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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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Psalm CXXVI.54925492     Lat. CXXV. A song of degrees. A sermon to the people.

1. …How man had come into captivity, let us ask the Apostle Paul.…For he saith: “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.”54935493     Rom. vii. 14. Behold whence we became captives; because we were sold under sin. Who sold us? We ourselves, who consented to the seducer. We could sell ourselves; we could not redeem ourselves. We sold ourselves by consent of sin, we are redeemed in the faith of righteousness. For innocent blood was given for us, that we might be redeemed. Whatsoever blood he shed in persecuting the righteous, what kind of blood did he shed? Righteous men’s blood, indeed, he shed; they were Prophets, righteous men, our fathers, and Martyrs. Whose blood he shed, yet all coming of the offspring of sin. One blood he shed of Him who was not justified,54945494     Or, “made righteous.” but born righteous: by shedding that blood, he lost those whom he held. For they for whom innocent blood was given were redeemed, and, turned back from their captivity, they sing this Psalm.

2. “When the Lord turned back the captivity of Sion, we became as those that are comforted” (ver. 1). He meant by this to say, we became joyful. When? “When the Lord turned back the captivity of Sion.” What is Sion? Jerusalem, the same is also the eternal Sion. How is Sion eternal, how is Sion captive? In angels eternal, in men captive. For not all the citizens of that city are captives, but those who are away from thence, they are captives. Man was a citizen of Jerusalem, but sold under sin he became a pilgrim. Of his progeny was born the human race, and the captivity of Sion filled all lands. And how is this captivity of Sion a shadow of that Jerusalem? The shadow of that Sion, which was granted to the Jews, in an image, in a figure, was in captivity in Babylonia, and after seventy years that people turned back to its own city.54955495     Jer. xxv. 11, xxix. 10. …But when all time is past, then we return to our country, as after seventy years that people returned from the Babylonish captivity, for Babylon is this world; since Babylon is interpreted “confusion.”…So then this whole life of human affairs is confusion, which belongeth not unto God. In this confusion, in this Babylonish land, Sion is held captive. But “the Lord hath turned back the captivity of Sion.” “And we became,” he saith, “as those that are comforted.” That is, we rejoiced as receiving consolation. Consolation is not save for the unhappy, consolation is not save for them that groan, that mourn. Wherefore, “as those that are comforted,” except because we are still mourning? We mourn for our present lot, we are comforted in hope: when the present is passed by, of our mourning will come everlasting joy, when there will be no need of consolation, because we shall be wounded with no distress. But wherefore saith he “as” those that are comforted, and saith not comforted? This word “as,” is not always put for likeness: when we say “As,” it sometimes refers to the actual case, sometimes to likeness: here it is with reference to the actual case.…Walk therefore in Christ, and sing rejoicing, sing as one that is comforted; because He went before thee who hath commanded thee to follow Him.

3. “Then was our mouth filled with joy, and our tongue with exultation” (ver. 2). That mouth, brethren, which we have in our body, how is it “filled with joy”? It useth not to be “filled,” save with meat, or drink, or some such thing put into the mouth. Sometimes our mouth is filled; and it is more that we say to your holiness,54965496     [A bishop seems to have been present.—C.] when we have our mouth full, we cannot speak. But we have a mouth within, that is, in the heart, whence whatsoever proceedeth, if it is evil, defileth us, if it is good, cleanseth us. For concerning this very mouth ye heard when the Gospel was read. For the Jews reproached the Lord, because His disciples ate with unwashen hands.54975497     Matt. xv. 1, etc. They reproached who had cleanness without; and within were full of stains. They reproached, whose righteousness was only in the eyes of men. But the Lord sought our inward cleanness, which if we have, the outside must needs be clean also. “Cleanse,” He saith, “the inside,” and “the outside shall be clean also.”54985498     Matt. xxiii. 26.

4. But let us return to what was just now read from the Gospel, relating to the verse before us, “Our mouth was filled with joy, and our tongue with delight:” for we are inquiring what mouth and what tongue. Listen, beloved brethren. The Lord was scoffed at, because His disciples ate with unwashed hands. The Lord answered them as was fitting, and said unto the crowds whom He had called unto Him, “Hear ye all, and understand: not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”54995499     Matt. xv. 10, 11. What is this? when He said, what goeth into the mouth, He meant only the mouth of the body. For meat goeth in, and meats defile not a man; because, “All things are clean to the clean;” and, “every creature of God is good, and none to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.”55005500     1 Tim. iv. 4.

5. Guard the mouth of thy heart from evil, and thou wilt be innocent: the tongue of thy body will be innocent, thy hands will be innocent; even thy feet will be innocent, thy eyes, thy ears, will be innocent; all thy members will serve under righteousness, because a righteous commander hath thy heart. “Then shall they say among the heathen, the Lord hath done great things for them.”

6. “Yea, the Lord hath done great things for us already, whereof we rejoice” (ver. 3). Consider, my brethren, if Sion doth not at present say this among the heathen, throughout the whole world; consider if men are not running unto the Church. In the whole world our redemption is received; Amen is answered. The dwellers in Jerusalem, therefore, captive, destined to return, pilgrims, sighing for their country, speak thus among the heathen. What do they say? “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we rejoice.” Have they done anything for themselves? They have done ill with themselves, for they have sold themselves under sin. The Redeemer came, and did the good things for them.

7. “Turn our captivity, O Lord, as the torrents in the south” (ver. 4). Consider, my brethren, what this meaneth.…As torrents are turned in the south, so turn our captivity. In a certain passage Scripture saith, in admonishing us concerning good works, “Thy sins also shall melt away, even as the ice in fair warm weather.”55015501     Ecclus. iii. 17. Our sins therefore bound us. How? As the cold bindeth the water that it run not. Bound with the frost of our sins, we have frozen. But the south wind is a warm wind: when the south wind blows, the ice melts, and the torrents are filled. Now winter streams are called torrents; for filled with sudden rains they run with great force. We had therefore become frozen in captivity; our sins bound us: the south wind the Holy Spirit hath blown: our sins are forgiven us, we are released from the frost of iniquity; as the ice in fair weather, our sins are melted. Let us run unto our country, as the torrents in the south.…

8. For the next words are, “They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy” (ver. 5). In this life, which is full of tears, let us sow. What shall we sow? Good works. Works of mercy are our seeds: of which seeds the Apostle saith, “Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.”55025502     Gal. vi. 9. Speaking therefore of almsgiving itself, what saith he? “This I say; he that soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly.”55035503     2 Cor. ix. 6. He therefore who soweth plentifully, shall reap plentifully: he who soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly: and he that soweth nothing, shall reap nothing. Why do ye long for ample estates, where ye may sow plentifully? There is not a wider field on which ye can sow than Christ, who hath willed that we should sow in Himself. Your soil is the Church; sow as much as ye can. But thou hast not enough to do this. Hast thou the will? 55045504     Oxf. mss. “have a good will.” As what thou hadst would be nothing, if thou hadst not a good will; so do not despond, because thou hast not, if thou hast a good will. For what dost thou sow? Mercy. And what wilt thou reap? Peace. Said the Angels, Peace on earth unto rich men? No, but, “Peace on earth unto men of a good will.”55055505     Luke ii. 14. Zacchæus had a strong will, Zacchæus had great charity.55065506     Luke xix. 8. …Did then that widow who cast her two farthings into the treasury, sow little? Nay, as much as Zacchæus. For she had narrower means, but an equal will. She gave her two mites55075507     Luke xxi. 1–4. with as good a will as Zacchæus gave the half of his patrimony. If thou consider what they gave, thou wilt find their gifts different; if thou look to the source, thou wilt find them equal; she gave whatever she had, and he gave what he had.…But if they are beggars whose profession is asking alms, in trouble they also have what to bestow upon one another. God hath not so forsaken them, but that they have wherein they may be tried by their bestowing of alms. This man cannot walk; he who can walk, lendeth his feet to the lame; he who seeth, lendeth his eyes to the blind; and he who is young and sound, lendeth his strength to the old or the infirm, carrieth him: the one is poor, the other is rich.

9. Sometimes also the rich man is found to be poor, and something is bestowed upon him by the poor. Somebody cometh to a river, so much the more delicate as he is more rich; he cannot pass over: if he were to pass over with bare limbs, he would catch cold, would be ill, would die: a poor man more active in body cometh up: he carries the rich man over; he giveth alms unto the rich. Think not therefore those only poor, who have not money.…Thus love ye, thus be ye affectioned unto one another. Attend not solely to yourselves: but to those who are in want around you. But because these things take place in this life with troubles and cares, faint not. Ye sow in tears, ye shall reap in joy.

10. How, my brethren? When the farmer goeth forth with the plough, carrying seed, is not the wind sometimes keen, and doth not the shower sometimes deter him? He looketh to the sky, seeth it lowering, shivers with cold, nevertheless goeth forth, and soweth. For he feareth lest while he is observing the foul weather, and awaiting sunshine, the time may pass away, and he may not find anything to reap. Put not off, my brethren; sow in wintry weather, sow good works, even while ye weep; for, “They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy.” They sow their seed, good will, and good works. “They went on their way and wept, casting their seed” (ver. 6). Why did they weep? Because they were among the miserable, and were themselves miserable. It is better, my brethren, that no man should be miserable, than that thou shouldest do alms.…Nevertheless, as long as there are objects for its exercise, let us not fail amid those troubles to sow our seed. Although we sow in tears, yet shall we reap in joy. For in that resurrection of the dead, each man shall receive his own sheaves, that is, the produce of his seed, the crown of joys and of delight. Then will there be a joyous triumph, when we shall laugh at death, wherein we groaned before: then shall they say to death, “O death, where is thy strife? O death, where is thy sting?”55085508     1 Cor. xv. 55. But why do they now rejoice? Because “they bring their sheaves with them.”

11. In this Psalm we have chiefly exhorted you to do deeds of alms, because it is thence that we ascend; and ye see that he who ascendeth, singeth the song of steps. Remember: do not love to descend, instead of to ascend, but reflect upon your ascent: because he who descended from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among thieves.55095509     Luke x. 30. …The Samaritan as He passed by slighted us not: He healed us, He raised us upon His beast, upon His flesh; He led us to the inn, that is, the Church; He entrusted us to the host, that is, to the Apostle; He gave two pence, whereby we might be healed,55105510     Luke x. 35, 37. the love of God, and the love of our neighbour. The Apostle spent more; for, though it was allowed unto all the Apostles to receive, as Christ’s soldiers, pay from Christ’s subjects,55115511     Provincialibus. 1 Cor. iv. 2. that Apostle, nevertheless, toiled with his own hands, and excused the subjects the maintenance owing to him.55125512     1 Thess. ii. 7, 9; 2 Thess. iii. 8, 9. All this hath already happened: if we have descended, and have been wounded; let us ascend, let us sing, and make progress, in order that we may arrive.


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