1. The title of the Psalm goeth thus. “To the end: for the sons of Korah: a Psalm of David himself.” These sons of Korah have the title also of some other Psalms, and indicate a sweet mystery, insinuate a great Sacrament: wherein let us willingly understand ourselves, and let us acknowledge in the title us who hear, and read, and as in a glass set before us behold who we are. The sons of Korah, who are they?Numb. 16:1. [See p. 155, note 8, supra.—C.]
“>6 … Haply the sons of the Bridegroom. For the Bridegroom was crucified in the place of Calvary. Recollect the Gospel,Matt. 27:33.
“>7 where they crucified the Lord, and ye will find Him crucified in the place of Calvary. Furthermore, they who deride His Cross, by devils, as by beasts, are devoured. For this also a certain Scripture signified. When God’s Prophet Elisha was going up, children called after him mocking, “Go up thou bald head, Go up thou bald head:” but he, not so much in cruelty as in mystery, made those children to be devoured by bears out of the wood.2 Kings 2:23, 24.
“>8 If those children had not been devoured, would they have lived even till now? Or could they not, being born mortal, have been taken off by a fever? But so in them had no mystery been shown, whereby posterity might be put in fear. Let none then mock the Cross of Christ. The Jews were possessed by devils, and devoured; for in the place of Calvary, crucifying Christ, and lifting on the Cross, they said as it were with childish sense, not understanding what they said, “Go up, thou bald head.” For what is, “Go up”? “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”Luke 23:21.
“>9 For childhood is set before us to imitate humility, and childhood is set before us to beware of foolishness. To imitate humility, childhood was set before us by the Lord, when He called children to Him,Matt. 18:2.
“>10 and because they were kept from Him, He said, “Suffer them to come unto Me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matt. 19:14.
“>11 The example of childhood is set before us to beware of foolishness by the Apostle, “Brethren, be not children in understanding:” and again he proposeth it to imitate, “Howbeit in malice be ye children, that in understanding ye may be men.”1 Cor. 14:20.
“>1 “For the sons of Korah” the Psalm is sung; for Christians then is it sung. Let us hear it as sons of the Bridegroom, whom senseless children crucified in the place of Calvary. For they earned to be devoured by beasts; we to be crowned by Angels. For we acknowledge the humility of our Lord, and of it are not ashamed. We are not ashamed of Him called in mystery “the bald” (Calvus), from the place of Calvary. For on the very Cross whereon He was insulted, He permitted not our forehead to be bald; for with His own Cross He marked it. Finally, that ye may know that these things are said to us, see what is said.
2. “O clap your hands, all ye nations” (ver. 1). Were the people of the Jews all the nations? No, but blindness in part is happened to Israel, that senseless children might cry, “Calve,” “Calve;” and so the Lord might be crucified in the place of Calvary, that by His Blood shed He might redeem the Gentiles, and that might be fulfilled which saith the Apostle, “Blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”Rom. 11:25.
“>2 Let them insult, then, the vain, and foolish, and senseless, and say, “Calve,” “Calve;” but ye redeemed by His Blood which was shed in the place of Calvary, say, “O clap your hands, all ye nations;” because to you hath come down the Grace of God. “O clap your hands.” What is “O clap”? Rejoice. But wherefore with the hands? Because with good works. Do not rejoice with the mouth while idle with the hands. If ye rejoice, “clap your hands.” The hands of the nations let Him see, who joys hath deigned to give them. What is, the hands of the nations? The acts of them doing good works. “O clap your hands, all ye nations: shout unto God with the voice of triumph.” Both with voice and with hands. If with the voice only it is not well, because the hands are slow; if only with the hands it is not well, because the tongue is mute. Agree together must the hands and tongue. Let this confess, these work. “Shout unto God with the voice of triumph.”
3. “For the Lord Most High is terrible” (ver. 2). The Most High in descending made like one ludicrous, by ascending into Heaven is made terrible. “A great King over all the earth.” Not only over the Jews; for over them also He is King. For of them also the Apostles believed, and of them many thousands of men sold their goods, and laid the price at the Apostles’ feet,Acts 4:34.
“>3 and in them was fulfilled what in the title of the Cross was written, “The King of the Jews.”Matt. 27:37.
“>4 For He is King also of the Jews. But “of the Jews” is little.[Isa. 49:6.—C.]
“O clap your hands, all ye nations: for God is the King of all the earth.” For it sufficeth not Him to have under Him one nation: therefore such great price gave He out of His side, as to buy the whole world.
4. “He hath subdued the people under us, and the nations under our feet” (ver. 3). Which subdued, and to whom? Who are they that speak? Haply Jews? Surely, if Apostles; surely, if Saints. For under these God hath subdued the people and the nations, that to-day are they honoured among the nations, who by their own citizens earned to be slain: as their Lord was slain by His citizens, and is honoured among the nations; was crucified by His own, is adored by aliens, but those by a price made His own. For therefore bought He us, that aliens from Him we might not be. Thinkest thou then these are the words of Apostles, “He hath subdued the people under us, and the nations under our feet”? I know not. Strange that Apostles should speak so proudly, as to rejoice that the nations were put under their feet, that is, Christians under the feet of Apostles. For they rejoice that we are with them under the feet of Him who died for us. For under Paul’s feet ran they, who would be of Paul, to whom He said, “Was Paul crucified for you?”1 Cor. 1:13.
“>6 What then here, what are we to understand? “He hath subdued the people under us, and the nations under our feet.” All pertaining to Christ’s inheritance are among “all the nations,” and all not pertaining to Christ’s inheritance are among “all the nations:” and ye see so exalted in Christ’s Name is Christ’s Church, that all not yet believing in Christ lie under the feet of Christians. For what numbers now run to the Church; not yet being Christians, they ask aid of the Church;[See (A. N. F. vol. v. p. 563) the noble charities of early Christians.—C.]
“>7 to be succoured by us temporally they are willing, though eternally to reign with us as yet they are unwilling. When all seek aid of the Church, even they who are not yet in the Church, hath He not “subdued the people under us, and the nations under our feet”?
5. “He hath chosen an inheritance for us, the excellencySpeciem.
“>8 of Jacob, whom He loved” (ver. 4). A certain beauty of Jacob He hath chosen for our inheritance. Esau and Jacob were two brothers; in their mother’s womb both struggled, and by this struggle their mother’s bowels were shaken; and while they two were yet therein, the younger was elected and preferred to the elder, and it was said, “Two peoples are in thy womb, and the elder shall serve the younger.”Gen. 25:23.
“>1 Among all nations is the elder, among all nations the younger; but the younger is in good Christians, elect, godly, faithful; the elder in the proud, unworthy, sinful, stubborn, defending rather than confessing their sins: as was also the very people of the Jews, “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness.”Rom. 10:3.
But for that it is said, “The elder shall serve the younger;” it is manifest that under the godly are subdued the ungodly, under the humble are subdued the proud. Esau was born first, and Jacob was born last; but he who was last born, was preferred to the first-born, who through gluttony lost his birthright. So thou hast it written,Gen. 25:30–34.
He longed for the pottage, and his brother said to him, If thou wilt that I give it thee, give me thy birthright. He loved more that which carnally he desired, than that which spiritually by being born first he had earned:Merucrat.
and he laid aside his birthright, that he might eat lentils. But lentils we find to be the food of the Egyptians, for there it abounds in Egypt. Whence is so magnified the lentil of Alexandria, that it comes even to our country, as if here grew no lentil. Therefore by desiring Egyptian food he lost his birthright. So also the people of the Jews, of whom it is said, “in their hearts they turned back again into Egypt.”Acts 7:39.
They desired in a manner the lentil, and lost their birthright.
6. “God is gone up with jubilation” (ver. 5). Even He our God, the Lord Christ, is gone up with jubilation; “the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.” “Is gone up:” whither, save where we know? Whither the Jews followed Him not, even with their eyes. For exalted on the Cross they mocked Him, ascending into Heaven they did not see Him. “God hath gone up with jubilation.” What is jubilation, but admiration of joy which cannot be expressed in words? As the disciples in joy admired, seeing Him go into Heaven, whom they had mourned dead; truly for the joy, words sufficed not: remained to jubilate what none could express. There was also the voice of the trumpet, the voice of Angels. For it is said, “Lift up thy voice like a trumpet.” Angels preached the ascension of the Lord: they saw the Disciples, their Lord ascending, tarrying, admiring, confounded, nothing speaking, but in heart jubilant: and now was the sound of the trumpet in the clear voice of the Angels, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? this is Jesus.”Acts 1:11.
“>6 As if they knew not that it was the same Jesus. Had they not just before seen Him before them? Had they not heard Him speaking with them? Nay, they not only saw the figure of Him present, but handled also His limbs. Of themselves then knew they not, that it was the same Jesus? But they being by very admiration, from joy of jubilation, as it were transported in mind, the Angels said, “that same is Jesus.” As though they said, If ye believe Him, this is that same Jesus, whom crucified, your feet stumbled, whom dead and buried, ye thought your hope lost. Lo, this is the same Jesus. He hath gone up before you, “He shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven.” His Body is removed indeed from your eyes, but God is not separated from your hearts: see Him going up, believe on Him absent, hope for Him coming; but yet through His secret Mercy, feel Him present. For He who ascended into Heaven that He might be removed from your eyes, promised unto you, saying, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”Matt. 28:20.
“>7 Justly then the Apostle so addressed us, “The Lord is at hand; be careful for nothing.”Phil. 4:5, 6.
Christ sitteth above the Heavens; the Heavens are far off, He who there sitteth is near.…
7. “Sing praises to our God, sing praises” (ver. 6). Whom as Man mocked they, who from God were alienated. “Sing praises to our God.” For He is not Man only, but God. Man of the seed of David,Rom. 1:3.
“>9 God the Lord of David, of the Jews having flesh. “Whose” (saith the Apostle) “are the fathers, of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.”Rom. 9:5.
“>10 Of the Jews then is Christ, but according to the flesh. But who is this Christ who is of the Jews according to the flesh? “Who is over all, God blessed for ever.” God before the flesh, God in the flesh, God with the flesh. Nor only God before the flesh, but God before the earth whence flesh was made; nor only God before the earth whereof flesh was made, but even God before the Heaven which was first made; God before the day which was first made; God before Angels; the same Christ is God: for “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”John 1:1.
8. “For God is the King of all the earth” (ver. 7). What? And before was He not God of all the earth? Is He not God of both heaven and earth, since by Him surely were all things made? Who can say that He is not his God? But not all men acknowledged Him their God; and where He was acknowledged, there only, so to say, He was God. “In Judah is God known.”Ps. 76:1.
“>12 Not yet was it said to the sons of Korah, “O clap your hands, all ye nations.” For that God known in Judah, is King of all the earth: now by all He is acknowledged, for that is fulfilled which Isaiah saith, “He is thy God who hath delivered thee, the God of the whole earth shall He be called.”Isa. 54:5.
“>1 “Sing ye praises with understanding.” He teacheth us and warneth us to sing praises with understanding, not to seek the sound of the ear, but the light of the heart. The Gentiles, whence ye were called that ye might be Christians, adored gods made with hands, and sang praises to them, but not with understanding. If they had sung with understanding, they had not adored stones. When a man sensible sang to a stone insensible, did he sing with understanding? But now, brethren, we see not with our eyes Whom we adore, and yet correctlyCorrecti.ms. Vat. ap. Ben. corde recti, “right in heart.”
Much more is God commended to us, that with our eyes we see Him not. If with our eyes we saw Him, haply we might despise. For even Christ seen, the Jews despised; unseen, the Gentiles adored.
9. “God shall reign over all nations” (ver. 8). Who reigned over one nation, “shall reign” (saith He) “over all nations.” When this was said, God reigned over one nation. It was a prophecy, the thing was not yet shown. Thanks be to God, we now see fulfilled what before was prophesied. A written promise God sent unto us before the time, the time fulfilled He hath repaid us. “God shall reign over all nations,” is a promise. “God sitteth upon His Holy Seat.” What then was promised to come, now being fulfilled, is acknowledged and held. “God sitteth upon His Holy Seat.” What is His Holy Seat? Haply saith one, The Heavens, and he understandeth well. For Christ hath gone up,Acts 1:2.
“>4 as we know, with the Body, wherein He was crucified, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; thence we expect Him to come to judge the quick and the dead.2 Tim. 4:1.
“>5 “God sitteth upon His Holy Seat.” The Heavens are His Holy Seat. Wilt thou also be His Seat? think not that thou canst not be; prepare for Him a place in thy heart. He cometh, and willingly sitteth. The same Christ is surely “the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God:”1 Cor. 1:24.
and what saith the Scripture of Wisdom Herself? The soul of the righteous is the seat of Wisdom.Wisd. 7:27.
If then the soul of the righteous is the seat of Wisdom, be thy soul righteous, and thou shalt be a royal seat of Wisdom. And truly, brethren, all men who live well, who act well, converse in godly charity, doth not God sit in them, and Himself command? Thy soul obeyeth God sitting in it, and itself commandeth the members. For thy soul commandeth thy members, that so may move the foot, the hand, the eye, the ear, and itself commandeth the members as its servants, but yet itself serveth its Lord sitting within. It cannot well rule its inferior, unless its superior it have not disdained to serve.
10. “The princes of the peoples are gathered together unto the God of Abraham” (ver. 9). The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.Exod. 3:6.
“>8 True it is, God said this, and thereupon the Jews prided themselves, and said, “We are Abraham’s children;”John 8:33.
“>9 priding themselves in their father’s name, carrying his flesh, not holding his faith; by seed cleaving to Him, in manners degenerating. But the Lord, what said He to them so priding themselves? “If ye are Abraham’s children, do the works of Abraham.”John 8:39.
Again … “The princes of the peoples:” the princes of the nations: not the princes of one people, but the princes of all people have “gathered together unto the God of Abraham.” Of these princes was that Centurion too, of whom but now when the Gospel was read ye heard. For he was a Centurion having honour and power among men, he was a prince among the princes of the peoples. Christ coming to him, he sent his friends to meet Him, nay unto Christ truly passing over to him he sent his friends, and asked that He would heal his servant who was dangerously sick. And when the Lord would come, he sent to Him this message: “I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof, but say in a word only, and my servant shall be healed.” “For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers.”Luke 7:6, 7.
See how he kept his rank! first he mentioned that he was under another, and afterwards that another was under him. I am under authority, and I am in authority; both under some I am, and over some I am.… As though he said, If I being set under authority command those who are under me, Thou who art set under no man’s authority, canst not Thou command Thy creature, since all things were made by Thee, and without Thee was nothing made. “Say,” then, said he, “in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof.” … Admiring at his faith, Jesus reprobates the Jews’ misbelief. For sound to themselves they seemed, whereas they were dangerously sick, when their Physician not knowing they slew. Therefore when He reprobated, and repudiated their pride what said he? “I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west,” not belonging to the kindred of Israel: many shall come to whom He said, “O clap your hands, all ye nations;” “and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” Abraham begat them not of his own flesh; yet shall they come and sit down with him in the kingdom of heaven, and be his sons. Whereby his sons? Not as born of his flesh, but by following his faith. “But the children of the kingdom,” that is, the Jews, “shall be cast into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”Matt. 8:12.
They shall be condemned to outer darkness who are born of the flesh of Abraham, and they shall sit down with him in the kingdom of heaven, who have imitated Abraham’s faith.
11. And what they who belonged to the God of Abraham? “For the mighty gods of the earth are greatly lifted up.” They who were gods, the people of God, the vineyard of God, whereof it is said, “Judge betwixt Me and My vineyard,”Isa. 5:3.
“>2 shall go into outer darkness, shall not sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, are not gathered unto the God of Abraham. Wherefore? “For the mighty gods of the earth;” they who were mighty gods of the earth, presuming upon earth. What earth? Themselves; for every man is earth. For to man was it said, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”Gen. 3:19.
“>3 But man ought to presume upon God, and thence to hope for help, not from himself. For the earth raineth not upon itself, nor shineth for itself; but as the earth from heaven expecteth rain and light, so man from God ought to expect mercy and truth. They then, “the mighty gods of the earth, were greatly lifted up,” that is, greatly prided themselves: they thought no physician necessary for themselves, and therefore remained in their sickness, and by their sickness were brought down even to death. The natural branches were broken off that the humble wild olive tree might be grafted in.Rom. 11:17.
Hold we fast then, brethren, humility, charity, godliness: since we are called, on their proving reprobate, even by their example let us fear to pride ourselves.
Ps 47:1 O clap your hands, all ye nations: shout unto God with the voice of joy,
The holy prophet invites all nations to express the gladness of their heart by their language and their gesture. He includes all, for the glory of the head is in common with that of the body, and the body comprises not only the Jews, but all nations; for the Church, which is Christ’s body, is spread over all the world. From his invitation to clap hands, we are not to infer we are called upon to do so in the literal sense of the expression; but we are called upon to be as internally glad and joyful as those who give expression to their joy by clapping their hands, by dancing, and such gestures. Such is evidently his meaning; because, in Psalm 96, the same prophet calls not only on men to exult and applaud, but also on the heavens and earth, rivers, mountains, and trees, which are all metaphorical expressions, and signify nothing more than the abundance of joy in the mind of man, that would, if possible, bring all nature to share it with them.
Ps 47:2 For the Lord is high, terrible: a great king over all the earth.
He assigns a reason for having invited all nations to rejoice and exult, the first being derived from the greatness of Christ, who he declares to be “high,” by reason of his divinity, “terrible,” by reason of his power, and “a great king,” by reason of his providence and government. “For the Lord is high.” Sing to him with applause and exultation, all ye nations, because Christ our Lord and God is high, cannot be higher, as regards his divine nature, in which he excels all created beings. Do so, because he is “terrible,” as regards his power, which nothing can resist. Do so, finally, because “he is a great king over all the earth,” being supreme, absolute, and universal rector of the whole world.
Ps 47:3 He hath subdued the people under us; and the nations under our feet.
A second argument, drawn from the favors God originally conferred on his Church, when he brought it out of the land of Egypt; for then God brought his people into the land of promise, and subjected the nations and people in possession of it to his own people, and made them trample on the necks of the kings of those nations, as we read in Josue, chap. 1.
Ps 47:4 He hath chosen for us his inheritance, the beauty of Jacob which he hath loved.
A third argument, drawn from another favor, by which the same Christ God, having ejected the Chananeans, and having introduced his people into their land, chose from the believing Jews, from his Apostles and the other Disciples, the primitive Church as his own and his peculiar inheritance. “He hath chosen for us;” that means, in us, or from us; “his inheritance,” his own peculiar people; “the beauty of Jacob which he loved;” that is, he selected the flower of the Jewish people, called after Jacob, for which he had a special love, and formed his Church from it, as his peculiar inheritance. We have here to remark that, though most of the Jews were stiff necked, and prone to idolatry, and, consequently, reprobate, there were, however, very many holy patriarchs among them, whose spirituality and innocence was most pleasing to God. Hence the Apostle, Rom. 11, says, “The Jews were most dear to God, for the sake of the fathers;” and that their church was the good olive tree, “some of whose branches were broken, because of unbelief;” and that the converted gentiles, whom he calls the wild olives, were grafted in their place; and to the same converted gentiles he thus addresses himself: “And if some of the branches be broken, and thou, being a wild olive tree, art ingrafted in them, and art made partaker of the root and of the fatness of the olive tree. Boast not against the branches, but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.” This, then, is “the beauty of Jacob,” that caused him “to choose an inheritance” from the Jewish people, which he afterwards caused to increase and multiply.
Ps 47:5 God is ascended with jubilee, and the Lord with the sound of trumpet.
The fourth reason for joy and gladness; because, after the Lord “chose his inheritance” from the Jewish people, that is to say, selected his Apostles and Disciples from among them, he ascended into heaven, and raised our nature, indissolubly united to his own, above all the heavens, above all the Angels, and above all created beings. For though this passage does not say to what place he ascended, it is clearly expressed in Psalm 68, “He ascended on high, and led captivity captive;” and, in the same Psalm, “Who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the east.” The meaning, then, is, “God hath ascended,” Christ has ascended, but by virtue of his own power, inasmuch as he is God. “With jubilee and the sound of trumpet,” which is to be understood of the spiritual rejoicing, and the chanting of the Angels; for, as far as the ascension of Christ before his Apostles was concerned, it occurred in silence, and they probably neither heard nor saw the chanting, nor the persons of the Angels, lest their attention may be diverted from the great mystery that was then in process; namely, the extraordinary elevation of that nature, to which was said, “Thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return,” in its ascent in great glory and immortality above the highest heavens.
Ps 47:6 Sing praises to our God, sing ye: sing praises to our king, sing ye.
Ps 47:7 For God is the king of all the earth: sing ye wisely.
Before offering a fifth reason for praising God, he excites all to break out in repeated expressions of admiration at his having ascended so gloriously. “Sing praises to him,” by reason of his being our God; “sing praises to him,” by reason of his being King; and, thirdly, “sing praises to him,” because he is “King of all the earth;” and do so, not only repeatedly, but “wisely,” with care and attention, making no mistakes therein, for any duty rendered to a great king must be gone through in such manner.
Ps 47:8 God shall reign over the nations: God sitteth on his holy throne.
A fifth reason for singing and chanting to God, “with the voice of joy,” derived from Christ, after his ascension to heaven, having sent his Apostles to preach the Gospel, and to gather the gentiles to his fold. “God shall reign over the nations.” Christ, not content with the inheritance he got in the Jewish people, shall also reign over the gentiles; because, by the preaching of the Apostles, he will bring them all to the true faith. But, in the meantime, “God sitteth on his holy throne,” he sits at the right hand of his Father, the most holy, most just position he can occupy, and which “no iniquity can touch.”
Ps 47:9 The princes of the people are gathered together, with the God of Abraham: for the strong gods of the earth are exceedingly exalted.
He explains the sentence, “God shall reign over the nations,” because the preaching of the Apostles would bring the “princes of the people” to the true faith, oblige them to abandon their idols, and turn to the God of Abraham, who is the only true God, that thus he may be their God, and they his people. “For the strong gods of the earth are exceedingly exalted;” the great men amongst the gentiles, who had been slaves of sin, and servants of their idols, are now, by their conversion, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
Ps 148:1 Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise ye him in the high places.
Ps 148:2 Praise ye him, all his angels, praise ye him, all his hosts.
The Angels, as residing in the supreme heavens, as it were, in the very palace of the eternal King, get the first invitation. The words “praise ye” are not used in a spirit of command or exhortation, as if the Angels were deficient in their duty, and needed such; it is spoken in a spirit of invitation and strong affection by the prophet, who is highly excited and inflamed with the love of God, as if he said, Oh that all created things would praise their Creator! and you, ye Angels, who hold the first place in creation, follow up the praise you daily offer him; “from the heavens,” indicates where the Angels reside, which he repeats when he adds, “praise ye him in the high places.” This he explains more clearly when he adds who they are that dwell there, saying, “praise ye him, all his hosts,” meaning the heavenly powers, and not the sun, moon, and stars, as some will have it; first, because nothing is more usual than such repetitions with David; secondly, the holy fathers are unanimous that these words refer to the Cherubim, Seraphim, and the other Angels; thirdly, from Lk. 2, where the Angels are called “The multitude of the heavenly host;” and fourthly, from Psalm 102, where the Angels are more clearly indicated, when he says, “Bless the Lord, all ye his hosts; you ministers of his, that do his will.”
Ps 148:3 Praise ye him, O sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars and light.
Ps 148:4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens: and let all the waters that are above the heavens
From the Angels, who, as being endowed with reason and intelligence, praise God in the strict sense of the word, he descends to the heavenly bodies who do not offer that intellectual praise they are incapable of, but still praise him by reason of their greatness, grandeur, size, speed, efficacy, splendor, and beauty, just as every beautiful work redounds to the credit of its maker. He names the sun first, it being universally allowed to be the principal body in nature; next, the moon, it being apparently next in size to the sun; then he calls upon the stars, concluding with “the light,” by which he means the light derived from the sun, moon, and stars. Having enumerated the heavenly bodies, he then calls upon “the heaven of heavens,” that is, the superior heavens, beneath which lie the inferior heavens in which the clouds and the birds move about; whence we read in the Scriptures, “the birds of heaven, the clouds of heaven.” To those upper heavens he adds the waters that lie above the heavens, thus leaving no one thing in the superior part of the world without an invitation. In regard of those waters men are at liberty to argue to a certain extent, but in other respects they are not. First, it is certain that the waters named here are material, not spiritual waters, an error into which Origen fell, and which was exposed by the holy fathers. Secondly, that these waters are above, and not in, the heavens, as some erroneously imagine, for the prophet indicates it clearly here, by calling on the “heaven of heavens” to praise him, and at once adds, “all the waters that are above the heavens,” those heavens, surely, that he had just quoted; and in Psalm 103, when speaking of the same heavens, he says, “Who stretchest out the heavens like a pavilion, who coverest the higher rooms thereof with water;” and Moses, in the first chapter of Genesis, clearly places water over the firmament, in which firmament he shortly after places the stars; and more clearly in Daniel 3, where all the works of the Lord are enumerated, in order; first are placed the Angels, then the heavens, then the waters that are over the heavens, then the sun, moon, stars, and other inferior beings. Thirdly, these waters are incorruptible and eternal, for to them, as well as to the other things hereinbefore enumerated, applies what he subsequently adds, “He hath established them forever, and for ages of ages.”
Ps 148:5 Praise the name of the Lord. For he spoke, and they were made: he commanded, and they were created.
Ps 148:6 He hath established them for ever, and for ages of ages: he hath made a decree, and it shall not pass away.
The reason why all those things aforesaid should praise God is, because they were all made by him, and will remain forever incorrupt; and what is much more wonderful, they were made without any labor, without any loss of time, by one word or command brought from nonexistence to existence, and that for eternity. He merely said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” He commanded a thing that had no existence to start into existence, and at once it, in obedience to his command, appeared. “He hath established them forever, and for ages of ages.” He endowed them with immortality, in order that, like the inferior bodies, they may not rise up and die again. “He hath made a decree,” passed a decree on this matter; “and it shall not pass away,” a decree that will not evaporate or become a dead letter, but will remain, and by remaining will preserve the very things it has reference to, so that they shall not pass away.
Ps 148:7 Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all ye deeps:
He now passes to the perishable elements and to the world below, which consists of the earth, the air, the water, the beasts, fishes, fowl, as also the thunder, lightning, hail, winds, and other such matters. And as he first said, “Praise ye the Lord from the heavens,” he now says, “Praise the Lord from the earth;” and as he classified all the superior beings under the head of the things belonging to heaven which is the seat of the Angels, so he deems it right now to bring all the inferior things under the head of those belonging to the earth, it being the seat of man. Hence, his reason for not naming fire, or air, or water; in the first place, because the earth constitutes the second part of the world, and all other things, whether fire, air, or water, are subject to man, who inhabits it. “Praise the Lord from the earth,” all you who live on the earth, or belong to it, and he mentions first the waters and the fishes who dive in the depths of the earth; for the dragons mean the sea monsters; and the deeps, the deep seas in which they reside; as we read in Psalm 103, “The sea dragon which thou hast formed to play therein,” that is, the sea; and in Psalm 73, “Thou didst crush the heads of the dragons in the waters.”
Ps 148:8 Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds, which fulfil his word:
From the waters he passes to the air, where the fires exist; viz., lightning, thunderbolts, coruscations, as also hail, snow, ice, and the stormy winds, those furious winds that cause the storms and bring so much rain with them, all of which “fulfil his word;” that is, obey his commands, which last expression he adds with a view to let us see that all those accidents, that are looked upon by man as so many calamities, come from the hand of God, who makes use of them as so many instruments of his justice or of his mercy to punish the wicked or to deter the just from sin; and, therefore, that they do not come from chance, nor should they be called calamities but blessings, being the instruments of a good and gracious God.
Ps 148:9 Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars:
From the air he now reverts to the earth, and first alludes to the more striking parts of it, the “mountains and hills,” which, of course, include the plains and the valleys, for you cannot have one without the other. He then passes to the products of the earth, naming the trees first that produce fruit, and then those that do not, such as the cedar, which however, serves for house and shipbuilding. He then touches on the animals that are to be found on the earth, briefly enumerating the principal ones, the wild, the domestic, and the beasts of burden; and finally, the serpents that crawl along the ground, and the birds that fly aloft in the air. He calls upon and challenges them all to praise God, not that they are capable of any such thing, but that man, by reflecting on their use and benefit to him, may praise God, and return him due thanks for them. But what benefit do the wild beasts, the lions, serpents, even the gnats and the wasps confer on man? A great deal, for, whether they inspire us with terror, or annoy and torment us, they are calculated to remind us of our weakness and infirmity, and to what we have come through the disobedience of our first parents, by which we lost a great part of the dominion we previously had over all animals.
Ps 148:10 Beasts and all cattle: serpents and feathered fowls:
Ps 148:11 Kings of the earth and all people: princes and all judges of the earth:
Ps 148:12 Young men and maidens: let the old with the younger, praise the name of the Lord:
Ps 148:13 For his name alone is exalted.
He finally invites all mankind to praise God, and, in order to comprehend all manner of people, he mentions three different classes of people in respect of power, sex, and age. “Kings and people,” they who command and they who obey; and, as all those who do command are not equal in authority, he adds, “princes,” having supreme power, “and all judges of the earth,” having subordinate authority; and here is the difference of power. “Young men and maidens,” which includes the sexes, “the old with the younger,” to comprehend all ages. All, then, be they princes or subjects, men or women, old or young, are summoned to praise the Lord. “For his name alone is exalted;” for there is no other name truly sublime, and worthy of all praise, but the name of God. Created things, however great, when compared with God’s greatness, sink into insignificance; and whatever greatness or excellence they may be possessed of they have entirely from him, who alone is called, and justly is, the Most High.
Ps 148:14 The praise of him is above heaven and earth: and he hath exalted the horn of his people. A hymn to all his saints to the children of Israel, a people approaching to him. Alleluia.
He assigns a reason for having said, “For his name alone is exalted,” because, says he, “The praise of him is above heaven and earth;” that is, everything in heaven and on earth declare his praise so full of everything of his glory, or, as Habacuc has it, “His glory covered the heavens, and the earth is full of his praise;” therefore “his name alone is exalted.” And “he hath exalted the horn of his people;” he, of himself, alone exalted and sublime, has exalted the power and glory of his people Israel, because he selected them as his own people, gave them divine laws, written with his own finger, and cared them with a special providence. “A hymn to all his saints; to the children of Israel, a people approaching to him, Alleluia.” This is the conclusion of the Psalm, as it were to say, The hymn, then, to be sung to God should be specially sung by all his saints; that is, by all those dedicated and consecrated to him, the children of Israel especially, inasmuch as they come nearer to God than any other people, through true knowledge and faith, true worship and adoration, true filial confidence and love. This, however, as St. Augustine properly observes, applies not to the children of Israel according to the flesh, but according to the spirit; for the former being stiff necked never made any approach to God, as St. Stephen reproached them. “You always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did so do you also. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain those who foretold of the coming of the Just One, of whom you have been the betrayers and murderers;” and the Apostle, Rom. 9, points out who are the true children of Israel when he says, “For all are not Israelites that are of Israel; neither are all they who are the seed of Abraham’s children;” that is to say, not they who are the children of the flesh are the children of God, but they that are the children of the promise are counted for “the seed.” And in the same epistle, chap. 4, he tells them that they were the children of Abraham “who follow the steps of the faith that our father Abraham had,” be they circumcised or not circumcised. Nor should we exclude all the children of Israel according to the flesh, for in such case we would exclude the prophets and the Apostles; we exclude those only who are Israelites according to the flesh alone, of whom St. Stephen speaks as above, and to whom the Precursor said, “Ye offspring of vipers, who hath shown you to flee from the wrath to come? do not begin to say, We have Abraham for our father,” and to whom the Lord himself said, “If you be the children of Abraham do the works of Abraham—you are of your father the devil.” Finally, such are they, who, after having renounced the Lord, are scattered all over the world, without a king, a priesthood, and even without a God.
1. The subject of our meditation in this present life should be the praises of God; for the everlasting exaltation of our life hereafter will be the praise of God, and none can become fit for the life hereafter, who hath not practised himself for it now. So then now we praise God, but we pray to Him too. Our praise is marked by joy, our prayer by groans.… On account of these two seasons, one, that which now is in the temptations and tribulations of this life, the other, that which is to be hereafter in everlasting rest and exultation; we have established also the celebration of two seasons, that before Easter and that after Easter. That which is before Easter signifieth tribulation, in which we now are; that which we are now keeping after Easter, signifieth the bliss in which we shall hereafter be. The celebration then which we keep before Easter is what we do now: by that which we keep after Easter we signify what as yet we have not. Therefore we employ that time in fastings and prayer, this present time we spend in praises, and relax our fast. This is the Halleluia which we sing, which, as you know, meaneth (in Latin), Praise ye the Lord. Therefore that period is before the Lord’s Resurrection, this, after His Resurrection: by which time is signified the future hope which as yet we have not: for what we represent after the Lord’s Resurrection, we shall have after our own. For in our Head both are figured, both are set forth. The Baptism of the Lord setteth forth to us this present life of trial, for in it we must toil, be harassed, and, at last, die; but the Resurrection and Glorification of the Lord setteth forth to us the life which we are to have hereafter, when He shall come to recompense due rewards, evil to the evil, good to the good. And now indeed all the evil men sing with us, Halleluia; but, if they persevere in their wickedness, they may utter with their lips the song of our life hereafter; but the life itself, which will then be in the reality which now is typified, they cannot obtain, because they would not practise it before it came, and lay hold on what was to come.
2. “Halleluia.” “Praise the Lord,” thou sayest to thy neighbour, he to thee: when all are exhorting each other, all are doing what they exhort others to do. But praise with your whole selves: that is, let not your tongue and voice alone praise God, but your conscience also, your life, your deeds. For now, when we are gathered together in the Church, we praise: when we go forth each to his own business, we seem to cease to praise God. Let a man not cease to live well, and then he ever praiseth God.… It is impossible for a man’s acts to be evil, whose thoughts are good. For acts issue from thought: nor can a man do anything or move his limbs to do aught, unless the bidding of his thought precede: just as in all things which ye see done throughout the provinces, whatsoever the Emperor biddeth goeth forth from the inner part of his palace throughout the whole Roman Empire.[A striking illustration of (the Christmas morning Lesson, Anglican) Luke 2:1.—C.]
“>3 How great commotion is caused at one bidding by the Emperor as he sits in his palace! He but moveth his lips, when he speaketh: the whole province is moved, when what he speaketh is being executed. So in each single man too, the Emperor is within, his seat is in the heart. If he be good and biddeth good things, good things are done: if he be bad and biddeth evil things, evil things are done. When Christ sitteth there, what can He bid, but what is good? When the devil is the occupant, what can he bid, but evil? But God hath willed that it should be in thy choice for whom thou wilt prepare room, for God, or for the devil: when thou hast prepared it, he who is occupant will also rule. Therefore, brethren, attend not only to the sound; when ye praise God, praise with your whole selves: let your voice, your life, your deeds, all sing.
3. “Praise ye the Lord from heaven” (ver. 1). As though he had found things in heaven holding their peace in the praise of the Lord, he exhorteth them to arise and praise. Never have things in heaven held their peace in the praises of their Creator, never have things on earth ceased to praise God. But it is manifest that there are certain things which have breath to praise God in that disposition wherein God pleaseth them. For no one praiseth aught, save what pleaseth him. And there are other things which have not breath of life and understanding to praise God, but yet, because they also are good, and duly arranged in their proper order, and form part of the beauty of the universe, which God created, though they themselves with voice and heart praise not God, yet when they are considered by those who have understanding, God is praised in them; and, as God is praised in them, they themselves too in a manner praise God.[Homo Naturæ minister et interpres.—Bacon. The “Hymn of the Three Children” was in his mind: it became very early one of the hymns of the Church.—C.]
“>2 First he saith, “from heaven,” then from earth; for it is God that is praised, who made heaven and earth. All in heaven is calm and peaceful; there is ever joy, no death, no sickness, no vexation; there the blessed ever praise God; but we are still below: yet, when we think how God is praised there, let us have our heart there, and let us not hear to no purpose, “Lift up your hearts.” Let us lift up our heart above, that it become not corrupted on earth: for we take pleasure in what the Angels do there. We do it now in hope: hereafter we shall in reality, when we have come thither. “Praise Him” then “in the high places.”
5. “Praise Him, all ye angels of His, praise Him, all His powers” (ver. 2). “Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all ye stars and light” (ver. 3). “Praise Him, ye heaven of heavens, and waters that are above the heavens” (ver. 4). “Let them praise the Name of the Lord” (ver. 5). When can he unfold all in his enumeration? Yet he hath in a manner touched upon them all summarily, and included all things in heaven praising their Creator. And as though it were said to him, “Why do they praise Him? what hath He conferred on them, that they should praise Him?” he goeth on, “for He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created.” No wonder if the works praise the Worker, no wonder if the things that are made praise the Maker, no wonder if creation praise its Creator. In this Christ also is mentioned, though we seem not to have heard His Name.… By what were they made? By the Word?John 1:1, 2.
“>3 How doth he show in this Psalm, that all things were made by the Word? “He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created.” No one speaketh, no one commandeth, save by word.
6. “He hath established them for the age, and for age upon age” (ver. 6). All things in heaven, all things above, all powers and angels, a certain city on high, good, holy, blessed; from whence because we are wanderers, we are wretched; whither because we are to return, we are blessed in hope; whither when we shall have returned, we shall be blessed indeed; “He hath given them a law which shall not pass away.” What sort of command, think ye, have things in heaven and the holy angels received? What sort of command hath God given them? What, but that they praise Him? Blessed are they whose business is to praise God! They plough not, they sow not, they grind not, they cook not; for these are works of necessity, and there is no necessity there. They steal not, they plunder not, they commit no adultery; for these are works of iniquity, and there is no iniquity there. They break not bread for the hungry, they clothe not the naked, they take not in the stranger, they visit not the sick, they set not at one the contentious, they bury not the dead; for these are works of mercy, and there there is no misery, for mercy to be shown to. O blessed they! Think we that we too shall be like this? Ah! let us sigh, let us groan in sighing. And what are we, that we should be there? mortal, outcast, abject, earth and ashes! But He, who hath promised, is almighty.…
7. Let him then turn himself to things on earth too, since he hath already spoken the praises of things in heaven. “Praise ye the Lord from the earth” (ver. 7). For wherewith began he before? “Praise ye the Lord from heaven:” and he went through things in heaven: now hear of things on earth. “Dragons and all abysses.” “Abysses” are depths of water: all the seas, and this atmosphere of clouds, pertain to the “abyss.” Where there are clouds, where there are storms, where there is rain, lightning, thunder, hail, snow, and all that God willeth should be done above the earth, by this moist and misty atmosphere, all this he hath mentioned under the name of earth, because it is very changeable and mortal; unless ye think that it raineth from above the stars.[See A. N. F. vol. vii. p. 57.—C.]
“>4 All these things happen here, close to the earth. Sometimes even men are on the tops of mountains, and see the clouds beneath them, and often it raineth: and all commotions which arise from the disturbance of the atmosphere, those who watch carefully see that they happen here, in this lower part of the universe.… Thou seest then what kind all these things are, changeable, troublous, fearful, corruptible: yet they have their place, they have their rank, they too in their degree fill up the beauty of the universe, and so they praise the Lord. He turns then to them, as though He would exhort them too, or us, that by considering them we may praise the Lord. “Dragons” live about the water, come out from caverns, fly through the air; the air is set in motion by them: “dragons” are a huge kind of living creatures, greater there are not upon the earth. Therefore with them he beginneth, “Dragons and all abysses.” There are caves of hidden waters, whence springs and streams come forth: some come forth to flow over the earth, some flow secretly beneath; and all this kind, all this damp nature of waters, together with the sea and this lower air, are called abyss, or “abysses,” where dragons live and praise God. What? Think we that the dragons form choirs, and praise God? Far from it. But do ye, when ye consider the dragons, regard the Maker of the dragon, the Creator of the dragon: then, when ye admire the dragons, and say, “Great is the Lord who made these,” then the dragons praise God by your voices.
8. “Fire, hail, snow, ice, wind of storms, which do His word” (ver. 8). Wherefore added he here, “which do His word”? Many foolish men, unable to contemplate and discern creation, in its several places and rank, performing its movements at the nod and commandment of God, think that God doth indeed rule all things above, but things below He despiseth, casteth aside, abandoneth, so that He neither careth for them, nor guideth, nor ruleth them; but that they are ruled by chance, how they can, as they can: and they are influenced by what they say sometimes to one another: e.g. “If it were God that gave rain, would He rain into the sea? What sort of providence,” they say, “is this? Getulia is thirsty, and it rains into the sea.” They think that they handle the matter cleverly. One should say to them, “Getulia does at all events thirst, thou dost not even thirst.” For good were it for thee to say to God, “My soul hath thirsted for Thee.”Ps. 143:6; Ps. 63:1; Matt. 5:6.
“>1 For he that thus argueth is already satisfied; he thinketh himself learned, he is not willing to learn, therefore he thirsteth not. For if he thirsted, he would be willing to learn, and he would find that everything happeneth upon earth by God’s Providence, and he would wonder at the arrangement of even the limbs of a flea. Attend, beloved. Who hath arranged the limbs of a flea and a gnat, that they should have their proper order, life, motion? Consider one little creature, even the very smallest, whatever thou wilt. If thou considerest the order of its limbs, and the animation of life whereby it moveth; how doth it shun death, love life, seek pleasures, avoid pain, exert divers senses, vigorously use movements suitable to itself! Who gave its sting to the gnat, for it to suck blood with? How narrow is the pipe whereby it sucketh! Who arranged all this? who made all this? Thou art amazed at the smallest things; praise Him that is great. Hold then this, my brethren, let none shake you from your faith or from sound doctrine. He who made the Angel in heaven, the Same also made the worm upon earth: the Angel in heaven to dwell in heaven, the worm upon earth to abide on earth. He made not the Angel to creep in the mud, nor the worm to move in heaven. He hath assigned dwellers to their different abodes; incorruption He assigned to incorruptible abodes, corruptible things to corruptible abodes. Observe the whole, praise the whole. He then who ordered the limbs of the worm, doth He not govern the clouds? And wherefore raineth He into the sea? As though there are not in the sea things which are nourished by rain; as though He made not fishes therein, as though He made not living creatures therein. Observe how the fishes run to sweet water. And wherefore, saith he, doth He give rain to the fishes, and sometimes giveth not rain to me? That thou mayest consider that thou art in a desert region, and in a pilgrimage of life; that so this present life may grow bitter to thee, that thou mayest long for the life to come: or else that thou mayest be scourged, punished, amended. And how well doth He assign their properties to regions. Behold, since we have spoken of Getulia, He raineth here nearly every year, and giveth corn every year; here the corn cannot be kept, it soon rotteth, because it is given every year; there, because it is given seldom, both much is given, and it can be kept for long. But dost thou perchance think that God there deserteth man, or that they do not there after their own manner of rejoicing both praise and glorify God? Take a Getulian from his country, and set him amid our pleasant trees; he will wish to flee away, and return to his bare Getulia. To all places then, regions, seasons, God hath assigned and arranged what fits them. Who could unfold it? Yet they who have eyes see many things therein: when seen, they please; pleasing, they are praised; not they really, but He who made them; thus shall all things praise God.
9. It was in thought of this that the spirit of the Prophet added the words, “which do His word.” Think not then that these things are moved by chance, which in every motion of theirs obey God. Whither God willeth, thither the fire spreads, thither the cloud hurries, whether it carry in it rain, or snow, or hail. And wherefore doth the lightning sometimes strike the mountain, yet strikes not the robber?… Perhaps He yet seeketh the robber’s conversion, and therefore is the mountain which feareth not smitten, that the man who feareth may be changed. Thou also sometimes, when maintaining discipline, smitest the ground to terrify a child. Sometimes too He smiteth a man, whom He will. But thou sayest to me, Behold, He smiteth the more innocent, and passeth over the more guilty. Wonder not; death, whencesoever it come, is good to the good man. And whence dost thou know what punishment is reserved in secret for that more guilty man, if he be unwilling to be converted? Would not they rather be scorched by lightning, to whom it shall be said in the end, “Depart into everlasting fire”?Matt. 25:41.
“>1 The needful thing is, that thou be guileless. Why so? Is it an evil thing to die by shipwreck, and a good thing to die by fever? Whether he die in this way or in that, ask what sort of man he is who dieth; ask whither he will go after death, not how he is to depart from life.… Whatever then happeneth here contrary to our wish, thou wilt know that it happeneth not, save by the will of God, by His providence, by His ordering, by His nod, by His laws: and if we understand not why anything is done, let us grant to His providence that it is not done without reason: so shall we not be blasphemers. For when we begin to argue concerning the works of God, “why is this?” “why is that?” and, “He ought not to have done this,” “He did this ill;” where is the praise of God? Thou hast lost thy Halleluia. Regard all things in such wise as to please God and praise the Creator. For if thou wert to happen to enter the workshop of a smith, thou wouldest not dare to find fault with his bellows, his anvils, his hammers. But take an ignorant man, who knows not for what purpose each thing is, and he findeth fault with all. But if he have not the skill of the workman, and have but the reasoning power of a man, what saith he to himself? Not without reason are the bellows placed here: the workman knoweth wherefore, though I know not. In the shop he dareth not to find fault with the smith, yet in the universe he dareth to find fault with God. Therefore just as “fire, hail, snow, ice, wind of storms, which do His word,” so all things in nature, which seem to foolish persons to be made at random, simply “do His word,” because they are not made save by His command.
10. Then he mentioneth, that they may praise the Lord, “mountains and hills, fruitful trees and all cedars” (ver. 9): “beasts and all cattle, creeping things, and winged fowls” (ver. 10). Then he goeth to men; “kings of the earth and all people, princes and all judges of the earth” (ver. 11): “young men and maidens, old men and young, let them praise the Name of the Lord” (ver. 12). Ended is the praise from heaven, ended is the praise from earth. “For His Name only is exalted” (ver. 13). Let no man seek to exalt his own name. Wilt thou be exalted? Subject thyself to Him who cannot be humbled. “His confession is in earth and heaven” (ver. 14). What is “His confession”? Is it the confession wherewith He confesseth? No, but that whereby all things confess Him, all things cry aloud: the beauty of all things is in a manner their voice, whereby they praise God. The heaven crieth out to God, “Thou madest me, not I myself.” Earth crieth out, “Thou createdst me, not I myself.” How do they cry out? When thou regardest them, and findest this out, they cry out by thy voice, they cry out by thy regard. Regard the heavens, it is beautiful: observe the earth, it is beautiful: both together are very beautiful. He made them, He ruleth them, by His nod they are swayed, He ordereth their seasons, He reneweth their movements, by Himself He reneweth them. All these things then praise Him, whether in stillness or in motion, whether from earth below or from heaven above, whether in their old state or in their renewal. When thou seest all these things, and rejoicest, and art lifted up to the Maker, and gazest on “His invisible things understood by the things which are made,”Rom. 1:20.
“>2 “His confession is in earth and heaven:” that is, thou confesseth to Him from things on earth, thou confesseth to Him from things in heaven. And since He made all things, and nought is better than He, whatsoever He made is less than He, and whatsoever in these things pleaseth thee, is less than He. Let not then what He hath made so please thee, as to withdraw thee from Him who made; if thou lovest what He made, love much more Him who made. If the things which He hath made are beautiful, how much more beautiful is He who made them. “And He shall exalt the horn of His people.” Behold what Haggai and Zachariah prophesied. Now the “horn of His people” is humble in afflictions, in tribulations, in temptations, in beating of the breast; when will He “exalt the horn of His people”? When the Lord hath come, and our Sun is risen, not the sun which is seen with the eye, and “riseth upon the good and the evil,”Matt. 5:45.
“>3 but That whereof is said, To you that hear God, “the Sun of Righteousness shall rise, and healing in His wings;”Mal. 4:2.
and of whom the proud and wicked shall hereafter say, “The light of righteousness hath not shined unto us, and the sun of righteousness rose not upon us.”Wisd. 5:6.
This shall be our summer. Now during the winter weather the fruits appear not on the stock; thou observest, so to say, dead trees during the winter. He who cannot see truly, thinketh the vine dead; perhaps there is one near it which is really dead; both are alike during winter; the one is alive, the other is dead, but both the life and death are hidden: summer advanceth; then the life of the one shineth brightly, the death of the other is manifested: the splendour of leaves, the abundance of fruit, cometh forth, the vine is clothed in outward appearance from what it hath in its stock. Therefore, brethren, now we are the same as other men: just as they are born, eat, drink, are clothed, pass their life, so also do the saints. Sometimes the very truth deceiveth men, and they say, “Lo, he hath begun to be a Christian: hath he lost his headache?” or, “because he is a Christian, what gaineth he from me?” O dead vine, thou observest near thee a vine that is bare indeed in winter, yet not dead. Summer will come, the Lord will come, our Splendour, that was hidden in the stock, and then “He shall exalt the horn of His people,” after the captivity wherein we live in this mortal life.…
11. “An hymn to all His Saints.” Know ye what an hymn is? It is a song with praise of God. If thou praisest God and singest not, thou utterest no hymn: if thou singest and praisest not God, thou utterest no hymn: if thou praisest aught else, which pertaineth not to the praise of God, although thou singest and praisest, thou utterest no hymn. An hymn then containeth these three things, song, and praise, and that of God. Praise then of God in song is called an hymn. What then meaneth, “An hymn to all His Saints”? Let His Saints receive an hymn: let His hints utter an hymn: for this is what they are to receive in the end, an everlasting hymn.…
Ps 138:1 I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: for thou hast heard the words of my mouth. I will sing praise to thee in the sight of the angels:
Ps 138:2 I will worship towards thy holy temple, and I will give glory to thy name. For thy mercy, and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy holy name above all.
The prophet commences by promising a sacrifice of praise, and that with his whole heart, inasmuch as he was about to return thanks for his own everlasting, and that of the whole people’s, salvation. “I will praise thee, O Lord;” I will give you a tribute of praise and thanksgiving; no lip one; but from the deepest recesses of my heart; quite alive to it, with my affections engaged on it; “for thou hast heard, the words of my mouth;” in other words, the prayer I put before you. “I will sing praise to thee in the sight of thy Angels.” He declares that his praise will be commensurate to the dignity of the audience. As he is to sing before the Angels who attend on the Almighty, he will be more careful of what he will sing, as he knows before whom he has to sing. Undoubtedly, if we, when we recite the same Psalms, would consider or reflect that we are seen and heard by the holy Angels, who praise our attention and devotion, or who note our carelessness and our distractions, we would recite them much better than we usually get through them. “I will worship towards thy holy temple,” in thy material temple, while singing to your name; I will turn in spirit to your temple aloft, and, fixed therein by prayer and contemplation, “I will give glory to thy name. For thy mercy and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy holy name above all.” Here will be the subject of my song. I will praise you with my whole heart, for your great mercy, and your truth in adhering to what you promised our fathers, by virtue of which you took pity on the human race, and thus magnified Christ, who is your holy word and name, inasmuch as you gave him a name that is above every name. For, by such an act you showed your unspeakable mercy—mercy we should never cease to laud—when you exalted mankind, that had been degraded even to hell by sin, above all the heavens and all created things, through Christ, and you thus more than carried out the truth that always marks your promise.
Ps 138:3 In what day soever I shall call upon thee, hear me: thou shalt multiply strength in my soul.
From the fact of your having so magnified thy holy name, I ask you to hear me whenever I shall put my wants before you; for your Holy One has said, “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name he will give you.” “Thou shalt multiply strength in my soul.” What I earnestly beg of you is to multiply, which means to increase, not the number of my years, nor my wealth, nor my children, nor anything else of the sort; “but strength in my soul,” so as to enable me to resist my evil desires, to bear all crosses with patience, to tread in the path of justice without fatigue, to offer violence to the kingdom of heaven, that thus I may ultimately come to him, “whom thou hast magnified.”
Ps 138:4 May all the kings of the earth give glory to thee: for they have heard all the words of thy mouth.
As he said previously, “Thou hast magnified thy holy name above all,” making use of the past, instead of the future tense, inasmuch as, by the spirit of prophecy, he looked at the future as if it were actually gone by, so he now predicts the conversion of the gentiles, in the imperative mood. Your Holy One having been magnified by his resurrection and ascension, may all the kings of the earth, (as they will,) “give glory to thee;” because, through the preaching of the Apostles, “they have heard all the words of thy mouth;” that is, all you chose to reveal to the world through the prophets and Apostles, words which were at first confined to Judea; “because the words of God were committed to them,” but were afterwards heard by all the kings and people of the world, through the Apostles; “for their sound went all over the earth.”
Ps 138:5 And let them sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory of the Lord.
He goes on with the explanation of the mystery of the calling of the gentiles, “And let them sing in the ways of the Lord;” that is, the kings and people aforesaid will tread in the ways of the Lord, which are mercy and truth; for it is by them that God comes down to man, and man gets up to God; his mercy being exercised by mercifully forgiving the penitent, and justly punishing the impenitent; and our mercy being exercised by freely forgiving those who injure us, by dealing justly with all, and by giving to God and the neighbor what we owe to both. Such people will set about their work in no lazy, grudging manner, but in joy and good spirits; for they will sing, “great is the glory of the Lord.” For they will every other day have a better knowledge of, and will more admire the great things God will have accomplished, and how wonderfully he will have glorified his Christ, who is our head, and the extent of the riches of the glory of the inheritance to the saints.
Ps 138:6 For the Lord is high, and looketh on the low: and the high he knoweth afar off.
The great glory of the Lord consists in this, that high as he is, nay, even the very highest, by reason of his nature, dignity, power, wisdom, and authority; still, “he looketh on the low,” for he came down from heaven to them, for “he was seen upon earth, and conversed with men;” “and the high he knoweth afar off,” because he draws far away from the proud, or casts them far away from him as he cast the devil, the prince of the proud, from heaven into hell. This doctrine of holy humility is most necessary to all, especially to all in any responsible position, for such people run a great risk of being carried away by their pride. But why does God, the High One, love the lowly instead of the high, whereas all love what is similar to themselves? God loves those who are truly raised on high, and not those who place themselves on a false elevation; for the former are very like, the latter most unlike him. And thus, the humble, conscious that they have nothing from themselves, are replenished with all manner of good, and are raised by God to the highest dignity; while the proud, “who thought they were something when they were nothing,” remain empty, and being filled and distended with vanity alone, are utterly discarded.
Ps 138:7 If I shall walk in the midst of tribulation, thou wilt quicken me: and thou hast stretched forth thy hand against the wrath of my enemies: and thy right hand hath saved me.
As God, who is on high, regards the low with the greatest kindness, David, fully cognizant of his own low position, confidently promises himself God’s assistance in every trouble. “If I shall walk in the midst of tribulation,” so as to be surrounded on all sides by it, still “thou wilt quicken me;” you will preserve me alive, unhurt, unharmed. “And thou hast stretched forth thy hand against the wrath of my enemies;” when my enemies surrounded me, and sought to devour me, you interposed and protected me, “and thy right hand hath saved me;” your strength and power, Christ, hath saved me.
Ps 138:8 The Lord will repay for me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: O despise not the works of thy hands.
He explains how God’s “right hand saves us,” because “the Lord,” who is your right hand, “will repay for me;” will satisfy you, the Father, for my sins; as he says in another place, “then did I pay that which I took not away;” he will also repay my enemies, as I am not able to repay them by punishing them. “Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever;” has no end, and, therefore, I ask you, “do not despise the work of thy hands.” Don’t give up the work you have commenced in your mercy, through the inspiration of faith, hope, and charity, but complete it by preserving, by increasing, by perfecting it. With great propriety he says, “the works of thy hands,” not of our hands, because whatever good we have we have it from God’s bounty, without whom we are not only unable to do anything, but even “we are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves.” 2 Cor. 3:5.