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NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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The Second Part.

1. “Like sheep laid in hell, death is their shepherd” (ver. 14). Whose? Of those whose way is a stumbling-block to themselves. Whose? Of those who mind only things present, while they think not of things future: of those who think not of any life, but of that which must be called death. Not without cause, then, like sheep in hell, have they death to their shepherd. What meaneth, “they have death to their shepherd”? For is death either some thing or some power? Yea, death is either the separation of the soul from the body, or a separation of the soul from God,16481648     Oxf. mss. add, “or a separation of the soul from God.” and that indeed which men fear is the separation of the soul from the body: but the real death, which men do not fear, is the separation of the soul from God. And ofttimes when men fear that which doth separate the soul from the body, they fall into that wherein the soul is separated from God. This then is death. But how is “death their shepherd”? If Christ is life, the devil is death. But we read in many places in Scripture, how that Christ is life. But the devil is death, not because he is himself death, but because through him is death. For whether that (death) wherein Adam fell was given man to drink by the persuasion of him: or whether that wherein the soul is separated from the body, still they have him for the author thereof, who first falling through pride envied him who stood, and overthrew him who stood with an invisible death, in order that he might have to pay16491649     Al. “destroy him with the visible death.” the visible death. They who belong to him have death to their shepherd: but we who think of future immortality, and not without reason do wear the sign of the Cross of Christ on the forehead, have no shepherd but life. Of unbelievers death is the shepherd, of believers life is the shepherd. If then in hell are the sheep, whose shepherd is death, in heaven are the sheep, whose shepherd is life. What then? Are we now in heaven? In heaven we are by faith. For if not in heaven, where is the “Lift up your heart”? If not in heaven, whence with the Apostle Paul, “For our conversation is in heaven”?16501650     Philip. iii. 20. In body we walk on earth, in heart we dwell in heaven. We dwell there, if thither we send anything which holdeth us there. For no one dwelleth in heart, save where thought is: but there his thought is, where his treasure is. He hath treasured on earth, his heart doth not withdraw from earth: he hath treasured in heaven, his heart from heaven doth not come down: for the Lord saith plainly, “Where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.” 16511651     Matt. vi. 12.

2. They, then, whose shepherd is death, seem to flourish for a time, and the righteous to labour: but why? Because it is yet night. What meaneth, it is night? The merits of the righteous appear not, and the felicity of the unrighteous hath, as it were, a name. So long as it is winter, grass appeareth more verdant than a tree. For grass flourisheth through the winter, a tree is as it were dry through the winter: when in summer time the sun hath come forth with greater heat, the tree, which seemed dry through the winter, is bursting with leaves, and putteth forth fruits, but the grass withereth: thou wilt see the honour of the tree, the grass is dried. So also now the righteous labour, before that summer cometh. There is life in the root, it doth not yet appear in the branches. But our root is love. And what saith the Apostle? That we ought to have our root above, in order that life may be our shepherd, because our dwelling ought not to quit heaven, because in this earth we ought to walk as if dead; so that living above, below we may be dead; not so as that being dead above, we may live below.…Our labour shall appear in the morning, and there shall be fruit in the morning: so that they that now labour shall hereafter reign, and they that now boast them and are proud, shall hereafter be brought under. For what followeth? “Like sheep laid in hell, death is their shepherd; and the righteous shall reign over them in the morning.”

3. Endure thou the night, yearn for the morning. Think not because the night hath life, the morning too hath not life. Doth then he that sleepeth live, and he that riseth live not? Is not he that sleepeth more like death?16521652     Or, “a dead person.” And who are they that sleep? They whom the Apostle Paul rouseth, if they choose but to awake. For to certain he saith, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”16531653     Eph. v. 14. They then that are lightened by Christ watch now, but the fruit of their watchings appeareth not yet: in the morning it shall appear, that is, when doubtful things of this world shall have passed away. For these are very night: for do they not appear to thee like darkness?…But they on whom men have trampled, and who were ridiculed for believing, shall hear from Life Itself, whom they have for shepherd, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom which was prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Therefore the righteous “shall reign over them,” not now, but “in the morning.” Let no one say, Wherefore am I a Christian? I rule no one,16541654     Most mss. omit, “I rule no one.” See Ser. 72, ad. Fr. in Erem. I would rule the wicked. Be not in haste, thou shalt reign, but “in the morning.” “And the help of them shall grow old in hell from their glory.” Now they have glory, in hell they shall grow old. What is “the help of them”? Help from money, help from friends, help from their own might. But when a man shall be dead, “in that day shall perish all his thoughts.”16551655     Ps. cxlvi. 4. How great glory he seemed to have among men, while he lived, so great oldness and decay of punishments shall he have, when he shall be dead in hell.

4. “Nevertheless, God shall redeem my soul” (ver. 15). Behold the voice of one hoping in the future: “Nevertheless, God shall redeem my soul.”16561656     [Compare ver. 7, p. 171, supra.—C.] Perhaps it is the voice of one still wishing to be relieved from oppression. Some one is in prison, he saith, “God shall redeem my soul:” some one is in bond, “God shall redeem my soul:” some one is suffering peril by sea, is being tossed by waves and raging tempests, what saith he? “God shall redeem my soul.” They would be delivered for the sake of this life. Not such is the voice of this man. Hear what followeth: “God shall redeem my soul from the hand of hell, when He shall have received me.” He is speaking of this redemption, which Christ now showeth in Himself. For He hath descended into hell, and hath ascended into heaven. What we have seen in the Head we have found in the Body. For what we have believed in the Head, they that have seen, have themselves told us, and by themselves we have seen: “For we are” all “one body.”16571657     Rom. xii. 5. But are they better that hear, we worse to whom it hath been told? Not so saith The Life Itself, Our Shepherd Himself. For He rebuketh a certain disciple of His, doubting and desiring to handle His scars, and when he had handled the scars and had cried out, saying, “My Lord and my God,”16581658     John xx. 28. seeing His disciple doubting, and looking to the whole world about to believe, “Because thou hast seen Me,” He saith, “thou hast believed: blessed are they that see not, and believe.” “But God shall redeem my soul from the land of hell, when He hath received me.” Here then what? Labour, oppression, tribulation, temptation: expect nothing else. Where joy? In future hope.…

5. …Perchance thy heart saith, Wretch that I am, I suppose to no purpose I have believed, God doth not regard things human. God therefore doth awaken us: and He saith what? “Fear not, though a man have become rich” (ver. 16). For why didst thou fear, because a man hath become rich? Thou didst fear that thou hadst believed to no purpose, that perchance thou shouldest have lost the labour for thy faith, and the hope of thy conversion: because perchance there hath come in thy way gain with guilt, and thou couldest have been rich, if thou hadst seized upon that same gain with the guilt, and neededst not have laboured; and thou, remembering what God hath threatened, hast refrained from guilt, and hast contemned the gain: thou seest another man that hath made gain by guilt, and hath suffered no harm; and thou fearest to be good. “Fear not,” saith the Spirit of God to thee, “though a man shall have become rich.” Wouldest thou not have eyes but for things present? Things future He hath promised, who hath risen again; peace in this world, and repose in this life, He hath not promised. Every man doth seek repose; a good thing he is seeking, but not in the proper region thereof he is seeking it. There is no peace in this life; in Heaven hath been promised that which on earth we are seeking: in the world to come hath been promised that which in this world we are seeking.

6. “Fear not, though a man be made rich, and though the glory of his house be multiplied.” Wherefore “fear not”? “For when he shall die, he shall not receive anything” (ver. 17). Thou seest him living, consider him dying. Thou markest what he hath here, mark what he taketh with him. What doth he take with him? He hath store of gold, he hath store of silver, numerous estates, slaves: he dieth, these remain, he knoweth not for whom. For though he leaveth them for whom he will, he keepeth them not for whom he will. For many have gained even what was not left them, and many have lost what was left them. All these things then remain, and he taketh with him what? Perhaps some one saith, He taketh that with him in which he is wound, and that which is expended upon him for a costly and marble tomb, to erect a monument, this he taketh with him. I say, not even this. For these things are presented to him without his feeling them. If thou deckest a man sleeping and not awake, he hath the decorations with him on the couch: perhaps the decorations are resting upon the body of him as he lieth, and perhaps he seeth himself in tatters during sleep. What he feeleth is more to him than what he feeleth not. Though even this when he shall have awaked will not be: yet to him sleeping, that which he saw in sleep was more than that which he felt not. Why then, brethren, should16591659     Oxf. mss. “do.” men say to themselves, Let money be spent at my death: why do I leave my heirs rich? Many things will they have of mine, let me too have something of my own for my body. What shall a dead body have? what shall rotting flesh have? what shall flesh not feeling have? If that rich man had anything, whose tongue was dry, then man hath something of his own. My brethren, do we read in the Gospel, that this rich man appeared in the fire with all-silken and fine-linen coverings? Was he of such sort in hell as he was in feastings at table? When he thirsted and desired a drop, all those things were not there. Therefore man carrieth not with him anything, nor doth the dead take with him that which the burial taketh. For where feeling is, there is the man; where is no feeling, the man is not. There lieth fallen the vessel which contained the man, the house which held the man. The body let us call the house, the spirit let us call the inhabitant of the house. The spirit is tormented in hell: what doth it profit him, that the body lieth in spices and perfumes, wound in costly linens? just as if the master of the house should be sent into banishment, and thou shouldest garnish the walls of his house. He in banishment is in need, and doth faint with hunger, he scarce findeth to himself one hovel where he may snatch a sleep, and thou sayest, “Happy is he, for his house hath been garnished.” Who would not judge that thou wast either jesting or wast mad? Thou dost garnish the body, the spirit is tormented. Give something to the spirit, and ye have given something to the dead man. But what wilt thou give him, when he desired one drop, and received not? For the man scorned to send before him anything. Wherefore scorned? “because this their way is a stumbling-block to them.”16601660     Ps. xlix. 13. He minded not any but the present life, he thought not but how he might be buried, wound in costly vestments. His soul was taken from him, as the Lord saith: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be taken from thee, and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?”16611661     Luke xii. 20. And that is fulfilled which this Psalm saith: “Fear not, though a man be made rich, and though the glory of his house be multiplied: for when he shall die he shall not receive anything, nor shall his glory descend together with him.”

7. Let your love observe: “For his soul shall be blessed in his life” (ver. 18). As long as he lived he did well for himself. This all men say, but say falsely. It is a blessing from the mind of the blesser, not from the truth itself. For what sayest thou? Because he ate and drank, because he did what he chose, because he feasted sumptuously, therefore he did well with himself. I say, he did ill for himself. Not I say, but Christ. He did ill for himself. For that rich man, when he feasted sumptuously every day, was supposed to do well with himself: but when he began to burn in hell, then that which was supposed to be well was found to be ill. For what he had eaten with men above,16621662     Apud superos. he digested in hell beneath. Unrighteousness I mean, brethren, on which he used to feast. He used to eat costly banquets with the mouth of flesh, with his heart’s mouth he used to eat unrighteousness. What he ate with his heart’s mouth with men above, this he digested amid those punishments in the places beneath. And verily he had eaten for a time, he digested ill for everlasting. Is then unrighteousness eaten? perhaps some one saith: what is it that he saith? Unrighteousness eaten? It is not I that say: hear the Scripture: “As a sour grape is vexation to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so is unrighteousness to them that use it.”16631663     Prov. x. 26. For he that shall have eaten unrighteousness, that is, he that shall have had unrighteousness wilfully, shall not be able to eat righteousness. For righteousness is bread. Who is bread? “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.”16641664     John vi. 51. Himself is the bread of our heart.…Is then even righteousness eaten? If it were not eaten, the Lord would not have said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.”16651665     Matt. v. 6. Therefore “since his soul shall be blessed in life,” in life it “shall” be blessed, in death it shall be tormented.…

8. “He shall confess to Thee, when Thou shalt have done him good.” Be not of such sort, brethren: see ye how that to this end we say these words, to this end we sing, to this end we treat, to this end toil—do not these things. Your business doth prove you: sometimes in your business ye hear the truth, and ye blaspheme. The Church ye blaspheme. Wherefore? Because ye are Christians. “If so it be, I betake myself to Donatus’s party: I will be a heathen.”16661666     Those who became Donatists declared themselves not yet Christians, in order to be rebaptized. Wherefore? Because thou hast eaten bread, and the teeth are in pain. When thou sawest the bread itself, thou didst praise; thou beginnest to eat, and the teeth are in pain; that is, when thou wast hearing the Word of God thou didst praise: when it is said to thee, “Do this,” thou blasphemest: do not so ill: say this, “The bread is good, but I cannot eat it.” But now if thou seest with the eyes, thou praisest: when thou beginnest to close the teeth thou sayest, “Bad is this bread, and like him that made it.” So it cometh to pass that thou confessest to God, when God doeth thee good and thou liest when thou singest, “I will alway bless God, His praise is ever in my mouth.”16671667     Ps. xxxiv. 1. How alway? If alway gain, alway He is blessed: if sometime there is loss, He is not blessed, but blasphemed. Forsooth thou blessest alway, forsooth His praise is ever in thy mouth! Thou wilt be such as just now he describeth: “He will confess to Thee, when Thou shalt have done him good.”

9. “He shall enter even unto the generations of his fathers” (ver. 19): that is, he shall imitate his fathers. For the unrighteous, that now are, have brothers, have fathers. Unrighteous men of old, are the fathers of the present; and they that are now unrighteous, are the fathers of unrighteous posterity: just as the fathers of the righteous, the righteous of old, are the fathers of the righteous that now are; and they that now are, are the fathers of them that are to be. The Holy Spirit hath willed to show that righteousness is not evil when men murmur against her: but these men have their father from the beginning, even to the generation of their fathers. Two men Adam begat, and in one was unrighteousness, in one was righteousness: unrighteousness in Cain, righteousness in Abel.16681668     1 John iii. 12. Unrighteousness seemed to prevail over righteousness, because Cain unrighteous slew Abel righteous16691669     Gen. iv. 8. in the night. Is it so in the morning? Nay, “but the righteous shall reign over them in the morning.”16701670     Ps. xlix. 14. The morning shall come, and it shall be seen where Abel is, and where Cain. So all men who are after Cain, and so all who are after Abel, even unto the end of the world. “He shall enter even unto the generations of his fathers: even to eternity he shall not see light.” Because even when he was here, he was in darkness, taking pleasure in false goods, and not loving real goods: even so he shall go hence into hell: from the darkness of his dreams the darkness of torments shall receive him. Therefore, “even to eternity he shall not see light.”

But wherefore this? What he hath written in the middle of the Psalm,16711671     Ps. xlix. 12. the same also he hath writ at the end: “Man, though he was in honour, understood not, was compared to the beasts without sense, and was made like to them” (ver. 20). But ye, brethren, consider that ye be men made after the image and likeness of God. The image16721672     Gen. i. 26. of God is within, is not in the body; is not in these ears which ye see, and eyes, and nostrils, and palate, and hands, and feet; but is made nevertheless:16731673     Most mss. “made a mind.” wherein is the intellect, wherein is the mind, wherein the power of discovering truth, wherein is faith, wherein is your hope, wherein your charity, there God hath His Image: there at least ye perceive and see that these things pass away; for so he hath said in another Psalm, “Though man walketh in an image, yet he is disquieted in vain: he heapeth up treasures, and knoweth not for whom he shall gather them.”16741674     Ps. xxxix. 6. Be not disquieted, for of whatsoever kind these things be, they are transitory, if ye are men who being in honour understand. For if being men in honour ye understand not, ye are compared to the beasts without sense, and are made like to them.


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