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1. This Psalm hath on the title the inscription, “For the end, a song of a Psalm of Resurrection.” When ye hear “for the end,” whenever the Psalms are repeated, understand it “for Christ:” the Apostle saying, “For the end of the law is Christ, for righteousness to every one believing.”25822582 Rom. x. 4. In what manner therefore here Resurrection is sung, ye wilt hear, and whose Resurrection it is, as far as Himself deigneth to give and disclose. For the Resurrection we Christians know already hath come to pass in our Head, and in the members it is to be. The Head of the Church is Christ,25832583 Col. i. 18. the members of Christ are the Church. That which hath preceded in the Head, will follow in the Body. This is our hope; for this we believe, for this we endure and persevere amid so great perverseness of this world, hope comforting us, before that hope becometh reality.…The Jews did hold the hope of the resurrection of the dead: and they hoped that themselves alone would rise again to a blessed life because of the work of the Law, and because of the justifications of the Scriptures, which the Jews alone had, and the Gentiles had not. Crucified was Christ, “blindness in part happened unto Israel, in order that the fulness of the Gentiles might enter in:”25842584 Rom. xi. 25. as the Apostle saith. The resurrection of the dead beginneth to be promised to the Gentiles also that believe in Jesus Christ, that He hath risen again. Thence this Psalm is against the presumption and pride of the Jews, for the comfort of the Gentiles that are to be called to the same hope of resurrection.
2. …Thence he beginneth, “Be joyful in God.” Who? “Every land” (ver. 1). Not therefore Judæa alone. See, brethren, after what sort is set forth the universality of the Church in the whole world spread abroad: and mourn ye not only the Jews, who envied the Gentiles that grace, but still more for heretics wail ye. For if they are to be mourned, that have not been gathered together, how much more they that being gathered together have been divided? “Jubilate in God every land.” What is “jubilate”? Into the voice of rejoicings break forth if ye cannot into that of words. For “jubilation” is not of words, but the sound alone of men rejoicing is uttered, as of a heart labouring and bringing forth into voice the pleasure of a thing imagined which cannot be expressed. “Be joyful in God every land:” let no one jubilate in a part: let every land be joyful, let the Catholic Church jubilate. The Catholic Church embraceth the whole: whosoever holdeth a part and from the whole is cut off, should howl, not jubilate.
3. “But play ye to His name” (ver. 2). What hath he said? By you “playing” let His name be blessed. But what it is to “play”? To play is also to take up an instrument which is called a psaltery, and by the striking and action of the hands to accompany voices. If therefore ye jubilate so that God may hear; play also something that men may both see and hear: but not to your own name.…For if for the sake of yourselves being glorified ye do good works, we make the same reply as He made to certain of such men, “Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward:”25852585 Matt. vi. 2. and again, “Otherwise no reward ye will have with your Father that is in Heaven.”25862586 Matt. vi. 1. Thou wilt say, ought I, then, to hide my works, that I do them not before men? No. But what saith He? “Let your works shine before men.” In doubt then I shall remain. On one side Thou sayest to me, “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men:” on the other side Thou sayest to me, “Let your good works shine before men;” what shall I keep? what do? what leave undone? A man can as well serve two masters commanding different things as one commanding different things. I command not, saith the Lord, different things. The end observe, for the end sing: with what end thou doest it, see thou. If for this reason thou doest it, that thou mayest be glorified, I have forbidden it: but if for this reason, that God may be glorified, I have commanded it. Play therefore, not to your own name, but to the name of the Lord your God. Play ye, let Him be lauded: live ye well, let Him be glorified. For whence have ye that same living well? If for everlasting ye had had it, ye would never have lived ill; if from yourselves ye had had it, ye never would have done otherwise than have lived well. “Give glory to His praise.” Our whole attention upon the praise of God he directeth, nothing for us he leaveth whence we should be praised. Let us glory thence the more, and rejoice: to Him let us cleave, in Him let us be praised. Ye heard when the Apostle was being read, “See ye your calling, brethren, how not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, but the foolish things of the world God hath chosen to confound the wise.”25872587 1 Cor. i. 26, 27. …But the Lord chose afterwards orators also; but they would have been proud, if He had not first chosen fishermen; He chose rich men; but they would have said that on account of their riches they had been chosen, unless at first He had chosen poor men: He chose Emperors afterwards; but better is it, that when an Emperor hath come to Rome, he should lay aside his crown, and weep at the monument of a fisherman, than that a fisherman should weep at the monument of an Emperor. “For the weak things of the world God hath chosen to confound the strong,” etc.25882588 1 Cor. i. 27. …And what followeth? The Apostle hath concluded, “That there might not glory before God any flesh.” See ye how from us He hath taken away, that He might give glory: hath taken away ours, that He might give His own; hath taken away empty, that He might give full; hath taken away insecure, that He might give solid.…
4. “Say ye to God, How to be feared are Thy works!” (ver. 3). Wherefore to be feared and not to be loved? Hear thou another voice of a Psalm: “Serve ye the Lord in fear, and exult unto Him with trembling.”25892589 Ps. ii. 11. What meaneth this? Hear the voice of the Apostle: “With fear,” he saith, “and trembling, your own salvation work ye out.”25902590 Philip. ii. 12. Wherefore with fear and trembling? He hath subjoined the reason: “for God it is that worketh in you both to will and to work according to good will.”25912591 Philip. ii. 13. If therefore God worketh in thee, by the Grace of God thou workest well, not by thy strength. Therefore if thou rejoicest, fear also: lest perchance that which was given to a humble man be taken away from a proud one.…Brethren, if against the Jews of old, cut off from the root of the Patriarchs, we ought not to exalt ourselves, but rather to fear and say to God, “How to be feared are Thy works:” how much less ought we not to exalt ourselves against the fresh wounds of the cutting off! Before there had been cut off Jews, graffed in Gentiles; from the very graft there have been cut off heretics; but neither against them ought we to exalt ourselves; lest perchance he deserve to be cut off, that delighteth to revile them that are cut off. My brethren, a bishop’s voice, however unworthy, hath sounded to you:25922592 Some Oxf. mss. “My brethren, however their voice soundeth toward you.” we pray you to beware, whosoever ye are in the Church, do not revile them that are not within; but pray ye rather, that they too may be within. For God is able again to graft them in.25932593 Rom. xi. 23. Of the very Jews the Apostle said this, and it was done in their case. The Lord rose again, and many believed: they perceived not when they crucified, nevertheless afterwards they believed in Him, and there was forgiven them so great a transgression. The shedding of the Lord’s blood was forgiven the manslayers, not to say, God-slayers: “for if they had known, the Lord of glory they never would have crucified.”25942594 1 Cor. ii. 8. Now to the manslayers hath been forgiven the shedding of the blood of Him innocent: and that same blood which through madness they shed, through grace they have drunk.…O fulness of Gentiles, say thou to God, “How to be feared are Thy works!” and so rejoice thou as that thou mayest fear, be not exalted above the branches cut off.
5. “In the multitude of thy power Thine enemies shall lie to Thee.” For this purpose he saith, “to Thee thine enemies shall lie,” in order that great may be Thy power. What is this? With more attention hearken. The power of our Lord Jesus Christ most chiefly appeared in the Resurrection, from whence this Psalm hath received its title. And rising again, He appeared to His disciples.25952595 Acts x. 40. He appeared not to His enemies, but to His disciples. Crucified He appeared to all men, rising again to believers: so that afterwards also he that would might believe, and to him that should believe, resurrection might be promised. Many holy men wrought many miracles; no one of them when dead did rise again: because even they that by them were raised to life, were raised to life to die.…Because therefore the Jews might say, when the Lord did miracles, Moses hath done these things, Elias hath done, Eliseus hath done them: they might for themselves say these words, because those men also did raise to life dead men, and did many miracles: therefore when from Him a sign was demanded, of the peculiar sign making mention which in Himself alone was to be, He saith, “This generation crooked and provoking25962596 Amaricans, etc.; most mss. “evil and adulterous.” seeketh a sign, and a sign shall not be given to it, except the sign of Jonas the Prophet: for as Jonas was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so shall be also the Son of Man in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.”25972597 Matt. xii. 39, 40. In what way was Jonas in the belly of the whale? Was it not so that afterwards alive he was vomited out? Hell25982598 [i.e., Hades, Sheol.—C.] was to the Lord what the whale was to Jonas. This sign peculiar to Himself He mentioned, this is the most mighty sign. It is more mighty to live again after having been dead, than not to have been dead. The greatness of the power of the Lord as He was made Man, in the virtue of the Resurrection doth appear.…
6. Observe also the very lie of the false witnesses in the Gospel, and see how it is about Resurrection. For when to the Lord had been said, “What sign showest Thou to us, that Thou doest these things?”25992599 John ii. 18. besides that which He had spoken about Jonah26002600 Matt. xii. 39. through another similitude of this same thing also He spake, that ye might know this peculiar sign had been especially pointed out: “Destroy this Temple,” He saith, “and in three days I will raise it up.” And they said, “In forty and six years was builded this temple, and wilt Thou in three days raise it up?”26012601 John ii. 19, 20. And the evangelist explaining what it was, “But this,” he saith, “spake Jesus of the Temple of His Body.”26022602 John ii. 21. Behold this His power He said He would show to men in the same thing as that from whence He had given the similitude of a Temple, because of His flesh, which was the Temple of the Divinity hidden within. Whence the Jews outwardly saw the Temple, the Deity dwelling within they saw not. Out of those words of the Lord false witnesses made up a lie to say against Him, out of those very words wherein He mentioned His future Resurrection, in speaking of the Temple. For false witnesses, when they were asked what they had heard Him say, alleged against Him: “We heard Him saying, I will destroy this Temple, and after three days I will raise it up.”26032603 Matt. xxvi. 61; Mark xiv. 58; John ii. 19. “After three days I will raise up,” they had heard: “I will destroy,” they had not heard: but had heard “destroy ye.” One word they changed and a few letters, in order to support their false testimony. But for whom changest thou a word, O human vanity, O human weakness? For the Word, the Unchangeable, dost thou change a word? Thou changest thy word, dost thou change God’s Word?…Wherefore said they that Thou hadst said, “I will destroy;” and said not that which Thou saidest, “destroy ye”? It was, as it were, in order that they might defend themselves from the charge of destroying the Temple without cause. For Christ, because He willed it, died: and nevertheless ye killed Him. Behold we grant you, O ye liars, Himself destroyed the Temple. For it hath been said by the Apostle, “That loved me, and gave up Himself for me.”26042604 Gal. ii. 20. It hath been said of the Father, “That His own Son spared not, but gave Him up for us all.”26052605 Rom. viii. 32. …By all means be it that Himself destroyed the Temple, Himself destroyed that said, “Power I have to lay down My Soul,26062606 Or, “life.” and power I have again to take it: no one taketh it from Me, but I Myself lay it down from Me, and again I take it.”26072607 John x. 18. Be it that Himself hath destroyed the Temple in His Grace, in your malice. “In the multitude of Thy power thine enemies shall lie to Thee.” Behold they lie, behold they are believed, behold Thou art oppressed, behold Thou art crucified, behold Thou art insulted, behold head is wagged at Thee, “If Son of God He is, let Him come down from the Cross.”26082608 Matt. xxvii. 49. Behold when Thou wilt, life Thou layest down, and with lance in the side art pierced, and Sacraments from Thy side flow forth;26092609 John xix. 34. Thou art taken down from the Tree, wound in linens, laid in the sepulchre, there are set guards lest Thy disciples take Thee away; there cometh the hour of Thy Resurrection, earth is shaken, tombs are cloven, Thou risest again in secret, appearest openly. Where then are those liars? Where is the false testimony of evil will? Have not Thine enemies in the multitude of Thy power lied to Thee?
7. Give them also those guards at the Tomb, let them recount what they have seen, let them take money and lie too.26102610 Matt. xxviii. 12. …They too were added to the lie of the enemies: increased was the number of liars, that increased might be the reward of believers. Therefore they lied, “in the multitude of Thy power” they lied: to confound liars Thou hast appeared to men of truth, and Thou hast appeared to those men of truth whom Thou hast made men of truth.
8. Let Jews remain in their lies: to Thee, because in the multitude of Thy power they lied, let there be done that which followeth, “Let every land worship Thee, and play to Thee, play to Thy name, O Most Highest” (ver. 4). A little before, Most Lowly, now Most Highest: Most Lowly in the hands of lying enemies; Most Highest above the head of praising Angels. O ye Gentiles, O most distant nations, leave lying Jews, come confessing. “Come ye, and see the works of the Lord: terrible in counsels above the sons of men” (ver. 5). Son of Man indeed He too hath been called, and verily Son of Man He became: very Son of God in the form of God;26112611 Philip. ii. 6. very Son of Man in form of a servant: but do not judge of that form by the condition of others alike: “terrible” He is “in counsels above the sons of men.” Sons of men took counsel to crucify Christ, being crucified He blinded the crucifiers. What then have ye done, sons of men, by taking keen counsels against your Lord, in whom was hidden Majesty, and to sight shown weakness? Ye were taking counsels to destroy, He to blind and save; to blind proud men, to save humble men: but to blind those same proud men, to the end that, being blinded they might be humbled, being humbled might confess, having confessed might be enlightened. “Terrible in counsels above the sons of men.” Terrible indeed. Behold blindness in part to Israel hath happened:26122612 Rom. xi. 25. behold the Jews, out of whom was born Christ, are without: behold the Gentiles, that were against Judæa, in Christ are within. “Terrible in counsels above the sons of men.”
9. Wherefore what hath He done by the terror of His counsel? He hath turned the sea into dry land. For this followeth, “That hath turned the sea into dry land” (ver. 6). A sea was the world, bitter with saltness, troubled with tempest, raging with waves of persecutions, sea it was: truly into dry land the sea hath been turned, now there thirsteth for sweet water the world that with salt water was filled. Who hath done this? He “that hath turned the sea into dry land.” Now the soul of all the Gentiles saith what? “My soul is as it were land without water to Thee.”26132613 Ps. cxliii. 6. “That hath turned the sea into dry land. In the river they shall pass over on foot.” Those same persons that have been turned into dry land, though they were before sea, “in the river on foot shall pass over.” What is the river? The river is all the mortality of the world. Observe a river: some things come and pass by, other things that are to pass by do succeed. Is it not thus with the water of a river, that from earth springeth and floweth? Every one that is born must needs give place to one going to be born: and all this order of things rolling along is a kind of river. Into this river let not the soul greedily throw herself, let her not throw herself, but let her stand still. And how shall she pass over the pleasures of things doomed to perish? Let her believe in Christ, and she will pass over on foot: she passeth over with Him for Leader, on foot she passeth over.
10. “There we will be joyous in Him.” O ye Jews, of your own works boast ye: lay aside the pride of boasting of yourselves, take up the Grace of being joyous in Christ. For therein we will be joyous, but not in ourselves: “there we will be joyous in Him.” When shall we joy? When we shall have passed over the river on foot. Life everlasting is promised, resurrection is promised, there our flesh no longer shall be a river: for a river it is now, while it is mortality. Observe whether there standeth still any age. Boys desire to grow up; and they know not how by succeeding years the span of their life is lessened. For years are not added to but taken from them as they grow: just as the water of a river alway draweth near, but from the source it withdraweth. And boys desire to grow up that they may escape the thraldom of elders; behold they grow up, it cometh to pass quickly, they arrive at youth: let them that have emerged from boyhood retain, if they are able, their youth: that too passeth away. Old age succeedeth:26142614 Oxf. mss. add, “Let even old age succeed for everlasting, let,” etc. let even old age be everlasting; with death it is removed. Therefore a river there is26152615 Oxf. mss. “is the mortality.” of flesh that is born. This river of mortality, so that it doth not by reason of concupiscence of things mortal undermine and carry him away, he easily passeth over, that humbly, that is on foot, passeth over, He being leader that first hath passed over, that of the flood in the way even unto death hath drunk, and therefore hath lifted up the head.26162616 Ps. cx. 7. Passing over therefore on foot that river, that is, easily passing over that mortality that glideth along, “there we will be joyous in Him.” But now in what save in Him, or in the hope of Him? For even if we are joyous now, in hope we are joyous; but then in Him we shall be joyous. And now in Him, but through hope: “but then face to face.”26172617 1 Cor. xiii. 12. “There we will be joyous in Him.”
11. In whom? “In Him that reigneth in His virtue for everlasting” (ver. 7). For what virtue have we and is it everlasting? If everlasting were our virtue, we should not have slipped, should not have fallen into sin, we should not have deserved penal mortality. He, of His good pleasure, took up that whereunto our desert threw us down.26182618 Gen. iii. 17, etc. “That reigneth in His virtue for everlasting.” Of Him partakers let us be made, in whose virtue we shall be strong, but He in His own. We enlightened, He a light enlightening: we, being turned away from Him, are in darkness; turned away from Himself He cannot be. With the heat of Him we are warmed; from whence withdrawing we had grown cold, to the Same drawing near again we are warmed. Therefore let us speak to Him that He may keep us in His virtue, because “in Him we will be joyous that reigneth in His virtue for everlasting.”
12. But this thing is not granted to believing Jews alone.…“The eyes of Him do look upon the Gentiles.” And what do we? The Jews will murmur; the Jews will say, “what He hath given to us, the same to them also; to us Gospel, to them Gospel; to us the Grace of Resurrection, and to them the Grace of Resurrection; doth it profit us nothing that we have received the Law, and that in the justifications of the Law we have lived, and have kept the commandments of the fathers? Nothing will it avail? The same to them as to us.” Let them not strive, let them not dispute. “Let not them that are bitter be exalted in their own selves.”26192619 [See on Ps. lxix. ver. 10, infra.—C.] O flesh miserable and wasting, art thou not sinful? Why crieth out thy tongue? Let the conscience be listened to. “For all men have sinned, and need the glory of God.”26202620 Rom. iii. 23. Know thyself, human weakness. Thou didst receive the Law, in order that a transgressor also of the Law thou mightest be:26212621 Rom. v. 20. for thou hast not kept and fulfilled that which thou didst receive. There hath come to thee because of the Law, not the justification which the Law enjoineth, but the transgression which thou hast done. If therefore there hath abounded sin, why enviest thou Grace more abounding. Be not bitter, for “let not them that are bitter be exalted in their own selves.” He seemeth in a manner to have uttered a curse in “Let not them that are bitter be exalted;” yea, be they exalted, but not “in themselves.” Let them be humbled in themselves, exalted in Christ. For, “he that humbleth himself shall be exalted; and he that exalteth himself shall be humbled.”26222622 Matt. xxiii. 12. “Let not them that are bitter be exalted in their own selves.”
13. “Bless our God, ye nations” (ver. 8). Behold, there have been driven back they that are bitter, reckoning hath been made with them: some have been converted, some have continued proud. Let not them terrify you that grudge the Gentiles Gospel Grace: now hath come the Seed of Abraham, in whom are blessed all nations.26232623 Gen. xii. 3. Bless ye Him in whom ye are blessed, “Bless our God, ye nations: and hear ye the voice of His praise.” Praise not yourselves, but praise Him. What is the voice of His praise? That by His Grace we are whatever of good we are. “Who hath set my Soul unto life” (ver. 9) Behold the voice of his praise: “Who hath set my Soul unto life.” Therefore in death she was: in death she was, in thyself. Thence it is that ye ought not to have been exalted in yourselves. Therefore in death she was, in thyself: where will it be in life, save in Him that said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”?26242624 John xiv. 6. Just as to certain believers the Apostle saith, “Ye were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord.”26252625 Eph. v. 8. …“And hath not given unto motion my feet.” He hath set my Soul unto life, He guideth the feet that they stumble not, be not moved and given unto motion; He maketh us to live, He maketh us to persevere even unto the end, in order that for everlasting we may live.…
14. “For thou hast proved us, O God; Thou hast fired us as silver is fired” (ver. 10). Hast not fired us like hay, but like silver: by applying to us fire, Thou hast not turned us into ashes, but Thou hast washed off uncleanness, “Thou hast fired us, as silver is fired.” And see in what manner God is wroth against them, whose Soul He hath set unto life. “Thou hast led us into a trap:” not that we might be caught and die, but that we might be tried and delivered from it. “Thou hast laid tribulations upon our back.” For having been to ill purpose lifted up, proud we were: having been to ill purpose lifted up, we were bowed down, in order that being bowed down, we should be lifted up for good. “Thou hast laid tribulations on our back:” “Thou hast set men over our heads” (ver. 11). All these things the Church hath suffered in sundry and divers persecutions: She hath suffered this in Her individual members, even now doth suffer it. For there is not one, that in this life could say that he was exempt from these trials. Therefore there are set even men over our heads: we endure those whom we would not, we suffer for our betters those whom we know to be worse. But if sins be wanting, a man is justly superior: but by how much there are more sins, by so much he is inferior. And it is a good thing to consider ourselves to be sinners, and thus endure men set over our heads: in order that we also to God may confess that deservedly we suffer. For why dost thou suffer with indignation that which He doeth who is just? “Thou hast laid tribulations upon our back: Thou hast set men over our heads.” God seemeth to be wroth, when He doeth these things: fear not, for a Father He is, He is never so wroth as to destroy. When ill thou livest, if He spareth, He is more angry. In a word, these tribulations are the rods of Him correcting, lest there be a sentence from Him punishing.…
15. “We have passed through fire and water.” Fire and water are both dangerous in this life. Certainly water seemeth to extinguish fire, and fire seemeth to dry up water. Thus also these are the trials, wherein aboundeth this life. Fire burneth, water corrupteth: both must be feared, both the burning of tribulation and the water of corruption. Whenever there is adversity, and anything which is called unhappiness in this world, there is as it were fire: whenever there is prosperity, and the world’s plenty floweth about one, there is as it were water. See that fire burn thee not, nor water corrupt.…Hasten not to the water: through fire pass over to the water, that thou mayest pass over the water also. Therefore also in the mystic rites26262626 Sacramentis. and in catechising and in exorcising,26272627 Exorcism before Baptism. there is first used fire. For whence ofttimes do the unclean spirits cry out, “I burn,” if that is not fire? But after the fire of Exorcism we come to Baptism: so that from fire to water, from water unto refreshment. But as in the Sacraments, so it is in the temptations of this world: the straitness of fear draweth near first, in place of fire; afterwards fear being removed, we ought to be afraid lest worldly happiness corrupt. But when the fire hath not made thee burst, and when thou hast not sunk in the water, but hast swum out; through discipline thou passest over to rest, and passing over through fire and water, thou art led forth into a place of refreshment. For of those things whereof the signs are in the Sacraments, there are the very realities in that perfection of life everlasting.…But we are not torpid there, but we rest: nor though it be called heat, shall we be hot there, but we shall be fervent in spirit. Observe that same heat in another Psalm: “nor is there any one that hideth himself from the heat thereof.”26282628 Ps. xix. 6. What saith also the Apostle? “In spirit fervent.”26292629 Rom. xii. 11. Therefore, “we have gone over through fire and water: and Thou hast led us forth into a cool place.”
16. Observe how not only concerning a cool place, but neither of that very fire to be desired he hath been silent: “I will enter into Thy House in holocausts” (ver. 13). What is a holocaust? A whole sacrifice burned up, but with fire divine. For a sacrifice is called a holocaust, when the whole is burned. One thing are the parts of sacrifices, another thing a holocaust: when the whole is burned and the whole consumed by fire divine, it is called a holocaust: when a part, a sacrifice. Every holocaust indeed is a sacrifice: but not every sacrifice a holocaust. Holocausts therefore he is promising, the Body of Christ is speaking, the Unity of Christ is speaking, “I will enter into Thy House in holocausts.” All that is mine let Thy fire consume, let nothing of mine remain to me, let all be Thine. But this shall be in the Resurrection of just men, “when both this corruptible shall be clad in incorruption, and this mortal shall be clad in immortality: then shall come to pass that which hath been written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’”26302630 1 Cor. xv. 54. Victory is, as it were, fire divine: when it swalloweth up our death also, it is a holocaust. There remaineth not anything mortal in the flesh, there remaineth not anything culpable in the spirit: the whole of mortal life shall be consumed, in order that in life everlasting it may be consummated, that from death we may be preserved in life.26312631 Oxf. mss. add, “that from,” etc. These therefore will be the holocausts. And what shall there be “in the holocausts”?
17. “I will render to Thee my vows, which my lips have distinguished” (ver. 14). What is the distinction in vows? This is the distinction, that thyself thou censure, Him thou praise: perceive thyself to be a creature, Him the Creator: thyself darkness, Him the Enlightener, to whom thou shouldest say, “Thou shalt light my lamp, O Lord my God, Thou shalt enlighten my darkness.”26322632 Ps. xviii. 28. For whenever thou shalt have said, O soul, that from thyself thou hast light, thou wilt not distinguish. If thou wilt not distinguish, thou wilt not render distinct vows. Render distinct vows, confess thyself changeable, Him unchangeable: confess thyself without Him to be nothing, but Himself without thee to be perfect; thyself to need Him, but Him not to need thee. Cry to Him, “I have said to the Lord, My God art Thou, for my good things Thou needest not.” 26332633 Ps. xvi. 2. Now though God taketh thee to Him for a holocaust, He groweth not, He is not increased, He is not richer, He becometh not better furnished: whatsoever He maketh of thee for thy sake, is the better for thee, not for Him that maketh. If thou distinguishest these things, thou renderest the vows to thy God which thy lips have distinguished.
18. “And my mouth hath spoken in my tribulation.” How sweet ofttimes is tribulation, how necessary! In that case what hath the mouth of the same spoken in his tribulation? “Holocausts marrowed I will offer to Thee” (ver. 15). What is “marrowed”? Within may I keep Thy love, it shall not be on the surface, in my marrow it shall be that I love Thee. For there is nothing more inward than our marrow: the bones are more inward than the flesh, the marrow is more inward than those same bones. Whosoever therefore on the surface loveth God, desireth rather to please men, but having some other affection within, he offereth not holocausts of marrow: but into whosesoever marrow He looketh, him He receiveth whole. “With incense and rams.” The rams are the rulers of the Church: the whole Body of Christ is speaking: this is the thing which he offereth to God. Incense 26342634 [See (A.N.F. vol. vi. p. 528) Arnobius on incense.—C.] is what? Prayer. “With incense and rams.” For especially the rams do pray for the flocks. “I will offer to Thee oxen with he-goats.” Oxen we find treading out corn, and the same are offered to God. The Apostle hath said, that of the preachers of the Gospel must be understood that which hath been written, “Of the ox treading out corn the mouth thou shalt not muzzle. Doth God care for oxen?”26352635 1 Cor. ix. 9; Deut. xxv. 4. Therefore great are those rams, great the oxen. What of the rest, that perchance are conscious of certain sins, that perchance in the very road have slipped, and, having been wounded, by penitence are being healed? Shall they too continue, and to the holocausts shall they not belong? Let them not fear, he hath added he-goats also. “I will offer to Thee oxen with he-goats.” By the very yoking are saved the he-goats; of themselves they have no strength, being yoked to bulls they are accepted. For they have made friends of the mammon of iniquity, that the same may receive them into everlasting tabernacles.26362636 Luke xvi. 9. Therefore those he-goats shall not be on the left, because they have made to themselves friends of the mammon of iniquity. But what he-goats shall be on the left? They to whom shall be said, “I hungred, and ye gave me not to eat:”26372637 Matt. xxv. 42. not they that have redeemed their sins by almsdeeds.
19. Come ye, hear, and I will tell, all ye that fear God” (ver. 16). Let us come, let us hear, what he is going to tell, “Come ye, hear, and I will tell.” But to whom, “Come ye, and hear”? “All ye that fear God.” If God ye fear not, I will not tell. It is not possible that it be told to any where the fear of God is not. Let the fear of God open the ears, that there may be something to enter in, and a way whereby may enter in that which I am going to tell. But what is he going to tell? “How great things He hath done to my soul.” Behold, he would tell: but what is he going to tell? Is it perchance how widely the earth is spread, how much the sky is extended, and how many are the stars, and what are the changes of sun and of moon? This creation fulfilleth its course: but they have very curiously sought it out, the Creator thereof have not known.26382638 Wisd. xiii. 1. This thing hear, this thing receive, “O ye that fear God, how great things He hath done to my soul:” if ye will, to yours also. “How great things He hath done to my soul.” “To Him with my mouth I have cried” (ver. 17). “And this very thing, he saith, hath been done to his soul; that to Him with his mouth he should cry, hath been done, he saith, to his soul. Behold, brethren, Gentiles we were, even if not in ourselves, in our parents. And what saith the Apostle? “Ye know, when Gentiles ye were, to idols without speech how ye went up, being led.”26392639 1 Cor. xii. 2. Let the Church now say, “how great things He hath done to my soul.” “To Him with my mouth I have cried.” I a man to a stone was crying, to a deaf stock I was crying, to idols deaf and dumb I was speaking: now the image of God hath been turned to the Creator thereof. I that was “saying to a stock, My father thou art; and to a stone, Thou hast begotten me:”26402640 Jer. ii. 27. now say, “Our Father, which art in Heaven.”26412641 Matt. vi. 9. …“To Him with my mouth I have cried, and I have exalted Him under my tongue.” See how in secret He would be uncorrupt that offereth marrowed holocausts. This do ye, brethren, this imitate, so that ye may say, “Come ye, see how great things He hath done to my soul.” For all those things of which he telleth, by His Grace are done in our soul. See the other things of which he speaketh.
20. “If I have beheld iniquity in my heart, may not the Lord hearken” (ver. 18). Consider now, brethren, how easily, how daily men blushing for fear of men do censure iniquities; He hath done ill, He hath done basely, a villain the fellow is: this perchance for man’s sake he saith. See whether thou beholdest no iniquity in thy heart, whether perchance that which thou censurest in another, thou art meditating to do, and therefore against him dost exclaim, not because he hath done it, but because he hath been found out. Return to thyself, within be to thyself a judge. Behold in thy hid chamber, in the very inmost recess of the heart, where thou and He that seeth are alone, there let iniquity be displeasing to thee, in order that thou mayest be pleasing to God. Do not regard it, that is, do not love it, but rather despise it, that is, contemn it, and turn away from it. Whatever pleasing thing it hath promised to allure thee to sin; whatever grievous thing it hath threatened, to drive thee on to evil doing; all is nought, all passeth away: it is worthy to be despised, in order that it may be trampled upon; not to be eyed lest it be accepted.26422642 Here followeth in the Oxf. ed. a part in brackets, “which is omitted in some good mss.—Ben.” …
21. “Therefore God hath hearkened to me” (ver. 19). Because I have not beheld iniquity in my heart. “And He hath listened to the voice of my prayer.” “Blessed be my God, that hath not thrust away my supplication and His mercy from me” (ver. 20). Gather the sense from that place, where he saith, “Come ye, hear, and I will tell you, all ye that fear God, how great things He hath done to my soul:”26432643 Ps. lxvi. 16. he hath both said the words which ye have heard, and at the end thus he hath concluded: “Blessed be my God, that hath not thrust away my supplication and His mercy from me.” For thus there arriveth at the Resurrection he that speaketh, where already we also are by hope: yea both it is we ourselves, and this voice is ours. So long therefore as here we are, this let us ask of God, that He thrust not from us our supplication, and His mercy, that is, that we pray continually, and He continually pity. For many become feeble in praying, and in the newness of their own conversion pray fervently, afterwards feebly, afterwards coldly, afterwards negligently: as if they have become secure. The foe watcheth: thou sleepest. The Lord Himself hath given commandment in the Gospel, how “it behoveth men always to pray and not to faint.”26442644 Luke xviii. 1, etc. And he giveth a comparison from that unjust judge, who neither feared God, nor regarded man, whom that widow daily importuned to hear her; and he yielded for weariness, that was not influenced by pity: and the naughty judge saith to himself, “Though neither God I fear, nor men I regard, even because of the weariness which this widow daily putteth upon me, I will hear her cause, and will avenge her.” And the Lord saith, “If a naughty judge hath done this, shall not your Father avenge His chosen, that to Him do cry day and night? Yea, I say unto you, He shall make judgment of them speedily.” Therefore let us not faint in prayer. Though He putteth off what He is going to grant, He putteth it not away: being secure of His promise, let us not faint in praying, and this is by His goodness. Therefore he hath said, “Blessed is my God, that hath not thrust away my supplication and His mercy from me.” When thou hast seen thy supplication “not thrust away from thee,” be secure, that His mercy hath not been thrust away from thee.
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