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

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34 for Pentecost Sunday

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 17, 2013

Other resources for Pentecost Sunday can be found here.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Let the soul of us all, made one in Christ, say this. “O Lord my God, Thou art magnified exceedingly!” (ver. 1). Where art Thou magnified? “Confession and beauty Thou hast put on.” Confess ye, that ye may be beautified, that He may put you on. “Clothed with light as a garment” (ver. 2). Clothed with His Church, because she is made “light” in Him, who before was darkness in herself, as the apostle saith: “Ye were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord.” “Stretching out the heaven like a skin:” either as easily as thou dost a skin, if it be “as easily,” so that thou mayest take it after the letter; or let us understand the authority of the Scriptures, spread out over the whole world, under the name of a skin; because mortality is signified in a skin,5 but all the authority of the Divine Scriptures was dispensed unto us through mortal men, whose fame is still spreading abroad now they are dead.

“O Lord, how great are made Thy works!” (ver. 24). Justly great, justly sublime! where were those works made, that are so great? what was that station where God stood, or that seat whereupon He sat, when He did those works? what was the place where He worked thus? whence did those so beautiful works proceed at the first? To take it word for word, every ordained creation, running by ordinance, beautiful by ordinance, rising by ordinance, setting by ordinance, going through all seasons by ordinance, whence hath it proceeded? whence hath the Church herself received her rise, her growth, her perfection? In what manner is she destined to a consummation in immortality? with what heralding is she preached? by what mysteries is she recommended? by what types is she concealed? by what preaching is she revealed? where hath God done these things? I see great works. “How great are made Thy works, O Lord!” I ask where He hath made them: I find not the place: but I see what followeth: “In Wisdom hast Thou made them all.” All therefore Thou hast made in Christ.… “The earth is full of Thy creation.” The earth is full of the creation of Christ. And how so? We discern how: for what was not made by the Father through the Son? Whatever walketh and doth crawl on earth, whatever doth swim in the waters, whatever flieth in the air, whatever doth revolve in heaven, how much more then the earth, the whole universe, is the work of God. But he seems to me to speak here of some new creation, of which the Apostle saith, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God.” All who believe in Christ, who put off the old man, and put on the new, are a new creature. “The earth is full of Thy works.” On one spot of the earth He was crucified, in one small spot that seed fell into the earth, and died; but brought forth great fruit.…

“The earth is full of Thy creation.” Of what creation of Thine is the earth full? Of all trees and shrubs, of all animals and flocks, and of the whole of the human race; the earth is full of the creation of God. We see, know, read, recognise, praise, and in these we preach of Him; yet we are not able to praise respecting these things, as fully as our heart doth abound with praise after the beautiful contemplation of them. But we ought rather to heed that creation, of which the Apostle saith, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” What “old things have passed away”? In the Gentiles, all idolatry; in the Jews themselves, all that servitude unto the Law, all those sacrifices that were harbingers of the present Sacrifice. The oldness of man was then abundant; One came to renovate His own work, to melt His silver, to form His coin, and we now see the earth full of Christians believing in God, turning themselves away from their former uncleanness and idolatry, from a past hope to the hope of a new age: and behold it is not yet realized, but is already possessed in hope, and through that very hope we now sing, and say, “The earth is full of Thy creation.” We do not as yet sing this in our country, nor yet in that rest which is promised, the bars of the gates of Jerusalem not being as yet made fast;3 but still in our pilgrimage gazing upon the whole of this world, upon men who on every side are running unto the faith, fearing hell, despising death, loving eternal life, scorning the present, and filled with joy at such a spectacle, we say, “The earth is full of Thy creation.”

“When Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled (ver. 29). Many filled with good have attributed to themselves what they had, and have wished to boast as in their own righteousnesses, and have said to themselves, I am righteous; I am great: and have become self-complacent. Unto these the Apostle speaketh: “What hast thou, that thou didst not receive?” But God, wishing to prove unto man that whatever he hath he hath from Him, so that with good he may gain humility also, sometimes troubleth him; He turneth away His face from him, and he falleth into temptation; and He showeth him that his righteousness, and his walking aright, was only under His government.

But wherefore dost Thou do this? wherefore dost Thou hide Thy face, that they may be troubled? “Thou shalt take away their breath, and they shall fail.” Their breath was their pride; they boast, they attribute things to themselves, they justify themselves. Hide, therefore, Thy face, that they may be troubled: take away their breath, and let them fail; let them cry unto Thee, “Hear me, O Lord, and that soon, for my spirit waxeth faint: hide not Thy face from me.” “Thou shalt take away their breath, and they shall fail, and shall be turned to their dust.” The man who repenteth of his sin discovereth himself, that he had not strength of himself; and doth confess unto God, saying, that he is earth and ashes. O proud one, thou art turned to thine own dust, thy breath hath been taken away; no longer dost thou boast thyself, no longer extol thyself, no longer justify thyself; thou seest that thou art made of dust, and when the Lord turneth away His face, thou hast fallen back into thine own dust. Pray, therefore, confess thy dust and thy weakness.

And see what followeth: “Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be made” (ver. 30). Thou shalt take away their spirit, and send forth Thine own: Thou shalt take away their spirit: they shall have no spirit of their own. Are they then forsaken? “Blessed are the poor in spirit:” but they are not forsaken. They refused to have a spirit of their own: they shall have the Spirit of God. Such were our Lord’s words to the future martyrs:3 “It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” Attribute not your courage to yourselves. If it is yours, He saith, and not Mine, it is obstinacy, not courage. “For we are His workmanship,” saith the Apostle, “created unto good works.” From His Spirit we have received grace, that we may live unto righteousness: for it is He that justifieth the ungodly.5 “Thou shalt take away their spirit, and they shall fail; Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be made: and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth:” that is, with new men, confessing themselves to have been justified, not righteous of their own power, so that the grace of God is in them. What then? When He hath taken away our spirit, we shall be turned again to our dust, beholding to our edification our weakness, that when we receive His Spirit we may be refreshed. See what followeth: “Be the glory of the Lord for ever” (ver. 31). Not thine, not mine, not his, or his; not for a season, but “for ever.” “The Lord shall rejoice in His works.” Not in thine, as if they were thine: because if thy works are evil, it is through thy iniquity; if good, it is through the grace of God. “The Lord shall rejoice in His works.”

“Let my discourse be pleasing to Him: my joy shall be in the Lord” (ver. 34). What is the discourse of man unto God, save the confession of sins? Confess unto God what thou art, and thou hast discoursed with Him. Discourse unto Him, do good works, and discourse. “Wash you, make you clean,” saith Isaiah. What is it to discourse unto God? Unfold thyself to him who knoweth thee, that He may unfold Himself to thee who knowest not Him. Behold, it is thy discourse that pleaseth the Lord; the offering of thy humility, the tribulation of thy heart, the holocaust of thy life, this pleaseth God. But what is pleasing to thyself? “My joy shall be in the Lord.” This is that discoursing which I meant between God and thyself: show thyself to Him who knoweth thee, and He showeth Himself unto thee who knowest not him. Pleasing unto Him is thy confession: sweet unto thee is His grace. He hath spoken Himself unto thee. How? By the Word. What Word? Christ.…

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