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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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Mem.

97. We have frequently admonished you, that love was to be understood by that praiseworthy breadth, by means of which, while we do the commandments of God, we feel no straitness. On this account also after saying above in this great Psalm, “Thy commandment is exceeding broad:”52665266     Ps. cxix. 96. in the following verse he showeth wherefore it is broad: “what love have I unto Thy law, O Lord!” (ver. 97). Love is therefore the breadth of the commandment. For how can it be that what God commandeth to be loved, be loved, and yet the commandment itself be not loved? For this itself is the law; “in all the day,” he saith, “is my study in it.” Behold how I have loved it, that in the whole day my study is in it; or rather, as the Greek hath it, “all the day long,” which more fully expresses the continuance of meditation. Now that is to be understood through all time; which is, for ever. By such love lust is driven out: lust, which repeatedly opposeth our performing the commandments of the law, when “the flesh lusteth against the spirit:”52675267     Gal. v. 17. against which the spirit lusting, ought so to love the law of God, that it be its study during the whole day.…

98. And he then addeth: “Thou hast made me to understand Thy commandment above mine enemies; for it is ever with me” (ver. 98). For “they have indeed a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge,” etc.52685268     Rom. x. 2, 3. But the Psalmist, who understandeth the commandment of God above these his enemies, wishes to be found with the Apostle, “not having” his “own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ, which is of God;”52695269     Philip. iii. 9. not that the Law which his enemies read is not of God, but because they do not understand it, like him who understandeth it above his enemies, by clinging to the Stone upon which they stumbled. For “Christ is the end of the law,” etc.,52705270     Rom. x. 4. “that they may be justified freely through His grace;”52715271     Rom. iii. 24. not like those who imagine that they obey the law of their own strength, and are therefore, though by God’s law, yet still endeavouring to set up their own righteousness; but as the son of promise, who hungering and athirst after it,52725272     Matt. v. 6. by seeking, by asking, by knocking,52735273     Matt. vii. 7. as it were begs it of the Father, that being adopted he may receive it through His only-begotten Son.…His enemies sought from the same commandment temporal rewards; and therefore it was not unto them for ever, as it was unto this man. For they who have translated “for ever” have rendered better than they who have written “for an age,” since at the end of time there can be no longer a commandment of the law.…

99. But what meaneth the following verse, “I have more understanding than my teachers”? (ver. 99). Who is he who had more understanding than all his teachers? Who, I ask, is he, who dareth to prefer himself in understanding above all the Prophets, who not only by speaking taught with so excellent authority those who lived with them, but also their posterity by writing?…What is here said, could not have been spoken in Solomon’s person.…I recognise plainly Him who had more understanding than His teachers, since when He was a boy of twelve years of age, Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, and was found by His parents after three days’ space, “sitting in the temple among the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions.”52745274     Luke ii. 42–46. The Son Himself hath said, “As My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things.”52755275     John viii. 28. It is very difficult to understand this of the Person of the Word; unless we can comprehend that it is the same thing for the Son to be taught as to be begotten of the Father.…“He took upon Himself the form of a servant;”52765276     Philip. ii. 7. for when He had assumed this form, men of more advanced age might think Him fit to be taught as a boy; but He whom the Father taught, had more understanding than all His teachers. “For Thy testimonies,” He saith, “are my study.” For this reason He had more understanding than all His teachers, because He studied the testimonies of God, which, as concerning Himself, He knew better than they, when He spoke these words: “Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man,” etc.52775277     John v. 33–36.

100. But these teachers may be understood very reasonably to be those aged men, of whom he presently saith, “I am wiser than mine elders” (ver. 100). And this seemeth to me to be repeated here thus, that that age of His which is well known to us in the Gospel might be called to our remembrance; the age of boyhood, during which He was sitting among the aged, understanding more than all His teachers. For the smaller and the greater in age are wont to be termed younger and elder, although neither of them hath arrived at or approached old age; although if we are concerned to seek in the Gospel the express term, elders, more than whom He understood, we find it when the Scribes and Pharisees said unto Him, “Why do Thy disciples transgression the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.”52785278     Matt. xv. 2. Behold the transgression of the tradition of the elders is objected to Him. But He who was wiser than His elders, let us hear what answer He made them. “Why do ye also, He asked, “transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?”52795279     Matt. xv. 3.

101. But what cometh next, doth not seem to apply to the Head, but to the Body: “I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Thy words” (ver. 101). For that Head of ours, the Saviour of the Body Himself, could not be borne by carnal lust into any evil way, so that it should be needful for Him to refrain His feet, as though they would go thither of their own accord; which we do, when we refrain our evil desires, which He had not, that they may not follow evil ways. For thus we are able to keep the word of God, if we “go not after our evil lusts,”52805280     Ecclus. xviii. 30. so that they attain unto the evils desired; but rather curb them with the spirit which lusteth against the flesh,52815281     Gal. v. 17. that they may not drag us away, seduced and overthrown, through evil ways.

102. “I have not shrunk,” he saith, “from Thy judgments: for Thou hast laid down a law for me” (ver. 102). He hath stated what made him fear, so that he refrained his feet from every evil way.…Thou, more inward than my inmost self, Thou hast laid down a law within my heart by Thy Spirit, as it were by Thy fingers, that I might not fear it as a slave without love, but might love it with a chaste fear as a son, and fear it with a chaste love.

103. Consider then what followeth: “O how sweet are Thy words unto my throat!” (ver. 103). Or, as it is more literally rendered from the Greek, “Thy utterances, above honey and the honeycomb unto my mouth.” This is that sweetness which the Lord giveth, “So that the earth yield her increase:”52825282     Ps. lxxxv. 12. that we do good truly in a good spirit, that is, not from the dread of carnal evil, but from the gladness of spiritual good. Some copies indeed do not read “honeycomb:” but the majority do. Now the open teaching of wisdom is like unto honey; but that is like the comb which is squeezed from the more recondite mysteries, as if from cells of wax, by the mouth of the teacher, as if he were chewing it: but it is sweet to the mouth of the heart, not to the mouth of the flesh.

104. But what mean the words, “Through Thy commandments I get understanding”? (ver. 104). For the expressions, I have understood Thy commandments: and, “I get understanding through Thy commandments;” are different. Something else then he signifieth that he hath understood from the commandments of God: that is, as far as I can see, he saith, that by obeying God’s commandments he hath arrived at the comprehension of those things which he had longed to know.…These then are the words of the spiritual members of Christ, “Through Thy commandments I get understanding.” For the body of Christ rightly saith these words in those, to whom, while they keep the commandments, a richer knowledge of wisdom is given on account of this very keeping of the commandments. “Therefore,” he addeth, “I hate all evil ways.” For it is needful that the love of righteousness should hate all iniquity: that love, which is so much the stronger, in proportion as the sweetness of a higher wisdom doth inspire it, a wisdom given unto him who obeyeth God, and getteth understanding from His commandments.


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