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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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119. “I have dealt judgment and righteousness; O give me not over unto mine oppressors”53105310     [The author says: “For some copies read, to them that persecute me: the Greek words τοῖς ‡ντιδικοῦσι being variously interpreted by the Latin nocentibus, persequentibus, and calumniantibus. I wonder, however, that I have never met with the version adversantibus in any of the copies which I have read, since there is no doubt that the Greek ‡ντίδικος is the same as the Latin adversarius. While he prays therefore that he may not be given up to his adversaries by the Lord, what doth he pray, save what we pray, when we say, ‘Lead us not into temptation’?”—C.] (ver. 121). It is not wonderful that he should have dealt judgment and righteousness, since he had above prayed for a chaste fear from God, whereby to fix with nails his flesh, that is, his carnal lusts, which are wont to hinder our judgment from being right. But although in our customary speech judgment is either right or wrong, whence it is said unto men in the Gospel, “Judge not according to the persons, but judge righteous judgment:” 53115311     John vii. 24. nevertheless in this passage judgment is used as though, if it were not righteous, it ought not to be called judgment; otherwise it would not be enough to say, “I have dealt judgment,” but it would be said, I have dealt righteous judgment.…

120. Whoso therefore in the chaste fear of God hath his flesh crucified, and corrupted by no carnal allurement, dealeth judgment and the work of righteousness, ought to pray that he may not be given up to his adversaries; that is, that he may not, through his dread of suffering evils, yield unto his adversaries to do evil. For he receiveth power of endurance, which guardeth him from being overcome with pain, from Him from whom he receiveth the victory over lust, which preventeth his being seduced by pleasure.53125312     Ps. lxxxv. 12, lxii. 5.

121. He next saith, “Take off Thy servant to that which is good, that the proud calumniate me not” (ver. 122). They drive me on, that I may fall into evil; do Thou take me off to that which is good. They who rendered these words by the Latin, calumnientur, have followed a Greek expression, not commonly used in Latin. Have the words, Let not the proud calumniate me, the same force, as, Let them “not succeed in calumniating me”?

122. …To prefigure His Cross, Moses by the merciful command of God raised aloft on a pole the image of a serpent in the desert, that the likeness of sinful flesh which must be crucified in Christ might be prefigured.53135313     John iii. 14. By gazing upon this healing Cross, we cast out all the poison of the scandals of the proud: the Cross, which the Psalmist intently looking upon, saith, “My eyes have failed for Thy salvation, and for the words of Thy righteousness” (ver. 123). For God made Christ Himself “to be sin for us, on account of the likeness of sinful flesh, that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 53145314     Rom. viii. 3; 2 Cor. v. 21. For His utterance53155315     Eloquium. of the righteousness of God he therefore saith that his eyes have failed, from gazing ardently and eagerly, while, remembering human infirmity, he longeth for divine grace in Christ.

123. In connection with this he goes on to say, “O deal with Thy servant according to Thy loving mercy” (ver. 124); not according to my righteousness. “And teach me,” he saith, “Thy righteousnesses;” those beyond doubt, whereby God rendereth men righteous, not they themselves.

124. “I am Thy servant. O grant me understanding, that I may know Thy testimonies” (ver. 125). This petition must never be intermitted. For it sufficeth not to have received understanding, and to have learnt the testimonies of God, unless it be evermore received, and evermore in a manner quaffed from the fountain of eternal light. For the testimonies of God are the better and the better known, the more understanding a man attaineth to.

125. “It is time,” he saith, “for the Lord to lay to His hand” (ver. 126). For this is the reading of most copies: not as some have, “O Lord.” Now what is this, save the grace which was revealed in Christ at its own time? Of which season the Apostle saith, “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent His Son.”53165316     Gal. iv. 4. …But wherefore is it that, seemingly anxious to show the Lord that it was time to lay to His hand, he hath subjoined, “They have scattered Thy law;” as if it were the season for the Lord to act, because the proud scattered His law. For what meaneth this? In the wickedness of transgression, they have not guarded its integrity. It was needful therefore that the Law should be given to the proud and those presuming in the freedom of their own will, after a transgression of which whosoever were contrite and humbled, might run no longer by the Law, but by faith, to aiding grace. When the Law therefore was scattered, it was time that mercy should be sent through the only-begotten Son of God.

126. “Therefore,” he saith, “I love Thy commandments above gold and topaz” (ver. 127). Grace hath this object, that the commandments, which could not be fulfilled by fear, may be fulfilled by love…Therefore, they are above gold and topaz stones. For this is read in another Psalm also, “Above gold and exceeding precious stones.”53175317     Ps. xix. 10. For topaz is a stone considered very precious. But they not understanding the hidden grace which was in the Old Testament, screened as it were by the veil53185318     Exod. xxxiv. 33–35; 2 Cor. iii. 13–15. (this was signified when they were unable to gaze upon the face of Moses), endeavoured to obey the commandments of God for the sake of an earthly and carnal reward, but could not obey them; because they did not love them, but something else. Whence these were not the works of the willing, but rather the burdens of the unwilling. But when the commandments are loved for their own sake “above gold and exceeding precious stones,” all earthly reward compared with the commandments themselves is vile; nor are any other goods of man comparable in any respect with those goods whereby man himself is made good.

127. “Therefore,” he saith, “was I made straight unto all Thy commandments” (ver. 128). I was made straight, doubtless, because I loved them; and I clung by love to them, which were straight, that I might also myself become straight. Then what he addeth, naturally follows: “and every unrighteous way I utterly abhor.” For how could it be that he who loved the straight could do aught save abhor an unrighteous way? For as, if he loved gold and precious stones, he would abhor all that might bring loss of such property: thus, since he loved the commandments of God, he abhorred the path of iniquity, as one of the most savage rocks in the sailor’s track, whereon he must needs suffer shipwreck of things so precious. That this may not be his lot, he who saileth on the wood of the Cross with the divine commandments as his freight, steereth far from thence.


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