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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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Psalm CXII.50065006     Lat. CXI. A discourse to the people.

1. I believe, brethren, that ye remarked and committed to memory the title of this Psalm. “The conversion,” he saith, “of Haggai and Zechariah.” These prophets were not as yet in existence, when these verses were sung.50075007     [He argues from the relations of these prophets to the building of the second temple.—C.] …But both, the one within a year after the other, began to prophesy that which seemeth to pertain to the restoration of the temple, as was foretold so long before.50085008     Ezra i. 5; Hagg. i; Zech. i. …“For the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”50095009     1 Cor. iii. 17. Whoever therefore converteth himself to the work of this building together, and to the hope of a firm and holy edifice, like a living stone from the miserable ruin of this world, understandeth the title of the Psalm, understandeth “the conversion of Haggai and Zechariah.” Let him therefore chant the following verses, not so much with the voice of his tongue as of his life. For the completion of the building will be that ineffable peace of wisdom, the “beginning” of which is the “fear of the Lord:” let him therefore, whom this conversion buildeth together, begin thence.

2. “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he will have great delight in His commandments” (ver. 1). God, who alone judgeth both truthfully and mercifully, will see how far he obeyeth His commandments: since “the life of man on earth is a temptation,”50105010     Job vii. 1. as holy Job saith. But “He who judgeth us is the Lord.”50115011     1 Cor. iv. 4. …He therefore will see how far each man profiteth in His commandments; yet he who loveth the peace of this building together, shall have great delight in them; nor ought he to despair, since there is “peace on earth for men of good will.”50125012     Luke ii. 14.

3. Next follows, “His seed shall be mighty upon earth” (ver. 2). The Apostle witnesseth, that the works of mercy are the seed of the future harvest, when he saith, “Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap;”50135013     Gal. vi. 9. and again, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly.”50145014     2 Cor. ix. 6. But what, brethren, is more mighty than that not only Zacchæus should buy the kingdom of Heaven by the half of his goods,50155015     Luke xix. 8. but even the widow for two mites,50165016     Mark xii. 42. and that each should possess an equal share there? What is more mighty, than that the same kingdom should be worth treasures to the rich man, and a cup of cold water to the poor?…“Glory and riches shall be in his house” (ver. 3). For his house is his heart; where, with the praise of God, he liveth in greater riches with the hope of eternal life, than with men flattering, in palaces of marble, with splendidly adorned ceilings, with the fear of everlasting death. “For his righteousness endureth for ever:” this is his glory, there are his riches. While the other’s purple, and fine linen, and grand banquets, even when present, are passing away; and when they have come to an end, the burning tongue shall cry out, longing for a drop of water from the finger’s end.50175017     Luke xvi. 24.

4. “Unto the right-hearted there ariseth up light in the darkness” (ver. 4). Justly do the godly direct their heart unto their God, justly do they walk with their God, preferring His will to themselves; and having no proud presumption in their own. For they remember that they were some time in darkness, but are now light in the Lord.50185018     Eph. v. 8. “Merciful, pitying, and just is the Lord God.” It delighteth us that He is “merciful and pitying,” but it perhaps terrifieth us that the Lord God is “just.” Fear not, despair not at all, happy man, who fearest the Lord, and hast great delight in His commandments; be thou sweet, be merciful and lend. For the Lord is just in this manner, that He judgeth without mercy him who hath not shown mercy;50195019     Jas. ii. 13. but, “Sweet is the man who is merciful and lendeth” (ver. 5): God will not spew him out of His mouth as if he were not sweet. “Forgive,” He saith, “and ye shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given unto you.”50205020     Luke vi. 37, 38. Whilst thou forgivest that thou mayest be forgiven, thou art merciful; whilst thou givest that it may be given unto thee, thou lendest. For though all be called generally mercy where another is assisted in his distress, yet there is a difference where thou spendest neither money, nor the toil of bodily labour, but by forgiving what each man hath sinned against thee, thou gainest free pardon for thine own sins also.…He who is unwilling to give to the poor, seeketh riches; listen to what is written, “Thou shalt have treasure in heaven.”50215021     Matt. xix. 21. Thou wilt not then lose honour by forgiving: for it is a very laudable triumph to conquer anger: wilt not grow poor by giving; for a heavenly treasure is a more safe possession. The former verse, “Riches and plenteousness shall be in his house,” was pregnant with this verse.

5. He therefore who doth these things, “shall guide his words with discretion.” His deeds themselves are the words whereby he shall be defended at the Judgment; which shall not be without mercy unto him, since he hath himself shown mercy. “For he shall never be moved” (ver. 6): he who, called to the right hand, shall hear these words, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” For no works of theirs, save works of mercy, are there mentioned. He therefore shall hear, “Come, ye blessed of My Father;” for, “the generation of the right ones shall be blessed.” Thus, “the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.” “He will not be afraid of any evil hearing; for his heart standeth fast and believeth in the Lord” (ver. 7). Such as the words which he will hear addressed to those on the left hand, “Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”50225022     Matt. xxv. 34, 41. He therefore who seeketh here not his own things, but those of Jesus Christ,50235023     Philip. ii. 21. most patiently endureth sufferings, waiteth for the promises with faith. Nor is he broken down by any temptations: “His heart is established, and will not shrink, until he see beyond his enemies” (ver. 8). His enemies wished to see good things here, and when invisible blessings were promised them, used to say, “Who will show us any good?”50245024     Ps. iv. 6. Let our heart therefore be established, and shrink not, until we see beyond our enemies. For they wish to see good things of men in the land of the dying; we trust to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.50255025     Ps. xxvii. 13.

6. But it is a great thing to have the heart established, and not to be moved, while they rejoice who love what they see, and mock at him who hopeth for what he seeth not; “what the Lord hath prepared for them that love Him.”50265026     1 Cor. ii. 9. How great is the value of this which is not seen, and it is bought for so much as each man is able to give for it. On this account he also “dispersed abroad, and gave to the poor” (ver. 9): he saw not, yet he kept buying; but He was storing up the treasure in heaven, who deigned to hunger and thirst in the poor on earth. It is no wonder then if “his righteousness remaineth for ever:” He who created the ages being his guardian. “His horn,” whose humility was scorned by the proud, “shall be exalted with honour.”

7. “The ungodly shall see it, and he shall be angered” (ver. 10): this is that late and fruitless repentance. For with whom rather than himself is he “angered,” when he shall say, “Our pride, what hath it profited us? the boastfulness of our riches, what hath it given us?50275027     Wisd. v. 8. ” seeing the horn of him exalted with honour, who “dispersed abroad, and gave to the poor.” “He shall gnash with his teeth, and consume away:” for “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For he will no more bring forth leaves and bloom, as would happen if he had repented in season: but he will then repent, when “the desire of the ungodly shall perish,” no consolation succeeding. “The desire of the ungodly shall perish,” when “all things shall pass away like a shadow,”50285028     Wisd. v. 8, 9. when the flower shall fall down on the withering of the grass. “But the word of the Lord that endureth for ever,”50295029     Isa. xl. 8. as it is mocked by the vanity of the falsely happy, so will laugh at the perdition of the same when truly miserable.


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