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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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Psalm CXIV.50375037     Lat. CXIII.

1. The river Jordan, when they were entering across it into the land of promise, when touched by the feet of the priests who bore the Ark, stood still from above with bridled stream, while it flowed down from below, where it ran on into the sea, until the whole people passed over, the priests standing on the dry ground.50385038     Josh. iii. 15–17. We know these things, but yet we should not imagine in this Psalm, to which we have now answered by chanting Allelujah, that it is the purpose of the Holy Spirit, that while we call to mind those deeds of the past, we should not consider things like unto them yet to take place. For “these things,” as the Apostle saith, “happened unto them for ensamples.”50395039     1 Cor. x. 11.

2. “When Israel came out of Egypt, and the house of Jacob from among the strange people” (ver. 1), “Judah was His sanctuary, and Israel His dominion” (ver. 2); “the sea saw that and fled, Jordan was driven back” (ver. 3). Think not that past deeds are related unto us, but rather that the future is predicted; since, while those miracles also were going on in that people, things present indeed were happening, but not without an intimation of things future.…Some things he has related differently to what we have learnt and read there: that he might not truly be thought to be repeating past acts rather than to be prophesying future things. For in the first place, we read not that the Jordan was driven back, but that it stood still on the side nearest the source of its streams, while the people were passing through; next, we read not of the mountains and hills skipping: all which he hath added, and repeated. For after saying, “The sea saw that, and fled; Jordan was driven back:” he added, “The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like young sheep” (ver. 4): and then asketh, “What aileth thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest: and thou, Jordan, that thou wast driven back?” (ver. 5). “Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like young sheep?” (ver. 6).

3. Let us therefore consider what we are taught here; since both those deeds were typical of us, and these words exhort us to recognise ourselves. For if we hold with a firm heart the grace of God which hath been given us, we are Israel, the seed of Abraham: unto us the Apostle saith, “Therefore are ye the seed of Abraham.”50405040     Gal. iii. 29; Rom. iv. 10, etc. …Let therefore no Christian consider himself alien to the name of Israel. For we are joined in the corner stone with those among the Jews who believed, among whom we find the Apostles chief. Hence our Lord in another passage saith, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, that there may be one fold and one Shepherd.”50415041     John x. 16. The Christian people then is rather Israel, and the same is preferably the house of Jacob; for Israel and Jacob are the same. But that multitude of Jews, which was deservedly reprobated for its perfidy, for the pleasures of the flesh sold their birthright, so that they belonged not to Jacob, but rather to Esau. For ye know that it was said with this hidden meaning, “That the elder shall serve the younger.”50425042     Gen. xxv. 33, 23.

4. But Egypt, since it is said to mean affliction, or one who afflicteth, or one who oppresseth, is often used for an emblem of this world; from which we must spiritually withdraw, that we may not be bearing the yoke with unbelievers.50435043     2 Cor. vi. 14. For thus each one becometh a fit citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, when he hath first renounced this world; just as that people could not be led into the land of promise, save first they had departed from Egypt. But as they did not depart thence, until freed by Divine help; so no man is turned away in heart from this world, unless aided by the gift of the Divine mercy. For what was there once prefigured, the same is fulfilled in every faithful one in the daily travailings of the Church, in this end of the world, in this, as the blessed John writeth, last time.50445044     1 John ii. 18. Hear the Apostle the teacher of the Gentiles, thus instructing us: “I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples.”50455045     1 Cor. x. 1–6. What more do ye wish, most beloved brethren? For it is surely clear, not from human conjecture, but from the declaration of an Apostle, that is, of God and our Lord: for God spoke in them, and though from clouds of flesh, yet it was God who thundered: surely then it is clear by so great testimony that all these things which were done in figure, are now fulfilled in our salvation; because then the future was predicted, now the past is read, and the present observed.

5. Hear what is even more wonderful, that the hidden and veiled mysteries of the ancient books are in some degree revealed by the ancient books. For Micah the prophet speaketh thus. “According to the days of thy coming out of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things, etc.50465046     Micah vii. 15–19 …In this Psalm, therefore, although the wonderful spirit of prophecy doth look into the future, yet it seemeth, as it were, to be merely detailing to the past. “Judah,” he saith, “was His sanctuary: the sea saw that and fled:” “was,” “saw,” and “fled,” are words of the past tense; and “Jordan was driven back, and the mountains skipped, and the earth trembled,” in like manner have a past expression, without, however, any difficulty in understanding by them the future.…For though it was so long after the departure of that people from Egypt, and so long before these seasons of the Church, that he sang what I have quoted; nevertheless, he witnesseth that he is foretelling the future without any question. “According to the days,” he saith, “of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things.” “The nations shall see and be confounded.” This is what is here said, “The sea saw that, and fled:” for if in this passage, through words of the past tense the future is secretly revealed, as is the case; who would venture to explain the words, “shall see and be confounded,” of past events? And a little lower down he50475047     [i.e. Micah. See vii. 19.—C.] alludeth more clearly than light itself to those very enemies of ours, who followed us flying, that they might slay us, that is, our sins, which are overwhelmed and extinguished in Baptism, just as the Egyptians were drowned in the sea, saying, since “He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He is of good will and merciful, He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us, He will drown our iniquities: and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

6. What is it, most beloved? ye who know yourselves to be Israelites according to Abraham’s seed, ye who are of the house of Jacob, heirs according to promise, know that even ye have gone forth from Egypt, since ye have renounced this world; that ye have gone forth from a foreign people, since by the confession of piety, ye have separated yourselves from the blasphemies of the Gentiles. For it is not your tongue, but a foreign one, which knoweth not how to praise God, to whom ye sing Allelujah. For “Judah” hath become “His sanctuary” in you; for “he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and by circumcision of the heart.”50485048     Rom. ii. 28, 29. Examine then your hearts, if faith hath circumcised them, if confession hath cleansed them; in you “Judah” hath become “His sanctuary,” in you “Israel” hath become “His dominion.” For “He gave” unto you “the power to become the sons of God.”50495049     John i. 12.

7. But I would not that ye should seek without yourselves, how the Jordan was turned back, I would not ye should augur anything evil. For the Lord chideth those who have “turned” their “back” unto Him, “and not their face.”50505050     Jer. ii. 27. And whoever forsaketh the source of his being, and turneth away from his Creator; as a river into the sea, he glides into the bitter wickedness of this world. It is therefore good for him that he turn back, and that God whom he had set behind his back, may be before his face as he returneth; and that the sea of this world, which he had set before his face, when he was gliding on towards it, may become behind him; and that he may so forget what is behind him, that he may “reach forward to what is before him;”50515051     Philip. iii. 13. which is profitable for him when once converted.…

8. “Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob” (ver. 7). What meaneth, “at the presence of the Lord,” save at the presence of Him who said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”50525052     Matt. xxviii. 30. For the earth trembled; but because it had remained slothful, it was made to tremble, so that it might be more firmly fixed at the presence of the Lord.

9. “Who turned the hard rock into standing waters, and the flint stone into springing wells” (ver. 8). For He melted Himself, and what may be called His hardness to water those who believe on Him, that He might in them become “a fountain of water gushing forth unto everlasting life;”50535053     John iv. 14. because formerly, when He was not known, He seemed hard. Hence they who said, “This is an hard saying, who can bear it?”50545054     John vi. 60. were confounded, and waited not until He should flow and stream upon them when the Scriptures were revealed. The rock, that hardness, was turned into pools of water, that stone into fountains of waters, when on His resurrection, “He expounded unto them, commencing with Moses and all the prophets, how Christ ought to suffer thus;”50555055     Luke xxiv. 26, 27. and sent the Holy Ghost, of whom He said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.”50565056     John vii. 37.


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