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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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Psalm XL.10871087     Lat. XXXIX.

1. Of all those things which our Lord Jesus Christ has foretold, we know part to have been already accomplished, part we hope will be accomplished hereafter. All of them, however, will be fulfilled, because He is “the Truth” who speaks them, and requires of us to be as “faithful,” as He Himself speaks them faithfully.…

2. Let us say then what this Psalm says. “I waited patiently for the Lord” (ver. 1). I waited patiently for the promise of no mere mortal who can both deceive and be himself deceived: I waited for the consolation of no mere mortal, who may be consumed by sorrow of his own, before he gives me comfort. Should a brother mortal attempt to comfort me, when he himself is in sorrow likewise? Let us mourn in company; let us weep together, let us “wait patiently” together, let us join our prayers together also. Whom did I wait for but for the Lord? The Lord, who though He puts off the fulfilment of His promises, yet never recalls them? He will make it good; assuredly He will make it good, because He has made many of His promises good already: and of God’s truth we ought to have no fears, even if as yet He had made none of them good. Lo! let us henceforth think thus, “He has promised us everything; He has not as yet given us possession of anything; He is a sponsible Promiser; a faithful Paymaster: do you but show yourself a dutiful exactor of what is promised; and if you be “weak,” if you be one of the little ones, claim the promise of His mercy. Do you not see tender10881088     Al. “very small.” lambs striking their dams’ teats with their heads, in order that they may get their fill of milk?…“And He took heed unto me, and heard my cry.” He took heed to it, and He heard it. See thou hast not waited in vain. His eyes are over thee. His ears turned towards thee. For, “the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry.”10891089     Ps. xxxiv. 15. What then? Did He not see thee, when thou usedst to do evil and to blaspheme Him? What then becomes of what is said in that very Psalm, “The face of the Lord is upon them that do evil”?10901090     Ps. xxxiv. 16. E.V. “against.” Lat. Vulgate, super. But for what end? “that He may cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” Therefore, even when thou wert wicked, He “took heed of thee;” but He “took no heed to thee.”10911091     Attendebat te; sed non attendebat tibi. So then to him who “waited patiently for the Lord,” it was not enough to say, “He took heed of me, He says, “He took heed to me;” that is, He took heed by comforting me, that He might do me good. What was it that He took heed to? “and He heard my cry.”

3. And what hath He accomplished for thee? What hath He done for thee? “He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings” (ver. 2). He hath given us great blessings already: and still He is our debtor; but let him who hath this part of the debt repaid already, believe that the rest will be also, seeing that he ought to have believed even before he received anything. Our Lord has employed facts themselves to persuade us, that He is a faithful promiser, a liberal giver. What then has He already done? “He has brought me out of a horrible pit.” What horrible pit is that? It is the depth of iniquity, from the lusts of the flesh, for this is meant by “the miry clay.”10921092     Or thus, “What horrible pit is that? It is the depth of iniquity. From the lusts of the flesh, for this is meant by the ‘miry clay.’” Whence hath He brought thee out? Out of a certain deep, out of which thou criedst out in another Psalm, “Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord.”10931093     Ps. cxxx. 1. And those who are already “crying out of the deep,” are not absolutely in the lowest deep: the very act of crying is already lifting them up. There are some deeper in the deep, who do not even perceive themselves to be in the deep. Such are those who are proud despisers, not pious entreaters for pardon; not tearful criers for mercy: but such as Scripture thus describes. “The sinner10941094     Eng. Vers. “When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt.” when he comes into the depth of evil despiseth.”10951095     Prov. xviii. 3. For he is deeper in the deep, who is not satisfied with being a sinner, unless instead of confessing he even defends his sins. But he who has already “cried out of the deep,” hath already lifted up his head in order that he might “cry out of the deep,” has been heard already, and has been “brought out of the horrible pit, and out of the mire and clay.” He already has faith, which he had not before; he has hope, which he was before without; he now walks in Christ, who before used to go astray in the devil. For on that account it is that he says, “He hath set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” Now “that Rock was Christ.”10961096     1 Cor. x. 4. Supposing that we are “upon the rock,” and that our “goings are ordered,” still it is necessary that we continue to walk; that we advance to something farther. For what did the Apostle Paul say when now upon the Rock, when his “goings had now been established”? “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended.”10971097     Phil. iii. 12, 13. What then has been done for thee, if thou hast not apprehended? On what account dost thou return thanks, saying, “But I have obtained mercy”?10981098     1 Tim. i. 13. Because his goings are now established, because he now walks on the Rock?…Therefore, when he was saying, “I press forward toward the prize of my high calling,” because “his feet were now set on the Rock,” and “his goings were ordered,” because he was now walking on the right way, he had something to return thanks for; something to ask for still; returning thanks for what he had received already, while he was claiming that which still remained due. For what things already received was he giving thanks? For the remission of sins, for the illumination of faith; for the strong support of hope, for the fire of charity. But in what respects had he still a claim of debt on the Lord? “Henceforth,” he says, “there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” There is therefore something due me still. What is it that is due? “A crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.” He was at first a loving Father to “bring him forth from the horrible pit;” to forgive his sins, to rescue him from “the mire and clay;” hereafter he will be a “righteous Judge,” requiting to him walking rightly, what He promised; to him (I say), unto whom He had at the first granted that power to walk rightly. He then as a “righteous Judge” will repay; but whom will he repay? “He that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved.”10991099     Matt. x. 22.

4. “And He hath put a new song in my mouth.” What new song is this? “Even a hymn unto our God” (ver. 3). Perhaps you used to sing hymns to strange gods; old hymns, because they were uttered by the “old man,” not by the “new man;” let the “new man” be formed, and let him sing a “new song;” being himself made “new,” let him love those “new” things by which he is himself made new. For what is more Ancient than God, who is before all things, and is without end and without beginning? He becomes “new” to thee, when thou returnest to Him; because it was by departing from Him, that thou hadst become old; and hadst said, “I have waxed old because of all mine enemies.”11001100     Ps. vi. 7. We therefore utter “a hymn unto our God;” and the hymn itself sets us free. “For I will call upon the Lord to praise Him, and I will be safe from all mine enemies.” For a hymn is a song of praise. Call on God to “praise” Him, not to find fault with Him.…

5. If haply any one asks, what person is speaking in this Psalm? I would say briefly, “It is Christ.” But as ye know, brethren, and as we must say frequently, Christ sometimes speaks in His own Person, in the Person of our Head. For He Himself is “the Saviour of the Body.”11011101     Eph. v. 23. He is our Head; the Son of God, who was born of the Virgin, suffered for us, “rose again for our justification,” sitteth “at the right hand of God,” to “make intercession for us:”11021102     Rom. viii. 34. who is also to recompense to the evil and to the good, in the judgment, all the evil and the good that they have done. He deigned to be come our Head; to become “the Head of the Body,” by taking of us that flesh in which He should die for us; that flesh which He also raised up again for our sakes, that in that flesh He might place before us an instance of the resurrection; that we might learn to hope for that of which we heretofore despaired, and might henceforth have our feet upon the rock, and might walk in Christ. He then sometimes speaks in the name of our Head; sometimes also He speaks of us who are His members. For both when He said, “I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat,”11031103     Matt. xxv. 35. He spoke on behalf of His members, not of Himself: and when He said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?”11041104     Acts ix. 4. the Head was crying on behalf of its members: and yet He did not say, “Why dost thou persecute My members?” but, “Why persecutest thou Me?” If He suffers in us, then shall we also be crowned in Him. Such is the love of Christ. What is there can be compared to this? This is the thing on account of which “He hath put a hymn in our mouth,” and this He speaks on behalf of His members.

6. “The just shall see, and shall fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” “The just shall see.” Who are the just? The faithful; because it is “by faith that the just shall live.”11051105     Hab. ii. 4. For there is in the Church this order, some go before, others follow; and those who go before make themselves “an example” to those who follow; and those who follow imitate those who go before. But do those then follow no one, who exhibit themselves as an ensample to them that come after? If they follow no one at all, they will fall into error. These persons then must themselves also follow some one, that is, Christ Himself.…“The just,” therefore, “shall see, and shall fear.” They see a narrow way on the one hand; on the other side, “a broad road:” on this side they see few, on the other many. But thou art a just man; count them not, but weigh them; bring “a just balance,” not a “deceitful” one: because thou art called just. “The just shall see, and fear,” applies to thee. Count not therefore the multitudes of men that are filling the “broad ways,” that are to fill the circus tomorrow; celebrating with shouts the City’s Anniversary, 11061106     Civitatis Natalem. while they defile the City itself by evil living. Look not at them; they are many in number; and who can count them? But there are a few travelling along the narrow road. Bring forth the balance, I say. Weigh them; see what a quantity of chaff you lift up on the one side, against a few grains of corn on the other. Let this be done by “the just,” the “believers,” who are to follow. And what shall they who precede do? Let them not be proud, let them not “exalt themselves;” let them not deceive those who follow them. How may they deceive those who follow them? By promising them salvation in themselves. What then ought those who follow to do? “The just shall see, and fear: and shall trust in the Lord;” not in those who go before them. But indeed they fix their eyes on those who go before them, and follow and imitate them; but they do so, because they consider from Whom they have received the grace to go before them; and because they trust in Him. 11071107     [A clear exposition of the Catholic (Nicene) doctrine concerning the merits of the saints.—C.] Although therefore they make these their models, they place their trust in Him from whom the others have received the grace whereby they are such as they are. “The just shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” Just as in another Psalm, “I lift up mine eyes unto the hills,”11081108     Ps. cxxi. 1. we understand by hills, all distinguished and great spiritual persons in the Church; great in solidity, not by swollen inflation. By these it is that all Scripture hath been dispensed unto us; they are the Prophets, they are the Evangelists; they are sound Doctors: to these “I lift up mine eyes, from whence shall come my help.” And lest you should think of mere human help, he goes on to say, “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. The just shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.”…

7. “Blessed is that man that maketh the name of the Lord his trust, and hath not respected vanities or lying madnesses” (ver. 4). Behold the way by which thou wouldest fain have gone. Behold the “multitude that fill the Broad way.”11091109     A street perhaps so named. It is not without reason “that” road leads to the amphitheatre. It is not without reason it leads to Death. The “broad way” leads unto death,11101110     Matt. vii. 13. its breadth delights for time: its end is straitness to all eternity. Aye; but the multitudes murmur; the multitudes are rejoicing together; the multitudes are hastening along; the multitudes are flocking together! Do not thou imitate them; do not turn aside after them: they are “vanities, and lying madnesses.” Let the Lord thy God be thy hope. Hope for nothing else from the Lord thy God; but let the Lord thy God Himself be thine hope. For many persons hope to obtain from God’s hands riches, and many perishable and transitory honours; and, in short, anything else they hope to obtain at God’s hands, except only God Himself. But do thou seek after thy God Himself: nay, indeed, despising all things else, make thy way unto Him! Forget other things, remember Him. Leave other things behind, and “press forward”11111111     Phil. iii. 14. unto Him. Surely it is He Himself, who set thee right, when turned away from the right path; who, now that thou art set in the right path, guides thee aright, who guides thee to thy destination. Let Him then be thy hope, who both guides thee, and guides thee to thy destination. Whither does worldly covetousness lead thee? And to what point does it conduct thee at the last? Thou didst at first desire a farm; then thou wouldest possess an estate; thou wouldest shut out thy neighbours; having shut them out, thou didst set thy heart on the possessions of other neighbours; and didst extend thy covetous desires till thou hadst reached the shore: arriving at the shore, thou covetest the islands: having made the earth thine own, thou wouldest haply seize upon heaven. Leave thou all thy loves. He who made heaven and earth is more beautiful than all.

8. “Blessed is the man that maketh the name of the Lord his hope, and who hath not regarded vanities and lying madnesses.” For whence is it that “madness” is called “lying”? Insanity is a lying thing, even as it is sanity that sees the Truth. For what thou seest as good things,11121112     mss. want putas; with it, the sense is, “What you see, you think to be good things.” thou art deceived; thou art not in thy sound senses: a violent fever has driven thee to frenzy: that which thou art in love with is not a reality. Thou applaudest the charioteer; thou cheerest the charioteer; thou art madly in love with the charioteer. It is “vanity;” it is “a lying madness.” “It is ‘not’” (he cries). “Nothing can be better; nothing more delightful.” What can I do for one in a state of high fever? Pray ye for such persons, if you have any feelings of compassion in you. For the physician himself also in a desperate case generally turns to those in the house, who stand around weeping; who are hanging on his lips to hear his opinion of the patient who is sick and in danger. The physician stands in a state of doubt: he sees not any good to promise; he fears to pronounce evil, lest he should excite alarm. He devises a thoroughly modest sentence: “The good God can do all things. Pray ye for him.” Which then of these madmen shall I check? Which of them will listen to me? Which of them would not call us miserable? Because they suppose us to have lost great and various pleasures, of which they are madly fond, in that we are not as madly in love with them as they are: and they do not see that they are “lying” pleasures.…“And hath not respected vanities, and lying madnesses.” “Such a one has won,” he cries; “he harnessed such and such a horse,” he proclaims aloud. He would fain be a kind of diviner; he aspires to the honours of divination by abandoning the fountain of Divinity; and he frequently pronounces an opinion, and is frequently mistaken. Why is this? Even because they are “lying madnesses.” But why is it that what they say sometimes comes true? That they may lead astray the foolish ones; that by loving the semblance of truth there, they may fall into the snare of falsehood: let them be left behind, let them be “given over,” let them be “cut off.” If they were members of us, they must be mortified. “Mortify,” he says, “your members which are upon the earth.”11131113     Col. iii. 5. Let our God be our hope. He who made all things, is better than all! He who made what is beautiful, is more beautiful than all that is such. He who made whatever is mighty, is Himself mightier. He who made whatever is great, is Himself greater. He will be unto you everything that you love. Learn in the creature to love the Creator; and in the work Him who made it. Let not that which has been made by Him detain thine affections, so that thou shouldest lose Him by whom thou thyself wert made also. “Blessed,” then, “is the man that maketh the Name of the Lord his trust, and hath not respected vanities and lying madnesses.”…

9. We will give him other sights in exchange for such sights as these. And what sights shall we present to the Christian, whom we would fain divert from those sights? I thank the Lord our God; He in the following verse of the Psalm hath shown us what sights we ought to present and offer to spectators who would fain have sights to see? Let us now suppose him to be weaned from the circus, the theatre, the amphitheatre; let him be looking after, let him by all means be looking after, some sight to see; we do not leave him without a spectacle. What then shall we give in exchange for those? Hear what follows.

“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonderful works which Thou hast made” (ver. 5). He used to gaze at the “wonderful works” of man; let him now contemplate the wonderful works of God. “Many are the wonderful works” that God “has made.” Why are they become vile in his eyes? He praises the charioteer guiding four horses; running all of them without fault and without stumbling. Perhaps the Lord has not made such “wonderful works” in things spiritual. Let him control lust,11141114     Luxuriam. let him control cowardice,11151115     Ignaviam. let him control injustice, let him control imprudence, I mean, the passions which falling into excess produce those vices; let him control these and bring them into subjection, and let him hold the reins, and not suffer himself to be carried away; let him guide them the way he himself would have them go; let him not be forced away whither he would not. He used to applaud the charioteer, he himself shall be applauded for his own charioteering; he used to call out that the charioteer should be invested with a dress of honour; he shall himself be clothed with immortality. These are the spectacles, these the sights that God exhibits to us. He cries out of heaven, “My eyes are upon you. Strive, and ‘I will’ assist you; triumph, and I will crown you.”

“And in Thy thought there is none that is like unto Thee.” Now then look at the actor! For the man hath by dint of great pains learnt to walk upon a rope; and hanging there he holds thee hanging in suspense. Turn to Him who exhibits spectacles far more wonderful. This man hath learned to walk upon the rope; but hath he caused another to walk on the sea? Forget now thy theatre; behold our Peter; not a walker on the rope, but, so to speak, a walker on the sea. 11161116     Mariambulum. And do thou also walk on other waters (though not on those on which Peter walked, to symbolize a certain truth), for this world is a sea. It hath a deleterious bitterness; it hath the waves of tribulations, the tempests of temptations; it hath men in it who, like fish, delight in their own ruin, and prey upon each other; walk thou here, set thou thy foot on this. Thou wouldest see sights; be thyself a “spectacle.” That thy spirit may not sink, look on Him who goes before thee, and says, “We have been made a spectacle unto this world, and unto angels, and unto men.”11171117     1 Cor. iv. 9. Tread thou on the waters; suffer not thyself to be drowned in the sea. Thou wilt not go there, thou wilt not “tread it under foot,” unless it be His bidding, who was Himself the first to walk upon the sea. For it was thus that Peter spoke. “If Thou art, bid me come unto Thee on the waters.”11181118     Matt. xiv. 28. And because “He was,” He heard him when praying; He granted his wish to him when expressing his desire; He raised him up when sinking. These are the “wonderful works” that the “Lord hath made.” Look on them; let faith be the eye of him who would behold them. And do thou also likewise; for although the winds alarm thee, though the waves rage against thee, and though human frailty may have inspired thee with some doubt of thy salvation, thou hast it in thy power to “cry out,” thou mayest say “Lord, I perish.”11191119     Matt. xiv. 30. He who bids thee walk there, suffers thee not to perish. For in that thou now walkest “on the Rock,” thou fearest not even on the sea! If thou art without “the Rock,” thou must sink in the sea; for the Rock on which thou must walk is such an one as is not sunk in the sea,

10. Observe then the “wonderful works” of God. “I have declared, and have spoken; they are multiplied beyond number.” There is “a number,” there are some over and above the number. There is a fixed number that belongs to that heavenly Jerusalem. For “the Lord knoweth them that are His;”11201120     2 Tim. ii. 19. the Christians that fear Him, the Christians that believe, the Christians that keep the commandments, that walk in God’s ways, that keep themselves from sins; that if they fall confess: they belong to “the number.” But are they the only ones? There are also some “beyond the number.” For even if they be but a few (a few in comparison of the numbers of the larger majority), with how great numbers are our Churches filled, crowded up to the very walls; to what a degree do they annoy each other by the pressure, and almost choke each other by their overflowing numbers. Again, out of these very same persons, when there is a public spectacle,11211121     Munus. there are numbers flocking to the amphitheatre; these are over and above “the number.” But it is for this reason that we say this, that they may be in “the number.” Not being present, they do not hear this from us; but when ye have gone from hence, let them hear it from you. “I have declared,” he says, “and have spoken.” It is Christ who speaks. “He hath declared it,” in His own Person, as our Head. He hath Himself declared it by His members. He Himself hath sent those who should “declare” it; He Himself hath sent the Apostles. “Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.”11221122     Ps. xix. 4. How great the number of believers that are gathered together; how great the multitudes that flock together; many of them truly converted, many but in appearance: and those who are truly converted are the minority; those who are so but in appearance are the majority: because “they are multiplied beyond the number.”

11. …These are the “wonderful works” of God; these are the “thoughts” of God, to which “no man’s thoughts are like;” that the lover of sight-seeing may be weaned from curiosity:11231123     Al. “may be drawn to curiosity. and with us may seek after those more excellent, those more profitable things, in which, when he shall have attained unto them, he will rejoice.…

12. “Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire” (ver. 6), saith the Psalm to God. For the men of old time, when as yet the true Sacrifice, which is known to the faithful, was foreshown in figures, used to celebrate rites that were figures of the reality that was to be hereafter; many of them understanding their meaning; but more of them in ignorance of it. For the Prophets and the holy Patriarchs understood what they were celebrating; but the rest of the “stiff-necked people” were so carnal, that what was done by them was but to symbolize the things that were to come afterwards; and it came to pass,11241124     Et venit. Some mss. en venit veritas, “Lo, the Truth came,” which makes easier sense. when that first sacrifice was abolished; when the burnt-offerings of “rams, of goats, and of calves,” and of other victims, had been abolished, “God did not desire them.” Why did God not desire them? And why did He at the first desire them? Because all those things were, as it were, the words of a person making a promise; and the expressions conveying a promise, when the thing that they promise is come, are no longer uttered.…Those sacrifices then, as being but expressions of a promise, have been abrogated. What is that which has been given as its fulfilment? That “Body;” which ye know; which ye do not all of you know; which, of you who do know it, I pray God all may not know it unto condemnation. Observe the time when it was said; for the person is Christ our Lord, speaking at one time for His members, at another in His own person. “Sacrifice and offering,” said He, “Thou didst not desire.” What then? Are we left at this present time without a sacrifice? God forbid!

“But a Body hast Thou perfected for me.”11251125     Corpus perfecisti, Augustin; aures perfecisti, Vulgate; corpus aptasti, Heb. x. 5, Vulgate. It was for this reason that Thou didst not desire the others; that Thou mightest “perfect” this; before Thou “perfectedst” this, Thou didst desire the others. The fulfilment of the promise has done away with the words that express the promise. For if they still hold out a promise, that which was promised is not yet fulfilled. This was promised by certain signs; the signs that convey the promise are done away; because the Substance that was promised is come. We are in this “Body.” We are partakers of this “Body.” We know that which we ourselves receive; and ye who know it not yet, will know it bye and bye; and when ye come to know it, I pray ye may not receive it unto condemnation.11261126     Judicium. So Vulgate. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation unto himself.”11271127     1 Cor. xi. 29. “A Body” hath been “perfected” for us; let us be made perfect in the Body.

13. “Burnt-offerings also for sin hast Thou not required.” “Then said I, Lo, I come!” (ver. 7). It is time that what “was promised should come;” because the signs, by means of which they were promised, have been put away. And indeed, Brethren, observe these put away; those fulfilled. Let the Jewish nation at this time show me their priest, if they can! Where are their sacrifices? They are brought to an end; 11281128     Perierunt. they are put away now. Should we at that time have rejected them?11291129     Reprobaremus. We do reject them now; because, if you chose to celebrate them now, it were unseasonable;11301130     Intemporale. unfitting at the time; incongruous. You are still making promises; I have already received! There has remained to them a certain thing for them to celebrate; that they might not remain altogether without a sign.…In such a case then are they; like Cain with his mark. The sacrifices, however, which used to be performed there, have been put away; and that which remained unto them for a sign like that of Cain, hath by this time been fulfilled; and they know it not. They slay the Lamb; they eat the unleavened bread. “Christ has been sacrificed for us, as our Passover.”11311131     1 Cor. v. 7. Lo, in the sacrifice of Christ, I recognise the Lamb that was slain! What of the unleavened bread? “Therefore,” says he, “let us keep the feast; not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of wickedness” (he shows what is meant by “old;” it is “stale” flour; it is sour), “but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”11321132     1 Cor. v. 8. They have continued in the shade; they cannot abide the Sun of Glory. We are already in the light of day. We have “the Body” of Christ, we have the Blood of Christ. If we have a new life, let us “sing a new song, even a hymn unto our God.”11331133     Supra, ver. 3. “Burnt offerings for sin Thou didst not desire. Then said I, Lo, I come!”

14. “In the head11341134     Capite. of the Book it is written of me, that I should fulfil Thy will: O my God, I am willing, and Thy Law is within my heart” (ver. 8). Behold! He turns His regards to His members. Behold! He hath Himself “fulfilled the will” of the Father. But in what “beginning11351135     Capite. of a Book” is it written of Him? Perhaps in the beginning of this Book of Psalms. For why should we seek far for it, or examine into other books for it? Behold! It is written in the beginning of this Book of Psalms! “His will is in the Law of the Lord;”11361136     Ps. i. 2. that is, “‘O my God, I am willing,’ and ‘Thy Law is within my heart;’” that is the same as, “And in His Law doth he meditate day and night.”

15. “I have well declared Thy righteousness in the great congregation” (ver. 9). He now addresses His members. He is exhorting them to do what He has already done. He has “declared;” let us declare also. He has suffered; let us “suffer with Him.” He has been glorified; we shall be “glorified with Him.”11371137     Rom. viii. 17. “I have declared Thy righteousness in the great congregation.” How great an one is that? In all the world. How great is it? Even among all nations. Why among all nations? Because He is “the Seed of Abraham, in whom all nations shall be blessed.”11381138     Gen. xxii. 18. Why among all nations? “Because their sound hath gone forth into all lands.”11391139     Ps. xix. 4. “Lo! I will not refrain my lips, O Lord, and that Thou knowest.” My lips speak; I will not “refrain” them from speaking. My lips indeed sound audibly in the ears of men; but “Thou knowest” mine heart. “I will not refrain my lips, O Lord; that Thou knowest.” It is one thing that man heareth; another that God “knoweth.” That the “declaring” of it should not be confined to the lips alone, and that it might not be said of us, “Whatsoever things they say unto you, do; but do not after their works;”11401140     Matt. xxiii. 3. or lest it should be said to the people, “praising God with their lips, but not with their heart,” “This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me;”11411141     Isa. xxix. 31. do thou make audible confession with thy lips; draw nigh with thine heart also.11421142     Sona labiis, propinqua corde. [Audible confession, in the great congregation, was the primitive discipline. But St. Chrysostom, who teaches the like discipline, urges to private penitence before God as all-sufficient. Hom. xxxi. In Hebr. tom. xii. p. 216, ed. Migne.—C.] “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”11431143     Rom. x. 10. In case like unto which that thief was found, who, hanging on the Cross with the Lord, did on the Cross acknowledge the Lord. Others had refused to acknowledge Him while working miracles; this man acknowledged Him when hanging on the Cross. That thief had every other member pierced through; his hands were fastened by the nails; his feet were pierced also; his whole body was fastened to the tree; the body was not disengaged in its other members; the heart and the tongue were disengaged;11441144     Corpus illud non vacabat cæteris membris; lingua vacabat et cor. “with the heart” he “believed; with the tongue” he made “confession.” “Remember me, O Lord,” he said, “when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” He hoped for the coming of his salvation at a time far remote; he was content to receive it after a long delay; his hope rested on an object far remote. The day, however, was not postponed! The answer was, “This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”11451145     Luke xxiii. 42, etc. Paradise hath happy trees! This day hast thou been with Me on “the Tree” of the Cross. This day shalt thou be with Me on “the Tree” of Salvation.…

16. “I have not hid my11461146     E.V. “Thy.” So Vulgate also, tuam. righteousness within my heart” (ver. 10). What is meant by “my righteousness”? My faith. For, “the just shall live by faith.”11471147     Hab. ii. 4; Rom. i. 17. As suppose the persecutor under threat of punishment, as they were once allowed to do, puts you to the question, “What art thou? Pagan or Christian?” “A Christian.” That is his “righteousness.” He believeth; he “lives by faith.” He doth not “hide his righteousness within his heart.” He has not said in his heart, “I do indeed believe in Christ; but I will not tell what I believe to this persecutor, who is raging against me, and threatening me. My God knoweth that inwardly, within my heart, I do believe. He knoweth that I renounce Him not.” Lo! you say that you have this inwardly within your heart! What have you upon your lips? “I am not a Christian.” Your lips bear witness against your heart. “I have not hid my righteousness within my heart.”…

17. “I have declared Thy Truth and Thy Salvation.” I have declared Thy Christ. This is the meaning of, “I have declared Thy Truth and Thy Salvation.” How is “Thy Truth” Christ? “I am the Truth.”11481148     John xiv. 6. How is Christ “His Salvation”? Simeon recognised the infant in His Mother’s hands in the Temple, and said, “For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation.”11491149     Luke ii. 30. The old man recognised the little child; the old man having himself “become a little child”11501150     Factus in puero puer. He alludes to Matt. xviii. 3, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children.” in that infant, having been renewed by faith. For he had received an oracle from God; and it said this, “The Lord had said unto him, that he was not to depart out of this life, until he had seen the “Salvation of God.” This “Salvation of God” it is a good thing to have shown unto men; but let them cry, “Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy Salvation.”…

18. “I have not concealed Thy mercy and Thy Truth from the great congregation.” Let us be there; let us also be numbered among the members of this Body: let us not keep back “the mercy” of the Lord, and “the Truth” of the Lord. Wouldest thou hear what “the mercy of the Lord” is? Depart from thy sins; He will forgive thy sins. Wouldest thou hear what “the truth” of the Lord is? Hold fast righteousness. Thy righteousness shall receive a crown. For mercy is announced to you now; “Truth” is to be shown unto thee hereafter. For God is not merciful in such a way as not to be just, nor just in such a way as not to be merciful. Does that mercy seem to thee an inconsiderable one? He will not impute unto thee all thy former sins: thou hast lived ill up to this present day; thou art still living; this day live well; then thou wilt not “conceal” this “mercy.” If this is meant by “mercy,” what is meant by “truth”?…

19. “Remove not Thou Thy mercies far from me, O Lord” (ver. 11). He is turning his attention to the wounded members. Because I have not “concealed Thy mercy and Thy Truth from the great congregation,” from the Unity of the Universal Church, look Thou on Thy afflicted members, look on those who are guilty of sins of omission, and on those who are guilty of sins of commission: and withhold not Thou Thy mercies. “Thy mercy and Thy Truth have continually preserved me.” I should not dare to turn from my evil way, were I not assured of remission; I could not endure so as to persevere, if I were not assured of the fulfilment of Thy promise.…

“Innumerable evils have compassed me about” (ver. 12). Who can number sins? Who can count his own sins, and those of others? A burden under which he was groaning, who said, “Cleanse Thou me from my secret faults; and from the faults of others, spare Thou Thy servant, O Lord.”11511151     Ps. xix. 12. Our own are too little; those “of others” are added to the burden. I fear for myself; I fear for a virtuous brother, I have to bear with a wicked brother; and under such burthen what shall we be, if God’s mercy were to fail? “But Thou, Lord, remove not afar off.” Be Thou near unto us! To whom is the Lord near? “Even” unto them that “are of a broken heart.”11521152     Ps. xxxiv. 18; Isa. lvii. 15. He is far from the proud: He is near to the humble. “For though the Lord is high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly.”11531153     Ps. cxxxviii. 6. But let not those that are proud think themselves to be unobserved: for the things that are high, He “beholdeth afar off.” He “beheld afar off” the Pharisee, who boasted himself; He was near at hand to succour the Publican, who made confession.11541154     Luke xviii. 9–14. The one extolled his own merits, and concealed his wounds; the other boasted not of his merits, but laid bare his wounds. He came to the Physician; he knew that he was sick, and that he required to be made whole; he “dared not lift up his eyes to Heaven: he smote upon his breast.” He spared not himself, that God might spare him; he acknowledged himself guilty, that God might “ignore” the charge against him. He punished himself, that God might free him from punishment.…

20. “Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I could not see.” There is a something for us “to see;” what prevents us so that we see it not? Is it not iniquity? From beholding this light11551155     Natural light. your eye is prevented perhaps by some humour penetrating into it; perhaps by smoke, or dust, or by something else that has been thrown into it: and you have not been able to raise your wounded eye to contemplate this light of day. What then? Will you be able to lift up your wounded heart unto God? Must it not be first healed, in order that thou mayest see? Do you not show your pride, when you say, “First let me see, and then I will believe”? Who is there who says this? For who that would fain see, says, “Let me see, and then I will believe”? I am about to manifest the Light unto thee; or rather the Light Itself would fain manifest Itself to thee! To whom? It cannot manifest Itself to the blind. He does not see. Whence is it that he seeth not? It is that the eye is clogged by the multitude of sins.…

21. “They are more than the hairs of my head.” He subjects the number of the “hairs of his head” to calculation. Who is there can calculate the number of the hairs of his head? Much less can he tell the number of his sins, which exceed the number of the hairs of his head. They seem to be minute; but they are many in number. You have guarded against great ones; you do not now commit adultery, or murder; you do not plunder the property of others; you do not blaspheme; and do not bear false witness; those are the weightier kind of sins. You have guarded against great sins, what are you doing about your smaller ones? You have cast off the weight; beware lest the sand overwhelm you. “And my heart hath forsaken me.” What wonder if thine heart is forsaken by thy God, when it is even “forsaken” by itself? What is meant by “faileth me,” “forsaketh me”? Is not capable of knowing itself. He means this: “My heart hath forsaken me.” I would fain see God with mine heart, and cannot from the multitude of my sins: that is not enough; mine heart does not even know itself. For no one thoroughly knows himself: let no one presume upon his own state. Was Peter able to comprehend with his own heart the state of his own heart, who said, “I will be with Thee even unto death”?11561156     Luke xxii. 33. There was a false presumption in the heart; there was lurking in that heart at the same time a real fear: and the heart was not able to comprehend the state of the heart. Its state was unknown to the sick heart itself: it was manifest to the physician. That which was foretold of him was fulfilled. God knew that in him which he knew not in himself: because his heart had forsaken him, his heart was unknown to his heart.

22. “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me” (ver. 13). As if he were saying, “‘If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.’11571157     Matt. viii. 2. Be pleased to deliver me. O Lord, look upon me to help me.” Look,11581158     Oxf. mss. repeat respice. that is, on the penitent members, members that lie in pain, members that are writhing under the instruments of the surgeon; but still in hope.

23. “Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it” (ver. 14). For in a certain passage he makes an accusation, and says, “I looked upon my right hand, and beheld; and there was no man who sought after my soul;”11591159     Ps. cxlii. 4. that is, there was no man to imitate Mine example. Christ in His Passion is the Speaker. “I looked on my right hand,” that is, not on the ungodly Jews, but on Mine own right hand, the Apostles,—“and there was no man who sought after My soul.” So thoroughly was there no man to “seek after My soul,” that he who had presumed on his own strength, “denied My soul.” But because a man’s soul is sought after in two ways, either in order that you may enjoy his society; or that you may persecute him; therefore he here speaks of others, whom he would have “confounded and ashamed,” who are “seeking after his soul.” But lest you should understand it in the same way as when he complains of some who did not “seek after his soul,” He adds, “to destroy it;” that is, they seek after my soul in order to my death.…

24. “Let them be turned backward11601160     E.V. “driven backwards.” Text, convertantur. and put to shame that wish me evil.” “Turned backwards.” Let us not take this in a bad sense. He wishes them well; and it is His voice, who said from the Cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”11611161     Luke xxiii. 34. Wherefore then doth he say to them, that they should return “backwards”? Because they who before were proud, so that they fell, are now become humble, so that they may rise again. For when they are before, they are wishing to take precedence of their Lord; to be better than He; but if they go behind Him, they acknowledge Him to be better than they; they acknowledge that He ought to go before; that He should precede,11621162     Priorem. they follow. Thence He thus rebukes Peter giving Him evil counsel. For the Lord, when about to suffer for our salvation, also foretold what was to happen concerning that Passion itself; and Peter says, “Be it far from Thee,”11631163     Matt. xvi. 22. “God forbid it!” “This shall not be!” He would fain have gone before his Lord; would have given counsel to his Master! But the Lord, that He might make him not go before Him, but follow after Him, says, “Get thee behind, Satan!” It is for this reason He said “Satan,” because thou art seeking to go before Him, whom thou oughtest to follow; but if thou art behind, if thou follow Him, thou wilt henceforth not be “Satan.” What then? “Upon this Rock I will build My Church.” 11641164     Matt. xvi. 18.

25. “Let them speedily bear away their own confusion, that say unto me, Well done! Well done!”11651165     E.V. “Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame, that say unto me, Aha! Aha!” (ver. 15). They praise you without reason. “A great man! A good man! A man of education and of learning; but why a Christian?” They praise those things in you which you should wish not to be praised; they find fault with that at which you rejoice. But if perhaps you say, “What is it you praise in me, O man? That I am a virtuous man? A just man? If you think this, Christ made me this; praise Him.” But the other says, “Be it far from you. Do yourself no wrong! You yourself made yourself such.” “Let them be confounded who say unto me, Well done! Well done!” And what follows?

“Let all those that seek Thee, O Lord, rejoice and be glad” (ver. 16). Those who “seek” not me, but “Thee;” who say not to me, “Well done! Well done!” but see me “glory in Thee,” if I have anything whereof to glory; for “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”11661166     1 Cor. i. 31. “Let all those who seek Thee, Lord, rejoice and be glad.”

“And say continually, the Lord be magnified.” For even if the sinner becometh righteous, thou shouldest give the glory to “Him who justifieth the ungodly.”11671167     Rom. iv. 5. Whether therefore it be a sinner, let Him be praised who calls him to forgiveness; or one already walking in the way of righteousness, let Him be praised who calls him to receive the crown! Let the Name of the Lord be magnified continually by “such as love Thy salvation.”

“But I” (ver. 17). I for whom they were seeking evil, I whose “life they were seeking, that they might take it away.” But turn thee to another description of persons. But I to whom they said, “Well done! Well done!” “I am poor and needy.” There is nothing in me that may be praised as mine own. Let Him rend my sackcloth in sunder, and cover me with His robe. For, “Now I live, not I myself; but Christ liveth in me.” 11681168     Gal. ii. 20. If it is Christ that “liveth in thee,” and all that thou hast is Christ’s, and all that thou art to have hereafter is Christ’s also; what art thou in thyself? “I am poor and needy.” Now I am not rich, because I am not proud. He was rich who said, “Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are;”11691169     Luke xviii. 11. but the publican was poor, who said, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!” The one was belching from his fulness; the other from want was crying piteously, “I am poor and needy!” And what wouldest thou do, O poor and needy man? Beg at God’s door; “Knock, and it shall be opened unto thee.”11701170     Matt. vii. 7. —“As for me, I am poor and needy. Yet the Lord careth for me.”—“Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall bring it to pass.”11711171     Ps. lv. 22. What canst thou effect for thyself by taking care what canst thou provide for thyself? Let Him who made thee “care for thee.” He who cared for thee before thou wert, how shall He fail to have a care of thee, now that thou art what He would have thee be? For now thou art a believer, now thou art walking in the “way of righteousness.” Shall not He have a care for thee, who “maketh His sun rise on the good and on the evil, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust”? 11721172     Matt. v. 45.

“Thou art my Help, and my Deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God” (ver. 17). He is calling upon God, imploring Him, fearing lest he should fall away: “Make no tarrying.” What is meant by “make no tarrying”? We lately read concerning the days of tribulation: “Unless those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.”11731173     Matt. xxiv. 22. The members of Christ—the Body of Christ extended everywhere—are asking of God, as one single person, one single poor man, and beggar! For He too was poor, who “though He was rich, yet became poor, that ye through His poverty might be made rich.”11741174     2 Cor. viii. 9. It is He that maketh rich those who are the true poor;11751175     Compare Matt. v. 3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” and Luke vi. 20, “Blessed be ye poor.” and maketh poor those who are falsely rich. He crieth unto Him; “From the end of the earth I cried unto Thee, when my heart was in heaviness.” There will come days of tribulations, and of greater tribulations; they will come even as the Scripture speaks: and as days advance, so are tribulations increased also. Let no one promise himself what the Gospel doth not promise.…


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