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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 40

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 5, 2016


Ps 40:1Unto the end, a psalm for David himself. ‎

Ps 40:2 WITH expectation I have waited for the Lord, and he was attentive to me. ‎

Christ, in the person of his people, declares how long the redemption was expected. It was looked for during four thousand years; while, in the meantime, mankind was promised deliverance from the miseries into which they had fallen by the sin of our first parents, sometimes through the prophets and patriarchs, sometimes through figures and oracles. “With expectation I have waited for the Lord,” for a long time, without any intermission. I have been expecting the Lord to have mercy, to visit and to free his people, “and he was attentive to me.” I have not been disappointed, for he has heard me.

Ps 40:3 And he heard my prayers, and brought me out of the pit of misery and the mire of dregs. And he set my feet upon a rock, and directed my steps. ‎

He now explains the expression in the last verse, “he was attentive to me,” for “he heard my prayers;” and the consequence was, that “he brought me out of the pit of misery and the mire of dregs.” The Hebrew for “pit of misery” conveys the idea of a deep dark place, full of the “mire of dregs,” into which many have fallen, from whose groans and lamentations the greatest disorder and confusion ensue. Such is the state of the wicked, who have not known God and his commandments; and are stuck in the mud of their carnal desires, that renders them not only incapable of arriving at eternal happiness, but causes them to quarrel and wrangle perpetually with each other. The grace of the Redeemer brings us out of this pit, so soon as we begin, through faith, to know the true God, the real and eternal happiness; and, liberated through hope and charity from our carnal desires, we have peace with God and with ourselves. “And he set my feet upon a rock, and directed my steps.” He that had fallen into the “pit of misery,” fell from the path in which God had originally placed him, and made it a safe and easy path to the kingdom of heaven; and, therefore, he who afterwards rescued him “from the pit of misery and the mire of dregs,” put him back on a path solid and firm, and quite as straight and level; which is the meaning of, “he set my feet upon a rock,” the feet he rescued from a deep and miry pit he has put upon a high and firm rock, “and the rock was Christ;” for he says of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He, therefore, put the feet of the just on the faith, the doctrine, and the example of Christ, that they may follow his footsteps; “and directed my steps.” He not only put me on the solid, but also on the straight road, and thus “directed my steps in the way of peace.”

Ps 40:4 And he put a new canticle into my mouth, a song to our God. Many shall see, and shall fear: and they shall hope in the Lord. ‎

The moment God put me on the straight and firm road I began to “sing a new canticle.” Theretofore, while I was the “old man,” I sung nothing but what turned upon the world and its pleasures; but once I became “renewed in the spirit of my mind,” I began to sing “a new canticle” on the love of God, one that God himself “put into my mouth,” which, therefore, is one most agreeable to him. “Many shall see and shall fear, and they shall hope in the Lord.” God’s people now delivered from the pit of misery, or Christ himself, in the person of his people, so delivered, foretells that many will be likewise delivered. “Many shall see” the pit of misery, and those that have been saved from it, “and will fear and will hope in the Lord;” will fear the pit, and put their trust in the deliverer, for the first step to salvation is, when God, by his grace, begins to open the eyes of the sinner, to see his miserable state, and to feel through whom he can be delivered, and thence begins “to fear and to hope in the Lord.”

Ps 40:5 Blessed is the man whose trust is in the name of the Lord; and who hath not had regard to vanities, and lying follies. ‎

He invites, exhorts, and encourages all to imitate those who have been delivered. “Blessed is the man whose trust is in the name of the Lord.” Truly happy is he who has really placed all his hope in the Lord, who alone is all powerful and merciful; and, therefore, is both willing and able to deliver from every trouble, all those that put their trust in him. To make the matter clearer, he adds, “and who hath not regard to vanities, and lying follies;” who looked for help from no one, especially from vain, empty things, that can save no one; “and lying follies.” Such fallacious helps as have just been alluded to, including astrology, incantations, witchcraft, etc., in which many believe and confide, but which may be justly designated as “lying follies.”

Ps 40:6 Thou hast multiplied thy wonderful works, O Lord my God: and in thy thoughts there is no one like to thee. I have declared and I have spoken they are multiplied above number. ‎

He now proceeds to explain that most profound mystery of man’s redemption, through which many have been, and many more will be, brought out of “the pit of misery and the mire of dregs (3);” and he first states, in general, that the works of God are wonderful. “Thou hast multiplied thy wonderful works, O Lord my God, and in thy thoughts there is no one like to thee.” There is no one like thee in thy thoughts, or the forecasting of thy wisdom, not one to be compared to thee. “I have declared, and I have spoken; they are multiplied above number.” A reason assigned, why no one can be compared to God in regard of his wonderful works and profound thoughts; and he says, “I have declared, and I have spoken;” I have made known some of his wonderful works, through the prophets, through the wise, through the very elements of the world; for, “the heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the works of his hands.” “They are multiplied above number;” they are so numerous that they are past counting, and, therefore, cannot be properly announced or explained.

Ps 40:7 Sacrifice and oblation thou didst not desire; but thou hast pierced ears for me. Burnt offering and sin offering thou didst not require:

Truly “wonderful are all God’s works;” in all of them “the depth of his thoughts” most splendidly appear, but far and away, and beyond, and above all, in his work of the redemption: what can be imagined more marvelous than for God to stoop to the form of a servant, to become a beggar and a pauper, to rescue man from the “pit of misery,” and raise him to the enjoyment of heaven? To have the same God, in the form of a servant, scourged with rods, and crucified between robbers, that he may place his servants in the choir of Angels? and to carry out all these things with the greatest wisdom, the greatest justice, without offering the slightest injury to the Divinity, nay, even thereby augmenting his glory?! Christ himself, using the pen and the language of David, explains this mystery in the following verses. “Sacrifice and oblation thou didst not desire;” you would not be appeased by the sacrifice of cattle, nor by the oblation of bread and incense, but by a victim of infinite price; you, therefore, wished me to assume a mortal body, that by my “obedience even unto death,” I may atone for the disobedience of the first man; and since you refused “sacrifice” of cattle and “oblation” for sin, “then said I: Behold, I come,” that I may be the priest and the sacrifice; and thus satisfy for the human race, and “bring them out of the pit of misery and the mire of dregs.” Observe here, that by “sacrifice and oblations” we are rather to understand the victim or matter offered, than the rite or ceremony. Observe also, that though the prophet says, “sacrifice and oblations thou didst not desire,” we are not thence to infer the sacrifices of the old law were of no value; what he conveys is, that they were of no value in regard of making satisfaction for sin, as the Apostle says to the Hebrews, “For it is impossible that with the blood of oxen and goats, sins should be taken away.” “But thou hast pierced ears for me.” There are a variety of versions of this sentence, some conveying the idea of Christ having his ears ready for his father’s command to save man; the present reading conveying the idea, that he was in the hands of his father, like a slave who had his ears pierced, ready, at a moment’s notice, to do his master’s bidding.

Ps 40:8 Then said I, Behold I come. In the head of the book it is written of me ‎
Ps 40:9 That I should do thy will: O my God, I have desired it, and thy law in the midst of my heart.

He said, “Behold, I come;” he now tells us why, “that I should do thy will;” and the will of God was, that he should sanctify us by the oblation of his body, by his passion and death; so the Apostle explains this passage in Hebrews 10, where he quotes it, and adds, “by the which will we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once.” “In the head of the book it is written of me.” What book? Some will have it, Genesis; some, the First Psalm; some, the Prophets; others, the Gospel of St. John; others, the Book of Life; all defensible; but I look upon the most simple and most literal interpretation to be, the summary, or the whole of the Holy Scriptures. The Hebrew favors this interpretation; instead of “the head of the book,” it is in the Hebrew, “in the volume of the book,” that is to say, in the whole volume, because the whole Scripture has reference to Christ. Hence, the Lord himself says, “what is written in the law of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled;” and in the same gospel we read, “He interpreted to the two disciples; all that was written of him in the Scriptures, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets.” And our Lord, speaking of the Scriptures in general, said, “Search the Scriptures, for they bear testimony of me;” “In the head of the book,” then, does not mean the first chapter or title page of the book; but the substance and the true meaning is, All the Scriptures testify that I came into the world “that I should do thy will,” by obedience to you in the most trifling matters. Turning, then, to the Father, he adds, “O my God, I have desired it,” I have most cheerfully accepted your decree; “and thy law in the midst of my heart;” I have put thy law in the midst of my heart; there is nothing I have been more desirous, more anxious for, than to obey your law. Speaking of the just, David says, “God’s law is in his heart;” but; speaking of Christ, the head of the just, he says, “his law is in the midst of his heart,” and those who belong to Christ should have his Spirit, so that they may prefer his law to everything, so as to have it constantly before their memory, their will, and their understanding.

‎Ps 40:10 I have declared thy justice in a great church, lo, I will not restrain my lips: O Lord, thou knowest it. ‎

Though God’s principal object in the death of Christ was, that he should atone for mankind, he willed also that Christ should previously announce the Gospel; that his preaching may be the path to his passion; and that he may be not only a Redeemer, but also a teacher and a preacher to man; and he, therefore, says now, “I have declared thy justice;” I have announced thy most just law, and the works it requires, and that publicly, before countless crowds of people, of which yourself are witness. And, in fact, Christ never ceased preaching. From his infancy he preached, by example, contempt of the things of this world, modesty, temperance, humility. From his baptism, from the time that the Father said, “Hear ye him,” he began to preach, and never ceased to the day of his death, which he continued through his Apostles, and will continue, through their successors, to the end of the world.

Ps 40:11 I have not hid thy justice within my heart: I have declared thy truth and thy salvation. I have not concealed thy mercy and thy truth from a great council. ‎

Many preach while they expect any benefit thereby, or fear no injury in consequence; but when they cease to hope, or fear presses, they keep their preaching to themselves, and will not let it out. Not so with Christ; and, by his example, he tells us what to do thereon, and he, therefore says, “I have declared thy justice,” and “have not hidden it in my heart,” through negligence, fear, or any unworthy motive. His remarks on the justice that God requires from us, that is, that he announced it, and did not “hide it,” are now applied, in like manner, to God’s justice and mercy, for he calls justice truth; that is, the fidelity with which he gives to every one according to his works; and he calls mercy salvation, which he mercifully holds out to those who hope in him. He says, then, “I have declared thy truth and thy salvation;” that is to say, I have announced “the truth” that is in you, declaring to all how faithfully and how inexplicably you reward the good, and terribly punish the wicked; and I have, at the same time, announced “thy salvation;” that is, with what mercy you save all those that trust in thee. “I have not concealed thy mercy and thy truth from a great council.” What he called “salvation,” in the preceding sentence, he now expressly calls “mercy,” and connects it with truth, meaning justice. “I have not concealed,” through any fear whatever, “from a great council,” from any number however great, “thy mercy and thy truth,” but have publicly and boldly announced them. A fact easily proved from the Gospels.

Ps 40:12 Withhold not thou, O Lord, thy tender mercies from me: thy mercy and thy truth have always upheld me. ‎

He (Christ) passes now from his preaching to his passion; and, as well as he made known the justice and the mercy of the Father to mankind, he now prays to the Father not to defer the same mercy and justice towards himself, but by a speedy resurrection to deliver him from his death and passion. “Withhold not thou, O Lord, thy tender mercies from me.” Father, you see how bitter are my sufferings for having made known your justice and mercy to man; do you, therefore, “withhold not your mercies from me,” by immediately raising me up, as hitherto “thy mercy and thy truth have always upheld me.”

Ps 40:13 For evils without number have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I was not able to see. They are multiplied above the hairs of my head: and my heart hath forsaken me. ‎

A reason for having said, “withhold not, O Lord, thy tender mercies from me,” because “evils without number have surrounded me.” Christ’s sufferings were truly without number, and seemed to crowd in upon him designedly. And they were thus innumerable, because our sins, for which he undertook to make satisfaction, were so. “My iniquities,” the iniquities of mankind, “which the Father placed upon him,” Isaias 53, and which he, therefore, looked upon as mine, “that I may bear them in my body upon the tree;” all those evils “have overtaken me, and I was not able to see.” They were so numerous that they blinded me up. For “they are multiplied above the hairs of my head;” exceed my hairs in number; and thus, overwhelmed by their number, I fainted, “and my heart hath forsaken me;” my strength, my very life, forsook me. This expression of Christ’s, “I was unable to see,” is not to be taken literally, as if the Lord could not see the number of the sins, by reason of their being so extremely numerous; for he certainly had a most accurate knowledge of all the sins, past, present, and future; but he uses the expressions in ordinary use, to signify how numerous were the sins he undertook to satisfy for. We have a similar expression in St. Mark 6, “And he could not do any mighty work there, and he wondered because of their unbelief.” He could have done any works he pleased there, but he is said not to have been able to do them, to give us an idea of the incredulity of the people that prevented him from doing them.

Ps 40:14 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me. look down, O Lord, to help me.

He now returns to the prayer he commenced in verse 11, and prays to be delivered, by a speedy resurrection, from such evils. “Be pleased, O Lord,” Father, whom I must, by reason of the form of a servant I have assumed, call Lord, be pleased “to deliver me” from the many troubles that have surrounded me. “look down, O Lord, to help me;” you seem as if you had for some time abandoned me, “and turned your face away from me,” leaving me to go through the sufferings of the cross without the slightest consolation; but now “look down to help me,” that you may at once replenish me in the joy of a glorious resurrection.

Ps 40:15 Let them be confounded and ashamed together, that seek after my soul to take it away. Let them be turned backward and be ashamed that desire evils to me.

Christ’s enemies, who thought him entirely destroyed, were terribly confused at his resurrection. That he now prophesies in the form of an imprecation, a thing usual with the prophets. “Let them be confounded and ashamed together.” Let them be overwhelmed with confusion “that seek after my soul to take it away;” who seek to take away my life by putting me to death, and totally extinguishing me. Such was the intention of the Jews, a thing they thought they had accomplished when they nailed him to the cross. But immediately after, when they heard of his resurrection, saw it confirmed by signs and wonders, and believed by the mass of the people, “they were confounded and ashamed;” and will be infinitely more so on the last day, then they shall see him whom they impiously presumed to judge, and against whom they suborned false witnesses, judging the whole world with the greatest justice. “Let them be turned backward and be ashamed that desire evils to me.” A repetition of the preceding sentence, as if to strengthen it. “Let them be turned back,” retire in confusion, “and be ashamed,” blush with shame, “that desire evils to me; not only those who seek to kill me, but all who seek for my disgrace or confusion.

Ps 40:16 Let them immediately bear their confusion, that say to me: ‘T is well, t’ is well. ‎

He repeats the same thing a third time, saying, “Let them immediately bear their confusion that say to me: It is well, it is well.” Let not their confusion be deferred, but after three short days let them be confounded, as they were, “who say to me, It is well, it is well;” that is, those who gloried in having triumphed over me, and congratulated each other thereon.

Ps 40:17 Let all that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say always: The Lord be magnified. ‎

As he prophesied confusion to his persecutors in the form of an imprecation, so he now predicts joy to his subjects in the same form. “Let all that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee.” All those who seek the glory of God, who love him and put their trust in him, “will rejoice and be glad” in God; that is, with divine and unspeakable joy, “and say always, the Lord be magnified.” Let them not attribute any good they may have to themselves, but say, May “the Lord be magnified” by all “who love thy salvation;” who love the Savior you sent them, Christ Jesus; or who love and desire the true and everlasting salvation that you alone can confer.

Ps 40:18 But I am a beggar and poor: the Lord is careful for me. Thou art my helper and my protector: O my God, be not slack.

He now returns to the state he was in at the time of his passion, (Christ,) and says, “but I am a beggar and poor;” needy and destitute of all human help. In the Hebrew, the first conveys the idea of poverty; the second of affliction; quite applicable to Christ, especially when he hung naked on the cross; but, however poor and afflicted he may have appeared to man, he was rich in the protection of his Father; and, therefore, he adds, “the Lord is careful for me.” The Lord is concerned for me. He calls his Father “the Lord,” because he speaks in the person of a servant; that is, as the Son of Man, in which nature he hung upon the cross. “Thou art my helper and my protector: O my God, be not slack.” What he had briefly expressed when he said, “the Lord is careful for me,” he now explains at greater length, saying, “Thou art my helper and my protector.” For God the Father was “careful” for his Son, by helping and protecting him, helping him in overcoming past dangers, protecting him by removing future ones. “O my God, be not slack;” namely, to deliver me from all trouble by a speedy resurrection.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 103

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 4, 2016

‎1 Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name! ‎

David piously believing himself to be one of the elect, stirs himself up, in the person of all the elect, to bless the Lord, “Bless the Lord, O my soul;” reflect on his favors and praise him who conferred them on you; you, my soul, who through God’s gift have not only deserved to get such favors, but also to acknowledge them. And let not you alone, my soul, praise the Lord, but, “let all that is within me” be turned into so many tongues, “to bless the Lord.” St. Augustine considers the second part of this verse to be a mere repetition, or perhaps, an explanation of the first part; as much as to say, let all my thoughts and affections, the very deepest within me, bless his holy name. That may be very true; but there is nothing to prevent our applying the words, “all that is within me,” to all that is in man, and enclosed in this outward skin of ours; in the same sense as we have, in Psalm 83, “My heart and flesh have rejoiced in the living God;” and in Psalm 34, “All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like to thee?” Inanimate and senseless things contribute to God’s praise, just as a piece of work does to its maker; or through the affections of our soul, that should wish all creation, if it were possible, should know and praise God.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, ‎

He repeats the expression, to shed the intensity of his affection, as also from a consciousness of human infirmity, that is very apt to cool in matters that do not come under cognizance of the senses, especially such as God, “who dwelleth in light inaccessible” and he, therefore, adds, “and never forget all he hath done for thee;” meaning all his gifts, which are not simply gifts, but gifts (to use the expression) on the double. A great gift is his not exacting from us the punishment our daily sins deserve; and a double gift is the bestowal of so many favors on us for all our wickedness. He that can recount the sins of mankind, by which we daily offend God, can form a remote idea of the extent of God’s love for us in daily conferring so many favors on us; “for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil,” Lk. 6.

3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, ‎

He now proceeds to enumerate God’s favors, beginning in order from the first to the last. The first is remission of sin, through which he makes us just, from being sinners; friends, from enemies; children, from slaves, “who forgiveth all thy iniquities,” pardoning them gratuitously, however innumerable they may be; and not only that, but “who healeth all thy diseases,” to cut off the root of sin; “for covetousness is the root of all evils,” 1 Tim. 6; or, as St. John expresses it, “the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life.” This weakness or infirmity, attached to man by the fall of our first parent, is, to a certain extent, cured and relieved by God in this world; but the complete cure will be effected in the world to come only. Everyone, then, should ask himself if he feels a diminution in his own infirmity—if he bears the touch of the heavenly physician patiently; for they who refuse the physician’s prescriptions, and suffer the language of concupiscence to rest in them, cannot apply those words, “who healeth all thy diseases,” to themselves; and they who are not in a position to do that cannot possibly expect the following gifts of God.

4 who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, ‎

From the gifts of grace he passes to those of glory. “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction,” who, through the redemption that is in Christ, delivers you from eternal death and transfers you into his own kingdom, crowning you with a crown of glory, “with mercy and compassion.” Because, in order to merit that crown of glory, mercy had to go before you, justifying you gratuitously, and compassion had to direct and protect you on the way; for otherwise you would not have persevered in the grace so conferred on you.

5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. ‎

He tells us here what that crown of glory contains. Two things, the satisfaction of all our desires and the immortality of our bodies, or, in other words, perfect happiness, as regards body and soul; for the soul ceases to desire, and the heart to hunger, once it gets possession of the supreme happiness, which is so comprehensive of everything good that it has nothing further to seek or desire. To this glorious resurrection will be added a thorough renovation of the body itself, a happy and never decaying youth. This renovation is compared to that of the eagle, not that the eagle can possibly be supposed to renew its youth forever, but because it in some degree represents the resurrection of the just, by reason of its soaring so high, its acuteness of ken, and its length of life, correspondent to the happiness of the just, who will soar above the heavens, will behold light inaccessible, and behold it forever. How the eagle is renewed is quite uncertain; St. Jerome says that they frequently get new wings, and are thus renewed; St. Augustine says it alludes to the renewal of their beaks, that grow so hooked by age that they cannot take up their food, until they rub it and grind it against a stone, and by thus wearing it away form themselves a new one.

6 The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.

Having told us of all the blessings in store for the just, he now tells us that God’s mercy is the source of them all, and that for fear anyone should be mad enough to attribute to himself what belongs to God, and lose, through his pride, what he should have received in all humility. “The Lord doeth mercies.” It is the Lord himself who behaves kindly to us, pours down his favors on us, liberally sharing every blessing he has with us, and also in his goodness delivering us from every trouble, and from the hands of the unjust; and one of his peculiar mercies is, that he shows “judgment to all that suffer wrong,” for he delivers those that suffer it, and punishes those that inflict it.

7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. ‎

A proof of what he said in the preceding verse; for God made his ways, which are mercy and truth, according to the Psalm, “All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth,” according to Moses his special servant; for he gave him a most holy law, through which he made known his will, not only to Moses but to all the people of Israel; the essence of which was, that as well as he himself was merciful and just, we should be so too; and the very fact of God’s so deigning to instruct us was a great mercy. He also “made his way known to Moses,” when in his mercy he delivered the people from the captivity of Pharao, and slew him and his army in his justice; and thus gave a clear proof of his mercy and his justice.

8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. ‎

These epithets, so applied by that Scripture that cannot deceive us to the Almighty, should prove a great source of consolation to all pious souls. He is called “compassionate,” which, in Hebrew, signifies the tender and the intimate love a parent feels for its own children; “merciful,” which in the same language implies a giver of all grace and favors, which is a consequence of the paternal love one feels for his children. And such was the case with God. Having taken delight in his elect from eternity, and having foreseen and predestined them to be agreeable to the image of his Son, he, at the fitting time, poured down innumerable blessings on them, both of nature and of grace. He is also styled “long suffering”—patient, tolerant, not easily provoked; for God bears with our infirmity and our imperfections in this our journey to our country as a parent, especially a mother, would bear with the folly and trifling, the insults and the ingratitude of the infancy and the childhood of those who call her mother. Who can enumerate the distractions that seize on us while we are speaking to God in prayer? Who can form a proper estimate of our unsteadiness, our various desires, concupiscences, ingratitude, lapses and crimes? And yet God, in his goodness, bears with us, for which we should most constantly and heartfully thank him. Finally, he is “plenteous in mercy,” which seems to have reference to that great and unspeakable mercy, through which God will raise us to a level with the Angels, and to his own likeness, which will happen when we shall see him as he is. Those four epithets, then, include all God’s favors from first to last. The first is the grace of predestination, or the eternal love of God; then follow the gifts of justification and the remission of various sins into which, finally, is added a crown of glory?

9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger for ever. ‎

He now explains in detail the epithets he applied to God in the preceding verse. First, the tender affection God has for those that fear him. “He will not always be angry.” God, to be sure, is sometimes angry with his elect, when they fall into sin, and he will scourge them for it, but he will not be long without being reconciled to them. The affection of the parent remains in that very heart that prompts him to scourge them, which he repeats when he says, “Nor will he threaten forever.” He will not always threaten in his anger, but will in due time administer his sweet consolations. This is not to be quoted in favor of the heresy that would make hell’s pains to be but temporary, because there is question here solely of the elect.

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities. ‎

He comes now to the second epithet, and says that God, in his infinite mercy, instead of visiting us with the punishment we deserved for our sins, overwhelmed us with gifts we did not deserve. For what did the sinner and the unjust deserve but death? “For the wages of sin is death.” Now God not only withheld such wages from us, but he even gave us the life of grace, promised us eternal life, and meanwhile furnished us with a liberal supply of all necessaries in this our pilgrimage.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; ‎
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

These verses also apply to the second epithet, (merciful,) for the prophet proves that God did not deal with the elect according to their sins; for “he strengthened his mercy,” in pouring down all manner of grace on them, and removing all manner of harm from them. He compares his mercy to the distance between the earth and the sky, the far east and far west, to show how boundless it is; and, therefore, that the remission of sin and the infusion of grace is real and substantial, and not imputative, as some heretics will have it.

‎13 As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear him. ‎

The prophet enters into the third appellation (long suffering) in this and the two following verses, making use of a happy comparison. No people are more patient or “long suffering” than parents, in bearing with the follies and frivolities of their younger children. Paternal or maternal love brings them to labor severely and incessantly for them, and to bear up against their ingratitude and even their violence in a most extraordinary manner. Such is the meaning of God’s mercy to “them that fear him,” in regarding their daily transgressions not as so many offences against himself, but as so many filial wanderings.

14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. ‎
15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; ‎
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. ‎

God’s great mercy arises from the fact of his knowing of what we are composed, of earth, of flesh that is corruptible and exposed to all manner of concupiscences, and that we are, therefore, a pitiable set indeed. He remembereth that we are dust; composed of and formed from it, and, therefore, from our frailty, deserving of all mercy and compassion; and, when he did “remember,” it does not imply that he ever forgot it, (for that he could not,) but that he sometimes acted as if he had forgotten it. In further elucidation of our frailty, he draws another comparison, “Men’s days are as grass;” most brief, as brief as those of the grass that never remains an entire year on the ground, for it grows up in the spring, and in the following summer is cut down and gathered up; and as the grass is not in flower even all that time, but flowers in the morning, and withers in the evening; so it is with man, who lives for a short time, and is still a shorter time in the flower of his youth when he withers into old age. “For the spirit shall pass in him, and he shall not be;” that is, the spirit of life, or his corporeal life, will not be permanent in him, will be always transient, and never remain in the same state; for it will be always changing; from infancy to childhood; from childhood to puberty; from puberty to youth; from youth to manhood; from manhood to old age, from old age to death. “And he shall know his place no more;” he will not return to the place from whence he set out, and will never again see the age he has passed. In this respect a great difference exists between things corruptible and things incorruptible, celestial and terrestrial bodies; for the sun, moon, and stars rise in the morning, and set in the west in the evening, but return again in the morning to the spot from whence they set out, without appearing to have undergone the slightest change, but the terrestrial, or the things of this earth, perform their course, undergo various changes therein, and never return to the starting points but grow old and decay. By the spirit here we are not to understand the soul of man, which is immortal, and will return to the body it inhabited on the last day, but the spirit of life, or corporeal existence.

17 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, ‎

We now come to the fourth epithet in verse 8, “and plenteous in mercy,” which applies to the gift of glorification, which is the last and the greatest. “The mercy of the Lord,” then, which in the beginning, extended by predestination to those that fear him, “is from eternity” with them in their glory, and thus, God will be “plenteous in mercy,” whether we consider the number, the greatness or the duration of his favors. Where is the man, then, that will seriously reflect on himself, and on the Lord of the universe, who does not want us, having resolved in his mercy, to take pity on a handful of dust, to raise it to a level with the Angels, and to attach it to himself, the supreme good, in the enjoyment of the most perfect happiness for all eternity? We certainly should not forget such mercy for even one moment, and we should return thanks for it forever. “And his justice unto children’s children, to such as keep his covenant.” This is a sort of appendix to God’s mercy, in regard of those that fear him. The prophet adds, that they who fear God will not only be exalted and protected by the eternal mercy of God, but that the same mercy will be extended to their posterity, if they follow in the pious steps of their parents and ancestors. “And his justice;” his veracity and fidelity, by virtue of which he always carries out what he promises, will be observed towards the “children’s children, to such as keep his covenant;” who observe the covenant entered into by God, that they should be his people, and he their God: “and are mindful of his commandments;” not only to turn them in their mind and to think on them, but also “to do them.”

18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. ‎
19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. ‎

He now proves that God is able to carry out all he promised to those that fear him, and to their children’s children, because he is the supreme Judge of all; and therefore, “he prepared his throne in heaven,” his judgment seat, on an elevated spot, in the highest heaven, whence he can see everything and judge everything; and for fear we should suspect him to be a judge delegated by another, he adds, “and his kingdom shall reign over all;” that is, he sits in heaven, not as a judge appointed by a king, but as a Judge supreme, a King over all kings, for his kingdom, that is, his power as a king, extends to all created things.

20 Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! ‎

In the end of the Psalm the prophet, finding himself quite unable to return adequate thanks to God for all his favors, invites other creatures to bless him and give him praise; and he first invites the Angels, as being creatures of the highest order; and, therefore, most suited to praise God. We are less suited by reason of our weakness and frailty, and by reason of our frequent lapses into sin, and “praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner;” while the Angels are always untiring, endowed with great vigor, are always obedient to God, and thus, never fall into sin, but are agreeable and fair in the sight of God. “Bless the Lord, all ye his Angels;” all you his Angels who surround him, and thus have a more thorough knowledge and conception of his greatness, praise our common Lord; and let it not be confined to one or two, but let the whole of you, however innumerable you may be, unite in his praise. “You that are mighty in strength;” you that have been endowed with super excellent strength, in order to execute all God’s commands, who have, therefore, nothing to fear, and can be prevented by nobody from praising God. “And execute his word;” carry out his commands to the letter; “hearkening to the voice of his orders,” and thus proving themselves most faithful and diligent servants.

21 Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will! ‎

For fear we should suppose that the invitation addressed to the Angels included those only in the lower grade, he now summons “all his hosts,” everyone of them, Archangels, principalities, dominions, and the other superior orders, who all are God’s servants, and carefully and diligently carry out his behests.

22 Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Having invited men and the Angels, who, from their knowledge of God, know best how to do it, to praise God, he now summons all created things, however mute and insensible, to praise their Maker in their own way. And for fear any exception should be made, or that it may be thought the prophet did not include all created things, whether in sky, earth, or sea, he says, “in every place of his dominion;” that is to say, bless him, all ye his works, everyone of you, wherever you may be; for he made all things, governs all things, is with them everywhere, filling, bearing, preserving, moving everything. And you, my soul, who have thus invited them, bless you the Lord at all times, and let his praise be forever in thy mouth.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 89

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 26, 2016

The verse numbering in this commentary may differ from that of modern versions.

The perpetuity of the Church of Christ, in consequence of the promises of God: which, notwithstanding, God permits her to suffer sometimes most grievous afflictions

1 God’s mercy is the entire subject of this Psalm. The prophet at once tells us that he is about to sing of the sure and certain mercies of God; that is, the favors that were promised in his mercy, and which will never fail, which are called in Isaias 55, “the faithful mercies of David.” The word forever is not to be connected with the verb sing, but with the noun mercies; for David, who was then near his end, could not say he would sing forever; but he could say that he would sing of the mercies of the Lord that were to endure forever. “I will show forth with my mouth thy truth to generation and generation.” A repetition and an explanation of the first part of the verse; for “to generation and generation” signifies the same as “forever.” “I will sing” and “show forth” are clearly the same, and “the mercies of the Lord” seem to be the same as “his truth.” In the first part of the verse he says he will sing of the mercies of the Lord that will exist forever; in the second part of the verse he says he will sing of the truth of the Lord; that is, his observance of what he promises, which will remain from generation to generation. The words, “to generation and generation,” like the word “mercies,” in the first part of the verse, are to be connected with the noun, “thy truth,” and not with the verb “show forth,” as is clear from his adding “with my mouth,” unless we will have it, that David meant to convey that his Psalms would be chanted by the faithful to the end of time; and therefore, that through the faithful he may be said “to sing forever,” and “to show forth his truth.”

2 He proves that God’s mercy and truth will be everlasting, God, who cannot speak a falsehood, having said so; I will sing of your truth and mercy which will be everlasting, “for thou hast said so,” and revealed it to me your prophet. “Mercy shall be built up forever in the heavens,” the favors mercifully promised to David will rise up like an everlasting edifice in heaven; that is, will be as firm and stable as an immoveable edifice, that no time can damage. And this edifice of mercy will be “in heaven,” where everything is eternal. For the event will not depend on the caprice of mortals, nor on mutable counsels and decrees, but will have its foundations in heaven. “Thy truth shall be prepared in them.” In the same heavens your faithful accomplishment of your promises will be prepared. The Hebrew for prepared implies direction and adjustment, and thus the meaning of the sentence is, the pledges you have given are certain, can be tampered with by no inferior authority, because they will be confirmed and strengthened in heaven and will be like unto heaven, which endureth forever and ever.

3 He now begins to unveil the faithful mercy he proposed to sing of in the beginning of the Psalm. That mercy was a certain promise, confirmed by an agreement and an oath, regarding David’s posterity, and the supreme power to be continued in his family; an account of which we have in 2 Kings 7, where David desired to build a house for the Lord, that is, a temple for the reception of the Ark, and for divine sacrifice; and God, through Nathan the prophet, rewarded David for his good intentions, by a promise of raising his house; that is, by the propagation of his posterity, and establishing the sovereignty in his family. This he conveys when he says, “I have made a covenant with my elect;” I have entered into a treaty with my chosen people; “I have sworn to David my servant;” I have made a promise, an oath, to David the prince of my people elect. “Thy seed will I settle.” I have sworn to establish his descendants, so that a son of David shall never be wanted. “And I will build up thy throne unto generation and generation.” I will keep up your kingdom, which is the meaning of from generation to generation. There can be no doubt but all these things apply to Christ alone, who was to come from the family of David, and whose reign was to be everlasting. Isaias alludes to it when he says, chap. 9, “His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace; he shall sit upon the throne of David and on his kingdom, to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever.” The Angel Gabriel announced the same when he said, “And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” These prophecies cannot possibly apply to a temporal kingdom that has long ceased to exist, and of which there is now no trace, but to a spiritual, and an eternal kingdom; and hence, the Jews, who still look out for the Messias, who, they expect, will rule yet in Jerusalem, are grievously mistaken.

4–5 Before he enters into detail of the promises of God, a summary of which he had already given, he digresses for the purpose of praising him, and offering him a sacrifice of thanksgiving. And first of all, the holy man, seeing himself incompetent to return adequate thanks for all the favors conferred on him, calls upon the Angels to do it for him, to praise and thank God for him. “The heavens shall confess thy wonders, O Lord.” I am not equal to the task, I am unable to praise them as they merit, but the “heavens,” the Angels dwelling therein will do it for me, will recount “thy wonders,” the extent of your wonderful mercy, “and thy truth in the Church of the saints.” The same Angels, who surround your throne in such numbers, will praise and glorify your mercy and your truth. They know the extent of that “mercy” that is built up forever in the heavens, better than we do who lie groveling on the earth.

6 He proves that the Angels will not object to such an office, because they are inferior to God. “For who in the clouds can be compared to the Lord?” Not one of those in heaven, which is over the clouds, can be compared to him who created them and heaven. They are all subjects, all servants, which he repeats by asking, “Or who among the sons of God shall be like to God?” which of the sons of God who are his Angels is like to God in point of equality, he alone being essentially God, and not by participation.

7 He now proves that none of the Angels can be compared to God, because God is “glorified in the assembly of the saints;” he is acknowledged by the saints themselves in their assembly as worthy of all glory, and he is “great” in power and wisdom; and therefore, more dreaded and revered, than all the Angels who surround his throne like so many soldiers or servants.

8 He had hitherto narrated God’s praises, he now continues the subject, by addressing God, and descanting more at length on his praise. “Lord God of Ghosts, who is like to thee?” You, O Lord, are the Lord of armies, of many thousands of Angels, and so outshine them all that no one is like you. “Thou art mighty, O Lord, and thy truth is round about thee;” the reason why nobody is perfectly like you arises from your being alone all powerful, able to do not this one thing, or that one thing, but to do every, all things, and nothing can resist your power; and you are not only able to do all things, but you actually do what you promise, for you are faithful in all your promises. Truth, or veracity, the faithful carrying out what was promised, is said to be “round about” God, because it is like a cincture to him, according to Isaias, “And justice shall be the girdle of his loins, and faith the girdle of his reins;” for, as a cincture ties up one’s robes, and binds them firmly to his person; so truth binds one to his promise, so that he will not swerve from it, but carry it out; and as a cincture adjusts one’s clothes, and fits him for a journey, whence the Angel Raphael is said to have appeared to Tobias in the shape of a young man, with his robes tied up and prepared for a journey, so truth or veracity, causes a man to remove every obstacle, and proceed without delay to carry out what he may have promised.

9 Having said that God was both powerful and faithful, he now proves the former by the fact of his ruling the sea, and calming its billows. The sea is sometimes dreadfully agitated and uproarious, being of immense length and breadth, and sometimes raising its billows, apparently to the very skies; and, therefore, nowhere is God’s omnipotence more clearly manifested than when he quiets and composes it. The Lord himself, speaking hereon, says, Job 38, “I set my bounds round about it, and made it bars and doors. And I said: Hitherto shalt thou come, and shalt go no further; and here thou shalt break thy swelling waves;” and, in Jeremias 5, “Will you not, then, fear me saith the Lord, and will you not repent at my presence? I have set the sand a bound for the sea, an everlasting ordinance, which it shall not pass over; and the waves thereof shall toss themselves, and shall not prevail: they shall swell, and shall not pass over it.” But God especially showed his command of the sea, when he dried up the Red Sea, and stayed its billows, so that the water stood up like a wall on each side, while the children of Israel were passing through.

10 This verse is to be literally understood of Pharao and his army, and is justly connected with the preceding verse; for, at one and the same moment, God thoroughly dried up the sea, and destroyed Pharao the proud and his army, leaving him as one that is slain, and the enemies of God’s people scattered; which is more fully expressed in Isaias 51, “hast thou not struck the proud one, and wounded the dragon? Hast thou not dried up the sea, the water of the mighty deep, who madest the depth of the sea a way, that the delivered might pass over.” He, therefore, says, “Thou hast humbled the proud one,” by stretching him in the depth of the sea, and that without any trouble, as easily as “one that is slain; with the arm of thy strength;” with your most powerful arm you have “scattered your enemies,” Pharao’s army, in the Red Sea.

11 He now informs us that it is no wonder that God so easily calmed the sea, and humbled the proud one; for he is the Lord of all, and that by reason of his having created everything. “Thine are the heavens,” and every one in them; “thine is the earth,” and everything in it; “the world and the fullness thereof thou hast founded;” you are the absolute owner of the world and everything in it, because it is your creation, without the help or assistance of any other person.

12 You have made the foundations of the globe, north, south, east, and west. The north requires no comment; the sea means the south, for the greater part of the sea lay in that direction. Thabor and Hermon signify the east and west, those mountains lying east and west of Jerusalem; and they, that is, their inhabitants, will rejoice in the great goodness and mercy of the Lord.

13 That your hand is a strong one, in nowise feeble or weak, but full of strength and power, can be inferred from your dominion over the sea, from your humiliation of the proud, and the scattering of your enemies. “Let thy hand be strengthened, and thy right hand exalted.” The holy prophet had spoken of two of God’s attributes, power and truth, in verse 7; he discussed his power in the five following verses, and he now has to speak of and to extol his truth, which is also called justice and judgment, and is usually united to mercy. “Let thy hand be strengthened;” I sincerely pray and rejoice that your hand may be strengthened, and become most powerful; “and thy right hand exalted;” praised and magnified by all, as is right it should; but, at the same time,

14 Let your throne be prepared, decorated, and founded on mercy and justice. I consider that justice means here goodness and mercy, in the sense it is taken in Mat. 5, “Unless your justice abound more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees;” and again, chap. 6, “Take heed that you do not your justice before men;” in both of which justice means the giving of alms; and, in the same chapter, we read, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his justice;” for he repeats it when he says, “Mercy and truth shall go before thy face;” that is to say, justice shall go before thy face to prepare your throne when you are about to come to administer justice; which means, we are quite certain that you will not judge but with the greatest justice, tempered with mercy, administering as little punishment as possible, and faithfully rendering to every one according to their works. We have here a metaphor taken from the king’s throne. Before the king seats himself thereon for judgment, the servants usually precede him, in order to dust, arrange, and dispose in order everything connected with it. Mercy and justice are supposed here to do the same, for they cause God’s decisions to be most just, and, by no possibility, unjust. For God, in the first instance, exhibits great mercy to all men, by teaching them through his laws, by helping them through his grace, by encouraging them to virtue through the promise of reward, by deterring them from sin through the threats of punishment, and afterwards proves his justice by rewarding the good, and punishing the wicked; for, had not his mercy preceded his justice, we would have been all lost. Hence, the rulers and authorities of this world may learn that their thrones are more highly ornamented, and more firmly established by mercy and justice than by gold and precious stones; and that they are bound to prevent rather than to punish crime. If not the princes themselves, at least many deriving authority under them, will glory in having crime committed, that they may have an opportunity of showing their zeal in bringing the offenders to justice; and they will feel indignant at the efforts of the pious in devising means for the diminution of crime, as if the lawyers or the judges were to suffer thereby; but where mercy and justice prepare the throne, avarice and iniquity have no room whatever.

15 Having explained the union of God’s power and truth with his mercy, he applies them to the people of Israel, and particularly to himself, showing that he and they fully experienced God’s power, mercy, and justice. “Blessed is the people that knoweth jubilation.” Truly happy, beyond all others, are the people of Israel, who know by experience and practice, how to praise God, and “jubilation,” to praise him with great affection. Hence, we can infer that he is not blessed who with his lips alone praises God unless he also truly understands and thinks that God is most worthy, nay, even more worthy than can be expressed, of all praise and glory; and therefore, that the whole feelings of our heart must accompany the motion of our lips and of our voice, when we turn to praise or to pray to him. “They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.” He tells us why they who “know jubilation” are happy; it is because they do not walk in darkness, like the gentiles who know not God; but, having been converted to God, “in the light of his countenance,” walk the way of this life. The light of God’s countenance comprehends the enlightenment of the understanding by the knowledge of the law and of the will of God, as well as the gift of grace, that inflames the affections. The joy of a good conscience and thanksgiving, is the consequence of such walking in the light of God’s countenance; and therefore,

16 That means they will daily exult praising and thanking God for his mercies. And, as they who tread in such a path will daily advance more and more, and come to a closer friendship with, and more intimate knowledge of God and will be, consequently, favored with fresh gifts, he therefore adds, “and in thy justice they shall be exalted;” will arrive at greater perfection, and afterwards come to eternal glory, through the justice that causes God to keep his promises, or through the justice he gives us when he daily justifies us more and more, or makes us more just. And here we are reminded that we are not to confide either in our own strength, or in our learning; either when we begin to walk, or when we have made a proficiency in walking.

17 He now proceeds to humble man’s pride that is so ready to assume to itself what belongs to God, thereby deserving to lose what it already had received. I had reason for saying “that it is in thy justice they shall be exalted,” because “thou art the glory of their strength.” Whatever power and strength they have is from you, and not from themselves; and, therefore, it is in you, and not in themselves, they should glory; and that you do, not because they deserve it, but because you will it; for it is through “thy good pleasure” your pure will and pleasure, that “our horn shall be exalted,” we shall be rendered valiant and brave, to meet and confound our enemies.

18 Herein appeared the good pleasure of God, that out of all the people on the face of the earth it pleased him to select the people of Israel for his own. “Our protection is of the Lord.” The Lord, through his good pleasure, and not from our own merits, selected us as his own people, and deigned to become our king, in order to protect us. God is called “the Holy One of Israel” by David, as well as by the other prophets, because his name was regarded by the Israelites with peculiar veneration, and was strictly forbidden to be taken in vain, blasphemed, or dishonored.

19 He now begins to descend to himself, as the head of a people specially beloved by God. A serious question, however, arises here, viz., whether this and the following verses apply to Christ or to David, or partly to Christ, and partly to David. St. Augustine applies them to Christ; but the words of the Apostle, Acts 13, “I have found David the son of Jesse, man according to my own heart,” apply those words to David, which are partly taken from this passages and partly from 1 kings 13; with that, the expression, “I will make his seed to endure forevermore,” ver. 29, can hardly be applied to Christ; while it is most applicable to David, to whom God promised, that he would place his seed on his throne, and that his kingdom would endure. Others apply the whole to David himself; but verse 27, “I will make him my first born,” forbids that. Others will have it apply partly to Christ, and partly to David; but the continuity of the subject, and the connection of the language and of the ideas, clearly indicate that one or either only was intended. My opinion is, that the whole was intended for David himself, but that a great part was to be fulfilled only in Christ, so that David may be called the first born, high above the kings of the earth, but only inasmuch as he was the type of Christ, his son. If this explanation be not approved of, we must adopt St. Augustine’s, who applies it exclusively to Christ, thus: When you adopted the Jewish people as your own you gave them a king highly agreeable to yourself, for you spoke in a vision or revelation to your saints to Samuel, and afterwards to Nathan, and you said “I have laid help upon one that is mighty.” I have given my people, as a helper, one that is stout and resolute in mind and body, “and have exalted one chosen out of my people.” I have set up a powerful help for my people, because I have exalted him whom I have chosen from among them to be a king and a protector and a defender of my people.

20 He now tells us who the powerful man is, and says it was David himself, whom he had found worthy to be elected and anointed king, and thus, this verse can be literary applied to David, who was anointed by Samuel. However, St. Augustine maintains that Christ was intended here, though named as David, as is the case in chaps. 34 and 37 of Ezechiel; and of whose anointing we read in Psalm 44, where he says, “Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee.” The expression, “I have found David,” is purely metaphorical; for God, who sees everything, however secret, at one glance, has no need of seeking after any one; hut he is said to seek, because he does not choose at random, nor take the next to hand; but he finds without the labor and trouble that mortals must have recourse to, and chooses him who is most fit for, and worthy of, the position in question.

21–23 However true all this may be of David, who, through God’s assistance had many victories over his enemies, they apply much more forcibly to Christ, “for the enemy had an advantage over” David, when he induced him to commit the sin of murder and adultery; and his enemy Absalom, had an advantage over him, when he banished and drove him out of his kingdom. Such was not the case with Christ, for “the hand and the arm” of the Lord, which means the very Word of God, the power and wisdom of the Father, so strengthened the human nature of Christ, hypostatically united to it, that no enemy could possibly “have an advantage over him,” nor deceive nor circumvent him in any shape; but, on the contrary, all who hated him “were cut down before his face,” and were conquered and routed. For, though Christ was scourged and crucified by his enemies, yet, it was with his own consent, and it was through that passion of his that he conquered the devil, rescued those who were captives to him, and had a most glorious triumph over him; and we see the Jews, his enemies, dispersed through the whole world, like a routed and scattered army.

24 This was rather obscurely foreshadowed in David but accomplished most fully in Christ; for the truth and mercy of God always remained with Christ. The hypostatic union, that could never be dissolved, was the effect of his mercy; and his truth appeared from having faithfully carried out what the Angel promised, Luke 1, “He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” And, from the fact of truth and mercy always remaining with him, “in my name shall his horn be exalted;” his power will be extended until, “at his name, every knee shall bend of those that are in heaven, on earth, and in hell.” Christ’s power is said to be exalted in the name of God, because his glory is “as that of the only begotten of the Father;” and he is adored by all as the Son of the eternal Father, and he came in the name of the Father, and “God the Father also hath exalted him, and hath given him name which is above every name.”

25 From this verse to the end cannot possibly be applied to any but Christ, or to David, through his descendant Christ, so that David may be named, while Christ, his son, was understood; for David never had any power at sea, his power was limited to the land, and that confined enough, for the land of promise lay between the sea and the river Euphrates; while the king spoken of here is to have “his hand set in the sea;” to have the command of the sea, and “his right hand in the rivers,” and, consequently, all over the world; for the sea surrounds the land, and the rivers intersect it, so that the sea and the rivers comprehend the globe, which is expressed in other words in Psalm 71, where he says “He shall rule from sea to sea;” from one extremity of the world to the other.

26 He now speaks more plainly of Christ, and not of himself, unless these words may be applied to David as representing his Son, Christ; for David, throughout the Psalms, never addresses God as his Father; and, therefore, he cannot mean himself when he says, “He shall cry out to me: Thou art my Father.” And, perhaps, it was by God’s special providence that David should never have invoked God by the name of Father, in order to show that this passage could not possibly apply to David, save and except through Christ. Now, Christ commenced his labors by referring to his Father, for, in Luke 2, he says, “Did you not know that I must be about the things that are my Father’s;” and his last words upon earth were, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit;” and, through his whole life, he most constantly addressed God as his Father. “He shall cry out to me: Thou art my Father,” as far as my divinity is concerned. “My God,” as far my humanity is concerned; “the support of my salvation,” as regards my mortality.

27 He now speaks of Christ in the plainest manner; for Christ, who, as regards the divinity, is only begotten, as regards the humanity, is first born among many brothers; and there are three reasons for calling him first born. First, because he is first in the order of predestination, for it is through him, as through the head, that we are predestinated, as we read in Ephes 1. Secondly, because he is first in the second generation to life everlasting, whence he is called, Colos. 1, “the first born from the dead;” and in Apoc. 1, “the first begotten of the dead;” and, thirdly, because he had the rights of the first born; for “he was appointed heir of all things;” and he was made not only first born, but also “high above the kings of the earth;” that is, Prince of the kings of the earth, and King of kings.

28 As well as he had before predicted the excellence of the kingdom of Christ, he now predicts its eternity, which does not apply to David, nor to Solomon, nor to his posterity for the kingdom had an end under Jechonias. “I will keep my mercy for him; the mercy through which I promised David a son, through him his kingdom should be everlasting, shall always keep and remain to him; for “my covenant,” my agreement and promise made to Nathan, shall be observed most faithfully. But, if we are to apply this verse to Christ, the meaning would be, “I will keep my mercy for him forever;” that is, the mercy, through which I predestinated and chose him from eternity to be the Son of God in power, and high above the kings of the earth, will always be kept with him; for the hypostatic union of the humanity with the Word will never be dissolved, and, through it, the man Christ will always be the Son of God, “first born,” and “high above the kings of the earth;” “and my covenant faithful to him;” my agreement to establish his kingdom forever will be always faithfully observed, which promise the Angel Gabriel expressed when he said, “And of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

29 He now explains how God intends to keep his mercy forever for David; for he will give him seed, that is, a son, meaning Christ, who “will endure forevermore;” and thus, “his throne,” his kingdom, will never have an end, but will be “as the days of heaven,” as long as there shall be a heaven, which God “has established forever and for ages of ages.”

30–34 He answers an objection that may be made, and says, that if the sons of David should provoke the anger of the Lord by their evil doings, that he will punish the delinquents, but that it will not cause him to break his promise, a promise that he made upon oath. “And if his children forsake my law.” If David’s posterity should break my laws, whether judicial, ceremonial, or moral, “and walk not in my judgements;” if they break even the judicial law alone. “If they profane my justices,” if they even infringe on the ceremonial law, “and keep not my commandment;” if they fail in observing my moral code, “I will visit their iniquities with a rod, and their sins with stripes;” I will not let their crimes go unpunished, but I will chastise them as a father would his children. “But my mercy I wall not take away from him.” The sins of the children, however, will not cause me to withdraw the favors I promised, in my mercy, to the father. “Nor will I suffer my truth to fail.” I will not go against the truth, a thing I should do were I to injure him after the promises I made him. There are two observations to be made here; one is, that David’s children may be read literally; and the opinion of St. Augustine, who understands the passage as applying to Christ, is also admissible; and, in such case, the children of David must be taken to represent all Christians regenerated in Christ. The second is, that we are not to infer from this passage that the children of David, whether Jews or Christians, however wicked they may be, can never be lost; for God does not say, through the Psalmist, “My mercy I will not take” from them, but from him. If the wicked, then, upon being paternally corrected, choose to reform, they will not lose the inheritance; nay, even like the prodigal child, they will be taken back to favor most affectionately; but, if they obstinately persevere in sin, they will certainly lose the inheritance; but the truth of the Lord will hold; nor will the kingdom of Christ fail; for “he is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham,” although those, who are previously known and predestined in Christ before the constitution of the world, will, most unquestionably, persevere to the end in faith, hope and charity.

35–37 He assigns a reason for his wishing to fulfill the promise he made of establishing David’s kingdom, even though his children should not observe his commandments; and the reason is, because he swore thereto; promised firmly, without the power of retracting. “Once have I sworn by my holiness.” I have irrevocably and solely sworn by my holiness. The word “once,” implies immutability, for one oath of God’s is equivalent to innumerable oaths of others. “I will not lie unto David;” as he says in Psalm 131, “the Lord hath sworn truth to David, and he will not make it void.” A similar expression occurs in Isaias 22, “Surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven you till you die, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Here are the words of the oath. “His seed shall endure, and his throne as the sun before me.” I have sworn, and I will not deceive David, that his son, Christ, shall live forever; and that his kingdom will be everlasting; and he illustrates this sworn promise of his by three comparisons; with the sun, the full moon, and the rainbow. “His throne as the sun before me; and as the moon, perfect forever; and a faithful witness in heaven;” which signify that the kingdom of Christ, and through it, his Church, would be always visible and conspicuous; for nothing is brighter or more beautiful than the sun by day, or the rainbow betimes in the clouds, that has been given by God as a faithful witness to man, of the earth being nevermore to be destroyed by a deluge,

38 This is the second part of the Psalm, in which the prophet, speaking in the person of the people in their captivity, asks that God’s promises may be fulfilled; for, though God may have solemnly, and even with an oath, made a promise; still, he wishes to be asked to do what he so promised; thus, “Isaac besought the Lord for his wife, because she was barren,” though God had promised a numerous progeny to Abraham through his son Isaac. “I will multiply your seed; as the stars of heaven” and again, “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.” In his prayer the prophet seems to give a gentle hint to the Almighty, that if he defer the fulfillment of his Promise so long, he will appear to have no idea of observing this bargain and his oath. The meaning, then, of this and the following verses is: You have promised, O Lord, with an oath, that the son of David would reign, but now we see the kingdom taken from the children of David, and seized upon by the king of the Assyrians; to carry out your promise, then, send that son of David you promised, and give him that everlasting kingdom you swore to give him, for otherwise, our enemies will laugh at us, and our disgrace will be attributed to you. “But thou hast rejected and despised;” you promised all manner of favors, but now you only heap misery on us, for you have “rejected us” from your protection, “and despised” those you previously made so much of; “thou hast been angry with thy anointed;” you have in your anger allowed your anointed kings Jechonias and Sedecias, to be led away captives to Babylon.

39 He now explains how God did reject and despise his people; and first he lays down, that God “overthrew the covenant of his servant,” backed out of the bargain he entered into with his servant David, which must be understood as if he did so in appearance, and not in reality; for God, in suffering the city of Jerusalem, as well as all Palestine, to fall into the hands of the king of the Assyrians, would seem to be unwilling that David’s kingdom should be everlasting; whereas the promise applied to the spiritual and celestial kingdom of David, and not to his kingdom of this world. “Thou hast profaned his sanctuary on the earth,” you have brought to the ground and thus profaned his holy diadem, which happened when David’s kingdom terminated, Jechonias and Sedecias having beep deposed, and the royal diadem carried away.

40–41 He compares the Jewish People, represented by David, to a vineyard, whose fences are broken down and plundered indiscriminately by every passer by; a thing of frequent occurrence to the Jews, who were more than once conquered and despoiled by the Assyrians, when God withdrew his protection from them. Read the 4th book of Kings hereon. “Thou hast broken down all his hedges,” you have deprived us, O Lord, of your help and protection so that, like a vineyard whose fences are destroyed, we have been indiscriminately plundered by the enemy. “Thou hast made his strength fear.” In David’s kingdom his soldiers, who were full of life and courage, and were the strength of his kingdom, now became so timid, so full of fear, that they could not for a moment withstand the enemy, and the people attribute all this to God, because they knew such could not befall them without God’s will, and that he might, had he so willed, easily have prevented the entire. “All that passed by the way have robbed him,” all the enemies of God’s people have plundered and pillaged them, just as the passersby plunder a vineyard they see without a wall or a hedge, or any one in care of it. “He is become a reproach to his neighbors.” Hence, all the neighboring people mock and jest at the people of God, now become so feeble, as to be incapable of resisting any one.

42–43 He continues to describe the calamities into which the people fell, when they were deserted by God. “Thou hast set up the right hand of them that oppress him,” you have assisted the enemies of your people to obtain a more easy victory over them. The enemies’ joy, then, was unbounded on so cheap a victory, and he, therefore, adds, “Thou hast made all his enemies rejoice,” while, on the other hand “thou hast turned away the help of the sword,” or rather you have withdrawn your own help from his, the king’s sword, and from his people, which he expresses more plainly when he adds, “and hast not assisted him in battle,” and hence the kings of Juda were unable to resist their enemies the Assyrians.

44 An obscure passage, but the end of the verse seems to indicate that he alludes to the king being deprived of that regal splendor and mode of living princes are usually accustomed to; and the meaning would seem to be, you have deprived the king of his royal apparel, you have made his cleanness and his purification to disappear, by compelling him to submit to filthy and uncared for garments; and “you have so cast his throne to the ground” that there is no trace either of it, or of the respect and submission due to the king himself.

45 The last and principal calamity was, that though God had promised David that his kingdom would be everlasting, it would now appear that the everlasting term so promised had been reduced to a very limited period, for that temporal kingdom of David, that he hoped would have had no end, was terminated in the time of Jechonias and Sedecias; and, from such “shortening of the days of his time,” David, through his posterity, “was covered with confusion.”

46 He now begins a prayer for the acceleration of the Messias, in order that the sworn promises of God nay be fulfilled. “How long, O Lord, turnest thou away unto the end?” How long will you turn away your face from us? Will it be to the end, until we shall have been totally ruined and swept away? “Shall thy anger burn like fire?” that never ceases until it consumes everything within its reach.

47–48 Those verses have been variously interpreted, but, in my mind, the true interpretation is as follows: The prophet being an extremely spiritual person, from reflecting on the extreme shortness of human life, and the uncertainty of human affairs, was carried away by a burning desire for life everlasting in the world to come, and prayed to God to send the Messias, the Father of the world to come, who was to open the kingdom of heaven to believers, at once; for if some part, at least, of the human race were not to come to a happy and eternal life, through Christ, in fact, God would seem to have made all the children of men in vain. He, therefore, says, “Remember what my salvation is,” how brief, how frail, how full of troubles is my existence on earth. “For hast thou made all the children of men in vain?” Have you made and created mankind to enjoy this life alone, and that a life of such short duration, and so full of misery? that would amount to the creation of man in vain, when no part of mankind would have arrived at its ultimate end. “Who is the man that shall live and shall not see death?” The shortness and the misery of this life is clear from the fact, that no one can escape death, “or deliver his soul from the hand of hell.” For the other world hurries all men, without exception, to itself.

49 He now openly prays to God to send that king, from the seed of David, who was to rule over his people, saying, where are those promises you formerly made in your mercy to David, promises you confirmed by an oath, when you swore, “And I will make his seed to endure more, and his throne as the days Heaven.”

50 He assigns another reason for asking so urgently for the coming of the Messias, because the infidels were constantly reproaching God’s people with the folly of their expecting a king from the seed of David, who was to reign. “Be mindful, O Lord, of the reproach of thy servants,” of the constant reproaches heaped upon them by the infidels, “which I have held in my bosom,” which your people have been obliged to bear in silence, having no reply to make, when “many nations” reproached them, and not being able to show that God’s promises were either fulfilled, or would be fulfilled in any given time, or with any certainty.

51 Here is the reproach he carried in his bosom, that the enemies of the Lord upbraided God’s people with having exchanged the anointed, that is, with David having received no compensation whatever for the loss of his kingdom, notwithstanding all the ample promises.

52 This conclusion of the Psalm clearly shows that the prophet understood the promise made to David was sure and certain, and would be accomplished in the proper time, however unlikely it may have appeared to have been in the time of Nabuchodonosor. Nay, even this very conclusion shows that David knew that it was a part of the divine policy to allow that temporal kingdom to be abolished, for fear the carnal Jews may suppose that the divine promises were accomplished in Solomon or any of the kings of Juda. He, therefore, says, “Blessed be the Lord forevermore. So be it, so bet it.” May praise and thanks be always given to God, for he does everything well, is just in all his words, and holy in all his acts. “So be it; so be it.” I earnestly pray it may be so, viz., that the Lord may be blessed evermore. This is the end of the third book, according to the Hebrews.

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 89

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 26, 2016


Title. Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite. Chaldee Targum: A good understanding, spoken at the hand of Abraham, who came from the East. LXX. and Vulg.: Understanding of Ethan the Israelite (LXX.) or Ezrahite (Vulg.)


Arg. Thomas. That Christ rules in equal power with the Father and the Comforter. The Voice of Christ to the Father touching the Jews. The Voice of the Prophet, touching Christ, to the Father, or the Voice of the Son or of the Church to the Father touching the Jews. The Voice of Christ to the Father. The story is sung of the time when the people were numbered.

Ven. Bede. Ethan is interpreted the Strong, and as this Psalm is about to tell of the praises and promises of the Lord, the unchangeable firmness of its faithful words is indicated by the name Strong. And here Understanding is necessarily prefixed, no doubt because an everlasting throne is promised to David, which meanwhile we can see was destroyed long ago historically. This Ethan, like Heman, was either one of the singers of David the king, whom the Words of Days mention, to wit, the son of Kishi, the son of Abdi, of the family of Merari, son of Levi: or one of those wise men to whom the wisdom of Solomon is preferred in the Book of Kings, “Wiser,” it saith, “than Ethan the Ezrahite and Heman.” This song is of such wisdom that it deserves to be ascribed to the name of that very wise man. This Ethan the Strong, who was filled with such mental enlightenment that he is most truly styled an Israelite, at the first outset of the Psalm declares that he will sing of the mercies of the Lord, because He hath promised many things that will profit the faithful people. My song shall be alway of the lovingkindness of the Lord. In the second part he describes in various ways the praises and power of the Lord. O Lord, the very heavens shall praise Thy wondrous works. Thirdly, he counts up the promises of the Father to Christ, Thou spakest sometime in vision unto Thy saints. In the fourth place, the Lord Himself declares, by reason of the Passion which He endured, that He was delivered up to His enemies. But Thou hast abhorred. Fifthly, he prays for help for human weakness, because God hath not made the children of men for nought: Lord, how long wilt Thou hide Thyself, for ever? Sixthly, he asks the Lord to fulfil His promises, which He declares that He made to David His servant, and to remember what reproaches His servants bore from the ungodly. Lord, where are Thy old lovingkindnesses?

Syriac Psalter. Concerning the people which was in Babylon.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. He teacheth the Kingdom of Christ from the seed of David.

S. Athanasius. A Psalm of narration.


1 My song shall be alway of the loving-kindness of the Lord: with my mouth will I ever be showing thy truth from one generation to another.

This noble Psalm, contrasting forcibly in much of its hopefulness with its sad predecessor, nevertheless implies distinctly the visitation of the House of David with severe chastisement, and the author is clearly the King of Judah himself, or some one speaking in his name, and putting words into his mouth. It has thus been conjectured, not without much plausibility, that it refers to the captivity of Manasseh, or, more probably still, from the mixture of thanksgiving and hope, to the release of King Jehoiachin from his prison, after a captivity of seven and thirty years, and his restoration to royal precedence and honours at the court of Evil-Merodach,* King of Babylon.

The opening of the Psalm, observes the Carthusian, (D. C.) is truly most sweet, and far, far pleasanter than any worldly, carnal, or idle pleasure. He does not say the mercy of the Lord, but His mercies (Heb., LXX., Vulg., A. V.,) for according to the multitude of our miseries the mercies of the Lord are multiplied upon us. And that sevenfold; first, in that He guards us from sinning, as it is written,* “I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall;”* secondly, that He awaits the penitence of the sinner, “Thou winkest at the sins of men, because they should amend;”* thirdly, He calls after waiting, because “God is patient with them,” and then “poureth forth His mercy upon them;”* fourthly, because He is so swift and tender in welcoming the penitent, for “He hath mercy upon them that receive discipline;” fifthly, that He corrects us for our sins, and amends our lives, “Thou, because Thou art gracious,* have mercy upon us, or punish our iniquities with Thy scourge;” sixthly, comes the bestowal of grace for the attainment of everlasting life, for, “He that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall He guide them;”* and seventhly, He inspires us with hope of obtaining eternal blessedness whereof the Psalm itself speaks.

The Psalmist saith,* I will sing (Vulg., A. V.,) whence we may gather the joy that is in his heart. They who seek the Lord here in the Church Militant, and they who have found and hold Him fast in the Church Triumphant, alike raise in His honour the song of Holy, Holy, Holy. Alway, or as it is in LXX. and Vulg., for ever. Bellarmine,* following several of the earlier commentators, attaches these words to mercies, not to sing, for the somewhat jejune reason that the Psalmist, as a mortal, must cease his singing, but that the Lord’s mercies are for ever. But there is no question as to the collocation of the words in the Hebrew, nor will the succeeding clause allow us to explain alway as only to the end of the singer’s earthly life. We may rather take it, on the one hand, as a prophecy of the continual use of this Psalm in the public worship of God, from one generation to another, (C.) from the generation of the Jews to that of the Gentiles, throughout the long ages that have elapsed since its notes were first heard, so that the Psalmist, “being dead, yet speaketh;” while, on the other hand, it may denote the hope of joining, after death has silenced the voice here for a time, in the unceasing melodies of heaven; where the generation of man joins in fellowship with the generation of angels.

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue

Lies silent in the grave,*

Then, in a nobler, sweeter song

I’ll sing Thy power to save.

S. Gregory the Great raises the question here as to how a perpetual singing of the mercies of God is compatible with unalloyed bliss in heaven,* inasmuch as the thought of mercy connotes the memory of sin and sorrow, which needed mercy, whereas Isaiah saith that “the former troubles are forgotten,”* and “the former things shall not be remembered, nor come upon the heart.” And he replies that it will be like the memory of past sickness in time of health, without stain, without grief, and serving only to heighten the felicity of the redeemed, by the contrast with the past, and to increase their love and gratitude towards God. And so sings the Cluniac:

Their breasts are filled with gladness,*

Their mouths are tuned to praise,*

What time, now safe for ever,*

On former sins they gaze:

The fouler was the error,

The sadder was the fall,

The ampler are the praises

Of Him who pardoned all.

Note, too,* that he says, with my mouth, not with that of any deputy; I will be showing, not secretly or timidly, not in a whisper, but boldly preach, Thy truth, not my own opinion, far less my own falsehood,* but Thy Truth, which is Thine Only-begotten Son.

2 For I have said, Mercy shall be set up for ever: thy truth wilt thou stablish in the heavens.

The LXX. and Vulgate read, For Thou hast said. There is no practical difference, (L.) for the I is here God Himself, Whose words are given directly by the Psalmist just as in 81:6, and Job 42:1–5. It is God’s answer to the first verse,* as though He were saying, The reason, O man, why thou promisest to show forth My praise for ever, is because I, for My part, have said that the mercy, which I will stablish, shall be for ever. And if we read the clause in the second person, then the Prophet declares himself to be merely God’s instrument, and that he will show forth what God has spoken and dictated to him. I will be showing forth, I speak for this reason, (A.) observes the Doctor of Grace, because Thou hast spoken first; I, a man, may safely say what Thou, O God, hast said, for even should I waver in mine own word, I shall be stablished by Thine. Mercy shall be set up for ever. More exactly,* with A. V., and the early renderings, built up. For not only will this mercy of God be strong and unshaken by any earthly vicissitudes or any counsel of man, (D. C.) but the Incarnation and Passion of Christ, in the act of redeeming mankind, will repair the wastes and build up anew the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem with living stones, so as to make good the breaches caused by the fall of the rebel Angels; a view of this verse common to some Rabbinical authorities. For ever,* not merely because God’s mercy proceeds from an everlasting decree, and because its effects have no end, but because throughout all time it is poured out upon fresh objects,* and daily swells the ranks of penitents and saints. There are not wanting some to remind us that this mercy so eternally built up is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, (Z.) Whose Sacred Body was compacted of the holy flesh of Mary, whereof is written, “Wisdom hath builded her house.”* Thy truth, shalt Thou stablish in the heavens. Whether these words be those of the Psalmist to God,* or of God the Father to His Son, we may draw the same lesson from them, (L.) that He Who is very Truth had His throne set up above the heavens at the Ascension, (A.) and that He hath established His Word and Gospel in the mouths of His holy Apostles, of whom is written, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”* For stablished the Vulgate reads prepared, whence they draw the lesson that God makes ready the foundations of His mercy by first destroying those of sin, and builds up His temple on the very site of an idol shrine.* So He enjoined His Prophet “to throw down, and build.”

3 I have made a covenant with my chosen: I have sworn unto David my servant;

4 Thy seed will I stablish for ever: and set up thy throne from one generation to another.

S. Augustine, (A.) leaving the literal sense here as too obvious to need discussion, turns at once to the mystical meaning. What covenant is this that God has made, save the New Covenant or Testament, which brings us into our new heritage, which we welcome with the new song? And they point out further that the double promise here cannot possibly be interpreted literally. There is, on the one hand, a promise of an unbroken line of descendants, and on the other, the maintenance of the royal dignity in that line. It is, to say the very least, supremely improbable that any lineal descendants of the House of David now survive, (L.) after the measures taken by Domitian and Trajan to root them out for political reasons,* and the long break in the genealogical records; it is certain that the last Davidic prince who exercised even a titular sovereignty over the chosen people was Zerubbabel, as the power after his death lay between the Persian satraps of Syria and the High Priests. And we are therefore compelled here, as in Psalm 72, to seek for a deeper meaning, a more glorious promise than the temporal prosperity of a single race. (A.) Most truly then shall we see here not merely the everlasting Kingdom of Christ, but the aspect of that Kingdom upon earth, the great company of the faithful who are the spiritual seed of Abraham, who, united to their kingly Head, as members of the body, are kings in and through Him, palaces wherein His throne as Lord and Master is set up even in the generation of our mortal life, and much more in that other generation of resurrection and immortality. It is to be noted that the word chosen,* though singular in the Hebrew text, is translated as plural by LXX. and Vulgate, and may thus be referred literally to the whole Jewish nation, or to David and his sons, while mystically these elect will denote the whole company of the redeemed,* and especially the Apostles and Doctors of the Church. A Greek Father points out very well how the final settlement of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy City under David, after its prolonged wanderings from one place to another, forms an apt type of the firmness and universality of the Catholic Church set up by Christ in the terms of this promise of the Father.* And we may take the whole promise as referring to each righteous soul, which is like David, the friend and beloved of God, which is strong in the battle of good works against sin, and comely in aspect by reason of inward holiness, and for which an everlasting crown is laid up in heaven.

5 O Lord, the very heavens shall praise thy wondrous works: and thy truth in the congregation of the saints.

We here on earth,* tied and bound with the chains of our sin, feeble through our mortal frailty, cannot praise Thee aright; but the glorious skies with their bright constellations, lifted far above us, the shining hosts of the Angels, will do what we cannot. (Ay.) And we may bear in mind how often the heavens bore their witness to Christ, how a new Star announced His birth, how the Angels sang carols over His cradle, how the heavens were opened above Him at His Baptism, when the Voice of the Father was heard; how the sun was darkened as He hung upon the Cross, how an Angel sate upon the empty sepulchre to declare the glad tidings of His Resurrection. (A.) There are no works of God more wondrous than the Incarnation of His Son,* and His marvellous conversion of sinners by His grace, making the heavens to praise Him; and so those especial heavens, the holy Apostles and other great preachers of the Gospel, pour down the refreshing rains of doctrine on the thirsty and eager soil of the Church of the Saints, which alone lies so beneath those clouds as to drink in their showers freely. Such preachers are likened to the heavens,* because they are raised high above the earth, are starry with virtues, shining with the lights of grace, honoured by the indwelling of God, and compassed with the circle of perfection.

6a (6) For who is he among the clouds: that shall be compared unto the Lord?

6b (7) And what is he among the gods: that shall be like unto the Lord?

Here the Psalmist gives the reason why the heavens will take up the song of praise which is too great a theme for human lips.* They will not refuse the office, for they are themselves, however high above men, unspeakably below the throne of God, are His servants and ministers, not His equals, nor even like to Him. And though He Who is the Lord became man, and took upon Him the form of a servant, yet even in His utter humiliation,* in His lowest estate, no Angel might be compared to Him in majesty, in wisdom, or in love. Observe that whereas the heavens were named in the fifth verse, we have the clouds in the sixth. (A.) And what the mystical force of this term is, we may learn from the Prophet, when speaking of the judgments on the vineyard of God he says, “I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”* And as the “vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,” we understand by this threat the turning of the Apostles to the Gentiles, after their message had been rejected by the Jews. The Apostles were clouds in their human weakness, in their passiveness, as they were heaven in the mightiness of truth; (Cd.) but they were also clouds in that they were charged with that Gospel whereof God spake by Moses: “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as showers upon the grass.”* (R.) They are clouds, too, because their holiness is veiled by their flesh, as a cloud, so that we cannot see that which lies within. We see what comes from the cloud, but not what happens in the cloud, so we receive the rain of Divine teaching from the Apostles, but cannot observe the process of Divine revelation within them. So runs the hymn for Apostles in the Paris Breviary:

Like clouds are they borne

To do Thy great will,*

And swift as the winds

About the world go;

All full of Thy Godhead

While earth lieth still,

They thunder, they lighten,

The waters o’erflow.

Yet, with all their gifts and graces, there is none of them, none of any of those eminent for holiness, those gods,* or sons of God (LXX., Vulg.) that can be compared to the Lord Jesus; for He is Son of God by eternal generation, (Ay.) and naturally; they are sons of God only by adoption and grace.

7 (8) God is very greatly to be feared in the council of the saints: and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him.

In the literal sense,* the council of the Saints may most probably denote the Jewish nation, which from its small numbers, and from being alone possessed of the secret oracles of God, is fitly styled His council, while those that are round about are the Gentile nations encompassing the Hebrews on every side. (C.) Or, if the reference be to the heavenly service, the words depict for us that scene of the Apocalypse: “And all the Angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders, and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God.”* They raise the question as to how the Angels can be said to be round about God, seeing that He is infinite and omnipresent, filling all the universe. Cardinal Bellarmine answers that it is because God gives Himself to the view of His Angels,* in such wise that they all behold Him simultaneously, as though they did in fact encircle Him; (A.) but the great Bishop of Hippo reminds us that He, when made man, was in truth circumscribed by a body and local boundaries, to be born, to dwell, to be crucified, buried, and to rise again within the limits of one narrow territory, and yet to be so preached by His Apostles as to be had in reverence of all those nations which lay round about it.* The word council is, they say, emphatic, as denoting in the case of the Angels, not that they give advice to God, for as Isaiah and S. Paul alike ask,* “Who hath been His counsellor?”* but that He reveals His measures to them, and sends them as messengers to execute them; while the phrase, as applied to the Saints on earth, denotes the reason, thoughtfulness,* and deliberate nature of their service and devotion. And whereas he that has a retinue round about him,* must have some before, (Z.) some behind, some on his right hand, some on his left; so the Lord Jesus is followed behind by those who attempt to imitate His actions by the pursuit of holiness, they are on His left hand who turn secular learning and natural philosophy to spiritual purposes and the vindication of religion; they are on the right who busy themselves in pure meditation on divine things only; while those who have been made perfect in love of God’s beauty, are suffered to have full enjoyment of the Beatific Vision, and see Him face to face.

8 (9) O Lord God of hosts, who is like unto thee: thy truth, most mighty Lord, is on every side.

The Psalmist has been hitherto directing his words to human listeners,* but fired with love and wonder at the thought of God’s marvels, (D. C.) he suddenly breaks into an apostrophe to Him. Who is like unto Thee? he exclaims, for there is no ratio between the finite and the infinite, and though His truth and power are already exerted and manifested in His works of nature and of grace, yet His mightiness is not exhausted thereby, for “hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding?”* And thus His truth is on every side, because He is the centre of all creation, and His divine power and truth pour their rays on all His works, that we may behold them and worship Him, for, as the Wise Man saith, “by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the Maker of them is seen.”* (R.) His truth is round about Him also, (Z.) because He has it perfectly and of Himself as His attribute, and does not derive it from any other source. It clothes Him as a garment, for “righteousness is the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins,”* for as the girdle binds the garments closely round the body, so the truth of Christ binds the words of His promises, so that they cannot be changed, but must be fulfilled, and that too with speed and readiness, as a man who is girt up is able to run swiftly.* These promises of Christ are round about Him, in that Church of which He is the centre,* as it is the creation of grace whose midmost part He is.* On every side, too, because this Church is spread all over the earth, and even in it He is specially confessed by His Saints, the chosen guard closest about their Monarch, (Ay.) as the tents of the great encampment of Israel once compassed the Tabernacle round about. (L.) And note that when the truth of the Lord, the Gospel of the Kingdom, at first hidden in the central shrine of Judæa, began to be made known amidst the Gentiles round about, (A.) then the rage of the powers of evil and of this world broke out in fierce storms of persecution; wherefore is added:

9 (10) Thou rulest the raging of the sea: thou stillest the waves thereof when they arise.

10 (11) Thou hast subdued Egypt, and destroyed it: thou hast scattered thine enemies abroad with thy mighty arm.

Here the literal sense recalls the passage of the Red Sea,* and its reflux upon the horsemen and chariots of Pharaoh.* The word here rendered Egypt is Rahab, the “proud one,” of whom we read in Psalm 87:4a, and it is so translated by LXX. and Vulgate,* which agree in reading Thou hast humbled the haughty as wounded, which closely agrees with a similar apostrophe in Isaiah, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art not Thou it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art Thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?”* (A.) And S. Augustine, preaching on the festival of certain Martyrs, observes that when the Gentiles came to the knowledge of the Truth, the enemy rushed upon them like a raging lion, but was overcome by the Lord, who rent him as Samson did his type. “What,” he asks, “did the sea effect by its raging, save to bring about the holy day which we are keeping? It slew the Martyrs, it sowed the seed of blood, and the crops of the Church shot up abundantly.”* That mighty Arm of God, the Only-Begotten Son, Who wounded the proud one,* as Jael did Sisera, with the nail which fastened Himself to the Cross, scattered His enemies, the Jewish nation which rejected Him, (C.) abroad in the terrible captivity and dispersion that followed on the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. (A.) He, by humbling Himself, hath wounded and humbled the pride of man, and made him lowly, so that we, wounded in turn by love of Him, are scattered abroad,* and parted from our native errors and sins, as well as from the fellowship of the ungodly, so as to be made no longer the enemies, (R.) but the servants of God, and citizens of the heavenly country, when He has stilled the wild passions of our stormy and unstable hearts,* and made in them a great calm, on whose surface the rays of His glory may be eternally mirrored.

11 (12) The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: thou hast laid the foundation of the round world, and all that therein is.

Christ is Lord of the teaching Church of the Apostles, (A.) those heavens which send down the dews of holy doctrine, and also of the Church which is taught, the earth which drinks in the rain and dew, (Ay.) and in its humility brings forth abundant fruit. The contemplative Saints are His, busied as they are with divine things, of which He is the source and goal;* the active Saints are His no less, for He inspires and guides their good works. The heavens and the earth are His, (R.) for by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and without Him was not anything made that was made. He laid not only the foundation of the round world of visible nature,* but also of that Church Universal which embraces all nations,* founded on the Rock, stablished in Him alone, and He claims as His own not the mere space,* but all living things therein, the entire body of His elect, rooted and founded in love, destined to enter into the fulness of the Saints.* And note that the phrase round world is suitably typical of the Church, because the circle alone of linear figures is equidistant at all points from the centre of the space it encloses, and is thus a type of the perfect life, because, according to the old philosophic definition, “Virtue is the equality of a life which converges towards reason on every side.” And thus Christ, as the Supreme Wisdom, is the centre of the Church, and the rays of His divine love and grace touch on all sides the circumference of the Church with equal radii, infinite in number.1

12 (13) Thou hast made the north and the south: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy Name.

As Tabor and Hermon lie east and west of each other in the Lebanon chain,* this verse is the assertion of God’s creative and governing power over the four quarters of the earth. But the LXX. and Vulgate read the north and the sea.1 Mystically, the North in Holy Writ is usually taken as the symbol of evil, because on the one hand we read of Lucifer, “I will sit also in the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north;”* and in Jeremiah we find the threat, “I will bring evil from the north, and great destruction,”* and as a literal fact, the great empire of Assyria and much of that of Babylon, by which the Jewish nation were so grievously chastised, lay to the north of the Holy Land. (C.) And as the north wind is cold and biting,* so they will have it that it is an apt type of Satan or of Antichrist himself, lacking the fire of divine love,* and nipping with his sharp frosts the blossoms and fruits of holiness in the hearts of men; while the sea, (Ay.) bitter, barren, and stormy, is taken of Satan’s instruments in the world, the restless and cruel persecutors of the Church, of whom is written, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”* Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice. The former of these mountains, noted in early Jewish history as the scene of Barak’s victory over Sisera,* and believed to be the special mountain from whose summit it was the wont of the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar to give notice of the Paschal moon,* had a greater claim to rejoice in the latter days, for from its heights,* nestling in the plain but a few miles off, Nazareth is still to be seen.* And Christian legend, albeit with no sufficient warrant, has named it as the scene of the Transfiguration; while Hermon, less famous,* nevertheless so rises up above the plain of Esdraelon as to have within sight the part of Jordan made renowned first by the passage of Joshua, (P.) and then by the baptisms of John, including the greatest of all, (L.) and Nain, the scene of one of Christ’s greatest miracles, (A.) so that both mountains had full right to rejoice in His Name. S. Augustine, supposing Tabor to mean coming light,* explains it as mystically denoting Christ, the true Light that cometh into the world; while Hermon, which he interprets his cursing, implies the overthrow and punishment of Satan as the result of that coming. Others, accepting this etymology, will yet have it that Tabor denotes the Jews, illuminated with the light of the law and of grace, and Hermon the Gentiles, aliens from God and buried in the sin of idolatry,* which it learns to curse and abandon when the light from Tabor reaches it. But in truth no such meaning can be extracted at all from the first or certainly from the second of these names. Tabor is “lofty,” and Hermon “desolate,” so named from its barren and snow-clad summit.1 We may therefore see here types of two classes of the righteous, both pleasing to God, and rejoicing in His Name, but differing in vocation and dignity. Tabor, a mere hill, with its gentle slope and rounded summit,* whence the name is sometimes conjectured to mean “heaped like a navel”) studded with trees, and green with shade and sward to its very summit, on which once stood a little town, fitly typifies the Saints of secular life, fruitful in good works, gracious and gentle, pleasant to God and man. But Hermon, the desolate, soars above Tabor with yet greater beauty and far more striking grandeur. The lonely summit, pure and cool with snow, when all the plain beneath is parched with the blazing sun of a Syrian autumn, denotes the contemplative Saints of the Religious Life, towering upward to God in chastity and lovely contemplation, rejoicing not less, but more than Tabor, in spite of their seeming ruggedness and austerity of life.

13 (14) Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.

That mighty arm of God is Christ the Saviour; mighty, (C.) because with Him being and power are identical, and His strength never wanes, inasmuch as He doth whatsoever He pleases in heaven and earth. (P.) Limited to Himself, the mighty arm of Christ is that Humanity which He took of Blessed Mary, (L.) and wherein He wrought such marvellous works, so that, as she herself exclaims, “He hath showed strength with His arm,”* and was manifested to be the Son of God with power.* Strong is Thy hand, comments the Chaldee paraphrase,* to redeem Thy people; high is Thy right hand, to build up the house of Thy sanctuary. This thought is worked out further by the Christian expositors, who point out that the hand, by itself, denotes mere power and efficacy, but the right hand implies favour, grace, and protection.* Hence the explanation that the hand of Christ is His power exerted against His enemies, (A.) to repress their persecution of His members, (C.) while His right hand is the justifying grace wherewith He strengthens and lifts up His elect,* that He may set them at His right hand in the Judgment, when He will indeed be exalted and high in majesty. And this comes back to the deepest spiritual meaning of the Targum, inasmuch as these elect are the living stones wherewith Messiah builds the temple of God in the heavens. (L.) Lorinus, accepting the less beautiful interpretation of several commentators, who see here two degrees of divine strength exerted to punish, (D. C.) ingeniously suggests that the strength of the left hand is exerted in holding a vanquished enemy in a firm grasp,* while the right hand is lifted on high to deliver the fatal blow with sword or axe. But nearly all agree that the Judgment is referred to as the special manifestation of God’s right hand, whether in punishment or reward, and therefore follows:

14 (15) Righteousness and equity are the habitation of thy seat: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

For habitation, LXX.* and Vulgate read preparation, but the true rendering is basis. (Cd.) (Aquila.) Righteousness, as more than one commentator points out,* often appears in Scripture as a term including kindliness, while equity, or rather judgment, bears a sterner sense, and thus the two bases of Christ’s throne are reward and punishment. These connote in us fear and hope, to begin our justification, to inspire our devotion. And therefore S. Bernard says very well,* “Which of you is there, brethren, who desires to make ready a throne for Christ in his soul? Lo, what silks or carpets, what cushions, ought to be prepared? Righteousness and equity are the preparation of His seat. Righteousness is that virtue which giveth every man his own. Give, then, to each what is his, pay your superior, pay your inferior, pay your equal, pay every one that which you owe, and thus you fittingly celebrate the Advent of Christ, preparing for Him a seat in righteousness.” But lest the thought of the strict judgment of God should overwhelm and crush us with its terror, we are comforted by the next clause, (A.) Mercy and truth shall go before Thy face.* These are the heralds through whom the Lord announces His coming: mercy, whereby He blots out our sins, truth, whereby He performs His promise of saving to the uttermost those who trust in Him.* These are the two disciples whom Christ sends before His face into every city and place whither He Himself will come; yea,* into every heart in which He offers to take up His abode, (D. C.) to each of which, before it can rise to pure contemplation of Him, He sends pardon and grace. And because our King is preceded by such messengers, His true subjects have no cause to dread His coming, for

15 (16) Blessed is the people, O Lord, that can rejoice in thee: they shall walk in the light of thy countenance.

That can rejoice in Thee. The A. V., far more forcibly, and closer to the ancient renderings, that know the joyful sound.* Literally, that is, the blowing of the trumpets of the Jubilee1 on the evening of the Great Day of Atonement, when ushering in the year of release,* when all debts were cancelled, all Hebrew bondsmen set free, and every man returned to his own family, and to the enjoyment of his inheritance and possession. So the Christian, knowing the saving grace of Christ, (A.) rejoices in that, and cannot rejoice unless he knows it, and understands the source of that joy which is too deep for him to express in words. Thus we sing of that first coming of His, when He ransomed man from the bondage of sin,

Hark the glad sound, the Saviour comes,*

The Saviour promised long,

Let every heart prepare a throne,

And every voice a song.

He comes the prisoners to release

In Satan’s bondage held,

The gates of brass before Him burst,

The iron fetters yield.

And they who do so rejoice in the Incarnation of their Lord, in having Him for brother and friend, walk in His ways, Who is the True Light of the world, the countenance and express image of the Father,* and that they will do, guided by the illumination of the Holy Spirit.* Progressively, moreover, not resting in the one grade of holiness, but going on towards perfection, as the word walk denotes.* And so it is written, “Thy Word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my paths.”* But there is another year of release more perfect in its bounty and restoration than even the first Advent of Christ, and unspeakably blessed are the people who will know the sound of the Archangel’s trumpet to be indeed a joyful sound, to whom it will be the note of victory, before which the walls of the spiritual Jericho fall down for ever, the summons to the marriage banquet of the Lamb, (L.) for they shall then learn the Unknown Song of gladness ineffable, and walk for evermore in rapt contemplation of the adorable Trinity,* in the full light of the Beatific Vision.

16 (17) Their delight shall be daily in thy Name: and in thy righteousness shall they make their boast.

And that because the Name of Christ has been their salvation,* because the glory is not theirs, but is given to Him. (L.) This delight shall be daily, or all the day of this mortal life, and much more in the unending noontide of heaven.* In Thy righteousness, because of Thy merits, they who here have been humbled for their sins, and who have cast themselves down in penitence, shall be exalted,* (A. V., Vulg., &c.) In Thy righteousness, when Thou comest to judgment, they shall be exalted to Thy right hand in glory.* They shall be exalted, even before that time, by gradual ascent in holiness, by conquering the world, the flesh, and the devil, and treading them under foot; they shall be exalted ever afterwards by the continual growth of the spiritual capacity and blessedness of the soul in heaven itself, a growth that hath no end, since it is a continual striving unto Him Who is infinite. And note the progress indicated by the terms used, walk being spoken of the body, naturally sluggish, delight, of the soul grasping at bliss,* exalted of soul and body rejoined to reign with Christ and in Christ, “Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness,* and sanctification, and redemption;” wherefore, “according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”*

17 (18) For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy loving-kindness thou shalt lift up our horns.

Christ is the glory of their strength not merely because He bestows the grace and power by which they shun evil and effect good,* but because that strength itself,* or virtue (Vulg.) which they exercise, is put forth for His honour by His saints, and not for the sake of any worldly praise or favour. They have it from Him, (C.) and they give it to Him, since not of their own free-will or personal holiness, but of His loving-kindness and mercy, He, by humbling Himself to us, and bearing a “horn of salvation in the house of His servant David,”* hath by that Incarnation of His, lifted up the horn of our human nature, and exalted it, (Z.) in bodily substance and in spiritual might, to the heavens above. Wherefore the Holy Eastern Church breaks out in song:

Slaves are set free, and captives ransomed:*

The Nature that He made at first

He now presenteth to the Father,*

The chains of her damnation burst:

This the cause that He was born,

Adam’s race restored,

Thou that liftest up our horn,

Holy art Thou, Lord!

And note how glory and virtue are here united in one phrase.* On this S. Bernard teaches us, “The glory which is without virtue comes, surely, without being due, is too hastily desired, is perilously grasped. Virtue is the step to glory, virtue is the mother of glory. Glory is deceitful and beauty is vain, when she has not given them birth, it is she alone to whom glory is justly due and may be safely paid.”* And with this we may compare the wise saying of a heathen writer: “Glory is the shadow of virtue, and will accompany even those that desire it not. But as our shadow sometimes precedes and sometimes follows us, so glory is sometimes in front of it, and suffers itself to be seen, and sometimes is behind us, and greater, because later, when envy has passed away.”

18 (19) For the Lord is our defence: the Holy One of Israel is our King.

Our defence.* More exactly, our shield. And that because the Only-begotten Son protected us with His Body as with a shield, and drew the darts of the enemy away from us upon Himself, procuring our salvation by His death. And the Father is our defence too, in that He gives us this Holy One of Israel to be our King, after the carnal Israel had rejected Him, gives Him to us, Whom we did not choose and appoint of our will. The Vulgate wording,* Our taking-up (assumptio) is of the Lord,* has given rise to various comments. Some will have it that the word specially points to the assumption of human nature by Christ; (R.) others of our being taken up out of mortality and passibility unto salvation; a third view is that it denotes the choosing out the elect from the mass of sinners. And in remembering that the Holy One is our King, we may be taught even by Pagan writers what are His qualifications for His office, what our hopes from His exercise of it.* “To be strong, just, severe, grave, high-souled, bounteous, beneficent, liberal, these virtues befit a king.”* “He is no real king,” observes the greatest of ancient philosophers, “for whom his own possessions are not enough, and who does not surpass others in the abundance of all good things. For he who is of this kind, desires nothing further, and will look to, and set before himself, not his own interest, but that of those over whom he rules.… The friendship of a king consists in the excellence of his well-doing towards his subjects, for he bestows benefits upon them, at any rate if he be a good king, and has a care for them, that they may prosper, as a shepherd has for his sheep.”

19 (20) Thou spakest sometime in visions unto thy saints, and saidst: I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.

In the part of the Psalm which opens with this verse,* type and antitype are presented with such close fitness of expression for each, that a dispute has arisen amongst the commentators, whether to take the whole in the bare literal sense, as spoken of David son of Jesse, or the wholly mystical sense, as referring to Christ alone, (A.) as S. Augustine will have it, or yet again, as referring in one part to David, (Z.) and in another to Christ. But the truest explanation seems to be that which admits the full validity of both methods, for here, unlike the partially similar cases of Psalms 45. and 72, it is possible to accommodate each phrase to David or to Christ, according as we are looking at the type or the fulfilment. And in this very outset of the narrative an example is given, for the prophecies which foretold the mighty kingdom of David and his house were not the utterance of one seer, but of three, Samuel, Gad, and Nathan, (L.) Saints to whom God spake in visions, while it is no less true of Christ,* that “to Him give all the Prophets witness,” a truth which He enforced when, on the way to Emmaus,* “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” I have laid help, that is, not only I have given help and strength to one that is mighty,* but I have laid on Him the office and duty of helping them that are weak,* and of saving them out of the hand of the enemy. And as David was so helped that he might deliver Israel from Goliath first, and then, as King, from all the enemies round about, and was therefore chosen out of the people, from his humble rank as a shepherd, and exalted to a throne; so Christ, the Mighty One of God, mighty even in His weakness and humility, was chosen by the Father out of His people Israel, born of a poor woman, (P.) to fulfil the promise made to Abraham and his seed, and was exalted first upon the Cross, then in the Resurrection, and finally in His Ascension.

20 (21) I have found David my servant: with my holy oil have I anointed him.

Found implies seeking,* and it may be asked how the All-seeing can need to look for anything as though ignorant of its whereabouts. They answer diversely, that the word denotes the care and providence of God in the matter, (D. C.) in that He knew fully what He desired to have, as a man does when he seeks eagerly after aught; or again,* that it signifies the approval with which God regarded His choice, as we say, “I have found something,” when we light on an object of value in the midst of trifles of no worth. (L.) But the truest interpretation sees here that same tender, seeking love which drew down the Good Shepherd to seek and find the sheep which had gone astray, a word which paints to us His diligent care, without hinting that He did not know the precise spot where the wanderer lay. With My holy oil have I anointed Him. And as the literal David was thrice anointed king, once by Samuel in Jesse’s house at Bethlehem, once at Hebron after the death of Saul, as king over Judah; and again at seven years’ end as ruler over all Israel: so also “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power”* in His Nativity at Bethlehem; a second time over His Church at His Resurrection, when the tyrant who sought His life was overcome, and then only over the small “confederation” (which Hebron means) of His Jewish disciples, but a third time in His Ascension to the heavenly Jerusalem, the Vision of Peace, where He, now crowned as King of Glory, was anointed over all heaven and earth, supreme over the Princes of God.* He was thrice anointed in another sense also, once as Prophet, once as Priest, and once as King. Observe, the unction is called by God My holy oil, by reason of the set directions given to Moses in the Law for its composition and hallowing.* But as this oil was strictly limited, under pain of utter destruction, to the consecration of Aaron and his descendants for the Priesthood, and there is no other oil which can be understood by these words, the Rabbins allege that by special revelation and permission Samuel and the other prophets were suffered to anoint David and his posterity therewith, but no other kings. That the fact was so is plain enough,* for “Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon.” Next, whereas kings had the unction applied in the form of a crown,* priests received it in that of an X, or decussate cross. And in these two traditions we may see, first, the Priestly character foreshadowed which a King sprung out of Juda,* and not of the tribe of Levi (as the Asmonæan princes were), should exercise; while we may note in the second place, that His earthly inauguration as Monarch was with a crown of thorns, His earthly consecration as a Priest with the bloodshedding on the Cross.

21 (22) My hand shall hold him fast: and my arm shall strengthen him.

They take these words, when applied to our Lord, of the hypostatic union of the Eternal Word with the humanity of Christ Jesus, (L.) whereby it was impossible for Him, as man, to fall into any sin. And after pointing out how God’s favour caused David’s one tribe to draw over to itself the eleven tribes which had ranged themselves under the banner of the house of Saul, (Ay.) albeit the chances seemed overwhelmingly against the weaker party; they remark that the prophecy was not the less fulfilled in Christ because He was persecuted to the death, because His whole intention of gathering and establishing His Church was amply fulfilled. And if we take the David of the Psalm, as we may well do, tropologically of any faithful soul, or of God’s friends and people in general, we shall then see here the promise of help to all such through and from Christ,* “for in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.”

And then the Carmelite goes on with a quaint minuteness of detail to tell us how He is fitly called the Hand of God, for as the hand has five fingers, so He has five especial attributes answering to the special qualities of each finger. He has power, denoted by the thumb, the strongest and most muscular of the digits. He is our guide, directing our judgment, and pointing us the way, as the index, or forefinger is used by men. By the middle finger, the longest of all, is typified His patience and long-suffering. The third finger is that on which rests the wedding-ring, unending, unbroken, the token of abiding love, that love which caused Him to lay down His life to save His enemies. And the little finger, shorter and weaker than the rest, betokens His humility and His suffering for us, when He stretched out His hands upon the Cross.

22 (23) The enemy shall not be able to do him violence: the son of wickedness shall not hurt him.

Historically, we may note that, on the one hand,* David never lost a battle, even to such a mere skirmish as that in which Asahel was slain; and on the other that the attempts made against his life and throne by single agents of evil, Goliath, Saul, Doeg, Ahithophel, Absalom, Sheba, all ended in failure, though in two cases he was driven into temporary exile.* This sense agrees with the address of Nathan to David when foretelling the reign of Solomon and the building of the temple. But the force of the Hebrew seems more fully brought out in the A. V.* The enemy shall not exact upon him, that is, shall not deal with him as a creditor deals with a defaulting debtor, reduce him to poverty, and bring him into bondage. So runs that conditional promise to Israel, “Thou shalt lend unto many nations, but shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.”* But in the highest spiritual sense we cannot take the verse as true of David, (C.) in view of his terrible fall in the matter of Bathsheba, and must needs turn to Christ in order to find its fulfilment. Accordingly,* Origen, explaining the first clause (with LXX. and Vulg.) The enemy shall get no help out of Him, comments, “We help our enemies when we sin, and thus it is that Christ helped them in no respect.… For although they said, Come, let us kill Him, and have His inheritance to ourselves, yet this counsel was useless to Satan and the Jews, and their effort fell vainly to the ground, for the Saviour rose again the third day, and trampling upon death, spoiled hell.” And whereas, by reason of our sins, the devil can prove some claims against each of us, Christ alone, on the other hand, saith truly, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.”* Wherefore, (C.) neither Judas, nor the false witnesses before the Sanhedrim, nor the chief priests before Pilate, were able to bring any charge of guilt home to Him, but were forced to acknowledge His innocence; for “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” They lay stress, moreover, on the LXX. (D. C.) and Vulgate phrase here, “The son of wickedness shall not add to hurt Him,” pointing out that David’s enemies were often given one chance, so to speak, against him, and a temporary measure of success, as in the case of Absalom, but they could never repeat it. Applying this to Christ, they remind us that similarly an apparent victory was granted to His enemies against Him, in that they did succeed in compassing His death, but that His Resurrection put Him finally out of the reach of harming.* So, too, one reminds us seasonably, in the interpretation of this Psalm of any righteous soul, that when any one has overcome the devil in a spiritual conflict, by resisting temptation to some particular sin, he thereby weakens the devil’s power for all time as regards that special weapon, not only as regards himself, but as regards others also.* They will not be totally freed from all trial and temptation thereby, but they will be encouraged, and the devil disheartened by the victories of the Saints, so that they cannot be fatally hurt without their own consent, as it is written,* “I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more,* as beforetime.” Not that the malice of the enemy is lessened by such triumphs of the Saints,* for it is rather increased, and his desire to overcome his conqueror is whetted; so that, as S. Thomas warns us, he will return again and again to the attack as long as he sees any remains of sin within us, yet that he grows feebler, and we stronger, after each repulse he suffers.

23 (24) I will smite down his foes before his face: and plague them that hate him.

This holds literally of David, (Ay.) especially where we read that “he smote Moab,* and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive.”* But it holds much more perfectly of David’s Son, before Whose face His tempters so often retreated in confusion, baffled by His wisdom, as though driven away with swords, before Whom the soldiers in the garden on the night of betrayal, “went backward, and fell to the ground,”* Who triumphed over His spiritual enemies upon the Cross, and Whose terrible judgments fell upon the sinful nation that rejected Him, albeit He saved alive with one full line the Apostles and other disciples who believed on Him. These too He smote down at first, (C.) as He did Saul of Tarsus, as He does still with sinners whom He desires to bring to repentance, and to separate from their transgression, and to put to flight from their former sinful life, that they may take refuge with Him.

24 (25) My truth and my mercy shall be with him: and in my Name shall his horn be exalted.

This prophecy cannot be in its fulness taken of David,* albeit in a lower sense it is true of him also, but it is perfectly accomplished in Christ, for the mercy which was with Him is that hypostatic union of the Godhead with the Manhood, which cannot be disjoined, while the truth is the fulfilment of the promise to His Mother by the angel, “He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.”* Wherefore His horn was exalted in the Name of God, because His power is such that in His Name every knee must bow, of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth.* And this Name is the Name of God, for the glory of Jesus is as of the Only-begotten of the Father, so that He is worshipped by all as the Son of that eternal Father, in Whose Name He comes, so that God the Father “hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name,” (A.) which would not be true if the Name of God were still above Himself.* And observe, that as “all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth,” so Christ is mercy and truth to us, by His pardoning grace, and His faithfulness to His word; and we therefore, if we are desirous of showing our gratitude, and of being conformed to His likeness, are bound to give Him the same, by showing mercy to those in distress, by being true and just in all our dealings.

25 (26) I will set his dominion also in the sea: and his right hand in the floods.

His dominion. It should be simply, his hand, (A. V., Vulg., &c.,) that is, the left hand, as distinguished from the right hand of the next clause. The prophecy was fulfilled so far as David is concerned, by his victories over the Philistines,* four of whose five principal cities, namely, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Gaza, were actually on the coast of the Mediterranean sea, while his victory over Hadadezer, king of Zobah,* extended the Hebrew monarchy to the river Euphrates on the other side. It is fitly said his right hand, because the eastern conquests were more conspicuous and extensive than the western, to which, accordingly, only the left hand is attributed. (A.) Mystically, they explain the salt stormy sea as the Gentile nations, or the world in general, bitter and turbulent, and the rivers as those persons who, greedy of the world’s pleasures and gain, rush eagerly on in search of them, as the rivers pour into the sea.* Another interpretation sees in the rivers, because of their powerful currents, a type of the kings and princes of the world, who require more forcible constraint than the multitude.* On the other hand, a contrary explanation is suggested by the facts that the rivers are of sweet water, that they are not stormy like the sea, that they run in fixed and narrow channels, and that they admit of bridges being built over them for the passage of men; whence they may be taken as types of the righteous and meek,* to be set at God’s right hand. But the Greek Fathers prefer to explain the river as the mystical Jordan, the type of Holy Baptism, where the right hand of Christ is placed, either because,* as one will have it, only those regenerated in Baptism have the promise of being set on His right in the Judgment; or, as a Latin expositor takes it, because His propitiatory and pardoning might, which is a higher and nobler attribute than His coercive and punitive authority,* is exercised in the remission of sins. Not unlike this is that other view which finds in the sea and rivers types of secular and spiritual things, and reminds us that God gives us greater power of operation in the latter,* in that we can achieve higher things therein. And thus a famous preacher tells us that Religious,* who have put themselves within the river banks of claustral obedience, in the sweet, calmly flowing life of the convent, keep their right hand there, not in the sea of worldly habits, and receive a special blessing from God.

26 (27) He shall call me, Thou art my Father: my God, and my strong salvation.

Here they bid us note the singular fact that David nowhere, (Ay.) in all the variety of epithets he applies to God throughout his portion of the Psalter,* ever does call Him Father,* albeit the title occurs once or twice elsewhere in Holy Writ.* But when we turn to the sayings of Christ, a remarkable difference at once strikes us. The name of Father is given by Christ to the Almighty about one hundred and forty times, of which fifty-four have the emphatic word My prefixed. (B.) “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”* This first part of the verse, then, He speaks according to His Deity;* but the latter part, according to His manhood, whereby He is inferior to the Father. My strong salvation. More literally the Rock of my salvation, (A. V.) But LXX. and Vulgate read the taker-up (ἀντιλήπτωρ, susceptor) of My salvation. And that,* they say, refers to those two takings-up of Christ by His Father, the Resurrection and Ascension; (R.) or else to the taking-up of human nature in His act of mercy unto salvation.

27 (28) And I will make him my first-born: higher than the kings of the earth.

This type was, it is true, partly fulfilled in David, in that he, the youngest of seven sons, was set over not only his brethren, but the whole of Israel, and in that he was victorious over all the adjacent countries,* “of Syria, and of Moab, and of the children of Ammon, and of the Philistines, and of Amalek,* and of the spoil of Hadadezer, son of Rehob, king of Zobah.”* But the very fact that the promises here seemingly made to David only, (Ay.) are transferred to Solomon in the prophecy of Nathan,* teaches us to look further,* to Him of whom David the conqueror and Solomon the Wise were but types. He is the first-born of the Father in four ways. First,* as the Eternal Wisdom of God;* begotten and predestined before the worlds were made;* secondly, as the one only child of His Mother, and therefore called, her “first-born Son;” thirdly, because of the Resurrection,* whereby He is “the first-born from the dead;” fourthly,* because He is “appointed Heir of all things,”* “that He might be the first-born among many brethren,”* nay, “the first-born of every creature.”*

Higher than the kings of the earth.* Bellarmine remarks truly enough that even in the widest estimate of the power of David and Solomon, they could not rank in puissance with the Assyrian monarchs, albeit the petty kinglets around were tributary to them, “from the river even unto the land of the Philistines, and the border of Egypt,”* and that we must therefore apply these words to Him only Who is “Prince of the kings of the earth,”* and Who “hath on His vesture and on His thigh a Name written, King of kings and Lord of lords,” before Whom the mightiest sovereigns now bow their heads, (A.) Whose Cross surmounts their royal crowns. Wherefore in the First Vespers of the Nativity, the Antiphon runs,* “The Peaceful King is magnified, over all the kings of the whole earth.” The word higher is noteworthy, for the Hebrew is עֶלְיו̇ן,* which, in all other places where it stands alone, or is used of a person in Scripture,* is applied to God only,* and is usually translated Most High in the A. V. And thus as He, being God, is Most Holy, as well as Most High, He is Chief of all those kings and priests, those saints who have conquered and ruled their own passions and have overcome the world, who exercise in the Church of God the double position of priesthood and authority committed to the first-born under the patriarchal dispensation.

28 (29) My mercy will I keep for him for evermore: and my covenant shall stand fast with him.

The mercy of God was kept for Christ,* that is, it was held over until His coming, and was not given under the elder dispensation, “for the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”* And because this mercy in the remission of sins is permanent, and cannot be set aside, it is added, My covenant, My new covenant, shall stand fast, in contradistinction to the old covenant, which decayed, waxed old, and vanished away, because “the Law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did.”* And it is for His sake that this new covenant does stand fast, for it was concluded through and in Him. He mediated it, (A.) He signed it, He is its surety, its witness, Himself the inheritance bestowed by it, and therewith its co-heir. Others,* less forcibly, take the faithful covenant to be the fulfilment of the prophetic promises in the person of Christ.

29 (30) His seed also will I make to endure for ever: and His throne as the days of heaven.

It was urged as an objection to the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus by some of the Jews, (L.) that He had no earthly progeny, and did not leave descendants, but the answer was easy,* that according to high Rabbinical authority, the title of sons or seed is given to the disciples of a great teacher, as, for example, those of R. Hillel. And accordingly, the favourite explanation of this passage with Christian commentators is that it denotes the perpetual duration of the Church.* The seed of Christ are those who are like unto Him, (A.) and follow in His footsteps, who are His throne, inasmuch as they yield themselves to His sovereignty, who are as the days of heaven by reason of the brightness, clearness, warmth, and purity of their lives.* The throne of Christ, a Saint tells us, is fourfold: the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant, the faithful soul, and the Blessed Virgin Mother.* If we take the verse literally as referring to David, we shall come to the same result, as Christ was of his seed according to the flesh, and as the earthly Jewish throne disappeared with Jehoiachin or with Zedekiah, there is no other save the Messiah, to whom the words may be fully said to refer.

31 But if his children forsake my law: and walk not in my judgments;

32 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments: I will visit their offences with the rod, and their sin with scourges.

Here they raise the question as to how the promises, the gifts and calling,* of God can be without repentance, how they can be justly said to be firm and irrevocable, if they can be affected in this wise by the error, folly, or sin, of so unstable a creature as man. And first, (A.) the Doctor of Grace most truly answers that God proves His Fatherhood, not abdicates it, by the act of punishment. “For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”* Our fear should be not lest we should be scourged, but lest we should be disinherited. And God scourges, precisely that He may give us back the heritage we have forfeited. Next, (L.) they point out that God does not go back from His promises. What He undertakes to give, that He does give, as the Incarnation of Christ, promised to the sinners Adam and Ahaz, establishes. In this manner His fulfilment is absolute. But the enjoyment and benefit to be derived from the thing promised and given is conditional. Thus the literal kingdom over Israel passed from the tribe of Judah to that of Levi, and the spiritual kingdom of the Church, after being first offered to the Jews, was handed over to the Gentiles. The refusal of the chosen people to accept the proffered mercies did not cause withdrawal of them, but only a change in the recipients, as in the case of the marriage-supper of the king’s son. (C.) Hence we gather that here we have set before us that lesson which is inculcated by so many parables, the mixture of good and bad Christians within the Church, and the double truth that the fall of a part does not involve the ruin of the whole; but that even the fall itself is capable of recovery.* There are four modes of transgression named here, against the law, the judgments, the statutes, and the commandments of God. Of these, the law is the generic term, including the others under it, or if taken specifically, it denotes the Decalogue;* the judgments have to do with the decision of causes, the assignment of rights, and the meting out rewards and punishments; the statutes are the negative or prohibitory rules, laying down certain actions as forbidden; the commandments are the affirmative part of the code, enjoining certain modes of conduct; and of the third of these it is to be noticed that for break My statutes, the margin of A. V., rightly agreeing with the Vulgate, reads profane My statutes, whereby we learn the greater heinousness of sins of commission, especially such as involve irreverence in things sacred, than of any others. (Ay.) And the Carmelite hereupon justly points out that the sin of profanity, especially in the form of idolatry and foreign rites, was that especial one into which several of the descendants of David fell, notably Solomon himself,* Ahaz, and Manasseh. There are two degrees of punishment threatened, the rod, for the smaller and lighter offences, the scourges, for graver and more persistent sin. In the corresponding passage of the Book of Samuel, the warning runs thus, “If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men,”* that is, with punishments such as earthly fathers inflict upon their children,* and not too severe for human nature to bear. And by the rod, in Holy Writ, fatherly correction is usually signified;* whereas the punishment of a judge is with the sword. So, we read of the former, “He that spareth the rod hateth his son;”* of the latter, “If a man will not turn, He will whet His sword.”* Wherefore also He saith Himself, “Repent, or else I will come to thee quickly, and will fight against thee with the sword of My mouth.”* But the rod and staff of the Lord comfort the wayfarer in the valley of the shadow of death,* knowing that the chastisement is given in love.* He will take even the scourges patiently, because with them too God visits, as a firm but gentle surgeon who needs to use steel and cautery upon a patient for his healing, and instead of lamenting or resisting, the sick man will say, “Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.”*

33 Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him: nor suffer my truth to fail.

34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips: 35 I have sworn once by my holiness, that I will not fail David.

S. Augustine explains these verses in the manner already stated above, (A.) that the sin of man cannot make void the promise of God, since His purpose by predestination will stand, and be fulfilled in one,* if not in another. It is also an encouragement to hope and to repentance, if we once take in the thought that God’s will to pardon never fails, and that our sins are to His mercy what a cobweb is to the storm,* a spark to the ocean, sure to be swept away by the might of the one, to be quenched in the abyss of the other.* They raise in this place the question as to the repentance and salvation of Solomon, (Ay.) answering it, as do SS. Ambrose, Jerome, and Gregory, in the affirmative; alleging that he was punished by the revolt of the ten tribes from his son, but pardoned himself, granted repentance, and delivered from hell. And S. Jerome mentions a curious Hebrew legend to the effect that the penitent king,* entering the Temple, put rods into the hands of certain men learned in the law, beseeching them to chastise him, but that they alleged that they dared not put out their hands against the Lord’s anointed; whereupon he passed sentence upon himself, and abdicated the throne. (A.) Nor suffer My truth to fail. The Vulgate rendering, I will not hurt in My truth, has drawn from S. Augustine the comment that he who abides not by his promises does hurt, and that sorely, any one who depends on that promise; and furthermore, that he who punishes according to the full rigour of justice, (C.) hurts too. And another reminds us that although the enemies of the Son were suffered to work their will upon Him, yet in the truth of the Father He was unhurt, inasmuch as His glorious Passion wrought salvation for the world; while a third exposition, practically coinciding with the latter part of S. Augustine’s gloss,* sees here a promise of final salvation in the day of Judgment, because God’s scourges will heal, not injure us. My lips. This refers especially, they say, (L.) to the utterances of the Prophets, who are the lips wherewith God spake to His people. He will not alter the thing which they have spoken, for the Lord Himself saith, “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law,* till all be fulfilled.”* I have sworn once. Some Hebrew expositors have interpreted this as meaning that God used the formula here given on this occasion only, a theory refuted by its appearance in Amos 4:2, (L.) for the true force of the word is to mark the firmness and irrevocability of the Divine pledge.* In My holiness, that is, as they variously explain it, by My holy Name; or by My holy place, whether heaven (as it is written, “For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever,”*) or the Holy of holies in the temple; or in My secret counsel; (R.) or, finally, by My Holy One, that is, Christ Himself, (C.) which agrees with that other saying, “The Lord hath sworn by His right hand,* and by the arm of His strength.” I will not fail David. The A. V. more exactly, with the ancient versions, I will not lie unto David. Therefore it is said, I have sworn once. How often, asks S. Augustine, would God have to swear, if He had once lied in swearing? He uttered one oath on behalf of our life, (A.) when He sent His Only Son to death for us.

36 (35) His seed shall endure for ever: and his seat is like as the sun before me.

37 (36) He shall stand fast for evermore as the moon: and as the faithful witness in heaven.

Here, as in the thirtieth verse, we have the assertion of Christ’s eternity, and the promise of the indefectibility of the Church. So we read in Jeremiah, who thus gives us the literal sense: “Thus saith the Lord, If ye can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne.”* And similarly a heathen poet, writing of the dynasty founded by Vespasian:

Manebit altum Flaviæ decus gentis*

Cum sole et astris, cumque luce Romana,*

Invicta quicquid condidit manus, cœlum est.

The Flavian race shall last in high renown,

With sun and stars, and light that shines on Rome,

That which a conqueror’s hand has raised, is heaven.

His seat is like as the sun.* That is, as the Chaldee will have it, radiant and glorious as the sun, or else, as other expositors take it, enduring as the sun, a phrase equivalent to the “days of heaven” in the earlier passage.* And taking the seat or throne (LXX., Vulg.) to mean the Church in which He dwells, we shall note its continuous visibility, and its office of enlightening the world, as both signified hereby. Or if we take the seat to be the righteous soul, (A.) wherein Christ reigns, we then have His own saying to confirm this one, for He tells us that when He hath ended the judgment, “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”* As the moon. The Rabbinical interpretation of this clause is,* that it declares how the house of David should be treated if it fell away from God. Even then it would not be cast off, but would remain as the moon in comparison with the sun, feebler in light and warmth, and suffering decrease almost to extinction, but, nevertheless, returning in due time to the full. (A.) S. Augustine, dwelling on the same qualities of the moon, interprets them of our mortal flesh, which here passes through many phases, but will be a perfect moon (Vulg.) in the Resurrection, no longer subject to any change. So too the moon may fitly be the Church Militant here on earth, (C.) waxing and waning, and deriving all her light from the Sun of Righteousness. (Ay.) A curious Rabbinical gloss is, that as the sun and moon were created on the fourth day, so they foretold the perpetual kingdom of Messiah, sprung from Judah, the fourth of Jacob’s sons. Another commentator, accepting the sun and moon as types of the souls and bodies of the elect, points out four attributes of the sun which correspond to faculties of the soul in bliss: to wit, brightness; (Ay.) swiftness, in that its rays pass instantaneously from east to west; subtilty, in that it penetrates glass without leaving any trace of its passage; and impassibility, because it is not defiled by being brought in contact with any substance that stains. If true of any holy soul, the words must hold good especially of that undefiled one of whom we read, “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?”* whom the Holy Eastern Church styles the “throne of Cherubim.”* This is the great throne of ivory overlaid with gold, which our Solomon made for Himself;* ivory, by reason of her pureness; great, because of humility; a throne, because of her fruitfulness,

Ligna, sedile, manus, ebur, aurum, brachia, scamnum,

Argentum, leo, Rex, purpura, prævia, gradus.

Wood, seat, hands, ivory, gold, with arms, a stool,

Silver, king, lion, purple, platform, steps.

That is, firm and incorruptible as the cedars, her charity is the seat which admits repose; the hands, on which the arms rest, her works of lowliness and devotion; the ivory, her purity; the gold, her wisdom; the arms, reminding us of those infant arms so often clasped about her, the embracing tenderness of her nature; the footstool, earthly riches and wisdom which she trod under foot; silver, her tuneful and pure speech; the fourteen lions of the throne, her virtues and gifts (or, as we might rather take them, her seven joyful and seven sorrowful mysteries); the King, that only One Who lay in her bosom,* (“the Prince, He shall sit in it”); the purple, her martyrdom of soul at the Cross; the platform, her uplifted perfection, raising her above the level of the earth; the steps, the six grades of holy veneration: namely, reverence, devotion, salutation, good words, obedience, and active compliance.

As a faithful witness in heaven.* The word as does not occur in the Hebrew, and some doubt has thus arisen as to the precise meaning of the clause. A very common interpretation is, that the parallelism requires us to understand the moon to be the witness meant, as it is the arbiter of seasons and festivals; but another, which has met with many supporters, interprets the passage of the rainbow,* that witness of God’s covenant with Noah; the like of which is round about the throne,* and upon the head of the mighty Angel of the Covenant. But the best explanation of all and that most followed by the early commentators, taking the clause, There is a faithful witness in heaven, sees in the faithful witness Christ our God Himself. So holy Job speaks,* “Behold, my witness is in heaven;” and the Lord saith by Jeremiah, “I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord;”* and further, the epithet is twice directly applied to Christ in the Apocalypse, wherein He is styled, the “faithful and true witness.”* He then, of Whom Isaiah said in old time, (L.) “Behold, I have given Him as a Witness to the people;” Who saith of Himself, “For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth,”* is rightly compared to sun and moon,* (Cd.) which rule the day and night, for whereas each of these luminaries is hid for a time, and does as it were shut its eyes to the world,* “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep,”* but beholds all things at all times alike clearly, and therefore will know all things, needing not other witnesses, when He sits in judgment.

38 (37) But thou hast abhorred and forsaken thine Anointed: and art displeased at him.

Here the whole tone of the Psalm changes, and instead of looking on the glorious picture of stable prosperity, we hear the lament for the overthrow of all the splendours of the Hebrew polity, (R.) the total eclipse of its brilliant day. And whether we take this lament as referring especially to Absalom’s successful rebellion,* to Solomon’s own fall, to the revolt under his son, to the Babylonish captivity,* or to the yet more disastrous ruin of the second Temple, bringing with it the disappearance of the Aaronic worship as well as that of the Davidic throne, (A.) we see in each and all the working out of a divine and providential purpose.* For had there been no such reversal experienced, the spiritual growth of the Messianic idea would have been checked in its very bud,* and men would have looked to the peaceful splendour of Solomon’s reign as fulfilling all the promises of a King and Deliverer, and would thus have never risen out of this material notion into the higher spiritual truth.* Thou hast forsaken Thine Anointed. It is the cry, they tell us, first of the exiled Jews, seeing the captivity of their two last kings, discrowned and imprisoned. And thus, having regard to the Vulgate reading distulisti, (A.) which is Thou hast put off, S. Augustine explains it of God’s continued delay in sending the Messiah to deliver His people;* but S. Ambrose more truly expounds the passage as the words of Christ Himself, declaring what He has endured, the shame and reproach and suffering of the Cross, and the mysterious abandonment thereon,* for the ransom of mankind. A curious view which has been suggested is that the speaker in this verse is God Himself, accusing the Synagogue of its rejection of its King. But the more usual interpretation is sounder, and must be understood,* as a Greek Father points out, not of complaint against God’s will, far less as any charge of unfaithfulness, but as a prayer for mercy and restoration.

39 (38) Thou hast broken the covenant of thy servant: and cast his crown to the ground.

This verse may be taken in any of three meanings. The covenant may here imply the entire Old Testament polity, (A.) in which case the servant is the Jewish nation, and the crown its spiritual pre-eminence, a view which gains consistency amongst the Fathers from the general explanation of the word נֶזֶר (ἁγίασμα, sanctuarium) as the sanctuary or temple, instead of the royal diadem, as S. Jerome rightly translates it. (C.) The fuller rendering of the A. V., nearly identical, save for this one word, with the Vulgate, strengthens the notion, by saying, Thou hast profaned his crown, as the verb fits in so well with the notion of defiling a shrine. (R.) The second view makes the reference more personal,* and confines it to the non-fulfilment of the pledge given to David and his house, as proved by the dethronement of his family. And the third, which is also the fullest, sees here the rejection of Christ, and the apparent annulling of the promise spoken by Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin at Nazareth, whereby her Son was promised perpetual sovereignty over the house of Jacob. What then was this crown of his which was so cast to the ground?* One tells us that it is the Sacred Humanity which He took of His dear Mother, wearing which He conquered and destroyed the empire of death, though it was cast to the ground indeed in the Agony, in the nailing to the Rood, in the laying in the tomb.* And another takes the verse as referring less to Christ Himself than to His Body the Church, and will have us see in this place the sufferings of the Martyrs,* the crown of glory, the royal diadem,* which He, their King, wears upon His brow.

40 (39) Thou hast overthrown all his hedges: and broken down his strong holds.

41 (40) All they that go by spoil him: and he is become a reproach to his neighbours.

Here comes in the metaphor of the vineyard of Israel, whereof Isaiah says, “I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down.”* (Z.) And this hedge may well be explained of the Mosaic Law, with all its minute and thorny provisions for separating the Jewish people from the heathen nations around; although several take it to mean literally the battlements and walls of the lesser cities of Palestine; attributing the latter clause of the verse to the fortifications of Jerusalem alone,* or even to the citadel of Sion.* The LXX. and Vulgate read the last half of the verse, Thou hast made his strong place a terror. (B.) That is, as they variously explain it, brought terror and dismay amongst the defenders of the last fortresses, (R.) so as to lead to their surrender, or else put the stronghold itself into the possession of the enemy, so as to turn it into a means of overawing the native population. Spoken of Christ, we may take the words either of the breaking down in the popular mind of that “divinity which doth hedge a king,” so that the reverence in which He was held for a time gave way before the slander of the Chief Priests; or again, (L.) that the multitude of His disciples who once compassed Him about, forsook Him and fled,* and that even His strong one, the bold and zealous Peter, was filled with terror, and failed Him in His need. The whole passage, as well as the next verse, applies more strictly to the people than to the king, and deals with him as their representative; whence the transition is easy to the sufferings of the Church in times of persecution,* when the prelates, who are the hedge of her solemn usages, and her great teachers, her surest strongholds, fall away or are cut off.* For the faithful soul, the hedge, rough with thorns, is penitence, a fence through which Satan cannot force his way, nor yet the allurements of the senses; but where there is no such hedge,* entrance is easy; and all the passers by spoil and strip the vines bare of their grapes. They that go by. That is, as they tell us,* all transgressors, all who pass over the fixed boundaries of the moral law, or those who pass by and neglect Him Who is the Way, Who was seized and bound in the garden, stripped of His raiment,* crucified, and reviled by “all them that passed by.” Literally the words tell us of the weakness and contempt into which the Jews had sunk, when every petty tribe around was able to insult, plunder, (Ay.) and wrong them with impunity after their power had been broken by the resistless force of Babylon. The lion had made them his prey first, and then they became a “portion for foxes,”* scattered abroad in many a land, and a reproach to their neighbours. Of Christ it was true that He was stripped in His Passion, (P.) and that He was made a reproach, not only by His citizens, who would not have Him to reign over them, but by His neighbours, (L.) the foreign tyrant Herod, and the Roman soldiers, who mocked and insulted Him. Nay, more, even after His Ascension, the prophecy held good, for the preaching of the Cross,* which was to the Jews a stumbling-block, was to the Greeks foolishness, and therefore received with jeers and derision. And, moreover, the soul which has given way to the enemy, and suffered spoiling when its hedge is broken down, is made the subject of more bitter reproach for its fall, when once it has yielded, than it was before, for refusing to yield in guilty compliance with sinners.

42 (41) Thou hast set up the right hand of his enemies: and made all his adversaries to rejoice.

43 (42) Thou hast taken away the edge of his sword: and givest him not victory in the battle.

The Psalmist proceeds to dwell on the increasing severity of God’s judgments,* in that He not merely withdraws His aid from His Anointed, leaving him thus weak and undefended, but joins the side of his enemies. (R.) And the commentators bid us note the contrast here exhibited to the successes of the scanty forces of Gideon, or of the Maccabees, (Ay.) against enormous odds, whereas under Zedekiah “all the men of war fled by night.”* In dwelling on the power given to Christ’s enemies against Him in the Passion, and their rejoicing over His death,* they remind us not only how Peter was forced to return his sword into its sheath, but that the help of the Eternal Word of God,* that sharp and “two-edged sword,” was taken from the Manhood of the Redeemer, so that He had no comfort or support there from, nor any aid from those legions of Angels whom the Father would have sent Him. We are reminded, too, when the interpretation is transferred to the sufferings of His mystical Body, how, in literal fact, the heathen persecutors used to rejoice, and make festival of the torture and passions of the Martyrs; while Cardinal Hugo,* who explains these and the previous verses of scandals in the Church of a later day, whereby it is stripped and plundered, and its discipline broken down by its own evil ministers, so as to make it a reproach to heretics, schismatics, and even to possible converts, declares that an evil prelate, sent as a chastisement to the Church, is the very right hand of her enemies, and his promotion a subject of hearty rejoicing to them, because he bears in vain the sword of temporal and spiritual authority. And another,* not dissimilarly, warns preachers that their gift of sacred eloquence, albeit the sword of the Word, is of no avail to themselves in the battle of personal temptations, if they venture to dispense themselves from self-denial and prayer, not bearing in mind that saying of the Apostle: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”*

44 (43) Thou hast put out his glory: and cast his throne down to the ground.

His glory. That is, as Cardinal Bellarmine rightly explains the passage,* albeit following the unlike Vulgate reading, all the pomp and splendour of royal attire and surroundings, the external tokens of dignity, (L.) as well as the substantial enjoyment of power, denoted by the throne of the latter clause. Applied to the nation, rather than to the king, the words will denote the stately ritual of the Temple,* which was made to cease (A. V.) first for seventy years, and then for ever. The LXX. and Vulgate read, Thou hast loosed (LXX., destroyed Vulg.) from purification, partly misapprehending the meaning of the last word, and this has given rise to various comments.* One practically agrees with that just cited, (Ay.) and takes the phrase of the fall of the Temple, (D. C.) because seeing in purification (καθαρισμοῦ, emundatione) a reference to the ceremonial washings and lustrations of the Law; (A.) while S. Augustine will have it that it means the spiritual rejection of the Jews, who could not, because they would not, (C.) be cleansed from their sins by faith; and therefore they were punished by their throne, their Holy City, and the whole land which they inhabited, being overwhelmed in total ruin.

Spoken of the Church in times of laxity,* we note that God’s punishments at times harden instead of purifying sinners, and overthrow that throne in their hearts on which Christ should reign. So exclaims the Prophet: “O Lord,* are not Thine eyes upon the truth? Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; Thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock;* they have refused to return.” While in days of fervour and zeal, the Martyrs are slain either because of their very purity, or because slanderous tales of their crimes have been spread abroad in order to make public morality an excuse for persecution, so that the bodies of those Saints who are Christ’s throne are tortured,* slain, and cast to the ground. And in that awful time of the Passion, when the divine glory of the Lord was most of all hidden in His supreme humiliation, when not only the throne offered Him on Palm Sunday was dashed down by the choice of Cæsar as king and Barabbas as leader, but that surer one in the hearts of His chosen disciples seemed shaken to its very foundations;* then He was destroyed from purification so far as His enemies could effect it, by being numbered with transgressors and felons, and by Himself too, because, all-pure as He was, He took upon Him our sins, and was in a sense defiled thereby, according to His own saying by His Prophet, “Their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment.”*

45 (44) The days of his youth hast thou shortened: and covered him with dishonour.

It is obvious that these words cannot be taken literally either of David or of Solomon,* each of whom died in full age, after a reign of forty years. But they may apply exactly enough either to the very brief reigns of the later kings of the house of David, especially Jehoahaz,* who occupied the throne for only three months in the twenty-third year of his age,* and Jehoiakim, who was deposed when but eighteen, after the same brief possession of the crown, while even the two remaining sovereigns, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, were deprived in the prime of their life.* Or else the words may point to the entire duration of the dynasty, (Ay.) so much briefer than was to be looked for from the terms of the divine promise, inasmuch as the national life of the Jews was violently interrupted before it reached maturity. And the phrase covered him with dishonour will apply not only to the whole nation,* but especially to the disgrace and imprisonment of three of the last monarchs at the hands of Pharaoh-Necho and Nebuchadnezzar, (C.) as also to the still more fatal overthrow of the Jewish polity by Vespasian and Titus. But the obvious application to the Lord Jesus,* cut off in the flower of His days,* and that amidst every mark of shame and insult, has not been neglected by the Fathers.* Further, it is explained of the sufferings of the Church, and of the martyrdom and sudden deaths of her noblest and most devout children,* while those were spared who were neither eminent nor useful, whose evil living covered their Mother with confusion.

46 (45) Lord, how long wilt thou hide thyself, for ever: and shall thy wrath burn like fire?

Here the Psalmist,* after pouring out his lamentations, betakes himself to prayer, and implores God to send the Deliverer. And the words not only befit the Jews in their first prostration of the Babylonian captivity, but even after their return and the rebuilding of the Temple, for that event did nothing for the restoration of the Davidic throne;* rather, in truth, the sacerdotal kingdom of the Maccabees was an additional obstacle to the replacement of the old dynasty. God is said here to hide Himself; not that He does change towards us, for with Him there is “no shadow of turning,” but that He suffers us to avert ourselves from Him, so that the light of His countenance no longer shines on us. (Ay.) And He is then compared to a monarch who,* after condemning a criminal, shuts himself up, lest any one should approach him with a petition for pardon. For ever? The LXX. and Vulgate, as usual, translate this unto the end, (C.) whereon the commentators observe that the question is whether God will continue to hide His face from the Jewish people till the consummation of all things.* And they answer, No: because the Apostle saith, “Blindness in part is happened to Israel,* until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved.” How long then shall His wrath burn like fire? So long, exactly, (Ay.) as there is any fuel of sin for the fire to feed upon. And observe that God’s wrath is compared to fire, by reason of four properties, according to the various substances on which fire acts. Fire reduces some to ashes, like wood, which is the manner in which obstinate sinners are dealt with by God. It softens others, like lead, which represents the moving to repentance and tears. Others, again, as gold, it purges from dross, denoting change and perfection through suffering. And finally it hardens earthenware, that is, the flame of divine love gives strength and fortitude to what was before weak and yielding, as in the case of the Martyrs. (P.) The verse may be taken also as the opening part of a prayer, either of Christ Himself, or of His Body the Church, preceding His Resurrection after the terrible woes of the Passion;* and finally, as the petition of a penitent soul seeking reconciliation and peace with God.

47 (46) O remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men for nought?

Seeing,* he would say, how soon my life shall end, and that I cannot look forward to a prolonged existence, let me, whilst I still live, see that which Thou hast promised, and behold Thy salvation, the Redeeming King of the seed of David. It cannot be that Thou hast made man,* with all his passionate yearnings after beauty, life, and holiness, for the mere nought of this world,* full of sorrows and trouble, grief and sin. Send us therefore One who may be our guide to a happier dwelling, our teacher for higher things; send us Christ the Lord. The Vulgate, (C.) instead of how short my time is, reads what my substance is, and some of the commentators explain it in a manner practically the same. Because my nature is weak and sinful, because Thou wilt not wantonly destroy Thine own creature, send the Deliverer. But another interpretation, making the words the address of Christ to the Father,* takes them as His appeal on behalf of mankind because He is their Brother,* their own flesh and blood, and at the same time He Who has full right to ask what He will, because He is also Consubstantial with the Father Himself. (L.) And then they may be used of our own prayer to God,* reminding Him that we are made in His image, and therefore have a special claim on His mercy, while we call on the Son in the words of the old hymn for Christmas:

Salvation’s Author, call to mind,*

Thou took’st the form of humankind

When of the Virgin undefiled

Thou, in man’s flesh, becam’st a Child.

48 (47) What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death: and shall he deliver his soul from the hand of hell?

This is the cry of the previous verse put in another form.* Not only I, the Psalmist would say, have no hope of seeing the Deliverer unless Thou hasten His coming, but there is no man whose expectation in the matter can be any surer than mine. All are frail and short-lived, wherefore, unless Thy mercy be speedy, all will pass away without beholding the desire of their eyes.

They answer the question by saying that no man ever lived who did not or else will not see death, (A.) including even Christ Himself; and the constant tradition of the Church is that Enoch and Elijah, (L.) still believed to live, will reappear and die in the days of Antichrist. But while all ransomed souls will live again in the Resurrection, and see death no more, of none can it be said, save of Christ, that they delivered their own souls from the hand of hell.* He raised up Himself by His own divine and inherent power, all His Saints are raised by Him too, (D. C.) by His sustaining grace, and not by any strength or holiness of their own. And therefore He only can say,* “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”

49 (48) Lord, where are thy old loving-kindnesses: which thou swarest unto David in thy truth?

He calls them old, (C.) not merely because they dated from the beginning of David’s reign,* but because they were but the repetition of promises made to the Patriarchs; and they were old even in their time,* because established by God’s predestination before the beginning of the world, in His truth, that is,* in His Only-Begotten Son.

50 (49) Remember, Lord, the rebuke that thy servants have: and how I do bear in my bosom the rebukes of many people;

51 (50) Wherewith thine enemies have blasphemed thee; and slandered the footsteps of thine Anointed:

The most usual interpretation of the former of these verses is in agreement with the Prayer Book rendering;* that the people of God were a mock for all the heathen round about; whether we take the said people as the Jews, in opposition to Gentiles, Christians as contrasted with Pagans, or holy persons in distinction from the worldly and frivolous. These rebukes the whole chosen nation, (A.) or the Anointed as its representative, bears in the bosom, feeling its wound deeply, but giving no outward token of pain by complaint. But the LXX. and Vulgate are nearer to the original in their reading, for they do not attempt to fill in the ellipse (if it be such) of the second clause: and they read, which I have borne in my bosom, of many peoples. The literal Hebrew is, I have borne in my bosom all many peoples. And this phrase, to “bear in the bosom,”* implies elsewhere fostering tenderness, as of a mother, not secret repression, (C.) as it must do here if we repeat the word rebuke. A different rendering, somewhat more satisfactory, makes the many people the same as the servants, but although this is truer to the spiritual meaning of the passage, it yet overlooks the contrast obviously intended between the one nation which serves God and the many nations which do not. Hence, a modern critic has suggested that the words may fairly be taken as a complaint of the Jewish nation at the intrusion of a number of foreign invaders,* settling on the sacred soil of the Holy Land, whom she was thus forced to bear in her bosom. But this again loses sight of the loving sense of that phrase. The truest meaning, that which at once seems to agree most fully with the Hebrew text and with the mystical purport, is half guessed at by one mediæval expositor, (R.) who points out that the rebuke, the special charge of the Jews against the Anointed One and His servants the Apostles, was precisely that He did not confine His teaching and the divine promises to the children of Israel alone,* but that in His embracing love He bore in His bosom all the peoples, the whole multitude of the Gentiles, converting them to the Faith, and co-opting them into the commonwealth of the true Israel. With this rebuke they slandered the footsteps of the Anointed, because He bent His way to “bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.”* And so we read that the Pharisees and chief priests, when they sent officers to take Him, said, as the worst calumny they could frame against Him, “Will He go to the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?”* But the Rabbinical comment on the verse is different, and very ingenious. It is that the Gentiles rebuke the footsteps of Messiah,* because of His delay; that is, they mock and jeer at the Hebrews for looking to the coming of a Deliverer who is so tardy that there is little reason to suppose that He will ever appear. And the same interpretation applies to those unbelievers now who reject the doctrine of Christ’s second Advent,* as the Apostle teaches us: “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” But the LXX. and Vulgate, instead of the footsteps, read the changing of Thine Anointed. And for the most part they explain this to mean the passage of Christ from life to death, the fatal change which thereby, as the Jews thought, came upon the fortunes of the new teaching, so that they reproached the disciples for worshipping a dead man, just as the Assyrian conquerors mocked at the changed prospects of the Davidic kings,* after the overthrow of their realm. Yet that change which Christ’s enemies mocked at was widely different from what they supposed; (A.) for He was changed from temporal to everlasting life, from Jews to Gentiles, from earth to heaven; and thereby He changed the old man by calling him unto the new grace of regeneration, (C.) and out of the darkness of sin into the light of faith, from mortality to immortality. And this change of life,* wrought by repentance through grace, inducing men to abandon pleasure and accept hardship, to care little for life, and to welcome death, (Ay.) is precisely the thing most jeered at and reviled by unbelievers. S. Albert counts up for us the principal changes of Christ; namely,* the Incarnation, whereby the Creator became a creature; the Transfiguration, which glorified His humility; the Holy Eucharist, wherein He changes bread and wine into His Flesh and Blood (the chief of all reproaches levelled at the Catholic Faith;) the Passion, wherein He was changed into the pallor of death; the Resurrection, which brought Him back to life. Yet, (L.) again, change may be taken in the sense of price, or equivalent, a meaning often borne by the LXX. ἀντάλλαγμα, and the force will then be the ridicule levelled against the Jews by idolaters,* for the poor thanks their God gave them for serving Him; a reproach still cast by unbelievers on the doctrine of our ransom through the Blood of Christ.* Some commentators, however, give an explanation which brings us back to the truest sense,* telling us that the wrath of the Jews was mainly excited by those words of the Lord,* “Behold your house is left unto you desolate,” whereby He. implied what was said later in express terms by His Apostles, “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”*

Praised be the Lord for evermore. Amen, and Amen.

With this doxology ends the Third Book of the Psalter,* just as a similar one closed the first book at the end of Psalm 41, (Ay.) and the second at the end of Psalm 72,* and it is supposed by many writers to belong to the book collectively, and not to be an integral part of this particular Psalm. It reminds us, observes S. Augustine, (A.) that the power of injury exercised by the adversary against the Anointed of the Lord is fleeting, but the power and goodness of the Lord is everlasting. It teaches us also that our own sorrows and troubles are no reason for omitting the praises of God,* but rather a reason for doubling them, as is here done by the forcible repetition of Amen,* wherewith we welcome our returning Lord,* as He comes victorious from the battle, with recovered crown and firmly established throne.* Praised be the Lord Jesus by His twofold Church of Jew and Gentile,* Amen, Amen; with the double service of soul and body,* Amen, Amen; by all His saints in the hour of grace and in the time of glory in this world and the world to come,* Amen, (Lu.) Amen.

And therefore:

Glory be to the Father, the Lord God of Hosts; glory be to the Son, His First-born and Anointed, higher than the kings of the earth; glory be to the Holy Ghost, the Light of the Countenance of God and the holy oil of His elect.

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


Gregorian. Friday: Matins. [Christmas Day: III. Nocturn. Transfiguration: III. Nocturn.]

Monastic. Friday: Matins. [Christmas Day: II. Nocturn. Transfiguration: II. Nocturn.]

Ambrosian. Wednesday of Second Week: III. Nocturn. [Christmas Day: II. Nocturn. Epiphany (ver. 26 to end:) I. Nocturn.]

Parisian. Thursday: Matins.

Lyons. Friday: Matins. [Christmas Day: III. Nocturn.]

Quignon. Thursday: Matins.


Gregorian and Monastic. Praised * be the Lord for evermore. [Christmas Day: He shall call Me. Alleluia. Thou art My Father. Alleluia. Transfiguration: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy Name,* Thou hast a mighty arm.]

Ambrosian. Thy truth shalt Thou stablish in the heavens. [Christmas Day: I will make Him My firstborn * higher than the kings of the earth. Epiphany: I will set His hand in the sea,* and his right hand in the floods.]

Parisian. O Lord,* they shall walk in the light of Thy countenance, their delight shall be daily in Thy Name: and in Thy righteousness shall they make their boast.

Lyons. As Gregorian. [Christmas Day: First section: Righteousness and equity, Alleluia,* are the habitation of Thy seat, Alleluia. Second section: He shall call Me, Alleluia,* Thou art My Father, Alleluia. Third section: His seat is like as the sun before Me, Alleluia,* and as the moon perfect for ever, Alleluia.]

Mozarabic. Thy truth shalt Thou stablish in the heavens, O Lord.


Deliver our souls, O Lord,* from the hand of hell; Who for us didst mightily break hell in pieces, that we, singing Thy mercies, may be delivered from the shame of our sins and from everlasting death. (1.)

Christ Jesu,* Wondrous Son of God, unto Whom there is none equal nor like amongst the sons of God; unto Thee, O Lord, we direct our prayer, that Thou mayest vouchsafe to bestow on penitents that mercy which Thou hast promised to keep for the saints; and we therefore beseech Thee to correct us with forbearing discipline, not taking away Thy mercy in Thy wrath, that Thy covenant may not be profaned by reason of the offence we have committed, but Thy chastisement may be assuaged with heavenly pity, and Thou mayest wash away all that displeaseth Thee. And Thou, Who justifiest and glorifiest sinners who return to Thee, and Who didst will that we should be, out of nothing, what we are, grant us to be fitted for the kingdom of heaven and to dwell with Thee for evermore. (11.)

O God, (D. C.) the glory of the strength of the saints, grant us ever to walk in the light of Thy countenance, and to rejoice in Thy Name, that Thy mercy may ever go before our face, and we, when we have run the race of righteousness to the end, may be enabled to attain unto Thee. (1.)

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St Rober Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalms 9

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 6, 2016

Note: In his commentary St Robert followed the Septuagint and Vulgate which treated Psalms 9 and 10 as a single, unified piece. Although most modern scholars contend that this is correct, most modern translations continue to separate this psalm into two pieces (following the Massoretic text). To avoid confusion I too will follow the modern division. One should also be aware that verse numbering of the psalms can differ. This is due to the fact that some scholars/translations give a verse number to psalm titles, others do not.

Psalm 9

Ps 9:1 Unto the end, for the hidden things of the Son. A psalm for David.

Ps 9:2 I will give praise to thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: I will relate all thy wonders.

The matter of the Psalm is here proposed, viz., the praise of God for his wonderful works. The words, “With my whole heart,” signify the subject to be praised is one of the highest importance, and, therefore, to be done with all his might and affections. The words, “All thy wonders” imply that the subject of his praise is so expansive as to comprehend in one view all the wonderful works of God. Such, in reality, was the redemption of man; a work of infinite mercy, in which are comprehended all the beneficent acts of God, as the apostle has it, Ephesians 1, “To establish all things in Christ;” that is, to comprehend, to reduce everything into one sum through him.

Ps 9:3 I will be glad, and rejoice in thee: I will sing to thy name, O thou most high.

The same sentiment, in different language, or, perhaps, rather an explanation; as if he said, with exultation and joy will I confess to thee, with joy in my heart and exultation in my exterior, thus confessing with all my affections. Playing on the harp before thee, O Most High, will I relate all thy wonders, chanting them to thy glory.

Ps 9:4 When my enemy shall be turned back: they shall be weakened, and perish before thy face.

He begins to narrate the victory of Christ over the devil and his satellites, and speaks in the person of the entire Church. “When my enemy shall be turned back,” that means, when my enemy, the devil, flying from your face, shall begin to turn back, then all his soldiers “Shall be weakened, and perish;” that is to say, the moment they see their leader to fly, they will become unnerved, will fly, scatter as if they had been actually destroyed. Of such flight the Lord himself speaks in the gospel, Jn. 12, “Now is the judgment of the world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”

Ps 9:5 For thou hast maintained my judgment and my cause: thou hast sat on the throne, who judgest justice.

A reason assigned for the devil’s flight and the scattering of his forces; for you, my Lord, the Son of God, “hast maintained my judgment and my cause;” that is, you have put an end to the litigation, the struggle, and the contest between mankind, or the Church and the devil. For the devil maintained that mankind was justly held in bondage by him, and therefore harassed it in a most tyrannical manner, until Christ, by his sufferings on the cross, thereby atoning for man, put an end to the struggle; hence the expression, “Thou hast sat on the throne, who judgest justice,” meaning the cross, as St. Leo has it, in his eighth Sermon on the Passion of our Lord: “O unspeakable glory of the passion, in which are united the judgment seat of God, the judgment of the world, and the power of the crucified;” and these are in reality the occult things of the Son, which by some are prefixed as a title to this Psalm. For he who, to all appearance, seemed to be guilty and was suffering punishment in the greatest ignominy, at that very moment was sitting on his throne, “judged justice,” that is, judged most justly, inasmuch as now that the price had been paid, man was delivered, and the devil despoiled of his dominion over him, and actually, as the apostle has it, Col. 2, “Blotting out the handwriting of the decree which was against us, which was contrary to us, and the same he took out of the way, fastening it to the cross.”

Ps 9:6 Thou hast rebuked the Gentiles, and the wicked one hath perished; thou hast blotted out their name for ever and ever.

The devil having been subdued through the cross, Christ our Lord, through his apostles, “rebuked the gentiles,” “convicting the world of sin, of justice, and of judgment,” as the Lord himself foretold: and in such manner “The wicked one hath perished;” that is the wickedness of idolatry perished, and man from impiety was brought to love God. Which was effected not only among the impious of that time, but Christ so entirely destroyed idolatry and the religion of the gentiles forever, that it can never appear again, having been plucked out from the roots. A thing we see already fulfilled, the Jews themselves, who were most prone to idolatry, having never attempted to return to it. “Forever and ever,” to signify true, real eternity, having no end, for fear any one should suppose that a very long time, but still a definite one, was intended.

Ps 9:7 The swords of the enemy have failed unto the end: and their cities thou hast destroyed. Their memory hath perished with a noise:

A reason assigned for idolatry not being likely to return, inasmuch as the power of the devil and his strongholds had disappeared, and he has no means of carrying on an offensive or a defensive warfare, “His swords having failed”—“unto the end;” that is, thoroughly, without a single exception—not one remaining. By “the swords of the enemy” we may also understand the temptations, or suggestions, which may be looked upon as the words of the devil, in the same sense that the apostle calls the word of God, “The sword of the Spirit.” The same apostle calls the temptations of the devil, “weapons of fire;” and such weapons are said “to have failed,” because they cannot injure those armed in the faith of Jesus Christ. In which sense, St. Anthony, in his life of St. Athanasius, quoted this very passage, proving therefrom that the temptations of the devil are most easily repulsed by the sign of the cross. By “their cities” may be understood all infidels, in whom the devil dwells without disturbance; these were destroyed by Christ when he put down idolatry. Our Lord himself seems to have this in view when he says, in Lk. 11, “When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things which he possessed are in peace. But if a stronger than he come upon him, and overcome him, he will take away all his armor, wherein he trusted, and will distribute his spoils.” When the devil held possession, everything he possessed was in peace; because, while man is in a state of infidelity, he is always in the power of the devil, however morally good his life may have been, as has been the case with many pagan philosophers. But Christ, having got possession, by the extirpation of infidelity and the introduction of the knowledge of the true God, the devil lost his all. “Their memory has perished with a noise;” that is to say, the memory of idolatry, idolaters, and of the whole kingdom of Satan has perished amidst much noise and confusion. For the whole world resisted Christ; the most powerful kings and emperors sought to stand up for and defend their idols; but the more the world raged, the more idolatry tottered, and the remembrance of it was being blotted out; and, finally, the cessation of persecution was succeeded by a total destruction of idolatry.

Ps 9:8 But the Lord remaineth for ever. He hath prepared his throne in judgment:

Christ’s memory, on the contrary, will never fade after his death and resurrection. “All power in heaven and on earth was given to him,” which David alludes to here; as if he said, after such contest with the devil, the Lord “Hath prepared,” or, as the Hebrew has it, established “His throne in judgment;” that is, for the purpose of judging; and he, the Prince of the kings of the earth, “Shall judge the world;” meaning the people of the whole world, “In equity and justice,” two words used synonymously. Christ is said to sit in judgment on the world, though there may be many wicked and infidel princes in the world in rebellion against him, but who can, however, devise nothing—do nothing against his will and permission.

Ps 9:9 And he shall judge the world in equity, he shall judge the people in justice.
Ps 9:10 And the Lord is become a refuge for the poor: a helper in due time in tribulation.

From the fact of Christ’s being the future ruler, to govern with supreme justice, he infers the poor, who are usually oppressed by the great, will have great consolation. Let the poor fear no longer, for the Lord, sitting in heaven, “Is become a refuge” to them; and, furthermore, “A helper in due time in tribulation;” that is, when necessity may require it. For the divine help never comes so opportunely, as when we are overwhelmed in trouble, with no human being to console us; and this promise will be most surely fulfilled to all who truly seek and fear God; and therefore, he adds:

Ps 9:11 And let them trust in thee who know thy name: for thou hast not forsaken them that seek thee, O Lord.

The prophet speaks now in the third, instead of the first person, a thing he often does, from some new inspiration. With great justice can all “Who know your name;” that is to say, not only by the sound of it, but in reality; and fully understand the significance of it, and thence know the power and the mercy of God, put their confidence in you in all their difficulties. Much more so can your friends, “Since thou hast not forsaken;” that is, you never have forsaken “Those that seek thee.” By those “That seek him” he means those that covet his grace, and with all their heart seek to please him.

Ps 9:12 Sing ye to the Lord, who dwelleth in Sion: declare his ways among the Gentiles:

After a fervent appeal to God, he makes one to man in the same spirit; exhorting them too, to praise God, and to bring others to do so. The Lord is said “To dwell in Sion,” for there was the “Ark of the testament,” and “The place of prayer;” and this is put in here by way of apposition, that the true God may be distinguished from the false, who dwell in caves and the shrines of the gentiles. The word “ways” comprehends the thoughts, counsels, plans, inventions, the wonderful works of God, that are so resplendent in the redemption of man. Thus the meaning of the whole verse is: Sing to God a hymn of praise; announce to the gentiles his wonderful designs, his wonderful wisdom; and, in consequence, his wonderful works, that all nations, when they hear them, may unite in his praise.

Ps 9:13 For requiring their blood, he hath remembered them: he hath not forgotten the cry of the poor.

The prophet returns to what he previously asserted: namely, that the Lord was a “Just Judge,” the “Refuge of the poor in tribulation;” and takes up an objection that may be possibly raised, to wit, the fact of our seeing the poor, however pious, persecuted by the wealthy, sometimes even unto death. The answer is, “Praise God,” says he, “for though he sometimes seems to forget his poor,” such is not the case. “For requiring;” that is to say, inquiring into their daily actions, and examining them severally. “Their blood he hath remembered, he hath not forgotten the cry of the poor,” who, in their persecutions, had appealed to him; which recollection of their sufferings will appear in its own time, when the punishment of the oppressors and the glory of the oppressed shall be declared.

Ps 9:14 Have mercy on me, O Lord: see my humiliation which I suffer from my enemies.

Having thanked God for past favors, he now asks his assistance, in present and future difficulties. The prayer of the Church against her visible and invisible enemies. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, see my humiliation,” that is, my total prostration, caused by my enemies.

Ps 9:15 Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death, that I may declare all thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion.

The first part of this verse has a connection with the verse preceding. The meaning is, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, see my humiliation;” you, O Lord, “That liftest me up from the gates of death,” meaning you that keep me far removed from the gates of death. Those gates are supposed to be very deep; for the prophet does not allude to the death of the body, but to the death of the soul by sin, or everlasting death; and, therefore, he makes use of the word “Exalt,” to be far removed from the said gates. By the “Gates of death,” or of hell, the multitude of our infernal enemies would seem to be implied. The great body of the Jewish people were wont to assemble at the gates, whether for matters of justice or any other public business, and thus the word “Gates” got to signify a large assemblage of the people. Hence, we have in Matthew, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against her;” and in the last chapter of Ecclesiasticus, “From the gates of tribulation that have encompassed me.” And here we may note the beauty of the contrast between the gates of death, and the gates of the daughter of Sion or Jerusalem; the former are in the lowest bottom; the latter, on a high mountain: in the former are assembled the evil spirits; in the latter the people of God: from the gates of the former come forth nothing but temptations and war, that lead to death; the gates of the latter “Are built on peace;” for Jerusalem “Has put peace as its boundary;” and it is named as “The vision of peace.” The Church, then, “Is lifted up from the gates of death,” to announce God’s praise, “In the gates of the daughter of Sion;” which means being delivered from all temptations that may lead her to eternal death; to acknowledge the great grace conferred on her by her liberator, and to praise him with the Angels of God, who are in the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Ps 9:16 I will rejoice in thy salvation: the Gentiles have stuck fast in the destruction which they prepared. Their foot hath been taken in the very snare which they hid.

Having been liberated from the “gates of death,” “I will rejoice in thy salvation;” that is, in the salvation you bestowed on me; since “the gentiles who laid a snare for me” have been caught in the very snare they laid, as they would in the deepest mud, from whence they cannot extricate themselves; in other words, their persecution did much harm to them, none to me; and the same may be said not only of their open and avowed persecution, but also of their private persecution, which, “like a snare, they laid for me.” May be too, that the avowed persecutions of Diocletian and others of the Roman emperors, and the disguised persecutions of Julian the Apostate, and other heretical emperors, are here intended.

Ps 9:17 The Lord shall be known when he executeth judgments: the sinner hath been caught in the works of his own hands.

From this wonderful dispensation of Providence, who turns the arms and the wiles of the wicked on themselves, David gathers that God will come to be known. “The Lord shall be known when he executeth judgment;” that is, his judgments will be so admired that he will be known to be the true and supreme God; and mainly, through his providence in causing the sinner “to be caught in the works of his own hands:” namely, when he falls into “the destruction he had prepared for others,” and “the snare which he had hid for them.”

Ps 9:18 The wicked shall be turned into hell, all the nations that forget God.

To be taken as a prophecy, not as an imprecation. “Shall be turned,” means in the Hebrew, “shall return;” which is applied to sinners, inasmuch as the devil, when he seduced them, made them his slaves; and, therefore, they will return to him. For God created man in innocence: the devil made him a sinner. As our Savior, in Jn. 8, says, “You are from your father, the devil.” The latter part of the verse, “all the nations that forget God,” declares who the sinners are that “will return to hell:” namely, all those “who forget God.” For the forgetting of God is the root of all sin; for he who sins turns away from God unto the creature.

Ps 9:19 For the poor man shall not be forgotten to the end: the patience of the poor shall not perish for ever.

Sinners, therefore, who are in the habit of oppressing the poor will be cast into hell; for God, sooner or later, will avenge their wrongs; for, though he may seem to forget them for a time, “he does not forget them to the end,” but will one time remember them; and, therefore, “the patience of the poor shall not perish forever.” When the patience of the poor is said not to perish, it does not mean that their patience in itself will be everlasting; but that it will in its effects, inasmuch as its reward will be everlasting.

Ps 9:20 Arise, O Lord, let not man be strengthened: let the Gentiles be judged in thy sight.

Having predicted the final ruin of the wicked, he now asks for their coercion. “Arise, O Lord, let not man be strengthened;” that is, let not man, a handful of dust, prevail against God, his Creator. “Let the gentiles be judged in thy sight;” meaning, let judgment issue against them, as we have in another Psalm, “Judge them, O God.”

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 8

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 6, 2016

Psalm 8

Ps 8:1 Unto the end, for the presses: a psalm for David.

Ps 8:2 O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is thy name in the whole earth! For thy magnificence is elevated above the heavens.

Reflecting on God’s greatness, the prophet is wrapped in admiration at the idea of a God, so great in himself, condescending to look upon or to heap such and so many favors on man, a thing of dust and ashes. “O Lord,” says he, who art the source of all being, whence all created things are derived; and, therefore, “Our Lord,” that is to say, thou art Lord of all, “how admirable is thy name in the whole earth!” how wonderful is thy glory, or the good fame of thy name diffused through the whole world, to the great admiration of all who care to reflect on it. Isaias, chap. 6, says the same in other language: “The whole earth is full of his glory.” He calls the name of God admirable, because though the admirers may be few, when few reflect on God’s works; however, the name is most worthy of admiration when all creatures constantly praise the Creator in the sense that all beautiful productions are said to praise the producer, and in such wise the whole earth is full of the glory of God; for whatever is on earth, even to the minutest particle, declares the infinite power and wisdom of the Creator. “For thy magnificence is elevated above the heavens.” A reason why God’s name should be so admirable on earth, inasmuch as his magnificence is elevated above the heavens, that is, cannot be contained by them; it is such that the whole world cannot contain it. “His glory covered the heavens, and the earth is full of his praise,” Habacuc chap. 3. The magnificence of great princes is estimated from their expensive manner of living, their building great cities or palaces, their keeping up great retinues or armies, or their distribution of great presents. God created the universe for a palace, having the earth for its pavement, the heavens for its roof. He feeds all living things, who are beyond counting. He has already bestowed on the angels and saints, who are the most numerous, and will hereafter on the just, a most ample kingdom, not temporal but eternal. Truly great, then, is his magnificence.

Ps 8:3 Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings thou hast perfected praise, because of thy enemies, that thou mayst destroy the enemy and the avenger.

An answer to an objection likely to be raised. If the glory of God so fill the earth and his magnificence be elevated above the heavens, how comes it that all do not know and praise him? The answer is, that God does not condescend to be known or praised by the proud, who presume on their own strength, but by the humble and the little ones, according to Mt. 11, “I confess to thee, Father, because thou hast hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones.” Hence, God’s glory and greatness are greatly increased, when he is known only by those he wishes should know him. This verse may have a double meaning. First, to understand infants and sucklings as meaning mankind, who really are such, when compared to the Angels, when there is question of understanding divine matters; and the sense would be from the mouth of mortals you have perfected praise, revealing your glory to them, “because of thy enemies;” that is, to confound the rebellious angels. “That thou mayest destroy the enemy and the avenger;” that is, that you may outwit the wisdom of your primary enemy, the devil, and his defenders, or avengers, the host of his followers, the reprobate angels. Secondly, by “infants and sucklings,” may be understood humble people, little ones in their own eyes, and not versed in the science of the world; like many of the prophets and apostles, and a great number of monks and holy virgins, and mere children too, who, in early years, have so perfectly understood the glory of God, that they had no hesitation in spilling their blood for it. In such sense did our Savior quote this very Psalm, Mt. 21, “Have you never read that from the mouth of infants and sucklings he hath perfected praise?” By enemies are meant the wise ones of this world, and their apologists, who, with all their knowledge of God, have not glorified him as such, and, therefore, “became vain in their thoughts,” as St. Paul expresses it.

Ps 8:4 For I will behold thy heavens, the works of thy fingers: the moon and the stars which thou hast founded.

Holy David ranks himself here among the infants and sucklings praising God; as if he were to say, here is one, a humble shepherd, to chant your praise. “For I will behold the heavens;” that is, I will attentively consider that wonderful work of yours, and praise you the Creator of such a work. He makes use of the phrase, “the works of thy fingers;” as much as to say, formed by your fingers, not by your arms, to show with what facility they were created by God; and furthermore, that valuable and precious works, not requiring labor but skill, are generally the work of the fingers and not of the arms. Mention is not made of the sun here, for it was mostly at night that David would so turn to contemplation; that being the time most meet for it. “At midnight I rose to confess to thee,” Ps. 118; and in Ps. 62, “I will meditate on thee in the morning;” and Isaias, chap. 62. “My soul hath longed for thee in the night.” It is at night that the heavens are seen embellished with the moon and stars, “Which thou hast founded;” all created from nothing, raised by you from the foundation without having had any previous existence.

Ps 8:5 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?

The greatness of God, in himself, having been established, he now proceeds to extol his greatness towards man. “What is man,” that you, the Creator of heaven and earth, deign to remember him? as if he said the greatest favor possible to be conferred on man, who is mere dust and ashes, is the bare remembrance of him by God; and as such remembrance is not a naked one, but with a view to confer favors on man, he adds, by way of explanation, “or the son of man that thou visitest him?” Man, and the son of man, mean the same, unless one would raise an uncalled for distinction, by saying that the words, “son of man,” are used to show the divine favors were not conferred on the first man to the exclusion of his posterity. The word “visitest him,” implies the special providence God has for all men, especially that which he displayed, by coming into the world, assuming human flesh, “being seen on earth, and conversing among men,” Baruch 3. Such is, properly speaking, the visitation alluded to in Lk. 1. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who has visited and redeemed his people;” and subsequently, same chapter, “The orient from on high hath visited us.” Such visitation could not but elicit, “What is man that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man that thou visitest him?”

Ps 8:6 Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour:

This verse has a double meaning, a literal and an allegorical. In the literal sense, three favors of God to the human race are enumerated. First, being created by God of so noble a nature as to be very little less than that of the Angels. Secondly, to be so distinguished in honor and glory beyond all other creatures, inasmuch as he has been made to the image and likeness of God, and endowed with reason and free will. Thirdly, from the power and dominion over all things, especially animals, that have been conferred by God upon him; and, therefore, he adds:

Ps 8:7 And hast set him over the works of thy hands.
Ps 8:8 Thou hast subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen: moreover, the beasts also of the fields.
Ps 8:9 The birds of the air, and the fishes of the sea, that pass through the paths of the sea.

By sheep and oxen are meant all domestic animals: by the beasts of the field are meant wild animals. The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, are easily understood, including the monsters as well as the fish of the sea. To come now to the allegorical sense of the preceding verses, which is quite certain, and intended by God, if we believe St. Paul, in Heb. 2, and 1 Cor. 15, the meaning is, that Christ, man, by that most remarkable visitation of God; that is to say, by the incarnation of the Word, was made less than the Angels in some degree, by his passion, as would appear from the Angels coming to comfort him in his passion, whereas Angels are immortal, and exempt from all suffering; and, however, Christ suffered and died then and there. Absolutely speaking, however, Christ was always superior to the Angels, and superior in every respect. That was shown clearly, when he “was crowned with honor and glory;” that is to say, when in his resurrection in a glorious and immortal body, and by his wonderful ascension, he was exalted above all God’s works, to the right hand of his Father. All things are subject to him, without exception, “except him” as the apostle, 1 Cor. 13, says, “Who has subjected everything to him.” His principal subjects are, first, human beings, believers, included in “sheep and oxen,” subjects and prelates; and unbelievers, under the head of “The beasts of the field.” “Then Angels, superior to mankind, come under the head of the birds of the air, that rise aloft, and constantly chant the praises of God. Finally, the fishes of the sea represent the evil spirits, who, from the lowest abyss are insensible to God’s praise, and revel in the meanest and lowest dissipation.

Ps 8:10 O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is thy name in the whole earth!

A repetition of the first verse, as if he said, how justly I set out with the exclamation, “O Lord our Lord, how admirable is thy name in all the earth.”

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 19

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 22, 2016

Ps 19:2 The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands.

Being about to institute a comparison between the law of God and his heavens, and thence to extol his law, he sets out by saying, that such are the grandeur of the heavens, that they at once proclaim the grandeur of their Maker. The heavens show forth the glory of God;” that is to say, the heavens preeminently, beyond all the other works of God, by their grandeur and beauty make his glory known to us; “and the firmament declareth the work of his hands.” The same repeated, for heavens and firmament signify the same thing, namely, the whole celestial display, consisting of son, moon, stars, etc., for we read in Genesis, that “God called the firmament heaven,” and in it placed the sun, moon, and stars. The word “heaven,” and “heavens,” are used indiscriminately in the Psalms, and governed by verbs in the plural, as well as the singular number, as are all nouns of multitude. The firmament, comprising all the heavenly bodies, announces and declares to men the work of the hands of God; that is his principal and most beautiful work, from which we may form some idea of his greatness and his glory.

Ps 19:3 Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night sheweth knowledge.

What a beautiful announcement is that of God’s glory by the heavens. For three reasons. First because they announce it incessantly. Second, because they do it in the language of all nations. Third, because they announce it to the whole world. How do they do it incessantly? This verse shows us how, for the heavens announce his glory day and night by the beauty of the sun in the day, and that of the stars by night; but as the days and nights pass away, and are succeeded by others, the Psalmist most beautifully and poetically imagines one day having performed his course, and spent it in announcing the glory of God, and then hands over the duty to the following day to do likewise; and so with the night, having done her part, gives in charge to the following night to do the same; and thus, “Day to day uttereth speech:” when its course has run, it warns the following to be ready, “And night to night indicates knowledge.” When the night too has finished her task of praising God, she warns the following to be ready for the duty; and thus, without intermission, without interruption, day and night fall in, and lead the choir in chanting the praises of their Creator.

Ps 19:4 There are no speeches nor languages, where their voices are not heard.

He now proves that the preaching of the heavens is delivered in all languages, that is to say, can be understood by all nations, as if the heavens spoke in the language of every one of them: because all nations, when they behold the beauty and the excellence of the heavens, cannot but understand the excellence and the superiority of him who made them.

Ps 19:5 Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the world.

The third source of praise of the eloquence of the heavens is, that they announce God’s glory, not only without intermission, and in all languages, but they do it, furthermore, all over the world. By sound is not meant noise, but the announcement of that glory that arises from beholding the beauty of the heavenly bodies. “Into all the earth,” and “Into the ends of the world,” mean the same, and is only a repetition of frequent use in the Psalms. St. Paul quotes this passage in proof of the preaching of Christ having reached all nations; from which we are to understand, that the apostles are allegorically meant here by the heavens. And in truth, the holy apostles and other holy preachers of the word, may deservedly be so compared to the heavens. For, by contemplation they are raised above the earth, ample through their charity, splendid through their wisdom, always serene through their peace of mind, through their intelligence quickly moved by obedience, thundering in their reproofs, flashing by their miracles, profuse in their gifts to others; and, in the spirit of true liberality, seeking nothing from them; free from the slightest speck, as regards sanctity of life; and, finally, the resting place of the supreme king, by reason of their perfect sanctity. “For the soul of the just is the seat of wisdom.”

19:6 He hath set his tabernacle in the sun: and he as a bridegroom coming out of his bridechamber, Hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way:

Though the whole heavens declare the glory of God, the most splendid object in them, the sun, does so especially. The sun, then, being the most excellent object in the entire world, there God “Set his tabernacle.” He calls it a tabernacle, not a house, because he dwells there only for a while, during this short time of our peregrination, when we see him “Through a glass,” the glass of creatures, of which the sun is the principal. But when we shall come to our country, we shall see God, not “In his tabernacle in the sun,” but in his own home, the home of eternity. The prophet proves that God “Set his tabernacle in the sun,” by three arguments: the first, derived from its beauty, the second, from its strength, the third, from its beneficence. “And he as a bridegroom coming out of his bride chamber.” Here is the argument from his beauty. He rises, beautiful, bright, ornamented as a bridegroom in his wedding garments; and what can be grander, more beautiful, or more striking than the rising sun?

Ps 19:7 His going out is from the end of heaven, And his circuit even to the end thereof: and there is no one that can hide himself from his heat.

A second argument front the sun’s power and strength, which performs an immeasurable journey daily at such speed, without the smallest fatigue. “He rejoiced as a giant,” or as a stout, robust person, full of alacrity, (for such is the force of the Hebrew,) such as is peculiar to those who enter on anything with pleasure. “His going out is from the end of heaven, and his circuit even to the end thereof.” By the end of heaven is meant the east, for there he rises, and never stops till he comes there again; and thus, “His circuit is even to the end thereof: and there is no one that can hide himself from his heat.” The last argument, taken from the service rendered unto all created things by the sun. For the sun, by his enlivening heat, so fosters and nourishes all things, that he may be called the common parent of all things, on land and in the sea. Hence, the sun so assiduously and carefully traverses the entire globe, visits all creation, “That nothing can hide itself;” that is, lose a share of his wonderful favors.

Ps 19:8 The law of the Lord is unspotted, converting souls: the testimony of the Lord is faithful, giving wisdom to little ones.

The comparison is now applied. Beautiful are the heavens, more beautiful is the sun, but far and away more beautiful is the law of the Lord. Bright are the heavens, more bright is the sun, but much more bright is the law of the Lord. Useful are the heavens to man, more useful is the sun, but more useful than any is the law of the Lord. He then enumerates six encomiums of the divine law. First, “The law of the Lord is unspotted, converting souls.” Most beautiful is the law of the Lord, without spot, without stain tolerating nothing sinful, as the laws of man do; and thus, when properly studied and considered, brings the soul to love it, and consequently to love God, its author. The second encomium is in the words, “The testimony of the Lord is faithful, giving wisdom to little ones.” By “testimony” we are to understand the same law, because, in the Scriptures, and especially in the Psalms, God’s law is not only called the law, the precept, the commandment, and the like, which other writers also apply to it; but is further styled the testimony, the justice, the justification, the judgment, as any one can see, especially in Psalm 118. It is called the “testimony,” because it bears testimony to men, what the will of God is, what he requires of us, what punishments he has in store for the wicked, what rewards for the just. He says then, “The testimony of the Lord is faithful;” that is, God’s law, that will most assuredly reward the good and punish the wicked. “Giving wisdom to little ones;” that means, giving to the poor in understanding the light of prudence to direct them in doing good, and avoiding evil. By “little ones” he means those who do not abound in the wisdom of the world; and by “wisdom” he means that spiritual prudence that helps us to reform our habits, and mould them to the shape of the law of God.

Ps 19:9 The justices of the Lord are right, rejoicing hearts: the commandment of the Lord is lightsome, enlightening the eyes.

The third encomium on the divine law is, that once we begin to love it, of which the first encomium treats, and to observe it, as treated of in the second, it diffuses a most extraordinary joy in the person, for nothing can be pleasanter than a good conscience. “The justices of the Lord;” that is, his law, his commandments, being most just, and making the observer of them just, “are right” and gladful; that is, “rejoicing the hearts;” for upright hearts harmonize with “right” precepts; and they, therefore, are glad, and rejoice when an occasion offers for the observance of the commandments. The fourth encomium is, “The commandment of the Lord is lightsome, enlightening the eyes.” The law of the Lord, through the bright light of divine wisdom, illuminates our intellectual vision, because it makes us understand God’s will, and what is really good and really bad. God’s law illuminates also in a preparatory manner, for wisdom will not approach the malevolent soul; and nothing proves such an obstacle to our knowing God, which is the essence of wisdom, as impurity of heart. “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.”

Ps 19:10 The fear of the Lord is holy, enduring for ever and ever: the judgments of the Lord are true, justified in themselves.

The fifth encomium is, that the law of the Lord causes the above named goods to be not only temporal but eternal; for the fear of the Lord, that makes one tremble at the idea of offending God, “endures forever and ever:” as to its reward, the rewards to be had from the observance of the law do not terminate with death, but hold forever, as he says in Psalm 9, “The patience of the poor shall not perish forever.” Both Greek and Hebrew imply, that the fear spoken of here is not that of a slave, but that of a child, without any admixture of servility; that of which Psalm 111 speaks, “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord; he shall delight exceedingly in his commandments.” For he who works from servile fear does not observe the commandments freely, but unwillingly; but he who is influenced by filial fear “Delights exceedingly in his commandments;” that is, is most anxious and desirous to observe them. The last encomium is, that the law of the Lord, being true and just in itself, needs no justification from any other quarter. “The judgments of the Lord are true, justified in themselves.” “The judgments of the Lord”—meaning his commandments, because through them God judges man, and they are the standard and the rule whereby to distinguish virtue from vice, and good works from bad—“are justified in themselves;” they require no one to prove they are just, the pure fact of their being God’s commands being quite sufficient for it. Along with that, the ten commandments, that are mainly alluded to here being nothing more than the principles of the natural law, so abound in justice, that they hold in all times, places, and circumstances, so as to admit of no dispensation; whereas other laws are obliged to yield betimes to circumstances.

Ps 19:11 More to be desired than gold and many precious stones: and sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.

The conclusion from the foregoing. Since God’s law is so good, so much preferable to all the riches and delicacies of this world, for they are “More to be desired than gold and many precious stones: and sweeter than honey and the honey comb;” that is, not only sweeter than honey itself, but sweeter than it is in its purest state, when it is overflowing the honeycomb. The word honey comb is introduced to correspond with the words, “many precious stones,” in the first part of the verse. How far removed is this truth from the ideas of the carnal! What a number of such people to be found who, for a small lucre, or a trifling gratification, are ready to despise God’s commandments! And yet, nothing can be more true than that the observance of God’s law is of more service, and confers greater happiness than any amount of wealth or worldly pleasure.

Ps 19:12 For thy servant keepeth them, and in keeping them there is a great reward.

He proves by an example, or rather by his own experience, the truth of what he asserted. For, says he, your servant knows it by his own experience, having received innumerable favors from you, so long as he observed your commandments.

Ps 19:13 Who can understand sins? from my secret ones cleanse me, O Lord:

Having stated that he observed the commandments of God, he now corrects himself, and excepts sins of ignorance, which can hardly be guarded against, such as arise from human frailty.

Ps 19:14 And from those of others spare thy servant. If they shall have no dominion over me, then shall I be without spot: and I shall be cleansed form the greatest sin.

The meaning of “From those of others spare thy servant,” is not to ask of God to forgive us the sins of others, in which sense this passage is commonly quoted but we ask God to protect us from the company of the wicked. For men of good will, such as David was, should especially guard against being ignorant of their own offenses, and especially against being seduced by the wicked; and the meaning of the prayer is, from those of others, that is, from men of other habits, “Spare thy servant;” that is, by sparing him, keep those ill disposed people from the friendship of thy servant. He next assigns a reason for his fear of keeping up any familiarity with the wicked, for if those bad men “shall have no dominion over me,” that is to say, by their familiarity get no hold of and master me, and thus bring me to act with them, “then shall I be without spot,” and “cleansed from the greatest sin;” namely, mortal sin; for every mortal sin may be called “the greatest crime,” because it turns us away from our good and great God; and directly leads us to the fearful punishment of hell.

Ps 19:15 And the words of my mouth shall be such as may please: and the meditation of my heart always in thy sight. O Lord, my helper and my Redeemer.

Then shall I not only “be without spot,” but even the words of my mouth will be agreeable; and the hymns I chant to your praise, both with heart and voice, will be always pleasing to thee, coming as they will from a clear heart and simple mouth. May my canticles find favor with thee, through your own grace, and not through my merits; for, if I am “without spot,” “cleansed from the greatest sin,” and if my words are “such as may please,” the whole is thy gift, thy work, thy action, thou who art “my helper, my Redeemer:” my helper in prosperity, my Redeemer in adversity.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 34

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 22, 2016

An exhortation to the praise and service of God

1 This is called an alphabetical Psalm, by reason of the first verse beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, the second, with the second letter, and so on—done, possibly, that it may be easier committed to memory, and be often chanted by the faithful. He commences by returning thanks with great affection. I will never forget God’s daily kindness, I will, rather “bless him at all times,” as long as I live, and he repeats it, saying, “his praise shall be always in my mouth.” The word always does not mean every moment, every day, every night, as if one had nothing else to do; but it means that he will do so in the proper time and place, to the end of his life, nay, more, as those Psalms will be sung to the end of time, David will thus, through others, “bless the Lord at all times.” This passage may be taken also in a spiritual sense, inasmuch as the just always praise God, when they are in the receipt of his favors as well as when they are afflicted by his trials, as Job did, when he said, “The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

2 I will not be alone in blessing God for his kindness to me at all times, but others too will bless him; for, whosoever shall hear of it will praise me for having baffled that wicked king; and will, at the same time, praise and bless God, who enabled me by such cleverness to save myself from him. “In the Lord shall my soul be praised;” I will be praised by all who shall hear of it; but “in the Lord,” for he, who by his signal providence, inspired me with the true counsels, and helped me to carry them out, so as to produce the desired effect, deserves the principal praise. The Hebrew implies, that the soul, that is, the entire person, is to be praised by itself; and the meaning then is, I will glory to a great extent for this fact, not in myself, but in the Lord, through whose protection and assistance I have escaped the danger. We learn from this passage that it is not always a sin to glory, or to speak in terms of praise of our own actions, and that it is then only sinful when we praise what deserves no praise, or when we do not acknowledge God to be the primary source of all good. “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord; for not he that commendeth himself is approved, but he whom God commendeth.” The next sentence, “Let the meek hear and rejoice,” implies, that the announcement of such joy is specially made to those to whom such dangers are familiar; such as the patient and the meek, such as are often oppressed by those in power, and find a most willing helper in God. “Let the meek,” the humble, the servants of God, like me, hear what happened to me, “and rejoice,” bless God for it.

3 He directs his discourse to the meek he had just told to hear and to rejoice, and he exhorts them not only to praise God individually, but to join and unite with him in praising God. “O magnify the Lord with me.” Let us acknowledge the Lord, who alone is truly great to be really so, and he who alone is supreme, let us with our voices proclaim to be supreme, “and extol his name;” speak loudly of his knowledge and fame, of his power and majesty. God is much pleased that the faithful, not only in private, but also in public prayer in our churches, should praise and glorify him, “that with one mouth you may unanimously glorify God,” Rom. 15.

4 He now assigns a reason for wishing to bless God at all times, and that is, because he found him the best and most powerful of liberators. “I sought the Lord” when I was grievously harassed, I fled to the Lord, implored his assistance, approached him with confidence, “and he heard me” with his usual kindness and mercy; and the consequence was, that “he delivered me from all my troubles.” Saul, the king, with his own hand, and through his satellites, sought to kill me, but through God’s protection I escaped; in the hurry of my flight I could bring neither arms nor provisions with me, yet the mercy of God at once raised up Achimelech the priest, to supply me with both; soon after, by my own imprudence, I fell into the hands of Achis, king of the Philistines, but through the inspiration, help, and protection of the same God, by wonderful and unheard of stratagems, I escaped the danger. Thus God, my most kind Lord and loving Father, “has delivered me from all the troubles” that have hitherto befallen me.

5 He now commences a most beautiful and effective exhortation to love and fear God, and to cast all our solicitude on him. “Come ye to him,” or as it is in the Hebrew, “look on him.” Behold, the light of consolation and gladness, when you remove the cloud of sadness that was darkening you up; for light signifies gladness, according to Psalm 96, “Light is risen to the just, and joy to the right of heart.” The passage may also be explained in a higher and a mystical sense; “come ye to him,” through conversion, “and be enlightened,” by the grace of justification; for divine enlightenment confers spiritual life; hence, the apostle, Ephes. 5, says, “Rise thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ will enlighten thee;” and Christ himself says, “He that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life;” and in Psalm 35, “For with thee is the fountain of life, and in thy light we shall see light;” where life and light are used synonymously. Besides, Baptism was formerly called, “illumination;” because, through it, men dead in sin, were regenerated, and from the darkness of sin, come to the light of life; “come,” therefore, “to him,” by conversion and penance, and he will be converted to you; and by the brightness of his countenance, that imparts so much vitality, coming as it does, from the increate Son and source of life, he will “enlighten” and vivify you. “And your faces shall not be confounded;” come with confidence, fear no repulse, he will hear you, receive you, and will not cause the slightest blush on your countenance. The face is said to be “confounded,” when the petitioner is refused, and goes away with a blush. Thus, Bethsabee said to king Solomon, “I desire one small petition of thee, do not put me to confusion.”

6 He proves the necessity of having recourse to God when in trouble, by his own example. “This poor man,” himself, in so destitute a state, that he had to beg some food of a priest, “cried,” in faith and confidence, knocked by ardent prayer at the gate of divine mercy, and “the Lord” at once “heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”

7 He already proved by example, he now proves by reason, that we should approach God in all confidence; because the Angel of the Lord, to whom [Psalm 90] he has given the just in charge, the moment he sees the soul in danger, is at once on the spot, and, as if with an encampment, so surrounds and protects it, that it can suffer no harm. Wonderful power of the Angels! One of them, equal to an army, whence it follows that those who fear God and have such a guard in waiting on them, should feel the greatest internal peace and security.

8 He goes on with his exhortation. Having said, “Come ye to him,” and having proved by his own experience, as well as by reason, that we should come to him in time of trouble, he now exhorts us to make a trial, and to prove by experience, that the fact is so. “O taste and see that the Lord is sweet.” Try it, look at it, judge for yourselves, and see; begin to reject all other consolations, and put all your trust in God alone; and “see,” that is, know, learn, “that the Lord is sweet” to those that depend on him. And, in fact, what sweeter can be imagined than a soul full of love, with a good conscience, a pure heart, and a candid faith, reposing in the bosom of the Supreme Good. Truly “blessed is the man that hopeth in him;” that is, in peace with God, and, in a certain hope, reposes in him. We stated that in the expression, “Come to him, and be enlightened,” another meaning may be found, referring to those who are enlightened by justification; and, in like manner, the expression, “O taste and see,” may be taken as referring to those who are more advanced; who, after being spiritually regenerated, begin to grow, and to require nourishment; according to 1 St. Peter, 2, “As new born infants desire the rational milk, without guile; that thereby you may grow unto salvation. If yet you have tasted that the Lord is sweet,” where St. Peter quotes this passage of the Psalm in the same sense that we have explained it. Even St. Paul, Heb. 6, identifies enlightening with tasting, “For it is impossible for those, who were once enlightened, have tasted also the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.”

9 After exhorting them to try how sweet is the Lord, he now encourages them to fear him, that is, to observe his commandments; or, which amounts to the same, to persevere in the justice and love of God, that being the foundation of the confidence by which we approach to God, and taste of the sweetness of his benefits. This verse is most properly connected with the preceding, even in the more elevated sense, because, as it is by approaching we begin, and by tasting we advance, so it is by fear we are made perfect, not by servile fear, but by the pure and filial fear that is the characteristic of the saints and of the perfect. “Fear the Lord all ye his saints,” for that fear supposes perfect love, for the perfect lover fears vehemently lest he may offend his beloved in any way; and he, therefore, most diligently conforms himself to the will of God, and observes his word in every thing; and he that thus keeps his word, “in this is the perfect love of God,” as 1 St. John 2. has it. Speaking of this fear, Job 28, says, “Behold, the fear of the Lord is wisdom itself,” Eccli. 1, “The fullness of wisdom is to fear God,” and chap. 23, “There is nothing better than the fear of God;” and Isaias 2, speaking of Christ, says, “The spirit of the fear of the Lord will fill him,” and finally, Ecclesiastes, in the last chapter, says, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is all man,” as if he said: The whole perfection of man, and all the good he may have in life consists in this, through fear of God to observe all his commandments, and the following words, “for there is no want to them that fear him,” convey the same in the higher meaning, for the essence of perfection is to feel no want. And, what want can the friend of God, who owns everything, feel, when the property of friends is common; and if the just appear sometimes to be in want, they really are not so, because they get patience, better than any riches, to bear it; nor can they be said to want riches, who do not desire or covet them, for the soul, and not the money box, ought to abound in riches. Still the same prophet, or rather the same Holy Spirit, who by his words instructs the learned by the very same words, but understood in an humbler sense, instructs the ignorant also, and exhorts them to fear God, “for there is no want to them that fear God;” that is, that God will supply his servants with the temporal things of the world, and will not desert them in time of necessity. And we have, both in the Scriptures, and in the lives of the saints, numberless examples of the wonderful providence of God in supplying his servants with the necessaries of life.

10 He proves the preceding by instituting a comparison between the wicked with those that fear the Lord. The latter will not only feel no want, but the former will, however rich they may have previously been, and by the repeated scourges of God will be reduced to extreme poverty. “The rich have wanted, and have suffered hunger;” that is, those who had been rich began to hunger and to need, because riches are fallacious and uncertain, and exposed to many and various dangers; “but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good;” they who put their hope, not in riches, but in God, as those do who fear God, they, however poor they may be, “shall not be deprived of any good;” that is, shall want no good. These words have a higher meaning also, namely, that those who are attached to the temporalities of this world always hunger and need, for they are always covetous and desirous of having more; but “they that seek the Lord,” as they seek a thing of infinite value, a thing greater than their desires, for, according to St. John, “God is greater than our heart,” they “shall not be deprived of any good,” because, as they cling to the Supreme Good, they possess all that is good.

11 The prophet having exhorted all to fear God, shows now the advantage of this fear, and in what it consists. “Come to me,” to the school of the Holy Spirit, the best school you can frequent; “hearken to me,” or rather to the Spirit of the Lord speaking through me, for so David himself says, in 2 Kings 23, “The Spirit of the Lord hath spoken by me, and his word by my tongue,” and when you do, “I will teach you to fear the Lord;” that is, in what it consists, and how useful is the fear of the Lord, to which I have so often and so earnestly invited you, as being the essence and the acme of all good and of all perfection.

12 He now explains the advantages and the end of the fear of the Lord, for it brings us long life and “good days;” that is, that life of bliss of which the just have a foretaste in this world, while they have in their hearts the “kingdom of God, which is justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;” and will have complete possession of it in the world to come, “when death shall be absorbed in victory.” “Who is the man that desireth life?” I promised to teach you the fear of the Lord, and I now fulfil my promise, and I tell you, that the end of the fear of the Lord is, what all covet, but few secure, that is, a true and a happy life. Now, those who wish to secure it must adopt the means I am going to point out; they, then, who say they wish for a happy life, and will not take the road that leads to it, they seem to be anything but serious in what they say, when they pursue the shadow and the image, instead of the reality. I therefore ask, who is he that really and truly wishes for true life, that truly loves to see good days, happy, blessed days?

13–14 The holy prophet now teaches how the fear of the Lord leads men to life, “and to see good days;” and lays down that the perfect observance of the commandments of God, or, in other words, the abstaining from all sins, of thought, word, or deed, is the true path to life, according to the words of our Savior, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;” now, such observance of the law, and such abandonment of sin, springs from the fear of the Lord, and, therefore, it is the fear of the Lord that, through the observance of his law, makes us come to true life and “good days.” “Keep thy tongue from evil.” Beware of offending God through your tongue, by lies, by perjury, by detraction, by opprobrious language, etc. He commences with the tongue, because the sins committed by it are of more frequent occurrence, and guarded against with more difficulty, for which reason St. James says, chap. 3, “If a man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.” “And thy lips from speaking guile.” Having prohibited in general all manner of sins of the tongue, he makes special mention of the sin of lying, as being much more grievous itself, and productive of various other sins. “Turn away from evil.” From sins of word, he passes to sins of deed, and first admonishes us to avoid sins of commission, such as murder, adultery, etc.; and then he adds, “and do good;” to beware of sins of omission, such as neglecting to honor our parents; giving due worship to God at the proper time; neglect of prayer, alms, fasting, etc., and similar good works. “Seek after peace, and pursue it.” He finally warns us to avoid sins of thought, such as anger, hatred, envy, and other minor affections of the soul; that thus we may have and retain true peace and tranquillity in everything we are concerned with. With great propriety, the prophet says, “seek after peace;” because the duty of a good man is not so much to be actually at peace with all, as to wish for it, and to be anxious for it; because, very often, others will not suffer us to be at peace with them; and, therefore, the apostle, Rom. 12, says, “If it be possible, as much as is in you, have peace with all men;” and David himself, in Psalm 119, says, “With them that hated peace I was peaceable;” which peace we are unable to maintain, not only with others, but even with ourselves; for we cannot maintain perfect peace whilst we are in this vale of misery. Hence the apostle says, Rom. 7, “But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind.” However, though perfect peace with ourselves is impossible, we must seek for it, we must try to acquire it, by subduing the members, by fasts; by subjecting the flesh to the spirit, that it may learn not to rebel at all, or, at least, to rebel less than it does against the sway of the mind. Finally, we must, with all the powers of our soul, seek for the peace that awaits us in the heavenly Jerusalem; for they who long as they ought for that peace, readily despise all temporal good and evil; and thus, even in this world, possess that peace with God, the one thing principally established by filial fear.

15 He proves the assertion he made, viz., that they who avoid sin, and observe the commandments of God, have “life and good days;” and the reason is, because God constantly regards the just, and always hears their prayers; and how can they avoid having: “good days,” who spend their lives under an all powerful guardian? For if the just have any intimation of evils impending on them, and they cry to God, they find his ears open and attentive to them; if they do not know or expect the said evils, God watches for them, and saves them from many dangers themselves neither saw nor understood; for it is for such purpose “the eyes of the Lord are upon the just,” to guard them from the evils not reached by their own eves. Wonderful goodness of God; Who should not be delighted at loving so good a God with his whole heart, and fearing him with the affection of a child? Who, on reflecting on these things, would not exclaim with the prophet, “Pierce thou my flesh with thy fear?” and, in another Psalm, 85, “Let my heart rejoice, that it may fear thy name.” But the just are not always heard by God—yes, they are heard; and if God does not do for them what they ask, it is because it would not be expedient for themselves to have it done. He is like the physician, who hears the request of the patient praying to escape the bitter dose, and still does not hear him, in order that he may cure him.

16 By contrasting God’s dealings with the wicked, the prophet greatly enhances his dealings with the just; for, “as the eyes of the Lord are upon the just,” to protect them, so he watches over “those that do evil things;” that is, over the wicked, not to protect them, but “to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth;” that is, that they may be utterly ruined and perish, and, not only themselves, but their children and all their posterity, until their memory be completely abolished. This does not always happen, either because the wicked themselves repent before the day of vengeance, or because their children and posterity do not follow their example, or because God’s vengeance is stayed by some otherwise and sufficient reason; and the psalmist states here only what generally takes place, and which is laid down in the very beginning of the Decalogue, “I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”

17 He proves the assertion, that “the eyes of the Lord are upon the just,” by the examples of the fathers in sacred history, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Josue, Gideon, and others; and, perhaps, in spirit, foresaw and proclaimed the delivery of Daniel from the den of the lions; of the three children from the fiery furnace; of Susanna, condemned to death through false witnesses. Perhaps, too, he had before him the example of the Machabees, who did not escape death and torments; as well as the apostles and martyrs, and Christ himself, who most unjustly suffered the most grievous torments at the hands of their enemies and persecutors. For they, in the truest sense, are delivered from all tribulation, who, as the Church celebrates them, “by a brief and holy death, possess a happy life.” They can most truly be said to have been heard when they cried, because they got what was so much superior to delivery from a temporal calamity. He gave them the precious gift of patience, and in reward of such patience a crown of everlasting glory.

18 He explains how God delivers the just from tribulation, and seems to enlarge on what he briefly threw out in Psalm 90, “I am with him in tribulation; I will deliver him, and I will glorify him;” that is, through patience I am with him in this life. “I will deliver him,” by the sleep of death; “and glorify him,” by a glorious resurrection. So he now says: “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart;” that is, God never deserts the just when they are afflicted and troubled in heart by injuries and persecutions, but is always at hand, ministering patience, mingling with it his heavenly consolations, to enable them to bear up against their trials, which will not be of long duration, for, presently, he will “save the humble of spirit;” those identical humble and afflicted in heart and spirit, and rescue them from all their troubles.

19 This verse properly belongs to the last part of the preceding verse: “He will save the humble of spirit.” He will save them, however numerous their troubles may be, and will save them from all their troubles. For “God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Here we are reminded that the faithful in this life are not promised an exemption from want, disease, ignominy, persecution, calumny, oppression, but are only promised spiritual consolation here, and full and perfect delivery hereafter.

20 This seems to apply to the glory of their resurrection, to which, undoubtedly, the expression of our Savior, “A hair from your head shall not be lost,” also applies. For that cannot be called broken, which, at once, becomes stronger and more beautiful than it was before it was broken. And, therefore, though the bones and all the members of the just may be scattered, or devoured by wild beasts, or cast into the sea, or consumed in the fire, God, however, preserves them all in the bosom of his providence; not one of them will be lost, but will all be renewed entire and glorified, at the resurrection.

21 For fear the wicked may suppose their pain and torments would be ended by death, as the atheists, or those who disbelieve the providence of God or the immortality of the soul, falsely persuade themselves of, the prophet adds, “The death of the wicked is very evil,” because it is the beginning of eternal torments; just as “the death of the saints is precious,” because it is the beginning of eternal rest and glory. “And they that hate the just shall be guilty;” that means, they who harass and hate the just, who persecute them, who look upon themselves as having accomplished a good work, and as conquerors, when they depress, despoil, and destroy the just, in the long run, “they shall be guilty;” that is, will stray from the paths of true happiness, and will speak in the language of Wisdom 5, “Therefore we have erred from the way of truth; and the light of justice hath not shined unto us; and the sun of understanding hath not risen upon us. We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways: but the way of the Lord we have not known. What hath pride profited us; or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow.”

22 The Psalm concludes by predicting a lot to the just very different from that predicted for the wicked, “The Lord will redeem” from all slavery, consequently from all evil, “the souls of his servants,” so soon as he shall have brought them out of the prison of the body and thus the death of the just will be the best, as Balaam rightly said, “May my soul die the death of the just, and may my last moments be like unto theirs,” Num. 23. “And none of them that trust in him shall offend,” will not miss their aim, fail in their course, but will arrive at the goal of eternal happiness; “all those” who confide not in their own strength, but in God.

We have here to remark, that hope of any sort, no more than faith of any sort, or faith that is dead, will not suffice to obtain eternal life; but here it is said, that hope will procure eternal life, because he supposes it to be the hope of the just, of those who fear and love God, which the Apostle Peter calls “lively (or living) hope.” Such hope and confidence as springs from patience, good works, and the testimony of a good conscience, according to St. Paul, Rom. 5., “Patience worketh trial, and trial hope;” and again, 1 Timothy 3, “For they that have ministered well, shall purchase to themselves a good degree, and much confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus;” and again, 1 John 3, “If our heart do not reprehend us we have confidence towards God.” This living and perfect hope brings us at once to what we want, to everlasting glory, so that we ultimately got possession of the object of our hope.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 98

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 15, 2016


Ps 98:1A psalm for David himself. SING ye to the Lord a new canticle: because he hath done wonderful things. His right hand hath wrought for him salvation, and his arm is holy. ‎

He invites all men to praise God for his wonderful works. “Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle,” for there is not only new but great and wonderful matter for it, “because he hath done wonderful things;” for he was wonderfully, and in an unheard of manner, conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of a virgin, committed no sin, justified sinners, made the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, nay, even the blind to see, the lame to walk, cured the sick, raised the dead; and, what is the most strange and wonderful of all, showed himself alive within three days after he was buried, took his body up to heaven, sent the Holy Ghost from heaven, and through the agency of poor, humble men, persuaded the prudent and the wise to worship the crucified, to despise the things of the present, and to look forward to the things of the future; and, finally, as St. Augustine says, conquered the world, not by the sword but by the cross. All this may be referred to the Father, who in the Son, and through the Son, effected all these wonderful things; for the Lord says, “But the Father, who abideth in me, he doth the works.” “His right hand hath wrought for him salvation, and his arm is holy.” He explains what those wonderful things are, and instances one of them that comprehends the whole. The wonderful thing God did consisted in his having saved the world purely by his own power, without associates, without an army, without arms; he alone cast out the prince of this world, and delivered mankind from his power. Such was the object of all the wonderful things enumerated above; and thus, this one thing comprehends all. The expression, “hath wrought for him salvation,” may apply to the Son, who saved the world by his own power; and to the Father who, through Christ, his right hand, saved it; but it comes to the same thing; “and his arm is holy,” is merely a repetition of the foregoing; right hand and arm being nearly synonymous, and they signify virtue and power; but the word “holy” is added, for fear we should suppose carnal, not spiritual, strength is intended; for Christ did not overcome his enemy by the force of arms or by bodily strength, but by love and patience, by humility and obedience, by the merits of his most holy life, by his most precious blood spilled for love of us, and not by the spear or the sword, and obtained a signal victory over a most powerful enemy. So, says the Apostle, “He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Ps 98:2 The Lord hath made known his salvation: he hath revealed his justice in the sight of the Gentiles.

This verse, too, may be referred to the Father, “who made known his salvation;” that is, the Savior he sent; first, through the prophets, then through the Apostles, and through the same “revealeth his justice.” It may also be referred to the Son, who made known the salvation effected by himself, through himself, and through his Apostles; for he preached it openly for three entire years and more, and then he sent his Apostles, who announced his Gospel to the entire world. The Lord, therefore, by his own preaching, “made his salvation known;” that is, the salvation he brought on earth to confer on those who would believe in him; then, “in the sight of the gentiles,” through his Apostles, “he hath revealed his justice;” that is, he made known and revealed to the gentiles that mystery that was hidden from the world; and the mystery is his own justice; that is, the fulfillment of that promise that was formerly made to the fathers concerning the redemption of the human race. This I consider to be the meaning of justice here; for in the following verse it means truth, as we shall see. However, if anyone wishes justice to be understood of the satisfaction Christ had to offer, in the rigor of justice, for the sins of the whole world, I do not object, whether in reference to the Father, or to the Son. For truly did the Father, through the passion of the Son, and the Son through his own sufferings, “reveal” how iniquity required to be punished, and how rigorously God’s justice required satisfaction. On this mystery the Apostle writes as follows to the Ephesians, “To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace to preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. And to enlighten all men what is the dispensation of the mystery, which hath been hidden from eternity in God.”

Ps 98:‎3 He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. ‎

He assigns a reason for God’s having “made known his salvation,” and “revealed his justice.” Because he promised such to the fathers; and though he delayed the fulfillment of his promise for some time, he at length “remembered” it; that is, he acted as those do who remember a thing. God cannot forget, but he is figuratively said to remember when he does a thing after a while, as if he had forgotten it. The expression often occurs in the Scriptures; thus, “The Lord remembered Noe;” and, Luke 1, “He hath remembered his mercy.” God the Father, then, “remembered his mercy,” through which he promised a Savior to the fathers; and God the Son “remembered his mercy,” that induced him to promise to come as a Savior; and both remembered “their truth,” their honor and justice in fulfilling the promise “toward the house of Israel;” for the promise was made to them, and not to the gentiles; although God had determined, and often announced it through the prophets, that he would have mercy on the gentiles, too. Hence our Savior, Mat. 15, says, “I was not sent out to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel.” And the Apostle, Rom. 15, “For I say that Christ Jesus was minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers; but that the gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy, as it is written. Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the gentiles.”—“All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” See the fruit of the preaching of the Apostles! It was not in vain that God made his salvation known through their preaching, for the gentiles heard them, and believed in Christ; and thus, the interior eye of the heart having been purified through faith and grace, “all the ends of the earth,” the whole world, to its remotest boundaries, “have seen the salvation of our God,” or the Savior sent by him. There is a degree of point in the expression, “have seen;” it implies actual faith, united with knowledge, that moves the will to love and to desire; for they cannot be said to have seen God’s salvation, who, content with habitual faith, never bestow a thought on the Savior, and take no trouble whatever in accomplishing the salvation to be had through him. The expression, “all the ends of the earth,” is not to be read literally, for it does not mean each and every individual, but a great many from every nation and people.

Ps 98:4 Sing joyfully to God, all the earth; make melody, rejoice and sing. ‎

The giving thanks to God, and exulting and singing in spiritual joy, is a sign of faith. Thus, he that found the treasure “went, and, through joy, sold all he had.” Thus when Philip preached in Samaria, and the inhabitants received the word of God, “there was great joy in that city;” and the eunuch, when converted and baptized, “went his way rejoicing” thus also St. Peter says, “And believing, shall rejoice with an unspeakable and glorious joy.” This joy is now predicted by the prophet, as if he were inviting and exhorting the faithful to it, “Sing joyfully to God, all the earth.” All you faithful, all over the world, who have been brought from darkness to “the admirable light,” to the knowledge of the true God and our Savior Jesus Christ, praise and thank with a loud voice; sing, exult, and play upon musical instruments.

Ps 98:5 Sing praise to the Lord on the harp, on the harp, and with the voice of a psalm:
Ps 98:6 With long trumpets, and sound of cornet. Make a joyful noise before the Lord our king:

Four instruments are enumerated for those who have seen God by faith, and, desire to see him by sight; they are the harp, the psaltery, long trumpets, and sound of cornet. These were, literally, the instruments most in use among the Jews, and a spiritual signification has been attached to each instrument. They seem to be to represent the cardinal virtues, the harp implying prudence; the psaltery, justice; the long trumpet, fortitude, and the cornet temperance. The harp, having various strings, blends their sounds together, and produces a sweet harmony; and thus prudence unites good works with various circumstances, and produces a perfect work. The psaltery of ten strings represents the decalogue, containing all the precepts of justice. The long trumpet is beaten out and formed by repeated blows of the hammer, until it produces the sweet sounds required; thus, fortitude, by patiently bearing all trials and tribulations, so draws out and perfects the man of God, that, with holy Job, it is no trouble to him to give out that sweet sound, “If we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil?” Finally, temperance, like a hard horn, from which the cornet was made, rising above and out topping the flesh; that is, chastising the body, by fasting and watching, and by bringing it under subjection to the spirit, forms it into a spiritual cornet. Such was the precursor of our Lord, who, with wild honey and locusts for his food, and a garment of camel’s hair with a leathern girdle for his dress, called out, “A voice of one crying in the desert.” Such, too, was the most blessed Paul, who, instructed as he was by long continued temperance, gave out the following sweet sounds, “But having food and wherewith to be covered, with these we are content;” and again, “The meat for the belly, and the belly for the meats; but God shall destroy both it and them.” And truly, “piety with sufficiency is great gain.” “Make a joyful noise before our King.” Be sure to strike up all the aforesaid instruments the moment the great King, who is Lord of all, shall have made his appearance.

Ps 98:‎7 Let the sea be moved and the fullness thereof: the world and they that dwell therein. ‎

As the coming of the Lord was a blessing to all in general, the prophet calls, not only on the whole earth, but on all its parts, separately, to praise and sing to God. “Let the sea be moved,” heaving and swelling with exultation, as if it were animated; “and the fulness thereof;” its waters, islands, fishes; “the world, and they that dwell therein.” Let them, too, rejoice and exult because the Lord is the Savior of all men, especially of the faithful.

Ps 98:8 The rivers shall clap their hands, the mountains shall rejoice together ‎

Having invited the sea and the earth, he now summons the rivers and the mountains to unite in their expressions of joy. He said, however, “Let the sea be moved,” in the Hebrew, let it thunder; whereas to the rivers he says, they shall “clap their hands,” thereby expressing the difference between the noise of the one and of the other; and when he calls upon “the mountains to rejoice together,” we can easily understand that the prophet does not ask those inanimate things to speak, to praise, or to sing, but that he is so carried away and inflamed with love for the coming Messias, that he calls upon and wishes all created things to unite with him, as far as possible, in praising and thanking God.

Ps 98:9 At the presence of the Lord: because he cometh to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with justice, and the people with equity.

“Because he cometh to judge the earth” may be referred either to his first or his second coming. If to his first, the meaning will be, Let all the aforesaid rejoice, “because he cometh to judge the earth,” to rule and govern the earth through most just and wise laws, not only as of old, in the majesty of his invisible divinity, but in visible and corporal appearance, “being made to the likeness of men, and in shape found as a man.”—If we refer it to his second coming, the meaning would be, Let all these rejoice, because “the Lord cometh to judge the earth,” and he will exterminate all the sinners in it, and renew all its elements, “and he will deliver it from the servitude of corruption, under which it now groans and is in labor.”—“He shall judge the world with justice.” The same as the conclusion of Psalm 95, which see.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 7

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 8, 2016


Psa 7:1 The psalm of David, which he sung to the Lord, for the words of Chusi, the son of Jemini. 

Psa 7:2 O Lord, my God, in thee have I put my trust; same me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me.

“In thee have I put my trust,” because nearly all have deserted me, so that my very son Absalom, and my father in law Saul, seek to put me to death. I have no one to trust in but you, my God. “Save me from all them that persecute me.” Numerous were his persecutors—some by their advice, some by their maledictions, some by war and arms.

Psa 7:3 Lest at any time he seize upon my soul like a lion, while there is no one to redeem me, nor to save.

Meaning the leader of the persecution; for fear, says he, Saul or Absalom “seize upon my soul,” that is, take my life without any mercy, just as the lion seizes on other animals, “while there is no one to redeem me, nor to save,” that is, if you do not redeem and save me; for David knew that all human industry, without God, was of no avail. The word “redeem” is used in the Scripture for any sort of deliverance, though, properly speaking, it supposes something to be paid on redemption. For, as God is said to sell those he alienates from his mercy, and delivers to the ministers of his justice for punishment; so he is said to redeem those whom, in his mercy, he liberates, after rescuing them from the same ministers.

Psa 7:4 O Lord, my God, if I have done this thing, if there be iniquity in my hands:
Psa 7:5 If I have rendered to them that repaid me evils, let me deservedly fall empty before my enemies.

A reason assigned for asking deliverance of God, namely, on account of God’s knowledge of his innocence, thereby refuting Saul and Semei’s calumny of his plotting against Saul, and his invasion of the kingdom: for he asserts that he not only did not return evil for good, nor even evil for evil, but, on the contrary, that he returned good for evil. He first asserts that he did not return evil for good. “If I have done this,” that is, if I have conspired against the king, or invaded the kingdom by any fraud or force; “if there be iniquity in my hands,” that is, if I have done evil, returning it for good, I who was treated with such honor by Saul, adopted as his son in law, placed over a thousand soldiers—if I have been, as he asserts, the person to conspire against him, “If I have rendered to them that repaid me evils;” that means, when Saul and Semei, for all the favors I conferred on them, would only give evil in return, even to seek my death, I did not seek theirs, though I might easily, and could with impunity have done so. “Let me deservedly fall empty before my enemies,” which means, if such calumnies of theirs be not false, I don’t murmur at, nor refuse to fall “empty” in battle, that is, without any military glory, having inflicted no injury on the enemy, and after having suffered a great deal.

Psa 7:6 Let the enemy pursue my soul, and take it, and tread down my life, on the earth, and bring down my glory to the dust.

The evils he imprecates on himself, if the calumnies of Saul or Semei be true. See how they rise. First, “Let the enemy pursue my soul,” that is, endeavor to kill me. Second, “And take it,” in such way that I cannot possibly escape when he takes me to kill me. Third, “And tread down my life on the earth;” put me to an ignominious death, such as the death of those who are trampled under foot, and bruised to atoms. Fourth, “And bring down my glory to the dust;” that my memory, instead of being exalted and revered, may be forever infamous and opprobrious.

Psa 7:7 Rise up, O Lord, in thy anger: and be thou exalted in the borders of my enemies. And arise, O Lord, my God, in the precept which thou hast commanded:

Having asserted his innocence, he justly asks of God to defend him. And as God is metaphorically said to sleep when he does not help; and to rise from sleep when he begins to help, as in Psalm 53, “Rise, why sleepest thou, O Lord?” he now says, “Rise in thy anger;” that is, be angry with my enemies; repel and terrify them, lest they hurt me. “And be exalted in the borders of my enemies,” means much the same, for the meaning is, appear aloft in the borders of my enemies, that all may see you, and be sensible of your presence. “And arise, O Lord my God, in the precept which thou hast commanded.”

Hitherto he had simply asked of God help against his enemies; he now assigns a reason for God’s granting it; and that is, because God had ordered the judges of the land to free the innocent from their oppressors; whence it follows that God, who is the supreme Judge over all judges, ought to do so too. “Rise in the precept thou hast commanded;” that is, agreeably to the order you gave.

Psa 7:8 And a congregation of people shall surround thee. And for their sakes return thou on high.

Your interference in reducing my enemies and defending me, will bring many to know you, to confess to you, to praise you, and to surround you with a congregation; for wherever any are congregated in thy name, there art thou in the midst of them. Having asserted that “A congregation of people would surround him,” he now adds, “and for their sakes return on high.” As you have exalted yourself in the territory of my enemies, terrifying them from the throne of your justice, on my account, do the same when necessary—return on high again, for the sake of the congregation that praise thee.

Psa 7:9 The Lord judgeth the people. Judge me, O Lord, according to my justice, and according to my innocence in me.

A reason assigned for standing by and supporting the congregation of people that adhered to him; he, being the supreme Judge and Sovereign, to whom it properly appertained to protect and govern those under his charge. “Judge me, O Lord, according to my justice, and according to my innocence in me.” The conclusion of the whole imprecation. Conscious of the falsehood of the calumny of Saul and Semei, and having God witness thereto, he asks him, as the supreme Judge, to judge his cause according to its justice and his innocence, and to give to every one their desert.

Psa 7:10 The wickedness of sinners shall be brought to nought; and thou shalt direct the just: the searcher of hearts and reins is God. Just

This may be called the second part of the Psalm, in which the prophet teaches evil doers that they harm themselves; and exhorts all to be converted from iniquity to justice. “The wickedness of sinners shall be brought to naught;” that is, let them do all in them lies—use all their efforts to injure the just—it will be all in vain, to no purpose; because “You direct the just;” by your providence you guide him, so that he shall neither turn to the right nor to the left. You alone can do so, for to you alone are the truly just known, inasmuch as it is you that search their hearts; that is, know their thoughts and their loins, that is, their desires.

Psa 7:11 Is my help from the Lord; who saveth the upright of heart.

From a universal opinion he infers, in particular, that it is right for him to expect help from the Lord; for it is just that God should help the just, for it belongs to him, as searcher of hearts, to save those that are upright of heart, that is, those who are truly just before God.

Psa 7:12 God is a just judge, strong and patient: is he angry every day?

God is a just judge, both strong and patient; but not at all times angry or threatening, only when he is driven thereto by the evil doings of those who know how severely he prohibits certain actions to sinners; and yet they hesitate not in doing them.

Psa 7:13 Except you will be converted, he will brandish his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.

To prove that God is not always angry or threatening, but that he only sometimes gives way to his wrath, and carries out the threats he menaced, he adds, “Except you will be converted, he will brandish his sword,” that is, he will so wield it in destruction, that it will appear to emit light; and he will use the bow as well as the sword, for, “he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.” The sword and the bow are introduced to show that God strikes from near and from afar. When the sin committed is proximate and patent, then God strikes at once, and openly, as if with a sword. When the sin is remote, or occult, then he seems to strike from a distance, as if with an arrow.

Psa 7:14 And in it he hath prepared to instruments of death, he hath made ready his arrows for them that burn.

For fear we should suppose that the divine weapons could be easily repelled or avoided, he says those weapons are “instruments of death,” that the arrows are made of inflammable matter, so as to become weapons of fire, penetrating and consuming, with the greatest rapidity, everything they strike. The literal translation would be, “Vessels of death;” but vessels are most frequently used in the Scriptures to signify arms or instruments; thus, in Psalm 71, “Vessels of psalms;” Is. 22, “Vessels of music;” Jeremias 50, “Vessels of anger;” chap. 51, “Vessels of war.”

Psa 7:15 Behold he hath been in labour with injustice: he hath conceived sorrow, and brought forth iniquity.

In the three following verses the prophet shows that such weapons, being really fiery weapons, are sent with the greatest force, and sure to be unerring. For God’s providence so arranges that the very evil the sinners prepare for the just should prove fatal to themselves; for such is the wonderful hatred of God for sinners as to cause all their machinations to retort upon themselves. The sinner, says he, “hath conceived sorrow and brought forth iniquity; and dug a pit,” and dug it deeply, that he might take away the life of the just man, either publicly or privately; but, through God’s intervention, the sinner fell into his own pit, and “the sorrow he conceived,” and the “iniquity he brought forth,” have redounded on his own head. To explain in detail, “He hath been in labor with injustice.” That is to say, the sinner has been guilty of some act of violence or injustice to the just man. The word, “He has been in labor” is not to be looked upon here as different from the word “brought forth,” in the end of the verse; they both mean the same, as he presently explains more clearly what seed it is that he has been in “labor with,” or “brought forth.” “He hath conceived sorrow, and brought forth iniquity.” The seed as well as the fetus is conceived. “Conception of sorrow,” means conception of hatred, or envy of the neighbor, which are the seed of all evil; and hatred and envy are most properly designated by conception of sorrow, for hatred and envy distort and destroy the mind of the person possessed by them. From the bad seed thus conceived spring the bad actions, such as murder, rapine, detraction, false testimony, and the like; and though some may consider the three expressions, “He hath been in labor with injustice;” “He hath conceived sorrow,” and “Brought forth iniquity?” to refer to three different things, and parturition would seem to be midway between conception and birth; but, in reality, two things only, as I said before, are implied, because two only apply to the verse 2; next, “His sorrow shall be turned on his own head, and his iniquity shall come down upon his crown;” again, if “the conceiving of sorrow” be distinct from the “being in labor with injustice,” it ought to precede, not to follow. By the words then, “he hath been in labor with injustice,” is meant a summary of the entire, of which conception and bringing forth is an explanation.

Psa 7:16 He hath opened a pit and dug it: and he is fallen into the hole he made.

After saying that the sinner had brought forth iniquity against the just, he adds, that “he opened a pit” giving us to understand by such similes, that the wicked plot against the just sometimes privately, sometimes openly; and as parturition and delving are sometimes troublesome and laborious enough, so are the evil doings of the sinner—hence the exclamation of the damned, Wisd. 5, “We have walked the difficult ways.” “And he is fallen into the hole he made.” The prophet now begins to show that the evil doings of the sinner hurt themselves alone, and that they are the sword and the arrows of God; and having finished with the latter, he takes it up again, saying: “He hath opened a pit,” in the hope that the just man, ignorant of its existence, may fall into it, but instead thereof himself fell in.

Psa 7:17 His sorrow shall be turned on his own head: and his iniquity shall come down upon his crown.

Not only occult sins, such as the opening of the pit, but even public, such as hatred or envy externally manifested, and the sins springing from hatred and envy, such as bloodshed and rapine and the like, will, by the divine dispensation, recoil on the evil doer; we have examples in Saul and David; the Jews and Christ; the persecutors and the martyrs.

Psa 7:18 I will give glory to the Lord according to his justice: and will sing to the name of the Lord the most high.

The Psalm concludes in praise to God. Literally it is, “I will confess,” which expression in the Scriptures is constantly used for praise, for he who praises him confesses he is worthy of such praise “according to his justice.” I will give him not more praise than he merits who so wonderfully delivers the just and punishes the sinner. “And I will sing to the name of the Lord the Most High;” the same idea in different language, viz., I will sing a hymn to the highest God, to the supreme Judge, who sits on a most lofty throne above all other judges.

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