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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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159. We know what persecutions the body of Christ, that is, the holy Church, suffered from the kings of the earth. Let us therefore here also recognise the words of the Church: “Princes have persecuted me without a cause: and my heart hath stood in awe of Thee” (ver. 161). For how had the Christians injured the kingdoms of the earth, although their King promised them the kingdom of heaven? How, I ask, had they injured the kingdoms of earth? Did their King forbid His soldiers to pay and to render due service to the kings of the earth? Saith He not to the Jews who were striving to calumniate Him, “Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”?53625362     Matt. xxii. 21. Did He not even in His own Person pay tribute from the mouth of a fish?53635363     Matt. xvii. 24–26. Did not His forerunner, when the soldiers of this kingdom were seeking what they ought to do for their everlasting salvation, instead of replying, Loose your belts, throw away your arms, desert your king, that ye may wage war for the Lord, answer, “Do violence to no man: neither accuse any falsely: and be content with your wages”?53645364     Luke iii. 14. Did not one of His soldiers, His most beloved companion,53655365     Comes (count or earl), a title of honour in the Imperial Court. say to his fellow soldiers, the provincials,53665366     See on Ps. xci. and on Ps. civ. so to speak, of Christ, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers”?53675367     Also Rom. xiii. 1, 7, 8. Does he not enjoin the Church to pray for even kings themselves?53685368     1 Tim. ii. 1, 2. How then have the Christians offended against them? What due have they not rendered? in what have not Christians obeyed the monarchs of earth? The kings of the earth therefore have persecuted the Christians without a cause. They too had their threatening words: I banish, I proscribe, I slay, I torture with claws, I burn with fires, I expose to beasts, I tear the limbs piecemeal.53695369     [See A.N.F. vol. p. viii. 682.—C.] But heed what he hath subjoined: “And my heart hath stood in awe of Thy word.” My heart hath stood in awe of these words,53705370     Matt. x. 28. “Fear not them that kill the body,” etc. I have scorned man who persecuteth me, and have overcome the devil that would seduce me.

160. Then follows, “I am as glad of Thy word as one that findeth great spoils” (ver. 162). By the same words he conquered, of which he stood in awe. For spoils are stripped from the conquered; as he was overcome and despoiled of whom it is said in the Gospel, “except he first bind the strong man.”53715371     Matt. xii. 29. But many spoils were found, when, admiring the endurance of the Martyrs, even the persecutors believed; and they who had plotted to injure our King by the injury of His soldiers, were gained over by Him in addition. Whoever therefore standeth in awe of the words of God, fearing lest he be overcome in the contest, rejoiceth as conqueror in the same words.

161. “As for iniquity, I hate and abhor it; but Thy law have I loved” (ver. 163). That awe, therefore, of His word did not create hatred of those words, but maintained his love unimpaired. For the words of God are no other than the law of God. Far be it therefore that love perish through fear, where fear is chaste. Thus fathers are at once feared and loved by affectionate sons; thus doth the chaste wife at once fear her husband, lest she be forsaken by him, and loveth him, that she may enjoy his love. If then the human father and the human husband desire at once to be feared and loved; much more doth our Father who is in heaven,53725372     Matt. vi. 9. and that Bridegroom, “beautiful beyond the sons of men,”53735373     Ps. xlv. 2. not in the flesh, but in goodness. For by whom is the law of God loved, save by those by whom God is loved? And what that is severe hath the father’s law to good sons?53745374     Heb. xii. 6. Let the Father’s judgments therefore be praised even in the scourge, if His promises be loved in the reward.

162. Such was, assuredly, the conduct of the Psalmist, who saith, “Seven times a day do I praise Thee, because of Thy righteous judgments” (ver. 164). The words “seven times a day,” signify “evermore.” For this number is wont to be a symbol of universality; because after six days of the divine work of creation, a seventh of rest was added;53755375     Gen. ii. 2. and all times roll on through a revolving cycle of seven days. For no other reason it was said, “a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again:”53765376     Prov. xxiv. 16. that is, the just man perisheth not, though brought low in every way, yet not induced to transgress, otherwise he will not be just. For the words, “falleth seven times,” are employed to express every kind of tribulation, whereby man is cast down in the sight of men: and the words, “riseth up again,” signify that he profiteth from all these tribulations. The following sentence in this passage sufficiently illustrates the foregoing words: for it follows, “but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” Not to be deprived of strength in any evils, is therefore the falling seven times, and the rising again of the just man. Justly hath the Church then praised God seven times in a day for His righteous judgments; because, when it was time that judgment should begin at the house of God,53775377     1 Pet. iv. 17. she did not faint in all her tribulations, but was glorified with the crowns of Martyrs.

163. “Great is the peace,” he saith, “that they have who love Thy law: and there is no offence to them” (ver. 165). Doth this mean that the law itself is not an offence to them that love it, or that there is no offence from any source unto them that love the law? But both senses are rightly understood. For he who loveth the law of God, honoureth in it even what he doth not understand; and what seemeth to him to sound absurd, he judgeth rather that he doth not understand, and that there is some great meaning hidden: thus the law of God is not an offence to him…

164. “I have waited,” he saith, “for Thy saving health, O Lord, and have loved Thy commandments” (ver. 166). For what would it have profited the righteous of old to have loved the commandments of God, save Christ, who is the saving health of God, had freed them; by the gift of whose Spirit also they were able to love the commandments of God? If therefore they who loved God’s commandments, waited for His saving health; how much more necessary was Jesus, that is, the saving Health of God, for the salvation of those that did not love His commandments? This prophecy may suit also the Saints of the period since the revelation of grace, and the preaching of the Gospel, for they that love God’s commandments look for Christ, that “when Christ, our life, shall appear, we” may then “appear with Him in glory.”53785378     Col. iii. 4.

165. “My soul hath kept Thy testimonies, and I have loved them exceedingly:” or, as some copies read, “hath loved them,” understanding, “my soul” (ver. 167). The testimonies of God are kept, while they are not denied. This is the office of Martyrs, for testimonies are called Martyria in Greek. But since it profiteth nothing, even to be burnt with flames without charity,53795379     1 Cor. xiii. 3. he addeth, “and I have loved them exceedingly.”…For he who loveth, keepeth them in the Spirit of truth and faithfulness. But generally, while the commandments of God are kept, they against whose will they are kept become our foes: then, indeed, His testimonies also must be kept courageously, lest they be denied when the enemy persecuteth. After the Psalmist, then, had declared that he had done both these things, he ascribeth unto God his having been enabled to do so, by adding, “because all my ways are in Thy sight.” He saith therefore, “I have kept Thy commandments and Thy testimonies; because all my ways are in Thy sight” (ver. 168). As much as to say, Hadst Thou turned away Thy face from me, I should have been confounded, nor could I keep Thy commandments and testimonies. “I have kept them,” then, because “all my ways are in Thy sight.” With a look favouring and aiding man, he meant it to be understood that God seeth his ways: according to the prayer, “O hide not Thou Thy face from me.”53805380     Ps. xxvii. 9.


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