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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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Psalm XIX.550550     Lat. XVIII.

To the end, a psalm of David himself.

1. It is a well-known title; nor does the Lord Jesus Christ say what follows, but it is said of Him.

2. “The heavens tell out the glory of God” (ver. 1). The righteous Evangelists, in whom, as in the heavens, God dwelleth, set forth the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, or the glory wherewith the Son glorified the Father upon earth. “And the firmament showeth forth the works of His hands.” And the firmament showeth forth the deeds of the Lord’s power, that now made heaven by the assurance of the Holy Ghost, which before was earth by fear.

3. “Day unto day uttereth word” (ver. 2). To the spiritual the Spirit giveth out the fulness of the unchangeable Wisdom of God, the Word which in the beginning is God with God.551551     John i. 1. “And night unto night announceth knowledge.” And to the fleshly, as to those afar off, the mortality of the flesh, by conveying faith, announceth future knowledge.

4. “There is no speech nor language, in which their voices are not heard” (ver. 3). In which the voices of the Evangelists have not been heard, seeing that the Gospel was preached in every tongue.

5. “Their sound is gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world”552552     [Rom. x. 18. “And therefore are we even speaking here” says our author in his second homily (omitted) on this Psalm.—C.] (ver. 4).

6. “In the sun hath He set His tabernacle.” Now that He might war against the powers of temporal error, the Lord, being about to send not peace but a sword on earth,553553     Matt. x. 34. in time, or in manifestation, set so to say His military dwelling, that is, the dispensation of His incarnation. “And He as a bridegroom coming forth out of His chamber” (ver. 5). And He, coming forth out of the Virgin’s womb, where God was united to man’s nature as a bridegroom to a bride. “Rejoiced as a giant to run His way.” Rejoiced as One exceeding strong, and surpassing all other men in power incomparable, not to inhabit, but to run His way. For, “He stood not in the way of sinners.”554554     Ps. i. 1.

7. “His going forth is from the highest heaven” (ver. 6). From the Father is His going forth, not that in time, but from everlasting, whereby He was born of the Father. “And His meeting is even to the height of heaven.” And in the fulness of the Godhead He meets even to an equality with the Father.555555     Vid. in Psalm lviii (lix. E.V.). Enarrat. i. § 10. “And there is none that may hide himself from His heat.” But whereas, “the Word was even made flesh, and dwelt in us,”556556     John i. 14. assuming our mortality, He permitted no man to excuse himself from the shadow of death; for the heat of the Word penetrated even it.

8. “The law of the Lord is undefiled, converting souls” (ver. 7). The law of the Lord, therefore, is Himself who came to fulfil the law, not to destroy it;557557     Matt. v. 17. an undefiled law, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,”558558     1 Pet. ii. 22. not oppressing souls with the yoke of bondage, but converting them to imitate Him in liberty. “The testimony of the Lord is sure, giving wisdom to babes.” “The testimony of the Lord is sure;” for, “no man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him,”559559     Matt. xi. 27. which things have been hidden from the wise and revealed to babes;560560     Luke x. 21. for, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.”561561     Jas. iv. 6.

9. “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (ver. 8). All the statutes of the Lord are right in Him who taught not what He did not; that they who should imitate Him might rejoice in heart, in those things which they should do freely with love, not slavishly with fear. “The commandment of the Lord is lucid, enlightening the eyes.” “The commandment of the Lord is lucid,” with no veil of carnal observances, enlightening the sight of the inner man.

10. “The fear of the Lord is chaste, enduring for ever” (ver. 9). “The fear of the Lord;” not that distressing562562     Pœnalis. fear under the law, dreading exceedingly the withdrawal of temporal goods, by the love of which the soul commits fornication; but that chaste fear wherewith the Church, the more ardently she loves her Spouse, the more carefully does she take heed of offending Him, and therefore, “perfect love casteth” not “out” this “fear,”563563     1 John iv. 18. but it endureth for ever.

11. “The judgments of the Lord are true, justified together.” The judgments of Him, who “judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son,”564564     John v. 22. are justified in truth unchangeably. For neither in His threatenings nor His promises doth God deceive any man, nor can any withdraw either from the ungodly His punishment, or from the godly His reward. “To be desired more than gold, and much precious stone” (ver. 10). Whether it be “gold and stone itself much,” or “much precious,” or “much to be desired;” still, the judgments of God are to be desired more than the pomp of this world; by desire of which it is brought to pass that the judgments of God are not desired, but feared, or despised, or not believed. But if any be himself gold and precious stone, that he may not be consumed by fire, but received into the treasury of God, more than himself does he desire the judgments of God, whose will he preferreth to his own. “And sweeter than honey and the honey comb.” And whether one be even now honey, who, disenthralled already from the chains of this life, is awaiting the day when he may come up to God’s feast; or whether he be yet as the honey comb, wrapped about with this life as it were with wax, not mixed and become one with it, but filling it, needing some pressure of God’s hand, not oppressing but expressing it, whereby from life temporal it may be strained out into life eternal: to such an one the judgments of God are sweeter than he himself is to himself, for that they are “sweeter than honey and the honey comb.”

12. “For Thy servant keepeth them” (ver. 11). For to him who keepeth them not the day of the Lord is bitter. “In keeping them there is great reward.” Not in any external benefit, but in the thing itself, that God’s judgments are kept, is there great reward; great because one rejoiceth therein.

13. “Who understandeth sins?” (ver. 12.) But what sort of sweetness can there be in sins, where there is no understanding? For who can understand sins, which close the very eye, to which truth is pleasant, to which the judgments of God are desirable and sweet? yea, as darkness closes the eye, so do sins the mind, and suffer it not to see either the light, or itself.

14. “Cleanse me, O Lord, from my secret faults.” From the lusts which lie hid in me, cleanse me, O Lord. “And from the” faults “of others preserve Thy servant” (ver. 13). Let me not be led astray by others. For he is not a prey to the faults of others, who is cleansed from his own. Preserve therefore from the lusts of others, not the proud man, and him who would be his own master, but, Thy servant. “If they get not the dominion over me, then shall I be undefiled.” If neither my own secret sins, nor those of others, get the dominion over me, then shall I be undefiled. For there is no third source of sin, but one’s own secret sin, by which the devil fell, and another’s sin, by which man is seduced, so as by consenting to make it his own. “And I shall be cleansed from the great offence.” What but pride? for there is none greater than apostasy from God, which is “the beginning of the pride of man.”565565     Ecclus. x. 12. And he shall indeed be undefiled, who is free from this offence also; for this is the last to them who are returning to God, which was the first as they departed from Him.

15. “And the words of my mouth shall be pleasing, and the meditation of my heart is always in Thy sight” (ver. 14). The meditation of my heart is not after the vain glory of pleasing men, for now there is pride no more, but in Thy sight alway, who regardest a pure conscience. “O Lord, my Helper, and my Redeemer”566566     [Here the word is rendered “Redeemer” in the Septuagint, and is the same in the Hebrew as in Job xix. 25.—C.] (ver. 15). O Lord, my Helper, in my approach to Thee; for Thou art my Redeemer, that I might set out unto Thee: lest any attributing to his own wisdom his conversion to Thee, or to his own strength his attaining to Thee, should be rather driven back by Thee, who resistest the proud; for he is not cleansed from the great offence, nor pleasing in Thy sight, who redeemest us that we may be converted, and helpest us that we may attain unto Thee.


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