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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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Psalm LXXV.33913391     Lat. LXXIV. Sermon to the Commonalty.

1. …The Title of this Psalm thus speaketh: “At the end,33923392     In finem. corrupt not.” What is, “corrupt not?” That which Thou hast promised, perform. But when? “At the end.” To this then let the mind’s eye be directed, “unto the end.” Let all the things which have occurred in the way be passed over, in order that we may attain to the end. Let proud men exult because of present felicity, let them swell with honours, glitter in gold, overflow with domestics, be encircled with the services of clients: these things pass away, they pass away like a shadow. When that end shall have come, when all who now hope in the Lord are to rejoice, then to them shall come sorrow without end. When the meek shall have received that which the proud deride, then the vapouring of the proud shall be turned into mourning. Then shall there be that voice which we know in the Book of Wisdom: for they shall say at that time when they see the glory of the Saints, who, when they were in humiliation, endured them; who, when they were exalted, consented not—at that time then they shall say, “These are they whom sometime we have had in derision.”33933393     Wisd. v. 3. Where they also say, “What hath pride profited us, and the boasting of riches hath bestowed upon us what?” All things have passed away like a shadow. Because on things corruptible they relied, their hope shall be corrupted: but our own hope at that time shall be substance. For in order that the promise of God may remain whole and sure and certain towards us, we have said out of a heart33943394     4 mss. “mouth.” of faith, “at the end corrupt not.” Fear not, therefore, lest any mighty man should corrupt the promises of God. He doth not corrupt, because He is truthful; He hath no one more mighty by whom His promise may be corrupted: let us be then sure concerning the promises of God; and let us sing now from the place where the Psalm beginneth.

2. “We will confess to Thee, O Lord, we will confess to Thee, and will invoke Thy name” (ver. 1). Do not invoke, before thou confess: confess, and invoke. For Him whom thou art invoking, unto thyself thou callest. For what is it to invoke, but unto thyself to call? If He is invoked by thee, that is, if He is called to thee, unto whom doth He draw near? To a proud man He draweth not near. High indeed He is, one lifted up attaineth not unto Him. In order that we may reach all exalted objects, we raise ourselves, and if we are not able to reach them, we look for some appliances or ladders, in order that being exalted we may reach exalted objects: contrariwise God is both high, and by the lowly He is reached. It is written, “Nigh is the Lord to them that have bruised the heart.”33953395     Ps. xxxiv. 18. The bruising of the heart is Godliness, humility. He that bruiseth himself is angry with himself. Let him make himself angry in order that he may make Him merciful; let him make himself judge, in order that he may make Him Advocate. Therefore God doth come when invoked. Unto whom doth He come? To the proud man He cometh not.…Take heed therefore what ye do: for if He knoweth, He is not unobservant.33963396     Non ignoscit, “doth not forgive” (take no notice). It is better therefore that He be unobservant than known. For what is that same being unobservant, but not knowing? What is, not to know? Not to animadvert. For even as the act of one avenging animadversion is wont to be spoken of. Here one praying that He be unobservant: “Turn away Thy face from my sins.”33973397     Ps. li. 9. What then wilt thou do if He shall have turned away His face from thee? A grievous thing it is, and to be feared, lest He forsake thee. Again, if He turn not away His face, He animadverteth. God knoweth this thing, God can do this thing, namely, both turn away face from one sinning, and not turn away from one confessing.…Confess therefore and invoke. For by confessing thou purgest the Temple, into which He may come, when invoked. Confess and invoke. May He turn away face from thy sins, not turn away from thee: turn away face from that which thou hast wrought,33983398     Fecisti. not turn away from that which He hath Himself wrought.33993399     Fecit. For thee, as man, He hath Himself wrought, thy sins thou hast thyself wrought.…

3. But that there is a strengthening of the sense in repetition, by many passages of the Scriptures we are taught. Thence is that which the Lord saith, “Verily, Verily.”34003400     John i. 51. Thence in certain Psalms is, “So be it, So be it.”34013401     Ps. lxxii. 19, lxxxix. 52. To signify the thing, one “So be it” would have been sufficient: to signify confirmation, there hath been added another “So be it.”…Countless passages of such sort there are throughout all the Scriptures. With these it is sufficient that we have commended to your notice a way of speaking which ye may observe in all like cases: now to the substance attend: “We will confess to Thee,” he saith, “and we will invoke.” I have said why before invocation confession doth precede: because whom thou dost invoke, him thou dost invite. But he willeth not to come when invoked, if thou shalt have been lifted up: lifted up if thou shalt have been, thou wilt not be able to confess. And thou deniest not any things to God that He knoweth not. Therefore thy confession doth not teach Him, but it purgeth thee.

4. …Hear ye now the words of Christ. For these seemed not as it were to be His words,34023402     Oxf. mss. “members.” “We will confess to Thee, O God, we will confess to Thee, and will invoke Thy name.” Now beginneth the discourse in the person of the Head. But whether Head speaketh or whether members speak, Christ speaketh: He speaketh in the person of the Head, He speaketh in the person of the Body. But what hath been said? There shall be two in one flesh.34033403     Gen. ii. 24. “This is a great Sacrament:” “I,” he saith, “speak in Christ and in the Church.”34043404     Eph. v. 32. And He Himself in the Gospel, “Therefore no longer two, but one flesh.”34053405     Matt. xix. 6. For in order that ye may know these in a manner to be two persons, and again one by the bond of marriage, as one He speaketh in Isaiah, and saith, “As upon a Bridegroom he hath bound upon me a mitre, and as a Bride he hath clothed me with an ornament.”34063406     Isa. lxi. 10. A Bridegroom He hath called Himself in the Head, a Bride in the Body. He is speaking therefore as One, let us hear Him, and in Him let us also speak. Let us be the members of Him, in order that this voice may possibly be ours also. “I will tell forth,” he saith, “all Thy marvellous things.” Christ is preaching Himself, He is preaching Himself even in His members now existing, in order that He may guide unto Him others, and they may draw near that were not, and may be united with those members of Him, through which members of Him the Gospel hath been preached; and there may be made one Body under one Head, in one Spirit, in one Life.

5. And he saith what? “When I shall have received,” he saith, “the time,34073407     E.V. “the congregation.” I will judge justices” (ver. 2). When shall He judge justices? When He shall have received the time. Not yet is the precise time. Thanks to His mercy: He first preacheth justices, and then He judgeth justices. For if He willed to judge before He willed to preach, who would be found that should be delivered: who would meet Him that should be absolved? Now therefore is the time of preaching: “I will tell,” he saith, “all Thy marvellous works.” Hear Him telling, hear Him preaching: for if thou shalt have despised Him, “when I shall have received the time,” He saith, “I will judge justices.” I forgive, He saith, now sins to one confessing, I will not spare hereafter one despising.…He hath received a time as Son of Man; He doth govern times as Son of God. Hear how as Son of Man He hath received the time of judging. He saith in the Gospel, “He hath given to Him power to execute judgment, because Son of Man He is.” 34083408     John v. 27. According to His nature as Son of God, He hath never received power of judging, because He never lacked the power of judging: according to His nature as Son of Man He hath received a time, as of being born, and of suffering, as of dying, and of rising again, and of ascending, so of coming and of judging. In Him His Body also saith these words, for not without them He will judge. For He saith in the Gospel, “Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”34093409     Matt. xix. 28. Therefore whole Christ saith, that is, Head and Body in the Saints, “when I shall have received the time, I will judge justices.”

6. But now what? “The earth hath flowed down” (ver. 3). If the earth hath flowed down, whence hath it flowed down except by sins? Therefore also they are called delinquencies. To delinquish is as it were by a kind of liquidity34103410     De liquido quodam. Al. de loco quodam. [Qu. deliquesce?—C.] to slip down from the stability of firmness in virtue and righteousness. For it is through desire of lower things that every man sinneth: as he is strengthened by the love of higher things, so he falleth down and as it were melteth away by desire of lower things. This flux of things by the sins of man the merciful forgiver observing, being a merciful forgiver of sins, not yet an exactor of punishments, He observeth and saith: The earth herself indeed hath flowed down by them that dwell in her. That which followeth is an exposition, not an addition. As though thou wert saying, in what manner hath the earth flowed down? Have the foundations been withdrawn, and hath anything therein been swallowed up in a sort of gulf? What I mean by earth is all they that dwell therein. I have found, he saith, the earth sinful. And I have done what? “I have strengthened the pillars thereof.” What are the pillars which He hath strengthened? Pillars He hath called the Apostles. So the Apostle Paul concerning his fellow-Apostles saith, “who seemed to be pillars.”34113411     Gal. ii. 9. And what would those pillars have been, except by Him they had been strengthened? For on occasion of a sort of earthquake even these very pillars rocked: at the Passion of the Lord all the Apostles despaired. Therefore those pillars which rocked at the Passion of the Lord, by the Resurrection were strengthened. The Beginning of the building hath cried out through the pillars thereof, and in all those pillars the Architect Himself hath cried out. For the Apostle Paul was one pillar of them when he said, “Would ye receive a proof of Him that speaketh in me—Christ?”34123412     2 Cor. xiii. 3. Therefore, “I,” he saith, “have strengthened the pillars thereof:” I have risen again, I have shown that death is not to be feared, I have shown to them that fear, that not even the body itself doth perish in the dying. There terrified them wounds, there strengthened them scars. The Lord Jesus could have risen again without any scar: for what great matter were it for that power, to restore the frame of the body to such perfect soundness, as that no trace at all of past wound should appear? He had power whence He might make it whole even without scar: but He willed to have that whereby He might strengthen the rocking pillars.

7. We have heard now, brethren, that which day by day is not kept secret: let us hear now what He hath cried through these pillars.…He crieth what? “I have said to unjust men, Do not unjustly” (ver. 4).…But already they have done, and they are guilty: already there hath flowed down the earth, and all they that dwell therein. Pricked to the heart were they that crucified Christ,34133413     Acts ii. 37. they acknowledged their sin, they learned something of the Apostle, that they might not despair of the pardon of the Preacher.34143414     Prædicatoris. Some mss. Peccatores, “that sinners might not despair of pardon.” For as Physician He had come, and therefore had not come to the whole. “For there is no need,” He saith, “to the whole of a physician, but to them that are sick. I have not come to call righteous men, but sinners to repentance.”34153415     Matt. ix. 12, 13. Therefore, “I have said to unjust men, Do not unjustly.” They heard not. For of old to us it was spoken: we heard not, we fell, were made mortal, were begotten mortal: the earth flowed down. Let them hear the Physician even now in order that they may rise, Him that came to the sick man, Him whom they would not hear when whole in order that they might not fall, let them hear when lying down in order that they may rise.…“I have said to unjust men, Do not unjustly; and to the delinquent, Do not exalt your horn.” There shall be exalted in you the horn of Christ, if your horn be not exalted. Your horn is of iniquity, the horn of Christ is of majesty.

8. “Be not therefore lifted up: speak not iniquity against God” (ver. 5).…What saith He in another Psalm? “These things thou hast done,” having enumerated certain sins. “These things thou hast done,” He saith, “and was silent.”34163416     Ps. l. 21. What is, “I was silent”? He is never silent with commandment, but meanwhile He is silent with punishment: He is keeping still from vengeance, He doth not pronounce sentence against the condemned. But this man saith thus, I have done such and such things, and God hath not taken vengeance; behold I am whole, nought of ill hath befallen me. “These things thou hast done, and I was silent: thou hast suspected iniquity, that I shall be like unto thee.” What is, “that I shall be like unto thee”? Because thou art unjust, even Me thou hast deemed unjust; as though an approver of thy misdeeds, and no adversary, no avenger thereof. And what afterwards saith He to thee? “I will convict thee, and will set thee before thine own face”?34173417     Ps. l. 21. What is this? Because now by sinning behind thy back thou settest thyself, seest not thyself, examinest not thyself; I will set thee before thyself, and will bring upon thee punishment from thyself. So also here, “Speak not iniquity against God.” Attend. Many men speak this iniquity; but dare not openly, lest as blasphemers they be abhorred by godly men: in their heart they gnaw upon these things, within they feed upon such impious food; it delighteth them to speak against God, and if they break not out with tongue, in heart they are not silent. Whence in another Psalm is said, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”34183418     Ps. xiv. 1. The fool hath said, but he hath feared men: he would not say it where men might hear; and he said it in that place where He might Himself hear concerning whom he said it. Therefore here also in this Psalm (dearly beloved attend), whereas that which He said, “Do not speak iniquity against God,” this He saw many men do in heart, He hath also added, “for neither from East, nor from West, nor from the deserts of the mountains (ver. 6), for God is Judge” (ver. 7). Of thine iniquities God is Judge. If God He is, everywhere He is present. Whither wilt thou take thyself away from the eyes of God, so that in some quarter thou mayest speak that which He may not hear? If from the East God judgeth, withdraw into the West, and say what thou wilt against God: if from the West, go into the East, and there speak: if from the deserts of the mountains He judgeth, go into the midst of the peoples, where thou mayest murmur to thyself. From no place judgeth He that everywhere is secret, everywhere open; whom it is allowed no one to know as He is, and whom no one is permitted not to know. Take heed what thou doest. Thou art speaking iniquity against God. “The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the round world” (another Scripture saith this), “and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice: wherefore he that speaketh unjust things cannot be hid.”34193419     Wisd. i. 7, 8. Do not therefore think God to be in places: He is with thee such an one as thou shalt have been. What is such an one as thou shalt have been? Good, if thou shalt have been good; and evil to thee He will seem, if evil thou shalt have been; but a Helper, if good thou shalt have been; an Avenger, if evil thou shalt have been. There thou hast a Judge in thy secret place. Willing to do something of evil, from the public thou retirest into thy house, where no enemy may see; from those places of thine house which are open and before the eyes of men, thou removest thyself into a chamber; thou fearest even in thy chamber some witness from some other quarter, thou retirest into thy heart, there thou meditatest: He is more inward than thy heart. Whithersoever therefore thou shalt have fled, there He is. From thyself whither wilt thou flee? Wilt thou not follow thyself whithersoever thou shalt flee? But since there is One more inward even than thyself, there is no place whither thou mayest flee from God angry, but to God reconciled. There is no place at all whither thou mayest flee. Wilt thou flee from Him? Flee to Him.…What then shall we do now? “Let us come before His face,” ἐν ἐξομολογήσει, come before in confession: He shall come gentle whom thou hadst made angry. “Neither from the deserts of the mountains, for God is Judge:” not from the East, not from the West, not from the deserts of the mountains. Wherefore? “For God is Judge.” If in any place He were, He would not be God: but because God is Judge, not man, do not expect Him out of places. His place thou wilt be, if thou art good, if after having confessed34203420     Oxf. mss. “being converted.” thou shalt have invoked Him.

9. “One He humbleth, and another He exalteth” (ver. 7). Whom humbleth, whom exalteth this Judge? Observe these two men in the temple, and ye see whom He humbleth and whom He exalteth. “They went up into the Temple to pray,” He saith, “the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican.…“Verily I say unto you, that Publican went down justified more than that Pharisee: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”34213421     Luke xviii. 10, etc. Thus hath been explained a verse of this Psalm. God the Judge doth what? “One He humbleth, and another He exalteth:” He humbleth the proud, He exalteth the humble.

10. “For the cup in the hand of the Lord of pure wine is full of mixed” (ver. 8). Justly so. “And He hath poured out of this upon this man; nevertheless, the dreg thereof hath not been emptied; there shall drink all the sinners of earth.” Let us be somewhat recruited; there is here some obscurity.…The first question that meeteth us is this, “of pure wine it is full of mixed.” How “of pure,” if “of mixed”? But when he saith, “the cup in the hand of the Lord” (to men instructed in the Church of Christ I am speaking), ye ought not indeed to paint in your heart God as it were circumscribed with a human form, lest, though the temples are shut up, ye forge images in your hearts. This cup therefore doth signify something. We will find out this. But “in the hand of the Lord,” is, in the power of the Lord. For the hand of God is spoken of for the power of God. For even in reference to men ofttimes is said, in hand he hath it: that is, in his power he hath it, when he chooseth he doth it. “Of pure wine it is full of mixed.” In continuation he hath himself explained: “He hath inclined,” he saith, “from this unto this man; nevertheless the dreg thereof hath not been emptied.” Behold how it was full of mixed wine. Let it not therefore terrify you that it is both pure and mixed: pure because of the genuineness thereof, mixed because of the dreg. What then in that place is the wine, and what the dreg? And what is, “He hath inclined from this unto this man,” in such sort that the dreg thereof was not emptied?

11. Call ye to mind from whence he came to this: “one He humbleth, and another He exalteth.”34223422     Ps. lxxv. 7. That which was figured to us in the Gospel through two men, a Pharisee and a Publican,34233423     Luke xviii. 10. this let us, taking in a wider sense, understand of two peoples, of Jews and of Gentiles: the people of the Jews that Pharisee was, the people of the Gentiles that Publican.…As those by being proud have withdrawn, so these by confessing have drawn near. The cup therefore full of pure wine in the hand of the Lord, as far as the Lord giveth me to understand,34243424     [Here he interpolates a noteworthy parenthesis; viz., “For there may be some other who may give a better interpretation, because the obscurity of the Scriptures is such that it is a difficult thing for them to produce but one interpretation. Nevertheless, whatever interpretation shall have been disclosed, it must needs accord with the rule of faith: we neither envy our elders, nor, little as we are, do we despair. What seemeth good to us I am telling Your Love, not that I may stop up your ears against others, who will perchance say something better.”—C.] …the cup of pure wine full of the mixed, seemeth to me to be the Law, which was given to the Jews, and all that Scripture of the Old Testament, as it is called; there are the weights of all manner of sentences. For therein the New Testament lieth concealed, as though in the dreg of corporal Sacraments. The circumcision of the flesh is a thing of great mystery,34253425     Sacramenti. and there is understood from thence the circumcision of the heart. The Temple of Jerusalem is a thing of great mystery, and there is understood from it the Body of the Lord. The land of promise34263426     Oxf. mss. “hath a great mystery, and.” is understood to be the Kingdom of Heaven. The sacrifice of victims and of beasts hath a great mystery: but in all those kinds of sacrifices is understood that one Sacrifice and only victim of the Cross, the Lord, instead of all which sacrifices we have one; because even those figured these, that is, with those these were figured. That people received the Law, they received commandments just and good.34273427     Exod. xx. 1–17. What is so just as, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not speak false testimony, honour thy father and mother, thou shalt not covet the property of thy neighbour, one God thou shalt adore, and Him alone thou shalt serve,34283428     Deut. vi. 4, 5, etc. all these things belong to the wine. But those things carnal have as it were sunk down in order that they might remain with them, and there might be poured forth from thence all the spiritual understanding. But “the cup in the hand of the Lord,” that is, in the power of the Lord: “of pure wine,” that is, of the mere Law: “is full of mixed,” that is, is together with the dreg of corporal Sacraments. And because the one He humbleth, the proud Jew, and the other He exalteth, the confessing Gentile; “He hath inclined from this unto this,” that is, from the Jewish people unto the Gentile people. Hath inclined what? The Law. There hath distilled from thence a spiritual sense. “Nevertheless, the dreg thereof hath not been emptied,” for all the carnal Sacraments have remained with the Jews. “There shall drink all the sinners of the earth.” Who shall drink? “All the sinners of the earth.” Who are the sinners of the earth? The Jews were indeed sinners, but proud: again, the Gentiles were sinners, but humble. All sinners shall drink, but see, who the dreg, who the wine. For those by drinking the dreg have come to nought: these by drinking the wine have been justified. I would dare to speak of them even as inebriated, and I shall not fear: and O that all ye were thus inebriated. Call to mind, “Thy cup inebriating, how passing beautiful!”34293429     Ps. xxiii. 5. But why? Do ye think, my brethren, that all those who by confessing Christ even willed to die, were sober? So drunk they were, that they knew not their friends. All their kindred, who strove to divert them from the hope of Heavenly rewards by earthly allurements, were not acknowledged, were not heard by them drunken. Were they not drunken, whose heart had been changed? Were they not drunken, whose mind had been alienated from this world? “There shall drink,” he saith, “all the sinners of the earth.” But who shall drink the wine? Sinners shall drink, but in order that they may not remain sinners; in order that they may be justified, in order that they may not be punished.

12. “But I,” for all drink, but separately I, that is, Christ with His Body, “for ever will rejoice, I will Psalm to the God of Jacob” (ver. 9): in that promise to be at the end, whereof is said, “corrupt not.”34303430     Vid. Title. “And all the horns of sinners I will break, and there shall be exalted the horns of the Just” (ver. 10). This is, the one He humbleth, the other He exalteth. Sinners would not have their horns to be broken, which without doubt will be broken at the end. Thou wilt not have Him then break them, do thou to-day break them. For thou hast heard above, do not despise it: “I have said to unjust men, Do not unjustly, and to the delinquents, Do not exalt the horn.”34313431     Ps. lxxv. 5. When thou hast heard, do not exalt the horn, thou hast despised and hast exalted the horn: thou shalt come to the end, where there shall come to pass, “All the horns of sinners I will break, and there shall be exalted the horns of the Just.” The horns of sinners are the dignities of proud men: the horns of the Just are the gifts of Christ. For by horns exultations are understood. Thou hatest on earth earthly exultation, in order that thou mayest have the heavenly. Thou lovest the earthly, He doth not admit thee to the Heavenly: and unto confusion will belong thy horn which is broken, just as unto glory it will belong, if thy horn is exalted. Now therefore there is time for making choice, then there will not be. Thou wilt not say, I will be let go and will make choice. For there have preceded the words, “I have said to the unjust.” If I have not said, make ready an excuse, make ready a defence: but if I have said, seize first upon confession, lest thou come unto damnation; for then confession will be too late, and there will be no defence.


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