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

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15 and 17

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2015

Psalm 71

Title: LXX. and Vulgate: A Psalm of David, of the sons of Jonadab, and of the first captives. Without title in the Hebrew.

Argument

Arg. Thomas. That Christ opens our lips to declare the glory of His Name. The Voice of Christ to the Father. The Voice of Christ to the Father against the Jews, concerning the Resurrection. The Prophet concerning the Passion and Advent of Christ.

Ven. Bede. The Prophet Jeremiah mentions that Jonadab was a priest of God, who had commanded his sons not to drink wine, and not to dwell in houses, but in tents, and that they found great favour with the Lord for their obedience in these respects; and they are now put for faithful and devout persons. Whence Jonadab is interpreted The voluntary one of the Lord, who can say, An offering of a free heart will I give Thee. With whom the former captives also shed tears, that is, they who were first made captives and then ransomed, who, made captive by sinning, but ransomed by repenting, say, And Thou broughtest me from the deep of the earth again. A representative person is introduced, who, freed from the captivity of sins, remained firm in the Divine commands, preaching to us the mighty love of Christ the Lord, which is always freely bestowed on us, with no previous merits of our own. In the first part of the Psalm this person intreats that he may always be delivered from human iniquities, that he may give thanks unto the Lord. O God, in Thee have I trusted. In the second place, he prays that he may not be deprived in old age of His bounties, by Whose help he was guarded in his youth, Cast me not away in the time of age. Thirdly; numbering His gifts, he promises ever to give thanks. Thy righteousness, O God, is very high, &c.

Syriac Psalter. Composed by David, when Saul warred against the house of David. Also a prophecy of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. Christ’s Sufferings and Resurrection.

S. Athanasius A Psalm in solitary address.

Various Uses

Gregorian. Thursday. Matins. [Maundy Thursday. I. Nocturn.]

Monastic. Wednesday. Matins. [Maundy Thursday. I. Nocturn.]

Parisian. Friday. Lauds.

Lyons. Thursday. Compline.

Ambrosian. Monday of Second Week. III. Nocturn.

Quignon. Friday. Matins.

Eastern Church. [vv. 1–9.] Prime.

Antiphons

Gregorian. Ferial. Be Thou * my protecting God. [Maundy Thursday. O my God * deliver me out of the hand of the ungodly.]

Monastic. Ferial. Thou art my helper and redeemer * O Lord, make no long tarrying. [Maundy Thursday. As Gregorian.]

Parisian. O my God * deliver me out of the hand of the ungodly, for Thou art my patience.

Ambrosian. As Psalm 69.

1–2 (1) In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust, let me never be put to confusion: but rid me, and deliver me, in thy righteousness; incline thine ear unto me, and save me.

This Psalm of David belongs to the close of his life and reign, and it may be noted that it is, in great part, a cento from previous Psalms, as 22, 25, 31, 35, 38, 40, although the noble passage vv. 13–20 is new. It has been also frequently grouped with the preceding Psalm, and counted as part of it. They see in it the pilgrimage of the Church from the days of Adam to those of Antichrist, (P.) counting the seven ages of man’s estate in this wise. From the Fall to the Incarnation are three periods,—infancy, childhood, and youth, typified by exile, the patriarchal dispensation, and the Law. From the first to the second Advent are four stages: early manhood, from the Ascension, through the ten persecutions to the accession of Constantine the Great; the prime of life, through the Arian troubles, till Justinian; middle age, during which the yet unended power of Mohammedanism sprang up; and that eld during which the Church still waits in dread for the coming of Antichrist; and the Psalm contains petitions apt for each of these troubles in turn. In thee, O Lord, have I trusted. Once I trusted in myself, (R.) and then I was confounded; now I have turned to Thee, and I shall never be confounded again. (Cd.) And that because, as the Apostle tells us, “Hope maketh not ashamed,”* following therein the saying of another wise man: “Look at the generations of old, and see; did ever any trust in the Lord, and was confounded?”* Rightly so, (D. C.) since in trusting Him, we are not merely relying on Almighty power, but on infinite love, on purest bounty, on the merit of Christ’s Passion. Let me never be confounded. That in this world, however I may seem to be brought low and despised, I may feel myself strong in Thee at all times. Or, if we take the Vulgate, confounded eternally, it will be a prayer against condemnation in the doom. In the mouth of Christ, the words are but another way of putting what Isaiah prophesied: “I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not My face from shame and spitting; for the Lord God will help Me, therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set My face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”* The insults of the soldiers, of Herod, of the Jews, may fall on the Man of Sorrows, but they cannot touch the Eternal Word, and therefore, observes S. Bruno, (B.) Our Lord trusts in the immortality and impassibility of His Godhead, derived from that Father in Whom He trusted. Deliver me in Thy righteousness. When the sinner utters this prayer, he beseeches God to deliver him by Him Whom He hath made Judge of all the world,* because He is the Justice of God, the King Who reigneth in righteousness, and executes judgment and justice in the earth. And our claim on God’s justice is based on our trust in His promise, (G.) which He binds Himself to fulfil, that He may be justified in His sayings. What we say by reason of our sin, Christ speaks by reason of His innocence. His claim for deliverance is that in Him His enemies find no fault at all, and therefore justice demands that He should go free. Incline Thine ear unto me, and save me. It is the cry, says Gerhohus, of one lying sick and wounded, unable to rise, and asking the Physician to bend over him to listen to his account of his sufferings, (G.) asking the good Samaritan to stoop down and save him, by pouring oil and wine into his wounds.

3 (2) Be thou my strong hold, whereunto I may alway resort: thou hast promised to help me, for thou art my house of defence, and my castle.

In the LXX. and Vulgate the first part of this verse reads differently; Be Thou to me for a protecting [LXX. shield-bearing] God, and for a strong place to save me. And we may see in it the prayer of the Church under two circumstances, when she goes out to aggressive battle against error and sin; and again, when she is compelled by pressure from without to act chiefly on the defensive, as in days of persecution. And thus, (Ay.) as the Carmelite observes, because the Martyrs were so fortified by the grace of God, that the darts of the persecutors could not pierce their hearts, they are mystically called “fenced cities,” as was Jeremiah.* Or, if we look at it from another point of view, the Church intreats for her active and her contemplative members, of whom the former are in the open battles; the latter within the stronghold of the religious life, which Hugh of S. Cher likens to a fortress, for twelve reasons, thus summed up:

Murus, dentales, turris, vigiles, tuba, scuta,*
Mons, aqua, saxa, cibi, machina, fossa, viri.

Thou art my house of defence, and my castle. The first title belongs to God as our Protector; the second as our strong place. And the house of defence will then be His help against peril in this world; the castle, or with the Vulgate, refuge, (C.) the eternal habitation whither no danger can come.

4 (3) Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the ungodly: out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.

The words are first those of Christ, enduring the contradiction of sinners. (Ay.) And note, that two kinds of sinners are set before us. The unrighteous (Vulg. transgressor of the law) evil Jews or Christians, who know God’s will, but refuse to do it, and the cruel (or unjust) the heathen who sin through comparative ignorance. And as Christ thus prays for Himself against Caiaphas and Pilate, (G.) so He prays for His Church to be delivered from false brethren and from Pagan oppressors. The Carthusian will have the ungodly to be our ghostly enemy, (D. C.) and yet more, the whole three clauses to apply to the pleading sinner, who makes his prayer to be delivered from himself, (Ay.) his own ungodliness, is own transgressions. And God does save, notes Ayguan, triply.* From the temptation of the flesh, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation.” From the snares of the devil, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness.”* From the lures of the world, “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from the present evil world.”*

5 (4) For thou, O Lord God, art the thing that I long for: thou art my hope, even from my youth.

My patience, is the Vulgate reading in the first clause. And they explain it,* rather frigidly, the cause of my patience. Let us look deeper, and take it with S. Ambrose. Doubtless Christ Himself is slain in the Martyrs, and in them who suffer death, or bonds, or stripes, for the faith, the sufferings are Christ’s, that His life may be manifest in their body.* He then Who endures in them is truly their patience, since it is not their own powers that hold out. From my youth, since I was generated in grace, and not merely from my bodily childhood. And the mediæval writers, looking to the usage of their time, (R.) see here the candidate for Christian chivalry, already following his liege lord to battle, (G.) armed with faith, (Ay.) hope, and charity, but not yet more than an esquire who has still to win his spurs, and to be trained in the pureness of chastity, the prudence of truth, the obedience of humility. And so the prophet speaks, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”*

6 (5) Through thee have I been holden up ever since I was born: thou art he that took me out of my mother’s womb; my praise shall be always of thee.

They see in the first clause here the mystery of predestination, (Ay.) and the Angelic Doctor adds,* that the task of guardian Angels is intrusted to them even before the birth of the children whose keepers they are to be. My mother’s womb. Literally, (G.) says Gerhohus, because of infant baptism, whereby children of but a few days or hours old, are received in the arms of God. Ayguan, (Ay.) pointing to the same rite, explains the words of our Mother the Church, who bears us to God in the Sacraments. And, applied to Christ, the words may be taken of His Incarnation, and also bear reference to the pious opinion of the Church that the pains of childbirth took no hold on His Virgin-Mother.

Gaude, sine partu tristi
Virgo partum edidisti,*
Immo gaudens protulisti
Prolem mater filia.

Others again give long lists of Saints,* who from early childhood persevered in holiness, as fulfilling this prediction, while Parez and S. Bonaventure explain it of the infancy of the Church in Abel’s days. My praise shall be always of Thee. It is more in the Vulgate, (P.) My singing,* implying not only praise, (B.) but rejoicing for victory. And they take it of Church song, as contrasted with heathen or secular ballads.*

7 (6) I am become as it were a monster unto many: but my sure trust is in thee.

If we take the Prayer Book Version literally as it stands, we may well think on that graffito scrawled by a Pagan hand, and lately discovered, wherein a Christian is seen worshipping a crucified figure, having a man’s body, but an ass’s head, a notion once widely spread, and a serious bar to the reception of the Faith by the Empire. But the word hardly notes so much. It is rather, with the Vulgate and A. V., a wonder, yet still referring to the offence of the Cross, to the astonishment with which the world looked on the life and sufferings of Christ and His Apostles, (C.) regarding even their miracles rather as something to stare at than as proof of a new revelation.* And as Isaiah, walking naked and barefoot for three years was “a sign and wonder,”* so the Apostles, who left all their earthly possessions, and followed Christ during the three years of His earthly ministry, and all Christians who spiritually did the like in the three stages of holiness, the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways, were made, as S. Paul says, “a spectacle unto the world, and angels, and men.”* But we may take the words in another sense of our Lord, Whose Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection have made Him indeed a wonder and a glory to His people,* as well as even to those Jews and heathens who rejected Him.

8 (7) O let my mouth be filled with thy praise: that I may sing of thy glory and honour all the day long.

It is the song of our country, (Ay.) notes the Carmelite, a song ever accompanied with joy. And that joy is threefold, the inner gladness of the heart, the vocal sound of the lips, the tokens of external actions. The words, that I may sing of Thy glory, (from the LXX. and Vulgate,) are not found in the Hebrew, but are none the less dwelt on by the commentators. One, with a quaint literalness of interpretation, explaining the words of the Song of the Church, takes glory to refer to the recitation of the Doxology,* honour, or as the Vulgate reads, magnitude, to that of the Magnificat, which seems to accord with the remark of Cassiodorus that all the day long means the whole twenty-four hours, (C.) as otherwise Vespers and Nocturns would be shut out. (P.) Parez, more happily, takes glory to refer to the Resurrection: honour to the Ascension of Christ.

9 (8) Cast me not away in the time of age: forsake me not when my strength faileth me.

In the time of age. They question in what sense Christ, Who never knew eld of body or soul, can use these words of Himself, (A.) and they explain them differently. They take it either of the physical and mental exhaustion of the Passion, (D. C.) like in its wasting effects to old age, (G.) or, with yet deeper meaning, of His crucifying our old man in His own Person. Again; it is the prayer of the Church, (P.) looking forward to the great apostasy of the latter days, and dreading lest her love, waxing cold, should expose her to yet more terrible losses than she sustained when so many Eastern Communions fell before the advance of Islam, or when the mighty Nestorian Church, once vaster than Greek and Latin together, and ranging from the Yellow Sea to the steppes of Eastern Russia, from Siberia to Ceylon, vanished like a dream before Gengiz-Khan and his successors. It is also the cry of each member of the Church for himself. For, just as we have seen two kinds of youth spoken of above, so there are two kinds of age, decrepitude of body and of soul. The latter exists when the spiritual heat of love waxes cold, (D. C.) and the soul is not renewed by increase of grace, but either grows old in negligence and sin, is bowed down by weary persecutions, or becomes less active in good works. Well may we, with S. Thomas Aquinas, recite this verse with tears of contrition and hope; well may we, with a holy man of a later day, cry, “O fire ever burning, and never waxing low: behold, I am chill and cold, kindle my veins and my heart, that they may burn with love of Thee. For Thou hast come to send fire upon the earth, and what wilt Thou, save that it be kindled?”* So praying, He will hear us, and will give us, even in extreme age, strength to say with His Martyr, S. Polycarp, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”*

10–11 (9) For mine enemies speak against me, and they that lay wait for my soul take their counsel together, saying: God hath forsaken him; persecute him, and take him, for there is none to deliver him.

They take it first of the Passion, of that Council of the Pharisees gathered after the raising of Lazarus, (A.) and of the mockings suffered by Christ upon the Cross, (Ay.) when His cry was, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me”* and theirs was, “He trusted in God that He would deliver Him, let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him.” It is the cry of the Church under the three greatest trials, the Pagan persecutions, (P.) the Mohammedan successes, the rise of the sects, which last in especial say, God hath forsaken her, “with our tongue will we prevail; (L.) we are they that ought to speak; who is lord over us?”*

12 (10) Go not far from me, O God: my God, haste thee to help me.

13 (11) Let them he confounded and perish that are against my soul: let them be covered with shame and dishonour that seek to do me evil.

Again; the words are both of Christ and of the Church. The Lord asks for His members rather than for Himself, that for the elect’s sake the days may be shortened. And note, that whereas type and prophecy both foretold that the Saviour should be three days and three nights in the grave, yet the time was too long for the infant Church to bear, and therefore the Father hasted to help the Son, and raised Him up just after the midnight of Easter Eve, Who had given up the ghost at the ninth hour of Good Friday. Thus the confusion will refer to the alarm caused by the signs at the Crucifixion, the darkness, the earthquake, (D. C.) the rending of the rocks, and still more to the dismay on hearing the news that the sepulchre was void, while the perishing denotes the overthrow of the Jewish nation. The Church, fallen on evil days, intreats for help also. And we may note again, as so often before, the warnings against the persecutors, how they were confounded and perished, as Nero, Julian, Valens; how they were put to shame and dishonour, as Valerian, whom the Persian Sapor made his footstool, and as Eugenius, who was the last to raise the standard of ancient Paganism against the Cross. (G.) Once more, the words are those of the penitent sinner, to whom God is always near, but who feels that he has been departing from God, (D. C.) and going afar off in his wickedness. And the prayer will then be chiefly directed against ghostly enemies, though also against human tempters.

14 (12) As for me, I will patiently abide alway: and will praise thee more and more.
15 (13) My mouth shall daily speak of thy righteousness and salvation: for I know no end thereof.

Rather, with the A. V., LXX. and Vulgate, I will hope continually, and that not merely when I am afflicted by the devil, (G.) with poverty, disease, or lust, but when even the hand of God is heavy against me, I will say with holy Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”* And will praise Thee more and more. The LXX. and Vulgate here read, And will add above all Thy praise. How can this be? ask they all. They answer it diversely. Literally, it may tell us how David was the first to set forth the praises of Christ’s Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension, and Kingdom, for the instruction of the people, whereas the Saints who praised God in former times told far less of these mysteries. (Ay.) And the Carthusian sees in it a promise to persevere in the compositions of fresh songs of praise. (D. C.) Or we may reflect how the Synagogue praised God for temporal blessings, while the Church, (G.) not forgetting such thanksgiving, lauds Him yet more for spiritual gifts. Yet again; S. Augustine remarks that God’s justice deserves all praise, even were He to condemn all mankind, (A.) but seeing that He has shown us mercy, we add that praise to the glory of His Name. When I confess that the Word of God created the heaven and the earth and all that is therein, (C.) observes another, I have praised the Lord with perfect devotion. But when I add that He became incarnate for the salvation of men, I have added to His praise. Once more—and the lesson is a practical one—I will not merely praise Thee in speech and words, (Z.) but with my works also, because the Lord is praised in this wise too, and therefore the Saviour said, “That they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”* My mouth shall daily speak of Thy righteousness and salvation. (Ay.) It is the voice of the Bride. The righteousness and salvation is He of whom Paul says that “Christ Jesus of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;”* of whom Simeon said, “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.”* Daily. The LXX. and Vulgate read, All the day. That is, adds Ayguan, both in the day of prosperity and the night of sorrow.* Or with the Gloss, All the day means the day with the night, because night serves day, not day night. (G.) The night is our flesh, and the day is righteousness, and whatever is done in the flesh is of the night, while deeds of righteousness belong to the day. And there is yet another meaning, that of the everlasting praise of Christ in the land where is no darkness at all.

Dies sine vesperâ, nocte non sepultus,*
Quem non sol per aëra sed divini vultûs
Illustrat serenitas.

I know no end thereof. More exactly, with the A. V., I know not the numbers. The word סְפֹרוֹת (closely connected as it is with סְפֶר a book or writing) has been rendered by some copies of the LXX. and by the Vulgate similarly, I know not letters. And they take it first of Christ, concerning Whom the Jews said, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?”* answering the question by saying that He indeed knew not the letter that killeth, but the Spirit that giveth life. And again they say that the letter means the old Law, (Ay.) which they compare to the staff of Elisha, sent by the hand of a servant to recover the dead child, but vainly, so that Elisha needed to come and lay himself down on the child, (A.) that is, our true Elisha (“God of salvation”) needed to humble Himself and become as a servant, nay, as one dead, to do what Moses failed to accomplish. Or again, the Five Books of Moses are the porches of Bethesda, where men lie waiting and sick. It needed the Angel of the Covenant to come down into the water of the Jewish nation that the sick might be healed. And then they take it of the Church, or of single Christians, saying the like of that which the Lord had said. For there are three kinds of letters, those which puff up, those which make man a servant, and those which make him a son.* They are the secular learning of philosophers, the Jewish law, and the New Testament, the last of which only is needful for the soul to know. The Carthusian adds that the words may be a confession of the utter ignorance of man contrasted with the infinite wisdom of God, (D. C.) or that it may be used of inspired Saints like SS. Peter and John, of whom it was said, truly in one sense, that “they were unlearned and ignorant men.”* S. Augustine, who probably had the reading πραγματείας instead of γραμματείας before him, gives a various translation, (A.) negotiationes, tradings, and dwells on the spiritual dangers which attend on all commerce; (C.) and Cassiodorus follows him, limiting his censure carefully to avarice and fraud. The various reading is said by another to apply to the Church of the last days, resisting the wiles of Antichrist, (P.) who will bring to bear all worldly learning, and even a bare literal rendering of Holy Writ, to aid his cause. And Hugh of S. Victor, taking both readings, sums up the matter by saying that whoso reads the Scripture for mere curiosity and not for edification, knows indeed its letter and its tradings,* but has not the true weight granted to the man who studies it for the savour of godliness.

16 (14) I will go forth in the strength of the Lord God: and will make mention of thy righteousness only.

The LXX. and Vulgate, for go forth read enter in, and more correctly, as the first sense is that of proceeding to the temple to praise God because of His mighty deeds. Euthymius connects the words with those of the preceding verse. I know not letters, that is, (Z.) observes he, the Scribes lay down a rule in their writings that all Jews must enter the temple of Jerusalem thrice a year, but I will go for a better reason, the strength of the Lord. (Ay.) Ayguan, more deeply says, I will go from the mere letter of the Old Testament into its spiritual meaning, the power of Christ. I will not look, adds Gerhohus, to the mere outward rite of even the Gospel Sacraments, (G.) but will enter further into them to find there the saving might of Jesus, Who gives me faith, endurance, and power to fulfil His commands, a triple cord to draw me and bind me to Him. And will make mention of Thy righteousness only. Not of my own, (D. C.) but ascribing all that is good in me, all virtue, and all grace, to Thee; all evil, defective, or sinful, to myself, saying with the Apostle, “By the grace of God, I am what I am;”* and again, “If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”* Since, as the same Apostle says, such persons “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”* And he says only, because when the soul has left human weakness behind, and entered into the spiritual power of God, it will think no more of the flesh, but will ponder on God alone.*

17 (15) Thou, O God, hast taught me from my youth up until now: therefore will I tell of thy wondrous works.
18 (16) Forsake me not, O God, in mine old age, when I am gray-headed: until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to all them that are yet for to come.

Here, as so often, the words may apply to Christ or to the Church. Thou hast taught Me, is the Lord’s address to His Father, even according to that saying, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me.”* And again, “As My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things.”* From my youth up, because the human soul of Christ “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”* It is also the voice of the Church. Thou hast taught me; (Ay.) referring all her gifts to Him as her Teacher, Who said, “Neither be ye called masters, for one is your Master, even Christ.”* And that from the youth of the Church, from the time when the Apostles drew their lessons from His lips during His three years’ ministry, when He opened the Scriptures to them after His Resurrection, when He sent the Holy Ghost on them at Pentecost. Therefore will I tell of Thy wondrous works. How Thou rulest me, how Thou hast set me in the way of salvation, how Thou makest me to live whom Thou hast wonderfully quickened in soul. For what greater marvel is there than to quicken those dead in soul? A quickened body lives even when its quickener is absent, as Lazarus did in the corporal absence of Christ, because the life of the body is in the soul. But the quickened soul cannot live thus without God, Who is its life. This then is wondrous grace, which can quicken the dead, and abide with us afterwards, that we die not. Wondrous too are those works whereof the Church tells, the Incarnation of the Word, the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, and that God so loved us that He gave His Only-begotten Son unto death for us. Forsake me not, O God, in mine old age, when I am gray-headed. They take it of the coming of Antichrist in the last times, when the faith of the Church has become weak, and from Augustine in the fifth century to Parez in the fifteenth, each accounts his own days as near the end, and finds all the marks of decrepitude in the belief and lives of Christians, all the signs of growing strength and insolence in the powers of evil. Until I have showed Thy strength unto this generation, and Thy power unto all that are yet for to come. The LXX. and Vulgate translate, (Ay.) Until I declare Thine arm to every generation that is to come, and couple the word power with the next verse. Thine arm is the Incarnate Word, and the phrase until notes that the preaching of Him will not be carried beyond this life, because the vision of God in the life to come will supply all spiritual knowledge to the Saints, and there will thus be no preaching in heaven; nor yet in hell, because the time for conversion has gone by. (R.) To every generation, as against the teaching of certain heretics, that the Church was to endure for a time, as the Jewish dispensation did, and then be supplanted by a more perfect revelation.

19 (17) Thy righteousness, O God, is very high: and great things are they that thou hast done; O God, who is like unto thee?

The LXX. and Vulgate couple the first words with the preceding, so that the clause runs [I will declare] Thy power and righteousness, O God, unto the highest, great things which Thou hast done. (Ay.) That is, I will declare the power of Thy justifying grace from its first beginnings in the soul up to its highest achievement in turning sinners into perfect Saints; (R.) or again, (Cd.) I will tell of Thy marvels, not only to Thy humbler creature, man, but I will call on Thy highest works, the Thrones, (B.) Dominations, and Princedoms of the heavenly host to join in the praise which is Thy due. (A.) Higher yet, observes Cassiodorus, (C.) even to that right hand of the Father where the Man of Sorrows is throned. Again; God’s power is shown in His setting man free, (A.) His righteousness in causing His Son to die for us. His power gives man strength to do good works, (L.) His righteousness justifies man. His power is seen in the valiant endurance of the Martyrs, His righteousness in the holy lives of the Confessors. O God, who is like unto Thee? It is the cry of Adam, (A.) after he had sinned by tasting of the fruit, whereof the serpent told him, “In the day that ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil,”* and had thereby lost the likeness which he had before, as being made in the image and likeness of God. And none can answer it, save the Second Adam, because He is the “brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His Person;”* and He can change our vile body, making it like to His glorious Body, and so “we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”*

20 (18) O what great troubles and adversities hast thou showed me! and yet didst thou turn and refresh me: yea, and broughtest me from the deep of the earth again.

All the bitter sorrows of My Passion, the Agony, the Betrayal, the mocking, (D. C.) scourging, crucifixion, the yet sharper pangs of man’s sin and thanklessness. And refresh me. The LXX., Vulgate, and A. V. more truly, revive Me, raising Me from the grave, where I lay in the deep of the earth. And we may take it next, (A.) with S. Augustine and all who follow him, (G.) of the wretchedness of mankind after the Fall, and the bounty of God in lifting it up from the depth of sin by the message of salvation, (R.) and giving it new life in Christ. And observe, says Cassiodorus, (C.) that there are seven ways in which God gives us remission of our sins. Firstly, in baptism; secondly, by martyrdom; thirdly, by almsgiving; fourthly, by our forgiveness to our debtors; fifthly, by our conversion of our brethren; sixthly, by abundant charity; seventhly, by penance. Again; (Ay.) it is the voice of the Church, thanking God for all her early sufferings and persecutions, when the blood of the Martyrs was the seed of the faithful, and the Gentiles, attracted by their valiant constancy, were turned by God, and brought to life, and out of the abyss of earthly sin. We may see too a literal meaning here which seems to have escaped the commentators, that is, the public recognition of Christian worship after the edict of Constantine, when the Church emerged from the deep of the catacombs into the light of day. Lastly; (D. C.) it is the grateful acknowledgment of every elect soul which God has brought through great tribulation into the kingdom of grace. (Z.) And so Ezekiel says, “O My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.”*

21 (19) Thou hast brought me to great honour: and comforted me on every side.

Again it is the voice of Christ, speaking of His own Resurrection, (D. C.) Ascension, and of His deliverance from all the liability to suffering which had belonged to His humanity. And this is brought out strongly by the Vulgate reading, Thou hast multiplied Thy magnificence upon me. Multiplied, (Ay.) observes another, because Christ, Who is the magnificence of God, was multiplied, not in person, but in nature, by His Incarnation, where God was made Man, and thus was built up of Godhead, body, and soul. It is the voice of the Church, raised to high dignity of grace, and to the earthly honour of having kings and queens at her feet, and stored with all the gifts of the Comforter. And, lastly, it is the thanksgiving of sinners whom God has first scourged with fatherly chastisement, (G.) and then made kings and priests, clothing them with the garment of salvation, and comforted, as He is the God of Consolation, in all their trouble. For comforted on every side, the Vulgate reads, Thou hast turned and comforted me. Turned, because by Christ’s Incarnation the sternness of the law was turned into the loving tenderness of the Gospel, (Ay.) so that He whom we called Lord in fear, we now call in love, “Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation.”*

22 (20) Therefore will I praise thee and thy faithfulness, O God, playing upon an instrument of music: unto thee will I sing upon the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel.

On an instrument of music, LXX. and Vulgate, On the vessels of psalm, which most of them take, as does the A. V., to be the psaltery. And S. Augustine points out that the chief difference between the psaltery and harp is that the former has the hollow sounding-board placed above the strings, and the latter has it below. And because the Spirit is from above, flesh from the earth; there seemeth to be signified by the psaltery the Spirit, by the harp the flesh. And men who are appointed to sing God’s praises with psalmody may be aptly called vessels of psalm; in particular the clergy, some of whom are vessels to honour,* and some to dishonour. Yet again,* our bodies, within which the truth dwells, are its vessels, (C.) and the Psalms themselves are vessels holding the truth, as a pure and fragrant wine. Truth, in three ways, of life,* of righteousness, and of doctrine. O Thou Holy One of Israel. Because all nations will become a part of the true Israel when the fulness of the Gentiles is gathered in. Note too, (P.) that this is the only Psalm of David’s writing which contains this title of God, and as it is the very last of his songs, it looks forward in this wise to the universal kingdom of Christ, as the sea into which all the streams flowing from the vessels of song shall one day empty themselves. That is a poor house, (G.) says Gerhohus, where there are vessels for oil and wine, and nought to put in them, but what is the wretchedness of a house which has not even vessels fit to hold them!

23 (21) My lips will be fain when. I sing unto thee: and so will my soul whom thou hast delivered.

They all agree in seeing here the union of bodily and spiritual praise of God, the harmony of will and deed, of heart and life, when the body is subdued to the spirit, and obeys its rule with gladness. It is the idea which has been expressed by a poet of our own day:

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell,
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster.

Not here,* however, where “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” can this harmony be perfectly free from discord. We must look forward to the time of which the next verse tells us.

24 (22) My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long: for they are confounded and brought unto shame that seek to do me evil.

In the Land of beauty there will be no false notes to mar the sweet song of praise, because—

Fleshly wars they know no longer,* since with blemish stained is none,
For the spiritual body and the soul at last are one;
Dwell they now in peace eternal, with all stumbling they have done.

All the day long. The unending day of eternity, (D. C.) during which the song of the redeemed shall ever ascend before the throne of God, (G.) when the ghostly enemies of our souls have been brought to everlasting shame.

Pectora plausibus atque canoribus ora parabit,*
Cum sua crimina, lapsaque pristina stans memorabit,
Quo fuit amplior error, iniquior actio mentis,
Laus erit amplior, hymnus et altior, hanc abolentis.

And therefore:

Glory be to the Father, from Whom cometh soberness; and to the Son, of Whom is righteousness; and to the Holy Ghost, Whose is loving-kindness.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

Collects

Incomprehensible Ruler of the throne on high,* Who sufferest not them that trust in Thee to be condemned to everlasting confusion, fill our lips, we beseech Thee, with Thy praise, and ever inspire us with thoughts of holy things. Through. (1.)

Deliver us, O our God,* out of the hand of the ungodly, Who didst vouchsafe to bear for us the pain of the Cross, that Thou only mayest be our patience, Who for us didst endure the grave. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

Let our tongue, O Lord,* be talking of Thy righteousness, that Thy praise may proceed from our lips all the day long, that inasmuch as the glory of Thy Passion hath been set forth by us, so we may now and ever without end praise Thee in that righteousness whereby we live through faith. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

We beseech Thee,* O Crucified Lord, to be our house of defence and our castle, that delivering us from the hand of the enemy, Thou mayest place us in a stronghold, to receive our crown. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

O God of might,* Who, though Thou wast God, didst willingly suffer Thyself to be seized at the time of Thy Passion, when they took their counsel against Thee, saying, “Let Him deliver Him, if He will have Him;” forsake us not in our trouble, and go not far from us, that Thou only mayest look on us and help us, Who on Thy Cross triumphest over the powers of this world. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

O Jesu,* Son of God, Whom the multitude of Thine enemies vainly persecuted, and drove from themselves the bounty of Thy loving-kindness while taking counsel together against Thee to seize Thee, and sought to take Thy life from Thee, a willing victim, Whom they knew not to be the author of life; Grant that we may with holy devotion in good works follow after Thee, Whom they pursued with ill will, so that wherein Thine enemies shall for ever mourn, therein we may have everlasting joy. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

Let our lips be firm in Thee,* O Lord, with the tidings of truth, that they never be loosed in the vain speech of error, and may ever speak Thy glory and never cry aloud in the unseemly disputes of quarrelling, that our soul which Thou hast redeemed, may, when praising the triumph of Thy Martyr and Forerunner, John Baptist, obtain Thy favour through his intercession. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

We beseech Thee,* O Lord, that our human mouth being filled with Thy praise, we may ever think in our hearts of that which we offer Thee with acceptable voices. Through. (1.)

O God, (D. C.) unspeakable mercy, go not far from us, make haste to help us, and forsake us not in our old age when we are gray-headed, quicken us, and comfort us in Thy love, and grant that we may ever worthily sing the majesty of Thy glory. Through. (1.)

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