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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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Psalm LXI.23362336     Lat. LX. Sermon to the Commonalty.

1. The title of it doth not detain us. For it is “Unto the end, in hymns, to David himself. “In hymns,” to wit in praises. “Unto the end,” to wit unto Christ.…But the voice in this Psalm (if we are among the members of Him, and in the Body, even as upon His exhortation we have the boldness to trust) we ought to acknowledge to be our own, not that of any foreigner. But I have not so called it our own, as if it were of those only that are now in presence; but our own, as being of us that are throughout the whole world, that are from the East even unto the West. And in order that ye may know it thus to be our voice, He speaketh here as if one Man: but He is not One Man; but even as One, the Unity is speaking. But in Christ we all are one man: because of this One Man the Head is in Heaven, and the members are yet toiling on earth: and because they are toiling see what He saith.23372337     Or, “they say,” mss.

2. “Hearken, O God, to my supplication, give heed to my prayer” (ver. 1). Who saith? He, as if One. See whether one: “From the ends of the earth to Thee I have cried, while my heart was being vexed” (ver. 2). Now therefore not one: but for this reason one, because Christ is One, of whom all we are the members. For what one man crieth from the ends of the earth? There crieth not from the ends of the earth any but that inheritance, of which hath been said to the Son Himself, “Demand of Me, and I will give to Thee the nations for Thine inheritance, and for Thy possession the boundaries of the earth.”23382338     Ps. ii. 8. This therefore Christ’s possession, this Christ’s inheritance, this Christ’s Body, this Christ’s one Church, this the Unity which we are, is crying from the ends of the earth.…But wherefore have I cried this thing? “While my heart was being vexed.” He showeth himself to be throughout all nations in the whole round world, in great glory, but in great tribulation. For our life in this sojourning cannot be without temptation: because our advance is made through our temptation, nor does a man become known to himself unless tempted, nor can he be crowned except he shall have conquered, nor can he conquer except he shall have striven, nor can he strive except he shall have experienced an enemy, and temptations. This Man therefore is being vexed, that from the ends of the earth is crying, but nevertheless He is not forsaken. For ourselves who are His Body He hath willed to prefigure also in that His Body wherein already He hath both died and hath risen again, and into Heaven hath ascended, in order that whither the Head hath gone before, thither the members may be assured that they shall follow. Therefore us He did transfer by a figure into Himself, when He willed to be tempted of Satan.

3. But now there was read in the Gospel, how the Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness was being tempted of the devil.23392339     Matt. iv. 1. Christ entirely was tempted of the devil. For in Christ thou wast being tempted, because Christ of thee had for Himself flesh, of Himself for thee salvation; of thee for Himself death, of Himself for thee life; of thee for Himself revilings, of Himself for thee honours; therefore of thee for Himself temptation, of Himself for thee victory. If in Him tempted we have been, in Him we overcome the devil.…“On the Rock Thou hast exalted me.” Now therefore here we perceive who is crying from the ends of the earth. Let us call to mind the Gospel: “Upon this Rock I will build My Church.”23402340     Matt. xvi. 18. Therefore She crieth from the ends of the earth, whom He hath willed to be builded upon a Rock. But in order that the Church might be builded upon the Rock, who was made the Rock? Hear Paul saying: “But the Rock was Christ.”23412341     1 Cor. x. 4. [Rhetorically he may say this of Cephas; but as of Peter’s confession elsewhere, so here, dogmatically he understands only Christ. Compare p. 223, supra.—C.] On Him therefore builded we have been. For this reason that Rock whereon we have been builded,23422342     Matt. vii. 24. first hath been smitten with winds, flood, rain, when Christ of the devil was being tempted. Behold on what firmness He hath willed to stablish thee. With reason our voice is not in vain, but is hearkened unto: for on great hope we have been set: “On the Rock Thou hast exalted me.”…

4. “Thou hast led me down, because Thou hast been made my hope: a tower of strength from the face of the enemy” (ver. 3). My heart is vexed, saith that Unity from the ends of the earth, and I toil amid temptations and offences: the heathen envy, because they have been conquered; the heretics lie in wait, hidden in the cloak of the Christian name: within in the Church itself the wheat suffereth violence from the chaff: amid all these things when my heart is vexed, I will cry from the ends of the earth. But there forsaketh me not the Same that hath exalted me upon the Rock, in order to lead me down even unto Himself, because even if I labour, while the devil through so many places and times and occasions lieth in wait against me, He is to me a tower of strength, to whom when I shall have fled for refuge, not only I shall escape the weapons of the enemy, but even against him securely I shall myself hurl whatever darts I shall please. For Christ Himself is the tower, Himself for us hath been made a tower from the face of the enemy, who is also the Rock whereon hath been builded the Church. Art thou taking heed that thou be not smitten of the devil? Flee to the Tower; never to that tower will the devil’s darts follow thee: there thou wilt stand protected and fixed. But in what manner shalt thou flee to the Tower? Let not a man, set perchance in temptation, in body seek that Tower, and when he shall not have found it, be wearied, or faint in temptation. Before thee is the Tower: call to mind Christ, and go into the Tower. 23432343     [Zech. ix. 12.—C.]

5. “A sojourner I will be in Thy tabernacle even unto ages” (ver. 4). Ye see how he, of whom we have spoken, is he that crieth. Which of us is a sojourner even unto ages? For a few days here we live, and we pass away: for sojourners here we are, inhabitants in Heaven we shall be. Thou art a sojourner in that place where thou art to hear the voice of the Lord thy God, “Remove.” For from that Home everlasting in the Heavens no one will bid thee to remove. Here therefore a sojourner thou art. Whence also is said in another Psalm, “A sojourner I am with Thee and a stranger, as all my fathers were.”23442344     Ps. xxxix. 12. Here therefore sojourners we are; there the Lord shall give to us mansions everlasting: “Many are,” He saith, “the mansions in My Father’s house.” 23452345     John xiv. 2. Those mansions not as though to sojourners He will give, but as though to citizens to abide for everlasting. Here however, brethren, because for no small time the Church was to be on this earth, but because here shall be the Church even unto the end of the world:23462346     Sæculi. therefore here He hath said, “A dweller I will be in Thy tabernacle even unto ages.”23472347     Sæcula. …Well, of a few days thou wouldest choose that the temptations should be: but how would She gather together all Her sons, unless for a long time She were to be here, unless even unto the end She were to be prolonged? Do not envy the rest of mankind that hereafter shall be: do not, because thou hast already passed over, wish to cut down the bridge of mercy:23482348     Many omit “of mercy.” be it here even for ever. And what of temptations, which needs must abound, by how much the more offences come? For Himself saith, “Because iniquity hath abounded, the love of many shall wax cold.”23492349     Matt. xxiv. 12. But that Church, which crieth from the ends of the earth, is in these circumstances whereof he speaketh in continuation. “But he that shall have persevered even unto the end, the same shall be saved.” But whence shalt thou persevere?…“I shall be covered up in the veiling of Thy wings.” Behold the reason why we are in safety amid so great temptations, until there come the end of the world, and ages everlasting receive us; namely, because we are covered up in the veiling of His Wings. There is heat in the world, but there is a great shade under the wings of God.

6. “For Thou, O God, hast hearkened to my prayer” (ver. 5). What prayer? That wherewith he beginneth: “Hearken, O God, to my supplication.”…“Thou hast given inheritance to men fearing Thy name.” Let us continue therefore in the fear of God’s name: the eternal Father deceiveth us not. Sons labour, that they may receive the inheritance of their parents, to whom when dead they are to succeed: are we not labouring to receive an inheritance from that Father, to whom not dying we succeed; but together with Him in the very inheritance for everlasting are to live?

7. “Days upon days of the King Thou shalt add to the years of Him” (ver. 6). This is therefore the King of whom we are the members. A King Christ is, our Head, our King. Thou hast given to Him days upon days; not only those days in that time that hath end, but days upon those days without end. “I will dwell,” he saith, “in the house of the Lord, for length of days.”23502350     Ps. xxvii. 4. Wherefore for length of days, but because now is the shortness of days? For everything which hath an end, is short: but of this King are days upon days, so that not only while these days pass away, Christ reigneth in His Church, but the Saints shall reign together with Him in those days which have no end.…For years of God have been also spoken of: “But Thou art the very Same, and Thy years shall not fail.”23512351     Ps. cii. 27. In the same manner as years, so days, so one day. Whatsoever thou wilt thou sayest of eternity. Whatever thou wilt thou sayest for this reason, because whatever thou shalt have said, it is too little that thou hast said. For thou must needs say somewhat, to the end that there may be something whereby thou mayest meditate on that which cannot be told. “Even unto the day of generation and of generation.” Of this generation and of the generation that shall be: of this generation which is compared to the moon, because as the moon is new, waxeth, is full, waneth, and vanisheth, so are these mortal generations; and of the generation wherein we are born anew by rising again, and shall abide for everlasting with God, when now no longer we are like the moon, but like that of which saith the Lord, “Then the righteous shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”23522352     Matt. xiii. 43. For the moon by a figure in the Scriptures is put for the mutability of this mortal state.…

8. “He shall abide for everlasting in the sight of God” (ver. 7); according to what, or because of what? “His mercy and truth who shall seek for Him?” He saith also in another place, “All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth, to men seeking His testament and His testimonies.”23532353     Ps. xxv. 10. Large is the discourse of truth and mercy, but shortness we have promised. Briefly hear ye what is truth and mercy: because no small thing is that which hath been said, “All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth.” Mercy is spoken of, because our merits God regarded not, but His own goodness, in order that He might forgive us all our sins, and might promise life everlasting: but truth is spoken of, because He faileth not to render those things which He hath promised. Let us acknowledge it here, and let us do it; so that, just as to us God hath shown forth His mercy and His truth, mercy in forgiving our sins, truth in showing forth His promises; so also, I say, let us execute mercy and truth, mercy concerning the weak, concerning the needy, concerning even our enemies; truth in not sinning, and in not adding sin upon sin.…Who is therefore he that doeth this, save one out of those few, of whom is said, “He that shall have continued unto the end, the same shall be saved”? With reason here also “His mercy and truth who shall seek for Him?” Why is there “for Him”? “Who shall seek,” would be sufficient. Why hath he added, “for Him,” but because many men seek to learn His mercy and truth in His books? And when they have learned, for themselves they live, not for Him;23542354     2 Cor. v. 15. their own things they seek, not the things which are of Jesus Christ:23552355     Philip. ii. 21. they preach mercy and truth, and do not mercy and truth. But by preaching it, they know it: for they would not preach it, unless they knew it. But he that loveth God and Christ, in preaching the mercy and truth of the Same, doth himself seek her for Him, not for himself: that is, not in order that himself may have by this preaching temporal advantages, but in order that he may do good to His members, that is, His faithful ones, by ministering with truth of that which he knoweth: in order that he that liveth, no longer for himself may live, but for Him that for all men hath died.23562356     2 Cor. v. 15.

9. “So I will play music to Thy name, that I may render my vows from day unto day” (ver. 8). If thou playest music to the name of God, play not for a time. Wilt thou for ever play? wilt thou for everlasting play? Render to Him thy vows from day unto day. What is, render to Him thy vows from day unto day? From this day unto that day. Continue to render vows in this day, until thou come to that day: that is, “He that shall have continued even unto the end, the same shall be saved.”23572357     Matt. xxiv. 13.


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