and embittering, "in all these things sinned yet more, and they believed not in His wonderful works" (ver. 32). "And in their days failed in vanity" (ver. 33 ). Though they might, if they had believed have had days in truth without failing, with Him to whom hath been said, "Thy years shall not fail."(2) Therefore, "their days failed in vanity, and their years with haste." For the whole life of mortal men is hastening, and that which seemeth to be longer is but a vapour of somewhat longer duration.
18. Nevertheless, "when he slew them they sought Him:" not for the sake of eternal life, but fearing to end the vapour too soon. There sought Him then, not indeed those whom, He had slain, but they that were afraid of being slain according to the example of them. But the Scripture hath so spoken of them as if they sought God who were slain; because they were one people, and it is spoken as if of one body: "and they returned, and at dawn they came to God" (ver. 34). "And they remembered that God is their Helper, and the High God is their Redeemer" (ver. 35). But all this is for the sake of acquiring temporal good things, and for avoiding temporal evil things. For they that did seek God for the sake of temporal blessings, sought not God indeed, but things. Thus with those God is worshipped with slavish fear, not free love. Thus then God is not worshipped, for that thing is worshipped which is loved. Whence because God is found to be greater and better than all things, He must be loved more than all things, in order that He may be worshipped.
19. Lastly, here let us see the words following: "And they loved Him," he saith, "in their mouth, and in their tongue they lied unto Him" (ver. 36). "But their heart was not right with Him, and they were not counted faithful in His Testament" (ver. 37). One thing on their tongue, another thing in their heart He found, unto whom the secret things of men are naked, and without any impediment He saw what they loved rather. Therefore the heart is right with God, when it doth seek God for the sake of God. For one thing he desired of the Lord, the same he will require, that he may dwell always in the House of the Lord, and may meditate on the pleasantness of Him.(3) Unto Whom saith the heart of the faithful, I will be filled, not with the flesh-pots of the Egyptians, nor with melons and gourds, and garlick and onions, which a generation crooked and embittering did prefer even to bread celestial,(4) nor with visible manna, and those same winged fowls; but, "I will be filled, when Thy glory shall be made manifest."(5) For this is the inheritance of the New Testament, wherein they were not counted faithful; whereof however the faith even at that time, when it was veiled, was in the elect, and now, when it hath already been revealed, it is not in many that are called. "For many have been called, but few are elect."(6) Of such sort therefore was the generation crooked and embittering, even when they were seeming to seek God, loving in mouth, and in tongue lying; but in heart not right with God, while they loved rather those things, for the sake of which they required the help of God.
20. "But He is Himself merciful, and will become propitious to their sins, and He will not destroy them. And He will abound to turn away His anger, and He will not kindle all his anger" (ver. 38). By these words many men promise to themselves impunity for their iniquity from the Divine Mercy, even if they shall have persevered in being such, as that generation is described, "crooked and embittering; which hath not directed their heart, and the spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God:" with whom it is not profitable to agree. For if, to speak in their words, God will perchance not destroy no not even bad men, without doubt He will not destroy good men. Why then do we not rather choose that wherein there is no doubt? For they that lie to Him in their tongue, though their heart doth hold some other thing, do think indeed, and will, even God to be a liar, when He doth menace upon such men eternal punishment. But whilst they do not deceive Him with their lying, He doth not deceive them with speaking the truth. These words therefore of divine sayings, concerning which the crooked generation doth cajole itself, let it not make crooked like its own heart: for even when it is made crooked, they continue right. For at first they may be understood according to that which is written in the Gospel, "that ye may be like your Father who is in the Heavens, who maketh His sun to rise upon good men and evil men, and raineth upon just men and unjust men."(1) For who could not see, how great is the long-suffering of mercy with which He is sparing evil men? But before the Judgment, He spared then that nation in such sort, that He kindled not(1) all His anger, utterly to root it up and bring it to an end: which thing in His words and in the intercession for their sins of His servant Moses doth evidently appear, where God saith, "Let Me blot them out, and make thee into a great nation:"(3) he intercedeth, being more ready to be blotted out for them than that they should be; knowing that he is doing this before One Merciful, who inasmuch as by no means He would blot out him, would even spare them for his sake. For let us see how greatly He spared, and doth still spare. ...
21. In the second place, that we may not seem to do violence to divine words, and lest in the place where there was said, "He will not destroy them,"(4) we should say, "But hereafter He will destroy them: "concerning this very present Psalm let us turn to a very common phrase of the Scripture, whereby this question may be more diligently and more truly solved. Speaking of these same persons a little lower down, when He had made mention of the things which the Egyptians because of them had endured, He saith, ... "And He led them unto the mount of His sanctification, the mount which His fight hand won. And He cast out from their face the nations, and by lot distributed to them the land in the cord of distribution."(5) If any one at these words should press a question upon us, and should say, How doth he make mention of all these things as having been bestowed upon them, when the same persons were not led into the land of promise, as were delivered from Egypt, inasmuch as they were dead? What shall we reply but that they were spoken of, because they were the self- same people by means of a succession of sons? ...
22. "And He remembered that they are flesh, a spirit(6) going and not returning" (ver. 39). Therefore calling them and pitying them through His grace, He called them back Himself, because of themselves they could not return. For how doth flesh return, "a spirit walking and not turning back,"(7) while a weight of evil deserts doth weigh it down unto the lowest and far places of evil, save through the election of grace? ... For thus also is solved this no unimportant question, how it is written in the Proverbs, when the Scripture was speaking of the way of iniquity, "all they that walk in her shall not return."(8) For it hath been so spoken as if all ungodly men were to be despaired of: but the Scripture did only commend grace; for of himself man is able to walk in that way, but is not able of himself to return, except when called back by grace.
23. I say then of these crooked and embittering persons, "How often they exasperated Him in the desert, and provoked Him to wrath in the waterless place!" (ver. 40). "And they turned themselves and tempted God, and exasperated the Holy One of Israel" (ver. 41). He is repeating that same unbelief of theirs, of which He had made mention above. But the reason of the repetition is, in order that there may be mentioned also the plagues which He inflicted on the Egyptians for their sakes: all which things they certainly ought to have remembered, and not to be ungrateful. Lastly, there followeth what? "They remembered not His hands, in the day when He redeemed them from the hand of the troubler" (ver. 42). And he beginneth to speak of what things He did to the Egyptians: "He set in Egypt His signs, and His prodigies in the plain of Thanis" (ver. 43): "and He turned their rivers into blood, and their showers lest they should drink" (ver. 44), or rather, "the flowings of waters," as some do better understand by what is written in Greek, ta` ombrh'mata, which in Latin we call scaturigines, waters bubbling from beneath. "He sent upon them the dog-fly, and it ate them up; and the frog, and it destroyed them" (ver. 45). "And He gave their fruit to the mildew, and their labours to the locust" (ver. 46). "And He slew with hail their vineyards, and their mulberry trees with frost" (ver. 47). "And He gave over to the hail their beasts of burden, and their possessions to the fire" (ver. 48). "He sent upon them the anger of His indignation, indignation and anger and tribulation, a visitation through evil angels" (ver. 49). He made a way to the course of His anger, and their beasts of burden He shut up in death" (ver. 50). "And He smote every first-born thing in the land of Egypt, the first-fruits of their labours in the tabernacles of Cham" (ver. 51).
24. All these punishments of the Egyptians may be explained by an allegorical interpretation, according as one shall have chosen to understand them, and to compare them to the things whereunto they must be referred. Which we too will endeavour to do; and shall do it the more properly, the more we shall have been divinely aided. For to do this, those words of this Psalm do constrain us, wherein it was said, "I will open in parables my mouth, I will declare propositions from the beginning."(1) For for this cause even some things have been here spoken of, which that they befell the Egyptians at all we read not, although all their plagues are most carefully related in Exodus according to their order, so that while that which is not there mentioned we are sure hath not been mentioned in the Psalm to no purpose, and we can interpret the same only figuratively, we may at the same time understand that even the rest of the things which it is evident did happen, were done or described for the sake of some figurative meaning. For the Scripture doth so do in many passages of the prophetic sayings. ... In the plagues therefore of the Egyptians, which are in the book which is called Exodus, where the Scripture hath been especially careful, that those things whereby they were afflicted should be all related in order, there is not found what this Psalm hath, "and He gave to the mildew their fruits." This also wherein, when he had said, "and He gave over to the hail their beasts," he hath added, "and their possession to the fire :" of the beasts slain with hail is read in Exodus;(2) but how their possession was burned with fire, is not read at all. Although voices and fires do come together with hail, just as thunderings do commonly accompany lightnings; nevertheless, it is not written that anything was given over to the fire that it should be burned. Lastly, the soft things which the hail could not hurt, are said not to have been smitten, that is, hurt with hard blows; which things the locust devoured afterwards. Also that which is here spoken of, "and their mulberry trees with hoar-frost," is not in Exodus. For hoar-frost doth differ much from hail; for in the clear winter nights the earth is made white with hoar-frost.
25. What then those things do signify, let the interpreter say as he can, let reader and hearer judge as is just. The water turned into blood seemeth to me to signify a carnal view of the causes of things. Dog-fly, are the manners of dogs? who see not even their parents when first they are born. The frog is very talkative vanity. Mildew doth hurt secretly, which also some have interpreted by rust, others black mould: which evil thing to what vice is it more appropriately compared, than to what doth show itself least readily, like the trusting much in one's self? For it is a blighting air which doth work this secretly among fruits: just like in morals, secret pride, when a man thinketh himself to be something, though he is nothing.(4) The locust is malice hurting with the mouth, that is, with unfaithful testimony. The hail is iniquity taking away the goods of others; whence theft, robberies, and depredations do spring: but more by his wickedness the plunderer himself is plundered. The hoar-frost doth signify the fault wherein the love of one's neighbour by the darkness of foolishness, like as it were by the cold of night, is frozen up. But the fire, if here it is not that which is mentioned which was in the hail out of the lightning clouds, forasmuch as he hath said here, "He gave over their possession to the fire," where he implieth that a thing was burned, which by that fire we read not to have been done,--it seemeth to me, I say, to signify the savageness of wrath, whereby even man-slaying may be committed. But by the death of beasts was figured, as far as I judge, the loss of chastity. For concupiscence, whereby offspring do arise, we have in common with beasts. To have this therefore tamed and ordered, is the virtue of chastity. The death of the first-born things, is the putting off of the very justice whereby a man doth associate with mankind. But whether the figurative significations of these things be so, or whether they are better understood in another way, whom would it not move, that with ten plagues the Egyptians are smitten, and with ten commandments the tables are inscribed,(5) that thereby the people of God should be ruled? Concerning the comparing of which one with the other, inasmuch as we have spoken elsewhere, there is no need to load the exposition of this Psalm therewith: thus much we remind you, that here too, though not in the same order, yet ten plagues of the Egyptians are commemorated, forasmuch as in the place of three which are in Exodus and are not here, to wit, lice, boils, darkness; other three are commemorated, which are not there, that is to say, mildew, hoarfrost, and fire; not of lightning, but that where-unto their possession was given over, which is not read of in that place.
26. But it hath been clearly enough intimated, that by the judgment of God these things befell them through the instrumentality of evil angels, in this wicked world, as though it were in Egypt and in the plain of Thanis, where we ought to be humble, until there come that world, wherein we may earn to be exalted out of this humiliation. For even Egypt in the Hebrew tongue doth signify darkness or tribulations, in which tongue, Thanis,(6) as I have observed, is understood to be humble commandment. Concerning the evil angels therefore in this Psalm, while he was speaking of those very plagues, there hath been something inserted, which must not be passed over cursorily: "He sent upon them," he saith, "an infliction through evil angels." Now that the devil and his angels are so very evil, that for them everlasting fire is prepared, no believer is ignorant: but that there should be sent by means of them an infliction from the Lord God upon certain whom He judgeth to be deserving of this punishment, seemeth to be a hard thing to those who are little prone to consider, how the perfect justice of God doth use well even evil things. For these indeed, as far as regardeth their substance, what other person but Himself hath made? But evil He hath not made them: yet He doth use them, inasmuch as He is good, well, that is, conveniently and justly: just as on the other hand unrighteous men do use His good creatures in evil manner. God therefore doth use evil angels not only to punish evil men, as in the case of all those concerning whom the Psalm doth speak, as in the case of king Achab, whom a spirit of lying by the will of God did beguile, in order that he might fall in war:(1) but also to prove and make manifest good men, as He did in the case of Job. But as far as regardeth that corporal matter of visible elements, I suppose that thereof angels both good and evil are able to make use, according to the power given to each: just as also men good and evil do use such things, as far as they are able, according to the measure of human infirmity. For we use both earth and water, and air, and fire, not only in things necessary for our support, but also in many operations superfluous and playful, and marvellously artificial. For countless things, which are called mhchanh'mata, are moulded out of these elements scientifically employed. But over these things angels have a far more extended power, both the good and the evil, though greater is that which the good have;(2) but only so far as is commanded or permitted by the will and providence of God; on which terms also we have it. For not even in these cases are we able to do all that we will. But in a book the most unerring we read that the devil was able even to send fire from Heaven, to burn up with wonderful and awful fierceness so great a number of the cattle of a holy man:(3) which thing no one of the faithful would dare perchance to ascribe to the devil, except it were read on the authority of Holy Scripture. But that man, being by the gift of God just and firm, and of godly knowledge, saith not, The Lord hath given, the devil hath taken away: but, "The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away:"(4) very well knowing that even what the devil was able to do with these elements, he would still not have done to a servant of God, except at his Lord's will and permission; he did confound the malice of the devil, forasmuch as he knew who it was that was making use thereof to prove him. In the sons then of unbelief like as it were in his own slaves, he doth work,(5) like men with their beasts, and even therewith only so far as is permitted by the just judgment of God. But it is one thing when his power is restrained from treating even his own as he pleases, by a greater power; another thing when to him power is given even over those who are alien from him. Just as a man with his beast, as men understand it, doeth what he will, and yet doth not indeed, if he be restrained by a greater power: but with another man's beast to do something, he doth wait until power be given from him unto whom it belongeth. In the former case the power which there was is restrained, in the latter that which there was not is conceded.
27. And if such be the case, if through evil angels God did inflict those plagues upon the Egyptians, shall we dare to say that the water also was turned into blood by means of those same angels, and that frogs were created by means of the same, the like whereunto even the magicians of Pharaoh were able to make by their enchantments;(6) so as that evil angels stood on both sides, on the one side afflicting them, on the other side deceiving them, according to the judgment and dispensation(7) of the most just and most omnipotent God, who doth justly make use of even the naughtiness of unrighteous men? I dare not to say so. For whence was it that the magicians of Pharaoh could by no means make lice?(8) Was it not because even these same evil angels were not suffered to do this? Or, to speak more truly, is not the cause hidden, and it doth exceed our powers of inquiry? For if we shall have supposed that God wrought those things by means of evil angels, because punishments were being inflicted, and not blessings being bestowed, as though God doth inflict punishments upon no one by means of good angels, but by means of those executioners as it were of the heavenly wrath; the consequence will be that we must believe that even Sodom was overthrown by means of evil angels, and that Abraham and Lot would seem to have entertained under their roof evil angels;(9) the which, as being contrary to the most evident Scriptures, far be it that we should think. It is clear then that these things might have been done to men by means of good and evil angels. What should be done or when it should be done doth escape me: but Him that doeth it, it escapeth not, and him unto whom He shall have willed to reveal it. Nevertheless, as far as divine Scripture doth yield to our application thereto, on evil men that punishments are inflicted both by means of good angels, as upon the Sodomites, and by means of evil angels, as upon the Egyptians, we read: but that just men with corporal penances by means of good angels are tried and proved, doth not occur to me.
28. But as far as regardeth the present passage of this Psalm, if we dare not ascribe those things which were marvellously formed out of creatures, to evil angels; we have a thing which without doubt we can ascribe to them; the dyings of the beasts, the dyings of the first-born, and this especially whence all these things proceeded, namely, the hardening of heart, so that they would not let go the people of God.(1) For when God is said to make this most iniquitous and malignant obstinacy, He maketh it not by suggesting and inspiring, but by forsaking, so that they work in the sons of unbelief that which God doth duly and justly permit.(2) ... Moreover, those evil manners which we said were signified by these corporal plagues, on account of that which was said before, "I will open in parables my mouth,"(3) are most appropriately believed by means of evil angels to have been wrought in those that are made subject to them by Divine justice. For neither when that cometh to pass of which the apostle speaketh, "God gave them over into the lusts of their heart, that they should do things which are not convenient,"(4) can it be but that those evil angels dwell and rejoice therein, as in the matter of their own work: unto whom most justly is human haughtiness made subject, in all save those whom grace doth deliver. "And for these things who is sufficient?" (5) Whence when he had said, "He sent unto them the anger of His indignation, indignation and anger and tribulation, an infliction through evil angels;" for this which he hath added, "a way He hath made for the path of His anger "(ver. 50), whose eye, I pray, is sufficient to penetrate, so that it may understand and take in the sense lying hidden in so great a profundity? For the path of the anger of God was that whereby He punished the ungodliness of the Egyptians with hidden justice: but for that same path He made a way, so that drawing them forth as it were from secret places by means of evil angels unto manifest offences, He most evidently inflicted punishment upon those that were most evidently ungodly. From this power of evil angels nothing doth deliver man but the grace of God, whereof the Apostle speaketh, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and l hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love:"(6) of which things that people did bear the figure, when they were delivered from the power of the Egyptians, and translated into the kingdom of the land of promise flowing with milk and honey, which doth signify the sweetness of grace.
29. The Psalm proceedeth then after the commemoration of the plagues of the Egyptians (ver. 51) and saith, "And He took away like sheep His people, and He led them through like a flock in the desert" (ver. 52). "And He led them down in hope, and they feared not, and their enemies the sea covered" (Ver, 53). This cometh to pass to so much the greater good, as it is a more inward thing, wherein being delivered from the power of darkness, we are in mind translated into the Kingdom of God, and with respect to spiritual pastures we are made to become sheep of God, walking in this world as it were in a desert, inasmuch as to no one is our faith observable: whence saith the Apostle, "Your life is hidden with Christ in God."(7) But we are being led home in hope, "For by hope we are saved."(8) Nor ought we to fear. For, "If God be for us, who can be against us"(9) And our enemies the sea hath covered, He hath effaced them in baptism by the remission of sins.
30. In the next place there followeth, "And He led them into the mountain of His sanctification" (ver. 54). How much better into Holy Church! "The mountain which His right hand hath gotten." How much higher is the Church which Christ hath gotten, concerning whom has been said, "And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?(10) (ver. 55). "And He cast forth from the face of them the nations." And(11) from the face of His faithful. For nations in a manner are the evil spirits of Gentile errors. "And by lot He divided unto them the land in the cord of distribution." And in us "all things one and the same Spirit doth work, dividing severally to every one as He willeth."(12)
31. "And He made to dwell in their tabernacles the tribes of Israel." In the tabernacles, he saith, of the Gentiles He made the tribes of Israel to dwell, which I think can better be explained spiritually, inasmuch as unto celestial glory, whence sinning angels have been cast forth and cast down, by Christ's grace we are being uplifted. For that generation crooked and embittering, inasmuch as for these corporal blessings they put not off the coat of oldness, "Did tempt" yet, "and provoked the high God, and His testimonies they kept not (ver. 56): and they turned them away, and they kept not the covenant, like their fathers" (ver. 57). For under a sort of covenant and decree they said, "All things which our Lord God hath spoken we will do, and we will hear."(13) It is a remarkable thing indeed which he saith, "like their fathers:" while throughout the whole text of the Psalm he was seeming to speak of the same men as it were, yet now it appeareth that the words did concern those who were already in the land of promise, and that the fathers spoken of were of those who did provoke in the desert. "They were turned," he saith, "into a crooked," or, as some copies have it, "into a perverse bow" (ver. 58). But what this is doth better appear in that which followeth, where he saith, "And unto wrath they provoked Him with their hills" (ver. 59). It doth signify that they leaped into idolatry. The bow then was perverted, not for the name of the Lord, but against the name of the Lord: who said to the same people, "Thou shalt have none other Gods but Me."(1) But by the bow He doth signify the mind's intention. This same idea, lastly, more clearly working out, "And in their graven idols," he saith, "they provoked Him to indignation."
32. "God heard, and He despised:" that is, He gave heed and took vengeance. "And unto nothing He brought Israel exceedingly" (ver. 60). For when God despised, what were they who by God's help were what they were? But doubtless he is commemorating the doing of that thing, when they were conquered by the Philistines in the time of Heli the priest, and the Ark of the Lord was taken, and with great slaughter they were laid low.(2) This it is that he speaketh of. "And He rejected the tabernacle of Selom, His tabernacle, where He dwelled among men" (ver. 61). He hath elegantly explained why He rejected His tabernacle, when he saith, "where He dwelled among men." When therefore they were not worthy for Him to dwell among, why should He not reject the tabernacle, which indeed not for Himself He had established, but for their sakes, whom now He judged unworthy for Him to dwell among. "And He gave over unto captivity their strength, and their beauty unto the hands of the enemy." The very Ark whereby they thought themselves invincible, and whereon they plumed themselves, he calleth their "virtue" and "beauty." Lastly, also afterward, when they were living ill, and boasting of the temple of the Lord, He doth terrify them by a Prophet, saying, "See ye what I have done to Selom, where was My tabernacle."(3) "And He ended with the sword His people, and His inheritance He despised" (ver. 62). "Their young men the fire devoured:" that is, wrath. "And their virgins mourned not" (ver. 63). For not even for this was there leisure, in fear of the foe. "Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows were not lamented" (ver. 64). For there fell by the sword the sons of Heli, of one of whom the wife being widowed, and presently dying in child-birth,(4) because of the same confusion could not be mourned with the distinction of a funeral. "And the Lord was awakened as one sleeping" (ver. 65). For He seemeth to sleep, when He giveth His people into the hands of those whom He hateth, when there is said to them, "Where is thy God?"(5) "He was awakened, then, like one sleeping, like a mighty man drunken with wine." No one would dare to say this of God, save His Spirit. For he hath spoken, as it seemeth to ungodly men reviling; as if like a drunken man He sleepeth long, when He succoureth not so speedily as men think.(6)
33. "And He smote His enemies in the hinder parts" (ver. 66): those, to wit, who were rejoicing that they were able to take His Ark: for they were smitten in their back-parts.(7) Which seemeth to me to be a sign of that punishment, wherewith a man will be tortured, if he shall have looked back upon things behind; which, as saith the Apostle, he ought to value as dung.(8) For they that do so receive the Testament of God, as that they put not off from them the old vanity, are like the hostile nations, who did place the captured Ark of the Testament beside their own idols. And yet those old things even though these be unwilling do fall: for "all flesh is hay, and the glory of man as the flower of hay. The hay hath dried up, and the flower hath fallen off:"(9) but the Ark of the Lord "abideth for everlasting," to wit, the secret testament of the kingdom of Heaven, where is the eternal Word of God. But they that have loved things behind, because of these very things most justly shall be tormented. For "everlasting reproach He hath given to them." (ver. 67).
34. "And He rejected," he saith," the tabernacle of Joseph, and the tribe of Ephraim(10) He chose not" (ver. 68). "And He chose the tribe of Judah" (ver. 69). He hath not said, He rejected the tabernacle of Reuben, who was the first-born son of Jacob;(11) nor them that follow, and precede Judah in order of birth; so that they being rejected and not chosen, the tribe of Judah was chosen. For it might have been said that they were deservedly rejected; because even in the blessing of Jacob wherewith he blessed his sons, he mentioneth their sins,(12) and deeply abhorreth them; though among them the tribe of Levi merited to be the priestly tribe, whence also Moses was.(1) Nor hath he said, He rejected the tabernacle of Benjamin, or the tribe of Benjamin He chose not, out of which a king already had begun to be; for thence there had been chosen Saul;(2) whence because of the very proximity of the time, when he had been rejected and refused, and David chosen,(3) this might conveniently have been said; but yet was not said: but he hath named those especially who seemed to excel for more surpassing merits. For Joseph fed in Egypt his father and his brethren, and having been impiously sold, because of his piety, chastity, wisdom, he was most justly exalted;(4) and Ephraim by the blessing of his grandfather Jacob was preferred before his eider brother:(5) and yet God "rejected the tabernacle of Joseph, and the tribe of Ephraim He chose not." In which place by these names of renowned merit, what else do we understand but that whole people with old cupidity requiring of the Lord earthly rewards, rejected and refused, but the tribe of Judah chosen not for the sake of the merits of that same Judah? For far greater are the merits of Joseph, but by the tribe of Judah, inasmuch as thence arose Christ according to the flesh, the Scripture doth testify of the new people of Christ preferred before that old people, the Lord opening in parables His mouth. Moreover, thence also in that which followeth, "the Mount Sion which He chose," we do better understand the Church of Christ, not worshipping God for the sake of the carnal blessings of the present time, but from afar looking for future and eternal rewards with the eyes of faith: for Sion too is interpreted a "looking out."
35. Lastly there followeth, "and He builded like as of unicorns His sanctification" (ver. 70): or, as some interpreters have made thereof a new word, "His sanctifying.:"(6) The unicorns are rightly understood to be those, whose firm hope is uplifted unto that one thing, concerning which another Psalm saith, "One thing I have sought of the Lord, this I will require."(7) But the sanctifying of God, according to the Apostle Peter, is understood to be a holy people and a royal priesthood.(8) But that which followeth, "in the land which He founded for everlasting:" which the Greek copies have eis to`n aiw^na, whether it be called by us "for everlasting," or "for an age," is at the pleasure of the Latin translators; forasmuch as it doth signify either: and therefore the latter is found in some Latin copies, the former in others. Some also have it in the plural, that is, "for ages:" which in the Greek copies which we have had we have not found. But which of the faithful would doubt, that the Church, even though, some going, others coming, she doth pass out of this life in mortal manner, is yet founded for everlasting?
36. "And He chose David His servant" (yet. 71). The tribe, I say, of Judah, for the sake of David: but David for the sake of Christ: the tribe then of Judah for the sake of Christ. At whose passing by blind men cried out," Have pity on us, Son of David:"(9) and forthwith by His pity they received light, because true was the thing which they cried out. This then the Apostle doth not cursorily speak of, but doth heedfully notice, writing to Timothy, "Be thou mindful, that Christ Jesus hath risen from the dead, of the seed of David," etc.(10) Therefore the Saviour Himself, made according to the flesh of the seed of David, is figured in this passage under the name of David, the Lord opening in parables His mouth. And let it not move us, that when he had said, "and He chose David," under which name he signified Christ, he hath added, "His servant," not His Son. Yea even hence we may perceive, that not the substance of the Only-Begotten coeternal with the Father, but the "form of a servant" was taken of the seed of David.
37. "And He took him from the flocks of sheep, from behind the teeming sheep He received him: to feed Jacob His servant, and Israel His inheritance" (ver. 72). This David indeed, of whose seed the flesh of Christ is, from the pastoral care of cattle was translated to the kingdom of men: but our David, Jesus Himself, from men to men, from Jews to Gentiles, was yet according to the parable from sheep to sheep taken away and translated. For there are not now in that land "Churches of Judaea in Christ," which belonged to them of the circumcision after the recent Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, of whom saith the Apostle," But I was unknown by face to the Churches of Judaea, which are in Christ," etc.(11) Already from hence those Churches of the circumcised people have passed away: and thus in Judaea, which now doth exist on the earth, there is not now Christ.(12) He hath been removed thence, now He doth feed flocks of Gentiles. Truly from behind teeming sheep He hath been taken thence. For those former Churches were of such sort, as that of them it is said in the Song of Songs, "Thy teeth--are like a flock of shorn ewes going up from the washing, (13) all of which do bear twins, and a barren one is not among them." (14) For they then laid aside like as it were fleeces the burdens of the world,(15) when before the feet of the Apostles they laid the prices of their sold goods,(16) going up from that Layer, concerning which the apostle Peter doth admonish them, when they were troubled because they had shed the blood of Christ, and he saith, "Repent ye, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and your sins shall be forgiven you."(1) But twins they begat, the works, to wit, of the two commandments of twin love, love of God, and love of one's neighbour: whence a barren one there was not among them. From behind these teeming sheep our David having been taken, doth now feed other flocks among the Gentiles, and those too "Jacob" and "Israel." For thus hath been said, "to feed Jacob His servant, and Israel His inheritance." ... Unless perchance any one be willing to make such a distinction as this; viz. that in this time Jacob serveth; but he will be the eternal inheritance of God, at that time when he shall see God face to face, whence he hath received the name Israel.(2)
38. "And He fed them," he saith, "in the innocence of His heart" (ver. 73). What can be more innocent than He, who not only had not any sin whereby to be conquered, but even not any to conquer? "And in the understanding of His hands He led them home:" or, as some copies have it, "in the understandings of His hands." Any other man might suppose that it would have been better had it been said thus, "in innocence of hands and understanding of heart;" but He who knew better than others what He spake, preferred to join with the heart innocence, and with the hands understanding. It is for this reason, as far as I judge; because many men think themselves innocent, who do not evil things because they fear lest they should suffer if they shall have done them; but they have the will to do them, if they could with impunity. Such men may seem to have innocence of hands, but yet not that of heart. And what, I pray, or of what sort is that innocence, if of heart it is not, where man was made after the image of God?(3) But in this which he saith, "in understanding (or intelligence) of His hands He led them home," he seemeth to me to have spoken of that intelligence which He doth Himself make in believers: and so "of His hands:" for making cloth belong to the hands, but in the sense wherein the hands of God may be understood; for even Christ was a Man in such sort, that He was also God. ...
PSALM LXXIX. (4)
1. Over the title of this Psalm, being so short and so simple, I think we need not tarry. But the prophecy which here we read sent before, we know to be evidently fulfilled. For when these things were being sung in the times of King David, nothing of such sort, by the hostility of the Gentiles, as yet had befallen the city Jerusalem, nor the Temple of God, which as yet was not even builded. For that after the death of David his son Salomon made a temple to God, who is ignorant? That is spoken of therefore as though past, which in the Spirit was seen to be future.
"O God, the Gentiles have come into Thine inheritance" (ver. 1). Under which form of expression other things which were to come to pass, are spoken of as having been done. Nor must this be wondered at, that these words are being spoken to God. For they are not being represented to Him not knowing, by whose revelation they are foreknown; but the soul is speaking with God with that affection of godliness, of which God knoweth.(5) For even the things which Angels proclaim to men, they proclaim to them that know them not; but the things which they proclaim to God, they proclaim to Him knowing, when they offer our prayers, and in ineffable manner consult the eternal Truth respecting their actions, as an immutable law. And therefore this man of God is saying to God that which he is to learn of God, like a scholar to a master, not ignorant but judging; and so either approving what he hath taught, or censuring what he hath not taught: especially because under the appearance of one praying, [the Prophet is transforming into himself those who should be at the time when these things were to come to pass.(6) But in praying it is customary to declare those things to God which He hath done in taking vengeance, and for a petition to be added, that henceforth He should pity and spare. In this way here also by him the judgments are spoken of by whom they are foretold, as if they were being spoken of by those whom they befell, and the very lamentation and prayer is a prophecy.
2. "They have defiled Thy holy Temple, they have made Jerusalem for a keeping of apples." "They have made the dead bodies of Thy servants morsels for the fowls of heaven, the fleshes of Thy saints for the beasts of the earth" (ver. 2). "They have poured forth their blood like water in the circuit of Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them" (ver. 3). If in this prophecy any one of us shall have thought that there must be understood that laying waste of Jerusalem, which was made by Titus the Roman Emperor, when already the Lord Jesus Christ, after His Resurrection and Ascension, was being preached among the Gentiles, it doth not occur to me how that people could now have been called the inheritance of God, as not holding to Christ, whom having rejected and slain, that people became reprobate, which not even after His Resurrection would believe in Him. and even killed His Martyrs. For out of that people Israel whosoever have believed in Christ; to whom the offer of Christ was made, and in a manner the healthful and fruitful fulfilment of the promise; concerning whom even the Lord Himself saith, "I am not sent but to the sheep which have been lost of the house of Israel,"(1) the same are they that out of them are the sons of promise; the same are counted for a seed;(2) the same do belong to the inheritance of God. From hence are Joseph that just man, and the Virgin Mary who bore Christ:(3) hence John Baptist the friend of the Bridegroom, and his parents Zacharias and Elisabeth:(4) hence Symeon the old,(5) and Anna the widow, who heard not Christ speaking by the sense of the body; but while yet an infant not speaking, by the Spirit perceived Him: hence the blessed Apostles: hence Nathanael, in whom guile was not:(6) hence the other Joseph, who himself too looked for the kingdom of God:(7) hence that so great multitude who went before and followed after His beast, saying, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord:"(8) among whom was also that company of children, in whom He declared to have been fulfilled, "Out of the mouth of infants and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise."(9) Hence also were those after His resurrection, of whom on one day three and on another five thousand were baptized,(10) welded into one soul and one heart by the fire of love; of whom no one spoke of anything as his own, but to them all things were common.(11) Hence the holy deacons, of whom Stephen was crowned with martyrdom before the Apostles.(12) Hence so many Churches of Judaea, which were in Christ, unto whom Paul was unknown by face,(13) but known for an infamous ferocity, and more known for Christ's most merciful grace. Hence even he, according to the prophecy sent before concerning him, "a wolf ravening, in the morning carrying off, and in the evening dividing morsels;"(14) that is, first as persecutor carrying off unto death, afterwards as a preacher feeding unto life. These are they that are out of that people the inheritance of God. ... So then even at this time a remnant through election of Grace have been saved. This remnant out of that nation doth belong to the inheritance(15) of God: not those concerning whom a little below he saith, "But the rest have been blinded." For thus he saith. "What then? That which Israel sought, this he hath not obtained: but the election hath obtained it: but the rest have been blinded."(16) This election then, this remnant, that people of God, which God hath not cast off, is called His inheritance. But in that Israel, which hath not obtained this, in the rest that were blinded, there was no longer an inheritance of God, in reference to whom it is possible that there should be spoken, after the glorification of Christ in the Heavens, in the time of Titus the Emperor, "O God, there have come the Gentiles unto Thine inheritance," and the other things which in this Psalm seem to have been foretold concerning the destruction of both the temple and city belonging to that people.
3. Furthermore herein we ought either to perceive those things which were done by other enemies, before Christ had come in the flesh: at that time when there were even the holy prophets, when the carrying away into Babylon took place,(17) and that nation was grievously afflicted, and at the time when under Antiochus also the Maccabees, having endured horrible sufferings, were most gloriously crowned.(18) Or certainly if after the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord the inheritance of God must be understood to be here spoken of; such things must be understood herein, as at the hands of worshippers of idols, and enemies of the name of Christ, His Church, in such a multitude of endured martyrs. ... This Church then, this inheritance of God, out of circumcision and uncircumcision hath been congregated, that is, out of the people of Israel, and out of the rest of the nations, by means of the Stone which the builders rejected, and which hath become for the Head of the corner,(19) in which corner as it were two walls coming from different quarters were united. "For Himself is our peace, who hath made both one, that He might build two into Himself, making peace, and might unite together(20) both in one Body unto God:(21) in which Body we are sons of God, "crying, Abba Father."(22) Abba, on account of their language; Father, on account of ours. For Abba is the same as Father. ...
4. But now in that which followeth, "they have made Jerusalem for a keeping of apples;" even the Church herself is rightly understood under this name, even the free Jerusalem our mother,(23) concerning whom hath been written, "many more are the sons of the forsaken, than of her that hath the husband."(1) The expression, "for a keeping of apples," I think must be understood of the desertion which the wasting of persecution hath effected: that is, like a keeping of apples; for the keeping of apples is abandoned, when the apples have passed away. And certes when through the persecuting Gentiles the Church seemed to be forsaken, unto the celestial table, like as it were many and exceeding sweet apples from the garden of the Lord, the spirits of the martyrs did pass away.
5. "They have made," he saith, "the dead bodies of Thy servants morsels for the fowls of heaven, the fleshes of Thy saints for the beasts of the earth" (ver. 2). The expression, "dead bodies," hath been repeated in "fleshes:" and the expression, "of Thy servants," hath been repeated in, "of Thy saints." This only hath been varied, "to the fowls of heaven, and to the beasts of the earth." Better have they interpreted who have written "dead," than as some have it, "mortal." For "dead" is only said of those that have died; but mortal is a term applied even to living bodies. When then, as I have said, to their Husbandman the spirits of martyrs like apples had passed away, their dead bodies and their fleshes they set before the fowls of heaven and the beasts of the earth: as if any part of them could be lost to the resurrection, whereas out of the hidden recesses of the natural world He will renew the whole, by whom even our hairs have been numbered.(2)
6. "They have poured forth their blood like water," that is, abundantly and wantonly, "in the circuit of Jerusalem" (ver. 3). If we herein understand the earthly city Jerusalem, we perceive the shedding of their blood in the circuit thereof, whom the enemy could find outside the walls. But if we understand it of that Jerusalem, concerning whom hath been said, "many more are the sons of her that was forsaken, than of her that hath the husband,"(1) the circuit thereof is throughout the universal earth. For in that lesson of the Prophet, wherein is written, "many more are the sons of her that was forsaken, than of her that hath the husband:" a little after unto the same is said, "and He that hath delivered thee, shall be called the God of Israel of the universal earth." The circuit then of this Jerusalem in this Psalm must be understood as followeth: so far as at that time the Church had been expanded, bearing fruit, and growing in the universal world, when in every part thereof persecution was raging, and was making havoc of the Martyrs, whose blood was being shed like water, to the great gain of the celestial treasuries. But as to that which hath been added, "and there was no one to bury:" it either ought not to seem to be an incredible thing that there should have been so great a panic in some places, that not any buriers at all of holy bodies came forward: or certes that unburied corpses in many places might lie long time, until being by the religious in a manner stolen they were buried.
7. "We have become," he saith, "a reproach to our neighbours" (ver. 4). Therefore precious not in the sight of men, from whom this reproach was, but "precious(5) in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."(6) "A scoffing and derision :" or, as some have interpreted it, "a mockery to them that are in our circuit." It is a repetition of the former sentence. For that which above hath been called, "a reproach," the same hath been repeated in, "a scoffing and derision:" and that which above hath been said in, "to our neighbours," the same hath been repeated in, "to them that are in our circuit." Moreover, in reference to the earthly Jerusalem, the neighbours, and those in the circuit of that nation, are certainly understood to be other nations. But in reference to the free Jerusalem our mother,(7) there are neighbours even in the circuit of her, among whom, being her enemies, the Church dwelleth in the circuit of the round world.
8. In the second place now giving utterance to an evident prayer, whence it may be perceived that the calling to remembrance of former affliction is not by way of information but prayer; "How long," he saith, "O Lord, wilt Thou be angry, unto the end? shall Thy jealousy burn like fire?" (ver. 5). He is evidently asking God not to be angry unto the end, that is, that this so great oppression and tribulation and devastation may not continue even unto the end; but that He moderate His chastening, according to that which is said in another Psalm, "Thou shalt feed us with the bread of tears, and Thou shalt give us to drink of tears in measure."(8) For the, "how long, O Lord, wilt Thou be angry, unto the end?" hath been spoken in the same sense as if it had been said, Be not, O Lord, angry unto the end. And in that which followeth, "shall Thy jealousy burn like fire?" both words must be understood, both, "how long," and, "unto the end: "just as if there had been said, how long shall there burn like fire Thy jealousy unto the end? For these two words must be understood in the same manner as that word which was used a little higher up, namely, "they- have-made." For while the former sentence hath, "they have made the dead bodies of Thy servants morsels for the fowls of heaven:"(9) this word the latter sentence hath not, wherein is said, "the fleshes of Thy saints for the beasts of the earth;" but there is surely understood what the former hath, namely, "they have made."
Moreover, the anger and jealousy of God(1) are not emotions of God; as some do charge upon the Scriptures which they do not understand:(2) but under the name of anger is to be understood the avenging of iniquity; under the name of jealousy, the exaction of chastity; that the soul may not despise the law of her Lord, and perish by departing in fornication from the Lord. These then in their actual operation in men's affliction are violent; but in the disposal of God they are calm, unto whom hath been said, "But Thou, O Lord of virtues, with calmness dost judge."(3) But it is clearly enough shown by these words, that for sins these tribulations do befall men, though they be faithful: although hence may bloom the Martyrs' glory by occasion of their patience, and the yoke of discipline godly endured as the scourge of the Lord. Of this the Maccabees amid sharp tortures,(4) of this the three men amid flames innocuous,(5) of this the holy Prophets in captivity, do testify. For although paternal correction most bravely and most godly they endure, yet they do not hide the fact, that these things have befallen them for the deservings of their sins.(6) ...
9. But that which he addeth, "Pour forth Thine anger upon the nations which have not known Thee, and upon the kingdoms which have not called upon Thy name" (ver. 6); this too is a prophecy, not a wish. Not in the imprecation of malevolence are these words spoken, but foreseen by the Spirit they are predicted: just as in the case of Judas the traitor, the evil things which were to befall him have been so prophesied as if they were wished. For in like manner as the prophet doth not command Christ, though in the imperative mood he giveth utterance to what he saith, "Gird Thou Thy sword about Thy thigh, O Most Mighty: in Thy beauty and in Thy goodliness, both go on, and prosperously proceed, and reign :"(7) so he doth not wish, but doth prophesy, who saith, "Pour forth Thine anger upon the nations which have not known Thee." Which in his usual way he repeateth, saying, "And upon the kingdoms which have not called upon Thy name." For nations have been repeated in kingdoms: and that they have not known Him, hath been repeated in this, that they have not called upon His name. How then must be understood, what the Lord saith in the Gospel s concerning stripes, "the many and the few"? if greater the anger of God is against the nations, which have not known the Lord? For in this which he saith, "Pour forth Thine anger," with this word he hath clearly enough pointed out, how great anger he hath willed that there should be understood. Whence afterwards he saith, "Render to our neighbours seven times as much."(9) Is it not that there is a great difference between servants, who, though they know not the will of their Lord, do yet call upon His name, and those that are aliens from the family of so great a Master, who are so ignorant of God, as that they do not even call upon God? For in place of Him they call upon either idols or demons, or any creature they choose; not the Creator, who is blessed for ever. For those persons, concerning whom he is prophesying this, he doth not even intimate to be so ignorant of the will of their God, as that still they fear the Lord Himself; but so ignorant of the Lord Himself, that they do not even call upon Him, and that they stand forth as enemies of His name. There is a great difference then between servants not knowing the will of their God, and yet living in His family and in His house, and enemies not only setting the will against knowing the Lord Himself, but also not calling upon His name, and even in His servants fighting against it.
10. Lastly, there followeth, "For they have eaten up Jacob, and his place they have made desolate" (ver. 7). ... How we should view" the place" of Jacob, must be understood. For rather the place of Jacob may be supposed to be that city, wherein was also the Temple, whither-unto the whole of that nation for the purpose of sacrifice and worship, and to celebrate the Passover, the Lord had commanded to assemble. For if the assemblies of Christians, letted and suppressed by persecutors, has been what the Prophet would have to be understood, it would seem that he should have said, places made desolate, not place. Still we may take the singular number as put for the plural number; as dress for clothes, soldiery for soldiers, cattle for beasts: for many words are usually spoken in this manner, and not only in the mouths of vulgar speakers, but even in the eloquence of the most approved authorities. Nor to divine Scripture herself is this form of speech foreign. For even she hath put frog for frogs, locust for locusts,(10) and countless expressions of the like kind. But that which hath been said, "They have eaten up Jacob," the same is well understood, in that many men into their own evil-minded body, that is, into their own society, they have constrained to pass.
11. ... He subjoineth, "Remember not our iniquities of old" (ver. 8). He saith not bygone, which might have even been recent; but "of old," that is, coming from parents. For to such iniquities judgment, not correction, is(1) owing. "Speedily let Thy mercies anticipate us." Anticipate, that is, at Thy judgment. For "mercy exalteth above in judgment."(2) Now there is "judgment without mercy," but to him that hath not showed mercy. But whereas he addeth, "for we have become exceeding poor:" unto this end he willeth that the mercies of God should be understood to anticipate us; that our own poverty, that is, weakness, by Him having mercy, should be aided to do His commandments, that we may not come to His judgment to be condemned.
12. Therefore there followeth, "Help us, O God, our healing(3) One" (ver. 9). By this word Which he saith, "our healing One," he doth sufficiently explain what sort of poverty he hath willed to be understood, in that which he had said, "for we have become exceeding poor." For it is that very sickness, to which a healer is necessary. But while he would have us to be aided, he is neither ungrateful to grace, nor doth he take away free-will. For he that is aided, doth also of himself something. He hath added also, "for the glory of Thy Name, O Lord, deliver us:" in order that he who glorieth, not in himself, but in the Lord may glory.(4) "And merciful be Thou," he saith, "to our sins for Thy Name's sake:" not for our sake. For what else do our sins deserve, but due and condign punishments? But "merciful be Thou to our sins, for Thy Name's sake." Thus then Thou dost deliver us, that is, dost rescue us from evil things, while Thou dost both aid us to do justice, and art merciful to our sins, without which in this life we are not. For "in Thy sight shall no man living be justified."(5) But sin is iniquity.(6) And "if Thou shalt have marked iniquities, who shall stand?"(7)
13. But that which he addeth, "lest at any time they should say among the Gentiles, Where is their God?" (ver. 10) must be taken as rather for the Gentiles themselves. For to a bad end they come that have despaired of the true God, thinking that either He is not, or doth not help His own, and is not merciful to them. But this which followeth, "and that there may be known among the nations before our eyes the vengeance of the blood of Thy servants which hath been shed:" is either to be understood as of the time, when they believe in the true God that used to persecute His inheritance; because even that is vengeance, whereby is slain the fierce iniquity of them by the sword of the Word of God, concerning which hath been said, "Gird Thou Thy sword:"(8) or when obstinate enemies at the last are punished. For the corporal ills which they suffer in this world, they may have in common with good men. There is also another kind of vengeance; that wherein the Church's enlargement and fruitfulness in this world after so great persecutions, wherein they supposed she would utterly perish, the sinner and unbeliever and enemy seeth, and is angry; "with his teeth he shall gnash, and shall pine away."(9) For who would dare to deny that even this is a most heavy punishment? But I know not whether that which he saith, "before our eyes," is taken with sufficient elegance, if by this sort of punishment we understand that which is done in the inmost recesses of the heart, and doth torment even those who blandly smile at us, while by us there cannot be seen what they suffer in the inner man. But the fact, that whether in them believing their iniquity is slain, or whether the last punishment is rendered to them persevering in their naughtiness, without difficulty of doubtfulness is understood in the saying, "that there may be known before our eyes vengeance among the nations."
14. And this indeed, as we have said, is a prophecy, not a wish. ... And the Lord in the Gospel(10) hath set before us the widow for an example, who longing to be avenged, did intercede with the unjust judge, who at length heard her, not as being guided by justice, but overcome with weariness: but this the Lord hath set before us, to show that much more the just God will speedily make the judgment of His elect, who cry unto Him day and night, Thence is also that cry of the Martyrs under the altar of God(11) that they may be avenged in the judgment of God. Where then is the, "Love your enemies, do good unto them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute you"? Where is also the, "Not rendering evil for evil, nor cursing for cursing :"(13) and, "unto no man rendering evil for evil"?(14) ... For when the Lord was exhorting us to love enemies, He set before us the example of our Father, who is in Heaven, "who maketh His sun to rise upon good men and evil men, and raineth upon just men and unjust men:"(15) cloth He yet therefore not chasten even by temporal correction, or not condemn at the last the obstinately hardened? Let therefore an enemy be so loved as that the Lord's justice whereby he is punished displease us not, and let the justice whereby he is punished so please us, as that the joy is not at his evil but at the good Judge. But a malevolent soul is sorrowful, if his enemy by being corrected shall have escaped punishment: and when he seeth him punished, he is so glad that he is avenged, that he is not delighted with the justice of God, whom he loveth not, but with the misery of that man whom he hateth: and when he leaveth judgment to God, he hopeth that God will hurt more than he could hurt: and when he giveth food to his hungering enemy, and drink to him thirsty, he hath an evil-minded sense of that which is written, "For thus doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head."(1) ... In such sort then under the appearance of one asking in this Psalm, future vengeance on the ungodly is prophesied of, as that we are to understand that holy men of God have loved their enemies, and have wished no one anything but good, which is godliness in this world, everlasting life in that to come; but in the punishments of evil men, they have taken pleasure not in the ills of them, but in God's good judgments; and wheresoever in the holy Scriptures we read of their hatreds against men, they were the hatreds of vices, which every man must needs hate in himself, if he loveth himself.
15. But now in that which followeth, "Let there come in before Thy sight," or, as some copies have it, "In Thy sight, the groans of the fettered:" not easily doth any one discover that the Saints were thrown into fetters by persecutors; and if this doth happen amid so great and manifold a variety of punishments, so rarely it doth happen, that it must not be believed that the prophet had chosen to allude to this especially in this verse. But, in fact, the fetters are the infirmity and the corruptibleness of the body, which do weigh down the soul. For by means of the frailty thereof, as a kind of material for certain pains and troubles, the persecutor might constrain her unto ungodliness. From these fetters the Apostle was longing to be unbound, and to be with Christ;(2) but to abide in the flesh was necessary for their sakes unto whom he was ministering the Gospel. Until then this corruptible put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality,(3) like as it were with fetters, the weak flesh doth let the willing spirit.(4) These fetters then not any do feel, but they that in themselves do groan being burthened, desiring to be clothed upon with the tabernacle which is from Heaven;(5) because both death is a terror, and mortal life is sorrow. In behalf of these men groaning the Prophet doth redouble his groaning, that their groaning may "come in in the sight of the Lord." They also may be understood to be fettered, who are enchained with the precepts of wisdom, the which being patiently supported are turned into ornaments: whence it hath been written, "Put thy feet into her fetters."(6) "According to the greatness," he saith, "of Thy arm, receive Thou unto adoption the sons of them that are put to death:"(7) or, as is read in some copies, "Possess Thou sons by the death of the punished."(8) Wherein the Scripture seemeth to me to have sufficiently shown, what hath been the groan of the fettered, who for the name of Christ endured most grievous persecutions, which in this Psalm are most clearly prophesied. For being beset with divers sufferings, they used to pray for the Church, that their blood might not be without fruit to posterity; in order that the Lord's harvest might more abundantly flourish by the very means whereby enemies thought that she would perish. For "sons of them that were put to death" he hath called them who were not only not terrified by the sufferings of those that went before, but in Him for whose name they knew them to have suffered, being inflamed with their glory which did inspire them to the like, in most ample hosts they believed. Therefore he hath said, "According to the greatness of Thine arm." For so great a wonder followed in the case of Christian peoples, as they, who thought they would prevail aught by persecuting her, no wise believed would follow.
16. "Render," he saith, "to our neighbours seven times so much into their bosoms" (ver. 13). Not any evil things he is wishing, but things just he is foretelling and prophesying as to come. But in the number seven, that is, in sevenfold retribution, he would have the completeness of the punishment to be perceived, for with this number fulness is wont to be signified. Whence also there is this saying for the good, "He shall receive in this world seven times as much:"(9) which hath been put for all. "As if having nothing, and possessing all things."(10) Of neighbours he is speaking, because amongst them dwelleth the Church even unto the day of severing: for not now is made the corporal separation. "Into their bosoms," he saith, as being now in secret, so that the vengeance which is now being executed in secret in this life, hereafter may be known among the nations before our eyes. For when a man is given over to a reprobate mind, in his inward bosom he is receiving what he deserveth of future punishments. "Their reproach wherewith they have reproached Thee, O Lord." This do Thou render to them sevenfold into their bosoms, that is, in return for this reproach, most fully do Thou rebuke them in their secret places. For in this they have reproached Thy Name, thinking to efface Thee from the earth in Thy servants.
17. "But we Thy people" (ver. 14), must be taken generally of all the race of godly and true Christians. "We," then, whom they thought they had power to destroy, "Thy people, and the sheep of thy flock:" in order that he that glorieth may glory in the Lord,(1) "will confess to Thee for an age." But some copies have it, "will confess to Thee for everlasting." Out of a Greek ambiguity this diversity hath arisen. For that which the Greek hath, eis to`n aiw^na, may be interpreted both by "for everlasting," and "for an age;" but according to the context we must understand which is the better interpretation. The sense then of this passage seemeth to me to show, that we ought to say "for an age," that is, even unto the end of time. But the following verse after the manner of the Scriptures, and especially of the Psalms, is a repetition of the former with the order changed, putting that before which in the former case was after, and that after which in the former case was before. For whereas in the former case there had been said, "we will confess to Thee," instead of the same herein hath been said, "We will proclaim Thy praise." And so whereas in the former case there had been said, "for an age," instead of the same herein hath been said, "for generation and generation." For this repetition of generation doth signify perpetuity: or, as some understand it, it is because there are two generations, an old and a new. ... But in many places of holy Scriptures we have already made known to you that confession is also put for praise: as in this passage it is, "These words ye shall say in confession, 'That the works of the Lord are very good.'"(2) And especially that which the Saviour Himself saith, who had not any sin at all, which by repentance to confess: "I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes."(3) I have said this, in order that it may be more clearly perceived how in the expression, "We will proclaim Thy praise," the same hath been repeated as had been said higher up, "We will confess to Thee."
1. ... If perchance things obscure demand the office of an interpreter, those things which are evident ought to require of me the office of a reader. The song here is of the Advent of the Lord and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His vineyard. But the singer of the song is that Asaph, as far as doth appear, enlightened and converted, by whose name ye know the synagogue to be signified. Lastly, the title of the Psalm is: "For the end in behalf of them that shall be changed;" that is, for the better. For Christ, the end of the Law, (5) hath come on purpose that He should change men for the better. And he addeth, "a testimony to Asaph himself." A good testimony of truth. Lastly, this testimony doth confess both Christ and the vineyard; that is, Head and Body, King and people, Shepherd and flock, and the entire mystery of all Scriptures, Christ and the Church. But the title of the Psalm doth conclude with, "for the Assyrians." The Assyrians are interpreted, "men guiding." Therefore it is no longer a generation which hath not guided the heart(6) thereof, but now a generation guiding. Therefore hear we what he saith in this testimony.
2. What is, "Thou that feedest Israel, hearken, Thou that conducteth Joseph like sheep"? (ver. 1). He is being invoked to come, He is being expected until He come, He is being yearned for until He come. Therefore may He find "men guiding:" "Thou that conductest," he saith, "Joseph like sheep: "Joseph himself like sheep. Joseph himself are the sheep, and Joseph himself is a sheep. Observe Joseph; for although even the interpretation of his name doth aid us much, for it signifieth increase; and He came indeed in order that the grain given to death(7) might arise manifold;(8) that is, that the people of God might be increased. ... "Thou that sittest upon the Cherubin." Cherubin is the seat of the glory of God, and is interpreted the fulness of knowledge. There God sitteth in the fulness of knowledge. Though we understand the Cherubin to be the exalted powers and virtues of the heavens: yet, if thou wilt, thou wilt be Cherubin.(9) For if Cherubin is the seat of God, hear what saith the Scripture: "The soul of a just man is the seat of wisdom." How, thou sayest, shall I be the fulness of knowledge? Who shall fulfil this? Thou hast the means of fulfilling it: "The fulness of the Law is love."(10) Do not run after many things, and strain thyself. The amplitude of the branches doth terrify thee: hold by the root, and of the greatness of the tree think not. Be there in thee love, and the fulness of knowledge must needs follow. For what doth he not know that knoweth love? Inasmuch as it hath been said, "God is love."(11) "Appear." For we went astray because Thou didst not appear. "Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasse" (ver. 2). Appear, I say, before the nation of the Jews, before the people of Israel. For there is Ephraim, there Manasses, there Benjamin. But to the interpretation let us look: Ephraim is fruit-bearing, Benjamin son of right hand, Manasses one forgetful. Appear Thou then before one made fruitful, before a son of the right hand: appear Thou before one forgetful, in order that he may be no longer forgetful, but Thou mayest come into his mind that hast delivered him. ... For weak Thou wast when it was being said, "If Son of God He is, let Him come down from the Cross."(1) Thou wast seeming to have no power: the persecutor had power over Thee: and Thou didst show this aforetime, for Jacob too himself prevailed in wrestling, a man with an angel. Would he at any time, except the angel had been willing? And man prevailed, and the angel was conquered: and victorious man holdeth the angel, and saith, "I will not let thee go, except thou shalt have blessed me."(2) A great sacrament! He both standeth conquered, and blesseth the conqueror. Conquered, because he willed it; in flesh weak, in majesty strong. ... Having been crucified of weakness, rise Thou in power:(3) "Stir up Thy power, and come Thou, to save us."
3. "O God, convert us." For averse we have been from Thee, and except Thou convert us, we shall not be converted. "And illumine Thy face, and we shall be saved" (ver. 3). Hath He anywise a darkened face? He hath not a darkened face, but He placed before it a cloud of flesh, and as it were a veil of weakness; and when He hung on the tree, He was not thought the Same as He was after to be acknowledged when He was sitting in Heaven. For thus it hath come to pass. Christ present on the earth, and doing miracles, Asaph knew not; but when He had died, after that He rose again, and ascended into Heaven, he knew Him. He was pricked to the heart, and he may have spoken(4) also of Him this testimony which now we acknowledge in this Psalm. Thou didst cover Thy face, and we were sick: illumine Thou the same, and we shall be whole.
4. "O Lord God of virtues, how long wilt Thou be angry with the prayer of Thy servant?" (ver. 4). Now Thy servant. Thou wast angry at the prayer of Thy enemy, wilt Thou still be angry with the prayer of Thy servant? Thou hast converted us, we know Thee, and wilt Thou still be angry with the prayer of Thy servant? Thou wilt evidently be angry, in fact, as a father correcting, not as a judge condemning. In such manner evidently Thou wilt be angry, because it hath been written, "My son, drawing near unto the service of God, stand thou in righteousness and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation."(5) Think not that now the wrath of God hath passed away, because thou hast been converted. The wrath of God(6) hath passed away from thee, but only so that it condemn not for everlasting. But He scourgeth, He spareth not: because He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth,(7) If thou refusest to be scourged, why dost thou desire to be received? He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. He who did not spare even His only Son, scourgeth every one. But nevertheless, "How long wilt Thou be angry with the prayer of Thy servant?" No longer thine enemy: but, "Thou wilt be angry with the prayer of Thy servant," how long? There followeth: "Thou wilt feed us with the bread of tears, and wilt give us to drink with tears in measure" (ver. 5). What is, "in measure"? Hear the Apostle: "Faithful is God, who doth not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear."(8) The measure is, according to your powers: the measure is, that thou be instructed, not that thou be crushed.
5. "Thou hast set us for a contradiction to our neighbours" (ver. 6). Evidently this did come to pass: for out of Asaph were chosen they that should go to the Gentiles and preach Christ, and should have it said to them, "Who is this proclaimer of new demons?"(9) "Thou hast set us for a contradiction to our neighbours." For they were preaching Him who was the subject of the contradiction. Whom did they preach? That after He was dead, Christ rose again. Who would hear this? Who would know this? It is a new thing. But signs did follow, and to an incredible thing miracles gave credibility. He was contradicted, but the contradictor was conquered, and from being a contradictor was made a believer. There, however, was a great flame: there the martyrs fed with the bread of tears, and given to drink in tears, but in measure, not more than they are able to bear; in order that after the measure of tears there should follow a crown of joys. "And our enemies have sneered at us." And where are they that sneered? For a long while it was said, Who are they that worship the Dead One, that adore the Crucified? For a long while so it was said. Where is the nose of them that sneered? Now do not they that censure flee into caves, that they may not be seen? But ye see what followeth: "O Lord God of virtues, convert us, and show Thy face, and we shall be whole" (ver. 7). "A vineyard out of Egypt Thou hast brought over, Thou hast cast out the nations, and hast planted her" (ver. 8). It was done, we know. How many nations were cast out? Amorites, Cethites, Jebusites, Gergesites, and Evites: after whose expulsion and overthrow, there was led in the people delivered out of Egypt, into the land of promise. Whence the vineyard was cast out, and where she was planted, we have heard. Let us see what next was done, how she believed, how much she grew, what ground she covered.
6. "A way Thou hast made in the sight of her, and hast planted the roots of her, and she hath filled the land" (ver. 9). Would she have filled the land, unless a way had been made in the sight of her? What was the way which was made in the sight of her? "I am," He saith, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."(1) With reason she hath filled the land. That hath now been said of this vineyard, which hath been accomplished at the last. But in the mean time what? "She hath covered the mountains with her shadow, and with her branch the cedars of God" (ver. 10). "Thou hast stretched out her boughs even unto the sea, and even unto the river her shoots" (ver. 11). This requireth the office of an expositor, that of a reader and praiser(2) doth not suffice: aid me with attention; for the mention of this vineyard in this Psalm is wont to overcloud with darkness the inattentive. ... But nevertheless the first Jewish nation was this vine But the Jewish nation reigned as far as the sea and as far as the river. As far as the sea; it appeareth in Scripture(3) that the sea was in the vicinity thereof. And as far as the river Jordan. For on the other side of Jordan some part of the Jews was established, but within Jordan was the whole nation. Therefore, "even unto the sea and even unto the river," is the kingdom of the Jews, the kingdom of Israel: but not "from sea even unto sea, and from the river even unto the ends of the round world;"(4) this is the future perfection of the vineyard, concerning which in this place he hath foretold. When, I say, he had foretold to thee the perfection, he returneth to the beginning, out of which the perfection was made. Of the beginning wilt thou hear? "Even unto the river." Of the end wilt thou hear? "He shall have dominion from sea even unto sea:"(4) that is, "she hath filled the earth." Let us look then to the testimony of Asaph, as to what was done to the first vineyard, and what must be expected for the second vineyard, nay to the same vineyard. ... What then, the vineyard before the sight whereof a way was made, that she should fill the earth, at first was where? "Her shadow covered the mountains." Who are the mountains? The Prophets. Why did her shadow cover them? Because darkly they spake the things which were foretold as to come. Thou hearest from the Prophets, Keep the Sabbath-day, on the eighth day circumcise a child, offer sacrifice of ram, of calf, of he-goat. Be not troubled, her shadow doth cover the mountains of God; there will come after the shadow a manifestation. "And her shrubs the cedars of God," that is, she hath covered the cedars of God; very lofty, but of God. For the cedars are types of the proud, that must needs be overthrown. The "cedars of Lebanon," the heights of the world, this vineyard did cover in growing, and the mountains of God, all the holy Prophets and Patriarchs.
7. Then what? "Wherefore hast Thou thrown down her enclosure?" (ver. 12). Now ye see the overthrow of that nation of the Jews: already out of another Psalm ye have heard, "with axe and hammers they have thrown her down."(6) When could this have been done, except her enclosure had been thrown down. What is her enclosure? Her defence. For she bore herself proudly against her planter. The servants that were sent to her and demanded a recompense, the husbandmen they scourged, beat, slew: there came also the Only Son, they said, "This is the Heir; come, let us kill Him, and our own the inheritance will be:" they killed Him, and out of the vineyard they cast Him forth.(7) When cast forth, He did more perfectly possess the place whence He was cast forth. For thus He threatens her through Isaiah, "I will throw down her enclosure." Wherefore? "For I looked that she should bring forth grapes, but she brought forth thorns."(8) I looked for fruit from thence, and I found sin. Why then dost thou ask, O Asaph, "Why hast Thou thrown down her enclosure?" For knowest thou not why? I looked that she should do judgment, and she did iniquity. Must not her enclosure needs be thrown down? And there came the Gentiles when the enclosure was thrown down, the vineyard was assailed, and the kingdom of the Jews effaced. This at first he is lamenting, but not without hope. For of directing the heart he is now speaking, that is, for the "Assyrians," for "men directing," the Psalm is. "Wherefore hast Thou thrown down her enclosure: and there pluck off her grapes all men passing along the way." What is "men passing along the way?" Men having dominion for a time.
8. "There hath laid her waste the boar from the wood" (ver. 13). In the boar from the wood what do we understand? To the Jews a swine is an abomination, and in a swine they imagine as it were the uncleanness of the Gentiles. But by the Gentiles was overthrown the nation of the Jews: but that king who overthrew, was not only an unclean swine, but was also a boar. For what is a boar but a savage swine, a furious swine? "A boar from the wood hath laid her waste." "From the wood," from the Gentiles. For she was a vineyard, but the Gentiles were woods. But when the Gentiles believed, there was said what? "Then there shall exult all the trees of the woods."(1) "The boar from the wood hath laid her waste; and a singular wild beast hath devoured her." "A singular wild beast" is what? The very boar that laid her waste is the singular wild beast. Singular, because proud. For thus saith every proud one, It is I, it is I, and no other.
9. But with what profit is this? "O God of virtues turn Thou nevertheless" (ver. 14). Although these things have been done, "Turn Thou nevertheless." "Look from heaven and see, and visit this vineyard." "And perfect Thou her whom Thy right hand hath planted" (ver. 15). No other plant Thou, but this make Thou perfect. For she is the very seed of Abraham, she is the very seed in whom all nations shall be blessed:(2) there is the root where is borne the grafted wild olive. "Perfect Thou this vineyard which Thy right hand hath planted." But wherein doth He perfect? "And upon the Son of man, whom Thou hast strengthened to Thyself." What can be more evident? Why do ye still expect, that we should still explain to you in discourse, and should we not rather cry out with you in admiration, "Perfect Thou this vineyard which Thy right hand hath planted, and upon the Son of man" perfect her? What Son of man? Him "whom Thou hast strengthened to Thyself." A mighty stronghold: build as much as thou art able. "For other foundation no one is able to lay, except that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus."(3)
10. "Things burned with fire, and dug up, by the rebuke of Thy countenance shah perish" (ver. 16). What are the things burned with fire and dug up which shall perish from the rebuke of His countenance? Let us see and perceive what are the things burned with fire and dug up. Christ hath rebuked what? Sins: by the rebuke of His countenance sins have perished. Why then are sins burned with fire and dug up? Of all sins, two things are the cause in man, desire and fear(4) Think, examine, question your hearts sift your consciences, see whether there can be sins, except they be either of desire, or of fear. There is set before thee a reward to induce thee to sin, that is, a thing which delighteth thee thou doest it, because thou desirest it. But perchance thou wilt not be allured by bribes thou art terrified with menaces, thou doest it because thou fearest. A man would bribe thee, for example, to bear false witness. Countless cases there are, but I am setting before you the plainer cases, whereby ye may imagine the rest. Hast thou hearkened unto God, and hast thou said in thy heart, "What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but of his own soul suffer loss?"(5) I am not allured by a bribe to lose my soul(6) to gain money. He turneth himself to stir up fear within thee, he who was not able to corrupt thee with a bribe, beginneth to threaten loss, banishment, massacres, perchance, and death. Therein now, if desire prevailed not, perchance fear will prevail to make thee sin. ... What had evil fear done? It had dug up, as it were. For love doth inflame, fear doth humble: therefore, sins of evil love, with fire were lighted: sins of evil fear were dug up. On the one hand, evil fear doth humble, and good love doth light; but in different ways respectively. For even the husbandman interceding for the tree, that it should not be cut down, saith, "I will dig about it, and will apply a basket of dung."(7) The dug trench doth signify the godly humility of one fearing, and the basket of dung the profitable squalid state of one repenting. But concerning the fire of good love the Lord saith, "Fire I have come to send into the world."(8) With which fire may the fervent in spirit burn, and they too that are inflamed with the love of God and their neighbour. And thus, as all good works are wrought by good fear and good love, so by evil fear and evil love all sins are committed. Therefore, "Things set alight with fire and dug up," to wit, all sins, "by the rebuke of Thy countenance shall perish."
11. "Let Thy hand be upon the Man of Thy right hand, and upon the Son of Man whom Thou hast strengthened Thyself" (ver. 17). "And we depart not from Thee. ... Thou wilt quicken us, and Thy Name we will invoke" (ver. 18). Thou shalt be sweet to us, "Thou wilt quicken us." For aforetime we did love earth, not Thee: but Thou hast mortified our members which are upon the earth.(9) For the Old Testament, having earthly promises, seemeth to exhort that God should not be loved for nought, but that He should be loved because He giveth something on earth. What dost thou love, so as not to love God? Tell me. Love, if thou canst, anything which He hath not made. Look round upon the whole creation, see whether in any place thou art held with the birdlime of desire, and hindered from loving the Creator, except it be by that very thing which He hath Himself created, whom thou despisest. But why dost thou love those things, except because they are beautiful? Can they be as beautiful as He by whom they were made? Thou admirest these things, because thou seest not Him: but through those things which thou admirest, love Him whom thou seest not. Examine the creation; if of itself it is, stay therein: but if it is of Him, for no other reason is it prejudicial to a lover, than because it is preferred to the Creator. Why have I said this? With reference to this verse, brethren. Dead, I say, were they that did worship God that it might be well with them after the flesh: "For to be wise after the flesh is death:"(1) and dead are they that do not worship God gratis, that is, because of Himself He is good, not because He giveth such and such good things, which He giveth even to men not good. Money wilt thou have of God? Even a robber hath it. Wife, abundance of children, soundness of body, the world's dignity, observe how many evil men have. Is this all for the sake of which thou dost worship Him? Thy feet will totter,(2) thou wilt suppose thyself to worship without cause, when thou seest those things to be with them who do not worship Him. All these things, I say, He giveth even to evil men, Himself alone He reserveth for good men. "Thou wilt quicken us;" for dead we were, when to earthly things we did cleave; dead we were, when of the earthly man we did bear the image. "Thou wilt quicken us;" Thou wilt renew us, the life of the inward man Thou wilt give us. "And Thy Name we will invoke;" that is, Thee we will love. Thou to us wilt be the sweet forgiver of our sins, Thou wilt be the entire reward of the justified. "O Lord God of virtues, convert us, and show Thy face, and we shall be whole "(ver. 20).
1. For a Title this Psalm hath, "Unto the end for the presses, on the fifth of the Sabbath, a Psalm to Asaph himself." Into one title many mysteries are heaped together, still so that the lintel of the Psalm indicates the things within. As we have to speak of the presses, let no one expect that we shall speak of a vat, of a press, of olive baskets;(4) because neither the Psalm hath this, and therefore it indicateth the greater mystery. ...
No such thing did ye hear in this when it was reading. Therefore take the presses for the mystery of the Church, which is now transacting. In the presses we observe three things, pressure, and of the pressure two things, one to be laid up, the other to be thrown away. There takes place then in the press a treading, a crushing, a weight: and with these the oil strains out secretly into the vat,(5) the lees run openly down the streets.
Look intently on this great spectacle. For God ceaseth not to exhibit to us that which we may look upon with great joy, nor is the madness of the Circus to be compared with this spectacle. That belongeth to the lees, this to the oil. When therefore ye hear the blasphemers babble impudently and say that distresses abound in Christian times; for ye know that they love to say this: and it is an old proverb, yet one that began from Christian times," God gives no rain; count it to the Christians!"(6) Although it was those of old that said thus. But these now say also, "That God sends rain, count it to the Christians! God sends no rain; we sow not. God sends rain; we reap not!" And they wilfully make that an occasion of showing pride, which ought to make them more earnest in supplication, choosing rather to blaspheme than to pray.
When therefore they talk of such things, when they make such boasts, when they say these things, and say them in defiance, not with fear, but with loftiness, let them not disturb you. For suppose that pressures abound; be thou oil. Let the lees, black with the darkness of ignorance, be insolent; and let it, as though cast away in the streets, go gibing publicly: but do thou by thyself in thy heart, where He who seeth in secret will requite thee, strain off into the vat.
... To name some one thing about which even they murmur who make them: How great plunderings, they say, are there in our times, how great distresses of the innocent, how great robberies of other men's goods! Thus indeed thou takest notice of the lees, that other men's goods are seized; to the oil thou givest no heed, that to the poor are given even men's own. The old time had no such plunderers of other men's goods: but the old time had no such givers of their own goods. ...
2. Wherefore also "on the fifth of the sabbath"?(7) What is this? Let us go back to the first works of God, if perchance we may not there find somewhat in which we may also understand a mystery. For the sabbath is the seventh day, on which "God rested from all His works," intimating the great mystery of our future resting from all our works. First of the sabbath then is called that first day, which we also call the Lord's day; second of the sabbath, the second day; ... and the sabbath itself the seventh day. See ye therefore to whom this Psalm speaketh. For it seems to me that it speaketh to the baptized. For on the fifth day God from the waters created animals: on the fifth day, that is, on the "fifth of the sabbath," God said, "Let the waters bring forth creeping things of living souls."(1) See ye, therefore, ye in whom the waters have already brought forth creeping things of living souls. For ye belong to the presses, and in you, whom the waters have brought forth, one thing is strained out, another is thrown away. For there are many that live not worthily of the baptism which they have received. For how many that are baptized have chosen rather to be filling the Circus than this Basilica! How many that are baptized are either making booths in the streets, or complaining that they are not made!
But this Psalm, "For the presses," and "on the fifth of the sabbath," is sung "unto Asaph." Asaph was a certain man called by this name, as Idithun, as Core, as other names that we find in the titles of the Psalms: yet the interpretation of this name intimates the mystery of a hidden truth. Asaph, in fact, in Latin is interpreted "congregation." Therefore," For the presses, on the fifth of the sabbath," it is sung "unto Asaph," that is, for a distinguishing pressure, to the baptized, born again of water, the Psalm is sung to the Lord's congregation. We have read the title on the lintel, and have understood what it means by these "presses." Now if you please let us see the very house of the composition, that is, the interior of the press. Let us enter, look in, rejoice, fear, desire, avoid. For all these things ye are to find in this inward house, that is, in the text of the Psalm itself, when we shall have begun to read, and, with the Lord's help, to speak what He grants us.
3. Behold yourselves, O Asaph, congregation of the Lord. "Exult ye unto God our helper" (vet. 1). Ye who are gathered together to-day, ye are this day the congregation of the Lord, if indeed unto you the Psalm is sung, "Exult ye unto God our helper." Others exult unto the Circus, ye unto God: others exult unto their deceiver, do ye exult unto your helper: others exult unto their god their belly, do ye exult unto your God your helper. "Jubilate unto the God of Jacob." Because ye also belong to Jacob: yea, ye are Jacob, the younger people to which the elder is servant.(2) "Jubilate unto the God of Jacob." Whatsoever ye cannot explain in words, ye do not therefore forbear exulting: what ye shall be able to explain, cry out: what ye cannot, jubilate. For from the abundance of joys, he that cannot find words sufficient, useth to break out into jubilating; "Jubilate unto the God of Jacob."
4. "Take the Psalm and give the tabret" (ver. 2). Both "take," and "give." What is, "take"? what, "give"? "Take the Psalm, and give the tabret." The Apostle Paul saith in a certain place,(3) reproving and grieving, that no one had communicated with him in the matter of giving and receiving. What is, "in the matter of giving and receiving," but that which he hath openly set forth in another place.(4) "If we have sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your carnal things." And it is true that a tabret, which is made of hide, belongs to the flesh. The Psalm, therefore, is spiritual, the tabret, carnal. Therefore, people of God, congregation of God, "take ye the Psalm, and give the tabret:" take ye spiritual things, and give carnal. This also, is what at that blessed Martyr's table(5) we exhorted you, that receiving spiritual things ye should give carnal. For these which are built for the time, are needful for receiving the bodies either of the living or of the dead, but in time that is passing by. Shall we after God's judgment take up these buildings to Heaven? Yet without these we shall not be able to do at this time the things which belong to the possessing of Heaven. If therefore ye are eager in getting spiritual things, be ye devout in expending carnal things. "Take the Psalm, and give the tabret:" take our voice, return your hands.
5. "The pleasant psaltery,(6) with the harp." I remember that we once intimated to your charity the difference of psaltery and harp.(7) ... For heavenly is the preaching of the word of God. But if we wait for heavenly things, let us not be sluggish in working at earthly things; because, "the psaltery is pleasant," but, "with the harp." The same is expressed in another way as above, "Take the Psalm, and give the tabret:" here for "Psalm," is put "psaltery," for "tabret," "harp." Of this, however, we are admonished, that to the preaching of God's word we make answer by bodily works.
6. "Sound the trumpet" (ver. 3). This is, Loudly and boldly preach, be not affrighted! as the Prophet says in a certain place, "Cry out, and lift up as with a trumpet thy voice."(8) Sound the trumpet in the beginning of the month of the trumpet." It was ordered, that in the beginning of the month there should be a sounding of the trumpet: and this even now the Jews do in bodily sort, after the spirit they understand it not. For the beginning of the month, is the new moon: the new moon, is the new life. What is the new moon? "If any, then, is in Christ, he is a new creature."(1) What is, "sound the trumpet in the beginning of the month of the trumpet "? With all confidence preach ye the new life, fear not the noise of the old life.
7. "Because it is a commandment for Israel, and a judgment for the God of Jacob" (ver. 4). Where a commandment, there judgment. For, "They that have sinned in the Law, by the Law shall be judged."(2) And the very Giver of the commandment, the Lord Christ, the Word made flesh, saith, "For judgment I am come into the world, that they that see not may see, and they that see may be made blind."(3) What is, "That they that see not may see, they that see be made blind," but that the lowly be exalted, the proud thrown down? For not they that see are to be made blind, but those who to themselves seem to see are to be convicted of blindness. This is brought about in the mystery of the press, that they who see may not see, and they that see be made blind.
8. "A testimony in Joseph He made that" (ver 5). Look you, brethren, what is it? Joseph is interpreted augmentation. Ye remember, ye know of Joseph sold into Egypt: Joseph sold into Egypt(4) is Christ passing over to the Gentiles. There Joseph after tribulations was exalted, and here Christ, after the suffering of the Martyrs, was glorified. Thenceforth to Joseph the Gentiles rather belong, and thenceforth augmentation; because, "Many are the children of her that was desolate, rather than of her that hath the husband."(5) "He made it, till he should go out of the land of Egypt." Observe that also here the "fifth of the sabbath" is signified: when Joseph went out from the land of Egypt, that is, the people multiplied through Joseph, he was caused to pass through the Red Sea. Therefore then also the waters brought forth creeping things of living souls.(6) No other thing was it that there in figure the passage of that people through the sea foreshowed, than the passing of the Faithful through Baptism; the apostle is witness: for "I would not have you ignorant, brethren," he said, "that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea."(7) Nothing else then the passing through the sea did signify, but the Sacrament of the baptized; nothing else the pursuing Egyptians, but the multitude of past sins. Ye see most evident mysteries. The Egyptians press, they urge; so then sins follow close, but no farther than to the water. Why then dost thou fear, who hast not yet come, to come to the Baptism of Christ, to pass through the Red Sea? What is "Red "? Consecrated with the Blood of the Lord. Why fearest thou to come? The consciousness, perhaps, of some huge offences goads and tortures in thee thy mind, and says to thee that it is so great a thing thou hast committed, that thou mayest despair to have it remitted thee. Fear lest there remain anything of thy sins, if there lived any one of the Egyptians!(8)
But when thou shalt have passed the Red Sea, when thou shalt have been led forth out of thine offences "with a mighty hand and with a strong arm,"(9) thou wilt perceive mysteries that thou knowest not: since Joseph himself too, "when he came out of the land of Egypt, heard a language which he knew not." Thou shalt hear a language which thou knowest not: which they that know now hear and recognise, bearing witness and knowing. Thou shalt hear where thou oughtest to have thy heart:(10) which just now when I said many understood and answered by acclamation, the rest stood mute, because they have not heard the language which they knew not. Let them hasten, then, let them pass over, let them learn.
9. "He turned away from burdens his back" (ver. 6). Who "turned away from burdens his back," but He that cried, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden"?(11) In another manner this same thing is signified. What the pursuit of the Egyptians did, the same thing do the burdens of sins. As if thou shouldest say, From what burdens? "His hands in the basket did serve." By the basket are signified servile works; to cleanse, to manure, to carry earth, is done with a basket,(12) such works are servile: because "every one that doeth sin, is the slave of sin;" and "if the Son shall have made you free, then will ye be free indeed."(13) Justly also are the rejected things of the world counted as baskets, but even baskets did God fill with morsels; "Twelve baskets"(14) did He fill with morsels; because "He chose the rejected things of this world to confound the things that were mighty."(15) But also when with the basket Joseph did serve, he then carried earth, because he did make bricks. "His hands in the basket did serve."
10. "In tribulation thou didst call on Me, and I delivered thee" (ver. 8). Let each Christian conscience recognise itself, if it have devoutly passed the Red Sea,(16) if with faith in believing and observing it hath heard a strange language which it knew not, let it recognise itself as having been heard in its tribulation. For that was a great tribulation, to be weighed down with loads of sins. How does the conscience, lifted from the earth, rejoice. Lo, thou art baptized, thy conscience which was yesterday overladen, to-day rejoiceth thee. Thou hast been heard in tribulation, remember thy tribulation. Before thou camest to the water, what anxiety didst thou bear on thee! what fastings didst thou practise! what tribulations didst thou carry in thy heart! what inward, pious, devout prayers! Slain are thine enemies; all thy sins are blotted out. In tribulation thou didst call upon Me, and I delivered thee.
11. "I heard thee in the hidden part of the tempest." Not in a tempest of the sea, but in a tempest of the heart. "I proved thee in the water of contradiction." Truly, brethren, truly, he that was heard in the hidden part of the tempest ought to be proved in the water of contradiction. For when he hath believed, when he hath been baptized, when he hath begun to go in the way of God, when he hath striven to be strained into the vat, and hath drawn himself out from the lees that run in the street, he will have many disturbers, many insulters, many detractors, many discouragers, many that even threaten where they can, that deter, that depress. This is all the "water of contradiction." I suppose there are some here to-day, for instance, I think it likely there are some here whom their friends wished to hurry away to the circus, and to I know not what triflings of this day's festivity: perchance they have brought those person's with them to church. But whether they have brought those with them or whether they have by them not permitted themselves to be led away to the circus, in the "water of contradiction" have they been tried. Do not then be ashamed to proclaim what thou knowest, to defend even among blasphemers what thou hast believed. ... However much the bad that are aliens may rage, O that our own bad people would not help them!
Ye recollect what was said of Christ, that He was thus born for "the fall of many, and the rising again of many, and for a sign to be spoken against."(1) We know, we see: the sign of the Cross has been set up, and it has been spoken against. There has been speaking against the glory of the Cross: but there was a title over the Cross which was not to be corrupted. For there is a title in the Psalm,(2) "For the inscription of the title, corrupt thou not." It was a sign to be spoken against: for the Jews said, "Make it not, King of the Jews, but make it, that He said I am the King of the Jews."(3) Conquered was the contradiction; it was answered, "What I have written, I have written."
12. All this, from the beginning of the Psalm up to this verse, we have heard of the oil of the press. What remains is rather for grief and warning: for it belongs to the lees of the press, even to the end; perchance also not without a meaning in the interposition of the "Diapsalma." But even this too is profitable to hear, that he who sees himself already of the oil may rejoice; he that is in danger of running among the lees may beware. To both give heed, choose the one, fear the other.
"Hear, O My people, and I will speak, and will bear witness unto thee"(ver. 8). For it is not to a strange people, not to a people that belongs not to the press: "Judge ye," He saith, "between Me and My vineyard."(4)
13. "Israel, if thou shalt have heard Me, there shall not be in thee any new god" (ver. 9). A "new god" is one made for the time: but our God is not new, but from eternity to eternity. And our Christ is new, perchance, as Man,(5) but eternal God. For what before the beginning? And truly, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."(6) And our Christ Himself is the Word made flesh, that He might dwell in us.(7) Far be it, then, that there should be in any one a new god. A new god is either a stone or a phantom. He is not, saith one, a stone; I have a silver and a gold one. Justly did he choose to name the very costly things, who said, "The idols of the nations are silver and gold." Great are they, because they are of gold and silver; costly they are, shining they are; but yet, "Eyes they have, and see not"(8) New are these gods. What newer than a god out of a workshop? Yea, though those now old ones spiders' webs have covered over, they that are not eternal are new. So much for the Pagans.(9) ...
14. For if there be error in thee, Thou wilt not worship a strange god. If thou think not of a false god, thou wilt not worship a manufactured god: for "there will not" be in thee any strange god. "For I am." Why wouldest thou adore what is not? "For I am the Lord thy God" (ver. 10). Because "I am I that Am," and indeed "I Am" He saith, I that Am, over every creature: yet to thee what good have I afforded in time? "Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt." Not to that people alone is it said. For we all were brought out of the land of Egypt, we have all passed through the Red Sea; our enemies pursuing us have perished in the water. Let us not be ungrateful to our God; let us not forget God that abideth, and fabricate in ourselves a new god. "I, who led thee out of the land of Egypt," saith God. "Open wide thy mouth, and I will fill it." Thou sufferest straitness in thyself because of the new god set up in thy heart; break the vain image, cast down from thy conscience the feigned idol: "open wide thy mouth," in confessing, in loving: "and I will fill it," because with me is the fountain of life.
15. "And My people obeyed not My voice" (ver. 11). For He would not speak these things except to His own people. For, "we know that whatsoever things the Law saith, it saith to them that are in the Law."(1) "And Israel did not listen to Me." Who? To whom? Israel to Me. O ungrateful soul! Through Me the soul, by Me the soul called, by Me brought back to hope, by Me washed from sins! "And Israel did not listen to Me!" For they are baptized and pass through the Red Sea: but on the way they murmur, gainsay, complain, are stirred with seditions, ungrateful to Him who delivered them from pursuing enemies, who leads through the dry land, through the desert, yet with food and drink, with light by night and shade by day.
16. "And I let them go according to the affections of their heart" (ver. 12). Behold the press: the orifices are open, the lees run. "And I let them go," not according to the healthfulness of My commands; but, according to the affections of their heart: I gave them up to themselves. The Apostle also saith, "God gave them up to the desires of their own hearts."(2) "I let them go according to the affection of their heart, they shall go in their own affections." There is what ye shudder at, if at least ye are straining out into the hidden vats of the Lord if at least ye have conceived a hearty love for His storehouses, there is what ye shudder at. Some stand up for the circus, some for the amphitheatre, some for the booths in the streets some for the theatres, some for this, some for that, some finally for their "new gods;" "they shall go in their own affections."
17. "If My people would have heard Me, if Israel would have walked in My ways" (ver. 13). For perchance that Israel saith, Behold I sin, it is manifest, I go after the affections of my own heart: but what can I do?(3) The devil doth this. Demons do this. What is the devil? Who are the demons? Certainly thine enemies. "Unto nothing all their enemies I would have brought down; and on them that oppress them I would have sent forth My hand" (ver. 14). But now what have they to do to complain of enemies? Themselves are become the worse enemies. For how? What followeth? Of enemies ye complain, yourselves, what are ye?
18. "The enemies of God have lied unto Him" (ver. 15). Dost thou renounce? I renounce.(4) And he returns to what he renounced. In fact, what things dost thou renounce, except bad deeds, diabolical deeds, deeds to be condemned of God, thefts, plunderings, perjuries, manslayings, adulteries, sacrileges, abominable rites, curious arts.(5) ...
19. If therefore all those works "shall not possess the kingdom of God" (yea not the works, but "they that do such things;"(6) for such works there shall be none in the fire: for they shall not, while burning in that fire, be committing theft or adultery; but "they that do such things shall not possess the kingdom of God"); they shall not therefore be on the right hand, with those to whom it shall be said, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom:" because, "they that do such things shall not possess the kingdom of God." If therefore on the right they shall not be, there remaineth not but that they must be on the left. To those on the left what shall He say? "Go ye into eternal fire." Because, "their time shall be for ever."
20. Explain to us, then, saith one, how those that build wood, hay, stubble, on the foundation, do not perish, but "are saved, yet so as by fire"? An obscure question indeed that, but as I am able I tell you briefly. Brethren, there are men altogether despisers of this world, to whom nothing is pleasant that flows in the course of time, they cling not by love to any earthly works, holy, chaste, continent, just, perchance even selling all their goods and distributing to the poor, or "possessing as though they possessed not, and using this world as though not using it."(7) But there are others who cling to things allowed to infirmity with a degree of affection. He robs not another of his estate, but so loves his own, that if he loses it he will be disturbed. He does not covet another's wife, but so clings to his own, so cohabits with his own, as not therein to keep the measure prescribed in the laws, for the sake of begetting children. He does not take away other men's things, but reclaims his own, and has a law-suit with his brother. For to such it is said, "Now indeed there is altogether a fault among you, because ye have law-suits with each other."(8) But these very suits he orders to be tried in the Church, not to be dragged into court, yet he says they are faults. For a Christian contends for earthly things more than becomes one to whom the kingdom of Heaven is promised. Not the whole of his heart doth he raise upward, but some part of it he draggeth on the earth. ... Therefore if thou lovest thy possession, yet dost not for its sake commit violence, dost not for its sake bear false witness, dost not for its sake commit man-slaughter, dost not for its sake swear falsely, dost not for its sake deny Christ: in that thou wilt not for its sake do these things, thou hast Christ for a foundation. But yet because thou lovest it, and art saddened if thou losest it, upon the foundation thou hast placed, not gold, or silver, or precious stones, but wood, hay, stubble. Saved therefore thou wilt be, when that begins to burn which thou hast built, yet so as by fire. For let no one on this foundation building adulteries, blasphemies, sacrileges, idolatries, perjuries, think he shall be "saved through fire," as though they were the "wood, hay, stubble:" but he that buildeth the love of earthly things on the foundation of the kingdom of Heaven, that is upon Christ, his love of temporal things shall be burned, and himself shall be saved through the right(1) foundation.
21. ... "And He fed them of the fat of wheat, and from the rock with honey He satisfied them" (ver. 16). In the wilderness from the rock He brought forth water,(2) not honey. "Honey" is wisdom, holding the first place for sweetness among the viands of the heart. How many enemies of the Lord, then, that lie unto the Lord, are fed not only of the fat of wheat, but also from the rock with honey, from the wisdom of Christ? How many are delighted with His word, and with the knowledge of His sacraments, with the unfolding of His parables, how many are delighted, how many applaud with clamour! And this honey is not from any chance person, but "from the rock." But "the Rock was Christ."(3) How many, then, are satisfied with that honey, cry out, and say, It is sweet; say, Nothing better, nothing sweeter could be thought or said! and yet the enemies of the Lord have lied unto Him. I like not to dwell any more on matters of grief; although the Psalm endeth in terror to this purpose, yet from the end of it, I pray you, let us return to the heading: "Exult unto God our Helper." Turned unto God.(4)
1. This Psalm, like others similarly named, was so entitled either from the name of the man who wrote it, or from the explanation of that same name, so as to refer in meaning to the Synagogue, which Asaph signifies; especially as this is intimated in the first verse. For it begins, "God stood in the synagogue of gods" (ver. 1). Far however be it from us to understand by these Gods the gods of the Gentiles, or idols, or any creature in heaven or earth except men; for a little after this verse the same Psalm relates and explains what Gods it means in whose synagogue God stood, where it says, "I have said, Ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Most High: but ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." In the synagogue of these children of the Most High, of whom the same Most High said by the mouth of Isaiah, "I have begotten sons and brought them up, but they despised Me,"(6) stood God. By the synagogue we understand the people of Israel, because synagogue is the word properly used of them, although they were also called the Church. Our congregation, on the contrary, the Apostles never called synagogue, but always Ecclesia; whether for the sake of the distinction, or because there is some difference between a congregation whence the synagogue has its name, and a convocation whence the Church is called Ecclesia:(7) for the word congregation (or flocking together) is used of cattle, and particularly of that kind properly called "flocks,"(8) whereas convocation (or calling together) is more of reasonable creatures, such as men are. ... I think then that it is clear in what synagogue of gods God stood.
2. The next question is, whether we should understand the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, or the Trinity, "to have stood among the congregation of gods, and in the midst to distinguish the gods;" because Each One is God, and the Trinity itself is One God. It is not indeed easy to make this clear, because it cannot be denied that not a bodily but a spiritual presence of God, agreeable to His nature, exists with created things in a wonderful manner, and one which but a few do understand, and that imperfectly: as to God it is said, "If I shall ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I shall go down into hell, Thou art there also."(9) Hence it is rightly said, that God stands in the congregation of men invisibly, as He fills heaven and earth, which He asserts of Himself by the Prophet's mouth;(10) and He is not only said, but is, in a way, known to stand in those things which He hath created, as far as the human mind can conceive, if man also stands and hears Him, and rejoices greatly on account of His voice within. But I think that the Psalm intimates something that took place at a particular time, by God's standing in the congregation of gods. For that standing by which He fills heaven and earth, neither belongs peculiarly to the synagogue, nor varies from time to time. "God," therefore, "stood in the congregation of gods;" that is, He who said of Himself, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."(1) The cause too is mentioned; "but in the midst, to judge of the gods." ...
3. "How long will ye judge unrighteously, and accept the persons of the ungodly" (ver. 2); as in another place, "How long are ye heavy in heart?"(2) Until He shall come who is the light of the heart? I have given a law, ye have resisted stubbornly: I sent Prophets, ye treated them unjustly, or slew them, or connived at those who did so. But if they are not worthy to be even spoken to, who slew the servants of God that were sent to them, ye who were silent when these things were doing, that is, ye who would imitate as if they were innocent those who then were silent, "how long will ye judge unrighteously, and accept the persons of the ungodly?" If the Heir comes even now, is He to be slain? Was He not willing for your sake to become as it were a child under guardians? Did not He for your sake hunger and thirst like one in need? Did He not cry to you, "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart"?(3) Did He not "become poor, when He was rich, that by His poverty we might be made rich"?(4) "Give sentence," therefore, "for the fatherless(5) and the poor man, justify the humble and needy" (ver. 3). Not them who for their own sake are rich and proud, but Him who for your sake was humble and poor, believe ye to be righteous: proclaim Him righteous. But they will envy Him, and will not at all spare Him, saying, "This is the Heir, come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours." "Deliver," then, "the poor man, and save the needy from the hands of the ungodly" (ver. 4). This is said that it might be known, that in that nation where Christ was born and put to death, those persons were not guiltless of so great a crime, who being so numerous, that, as the Gospel says, the Jews feared them, and therefore dared not lay hands on Christ, afterwards consented, and permitted Him to be slain by the malicious and envious Jewish rulers: yet if they had so willed, they would still have been feared, so that the hands of the wicked would never have prevailed against Him. For of these it is said elsewhere, "Dumb dogs, they know not how to bark." Of them too is that said, "Lo, how the righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart."(6) He perished(7) as far as lay in them who would have Him to perish; for how could He perish by dying, who in that way rather was seeking again what had perished? If then they are justly blamed and deservedly rebuked, who by their dissembling suffered such a wicked deed to be committed; how must they be blamed, or rather not only blamed, but how severely must they be condemned, who did this of design and malice?
4.To all of them, verily, what follows is most fitly suited: "They did not know nor understand, they walk on in darkness" (ver. 5). "For if even they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory: "(8) and those others, if they had known, would never have consented to ask that Barabbas should be freed, and Christ should be crucified. But as the above- mentioned blindness happened in part unto Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in, this blindness of that People having caused the crucifixion of Christ, "all the foundations of the earth shall be moved." So have they been moved, and shall they be moved, until the predestined fulness of the Gentiles shall come in. For at the actual death of the Lord the earth was moved, and the rocks rent.(9) And if we understand by the foundations of the earth those who are rich in the abundance of earthly possessions, it was truly foretold that they should be moved, either by wondering that lowliness, poverty, death, should be so loved and honoured in Christ, when it is to their mind great misery; or even in that themselves should love and follow it, and set at nought the vain happiness of this world. So are all the foundations of the earth moved, while they partly admire, and partly are even altered. For as without absurdity we call foundations of heaven those on whom the kingdom of heaven is built up in the persons of saints and faithful; whose first foundation is Christ Himself, born of the Virgin, of whom the Apostle says, "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus;"(10) next the Apostles and Prophets themselves, by whose authority the heavenly place is chosen," that by obeying them we may be builded together with them; whence he says to the Ephesians, "Ye are built upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief corner stone." ... But the kingdom of earthly happiness is pride, to oppose which came the lowliness of Christ, rebuking those whom He wished by lowliness to make the children of the Most High, and blaming them: "I said, Ye are gods, ye are all the children of the Most High" (ver. 6). "But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes" (ver. 7). Whether to those He said this, "I said, Ye are gods," and to those particularly who to eternal life are unpredestined and to the other, "But ye shall die like men," etc., "and shall fall like one of the princes," in this way also distinguishing the gods; or whether He blames all together, in order to distinguish the obedient and those who received correction, "I said, Ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Most High:" that is, to all of you I promised celestial happiness, "but ye," through the infirmity of your flesh, "shall die like men," and through haughtiness of soul, "like one of the princes," that is, the devil, shall not be exalted, but "shall fall." As if He said: Though the days of your life are so few, that ye speedily die like men, this avails not to your correction: but like the devil, whose days are many in this world, because he dies not in the flesh, ye are lifted up so that ye fall. For by devilish pride it came to pass that the perverse and blind rulers of the Jews envied the glory of Christ: by this will it came to pass, and still does, that the lowliness of Christ crucified unto death is lightly esteemed in the eyes of them who love the excellence of this world.
5. And therefore that this vice may be cured, in the person of the Prophet himself it is said, "Arise, O God, and judge the earth" (ver. 8); for the earth swelled high when it crucified Thee: rise from the dead, and judge the earth. "For Thou shall destroy among all nations." What, but the earth? that is, destroying those who savour of earthly things, or destroying the feeling itself of earthly lust and pride in believers; or separating those who do not believe, as earth to be trodden under foot and to perish. Thus by His members, whose Conversation is in heaven, He judges the earth, and destroys it among all nations. But I must not omit to remark, that some copies have, "for Thou shalt inherit among all nations." This too may be understood agreeably to the sense, nor does anything prevent both meanings existing at once. His inheritance takes place by love, which in that He cultivates by His commands and gracious mercy, He destroys earthly desires.
1. Of this Psalm the title is, "A song of a Psalm of Asaph." We have already often said what is the interpretation of Asaph, that is, congregation. That man, therefore, who was called Asaph, is named in representation of the congregation of God's people in the titles of many Psalms. But in Greek, congregation. is called synagogue, which has come to be held for a kind of proper name for the Jewish people, that it should be called The Synagogue; even as the Christian people is more usually called The Church, in that it too is congregated.
2. The people of God, then, in this Psalm saith, "O God, who shall be like unto Thee?" (ver. 1). Which I suppose to be more fitly taken of Christ, because, being made in the likeness of men,(2) He was thought by those by whom He was despised to be comparable to other men: for He was even "reckoned among the unrighteous,"(3) but for this purpose, that He might be judged. But when He shall come to judge, then shall be done what is here said, "O God, who is like unto Thee?" For if the Psalms did not use to speak to the Lord Christ, that too would not be spoken which not one of the faithful can doubt was spoken unto Christ. "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom."(4) To him therefore also now it is said, "O God, who shall be like unto Thee?" For unto many Thou didst vouchsafe to be likened in Thy humiliation, even so far as to the robbers that were crucified with Thee: but when in glory Thou shalt come, "who shall be like unto Thee?" ...
3. "For lo Thine enemies have sounded, and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head" (ver. 2). He seems to me to signify the last days, when these things that are now repressed by fear are to break forth into free utterance, but quite irrational, so that it should rather be called a "sound," than speech or discourse. They will not, therefore, then begin to hate, but "they that hate Thee" will then "lift up the head." And not "heads," but "head;" since they are to come even to that point, that they shall have that head, which "is lifted up above all that is called God, and that is worshipped;"(5) so that in him especially is to be fulfilled, "He that exalteth himself shall be abased;"(6) and when He to whom it is said, "Keep not silence, nor grow mild, O God," shall "slay him with the breath of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming."(7) "Upon Thy people they have malignantly taken counsel" (ver. 3). Or, as other copies have it, "They have cunningly devised counsel, and have devised against Thy saints." In scorn this is said. For how should they be able to hurt the nation or people of God, or His saints, who know how to say, "If God be for us, who shall be against us?"(8)
4. "They have said, Come, and let us destroy them from a nation" (ver. 4). He has put the singular number for the plural: as it is said, "Whose is this cattle," even though the question be of a flock, and the meaning "these cattle." Lastly, other copies have "from nations," where the translators have rather followed the sense than the word. "Come, and let us destroy them from a nation." This is that sound whereby they "sounded" rather than spake, since they did vainly make a noise with vain sayings. "And let it not be mentioned of the name of Israel any more." This others have expressed more plainly," and let there not be remembrance of the name of Israel any more." Since, "let it be mentioned of the name" (memoretur nominis), is an unusual phrase in the Latin language; for it is rather customary to say, "let the name be mentioned" (memoretur nomen); but the sense is the same. For he who said, "let it be mentioned of the name," translated the Greek phrase. But Israel must here be understood in fact of the seed of Abraham, to which the Apostle saith, "Therefore ye are the seed of Abraham, according to the promise heirs."(1) Not Israel according to the flesh, of which he saith," Behold Israel after the flesh."
5. "Since they have imagined with one consent; together against Thee have they disposed a testament" (ver. 5): as though they could be the stronger. In fact, "a testament" is a name given in the Scriptures not only to that which is of no avail till the death of the testators, but every convenant and decree they used to call a testament. For Laban and Jacob made a testament,(2) which was certainly to have force between the living; and such cases without number are read in the words of God. Then he begins to make mention of the enemies of Christ, under certain proper names of nations; the interpretation of which names sufficiently indicates what he would have to be understood. For by such names are most suitably figured the enemies of the truth. "Idumaeans," for instance, are interpreted either "men of blood," or "of earth." "Ismaelites," are "obedient to themselves," and therefore not to God, but to themselves. "Moab," "from the father;" which in a bad sense has no better explanation, than by considering it so connected with the actual history, that Lot, a father, by the illicit intercourse procured by his daughter, begat him; since it was from that very circumstance he was so named.(3) Good, however, was his father, but as "the Law is good if one use it lawfully,"(4) not impurely and unlawfully. "Hagarens," proselytes, that is strangers, by which name also are signified, among the enemies of God's people, not those who become citizens, but those who persevere in a foreign and alien mind, and when an opportunity of doing harm occurs, show themselves. "Gebal," "a vain valley," that is, humble in pretence. "Amon," "an unquiet people," or "a people of sadness." "Amalech," "a people licking;" whence elsewhere it is said, "and his enemies shall lick the earth."(5) The "alien race," though by their very name in Latin, they sufficiently show themselves to be aliens, and for this cause of course enemies, yet in the Hebrew are called "Philistines," which is explained, "falling from drink," as of persons made drunken by worldly luxury. "Tyre" in Hebrew is called Sor; which whether it be interpreted straitness or tribulation, must be taken in the case of these enemies of God's people in that sense, of which the Apostle speaks, "Tribulation and straitness on every soul of man that doeth evil."(6) All these are thus enumerated in the Psalms: "The tabernacles of the Edomites, Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagarenes, Gebal, and Amon, and Amalech, and the Philistines with those who inhabit Tyre."
6. And as if to point out the cause why they are enemies of God's people, he adds, "For Assur came with them." Now Assur is often used figuratively for the devil, "who works in the children of disobedience,"(7) as in his own vessels, that they may assail the people of God. "They have holpen the children of Lot," he saith: for all enemies, by the working in them of the devil, their prince, "have holpen the children of Lot," who is explained to mean "one declining." But the apostate angels are well explained as the children of declension, for by declining from truth they swerved to become followers of the devil. These are they of whom the Apostle speaks: "Ye wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."(8) Those invisible(9) enemies are holpen then by unbelieving men, in whom they work in order to assail the people of God.
7. Now let us see what the prophetic spirit prays may fall upon them, rather foretelling than cursing. "Do thou to them," he saith, "as unto Madian and Sisera, as unto Jabin at the brook of Kishon" (ver. 9). "They perished at Endor, they became as the dung of the earth"(ver. 10). All these, the history relates, were subdued and conquered by Israel, which then was the people of God: as was the case also with those whom he next mentions: "Make their princes like Oreb and Zeb, and Zebee and Salmana"(ver. 11). The meaning of these names is as follows: Madian is explained a perverted judgment: Sisera, shutting out of joy: Jabin, wise.(10) But in these enemies conquered by God's people is to be understood that wise man of whom the Apostle speaketh, "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?"(11) Oreb is dryness, Zeb, wolf, Zebee, a victim, namely of the wolf; for he too has his victims; Salmana, shadow of commotion. All these agree to the evils which the people of God conquer by good. Moreover Kishon, the torrent in which they were conquered, is explained, their hardness. Endor, where they perished, is explained, the Fountain of generation, but of the carnal generation namely, to which they were given up, and therefore perished, not heeding the regeneration which leadeth unto life, where they shall neither marry nor be given in marriage,(1) for they shall die no more. Rightly then it is said of these: "they became as the dung of the earth," in that nothing was produced of them but fruitfulness of the earth. As then all these were in figure conquered by the people of God, as figures, so he prays that those other enemies may be conquered in truth.
8. "All their princes, who said, Let us take to ourselves the sanctuary of God in possession" (ver. 12). This is that vain noise, with which, as said above, Thy enemies have made a murmuring. But what must be understood by "the sanctuary of God," except the temple of God? as saith the Apostle: "For the temple of God is holy,(2) which temple ye are."(3) For what else do the enemies aim at, but to take into possession, that is, to make subject to themselves the temple of God, that it may give in to their ungodly wills?
9. But what follows? "My God, make them like unto a wheel" (ver. 13). This is fitly taken as meaning that they should be constant in nothing that they think; but I think it may also be rightly explained, make them like unto a wheel, because a wheel is lifted up on the part of what is behind,(4) is thrown down on the part of what is in front; and so it happens to all the enemies of the people of God. For this is not a wish, but a prophecy. He adds: "as the stubble in the face of the wind." By face he means presence; for what face hath the wind, which has no bodily features, being only a motion, in that it is a kind of wave of air? But it is put for temptation, by which light and vain hearts are hurried away.
10. This levity, by which consent is easily given to what is evil, is followed by severe torment; therefore he proceeds:--
"Like as the fire that burneth up the wood, and as the flame that consumeth the mountains" (ver. 14): "so shall Thou persecute them with Thy tempest, and in Thy anger shalt disturb them" (ver. 15). Wood, he saith, for its barrenness, mountains for their loftiness; for such are the enemies of God's people, barren of righteousness, full of pride. When he says, "fire" and "flame," he means to repeat under another term, the idea of God judging and punishing. But in saying, "with Thy tempest," he means, as he goes on to explain, "Thy anger:" and the former expression, "Thou shall persecute," answers to, "Thou shalt disturb." We must take care, however, to understand, that the anger of God is free from any turbulent emotion; for His anger is an expression for His just method of taking vengeance: as the law might be said to be angry when its ministers are moved to punish by its sanction.
11. "Fill their faces with shame, and they shall seek Thy name, O Lord" (ver. 16). Good and desirable is this which he prophesieth for them: and he would not prophesy thus, unless there were even in that company of the enemies of God's people, some men of such kind that this would be granted to them before the last judgment: for now they are mixed together, and this is the body of the enemies, in respect of the envy whereby they rival the people of God. And now, where they can, they make a noise and lift up their head: but severally, not universally as they will do at the end of the world, when the last judgment is about to fall. But it is the same body, even in those who out of this number shall believe and pass into another body (for the faces of these are filled with shame, that they may seek the name of the Lord), as well as in those others who persevere unto the end in the same wickedness, who are made as stubble before the wind, and are consumed like a wood and barren mountains. To these he again returns, saying, "They shall blush and be vexed for ever and ever" (ver. 17). For those are not vexed for ever and ever who seek the name of the Lord, but having respect unto the shame of their sins, they are vexed for this purpose, that they may seek the name of the Lord, through which they may be no more vexed.
12. Again, he returns to these last, who in the same company of enemies are to be made ashamed for this purpose, that they may not be ashamed for ever: and for this purpose to be destroyed in as far as they are wicked, that being made good they may be found alive for ever. For having said of them, "Let them be ashamed and perish," he instantly adds, "and let them know that Thy name is the Lord, Thou art only the Most Highest in all the earth" (ver. 18). Coming to this knowledge, let them be so confounded as to please God: let them so perish, as that they may abide. "Let them know," he says, "that Thy name is the Lord:" as if whoever else are called lords are named so not truly but by falsehood, for they rule but as servants, and compared with the true Lord are not lords; as it is said, I AM THAT I AM:(5) as if those things which are made are not, compared with Him by whom they are made. He adds, "Thou only art the Most Highest in all the earth:" or, as other copies have it, "over all the earth;" as it might be said, in all the heaven, or over all the heaven: but he used the latter word in preference, to depress the pride of earth. For earth ceaseth to be proud, that is, man ceaseth, to whom it was said, "Thou art dust;"(1) and "why is earth and ashes proud?"(2) when he saith that the Lord is the Most Highest above all the earth, that is, that no man's thoughts avail against those "who are called according to His purpose," and of whom it is said, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"(3)
1. This Psalm is entitled," For the winepresses." And, as you observed with me, my beloved (for I saw that you attended most closely), nothing is said in its text either of any press, or wine-basket, or vat, or of any of the instruments or the building of a winepress; nothing of this kind did we hear read; so that it is no easy question what is the meaning of this title inscribed upon it, "for the winepresses." For certainly, if after the title it mentioned anything about such things as I enumerated, carnal persons might have believed that it was a song concerning those visible wine- presses; but as it has this title, yet says nothing afterwards of those winepresses which we know so well, I cannot doubt that there are other wine-presses, which the Spirit of God intended us to look for and to understand here. Therefore, let us recall to mind what takes place in these visible winepresses, and see how this takes place spiritually in the Church. The grape hangs on the vines, and the olive on its trees. For it is for these two fruits that presses are usually made ready; and as long as they hang on their boughs, they seem to enjoy free air; and neither is the grape wine, nor the olive oil, before they are pressed. Thus it is with men whom God predestined before the world to be conformed to the image of His only-begotten Son,(5) who has been first and especially pressed in His Passion, as the great Cluster. Men of this kind, therefore, before they draw near to the service of God, enjoy in the world a kind of delicious liberty, like hanging grapes or olives: but as it is said, "My son, when thou drawest near to the service of God, stand in judgment and fear, and make thy soul ready for temptation:"(6) so each, as he draweth near to the service of God, findeth that he is come to the winepress; he shall undergo tribulation, shall be crushed, shall be pressed, not that he may perish in this world, but that he may flow down into the storehouses of God. He hath the coverings of carnal desires stripped off from him, like grape-skins: for this hath taken place in him in carnal desires, of which the Apostle speaks, "Put ye off the old man, and put on the new man."(7) All this is not done but by pressure: therefore the Churches of God of this time are called winepresses.
2. But who are we who are placed in the wine-presses? "Sons of Core." For this follows: "For the winepresses, to the sons of Core." The sons of Core has been explained, sons of the bald: as far as those could explain it to us, who know that language, according to their service due to God.(8) ...
3. But being placed under pressure, we are crushed for this purpose, that for our love by which we were borne towards those worldly, secular, temporal, unstable, and perishable things, having suffered in them, in this life, torments, and tribulations of pressures, and abundance of temptations, we may begin to seek that rest which is not of this life, nor of this earth; and the Lord becomes, as is written, "a refuge for the poor man."(9) What is, "for the poor man"? For him who is, as it were, destitute, without aid, without help, without anything on which he may rest, in earth. For to such poor men, God is present. For though men abound in money on earth, ... they are filled more with fear than with enjoyment. For what is so uncertain as a rolling thing? It is not unfitly that money itself is stamped round, because it remains not still. Such men, therefore, though they have something, are yet poor. But those who have none of this wealth, but only desire it, are counted also among rich men who will be rejected; for God takes account not of power, but of will. The poor then are destitute of all this world's substance, for even though it abounds around them, they know how fleeting it is; and crying unto God, having nothing in this world with which they may delight themselves, and be held down, placed in abundant pressures and temptations, as if in winepresses, they flow down, having become oil or wine. What are these latter but good desires? For God remains their only object of desire; now they love not earth. For they love Him who made heaven and earth; they love Him, and are not yet with Him. Their desire is delayed, in order that it may increase; it increases, in order that it may receive. For it is not any little thing that God will give to him who desires, nor does he need to be little exercised to be made fit to receive so great a good: not anything which He hath made will God give, but Himself who made all things. Exercise thyself to receive God: that which thou shalt have for ever, desire thou for a long time. ...
4. Wherefore, most beloved, as each can, make vows, and perform to the Lord God(1) what each can: let no one look back, no one delight himself with his former interests, no one turn away from that which is before to that which is behind: let him run until he arrive: for we run not with the feet but with the desire. But let no one in this life say that he hath arrived. For who can be so perfect as Paul?(2) Yet he saith, "Brethren, I count not myself to have attained."
5. If therefore thou feelest the passions of this world, even when thou art happy, thou understandest now that thou art in the winepress. ... If therefore the world smile upon thee with happiness, imagine thyself in the winepress, and say, "I found trouble and heaviness, and I did call upon the name of the Lord."(3) He said not, I found trouble, without meaning, of such a kind as was hidden: for some troubles are hidden from some in this world, who think they are happy while they are absent from God. "For as long as we are in the body," he saith, "we are absent from the Lord."(4) If thou wert absent from thy father, thou wouldest be unhappy: art thou absent from the Lord, and happy? There are then some who think it is well with them. But those who understand, that in whatever abundance of wealth and pleasures, though all things obey their beck, though nothing troublesome creep in, nothing adverse terrify, yet that they are in a bad case as long as they are absent from the Lord; with a most keen eye these have found trouble, and grief, and have called on the name of the Lord. Such is he who sings in this Psalm. Who is he? The Body of Christ. Who is that? You, if you will: all we, if we will: for Christ's Body is one. ...
"How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts" (ver. 1). He was in some tabernacles, that is, in winepresses: but he longed for other tabernacles, where is no pressure: in this he sighed for them, from these, he, as it were, flowed down into them by the channel of longing desire.
6. And what follows? "My soul longeth and faileth for the courts of the Lord" (ver. 2). It is not enough that it "longeth and faileth:" for what doth it fail? "For the courts of the Lord." The grape when pressed hath failed: but for what? So as to be changed into wine, and to flow into the vat, and into the rest of the storeroom, to be kept there in great quiet. Here it is longed for, there it is received: here are sighs, there joy: here prayers, there praises: here groans, there rejoicing. Those things which I mentioned, let no one while here turn from ashamed: let no one be unwilling to suffer. There is danger, lest the grape, while it fears the winepress, should be devoured by birds or by wild beasts. ...
7. Thou hast heard a groan in the winepress, "My soul longeth and faileth for the courts of the Lord:" hear how it holdeth out, rejoicing in hope: "My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God." Here they have rejoiced for that cause. Whence cometh rejoicing, but of hope? Wherefore have they rejoiced? "In the living God." What has rejoiced in thee? "My heart and my flesh." Why have they rejoiced? "For," saith he, "the sparrow hath found her a house, and the turtle-dove a nest, where she may lay her young" (ver. 3). What is this? He had named two things, and he adds two figures of birds which answer to them: he had said that his heart rejoiced and his flesh, and to these two he made the sparrow and turtle- dove to correspond: the heart as the sparrow, the flesh as the dove. The sparrow hath found herself a home: my heart hath found itself a home. She tries her wings in the virtues of this life, in faith, and hope, and charity, by which she may fly unto her home: and when she shall have come thither, she shall remain; and now the complaining voice of the sparrow, which is here, shall no longer be there. For it is the very complaining sparrow of whom in another Psalm he saith, "Like a sparrow alone on the housetop."(5) From the housetop he flies home. Now let him be on the housetop, treading on his carnal house: he shall have a heavenly house, a perpetual home: that sparrow shall make an end of his complaints. But to the dove he hath given young, that is, to the flesh: "the dove hath found a nest, where she may lay her young." The sparrow a home, the dove a nest, and a nest too where she may lay her young. A home is chosen as for ever, a nest is framed for a time: with the heart we think upon God, as if the sparrow flew to her home: with the flesh we do good works. For ye see how many good works are done by the flesh of the saints; for by this we work the things we are commanded to work, by which we are helped in this life. "Break thy bread to the hungry, and bring the poor and roofless into thy house; and if thou see one naked, clothe him:"(6) and other such things which are commanded us we work only through the flesh. ... We speak, brethren, what ye know: how many seem to do good works without the Church?(7) how many even Pagans feed the hungry, clothe the naked, receive the stranger, visit the sick, comfort the prisoner? how many do this? The dove seems, as it were, to bring forth young: but finds not herself a nest. How many works may heretics do not in the Church; they place not their young in a nest. They shall be trampled on and crushed: they shall not be kept, shall not be guarded. ...In that faith lay thy young: in that nest work thy works. For what the nests are, what that nest is, follows at once. Having said, And the dove hath found herself a nest, where she may lay her young; as if thou hadst asked, What nest? "Thy altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God." What is, "My King and my God?" Thou who rulest me, who hast created me.
8. ... "Blessed are those who dwell in Thy house" (ver. 4). ... If thou hast thy own house, thou art poor; if God's, thou art rich. In thy own house thou wilt fear robbers; of the house of God, He is Himself the wall. Therefore "blessed are those who dwell in Thy house." They possess the heavenly Jerusalem, without constraint, without pressure, without difference and division of boundaries; all have it, and each have all. Great are those riches. Brother crowdeth not brother: there is no want there. Next, what will they do there? For among men it is necessity which is the mother of all employments. I have already said, in brief, brethren, run in your mind through any occupations, and see if it is not necessity alone which produces them. Those very eminent arts which seem so powerful in giving help to others, the art of speaking in their defence or of medicine in healing, for these are the most excellent employments in this life; take away litigants, who is there for the advocate to help? take away wounds and diseases? what is there for the physician to cure? And all those employments of ours which are required and done for our daily life, arise from necessity. To plough, to sow, to clear fallow ground, to sail; what is it which produces all these works, but necessity and want? Take away hunger, thirst, nakedness; who has need of all these things? ... For instance, the injunction, "Break thy bread to the hungry." For whom could you break bread, if there were nobody hungry? "Take in the roofless poor into thy house."(1) What stranger is there to take in, where all live in their own country? What sick person to visit, where they enjoy perpetual health? What litigants to reconcile, where there is everlasting peace? What dead to bury, where there is eternal life? None of those honourable actions which are common to all men will then be your employment, nor any of these good works; the young swallows will then fly out of their nest.
What then? You have said already what we shall have; "Those who dwell in Thy house are blessed." Say now what they shall do, for I see not then any need to induce me to action. Even what I am now saying and arguing springs from some need. Will there be any such argument there to teach the ignorant, or remind the forgetful? Or will the Gospel be read in that country where the Word of God Itself shall be contemplated? ... "They shall be always praising Thee." This shall be our whole duty, an unceasing Hallelujah. Think not, my brethren, that there will be any weariness there: if ye are not able to endure long here in saying this, it is because(2) some want draws you away from that enjoyment. If what is not seen gives not so much joy here, if with so much eagerness under the pressure and weakness of the flesh we praise that which we believe, how shall we praise that which we see? "When death shall be swallowed up in victory, when this mortal shall have put on immortality,"(3) no one will say, "I have been standing a long time;" no one will say, "I have fasted a long time," "I have watched a long time." For there shall be great endurance, and our immortal bodies shall be sustained in contemplation of God. And if the word which we now dispense to you keeps your weak flesh standing so long, what will be the effect of that joy? how will it change us? "For we shall be like Him, since we shall see Him as He is."(4) Being made like Him, when shall we ever faint? what shall draw us off? Brethren, we shall never be satiated with the praise of God, with the love of God. If love could fail, praise could fail. But if love be eternal, as there will there be beauty inexhaustible, fear not lest thou be not able to praise for ever Him whom thou shalt be able to love for ever. For this life let us sigh.
9. But how shall we come thither? "Happy is the man whose strength is in Thee"(ver. 5). He knew where he was, and that by reason of the frailty of his flesh he could not fly to that state of blessedness: he thought upon his own burden, as it is said elsewhere; "For the corruptible body weighs down the soul, and the earthly house depresses the understanding which has many thoughts."(5) The Spirit calls upward, the weight of the flesh calls back again downward: between the double effort to raise and to weigh down, a kind of struggle ensues: this struggle goes toward the pressure of the wine-press. Hear how the Apostle describes this same struggle of the winepress, for he was himself afflicted there, there he was pressed. ... "Miserable man that I am: who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord."(1) ... "For I delight in the Law of God according to the inner man." But what shall I do? how shall I fly? how shall I arrive thither? "I see another law in my members," etc. ... And as in the words of the Apostle, that difficulty and that almost inextricable struggle is alleviated by the addition, "The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord;" so here, when he sighed in the ardent longing for the house of God, and those praises of God, and when a kind of despair arose at the feeling of the burden of the body and the weight of the flesh, again he awoke to hope, and said (ver. 5), "Blessed is the man whose taking up is in Thee."
10. What then does God supply by His grace to him whom He taketh hold of to lead him on? He goes on to say: "He hath placed steps(3) in his heart." ... Where does it place steps? "In his heart, in the valley of weeping" (ver. 6). So here thou hast for a winepress the valley of weeping, the very pious tears in tribulation are the new wine of those that love. ...They went forth "weeping," he says, "casting their seed."(4) Therefore, by the grace of God may upward steps be placed in thy heart. Rise by loving. Hence the Psalm "of degrees" is called. ... "He hath placed steps of ascent to the place which He hath appointed" (ver. 7). Now we lament; whence proceed our lamentations, but from that place where the steps of our ascent are placed? Whence comes our lamentation, but from that cause wherefore the Apostle exclaimed that he was a wretched man, because he saw another law in his members, warring against the law in his mind?(5) And whence does this proceed? From the penalty of sin. And we thought that we could easily be righteous as it were by our own strength, before we received the command; "but when the command came, sin revived; but I died,"(6) saith the Apostle. For a law was given to men, not such as could save them at once, but it was to show them in what severe sickness they were lying. ... But when sin was made manifest by the law given, sin was but increased, for it is both sin, and against the Law; "Sin," saith he, "taking occasion by the command, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence."(7) What does he mean by "taking occasion by the law"? Having received the command, men tried as by their own strength to obey it; conquered by lust, they became guilty of transgression of this very command also. But what saith the Apostle? "Where sin abounded, grace hath much more abounded;"(8) that is, the disease increased, the medicine became of more avail. Accordingly, my brethren, did those five porches of Solomon, in the middle of which the pool lay, heal the sick at all? The sick, says the Evangelist, lay in the five porches.(9) In the Gospel we have and read it. Those five porches are the law in the five books of Moses. For this cause the sick were brought forth from their houses that they might lie in the porches. So the law brought the sick men forth, but did not heal them: but by the blessing of God the water was disturbed, as by an Angel descending into it. At the sight of the water troubled, the one person who was able, descended and was healed. That water surrounded by the five porches, was the people of the Jews shut up in their law. The Lord came and disturbed this people, so that He Himself was slain. For if the Lord had not troubled the Jews by coming down to them, would He have been crucified? So that the troubled water signified the Passion of the Lord, which arose from His troubling the Jewish people. The sick man who believeth in this Passion, like him who descended into the troubled water, is healed thereby. He whom the Law could not heal, that is, while he lay in the porches, is healed by grace, by faith in the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. ...
11. "He shall give blessing," saith he, "who gave the law." ... Grace shall come after the law, grace itself is the blessing. And what has that grace and blessing given unto us? "They shall go from virtue to virtue." For here by grace many virtues are given. "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith, to another the gift of healing, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues, to another prophecy."(10) Many virtues, but necessary for this life; and from these virtues we go on to "a virtue." To what "virtue"? To "Christ the Virtue of God and the Wisdom of God."(11) He giveth different virtues in this place, who for all the virtues which are necessary and useful in this valley of weeping shall give one virtue, Himself. For in Scripture and in many writers four virtues are described useful for life: prudence, by which we discern between good and evil; justice, by which we give each person his due, "owing no man anything,"(12) but loving all men: temperance, by which we restrain lusts; fortitude, by which we bear all troubles. These virtues are now by the grace of God given unto us in the valley of weeping: from these virtues we mount unto that other virtue. And what will that be, but the virtue of the contemplation of God alone? ... It follows in that place: "They shall go from virtue to virtue." What virtue? That of contemplation. What is contemplation? "The God of Gods shall appear in Sion." The God of Gods, Christ of the Christians. ... When all is finished, that mortality makes necessary, He shall appear to the pure in heart, as He is, "God with God," The Word with the Father, "by which all things were made."
12. And again, from the thought of those joys he returns to his own sighs. He sees what has come before in hope, and where he is in reality. ... Therefore returning to the groans proper to this place, he saith, "O Lord God of virtues, hear my prayer: hearken, O God of Jacob" (ver. 8): for Jacob himself also Thou hast made Israel out of Jacob. For God appeared unto him, and he was called Israel,(1) seeing God. Hear me therefore, O God of Jacob, and make me Israel. When shall I become Israel? When the God of Gods shall appear in Sion.
13. "Behold, O God our defender. And look on the face of Thy Christ" (ver. 9). For when doth God not look upon the face of His Christ? What is this, "Look on the face of Thy Christ"? By the face we are known What is it then, Look on the face of Thy Christ? Cause Thy Christ to become known to all. Look on the face of Thy Christ: let Christ become known to all, that we may be able to go from strength to strength, that grace may abound, since sin hath abounded.
14. "For one day in Thy courts is better than a thousand" (ver. 10). Those courts they were for which he sighed, for which he fainted. "My soul longeth and faileth for the courts of the Lord:"(2) one day there is better than a thousand days. Men long for thousands of days, and wish to live here long: let them despise these thousands of days, let them long for one day, which has neither rising nor setting: one day, an everlasting day, to which no yesterday yields, which no to-morrow presses. Let this one day be longed for by us. What have we to do with a thousand days? We go from the thousand days to one day; let us hasten to that one day,(3) as we go from strength to strength.
15. "I have chosen to be cast away in the house of the Lord, rather than to dwell in the tents of sinners" (ver. 11). For he found the valley of weeping, he found humility by which he might rise: he knoweth that if he would raise himself he shall fall, if he humble himself he shall be exalted: he hath chosen to be cast away, that he may be raised up. How many beside this tabernacle of the Lord's winepress, that is beside the Catholic Church, wishing to be lifted up, and loving their honours, refuse to see the truth. If this verse had been in their heart, would they not cast away honours, and run to the valley of weeping, and hence find in their heart the way of ascent, and hence go from virtues to virtue, placing their hope in Christ, not in some man or another? A good word is this, a word to rejoice in, a word to be chosen. He himself chose to be cast away in the house of the Lord; but He who invited him to the feast, when he chose a lower place calleth him to a higher one, and saith unto him, "Go up higher."(4) Yet he chose not but to be in the house of the Lord, in any part of it, so that he were not outside the threshold.
16. Wherefore did he choose? ... "Because God loveth mercy and truth" (ver. 12). The Lord loveth mercy, by which He first came to my help: He loveth truth, so as to give to him that believeth what He has promised.(5) Hear in the case of the Apostle Paul, His mercy and truth, Paul who was first Saul the persecutor. He needed mercy, and he has said that it was shown towards him: "I who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, that in me Christ Jesus might show forth all longsuffering towards those who shall believe in Him unto life eternal."(6) So that, when Paul received pardon of such great crimes, no one should despair of any sins whatever being forgiven him. Lo! Thou hast Mercy. ... Lo, we see that Paul holdeth Him a debtor, having received mercy, demanding truth. The Lord, he says, shall give back in that day. What shall He give thee back, but that which He oweth thee? How oweth He unto thee? What hast thou given Him? "Who hath first given unto Him, and it shall be restored to him again."(5) The Lord Himself hath made Himself a debtor, not by receiving, but by promising: it is not said unto Him, Restore what Thou hast received: but, Restore what Thou hast promised. He hath shown mercy unto me, he saith, that He might make me innocent: for before I was a blasphemer and injurious: but by His grace I have been made innocent. But He who first showed mercy, can He deny His debt? "He loveth mercy and truth. He will give grace and glory." What grace, but that of which the same one said: "By the grace of God I am what I am"?(7) What glory, but that of which he said, "There is laid up. for me a crown of glory"?(8)
17. Therefore "the Lord will not withhold good from those who walk in innocence" (ver. 12). Why then, O men, are ye unwilling to keep innocence, except in order that ye may have good things? ... Thou seest wealth in the hands of robbers, of the impious, the wicked, the base; in the hands of scandalous and criminal men thou seest wealth: God giveth them these things on account of their fellowship in the human race, for the abundant overflowing of His goodness: who also "maketh His sun to rise upon the good and the evil, and causeth it to rain upon the righteous and upon the sinners."(1) Giveth He so much to the wicked, and keepeth nothing for thee? He keepeth something: be at ease, He who had mercy on thee when thou wast impious, doth He desert thee when thou hast become pious? He who gave to the sinner the free gift of His Son's death, what keepeth He for the saved through that death? Therefore be at ease. Hold Him a debtor, for thou hast believed in Him promising. What then remains for us here, in the winepress, in affliction, in hardship, in our present dangerous life? What remains for us, that we may arrive thither? "O Lord God of virtues, blessed is the man that putteth his hope in Thee."
1. ... Its title is, "A Psalm for the end, to the sons of Core."(3) Let us understand no other end than that of which the Apostle speaks: for, "Christ is the end of the law."(4) Therefore when at the head of the title of the Psalm he placed the words, "for the end," he directed our heart to Christ. If we fix our gaze on Him, we shall not stray: for He is Himself the Truth unto which we are eager to arrive, and He Himself the Way s by which we run. ...
2. The Prophet singeth to Him of the future, and useth words as it were of past time: he speaks of things future as if already done, because with God that which is future has already taken place. ... "Lord, Thou hast been favourable unto Thy land" (ver. 1); as if He had already done so. "Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob." His ancient people of Jacob, the people of Israel, born of Abraham's seed, in the promise to become one day the heir of God. That was indeed a real people, to whom the Old Testament was given; but in the Old Testament the New was figured: that was the figure, this the truth expressed. In that figure, by a kind of foretelling of the future, there was given to that people a certain land of promise, in a region where the people of the Jews abode; where also is the city of Jerusalem, whose name we have all heard of. When this people had received possession of this land, they suffered many troubles from their neighbouring enemies who surrounded them: and when they sinned against their God, they were given into captivity, not for destruction, but for discipline; their Father not condemning, but scourging them. And after being seized on, they were set free, and many times were both made captives, and set free; and they are now in captivity, and that for a great sin, even because they crucified their Lord. What then are we to understand them to mean by the words, "Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob"? ... This Psalm hath prophesied in song. "Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob." To whom did it speak? To Christ; for it said, "for the end, for the sons of Core:" for He hath turned away the captivity of Jacob. Hear Paul himself confessing: "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" He asked who it should be, and straightway it occurred to him, "The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.(6) Of this grace of God the Prophet speaketh to our Lord Jesus Christ, "Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob." Attend to the captivity of Jacob, attend, and see that it is this: Thou hast turned away our captivity, not by setting us free from the barbarians, with whom we had not met, but by setting us free from bad works, from our sins, by which Satan held sway over us. For if any one has been set free from his sins, the prince of sinners hath not whence he may hold sway over him.
3. For how did He turn away the captivity of Jacob? See, how that that setting free is spiritual, see how that it is done inwardly. "Thou hast forgiven," he saith, "the iniquity of Thy people: Thou hast covered all their sins" (ver. 2). Behold how He hath turned away their captivity, in that He hath remitted iniquity: iniquity held them captive; thy iniquity forgiven, thou art freed. Confess therefore that thou art in captivity, that thou mayest be worthy to be freed: for he that knoweth not of his enemy, how can he invoke the liberator? "Thou hast covered all their sins." What is, "Thou hast covered"? So as not to see them. How didst Thou not see them? So as not to take vengeance on them. Thou wast unwilling to see our sins: and therefore sawest Thou them not, because Thou wouldest not see them: "Thou hast covered all their sins." "Thou hast appeased all Thy anger: Thou hast turned Thyself from Thy wrathful indignation" (ver. 3).
4. And as these things are said of the future, though the sound of the words is past, it follows: "Turn us, O God of our salvation" (ver. 4). That which he had just related as if it were done, how prayeth he that it may be done, except because he wished to show that he had spoken as if of the past in prophecy? But that it was not yet done which he had said was done he showeth by this, that he prayeth that it may be done: "Turn us, O God of our salvation, and turn away Thine anger from us." Didst thou not say before: "Thou hast appeased all Thy anger, Thou has turned Thyself from Thy wrathful indignation"? How then now sayest thou, "And turn away Thine anger from us"? The Prophet answereth: These things I speak of as done, because I see them about to be done: but because they are not yet done, I pray that they may come, which I have already seen.
5. "Be not angry with us for ever" (ver. 5). For by the anger of God we are subject to death, and by the anger of God we eat bread on this earth in want, and in the sweat of our face.(1) This was Adam's sentence when he sinned: and that Adam was every one of us, for "in Adam all die;"(2) the sentence passed on him hath taken effect after him on us. For we were not yet ourselves, but we were in Adam: therefore whatever happened to Adam himself took effect on us also, so that we should die: for we all were in him. ... So far as this the sin of thy father hurts thee not, if thou hast changed thyself, even as it would not hurt thy father if he had changed himself. But that which our stock hath received unto its subjection to death, it hath derived from Adam. What hath it so derived? That frailty of the flesh, this torture of pains, this house of poverty, this chain of death, and snares of temptations; all these things we carry about in this flesh; and this is the anger of God, because it is the vengeance of God. But because it was so to be, that we should be regenerated, and by believing should be made new, and all that mortality was to be removed in our resurrection, and the whole man was to be restored in newness; "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive;"(2) seeing this the Prophet saith, "Be not angry with us for ever, nor stretch out Thy wrath from one generation to another." The first generation was mortal by Thy wrath: the second generation shall be immortal by Thy mercy. ...
6. "O God, Thou shall turn us again, and make us alive" (ver. 6). Not as if we ourselves of our own accord, without Thy mercy, turn unto Thee, and then Thou shall make us alive: but so that not only our being made alive is from Thee, but our very conversion, that we may be made alive. "And Thy people shall rejoice in Thee." To their own evil they shall rejoice in themselves: to their own good they shall rejoice in Thee. For when they wished to have joy of themselves, they found in themselves woe: but now because God is all our joy, he that will rejoice securely, let him rejoice in Him who cannot perish. For why, my brethren, will ye rejoice in silver? Either thy silver perisheth, or thou: and no one knows which first: yet this is certain, that both shall perish; which first, is uncertain. For neither can man remain here always, nor can silver remain here always: so too gold, so garments, so houses, so money, so broad lands, so, lastly, this light itself. Be not thou willing then to rejoice in these: but rejoice in that light which hath no setting: rejoice in that dawn which no yesterday precedes, which no to-morrow follows. What light is that? "I," saith He, "am the Light of the world."(3) He who saith unto thee, "I am the Light of the world," calls thee to Himself. When He calls thee, He converts thee: when He converts thee, He healeth thee: when He hath healed thee, thou shall see thy Converter, unto whom it is said, "Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation" (ver. 7): Thy salvation, that is, Thy Christ.(4) Happy is he unto whom God showeth His mercy. He it is who cannot indulge in pride, unto whom God showeth His mercy. For by showing him His salvation He persuadeth him that whatever good man has, he hath not but from Him who is all our good. And when a man has seen that whatever good he has he hath not from himself, but from his God; he sees that everything which is praised in him is of the mercy of God, not of his own deserving; and seeing this, he is not proud; not being proud, he is not lifted up; not lifting himself up, he falleth not; not falling, he standeth; standing, he clingeth fast; clinging fast, he abideth; abiding, he enjoyeth, and rejoiceth in the Lord his God. He who made him shall be unto him a delight: and his delight no one spoileth, no one interrupteth, no one taketh away. ... Therefore, what saith John in his Epistle? "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be."(5) Who would not rejoice, if suddenly while he was wandering abroad, ignorant of his descent, suffering want, and in a state of misery and toil, it were announced, Thou art the son of a senator: thy father enjoys an ample patrimony on your family estate; I bid thee return to thy father: how would he rejoice, if this were said to him by some one whose promise he could trust? One whom we can trust, an Apostle of Christ, hath come and said to us, Ye have a father, ye have a country, ye have an inheritance. Who is that father? "Beloved, we are the sons of God."(1) ... Therefore He(2) promised us to show Himself unto us. Think, my brethren, what His beauty is. All those beautiful things which ye see, which ye love, He made. If these are beautiful, what is He Himself? If these are great, how great is He? Therefore from these things which we love here, let us the more long for Him: and despising these things, let us love Him: that by that very love we may by faith purify our hearts, and His vision, when it cometh, may find our heart purified. The light which shall be shown unto us ought to find us whole: this is the work of faith now. This is what we have spoken here: "And grant us Thy salvation:" grant us Thy Christ, that we may know Thy Christ, see Thy Christ; not as the Jews saw Him and crucified Him, but as the Angels see Him, and rejoice.
7. "I will hearken" (ver. 8). The Prophet spoke: God spoke within in him, and the world made a noise without. Therefore, retiring for a little from the noise of the world, and turning himself back upon himself, and from himself upon Him whose voice he heard within; sealing up his ears, as it were, against the tumultuous disquietude of this life, and against the soul weighed down by the corruptible body, and against the imagination, that through the earthly tabernacle pressing down,(3) thinketh on many things,(4) he saith, "I will hearken what the Lord God speaketh in me;" and he heard, what? "For He shall speak peace unto His people." The voice of Christ, then, the voice of God, is peace: it calleth unto peace. Ho! it saith, whosoever are not yet in peace, love ye peace: for what can ye find better from Me than peace? What is peace? Where there is no war. What is this, where there is no war? Where there is no contradiction, where there is no resistance, nothing to oppose. Consider if we are yet there: consider if there is not now a conflict with the devil, if all the saints and faithful ones wrestle not with the prince of demons. And how do they wrestle with him whom they see not? They wrestle with their own desires, by which he suggests unto them sins: and by not consenting to what he suggests, though they are not conquered, yet they fight. Therefore there is not yet peace where there is fighting. ... Whatever we provide for our refreshment, there again we find weariness. Art thou hungry? one asks thee: thou answerest, I am. He places food before thee for thy refreshment; continue thou to use it, for thou hadst need of it; yet in continuing that which thou needest for refreshment, therein findest thou weariness. By long sitting thou wast tired; thou risest and refreshest thyself by walking; continue that relief, and by much walking thou art wearied; again thou wouldest sit down. Find me anything by which thou art refreshed, wherein if thou continue thou dost not again become weary. What peace then is that which men have here, opposed by so many troubles, desires, wants, wearinesses? This is no true, no perfect peace. What will be perfect peace? "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."(5) ... Persevere in eating much; this itself will kill thee: persevere in fasting much, by this thou wilt die: sit continually, being resolved not to rise up, by this thou wilt die: be always walking so as never to take rest, by this thou wilt die; watch continually, taking no sleep, by this thou wilt die; sleep continually, never watching, thus too thou wilt die. When therefore death shall be swallowed up in victory, these things shall no longer be: there will be full and eternal peace. We shall be in a City, of which, brethren, when I speak I find it hard to leave off, especially when offences wax common. Who would not long for that City whence no friend goeth out, whither no enemy entereth,(6) where is no tempter, no seditious person, no one dividing God's people, no one wearying the Church in the service of the devil; since the prince himself of all such is cast into eternal fire, and with him those who consent unto him, and who have no will to retire from him? There shall be peace made pure in the sons of God, all loving one another, seeing one another full of God, since God shall be all in all.(7) We shall have God as our common object of vision, God as our common possession, God as our common peace. For whatever there is which He now giveth unto us, He Himself shall be unto us instead of His gifts; this will be full and perfect peace. This He speaketh unto His people: this it was which he would hearken unto who said, "I will hearken what the Lord God will say unto me: for He shall speak peace unto His people, and to His saints, and unto those who turn their hearts unto Him." Lo, my brethren, do ye wish that unto you should belong that peace which God uttereth? Turn your heart unto Him: not unto me, or unto that one, or unto any man. For whatever man would turn unto himself the hearts of men, he falleth with them. Which is better, that thou fall with him unto whom thou turnest thyself, or that thou stand with Him with whom thou turnest thyself? Our joy, our peace, our rest, the end of all troubles, is none but God: blessed are "they that turn their hearts unto Him."
8. "Nevertheless, His salvation is nigh them that fear Him" (ver. 9). There were some even then who feared Him in the Jewish people. Everywhere throughout the earth idols were worshipped: devils were feared, not God: in that nation God was feared. But why was He feared? In the Old Testament He was feared, lest He should give them up to captivity, lest He should take away their land from them, lest He should destroy their vines with hail, lest He should make their wives barren, lest He should take away their children from them. For these carnal promises of God captivated their minds, which as yet were of small growth, and for these things God was feared: but He was near unto them who even for these things feared Him. The Pagan prayed for land to the devil: the Jew prayed for land to God: it was the same thing which they prayed for, but not the same to whom they prayed. The latter, though seeking what the Pagan sought, yet was distinguished from the Pagan; for He sought it of Him who had made all things. And God, who was far(1) from the Gentiles, was near(1) unto them: yet He had regard even to those who were afar off, and to those who were near, as the Apostle said: "And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off, and to them that were near."(2) Whom did He mean by those near? The Jews, because they(3) worshipped one God. Whom by those who were afar off? The Gentiles, because they had left Him by whom they were made and worshipped things which themselves had made. For it is not in space that any one is far from God, but in affections. Thou lovest God, thou art near unto Him. Thou hatest God, thou art far off. Thou art standing in the same place, both while thou art near and far off This it was, my brethren, which the Prophet had regard to: although he saw the mercy of God extending over all, yet he saw something especial and peculiar shown toward the Jews, and he saith, "Nevertheless, I will hearken what the Lord God shall say unto me: for He shall speak peace unto His people;" and His people shall be, not Judaea only, but it shall be gathered together out of all nations: "For He shall speak peace unto His hints, and to those who turn their hearts unto Him," and to all who shall turn their hearts unto Him from the whole world. "Nevertheless, His salvation shall be nigh them that fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land:" that is, in that land in which the Prophet was born, greater glory shall dwell, because Christ began to be preached from thence. Thence were the Apostles, and thither first they were sent; from thence were the Prophets, there first was the Temple, there sacrifice was made to God, there were the Patriarchs, there He Himself came of the seed of Abraham, there Christ was manifested, there Christ appeared; for from thence was the Virgin Mary who bore Christ. There He walked with His feet, there He worked miracles. Thirdly, He ascribed so great honour to that nation, that when a certain Canaanitish woman interrupted Him, praying for the healing of her daughter, He said unto her, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."(4) Seeing this, the Prophet saith, "that glory may dwell in our land."
9. "Mercy and truth have met together" (ver. 10). "Truth in our land," in a Jewish person, "mercy" in the land of the Gentiles. For where was truth? Where the utterances of God were. Where was mercy? On those who had left their God, and turned themselves unto devils. Did He look down s also upon them? Yea, as if He said, Call those who are fugitives afar off, who have departed far from Me: call them, let them find Me who seek them, since they themselves would not seek Me. Therefore, "Mercy and truth have met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Do righteousness, and thou shalt have peace; that righteousness and peace may kiss each other. For if thou love not righteousness, thou shalt not have peace; for those two, righteousness and peace, love one another, and kiss one another: that he who hath done righteousness may find peace kissing righteousness. They two are friends: thou perhaps willest the one, and not the other: for there is no one who wills not peace: but all will not work righteousness. Ask all men, Wiliest thou peace? With one mouth the whole race of man answers thee, I wish, I desire, I will, I love it. Love also righteousness: for these two, righteousness and peace, are friends; they kiss one another: if thou love not the friend of peace, peace itself will not love thee, nor come unto thee. For what great thing is it to desire peace? Every bad man longeth for peace. For peace is a good thing. But do righteousness, for righteousness and peace kiss one another, they quarrel not together. ...
10. "Truth hath sprung out of the earth, and righteousness hath looked down from heaven" (ver. 11). "Truth hath sprung out of the earth:" Christ is born of a woman. The Son of God hath come forth of the flesh. What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? Flesh. Ask whence Christ was born, and thou seest that "Truth is sprung out of the earth." But the Truth which sprang out of the earth was before the earth, and by It the heaven and the earth were made: but in order that righteousness might look down from heaven, that is, in order that men might be justified by Divine grace, Truth was born of the Virgin Mary; that He might be able to offer a sacrifice to justify them, the sacrifice of suffering, the sacrifice of the Cross. And how could He offer a sacrifice for our sins, except He died? How could He die, except He received from us that wherein He might die; that is, unless He received from us mortal flesh, Christ could not have died: because the Word of God dieth not, Godhead dieth not, the Virtue and Wisdom of God doth not die. How should He offer a sacrifice, a healing victim, if He died not? How should He die, unless He clothed Himself with flesh? How should He put on flesh, except truth sprang out of the earth?
11. On the same passage we may mention another meaning. "Truth is sprung out of the earth:" confession from man. For thou, O man, wast a sinner. O earth, who when thou hadst sinned didst hear the sentence," Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return,"(1) from thee let truth spring, that righteousness may look down from heaven. How doth truth spring from thee, whilst thou art a sinner, whilst thou art unrighteous? Confess thy sins, and truth shall spring out of thee. For if whilst thou art unrighteous, thou callest thyself just, how can truth spring out of thee? But if being unrighteous thou dost confess thyself to be so, "truth hath sprung out of the earth." ... What "righteousness hath looked down from heaven"? It is that of God, as though He said: Let us spare this man, for he spareth not himself: let us pardon him, for he himself confesseth. He is changed so is to punish his sin: I too will change, so as to set him free.
12. "For the Lord shall give sweetness, and our land shall give her increase" (ver. 12). ... He will give unto thee the sweetness of working righteousness, so that righteousness shall begin to delight thee, whom before unrighteousness delighted: so that thou who at first didst delight in drunkenness, shall rejoice in sobriety: and thou who didst at first rejoice in theft, so as to take from another man what thou hadst not, shalt seek to give to him that hath not that which thou hast: and thou who didst take delight in robbing, shalt delight now in giving: thou whom shows delighted, shalt delight in prayer; thou who didst delight in trifling and lascivious songs, shalt now delight in singing hymns to God; in running to church, thou who at first didst run to the theatre. Whence is that sweetness born to thee, except from this, that "God giveth sweetness"? For, behold, ye see what I mean: behold, I have spoken unto you the word of God, I have sown seed in your devout hearts, finding your souls furrowed, as it were, with the plough of confession: with devout attention ye have received the seed; think now upon the word which ye have heard, like those who break up the clouds, lest the fowls should carry away the seed, that what is sown may be able to spring up there: and unless God rain upon it, what profits it that it is sown? This is what is meant by "our land shall give her increase." May He with His visitations, in leisure, in business, in your house, in your bed, at meal-time, in conversation, in walks, visit your hearts, when we are not by. May the rain of God come and make to sprout what is sown there: and when we are not by, and are resting quietly, or otherwise employed, may God give increase to the seeds which we have sown, that remarking afterwards your improved characters, we too may rejoice for your fruit.
13. "For righteousness shall go before him, and he shall direct his steps in the way" (ver. 14): that righteousness, namely, which consists in confession of sins: for this is truth itself. For thou oughtest to be righteous towards thyself, and to punish thyself: for this is the beginning of man's righteousness, that thou shouldest punish thyself, who art evil, and God should make thee good. Therefore since this is the beginning of man's righteousness, this becomes a way for God, that God may come unto thee: there make for Him a way, in confession of sins. Therefore John too, when he was baptizing in the water of repentance, and would have men come to him repenting of their former deeds, spoke thus: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."(2) Thou didst please thyself in thy sins, O man: let that which thou wast displease thee, that thou mayest be able to become what thou wast not. Prepare the way of the Lord: let that righteousness go before, of confession of sins: He will come and visit thee, for now He hath where to place His steps, He hath whereby He may come to thee. Before thou didst confess thy sins, thou hadst shut up the way of God: there was no way by which He might come unto thee. Confess thy past life, and thou openest a way; and Christ shall come unto thee, and "shall place His steps in the way," that He may guide thee with His own footsteps.