The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for the ‘NOTES ON THE PSALMS’ Category

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 144

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 19, 2014

1. The title of this Psalm is brief in number of words, but heavy in the weight of its mysteries. “To David himself against Goliath.” This battle was fought in the time of our fathers, and ye, beloved, remember it with me from Holy Scripture.… David put five stones in his scrip, he hurled but one. The five Books were chosen, but unity conquered. Then, having smitten and overthrown him, he took the enemy’s sword, and with it cut off his head. This our David also did, He overthrew the devil with his own weapons: and when his great ones, whom he had in his power, by means of whom he slew other souls, believe, they turn their tongues against the devil, and so Goliath’s head is cut off with his own sword.

2. “Blessed be the Lord my God, who teacheth my hands for battle, my fingers for war” (ver. 1). These are our words, if we be the Body of Christ. It seems a repetition of sentiment; “our hands for battle,” and “our fingers for war,” are the same. Or is there some difference between “hands” and “fingers”? Certainly both hands and fingers work. Not then without reason do we take “fingers” as put for “hands.” But still in the “fingers” we recognise the division of operation, yet still a sort of unity. Behold that grace! the Apostle saith,6 To one, this; to another, that; “there are diversities of operations; all these worketh one and the self-same Spirit;” there is the root of unity. With these “fingers” then the Body of Christ fighteth, going forth to “war,” going forth to “battle.” … By works of Mercy our enemy is conquered, and we could not have works of mercy unless we had charity, and charity we could have none unless we received it by the Holy Ghost; He then “teacheth our hands for battle, and our fingers for war:” to Him rightfully do we say, “My Mercy,” from whom we have also that we are merciful: “for he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy.”7

3. My Mercy and my Refuge, my Upholder and my Deliverer” (ver. 2). Much toileth this combatant, having his flesh lusting against his spirit. Keep what thou hast. Then shalt thou have in full what thou wishest, when “death shall have been swallowed up in victory;”8 when this mortal body has been raised, and is changed into the condition of the angels, and rises aloft to a heavenly quality.… There is life, there are good days, where nought lusteth against the spirit, where it is not said, “Fight,” but “Rejoice.” But who is he that lusteth for these days? Every man certainly saith, “I do.” Hear what followeth. I see that thou art toiling, I see that thou art engaged in battle, and in danger; hear what followeth: … “Depart from evil, and do good:” let not the poor first weep under thee, that the poor may rejoice through thee. For what reward, since now thou art fighting? “Seek peace, and ensue it.” Learn and say, “My Mercy and my Refuge, mine Upholder and my Deliverer, my Protector:” “mine Upholder,” lest I fall; “my Deliverer,” lest I stick; “my Protector,” lest I be stricken. In all these things, in all my toil, in all my battles, in all my difficulties, in Him have I hoped, “who subdueth my people under me.” Behold, our Head speaketh together with us.

4. “Lord, what is man, that Thou hast become known unto him?” (ver. 3). All is included in “that Thou hast become known unto him.” “Or the son of man, that Thou valuest him?” Thou valuest him, that is, Thou makest him of such importance, Thou countest him of such price, Thou knowest under what Thou placest him, over what Thou placest him. For valuing is considering the price of a thing. How greatly did He value man, who for him shed the blood of His only-begotten Son! For God valueth not man in the same way as one man valueth another he, when he findeth a slave for sale, giveth a higher price for a horse than for a man. Consider how greatly He valued thee, that thou mayest be able to say, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” And how greatly did He value thee, “who spared not His own Son”? “How shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?”1 He who giveth this food to the combatant, what keepeth He in store for the conqueror?…

5. “Man is made like unto vanity: his days pass away like a shadow” (ver. 4). What vanity? Time, which passeth on, and floweth by. For this “vanity” is said in comparison of the Truth, which ever abideth, and never faileth: for it too is a work of His Hand, in its degree. “For,” as it is written, “God filled the earth with His good things.”2 What is “His”? That accord with Him. But all these things, being earthly, fleeting, transitory, if they be compared to that Truth, where it is said, “I Am That I Am,”3 all this which passeth away is called “vanity.” For through time it vanisheth, like smoke into the air. And why should I say more than that which the Apostle James said, willing to bring down proud men to humility, “What is,” saith he, “your life? It is even a vapour, which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”4 … Work then, though it be in the night, with thine hands, that is, by good works seek God, before the day come which shall gladden thee, lest the day come which shall sadden thee. For see how safely thou workest, who art not left by Him whom thou seekest; “that thy Father which seeth in secret may reward thee openly.”5 …

6. “Lord, bow Thy heavens, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke” (ver. 5). “Flash Thy lightning, and Thou shalt scatter them; send forth Thine arrows, and Thou shalt confound them” (ver. 6). “Send forth Thy Hand from above, and deliver me, and draw me out of many waters” (ver. 7). The Body of Christ, the humble David, full of grace, relying on God, fighting in this world, calleth for the help of God. What are “heavens bowed down”? Apostles humbled. For those “heavens declare the glory of God;” and of these heavens declaring the glory of God it is presently said, “There is neither speech nor language, but their voices are heard among them,” etc.6 When then these heavens sent forth their voices through all lands, and did wonderful things, while the Lord flashed and thundered from them by miracles and commandments, the gods were thought to have come down from heaven to men. For certain of the Gentiles, thinking this, desired even to sacrifice to them.… But they commended to these the Lord Jesus Christ, humbling themselves, that God might be praised; because “the heavens” were “bowed,” that “God” might “come down.” … “Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.” So long as they are not touched, they seem to themselves great: they are now about to say, “Great art Thou, O Lord:”7 the mountains also are about to say, “Thou only art the Most Highest over all the earth.”8

7. But there are some that conspire, that “gather themselves together against the Lord, and against His Christ.”9 They have come together, they have conspired. “Flash forth Thy lightnings, and Thou shalt scatter them.” Abound with Thy miracles, and their conspiracy shall be broken.… “Send forth Thine arrows, and Thou shalt confound them.” Let the unsound be wounded, that, being well wounded, they may be made sound; and let them say, being set now in the Church, in the Body of Christ, let them say with the Church, “I am wounded with Love.”10 “Send forth Thine Hand from on high.” What afterward? What in the end? How conquereth the Body of Christ? By heavenly aid. “For the Lord Himself shall come with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God shall He descend from heaven,”11 Himself the Saviour of the body, the Hand of God. What is, “Out of many waters”? From many peoples. What peoples? Aliens, unbelievers, whether assailing us from without, or laying snares within. Take me out of many waters, in which Thou didst discipline me, in which Thou didst roll me, to free me from my filth. This is the “water of contradiction.”12 … “From the hand of strange children.” Hear, brethren, among whom we are, among whom we live, from whom we long to be delivered. “Whose mouth hath spoken vanity” (ver. 8). All of you to-day, if ye had not gathered yourselves together to these divine shows1 of the word of God, and were not at this hour engaged in them, how great vanities would ye be hearing! “whose mouth hath spoken vanity:” when, in short, would they, speaking vanity, hear you speaking vanity? “And their right hand is a right hand of iniquity.” What doest thou among them with thy pastoral scrip with five stones in it? Say it to me in another form: that same law which thou hast signified by five stones, signify in some other way also. “I will sing a new song unto Thee, O God” (ver. 9). “A new song” is of grace; “a new song” is of the new man; “a new song” is of the New Testament. But lest thou shouldest think that grace departeth from the law, whereas rather by grace the law is fulfilled, “upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing unto Thee.” Upon the law of ten commandments: therein may I sing to Thee; therein may I rejoice to Thee; therein may “I sing to Thee a new song;” for, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.”2 But they who have not love may carry the psaltery, sing they cannot. Contradiction cannot make my psaltery to be silent.

8. “Who giveth salvation to kings, who redeemeth David His servant” (ver. 10). Ye know who David is; be yourselves David. Whence “redeemeth He David His servant”? Whence redeemeth He Christ? Whence redeemeth He the Body of Christ? “From the sword of ill intent deliver me.” “From the sword” is not sufficient; he addeth, “of ill intent.” Without doubt there is a sword of good intent. What is the sword of good intent? That whereof the Lord saith, “I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword.”3 For He was about to separate believers from unbelievers, sons from parents, and to sever all other ties, while the sword cut off what was diseased, but healed the members of Christ. Of good intent then is the sword twice sharpened, powerful with both edges, the Old and New Testaments, with the narration of the past and the promise of the future. That then is the sword of good intent: but the other is of ill intent, wherewith they talk vanity, for that is of good intent, wherewith God speaketh verity. For truly “the sons of men have teeth which are spears and arrows, and their tongue is a sharp sword.”4 “From” this “sword deliver me” (ver. 11). “And take me out of the hand of strange children, whose mouth hath spoken vanity:” just as before. And that which followeth, “their right hand is a right hand of iniquity,” the same he had set down before also, when he called them “many waters.” For lest thou shouldest think that the “many waters” were good waters, he explained them by the “sword of ill intent.”

9. “Whose sons are like young vines firmly planted in their youth” (ver. 12). He wisheth to recount their happiness. Observe, ye sons of light, sons of peace: observe, ye sons of the Church, members of Christ; observe whom he calleth “strangers,” whom he calleth “strange children,” whom he calleth “waters of contradiction,” whom he calleth a “sword of ill intent.” Observe, I beseech you, for among them ye are in peril, among their tongues ye fight against the desires of your flesh, among their tongues, set in the hand of the devil wherewith he fighteth.5 … What vanity hath their mouth spoken, and how is their right hand a right hand of iniquity? “Their daughters are fitted and adorned after the similitude of a temple.” “Their garners are full, bursting out from one store to another: their sheep are fruitful, multiplying in their streets” (ver. 13): “their oxen are fat: their hedge is not broken down, nor their road, nor is their crying in their streets” (ver. 14). Is not this then happiness? I ask the sons of the kingdom of heaven, I ask the offspring of everlasting resurrection, I ask the body of Christ, the members of Christ, the temple of God. Is not this then happiness, to have sons safe, daughters beautiful, garners full, cattle abundant, no downfall, I say not of a wall, but not even of a hedge, no tumult and clamour in the streets, but quiet, peace, abundance, plenty of all things in their houses and in their cities? Is not this then happiness? or ought the righteous to shun it? or findest thou not the house of the righteous too abounding with all these things, full of this happiness? Did not Abraham’s house abound with gold, silver, children, servants, cattle? What say we? is not this happiness? Be it so, still it is on the left hand. What is, on the left hand? Temporal, mortal, bodily. I desire not that thou shun it, but that thou think it not to be on the right hand.… For what ought they to have set on the right hand? God, eternity, the years of God which fail not, whereof is said, “and Thy years shall not fail.”6 There should be the right hand, there should be our longing. Let us use the left for the time, let us long for the right for eternity. “If riches increase, set not your heart upon them.”7 …

10. “They have called the people blessed who have these things” (ver. 15). O men that speak vanity! They have lost the true right hand, wicked and perverse, they have put on the benefits of God inversely. O wicked ones, O speakers of vanity, O strange children! What was on the left hand, they have set on the right. What dost thou, David? What dost thou, Body of Christ? What do ye, members of Christ? What do ye, not strange children, but children of God.… What say ye? Say ye with us, “Blessed is the people whose Lord is their God.”

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 18

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 18, 2014

TO THE END, FOR THE SERVANT OF THE LORD, DAVID HIMSELF

1. That is, for the strong of hand, Christ in His Manhood.8 “The words of this song which he spoke to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him out of the hands of his enemies, and of the hand of Saul; and he said, On the day when the Lord delivered him out of the hands of his enemies and of the hand of Saul:” namely, the king of the Jews, whom they had demanded for themselves.9 For as “David” is said to be by interpretation, strong of hand; so “Saul” is said to be demanding. Now it is well known, how that People demanded for themselves a king, and received him for their king, not according to the will of God, but according to their own will.

2. Christ, then, and the Church, that is, whole Christ, the Head and the Body, saith here, “I will love Thee, O Lord, My strength” (ver. 1). I will love Thee, O Lord, by whom I am strong.10

3. “O Lord, My stay, and My refuge, and My deliverer” (ver. 2). O Lord, who hast stayed Me, because I sought refuge with Thee: and I sought refuge, because Thou hast delivered Me. “My God is My helper; and I will hope in Him.” My God, who hast first afforded me the help of Thy call, that I might be able to hope in Thee. “My defender, and the horn of My salvation, and My redeemer.” My defender, because I have not leant upon Myself, lifting up as it were the horn of pride against Thee; but have found Thee a horn indeed, that is, the sure height of salvation: and that I might find it, Thou redeemedst Me.

4. “With praise will I call upon the Lord, and I shall be safe from Mine enemies” (ver. 3). Seeking not My own but the Lord’s glory, I will call upon Him, and there shall be no means whereby the errors of ungodliness can hurt Me.

5. “The pains of death,” that is, of the flesh, have “compassed Me about. And the overflowings of ungodliness have troubled Me” (ver. 4). Ungodly troubles1 stirred up for a time, like torrents of rain which will soon subside, have come on to trouble Me.

6. “The pains of hell compassed Me about” (ver. 5). Among those that compassed Me about to destroy Me, were pains of envy, which work death, and lead on to the hell of sin. “The snares of death prevented Me.” They prevented Me, so that they wished to hurt Me first, which shall afterwards be recompensed unto them. Now they seize unto destruction such men as they have evilly persuaded by the boast of righteousness: in the name but not in the reality of which they glory against the Gentiles.

7. “And in Mine oppression I called upon the Lord, and cried unto My God. And He heard My voice from His holy temple” (ver. 6). He heard from My heart, wherein He dwelleth, My voice. “And My cry in His sight entered into His ears;” and My cry, which I utter, not in the ears of men, but inwardly before Him Himself, “entered into His ears.”

8. “And the earth was moved and trembled” (ver. 7). When the Son of Man was thus glorified, sinners were moved and trembled. “And the foundations of the mountains were troubled.” And the hopes of the proud, which were in this life, were troubled. “And were moved, for God was wroth with them.” That is, that the hope of temporal goods might have now no more establishment in the hearts of men.

9. “There went up smoke in His wrath” (ver. 8). The tearful supplication of penitents went up, when they came to know God’s threatenings against the ungodly. “And fire burneth from His face.” And the ardour of love after repentance burns by the knowledge of Him. “Coals were kindled from Him.” They, who were already dead, abandoned by the fire of good desire and the light of righteousness, and who remained in coldness and darkness, re-enkindled and enlightened, have come to life again.

10. “And He bowed the heaven, and came down” (ver. 9). And He humbled the just One, that He might descend to men’s infirmity. “And darkness under His feet.” And the ungodly, who savour of things earthly, in the darkness of their own malice, knew not Him: for the earth under His feet is as it were His footstool.

11. “And He mounted above the cherubim, and did fly” (ver. 10). And He was exalted above the fulness of knowledge, that no man should come to Him but by love: for “love is the fulfilling of the law.”2 And full soon He showed to His lovers that He is incomprehensible, lest they should suppose that He is comprehended by corporeal imaginations. “He flew above the wings of the winds.” But that swiftness, whereby He showed Himself to be incomprehensible, is above the powers of souls, whereon as upon wings they raise themselves from earthly fears into the air of liberty.

12. “And hath made darkness His hiding place” (ver. 11). And hath settled the obscurity of the Sacraments, and the hidden hope in the heart of believers, where He may lie hid, and not abandon them. In this darkness too, wherein “we yet walk by faith, and not by sight,”3 as long as “we hope for what we see not, and with patience wait for it.”4 Round about Him is His tabernacle.” Yet they that believe Him turn to Him and encircle Him; for that He is in the midst of them, since He is equally the friend of all, in whom as in a tabernacle He at this time dwells. “Dark water in clouds of air.” Nor let any one on this account, if he understand the Scripture, imagine that he is already in that light, which will be when we shall have come out of faith into sight: for in the prophets and in all the preachers of the word of God there is obscure teaching.

13. “In respect of the brightness in His sight” (ver. 12): in comparison with the brightness, which is in the sight of His manifestation. “His clouds have passed over.” The preachers of His word are not now bounded by the confines of Judæa, but have passed over to the Gentiles. “Hail and coals of fire.” Reproofs are figured,5 whereby, as by hail, the hard hearts are bruised: but if a cultivated and genial soil, that is, a godly mind, receive them, the hail’s hardness dissolves into water, that is, the terror of the lightning-charged,6 and as it were frozen, reproof dissolves into satisfying doctrine; and hearts kindled by the fire of love revive. All these things in His clouds have passed over to the Gentiles.

14. “And the Lord hath thundered from heaven” (ver. 13). And in confidence of the Gospel the Lord hath sounded forth from the heart of the just One. “And the Highest gave His voice;” that we might entertain it, and in the depth of human things, might hear things heavenly.

15. “And He sent out His arrows, and scattered them” (ver. 14). And He sent out Evangelists traversing straight paths on the wings of strength, not in their own power, but His by whom they were sent. And “He scattered them,” to whom they were sent, that to some of them they should be “the savour of life unto life, to others the savour of death unto death.”1 “And He multiplied lightnings, and troubled them.” And He multiplied miracles, and troubled them.

16. “And the fountains of water were seen. And the fountains of water springing up into everlasting life,”2 which were made in the preachers, were seen. “And the foundations of the round world were revealed” (ver. 15). And the Prophets, who were not understood, and upon whom was to be built the world of believers in the Lord, were revealed. “At Thy chiding, O Lord:” crying out, “The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.”3 “At the blasting of the breath of Thy displeasure;” saying, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”4

17. “He hath sent down from on high, and hath fetched Me” (ver. 16): by calling out of the Gentiles for an inheritance “a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle.”5 “He hath taken Me out of the multitude of waters.” He hath taken Me out of the multitude of peoples.

18. “He hath delivered Me from My strongest enemies” (ver. 17). He hath delivered Me from Mine enemies, who prevailed to the afflicting and overturning of this temporal life of Mine. “And from them which hate Me; for they are too strong for Me:” as long as I am under them knowing not God.

19. “They have prevented Me in the day of My affliction” (ver. 18). They have first injured Me, in the time when I am bearing a mortal and toilsome body. “And the Lord hath become My stay.” And since the stay of earthly pleasure was disturbed and torn up by the bitterness of misery, the Lord hath become My stay.

20. “And hath brought Me forth into a broad place” (ver. 19). And since I was enduring the straits of the flesh, He brought Me forth into the spiritual breadth of faith. “He hath delivered Me, because He desired Me.” Before that I desired Him, He delivered Me from My most powerful enemies (who were envious of Me when I once desired Him), and from them that hated Me, because I do desire Him.

21. “And the Lord shall reward Me according to My righteousness” (ver. 20). And the Lord shall reward Me according to the righteousness of My good will, who first showed mercy, before that I had the good will. “And according to the cleanness of My hands He will recompense Me.” And according to the cleanness of My deeds He will recompense Me, who hath given Me to do well by bringing Me forth into the broad place of faith.

22. “Because I have kept the ways of the Lord” (ver. 21). That the breadth of good works, that are by faith, and the long-suffering of perseverance should follow after.

23. “Nor have I walked impiously apart from My God.” “For all His judgments are6 in My sight” (ver. 22). “For” with persevering contemplation I weigh “all His judgments,” that is, the rewards of the righteous, and the punishments of the ungodly, and the scourges of such as are to be chastened, and the trials of such as are to be proved. “And I have not cast out His righteousness from Me:” as they do that faint under their burden of them, and return to their own vomit.

24. “And I shall be undefiled with Him, and I shall keep Myself from Mine iniquity” (ver. 23).

25. “And the Lord shall reward Me according to My righteousness” (ver. 24). Accordingly not only for the breadth of faith, which worketh by love; but also for the length of perseverance, will the Lord reward Me according to My righteousness. “And according to the cleanness of My hands in the sight of His eyes.” Not as men see, but “in the sight of His eyes.” For “the things that are seen are temporal; but the things that are not seen are eternal:”7 whereto the height of hope appertains.

26. “With the holy Thou shalt be holy” (ver. 25). There is a hidden depth also, wherein Thou art known to be holy with the holy, for that Thou makest holy. “And with the harmless Thou shalt be harmless.” For Thou harmest no man, but each one is bound by the bands of his own sins.8

27. “And with the chosen Thou shalt be chosen” (ver. 26). And by him whom Thou choosest, Thou art chosen. “And with the froward Thou shalt be froward.” And with the froward Thou seemest froward: for they say, “The way of the Lord is not right:”9 and their way is not right.

28. “For Thou wilt make whole the humble people” (ver. 27). Now this seems froward to the froward, that Thou wilt make them whole that confess their sins. “And Thou wilt humble the eyes of the proud.” But them that are “ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seek to establish their own,”10 Thou wilt humble.

29. “For thou wilt light My candle, O Lord” (ver. 28). For our light is not from ourselves; but “Thou wilt light my candle, O Lord. O my God, Thou wilt enlighten my darkness.” For we through our sins are darkness; but “Thou, O my God, wilt enlighten my darkness.”

30. “For by Thee shall I be delivered from temptation” (ver. 29). For not by myself, but by Thee, shall I be delivered from temptation. “And in my God shall I leap over the wall.” And not in myself, but in my God shall I leap over the wall, which sin has raised between men and the heavenly Jerusalem.

31. “My God, His way is undefiled” (ver. 30). My God cometh not unto men, except they shall have purified the way of faith, whereby He may come to them; for that “His way is undefiled.” “The words of the Lord have been proved by fire.” The words of the Lord are tried by the fire of tribulation. “He is the Protector of them that hope in Him.” And all that hope not in themselves, but in Him, are not consumed by that same tribulation. For hope followeth faith.
32. “For who is God, but the Lord?” (ver. 31) whom we serve. “And who God, but our God?” And who is God, but the Lord? whom after good service we sons shall possess as the hoped for inheritance.

33. “God, who hath girded me with strength” (ver. 32). God, who hath girded me that I might be strong, lest the loosely flowing folds of desire hinder my deeds and steps. “And hath made my way undefiled.” And hath made the way of love, whereby I may come to Him, undefiled, as the way of faith is undefiled, whereby He comes to me.

34. “Who hath made my feet perfect like harts’ feet” (ver. 33). Who hath made my love perfect to surmount the thorny and dark entanglements of this world. “And will set me up on high.” And will fix my aim on the heavenly habitation, that “I may be filled with all the fulness of God.”1

35. “Who teacheth my hands for battle” (ver. 34). Who teacheth me to work for the overthrow of mine enemies, who strive to shut the kingdom of heaven against us. “And Thou hast made mine arms as a bow of steel.” And Thou hast made my earnest striving after good works unwearied.

36. “And Thou hast given me the defence of my salvation, and Thy right hand hath held me up” (ver. 35). And the favour of Thy grace hath held me up. “And Thy discipline hath directed me to the end.” And Thy correction, not suffering me to wander from the way, hath directed me that whatsoever I do, I refer to that end, whereby I may cleave to Thee. “And this Thy discipline, it shall teach me.” And that same correction of Thine shall teach me to attain to that, whereunto it hath directed me.

37. “Thou hast enlarged my steps under me” (ver. 36). Nor shall the straits of the flesh hinder me; for Thou hast enlarged my love, working in gladness even with these mortal things and members which are under me. “And my footsteps have not been weakened.” And either my goings, or the marks which I have imprinted for the imitation of those that follow, have not been weakened.

38. “I will follow up mine enemies, and seize them” (ver. 37). I will follow up my carnal affections, and will not be seized by them, but will seize them, so that they may be consumed. “And I will not turn, till they fail.” And from this purpose I will not turn myself to rest, till they fail who make a tumult about me.

39. “I will break them, and they shall not be able to stand” (ver. 38): and they shall not hold out against me. “They shall fall under my feet.” When they are cast down, I will place before me the loves2 whereby I walk for evermore.

40. “And Thou hast girded me with strength to the war” (ver. 39). And the loose desires of my flesh hast Thou bound up with strength, that in such a fight I may not be encumbered. “Thou hast supplanted under me them that rose up against me.” Thou hast caused them to be deceived, who followed upon me, that they should be brought under me, who desired to be over me.

41. “And thou hast given mine enemies the back to me” (ver. 40). And thou hast turned mine enemies, and hast made them to be a back to me, that is, to follow me. “And Thou hast destroyed them that hate me.” But such other of them as have persisted in hatred, Thou hast destroyed.

42. “They have cried out, and there was none to save them” (ver. 41). For who can save them, whom Thou wouldest not save? “To the Lord, and He did not hear them.” Nor did they cry out to any chance one, but to the Lord: and He did not judge them worthy of being heard, who depart not from their wickedness.

43. “And I will beat them as small as dust before the face of the wind” (ver. 42). And I will beat them small; for dry they are, receiving not the shower of God’s mercy; that borne aloft and puffed up with pride they may be hurried along from firm and unshaken hope, and as it were from the earth’s solidity and stability. “As the clay of the streets I will destroy them.” In their wanton and loose course along the broad ways of perdition, which many walk, will I destroy them.

44. “Thou wilt deliver Me from the contradictions of the people” (ver. 43). Thou wilt deliver Me from the contradictions of them who said, “If we send Him away, all the world will go after Him.”1

45. “Thou shalt make Me the head of the Gentiles. A people whom I have not known have served Me.” The people of the Gentiles, whom in bodily presence I have not visited, have served Me. “At the hearing of the ear they have obeyed Me” (ver. 44). They have not seen Me with the eye: but, receiving my preachers, at the hearing of the ear they have obeyed Me.

46. “The strange children have lied unto Me.” Children, not to be called Mine, but rather strange children, to whom it is rightly said, “Ye are of your father the devil,”2 have lied unto Me. “The strange children have waxen old” (ver. 45). The strange children, to whom for their renovation I brought the new Testament, have remained in the old man. “And they have halted from their own paths.” And like those that are weak in one foot, for holding the old they have rejected the new Testament, they have become halt, even in their old Law, rather following their own traditions, than God’s. For they brought frivolous charges of unwashen hands,3 because such were the paths, which themselves had made and worn by long use, in wandering from the ways of God’s commands.

47. “The Lord liveth, and blessed be my God.” “But to be carnally minded is death:”4 for “the Lord liveth, and blessed be my God. And let the God of my salvation be exalted” (ver. 46). And let me not think after an earthly fashion of the God of my salvation; nor look from Him for this earthly salvation, but that on high.

48. “O God, who givest Me vengeance, and subduest the people under Me” (ver. 47). O God, who avengest Me by subduing the people under Me. “My Deliverer from My angry enemies:” the Jews crying out, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”5

49. “From them that rise up against Me Thou wilt exalt Me” (ver. 48). From the Jews that rise up against Me in My passion, Thou wilt exalt Me in My resurrection. “From the unjust man Thou wilt deliver Me.” From their unjust rule Thou wilt deliver Me.

50. “For this cause will I confess to Thee among the Gentiles, O Lord” (ver. 49). For this cause shall the Gentiles confess to Thee through Me, O Lord. “And I will sing unto Thy Name.” And Thou shall be more widely known by My good deeds.

51. “Magnifying the salvation of His King” (ver. 50). God, who magnifieth, so as to make wonderful, the salvation, which His Son giveth to believers.6 “And showing mercy to His Christ:” God, who showeth mercy to His Christ: “To David and to His seed for evermore:” to the Deliverer Himself strong of hand, who hath overcome this world; and to them whom, as believers in the Gospel, He hath begotten for evermore. What things soever are spoken in this Psalm which cannot apply to the Lord Himself personally, that is to the Head of the Church, must be referred to the Church. For whole Christ speaks here, in whom are all His members.

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My Introduction to Psalm 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 18, 2014

This psalm is usually classified as a wisdom psalm inasmuch as it contains characteristics common to that genre. These include macarisms (i.e. blessed or happy sayings); extoling of the Torah; two-ways teaching (i.e. contrasting the actions and/or fate of the just and wicked); and acrostic structure (i.e. alphabetic structure).

The psalm can be easily divided into four parts (note that the three part structure given above is more generally accepted):

A) Vss 1-3. These verses focus on the just man. Vs 1 defines the just man by way of negation, detailing what the just man is not. Vs 2 looks at the just man in a positive fashion by describing something a just man does. Vs 3 applies a descriptive image of the just man.

B) Vs 4 Focus upon the wicked and applies a descriptive image of them.

C) Vs 5 Gives the consequences of the differences that exist between the just and the wicked.

D) Vs 6 The ultimate reason for these consequences.

The protestant commentator, Matthew Henry, gives a good, brief overview concerning the psalm, followed  by a common outline that differs slightly from the one presented above.

This is a psalm of instruction concerning good and evil, setting before us life and death, the blessing and the curse, that we may take the right way which leads to happiness and avoid that which will certainly end in our misery and ruin. The different character and condition of godly people and wicked people, those that serve God and those that serve him not, is here plainly stated in a few words; so that every man, if he will be faithful to himself, may here see his own face and then read his own doom. That division of the children of men into saints and sinners, righteous and unrighteous, the children of God and the children of the wicked one, as it is ancient, ever since the struggle began between sin and grace, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, so it is lasting, and will survive all other divisions and subdivisions of men into high and low, rich and poor, bond and free; for by this men’s everlasting state will be determined, and the distinction will last as long as heaven and hell. This psalm shows us:

1) The holiness and happiness of a godly man (v. 1-3).

2) The sinfulness and misery of a wicked man (v. 4, 5).

3) The groundand reason of both (v. 6). Whoever collected the psalms of David (probably it was Ezra) with good reason put this psalm first, as a preface to the rest, because it is absolutely necessary to the acceptance of our devotions that we be righteous before God (for it is only the prayer of the upright that is his delight), and therefore that we be right in our notions of blessedness and in our choice of the way that leads to it. Those are not fit to put up good prayers who do not walk in good ways. (From the MATTHEW HENRY BIBLE COMMENTARY: PSALMS, CH 1)

 

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 88

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 24, 2014

1. The Title of this Psalm contains a fresh subject for enquiry: the words occurring here, “for Melech to respond,” being nowhere else found. We have already given our opinion on the meaning of the titles Psalmus Cantici and Canticum Psalmi (in the comments on Ps 44): and the words, “sons of Core,” are constantly repeated, and have often been explained: so also “to the end;” but what comes next in this title is peculiar. For “Melech” (Maheleth) we may translate into Latin “for the chorus,” for chorus is the sense of the Hebrew word Melech (Maheleth). … The Passion of our Lord is here prophesied. Now the Apostle Peter saith, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps” (1 Pet 2:21); this is the meaning of “to respond.” The Apostle John also saith, “As Christ laid down His life for us, so ought we also to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn 3:16); this also is to respond. But the choir signifies concord, which consists in charity: whoever therefore in imitation of our Lord’s Passion gives up his body to be burnt, if he have not charity, does not answer in the choir, and therefore it profiteth him nothing (1 Cor 13:3). Further, as in Latin the terms Precentor and Succentor are used to denote in music the performer who sings the first part, and him who takes it up; just so in this song of the Passion, Christ going before is followed by the choir of martyrs unto the end of gaining crowns in Heaven. This is sung by “the sons of Core,” that is, the imitators of Christ’s Passion: as Christ was crucified in Calvary, which is the interpretation of the Hebrew word Core (Mt 27:33). This also is “the understanding of Æman the Israelite:”7 words occurring at the end of this title (the Vulgate has “Ezrahitæ”). Æman is said to mean, “his brother:” for Christ deigns to make those His brethren, who understand the mystery of His Cross, and not only are not ashamed of it, but faithfully glory in it, not praising themselves for their own merits, but grateful for His grace: so that it may be said to each of them, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile” (Jn 1:47), just as holy Scripture says of Israel himself, that he was without guile (Gen 25:27).

2. “O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before Thee” (ver. 1). Let us therefore now hear the voice of Christ singing before us in prophecy, to whom His own choir should respond either in imitation, or in thanksgiving.

“O let my prayer enter into Thy presence, incline Thine ear unto my calling” (ver. 2). For even our Lord prayed, not in the form of God, but in the form of a servant; for in this He also suffered. He prayed both in prosperous times, that is, by “day,” and in calamity, which I imagine is meant by “night.” The entrance of prayer into God’s presence is its acceptance: the inclination of His ear is His compassionate listening to it: for God has not such bodily members as we have. The passage is however, as usual, a repetition.

3. “For my soul is filled with evils, and my life draweth nigh unto hell” (ver. 3). Dare we speak of the Soul of Christ as “filled with evils,” when the passion had strength as far as it had any, only over the body?… The soul therefore may feel pain without the body: but without the soul the body cannot. Why therefore should we not say that the Soul of Christ was full of the evils of humanity, though not of human sins? Another Prophet says of Him, that He grieved for us (Isa 53:4): and the Evangelist says, “And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy:” and our Lord Himself saith unto them of Himself, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Mt 26:37-38). The Prophet who composed this Psalm, foreseeing that this would happen, introduces Him saying, “My soul is full of evils, and My life draweth nigh unto hell.” For the very same sense is here expressed in other words, as when He said, “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death.” The words, “My soul is sorrowful,” are like these, “My soul is full of evils:” and what follows, “even unto death,” like, “my life draweth nigh unto hell.” These feelings of human infirmity our Lord took upon Him, as He did the flesh of human infirmity, and the death of human flesh, not by the necessity of His condition, but by the free will of His mercy, that He might transfigure into Himself His own body, which is the Church (the head of which He deigned to be), that is, His members in His holy and faithful disciples: that if amid human temptations any one among them happened to be in sorrow and pain, he might not therefore think that he was separated from His favour: that the body, like the chorus following its leader, might learn from its Head, that these sorrows were not sin, but proofs of human weakness. We read of the Apostle Paul, a chief member in this body, and we hear him confessing that his soul was full of such evils, when he says, that he feels “great heaviness and continual sorrow in heart for his brethren according to the flesh, who are Israelites” (Rom 9:2, 4). And if we say that our Lord was sorrowful for them also at the approach of His Passion, in which they would incur the most atrocious guilt, I think we shall not speak amiss. Lastly, the very thing said by our Saviour on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34), is expressed in this Psalm below, “I am counted as one of them that go down into the pit” (ver. 4): by them who knew not what they were doing, when they imagined that He died like other men, subjected to necessity, and overcome by it. The word “pit” is used for the depth of woe or of Hell. “I have been as a man that hath no help.”

4. “Free among the dead” (ver. 5). In these words our Lord’s Person is most clearly shown: for who else is free among the dead but He who though in the likeness of sinful flesh is alone among sinners without sin? (Rom 8:3) … He therefore, “free among the dead,” who had it in His power to lay down His life, and again to take it; from whom no one could take it, but He laid it down of His own free will; who could revive His own flesh, as a temple destroyed by them, at His will; who, when all had forsaken Him on the eve of His Passion, remained not alone, because, as He testifies, His Father forsook Him not (Jn 8:29); was nevertheless by His enemies, for whom He prayed, who knew not what they did.… counted “as one who hath no help; like unto them that are wounded, and lie in the grave.” But he adds, “Whom thou dost not yet remember:” and in these words there is to be remarked a distinction between Christ and the rest of the dead. For though He was wounded, and when dead laid in the tomb (Mt 27:50, 60), yet they who knew not what they were doing, or who He was, regarded Him as like others who had perished from their wounds, and who slept in the tomb, who are as yet out of remembrance of God, that is, whose hour of resurrection has not yet arrived. For thus the Scripture speaks of the dead as sleeping, because it wishes them to be regarded as destined to awake, that is, to rise again. But He, wounded and asleep in the tomb, awoke on the third day, and became “like a sparrow that sitteth alone on the housetop” (Ps 102:7), that is, on the right hand of His Father in Heaven: and now “dieth no more, death shall no more have dominion over Him” (Rom 6:9). Hence He differs widely from those whom God hath not yet remembered to cause their resurrection after this manner: for what was to go before in the Head, was kept for the Body in the end. God is then said to remember, when He does an act: then to forget, when He does it not: for neither can God forget, as He never changes, nor remember, as He can never forget. “I am counted” then, by those who know not what they do, “as a man that hath no help:” while I am “free among the dead,” I am held by these men “like unto them that are wounded, and lie in the grave.” Yet those very men, who account thus of Me, are further said to be “cut away from Thy hand,” that is, when I was made so by them, “they were cut away from Thy hand;” they who believed Me destitute of help, are deprived of the help of Thy hand: for they, as he saith in another Psalm (57:7), have digged a pit before me, and are fallen into the midst of it themselves. I prefer this interpretation to that which refers the words, “they are cut away from Thy hand,” to those who sleep in the tomb, whom God hath not yet remembered: since the righteous are among the latter, of whom, even though God hath not yet called them to the resurrection, it is said, that their “souls are in the hands of God” (Wis 3:1), that is, that “they dwell under the defence of the Most High; and shall abide under the shadow of the God of Heaven” (Ps 91:1). But it is those who are cut away from the hand of God, who believed that Christ was cut off from His hand, and thus accounting Him among the wicked, dared to slay Him.

5. “They laid Me in the lowest pit” (ver. 6), that is, the deepest pit. For so it is in the Greek. But what is the lowest pit, but the deepest woe, than which there is none more deep? Whence in another Psalm it is said, “Thou broughtest me out also of the pit of misery” (Ps 40:3). “In a place of darkness, and in the shadow of death,” whiles they knew not what they did, they laid Him there, thus deeming of Him; they knew not Him “whom none of the princes of this world knew” (1 Cor 2:8). By the “shadow of death,” I know not whether the death of the body is to be understood, or that of which it is written, “That they walked in darkness and in the land of the shadow of death, a light is risen on them” (Isa 9:2), because by belief they were brought from out of the darkness and death of sin into light and life. Such an one those who knew not what they did thought our Lord, and in their ignorance accounted Him among those whom He came to help, that they might not be such themselves.

6. “Thy indignation lieth hard upon Me” (ver. 7), or, as other copies have it, “Thy anger;” or, as others, “Thy fury:” the Greek word θυμὸς having undergone different interpretations. For where the Greek copies have ὀργὴ, no translator hesitated to express it by the Latin ira; but where the word is θυμὸς, most object to rendering it by ira, although many of the authors of the best Latin style, in their translations from Greek philosophy, have thus rendered the word in Latin. But I shall not discuss this matter further: only if I also were to suggest another term, I should think “indignation” more tolerable than “fury,” this word in Latin not being applied to persons in their senses. What then does this mean, “Thy indignation lieth hard upon Me,” except the belief of those, who knew not the Lord of Glory? (1 Cor 2:8) who imagined that the anger of God was not merely roused, but lay hard upon Him, whom they dared to bring to death, and not only death, but that kind, which they regarded as the most execrable of all, namely, the death of the Cross: whence saith the Apostle, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth upon a tree” (Gal 3:13). On this account, wishing to praise His obedience which He carried to the extreme of humility, he says, “He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death;” and as this seemed little, he added, “even the death of the Cross” (Phil 2:8); and with the same view as far as I can see, he says in this Psalm, “And all thy suspensions,” or, as some translate “waves,” others “tossings,” “Thou hast brought over Me.” We also find in another Psalm, “All thy suspensions and waves are come in upon Me” (Ps 42:7), or, as some have translated better, “have passed over Me:” for it is διῆλθον in Greek, not εἰσῆλθον: and where both expressions are employed, “waves” and “suspensions,” one cannot be used as equivalent to the other. In that passage we explained “suspensions” as threatenings, “waves” as the actual sufferings: both inflicted by God’s judgment: but in that place it is said, “All have passed over Me,” here, “Thou hast brought all upon Me.” In the other case, that is, although some evils took place, yet, he said, all those which are here mentioned passed over; but in this case, “Thou hast brought them upon Me.” Evils pass over when they do not touch a man, as things which hang over him, or when they do touch him, as waves. But when he uses the word “suspensions,” he does not say they passed over, but, “Thou hast brought them upon Me,” meaning that all which impended had come to pass. All things which were predicted of His Passion impended, as long as they remained in the prophecies for future fulfilment.

7. “Thou hast put Mine acquaintance far from Me” (ver. 8). If we understand by acquaintance those whom He knew, it will be all men; for whom knew He not? But He calls those acquaintance, to whom He was Himself known, as far as they could know Him at that season: at least so far forth as they knew Him to be innocent, although they considered Him only as a man, not as likewise God. Although He might call the righteous whom He approved, acquaintance, as He calls the wicked unknown, to whom He was to say at the end, “I know you not” (Mt 7:23) In what follows, “and they have set Me for an abhorrence to themselves;” those whom He called before “acquaintance,” may be meant, as even they felt horror at the mode of that death: but it is better referred to those of whom He was speaking above as His persecutors. “I was delivered up, and did not get forth.” Is this because His disciples were without, while He was being tried within? (Mt 26:56) Or are we to give a deeper meaning to the words, “I cannot get forth” as signifying, “I remained hidden in My secret counsels, I showed not who I was, I did not reveal Myself, was not made manifest”? And so it follows,—

“My eyes became weak from want” (ver. 9). For what eyes are we to understand? If the eyes of the flesh in which He suffered, we do not read that His eyes became weak from want, that is, from hunger, in His Passion, as is often the case; as He was betrayed after His Supper, and crucified on the same day: if the inner eyes, how were they weakened from want, in which there was a light that could never fail? But He meant by His eyes those members in the body, of which He was Himself the head, which, as brighter and more eminent and chief above the rest, He loved. It was of this body that the Apostle was speaking, when he wrote, taking his metaphor from our own body, “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?” etc. (1 Cor 12:17-21). What he wished understood by these words, he has expressed more clearly, by adding, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor 12:27). Wherefore as those eyes, that is, the holy Apostles, to whom not flesh and blood, but the Father which is in Heaven had revealed Him, so that Peter said, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16:16), when they saw Him betrayed, and suffering such evils, saw Him not such as they wished, as He did not come forth, did not manifest Himself in His virtue and power, but still hidden in His secrecy, endured everything as a man overcome and enfeebled, they became weak for want, as if their food, their Light, had been withdrawn from them.

8. He continues, “And I have called upon Thee.” This indeed He did most clearly, when upon the Cross. But what follows? “All the day I have stretched forth My hands unto Thee,” must be examined how it must be taken. For if in this expression we understand the tree of the Cross, how can we reconcile it with the “whole day”? Can He be said to have hung upon the Cross during the whole day, as the night is considered a part of the day? But if day, as opposed to night, was meant by this expression, even of this day, the first and no small portion had passed by at the time of His crucifixion. But if we take “day” in the same sense of time (especially as the word is used in the feminine, a gender which is restricted to that sense in Latin, although not so in Greek, as it is always used in the feminine, which I suppose to be the reason for its translation in the same gender in our own version), the knot of the question will be drawn tighter: for how can it mean for the whole space of time, if He did not even for one day stretch forth His hands on the Cross? Further, should we take the whole for a part, as Scripture sometimes uses this expression, I do not remember an instance in which the whole is taken for a part, when the word “whole” is expressly added. For in the passage of the Gospel where the Lord saith, “The Son of Man shall be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Mt 12:40), it is no extraordinary licence to take the whole for the part, the expression not being for three “whole” days and three whole nights: since the one intermediate day was a whole one, the other two were parts, the last being part of the first day, the first part of the last. But if the Cross is not meant here, but the prayer, which we find in the Gospel that He poured forth in the form of a servant to God the Father, where He is said to have prayed long before His Passion, and on the eve of His Passion, and also when on the Cross, we do not read anywhere that He did so throughout the whole day. Therefore by the stretched-out hands throughout the whole day, we may understand the continuation of good works in which He never ceased from exertion.

9. But as His good works profited only the predestined to eternal salvation, and not all men, nor even all those among whom they were done, he adds, “Dost thou show wonders among the dead?” (ver. 10). If we suppose this relates to those whose flesh life has left, great wonders have been wrought among the dead, inasmuch as some of them have revived (Mt 27:52): and in our Lord’s descent into Hell, and His ascent as the conqueror of death, a great wonder was wrought among the dead. He refers then in these words, “Dost Thou show wonders among the dead?” to men so dead in heart, that such great works of Christ could not rouse them to the life of faith: for he does not say that wonders are not shown to them because they see them not, but because they do not profit them. For, as he says in this passage, “the whole day have I stretched forth My hands to Thee:” because He ever refers all His works to the will of His Father, constantly declaring that He came to fulfil His Father’s will (Jn 6:38) so also, as an unbelieving people saw the same works, another Prophet saith, “I have spread out my hands all day unto a rebellious people, that believes not, but contradicts” (Isa 65:2). Those then are dead, to whom wonders have not been shown, not because they saw them not, but since they lived not again through them. The following verse, “Shall physicians revive them, and shall they praise Thee?” means, that the dead shall not be revived by such means, that they may praise Thee. In the Hebrew there is said to be a different expression: giants being used where physicians are here: but the Septuagint translators, whose authority is such that they may deservedly be said to have interpreted by the inspiration of the Spirit of God owing to their wonderful agreement, conclude, not by mistake, but taking occasion from the resemblance in sound between the Hebrew words expressing these two senses, that the use of the word is an indication of the sense in which the word giants is meant to be taken. For if you suppose the proud meant by giants, of whom the Apostle saith, “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?” (1 Cor 1:20) there is no incongruity in calling them physicians, as if by their own unaided skill they promised the salvation of souls: against whom it is said, “Of the Lord is safety” (Ps 4:8). But if we take the word giant in a good sense, as it is said of our Lord, “He rejoiceth as a giant to run his course” (Ps 19:5); that is Giant of giants, chief among the greatest and strongest, who in His Church excel in spiritual strength. Just as He is the Mountain of mountains; as it is written, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be manifested in the top of the mountains” (Isa 2:2): and the Saint of saints: there is no absurdity in styling these same great and mighty men physicians. Whence saith the Apostle, “if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Rom 11:14). But even such physicians, even though they cure not by their own power (as not even of their own do those of the body), yet so far forth as by faithful ministry they assist towards salvation, can cure the living, but not raise the dead: of whom it is said, “Dost Thou show wonders among the dead?” For the grace of God, by which men’s minds in a certain manner are brought to live a fresh life, so as to be able to hear the lessons of salvation from any of its ministers whatever, is most hidden and mysterious. This grace is thus spoken of in the Gospel. “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (Jn 6:44); … in order to show, that the very faith by which the soul believes, and springs into fresh life from the death of its former affections, is given us by God. Whatever exertions, then, the best preachers of the word, and persuaders of the truth through miracles, may make with men, just like great physicians: yet if they are dead, and through Thy grace have not a second life, “Dost Thou show wonders among the dead, or shall physicians raise them? and shall they” whom they raise “praise Thee”? For this confession declares that they live: not, as it is written elsewhere, “Thanksgiving perisheth from the dead, as from one that is not” (Sir 17:26).

10. “Shall one show Thy loving-kindness in the grave, or Thy faithfulness in destruction?” (ver. 11). The word “show” is of course understood as if repeated, Shall any show Thy faithfulness in destruction? Scripture loves to connect loving-kindness and faithfulness, especially in the Psalms. “Destruction” also is a repetition of “the grave,” and signifies them who are in the grave, styled above “the dead,” in the verse, “Dost thou show wonders among the dead?” for the body is the grave of the dead soul; whence our Lord’s words in the Gospel, “Ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but within are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Mt 23:27-28).

11. “Shall thy wondrous works be known in the dark, and thy righteousness in the land where all things are forgotten?” (ver. 12), the dark answers to the land of forgetfulness: for the unbelieving are meant by the dark, as the Apostle saith, “For ye were sometimes darkness” (Eph 5:8); and the land where all things are forgotten, is the man who has forgotten God; for the unbelieving soul can arrive at darkness so intense, “that the fool saith in his heart, There is no God” (Ps 14:1). Thus the meaning of the whole passage may thus be drawn out in its connection: “Lord, I have called upon Thee,” amid My sufferings; “all day I have stretched forth my hands unto Thee” (ver. 13). I have never ceased to stretch forth My works to glorify Thee. Why then do the wicked rage against Me, unless because “Thou showest not wonders among the dead”? because those wonders move them not to faith, nor can physicians restore them to life that they may praise Thee, because Thy hidden grace works not in them to draw them unto believing: because no man cometh unto Me, but whom Thou hast drawn. Shall then “Thy loving-kindness be showed in the grave”? that is, the grave of the dead soul, which lies dead beneath the body’s weight: “or Thy faithfulness in destruction”? that is, in such a death as cannot believe or feel any of these things. “For how then in the darkness” of this death, that is, in the man who in forgetting Thee has lost the light of his life, “shall Thy wondrous works and Thy righteousness be known.” …

12. But that those prayers, the blessings of which surpass all words, may be more fervent and more constant, the gift that shall last unto eternity is deferred, while transitory evils are allowed to thicken. And so it follows: “Lord, why hast Thou cast off my prayer?” (ver. 14), which may be compared with another Psalm (22:1); “My God, My God, look upon me; why hast Thou forsaken me?” The reason is made matter of question, not as if the wisdom of God were blamed as doing so without a cause; and so here. “Lord, why hast Thou cast off my prayer?” But if this cause be attended to carefully, it will be found indicated above; for it is with the view that the prayers of the Saints are, as it were, repelled by the delay of so great a blessing, and by the adversity they encounter in the troubles of life, that the flame, thus fanned, may burst into a brighter blaze.

For this purpose he briefly sketches in what follows the troubles of Christ’s body. For it is not in the Head alone that they took place, since it is said to Saul too, “Why persecutest thou Me?” (Acts 9:4 and Paul himself, as if placed as an elect member in the same body, saith, “That I may fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh” (Col 1:24). “Why then, Lord, hast Thou cast off my soul? why hidest Thou Thy face from me?”

“I am poor, and in toils from my youth up: and when lifted up, I was thrown down, and troubled” (ver. 15).

“Thy wraths went over me: Thy terrors disturbed me” (ver. 16).

“They came round about me all day like water: they compassed me about together” (ver. 17).

“A friend Thou hast put far from me: and mine acquaintance from my misery” (ver. 18). All these evils have taken place, and are happening in the limbs of Christ’s body, and God turns away His face from their prayers, by not hearing as to what they wish for, since they know not that the fulfilment of their wishes would not be good for them. The Church is “poor,” as she hungers and thirsts in her wanderings for that food with which she shall be filled in her own country: she is “in toils from her youth up,” as the very Body of Christ saith in another Psalm, “Many a time have they overcome me from my youth” (Ps 129:1). And for this reason some of her members are lifted up even in this world, that in them may be the greater lowliness. Over that Body, which constitutes the unity of the Saints and the faithful, whose Head is Christ, go the wraths of God: yet abide not: since it is of the unbelieving only that it is written, that “the wrath of God abideth upon him” (Jn 3:36). The terrors of God disturb the weakness of the faithful, because all that can happen, even though it actually happen not, it is prudent to fear; and sometimes these terrors so agitate the reflecting soul with the evils impending around, that they seem to flow around us on every side like water, and to encircle us in our fears. And as the Church while on pilgrimage is never free from these evils, happening as they do at one moment in one of her limbs, at another in another, he adds, “all day,” signifying the continuation in time, to the end of this world. Often too, friends and acquaintances, their worldly interests at stake, in their terror forsake the Saints; of which saith the Apostle, “all men forsook me: may it not be laid to their charge” (2 Tim 4:16). But to what purpose is all this, but that early in the morning, that is, after the night of unbelief, the prayers of this holy Body may in the light of faith prevent God, until the coming of that salvation, which we are at present saved by hoping for, not by having, while we await it with patience and faithfulness. Then the Lord will not repel our prayers, as there will no longer be anything to be sought for, but everything that has been rightly asked, will be obtained: nor will He turn His face away from us, since we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2): nor shall we be poor, because God will be our abundance, all in all (1 Cor 15:28): nor shall we suffer, as there will be no more weakness: nor after exaltation shall we meet with humiliation and confusion, as there will be no adversity there: nor bear even the transient wrath of God, as we shall abide in His abiding love: nor will His terrors agitate us, because His promises realized will bless us: nor will our friend and acquaintance, being terrified, be far from us, where there will be no foe to dread.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 144

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 24, 2014

A PRAYER FOR VICTORY AND PROSPERITY

THIS psalm consists of two parts—verses 1-11, and verses 12-15. The first part is largely an imitation of the great Davidic Psalm 18, with an admixture of extracts from Psalms 8, 21, 37, 102. The second part is a prayer for the fulness of Messianic blessing. The first part is a song of war and victory; the second contains a picture of the idyllic peace which Israel is to enjoy, under the rule of her Messianic King. It is possible, perhaps, to take the psalm, as a whole, as a liturgical prayer for the deliverance of Israel from foreign oppression and for the speedy coming of her Messianic greatness.

The dependence of this psalm on Ps. 18 gives it a claim to be styled a ‘ Davidic Psalm.’ The title, Adversus Goliath (to which nothing corresponds in the Hebrew), suggests the possibility that the particular Jewish community which introduced this psalm into its liturgy, felt itself to be overshadowed by its opponents, as David was by Goliath, but hoped, nevertheless, for a victory over its adversaries no less complete than David’s over Goliath. Such a victory would be, as it were, the inauguration of the Messianic age.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 138

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 16, 2014

A HYMN OF DELIVERANCE

THIS is a song of thanksgiving for the goodness of Yahweh towards His people in general, and in particular for some gracious intervention of the Lord on behalf of Israel that has just occurred.

Yahweh has glorified His name and His word by granting success to His people, Israel. For this public thanksgiving is due. The heathen gods will be compelled to look on while thanksgiving is being made to Yahweh for the gracious deeds by which He has broken the power of Israel’s heathen foes. Even the kings of the heathens, themselves, when they realise all the greatness of Yahweh’s truth and kindness and power will join with Israel in honouring Him and giving Him thanks. The help which the Lord has recently given will not be refused again in time of need, for the loving-kindness of Yahweh endures for ever, and He cannot forget the “work of His hands.”

The psalm is ascribed to David in the Massoretic text, and tO David, Haggai and Zechariah by the Septuagint. This shows uncertainty of tradition as to authorship. The idea that foreign kings are to join in honouring the God of Israel belongs to the realm of Messianic hope. It has been suggested that the best setting for this psalm would be the period of Nehemiah when Israel was able to face the heathen world boldly, in the proud consciousness of her newly established power.

It will be noted that this psalm is closely allied in many respects with Ps. 116.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 22:34-40

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 16, 2014

Ver 34. But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.35. Then one of them, which was a Lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,36. “Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?”37. Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.38. This is the first and great commandment.39. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.40. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jerome: The Pharisees having been themselves already confuted (in the matter of the denarius), and now seeing their adversaries also overthrown, should have taken warning to attempt no further deceit against Him; but hate and jealousy are the parents of impudence.

Origen: Jesus had put the Sadducees to silence, to shew that the tongue of falsehood is silenced by the brightness of truth. For as it belongs to the righteous man to be silent when it is good to be silent, and to speak when it is good to speak, and not to hold his peace; so it belongs to every teacher of a lie not indeed to be silent, but to be silent as far as any good purpose is concerned.

Jerome: The Pharisees and Sadducees, thus foes to one another, unite in one common purpose to tempt Jesus.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Or the Pharisees meet together, that their numbers may silence Him whom their reasonings could not confute; thus, while they array numbers against Him, shewing that truth failed them; they said among themselves, Let one speak for all, and all speak, through one, so if He prevail, the victory may seem to belong to all; if He be overthrown, the defeat may rest with Him alone; so it follows, “Then one of them, a teacher of the Law, asked him a question, tempting Him.”

Origen: All who thus ask questions of any teacher to try him, and not to learn of him, we must regard as brethren of this Pharisee, according to what is said below, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of mine, ye have done it unto me.” [Mat_25:40]

Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 73: Let no one find a difficulty in this, that Matthew speaks of this man as putting his question to tempt the Lord, whereas Mark does not mention this, but concludes with what the Lord said to him upon his answering wisely, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” [Mar_12:34] For it is possible that, though he came to tempt, yet the Lord’s answer may have wrought correction within him.

Or, the tempting here meant need not be that of one designing to deceive an enemy, but rather the cautious approach of one making proof of a stranger. And that is not written in vain, “Whoso believeth lightly, he is of a vain heart.” [Ecc_19:4]

Origen: He said “Master” tempting Him, for none but a disciple would thus address Christ. Whoever then does not learn of the Word, nor yields himself wholly up to it, yet calls it Master, he is brother to this Pharisee thus tempting Christ. Perhaps while they read the Law before the Saviour’s coming, it was a question among them which was the great commandment in it; nor would the Pharisee have asked this, if it had not been long time enquired among themselves, but never found till Jesus came and declared it.

Pseudo-Chrys.: He who now enquires for the greatest commandment had not observed the least. He only ought to seek for a higher righteousness who has fulfilled the lower.

Jerome: Or he enquires not for the sake of the commands, but which is the first and great commandment, that seeing all that God commands is great, he may have occasion to cavil whatever the answer be.

Pseudo-Chrys.: But the Lord so answers him, as at once to lay bare the dissimulation of his enquiry, “Jesus saith unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Thou shalt love,” not ‘fear,’ for to love is more than to fear; to fear belongs to slaves, to love to sons; fear is in compulsion, love in freedom. Whoso serves God in fear escapes punishment, but has not the reward of righteousness because he did well unwillingly through fear. God does not desire to be served servilely by men as a master, but to be loved as a father, for that He has given the spirit of adoption to men.

But to love God with the whole heart, is to have the heart inclined to the love of no one thing more than of God. To love God again with the whole soul is to have the mind stayed upon the truth, and to be firm in the faith. For the love of the heart and the love of the soul are different. The first is in a sort carnal, that we should love God even with our flesh, which we cannot do unless we first depart from the love of the things of this world. The love of the heart is felt in the heart, but the love of the soul is not felt, but is perceived because it consists in a judgment of the soul. For he who believes that all good is in God, and that without Him is no good, he loves God with his whole soul. But to love God with the whole mind, is to have all the faculties open and unoccupied for Him. He only loves God with his whole mind, whose intellect ministers to God, whose wisdom is employed about God, whose thoughts travail in the things of God, and whose memory holds the things which are good.

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 22: Or otherwise; You are commanded to love God “with all thy heart,” that your whole thoughts — “with all thy soul,” that your whole life — “with all thy mind,” that your whole understanding — may be given to Him from whom you have that you give. Thus He has left no part of our life which may justly be unfilled of Him, or give place to the desire after any other final good [marg. note: alia re frui]; but if aught else present itself for the soul’s love, it should be absorbed into that channel in which the whole current of love runs. For man is then the most perfect when his whole life tends towards the life [marg. note: al. bonum] unchangeable, and clings to it with the whole purpose of his soul.

Gloss., interlin.: Or, “with all thy heart,” i.e. understanding; “with all thy soul,” i.e. thy will; “with all thy mind,” i.e. memory; so you shall think, will, remember nothing contrary to Him.

Origen: Or otherwise; “With all thy heart,” that is, in all recollection, act, thought; “with all thy soul,” to be ready, that is, to lay it down for God’s religion; “with all thy mind,” bringing forth nothing but what is of God. And consider whether you cannot thus take the heart of the understanding, by which we contemplate things intellectual, and the “mind” of that by which we utter thoughts, walking as it were with the mind through each expression, and uttering it.

If the Lord had given no answer to the Pharisee who thus tempted Him, we should have judged that there was no commandment greater than the rest. But when the Lord adds, “This is the first and great commandment,” we learn how we ought to think of the commandments, that there is a great one, and that there are less down to the least. And the Lord says not only that it is a great, but that it is the first commandment, not in order of Scripture, but in supremacy of value.

They only take upon them the greatness and supremacy of this precept, who not only love the Lord their God, but add these three conditions. Nor did He only teach the first and great commandment, but added that there was a second like unto the first, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:” But if “Whoso loveth iniquity hath hated his own soul,” [Psa_11:5] it is manifest that he does not love his neighbour as himself, when he does not love himself.

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 30; see Rom_13:10: It is clear that every man is to be regarded as a neighbour, because evil is to be done to no man. Further, if every one to whom we are bound to shew service of mercy, or who is bound to shew it to us, be rightly called our neighbour, it is manifest that in this precept are comprehended the holy Angels who perform for us those services of which we may read in Scripture.

Whence also our Lord Himself would be called our neighbour; for it was Himself whom He represents as the good Samaritan, who gave succour to the man who was left half-dead by the way.

Aug., de Trin., viii, 6: He that loves men ought to love them either because they are righteous, or that they may be righteous; and so also ought he to love himself either for that he is, or that he may be righteous. And thus without peril he may love his neighbour as himself.

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 22: But if even yourself you ought not to love for your own sake, but because of Him in whom is the rightful end of your love, let not another man be displeased that you love even him for God’s sake. Whoso then rightly loves his neighbour, ought to endeavour with him that he also with his whole heart love God.

Pseudo-Chrys.: But who loves man is as who loves God; for man is God’s image, wherein God is loved, as a King is honoured in his statue. For this cause this commandment is said to be like the first.

Hilary: Or otherwise; That the second command is like the first signifies that the obligation and merit of both are alike; for no love of God without Christ, or of Christ without God, can profit to salvation.

It follows, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 33: “Hang,” that is, refer thither as their end.

Raban.: For to these two commandments belongs the whole decalogue; the commandments of the first table to the love of God, those of the second to the love of our neighbour.

Origen: Or, because he that has fulfilled the things that are written concerning the love of God and our neighbour, is worthy to receive from God the great reward, that he should be enabled to understand the Law and the Prophets.

Aug., de Trin., viii. 7: Since there are two commandments, the love of God and the love of our neighbour, on which hang the Law and the Prophets, not without reason does Scripture put one for both; sometimes the love of God; as in that, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God;” [Rom_8:28] and sometimes the love of our neighbour; as in that, “All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” [Gal_5:14]

And that because if a man love his neighbour, it follows therefrom that he loves God also; for it is the selfsame affection by which we love God, and by which we love our neighbour, save that we love God for Himself, but ourselves and our neighbour for God’s sake.

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 26, 30: But since the Divine substance is more excellent and higher than our nature, the command to love God is distinct from that to love our neighbour. But if by yourself, you understand your whole self, that is both your soul and your body, and in like manner of your neighbour, there is no sort of things to be loved omitted in these commands. The love of God goes first, and the rule thereof is so set out to us as to make all other loves center in that, so that nothing seems said of loving yourself.

But then follows, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” so that love of yourself is not omitted.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 107

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 16, 2014

THE THANKSGIVING OF THE RESCUED

THIS psalm, though it begins a new Book, forms the natural conclusion to the two preceding psalms. Israel appears here as reconciled with the Lord, and as safely returned from the Exile. The prayer in Ps. 104:47 is taken as granted. The Israelites whom the Lord has brought home are called on to thank
their Saviour, Yahweh, for His manifold favours, and in particular, for the graces of redemption from captivity and safe home-bringing (Ps 107:1-3).

In four strophes, which are clearly marked off by a peculiarly constructed refrain, four perils, typical of the dangers of human life generally, and typical, in particular, of the dangers and difficulties of the Exile in Babylon and the Return from that Exile are vividly described: (a) Ps 107:4-9, the perils of travellers lost in the desert; (b) Ps 107:10-16, imprisonment; (c) Ps 107:17-22, grievous illness; Ps 10723-32, the terrors of a storm at sea.

In a final strophe (Ps 10733-43) the psalmist deals, in the manner of a Sapiential Writer, with the methods of God’s gracious providence as seen in nature and history—especially in the history of Israel. This strophe differs so much in manner and form from the rest of the poem that it has been often treated by critics (sometimes even by Catholic critics) as a separate psalm. It can be shown, however, that in this final section of Psalm 107 also, the redemption of Israel from the captivity of Babylon is kept in view ; hence this strophe, emphasizing, as it does, the might by which God bends all the powers of nature to His purposes and the loving care which He exercises towards His people, forms a fitting conclusion to a poem on the peculiar dangers of the Exile and return from the Exile.

It would appear from a close study of the psalm that it was not composed immediately after the return from the Babylonian Exile, but considerably later. The psalmist has clearly in view, not merely the difficulties of the home-coming from Babylon, but also the perils of all the later home-comings of pious Jews, returning from the Diaspora to join in the celebration of the great feasts in Jerusalem.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 67

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 12, 2014

A HARVEST SONG

HIS psalm is based on the Priestly Blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 the blessing with which the priests were wont to bless the people gathered for worship in the Temple. The Aaronic Blessing in Numbers 6. runs thus:

May Yahweh bless thee and keep thee!May Yahweh make His face to shine upon thee!May Yahweh lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace!

It wishes to Israel, and to each individual Israelite, the care and protecting presence of God, and the sense of peace which comes from friendship with God. In many ways Yahweh could reveal His love for His people, and His protecting presence in their midst ; but no revelation of His love and presence could be more obvious to the popular mind than that contained in the blessings of a bounteous harvest. The psalm is a song of thanksgiving for harvest joys. At a harvest festival whether Pasch (Passover), Pentecost or Tabernacles the words of the Aaronic Blessing are thought of as echoed by the multitude, and expanded into a song such as we have here. The Lord has, indeed, been gracious, and therein lies a token that He will be gracious again. The blessing which Yahweh has granted to Israel is a blessing for the heathens also. They will learn thereby what a mighty and what a loving God Yahweh is, and thus, they, too, will be led to know and praise Him. Thus, in the psalm, the natural blessings of harvest are typical of the greater blessings which the Gentiles will enjoy in common with Israel in the Messianic time.

There is no clear indication of date in the Hebrew text of the psalm. The superscription in the Vulgate (following the Greek) ascribes it, in the usual way, to David. It is clear that the psalm is liturgical in character. It is not connected, as far as can be seen, with any definite occasion, and it was, no doubt, used, in a purely formal way, at all kinds of harvest festivals. Modern criticism regards it as postexilic chiefly because of its universalism.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalms 9 and 10 (Psalm 9 in LXX and Vulgate)

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 16, 2014

In the Greek Septuagint (LXX) and the Latin Vulgate Psalms 9 and 10 are treated (correctly) as a single psalm, numbered 9. Most modern bibles treat them as two separate psalms, numbered 9 and 10. Father Boylan follows the LXX/Vulgate numbering. What he refers to as part one of the psalm corresponds to the modern psalm number 9. Part two corresponds to the modern psalm number 10.

A SONG OF THANKS FOR THE OVERTHROW OF ENEMIES

THE first part of this psalm (verses 2-21) is a song of thanks giving for the rescue of Israel from foreign enemies; the second part (22-39) i s a prayer for protection against troubles which have arisen within the Hebrew State.

Part I. The Lord has held judgment over the heathen strangers. He has reduced their cities to ruins, and blotted out their name forever. Israel, avenged and victorious, sings glad songs of praise and thanks in Jerusalem. The heathens have met with that same fate which they had planned for Sion. The first part ends with a strong appeal to the Lord to set a masterful ruler over the heathens that they may realise that they are but mere men.

Part II begins with a complaint that the Lord is not helping in the hour of need. He seems to stand afar off, and to give no thought to His friends. The friends of the Lord are here the poor and the God-fearing, who are pursued and oppressed by godless Israelites. The oppression of the weaker Israelites by the wealthy and insolent and God-defying aristocrats is vividly described. The psalmist prays to God, as the sole refuge of the weak and lowly, to break the power of their ruthless oppressors.

The concluding verses (37-39) serve as a conclusion to both parts of the psalm. The foreign enemies have been ruined, and the oppressors within Israel have learned the lesson that man is but man, and that God is the shield of the weak and oppressed. The two parts of the poem end with the same thought.

In this analysis it is assumed that the two parts constitute a single poem. The Hebrew text regards them as two separate poems. The combined arrangement is, however, supported by certain features of the Hebrew text itself. This psalm is one of the alphabetical psalms, and the alphabetical structure is continued through the two parts. The two parts form a single psalm in the Greek versions, and in Jerome s version. The Hebrew text of the second part (Ps. 10 Hebrew) has no title as if it had been set in isolation by some accident. As we see, the two parts, besides being connected by the acrostic arrangement, end similarly, and the situation of Part I is implied in the conclusion of Part II. The Vulgate arrangement of the two parts as one poem is, therefore, to be retained. Since, however, Part II forms a separate psalm in the Hebrew text, the Vulgate numbering of the psalms will henceforth, for the most part, be different from that of the Massoretic text (and therefore also, of the Revised Version).

The occasion of this poem cannot be determined. David had many experiences of victories abroad and troubles at home. Yet it is very difficult to find in any known incidents of his reign a background for the ninth Psalm. The tendency of many modern commentators
is to parallel Part I with the prophecy of Nahum, and to explain the defeat of the heathen as referring to the fall of Niniveh. More radical critics would find the inspiration for the two parts in events of the Maccabean period. If we set aside the Vulgate ascription of the psalm to David, we shall have nothing to guide us in placing the poem but mere subjectivism. The words of the title: Pro occultis filii may point back to a consonantal Hebrew text which could be translated, According to the death of the Son but this again, would give us no help in discovering the historical context of the psalm.

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