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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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105. “Thy word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my paths” (ver. 105). The word “lantern” appears in the word “light;” “my feet” are also repeated in “my paths.” What then meaneth “Thy Word”?52835283     John i. 1. Is it He who was in the beginning God with God, that is, the Word by whom all things were made? It is not thus. For that Word is a light, but is not a lantern. For a lantern is a creature, not a creator; and it is lighted by participation of an unchangeable light.…For no creature, howsoever rational and intellectual, is lighted by itself, but is lighted by participation of eternal Truth: although sometimes day is spoken of, not meaning the Lord, but that “day which the Lord hath made,”52845284     Ps. cxviii. 24. and on account of which it is said, “Come unto Him, and be lightened.”52855285     Ps. xxxiv. 5. On account of which participation, inasmuch as the Mediator Himself became Man, He is styled lantern in the Apocalypse.52865286     Rev. xxi. 23. But this sense is a solitary one; for it cannot be divinely spoken of any of the saints, nor in any wise lawfully said of any, “The Word was made flesh,”52875287     John i. 14. save of the “one Mediator between God and men.”52885288     1 Tim. ii. 5. Since therefore the only-begotten Word, coequal with the Father, is styled a light; and man when enlightened by the Word is also called a light, who is styled also a lantern, as John, as the Apostles; and since no man of these is the Word, and that Word by whom they were enlightened is not a lantern; what is this word, which is thus called a light and a lantern at the same time, save we understand the word which was sent unto the Prophets, or which was preached through the Apostles; not Christ the Word, but the word of Christ, of which it is written, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”?52895289     Rom. x. 17. For the Apostle Peter also, comparing the prophetical word to a lantern, saith, “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lantern, that shineth in a dark place.”52905290     2 Pet. i. 19. What, therefore, he here saith, “Thy word” is the word which is contained in all the holy Scriptures.

106. “I have sworn, and am stedfastly purposed to keep Thy righteous judgments” (ver. 106): as one who walked aright in the light of that lantern, and kept to straight paths. For he calleth what he hath determined by a sacrament, an oath; because the mind ought to be so fixed in keeping the righteous judgments of God, that its determination should be in the place of an oath. Now the righteous judgments of God are kept by faith; when, under the righteous judgment of God, neither any good work is believed to be fruitless, nor any sin unpunished; but, because the body of Christ hath suffered many most grievous evils for this faith, he saith, “I was humbled above measure” (ver. 107). He doth not say, I have humbled myself, so that we must needs understand that humiliation which is commanded; but he saith, “I was humbled above-measure;” that is, suffered a very heavy persecution, because he swore and was steadfastly purposed to keep the righteous judgments of God. And, lest in such trouble faith herself might faint he addeth, “Quicken me, O Lord, according to Thy word:” that is, according to Thy promise. For the word of the promises of God is a lantern to the feet, and a light to the paths. Thus also above, in the humiliation of persecution, he prayed that God would quicken him.52915291     Ps. cxix. 87, 88.

107. “Make the freewill offerings of my mouth well pleasing, O Lord” (ver. 108): that is, let them please Thee; do not reject, but approve them. By the freewill offerings of the mouth are well understood the sacrifices of praise, offered up in the confession of love, not from the fear of necessity; whence it is said, “a freewill offering will I offer Thee.”52925292     Ps. liv. 6. But what doth he add? “and teach me Thy judgments”? Had he not himself said above, “From Thy judgments I have not swerved”? How could he have done thus, if he knew them not? Moreover, if he knew them, in what sense doth he here say, “and teach me Thy judgments”? Is it as in a former passage, “Thou hast dealt in sweetness with Thy servant:” presently after which we find, “teach me sweetness”? This passage we explained as the words of one who was gaining in grace, and praying that he might receive in addition to what he had received.

108. “My soul is alway in Thy hand” (ver. 109). Some copies read, “in my hand:” but most, “in Thy hand;” and this latter is indeed easy. For “the souls of the righteous are in God’s hand:52935293     Wisd. iii. 1. in whose hand are both we and our words.”52945294     Wisd. vii. 16. “And I do not forget Thy law:” as if his memory were aided to remember God’s law by the hands of Him in whose hands is his soul. But how the words, “My soul is in my hands,” can be understood, I know not. For these are the words of the righteous, not of the ungodly; of one who is returning to the Father, not departing from the Father.52955295     Luke xv. 12, 24. …Is it perhaps said, “My soul is in my hands,” in this sense, as if he offered it to God to be quickened? Whence in another passage it is said, “Unto Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul.”52965296     Ps. xxv. 1. Since here too he had said above, “Quicken Thou me.”

109. “The ungodly,” he saith, “have laid a snare for me: but yet I swerved not from Thy commandments” (ver. 110). Whence this, unless because his soul is in the hands of God, or in his own hands is offered to God to be quickened?

110. “Thy testimonies have I gained in heritage for ever” (ver. 111). Some wishing to express in one word what is put in one word in the Greek, have translated it hereditavi. Which although it might be Latin, yet would rather signify one who gave an inheritance than one who received it, hereditavi being like ditavi. Better, therefore, the whole sense is conveyed in two words, whether we say, “I have possessed in heritage,” or, “I have gotten in heritage:” not gotten heritage, but “gotten in heritage.” If it be asked, what he gained in heritage, he replieth, “Thy testimonies.” What doth he wish to be understood, save that he might become a witness of God, and confess His testimonies, that is, that he might become a Martyr of God, and might declare His testimonies, as the Martyrs do, was a gift bestowed upon him by the Father, of whom he is heir?…But even their wish was prepared by the Lord. For this reason he saith he hath gained them in heritage, and this “for ever;” because they have not in them the temporal glory of men who seek vain things, but the eternal glory of those who suffer for a short season, and who reign without end. Whence the next words, “Because they are the very joy of my heart:” although the affliction of the body, yet the very joy of the heart.

111. He then addeth: “I have applied my heart to fulfil Thy righteousness for ever, for my reward” (ver. 112). He who saith, “I have applied my heart,” had before said, “Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies:”52975297     Ps. cxix. 36. so that we may understand that it is at once a divine gift, and an act of free will. But are we to fulfil the righteousnesses of God for ever? Those works which we perform in regard to the need of our neighbours, cannot be everlasting, any more than their need; but if we do not do them from love, there is no righteousness; if we do them from love, that love is everlasting, and an everlasting reward is in store for it.


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