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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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Psalm CIII.46484648     Lat. CII. A sermon delivered on a feast of the Martyrs.

1. …“Bless the Lord, O my soul! and all that is within me, His holy Name” (ver. 1). I suppose that he speaketh not of what is within the body; I do not suppose him to mean this, that our lungs and liver, and so forth, are to burst forth into the voice of blessing of the Lord. There are lungs in our breast indeed, like a kind of bellows, which send forth successive breathings, which breathing forth of the air inhaled is pressed out into voice and sound, when the words are articulated; nor can any utterance sound forth from our mouth, but what the pressed lungs have given vent to; but this is not the meaning here; all this relateth to the ears of men. God hath ears: the heart also hath a voice. A man speaketh to the things within him, that they may bless God, and saith unto them, “all that is within me bless His holy Name!” Dost thou ask the meaning of what is within thee? Thy soul itself. In saying then, “all that is within me, bless His holy Name,” it only repeateth the above, “Bless the Lord, O my soul:” for the word “Bless,” is understood. Cry out with thy voice, if there be a man to hear; hush thy voice, when there is no man to hear thee; there is never wanting one to hear all that is within thee. Blessing therefore hath already been uttered from our mouth, when we were chanting these very words. We sung as much as sufficed for the time, and were then silent: ought our hearts within us to be silent to the blessing of the Lord? Let the sound of our voices bless Him at intervals, alternately, let the voice of our hearts be perpetual. When thou comest to church to recite a hymn, thy voice soundeth forth the praises of God: thou hast sung as far as thou couldest, thou hast left the church; let thy soul sound the praises of God. Thou art engaged in thy daily work: let thy soul praise God. Thou art taking food; see what the Apostle saith: “Whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.”46494649     1 Cor. x. 31. I venture to say; when thou sleepest, let thy soul praise the Lord. Let not thoughts of crime arouse thee, let not the contrivances of thieving arouse thee, let not arranged plans of corrupt dealing arouse thee. Thy innocence even when thou art sleeping is the voice of thy soul.

2. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His rewards” (ver. 2). But the rewards of the Lord cannot be before thine eyes unless thy sins are before thine eyes. Let not delight in past sin be before thine eyes, but let the condemnation of sin be before thine eyes: condemnation from thee, forgiveness from God. For thus God rewardeth thee, so that thou mayest say, “How shall I reward the Lord for all His rewards unto me?”46504650     Ps. cxvi. 12. This it was that the martyrs considering (whose memory we are this day celebrating), and all the saints who have despised this life, and as ye have heard in the Epistle of St. John, laid down their lives for the brethren, which is the perfection of love,46514651     1 John iii. 16. even as our Lord saith: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends:”46524652     John xv. 13. this the holy martyrs, then, considering, despised their lives here, that they might find them there, following our Lord’s words when He said, “He that loveth his life, shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake, shall keep it unto life eternal.”46534653     John xii. 25; Matt. x. 39. …“Forget not,” he saith, “all His rewards:” not awards, but “rewards.”46544654     Non tributiones, sed retributiones. For something else was due, and what was not due hath been paid. Whence also these words: “What,” he asketh, “shall I reward the Lord for all His rewards unto me?” Thou hast rewarded good with evil; He rewardeth evil with good. How hast thou, O man, rewarded thy God with evil for good? Thou who hast once been a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious,46554655     1 Tim. i. 13. hast rewarded blasphemies. For what good things? First, because thou art: but a stone also is. Next, because thou livest: but a brute also liveth. What reward wilt thou give the Lord, for His having created thee above all the cattle; and above all the fowls of the air, in His image and likeness?46564656     Gen. i. 26, 27. Seek not how to reward Him: give back unto Him His own image: He requireth no more; He demandeth His own coin.46574657     Matt. xxii. 21.

3. Think thou, soul, of all the rewards of God, in thinking over all thy wicked deeds: for as many as are thy sins, so many are His rewards of good. And what present, what offering, what sacrifice, canst thou ever tender unto Him?…What wilt thou reward the Lord with? For thou wast reflecting, and couldest not find: “I will receive the cup of salvation.” What? hath not the Lord Himself given the cup of salvation? Reward Him from thine own, if thou canst. I would say, No, do it not; reward Him not from thine own; God doth not will to be rewarded from thine own. If thou rewardest Him from thine own, thou rewardest sin. For all that thou hast thou hast from Him: sins only thou hast of thine own. He doth not wish to be rewarded from thine, He doth will from His own. Just as, if thou shouldest bring to a husbandman, from the land which he hath sown, an ear of wheat, thou hast rewarded him from the husbandman’s own produce; if thorns, that hast offered him of thine own. Reward truth, in truth praise the Lord: if thou shalt choose to reward Him from thine own, thou wilt lie. He who speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own.46584658     John viii. 44. If he who speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own: so he who speaketh truth, speaketh of the Lord’s. But what is to receive the cup of salvation, but to imitate the Passion of our Lord?…I will receive the cup of Christ, I will drink of our Lord’s Passion. Beware that thou fail not. But, “I will call upon the Name of the Lord.” They then who failed, called not upon the Lord; they presumed in their own strength. Do thou so return, as remembering that thou art returning what thou hast received. So then let thy soul bless the Lord, as not to forget all His rewards.

4. Hear ye all His rewards. “Who forgiveth all thy sin: who healeth all thine infirmities” (ver. 3). Behold His rewards. What, save punishment, was due unto the sinner? What was due to the blasphemer, but the hell of burning fire? He gave not these rewards: that thou mayest not shudder with dread: and without love fear Him.…But thou art a sinner. Turn again, and receive these His rewards: He “forgiveth all thy sin.”…Yet even after remission of sins the soul herself is shaken by certain passions; still is she amid the dangers of temptation, still is she pleased with certain suggestions; with some she is not pleased, and sometimes she consenteth unto some of those with which she is pleased: she is taken. This is infirmity: but He “healeth all thine infirmities.” All thine infirmities shall be healed: fear not. They are great, thou wilt say: but the Physician is greater. No infirmity cometh before the Almighty Physician as incurable: only suffer thou thyself to be healed: repel not His hands; He knoweth how to deal with thee. Be not only pleased when He cherisheth thee, but also bear with Him when He useth the knife: bear the pain of the remedy, reflecting on thy future health.…Thou dost not endure in uncertainty: He who promised thee health, cannot be deceived. The physician is often deceived: and promiseth health in the human body. Why is he deceived? Because he is not healing his own creature. God made thy body, God made thy soul. He knoweth how to restore what He hath made, He knoweth how to fashion again what He hath already fashioned: do thou only be patient beneath the Physician’s hands: for He hateth one who rejects His hands. This doth not happen with the hands of a human physician.…

5. “Who redeemeth thy life from corruption” (ver. 4). Behold, “the body which is corrupted, weigheth down the soul.”46594659     Wisd. ix. 15. The soul then hath life in a corruptible body. What sort of life? It suffereth burdens, it beareth weights. How great obstacles are there to thinking of God Himself, as it is right that men should think of God, as if interrupting us from the necessity of human corruption? how many influences recall us, how many interrupt, how many withdraw the mind when fixed on high? what a crowd of illusions, what tribes of suggestions? All this in the human heart, as it were, teemeth with the worms of human corruption. We have set forth the greatness of the disease, let us also praise the Physician. Shall not He then heal thee, who made thee such as to be in health, hadst thou chosen to keep the law of health which thou hadst received?…First think of thine own health. Sometimes a man is stricken in his own house, on his bed, with a more than usually manifest disorder; although this disorder too, which men dislike to contemplate, be plain; yet each man may be attacked with that sickness for which human physicians are sought, and may gasp with fever in his bed; perhaps he may wish to consider of his domestic affairs, to make some order or disposition relating to his estate or his house; at once he is recalled from such cares by the anxiety of his friends, plainly expressed around him, and he is advised to dismiss these subjects, and first to take thought for his health. This then is addressed unto thee, and to all men: if thou art not sick, think of other things: if thy very infirmity prove thee sick, first take heed of thy health. Christ is thy health: think therefore of Christ. Receive the cup of His saving Health, “who healeth all thine infirmities;” if thou shalt choose, thou shalt gain this Health.…For thy life hath been redeemed from corruption: rest secure now: the contract of good faith hath been entered upon; no man deceives, no man circumvents, no man oppresses, thy Redeemer. He hath here made a barter, He hath already paid the price, He hath poured forth His blood. The only Son of God, I say, hath shed His blood for us: O soul, raise thyself, thou art of so great price.…“He redeemeth thy life from corruption.”

6. “Who crowneth thee with mercy and loving-kindness.” Thou hadst perhaps begun to be in a manner proud, when thou didst hear the words, “He crowneth thee.” I am then great, I have then wrestled. By whose strength? By thine, but supplied by Him.…He crowneth thee, because He is crowning His own gifts, not thy deservings. “I laboured more abundantly than they all,” said the Apostle; but see what he addeth: “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 46604660     1 Cor. xv. 10. …It is then by His mercy that thou art crowned; in nothing be proud; ever praise the Lord; forget not all His rewards. It is a reward when thou, a sinner and an ungodly man, hast been called, that thou mayest be justified. It is a reward, when thou art raised up and guided, that thou mayest not fall. It is a reward, when strength is given thee, that thou mayest persevere unto the end. It is a reward, that even that flesh of thine by which thou wast oppressed riseth again and that not even a hair of thy head perisheth. It is a reward, that after thy resurrection thou art crowned. It is a reward, that thou mayest praise God Himself for evermore without ceasing.…

7. After the battle, then, I shall be crowned; after the crown, what shall I do? “He who satisfieth thy longing with good things” (ver. 5).…Seek thy own good, O soul. For one thing is good to one creature, another to another, and all creatures have a certain good of their own, to the completeness and perfection of their nature. There is a difference as to what is essential to each imperfect thing, in order that it may be made perfect; seek for thy own good. “There is none good but One, that is, God.”46614661     Matt. xix. 17. The highest good is thy good. What then is wanting unto him to whom the highest good is good? For there are inferior goods, which are good to different creatures respectively. What, brethren, is good unto the cattle, save to fill the belly, to prevent want, to sleep, to indulge themselves, to exist, to be in health, to propagate? This is good to them: and within certain bounds it hath an allotted measure of good, granted by God, the Creator of all things. Dost thou seek such a good as this? God giveth also this: but do not pursue it alone. Canst thou, a coheir of Christ, rejoice in fellowship with cattle? Raise thy hope to the good of all goods. He will be thy good, by whom thou in thy kind hast been made good, and by whom all things in their kind were made good. For God made all things very good.…

8. When shall my longing be satisfied with good things? when, dost thou ask? “Thy youth shall be renewed as the eagle’s.” Dost thou then ask when thy soul is to be satisfied with good things? When thy youth shall be restored. And he addeth, as an eagle’s. Something here lieth hidden; what however is said of the eagle, we will not pass over silently, since it is not foreign to our purpose to understand it. Let this only be impressed upon our hearts, that it is not said without cause by the Holy Spirit. For it hath intimated unto us a sort of resurrection. And indeed the youth of the eagle is restored, but not into immortality, for a similitude hath been given, as far as it could be drawn from a thing mortal to signify a thing immortal, not to demonstrate it. The eagle is said, after it becometh overpowered with bodily age, to be incapable of taking food from the immoderate length of its beak, which is always increasing. For after the upper part of its beak, which forms a crook above the lower part, hath increased from old age to an immoderate length, the length of this increase will not allow of its opening its mouth, so as to form any interval between the lower beak and the crook above. For unless there be such an opening, it hath no power of biting like a forceps, by which to shear off what it may put within its jaws. The upper part therefore increasing, and being too far hooked over, it cannot open its mouth, and take any food. This old age doth to it, it is weighed down with the infirmity of age, and becometh too weak from want of power to eat; two causes of infirmity assaulting it, old age, and want. By a natural device, therefore, in order in some measure to restore its youth, the eagle is said to dash and strike against a rock the upper lip of its beak, by the too great increase of which the opening for eating is closed: and by thus rubbing it against the rock, it breaketh off the weight of its old beak, which impeded its taking food. It cometh to its food, and everything is restored: it will be after its old age like a young eagle; the vigour of all its limbs returneth, the lustre of its plumage, the guidance of its wings, it flieth aloft as before, a sort of resurrection taketh place in it. For this is the object of the similitude, like that of the Moon, which after waning and being apparently intercepted, again is renewed, and becometh full; and signifieth to us the resurrection; but when it is full it doth not remain so; again it waneth, that the signification may never cease. Thus also what hath here been said of the eagle: the eagle is not restored unto immortality, but we are unto eternal life; but the similitude is derived from hence, that the rock taketh away from us what hindereth us. Presume not therefore on thy strength: the firmness of the rock rubbeth off thy old age: for that Rock was Christ. 46624662     1 Cor. x. 4. In Christ our youth shall be restored like that of the eagle.…

9. “The Lord executeth mercy and judgment for all them that are oppressed with wrong” (ver. 6).…An adulterous woman is brought forward to be stoned according to the Law, but she is brought before the Lawgiver Himself.…Our Lord, at the time she was brought before Him, bending His Head, began writing on the earth. When He bent Himself down upon the earth, He then wrote on the earth: before He bent upon the earth, He wrote not on the earth, but on stone. The earth was now something fertile, ready to bring forth from the Lord’s letters. On the stone He had written the Law, intimating the hardness of the Jews: He wrote on the earth, signifying the productiveness of Christians. Then they who were leading the adulteress came, like raging waves against a rock: but they were dashed to pieces by His answer. For He said to them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” 46634663     John viii. 7. And again bending His head, He began writing on the ground. And now each man, when he asked his own conscience, came not forward. It was not a weak adulterous woman, but their own adulterate conscience, that drove them back. They wished to punish, to judge; they came to the Rock, their judges were overthrown by the Rock.46644664     Ps. cxli. 6.

10. Execute mercy to46654665     Oxf. mss. “also to.” the wicked, not as being wicked. Do not receive the wicked, in so far forth as he is wicked: that is, do not receive him as if from inclination towards and love for his iniquity. For it is forbidden to give unto a sinner, and to receive sinners. Yet how is this, “Give unto every man that asketh of thee”? and this, “if thine enemy hunger, feed him”?46664666     Rom. xii. 20. This is seemingly contradictory: but it is opened to those who knock in the name of Christ, and will be clear unto those who seek. “Help not a sinner:” and, “give not to the ungodly;”46674667     Ecclus. xii. 4, 5, 6. and yet, “give unto every man that asketh of thee.” But it is a sinner who asketh of me. Give, not as unto a sinner. When dost thou give as unto a sinner? When that which maketh him a sinner, pleaseth thee so that thou givest.46684668     Oxf. mss. add, “thou offendest God.” …Let those who give to a man who fights with wild beasts, tell me why they give? Why doth he give to this man? He loveth that in him, in which consists his greatest sin; this he feedeth, this he clotheth in him, wickedness itself, made public by all witnessing it. Why doth the man give, who giveth to actors, or to charioteers, or to courtesans? Do not these very persons give to human beings? But it is not the nature of God’s work that they attend to, but the iniquity of the human work.…When therefore thou givest, thou givest to infamy, not to bravery. As then he who giveth to the fighter of beasts, giveth not to the man, but to a most infamous profession; for if he were only a man, and not a fighter of beasts, thou wouldest not give; thou honourest him in vice, not nature: so on the other hand, if thou give to the righteous, if thou give to the prophet, if thou give to the disciple of Christ anything of which he is in want, without thinking that he is Christ’s disciple, that he is God’s minister, that he is God’s steward; but art thinking in that case of some temporal advantage, for instance, that when perchance he shall be needful to thy cause, he may be bought for thee, because thou hast given him something; thou hast no more given to the righteous, if thou hast thus given, than he gave to the man, when he gave to the beast-fighter. The matter, then, most beloved, is quite open to us, and I conceive, that although it was obscure, it is now clear. It was to this that the Lord bound thee, when He said, “He who hath received the righteous man.” That were enough. But as the righteous may be received with another intention,…He saith, “He who receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man:”46694669     Oxf. mss. add, “shall receive a righteous man’s reward.” that is, receiving him in consideration of his righteousness:…that is, because he is Christ’s disciple, because he is a steward of the Mystery:46704670     1 Cor. iv. 1. “Verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”46714671     Matt. x. 42. So understand, he who receiveth a sinner in the name of a sinner shall lose his reward.

11. …On this account therefore be merciful without fear, extend love even unto thine enemies: punish those who chance to belong to thy government, restrain them with affection, with charity, in regard to their eternal salvation; lest while thou sparest the flesh, the soul perish. Do this: and though thou have to endure many,46724672     Oxf. mss. and 5 ap. Ben. non inultus. “Do this, and thou wilt not without revenge endure those unrighteous on which thou canst not exercise discipline.” over whom thou canst not exercise discipline, because thou hast no lawful authority over them; bear their injuries; be without apprehension. He will show mercy unto thee if thou shalt have been merciful: thou shalt be merciful, without the injuries thou sufferest losing their punishment; “To Me belongeth vengeance, I will repay,”46734673     Deut. xxxii. 35. saith the Lord.

12. “He made His ways known unto Moses” (ver. 7).…For the Law was given with this view, that the sick might be convinced of his infirmity, and pray for the physician. This is the hidden way of God. Thou hadst long ago heard, “Who healeth all thine infirmities.” Their infirmities were as yet hidden in the sick; the five books were given to Moses: the pool was surrounded by five porches; he brought forth the sick, that they might lie there, that they might be made known, not that they might be healed. The five porches discovered, but healed not, the sick; the pool healed when one descended, and this when it was disturbed:46744674     John v. 2–4. the disturbance of the pool was in our Lord’s Passion.…Since therefore this is a mystery there, he teacheth that the Law was given that sinners might be convinced of their sin, and call upon the Physician in order to receive grace.…Therefore, as I had begun to say, because this is a great mystery in the Law, that it was given with this view, that by the increase of sin, the proud might be humbled, the humbled might confess, the confessing might be healed; these are the hidden ways, which He made known to Moses, through whom He gave the Law, by which sin should abound, that grace might more abound.…“He hath made known His good pleasure unto the children of Israel.” To all the children of Israel? To the true children of Israel; yea, to all the children of Israel. For the treacherous, the insidious, the hypocrites, are not children of Israel. And who are the children of Israel? “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” 46754675     John i. 47.

13. “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: long-suffering, and of great mercy” (ver. 8). Why so long-suffering? Why so great in mercy? Men sin and live; sins are added on, life continueth: men blaspheme daily, and “He maketh His sun to rise over the good and the wicked.”46764676     Matt. v. 45. On all sides He calleth to amendment, on all sides He calleth to repentance, He calleth by the blessings of creation, He calleth by giving time for life, He calleth through the reader, He calleth through the preacher, He calleth through the innermost thought by the rod of correction, He calleth by the mercy of consolation: “He is long-suffering, and of great mercy.” But take heed lest by ill using the length of God’s mercy, thou treasure up for thyself, as the Apostle saith, wrath in the day of wrath.…For some there are who prepare to turn, and yet put it off, and in them crieth out the raven’s voice, “Cras! Cras!”46774677     “To-morrow! To-morrow!” The raven which was sent from the ark, never returned.46784678     Gen. viii. 7. God seeketh not procrastination in the raven’s voice, but confession in the wailing of the dove. The dove, when sent forth, returned. How long, To-morrow! To-morrow!? Look to thy last morrow: since thou knowest not what is thy last morrow, let it suffice that thou hast lived up to this day a sinner. Thou hast heard, often thou art wont to hear, thou hast heard to-day also; daily thou hearest, and daily thou amendest not.…

14. “He will not alway be chiding: neither keepeth He His anger for ever” (ver. 9). Since it is in consequence of His anger that we live in the scourges and corruption46794679     Oxf. mss. “correction.” of mortality: we have this in punishment for the first sin.…Is it not through His anger, my brethren, that “in the sweat of thy face and in toil thou shalt eat bread, and the earth shall bear thorns and thistles unto thee”?46804680     Gen. iii. 19, 18. This was said to our forefathers. Or if our life is different from this; if thou canst, turn unto some pleasure, where thou mayest not feel thorns. Choose what thou hast wished, whether thou art covetous or luxurious; to name these two alone; add a third passion, that of ambition; how great thorns are there in the desire of honours? in the luxury of lusts how great thorns? in the ardour of covetousness how great thorns? What troubles are there in base loves? What terrible anxieties here in this life? I omit hell. Beware lest thou even now become a hell unto thyself. The whole of this, my brethren, is the result of His anger: and when thou hast turned thyself unto works of righteousness, thou canst not but toil upon earth; and toil endeth not before life endeth. We must toil on the way, that we may rejoice in our country. He therefore consoleth by His promises thy toil, thy labours, thy troubles, saying to thee, “He will not alway be chiding.”

15. “He hath not dealt with us according to our sins” (ver. 10). Thanks unto God, because He hath vouchsafed this. We have not received what we were deserving of: “He hath not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickednesses.” “For as the height of heaven above the earth, so hath the Lord confirmed His mercy toward them that fear Him” (ver. 11). Observe the heaven: everywhere on every side it covereth the earth, nor is there any part of the earth not covered by the heaven. Men sin beneath heaven: they do all evil deeds beneath the heaven; yet they are covered by the heaven. Thence is light for the eyes, thence air, thence breath, thence rain upon the earth for the sake of its fruits, thence all mercy from heaven. Take away the aid of heaven from the earth: it will fail at once. As then the protection of heaven abideth upon the earth, so doth the Lord’s protection abide upon them that fear Him. Thou fearest God, His protection is above thee. But perhaps thou art scourged, and conceivest that God hath forsaken thee. God hath forsaken thee,46814681     Oxf. mss. repeat this: “God hath forsaken thee.” if the protection of heaven hath forsaken the earth.

16. “Look, how wide the east is from the west; so far hath He set our sins from us” (ver. 12). They who know the Sacraments know this; nevertheless, I only say what all may hear.46824682     [Referring to the privacy with which the Sacraments were celebrated.—C.] When sin is remitted, thy sins fall, thy grace riseth; thy sins are as it were on the decline, thy grace which freeth thee on the rise. “Truth springeth from the earth.”46834683     Ps. lxxxv. 11. What meaneth this? Thy grace is born, thy sins fall, thou art in a certain manner made new. Thou shouldest look to the rising, and turn away from the setting.46844684     They looked toward the west, while they renounced Satan before Baptism, and then turned away to the east. See St. Cyril’s Catechetical Lectures, lect. xix. Tr. p. 259. Turn away from thy sins, turn unto the grace of God; when thy sins fall, thou riseth and profitest.…One region of the heaven falleth, another riseth: but the region which is now rising will set after twelve hours. Not like this is the grace which riseth unto us: both our sins fall for ever, and grace abideth for ever.

17. “Yea, like as a father pitieth his own children, even so hath the Lord had mercy on them that fear Him” (ver. 13). Let Him be as angry as He shall will, He is our Father. But He hath scourged us, and afflicted us, and bruised us: He is our Father. Son, if thou bewailest, wail beneath thy Father; do not so with indignation, do not so with the puffing up of pride. What thou sufferest, whence thou mournest, it is medicine, not punishment; it is thy chastening, not thy condemnation. Do not refuse the scourge, if thou dost not wish to be refused thy heritage: do not think of what punishment thou sufferest in the scourge, but what place thou hast in the Testament.

18. “For He knoweth our forming”46854685     Figmentum nostrum. (ver. 14): that is, our infirmity. He knoweth what He hath created, how it hath fallen, how it may be repaired, how it may be adopted, how it may be enriched. Behold, we are made of clay: “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.”46864686     1 Cor. xv. 47. He sent even His own Son, Him who was made the second man, Him who was God before all things. For He was second in His coming, first in His returning: He died after many, He arose before all. “He knoweth our forming.” What forming? Ourselves. Why sayest thou that He knoweth? Because He hath pitied. “Remember that we are but dust.” Addressing God Himself, he saith, “Remember,” as if God could forget: He perceiveth, He knoweth in such a manner that He cannot forget. But what meaneth, “Remember”? Let thy mercy continue towards us. Thou knowest our forming; forget not our forming, lest we forget thy grace.

19. “Man, his days are but as grass” (ver. 15). Let man consider what he is; let not man be proud. “His days are but as grass.” Why is the grass proud, that is now flourishing, and in a very short space dried up? Why is the grass proud that flourisheth only for a brief season, until the sun be hot? It is then good for us that His mercy be upon us, and from grass make gold. “For he flourisheth as a flower of the field.” The whole splendour of the human race; honour, powers, riches, pride, threats, is the flower of the grass. That house flourisheth, and that family is great, that family flourisheth; and how many flourish, and how many years do they live! Many years to thee, are but a short season unto God. God doth not count, as thou dost. Compared with the length and long life of ages, all the flower of any house is as the flower of the field. All the beauty of the year hardly lasteth for the year. Whatever there flourisheth, whatever there is warmed with heat, whatever there is beautiful, lasteth not; nay, it cannot exist for one whole year. In how brief a season do flowers pass away, and these are the beauty of the herbs! This which is so very beautiful, this quickly falleth.46874687     Isa. xl. 6–8. Inasmuch then as He knoweth as a father our forming, that we are but grass, and can only flourish for a time; He sent unto us His Word, and His Word, which abideth for evermore, He hath made a brother unto the grass which abideth not. Wonder not that thou shalt be a sharer of His Eternity; He became Himself first a sharer of thy grass. Will He who assumed from thee what was lowly, deny unto thee what is exalted in respect of thee?

20. “The wind shall go over on it, it shall not be; and the place thereof shall know it no more” (ver. 16). For he is not speaking of grass, but of that for whose sake even the Word became grass. For thou art man, and on thy account the Word became man. “All flesh is grass:” “and the Word was made flesh.”46884688     John i. 14. How great then is the hope of the grass, since the Word hath been made flesh? That which abideth for evermore, hath not disdained to assume grass, that the grass might not despair of itself.

21. In thy reflections therefore on thyself, think of thy low estate, think of thy dust: be not lifted up: if thou art anything better, thou wilt be so by His Grace, thou wilt be so by His mercy. For hear what followeth: “but the mercy of the Lord endureth for ever and ever upon them that fear Him” (ver. 17). Ye who fear not Him, will be grass, and in grass, and in torment with the grass: for the flesh shall arise unto the torment. Let those who fear Him rejoice, because His mercy is upon them.

22. “And His righteousness upon children’s children” (ver. 18). He speaketh of reward, “upon children’s children.” How many servants of God are there who have not children, how much less children’s children? But He calleth our works our children; the reward of works, our “children’s children.” “Even upon such as keep His covenant.” Let men beware that all may not conceive what is here said to belong to themselves: let them choose, while they have the choice. “And keep in memory His commandments to do them.” Thou wast already disposed to flatter thyself, and perhaps to recite to me the Psalter, which I have not by heart, or from memory to say over the whole Law. Clearly thou art better in point of memory than I, better than any righteous man who doth not know the Law word for word: but see that thou keep the commandments. But how shouldest thou keep them? Not by memory, but by life. “Such as keep in memory His commandments:” not, to recite them; but, “to do them.” And now perhaps each man’s soul is disturbed. Who remembereth all the commandments of God? who remembereth all the writings of God? Lo, I wish not only to hold them in my memory, but also to do them in my works: but who remembereth them all? Fear not: He burdeneth thee not: “on two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”46894689     Matt. xxii. 40.

23. “The Lord hath prepared His throne in heaven” (ver. 19). Who but Christ hath prepared His throne in heaven? He who descended and ascended, He who died, and rose from the dead, He who lifted up to heaven the manhood He had assumed, hath Himself prepared His throne in heaven. The throne is the seat of the Judge: observe therefore ye who hear, that “He hath prepared His throne in heaven.”…The kingdom is the Lord’s, and He shall be the Governor among the people.46904690     Ps. xxii. 28. “And His kingdom shall rule over all.”

24. “Bless ye the Lord, ye Angels of His, ye that are mighty in strength: ye that fulfil His word” (ver. 20). By the word of God, then, thou art not righteous, nor faithful, unless when thou dost it. “Ye that are mighty in strength, ye that fulfil His commandment, and hearken unto the voice of His words.”

25. “Bless ye the Lord, all ye His hosts: ye servants of His that do His pleasure” (ver. 21). All ye angels, all ye that are mighty in strength: ye that do His word: all ye His hosts, ye servants of His that do His pleasure, do ye, ye bless the Lord. For all they who live wickedly, though their tongues be silent, by their lips do curse the Lord. What doth it profit if thy tongue singeth a hymn, while thy life breatheth sacrilege? By living ill thou hast set many tongues to blasphemy. Thy tongue is given to the hymn, the tongues of those who behold thee, to blasphemy. If then thou dost wish to bless the Lord, do His word, do His will.…

26. “Bless ye the Lord, all ye works of His, in all places of His dominion” (ver. 22). Therefore in every place. Let Him not be blessed where He ruleth not: “in all places of His dominion.” Let no man perchance say: I cannot praise the Lord in the East, because He hath departed unto the West; or, I cannot praise Him in the West, because He is in the East. “For neither from the east, nor from the west, nor yet from the desert hills. And why? God is the Judge.”46914691     Ps. lxxv. 6, 7. He is everywhere, in such wise that everywhere He may be praised: He is in such wise on every side, that we may be joyful in Him on every side: He is in such wise blessed on every side, that on every side we may live well.…“In every place of His dominion: bless thou the Lord, O my soul!” The last verse is the same as the first: blessing is at the head of the Psalm, blessing at the end; from blessing we set out, to blessing let us return, in blessing let us reign. 46924692     One Oxf. ms. adds, “Amen.”


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