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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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Psalm CXXVIII.55335533     Lat. CXXVII. A sermon to the people on the day of St. Felix the Martyr. [I have transposed the first paragraph.—C.]

1. Felix the Martyr,55345534     He is said to have suffered martyrdom at Thinissa, or Thimisa, not far from Hippo, on the 6th of November.—Ben. (Mart. Rom. has Tuneti.) truly Felix, i.e. “Happy” both in his name and his crown, whose birthday this is, despised the world. Was he, because he feared the Lord, thence happy, thence blessed, because his wife was as a fruitful vine upon the earth, and his children stood around his table? All these blessings he hath perfectly, but in the Body of Him who is here described; and, because he understood them in this sense, he scorned things present, that he might receive things future. Ye are aware, brethren, that he suffered not the death that other martyrs suffered. For he confessed, and was set aside for torments; on another day his body was discovered lifeless. They had closed the prison to his body, not to his spirit. The executioners found him gone; when they were preparing to torture, they spent their rage for nought. He was lying dead, without sense to them, that he might not be tortured; with sense with God, that he might be crowned. Whence was he also happy, brethren, not only in name, but in the reward of everlasting life, if he loved these things.

2. “Blessed are all they that fear the Lord, and walk in His ways” (ver. 1). He speaketh to many; but since these many are one in Christ, in the next words he speaketh in the singular: “For thou shalt eat the labours of thy fruits.”…When I speak of Christians in the plural, I understand one in the One Christ. Ye are therefore many, and ye are one; we are many, and we are one. How are we many, and yet one? Because we cling unto Him whose members we are; and since our Head is in heaven, that His members may follow.…Let us therefore so hear this Psalm, as considering it to be spoken of Christ: and all of us who cling unto the Body of Christ, and have been made members of Christ, walk in the ways of the Lord; and let us fear the Lord with a chaste fear, with a fear that abideth for ever.…

3. “Thou shalt eat the labours of thy fruits” (ver. 2). And ye, O thou, ye many who are One, “Thou shalt eat of the labours of thy fruits.” He seemeth to speak perversely to those who understand not: for he should have said, thou shalt eat the fruit of thy labours. For many eat the fruit of their labours. They labour in the vineyard; they eat not the toil itself; but what ariseth from their labour they eat. They labour about trees that bear fruit: who would eat labours? But the fruit of these labours, the produce of these trees; it is this that delighteth the husbandman. What meaneth, “Thou shalt eat the labours of thy fruits”? At present we have toils: the fruits will come afterwards. But since their labours themselves are not without joy, on account of the hope whereof we have a little before spoken, “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation;” 55355535     Rom. xii. 12. at present those very labours delight us, and make us joyful in hope. If therefore our toil has been what could be eaten, and could also delight us; what will be the fruit of our labour when eaten? “They who went weeping on their way, scattering their seed,”55365536     Ps. cxxvi. 6. did eat their labours; with how much greater pleasure will they eat the fruits of their labours, who “shall come again with joy, bearing their sheaves with them”?…“Blessed art thou, and well shall it be with thee.” “Blessed art thou,” is of the present: “well shall it be with thee,” is of the future. When thou eatest the labours of thy fruits, “blessed art thou;” when thou hast reached the fruit of thy labours, “well shall it be with thee.” What hath he said? For if it be well with thee, thou wilt be happy: and if thou wilt be happy, thou wilt also have all well with thee. But there is a difference between hope and attainment. If hope be so sweet, how much sweeter will reality be?

4. Let us now come to the words, “Thy wife” (ver. 3): it is said unto Christ. His wife, therefore, is the Church: His Church, His wife, we ourselves are. “As a fruitful vineyard.” But in whom is the vineyard fruitful? For we see many barren ones entering those walls; we see that many intemperate, usurious persons, slave dealers, enter these walls, and such as resort to fortune-tellers, go to enchanters and enchantresses when they have a headache. Is this the fruitfulness of the vine? Is this the fecundity of the wife? It is not. These are thorns, but the vineyard is not everywhere thorny. It hath a certain fruitfulness, and is a fruitful vine; but in whom? “Upon the sides of thy house.” Not all are called the sides of the house. For I ask what are the sides. What shall I say? Are they walls, strong stones, as it were? If he were speaking of this bodily tenement, we should perhaps understand this by sides. We mean by the sides of the house, those who cling unto Christ.…

5. “Thy children.” The wife and the children are the same. In these carnal marriages and wedlocks, the wife is one, the children other: in the Church, she who is the wife, is the children also. For the Apostles belonged to the Church, and were among the members of the Church. They were therefore in His wife, and were His wife according to their own portion which they held in His members. Why then is it said concerning them, “When the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, then shall the children of the Bridegroom fast”?55375537     Matt. ix. 15. She who is the wife, then, is the children also. I speak a wonderful thing, my brethren. In the words of the Lord, we find the Church to be both His brethren, and His sisters, and His mother.55385538     Matt. xii. 46, etc. …For Mary was among the sides of His House, and His relatives coming of the kindred of the Virgin Mary, who believed on Him, were among the sides of His House; not in respect of their carnal consanguinity, but inasmuch as they heard the Word of God, and obeyed it.…He added; “For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.”55395539     Matt. xii. 48–50. “Brother,” perhaps, on account of the male sex whom the Church hath: “sister,” on account of the women whom Christ hath here in His members. How “mother,” save that Christ Himself is in those Christians, whom the Church daily bringeth forth Christians through baptism? In those therefore in whom thou understandest the wife, in them thou understandest the mother, in them the children.

6. …Such children ought therefore to be “around” the Lord’s “table, like olive-branches.”55405540     Ps. cxxxviii. 3. A complete Vine it is, a great bliss: who would now refuse to be there? When thou seest any blasphemer have a wife, children, grandchildren, and thyself perchance without them, envy them not; discern that the promise hath been fulfilled in thee also, but spiritually. If therefore we have, why have we? Because we fear the Lord. “Lo, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord” (ver. 4). He is the man, who is also the men; and the men are one man; because many are one, because Christ is One.

7. “The Lord from out of Sion bless thee: and mayest thou see thee good things that are of Jerusalem” (ver. 5). Even to the birds was it said, “Be fruitful and multiply.”55415541     Gen. i. 22. Dost thou wish to hold as a great blessing what was given unto birds? Who can be ignorant, that it was given indeed by the voice of God? But use these goods, if thou receive them; and rather think how thou mayest nourish those who have been born, than that others may be born. For it is not happiness to have children, but to have good ones. Labour in the task of nourishing them, if they be born; but if they be not born, give thanks unto God.…Thy children are infants: thou dost caress the infants: the infants caress thee: do they abide thus? But thou wishest they may grow, thou wishest that their age may increase. But consider that when one age cometh, another dieth. When boyhood cometh, infancy dieth; when youth cometh, boyhood dieth: when manhood cometh, youth dieth; when old age cometh, manhood dieth: when death cometh, all age dieth. As many successions of ages as thou wishest for, so many deaths of ages dost thou wish for. These things therefore “are” not. Finally, are children born unto thee to share life with thee on earth, or rather to shut thee out and to succeed thee? Rejoicest thou in those born to exclude thee? Boys when born speak somewhat like this to their parents: “Now then, begin to think of removing hence, let us too play our parts on the stage.” For the whole life of temptation in the human race is a stage play;55425542     [A text illustrated by our great English dramatist.—C.] for it is said, “Every man living is altogether vanity.”55435543     Ps. xxxix. 5. Nevertheless, if we rejoice in children who will succeed us; how much must we rejoice in children with whom we shall remain, and in that Father for whom we are born, who will not die, but that we may evermore live with Him? These are the good things of Jerusalem: for they “are.” And how long shall I see the good things of Jerusalem? “All thy life long.” If thy life be for ever, thou wilt see the good things of Jerusalem for evermore.…

8. For, “if in this life only,” saith the Apostle, “we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”55445544     1 Cor. xv. 19. For what reason were the Martyrs condemned to beasts? What is that good? Can it be declared? by what means, or what tongue can tell it? or what ears can hear it? That indeed, “Neither ear hath heard, nor hath it entered into man’s heart:”55455545     1 Cor. ii. 9. only let us love, only let us grow in grace: ye see, then, that battles are not wanting, and that we fight with our lusts. We fight outwardly with unbelieving and disobedient men; we fight inwardly with carnal suggestions and perturbations: we everywhere as yet fight.…What sort of peace then is this? One from Jerusalem, for Jerusalem is interpreted, A vision of Peace. Thus then “mayest thou see the good things that are of Jerusalem,” and that, “all thy life long—and mayest thou see,” not only thy children, but, “thy children’s children.” What meaneth, Thy children? Thy works which thou here dost. Who are thy children’s children? The fruits of thy works. Thou givest alms: these are thy children: for the sake of thine alms thou receivest everlasting life, these are thy children’s children. “Mayest thou see thy children’s children;” and there shall be “peace upon Israel” (ver. 6), the last words of the Psalm.…


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