Writings of Augustine. The Psalms.

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Expositions on the Book of Psalms.

by Saint Augustin, Bishop of Hippo.

Edited, with brief annotations, and condensed from the six volumes of the Oxford Translation,

by A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D., Editor of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, etc.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

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Psalm CXX. [5393]

1. The Psalm which we have just heard chanted, and have responded to with our voices, is short, and very profitable. Ye will not long toil in hearing, nor will ye toil fruitlessly in working. For it is, according to the title prefixed to it, "A song of degrees." [5394] Degrees are either of ascent or of descent. But degrees, as they are used in this Psalm, are of ascending...There are therefore both those who ascend and those who descend on that ladder. [5395] Who are they that ascend? They who progress towards the understanding of things spiritual. Who are they that descend? They who, although, as far as men may, they enjoy the comprehension of things spiritual: nevertheless, descend unto the infants, to say to them such things as they can receive, so that, after being nourished with milk, they may become fitted and strong enough to take spiritual meat...

2. When therefore a man hath commenced thus to order his ascent; to speak more plainly, when a Christian hath begun to think of spiritual amendment, he beginneth to suffer the tongues of adversaries. Whoever hath not yet suffered from them, hath not yet made progress; whoever suffereth them not, doth not even endeavour to improve. Doth he wish to know what we mean? Let him at the same time experience what is reported of us. Let him begin to improve, let him begin to wish to ascend, to wish to despise earthly, fragile, temporal objects, to hold worldly happiness for nothing, to think of God alone, not to rejoice in gain, not to pine at losses, to wish even to sell all his substance, and distribute it among the poor, and to follow Christ; let us see how he suffereth the tongues of detractors and of constant opponents, and--a still greater peril--of pretended counsellors, who lead him astray from salvation...He then, who will ascend, first of all prayeth God against these very tongues: for he saith, "When I was in trouble, I called on the Lord; and He heard me" (ver. 1). Why did He hear him? That He might now place him at the steps of ascent.

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3. "Deliver my soul, O Lord, from unrighteous lips, and from a deceitful tongue" (ver. 2). What is a deceitful tongue? A treacherous tongue, one that hath the semblance of counsel, and the bane of real mischief. Such are those who say, And wilt thou do this, that nobody doth? Wilt thou be the only Christian?...Some deter by dissuasion, others discourage yet more by their praise. For since such is the life that hath for some time been diffused over the world, so great is the authority of Christ, that not even a pagan ventureth to blame Christ. [5396] He who cannot be censured is read. They cannot contradict Christ, they cannot contradict the Gospel, Christ cannot be censured; the deceitful tongue turneth itself to praise as an hindrance. If thou praisest, exhort. Why dost thou discourage with thy praise?...Thou turnest thyself to another mode of dissuasion, that by false praise thou mayest turn me away from true praise; [5397] nay, that by praising Christ thou mayest keep me away from Christ, saying, What is this? Behold these men have done this: thou, perhaps, wilt not be able: thou beginnest to ascend, thou fallest. It seemeth to warn thee: it is the serpent, it is the deceitful tongue, it hath poison. Pray against it, if thou wishest to ascend.

4. And thy Lord saith unto thee, "What shall be given thee, or what shall be set before thee, against the deceitful tongue?" (ver. 3). What shall be given thee, that is, as a weapon to oppose to the deceitful tongue, to guard thyself against the deceitful tongue? "Or what shall be set before thee?" He asketh to try thee: for He will answer His own question. For He answers following up his own inquiry, "even sharp arrows of the Mighty One, with coals that desolate, or that lay waste" (ver. 4). They that desolate, or that lay waste (for it is variously written in different copies), are the same, because by laying waste, as ye may observe, they easily lead unto desolation. What are these coals? First, beloved brethren, understand what are arrows. The "sharp arrows of the Mighty One," are the words of God...What then are the "coals that lay waste?" It is not enough to plead with words against a deceitful tongue and unrighteous lips: it is not enough to plead with words; we must plead with examples also...The word coals, then, is used to express the examples of many sinners converted to the Lord. Thou hearest men wonder, and say, I knew that man, how addicted he was to drinking, what a villain, what a lover of the circus, or of the amphitheatre, what a cheat: now how he serveth God, how innocent he hath become! Wonder not; he is a live coal. Thou rejoicest that he is alive, whom thou wast mourning as dead. But when thou praisest the living, if thou knowest how to praise, apply him to the dead, that he may be inflamed; whosoever is still slow to follow God, apply to him the coal which was extinguished, and have the arrow of God's word, and the coal that layeth waste, that thou mayest meet the deceitful tongue and the lying lips.

5. "Alas, that my sojourning is become far off!" (ver. 5). It hath departed far from Thee: my pilgrimage hath become a far one. I have not yet reached that country, where I shall live with no wicked person; I have not yet reached that company of Angels, where I shall not fear offences. But why am I not as yet there? Because sojourning is pilgrimage. He is called a sojourner who dwells in a foreign land, not in his own country. And when is it far off? Sometimes, my brethren, when a man goeth abroad, he liveth among better persons, than he would perhaps live with in his own country: but it is not thus, when we go afar from that heavenly Jerusalem. For a man changeth his country, and this foreign sojourn is sometimes good for him; in travelling he findeth faithful friends, whom he could not find in his own country. He had enemies, so that he was driven from his country; and when he travelled, he found what he had not in his country. Such is not that country Jerusalem, where all are good: whoever travelleth away from thence, is among the evil; nor can he depart from the wicked, save when he shall return to the company of Angels, so as to be where he was before he travelled. There all are righteous and holy, who enjoy the word of God without reading, without letters: for what is written to us through pages, [5398] they perceive there through the Face of God. What a country! A great country indeed, and wretched are the wanderers from that country.

6. But what he saith, "My pilgrimage hath been made distant," are the words of those, that is, of the Church herself, who toileth on this earth. It is her voice, which crieth out from the ends of the earth in another Psalm, saying, "From the ends of the earth have I cried unto Thee. [5399] ...Where then doth he groan, and among whom doth he dwell? "I have had my habitation among the tents of Kedar." Since this is a Hebrew word, beyond doubt ye have not understood it. What meaneth, "I have had my habitation among the tents of Kedar"? "Kedar," as far as we remember of the interpretation of Hebrew words, signifieth darkness. "Kedar" rendered into Latin is called tenebræ. Now ye know that Abraham had two sons, whom indeed the Apostle mentioneth, [5400] and declareth them to have been types of the two covenants...Ishmael therefore was in darkness, Isaac in light. Whoever here also seek earthly felicity in the Church, from God, shall belong to Ishmael. These are the very persons who gainsay the spiritual ones who are progressing, and detract from them, and have deceitful tongues and unrighteous lips. Against these the Psalmist, when ascending, prayed, and hot coals that lay waste, and swift and sharp arrows of the Mighty One, were given him for his defence. For among these he still liveth, until the whole floor be winnowed: he therefore said, "I have dwelt among the tents of Kedar." The tents of Ishmael are called those of Kedar. Thus the book of Genesis hath it: thus it hath, that Kedar belongeth unto Ishmael. [5401] Isaac therefore is with Ishmael: that is, they who belong unto Isaac, live among those who belong unto Ishmael. [5402] These wish to rise above, those wish to press them downwards: these wish to fly unto God, those endeavour to pluck their wings...

7. "My soul hath wandered much" (ver. 6). Lest thou shouldest understand bodily wandering, he hath said that the soul wandered. The body wandereth in places, the soul wandereth in its affections. If thou love the earth, thou wanderest from God: if thou lovest God, thou risest unto God. Let us be exercised in the love of God, and of our neighbour, that we may return unto charity. If we fall towards the earth, we wither and decay. But one descended unto this one who had fallen, in order that he might arise. Speaking of the time of his wandering, he said that he wandered in the tents of Kedar. Wherefore? Because "my soul hath wandered much." He wandereth there where he ascendeth. He wandereth not in the body, he riseth not in the body. But wherein doth he ascend? "The ascent," he saith, "is in the heart." [5403]

8. "With them that hated peace, I was peaceful" (ver. 7). But howsoever ye may hear, most beloved brethren, ye will not be able to prove how truly ye sing, unless ye have begun to do that which ye sing. How much soever I say this, in whatsoever ways I may expound it, in whatsoever words I may turn it, it entereth not into the heart of him in whom its operation is not. Begin to act, and see what we speak. Then tears flow forth at each word, then the Psalm is sung, and the heart doeth what is sung in the Psalm...Who are they who hate peace? They who tear asunder unity. For had they not hated peace, they would have abode in unity. But they separated themselves, forsooth on this account, that they might be righteous, that they might not have the ungodly mixed with them. These words are either ours or theirs: decide whose. The Catholic Church saith, Unity must not be lost, the Church of God must not be cut off. [5404] God will judge afterwards of the wicked and the good...This we also say: Love ye peace, love ye Christ. For if they love peace, they love Christ. When therefore we say, Love ye peace, we say this, Love ye Christ. Wherefore? For the Apostle saith of Christ, "He is our peace, who hath made both one." [5405] If Christ is therefore peace, because He hath made both one: why have ye made two of one? How then are ye peace-makers, if, when Christ maketh one of two, ye make two of one? But since we say these things, we are peace-makers with them that hate peace; and yet they who hate peace, when we spake to them, made war on us for nought.

Footnotes

[5393] Lat. CXIX. [5394] In Greek it is written /=nabathmon. [5395] Gen. xxviii. 12. [5396] [Noteworthy.--C.] [5397] [The stratagem of those who glorify Jesus as a man, to deny His true character as Christ.--C.] [5398] [See p. 512, note 4, supra.--C.] [5399] Ps. lxi. 2. [5400] Gal. iv. 22, etc. [5401] Gen. xxv. 13. [5402] Gal. iv. 29. [5403] Ps. lxxxiv. 5. [5404] [Unity on Nicene Constitutions, not those of the Decretals. Augustin himself, to maintain unity, refused communion with the See of Rome, and died in that position.--C.] [5405] Eph. ii. 14. .


Psalm CXXI. [5406]

1. ...Let them "lift up their eyes to the hills whence cometh their help" (ver. 1). What meaneth, The hills have been lightened? The San of righteousness hath already risen, the Gospel hath been already preached by the Apostles, the Scriptures have been preached, all the mysteries have been laid open, the veil hath been rent, the secret place of the temple hath been revealed: let them now at length lift their eyes up to the hills, whence their help cometh..."Of His fulness have all we received," [5407] he saith. Thy help therefore is from Him, of whose fulness the hills received, not from the hills; [5408] towards which, [5409] nevertheless, save thou lift thine eyes through the Scriptures, thou wilt not approach, so as to be lighted by Him. [5410]

2. Sing therefore what followeth; if thou wish to hear how thou mayest most securely set thy feet on the steps, so that thou mayest not be fatigued in that ascent, nor stumble and fall: pray in these words: "Suffer not my foot to be moved!" (ver. 3). Whereby are feet moved; whereby was the foot of him who was in Paradise moved? But first consider whereby the feet of him who was among the Angels were moved: who when his feet were moved fell, and from an Angel became a devil: for when his feet were moved he fell. Seek whereby he fell: he fell through pride. Nothing then moveth the feet, save pride: nothing moveth the feet to a fall, save pride. Charity moveth them to walk and to improve and to ascend; pride moveth them to fall...Rightly therefore the Psalmist, hearing how he may ascend and may not fall, prayeth unto God that he may profit from the vale of misery, and may not fail in the swelling of pride, in these words, "Suffer not my feet to be moved!" And He replieth unto him, "Let him that keepeth thee not sleep." Attend, my beloved. It is as if one thought were expressed in two sentences; the man while ascending and singing "the song of degrees," saith, "Suffer not my foot to be moved:" and it is as if God answered, Thou sayest unto Me, Let not my feet be moved: say also, "Let Him that keepeth thee not sleep," and thy foot shall not be moved.

3. Choose for thyself Him, who will neither sleep nor slumber, and thy foot shall not be moved. God is never asleep: if thou dost wish to have a keeper who never sleepeth, choose God for thy keeper. "Suffer not my feet to be moved," thou sayest: well, very well: but He also saith unto thee, "Let not him that keepeth thee slumber." Thou perhaps wast about to turn thyself unto men as thy keepers, and to say, whom shall I find who will not sleep? what man will not slumber? whom do I find? whither shall I go? whither shall I return? The Psalmist telleth thee: "He that keepeth Israel, shall neither slumber nor sleep" (ver. 4). Dost thou wish to have a keeper who neither slumbereth nor sleepeth? Behold, "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep:" for Christ keepeth Israel. Be thou then Israel. What meaneth Israel? It is interpreted, Seeing God. And how is God seen? First by faith: afterwards by sight. If thou canst not as yet see Him by sight, see Him by faith...Who is there, who will neither slumber nor sleep? when thou seekest among men, thou art deceived; thou wilt never find one. Trust not then in any man: every man slumbereth, and will sleep. When doth he slumber? When he beareth the flesh of weakness. When will he sleep? When he is dead. Trust not then in man. A mortal may slumber, he sleepeth in death. Seek not a keeper among men.

4. And who, thou askest, shall help me, save He who slumbereth not, nor sleepeth? Hear what followeth: "The Lord Himself is thy keeper" (ver. 5). It is not therefore man, that slumbereth and sleepeth, but the Lord, that keepeth thee. How doth He keep thee? "The Lord is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand."...It seemeth to me to have a hidden sense: otherwise he would have simply said, without qualification, "The Lord will keep thee," without adding, "on thy right hand." For how? Doth God keep our right hand, and not our left? Did He not create the whole of us? Did not He who made our right hand, make our left hand also? Finally, if it pleased Him to speak of the right hand alone, why said He, "on the hand of thy right hand," and not at once "upon thy right hand"? Why should He say this, unless He were keeping somewhat here hidden for us to arrive at by knocking? For He would either say, "The Lord shall keep thee," and add no more; or if He would add the right hand, "The Lord shall keep thee upon thy right hand;" or at least, as He added "hand," He would say, "The Lord shall keep thee upon thy hand, even thy right hand," [5411] not "upon the hand of thy right hand."...

5. I ask you, how ye interpret what is said in the Gospel, "Let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth"? [5412] For if ye understand this, ye will discover what is your right hand, and what is your left: at the same time ye will also understand that God made both hands, the left and the right; yet the left ought not to know what the right doeth. By our left hand is meant all that we have in a temporal way; by our right hand is meant, whatever our Lord promiseth us that is immutable and eternal. But if He who will give everlasting life, Himself also consoleth our present life by these temporal blessings, He hath Himself made our right hand and our left...

6. Let us now come to this verse of the Psalm: "The Lord is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand" (ver. 5). By hand he meaneth power. How do we prove this? Because the power of God also is styled the hand of God...Whereof John saith, "He gave unto them power to become the sons of God." [5413] Whence hast thou received this power? "To them," he saith, "that believe in His Name." If then thou believest, this very power is given thee, to be among the sons of God. But to be among the sons of God, is to belong to the right hand. Thy faith therefore is the hand of thy right hand: that is, the power that is given thee, to be among the sons of God, is the hand of thy right hand...

7. "May the Lord shield thee upon the hand of thy right hand" (ver. 6). I have said, and I believe ye have recognised it. For had ye not recognised it, and that from the Scriptures, ye would not signify your understanding of it by your voices. [5414] Since then ye have understood, brethren, consider what followeth; wherefore the Lord shieldeth thee "upon the hand of thy right hand," that is, in thy faith, wherein we have received "power to become the sons of God," and to be on His right hand: wherefore should God shield us? On account of offences. Whence come offences? Offences are to be feared from two quarters, for there are two precepts upon which the whole Law hangeth and the Prophets, the love of God and of our neighbour. [5415] The Church is loved for the sake of our neighbour, but God for the sake of God. Of God, is understood the sun figuratively: of the Church, is understood the moon figuratively. Whoever can err, so as to think otherwise of God than he ought, believing not the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost to be of one Substance, has been deceived by the cunning of heretics, chiefly of the Arians. If he hath believed anything less in the Son or in the Holy Spirit than in the Father, he hath suffered an offence in God; he is scorched by the sun. Whoever again believeth that the Church existeth in one province only, [5416] and not that she is diffused over the whole world, and whoso believeth them that say, "Lo here," and "Lo there, is Christ," [5417] as ye but now heard when the Gospel was being read; since He who gave so great a price, purchased the whole world: he is offended, so to speak, in his neighbour, and is burnt by the moon. Whoever therefore erreth in the very Substance of Truth, is burnt by the sun, and is burnt through the day; because he erreth in Wisdom itself...God therefore hath made one sun, which riseth upon the good and the evil, that sun which the good and the evil see; but that Sun is another one, not created, not born, through whom all things were made; [5418] where is the intelligence of the Immutable Truth: of this the ungodly say, "the Sun rose not upon us." [5419] Whosoever erreth not in Wisdom itself, is not burnt by the sun. Whosoever erreth not in the Church, and in the Lord's Flesh, and in those things which were done for us in time, is not burnt by the moon. But every man although he believeth in Christ, erreth either in this or that respect, unless what is here prayed for, "The Lord is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand," is realized in him. He goeth on to say, "So that the sun shall not burn thee by day, nor the moon by night" (ver. 6). Thy defence, therefore, is upon the hand of thy right hand for this reason, that the sun may not burn thee by day, nor the moon by night. Understand hence, brethren, that it is spoken figuratively. For, in truth, if we think of the visible sun, it burneth by day: doth the moon burn by night? But what is burning? Offence. Hear the Apostle's words: "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" [5420]

8. "For the Lord shall preserve thee from all evil" (ver. 7). From offences in the sun, from offences in the moon, from all evil shall He preserve thee, who is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand, who will not sleep nor slumber. And for what reason? Because we are amid temptations: "The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil. The Lord preserve thy soul:" even thy very soul. "The Lord preserve thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth for evermore" (ver. 8). Not thy body; for the Martyrs were consumed in the body: but "the Lord preserve thy soul;" for the Martyrs yielded not up their souls. The persecutors raged against Crispina, [5421] whose birthday we are to-day celebrating; they were raging against a rich and delicate woman: but she was strong, for the Lord was her defence upon the hand of her right hand. He was her Keeper. Is there any one in Africa, my brethren, who knoweth her not? For she was most illustrious, noble in birth, abounding in wealth: but all these things were in her left hand, beneath her head. An enemy advanced to strike her head, and the left hand was presented to him, which was under her head. Her head was above, the right hand embraced her from above. [5422] ...

Footnotes

[5406] Lat. CXX. A sermon to the people on the day of St. Crispina. [5407] John i. 16. [5408] Here some earlier editions, as quoted by Ben., add, "Christ, the Son of the supreme Father, is therefore our salvation, and our help, and with the same Father He is God Almighty, and with Him ever abiding in respect of that He is. To those mountains, therefore, which I have mentioned, if thou lift not up thine eyes." There are several other additions in the commentary on his Psalm, which however seem scarcely worthy of St. Augustin, and for which no ms. authority is given. [5409] Al. "by which thou wilt not be admonished." [5410] [Familiarity with Scripture is the Catholic principle, here everywhere presupposed.--C.] [5411] Manum dexteram. [5412] Matt. vi. 3. [5413] John i. 12. [5414] [See p. 418, note 8, supra.--C.] [5415] Matt. xxii. 37-40. [5416] Donatists. [So in the Roman province, as asserted by the modern dogma of the Trent schism. A.N.F. vol. viii. p. 643.--C.] [5417] Matt. xxiv. 23. [5418] Nicene Creed. [5419] Wisd. v. 6. Here old editions add: "of this Sun Father Athanasius, the Bishop, hath thus beautifully spoken. `The Son of God,' he saith, `is of the Father alone, neither made, nor created, but begotten;'" whence Possevinus, Torrensis, and Bellarmine have quoted St. Augustin as assigning the Athanasian Creed to St. Athanasius. But Petavius, Theol. Dogm. de Trin. l. vii. c. 8, note 7, says the words have been foisted into St. Augustin, and in fact they are not in any of our mss. nor in the editions of Amsterdam, of Erasmus, and of Louvain.--Ben. Some other additions are mentioned in the Benedictine notes on this Psalm, but they seem of later date than St. Augustin. [5420] 2 Cor. xi. 29. [5421] St. Crispina. [5422] Song of Sol. ii. 6. [He thus concludes: "Although the Psalm is short, yet our exposition and discourse on it hath been long. Imagine, my brethren, that owing to the birthday of the blessed Crispina I have invited you, and have been immoderate in protracting the banquet. Might not this have happened to you, if any military officer had invited you, and compel you to drink at his table without measure? May it be lawful for us to do this in a sacred exposition, that ye may be inebriated and satisfied to the full."--C.] .


Psalm CXXII. [5423]

1. As impure love inflames the mind, and summons the soul destined to perish to lust for earthly things, and to follow what is perishable, and precipitates it into lowest places, and sinks it into the abyss; so holy love raiseth us to heavenly things, and inflames us to what is eternal, and excites the soul to those things which do not pass away nor die, and from the abyss of hell raiseth it to heaven. Yet all love hath a power of its own, nor can love in the soul of the lover be idle; it must needs draw it on. But dost thou wish to know of what sort love is? See whither it leadeth...

2. This Psalm is a "Song of degrees;" [5424] as we have often said to you, for these degrees [5425] are not of descent, but of ascent. He therefore longeth to ascend. And whither doth he wish to ascend, save into heaven? What meaneth, into heaven? Doth he wish to ascend that he may be with the sun, moon, and stars? Far be it! But there is in heaven the eternal Jerusalem, where are our fellow-citizens, the Angels: we are wanderers on earth from these our fellow-citizens. We sigh in our pilgrimage; we shall rejoice in the city. But we find companions in this pilgrimage, who have already seen this city herself; who summon us to run towards her. At these he also rejoiceth, who saith, "I rejoiced in them who said unto me, We will go into the house of the Lord" (ver. 1)...

3. "Our feet were standing in the courts of Jerusalem" (ver. 2)...Consider what thou wilt be there; and although thou art as yet on the road, place this before thine eyes, as if thou wert already standing, as if thou wert already rejoicing without ceasing among the Angels; as if that which is written were realized in thee: "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house; they will be alway praising Thee." [5426] "Our feet stood in the courts of Jerusalem." What Jerusalem? This earthly Jerusalem also is wont to be called by the name: though this Jerusalem is but the shadow of that. And what great thing is it to stand in this Jerusalem, since this Jerusalem hath not been able to stand, but hath been turned into a ruin? Doth then the Holy Spirit pronounce this, out of the kindled heart of the loving Psalmist, as a great thing? Is not it that Jerusalem, unto whom the Lord said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets," etc. [5427] What great thing then did he desire; to stand among those who slew the Prophets, and stoned them that were sent unto them? God forbid that he should think of that Jerusalem, who so loveth, who so burneth, who so longeth to reach that Jerusalem, "our Mother," [5428] of which the Apostle saith, that She is "eternal in the Heavens." [5429]

4. "Jerusalem that is being built as a city" (ver. 3). Brethren, when David was uttering these words, that city had been finished, it was not being built. It is some city he speaketh of, therefore, which is now being built, unto which living stones run in faith, of whom Peter saith, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house;" [5430] that is, the holy temple of God. What meaneth, ye are built up as lively stones? Thou livest, if thou believest: but if thou believest, thou art made a temple of God; for the Apostle Paul saith, "The temple of God is holy, which temple are ye." [5431] This city is therefore now in building; stones are cut down from the hills by the hands of those who preach truth, they are squared that they may enter into an everlasting structure. There are still many stones in the hands of the Builder: let them not fall from His hands, that they may be built perfect into the structure of the temple. This, then, is the "Jerusalem that is being built as a city:" Christ is its foundation. The Apostle Paul saith, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus." [5432] When a foundation is laid on earth, the walls are built above, and the weight of the walls tends towards the lowest parts, because the foundation is laid at the bottom. But if our foundation be in heaven, let us be built towards heaven. Bodies have built the edifice of this basilica, [5433] the ample size of which ye see; and since bodies have built it, they placed the foundation lowest: but since we are spiritually built, our foundation is placed at the highest point. Let us therefore run thither, where we may be built...But what Jerusalem do I speak of? Is it that, he asketh, which ye see standing, raised on the structure of its walls? No; but the "Jerusalem which is being built as a city." Why not, a city, instead of, "as a city;" save because those walls, so built in Jerusalem, were a visible city, as it is by all called a city, literally; but this is being built "as a city," for they who enter it are like living stones; for they are not literally stones? Just as they are called stones, and yet are not so: so the city styled "as a city," is not a city; for he said, "is being built." For by the word building, he meant to be understood the structure, and cohesion of bodies and walls. For a city [5434] is properly understood of the men that inhabit there. But in saying "is building," he showed us that he meant a town. And since a spiritual building hath some resemblance to a bodily building, therefore it "is building as a city."

5. But let the following words remove all doubt that we ought not to understand carnally the words, "Whose partaking is in the same." [5435] ...What meaneth, "the same"? What is ever in the same state; not what is now in one state, now in another. What then is, "the same," save that which is? What is that which is? That which is everlasting...Behold "The Same: I Am that I Am, I AM." Thou canst not understand; it is much to understand, it is much to apprehend. Remember what He, whom thou canst not comprehend, became for thee. Remember the flesh of Christ, towards which thou wast raised when sick, and when left half dead from the wounds of robbers, that thou mightest be brought to the Inn, and there mightest be cured. [5436] Let us therefore run unto the Lord's house, and reach the city where our feet may stand; the city "that is building as a city: whose partaking is in The Same."...

6. That city "which partaketh in the same," partaketh in its stability: justly therefore, since he is made a sharer in its stability, saith he who runneth thither. For all things there stand where nought passeth by. Dost thou too wish to stand there and not to pass by? Run thither. Nobody hath "the same" from himself...

7. "For thither the tribes went up" (ver. 4). We were asking whither he ascendeth who hath fallen; for we said, it is the voice of a man who is ascending, of the Church rising. Can we tell whither it ascendeth? whither it goeth? whither it is raised? "Thither," he saith, "the tribes went up." Whither? To "partaking in the Same." But what are the tribes? Many know, many know not. For if we use the word "curies" in its proper sense, we understand nothing, save the "curies" which exist in each particular city, whence the terms "curiales" and "decuriones," that is, the citizens of a curia or a decuria; and ye know that each city hath such curies. But there are, or were at one time, curies of the people in those cities, and one city hath many curies, as Rome hath thirty-five curies of the people. [5437] These are called tribes. The people of Israel had twelve of these, according to the sons of Jacob.

8. There were twelve tribes of the people of Israel: but there were good, and there were bad among them. For how evil were those tribes which crucified our Lord! How good those who recognised the Lord! Those tribes then who crucified the Lord, were tribes of the devil. When therefore he here said, "For thither the tribes go up;" that thou mightest not understand all the tribes, he added, "even the tribes of the Lord."...What are the tribes of the Lord? "A testimony unto Israel." Hear, brethren, what this meaneth. "A testimony to Israel:" that is, whereby it may be known that it is truly Israel...He is such in whom there is no guile. And what did the Lord say, when He saw Nathanael? "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile." [5438] If therefore he is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile, those tribes go up to Jerusalem, in whom there is no guile....Wherefore do they go up? "To confess unto Thy Name, O Lord." It could not be more nobly expressed. As pride presumeth, so doth humility confess. As he is a presumer, who wishes to appear what he is not, so is he a confessor, who does not wish that to be seen which himself is, and loves That which He is. To this therefore do Israelites go up, in whom is no guile, because they are truly Israelites, because in them is the testimony of Israel.

9. "For there were seated seats for judgment" (ver. 5). This is a wonderful riddle, a wonderful question, if it be not understood. He calleth those seats, which the Greeks call thrones. The Greeks call chairs thrones, as a term of honour. Therefore, my brethren, it is not wonderful if even we should sit on seats, or chairs; but that these seats themselves should sit, when shall we be able to understand this? As if some one should say: let stools or chairs sit here. We sit on chairs, we sit on seats, we sit on stools; the seats themselves sit not. What then meaneth this, "For there were seated seats for judgment"?...If therefore heaven be the seat of God, and the Apostles are heaven; they themselves are become the seat of God, the throne of God. It is said in another passage: [5439] "The soul of the righteous is the throne of wisdom." A great truth, a great truth, is declared; the throne of wisdom is the soul of the righteous; that is, wisdom sitteth in the soul of the righteous as it were in her chair, in her throne, and thence judgeth whatsoever she judgeth. There were therefore thrones of wisdom, and therefore the Lord said unto them, "Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." [5440] So they also shall sit upon twelve seats, and they are themselves the seats of God; for of them it is said, "For there were seated seats." Who sat? "Seats." And who are the seats? They of whom it is said, "The soul of the righteous is the seat of wisdom." Who are the seats? The heavens. Who are the heavens? Heaven. What is heaven? That of which the Lord saith, "Heaven is My seat." [5441] The righteous then themselves are the seats; and have seats; and seats shall be seated in that Jerusalem. For what purpose? "For judgment." Ye shall sit, He saith, on twelve thrones, O ye thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Judging whom? Those who are below on earth. Who will judge? They who have become heaven. But they who shall be judged, will be divided into two bodies: one will be on the right hand, the other on the left...

10. He at once addeth, as unto the seats themselves, "Enquire ye the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem" (ver. 6). O ye seats, who now sit unto judgment, and are made the seats of the Lord who judgeth (since they who judge, enquire; they who are judged, are enquired of), "Enquire ye," he saith, "the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem." What will they find by asking? That some have done deeds of charity, that others have not. Those whom they shall find to have done deeds of charity, they will summon them unto Jerusalem; for these deeds are "for the peace of Jerusalem." Love is a powerful thing, my brethren, love is a powerful thing. Do ye wish to see how powerful a thing love is?...If charity be destitute of means, so that it cannot find what to bestow upon the poor, let it love: let it give "one cup of cold water;" [5442] as much shall be laid to its account, as to Zaccheus who gave half his patrimony to the poor. [5443] Wherefore this? The one gave so little, the other so much, and shall so much be imputed to the former? Just so much. For though his resources are unequal, his charity is not unequal.

11. ..."And plenteousness," he addeth, "for them that love thee." He addresses Jerusalem herself, They have plenteousness who love her. Plenteousness after want: here they are destitute, there they are affluent; here they are weak, there they are strong; here they want, there they are rich. How have they become rich? Because they gave here what they received from God for a season, and received there what God will afterwards pay back for evermore. Here, my brethren, even rich men are poor. It is a good thing for a rich man to acknowledge himself poor: for if he think himself full, that is mere puffing, not plenteousness. Let him own himself empty, that he may be filled. What hath he? Gold. What hath he not yet? Everlasting life. Let him consider what he hath, and see what he hath not. Brethren, of that which he hath, let him give, that he may receive what he hath not; let him purchase out of that which he hath, that which he hath not, "and plenteousness for them that love thee."

12. "Peace be in thy strength" (ver. 7). O Jerusalem, O city, who art being built as a city, whose partaking is in "The Same:" "Peace be in thy strength:" peace be in thy love; for thy strength is thy love. Hear the Song of songs: "Love is strong as death." [5444] A great saying that, brethren, "Love is strong as death." The strength of charity could not be expressed in grander terms than these, "Love is strong as death." For who resisteth death, my brethren? Consider, my brethren. Fire, waves, the sword, are resisted: we resist principalities, we resist kings; death cometh alone, who resisteth it? There is nought more powerful than it. Charity therefore is compared with its strength, in the words, "Love is strong as death." And since this love slayeth what we have been, that we may be what we were not; love createth a sort of death in us. This death he had died who said, "The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world:" [5445] this death they had died unto whom he said, "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." [5446] Love is strong as death...

13. Thus as he was here speaking of charity, he addeth, "For my brethren and companions' sake, I spoke peace of thee" (ver. 8). O Jerusalem, thou city whose partaking is in The Same, I in this life and on this earth, I poor, he saith, I a stranger and groaning, not as yet enjoying to the full thy peace, and preaching thy peace; preach it not for my own sake, as the heretics, who seeking their own glory, say, Peace be with you: and have not the peace which they preach to the people. For if they had peace, they would not tear asunder unity. "I," he saith, "spoke peace of thee." But wherefore? "For my brethren and companions' sake:" not for my own honour, not for my own money, not for my life; for, "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." But, "I spoke peace of thee, for my brethren and companions' sakes." For he wished to depart, and to be with Christ: but, since he must preach these things to his companions and his brethren, to abide in the flesh, he addeth, is more needful for you. [5447]

14. "Because of the house of the Lord my God, I have sought good things for thee" (ver. 9). Not on my own account have sought good things, for then I should not seek for thee, but for myself; and so should I not have them, because I should not seek them for thee; but, "Because of the house of the Lord my God," because of the Church, because of the Saints, because of the pilgrims; because of the poor, that they may go up; because we say to them, we will go into the house of the Lord: because of the house of the Lord my God itself, I have sought good things for Thee. These long and needful words gather ye, brethren, eat them, drink them, and grow strong, run, and seize.

Footnotes

[5423] Lat. CXXI. A discourse to the common people. [5424] See on Ps. xxxix. p. 112, and on Ps. cxx. p. 589. [5425] Or, "steps." [5426] Ps. lxxxiv. 4. [5427] Matt. xxiii. 37. [5428] Gal. iv. 26. [5429] 2 Cor. v. 1. [5430] 1 Pet. ii. 5. [5431] 1 Cor. iii. 17. [5432] 1 Cor. iii. 11. [5433] [Note this proof of the costly Christian architecture of this age. The Basilica, however, was originally an imperial court turned into a church.--C.] [5434] Civitas. [5435] In id ipsum. [5436] Luke x. 30, 34. [5437] Thirty, according to Liv. i. 13, Cic. De Rep. ii. 8; thirty-five afterwards, according to Sext. Pomp. in v. Curia, who seems to confound them with the "Tribes." See Pollet, Hist. For. Rom. in Poleni Supplem. t. i. p. 516. [5438] John i. 47. [5439] [See p. 475, note 6. References there do not satisfy the Oxford editor, and here he puts a mark of inquiry; thus, "--?"--C.] [5440] Matt. xix. 28. [5441] Isa. lxvi. 1. [5442] Matt. x. 42. [5443] Luke xix. 8. [5444] Cant. viii. 6. [5445] Gal. vi. 14. [5446] Col. iii. 3. [5447] Philip. i. 21, 23, 24. .


Psalm CXXIII. [5448]

1. ...Let this singer ascend; and let this man sing from the heart of each of you, and let each of you be this man, for when each of you saith this, since ye are all one in Christ, one man saith this; and saith not, "Unto Thee, O Lord, have" we "lift up" our "eyes;" but, "Unto Thee, O Lord, have I lift up mine eyes" (ver. 1). Ye ought indeed to imagine that every one of you is speaking; but that One in an especial sense speaketh, who is also spread abroad over the whole world...

What maketh the heart of a Christian heavy? Because he is a pilgrim, and longeth for his country. If thy heart be heavy on this score, although thou hast been prosperous in the world, still thou dost groan: and if all things combine to render thee prosperous, and this world smile upon thee on every side, thou nevertheless groanest, because thou seest that thou art set in a pilgrimage; and feelest that thou hast indeed happiness in the eyes of fools, but not as yet after the promise of Christ: this thou seekest with groans, this thou seekest with longings, and by longing ascendest, and while thou ascendest dost sing the Song of Degrees.

2. ...Where then are the ladders? For we behold so great an interval between heaven and earth, there is so wide a separation, and so great a space of regions between: we wish to climb thither, we see no ladder; do we deceive ourselves, because we sing the Song of Degrees, that is, the Song of ascent? We ascend unto heaven, if we think of God, who hath made ascending steps in the heart. What is to ascend in heart? To advance towards God. As every man who faileth, doth not descend, but falleth: so every one who profiteth doth ascend: but if he so profit, as to avoid pride: if he so ascend as not to fall: but if while he profiteth he become proud, in ascending he again falleth. But that he may not be proud, what ought he to do? Let him lift up his eyes unto Him who dwelleth in heaven, let him not heed himself...

3. If, my brethren, we understand by heaven the firmament which we see with our bodily eyes, we shall indeed so err, as to imagine that we cannot ascend thither without ladders, or some scaling machines: but if we ascend spiritually, we ought to understand heaven spiritually: if the ascent be in affection, heaven is in righteousness. What is then the heaven of God? All holy souls, all righteous souls. For the Apostles also, although they were on earth in the flesh, were heaven; for the Lord, enthroned in them, traversed the whole world. He then dwelleth in heaven. How?...How long are they the temple according to faith? As long as Christ dwelleth in them through faith; as the Apostle saith, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." But they are already heaven in whom God already dwelleth visibly, who see Him face to face; all the holy Apostles, all the holy Virtues, Powers, Thrones, Lordships, that heavenly Jerusalem, wanderers from whence we groan, and for which we pray with longing; and there God dwelleth. Thither hath the Psalmist lifted up his faith, thither he riseth in affection, with longing hopes: and this very longing causeth the soul to purge off [5449] the filth of sins, and to be cleansed from every stain, that itself also may become heaven; because it hath lifted up its eyes unto Him who dwelleth in heaven. For if we have determined that that heaven which we see with our bodily eyes is the dwelling of God, the dwelling of God will pass away; for "heaven and earth will pass away." [5450] Then, before God created heaven and earth, where did He dwell? But some one saith: and before God made the Saints, where did He dwell? God dwelt in Himself, he dwelt with Himself, and God is with Himself. And when He deigneth to dwell in the Saints, the Saints are not the house of God in such wise, as that God should fall when it is withdrawn. For we dwell in a house in one way, in another way God dwelleth in the Saints. Thou dwellest in a house: if it be withdrawn, thou fallest: but God so dwelleth in the Saints, that if He should Himself depart, they fall...

4. What then followeth, since he hath said, "Unto Thee do I lift up mine eyes"? (ver. 2). How hast thou lifted up thine eyes? "Behold, even as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress: even so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until He have mercy upon us." We are both servants, and a handmaiden: He is both our Master and our Mistress. What do these words mean? What do these similitudes mean? It is not wonderful if we are servants, and He our Master; but it is wonderful if we are a maiden, and He our Mistress. But not even our being a maiden is wonderful; for we are the Church: nor is it wonderful that He is our Mistress; for He is the Power and the Wisdom of God...When therefore thou hearest Christ, lift up thine eyes to the hands of thy Master; when thou hearest the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, lift up thine eyes to the hands of thy Mistress; for thou art both servant and handmaiden; servant, for thou art a people; [5451] handmaiden, [5452] for thou art the Church. But this maiden hath found great dignity with God; she hath been made a wife. But until she come unto those spiritual embraces, where she may without apprehension enjoy Him whom she hath loved, and for whom she hath sighed in this tedious pilgrimage, she is betrothed: and hath received a mighty pledge, the blood of the Spouse for whom she sigheth without fear. Nor is it said unto her, Do not love; as it is sometimes said to any betrothed virgin, not as yet married: and is justly said, Do not love; when thou hast become a wife, then love: it is rightly said, because it is a precipitate and preposterous thing, and not a chaste desire, to love one whom she knoweth not whether she shall marry. For it may happen that one man may be betrothed to her, and another man marry her. But as there is no one else who can be preferred to Christ, let her love without apprehension: and before she is joined unto Him, let her love, and sigh from a distance and from her far pilgrimage...

5. "For we have been much filled with contempt" (ver. 3). All that will live piously according to Christ, must needs suffer reproof, [5453] must needs be despised by those who do not choose to live piously, all whose happiness is earthly. They are derided who call that happiness which they cannot see with their eyes, and it is said to them, What believest thou, madman? Dost thou see what thou believest? Hath any one returned from the world below, and reported to thee what is going on there? Behold I see and enjoy what I love. Thou art scorned, because thou dost hope for what thou seest not; and he who seemeth to hold what he seeth, scorneth thee. Consider well if he doth really hold it...I have my house, he hath boasted himself. Thou askest, what house of his own? That which my father left me. And whence did he derive this house? My grandfather left it him. Go back even to his great grandfather, then to his great grandfather's father, and he can no longer tell their names. Art thou not rather terrified by this thought, that thou seest many have passed through this house, and that none of them hath carried it away with him to his everlasting home? Thy father left it: he passed through it: thus thou also wilt pass by. If therefore thou hast a mere passing stay in thy house, it is an inn for passing guests, not an habitation for permanent abode. Yet since we hope for those things which are to come, and sigh for future happiness, and since it hath not yet appeared what we shall be, although we are already "sons of God;" [5454] for "our life is hidden with Christ in God:" [5455] "we are utterly despised," by those who seek or enjoy happiness in this world.

6. "Our soul is filled exceedingly; a reproach to the wealthy, and a contempt to the proud" (ver. 4). We were asking who were "the wealthy:" he hath expounded to thee, in that he hath said, "the proud." "Reproach" and "contempt" are the same: and "wealthy" is the same with "proud." It is a repetition of the sentence, "a reproach to the wealthy, and a contempt to the proud." Why are the proud wealthy? Because they wish to be happy here. Why? since they themselves too are miserable, are they wealthy? But perhaps when they are miserable, they do not mock us. Listen, my beloved. Then perchance they mock when they are happy, when they boast themselves in the pomp of their riches! when they boast themselves in the inflated state of false honours: then they mock us, and seem to say, Behold, it is well with me: I enjoy the good things before me: let those who promise what they cannot show depart from me: what I see, I hold; what I see, I enjoy; may I fare well in this life. Be thou more secure; for Christ hath risen again, and hath taught thee what He will give in another life: be assured that He giveth it. But that man mocketh thee, because he holdeth what he hath. Bear with his mockeries, and thou wilt laugh at his groans: for afterwards there will come a season when these very persons will say, "This was he whom we had sometimes in derision." [5456] ...

7. To this we must add, that sometimes those also who are beneath the scourge of temporal unhappiness, mock us...Did not the robber [5457] mock, who was crucified with our crucified Lord? If therefore they who are not wealthy mock us, why doth the Psalm say, "A reproach to the wealthy"? If we carefully sift the matter, even these (the unfortunate) are wealthy. How are they wealthy? Yea; for if they were not wealthy, they would not be proud. For one man is wealthy in money, and proud on that score: another is wealthy in honours, and is proud on that account: another imagines himself wealthy in righteousness, and hence his pride, which is worse. They who seem not to be wealthy in money, seem to themselves to be wealthy in righteousness towards God; and when calamity overtakes them, they justify themselves, accuse God, and say, What wrong have I been guilty of, or, what have I done? Thou repliest: Look back, call to mind thy sins, see if thou hast done nothing. He is somewhat touched in conscience, and returneth to himself, and thinketh of his evil deeds; and when he hath thought of his evil deeds, not even then doth he choose to confess that he deserves his sufferings; but saith, Behold, I have clearly done many things; but I see that many have done worse, and suffer no evil. He is righteous against God. He also therefore is wealthy: he hath his breast puffed out with righteousness; since God seemeth to him to do ill, and he seemeth to himself to suffer unjustly. And if thou gavest him a vessel to pilot, he would be shipwrecked with it: yet he wishes to deprive God of the government of this world, and himself to hold the helm of Creation, and to distribute among all men pains and pleasures, punishments and rewards. Miserable soul! yet why do ye wonder? He is wealthy, but wealthy in iniquity, wealthy in malignity; but is more wealthy in iniquity, in proportion as he seemeth to himself to be wealthy in righteousness.

8. But a Christian ought not to be wealthy, but ought to acknowledge himself poor; and if he hath riches, he ought to know that they are not true riches, so that he may desire others...And what is the wealth of our righteousness? How much soever righteousness there may be in us, it is a sort of dew compared to that fountain: [5458] compared to that plenteousness it is as a few drops, which may soften our life, and relax our hard iniquity. Let us only desire to be filled with the full fountain of righteousness, let us long to be filled with that abundant richness, of which it is said in the Psalm, "They shall be satisfied with the plenteousness of Thy house: and Thou shalt give them drink out of the torrent of Thy pleasure." [5459] But while we are here, let us understand ourselves to be destitute and in want; not only in respect of those riches which are not the true riches, but of salvation itself. And when we are whole, let us understand that we are weak. For as long as this body hungers and thirsts, as long as this body is weary with watching, weary with standing, weary with walking, weary with sitting, weary with eating; whithersoever it turneth itself for a relief from weariness, there it discovereth another source of fatigue: there is therefore no perfect soundness, not even in the body itself. Those riches are then not riches, but beggary; for the more they abound, the more doth destitution and avarice increase...Let then our whole hunger, our whole thirst, be for true riches, and true health, and true righteousness. What are true riches? That heavenly abode in Jerusalem. For who is called rich on this earth? When a rich man is praised, what is meant? He is very rich: nothing is wanting to him. That surely is the praise of him that praiseth the other: for it is not this, when it is said, He wants nothing. Consider if he really want nothing. If he desires nothing, he wants nothing: but if he still desires more than what he hath, his riches have increased in such wise, that his wants have increased also. But in that City there will be true riches, because there will be nothing wanting to us there; for we shall not be in need of anything, and there will be true health...

Footnotes

[5448] Lat. CXXII. [On "Degrees," see p. 593, supra.--C.] [5449] Desudare. [5450] Matt. xxiv. 35. [5451] Populus (masc.). [5452] Ecclesia (fem.). [5453] 2 Tim. iii. 12. [5454] 1 John iii. 2. [5455] Col. iii. 3. [5456] Wisd. v. 3. [5457] Luke xxiii. 39. [5458] [What would our author have said of the merits of canonized "saints" applied to the remission of sins and purgatorial pains?--C.] [5459] Ps. xxxvi. 8. .


Psalm CXXIV. [5460]

1. Ye already well know, dearest brethren, that a "Song of Degrees," is a song of our ascent: and that this ascent is not effected by the feet of the body, but by the affections of the heart. This we have repeatedly reminded you of: and we need not repeat it too often, that there may be room for saying what hath not yet been said. This Psalm, therefore, which ye have now heard sung for you, [5461] is inscribed, "A Song of Degrees." This is its title. They sing therefore while ascending: and sometimes as it were one man singeth, sometimes as it were many; because many are one, since Christ is One, and in Christ the members of Christ constitute one with Christ, and the Head of all these members is in heaven. But although the body toileth on earth, it is not cut off from its Head; for the Head looketh down from above, and regardeth the body. [5462] ...Whether therefore one or many sing; many men are one man, because it is unity; and Christ, as we have said, is One, and all Christians are members of Christ.

2. ...Certain members indeed of that body of which we also are, which can sing in truth, have gone before us. And this the holy Martyrs have sung: for they have already escaped, and are with Christ in joy about to receive at last incorruptible bodies, the very same which were at first corruptible, wherein they have suffered pains; of the same there will be made for them ornaments of righteousness. Therefore whether they in reality, or we in hope, joining our affections with their crowns, and longing for such a life as we have not here, and shall never gain unless we have longed for it here, let us all sing together, and say, "If the Lord Himself had not been in us."...

3. "If the Lord Himself had not been in us, now may Israel say" (ver. 1)...When? "When men rose up against us" (ver. 2). Marvel not: they have been subdued: for they were men; but the Lord was in us, man was not in us: for men rose up against us. Nevertheless men would crush other men, unless in those men who could not be crushed, there were not man, but the Lord. For what could men do to you, while ye rejoiced, and sang, and securely held everlasting bliss? what could men do to you when they rose against you, if the Lord had not been on your side? what could they do? "Perchance they had swallowed us up quick" (ver. 3). "Swallowed us up:" [5463] they would not first have slain us, and so have swallowed us up. O inhuman, O cruel men! The Church swalloweth not thus. [5464] To Peter it was said, "Kill and eat:" [5465] not, Swallow quick. Because no man entereth into the body of the Church, save he be slain first. [5466] What he was dieth, that he may be what he was not. Otherwise, he who is not slain, and is not eaten by the Church, may be in the visible number of the people: but he cannot be in the number of the people which is known to God, whereof the Apostle saith, "The Lord knoweth who are His," [5467] save he be eaten; and eaten he cannot be, save he first be slain. The Pagan cometh, still in him idolatry liveth; he must be grafted among the members of Christ: that he may be engrafted, he must needs be eaten; but he cannot be eaten by the Church, save first he be slain. Let him renounce the world, then is he slain; let him believe in God, then is he eaten...But they in whom the Lord is, are slain and die not. But they who consent [5468] and live, are swallowed quick, when swallowed up they die. But they who have suffered, and have not yielded to tribulations, rejoice and say, "If the Lord had not been in us," etc.

4. ..."When their fury was enraged upon us." They are now in anger, they now openly rage: "perchance the water had drowned us" (ver. 4). By water he meaneth ungodly nations: and we shall see what sort of water in the following verses. Whoever had consented unto them, water would have overwhelmed him. For he would die by the death of the Egyptians, he would not pass through after the example of the Israelites. For ye know, brethren, that the people of Israel passed through the water, by which the Egyptians were overwhelmed. [5469] But what sort of water is this? It is a torrent, it flows with violence, but it will pass by...Hence He, our Head, first drinketh, of whom it is said in the Psalms, "He shall drink of the torrent in the way: therefore shall He lift up His head." For our Head is already exalted, because He drank of the torrent by the way; for our Lord hath suffered. If therefore our Head hath been already raised up, why doth the body fear the torrent? Without doubt, because the Head hath been raised, the body also will say hereafter, "Our soul hath passed over the torrent. Perhaps our soul hath passed over the water without substance" (ver. 5). Behold, what sort of water he was speaking of, "The water perchance had overwhelmed us." But what meaneth, "without substance"?

5. In the first place, what meaneth, [5470] "Perchance our soul hath passed over"? (ver. 5). Understand however the meaning to be this: "Thinkest thou our soul hath passed over?" and why do they say, "Thinkest thou"? Because the greatness of the danger maketh it hardly credible that he hath escaped. They have endured a great death: they have been in great dangers; they have been so much oppressed, that they almost gave consent while alive, and were all but swallowed up alive: now therefore that they have escaped, now that they are secure, but still remember the danger, the great danger, say, "Thinkest thou our soul hath passed over the water without substance?"

6. What is the water without substance, save the water of sins without substance? For sins have not substance: they have destitution, not substance; they have want, not substance. In that water without substance, the younger son lost the whole of his substance...Dost thou wish to see how the water is without substance? Take away with thee to the world below what thou hast acquired: what wilt thou do? Thou hast acquired gold: thou hast lost thy faith: after a few days thou leavest this life; thou canst not take away with thee the gold thou hast acquired by the loss of thy good faith; thy heart, destitute of faith, goeth forth into punishment--thy heart, which if full of faith, would go forth unto a crown. Behold, what thou hast done is nothing: and thou hast offended God for nothing.

7. Men hear that common proverb; and the proverbs of God slumber in them. What proverb? "Better in hand than in hope." [5471] Unhappy man, what hast thou in hand? Thou sayest, "Better in hand." Hold it so as not to lose it, and then say, "Better in hand." But if thou holdest it not, why dost thou not hold fast that which thou canst not lose? What then hast thou in hand? Gold. Keep it in hand, therefore: if thou hast it in hand, let it not be taken away without thy consent. But if through gold also thou art carried where thou wishest not, and if a more powerful robber seeketh thee, because he findeth thee a less powerful robber; if a stronger eagle pursue thee, because thou hast carried off a hare before him: the lesser was thy prey, thou wilt be a prey unto the greater. Men see not these things in human affairs: by so much avarice are they blinded...

8. Let them escape the water without substance, and say, "Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us over for a prey unto their teeth" (ver. 6). For the hunters were following, and had placed a bait in their trap. What bait? The sweetness of this life, so that each man for the sake of the sweetness of this life may thrust his head into iniquity, and be caught in the trap. Not they, in whom the Lord was, they who say, "If the Lord Himself had not been in us;" they have not been taken in the trap. Let the Lord be in thee, and thou wilt not be taken in the trap.

9. "Our soul is escaped, even as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers" (ver. 7). Because the Lord was in the soul itself, therefore hath that soul escaped, even as a bird out of the snare of the fowler. Why like a bird? Because it had fallen heedlessly, like a bird; and it could say afterwards, God will forgive me. Unstable bird, rather set thy feet firm upon the rock: go not into the trap. Thou wilt be taken, consumed, crushed. Let the Lord be in thee, and He will deliver thee from greater threats, from the snare of the fowlers. As if thou wert to see a bird about to fall into a snare, thou makest a greater noise that it may fly away from the net; so also, when perhaps some even of the Martyrs were stretching out their neck after the enjoyment of this life, the Lord, who was in them, made the noise of hell, and the bird was delivered from the snare of the fowlers. The snare was the sweetness of this life: they were not entangled in the snare, and were slain; by their slaughter the net was broken; no longer did the sweetness of this life remain, that they might again be entangled by it, but it was crushed. Was the bird also crushed? Far be it! for it was not in the snare: "The snare is broken, and we are delivered."

10. ..."Our help standeth in the Name of the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth" (ver. 8). For if this were not our help, the snare would not indeed remain for ever; but when the bird was once taken, it would be crushed. For this life will pass away; and they who shall have been taken in by its pleasures, and through these pleasures have offended God, will pass away with this life. For the snare will be broken; be ye assured of this: all the sweetness of this present life will no longer exist, when the lot assigned to it hath been fulfilled; but we must not be enthralled by it, so that when the net is broken, thou mayest then rejoice and say, "The snare is broken, and we are delivered." But lest thou think that thou canst do this of thy own strength, consider whose work thy deliverance is (for if thou art proud, thou fallest into the snare), and say, "Our help standeth in the Name of the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth."...

Footnotes

[5460] Lat. CXXIII. A sermon to the people. [5461] ["Unto you," in Oxford ed., which is not necessarily the sense of the original: quem nunc vobis cantatum audistis.--C.] [5462] Acts ix. 4. [5463] [i.e., alive: vivos absorbuissent.--C.] [5464] [Compare Ps. xxxv. 25, p. 86, supra.--C.] [5465] Acts x. 13. [5466] ["Ye are dead," Col. iii. 3.--C.] [5467] 2 Tim. ii. 19. [5468] [i.e., to sacrifice to idols.--C.] [5469] Exod. xiv. 22-29. [5470] Gesenius, Monum. Phoen. p. 390, thinks both may be from the first root, signifying "difficulty;" or the latter possibly=#R+J+a, #R+J+" "let one see." [Our author says: "The Latin interpreters have thus rendered as far as they were able the Greek word ^ra. For thus the Greek copies have it; ^ra: and as it is an expression of doubt, it is rendered by an expression of doubt, the word `perchance' (fortasse): but this is not the exact sense. We may express this Greek word by one not so Latin in its use, but adapted to your comprehension. The Punic word, iar, I mean not that which signifieth a wood, but the expression of doubt, is the Greek ^ra. This the Latins may or usually do express by Putas: as in this instance, Dost thou think (putas) I have escaped this? If we say, Perchance I have escaped, ye see that it hath not this meaning: but the word, Thinkest thou, is commonly used: but not in Latin in this sense. Although I may use it, when expounding to you; for I often use words that are not Latin, that ye may understand. But in Scripture this could not be used, because it was not Latin; and as Latin failed, that was used for it which had not this meaning."--C.] [5471] Malo quod teneo, quam quod spero. [Eng. "A bird in the hand," etc.--C.] .


Psalm CXXV. [5472]

1. This Psalm, belonging to the number of the Songs of Degrees, teacheth us, while we ascend and raise our minds unto the Lord our God in loving charity and piety, not to fix our gaze upon men who are prosperous in this world, with a happiness that is false and unstable, and altogether seductive; where they cherish nothing save pride, and their heart freezeth up against God, and is made hard against the shower of His grace, so that it beareth not fruit....

2. "They that put their trust in the Lord shall be even as the mount Sion: they shall not be removed for ever" (ver. 1).

3. Who are these? "They shall stand fast for ever, who dwell in Jerusalem" (ver. 2). If we understand this earthly Jerusalem, all who dwelt therein have been excluded by wars and by the destruction of the city: thou now seekest a Jew in the city of Jerusalem, and findest him not. Why then will "they that dwell in Jerusalem not be moved for ever," save because there is another Jerusalem, of which ye are wont to hear much? She is our mother, for whom we sigh and groan in this pilgrimage, that we may return unto her....They then who dwell therein "shall never be moved." But they who dwelt in that earthly Jerusalem, have been moved; first in heart, afterwards by exile. When they were moved in heart and fell, then they crucified the King of the heavenly Jerusalem herself; they were already spiritually without, and shut out of doors their very King. For they cast Him out without their city, and crucified Him without. [5473] He too cast them out of His city, that is, of the everlasting Jerusalem, the Mother of us all, who is in Heaven.

4. What is this Jerusalem? He briefly describes it. "The mountains stand around Jerusalem" (ver. 2). Is it anything great, that we are in a city surrounded by mountains? Is this the whole of our happiness, that we shall have a city which mountains surround? Do we not know what mountains are? or what are mountains save swellings of the earth? Different then from these are those mountains that we love, lofty mountains, preachers of truth, whether Angels, or Apostles, or Prophets. They stand around Jerusalem; they surround her, and, as it were, form a wall for her. Of these lovely and delightful mountains Scripture constantly speaketh....They are the mountains of whom we sing: "I lifted up mine eyes unto the mountains, from whence my help shall come:" [5474] because in this life we have help from the holy Scriptures. [5475] And through the mountains that receive peace, the little hills received righteousness: for what saith he of the mountains themselves? He said not, they have peace from themselves, or they make peace, or generate peace; but, they receive peace. The Lord is the source, whence they receive peace. So therefore lift up thine eyes to the mountains for the sake of peace, that thy help may come from the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth. Again, the Holy Spirit mentioning these mountains saith this: "Thou dost light them wonderfully from Thy everlasting mountains." [5476] He said not, the mountains light them: but, Thou lightest them from Thy everlasting mountains: through those mountains whom Thou hast willed to be everlasting, preaching the Gospel, Thou lighting them, not the mountains. Such then are the "mountains that stand around Jerusalem."

5. And that ye may know what sort of mountains these be that stand around Jerusalem; where Scripture hath mentioned good mountains, very rarely, and hardly, and perhaps never, doth it fail instantly to mention the Lord also, or allude to Him at the same moment, that our hopes rest not in the mountains....Lest thou again shouldest tarry in the mountains, he at once addeth, "Even so the Lord standeth round about His people:" that thy hope might not lie in the mountains, but in Him who lighteth the mountains. [5477] For when He dwelleth in the mountains, that is, in the Saints, He Himself is round about His people; and He hath Himself walled His people with a spiritual fortification, that it may not be moved for evermore. But when Scripture speaketh of evil mountains, it addeth not the Lord unto them. Such mountains, we have already told you often, signify certain mighty, but evil, souls. For ye are not to suppose, brethren, that heresies could be produced through any little souls. None save great men have been the authors of heresies; but in proportion as they were mighty, so were they evil, mountains. For they were not such mountains as would receive peace, that the hills might receive righteousness; but they received dissension from their father the devil. There were therefore mountains: beware thou fly not to such mountains. For men will come, and say unto thee, There is a great hero, there is a great man! How great was that Donatus! How great is Maximian! and a certain Photinus, what a great man he was! And Arius too, how illustrious he was! All these I have mentioned are mountains, but mountains that cause shipwreck. [5478] ...

6. But love such mountains, in whom the Lord is. Then do those very mountains love thee, if thou hast not placed hope in them. [5479] See, brethren, what the mountains of God are. Thence they are so called in another passage: "Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God." [5480] Not their righteousness, but "Thy righteousness." Hear that great mountain the Apostle. "That I may be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ." [5481] But they who have chosen to be mountains through their own righteousness, as certain Jews or Pharisees their rulers, are thus blamed: "Being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." [5482] But they who have submitted themselves are exalted in such a manner as to be humble. In that they are great, they are mountains; in that they submit themselves unto God, they are valleys: and in that they have the capacity of piety, they receive the plenteousness of peace, and transmit the copious irrigation to the hills, only beware, at present, what mountains thou lovest. If thou wish to be loved by good mountains, place not thy trust even in good mountains. For how great a mountain was Paul? where is one like him found? We speak of the greatness of men. Can any one readily be found of so great grace? Nevertheless, he feared lest that bird should place trust in him: and what doth he say: "Was Paul crucified for you?" [5483] But lift up your eyes unto the mountains, whence help may come unto you: for, "I have planted, Apollos hath watered:" but, your help cometh from the Lord, who hath made Heaven and earth; for, "God gave the increase." [5484] "The mountains," therefore, "stand around Jerusalem." But as "the mountains stand around Jerusalem, even so standeth the Lord round about His people, from this time forth for evermore." If therefore the mountains stand around Jerusalem, and the Lord standeth round about His people, the Lord bindeth His people into one bond of love and peace, so that they who trust in the Lord, like the mount Sion, may not be moved for evermore: and this is, "from this time forth for evermore."

7. "For the Lord will not leave the rod of the ungodly upon the lot of the righteous, lest the righteous put forth their hands unto wickedness" (ver. 3). At present indeed the righteous suffer in some measure, and at present the unrighteous sometimes tyrannize over the righteous. In what ways? Sometimes the unrighteous arrive at worldly honours: when they have arrived at them, and have been made either judges or kings; for God doth this for the discipline of His folk, for the discipline of His people; the honour due to their power must needs be shown them. For thus hath God ordained His Church, that every power ordained in the world may have honour, and sometimes from those who are better than those in power. For the sake of illustration I take one instance; hence calculate the grades of all powers. The primary and every day relation of authority between man and man is that between master and slave. Almost all houses have a power of this sort. There are masters, there are also slaves; these are different names, but men and men are equal names. [5485] And what saith the Apostle, teaching that slaves are subject to their masters? "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh:" for there is a Master according to the Spirit. He is the true and everlasting Master; but those temporal masters are for a time only. When thou walkest in the way, when thou livest in this life, Christ doth not wish to make thee proud. It hath been thy lot to become a Christian, and to have a man for thy master: thou wast not made a Christian, that thou mightest disdain to be a servant. For when by Christ's command thou servest a man, thou servest not the man, but Him who commanded thee. He saith this also: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh." [5486] Behold, he hath not made men free from being servants, but good servants from bad servants. How much do the rich owe to Christ, who orders their house for them! so that if thou hast had an unbelieving servant, suppose Christ convert him, and say not to him, Leave thy master, thou hast now known Him who is thy true Master: he perhaps is ungodly and unjust, thou art now faithful and righteous: it is unworthy that a righteous and faithful man should serve an unjust and unbelieving master. He spoke not thus unto him, but rather, Serve him: and to confirm the servant, added, Serve as I served; I before thee served the unjust....If the Lord of heaven and earth, through whom all things were created, served the unworthy, asked mercy for His furious persecutors, and, as it were, showed Himself as their Physician at His Advent (for physicians also, better both in art and health, serve the sick): how much more ought not a man to disdain, with his whole mind, and his whole good will, with his whole love to serve even a bad master! Behold, a better serveth an inferior, but for a season. Understand what I have said of the master and slave, to be true also of powers and kings, of all the exalted stations of this world. For sometimes they are good powers, and fear God; sometimes they fear not God. Julian was an infidel Emperor, an apostate, a wicked man, an idolater; Christian soldiers served an infidel Emperor; when they came to the cause of Christ, they acknowledged Him only who was in heaven. If he called upon them at any time to worship idols, to offer incense; they preferred God to him: but whenever he commanded them to deploy into line, to march against this or that nation, they at once obeyed. They distinguished their everlasting from their temporal master; and yet they were, for the sake of their everlasting Master, submissive to their temporal master.

8. But will it be thus always, that the ungodly have power over the righteous? It will not be so. The rod of the ungodly is felt for a season upon the lot of the righteous; but it is not left there, it will not be there for ever. A time will come, when Christ, appearing in his glory, shall gather all nations before Him. [5487] And thou wilt see there many slaves among the sheep, and many masters among the goats; and again many masters among the sheep, many slaves among the goats. For all slaves are not good--do not infer this from the consolation we have given to servants--nor are all masters evil, because we have thus repressed the pride of masters. There are good masters who believe, and there are evil: there are good servants who believe, and there are evil. But as long as good servants serve evil masters, let them endure for a season. "For God will not leave the rod of the ungodly upon the lot of the righteous." Why will He not? "Lest the righteous put forth their hand unto wickedness:" that the righteous may endure for a season the domination of the ungodly, and may understand that this is not for ever, but may prepare themselves to possess their everlasting heritage....

9. And he therefore addeth, "Do well, O Lord, unto those that are good and true of heart" (ver. 4). They who are right in heart, of whom I was speaking a little before,--they who follow the will of God, not their own will,--reflect upon this. But they who wish to follow God, allow Him to go before, and themselves to follow; not themselves to go before, and Him to follow; and in all things they find Him good, whether chastening, or consoling, or exercising, or crowning, or cleansing, or enlightening; as the Apostle saith, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." [5488]

10. Whence the Psalmist at once addeth: "As for such as turn aside, the Lord shall lead them forth unto strangling with the workers of unrighteousness" (ver. 5): that is, those whose deeds they have imitated; because they took delight in their present pleasures, and did not believe in their punishments to come. What then shall they have, who are righteous in heart, and who turn not back? Let us now come to the heritage itself, brethren, for we are sons. What shall we possess? What is our heritage? what is our country: what is it called? Peace. In this we salute you, this we announce to you, this the mountains receive, and the little hills receive as righteousness. [5489] Peace is Christ: "for He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us." [5490] Since we are sons, we shall have an inheritance. And what shall this inheritance be called, but peace? And consider that they who love not peace are disinherited. Now they who divide unity, love not peace. Peace is the possession of the pious, the possession of heirs. And who are heirs? Sons....Since then Christ the Son of God is peace, He therefore came to gather together His own, and to separate them from the wicked. From what wicked men? From those who hate Jerusalem, who hate peace, who wish to tear unity asunder, who believe not peace, who preach a false peace to the people, and have it not. To whom answer is made, when they say, [5491] "Peace be with you," "And with thy spirit:" but they speak falsely, and they hear falsely. Unto whom do they say, Peace be with you? To those whom they separate from the peace of the whole earth. And unto whom is it said, "And with thy spirit"? To those who embrace dissensions, and who hate peace. For if peace were in their spirit, would they not love unity, and leave dissensions? Speaking then false words, they hear false words. Let us speak true words, and hear true words. Let us be Israel, and let us embrace peace; for Jerusalem is a vision of peace, and we are Israel, "and peace is upon Israel."

Footnotes

[5472] Lat. CXXIV. A discourse to the people. [5473] John xix. 17, 18. [5474] Ps. cxxi. 1, 2. [5475] [Observe in our author passim this implication that the laity as well as the clergy were filled with the knowledge and comfort of the Scriptures.--C.] [5476] Ps. lxxvi. 4. [5477] [Evidence against saint-worship.--C.] [5478] [So Jude 16.--C.] Vinc. Lir. Common. 17-20. [5479] [Evidence against saint-worship.--C.] [5480] Ps. xxxvi. 6. [5481] Philip. iii. 9. [5482] Rom. x. 3. [5483] 1 Cor. i. 13. [5484] 1 Cor. iii. 6. [5485] [The Epistle to Philemon is here reflected. See A.N.F. vol. viii. p. 782, note 1, and p. 784; also vol. vii. p. 425.--C.] [5486] Eph. vi. 5. [5487] Matt. xxv. 32, 33. [5488] Rom. viii. 28. [5489] Ps. lxxii. 3. [5490] Eph. ii. 14. [5491] [In the Liturgy.--C.] .


Psalm CXXVI. [5492]

1. ...How man had come into captivity, let us ask the Apostle Paul....For he saith: "For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin." [5493] Behold whence we became captives; because we were sold under sin. Who sold us? We ourselves, who consented to the seducer. We could sell ourselves; we could not redeem ourselves. We sold ourselves by consent of sin, we are redeemed in the faith of righteousness. For innocent blood was given for us, that we might be redeemed. Whatsoever blood he shed in persecuting the righteous, what kind of blood did he shed? Righteous men's blood, indeed, he shed; they were Prophets, righteous men, our fathers, and Martyrs. Whose blood he shed, yet all coming of the offspring of sin. One blood he shed of Him who was not justified, [5494] but born righteous: by shedding that blood, he lost those whom he held. For they for whom innocent blood was given were redeemed, and, turned back from their captivity, they sing this Psalm.

2. "When the Lord turned back the captivity of Sion, we became as those that are comforted" (ver. 1). He meant by this to say, we became joyful. When? "When the Lord turned back the captivity of Sion." What is Sion? Jerusalem, the same is also the eternal Sion. How is Sion eternal, how is Sion captive? In angels eternal, in men captive. For not all the citizens of that city are captives, but those who are away from thence, they are captives. Man was a citizen of Jerusalem, but sold under sin he became a pilgrim. Of his progeny was born the human race, and the captivity of Sion filled all lands. And how is this captivity of Sion a shadow of that Jerusalem? The shadow of that Sion, which was granted to the Jews, in an image, in a figure, was in captivity in Babylonia, and after seventy years that people turned back to its own city. [5495] ...But when all time is past, then we return to our country, as after seventy years that people returned from the Babylonish captivity, for Babylon is this world; since Babylon is interpreted "confusion."...So then this whole life of human affairs is confusion, which belongeth not unto God. In this confusion, in this Babylonish land, Sion is held captive. But "the Lord hath turned back the captivity of Sion." "And we became," he saith, "as those that are comforted." That is, we rejoiced as receiving consolation. Consolation is not save for the unhappy, consolation is not save for them that groan, that mourn. Wherefore, "as those that are comforted," except because we are still mourning? We mourn for our present lot, we are comforted in hope: when the present is passed by, of our mourning will come everlasting joy, when there will be no need of consolation, because we shall be wounded with no distress. But wherefore saith he "as" those that are comforted, and saith not comforted? This word "as," is not always put for likeness: when we say "As," it sometimes refers to the actual case, sometimes to likeness: here it is with reference to the actual case....Walk therefore in Christ, and sing rejoicing, sing as one that is comforted; because He went before thee who hath commanded thee to follow Him.

3. "Then was our mouth filled with joy, and our tongue with exultation" (ver. 2). That mouth, brethren, which we have in our body, how is it "filled with joy"? It useth not to be "filled," save with meat, or drink, or some such thing put into the mouth. Sometimes our mouth is filled; and it is more that we say to your holiness, [5496] when we have our mouth full, we cannot speak. But we have a mouth within, that is, in the heart, whence whatsoever proceedeth, if it is evil, defileth us, if it is good, cleanseth us. For concerning this very mouth ye heard when the Gospel was read. For the Jews reproached the Lord, because His disciples ate with unwashen hands. [5497] They reproached who had cleanness without; and within were full of stains. They reproached, whose righteousness was only in the eyes of men. But the Lord sought our inward cleanness, which if we have, the outside must needs be clean also. "Cleanse," He saith, "the inside," and "the outside shall be clean also." [5498] ...

4. But let us return to what was just now read from the Gospel, relating to the verse before us, "Our mouth was filled with joy, and our tongue with delight:" for we are inquiring what mouth and what tongue. Listen, beloved brethren. The Lord was scoffed at, because His disciples ate with unwashed hands. The Lord answered them as was fitting, and said unto the crowds whom He had called unto Him, "Hear ye all, and understand: not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man." [5499] What is this? when He said, what goeth into the mouth, He meant only the mouth of the body. For meat goeth in, and meats defile not a man; because, "All things are clean to the clean;" and, "every creature of God is good, and none to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving." [5500] ...

5. Guard the mouth of thy heart from evil, and thou wilt be innocent: the tongue of thy body will be innocent, thy hands will be innocent; even thy feet will be innocent, thy eyes, thy ears, will be innocent; all thy members will serve under righteousness, because a righteous commander hath thy heart. "Then shall they say among the heathen, the Lord hath done great things for them."

6. "Yea, the Lord hath done great things for us already, whereof we rejoice" (ver. 3). Consider, my brethren, if Sion doth not at present say this among the heathen, throughout the whole world; consider if men are not running unto the Church. In the whole world our redemption is received; Amen is answered. The dwellers in Jerusalem, therefore, captive, destined to return, pilgrims, sighing for their country, speak thus among the heathen. What do they say? "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we rejoice." Have they done anything for themselves? They have done ill with themselves, for they have sold themselves under sin. The Redeemer came, and did the good things for them.

7. "Turn our captivity, O Lord, as the torrents in the south" (ver. 4). Consider, my brethren, what this meaneth....As torrents are turned in the south, so turn our captivity. In a certain passage Scripture saith, in admonishing us concerning good works, "Thy sins also shall melt away, even as the ice in fair warm weather." [5501] Our sins therefore bound us. How? As the cold bindeth the water that it run not. Bound with the frost of our sins, we have frozen. But the south wind is a warm wind: when the south wind blows, the ice melts, and the torrents are filled. Now winter streams are called torrents; for filled with sudden rains they run with great force. We had therefore become frozen in captivity; our sins bound us: the south wind the Holy Spirit hath blown: our sins are forgiven us, we are released from the frost of iniquity; as the ice in fair weather, our sins are melted. Let us run unto our country, as the torrents in the south....

8. For the next words are, "They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy" (ver. 5). In this life, which is full of tears, let us sow. What shall we sow? Good works. Works of mercy are our seeds: of which seeds the Apostle saith, "Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap if we faint not." [5502] Speaking therefore of almsgiving itself, what saith he? "This I say; he that soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly." [5503] He therefore who soweth plentifully, shall reap plentifully: he who soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly: and he that soweth nothing, shall reap nothing. Why do ye long for ample estates, where ye may sow plentifully? There is not a wider field on which ye can sow than Christ, who hath willed that we should sow in Himself. Your soil is the Church; sow as much as ye can. But thou hast not enough to do this. Hast thou the will? [5504] As what thou hadst would be nothing, if thou hadst not a good will; so do not despond, because thou hast not, if thou hast a good will. For what dost thou sow? Mercy. And what wilt thou reap? Peace. Said the Angels, Peace on earth unto rich men? No, but, "Peace on earth unto men of a good will." [5505] Zacchæus had a strong will, Zacchæus had great charity. [5506] ...Did then that widow who cast her two farthings into the treasury, sow little? Nay, as much as Zacchæus. For she had narrower means, but an equal will. She gave her two mites [5507] with as good a will as Zacchæus gave the half of his patrimony. If thou consider what they gave, thou wilt find their gifts different; if thou look to the source, thou wilt find them equal; she gave whatever she had, and he gave what he had....But if they are beggars whose profession is asking alms, in trouble they also have what to bestow upon one another. God hath not so forsaken them, but that they have wherein they may be tried by their bestowing of alms. This man cannot walk; he who can walk, lendeth his feet to the lame; he who seeth, lendeth his eyes to the blind; and he who is young and sound, lendeth his strength to the old or the infirm, carrieth him: the one is poor, the other is rich.

9. Sometimes also the rich man is found to be poor, and something is bestowed upon him by the poor. Somebody cometh to a river, so much the more delicate as he is more rich; he cannot pass over: if he were to pass over with bare limbs, he would catch cold, would be ill, would die: a poor man more active in body cometh up: he carries the rich man over; he giveth alms unto the rich. Think not therefore those only poor, who have not money....Thus love ye, thus be ye affectioned unto one another. Attend not solely to yourselves: but to those who are in want around you. But because these things take place in this life with troubles and cares, faint not. Ye sow in tears, ye shall reap in joy.

10. How, my brethren? When the farmer goeth forth with the plough, carrying seed, is not the wind sometimes keen, and doth not the shower sometimes deter him? He looketh to the sky, seeth it lowering, shivers with cold, nevertheless goeth forth, and soweth. For he feareth lest while he is observing the foul weather, and awaiting sunshine, the time may pass away, and he may not find anything to reap. Put not off, my brethren; sow in wintry weather, sow good works, even while ye weep; for, "They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy." They sow their seed, good will, and good works. "They went on their way and wept, casting their seed" (ver. 6). Why did they weep? Because they were among the miserable, and were themselves miserable. It is better, my brethren, that no man should be miserable, than that thou shouldest do alms....Nevertheless, as long as there are objects for its exercise, let us not fail amid those troubles to sow our seed. Although we sow in tears, yet shall we reap in joy. For in that resurrection of the dead, each man shall receive his own sheaves, that is, the produce of his seed, the crown of joys and of delight. Then will there be a joyous triumph, when we shall laugh at death, wherein we groaned before: then shall they say to death, "O death, where is thy strife? O death, where is thy sting?" [5508] But why do they now rejoice? Because "they bring their sheaves with them."

11. In this Psalm we have chiefly exhorted you to do deeds of alms, because it is thence that we ascend; and ye see that he who ascendeth, singeth the song of steps. Remember: do not love to descend, instead of to ascend, but reflect upon your ascent: because he who descended from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among thieves. [5509] ...The Samaritan as He passed by slighted us not: He healed us, He raised us upon His beast, upon His flesh; He led us to the inn, that is, the Church; He entrusted us to the host, that is, to the Apostle; He gave two pence, whereby we might be healed, [5510] the love of God, and the love of our neighbour. The Apostle spent more; for, though it was allowed unto all the Apostles to receive, as Christ's soldiers, pay from Christ's subjects, [5511] that Apostle, nevertheless, toiled with his own hands, and excused the subjects the maintenance owing to him. [5512] All this hath already happened: if we have descended, and have been wounded; let us ascend, let us sing, and make progress, in order that we may arrive.

Footnotes

[5492] Lat. CXXV. A song of degrees. A sermon to the people. [5493] Rom. vii. 14. [5494] Or, "made righteous." [5495] Jer. xxv. 11, xxix. 10. [5496] [A bishop seems to have been present.--C.] [5497] Matt. xv. 1, etc. [5498] Matt. xxiii. 26. [5499] Matt. xv. 10, 11. [5500] 1 Tim. iv. 4. [5501] Ecclus. iii. 17. [5502] Gal. vi. 9. [5503] 2 Cor. ix. 6. [5504] Oxf. mss. "have a good will." [5505] Luke ii. 14. [5506] Luke xix. 8. [5507] Luke xxi. 1-4. [5508] 1 Cor. xv. 55. [5509] Luke x. 30. [5510] Luke x. 35, 37. [5511] Provincialibus. 1 Cor. iv. 2. [5512] 1 Thess. ii. 7, 9; 2 Thess. iii. 8, 9. .


Psalm CXXVII. [5513]

1. Among all the Songs entitled the Song of degrees, this Psalm hath a further addition in the title, that it is "Solomon's." For thus it is entitled, "A Song of degrees of Solomon." It hath therefore aroused our attention, and caused us to enquire the reason of this addition, "of Solomon." For it is needless to repeat explanations of the other words, Song of degrees....Solomon was in his time David's son, a great man, through whom many holy precepts and healthful admonitions and divine mysteries have been wrought by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. Solomon himself was a lover of women, and was rejected by God: and this lust was so great a snare unto him, that he was induced by women even to sacrifice to idols, [5514] as Scripture witnesseth concerning him. But if, by his fall what was delivered through him were blotted out, it would be judged that he had himself delivered these precepts, and not that they were delivered through him. The mercy of God, therefore, and His Spirit, excellently wrought that whatever of good was declared through Solomon, might be attributed unto God; and the man's sin, unto the man. What marvel that Solomon fell among God's people? Did not Adam fall in Paradise? Did not an angel fall from heaven, and become the devil? We are thereby taught, that no hope must be placed in any among men....The name of Solomon is interpreted to mean peacemaker: now Christ is the True Peacemaker, of whom the Apostle saith, "He is our Peace, who hath made both one." [5515] ...Since, therefore, He is the true Solomon; for that Solomon was the figure of this Peace maker, when he built the temple; that thou mayest not think he who built the house unto God was the true Solomon, Scripture showing unto thee another Solomon, thus commences this Psalm: "Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it" (ver. 1). The Lord, therefore, buildeth the house, the Lord Jesus Christ buildeth His own house. Many toil in building: but, except He build, "their labour is but lost that build it." Who are they who toil in building it? All who preach the word of God in the Church, the ministers of God's mysteries. We are all running, we are all toiling, we are all building now; and before us others have run, toiled, and built: but "except the Lord build, their labour is but lost." Thus the Apostles seeing some fall bewailed these men, in that they had laboured in vain for them. [5516] We, therefore, speak without, He buildeth within. We can observe with what attention ye hear us; He alone who knoweth your thoughts, knoweth what ye think. He Himself buildeth, He Himself admonisheth, He Himself openeth the understanding, He Himself kindleth your understanding unto faith; nevertheless, we also toil like workmen; but, "except the Lord build," etc.

2. But that which is the house of God is also a city. For the house of God is the people of God; for the house of God is the temple of God....This is Jerusalem: she hath guards: as she hath builders, labouring at her building up, so also hath she guards. To this guardianship these words of the Apostle relate: "I fear, lest by any means your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ." [5517] He was guarding the Church. He kept watch, to the utmost of his power, over those over whom he was set. The Bishops also do this. For a higher place was for this reason given the Bishops, that they might be themselves the superintendents and as it were the guardians of the people. For the Greek word Episcopus, and the vernacular Superintendent, are the same; for the Bishop superintends, in that he looks over. As a higher place is assigned to the vinedresser in the charge of the vineyard, so also to the Bishops a more exalted station is alloted. And a perilous account is rendered of this high station, except we stand here with a heart that causeth us to stand beneath your feet in humility, and pray for you, that He who knoweth your minds may be Himself your keeper. Since we can see you both coming in and going out; but we are so unable to see what are the thoughts of your hearts, that we cannot even see what ye do in your houses. How then can we guard you? As men: as far as we are able, as far as we have received power. And because we guard you like men, and cannot guard you perfectly, shall ye therefore remain without a keeper? Far be it! For where is He of whom it is said, "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain?" (ver. 1). We are watchful on our guard, but vain in our watchfulness, except He who seeth your thoughts guard you. He keepeth guard while ye are awake, He keepeth guard also whilst ye are asleep. For He hath once slept on the Cross, and hath risen again; He no longer sleepeth. Be ye Israel: for "the Keeper of Israel neither sleepeth nor slumbereth." [5518] Yea, brethren, if we wish to be kept beneath the shadow of God's wings, let us be Israel. For we guard you in our office of stewards; but we wish to be guarded together with you. We are as it were shepherds unto you; but beneath that Shepherd we are fellow-sheep with you. We are as it were your teachers from this station; but beneath Him, the One Master, we are schoolfellows with you in this school.

3. If we wish to be guarded by Him who was humbled for our sakes, and who was exalted to keep us, let us be humble. Let no one assume anything unto himself. No man hath any good, except he hath received it from Him who alone is good. But he who chooseth to arrogate wisdom unto himself, is a fool. Let him be humble, that wisdom may come, and may enlighten him. But if, before wisdom cometh unto him, he imagine that he is wise; he riseth before light, and walketh in darkness. What doth he hear in this Psalm? "It is but lost labour that ye haste to rise up before dawn" (ver. 2). What meaneth this? If ye arise before light ariseth, ye must needs lose your labour, because ye will be in the dark. Our light, Christ, hath arisen; it is good for thee to rise after Christ, not to rise before Christ. Who rise before Christ? They who choose to prefer themselves to Christ. And who are they who wish to prefer themselves to Christ? They who wish to be exalted here, where He was humble. Let them, therefore, be humble here, if they wish to be exalted there, where Christ is exalted....The Lord recalled the sons of Zebedee to humility, and said unto them, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?" [5519] I came to be humble: and are ye wishing to be exalted before Me? The way I go, do ye follow, He saith. For if ye choose to go this way where I do not go, your labour is lost, in rising before dawn. Peter too had risen before the light, when he wished to give the Lord advice, deterring Him from suffering for us....But what did our Lord do? He caused him to rise after the Light: "Get thee behind Me, Satan." [5520] He was Satan, because he wished to rise before Light. "Get thee behind Me:" that I may precede, thou mayest follow: where I go, there thou mayest go; and mayest not wish to lead Me, where thou wouldest go....

4. And as if thou shouldest say, When shall we rise? we are ordered now to sit: when will be our rising? When the Lord's was. Look unto Him, who went before thee: for if thou heedest not Him, "it is lost labour for thee to rise before dawn." When was He raised? When He had died. Hope therefore for thine uplifting after thy death: have hope in the resurrection of the dead, because He rose again and ascended. But where did He sleep? On the Cross. When He slept on the Cross, He bore a sign, yea, He fulfilled what had been signified in Adam: for when Adam was asleep, a rib was drawn from him and Eve was created; [5521] so also while the Lord slept on the Cross, His side was transfixed with a spear, and the Sacraments flowed forth, [5522] whence the Church was born. For the Church the Lord's Bride was created from His side, as Eve was created from the side of Adam. But as she was made from his side no otherwise than while sleeping, so the Church was created from His side no otherwise than while dying. If therefore He rose not from the dead save when He had died, dost thou hope for exaltation save after this life? But that this Psalm might teach thee, in case thou shouldest ask, When shall I rise? perhaps before I have sat down? he addeth, "When He hath given His beloved sleep" (ver. 3). God giveth this when His beloved have fallen asleep; then His beloved, that is, Christ's, shall rise. For all indeed shall rise, but not as His beloved. There is a resurrection of all the dead; but what saith the Apostle? "We shall all rise, but we shall not all be changed." [5523] They rise unto punishment: we rise as our Lord rose, that we may follow our Head, if we are members of Him....Hope for such a resurrection; and for the sake of this be a Christian, not for the sake of this world's happiness. For if thou wish to be a Christian for the sake of this world's happiness, since He thy Light sought not worldly happiness; thou art wishing to rise before the light; thou must needs continue in darkness. Be changed, follow thy Light; rise where [5524] He rose again: first sit down, and thus rise, "when He giveth His beloved sleep."

5. As if thou shouldest ask again, who are the beloved? "Lo, children, the reward of the fruit of the womb, are an heritage of the Lord" [5525] (ver. 3). Since he saith, "fruit of the womb," these children have been born in travail. There is a certain woman, in whom what was said unto Eve, "in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children," is shown after a spiritual manner. The Church beareth children, the Bride of Christ; and if she beareth them, she travaileth of them. In figure of her, Eve was called also "the Mother of all living." [5526] He who said, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you," [5527] was amongst the members of her who travaileth. But she travailed not in vain, nor brought forth in vain: there will be a holy seed at the resurrection of the dead: the righteous who are at present scattered over the whole world shall abound. The Church groaneth for them, the Church travaileth of them; but in that resurrection of the dead, the offspring of the Church shall appear, pain and groaning shall pass away....

6. "Like as the arrows in the hand of the mighty one, even so are the children of those that are shot out" (ver. 4). Whence hath sprung this heritage, brethren? Whence hath sprung so numerous a heritage? Some have been shot out from the Lord's hand, as arrows, and have gone far, and have filled the whole earth, whence the Saints spring. For this is the heritage whereof it is said, "Desire of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." [5528] And how doth this possession extend and increase unto the world's uttermost parts? Because, "like as the arrows in the hand of the mighty one," etc. Arrows are shot forth from the bow, and the stronger the arm which hath sent it forth, the farther flieth the arrow. But what is stronger than the darting of the Lord? From His bow He sendeth forth His Apostles: there could not be a spot left where an arrow shot by so strong an arm would not reach; it hath reached unto the uttermost parts of the earth. The reason it went no farther was, that there were no more of the human race beyond. For He hath such strength, that even if there were a spot beyond, whither the arrow could fly, He would dart the arrow thither. Such are the children of those who are shot forth as they that are shot forth. [5529] ...

7. Perhaps the Apostles themselves are styled the sons of those who have been shaken out, the sons of the Prophets. For the Prophets comprised closed and covered mysteries: they were shaken, that they might come forth thence manifestly....Except the prophecy involved were sifted with diligence, would the concealed meanings come forth unto us? All these meanings were therefore closed before the Lord's advent. The Lord came, and shook out these hidden meanings, and they were made manifest; the Prophets were shaken out, and the Apostles were born. Since then they were born of the Prophets who had been shaken out, the Apostles are sons of those that were shaken out. They, placed as the arrows in the hand of the giant, have reached the uttermost parts of the earth....The Apostles the sons of the Prophets have been like as the arrows in the hand of a mighty one. If He is mighty, He hath shaken them out with a mighty hand; if He hath shaken them out with a mighty hand, they whom He hath shaken forth have arrived even at the uttermost parts of the earth.

8. "Blessed is the man who hath filled his desire from them" (ver. 5). Well, my brethren, who filleth his desire from them? Who loveth not the world. He who is filled with the desire of the world, hath no room for that to enter which they have preached. Pour forth what thou carriest, and become fit for that which thou hast not. That is, thou desirest riches: thou canst not fill thy desire from them: thou desirest honours upon earth, thou desirest those things which God hath given even unto beasts of burden, that is, temporal pleasure, bodily health, and the like; thou wilt not fulfil thy desire from them...."He shall not be ashamed, when he speaketh with his enemies in the gate." Brethren, let us speak in the gate, that is, let all know what we speak. For he who chooseth not to speak in the gate, wisheth what he speaketh to be hidden, and perhaps wisheth it to be hidden for this reason, that it is evil. If he be confident, let him speak in the gate; as it is said of Wisdom, "She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city." [5530] As long as they hold unto righteousness in innocency, they shall not be ashamed: this is to preach at the gate. And who is he who preacheth at the gate? He who preacheth in Christ; because Christ is the gate whereby we enter into that city. [5531] ...They, therefore, who speak against Christ, are without the gate; because they seek their own honours, not those of Christ. But he who preacheth in the gate, seeketh Christ's honour, not his own: and, therefore, he who preacheth in the gate, saith, Trust not in me; for ye will not enter through me, but through the gate. While they who wish men to trust in themselves, wish them not to enter through the gate: it is no marvel if the gate be closed against them, and if they vainly knock for it to be opened. [5532]

Footnotes

[5513] Lat. CXXVI. A sermon to the common people. [5514] 1 Kings xi. 7, 8. [5515] Eph. ii. 14. [5516] Gal. iv. 10, 11. [5517] 2 Cor. xi. 3. [5518] Ps. cxxi. 4. [5519] Matt. xx. 21, 22. [5520] Matt. xvi. 23. [5521] Gen. ii. 21, 22. [5522] John xix. 34. [5523] 1 Cor. xv. 51. [5524] So Oxf. mss. qua resurrexit. Ben. quare surrexit. [5525] Perhaps he intends to read it, "Lo, children, the heritage of the Lord, is the reward of the fruit of the womb;" making filii vocative. [5526] Gen. iii. 16, 20. [5527] Gal. iv. 19. [5528] Ps. ii. 8. [5529] [Al. "shaken forth."--C.] [5530] Prov. viii. 3. [5531] John x. 9. [5532] [He concludes by asking their prayers, and promising to preach the next day on "the Gospel of the Dove." Tract. iv. on St. John i. 31, 32, 16, vol. vii. p. 31, this series; and compare Tractates v. and vi. This reference is from ed. Oxford.--C.] .


Psalm CXXVIII. [5533]

1. Felix the Martyr, [5534] truly Felix, i.e. "Happy" both in his name and his crown, whose birthday this is, despised the world. Was he, because he feared the Lord, thence happy, thence blessed, because his wife was as a fruitful vine upon the earth, and his children stood around his table? All these blessings he hath perfectly, but in the Body of Him who is here described; and, because he understood them in this sense, he scorned things present, that he might receive things future. Ye are aware, brethren, that he suffered not the death that other martyrs suffered. For he confessed, and was set aside for torments; on another day his body was discovered lifeless. They had closed the prison to his body, not to his spirit. The executioners found him gone; when they were preparing to torture, they spent their rage for nought. He was lying dead, without sense to them, that he might not be tortured; with sense with God, that he might be crowned. Whence was he also happy, brethren, not only in name, but in the reward of everlasting life, if he loved these things.

2. "Blessed are all they that fear the Lord, and walk in His ways" (ver. 1). He speaketh to many; but since these many are one in Christ, in the next words he speaketh in the singular: "For thou shalt eat the labours of thy fruits."...When I speak of Christians in the plural, I understand one in the One Christ. Ye are therefore many, and ye are one; we are many, and we are one. How are we many, and yet one? Because we cling unto Him whose members we are; and since our Head is in heaven, that His members may follow....Let us therefore so hear this Psalm, as considering it to be spoken of Christ: and all of us who cling unto the Body of Christ, and have been made members of Christ, walk in the ways of the Lord; and let us fear the Lord with a chaste fear, with a fear that abideth for ever....

3. "Thou shalt eat the labours of thy fruits" (ver. 2). And ye, O thou, ye many who are One, "Thou shalt eat of the labours of thy fruits." He seemeth to speak perversely to those who understand not: for he should have said, thou shalt eat the fruit of thy labours. For many eat the fruit of their labours. They labour in the vineyard; they eat not the toil itself; but what ariseth from their labour they eat. They labour about trees that bear fruit: who would eat labours? But the fruit of these labours, the produce of these trees; it is this that delighteth the husbandman. What meaneth, "Thou shalt eat the labours of thy fruits"? At present we have toils: the fruits will come afterwards. But since their labours themselves are not without joy, on account of the hope whereof we have a little before spoken, "Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation;" [5535] at present those very labours delight us, and make us joyful in hope. If therefore our toil has been what could be eaten, and could also delight us; what will be the fruit of our labour when eaten? "They who went weeping on their way, scattering their seed," [5536] did eat their labours; with how much greater pleasure will they eat the fruits of their labours, who "shall come again with joy, bearing their sheaves with them"?..."Blessed art thou, and well shall it be with thee." "Blessed art thou," is of the present: "well shall it be with thee," is of the future. When thou eatest the labours of thy fruits, "blessed art thou;" when thou hast reached the fruit of thy labours, "well shall it be with thee." What hath he said? For if it be well with thee, thou wilt be happy: and if thou wilt be happy, thou wilt also have all well with thee. But there is a difference between hope and attainment. If hope be so sweet, how much sweeter will reality be?

4. Let us now come to the words, "Thy wife" (ver. 3): it is said unto Christ. His wife, therefore, is the Church: His Church, His wife, we ourselves are. "As a fruitful vineyard." But in whom is the vineyard fruitful? For we see many barren ones entering those walls; we see that many intemperate, usurious persons, slave dealers, enter these walls, and such as resort to fortune-tellers, go to enchanters and enchantresses when they have a headache. Is this the fruitfulness of the vine? Is this the fecundity of the wife? It is not. These are thorns, but the vineyard is not everywhere thorny. It hath a certain fruitfulness, and is a fruitful vine; but in whom? "Upon the sides of thy house." Not all are called the sides of the house. For I ask what are the sides. What shall I say? Are they walls, strong stones, as it were? If he were speaking of this bodily tenement, we should perhaps understand this by sides. We mean by the sides of the house, those who cling unto Christ....

5. "Thy children." The wife and the children are the same. In these carnal marriages and wedlocks, the wife is one, the children other: in the Church, she who is the wife, is the children also. For the Apostles belonged to the Church, and were among the members of the Church. They were therefore in His wife, and were His wife according to their own portion which they held in His members. Why then is it said concerning them, "When the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, then shall the children of the Bridegroom fast"? [5537] She who is the wife, then, is the children also. I speak a wonderful thing, my brethren. In the words of the Lord, we find the Church to be both His brethren, and His sisters, and His mother. [5538] ...For Mary was among the sides of His House, and His relatives coming of the kindred of the Virgin Mary, who believed on Him, were among the sides of His House; not in respect of their carnal consanguinity, but inasmuch as they heard the Word of God, and obeyed it....He added; "For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother." [5539] "Brother," perhaps, on account of the male sex whom the Church hath: "sister," on account of the women whom Christ hath here in His members. How "mother," save that Christ Himself is in those Christians, whom the Church daily bringeth forth Christians through baptism? In those therefore in whom thou understandest the wife, in them thou understandest the mother, in them the children.

6. ...Such children ought therefore to be "around" the Lord's "table, like olive-branches." [5540] A complete Vine it is, a great bliss: who would now refuse to be there? When thou seest any blasphemer have a wife, children, grandchildren, and thyself perchance without them, envy them not; discern that the promise hath been fulfilled in thee also, but spiritually. If therefore we have, why have we? Because we fear the Lord. "Lo, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord" (ver. 4). He is the man, who is also the men; and the men are one man; because many are one, because Christ is One.

7. "The Lord from out of Sion bless thee: and mayest thou see thee good things that are of Jerusalem" (ver. 5). Even to the birds was it said, "Be fruitful and multiply." [5541] Dost thou wish to hold as a great blessing what was given unto birds? Who can be ignorant, that it was given indeed by the voice of God? But use these goods, if thou receive them; and rather think how thou mayest nourish those who have been born, than that others may be born. For it is not happiness to have children, but to have good ones. Labour in the task of nourishing them, if they be born; but if they be not born, give thanks unto God....Thy children are infants: thou dost caress the infants: the infants caress thee: do they abide thus? But thou wishest they may grow, thou wishest that their age may increase. But consider that when one age cometh, another dieth. When boyhood cometh, infancy dieth; when youth cometh, boyhood dieth: when manhood cometh, youth dieth; when old age cometh, manhood dieth: when death cometh, all age dieth. As many successions of ages as thou wishest for, so many deaths of ages dost thou wish for. These things therefore "are" not. Finally, are children born unto thee to share life with thee on earth, or rather to shut thee out and to succeed thee? Rejoicest thou in those born to exclude thee? Boys when born speak somewhat like this to their parents: "Now then, begin to think of removing hence, let us too play our parts on the stage." For the whole life of temptation in the human race is a stage play; [5542] for it is said, "Every man living is altogether vanity." [5543] Nevertheless, if we rejoice in children who will succeed us; how much must we rejoice in children with whom we shall remain, and in that Father for whom we are born, who will not die, but that we may evermore live with Him? These are the good things of Jerusalem: for they "are." And how long shall I see the good things of Jerusalem? "All thy life long." If thy life be for ever, thou wilt see the good things of Jerusalem for evermore....

8. For, "if in this life only," saith the Apostle, "we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." [5544] For what reason were the Martyrs condemned to beasts? What is that good? Can it be declared? by what means, or what tongue can tell it? or what ears can hear it? That indeed, "Neither ear hath heard, nor hath it entered into man's heart:" [5545] only let us love, only let us grow in grace: ye see, then, that battles are not wanting, and that we fight with our lusts. We fight outwardly with unbelieving and disobedient men; we fight inwardly with carnal suggestions and perturbations: we everywhere as yet fight....What sort of peace then is this? One from Jerusalem, for Jerusalem is interpreted, A vision of Peace. Thus then "mayest thou see the good things that are of Jerusalem," and that, "all thy life long--and mayest thou see," not only thy children, but, "thy children's children." What meaneth, Thy children? Thy works which thou here dost. Who are thy children's children? The fruits of thy works. Thou givest alms: these are thy children: for the sake of thine alms thou receivest everlasting life, these are thy children's children. "Mayest thou see thy children's children;" and there shall be "peace upon Israel" (ver. 6), the last words of the Psalm....

Footnotes

[5533] Lat. CXXVII. A sermon to the people on the day of St. Felix the Martyr. [I have transposed the first paragraph.--C.] [5534] He is said to have suffered martyrdom at Thinissa, or Thimisa, not far from Hippo, on the 6th of November.--Ben. (Mart. Rom. has Tuneti.) [5535] Rom. xii. 12. [5536] Ps. cxxvi. 6. [5537] Matt. ix. 15. [5538] Matt. xii. 46, etc. [5539] Matt. xii. 48-50. [5540] Ps. cxxxviii. 3. [5541] Gen. i. 22. [5542] [A text illustrated by our great English dramatist.--C.] [5543] Ps. xxxix. 5. [5544] 1 Cor. xv. 19. [5545] 1 Cor. ii. 9. .


Psalm CXXIX. [5546]

1. The Psalm which we have sung is short: but as it is written in the Gospel of Zacchæus that he was "little of stature," [5547] but mighty in works; as it is written of that widow who cast two mites into the treasury, little was the money, but great was her charity; [5548] thus also this Psalm, if thou count the words, is short; if thou weigh the sentiments, is great....Let the Spirit of God speak, let It speak to us, let It sing to us; whether we wish or wish not to dance, let It sing. For as he who danceth, moveth his limbs to the time; so they who dance according to the commandment of God, in their works obey the sound. What therefore saith the Lord in the Gospel to those who refuse to do this? "We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced: we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented." [5549] Let Him therefore sing; we trust in God's mercy, for there will be those by whom He consoleth us. For they who are obstinate, continuing in wickedness, although they hear the Word of God, by their offences daily disturb the Church. Of such this Psalm speaketh; for thus it beginneth.

2. "Many a time have they fought against me from my youth up" (ver. 1). The Church speaketh of those whom She endureth: and as if it were asked, "Is it now?" The Church is of ancient birth: since saints have been so called, the Church hath been on earth. At one time the Church was in Abel only, and he was fought against by his wicked and lost brother Cain. [5550] At one time the Church was in Enoch alone: and he was translated from the unrighteous. [5551] At one time the Church was in the house of Noah alone, and endured all who perished by the flood, and the ark alone swam upon the waves, and escaped to shore. [5552] At one time the Church was in Abraham alone, and we know what he endured from the wicked. The Church was in his brother's son, Lot, alone, and in his house, in Sodom, and he endured the iniquities and perversities of Sodom, until God freed him from amidst them. [5553] The Church also began to exist in the people of Israel: She endured Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The number of the saints began to be also in the Church, that is, in the people of Israel; Moses and the rest of the saints endured the wicked Jews, the people of Israel. We come unto our Lord Jesus Christ: the Gospel was preached in the Psalms. [5554] ...For this reason, lest the Church wonder now, or lest any one wonder in the Church, who wisheth to be a good member of the Church, let him hear the Church herself his Mother saying to him, Marvel not at these things, my son: "Many a time have they fought against me from my youth up."

3. "Now may Israel say." She now seemeth to be speaking of herself: for she seemed not to have commenced herself, but to have answered. But to whom hath she replied? To them that think and say, How great evils do we endure, how great are the scandals that every day thicken, as the wicked enter into the Church, and we have to endure them? But let the Church reply through some, that is, through the voice of the stronger, let her reply to the complaints of the weak, and let the stable confirm the unstable, and the full-grown the infant, and let the Church say, "Many a time have they vexed me from my youth up" (ver. 2). Let the Church say this: let her not fear it. For what is the meaning of this addition, "From my youth up," after the words, "Many a time have they fought against me"? At present the old age of the Church is assailed: but let her not fear. Hath she then failed to arrive at old age, because they have not ceased to fight against her from her youth up? have they been able to blot her out? Let Israel comfort herself, let the Church console herself with past examples. Why have they fought against me? "For they could not prevail against me."

4. "Upon my back have sinners built; they have done their iniquity afar off" (ver. 3). Why have they fought against me? Because "they could not prevail upon me." What is this? They could not build upon me. I consented not with them unto sin. For every wicked man persecuteth the good on this account, because the good man consenteth not with him to evil. Suppose he do some evil, and the Bishop censure him not, the Bishop is a good man: suppose the Bishop censure him, the Bishop is a bad man. Suppose he carry off anything, let the man robbed be silent, he is a good man: let him only speak and rebuke, even though he doth not reclaim his goods, he is everything bad. He is bad then who blameth the robber, and he is good who robbeth!...Heed not that such an one speaketh to thee: it is a wicked man through whom It speaketh to thee; but the word of God, that speaketh to thee, is not wicked. [5555] Accuse God: accuse Him, if thou canst!

5. Thou accusest a man of avarice, and he accuseth God on the ground that He made gold. Be not covetous. And God, thou repliest, should not make gold. This now remaineth, because thou canst not restrain thine evil deeds, thou accusest the good works of God: the Creator and Architect of the world displeaseth thee. He ought not to make the sun either; for many contend concerning the lights of their windows, and drag each other before courts of law. O if we could restrain our vices! for all things are good, because a good God made all things: and His works praise Him, when their goodness is considered by him who hath the spirit of considering them, the spirit of piety and wisdom. [5556] ...

6. Lend not money at interest. Thou accusest Scripture which saith, "He that hath not given his money upon usury." [5557] I wrote not this: it went not forth first from my mouth: hear God. He replieth: let not the clergy lend upon usury. Perchance he who speaketh to thee, lendeth not at interest: but if he do so lend, suppose that he doth so lend; doth He who speaketh through him lend at interest? If he doth what he enjoineth thee, and thou dost it not; thou wilt go into the flame, he into the kingdom. If he doth not what he enjoineth thee, and equally with thee doth evil deeds, and preaches duties which he doth not; ye will both equally go into the flames. The hay will burn; but "the word of the Lord abideth for evermore." [5558] ...

7. "The righteous Lord shall hew the necks of the sinners" (ver. 4)....Which of us doth not fix his eyes upon the earth, like the Publican, and say, "Lord, be merciful unto me a sinner"? [5559] If therefore all are sinners, and none is found without sin; all must fear the sword that hangs above their neck, because "the righteous Lord shall hew the necks of the sinners." I do not imagine, my brethren, of all sinners; but in the member which He striketh, He marks what sinners He striketh. For it is not said, The righteous Lord will hew the hands of the sinners; or their feet; but because proud sinners were meant to be understood, and all proud men carry lofty necks, and not only do evil deeds, but even refuse to acknowledge them to be such, and when they are rebuked, justify themselves: [5560] ...as it is written in Job (he was speaking of an ungodly sinner), "he runneth against God, even upon his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers;" [5561] so he here nameth the neck, because it is thus thou exaltest thyself, and dost not fix thine eyes upon the ground, and beat thy breast. Thou shouldest cry unto Him, as it is cried in another Psalm, "I said, Lord, be merciful unto me, for I have sinned against Thee." [5562] Since thou dost not choose to say this, but justifiest thy deeds against the Word of God; what followeth in Scripture cometh upon thee: the righteous Lord shall hew the necks of sinners.

8. "Let them be confounded and turned backward, as many as have evil will at Sion" (ver. 5). They who hate Sion, hate the Church: Sion is the Church. And they who hypocritically enter into the Church, hate the Church. They who refuse to keep the Word of God, hate the Church: "Upon my back have they built:" what will the Church do, save endure the burden even unto the end?

9. But what saith he of them? The next words are, "Let them be even as the grass of the house tops: that withereth before it be plucked up" (ver. 6). The grass of the house tops is that which groweth on house tops, on a tiled roof: it is seen on high, and hath not a root. How much better would it be if it grew lower, and how much more joyfully would it bloom? As it is, it riseth higher to a quicker withering. It hath not yet been plucked up, yet hath it withered: not yet have they received sentence from the judgment of God, and already they have not the sap of bloom. Observe their works, and see that they have withered....The reapers will come, but they fill not their sheaves from these. For the reapers will come, and will gather the wheat into the barn, and will bind the tares together, and cast them into the fire. Thus also is the grass of the house tops cleared off, and whatever is plucked from it, is thrown into the fire; because it had withered even before it was plucked up. The reaper filleth not his hands thence. His next words are, "Whereof the reaper filleth not his hand; neither he that bindeth up the sheaves his bosom" (ver. 7). And, "the reapers are the angels," [5563] the Lord saith.

10. "So that they who go by say not so much as, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we have blessed you in the name of the Lord" (ver. 8). For ye know, brethren, when men pass by others at work, it is customary to address them, "The blessing of the Lord be upon you." [5564] And this was especially the custom in the Jewish nation. No one passed by and saw any one doing any work in the field, or in the vineyard, or in harvest, or anything of the sort; it was not lawful to pass by without a blessing....Who are the passers by? They who have already passed hence to their country through this road, that is, through this life: the Apostles were passers by in this life, the Prophets were passers by. Whom did the Prophets and Apostles bless? Those in whom they saw the root of charity? But those whom they found lifted on high on their house tops, and proud in the bosses of their bucklers, they declared against these what they were doomed to become, but they gave them no blessing. Ye therefore who read in the Scriptures, find all those wicked men whom the Church beareth, who are declared cursed, pertain unto Antichrist, pertain unto the devil, pertain to the chaff, pertain to the tares....But they who say, None save God sanctifieth, nor is any man good save by the gift of God; they bless in the name of the Lord, not in their own name: because they are the friends of the bridegroom, [5565] they refuse to be adulterers of the bride.

Footnotes

[5546] Lat. CXXVIII. A sermon to the people. [5547] Luke xix. 2-9. [5548] Mark xii. 42, 44. [5549] Matt. xi. 17. [5550] Gen. iv. 8. [5551] Gen. v. 24. [5552] Gen. vi.-viii. [5553] Gen. xiii.-xx. [5554] Ps. xl. 5. [Heb. iv. 2.--C.] [5555] Oxf. mss. "Heed not through whom It speaketh to thee, but take heed that it is That which speaketh to thee. He is evil through whom It speaketh to thee, but the Word of God that speaketh to thee is not evil." [5556] Song of Three Children, ver. 35, etc. [5557] Ps. xv. 5. [5558] Isa. xl. 8. [On this subject see p. 99, note 2, supra. But it is well to study this and other Fathers passim on this most perplexing matter. Comp. Acts xv. 28, 29; Deut. xxiii. 20; Matt. xxv. 27.--C.] [5559] Luke xviii. 13. [5560] Oxf. mss. add, "I did not this, but the stars." [5561] Job xv. 26. [5562] Ps. xli. 4. [5563] Matt. xiii. 39. [5564] [Note this Christian usage of the fifth century.--C.] [5565] John iii. 29. .


Psalm CXXX. [5566]

1. "Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice" (ver. 1). Jonas cried from the deep; from the whale's belly. [5567] He was not only beneath the waves, but also in the entrails of the beast; nevertheless, those waves and that body prevented not his prayer from reaching God, and the beast's belly could not contain the voice of his prayer. It penetrated all things, it burst through all things, it reached the ears of God: if indeed we ought to say that, bursting through all things, it reached the ears of God, since the ears of God were in the heart of him who prayed. For where hath not he God present, whose voice is faithful? Nevertheless, we also ought to understand from what deep we cry unto the Lord. For this mortal life is our deep. Whoever hath understood himself to be in the deep, crieth out, groaneth, sigheth, until he be delivered from the deep, and come unto Him who sitteth above all the deeps....For they are very deep in the deep, who do not even cry from the deep. The Scripture saith, "When the wicked hath reached the depth of evils, he despiseth." [5568] Now consider, brethren, what sort of deep that is, where God is despised. When each man seeth himself overwhelmed with daily sins, pressed down by heaps and weights, so to speak, of iniquities: if it be said unto him, Pray unto God, he laughs. In what manner? He first saith, If crimes were displeasing unto God, should I live? If God regarded human affairs, considering the great crimes which I have committed, should I not only live, but be prosperous? For this is wont to happen to those who are far in the deep, and are prosperous in their iniquities: and they are the more plunged in the deep, in proportion as they seem to be more happy; for a deceitful happiness is itself a greater unhappiness....

2. "Lord, hear my voice. O let Thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint" (ver. 2). Whence doth he cry? From the deep. Who is it then who crieth? A sinner. And with what hope doth he cry? Because He who came to absolve from sins, gave hope even to the sinner down in the deep. What therefore followeth after these words: "If Thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is amiss, O Lord, who may abide it?" (ver. 3). So, he hath disclosed from what deep he cried out. For he crieth beneath the weights and billows of his iniquities....He said not, I may not abide it: but, "who may abide it?" For he saw that nigh the whole of human life on every side was ever bayed at by its sins, that all consciences were accused by their thoughts, that a clean heart trusting in its own righteousness could not be found.

3. But wherefore is there hope? "For there is propitiation with Thee" (ver. 4). And what is this propitiation, except sacrifice? And what is sacrifice, save that which hath been offered for us? The pouring forth of innocent blood blotted out all the sins of the guilty: so great a price paid down redeemed all captives from the hand of the enemy who captured them. "With Thee," then, "there is propitiation." For if there were not mercy with Thee, if Thou chosest to be Judge only, and didst refuse to be merciful, Thou wouldest mark all our iniquities, and search after them. Who could abide this? Who could stand before Thee, and say, I am innocent? Who could stand in Thy judgment? There is therefore one hope: "for the sake of Thy law have I borne Thee, O Lord." What law? That which made men guilty. For a "law, holy, just, and good," [5569] was given to the Jews; but its effect was to make them guilty. A law was not given that could give life, [5570] but which might show his sins to the sinner. For the sinner had forgotten himself, and saw not himself; the law was given him, that he might see himself. The law made him guilty, the Lawgiver freed him: for the Lawgiver is the Supreme Power. [5571] ...There is therefore a law of the mercy of God, a law of the propitiation of God. [5572] The one was a law of fear, the other is a law of love. The law of love giveth forgiveness to sins, blotteth out the past, warneth concerning the future; forsaketh not its companion by the way, becometh a companion to him whom it leadeth on the way. But it is needful to agree with the adversary, whilst thou art with him in the way. [5573] For the Word of God is thine adversary, as long as thou dost not agree with it. But thou agreest, when it has begun to be thy delight to do what God's Word commandeth. Then he who was thine adversary becometh thy friend: so, when the way is finished, there will be none to deliver thee to the Judge. Therefore, "For the sake of Thy law I have waited for Thee, O Lord," because thou hast condescended to bring in a law of mercy, to forgive me all my sins, to give me for the future warnings that I may not offend...."For the sake," therefore, "of" this "law I have waited for Thee, O Lord." I have waited until Thou mayest come and free me from all need, for in my very need Thou hast not forsaken the law of mercy...."My soul hath waited for Thy word."...

4. We therefore trust without fear on the word of Him who cannot deceive. "My soul hath trusted in the Lord, from the morning watch even unto night" (ver. 5). This morning watch is the end of night. We must therefore understand it so that we may not suppose we are to trust in the Lord for one day only. What do you conceive to be the sense, then, brethren? The words mean this: that the Lord, through whom our sins have been remitted, arose from the dead at the morning watch, so that we may hope that what went before in the Lord will take place in us. For our sins have been already forgiven: but we have not yet risen again: if we have not risen again, not as yet hath that taken place in us which went before in our Head. What went before in our Head? Because the flesh of that Head rose again; did the Spirit of that Head die? What had died in Him, rose again. Now He arose on the third day; and the Lord as it were thus speaketh to us: What ye have seen in Me, hope for in yourselves; that is, because I have risen from the dead, ye also shall rise again.

5. But there are who say, Behold, the Lord hath risen again; but must I hope on that account that I also may rise again? Certainly, on that account: for the Lord rose again in that which He assumed from thee. For He would not rise again, save He had died; and He could not have died, except He bore the flesh. What did the Lord assume from thee? The flesh. What was He that came Himself? The Word of God, who was before all things, through whom all things were made. But that He might receive something from thee, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." [5574] He received from thee, what He might offer for thee; as the priest receiveth from thee, what he may offer for thee, when thou wishest to appease God for thy sins. It hath already been done, it hath been done thus. Our Priest received from us what He might offer for us: for He received flesh from us, in the flesh itself He was made a victim, He was made a holocaust, He was made a sacrifice. In the Passion He was made a sacrifice; in the Resurrection He renewed that which was slain, and offered it as His first-fruits unto God, and saith unto thee, All that is thine is now consecrated: since such first-fruits have been offered unto God from thee; hope therefore that that will take place in thyself which went before in thy first-fruits.

6. Since He then rose with the morning watch, our soul began to hope from hence: and how far? "Even unto night;" until we die; for all our carnal death is as it were sleep....

7. And he returns to this, "From the morning watch let Israel hope in the Lord." Not only "let Israel hope," but "from the morning watch let Israel hope." Do I then blame the hope of the world, when it is placed in the Lord? No; but there is another hope belonging to Israel. Let not Israel hope for riches as his highest good, not for health of body, not for abundance of earthly things: he will indeed have to suffer tribulation here, if it should be his lot to suffer any troubles for the sake of the truth....

8. "For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption" (ver. 7). Admirable! This could not have been better said in its own place, on account of the words, "From the morning watch." Wherefore? Because the Lord rose again from the morning watch; and the body ought to hope for that which went before in the Head. But, lest this thought should be suggested: The Head might rise again, because It was not weighed down with sins, there was no sin in Him; what shall we do? Shall we hope for such a resurrection, as went before in the Lord, whilst we are weighed down by our sins? But see what followeth: "And He shall redeem Israel from all his sins" (ver. 8). Though therefore he was weighed down with his sins, the mercy of God is present to him. For this reason, He went before without sin, that He may blot out the sins of those that follow Him. Trust not in yourselves, but trust from the morning watch....

Footnotes

[5566] Lat. CXXIX. A song of degrees. A sermon to the people. [5567] Jonah ii. 2. [5568] Prov. xviii. 3. [5569] Rom. vii. 12. [5570] Gal. iii. 21. [5571] Imperator. [5572] [Note (Greek) Luke xviii. 13.--C.] [5573] Matt. v. 25. [5574] John i. 1, 3, 14. .


Psalm CXXXI. [5575]

1. In this Psalm, the humility of one that is a servant of God and faithful is commended unto us, by whose voice it is sung; which is the whole body of Christ. [5576] For we have often warned you, beloved, that it ought not to be received as the voice of one man singing, but of all who are in Christ's Body. And since all are in His Body, as it were one man speaketh: and he is one who also is many....Now he prayeth in the temple of God, who prayeth in the peace of the Church, in the unity of Christ's Body; which Body of Christ consisteth of many who believe in the whole world: and therefore he who prayeth in the temple, is heard. For he prayeth in the spirit and in truth, [5577] who prayeth in the peace of the Church; not in that temple, wherein was the figure....

2. "Lord, my heart is not lifted up" (ver. 1). He hath offered a sacrifice. Whence do we prove that he hath offered a sacrifice? Because humility of heart is a sacrifice....If there is no sacrifice, there is no Priest. But if we have a High Priest in Heaven, who intercedeth with the Father for us (for He hath entered into the Holy of Holies, within the veil),...we are safe, for we have a Priest; let us offer our sacrifice there. Let us consider what sacrifice we ought to offer; for God is not pleased with burnt-offerings, as ye have heard in the Psalm. But in that place he next showeth what he offereth: "The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, shalt Thou not despise. [5578]

3. "Lord, my heart was not lifted up, neither were mine eyes raised on high" (ver. 1); "I have not exercised myself in great matters, nor in wonderful things which are too high for me" (ver. 2). Let this be more plainly spoken and heard. I have not been proud: I have not wished to be known among men as for wondrous powers; nor have I sought anything beyond my strength, whereby I might boast myself among the ignorant. As that Simon the sorcerer wished to advance into wonders above himself, on that account the power of the Apostles more pleased him, than the righteousness of Christians....What is above my strength, he saith, I have not sought; I have not stretched myself out there, I have not chosen to be magnified there. How deeply this self-exaltation in the abundance of graces is to be feared, that no man may pride himself in the gift of God, but may rather preserve humility, and may do what is written: "The greater thou art, the more humble thyself, and thou shalt find favour before the Lord:" [5579] how deeply pride in God's gift should be feared, we must again and again impress upon you....

4. "If I had not lowly thoughts, but have lifted up my soul, as one taken from his mother's breast, such the reward for my soul" (ver. 2). He seemeth as it were to have bound himself by a curse:...as though he had been going to say, Let it so happen to me. "As one taken away from his mother's breast, may be my soul's reward." Ye know that the Apostle saith to some weak brethren, "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able." [5580] There are weak persons who are not fit for strong meat; they wish to grasp at that which they cannot receive: and if they ever do receive, or seem to themselves to receive what they have not received, they are puffed up thereby, and become proud thereupon; they seem to themselves wise men. Now this happeneth to all heretics; who since they were animal and carnal, by defending their depraved opinions, which they could not see to be false, were shut out of the Catholic Church....

5. Another opinion indeed hath been entertained, and another sense in these words....It has been evidently explained, my brethren, where God would have us to be humble, where lofty. Humble, in order to provide against pride; lofty, to take in wisdom. Feed upon milk, that thou mayest be nourished; be nourished, so that thou mayest grow; grow, so that thou mayest eat bread. But when thou hast begun to eat bread, thou wilt be weaned, that is, thou wilt no longer have need of milk, but of solid food. This he seemeth to have meant: "If I had not lowly thoughts, but have lifted up my soul:" that is, if I was not an infant in mind, I was in wickedness. In this sense, he said before, "Lord, my heart was not lifted up, nor mine eyes raised on high: I do not exercise myself in great matters, nor in wonderful things above me." Behold, in wickedness I am an infant. But since I am not an infant in understanding, "If I had not lowly thoughts, but have lifted up my soul," may that reward be mine which is given unto the infant that is weaned from his mother, that I may at length be able to eat bread.

6. This interpretation, also, brethren, displeaseth me not, since it doth not militate against the faith. Yet I cannot but remark that it is not only said, "As one taken away from milk, such may be my soul's reward;" but with this addition, "As one taken away from milk when upon his mother's breast, such may be my soul's reward." Here there is somewhat that induces me to consider it a curse. For it is not an infant, but a grown child that is taken away from milk; he who is weak in his earliest infancy, which is his true infancy, is upon his mother's breast: if perchance he hath been taken away from the milk, he perisheth. It is not without a reason then that it is added, "Upon his mother's breast." For all may be weaned by growing. He who groweth, and is thus taken away from milk, it is good for him; but hurtful for him who is still upon his mother's breast. We must therefore beware, my brethren, and be fearful, lest any one be taken away from milk before his time....Let him not therefore wish to lift up his soul, when perchance he is not fit to take meat, but let him fulfil the commandments of humility. He hath wherein he may exercise himself: let him believe in Christ, that he may understand Christ. He cannot see the Word, he cannot understand the equality of the Word with the Father, he cannot as yet see the equality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Word; let him believe this, and suck it. He is safe, because, when he hath grown, he will eat, which he could not do before he grew by sucking: and he hath a point to stretch towards. Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee, and search not the things that are above thy strength; that is, things which thou art not as yet fit to understand. And what am I to do? thou repliest. Shall I remain thus? "But what things the Lord hath commanded thee, think thereupon always." [5581] What hath the Lord commanded thee? Do works of mercy, part not with the peace of the Church, place not thy trust in man, tempt not God by longing for miracles....

7. For if ye be not exalted, if ye raise not your heart on high, if ye tread not in great matters that are too high for you, but preserve humility, God will reveal unto you what ye are otherwise minded in. [5582] But if ye choose to defend this very thing, which ye are otherwise minded about, and with pertinacity assert it, and against the peace of the Church; this curse which he hath described is entailed upon you; when ye are upon your mother's breast, and are removed away from the milk, ye shall die of hunger apart from your mother's breast. But if ye continue in Catholic peace, if perchance ye are in anything otherwise minded than ye ought to be, God will reveal it to you, if ye be humble. Wherefore? Because "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble." [5583]

8. This Psalm therefore concludeth to this purpose: "O Israel, trust in the Lord, from this time forth and even unto eternity" [5584] (ver. 3). But the word seculum doth not always mean this world, but sometimes eternity; since eternity is understood in two ways; until eternity, that is, either evermore without end, or until we arrive at eternity. How then is it to be understood here? Until we arrive at eternity, let us trust in the Lord God; because when we have reached eternity, there will be no longer hope, but the thing itself will be ours.

Footnotes

[5575] Lat. CXXX. A sermon to the common people. [5576] [On this principle the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis are perpetuated as the ceaseless song of the Church.--C.] [5577] John iv. 21-24. [5578] Ps. li. 17. [5579] Ecclus. iii. 18. [5580] 1 Cor. iii. 2. [5581] Ecclus. iii. 22. [5582] Philip. iii. 15. [5583] Jas. iv. 6 and 1 Pet. v. 5. [5584] [He adds: "The Greek words, /=po tou nun kai oeos tou aionos, are rendered in the Latin, ex hoc nunc et usque in seculum."--C.] .


Psalm CXXXII. [5585]

1. It was right indeed, most beloved, that we should rather hear our Brother, [5586] my colleague, when present before all of us. And just now he refused not, but put us off; for he extorted from me that he might now listen to me, on the condition that I also may listen to him, for in charity itself we are all listening unto Him, who is our One Master in heaven. Attend therefore to the Psalm, entitled A Song of Degrees; considerably longer than the rest under the same title. Let us not therefore linger, save where necessity shall compel us: that we may, if the Lord permit, explain the whole. For ye also ought not to hear everything as men untaught; ye ought in some degree to aid us from your past listenings, so that it may not be needful that everything should be declared to you as though new. [5587]

2. "Lord, remember David, and all his meekness" (ver. 1). David according to the truth of history was one man, king of Israel, son of Jesse. He was indeed meek, as the Divine Scriptures themselves mark and command him, and so meek that he did not even render evil for evil to his persecutor Saul. He preserved towards him so great humility, that he acknowledged him a king, and himself a dog: and answered the king not proudly nor rudely, though he was more powerful in God; but he rather endeavoured to appease him by humility, than to provoke him by pride. Saul was even given into his power, and this by the Lord God, that he might do to him what he listed: but since he was not commanded to slay him, but had it only placed in his power (now a man is permitted to use his power), he rather turned towards mercy what God gave him....The humility of David is therefore commended, the meekness of David is commended; and it is said to God, "Lord, remember David, and all his meekness." For what purpose? "How he sware unto the Lord, and vowed a vow unto the Almighty God of Jacob" (ver. 2). Therefore remember for this, that he may fulfil what he hath promised. David himself vowed as though he had it in his power, and he prayeth God to fulfil his vow: there is devotion in the vow, but there is humility in the prayer. Let no one presume to think he fulfilled by his own strength what he hath vowed. He who exhorteth thee to vow, Himself aideth thee to fulfil. Let us therefore see what he vowed, and hence we comprehend how David should be understood in a figure. "David" is interpreted, "Strong of hand," for he was a great warrior. Trusting indeed in the Lord his God, he despatched all wars, he laid low all his enemies, God helping him, according to the dispensation of that kingdom; prefiguring nevertheless some One strong of hand to destroy His enemies, the devil and his angels. These enemies the Church warreth against, and conquereth....What then doth he mean, "How he sware," etc.? Let us see what vow is this. We can offer God nothing more pleasing than to swear. [5588] Now to swear is to promise firmly. [5589] Consider this vow, that is, with what ardour he vowed what he vowed, with what love, with what longing; nevertheless, he prayeth the Lord to fulfil it in these words, "O Lord, remember David, and all his meekness." In this temper he vowed his vow, and there should be a house of God: "I will not come within the tabernacle of mine house, nor climb up into my bed" (ver. 3). "I will not suffer mine eyes to sleep, nor mine eyelids to slumber" (ver. 4). This seemeth not enough; he adds, "Neither the temples of my head to take any rest, until I find out a place for the Lord; an habitation for the God of Jacob" (ver. 5). Where did he seek a place for the Lord? If he was meek, he sought it in himself. For how is one a place for the Lord? Hear the Prophet: "Upon whom shall My Spirit rest? Even upon him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My words." [5590] Dost thou wish to be a place for the Lord? Be thou poor in spirit, and contrite, and trembling at the word of God, and thou wilt thyself be made what thou seekest. For if what thou seekest be not realized in thyself, what doth it profit thee in another....

3. How many thousands believed, my brethren, when they laid down the price of their possessions at the Apostles' feet! But what saith Scripture of them? Surely they are become a temple of God; not only each respectively a temple of God, but also all a temple of God together. They have therefore become a place for the Lord. And that ye may know that one place is made for the Lord in all, Scripture saith, They were of one heart and one soul toward God. [5591] But many, so as not to make a place for the Lord, seek their own things, love their own things, delight in their own power, are greedy for their private interests. Whereas he who wisheth to make a place for the Lord, should rejoice not in his private, but the common good....

4. Let us therefore, brethren, abstain from the possession of private property; or from the love of it, if we may not from its possession; and we make a place for the Lord. It is too much for me, saith some one. But consider who thou art, who art about to make a place for the Lord. If any senator wished to be entertained at your house, I say not senator, the deputy of some great man of this world, and should say, something offends me in thy house; though thou shouldest love it, thou wouldest remove it, nevertheless, lest thou shouldest offend him, whose friendship thou wast courting. And what doth man's friendship profit thee?...Desire the friendship of Christ without fear: He wishes to be entertained at thy house; make room for Him. What is, make room for Him? Love not thyself, love Him. If thou love thyself, thou shuttest the door against Him; if thou love Him, thou openest unto Him: and if thou open and He enter, thou shalt not be lost by loving thyself, but shalt find thyself with Him who loveth thee....

5. "Lo, we heard of the same at Ephrata" (ver. 6). What? A place for the Lord. "We heard of it at Ephrata: and found it in the plains of the forests." [5592] Did he hear it where he found it? or did he hear it in one place, find it in another? Let us therefore enquire what Ephrata is, where he heard it; let us also enquire what mean the plains of the forests, where he found it. Ephrata, a Hebrew word, is rendered in Latin by Speculum, [5593] as the translators of Hebrew words in the Scriptures have handed down to us, that we might understand them. They have translated from Hebrew into Greek, and from Greek we have versions into Latin. For there have been who watched in the Scriptures. If therefore Ephrata meaneth a mirror, that house which was found in the woodland plains, was heard of in a mirror. A mirror hath an image: all prophecy is an image of things future. The future house of God, therefore, was declared in the image of prophecy. "We have found it in the plains of the forests." What are the "plains of the forests"? [5594] Saltus is not here used in its common sense, as a plot of ground of so many hundred acres; [5595] saltus properly signifies a spot as yet untilled and woody. For some copies read, in the plains of the wood. What then were the woodland plains, save nations yet untilled? what were they, save regions yet covered with the thorns of idolatry? Thus, though there were thorns of idolatry there, still we find a place for the Lord there, a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. What was declared in the image to the Jews, was manifested in the faith of the Gentiles.

6. "We will go into His tabernacles" (ver. 7). Whose? Those of the Lord God of Jacob. They who enter to dwell therein, are the very same who enter that they may be dwelt in. Thou enterest into thy house, that thou mayest dwell therein; into the house of God, that thou mayest be dwelt in. For the Lord is better, and when He hath begun to dwell in thee, He will make thee happy. For if thou be not dwelt in by Him, thou wilt be miserable. That son who said, "Father, give me the portion of the goods," etc., [5596] wished to be his own master. It was well kept in his father's hands, that it might not be wasted with harlots. He received it, it was given into his own power; going to a far country, he squandered it all with harlots. At length he suffered hunger, he remembered his father; he returned, that he might be satisfied with bread. Enter therefore, that thou mayest be dwelt in; and mayest be not thine own, so to speak, but His: "We will go into His tabernacles. We will worship on the spot where His feet stood." Whose feet? The Lord's, or those of the house of the Lord itself? For that is the Lord's house, wherein he saith He ought to be worshipped. Beside His house, the Lord heareth not unto eternal life; for he belongeth to God's house, who hath in charity been built in with living stones. But he who hath not charity, falleth; and while he falls, the house stands....

7. But if ye incline to understand it of the house itself, where the feet of that house have stood; let thy feet stand in Christ. They will then stand, if thou shalt persevere in Christ. For what is said of the devil? "He was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth." [5597] The feet of the devil therefore stood not. Also what saith he of the proud? "O let not the foot of pride come against me; and let not the hand of the ungodly cast me down. There are they fallen, all that work wickedness: they are cast down, and were not able to stand." [5598] That then is the house of God, whose feet stand. Whence John rejoicing, saith: what? "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom standeth and heareth him." If he stand not, he heareth him not. Justly he standeth, because "he rejoiceth on account of the bridegroom's voice." Now therefore ye see why they fell, who rejoice because of their own voice. [5599] That friend of the Bridegroom said, "The same is He which baptizeth." [5600] Some say, We baptize: rejoicing in their own voice, they could not stand; and belong not to that house of which it is said, "where His feet stood."

8. "Arise, O Lord, into Thy resting place" (ver. 8). He saith unto the Lord sleeping, "Arise." Ye know already who slept, and who rose again...."Thou, and the ark of Thy sanctification:" that is, Arise, that the ark of Thy sanctification, which Thou hast sanctified, may arise also. He is our Head; His ark is His Church: He arose first, the Church will arise also. The body would not dare to promise itself resurrection, save the Head arose first. The Body of Christ, that was born of Mary, hath been understood by some to be the ark of sanctification; so that the words mean, Arise with Thy Body, that they who believe not may handle.

9. "Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Thy saints sing with joyfulness" (ver. 9). When Thou risest from the dead, and goest unto Thy Father, let that royal Priesthood be clothed with faith, since "the righteous liveth by faith;" [5601] and, receiving the pledge of the Holy Spirit, let the members rejoice in the hope of resurrection, which went before in the Head: for to them the Apostle saith, "Rejoicing in hope." [5602]

10. "For Thy servant David's sake, turn not away the face of Thine Anointed" (ver. 10). These words are addressed unto God the Father. "For Thy servant David's sake, turn not away the face of Thine Anointed." The Lord was crucified in Judæa; He was crucified by the Jews; harassed by them, He slept. He arose to judge those among whose savage hands He slept: and He saith elsewhere, "Raise Thou Me up again, and I shall reward them." [5603] He both hath rewarded them, and will reward them. The Jews well know themselves how great were their sufferings after the Lord's death. They were all expelled from the very city, where they slew Him. What then? have all perished even from the root of David and from the tribe of Judah? No: for some of that stock believed, and in fact many thousands of men of that stock believed, and this after the Lord's resurrection. They raged and crucified Him: and afterwards began to see miracles wrought in the Name of Him Crucified; and they trembled still more that His Name should have so much power, since when in their hands He seemed unable to work any; and pricked at heart, at length believing that there was some hidden divinity in Him whom they had believed like other men, and asking counsel of the Apostles, they were answered, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ." [5604] Since then Christ arose to judge those by whom He had been crucified, and turned away His Presence from the Jews, turning His Presence towards the Gentiles; God is, as it seemeth, besought in behalf of the remnant of Israel; and it is said unto Him, "For Thy servant David's sake, turn not away the presence of Thine Anointed." If the chaff be condemned, let the wheat be gathered together. May the remnant be saved, as Isaiah saith, "And the remnant hath" clearly "been saved:" [5605] for out of them were the twelve Apostles, out of them more than five hundred brethren, to whom the Lord showed Himself after His Resurrection: [5606] out of their number were so many thousands baptized, [5607] who laid the price of their possessions at the Apostles' feet. Thus then was fulfilled the prayer here made to God: "For Thy servant David's sake, turn not away the presence of Thine Anointed."

11. "The Lord hath made a faithful oath unto David, and He shall not repent" (ver. 11). What meaneth, "hath made an oath"? Hath confirmed a promise through Himself. What meaneth, "He shall not repent"? He will not change. For God suffereth not the pain of repentance, nor is He deceived in any matter, so that He would wish to correct that wherein He hath erred. But as when a man repents of anything, he wisheth to change what he hath done; thus where thou hearest that God repenteth, look for an actual change. God doth it differently from thee, although He calleth it by the name of repentance; for thou dost it, because thou hadst erred; while He doth it, because He avengeth, or freeth. He changed Saul's kingdom, when He repented, as it is said: and in the very passage where the Scripture saith, "It repented Him;" it is said a little after, "for He is not a man that He should repent." [5608] When therefore He changeth His works through His immutable counsel, He is said to repent on account of this very change, not of His counsel, but of His work. But He promised this so as not to change it. Just as this passage also saith: "The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec;" [5609] so also since this was promised so that it should not be changed, because it must needs happen and be permanent; he saith, "The Lord hath made a faithful oath unto David, and He shall not repent; Of the fruit of thy body shall I set upon thy seat." He might have said, "of the fruit of thy loins," wherefore did He choose to say, "Of the fruit of thy body"? Had He said that also, it would have been true; but He chose to say with a further meaning, Ex fructu ventris, because Christ was born of a woman without the man.

12. What then? "The Lord hath made a faithful oath unto David, and He shall not shrink from it; Of the fruit of thy body shall I set upon thy seat. If thy children will keep My covenant and My testimonies that I shall learn them, their children also shall sit upon thy seat for evermore" (ver. 12). If thy children keep My covenant, their children also shall sit for evermore. The parents establish a desert on behalf of their children. What if his children should keep the covenant, and their children should not keep it? Why is the happiness of the children promised in relation to their parents' deservings? For what saith He, "If thy children will keep My covenant, their children also shall sit for evermore"--He saith not, if thy children keep My covenant, they shall sit upon thy seat; and if their children keep My covenant, they also shall sit upon thy seat: but he saith, "If thy children keep My covenant, their children also shall sit upon thy seat for evermore"--except because He here wished their fruit to be understood by their children? "If thy children," He saith, "will keep My covenant, and if thy children shall keep My testimonies that I shall learn them; their children also shall sit upon thy seat:" that is, this will be their fruit, that they sit upon thy seat. For in this life, brethren, do all of us who labour in Christ, all of us who tremble at His words, who in any way endeavour to execute His will, and groan while we pray His help that we may fulfil what He commandeth; do we already sit in those seats of bliss which are promised us? No: but holding His commandments, we hope this will come to pass. This hope is spoken of under the figure of sons; because sons are the hope of man living in this life, sons are his fruit. For this reason also men, when excusing their avarice, allege that they are reserving for their children what they hoard up; and, unwilling to give to the destitute, excuse themselves under the name of piety, because their children are their hope. For all men who live according to this world, declare it to be their hope, to be fathers of children they may leave behind them. Thus then He describes hope generally under the name of children, and saith, "If thy children will keep My covenant and My testimonies that I shall learn them, their children also shall sit upon thy seat for evermore:" that is, they shall have such fruits, that their hope shall not deceive them, that they may come there where they hope to come. At present therefore they are as fathers, men of hope for the future; but when they have attained what they hope, they are children; because they have brought forth and produced in their works that which they gain. And this is preserved unto them for the future, [5610] because futurity [5611] itself commonly signifieth children.

13. Or if thou understand actual men to be meant by children, the words, "If thy children will keep My covenant and My testimonies that I shall teach them," may mean, "If thy children will keep My covenant and testimonies that I shall teach them, and their children also;" that is, if they too keep My covenant; so that here thou must make a slight pause, and then infer that "they shall sit upon thy seat for evermore;" that is, both thy children and their children, but all if they keep My covenant. What then, if they keep it not? Hath the promise of God failed? No: but it is said and promised for this reason, that God foresaw: what, save that they would believe? But that no man should as it were threaten God's promises, and prefer to place in his own power the fulfilment of what God promised: for this reason he saith, "He made an oath:" whereby he showeth that it will without doubt take place. How then hath He said here, "If they will keep My covenant"? Glory not in the promises, and leave out thy failing to keep the covenant. Then wilt thou be the son of David, if thou shalt keep the covenant; but if thou dost not keep it, thou wilt not be David's son. God promised to the sons of David. Say not, I am David's son if thou degenerate. If the Jews, who were born of this very stock, say not this (nay, they say it, but they are under a delusion. For the Lord saith openly, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham." [5612] He thereby denied them to be children, because they did not the works), how do we call ourselves David's children, who are not of his race according to the flesh? It follows then that we are not children, save by imitating his faith, save by worshipping God, as he worshipped. If therefore what thou hopest not through descent, thou wilt not endeavour to obtain by works; how shall the sitting upon David's seat be fulfilled in thee? And if it shall not be fulfilled in thee, thinkest thou that it shall not be fulfilled at all? And how hath He found it in the woodland tracts? and how did His feet stand? Whatsoever then thou mayest be, that house will stand.

14. "For the Lord hath chosen Sion to be an habitation for Himself" (ver. 13). Sion is the Church Herself; She is also that Jerusalem unto whose peace we are running, who is in pilgrimage not in the Angels, but in us, who in her better part waiteth for the part that will return; whence letters have come unto us, which are every day read. This city is that very Sion, whom the Lord hath chosen.

15. "This shall be My rest for ever" (ver. 14). These are the words of God. "My rest:" I rest there. How greatly doth God love us, brethren, since, because we rest, He saith that He also resteth! For He is not sometimes Himself disturbed, nor doth He rest as we do; but He saith that He resteth there, because we shall have rest in Him. "Here will I dwell: for I have a delight therein."

16. "I will bless her widow with blessings, and will satisfy her poor with bread" (ver. 15). Every soul that is aware that it is bereft of all help, save of God alone, is widowed. For how doth the Apostle describe a widow? "She that is a widow indeed and desolate, trusteth in God." [5613] He was speaking of those whom we all call Widows in the Church. He saith, "She that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth;" and he numbereth her not among the widows. But in describing true widows, what saith he? "She that is a widow indeed and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day." Here he addeth, "but she that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth." What then makes a widow? That she hath no aid from any other source, save from God alone. They that have husbands, take pride in the protection of their husbands: widows seem desolate, and their aid is a stronger one. The whole Church therefore is one widow, whether in men or in women, in married men or married women, in young men or in old, or in virgins: the whole Church is one widow, desolate in this world, if she feel this, if she is aware of her widowhood: for then is help at hand for her. Do ye not recognise this widow in the Gospel, my brethren, when the Lord declared "that men ought always to pray and not to faint"? "There was in a city a judge," He said, "which feared not God, neither regarded man. And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him day by day, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary." The widow, by daily importunity, prevailed with him: for the judge said within himself, "Though I fear not God; neither regard man, yet because this woman troubleth me, I will avenge her." [5614] If the wicked judge heard the widow, that he might not be molested; heareth not God His Church, whom He exhorteth to pray?

17. Also, "I will satisfy her poor with bread;" what meaneth this, brethren? Let us be poor, and we shall then be satisfied. Many who trust in the world, and are proud, are Christians; they worship Christ, but are not satisfied; for they have been satisfied, and abound in their pride. Of such it is said, "Our soul is filled with the scornful reproof of the wealthy, and with the despitefulness of the proud:" [5615] these have abundance, and therefore eat, but are not satisfied. And what is said of them in the Psalm? "All such as be fat upon the earth have eaten and worshipped." [5616] They worship Christ, they venerate Christ, they pray unto Christ; but they are not satisfied with His wisdom and righteousness. Wherefore? Because they are not poor. For the poor, that is the humble in heart, the more they hunger, the more they eat; and the more empty they are of the world, the more hungry they are. He who is full refuseth whatsoever thou wilt give him, because he is full. Give me one who hungereth; give me one of whom it is said, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled:" [5617] and these will be the poor of whom he hath just said, "And will satisfy her poor with bread." For in the very Psalm where it is said, "All such as be fat upon the earth have eaten and worshipped;" this is said of the poor also, and exactly in the same manner as in this Psalm, "The poor shall eat, and be satisfied: they that seek after the Lord shall praise Him." [5618] Where it is said, "All such as be fat upon earth have eaten and worshipped:" it is said, "the poor shall eat, and be satisfied." Why, when the rich are said to have worshipped, are they not said to be satisfied; yet when the poor are mentioned, they are said to be satisfied? And whence are they satisfied? What is the nature, brethren, of this satisfying? God Himself is their bread. The bread came down upon the earth, that He might become milk unto us; and said to His own, "I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven." [5619] Hence these words in the Psalm, "The poor shall eat, and be satisfied." From what source shall they be satisfied? Hear what followeth: "And they that seek after the Lord shall praise Him."

18. Be ye therefore poor, be ye among the members of that widow, let your help be solely in God alone. Money is nought; not thence will ye have aid. Many have been cast headlong down for money's sake, many have perished on account of money; many for the sake of their riches have been marked out by plunderers; they would have been safe, had they not had what made men hunt for them. Many have presumed in their more powerful friends: they in whom they presumed have fallen, and have involved in their ruin those who trusted in them. Look back upon the instances to be seen in the human race. Is it anything singular that I am telling you? We speak these things not only from these Scriptures; read them in the whole world. Take heed that ye presume not in money, in a friend, in the honour and the boasting of the world. Take away all these things: but if thou hast them, thank God if thou despisest them. But if thou art puffed up by them; think not when thou wilt be the prey of men; already art thou the Devil's prey. But if thou hast not trusted in these things, thou wilt be among the members of that widow, who is the Church, of whom it is said, "I will bless her widow with blessings;" thou wilt also be poor, and one of those of whom it is said, "And will satisfy her poor with bread."

19. Sometimes, however, and we must not pass over this without mention, thou findest a poor man proud, and a rich man humble: we daily endure such persons. Thou hearest a poor man groaning beneath a rich man, and when the more powerful rich man presseth upon him, then thou seest him humble: sometimes not even then, but even then proud; whence thou seest what he would have been, had he any property. God's poor one is therefore poor in spirit, not in his purse. Sometimes a man goeth forth having a full house, rich lands, many estates, much gold and silver; he knoweth that he must not trust in these, he humbleth himself before God, he doth good with them; thus his heart is raised unto God, so that he is aware that not only do riches themselves profit him nothing, but that they even impede his feet, save He rule them, and aid them: and he is counted among the poor who are satisfied with bread. Thou findest another a proud beggar, or not proud only because he hath nothing, nevertheless seeking whereby he may be puffed up. God doth not heed the means a man hath, but the wish he hath, and judgeth him according to his wish for temporal blessings, not according to the means which it is not his lot to have. Whence the Apostle saith of the rich, "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy." What therefore should they do with their riches? He goeth on to say: "That they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate." And see that they are poor in this world: "Laying up in store for themselves," he addeth, "a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." [5620] When they have laid hold of eternal life, then will they be rich; but since they have it not as yet, they should know that they are poor. Thus it is that God counteth among His poor all the humble in heart, who are established in that twofold charity, [5621] whatever they may have in this world--among His poor, whom He satisfieth with bread.

20. "I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice and sing" (ver. 16). We are now at the end of the Psalm; attend for a short space, Beloved. "I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice and sing." Who is our salvation, save our Christ? What meaneth, therefore, "I will clothe her priests with salvation"? "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." [5622] "And her saints shall rejoice and sing." Whence shall they rejoice and sing? Because they have been clothed with salvation: not in themselves. For they have become light, but in the Lord; for they were darkness before. [5623] Therefore he hath added, "There will I raise up the horn of David" (ver. 17): this will be David's height, that trust be put in Christ. For horn signifieth height: and what sort of height? Not carnal. Therefore, while all the bones are wrapped up in flesh, the horn goeth beyond the flesh. Spiritual altitude is a horn. But what is spiritual loftiness, save to trust in Christ? not to say, It is my work, I baptize; [5624] but, "He it is who baptizeth." [5625] There is the horn of David: and that ye may know that there is the horn of David, heed what followeth: "I have ordained a lantern for mine Anointed." What is a lantern? Ye already know the Lord's words concerning John: "He was a burning and a shining light." [5626] And what saith John? "He it is who baptizeth." Herein therefore shall the saints rejoice, herein the priests shall rejoice: because all that is good in themselves, is not of themselves, but of Him who hath the power of baptizing. Fearlessly therefore doth every one who hath received baptism come unto His temple; because it is not man's, but His who made the horn of David to flourish.

21. "Upon Him shall My sanctification flourish" (ver. 18). Upon whom? Upon Mine Anointed. For when He saith, "Mine anointed," it is the voice of the Father, who saith, "I will bless her widow with blessings, and will satisfy her poor with bread. I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice and sing." He who saith, "There will I raise up the horn of David," is God. He Himself saith, "I have ordained a lantern for Mine Anointed," because Christ is both ours and the Father's: He is our Christ, when He saveth us and ruleth us, as He is also our Lord: He is the Son of the Father, but both our Christ and the Father's. For if He were not the Father's Christ, it would not be said above, "For Thy servant David's sake, turn not Thou away the presence of Thine Anointed." "Upon Him shall My sanctification flourish." It flourisheth upon Christ. Let none of men assume this to himself, that he himself sanctifieth: otherwise it will not be true, "Upon Him shall My sanctification flourish." The glory of sanctification shall flourish. The sanctification of Christ therefore in Christ Himself, is the power of the sanctification of God in Christ. In that he saith, "shall flourish," he refers to His glory: for when trees flourish, then are they beautiful. Sanctification therefore is in Baptism: thence it flourisheth, and is brightened. Why hath the world yielded to this beauty? Because it flourisheth in Christ; for, put it in man's power, and how doth it then flourish? since "all flesh in grass, and all the goodliness thereof as the flower of the grass."

Footnotes

[5585] Lat. CXXXI. A sermon to the common people. [5586] Ed. Ben. supposes this to be Severus, Bishop of Milevis; and refers to Exp. of Ps. xcvi. 1, p. 470, supra. [5587] [On this principle, I have been forced to sacrifice many repetitions excellent in themselves.--C.] [5588] Ben. thinks these words are repeated by mistake from above, in some mss.; but they are also in our copies, and come in very much after the manner of St. Augustin. [5589] [This sufficiently modifies and expounds what he means.--C.] [5590] Isa. lxvi. 2. [5591] Acts iv. 4, 32, 35. [5592] Oxf. mss. add these words: "We hear those things in Ephrata, we find them in the woodland plains." [Note 1 Kings vi. 7.--C.] [5593] Mirror. [5594] Saltuum. [5595] Centuriarum--then 200 acres. See Isid. Etym. xv. c. 15, 7. [5596] Luke xv. 12-20. [5597] John viii. 44. [5598] Ps. xxxvi. 11, 12. [5599] Donatists. [5600] John i. 33. [5601] Rom. i. 17. [5602] Rom. xii. 12. [5603] Ps. xli. 10. [5604] Acts ii. 38. [5605] Isa. x. 21, 22. [5606] 1 Cor. xv. 6. [5607] Acts ii. 41. [5608] 1 Sam. xv. 11, 29. [5609] Ps. cx. 4. [5610] In posterum. [5611] Posteritas. [5612] John viii. 39. [5613] 1 Tim. v. 5, 6. [5614] Luke xviii. 1-8. [5615] Ps. cxxiii. 4. [5616] Ps. xxii. 29. [5617] Matt. v. 6. [5618] Ps. xxii. 29, 26. [5619] John vi. 51. [5620] 1 Tim. vi. 17-19. [5621] Matt. xxii. 37-39. [5622] Gal. iii. 27. [5623] Eph. v. 8. [5624] Donatists. [5625] John i. 33. [5626] John v. 35. .


Psalm CXXXIII. [5627]

1. This is a short Psalm, but one well known and quoted. "Behold, how good and how pleasant is it, that brethren should dwell together in unity" (ver. 1). So sweet is that sound, that even they who know not the Psalter, sing that verse. ...

2. For these same words of the Psalter, this sweet sound, that honeyed melody, as well of the mind as of the hymn, did even beget the Monasteries. By this sound were stirred up the brethren who longed to dwell together. This verse was their trumpet. It sounded through the whole earth, and they who had been divided, were gathered together. The summons of God, the summons of the Holy Spirit, the summons of the Prophets, were not heard in Judah, yet were heard through the whole world. They were deaf to that sound, amid whom it was sung; they were found with their ears open, of whom it was said, "They shall see him, who were not told of him; they shall understand who heard not." [5628] Yet, most beloved, if we reflect, the very blessing hath sprung from that wall [5629] of circumcision. For have all the Jews perished? and whence were the Apostles, the sons of the Prophets, the sons of the exiles? [5630] He speaks as to them who know. Whence those five hundred, who saw the Lord after His resurrection, whom the Apostle Paul commemorates? [5631] Whence those hundred and twenty, [5632] who were together in one place after the resurrection of the Lord, and His ascension into heaven, on whom when gathered into one place the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost, sent down from heaven, sent, even as He was promised? [5633] All were from thence, and they first dwelt together in unity; who sold all they had, and laid the price of their goods at the Apostles' feet, as is read in the Acts of the Apostles. [5634] And distribution was made to each one as he had need, [5635] and none called anything his own, but they had all things common. And what is "together in unity"? They had, he says, one mind and one heart God-wards. [5636] So they were the first who heard, Behold how good and how pleasant is it, that brethren dwell together. They were the first to hear, but heard it not alone....

3. From the words of this Psalm was taken the name of Monks, that no one may reproach you who are Catholics by reason of the name. When you with justice reproach heretics by reason of the Circelliones, [5637] that they may be saved by shame, they reproach you on the score of the Monks....

4. Moreover, beloved, there are they who are false Monks, and we know men of this kind; but the pious brotherhood is not annulled, because of them who profess to be what they are not. There are false Monks, as there are false men among the Clergy, and among the faithful. [5638] ...

5. Since the Psalm says, "Behold, how good and how pleasant is it, that brethren should dwell together in one," why then should we not call Monks so? for Monos [5639] is one. Not one in any manner, for a man in a crowd is one, but though he can be called one along with others, he cannot be Monos, that is, alone, for Monos means "one alone." They then who thus live together as to make one man, so that they really possess what is written, "one mind and one heart," [5640] many bodies, but not many minds; many bodies, but not many hearts; can rightly be called Monos, that is, one alone. [5641] ...

6. Let the Psalm tell us what they are like. "As the ointment on the head, which descended to the beard, to Aaron's beard, which descended to the fringe of his garment" (ver. 2). What was Aaron? A priest. Who is a priest, except that one Priest, who entered into the Holy of Holies? Who is that priest, save Him, who was at once Victim and Priest? save Him who when he found nothing clean in the world to offer, offered Himself? The ointment is on his head, because Christ is one whole with the Church, but the ointment comes from the head. Our Head is Christ crucified and buried; He rose again, and ascended into heaven; and the Holy Spirit came from the head. Whither? To the beard. The beard signifies the courageous; the beard distinguishes the grown men, the earnest, the active, the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man. Thus that ointment descended first upon the Apostles, descended upon those who bore the first assaults of the world, and therefore the Holy Spirit descended on them. For they who first began to dwell together in unity, suffered persecution, but because the ointment descended to the beard, they suffered, but were not conquered....

7. "As the dew of Hermon, which fell upon the hills of Sion" (ver. 3). He would have it understood, my brethren, that it is of God's grace that brethren dwell together in unity....

8. But ye should know what Hermon is. It is a mountain far distant from Jerusalem, that is, from Sion. And so it is strange that he says thus: As the dew of Hermon, which fell upon the mountains of Sion, since mount Hermon is far distant from Jerusalem, for it is said to be over Jordan. Let us then seek out some interpretation of Hermon. The word is Hebrew, and we learn its meaning from them who know that language. Hermon is said to mean, a light set on a high place. For from Christ comes the dew. No light is set on a high place, save Christ. How is He set on high? First on the cross, afterwards in heaven. Set on high on the cross when He was humbled; humbled, but His humiliation could not but be high. The ministry of man grew less and less, as was signified in John; the ministry of God in our Lord Jesus Christ increased, as was shown at their birth. The former was born, as the tradition of the Church shows, on the 24th of June, when the days begin to shorten. The Lord was born on the 25th of December, when the days begin to lengthen. Here John himself confessing, "He must increase, but I must decrease." [5642] And the passion of each shows this. The Lord was exalted on the cross; John was diminished by beheading. Thus the light set on high is Christ, whence is the dew of Hermon....But if he have the dew of Hermon, which fell on the hill of Sion, he is quiet, peaceable, humble, submissive, pouring forth prayer in place of murmuring. For murmurers are admirably described in a certain passage of the Scriptures, "The heart of a fool is as the wheel of a cart." [5643] What is the meaning of "the heart of a fool is as the wheel of a cart"? It carries hay, and creaks. The wheel of a cart cannot cease from creaking. Thus there are many brethren, who do not dwell together, save in the body. But who are they who dwell together? They of whom it is said, "And they had one mind and one heart towards God." [5644]

9. "Because there the Lord commanded blessing." Where did He command it? Among the brethren who dwell together. There He enjoined blessing, there they who dwell with one heart bless God. For thou blessest not God in division of heart....Art thou straitened on earth? Depart, have thy habitation in heaven. How shall I, a man clothed in flesh, enslaved to the flesh, thou wilt say, have my habitation in heaven. First go in heart, whither thou wouldest follow in the body. Do not hear, "Lift up your hearts," with a deaf ear. Keep thy heart lifted up, and no one will straiten thee in heaven.

Footnotes

[5627] Lat. CXXXII. A public discourse, in which he defends the Monks against the Donatists. [5628] Isa. lxv. 1. [5629] Alluding to the two walls, Jewish and Gentile, meeting in the corner. See on Ps. lix. 5, p. 243, and on Ps. xcv. 6, p. 468. [5630] Ps. cxxvii. 4. Excussi, a literal translation of the Greek LXX. ektetinagmenoi. This translation of the ambiguous Hebrew root R+E+aN+o which means to shake out, or expel, and R+E+aG+ a young man, is preferred by the LXX. to the "young men" of our version. St. Augustin's interpretation see on Ps. cxxvii. 7, p. 608. [5631] 1 Cor. xv. 6. [5632] Acts i. 15. [5633] Acts ii. 1-4. [5634] Acts iv. 34, 35. [5635] Acts ii. 45. [5636] Acts iv. 32. [5637] The Circumcelliones were a wandering kind of Anchorites, who lived under no rule, and were guilty of various irregularities, and who were censured by the forty-second Canon of the Council of Trullo. Confer also Papias: St. Jerome, Ep. 22, 34; Hunneric's Edict. Vict. Vitens. lib. 3. A number of these, in Africa, took up the cause of Donatus in a fanatical manner, and perpetrated various acts of violence under pretence of religion, robbing and beating whom they would, sending threatening notices, etc., and sometimes seeking death, or even committing suicide under the name of Martyrdom. See on Ps. xi. p. 42, note 4, on Ps. lv. p. 218, note 1, on Ps. xcvi. p. 473, note 8, and S. Optatus, b. iii. c. iv. p. 59, where a historical account is given. Ducange refers to St. Augustin, Ep. 48, 50, 61, 68; Contra Parmenian, b. i. cap. 11; Contra Crescon. b. iii. c. 42, 47; Collat. Carthag. 3, cap. 174, 281; Possidius, Life of St. Augustin, c. 10, 11; Auctor Prædestinati, b. i. hæres 69, etc. Also Cod. Theod. Cen. 52, De Hæreticis, but doubtfully as to its application. [See Gibbon, D. and F. cap. xxi. note 157, ed. Milman.--C.] [5638] [See A.N.F. vol. vi. p. 279.--C.] [5639] monos, Gr. [5640] Acts iv. 32. [5641] [The institution has perished even in many parts of unreformed Europe, only because of the intolerable evils of their corrupt and degenerate condition.--C.] [5642] John iii. 30. [5643] Ecclus. xxxiii. 5. [5644] Acts iv. 32. .


Psalm CXXXIV. [5645]

1. "Behold, now, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord" (ver. 1), "who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God" (ver. 2). Why has he added, "in the courts"? Courts mean the wider spaces of a house. He who stands in the courts is not straitened, is not confined, in some fashion is enlarged. Remain in this enlargement, and thou canst love thy enemy, because thou lovest not things in which an enemy could straiten thee. How canst thou be understood to stand in the courts? Stand in charity, and thou standest in the courts. Breadth lies in charity, straitness in hatred.

2. "Lift up your hands by night in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord" (ver. 2). It is easy to bless by day. What is "by day"? In prosperity. For night is a sad thing, day a cheerful. When it is well with thee, thou dost bless the Lord. Thy son was sick, and he is made whole, thou dost bless the Lord. Thy son was sick, perchance thou hast sought an astrologer, a soothsayer, perchance a curse against the Lord has come, not from thy tongue, but from thy deeds, from thy deeds and thy life. Boast not, because thou blessest with thy tongue, if thou cursest with thy life. Wherefore bless ye the Lord. When? By night. When did Job bless? When it was a sad night. All was taken away which he possessed; the children for whom his goods were stored were taken away. How sad was his night! Let us however see whether he blesseth not in the night. "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; it is as the Lord willed; blessed be the name of the Lord." [5646] And black was the night....

3. "The Lord out of Zion bless thee, who made heaven and earth" (ver. 3). He exhorts many to bless, and Himself blesseth one, because He maketh one out of many, since "it is good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in one." [5647] It is a plural number, brethren, and yet singular, to dwell together in one. Let none of you say, It cometh not to me. Knowest thou of whom he speaks, "the Lord bless thee out of Zion." He blessed one. Be one, [5648] and the blessing cometh to thee.

Footnotes

[5645] Lat. CXXXIII. [5646] Job i. 21. [5647] Ps. cxxxiii. 1. [5648] Unum. .


Psalm CXXXV. [5649]

1. Very pleasant ought it be to us, and we should rejoice because it is pleasant, to which this Psalm exhorteth us. For it says, "Praise the name of the Lord" (ver. 1). And it forthwith appends the reason, why it is just to praise the name of the Lord. "Praise the Lord, ye servants." What more just? what more worthy? what more thankful?...For if He teaches His own servants who have deserved well of Him, the preachers of His Word, the rulers of His Church, the worshippers of His name, the obeyers of His command, that in their own conscience they should possess the sweetness of their life, lest they be corrupted by the praise or disheartened by the reproach of men; how much the more is He above all, the unchangeable One, who teacheth these things, neither the greater if thou praisest, or the less if thou reproachest....For ye will do nothing out of place, by praising your Lord, as servants. And if ye were to be for ever only servants, ye ought to praise the Lord; how much more ought ye servants to praise the Lord, that ye may hereafter gain the privilege of sons?

2. ...Therefore, "Ye who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God, praise the Lord" (ver. 2). Be thankful; ye were without, and ye stand within. Since then ye stand, is it a small thing for you to think where He should be praised, who raised you when you were cast down, and caused you to stand in His house, to know Him, and to praise Him? Is it a small boon, that we stand in the house of the Lord?...If one thinks of this, and is not unthankful, he will utterly despise himself in comparison with the love of his Lord, who hath done so great things for him. And since he hath nothing wherewith to repay God for so great benefits, what remains for him but to give Him thanks, not to repay Him? It belongs to the very act of thanksgiving, to "receive the cup of the Lord, and to call upon His name." [5650] For what can the servant repay the Lord for all that He hath given him? [5651]

3. What reason shall I give why you should praise Him? "Because the Lord is good" (ver. 3). Briefly in one word is here explained the praise of the Lord our God. "The Lord is good;" good, not in the same manner as the things which He here made are good. For God made all things very good; [5652] not only good, but also very good. He made the sky and earth, and all things which are in them good, and He made them very good. If He made all these things good, of what sort is He who made them?...

4. How far can we speak of His goodness? Who can conceive in his heart, or apprehend how good the Lord is? Let us however return to ourselves, and in us recognise Him, and praise the Maker in His works, because we are not fit to contemplate Him Himself. And in hope that we may be able to contemplate Him, when our heart hath been purified by faith, that hereafter it may rejoice in the Truth; now as He cannot be seen by us, let us look at His works, that we may not live without praising Him. So I [5653] have said, "Praise the Lord, for He is good; sing praises unto His Name, for He is sweet"....He is Mediator, and thereupon is sweet. What is sweeter than angels' food? How can God not be sweet, since man ate angels' food? For men and angels live not on different meat. That is truth, that is wisdom, that is the goodness of God, but thou canst not enjoy it in like wise with the angels....That man might eat angels' food, the Creator of the angels was made man. [5654] If ye taste, sing praises; if ye have tasted how sweet the Lord is, sing praises; if that which ye have tasted has a good savour, praise it; who is so unthankful to cook or purveyor, as not to return thanks by praising what he tastes, if he be pleased by any food. If we are not silent on such occasions, shall we be silent concerning Him, who has given us all things?...

5. "For the Lord hath chosen Jacob to Himself, Israel for His own possession" (ver. 4)....Let not Jacob therefore extol himself, let him not boast himself, or ascribe it to his own merits. He was known before, predestinated before, elected before, not elected for his own merits, but found out, and gifted with life by the grace of God. So with all the Gentiles; for how did the wild-olive deserve, that it should be grafted in, from the bitterness of its berries, the barrenness of its wildness? It was the wood of the wilderness, not of the Lord's field, and yet He of His mercy grafted the wild-olive into the (true) olive. But up to this time the wild-olive was not grafted in.

6. ..."Because," says he, "I know that the Lord is great, and our God is above all gods" (ver. 5). If we should say to him, we ask thee, explain to us His greatness; would he not perchance answer us, He whom I see is not so very great, if He be able to be expounded by me. Let him then return to His works, and tell us. Let him hold in his conscience the greatness of God, which he has seen, which he has committed to our faith, whither he could not lead our eyes, and enumerate some of the things which the Lord hath done here; that unto us, who cannot see His greatness as he can, He may become sweet through the works of His which we can comprehend....

7. "All whatsoever the Lord willed, He made in the heaven, and in the earth, in the sea, and in all its deep places" (ver. 6). Who can comprehend these things? Who can enumerate the works of the Lord in the heaven and earth, in the sea, and in all deep places? Yet if we cannot comprehend them all, we should believe and hold them without question, because whatever creature is in heaven, whatever is in earth, whatever is in the sea and in all deep places, has been made by the Lord....

8. "Raising the clouds from the ends of the earth" (ver. 7). We see these works of God in His creation. For the clouds come from the ends of the earth to the midst thereof, and rain; thou scannest not whence they arise. Hence the prophet signifies this, from "the ends of the earth," whether it be from the bottom, or from the circumference of the ends of the earth, whencesoever He wills He raises the clouds, only from the earth. "He hath made lightnings into rain." For lightnings without rain would frighten thee, and bestow nothing on thee. "He maketh lightnings unto rain." It lightens, and thou tremblest; it rains, thou rejoicest. "He hath made lightnings unto rain." He who terrified thee, Himself causest that thou shouldest rejoice. "Who bringeth the winds out of His treasures," their causes are hidden, thou knowest not whence they come. When the wind blows, thou feelest it; why it blows, or from what treasure of His wisdom it is brought forth, thou knowest not; [5655] yet thou owest to God the worship of faith, for it would not blow unless He had bidden who made it, unless He had brought it forth who created it.

9. We see therefore these things in that work of His; we praise, we marvel at, we bless God; let us see what He has done among men for His people. "Who smote the first-born of Egypt" (ver. 8). But withal those divine doings are told which thou mightest love, those are not told which thou mightest fear. Attend, and see that also when He is angry, He doeth what He willeth. "From man even unto beast. He sent signs and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt!" (ver. 9). Ye know, ye have read what the hand of the Lord did by Moses in Egypt, to crush and cast down the proud Egyptians, "on Pharaoh and on all his servants." Little did He in Egypt: what did He after His people was led out thence? "Who smote many nations" (ver. 10), who possessed that land, which God willed to give His people. "And slew mighty kings, Sehon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan" (ver. 11). All these things which the Psalm records simply, do we read likewise in others of the Lord's books, and there the hand of the Lord is great. When thou seest what has been done to the wicked, take heed lest it be done to thee....But when the good man sees what the wicked has suffered, let him cleanse himself from all iniquity, lest he fall into a like punishment, a like chastisement. Then ye have thoroughly understood these things. What did God then? He drove out the wicked, "And he gave their land for an inheritance, even an inheritance to Israel His servant" (ver. 12).

10. Then follows the loud cry of His praise. "Thy Name, O Lord, is for ever and ever" (ver. 13), after all these things which Thou hast done. For what do I see that Thou hast done? I behold Thy creation which Thou hast made in heaven, I behold this lower part, where we dwell, and here I see Thy gifts of clouds, and winds, and rain. I regard Thy people; Thou leddest them from the house of bondage, and didst signs and wonders upon their enemies. Thou punishedst those who caused them trouble, Thou dravest the wicked from their land, Thou killedst their kings, Thou gavest their land to Thy people: I have seen all these things, and filled with joy have said, "Lord, Thy Name is for ever and ever."...

11. All these things then did God overthrow, in the body at that time, when our fathers were led out of the land of Egypt, in the spirit now. Nor does His Hand cease until the end. Therefore deem not that these mighty deeds of God were then finished and have ceased. "Thy Name, O Lord," he says, "is for ever." [5656] That is, Thy loving-kindness ceaseth not, Thy hand ceaseth not for ever from doing these things, which then Thou didst afore declare in a figure. "But they are written for our admonition, on whom the end of the ages is come." [5657] One generation and another generation; the generation by which we are made the faithful, and are born again by baptism; the generation by which we shall rise again from the dead, and shall live with the Angels for ever. Thy Memorial, O Lord, is above this generation, and above that; for neither doth He now forget to call us, nor then will He forget to crown us.

12. "The Lord hath judged His people, and will be called upon among His servants" (ver. 14). Already hath He judged the people. Save the final judgment, the people of the Jews is judged. What is "judged"? The just are taken away, the unjust are left. But if I lie, or am thought to lie, because I have said, it is already judged, hear the Lord saying, "I have come for judgment into this world, that they who see not may see, and they who see may be made blind." [5658] The proud are made blind, the lowly are enlightened. Therefore, "He hath judged His people." Isaiah spake the judgment. "And now, thou house of Jacob, come ye, let us walk in the light of the Lord." [5659] This is a small matter; but what follows? "For He hath put away His people, the house of Israel." The house of Jacob is the house of Israel; for he who is Jacob, the same is Israel....Therefore God had judged His people, by separating the evil and the good; that is to say, "He shall be called upon among His servants." By whom? By the Gentiles. For how vast are the nations who have come in by faith. How many farms and desert places now come in to us? They come thence no one can tell how numerously; they would believe. We say to them, What will ye? They answer, To know the glory of God. Believe, my brethren, that we wonder and rejoice at such a claim of these rustic people. They come I know not whither, roused up by I know not whom. How shall I say, I know not by whom? I know indeed by whom, because He says, "No one cometh to Me, save whom the Father draweth." [5660] They come suddenly from the woods, the desert, the most distant and lofty mountains, to the Church; and many of them, nay, near all hold this language, so that we see of a truth that God teacheth them within. [5661] The prophecy of Scripture is fulfilled, when it says, "And they shall all be taught of God." [5662] We say to them, What do ye long for? And they answer, To see the glory of God. [5663] "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." [5664] They believe, they are sanctified, they will to have clergy ordained for them. Is it not fulfilled, "and He will be called upon among His servants"?

13. Lastly, after all that arrangement and dispensation, the Spirit of God turns itself to reproaching and ridiculing those idols, which are now ridiculed by their very worshippers. "The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold" (ver. 15). As God made all these things, who made whatever He would in heaven and earth, what can anything that man maketh be, but an object of ridicule, not adoration? Was He perchance about to speak of "the idols of the Gentiles," that we might despise them all? was He about to speak of the idols of the heathen, stones and wood, plaster and pottery? I say not these, they are mean materials. I speak of that which they specially love, that which they specially honour. "The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold, the work of men's hands." Surely it is gold, surely it is silver: because silver glitters, and gold glitters, have they therefore eyes, or do they see?...But as these things are senseless, why make ye men of silver and gold to be gods? See ye not that the gods which ye make see not? "They have a mouth, and will not speak; they have eyes, and will not see" (ver. 16); "they have ears, and will not hear; neither is there any breath in their mouth" (ver. 17); "they have nostrils, and will not smell; they have hands, and will not work; they have feet, and will not walk." All these things could the carpenter, the silversmith, the goldsmith make, both eyes, and ears, and nostrils, and mouth, and hands, and feet, but he could give neither sight to the eyes, nor hearing to the ears, nor speech to the mouth, nor smell to the nostrils, nor motion to the hands, or going to the feet.

14. And man, thou laughest doubtless at what thou hast made, if thou knowest by whom thou art made. But of them who know not, what is said? "All they who make them, and all they who trust in them, are like them" (ver. 18). And ye believe, brethren, that there is a likeness to these idols expressed not in their flesh, but in their inner man. For "they have ears, and hear not." God calls to them indeed, "He who hath ears to hear, let him hear." [5665] They have eyes, and see not, for they have the eyes of the body, and not the eyes of faith. Lastly, this prophecy is fulfilled among all the nations....Is it not fulfilled? Is it not seen, as it is written? And they who remain have eyes, and see not; have nostrils, and smell not. They perceive not that savour. "We are a good savour of Christ," [5666] as the apostle says everywhere. What profiteth it, that they have nostrils, and smell not that so sweet savour of Christ? Truly it is done in them, and truly it is said of them, "All they who make them," etc.

15. But daily do men believe through the miracles of Christ our Lord; daily the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf are opened, the nostrils of the senseless are breathed into, the tongues of the dumb are loosed, the hands of the palsied are strengthened, the feet of the lame are guided; sons of Abraham are raised up of these stones, [5667] to all of whom be it said, "Bless the Lord, ye house of Israel" (ver. 19). All are sons of Abraham; and if sons of Abraham are raised up from these stones, it is plain that they are rather the house of Israel who belong to the house of Israel, the seed of Abraham, not by the flesh, but by faith. But even granting that it is said of that house, and the people of Israel is meant, from thence did the Apostles and thousands of the circumcised believe? "Bless the Lord, ye house of Aaron. Bless the Lord, ye house of Levi" (ver. 20). Bless the Lord, ye nations, this is, the "house of Israel" generally; bless Him, ye leaders, this is, the "house of Aaron;" bless Him, ye servants, this is, the "house of Levi." What of the other nations? "Ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord."

16. Let us also with one voice say what follows: "Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, who dwelleth in Jerusalem" (ver. 21). Out of Zion is Jerusalem too. Zion is "watching," Jerusalem the "vision of peace." In what Jerusalem will He dwell now? In that which has fallen? Nay, but in that which is our mother, which is in the heavens, of which it is said, "The desolate hath more children than she which hath a husband." [5668] For now the Lord is from Zion, because we watch when He will come; now as long as we live in hope, we are in Zion. When our way is ended, we shall dwell in that city which will never fall, because the Lord dwelleth in her, and keepeth her, which is the vision of peace, the eternal Jerusalem; for the praise of which, my brethren, language sufficeth not; where we shall find no enemy, either within the Church or without the Church, neither in our flesh, nor in our thoughts. For "death shall be swallowed up in victory," [5669] and we shall be free to see God in eternal peace, being made citizens of Jerusalem, the city of God.

Footnotes

[5649] Lat. CXXXIV. A discourse to the people. [5650] Ps. cxvi. 13. [5651] Ps. cxvi. 12. [5652] Gen. i. 31. [5653] "He hath said," Oxf. mss. [5654] Ps. lxxviii. 25. [5655] John iii. 8. [5656] Ps. cxxxv. 13. [5657] 1 Cor. x. 11. [5658] John ix. 39. [5659] Isa. ii. 5. [5660] John vi. 44. [5661] [These rustics are the pagani living in hamlets; he thus notes the rarity of Paganism in cities.--C.] [5662] Isa. liv. 13. [5663] John vi. 45. [5664] Rom. iii. 23. [5665] Matt. xi. 15. [5666] 2 Cor. ii. 15. [5667] Matt. iii. 9. [5668] Isa. liv. 1; Gal. iv. 27. [5669] 1 Cor. xv. 54. .


Psalm CXXXVI. [5670]

1. "Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever" (ver. 1). This Psalm contains the praise of God, and all its verses finish in the same way. Wherefore although many things are related here in praise of God, yet His mercy is most commended; [5671] for without this plain commendation, he, whom the Holy Spirit used to utter this Psalm, would have no verse be ended. Although after the judgment, by which at the end of the world the quick and the dead must be judged, the just being sent into life eternal, the unjust into everlasting fire, [5672] there will not afterwards be those, whom God will have mercy on, yet rightly may His future mercy be understood to be for ever, which He bestows on His saints and faithful ones, not because they will be miserable for ever, and therefore will need His mercy for ever, but because that very blessedness, which He mercifully bestows on the miserable, that they cease to be miserable, and begin to be happy, will have no end, and therefore "His mercy is for ever." For that we shall be just from being unjust, whole from being unsound, alive from being dead, immortal from being mortal, happy from being wretched, is of His mercy. But this that we shall be, will be for ever, and therefore "His mercy is for ever." Wherefore, "give thanks to the Lord;" that is, praise the Lord by giving thanks, "for He is good:" nor is it any temporal good you will gain from this confession, for, "His mercy endureth for ever;" that is, the benefit which He bestows mercifully upon you, is for ever. [5673]

2. Then follows, "Give thanks to the God of gods, for His mercy endureth for ever" (ver. 2). "Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His mercy endureth for ever" (ver. 3). We may well enquire, Who are these gods and lords, of whom He who is the true God is God and Lord? And we find written in another Psalm, that even men are called gods. [5674] The Lord even takes note of this testimony in the Gospel, saying, "Is it not written in your Law, I have said, Ye are gods?" [5675] ...It is not therefore because they are all good, but because "the word of God came to them," that they were called gods. For were it because they are all good, He would not thus distinguish between them. He saith, "He judgeth between the gods." Then follows, "How long do ye judge iniquity!" [5676] and the rest, which He says certainly not to all, but to some, because He saith it in distinguishing, and yet He distinguisheth between the gods.

3. But it is asked, If men are called gods to whom the word of the Lord came, are the Angels to be called gods, when the greatest reward which is promised to just and holy men is the being equal to Angels? In the Scriptures I know not whether it can, at least easily, be found, that the Angels are openly called gods; but when it had been said of the Lord God, "He is terrible, above all gods," he adds, as by way of exposition why he says this, "for the gods of the heathen are devils," [5677] that we might understand what had been expressed in the Hebrew, "the gods of the Gentiles are idols," meaning rather the devils which dwell in the idols. [5678] For as regards images, which in Greek are called idols, a name we now use in Latin, they have eyes and see not, and all the other things which are said of them, because they are utterly without sense; wherefore they cannot be frightened, for nothing which has no sense can be frightened. How then can it be said of the Lord, "He is terrible above all gods, because the gods of the Gentiles are idols," if the devils which may be terrified are not understood to be in these images. Whence also the Apostle says, "We know that an idol is nothing." [5679] This refers to its earthy senseless material. But that no one may think, that there is no living and sentient nature, which delights in the Gentile sacrifices, he adds, "But what the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: I would not have you partaken with devils." [5680] If therefore we never find in the divine words that the holy Angels are called gods, I think the best reason is, that men may not be induced by the name to pay that ministry and service of religion (which in Greek is called leitourgia or latria) to the holy Angels, which neither would they have paid by man at all, save to that God, who is the God of themselves and men. [5681] Hence they are much more correctly called Angels, which in Latin is Nuntii, that by the name of their function, not their substance, we may plainly understand that they would have us worship the God, whom they announce. The whole then of that question the Apostle has briefly expounded, when he says, "For though there be who are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, as there are gods many and lords many; yet we have one God the Father, from whom are all, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him." [5682]

4. Let us therefore "give thanks to the God of gods, and the Lord of lords, for His mercy," etc. "Who alone did wonderful things" (ver. 4). As at the last part of every verse, it is written, "For His mercy endureth for ever," so we must understand at the beginning of each, though it be not written, "Give thanks." Which indeed in the Greek is very plain. It would be so in Latin, if our translators had been able to make use of that expression. Which indeed they could have done in this verse, if they had said, "To Him who doeth [5683] wonderful things." For where we have, "who did wonderful things," the Greek has to poiesanti, where we must necessarily understand, "give thanks." And I would they had added the pronoun, and said to Him, "who did," or to Him "who doeth," or to Him "who made sure;" because then one might easily understand, "let us give thanks." For now it is so obscurely rendered, that he who either knows not or cares not to examine a Greek manuscript may think, "who made the heavens, who made sure the earth, who made the luminaries, for His mercy endureth for ever," [5684] has been so said, because He did these things for this reason, "because His mercy endureth for ever:" whereas they, whom He has freed from misery, belong to His Mercy: but not that we should believe that He makes sky, earth, and luminaries, of His Mercy; since they are marks of His Goodness, who created all things very good. [5685] For He created all things, that they might have their being; [5686] but it is the work of His Mercy, to cleanse us from our sins, and deliver us from everlasting misery. And so the Psalm thus addresses us, "Give thanks unto the God of gods, give thanks unto the Lord of lords." Give thanks to Him, "who alone doeth great wonders;" give thanks to Him, "who by His wisdom made the heavens;" give thanks to Him, "who stretched out the earth above the waters;" give thanks to Him, "who alone made great lights." But why we are to praise, he setteth down at the end of all the verses, "for His mercy endureth for ever."

5. But what meaneth, "who alone doeth great wonders"? Is it because many wonderful things He hath done by means of angels and men? Some wonderful things there are which God doeth alone, and these he enumerates, saying, "who by His wisdom made the heavens" (ver. 5), "who stretched out the earth above the waters" (ver. 6), "who alone made great lights" (ver. 7). For this reason did he add "alone" in this verse also, because the other wonders which he is about to tell of, God did by means of man. For having said, "who alone made great lights," he goes on to explain what these are, "the sun to rule the day" (ver. 8), "the moon and stars to govern the night" (ver. 9); then he begins to tell the wonders which He did by means of angels and men: "who smote Egypt with their first-born" (ver. 10), and the rest. The whole creation then God manifestly made, not by means of any creature, but "alone;" and of this creation he hath mentioned certain more eminent parts, that they might make us think on the whole; the heavens we can understand, [5687] and the earth we see. And as there are visible heavens too, by mentioning the lights in them, he has bid us look on the whole body of the heavens as made by Him.

6. However, whether by what he saith, "who made the heavens in understanding," or, as others have rendered it, "in intelligence," he meant to signify, the heavens we can understand, or that He in His understanding or intelligence, that is, in His wisdom made the heavens (as it is elsewhere written, "in wisdom hast Thou made them all" [5688] ), implying thereby the only-begotten Word, may be a question. But if it be so, that we are to understand that "God by His wisdom made the heavens," why saith He this only of the heavens, whereas God made all things by the same wisdom? It is that it needed only to be expressed there, so that in the rest it might be understood without being written. How then could it be "alone," if "in understanding" or "in intelligence" means "by His wisdom," that is, by the only-begotten Word? Is it that, inasmuch as the Trinity is not three Gods, but one God, he states that God made these things alone, because He made not creation by means of any creature?

7. But what is, "who laid out the earth above the waters"? For it is a difficult question, because the earth seemeth to be the heavier, so that it should be believed not so much to be borne on the waters, as to bear the waters. And that we may not seem contentiously to maintain our Scriptures against those who think that they have discovered these matters on sure principles, we have a second interpretation to give, that the earth which is inhabited by men, and contains the living creatures of the earth, is "laid out above the waters" because it stands out above the waters which surround it. For when we speak of a city on the sea being built "above the waters," it is not meant that the sea is under it in the same way as the waters are under the chambers of caverns, or under ships sailing over them; but it is said to be "above" the sea, because it stands up above the sea below it.

8. But if these words further signify something else which more closely concerns us, God "by His wisdom made the heavens," that is, His saints, spiritual men, to whom He has given not only to believe, but also to understand things divine; those who cannot yet attain to this, and only hold their faith firmly, as being beneath the heavens, are figured by the name of earth. And because they abide with unshaken belief upon the baptism they have received, therefore it is said, "He laid out the earth above the waters." Further, since it is written of our Lord Jesus Christ, that "in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," [5689] and that these two, wisdom and knowledge, differ somewhat from one another is testified by other utterances of Scripture, especially in the words of holy Job, [5690] where both are in a manner defined; not unsuitably then do we understand wisdom to consist in the knowledge and love of That which ever is and abideth unchangeable, which is God. For where he saith, "piety [5691] is wisdom," in Greek is theos(TM)beia, and to express the whole of this in Latin, we may call it worship of God. [5692] But to depart from evil, which he calls knowledge, what else is it but to walk cautiously and heedfully "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation," [5693] in the night, as it were, of this world, that each one by keeping himself from iniquity may avoid being confounded with the darkness, distinguished by the light of his proper gift....

9. "Who brought out Israel from the midst of them" (ver. 11). He brought out also His saints and faithful ones from the midst of the wicked. "With a mighty Hand and stretched-out Arm" (ver. 12). What more powerful, what more out-stretched, than that of which is said "To whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed?" [5694] "Who divided the Red Sea in two parts" (ver. 13). He divided also in such wise, that the same baptism should be to some unto life, to others unto death. "And brought out Israel through the midst of it" (ver. 14). So too He brings out His renewed people through the laver of regeneration. "And overthrew Pharaoh and his power in the Red Sea" (ver. 15). He quickly destroyeth both the sin of His people and the guilt thereof by baptism. "Who led His people through the wilderness" (ver. 16). Us too He leadeth through the drought and barrenness of this world, that we perish not therein. "Who smote great kings" (ver. 17), "and slew famous kings" (ver. 18). From us too He smites and slays the deadly powers of the devil. "Sehon king of the Amorites" (ver. 19), an "useless shoot," or "fiery temptation," for so is Sehon interpreted: the king of "them who cause bitterness," for such is the meaning of Amorites. "And Og, the king of Basan" (ver. 20). The "heaper-together," such is the meaning of Og, and, king of "confusion," which Basan signifies. For what else doth the devil heap together but confusion? "And gave away their land for an heritage" (ver. 21), "even an heritage unto Israel His servant" (ver. 22). For He giveth them, whom once the devil owned, for an heritage to the seed of Abraham, that is, Christ. "Who remembered us in our low estate" (ver. 23), "and redeemed us from our enemies" (ver. 24) by the Blood of His only-begotten Son. "Who giveth food to all flesh" (ver. 25), that is, to the whole race of mankind, not Israelites only, but Gentiles too; and of this Food is said, "My Flesh is meat indeed." "Give thanks unto the God of Heaven" (ver. 26). "Give thanks unto the Lord of lords" (ver. 27). For what he here says, "the God of Heaven," I suppose that he meant to express in other words what He had before said, "the God of gods." For what there he subjoined, he has here also repeated. "Give thanks unto the Lord of lords." "But to us there is but one God," etc., "and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him;" [5695] to whom we confess that "His mercy endureth for ever."

Footnotes

[5670] Lat. CXXXV. [5671] [He says: "I remember, in the hundred and sixth Psalm, which begins in the same way, because the manuscript which I read had not `for ever,' but, `for ages' (in sæculum), `His mercy,' that I enquired what we had better understand. For, in the Greek language, it is written, eis ton aiona, which may be interpreted, `for ages' and (in æternum) `for ever.' But it would be tedious to renew the enquiries I made as best I could in that place. But in this Psalm the same manuscript has not `for ages,' which most have, but, `for ever His mercy.'"--C.] [5672] Matt. xxv. 46. [5673] [He adds: "The expression, `for He is good,' in the Greek is /=gathos; not as in the hundred and sixth Psalm, for there "He is good,' in Greek is chrestos. And so some have expounded the former, `Since He is sweet.' For /=gathos is not good anyhow, but good most excellently."--C.] [5674] Ps. lxxxii. 1, vi. 7. [5675] John x. 34. [5676] Ps. lxxxii. 2. [5677] Ps. xcvi. 4 seq. [5678] Simulacrum; heidolon. [5679] 1 Cor. viii. 4. [5680] 1 Cor. x. 20. [5681] [The Roman dogma makes a verbal distinction as to worship of angels and saints, to meet the case as our author puts it here. But the vulgar cannot so distinguish; and everywhere, practically, this latria is offered. See Pius IX., the bull Ineffabilis.--C.] [5682] 1 Cor. viii. 5, 6. [5683] Facienti mirabilia. [5684] Ps. cxxxvi. 5. [5685] Gen. i. 31. [5686] Wisd. i. 14. [5687] Intelligibiles coelos. [5688] Ps. civ. 24. [5689] Col. ii. 3. [5690] [Job xxviii. 28.--C.] [5691] Pietas, Vulg. [5692] Dei cultus. [5693] Philip. ii. 15. [5694] Isa. liii. 1. [5695] 1 Cor. viii. 5, 6. .


Psalm CXXXVII. [5696]

1. ...But to-day we have sung, "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered Sion" (ver. 1)....

2. Observe "the waters of Babylon." "The waters of Babylon" are all things which here are loved, and pass away. One man, for example, loveth to practise husbandry, to grow rich thereby, to employ his mind therein, thence to gain pleasure: let him observe the issue, and see that what he hath loved is not a foundation of Jerusalem, but a stream of Babylon. Another saith, It is a grand thing to be a soldier: all husbandmen fear those who are soldiers....

3. But then other citizens of the holy Jerusalem, understanding their captivity, mark how the natural wishes and the various lusts of men hurry and drag them hither and thither, and drive them into the sea; they see this, and they throw not themselves into the waters of Babylon, but "sit down and weep," either for those who are being carried away by them, or themselves whose deserts have placed them in Babylon, but sitting, that is, humbling themselves. O holy Sion, where all stands firm and nothing flows! Who hath thrown us headlong into this? Why have we left thy Founder and thy society? Behold, placed where all things are flowing and gliding away, scarce one, if he can grasp the tree, shall be snatched from the stream and escape. Humbling ourselves then in our captivity, let us "sit by the waters of Babylon," let us not dare to plunge ourselves in those streams, nor to be proud and lifted up in the evil and sadness of our captivity, but let us sit, and so weep. Let us sit "by" the waters, not beneath the waters, of Babylon; such be our humility, that it overwhelm us not. Sit "by" the waters, not "in" the waters, not "under" the waters; but yet sit, in humble fashion, talk not as thou wouldest in Jerusalem....

4. For many weep with the weeping of Babylon, because they rejoice also with the joy of Babylon. When men rejoice at gains and weep at losses, both are of Babylon. Thou oughtest to weep, but in the remembrance of Sion. If thou weepest in the remembrance of Sion, thou oughtest to weep even when it is well with thee in Babylon....

5. "On the willows in the midst thereof we hung up our instruments of music" (ver. 2). The citizens of Jerusalem have their "instruments of music," God's Scriptures, God's commands, God's promises, meditation on the life to come; but while they are dwelling "in Babylon," they "hang up their instruments." Willows are unfruitful trees, and here so placed, that no good whatever can be understood of them: elsewhere perhaps there may. Here understand barren trees, growing by the waters of Babylon. These trees are watered by the waters of Babylon, and bring forth no fruit; just as there are men greedy, covetous, barren in good works, citizens of Babylon in such wise, that they are even trees of that region; they are fed there by these pleasures of transitory things, as though watered by "the waters of Babylon." Thou seekest fruit of them, and nowhere findest it....Therefore by deferring to apply the Scriptures to them, "we hang up our instruments of music upon the willows." For we hold them not worthy to carry our instruments. We do not therefore insert our instruments into them and bind them to them, but defer to use them, and so hang them up. For the willows are the unfruitful trees of Babylon, fed by temporal pleasures, as by the "waters of Babylon."

6. "For there they that led us captive demanded of us words of songs, and they that led us away, an hymn" (ver. 3). They demanded of us words of songs and an hymn, who led us captive....We are tempted by the delights of earthly things, and we struggle daily with the suggestions of unlawful pleasures; scarce do we breathe freely even in prayer: we understand that we are captives. But who led us captive? what men? what race? what king? If we are redeemed, we once were captives. Who hath redeemed us? Christ. From whom hath He redeemed us? From the devil. The devil then and his angels led us captive: and they would not lead us, unless we consented....

7. "Those" then "who have led us captive," the devil and his angels, when have they spoken unto us: "Sing us one of the songs of Sion"? What answer we? Babylon beareth thee, Babylon containeth thee, Babylon nourisheth thee, Babylon speaks by thy mouth, thou knowest not to take in save what glitters for the present, thou knowest not how to meditate on things of eternity, thou takest not in what thou askest. "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (ver. 4). Truly, brethren, so it is. Begin to wish to preach the truth in such measure as ye know it, and see how needful it is for you to endure such mockers, persecutors of the truth, full of falsehood. Reply to them, when they ask of you what they cannot take in, and say in full confidence of your holy song, "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land!"

8. But take heed how thou dwellest among them, O people of God, O body of Christ, O high-born band of wanderers (for thy home is not here, but elsewhere), lest when thou lovest them, strivest for their friendship, and fearest to displease such men, Babylon begin to delight thee and thou forget Jerusalem. In fear then of this, see what the Psalmist subjoins, see what follows. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem" (ver. 5), amid the speeches of those who hold me captive, amid the speeches of treacherous men, amid the speeches of men who ask with ill intent, asking, yet unwilling to learn....What then? "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget me."

9. "Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I remember not thee" (ver. 6). That is, let me be dumb, he saith, if I remember not thee. For what word, what sound doth he utter, who uttereth not songs of Sion? That is our tongue, the song of Jerusalem. The song of the love of this world is a strange tongue, a barbarous tongue, which we have learnt in our captivity. Dumb then will he be to God, who forgetteth Jerusalem. And it is not enough to remember: for her enemies too remember her, desiring to overthrow her. "What is that city?" say they; "who are the Christians? what sort of men are the Christians? would they were not Christians." Now the captive band hath conquered its capturers; still they murmur, and rage, and desire to slay the holy city that dwells as a stranger among them. Not enough then is it to remember: take heed how thou rememberest. For some things we remember in hate, some in love. And so, when he had said, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem," etc., he added at once, "if I prefer not Jerusalem in the height of my joy." For there is the height of joy where we enjoy God, where we are safe of united brotherhood, and the union of citizenship. There no tempter shall assail us, no one be able so much as to urge us on to any allurement: there nought will delight us but good: there all want will die, there perfect bliss will dawn on us.

10. Then he turneth to God in prayer against the enemies of that city. "Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom" (ver. 7). Edom is the same who is also called Esau: for ye heard just now the words of the Apostle read, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." [5697] ...Esau then signifieth all the carnal, Jacob all the spiritual....All carnal persons are enemies to spiritual persons, for all such, desiring present things, persecute those whom they see to long for things eternal. Against these the Psalmist, looking back to Jerusalem, and beseeching God that he may be delivered from captivity, saith--what? "Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom." Deliver us from carnal men, from those who imitate Esau, who are elder brethren, yet enemies. They were first-born, but the last-born have won the pre-eminence, for the lust of the flesh hath cast down the former, the contempt of lust hath lifted up the latter. The other live, and envy, and persecute. "In the day of Jerusalem." The day of Jerusalem, wherein it was tried, wherein it was held captive, or the day of Jerusalem's happiness, wherein it is freed, wherein it reaches its goal, wherein it is made partaker of eternity? "Remember," saith he, "O Lord," forget not those "who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof." Remember then, it means, that day wherein they willed to overthrow Jerusalem. For how great persecutions hath the Church suffered! How did the children of Edom, that is, carnal men, servants of the devil and his angels, who worshipped stocks and stones, and followed the lusts of the flesh, how did they say, "Extirpate the Christians, destroy the Christians, let not one remain, overthrow them even to the foundation!" Have not these things been said? And when they were said, the persecutors were rejected, the martyrs crowned....

11. Then he turneth himself to her, "O daughter of Babylon, unhappy;" unhappy in thy very exulting, thy presumption, thine enmity; "unhappy daughter of Babylon!" (ver. 8). The city is called both Babylon, and daughter of Babylon: just as they speak of "Jerusalem" and "the daughter of Jerusalem," "Sion" and "the daughter of Sion," "the Church" and "the daughter of the Church." As it succeedeth the other, it is called "daughter;" as it is preferred before the other, it is called "mother." There was a former Babylon; did the people remain in it? Because it succeedeth to Babylon, it is called daughter of Babylon. O daughter of Babylon, "unhappy" thou!...

12. "Happy shall he be that repayeth thee, as thou hast served us." What repayment meaneth he? Herewith the Psalm closeth, "Happy, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the rock" (ver. 9). Her he calleth unhappy, but him happy who payeth her as she hath served us. Do we ask, what reward? This is the repayment. For what hath that Babylon done to us? We have already sung in another Psalm, "The words of the wicked have prevailed against us." [5698] For when we were born, the confusion of this world found us, and choked us while yet infants with the empty notions of divers errors. The infant that is born destined to be a citizen of Jerusalem, and in God's predestination already a citizen, but meanwhile a prisoner for a time, when learneth he to love ought, save what his parents have whispered into his ears? They teach him and train him in avarice, robbery, daily lying, the worship of divers idols and devils, the unlawful remedies of enchantments and amulets. What shall one yet an infant do, a tender soul, observing what its elders do, save follow that which it seeth them doing. Babylon then has persecuted us when little, but God hath given us when grown up knowledge of ourselves, that we should not follow the errors of our parents....How shall they repay her? As she hath served us. Let her little ones be choked in turn: yea let her little ones in turn be dashed, and die. What are the little ones of Babylon? Evil desires at their birth. For there are, who have to fight with inveterate lusts. When lust is born, before evil habit giveth it strength against thee, when lust is little, by no means let it gain the strength of evil habit; when it is little, dash it. But thou fearest, lest though dashed it die not; "Dash it against the Rock; and that Rock is Christ." [5699]

13. Brethren, let not your instruments of music rest in your work: sing one to another songs of Sion. Readily have ye heard; the more readily do what ye have heard, if ye wish not to be willows of Babylon fed by its streams, and bringing no fruit. But sigh for the everlasting Jerusalem: whither your hope goeth before, let your life follow; there we shall be with Christ. Christ now is our Head; now He ruleth us from above; in that city He will fold us to Himself; we shall be equal to the Angels of God. We should not dare to imagine this of ourselves, did not the Truth promise it. This then desire, brethren, this day and night think on. Howsoever the world shine happily on you, presume not, parley not willingly with your lusts. Is it a grown-up enemy? let it be slain upon the Rock. Is it a little enemy? let it be dashed against the Rock. Slay the grown-up ones on the Rock, and dash the little ones against the Rock. Let the Rock conquer. Be built upon the Rock, if ye desire not to be swept away either by the stream, or the winds, or the rain. If ye wish to be armed against temptations in this world, let longing for the everlasting Jerusalem grow and be strengthened in your hearts. Your captivity will pass away, your happiness will come; the last enemy shall be destroyed, and we shall triumph with our King, without death.

Footnotes

[5696] Lat. CXXXVI. A sermon to the people [5697] Rom. ix. 13. [5698] Ps. lxv. 3. [5699] 1 Cor. x. 4. .


Psalm CXXXVIII. [5700]

1. The title of this Psalm is brief and simple, and need not detain us; since we know whose resemblance David wore, and since in him we recognise ourselves also, for we too are members of that Body. The whole title is, "To David himself." Let us see then, what is to David himself. The title of the Psalm is wont to tell us what is treated of within it: but in this, since the title informs us not of this, but tells us only to Whom it is chanted, the first verse tells us what is treated of in the whole Psalm, "I will confess to Thee." This confession then let us hear. But first I remind you, that the term confession in Scripture, when we speak of confession to God, is used in two senses, of sin, and of praise. But confession of sin all know, confession of praise few attend to. So well known is confession of sin, that, wherever in Scripture we hear the words, "I will confess to Thee, O Lord," or, "we will confess to Thee," forthwith, through habitually understanding in this way, our hands hurry to beating our breast: so entirely are men wont not to understand confession to be of aught, save of sin. But was then our Lord Jesus Christ Himself too a sinner, who saith in the Gospel, "I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth"? [5701] He goeth on to say what He confesseth, that we might understand His confession to be of praise, not of sin, "I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." He praised the Father, he praised God, because He despiseth not the humble, but the proud. And such confession are we now going to hear, of praise of God, of thanksgiving. "With my whole heart." My whole heart I lay upon the altar of Thy praise, an whole burnt-offering [5702] of praise I offer to Thee...."I will confess to Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: for Thou hast heard the words of my mouth" (ver. 1). What mouth, save my heart? For there have we the voice which God heareth, which ear of man knoweth not at all. We have then a mouth within, there do we ask, thence do we ask, and if we have prepared a lodging or an house for God, there do we speak, there are we heard. "For He is not far from every one of us, for in Him we live, and move, and have our being." [5703] Nought maketh thee far off from God, save sin only. Cast down the middle wall of sin, and thou art with Him whom thou askest.

2. "And before the Angels will I sing unto Thee." Not before men will I sing, but before the Angels. My song is my joy; but my joy in things below is before men, my joy in things above before the Angels. For the wicked knoweth not the joy of the just: "There is no joy, saith my God, to the wicked." [5704] The wicked rejoiceth in his tavern, the martyr in his chain. In what did that holy Crispina rejoice, whose festival is kept to-day? She rejoiced when she was being seized, when she was being carried before the judge, when she was being put into prison, when she was being brought forth bound, when she was being lifted up on the scaffold, [5705] when she was being heard, when she was being condemned: in all these things she rejoiced; and the wretches thought her wretched, when she was rejoicing before the Angels.

3. "I will worship toward Thy holy Temple" (ver. 2). What holy Temple? That where we shall dwell, where we shall worship. For we hasten that we may adore. Our heart is pregnant and cometh to the birth, and seeketh where it may bring forth. What is the place where God is to be worshipped?..."The Temple of God is holy," saith the Apostle, "which Temple ye are." [5706] But assuredly, as is manifest, God dwelleth in the Angels. Therefore when our joy, being in spiritual things, not in earthly, taketh up a song to God, to sing before the Angels, that very assembly of Angels is the Temple of God, we worship toward God's Temple. There is a Church below, there is a Church above also; the Church below, in all the faithful; the Church above, in all the Angels. But the God of Angels came down to the Church below, and Angels ministered to Him on earth, [5707] while He ministered to us; for, "I came not," saith He, "to be ministered unto, but to minister." [5708] ...The Lord of Angels died for man. Therefore, "I will worship toward Thy holy Temple;" I mean, not the temple made with hands, but that which Thou hast made for Thyself.

4. "And I will confess to Thy Name in Thy mercy and Thy truth."...These also which Thou hast given to me, do I according to my power give to Thee in return: mercy, in aiding others; truth, in judging. By these God aideth us, by these we win God's favour. Rightly, therefore, "All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth." No other ways are there whereby He can come to us, no other whereby we can come to Him. "For Thou hast magnified Thy holy Name over everything." What sort of thanksgiving is this, brethren? He hath magnified His holy Name over Abraham. Of Abraham was born Isaac; over that house God was magnified; then Jacob; God was magnified, who said, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then came his twelve sons. The name of the Lord was magnified over Israel. Then came the Virgin Mary. Then Christ our Lord, "dying for our sins, rising again for our justification," [5709] filling the faithful with His Holy Spirit, sending forth men to proclaim throughout the Gentiles, "Repent ye," etc. [5710] Behold, "He hath magnified His holy Name above all things."

5. "In what day soever I call upon Thee, do Thou quickly hear me" (ver. 3). Wherefore, "quickly"? Because Thou hast said, "While yet thou art speaking I will say, Lo, here I am." [5711] Wherefore, "quickly"? Because now I seek not earthly happiness, I have learnt holy longings from the New Testament. I seek not earth, nor earthly abundance, nor temporal health, nor the overthrow of my enemies, nor riches, nor rank: nought of these do I seek: therefore "quickly hear me." Since Thou hast taught me what to seek, grant what I seek....

6. Let us see then what he seeketh, with what right he hath said, "quickly hear me." For what seekest thou, that thou shouldest quickly be heard? "Thou shalt multiply me." In many ways may multiplication be understood....For men are multiplied in their soul with cares: a man seemeth to be multiplied in soul, in whom vices even are multiplied. That is the multiplication of want, not of fulness. What then dost thou desire, thou who hast said, "quickly hear me," and hast withdrawn thyself entirely from the body, from every earthly thing, from every earthly desire, so as to say to God, "Thou shalt multiply me in my soul"? Explain yet further what thou desirest. Thou shalt multiply me, saith he, in my soul "with virtue."...

7. "Let all the kings of the earth confess to Thee, O Lord" (ver. 4). So shall it be, and so it is, and that daily; and it is shown that it was not said in vain, save that it was future. But neither let them, when they confess to Thee, when they praise Thee, desire earthly things of Thee. For what shall the kings of the earth desire? Have they not already sovereignty? Whatever more a man desire on earth, sovereignty is the highest point of his desire. What more can he desire? It must needs be some loftier eminence. But perhaps the loftier it is, the more dangerous. And therefore the more exalted kings are in earthly eminence, the more ought they to humble themselves before God. What do they do? "Because they have heard all the words of Thy mouth." In a certain nation were hidden the Law and the Prophets, "all the words of Thy mouth:" in the Jewish nation alone were "all the words of Thy mouth," the nation which the Apostle praiseth, saying, "What advantage hath the Jew? Much every way; chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." These were the words of God. [5712] ...What meant Gideon's fleece? It is like the nation of the Jews in the midst of the world, which had the grace of sacraments, not indeed openly manifested, but hidden in a cloud, or in a veil, like the dew in the fleece. [5713] The time came when the dew was to be manifested in the floor; it was manifested, no longer hidden. Christ alone is the sweetness of dew: Him alone thou recognisest not in Scripture, for whom Scripture was written. But yet, "they have heard all the words of thy mouth."

8. "And let them sing in the paths of the Lord, that great is the glory of the Lord" (ver. 5). Let all the kings of the earth sing in the paths of the Lord. In what paths? Those that are spoken of above, "in Thy mercy and Thy truth." Let not then the kings of the earth be proud, let them be humble. Then let them sing in the ways of the Lord, if they be humble: let them love, and they shall sing. We know travellers that sing; they sing, and hasten to reach the end of their journey. There are evil songs, such as belong to the old man; to the new man belongeth a new song. Let then the kings of the earth too walk in Thy paths, let them walk and sing in Thy paths. Sing what? that "great is the glory of the Lord," not of kings.

9. See how he willed that kings should sing on their way, humbly bearing the Lord, not lifting themselves up against the Lord. For if they lift themselves up, what follows? "For the Lord is high, and hath respect unto the lowly" (ver. 6). Do kings then desire that He have respect unto them? Let them be humble. What then? if they lift themselves up to pride, can they escape His eyes? Lest perchance, because thou hast heard, "He hath respect unto the lowly," thou choose to be proud, and say in thy soul, God hath respect unto the lowly, He hath not respect unto me, I will do what I will. O foolish one! wouldest thou say this, if thou knewest what thou oughtest to love? Behold, even if God willeth not to see thee, dost thou not fear this very thing, that He willeth not to see thee?...The lofty then, it seemeth, He hath not respect unto, for it is the lowly He respecteth. "The lofty"--what? "He considereth from afar." What then gaineth the proud? To be seen from afar, not to escape being seen. And think not that thou must needs be safe on that account, for that He seeth less clearly, who seeth thee from afar. For thou indeed seest not clearly, what thou seest from afar; God, although He see thee from afar, seeth thee perfectly, yet is He not with thee. This thou gainest, not that thou art less perfectly seen, but that thou art not with Him by whom thou art seen. But what doth the lowly gain? "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart." Let the proud then lift himself up as much as he will, certainly God dwelleth on high, God is in heaven: wishest thou that He come nigh to thee? Humble thyself. For the higher will He be above thee, the more thou liftest thyself up.

10. "If I walk in the midst of tribulation, Thou shalt revive me" (ver. 7). True it is: whatsoever tribulation thou art in, confess, call on Him; He freeth thee, He reviveth thee....Love the other life, and thou shalt see that this life is tribulation, whatever prosperity it shine with, whatever delights it abound and overflow with; since not yet have we that joy most safe and free from all temptation, which God reserveth for us in the end, without doubt it is tribulation. Let us understand then what tribulation he meaneth here too, brethren. Not as though he said, "If perchance there shall any tribulation have befallen me, Thou shalt free me therefrom." But how saith he? "If I walk," etc.; that is, otherwise Thou wilt not revive me, unless I walk in the midst of tribulation.

11. "Thou hast stretched forth Thine hand over the wrath of mine enemies, and Thy right hand hath made me safe." Let mine enemies rage: what can they do? They can take my money, strip, proscribe, banish me; afflict me with grief and tortures; at last, if they be allowed, even kill me: can they do aught more? But over that which mine enemies can do, Thou hast stretched forth Thine hand. For mine enemies cannot separate me from Thee: but Thou avengest me the more, the more Thou as yet delayest....Yet not to make me despair; for it follows, "and Thy right hand hath made me safe."

12. "Thou, Lord, shalt recompense for me" (ver. 8). I recompense not: Thou shalt recompense. Let mine enemies rage their full: Thou shalt recompense what I cannot...."Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves," saith the Apostle, "but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." [5714] There is here another sense not to be neglected, perhaps even to be preferred. "Lord" Christ, "Thou shalt repay for me." For I, if I repay, have seized; Thou hast paid what Thou hast not seized. Lord, Thou shalt "repay for me." Behold Him repaying for us. They came to Him, who exacted tribute: [5715] they used to demand as tribute a didrachma, that is, two drachmas for one man; they came to the Lord to pay tribute; or rather, not to Him, but to His disciples, and they said to them, "Doth not your Master pay tribute?" They came and told Him. He saith unto Peter, "lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up: and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a stater: [5716] that take, and give for Me and thee." The first that riseth from the sea, is the First-begotten from the dead. In His mouth we find two didrachmas, that is, four drachmas: in His mouth we find the four Gospels. By those four drachmas we are free from the claims of this world, by the four Evangelists we remain no longer debtors; for there the debt of all our sins is paid. He then hath repaid for us, thanks to His mercy. He owed nothing: He repaid not for Himself: He repaid for us....

13. "Lord, Thy mercy is for everlasting."...Not for a time only do I desire to be freed. "Thy mercy is for everlasting," wherewith Thou hast freed the martyrs, and so hast quickly taken them from this life. "Despise not Thou the works of Thine own hands." I say not, Lord, "despise not the works of my hands:" of mine own works I boast not. "I sought," indeed, "the Lord with my hands in the night season before Him, and have not been deceived;" but yet I praise not the works of mine own hands; I fear lest, when Thou shalt look into them, Thou find more sins in them than deserts. Behold in me Thy Work, not mine: for mine if Thou seest, Thou condemnest; Thine, if Thou seest, Thou crownest. For whatever good works there be of mine, from Thee are they to me; and so they are more Thine than mine. [5717] Therefore whether in regard that we are men, or in regard that we have been changed and justified from our iniquity, Lord, "despise not Thou the works of Thine own hands."

Footnotes

[5700] Lat. CXXXVII. [5701] Confiteor Tibi. Matt. xi. 25. [5702] [He adds: "A whole burnt offering is a sacrifice where the whole is burnt, for the Greek word holon, (holocaustum, Lat.) meaneth `whole.'"--C.] [5703] Acts xvii. 27, 28. [5704] Isa. xlviii. 22, lvii. 21. [5705] Catasta. [5706] 1 Cor. iii. 17. [5707] Matt. iv. 11. [5708] Matt. xx. 28. [5709] Rom. iv. 25. [5710] Matt. iii. 2. [5711] Isa. lviii. 9. [5712] Rom. iii. 1, 2. [5713] Judg. vi. 37, 39. [5714] Rom. xii. 19. [5715] Matt. xvii. 24-26. [5716] That is, two didrachmas. [5717] Eph. ii. 8-10. .


Psalm CXXXIX. [5718]

1. ...Our Lord Jesus Christ speaketh in the Prophets, sometimes in His own Name, sometimes in ours, because He maketh Himself one with us; as it is said, "they twain shall be one flesh." Wherefore also the Lord saith in the Gospel, speaking of marriage, "therefore they are no more twain, but one flesh." One flesh, because of our mortality He took flesh; not one divinity, for He is the Creator, we the creature. Whatsoever then our Lord speaketh in the person of the Flesh He took upon Him, belongeth both to that Head which hath already ascended into heaven, and to those members which still toil in their earthly wandering. Let us hear then our Lord Jesus Christ speaking in prophecy. For the Psalms were sung long before the Lord was born of Mary, yet not before He was Lord: for from everlasting He was the Creator of all things, but in time He was born of His creature. Let us believe that Godhead, and, so far as we can, understand Him to be equal to the Father. But that Godhead equal to the Father was made partaker of our mortal nature, not of His own store, but of ours; that we too might be made partakers of His Divine Nature, not of our store, but of His.

2. "Lord, Thou hast tried me, and known me" (ver. 1). Let the Lord Jesus Christ Himself say this; let Him too say, "Lord," to the Father. For His Father is not His Lord, save because He hath deigned to be born according to the flesh. He is Father of the God, Lord of the Man. Wouldest thou know to whom He is Father? To the coequal Son. The Apostle saith, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." [5719] To this "Form" God is Father, the "Form" equal to Himself, the only-begotten Son, begotten of His Substance. But forasmuch as for our sakes, that we might be re-made, and made partakers of His Divine Nature, being renewed unto life eternal, He was made partaker of our mortal nature, what saith the Apostle of Him? He saith, "yet He emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and was found in fashion as a man." He was in the Form of God, equal to the Father; He took upon Him the form of a servant, so as therein to be less than the Father....

3. "Thou hast known My down-sitting and Mine up-rising" (ver. 2). What here is "down-sitting," what "up-rising"? He who sitteth, humbleth himself. The Lord then "sat" in His Passion, "up-rose" in His Resurrection. "Thou," he saith, hast known this; that is, Thou hast willed, Thou hast approved; according to Thy will was it done. But if thou choosest to take the words of the Head in the person of the Body: man sitteth when he humbleth himself in penitence, he riseth up when his sins are forgiven, and he is lifted up to the hope of everlasting life. Lift not up yourselves, unless ye have first been humbled. For many wish to rise before they have sat down, they wish to appear righteous, before they have confessed that they are sinners....

4. "Thou hast understood my thoughts from afar; Thou hast tracked out my path and my limit" (ver. 3); "and all my ways Thou hast seen beforehand" (ver. 4). What is, "from afar"? While I am yet in my pilgrimage, before I reach that, my true country, Thou hast known my thoughts....The younger son went into a far country. After his toil and suffering and tribulation and want, he thought on his father, and desired to return, and said, "I will arise, and go to my father." "I will arise," said he, for before he had sat. Here then thou mayest recognise him saying, "Thou hast known my down-sitting and up-rising." I sat, in want; I arose, in longing for Thy Bread. "Thou hast understood my thoughts from afar." For far indeed had I gone; but where is not He whom I had left? Wherefore the Lord saith in the Gospel, that his father met him as he was coming. Truly; for "he had understood his thoughts from afar." "My path," he saith; what, but a bad path, the path he had walked to leave his father?...What is, "my path"? that by which I have gone. What is, "my limit"? that whereunto I have reached. "Thou hast tracked out my path and my limit." That limit of mine, far distant as it was, was not far from Thine eyes. Far had I gone, and yet Thou wast there. "And all my ways Thou hast seen beforehand." He said not, "hast seen," but, "hast seen beforehand." Before I went by them, before I walked in them, Thou didst see them beforehand; and Thou didst permit me in toil to go my own ways, that, if I desired not to toil, I might return into Thy ways. "For there is no deceit in my tongue." [5720] What meant he by this? Lo, I confess to Thee, I have walked in my own way, I am become far from Thee, I have departed from Thee, with whom it was well with me, and to my good it was ill with me without Thee....

5. "Behold Thou, Lord, hast known all my last doings, and the ancient ones" (ver. 5). Thou hast known my latest doings, when I fed swine; Thou hast known my ancient doings, when I asked of Thee my portion of goods. Ancient doings were the beginnings to me of latest ills: ancient sin, when we fell; latest punishment, when we came into this toilsome and dangerous mortality. And would that this may be "latest" to us; it will be, if now we will to return. For there is another "latest" for certain wicked ones, to whom it shall be said, "Go ye into everlasting fire." [5721] ..."Thou hast fashioned me, and hast laid Thine hand upon me." "Fashioned me," where? In this mortality; now, to the toils whereunto we all are born. For none is born, but God has fashioned him in his mother's womb; nor is there any creature, whereof God is not the Fashioner. But "Thou hast fashioned me" in this toil, "and laid Thine hand upon me," Thine avenging hand, putting down the proud. For thus healthfully hath He cast down the proud, that He may lift him up humble.

6. "Thy skill hath displayed itself wonderfully in me: it hath waxed mighty: I shall not be able to attain unto it" (ver. 6). Listen now and hear somewhat, which is obscure indeed, yet bringeth no small pleasure in the understanding thereon. Moses, the holy servant of God, with whom God spake by a cloud, for, speaking after human fashion, He must needs speak to His servant through some work of His hands which He assumed,...longed and desired to see the true appearance of God, and said to God, who was conversing with him, "If now I have found grace in Thy sight, show me Thyself." [5722] When this he desired vehemently, and would extort from God in that sort of friendly familiarity, if we may so speak, wherewith God deigned to treat him, that he might see His Glory and His Face, in such wise as we can speak of God's Face, He said unto him, "Thou canst not see My Face; for no one hath seen My Face, and lived;" [5723] but I will place thee in a clift of the rock, and will pass by, and will set My hand upon thee; and when I have passed by, thou shalt see My back parts. And from these words there ariseth another enigma, that is, an obscure figure of the truth. "When I have passed by," saith God, "thou shalt see My back parts;" as though He hath on one side His face, on another His back. Far be it from us to have any such thoughts of that Majesty! For whoso hath such thoughts of God, what advantageth it him that the temples are closed? He is building an idol in his own heart. In these words then are mighty mysteries....They who raged against the Lord, whom they saw, now seek counsel how they may be saved; and it is said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ, and your sins shall be forgiven you." [5724] Behold, they saw the back parts of Him, whose face they could not see. For His Hand was upon their eyes, not for ever, but while He passed by. After He had passed He took away His Hand from their eyes. When the hand was taken from their eyes, they say to the disciples, "What shall we do?" At first they are fierce, afterwards loving; at first angry, afterwards fearful; at first hard, then pleasant; at first blind, then enlightened....

7. Behold thou findest that the runaway in a far country cannot escape His eyes, from whom he fleeth. And whither can he go now, whose "limit is tracked out"? Behold, what saith he? "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?" (ver. 7). Who can in the world flee from that Spirit, with whom the world is filled? [5725] "And whither shall I flee from Thy Face?" He seeketh a place whither to flee from the wrath of God. What place will shelter God's runaway? Men who shelter runaways, ask them from whom they have fled; and when they find any one a slave of some master less powerful than themselves, him they shelter as it were without any fear, saying in their hearts, "he hath not a master by whom he can be tracked out." But when they are told of a powerful master, they either shelter not, or they shelter with great fear, because even a powerful man can be deceived. Where is God not? Who can deceive God? Whom doth not God see? From whom doth not God demand His runaway? Whither then shall that runaway go from the Face of God? He turneth him hither and thither, as though seeking a spot to flee to.

8. "If I go up," saith he, "to heaven, Thou art there: if I go down to Hades, Thou art present" (ver. 8). At length, miserable runaway, thou hast learnt, that by no means canst thou make thyself far from Him, from whom thou hast wished to remove far away. Behold, He is everywhere; thou, whither wilt thou go? He hath found counsel, and that inspired by Him, who now deigneth to recall him....If by sinning I go down to the depths of wickednesses, and spurn to confess, saying, "Who seeth me" (for "in Hades who shall confess to Thee?" [5726] ) there also Thou art present, to punish. Whither then shall I go that I may flee from Thy presence, that is, not find Thee angry? This plan he found: So will I flee, saith he, from Thy Face, so will I flee from Thy Spirit; from Thy avenging Spirit, Thy avenging Face thus will I flee. How? "If I take again my wings right forward, and abide in the utmost parts of the sea" (ver. 9). So can I flee from Thy Face. If he will flee to the utmost part of the sea from the Face of God, will not He from whom he fleeth be there?...For what are "the utmost parts of the sea," but the end of the world? Thither let us now flee in hope and longing, with the wings of twofold love; let us have no rest, save in "the utmost parts of the sea." For if elsewhere we wish for rest, we shall be hurled headlong into the sea. Let us fly even to the ends of the sea, let us bear ourselves aloft on the wings of twofold love; meanwhile let us flee to God in hope, and in faithful hope let us meditate on that "end of the sea."

9. Now listen who may bring us thither. The very same One whose face in wrath we wish to flee from. For what followeth? "Even thither shall Thy hand conduct me, and Thy right hand lead me" (ver. 10). This let us meditate on, beloved brethren, let this be our hope, this our consolation. Let us take again through love the wings we lost through lust. For lust was the lime of our wings, it clashed us down from the freedom of our sky, that is, the free breezes of the Spirit of God. Thence dashed down we lost our wings, and were, so to speak, imprisoned in the power of the fowler; thence "He" redeemed us with His Blood, whom we fled from to be caught. He maketh us wings of His commandments; we raise them aloft now free from lime....Needs then must we have wings, and needs must He conduct us, for He is our Helper. We have free-will; but even with that free-will what can we do, unless He help us who commandeth us?

10. And considering the length of the way, what said he to himself? "And I said, Peradventure the darkness shall overwhelm me" (ver. 11). Lo, now I have believed in Christ, now am I wafted aloft on the wings of twofold love....Regarding the length of the way, I said to myself, "And the night was light in my delight." The night was made to me light, because in the night I despaired of being able to cross so great a sea, to surmount so long a journey, to reach the utmost parts by persevering to the end. Thanks to Him who sought me when a runaway, who smote my back with strokes of the scourge, who by calling me recalled me from destruction, who made my night light. For it is night so long as we are passing through this life. How was the night made light? Because Christ came down into the night....

11. "For darkness shall not be darkened by Thee" (ver. 12). Do not thou then darken thy darkness; God darkeneth it not, but enlighteneth it yet more; for to Him is said in another Psalm, "Thou, Lord, shalt light my candle: my God shall enlighten my darkness." [5727] But who are they who "darken their darkness," which God darkeneth not? Evil men, perverse men; when they sin, verily they are darkness; when they confess not their sins which they have committed but go on to defend them, they "darken their darkness." Wherefore now if thou hast sinned thou art in darkness, but by confessing thy darkness thou shalt obtain to have thy darkness lightened; by defending thy darkness, thou shalt "darken thy darkness." And where wilt thou escape from double darkness, who wast in difficulty in single darkness?...Let us not "darken our darkness" by defending our sins, and "the night shall be light in our delight."

12. "And night shall be lightened as the day." "Night, as the day." "Day" to us is worldly prosperity, night adversity in this world: but, if we learn that it is by the desert of our sins that we suffer adversities, and our Father's scourges are sweet to us, that the Judge's sentence may not be bitter to us, so shall we find the darkness of this night to be, as it were, the light of this night....But when Christ our Lord has come, and has dwelt in the soul by faith, and promised other light, and inspired and given patience, and warned a man not to delight in prosperity or to be crushed by adversity, the man, being faithful, begins to treat this world with indifference; not to be lifted up when prosperity befalls him, nor crushed when adversity, but in all things to praise God, not only when he aboundeth, but also when he loseth; not only when he is in health, but also when he is sick. [5728] ..."As is His darkness, so is also His light." His darkness overwhelms me not, because His light lifts me not up.

13. "For Thou, O Lord, hast possessed my reins" (ver. 13). The Possessor is within; He occupieth not only the heart, but also the reins; not only the thoughts, but also the delights: He then possesseth that whence I should feel delight at any light in this world: He occupieth my reins: I know not delight, save from the inward light of His Wisdom. What then? Dost thou not delight that thy affairs are very prosperous, times fortunate to thee? dost thou not delight in honour, in riches, in thy family? "I do not," saith he. Wherefore? Because "Thou hast possessed my reins, O Lord; Thou hast taken me up from my mother's womb." While I was in my mother's womb, I did not regard with indifference the darkness of that night and the light of that night....Now, having been taken up from the womb of that our mother, we look on them with indifference, and say, "As is His darkness, so is also His light." Neither doth earthly prosperity make us happy, nor earthly adversity wretched. We must maintain righteousness, love faith, hope in God, love God, love our neighbours also. After these toils we shall have unfailing light, day without setting. Fleeting is all the light and darkness of this night.

14. "I will confess to Thee, O Lord, for terribly hast Thou been made wonderful: wondrous are Thy works, and my soul knoweth it right well" (ver. 14). Aforetime "Thy knowledge was made wonderful from me, it had waxed great, nor could I attain unto it." From me then "it had waxed great." Whence doth "my soul" now "know right well," save because the "night is light in my delight?" save because Thy grace hath come unto me, and enlightened my darkness? save because Thou hast possessed my reins? save because Thou hast taken me up from my mother's womb?

15. "My bone is not hid from Thee, which Thou hast made in secret" (ver. 15). "His bone," he saith. What the people call ossum, is in Latin called os. This is the word in the Greek. [5729] For we might think the word os is here the one which makes in the plural ora, not os (short), which makes ossa. He saith then, I have a certain bone (ossum) in secret. For this word let us prefer to use; better is it that scholars find fault with us, than that the people understand us not. "There is then," saith he, "a certain bone of mine, within, hidden; Thou hast made within a bone for me in secret, yet is it not hidden from Thee. In secret hast Thou made it, but hast Thou therefore hidden it from Thyself? This my bone made by Thee in secret men see not, men know not: Thou knowest, who hast made. What "bone" then meaneth he, brethren? Let us seek it, it is "in secret." But because as Christians we are speaking in the Name of the Lord to Christians, now we find what bone is of this kind. It is a sort of inward strength; for strength and fortitude are understood to be in the bones. There is then a sort of inward strength of the soul, wherein it is not broken. Whatever tortures, whatever tribulations, whatever adversities rage around, that which God hath made strong in secret in us, cannot be broken, yieldeth not. For by God is made a certain strength of patience, of which is said in another Psalm, "But my soul shall be subjected to God, for of Him is my patience." [5730] ...Wherein dost thou glory? "In tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience." [5731] See how that strength is fashioned within in his heart: "because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." So is fashioned and made strong that hidden bone, that it maketh us even to glory in tribulations. But to men we seem wretched, because that which we have within is hidden from them. "And my substance is in the lower parts of the earth." Behold, in flesh is my substance, yet have I a bone within, which Thou hast fashioned, such as to cause me never to yield to any persecutions of this lower region, where still my substance is. For what great matter is it, if an Angel be brave? This is a great matter, if flesh is brave. And whence is flesh brave, whence is an earthen vessel brave, save because in it is made a bone in secret?

16. ..."Thine eyes did see Mine imperfect one, and in Thy book shall all be written" (ver. 16), not only the perfect, but also the imperfect. Let not the imperfect fear, only let them advance. Nor yet, because I have said, "let them not fear," let them love their imperfection, and remain there, where they are found. Let them advance, as far as in them lieth. Daily let them add, daily let them approach; yet let them not fall back from the Body of the Lord: that, compacted in one Body and among these members, they may be counted worthy to have that said of them. "By day shall they wander, and none among them." "The Day" was yet on earth, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Whence He said, "Walk while ye have the day." [5732] But "by day shall" His imperfect ones "wander." They too thought that our Lord Jesus Christ was only man, that He had not within Him the hidden Godhead, that He was not secretly God, but that He was that only which was seen: this they too thought....But what is, "In the day they shall wander"? Shall they perish? Where then is, "In Thy book shall all be written"? When then did they "wander in the day"? When they understood not the Lord set upon earth. And what followeth? "But to me Thy friends are made very honourable, O God" (ver. 17); those very ones, who "wandered in the day, and none was in them," became Thy friends, and were made very honourable to me. That bone was made in them in secret after the resurrection of the Lord, and they suffered for His Name, at whose death they had been amazed. "Mightily strengthened were their chieftainships." They became Apostles, they became leaders of the Church, they became rams leading their flocks, "mightily strengthened."

17. "I will number them, and they shall be multiplied above the sand" (ver. 18). By means of them, who "wandered in the day," lo! there has been born all this great multitude, which now is like the sand innumerable, save by God. For He said, "they shall be multiplied above the sand," and yet He had said, "I will number them." The very same who are numbered, "shall be multiplied above the sand." For by Him is the sand numbered, by whom "the very hairs of our head are numbered." [5733] "I have risen, and yet am I with Thee." Already have I suffered, saith He, already have I been buried; lo! I have risen, and not yet do they understand that I am with them. "Yet am I with Thee," that is, not yet with them, for not yet do they recognise Me. For thus do we read in the Gospel, that after the resurrection of oar Lord Jesus Christ, when He appeared to them, they did not at once know Him. There is another meaning also: "I have risen, and yet am I with Thee," as though He would signify this present time, wherein He is as yet hidden at the right hand of the Father, before He is revealed in the brightness, wherein He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

18. And then He telleth what meanwhile, during this whole time when He already has risen, and remaineth still with the Father, He suffereth by the intermixture of sinners in His Body, the Church, and by the separation of heretics. "If Thou, O God, shalt slay the sinners (since Thou shalt say in Thy thought, Depart from Me, ye men of blood), they shall receive in vanity their cities" (ver. 19, 20). The words seem to be connected in this order; "If Thou, O God, shall slay the sinners, they shall receive in vanity their cities." Thus are sinners slain, because, "having their understandings darkened, they are alienated from the life of God." [5734] For on account of elation they lose confession, and so they are slain, and in them is fulfilled what Scripture saith, "Confession perisheth from the dead, as from one that is not." [5735] And so "they receive in vanity their cities," that is, their vain peoples, who follow their vanity; when, puffed up by the name of righteousness, they [5736] persuade men to burst the bond of unity, and blindly and ignorantly follow them, as being more righteous....But now the Body of Christ, the Church, saith, Why do the proud speak falsely against me, as though I were stained by other men's sins, and so, by separating themselves, "receive in vanity their cities"? "Have not I hated those who hated Thee, Lord?" (ver. 21). Why do those who are worse themselves require of me to separate myself in body as well as spirit from the wicked, so as to root up the wheat, together with the tares, before the time of harvest, that before the time of winnowing I lose my power of enduring the chaff; that before all the different sorts of fishes are brought to the end of the world, as to the shore, to be separated, I tear the nets of peace and unity? Are the sacraments which I receive, those of evil men? Do I; by consent, communicate in their life and deeds?...But where is, "Love your enemies"? Is it because He said "yours," not "God's"? "Do good to them that hate you." [5737] He saith not, "who hate God." So he followeth the pattern, and saith, "Have not I hated those who hated Thee; Lord?" He saith not, "Who have hated me." "And at Thine enemies did I waste away." "Thine," he said, not "mine." But those who hate us and are enemies unto us, only because we serve Him, what else do they but hate Him, and are His enemies. Ought we then to love such enemies as these? Or do not they suffer persecution for God's sake, to whom it is said, "Pray for them that persecute you"? Observe then what followeth. "With a perfect hatred did I hate them" (ver. 22). What is, "with a perfect hatred"? I hated in them their iniquities, I loved Thy creation. This it is to hate with a perfect hatred, that neither on account of the vices thou hate the men, nor on account of the men love the vices. For see what he addeth, "They became mine enemies." Not only as God's enemies, but as his own too doth he now describe them. How then will he fulfil in them both his own saying, "Have not I hated those that hated Thee, Lord," and the Lord's command, "Love your enemies"? How will he fulfil this, save with that "perfect hatred," that he hate in them that they are wicked, and love that they are men? For in the time even of the Old Testament, when the carnal people was restrained by visible punishments, how did Moses, the servant of God, who by understanding belonged to the New Testament, how did he hate sinners when he prayed for them, or how did he not hate them when he slew them, save that he "hated them with a perfect hatred"? For with such perfection did he hate the iniquity which he punished, as to love the manhood for which he prayed.

19. Since then the Body of Christ is in the end to be severed in body also from the unholy and wicked, but now meanwhile groaneth among them, what doeth the "love of Christ among the daughters, as the lily among thorns"? [5738] What are her words? what her conscience? what is the "appearance of the king's daughter within"? [5739] Lo, hear what she saith. "Prove me, O God, and know my heart" (ver. 23). Do Thou, O God, Thou prove me, Thou know; not man, not an heretic, who neither knoweth how to prove, nor can know my heart, whereas Thou provest, and knowest that I consent not to the deeds of the wicked, while they think that I can be defiled by the sins of others; so that, while I in my long wandering do what I mourn in another Psalm, that is, while I "labour for peace among them that hate peace," [5740] until I come to that Vision of peace, which is called Jerusalem, "which is the mother of us all," the city "eternal in the heavens;" they, contending, and falsely accusing and separating themselves, may "receive," not, evidently, in eternity, but "in vanity, their cities." Why this? Observe what followeth.

20. "And see," saith he, "if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (ver. 24). "Search," he saith, "my paths," that is, my counsels and thoughts. What else saith he, but "lead me in Christ"? For who is "the way everlasting," save He that is the life everlasting? For everlasting is He who said, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life." [5741] If then thou findest anything in my way which displeaseth Thine eyes, since my way is mortal, do Thou "lead me in the way everlasting," wherein is no iniquity; for even "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins;" [5742] He is "the Way everlasting" without sin; He is the Life everlasting without punishment.

21. These are great mysteries, brethren. How doth the Spirit of God speak with us? how doth it make us delights in this night? What is this, we ask you, brethren, whence are they sweeter, the darker they are? He mixeth us our potion after His love, in certain wondrous ways. He maketh His own sayings wondrous, so that while we were speaking what ye already knew, yet forasmuch as it was dug out of passages which seemed obscure, the knowledge itself seemed to be made new. Did ye not know, brethren, that the wicked are to be tolerated in the Church, and schisms not to be made? Did ye not already know, that within those nets which hold both good and bad fishes, we must abide even to the shore, nor must the nets be burst, because on the shore the good shall be separated into vessels, and the bad thrown away? Ye know this already; but these verses of this Psalm ye did not understand; that which ye did not understand is explained; that which ye knew has been renewed.

Footnotes

[5718] Lat. CXXXVIII. Sermon to the people. [The author says: "We had prepared us a short Psalm, and had desired the reader to chant it; but he, through confusion at the time, as it seems, has substituted another for it. We have chosen to follow the will of God in the reader's mistake, rather than our own will by keeping our purpose."--C.] [5719] Philip. ii. 6, 7. [5720] Ps. cxxxix. 4. [5721] Matt. xxv. 41. [5722] Exod. xxxiii. 13. [5723] Exod. xxxiii. 20. [5724] Acts ii. 38. [5725] Wisd. i. 7. [5726] Ps. vi. 5. [5727] Ps. xviii. 28. [5728] Ps. xxxiv. 1. [5729] Gr. ostoun. [5730] Ps. lxii. 5. [5731] Rom. iv. 5. [5732] John xii. 35. [5733] Matt. x. 30. [5734] Eph. iv. 18. [5735] Ecclus. xvii. 28. [5736] Donatists. [5737] Matt. v. 44. [5738] Cant. ii. 2. [5739] Ps. xlv. 13. [5740] Ps. cxx. 7. [5741] John xiv. 6. [5742] 1 John ii. 1, 2.


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