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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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31. In this great Psalm there cometh next in order that which, with the Lord’s help, we must consider and treat of. “Set a law for me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes, and I shall seek it alway” (ver. 33).…

32. Why doth this man still pray for a law to be laid down for him; which, if it had not been laid down for him, he could not have run the way of God’s commandments in the breadth of his heart? But since one speaketh who is growing in grace, and who knoweth that it is God’s gift that he profiteth in grace; what else doth he pray, when he prayeth that a law may be laid down for him, save that he may profit more and more? As, if thou holdest a full cup, and givest it to a thirsty man; he both exhausts it by drinking it, and prayeth for it by still longing for it.…

33. But what meaneth, “Evermore”?…Doth “evermore” mean as long as we live here, because we progress in grace so long; but after this life, he who was in a good course of improvement here, is made perfect there? Here the law of God is examined into, as long as we progress in it, both by knowing it and by loving it: but there its fulness abideth for our enjoyment, not for our examination. Thus also is this spoken, “Seek His face evermore.” 51635163     Ps. cv. 4. Where, evermore, save here? For we shall not there also seek the face of God, when “we shall see face to face.”51645164     1 Cor. xiii. 12. Or if that which is loved without a change of affection is rightly said to be sought after, and our only object is, that it be not lost, we shall indeed evermore seek the law of God, that is, the truth of God: for in this very Psalm it is said, “And Thy law is the truth.”51655165     Ps. cxix. 142. It is now sought, that it may be held fast; it will then be held fast that it may not be lost.…

34. “Give me understanding, and I shall search Thy law, yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart” (ver. 34). For when each man hath searched the law, and searched its deep things, in which its whole meaning doth consist; he ought indeed to love God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind; and his neighbour as himself. “For on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” 51665166     Matt. xxii. 37–40. This he seemeth to have promised, when he said, “Yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart.”

35. But since he hath no power to do even this, save he be aided by Him who commandeth him to do what He commandeth, “Make me,” he addeth, “to go in the path of Thy commandments, for therein is my desire” (ver. 35). My desire is powerless, unless Thou Thyself makest me to go where I desire. And this is surely the very path, that is, the path of God’s commandments, which he had already said that he had run, when his heart was enlarged by the Lord. And this he calleth a “path,” because “the way is narrow which leadeth unto life;”51675167     Matt. vii. 14. and since it is narrow, we cannot run therein save with a heart enlarged.…

36. He next saith, “Incline mine heart unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness” (ver. 36). This then he prayeth, that he may profit in the will itself.51685168     [He says: “He useth here a Greek expression, from which covetousness generally may be understood, whereby every man seeketh more than is enough: for the word πλ™ον meaneth more, and Ÿξις signifieth having, being derived from the verb to have. It is therefore termed πλεονεξια, from having too much: a word which the Latin translators in this passage have variously rendered by emolument, utility, and avarice, which last is best.”—C.] …But the Apostle saith, “Avarice is a root of all evils.”51695169     1 Tim. vi. 10. But in the Greek, whence these words have been rendered into our tongue, the word used by the Apostle is not πλεονεξία, which occurs in this passage of the Psalms; but φιλαργυρία, by which is signified “love of money.” But the Apostle must be understood to have meant genus by species when he used this word, that is, to have meant avarice universally and generally by love of money, which is truly the root of all evils.51705170     Gen. iii. 5. …If therefore our heart be not inclined to covetousness, we fear God only for God’s sake, so that He is the only reward of our serving Him. Let us love Him in Himself, let us love Him in ourselves, Him in our neighbours whom we love as ourselves, whether they have Him, or in order that they may have Him.…

37. The next words in the Psalm which we have undertaken to expound are, “O turn away mine eyes, lest they behold vanity: and quicken Thou me in Thy way” (ver. 37). Vanity and truth are directly contrary to one another. The desires of this world are vanity: but Christ, who freeth us from the world, is truth. He is the way, too, wherein this man wisheth to be quickened, for He is also the life: “I am the way, the truth, and the life,”51715171     John xiv. 6. are His own words.

38. …He prayeth that those eyes wherewith we consider on what account we do what we do, may be turned away that they behold not vanity; that is, that he may not look to vanity, as his motive, when he doeth anything good. In this vanity the first place is held by the love of men’s praise, on account of which many great deeds have been wrought by those who are styled great in this world, and who have been much praised in heathen states, seeking glory not with God, but among men, and on account of this living in appearance prudently, courageously, temperately, and righteously; and when they have reached this they have reached their reward: vain men, and vain reward.51725172     Matt. vi. 1. …Moreover, if it be a vain thing to do good works for the sake of men’s praises, how much more vain for the sake of getting money, or increasing it, or retaining it, and any other temporal advantage, which cometh unto us from without? Since “all things are vanity: what is man’s abundance, with all his toil, wherein he laboureth under the sun?”51735173     Eccles. i. 2, 3. For our temporal welfare itself finally we ought not to do our good works, but rather for the sake of that everlasting welfare which we hope for, where we may enjoy an unchangeable good, which we shall have from God, nay, what God Himself is unto us. For if God’s Saints were to do good works for the sake of this temporal welfare, never would the martyrs of Christ achieve a good work of confession in the loss of this same welfare.…

39. “O stablish Thy word in Thy servant, that I may fear Thee” (ver. 38). And what else is this than, Grant unto me that I may do according to what Thou sayest? For the word of God is not stablished in those who remove it in themselves by acting contrary to it; but it is stablished in those in whom it is immoveable. God therefore stablisheth His word, that they may fear Him, in those unto whom He giveth the spirit of the fear of Him; not that fear of which the Apostle saith, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;”51745174     Rom. viii. 15. for “perfect love casteth out” this “fear,”51755175     1 John iv. 18. but that fear which the Prophet calleth “the spirit of the fear of the Lord;”51765176     Isa. xi. 2. that fear which “is pure, and endureth for ever;”51775177     Ps. xix. 9. that fear which feareth to offend Him whom it loveth.

40. “Take away my reproach which I have suspected, for Thy judgments are sweet” (ver. 39). Who is he who suspected his own reproach, and who doth not know his own reproach better than that of his neighbour? For a man may rather suspect another’s than his own; since he knoweth not that which he suspecteth; but in each one’s own reproach there is not suspicion for him, but knowledge, wherein conscience speaketh. What then mean the words, “the rebuke which I have suspected”? The meaning of them must be derived from the former verse; since as long as a man doth not turn away his eyes lest they behold vanity, he suspecteth in others what is going on in himself; so that he believeth another to worship God, or do good works, from the same motive as himself. For men can see what we do, but with a view to what end we act, is hidden.…

41. “Behold, I have coveted Thy commandments: O quicken Thou me in Thy righteousness” (ver. 40). Behold, I have coveted to love Thee with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and my neighbour as myself, but, “O quicken Thou me” not in my own, but “in Thy righteousness,” that is, fill me with that love which I have longed for. Aid me that I may do that which Thou chargest me: Thyself give what Thou dost command. “O quicken Thou me in Thy righteousness:” for in myself I had that which would cause my death: but I find not save in Thee whence I may live. Christ is Thy righteousness, “Who of God is made unto us wisdom,” etc.51785178     1 Cor. i. 30, 31. And in Him I find Thy commandments, which I have coveted, that in Thy righteousness, that is, in Him, Thou mayest quicken me. For the Word Himself is God; and “the Word was made flesh,”51795179     John i. 14. that He Himself also might be my neighbour.


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