The Divine Lamp

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

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 92

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 12, 2018

PSALM 92
God is to be praised for his wondrous works 

Ps 92:1 It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to thy name, O most High.

An exhortation to praise God with instrumental and vocal music. He says it is right, useful, delightful, and honorable to give God his need of praise; right, because it is due to him; useful, because we save ourselves by it; delightful, for the lover always delights in praising the beloved; and honorable, because the office belongs to the celestial spirits; “and to sing to thy name, O Lord.” It is good to praise you, not only with our hearts and lips, but also to use musical instruments, such as the psaltery, whereon to make your praises resound, O Most High God.

Ps 92:2 To shew forth thy mercy in the morning, and thy truth in the night:

Such must be the subject of our praise, to announce and proclaim to all the mercy in which you created the world, and the truth or the justice with which you rule it. And, as the work of mercy appears to every one, let it be announced in the day; for who is there that does not know that the heavens and the earth, and all things in them were created by God, through his goodness and mercy, and not from necessity or compulsion. And, as the works of justice are occult; for, through God’s secret designs, the just are often afflicted, and the wicked exalted; let such works be announced at night, in the darkness of faith, and not in the light of knowledge. In like manner, let mercy be announced in the morning, and justice at night, that men may, in the light of their prosperity, return thanks to God for his mercy, and in the darkness of tribulation for his justice; for, as St. Augustine observes on this passage, the father loves his children no less when he threatens than when he caresses them; nor should we be less grateful to God when he chastises us in the time of trouble, than when he heaps favors on us in our prosperity. We should imitate the prophet, who says, in another Psalm, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth.”

Ps 92:3 Upon an instrument of ten strings, upon the psaltery: with a canticle upon the harp.

As well as he explained the subject of his praise, when he said, “It is good to give praise to the Lord,” he now explains the second part of the same verse; “and to sing to thy name;” for he says he is to sing with the harp and psaltery, but not without the sweet sounds of the human voice.

Ps 92:4 For thou hast given me, O Lord, a delight in thy doings: and in the works of thy hands I shall rejoice.

He now opens on the work of creation, one of God’s mercies. I have been studying the beauty, variety, excellence, strength, and the uses of your works; of the heavens, the earth, the waters, the stars, animals, and plants: I have been delighted beyond measure with them; but it was not your works that delighted me, for I did not dwell upon them, but it was in yourself I delighted; for your works led me to reflect on your own infinite beauty; and, carried away by the love of such extraordinary beauty, I was delighted and lost in admiration; and will, therefore, daily exult and praise thee “in the works of thy hands.”

Ps 92:5 O Lord, how great are thy works! thy thoughts are exceeding deep.

Having said that he was delighted so much with the works of God, for fear he should be supposed to have comprehended them thoroughly, or to have an intimate knowledge of the excellence of all God’s works, he now adds, that the works of the Lord are too great, and his wisdom in producing them too profound for any one in this life to comprehend. “How great are thy works!” I am lost in admiration at the greatness and the excellence of your works; I cannot comprehend the magnitude of them, for truly did Ecclesiasticus say, “Who hath numbered the sand of the sea, and the drops of rain, and the days of the world? Who hath measured the height of heaven, and the breadth of the earth, and the depth of the abyss?” yet however great they may be, greater beyond comparison is the wisdom that created them; of which the same inspired writer immediately adds, “Who hath searched out the wisdom of God, that goeth before all things;” and David here adds, “thy thoughts are exceeding deep;” that is to say, those thoughts of yours so full of wisdom, through which you have devised so many wonderful things, and so perfect that nothing can be added to or taken from them, are so occult as to surpass all human understanding. To give an instance of it in most trifling and common things. Who can comprehend how in one small seed is contained an enormous tree with large and numerous branches, verdant foliage, beautiful blossoms, and its own seed for its own propagation? Who can comprehend by what art God contrived to infuse life, sense, and motion into the minutest insects, and with it endowing the ant with such prudence, the spider with such cunning, and the gnats and the fleas with such a power of incision with so poor an instrument?

Ps 92:6 The senseless man shall not know: nor will the fool understand these things.

He concludes this part of the Psalm, that treats on creation, by asserting, that it is only the wise, and not the senseless or the fool, that can know how great and inscrutable are the works of the Lord. For fools never look for anything in things created but the pleasure or the advantage they derive from them, just as the brute beasts do, who have no understanding, and know not their own ignorance. But the wise, though they do not comprehend the greatness of God’s works, still, they feel they are unequal to comprehending them, and are sensible of their ignorance therein; and the more they are sensible of it, the more they admire God’s works, and come near true wisdom. “The senseless man shall not know” how wonderful are the works of the Lord; “nor will the fool understand” how profound are his thoughts; for a knowledge of one’s own ignorance is only to be met with in the wise.

Ps 92:7 When the wicked shall spring up as grass: and all the workers of iniquity shall appear: That they may perish for ever and ever:

He now passes to direction and the providence of God, in which his justice or his truth is most conspicuous, and especially so in the fact of the wicked being allowed to flourish for a time, that they may be condemned to eternal punishment; while the just, on the contrary, suffer here for a while, that they may be crowned hereafter. “When the wicked shall spring up as grass;” when they shall flourish and multiply as quickly as the grass grows and in as great abundance; “and all the workers of iniquity shall appear” most conspicuous, in high situations, and abounding in riches, “that they may perish forever and ever.” All this prosperity of theirs will be suffered by God as a reward for some of their works, while they are sure to be punished with everlasting death for their crimes.

Ps 92:8 But thou, O Lord, art most high for evermore.

Your position, O Lord, is quite different from that of the wicked, for their elevation is only temporary, but you are “Most High” forever and ever.

Ps 92:9 For behold thy enemies, O lord, for behold thy enemies shall perish: and all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.

He proves that the wicked will prosper for a time only, and that a short one. The word “behold,” implies the suddenness of the change, as if he said, They that so thrived and flourished will perish all at once; and the repetition of the expression is with a view to express his execration of them; just as a similar repetition is used by him in Psalm 124, to express his devotion, “O Lord, for I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid.” Worthy of all execration is he who fears not becoming an enemy to God, that he may be a friend to the world; for thus writes St. James, “whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God.” What an amount of perversity to despise the friendship of the Creator for that of the creature. “And all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.” This is but a repetition and explanation of the first part of the verse. Those he called “enemies” there, he calls “workers of iniquity” here; and those he said there “shall perish,” he says here “shall be scattered;” for men become enemies to God by the fact of their contradicting his will that has been made known to us through his law; and they who “work iniquity,” contradict his law; for the law of God is most direct and straight, and the rule of rectitude; but iniquity is nothing else than crookedness, and a departure from that rule. The wicked “shall be scattered” like the dry grass, to which he compared them; for as the dry grass is hurried away and scattered by the wind, and no trace of it found after; thus, the wicked, when they shall have prospered and flourished for a while, by God’s will, are sure to be cut down and carried off, leaving not even a trace of their memory.

Ps 92:10 But my horn shall be exalted like that of the unicorn: and my old age in plentiful mercy.

He now contrasts the lot of the just with that of the wicked, and shows that they will one day be exalted by the divine providence and justice; and he speaks in his own person, piously hoping he will one day be numbered among them. “My horn;” that is, my power, happiness, and glory will rise aloft; not like the frail grass, but like the horn of the unicorn, an animal having only one horn, but that a large, straight, and powerful one, “and my old age in plentiful mercy;” that is, not only will my power, happiness, and glory be great, but it will be continued and constant, following me to my old age, for my “old age will be in plentiful mercy” before God.

Ps 92:11 My eye also hath looked down upon my enemies: and my ear shall hear of the downfall of the malignant that rise up against me.

He now contrasts the lot of the just with that of the wicked, and shows that they will one day be exalted by the divine providence and justice; and he speaks in his own person, piously hoping he will one day be numbered among them. “My horn;” that is, my power, happiness, and glory will rise aloft; not like the frail grass, but like the horn of the unicorn, an animal having only one horn, but that a large, straight, and powerful one, “and my old age in plentiful mercy;” that is, not only will my power, happiness, and glory be great, but it will be continued and constant, following me to my old age, for my “old age will be in plentiful mercy” before God.

Ps 92:12 The just shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus.

The prophet now applies to other just men what he had said of himself, gracefully comparing them to the palm and cedar trees, in contrast to the wicked he had compared to grass. Grass springs up in the morning, withers during the day, or is cut down by the mowers, is a thing of no permanence or endurance; whereas the palm tree lives a long time, and gives forth its fruit and its leaves for a long time; so does the cedar, the highest and the longest lived among trees, and in great request for the ornamentation of royal palaces and ceilings. Thus the wicked thrive and prosper for a while, and are then thrown into the fire; but the just, like the palm tree, will flourish and hold verdant, and bear the sweetest fruits forever; nor will they sink under any burden, but will overcome all difficulties, and, furthermore, “shall grow up, like the cedar of Libanus,” to an enormous height, sending out its branches of good works and roots of perseverance, which will enable them to resist any storm, however great, of temptation, and in the end, like the cedars, will be an ornament in the heavenly palace of the new Jerusalem.

Ps92:13 They that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of the house of our God.

He assigns a reason for having compared the just to the palm and the cedar, because they will not be planted in the woods or the wild mountains, but will be planted in God’s own house, and will flourish in God’s own courts; that is to say, they will be planted in his Church by true faith, watered by his sacraments and his word, fixed and rooted in charity, they will not fail to give out in abundance the flowers of virtue and the fruit of good works. For, outside the Church, and without the foundation of faith, every plantation will be rooted up, inasmuch as it was not planted by the Heavenly Father.

Ps 2:14 They shall still increase in a fruitful old age: and shall be well treated,

What the prophet previously promised himself, viz., “that his old age should be in plentiful mercy,” he now promises to all the other just; that they will prosper, not only in their youth and vigor, but that they will have a long and happy old age. “They shall still increase in a fruitful old age;” and, furthermore, “they shall be well treated;” enjoying the blessings of this life, and hoping for the next.

Ps 92:15 That they may shew, That the Lord our God is righteous, and there is no iniquity in him.

All this will turn up, that the just may show and make known to all by word or by example, “that the Lord our God is righteous;” for, though he suffers the wicked to prosper for a while, he will, in his own time, exercise the judgments of his justice, by rewarding the good, and punishing the wicked.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 51

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2018

THE CONFESSION AND REPENTANCE OF DAVVID AFTER HIS SIN
THE FOURTH PENITENTIAL PSALM

1 The prophet begins with a prayer, asking forgiveness of his sins assigns his first reason for asking forgiveness, thinks he can move God to forgive; and afterwards assigns other reasons. “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” In Psalms 111 and 123, David acknowledges and declares himself miserable, on account of the sin he committed, notwithstanding the abundance of the gifts of nature he was then enjoying; as, on the contrary, he declares those only happy “who fear the Lord,” and not those who abound in honors and riches; from which we may learn how erroneously the children of this world judge of misery and happiness. “According to thy great mercy.” I dare to ask your mercy because I am a wretch, for mercy looks upon misery to remove it. He calls it “great mercy,” because sin is a great misfortune; and because the mercy, through which God gives us temporal blessings, is but a trifling mercy compared to the forgiveness of sin; for God often confers temporal favors on his enemies, even on those he will condemn on the last day; but the grace of the remission of sin he only gives to those whom he intends to adopt as his children, and the heirs of his kingdom. David, then, not content with the small amount of mercy, through which he had got a noble kingdom, immense wealth, a large family, and dominion over his enemies, and the like, asks for the “great mercy,” which he knew consisted in the forgiveness of his sins, and the restoration of grace. “And, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my iniquity.” He repeats and explains the same expression; “Blot out my iniquity” being a mere repetition of “Have mercy on me, O God;” and, “According to the multitude of thy tender mercies” being a repetition of “According to thy great mercy;” inverting the order of the expressions, and thereby giving a certain elegance to the verse. Those words, then, “According to the multitude of thy tender mercies,” give us to understand how unbounded is the mercy shown by God to his beloved children; for the Hebrew word, strictly speaking, signifies the tender love of a father, which the Scripture is wont to express by, “The bowels of mercy;” and the Church, in the Collect of the eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, thus expresses, “O God, who, through the excess of your love, go farther than even the merits and even the prayers of your supplicants.” For, in fact, so great is the love of God for us, that he not only grants much more than we deserve, but even more than we dare to hope for. He shows that in the parable of the prodigal son. The father not only forgives the penitent but he runs to meet him, embraces him, kisses him, orders the most valuable clothes, and a precious ring for him, kills the fatted calf in compliment to him; and, finally, shows more marks of favor and love to him, after squandering all his property, than if he had returned after having achieved a signal victory over his enemies. “Blot out my iniquity,” refers to the sin and the stain left after it. David knew that he had not only incurred the punishment of everlasting death by his sin, but that it also left a stain on his soul that rendered it dark, deformed, and hateful to God; and the expression, “Blot out,” refers to both. When a debt is forgiven, the deeds are said to be cancelled, or blotted out; and stains are said to be blotted, when the thing stained is washed and purified. David, then, begs of God not to deal with him in the rigor of his justice, but with the mercy of a father, to forgive the sin, and wash away the stain left by it, by restoring the brightness of his grace.

2 Though the sin may be forgiven, and grace restored, there still remain in man the bad habits of vice, and the very concupiscence of the flesh, that make a man infirm and weak, just as he would be after having recovered from a heavy fit of sickness. The bad habits are gradually corrected by the practice of acts of virtue; but concupiscence, though it can be lessened, ordinarily speaking, is totally eradicated by death alone. And though our own earnest desires and endeavors go a great way to root out our vices, and to diminish our concupiscence, the grace of God, without which we can do nothing, with which we can do everything, is the principal agent therein. David was fully aware of all this, having written in Psalm 102, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all he hath done for thee, who forgiveth all thy iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases.” And, in this passage, after he had asked for the forgiveness of his sins, and, through Nathan the prophet, got this answer, “The Lord also hath taken away thy sin, thou shalt not die,” again begs to be washed and cleansed, to be more and more justified by additional graces; that, by the victory over his bad habits, and the repression of his concupiscence, his soul may become more fair and beautiful, and better able to resist temptation. He, therefore, says, “Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin;” that is to say I confidently hope my sins are blotted out through your grace, and that my soul is washed and cleansed from the filth and stains left upon it by the action of sin; but I ask, beg, and desire to be washed again and again by a fresh infusion of grace, that my soul may thereby be both purified and strengthened. A simpler explanation would be, to make this second petition turn on the magnitude of his sins; as if he said, Had my sin been an ordinary one, a simple ablution would suffice; but being a great, grievous, enormous one, I need additional ablutions to wash away every vestige of my sins.

3 The second reason assigned by him for obtaining forgiveness is, that he admits it, confesses it, and punishes himself by keeping it constantly before him. Pardon me, “For I know my iniquity;” I neither excuse nor deny it, I freely acknowledge it, and I am constantly grieved in thinking of it; for it “is always before me,” staring me in the face, and piercing me like a javelin. An example for us in the recitation of the penitential Psalms. We should be able truly to say, “My sin is always before me.” This we can do by keeping up a recollection of the sins that, through God’s goodness, have been forgiven, for thus we will be constantly reminded of our great ingratitude to so great a benefactor.

4 The third reason for his asking pardon of God is, that he has no other judge to fear. “To thee,” not against thee, he says, “have I sinned.” He had sinned against Urias, whose death he caused. He had sinned against Bethsabee, with whom he had committed adultery, and against the people, whom he scandalized; yet he says, “To thee only have I sinned;” as being the only judge before whom he could be convicted. There was no one else to sit in judgment on him, and if there were even, he could not be convicted, for want of evidence; for, though common report condemned him, there was no judicial proof of his guilt; still, he stood convicted before God, for his own conscience bore testimony against him before that God who searches the reins and heart; and he, therefore, candidly avows, “And I have done evil before thee;” for, though he did the evil in private, in the darkness of a closed chamber, he could not evade the all seeing eye of his Maker. “That thou mayest be justified in thy words.” I confess myself a sinner, thereby acknowledging the justice of the words you pronounced upon me by Nathan the prophet, when he accused me of murder and adultery. “And mayest overcome when thou art judged,” a repetition of the same idea; as if he said, There is no use in denying my crimes, for, if put upon my trial, I must acknowledge them; you will gain the cause, I will be cast therein.

5 The fourth reason is derived from our first origin, and the transmission of original sin, making us infirm and prone to sin; and, thereby, the more worthy of mercy and pity. The iniquities and the sins alluded to could not have been the sins of David’s parents, for his parents were pious and devout people; he alludes to the sins of our first parents, as is evident from the Hebrew.

6 The fifth reason, derived from the truth and simplicity of heart for which David was remarkable; God, being truth himself, has a special regard for men of truth, and, by reason of it, revealed many of the future mysteries to David, for there is scarcely a mystery appertaining to Christ or the Church, that he did not foresee and foretell in the Psalms. He, therefore, draws upon his own truthfulness now, to which he still adheres in confessing his sins, and by reason of such adherence to it he asks God to forgive him. “Behold, thou hast loved truth;” you have loved truth and sincerity of heart, as well as you hate duplicity and wickedness. “The uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made known to me” Loving truth as you do, and having formed me most truthful, you have rewarded me by revealing to me the most secret, profound mysteries, proofs of your infinite wisdom. The word “uncertain” does not imply any of the divine mysteries to be uncertain, in the sense that there is a probability of their not coming to pass; but they are “uncertain” to us, in regard of the time of their fulfillment; thus, we say the day of judgments or of our death, is uncertain, though nobody questions the certainty of both one and the other.

7 He now discloses one of the: “Uncertain and hidden things of his wisdom,” namely, that in the new dispensation men would be sprinkled with water in baptism, and thereby perfectly justified, alluding to the ceremony described in Numbers 19, where three things are said to be necessary to expiate uncleanness: the ashes of a red heifer, burnt as a holocaust; water mixed with the ashes; and hyssop to sprinkle it. The ashes signified the death of Christ; the water, baptism; and hyssop, faith; for hyssop is a stunted plant, generally growing on a rock. In the typical expiation, the water purified, but by virtue of the ashes of the slain heifer, and the aspersion with the hyssop; thus, the baptismal water purifies, by the application of the death and merits of Christ, through faith. It is, then, to the real, as well as the figurative expiation, that David refers when he says, “Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed;” for he asks for the cleansing which he knew was only emblematic, that by hyssop, which, however, he knew would be converted into the reality of the institution of baptism. To show God was the primary author of such purification, he does not say, let the priest sprinkle me, but, sprinkle me yourself; to show the perfection of the thorough cleansing to be had in baptism, destroying sin most effectually, and giving additional grace.

8 The effect and sign of perfect justification is, when “The Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God.” The prophet having known this by experience, asks for it again, saying, “To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness.” When you shall have perfectly cleansed me, you will, moreover, light up my interior with that spiritual joy and gladness that will make me feel my sins have been forgiven, and that I have been restored to your favor, and then “The bones that have been humbled shall rejoice;” “the bones” mean the powers of his mind, not the limbs of his body; for he says, immediately after, “A contrite and humbled heart, O Lord, thou wilt not despise;” and the meaning is, my mind, now dejected and weighed down, will then recover its strength, and rejoice when we learn that the fear that saddens and humbles us comes from God, and that it disposes the soul to the spirit of love that justifieth.

9 He now prays for the immediate accomplishment of what he predicted. He said previously, “Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed;” and also, “To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness;” and he now asks for them at once; first, for the remission of his sins; “Turn away thy face from my sins.” Do not look on my sins with a view to punish me, as Tobias said, “Lord, do not remember my sins.” Such expressions are purely figurative, for God, from whom nothing can be hidden, can neither turn away his face from, nor forget, our sins; but he is said “to turn away his face” or to forget, when he acts as those do, who do not reflect or remember, and such people do not punish; “And blot out all my iniquities;” to make the pardon a lasting, permanent one, for he that turns his face away from a piece of writing, may look on it again and consider the matter of it, but when the writing is destroyed, “blotted out,” it can no longer be read, a proof that when sin is forgiven it is thoroughly forgiven.

10 This verse corresponds with, “Thou shalt wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow;” for he asks not only for a remission of his sins, but for such an infusion of grace as may renew his soul, and make it bright and beautiful, a petition, telling against those who make justification to consist solely in the remission of sin. We are not to take it that a new heart is asked for, when he says, “Create;” the expression merely expresses a wish that his heart may be thoroughly cleansed and purified, and made, as it were, a new heart. The meaning, then, is, create cleanness in my heart; and there is a certain point in the word “Create,” to imply that God finds nothing in the heart of a sinner, whence to form cleanness in it; but that entirely, through his own great mercy, without any merit on their part, it is, that he justifies men; for, even though sinners are disposed to justification by faith and penance, still, faith, penance, and all such things are purely the gift of God. “And renew a right spirit within my bowels,” an explanation of the preceding sentence, for, to let us see that the meaning of “Creating a new heart,” is nothing more than creating cleanness in the heart, he now adds, “And renew a right spirit in my bowels,” instead of renew my bowels. The bowels mean, the interior affections of the soul; that is, the will, which was just now called the heart; a “right spirit” means, a right affection, in other words, charity; for by avarice or cupidity the affections of the heart become distorted, turn to creatures, especially to self, while charity or love directs them to the things above, especially to God. “A right spirit,” then, “is renewed in the bowels;” when the heart having been cleansed by grace, an ardent love of God, that had been displaced by sin, is renewed in the soul.

11 He now, mindful of his frailty, asks for the grace of perseverance; lest, being too much raised up by grace, he may happen to fall again. The expression, “Cast me not away from thy face,” is used in the Scripture to designate those who are cast off by God, without any hope or chance of reconciliation. Thus, in 1 Kings 15, the Lord said to Samuel, “How long wilt thou mourn over Saul whom I have rejected?” and 2 Kings 7, “But my mercy I will not take away from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before my face;” and in 4 Kings 24, “For the Lord was angry against Jerusalem, and against Juda, till he cast them out from his face.” He, therefore, says, “Cast me not away from thy face.” Allow me not to lapse again into sin, for fear you should deprive me of your grace forever. My having been washed, and made white as snow, and having had a right spirit renewed within me, would be of little value, if I were ultimately to be “cast away from your face,” with the reprobate. That such may not be the case, that it may not come to pass, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me,” give me the grace of perseverance, causing, through your grace, to make the Holy Spirit constantly abide in me, and thus preserve a “right spirit in my bowels.” Hence we learn, that God deserts nobody, until himself is first deserted; and that he does not withdraw his Holy Spirit from the just, until they extinguish it in themselves by sin; still, man must get the gift of perseverance, to enable him to avoid sin, and extinguish thereby the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle says, “Pray that you may do no evil;” and it is to such gift this passage of the Psalm refers, for when David says, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me;” he does not mean, don’t take it if I shall fall into sin; but, don’t take it, that I may not fall into sin.

12 This verse corresponds with the words, “To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness;” for, as he had predicted that an interior joy, borne testimony to by the Spirit speaking within him, would be the consequence of true and perfect justification, he now, after having asked for remission of his sins, and the infusion of grace with the gift of perseverance, asks for the sign and effect of such justification, saying, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” Through sin I have lost grace, and the joy consequent on it; and as I asked for the restoration of grace, I now, consequently, ask for the “joy of thy salvation;” the joy that arises from the salvation you bestow on me; and for fear he should be over joyful, and thereby lulled into a dangerous security, he adds, “And strengthen me with a perfect spirit.” I ask you to strengthen and confirm me in my good purposes by an inspiration of your perfect Spirit.

13 The fruit of his justification, tending to the glory of God and the benefit of many. Having been taken into favor after so many grievous offenses, “I will teach,” by word and example, “thy ways,” mercy, and justice; “For all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth;” and the consequence will be, that the wicked, following my example, will be converted to thee. David was a signal example to all posterity of God’s justice and mercy; of his mercy, because, notwithstanding his grievous crimes, the moment he exclaimed, “I have sinned before the Lord,” they were all forgiven; and of his justice, for the Lord inflicted most grievous temporal punishments on him, not only in the death of the son born in adultery, but soon after, in his expulsion from the kingdom, the public violation of his wives by his own son, and the slaughter of his sons Amon and Absalom. His example was useful, not only to the people of his own time, but to all unto the end of the world; for this Psalm, composed by him, is in use, and will be in use: so long as the Church militant shall be in existence. David, then, carried out what he promised in this Psalm, for he taught the wicked the ways of the Lord, thereby bringing many sinners to God, and will, doubtless, bring many more. It is also most likely that David, upon his repentance, did preach up the mercy of God to many, and that, through his exhortations, many sinners were converted to God.

14 Having prayed shortly before for his sins to be washed away, and having promised that he would teach sinners the ways of the Lord, he now prays to be freed from the punishment which Urias’s blood, unjustly spilt, called for, and promises to praise God’s justice. “Deliver me;” save me from the voice of Urias’s blood, which, unjustly spilled by me, cries out to thee and calls for vengeance; “Deliver me,” for he fancied he saw the blood, like a soldier in arms, staring him in the face; and, therefore, with great propriety, he adds, “O God, the God of my salvation;” for to deliver from imminent danger is the province of a Savior; and this, too, is a reason for his adding, “and my tongue shall extol thy justice;” for true deliverance and salvation was then had through the merits of Christ in prospective, as the same is had now through the same merits as of the past. The merits of Christ have in them the very essence of justice, and deserve the most unbounded praises both of lips and of heart on our part.

15 The consequence of the perfect justification and salvation of the sinner is, that his lips, which were wont to praise God, but were closed by sin, through his pardon should be opened again to praise and thank his Redeemer. He, therefore, says, “O Lord, thou wilt open any lips,” by forgiving and pardoning my sins, and restoring my joy and confidence; you will open my lips, and then “my mouth shall declare thy praise,” by proclaiming your mercy and justice, not only to the present but to all future ages.

16 He assigns a reason for offering the sacrifice of praise, because sacrifices of cattle are not pleasing to God; as if he said, “My mouth shall announce thy praise,” because I know you to prefer such sacrifice to that of brute animals; and if such sacrifices were pleasing to you, I would not hesitate in offering them. It is not to be inferred from this, that sacrifices of brute animals were in no respect pleasing to God, when it is clear, from the book of Leviticus, that they were instituted and ordered to be offered by him; but they are said to be of no value essentially, as if the slaughter of cattle were, in itself, a thing agreeable, or useful, or necessary to God. They are also said to be of no value in comparison with the sacrifice of the Eucharist, as appears from Malachias 1, where the old sacrifices, it is said, will cease, when “The clean oblation will be offered in all nations.” Sacrifices are also said to be of no value when they are offered by sinners, as we have in Isaias 1, “Obedience being more pleasing to God than the offering of victims.” Finally, sacrifices are said to be of no value as regards the expiation of sin; for, as the Apostle says, “It is impossible that sins could be taken away by the blood of bulls and goats;” and it is in such sense that David says here, “If thou hadst desired sacrifice,” for the remission of my sins, “I would indeed have given it;” but because “with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted,” so as to forgive me my sins through them, therefore “My mouth shall declare thy praise;” for, as we said in the explanation of the last Psalm, such sacrifice is the one most acceptable to God, being lighted on the altar of the heart with the fire of charity.

17 He explains more fully how acceptable to God is the sacrifice of praise; that sacrifice that springs from a contrite and humbled heart, when man, acknowledging his own misery and God’s mercy, humbles himself before his power, attributing all honor and glory to him, and confusion and disgrace to himself, as we read in Daniel 9, “Justice to thee, O Lord, but to us confusion of face;” and a little further on, “To us, O Lord, confusion of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers who have sinned, but to you, our Lord God, mercy and propitiation.” The expressions, “afflicted spirit” and “contrite heart,” are the same, and the one Hebrew expression is only given for both, but the interpreter chose to vary the words, and the meaning is the same. The spirit is said to be afflicted when the soul is affected with grief, and thus placed in trouble, by reason of the sin committed against God; so also, the heart is said to be contrite when the soul, full of grief for the sin committed, is, as it were, torn asunder, and reduced into powder, from its strong hardness and insensibility. Such contrition is the sacrifice most acceptable to God, for as well as he is offended by our sins, he is appeased by our repentance; and very properly is now added, “A contrite and humbled heart, O Lord, thou wilt not despise;” for God despises the proud, and resists them; but to the humble (who willingly submit to him) he always gives his grace, James 4.

18 The last reason assigned by David to appease God, to obtain perfect justice, and to make reparation after so grievous a fall; for he says, that as well as his fall proved an injury to the whole people, his recovery will be now a source of edification to them; and he, therefore, begs this favor for himself and for the whole city of Sion. “Deal favorably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion.” If I am not worthy of being heard, have regard to the city of which I am the head, and confer a favor on it by healing its head, “in thy good will;” in the good will, in which you were pleased to select this city as your own peculiar city. “That the walls of Jerusalem may be built up,” meaning himself, who, like a wall, guarded and defended the entire people.

19 The works of justice that please God as true spiritual sacrifices are the effect of justification, according to the Apostle, Heb. 13, “And do not forget to do good, and to impart, for by such sacrifices God’s favor is obtained;” and 1 Pet. 2, “Offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”—“Then,” when I shall have been thoroughly renewed and justified, “shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice;” all the good works of mine and my people, “oblations and whole burnt offerings.” All which good works will be so many spiritual oblations, so many spiritual holocausts. Spiritual oblations are the offering of one’s substance or property in alms for the love of God; and spiritual holocausts is the dedication of one’s self entirely to do God’s will and commands, according to Rom. 11, “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, your reasonable service.”—“Then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.” When it shall be seen that such sacrifices of justice are the most acceptable to you, people will vie with each other in loading your altar, not with the ordinary sacrifices, but with the most precious; for that of the calf was considered the sacrifice most valuable; and thus the “laying calves upon the altar” means the offering of works of the most perfect justice to the Lord God.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 119:67-76

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 11, 2017

67 Before I was humbled I offended; therefore have I kept thy word.
68 Thou art good; and in thy goodness teach me thy justifications.

He explains the necessity of the three gifts aforesaid, stating he had good reason for asking for them, inasmuch as it was through the want of them he transgressed, and for his transgressions was humbled by God in his justice. “Before I was humbled,” by being visited with tribulations, “I offended,” through ignorance; “therefore have I kept thy word,” the promise I made of thenceforward observing your law more attentively; but do “thou who art good,” that is, sweet and kind, “in thy goodness,” in conformity with your mildness, “teach me thy justifications,” that I may sin no more.

69 The iniquity of the proud hath been multiplied over me: but I will seek thy commandments with my whole heart.
70 Their heart is curdled like milk: but I have meditated on thy law.

He now explains the necessity of the second gift, discipline, or prudence. “The iniquity of the proud hath been multiplied;” proud sinners told me lies without end, to try and make me break your law; hence the necessity for prudence, through which “I will seek thy commandments with my whole heart.” “Their heart is curdled like milk;” those proud sinners have a heart hard as cheese formed of curdled milk, and I, therefore, dismissed them, and “have meditated on thy law.”

71 It is good for me that thou hast humbled me, that I may learn thy justifications.
72 The law of thy mouth is good to me, above thousands of gold and silver.

From the abundance of the first gift that had been conferred on him, he now declares, “It is good for me that thou hast humbled me,” no one but one truly meek and humble of heart, and thus truly good, and who from experience could form an opinion of what is good, could give expression to such a sentiment. For he that is truly good looks upon any humiliation, arising from tribulation, as a great good, inasmuch as it leads to a better observance of God’s law, the value of which he expresses, when he says, “The law of thy mouth is good to me above thousands of gold and silver,” and so it is, because through the observance of the law we acquire life everlasting, to which no treasures can be compared.

73 Thy hands have made me and formed me: give me understanding, and I will learn thy commandments.

In the next eight verses he assigns many reasons for asking the grace to observe the law; and first, from the fact of his being one of God’s creatures, and, therefore, owing him implicit obedience. “Thy hands have made me and formed me.” Thy power and wisdom, like a pair of hands, “made me,” when I had no existence, “and formed me,” by working, out of the shapeless mass, my members and my senses, or made me as to my soul, and formed me as to my body. Being thus entirely yours, and owing you the most profound obedience, I ask you “to give me understanding and I will learn thy commandments,” that I may not only know them but practice them.

74 They that fear thee shall see me, and shall be glad:because I have greatly hoped in thy words.

The second reason, derived from the edification of the neighbor, “they that fear thee shall see me” keeping your commandments, “and shall be glad,” because they shall see that I have “greatly hoped in thy words,” in the promises contained in your law.

75 I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are equity: and in thy truth thou hast humbled me.

Reason the third, his having confessed his faults. “I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are equity,” that your judgments are essentially just, and if “you have humbled me,” by depriving me of your grace, I know you have done so “in truth,” because I deserved it, I therefore complain not of your justice, but I throw myself on your mercy, saying—

76 O! let thy mercy be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.

The comfort he asks for is grace to observe the law; for he who grieves for his humiliation, by reason of having been deprived of grace, and thus having fallen into sin, will get great consolation, if a profusion of grace will enable him to observe God’s laws perfectly and thoroughly.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 107

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 6, 2017

All are invited to give thanks to God for his perpetual providence over men

1 GIVE glory to the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
2 Let them say so that have been redeemed by the Lord, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy: and gathered out of the countries.
3 From the rising and from the setting of the sun, from the north and from the sea.

This is the preface of the Psalm, in which David exhorts all who have experienced the mercies of the Lord to declare his praise, and especially to give glory to the Lord himself; because he is truly good and merciful, and his mercy never fails. He specially invites the faithful, redeemed by the blood of his only begotten from the bondage of a most powerful enemy, the prince of darkness, who held them in bonds at his own discretion, whom he afterwards collected and gathered together to be one people, one Church, one kingdom, children of his delight, not from Egypt or Babylon, as formerly were the Jews, but “from the rising and the setting of the sun, from the north and from the sea;” that is, from the four quarters of the world, as we read in Jn. 10. “And other sheep I have that are not of the fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd;” and in chap. 11, “For Jesus should die for the nation, and not only for the nation but to gather together into one the children of God that were dispersed.” Though all the faithful, whether Jew or gentile, are specially invited, still the invitation applies in general to all men who may have been at any time, or in any place whatever, delivered by the Lord from any manner of trouble; for redemption is frequently used in the Scripture for any manner of delivery or salvation, without any price having been paid for it. It also applies to those who may have been delivered from the hand—that is, from the power of any enemy; and, finally, to those who may have been delivered from any exile or dispersion in any extremity of the world, and brought back to their country and reunited to their people. The whole world is included in the verse, “from the rising and from the setting of the sun, from the north and from the sea;” in other words, from east to west, from north to south.

4 They wandered in a wilderness, in a place without water: they found not the way of a city for their habitation.
5 They were hungry and thirsty: their soul fainted in them.
6 And they cried to the Lord in their tribulation: and he delivered them out of their distresses.
7 And he led them into the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.
8 Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him: and his wonderful works to the children of men.
9 For he hath satisfied the empty soul, and hath filled the hungry soul with good things.

This is the first part of the Psalm, containing an explanation of the first affliction. There are four afflictions of the body common to all, and there are also four spiritual afflictions. The corporeal afflictions are hunger and thirst, caused by the infecundity of the earth, or by want of rain; that is to say, from some natural cause extrinsic to the sufferers; secondly, captivity, caused by the violence of others, that is, from some voluntary, extrinsic source; thirdly, disease or sickness, which arises from some intrinsic source, from bad constitution; and fourthly, the danger of shipwreck, caused by an external, natural cause, as also by an internal and voluntary cause, namely, man’s curiosity, which, not content with the solidity of the earth, must needs make trial of the liquid deep. There are also four spiritual afflictions, called by theologians natural wounds, wounds left in us through original sin; they are ignorance, concupiscence, bad temper, and malice; to which are opposed prudence, temperance, patience, and justice, which are called the four cardinal virtues. In this first division of the Psalm, then, the prophet sings of God’s mercy in delivering us from the first of these afflictions, including both corporal and spiritual; and though he appears to allude barely to the hunger and thirst the Jews suffered in the desert, still, the principles laid down by him are universal, and are applicable to all; and thus, he says, “They wandered in a wilderness, in a place without water.” Many, in quest of their country, have wandered through a pathless country, and one without water, as occurred to the Jews for forty years. “They found not the way of a city for their habitation,” after straying for a long time, and in all directions, they found no way leading to a city where they may safely rest and dwell. “They were hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.” In their wanderings they met with neither meat nor drink, and they in consequence, all but gave up the ghost. “And they cried to the Lord in their tribulation;” when all human aid failed them they appealed to God, “and he delivered them out of their distresses.” He was not found wanting when they appealed to him, but with that mercy that characterizes him, he delivered them. And he led them into the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation;” the mode he chose for delivering them was to show them the shortest possible way to the city where he dwelt himself. “Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him.” It is, therefore, only right and just that such benefits conferred on man by God in his mercy, should be praised and acknowledged by all, as true favors from God; “and his wonderful works to the children of men;” the wonderful things he did for the liberation of mankind should also be duly praised and acknowledged. “For he hath satisfied the empty soul.” Because he provided the most extraordinary food, prepared by the hands of the Angels, for a lot of hungry people in the desert, nigh exhausted for want of food. This, as we have already said, is most applicable to the food provided for the Jews; but there can be no doubt but the prophet meant, by this example, to teach all those who have been rescued from ignorance and from the misery of thirst and hunger, that they owe their deliverance to God, and that they should, therefore, thank his mercy. And there can be no doubt but the prophet had specially before his mind that ignorance of the way of salvation, under which so many labor, and who stray about, as it were in a desert, hungering and thirsting for the knowledge of truth, the source of wisdom and of prudence. We naturally look for happiness. There is no one that does not look for it, and, therefore, for the way that leads to it; however, many, preoccupied by the thoughts and the desires of passing good, look for happiness where it is not to be found; nay, even look upon that to be happiness which is anything but happiness; and when they know not in what it consists, naturally know not the way that leads to it. Thus, in their strayings and wanderings, they never find, though they are always hungering and thirsting for the city of their true habitation; because the longings of an immortal soul, capable of appreciating supreme happiness, can never be content with the things of this world, miserable and transitory as they are; while those whom God “hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy,” and “gathered out of the countries,” beginning to feel their own blindness, through the great gift of God’s mercy, “they cry to the Lord,” and are heard by him; they are “led into the right way, that leads to the city;” they know that the kingdom of God is their ultimate end, and that justice is the means of acquiring it; “hungering and thirsting,” then, for justice, they run to the fountain of grace, and, refreshed from that fountain, they arrive at the heavenly city, where they are filled and satisfied with all manner of good things, so that they never hunger or thirst again for all eternity.

10 Such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death: bound in want and in iron.
11 Because they had exasperated the words of God: and provoked the counsel of the most High:
12 And their heart was humbled with labours: they were weakened, and there was none to help them.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their affliction: and he delivered them out of their distresses.
14 And he brought them out of darkness, and the shadow of death; and broke their bonds in sunder.
15 Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him, and his wonderful works to the children of men.

This is the second part of the Psalm, in which he reviews the deliverance from the second affliction, corporal as well as spiritual. The second corporal affliction consists in captivity, through which poor creatures are shut up in dark prisons, bound with chains, and loaded with manacles. He seems to allude to the captivity of the Jews, under various persecutors, in the time of the judges, or perhaps under Pharao; for David does not seem to have taken much trouble in relating matters chronologically; the more so as what he states here is applicable to all captives, to all in chains and fetters, who may at any time have been liberated through the mercy of the Lord. “Such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in want and in iron;” that is to say, I have known others who were taken by the enemy and were shut up in loathsome prisons and dense darkness, and were loaded with chains and reduced to beggary, “because they had exasperated the words of God, and provoked the counsel of the Most High.” These were justly afflicted and punished in that manner, because they disregarded God’s precepts and despised his advice. “Exasperating God’s words” means provoking him to anger when he speaks or commands, which is done by those who do not keep his commandments. They, too, may be said to “exasperate God’s words” who provoke his very commandments to anger; for, as the commandments of God crown those that observe them, so they punish those that transgress them; and in this manner they who transgress the commandments provoke them against themselves. There is a certain amount of figurative language in the whole; for “God’s words” mean God, in his discourse or his commands; and the word “exasperating” means God’s punishment being as grievous as if he were capable of being exasperated. A similar figure of speech appears in the following sentence: “and provoked the counsel of the Most High;” for the “counsel of the Most High” must be understood as applying to God in his goodness, with the best intentions, irritated by those who opposed them; or “provoked” may be rendered as condemning or despising, for those who do either provoke, that is, excite to anger. “And their heart was humbled with labor;” their pride was brought down by captivity, chains, and fetters. They are just the things to do it. “They were weakened, and there was none to help them.” They were not able to resist their enemies; and thus, having no one to help them, were led off in captivity. “Then they cried to the Lord” etc.; then they began to implore the divine assistance, to free them as well from their dark prisons as from their chains and fetters; and, to show the extent of their obligations to him, he adds, “he broke gates of brass and burst iron bars,” to show how firmly secured they bad been, and what power is required to liberate them; and thus, on the whole, they are proved to have been delivered from a most severe and wretched captivity. Now, the second spiritual affliction consists in the concupiscence of this world—such as its goods, its wealth, its pleasure, which, like so many chains and fetters, so tie a man down that, though he is fully aware of true happiness existing in God alone, and that, while he remains here below, he must mortify his members, still he remains a captive, without being able to stir, if the grace of God will not set him free. The beginning of his freedom must have its source in his own humility. He must feel that he is a captive, that he has no strength in him, that his heart has been humbled in his labors, and, satisfied of there being no one able to help him but the one heavenly Father, he must, with a contrite and humble heart, with much interior sorrow, exclaim, Lord, I suffer violence; look on me, and have mercy on me. “Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” The mercy of the Father will most surely be at hand to bring the captive from his prison, to burst his fetters, so that, on gaining his liberty, he can with joy exclaim, “Lord, thou hast broken my bonds, I will sacrifice to thee the sacrifice of praise.”

16 Because he hath broken gates of brass, and burst iron bars.
17 He took them out of the way of their iniquity: for they were brought low for their injustices.
18 Their soul abhorred all manner of meat: and they drew nigh even to the gates of death.
19 And they cried to the Lord in their affliction: and he delivered them out of their distresses.
20 He sent his word, and healed them: and delivered them from their destructions.
21 Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him: and his wonderful works to the children of men.
22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifice of praise: and declare his works with joy.

The third part of the Psalm, treating of the third corporeal affliction, which is a most severe disease and languor, such as that of the children of Israel, when God afflicted them with a great plague, through the fiery serpents, so that numbers of them were constantly dying; but no sooner did they cry out to God than they were delivered; and, in like manner, no matter how anyone, or to what extent they may be struck down by sickness or disease, if they will seriously, from the bottom of their heart, in firm faith, and with the other requisites, invoke the Almighty, they will most assuredly be delivered. To enter into particulars, especially as regards expressions not explained before. “He took them out of the way of their iniquity; for they were brought low for their injustices.” We must, of necessity, supply something here; for instance, God saw some of them lying prostrate, “and took them,” that is, raised them up, “out of the way of their iniquity,” in which they were miserably plunged; “for they were brought low for their injustices,” even to the very earth; “their soul abhorred all manner of meat; and they drew nigh even to the gates of death.” The disease must have been very severe when they refused the food necessary to support life, so that death must have, in consequence, been actually at their doors. “He sent his word, and healed them.” And he explains how, by the will or by the command of God alone, without the brazen serpent, or any other created thing; not that things created, such as drugs and medicines, are of no use, but that they have their virtue and efficacy from God, and without his cooperation they are of no value; but God, of himself, without their intervention or application, by his sole word and command, can heal and cure all manner of diseases; in which sense we are to understand that passage in Wisdom, “For it was neither herb nor mollifying plaster that healed them, but thy word, O Lord, which healeth all things;” and, in a few verses before, speaking of those who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, and were cured by looking on the brazen one, he says, “For he that turned to it was not healed by that which he saw, but by the Savior of all.” David speaks figuratively when he says, “He sent his word, and healed them;” as if his word were a messenger or an ambassador on the occasion; unless, perhaps, he alludes to the mission of the Word incarnate, through whom many were healed of their corporeal diseases, and without whom nobody could be healed of their spiritual diseases. “For there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.” The third spiritual affliction consists in the infirmity or weakness and frailty of human nature, corrupted by sin. There are many who understand thoroughly what they ought to do, and are anxious to do it; but they either have no strength, or have not sufficient strength to do it, until they get it from on high. They are also, not infrequently, so affected by a sort of languor or listlessness, that their soul loathes all manner of food; not that they are led into any error, or seduced by any evil concupiscence, but they take no delight in God’s word, they know not what it is to feel any heavenly aspirations, and they run the risk of suffering from hunger, not for want of wherewith to satisfy themselves, but from sheer fastidiousness; and such temptations are neither trifling nor uncommon. They have great need of “crying to the Lord,” to rectify their bad taste, and bring them to have a desire for the milk of divine consolation; and when they shall have begun to relish the things that are from above, and to taste how sweet is the Lord, let them not take the merit of it to themselves; but “Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him; let them sacrifice the sacrifice of praise, and declare his works with joy;” for it clearly is the work of God, and not of man, to make man, accustomed to nothing but the things of this earth, and to what he sees, to have an ardent desire for and feel a sweet relish in the things of the other world, that are hidden from him.

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, doing business in the great waters:
24 These have seen the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
25 He said the word, and there arose a storm of wind: and the waves thereof were lifted up.
26 They mount up to the heavens, and they go down to the depths: their soul pined away with evils.
27 They were troubled, and reeled like a drunken man; and all their wisdom was swallowed up.
28 And they cried to the Lord in their affliction: and he brought them out of their distresses.
29 And he turned the storm into a breeze: and its waves were still.
30 And they rejoiced because they were still: and he brought them to the haven which they wished for.
31 Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him, and his wonderful works to the children of men.
32 And let them exalt him in the church of the people: and praise him in the chair of the ancients.

This is the fourth part of the Psalm, in which God is praised for his care of those that are in danger at sea. No example of such danger, previous to David’s time, occurs in the Scriptures, but subsequent to David, we have that of Jonas, of the Apostles, and of St. Paul. “They that go down to the sea in ships.” They who cross the deep, and are engaged either in rowing, reefing, or setting the sails, know from experience many wonderful works of God, that many know nothing whatever of, or if they do, have it only from hearsay; for instance, the fury of the storm, the raging and roaring of the waves, the immense extent and depth of the sea, the constant and imminent danger that surrounds them, and the fear that will so lay hold on them betimes, as to make the hearts of the bravest quail. “He said the word and there arose a storm of wind;” God spoke, and the storm, in obedience to its Creator, at once arose, sprung up, and, in consequence, “the waves were lifted up;” so that they seemed almost to touch the skies; and, ultimately, to expose the lowest depths of the sea; “their soul pined away with evils;” fear so laid hold on them, that they became incapable of any manner of exertion; nay more, “They were troubled and reeled like a drunken man and all their wisdom was swallowed up;” a most natural description of the state of those in danger from shipwreck; they lose all presence of mind, can adopt no fixed counsel, and, consequently, cannot act upon any; “and all their wisdom,” in steering and righting a ship, if ever they had any, seems to have entirely taken leave of them. “And they cried to the Lord in their affliction.” This verse, occurring now for the fourth time, has been already explained, and the other verses do not seem to need any.—Now, the fourth spiritual affliction is that malice of the will, which principally consists in pride, that is the queen of vice. And, in fact, when the blasts of pride begin to play upon the sea of the human heart then the billows of its desires are raised up even to the very heavens. We are all acquainted with the language of the prince of the sons of pride, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” It was by him the giants of old were inspired to set about building the tower of Babel, that was to have reached the sky. The descendants of those people are they who seek to add kingdoms to kingdoms, and empires to empires; and to whose ambition there is no bounds; whereas, if they would enter into themselves and carefully consider the fearful storms of reflection, suspicion, fear, desires, presumption and despair, that continually harass them, and must, finally, overwhelm them, they would undoubtedly have cried to God, who would in his pity and mercy have delivered them from such a mass of evils; for he would have infused the spirit of his Son into their hearts, to teach them meekness and humility, that the raging billows of their desires, being thus composed, they may find rest for their souls, and be brought into the harbor of his good will; into that harbor of peace and tranquillity that is naturally coveted by all mankind. And this being the greatest favor of God’s mercy, they would naturally chant, “Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him, and his wonderful works to the children of men.”

33 He hath turned rivers into a wilderness: and the sources of waters into dry ground:
34 A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.

This is the second part of the Psalm. After having sung of the mercy of God in warding off the four afflictions, he now praises him for the omnipotence and providence through which he sometimes changes the nature of things, proving himself thereby to be their Maker and Ruler. He first says that God sometimes “turned rivers into a wilderness, and the sources of waters into dry ground,” that is, that when it pleased him, he dried up entire rivers, and caused the places inundated by them to become perfectly dry; “a fruitful land into barrenness,” which is intelligible enough, “for the wickedness of them that dwell therein,” as a punishment for the wickedness of its inhabitants; an example of which we have in Genesis, where we read, “And Lot lifting up his eyes saw all the country about the Jordan, which was watered throughout, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, as the paradise of the Lord,” and yet this beautiful and fertile country, a paradise in itself, was dried up by sulphur and fire from heaven, and condemned to everlasting sterility.

35 He hath turned a wilderness into pools of waters, and a dry land into water springs.
36 And hath placed there the hungry; and they made a city for their habitation.
37 Anti they sowed fields, and planted vineyards: and they yielded fruit of birth.
38 And he blessed them, and they were multiplied exceedingly: and their cattle he suffered not to decrease.

On the other hand, God, when he chose, “turned a wilderness into pools of waters;” caused rivers to flow in desert lands, where they were unknown, and made streams of pure water to run where they never ran before. That made the land habitable; men began to build there, to till the land, and to reap its fruits; and thus man and beast began to multiply thereon. It is not easy to determine what land the prophet alludes to; for, though God brought water from the rock for his people, they did not tarry nor settle there, nor build houses there; and when he brought them into the land of promise, there were rivers, cities, houses, and fields all ready for them. I am, therefore, of opinion that the prophet refers to some early colonization subsequent to the deluge; for, as well as he turned the fertile plains of Sodom and Gomorrah into a wilderness, so he also caused rivers to run, and cities to spring up in places that were previously waste and desolate. Isaias seems to have this passage in view when he says, “I will turn the desert into pools of waters and the impassable land into streams of waters;” and St. Jerome says that he therein alludes to the condition of the gentiles, who were at one time desert and uncultivated, without faith, without the law, without the prophets or the priesthood; but were afterwards to be highly nourished, through Christ, with the gifts of the Holy Ghost; and, therefore, St. Augustine very properly applies this passage to the synagogue, as contrasted with the Church. The synagogue, that one timed abounded in the waters of the word of God, and like a fertile soil, produced its prophets and priests, had its altars, sacrifices, miracles, and visions, now desert and barren, is turned into dry ground, with not one of those things; while, on the other hand, the Church of the gentiles, from having been dry and barren, is turned into pools of water, is become most fertile, replete with the choicest fruit, and has come to be the people of the Lord, the Church of the living God, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, where alone is to be found the true sacrifice, true priests, true miracles, true holiness, true wisdom, and, finally, all the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

39 Then they were brought to be few: and they were afflicted through the trouble of evils and sorrow.
40 Contempt was poured forth upon their princes: and he caused them to wander where there was no passing, and out of the way.
41 And he helped the poor out of poverty: and made him families like a flock of sheep.
42 The just shall see, and shall rejoice, and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.
43 Who is wise, and will keep these things; and will understand the mercies of the Lord?

The prophet now teaches us that there is nothing on earth stable or permanent, for they who have been at one time blessed by God, and multiplied through his blessing, in a little time after have been, by reason of their sins, cut away and reduced to nothing; and they who abound in all the good things of this world have, for the same reason, been driven to the direst extremities; and such has proved to be the case, not only with ordinary mortals, but even with princes whose sins have caused God to bring them to be condemned, by his having deprived them of wisdom and prudence, and thus, in consequence, making many and grievous mistakes in all their affairs. However, at the same time, men of honor and virtue were to be found, raised up by God from poverty, and fed and nourished by him as his own sheep. Hence, ultimately, divine providence caused the just to rejoice, and the wicked to be confounded. What has been said, in general, regarding God’s providence towards mankind, applies also to his special providence in regard of the Church, which grew up in a short time; and soon after was lessened, harassed, and afflicted by heresy and schisms; “her princes,” that is, her bishops and priests, were held in contempt, for numbers of them fell back from the path of their predecessors, who had set such an example of holiness and piety to the people over whom they had been placed. However, the Church was not abandoned to such an extent altogether as not to leave a considerable number of princes, and bishops, and priests, and holy laics, whom God enriched with spiritual favors, and whom, as being his own sheep, he led to the choicest pastures, and made them increase and multiply. To come now to the text. “Then they were brought to be few,” after increasing to such an extent, their numbers began to be reduced “and they were afflicted with the troubles of evil and sorrow;” after having had such a flow of prosperity they began to feel sad reverses. “Contempt was poured forth upon their princes.” One of the greatest misfortunes that could befall any people is to have their rulers, whether secular or ecclesiastical, objects of contempt. “And he caused them to wander where there was no passing, and out of the way.” The reason why they were despised was, because the princes aforesaid, having been deserted by the light of grace, in consequence of their own sins, as well as those of their people, did not walk in the right way; that is to say they led a bad and immoral life, scandalized the people by their bad example, and made bad laws in favor of the wicked, and against the just. Observe, that when God is said to procure those things, he does not do it directly: he does it indirectly, by withdrawing the light of his grace. “And he helped the poor out of poverty.” As well as he suffered the proud and haughty princes to fall, and rendered them objects of contempt, so, on the contrary, he raised up the poor and the humble, “and made him families like a flock of sheep;” multiplied his posterity, blessed and protected them as a shepherd would his own sheep. “The just shall see and shall rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.” The consequence of this providence of God will be, that the just will rejoice and express their joy in praising and glorifying God; and “all iniquity,” all the malicious and the wicked will be struck dumb, and will not presume to offer the slightest opposition. This we sometimes see in partial instances; but it will be fully developed and made apparent only on the day of general judgment.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 11

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 3, 2017

The just man’s confidence in God, in the midst of persecutions

1 Unto the end. A psalm to David. In the Lord I put my trust: how then do you say to my soul: Get thee away from hence to the mountain, like a sparrow.

The cry of the just man, who, under the weight of calumny is nigh tempted to despair and to desert his calling. “In the Lord I put any trust.” He is everywhere, and all powerful. “How then do you say to my soul,” that is to me—the phrase being much in use among the Hebrews—that is, why seek to persuade me? He addresses either the demons tempting him, or his own internal concupiscence stirred up by the devil. “Get thee away hence to the mountain like a sparrow;” that means, give up your calling, and man’s society, and go where there are no temptations, no dangers; for sparrows, when they dread the birds of prey, fly to the tops of mountains, where such birds cannot follow them. In regard of temptations, such mountains offer no protection, save in man’s imagination; who, when subject to grievous temptations, imagine change of place will save them from such trouble; and who, in a fit of desperation, will put an end to their existence, as if it were the mountain to save them; while the just man is patient, and stands his ground—knowing these temptations to exist in all places—with God’s help there to meet them.

2 For, lo, the wicked have bent their bow: they have prepared their arrows in the quiver, to shoot in the dark the upright of heart.

A reason for flying to the mountains for deserting one’s vocation from an excess of fear, suggested by temptations: namely, the just being daily persecuted by the wicked, whether by calumny or in any other shape. Calumny is compared “to the arrows that shoot in the dark;” to give us to understand that they not only inflict a grievous wound, but that it is nigh impossible to guard against them. The two verses taken together may be thus interpreted. One cannot now be upright of heart, seeing the number of snares daily laid for them on all sides; they must therefore fly away to an inaccessible mountain, shun the company of man altogether; a thing impossible: or succumb to custom, by deserting the paths of justice. The just man thus replies to the temptation, “I will confide in the Lord,” and will, therefore, neither fly to an inhabitable mountain, nor will desert the path of justice.

3 For they have destroyed the things which thou hast made: but what has the just man done?

By an appeal to Heaven, he confirms the truth of the just being persecuted by the wicked; for the wicked “have destroyed the things which thou hast made;” that is, your most perfect laws, counsels, and the commands you gave your people: and, instead of doing good for evil, as you wish, they do evil for good, calumniating and persecuting the just without any pretence or reason. “But what has the just man done?” Nothing whatever; he has given them no provocation, “But they hated without cause.”

4 The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes look on the poor man: his eyelids examine the sons of men.

He begins to assign a reason for confiding in God, and disregarding the threats of men, inasmuch as he is a judge sitting in heaven, whence he can see all things and has all men under control. “The Lord is in his holy temple;” by his holy temple he means the highest heavens, the temple not made by human hands; which he expresses more clearly when he adds, “The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes look upon the poor.” From that highest throne, from which nothing can be hid, God beholds the poor; and, therefore, they cannot be harmed without God’s knowledge or permission, a matter of the greatest consolation to them. What follows is more declaratory of the providence of God. For God not only sees men, but by a glance discerns and distinguishes the good from the bad, and all their works. The expression, “His eyelids examine,” means nothing more than he sees distinctly; such figurative expressions occur very often in the Psalms. The eyelids then here mean the eyes; the eyes, the mind: to interrogate means to know with as much exactness as if he previously interrogated and examined with the greatest minuteness.

5 The Lord trieth the just and the wicked: but he that loveth iniquity, hateth his own soul.

God not only knows exactly the just and the sinner, but he also rewards or punishes them according to their merit. Therefore, “He that loveth iniquity hateth his own soul;” that is to say, himself; for he will be most grievously punished for his iniquity, a beautiful and most elegant sentence. For he who loves iniquity, in seeming to love his soul, that is, himself, by gratifying himself, commits sin; and thereby, in reality hates his soul, and destroys it, as our Savior, John 12, has it, “Who loves his soul shall lose it;” in other words, who wrongfully loves himself truly hates himself.

6 He shall rain snares upon sinners: fire and brimstone, and storms of winds, shall be the portion of their cup.

A proof of the wicked “having hated their own souls,” because God will rain upon them in this life snares in the greatest abundance, as numerous as drops of rain; that is to say, will permit them daily to fall into fresh and greater sins, striking them with blindness, and “giving them up to a reprobate sense,” one of the most dreadful and severe punishments. And as to the next life, “Fire and brimstone, and storms of winds;” that is, the most burning and scorching blasts in hell, “will be the part of their chalice;” meaning their portion and inheritance. We have to observe that the word “chalice” signifies inheritance, a usual meaning for it in the Scripture, as, “The Lord is the part of my inheritance, and of my chalice;” when the two expressions mean the one thing, viz., his inheritance as he immediately explains by adding, “You will restore my inheritance unto me.” Inheritance is called a cup, because as the cup at a feast, at least at the paschal feast, was divided among the guests, whence the expression of Lk. 22, “Take and divide it between you;” so an inheritance is divided between the sons of the same father. The same word inheritance is sometimes called, part or portion, as, “The Lord is my part;” in another place, “The Lord is my portion;” sometimes, “The part of my inheritance;” which does not mean that the Lord is a part of his inheritance, but that the Lord is the part that came to him by inheritance; so that inheritance and part of the inheritance mean the same: so, with regard to chalice and part of the chalice, which means the portion of the chalice that came to one upon a division. In very nice language he gives the children of the devil, to whom the Lord, in Jn. 8, said, “You are from your father the devil,” the inheritance belonging to him, namely, the horrible punishment designated by “Fire, brimstone, and the spirit of winds.”

7 For the Lord is just, and hath loved justice: his countenance hath beheld righteousness.

God, being strictly just in himself, must, of necessity, punish the wicked with great severity. “For God is light, and there is no darkness in him; And hath loved justice,” that is, good works in all those he created to his likeness, he repeats the same when he says, “His countenance hath beheld righteousness;” by righteousness is meant a declaration of justice. For the justice alluded to here is not the virtue that regulates the mutual dealings or intercourse of man and man; but a universal justice, that embraces all virtues, the summary of which is the love of God and of the neighbor. “For the end of the commandment is love.” 1 Tim. 1; and, “Who loveth hath fulfilled the law.” Rom. 13. The expression, “his countenance hath beheld righteousness,” implies more than simply seeing; it means to see with a look of approbation, as the words in Ps. 1. “The Lord knoweth the way of the just.” Thou hast loved justice and seen righteousness, mean the same thing.

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St Robert Bellarmines’ Commentary on Psalm 68

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 3, 2017

Note: the verse numbering here may differ from more modern translations.

The glorious establishment of the church of the New Testament, prefigured by the benefits bestowed on the people of Israel

1 Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered: and let them that hate him flee from before his face.

Such were the words used by Moses on the raising of the ark when the people were about to proceed on their journey, containing a prayer to God, that as the ark was raised and was carried before the people, he too may deign to rise up and defend and protect his people on their journey. David, then, in imitation of Moses, and having a prophetic knowledge of Christ’s resurrection, through which his human nature was to be raised, and to make him the future leader of all the elect to the land of promise, exclaims, “Let God arise.” Let Christ, who is God, arise from the dead, and precede his people to the heavenly Jerusalem. “Let his enemies be scattered;” that is, the Jews, who said, “We will not have this man to reign over us;” which has been literally carried out; for no nation was ever so scattered over the world as that of the Jews. “And let them that hate him flee from before his face.” Let his enemies, the demons now conquered and routed, fly before the face of God, now in triumph, and proving by his resurrection that he is the real true God.

2 As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.

The celerity and facility with which the presence of Christ scatters sinners could not be more expressively conveyed than by comparing them to the smoke that is dispelled by the wind, or wax that melts before the fire, and is consumed by it. If we understand the “wicked” here to apply to the demons, then we must not take it that they “perish,” strictly speaking; but, that they are so deprived of all strength and power as to render them perfectly harmless. If we apply the word “wicked” to men, the meaning will be, that the oppressors of the just will be quickly and severely punished by God.

3 And let the just feast, and rejoice before God: and be delighted with gladness.

The consequence of this signal punishment of the wicked will be, that the just, who have been so supported by God, “will feast;” will be refreshed in soul and body, and will “rejoice before God;” will give full vent to their joy; but, with such modesty and gravity, as becomes those who know that God’s eyes are always on them; “and be delighted with gladness;” will find such pleasure in their gladness, that they will have no occasion to turn to any carnal or dangerous pleasure.

4 Sing ye to God, sing a psalm to his name, make a way for him who ascendeth upon the west: the Lord is his name. Rejoice ye before him: but the wicked shall be troubled at his presence,

These words are addressed to the Apostles and the first converts to Christianity. “Sing ye to God,” ye the first of the believers. “Sing a psalm to his name;” praise God by works and words for having deigned to make you cognizant of such mysteries; “make a way for him who ascendeth upon the west.” By your preaching prepare the way of the Lord, so that he who has already ascended upon the west, and has risen above all corruption and mortality, and is about to take up his abode, through faith, in the hearts of all nations, may, through your preaching, find the way prepared and open. “The Lord is his name;” and, therefore, has a right to rule; and he is Lord by right of creation, as well as of redemption. The words, “make a way,” do not mean, retire, but they mean, to make a road, a passage, where there was none before; by removing every obstacle, as it is said in Isaias, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord;” which he explains when he adds, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be lowered;” thereby inspiring the timid with confidence to raise themselves up in the hope of salvation; and taking down the proud through the fear of God’s judgments. The word “ascendeth” does not mean to ascend or rise up, but to be carried along on an exalted, elevated place, as appears from the Hebrew, from which, too, we learn that the words, “upon the west,” signify darkness, or a desert; to signify the corruption of human nature, that is full of drought and darkness. Christ, then, in his resurrection, is said “to ascend upon the west;” because, to a certain extent he is carried along, and rides triumphantly over death, darkness, and the desert of this world below. Such is the explanation of most of the holy fathers. “Rejoice ye before him;” you who have prepared his way, do not fear your persecutors, for “they shall be troubled;” at the fitting time, on the day of judgment, or, perhaps before, when God shall see it fit and opportune, “they shall be troubled,” and that severely.

5 Who is the father of orphans, and the judge of widows. God in his holy place:

No wonder they should be punished severely, for God has special charge of the oppressed, the orphan, the widow, and all afflicted; but especially the orphan and the widow; in a spiritual sense, that is, those who acknowledge no father, no spouse, in this world, but God alone, confide in him alone, love him alone, and long for the day when they shall see him; and, therefore, it is with them that he mostly dwells, and their hearts are “his holy place.”

6 God who maketh men of one manner to dwell in a house: Who bringeth out them that were bound in strength; in like manner them that provoke, that dwell in sepulchres.

Such as the primitive Christians, of one mind, one will, one faith, hope, and love, of whom the Acts say, they were “One soul, one heart;” “who bringeth out them that were bound in strength.” Behold God’s great love, who not only “maketh men of one manner to dwell in a house,” but he also “bringeth out them that were bound in strength;” that is, by the strength of his arm brings from captivity those that were bound in the chains of sin; and, what is more wonderful, “them that provoke” God by their incredulity; “that dwell,” as if they were dead, “in sepulchres” of the deepest iniquity; even such people, by the power of his grace, he brings out of their sepulchres, restores them to life, and “makes them to dwell of one manner in a house.” St. Augustine notes a difference between the bound and the buried. The bound are they who are caught in the chains of concupiscence; but, are anxious to be loosed, and pray for help thereto. The buried are they who come to the very lowest grade of iniquity, and when they do, despise salvation altogether, and exasperate God greatly thereby; and still God’s great love sometimes softens both one and the other, brings them to penance, and frees them from the slavery of the devil, the greatest ever known or thought of.

7 O God, when thou didst go forth in the sight of thy people, when thou didst pass through the desert:
8 The earth was moved, and the heavens dropped at the presence of the God of Sina, at the presence of the God of Israel.

To make the benefits of the redemption of Christ more credible, he reminds them of past benefits, which were only types of the future. “O God, when thou didst go forth in the sight of thy people;” when you went before your people as a pillar of cloud by day, and as a pillar of fire by night; when you were going through the desert, after having passed the Red Sea, then “the earth was moved, and the heavens dropped.” It was moved when it began to tremble at the sight of God descending on mount Sinai, as we read in Exodus 19, where it is said, “And all the mount was terrible,” the Hebrew for which means trembling, or leaping. He is God of Sinai, by reason of his having appeared thereon. “The heavens dropped,” when manna fell from them; “at the presence of the God of Israel,” to show it was for the use of the people that the heavens did so drop.

9 Thou shalt set aside for thy inheritance a free rain, O God: and it was weakened, but thou hast made it perfect.

The heavens dropped a certain rain, the manna, to our fathers in the desert; but you “have set aside a free rain;” a rain that descends freely; the grace of the Holy Ghost, which is called free or voluntary, because it does not descend by reason of our merits, as the rain is collected through exhalations from the earth; but is freely poured into the hearts of the faithful by the influence of the Holy Ghost; and it is said to be “set aside for thy inheritance,” because temporal blessings are common to all, faithful and infidels; but the grace of the Holy Ghost is set aside that it may be imparted to the faithful only, members of the Church, out of which there is no salvation. “And it was weakened, but thou hast made it perfect.” The word “and” has the force of the word “because;” and thus, the meaning is, because your inheritance was weakened through ignorance, and through concupiscence, in the worship of idols, and in the indulgence in all manner of vice, you have, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, confirmed and strengthened it by a salutary rain.

10 In it shall thy animals dwell; in thy sweetness, O God, thou hast provided for the poor.

In that inheritance, the Church, which is irrigated by the water of heaven, “shall thy animals dwell;” the sheep of your flock, that you undertook to provide for and to feed; for you, O God, “hast provided” food, for instance, “for the poor,” for your people in want; “in thy sweetness,” agreeable to your goodness and mercy, that is always most sweet to the wretched and the needy.

11 The Lord shall give the word to them that preach good tidings with great power.

He informs them what sort is the food that the Lord had prepared for his poor people; and says the food is his word. “The Lord shall give the word to them that preach good tidings;” the Lord will confer fluency of speech on those who preach his word, which is the food of souls; “with great power;” with such strength and efficacy that their adversaries will not be able to resist or to contradict them.

12 The king of powers is of the beloved, of the beloved; and the beauty of the house shall divide spoils.

The king of great armies is also the king of the beloved of the beloved; that means of the most beloved, meaning Christ, most beloved by God and man; “and the beauty of the house,” in order to decorate and beautify his house, the Church; “shall divide spoils,” the spoils of the gentiles, brought to the true faith by the preaching of the Apostles.

13 If you sleep among the midst of lots, you shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and the hinder parts of her back with the paleness of gold.

A most obscure verse; but the general opinion of the fathers seems to be, that “lots” mean an inheritance, a possession; and that he thus addresses the Apostles, “If you,” who preach the Gospel, “sleep,” that is, rest between the two Testaments, the Old and New; acknowledging the authority of the prophets, as well as of the Apostles; then the “wings of the dove,” the faith and morals of the Church, shall “be covered with silver,” in the purity of wisdom, and “gilded” with the fervor of charity.

14 When he that is in heaven appointeth kings over her, they shall be whited with snow in Selmon.
15 The mountain of God is a fat mountain. A curdled mountain, a fat mountain.
16 Why suspect, ye curdled mountains? A mountain in which God is well pleased to dwell: for there the Lord shall dwell unto the end.

The prophet having compared the preachers of the Old and New Testament to “those who sleep among the lots,” and having compared the Church to a silvered and gilded dove, now compares the same preachers to a number of princes appointed by the supreme King, and the Church to a very high mountain, whitened with snow, and abounding in cattle giving milk. Mount Selmon is a very high mountain, having its summit always covered with snow, but in the bottom exceedingly rich and fertile. He therefore says, “When he that is in heaven,” Christ, who is God, the celestial, all powerful King, “appointeth,” divides and separates the provinces, appointing a prince over each; “kings over her;” the Apostles, who were placed over the Church, called previously the silvered dove; for, as he said in Psalm 44, “Thou shalt make them princes over all the earth,” to guide and govern the people. “They shall be whited with snow in Selmon;” then many people will be converted, and the darkness of their sins having been changed into the brightness of virtue, they shall be made more white than the snow on mount Selmon, the type of the Church. The same mount Selmon is “the mountain of God, a fat mountain;” for the Church, by reason of its dignity is like a mountain, it is the “mountain of God,” for God dwelleth in her, and chose a habitation for himself in her, and she is “a fat mountain,” abounding in the graces and gifts of the Holy Ghost. She is also “a curdled mountain,” because the milk of divine grace never fails or flows away, but remains as it were, curdled in her. “Why suspect, ye curdled mountains?” Why do ye suspect or imagine that there are any other mountains equally rich or curdled? There are no mountains as rich or as curdled as Selmon. For this is the only “mountain in which God is well pleased to dwell;” for his abode in it will not be temporary, as it was in Sinai, but “There the Lord shall dwell unto the end;” that is, forever. Hence it is vain for other mountains to rival, or to contend with it, or to envy it. Of this mountain we read in Isaias, chap. 2, “And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it: and many people shall go and say: Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths;” all of which certainly applies to the Church.

17 The chariot of God is attended by ten thousands; thousands of them that rejoice: the Lord is among them in Sina, in the holy place.
18 Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts in men. Yea for those also that do not believe, the dwelling of the Lord God.

The prophet now draws a comparison between God’s descent on mount Sinai, to give the old law to the Jewish people; and Christ’s ascension to heaven, to send from thence the gifts of the Holy Ghost and the new law to Christians; with a view to show the source of so much milk and brightness in the Church. “The chariot of God is attended by ten thousands.” The chariot in which God rode when he descended on Sinai was drawn by an infinite number of Angels, not groaning or laboring under the load, but, “of them that rejoice,” delighted at having the honor of bearing their Master; “for the Lord is among them;” he was sitting “in Sinai in the holy place.” Of those holy Angels who descended with him, Moses speaks more plainly in Deut. 33, when he says, “The Lord came from Sinai, and from Seir he rose up to us; He hath appeared from mount Pharan, and with him thousands of saints.” The Angels are frequently called God’s chariot in the Scriptures, as in Psalm 79, “Who sittest on the Cherubim.” “Thou hast ascended on high.” St. Paul, Ephes. 4, applies this passage to Christ’s ascension; and the meaning is, the Lord formerly descended on Sinai, accompanied by many millions of Angels; but thou, the Messias, is forever ascended on high,” to the highest heavens; “hast led captivity captive;” made those who had been captives to the devils captives to yourself, commuted a most miserable captivity into a most glorious one; and thus, in triumph, accompanied by the countless myriads of the saints so redeemed, you entered into your kingdom. “Thou hast received gifts in men;” you have got the gifts of the Holy Ghost from your Father, for the men so redeemed, to whom you have given them. Such is the explanation of St. Paul, who thus quotes the passage, “Ascending on high, he led captivity captive, he gave gifts to men;” and this explanation agrees with the Gospel; for in John 14, we read, “I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Paraclete;” and, in chap. 15, “When the Paraclete shall come, whom I shall send you from the Father.” Now, among the gifts conferred by Christ on mankind the principal is charity, in which, according to the Apostle, consists the new law, Rom. 5, “Because the charity of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.” And, in Gal. 5, “But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continence, chastity.” “For those also that do not believe, the dwelling of the Lord God,” means that unbelievers even were converted through those gifts of the Holy Ghost, and got to be numbered among the happy captives.

19 Blessed be the Lord day by day: the God of our salvation will make our journey prosperous to us.
20 Our God is the God of salvation: and of the Lord, of the Lord are the issues from death.

Having described the ascension of Christ, who was our guide, to the kingdom of heaven, he gives thanks to God, saying, “Blessed be the Lord day by day,” which means every day. We bless God every day, because he blesses us every day, and showers his favors on us. “The God of our salvation;” the God on whom our salvation depends; for it is not simple protection we need, exposed, as we are, to a multiplicity of dangers. “Will make our journey prosperous to us;” will bless us every day; for he will not desert us on the road that we daily travel, until we shall have come to the day of eternity. We are thus promised daily, constant, protection from God while here below on our pilgrimage. “Our God is the God of salvation.” I had reason to say, God would make our journey prosperous, and protect us in more ways than one; for such are his characteristics, such is his nature; for our God is a God of salvation, of mercy, and of love. “And of the Lord, of the Lord, are the issues of death;” and through him we evade, or come out from, death; God alone can help us to escape everlasting death.

21 But God shall break the heads of his enemies: the hairy crown of them that walk on in their sins.

Having told what the Lord would do for his friends, he now tells us how he will deal with his enemies, who remained incredulous and refused to be subject to him. “God shall break the heads of his enemies;” he will humble their pride when he shall condemn them to hell to be punished with everlasting torments. “The hairy crown of them that walk in their sins.” The same idea, in different language; the “hairy crown” here being synonymous with the “heads,” and his “enemies” being called here “those that walk in their sins,” for they alone are enemies of God, who, instead of walking in his law, walk in their own sins; that is to say, spend their whole life in the commission of sin.

22 The Lord said: I will turn them from Basan, I will turn them into the depth of the sea:
23 That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thy enemies; the tongue of thy dogs be red with the same.

God here confirms the sentence pronounced by the prophet on the destruction of the wicked. I will turn them out of Basan, a rich and fertile country, and I will cast them into the depths of the sea, as I formerly did to Pharao. I will turn the wicked from their enjoyment and pleasure to final destruction; and such will be the carnage of the enemy, “that thy foot,” my people, “may be dipped in their blood, and the tongue of thy dogs be red with the same;” with their blood shed by the enemy.

24 They have seen thy goings, O God, the goings of my God: of my king who is in his sanctuary.

Having related Christ’s victory and triumph over his enemies, he now informs us that they who witnessed such wonders began to publish them to the whole world, with great joy and acclamation. “They have seen thy going, O God;” that is, many witnessed what you did, your battles and your victories. “The goings (I say) of you who are my God and my king, who are now in your sanctuary;” whether that be heaven or the Church, for it may apply to either, Christ being visibly present in the one, and in the other, through faith and providence.

25 Princes went before joined with singers, in the midst of young damsels playing on timbrels.

He alludes to the conduct of the children of Israel on their delivery from Pharao, when Moses, their leader, with other sons of Israel, sung the canticle, “Let us sing to the Lord for he is gloriously magnified. So Mary, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went after her with timbrel and with dances.” Thus, too, when the princes of the Church saw the triumph and victory of Christ, that freed us from the power of Satan, they “went before” other nations and people in proclaiming and announcing the praises of Christ. “Joined with singers;” in union with the holy Angels in heaven, singing God’s praises, by reason of the same victory, “in the midst of young damsels;” in the midst of the holy souls who ascended with Christ, and so are named, by reason of their being so lately admitted to eternal life, and to the society of the Angels, so chanting God’s praises.

26 In the churches bless ye God the Lord, from the fountains of Israel.

This verse is to be read as if in a parenthesis. The prophet, foreseeing the future joy of the princes of the Church, exhorts them, “Bless ye God the Lord in the churches” they were about to establish, taking the subject of their praise “from the fountains of Israel;” namely, the promises of God to the patriarchs, and the prophecies that we now see fulfilled, and for which we rejoice.

27 There is Benjamin a youth, in ecstasy of mind. The princes of Juda are their leaders: the princes of Zabulon, the princes of Nephthali.

He now returns to the former narration, and tells who are the princes he alluded to when he said, “Princes went before,” and says they were “Benjamin a youth,” the princes of Juda, of Zabulon, and of Nephthali, which, by the general consent of the fathers, mean the Apostles, who “are appointed princes over all the earth.” Benjamin, the youth, is named first, by whom the Apostle Paul is meant; he being of the tribe of Benjamin, and the last in point of call, labored more than all the rest in preaching, and praising the victories of Christ; and he, “in excess of mind,” was so united with the singers in the third heaven as not to know “whether he was in the body or out of the body,” as he testifies himself. By the princes of Juda are meant the Apostles, who belonged to that tribe, and are called Christ’s brethren in the Gospel, by reason of their being the Sons of Cleophas, the brother of Joseph the spouse of the Blessed Virgin; they were James and Simon. The other Apostles, are included in the princes of Zabulon and Nephthali, such as Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Matthew, who were from Bethsaida or Capharnaum, and the neighboring towns that belonged to Zabulon and Nephthali, as may be inferred from the passage in Mat. 4, “Now when Jesus had heard that John was delivered up, he retired into Galilee, and leaving the city of Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capharnaum on the sea coast, in the confines of Zabulon and Nephthalim, that what was said by Isaias the prophet might be fulfilled. The land of Zabulon and the land of Nephthali, the way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles. The people that sat in darkness saw great light, and to them that sat in the region of the shadow of death light is sprung up;” but, as the ten tribes did not return from captivity, as we read in the first book of Esdras, Juda and Benjamin, with the Levites, the Apostles are called princes of Zabulon and Nephthali, either because they were natives of the country of those two tribes, or because, perhaps, a few of those tribes did return in the company of the other Jews, which must have been the case, for Anna the prophetess was of the tribe of Asser.

28 Command thy strength, O God confirm, O God, what thou hast wrought in us.

The prophet now, after having described the victory of Christ, and the consequent joy of the Apostles, asks of God that the power so exercised by him in conquering his enemies, and founding his Church, may still be exercised in protecting and preserving his work. “Command thy strength” to look after the work you commenced, to strengthen and fortify it; which he explains more clearly when he says, “Confirm, O God, what thou hast wrought in us;” as much as, to say, you have delivered us from the power of Satan, you have brought us into the kingdom of your Son, you have planted the Church with the blood of the same Son, you have poured on us “the spirit of adoption of sons;” “confirm” all these things, the works of thy mercy.

29 From thy temple in Jerusalem, kings shall offer presents to thee.

This verse may apply to those who reign in heaven; because, in the temple of heaven, the saints offer God perpetual presents of praise; or it may apply to the spiritual kings, the priests of the Church, who daily offer their “presents,” the sacrifice of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of praise and prayer; and, finally, that of the conversion of souls; or it may apply to the temporal kings of the earth, who, to maintain public worship, and to support the ministers thereof, generously contribute thereto from their own revenue, of which the Prophet Isaias, chap. 60 and 66, spoke at length.

30 Rebuke the wild beasts of the reeds, the congregation of bulls with the kine of the people; who seek to exclude them who are tried with silver. Scatter thou the nations that delight in wars:
31 Ambassadors shall come out of Egypt: Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God.

He now directs his prayer against the enemies of the Church, who seek to disturb its peace, and to impede the offerings of praise and the sacrifices of good works; and first, against her invisible enemies, saying, “Rebuke,” frighten, coerce, restrain “the wild beasts of the reeds;” the wild beasts that usually shelter themselves among the reeds, the demons, who are usually found among vain and light headed people, and in most places where rank weeds, the type of luxury, abound. In such terms does the Lord speak of the devil, under the title of Behemoth, in the Book of Job, chap. 40, where he says, “He sleepeth under the shadow, in the covert of the reed, and in moist places.” Then he adds concerning the enemies to be found among men, “The congregation of bulls, with the kine of the people,” meaning the assemblage of wicked princes raging like so many bulls, “with the kine of the people;” among a people without guile, and running wanton, like so many young heifers, “to exclude them who are tried with silver;” meaning that those impious princes and people, at the instigation and under the impulse of Satan, assembled to exclude, reject, and reduce to nothing the preachers of the Gospel, who had been proved like silver in a furnace, and found most faithful and pure. Here is clearly foreshown the grievous persecutions both by Jews and Pagans, after the ascent of Christ to heaven. “Scatter thou the nations that delight in wars.” He now foretells the victory they were to gain over their persecutors. “Scatter,” you will scatter all those who shall wage war against your people; and then “Ambassadors shall come out of Egypt,” asking for peace, and proffering submission. “Ethiopia,” which is farther off, “shall soon stretch out her hands to God;” will get before Egypt in the tender of her offerings and her homage to God. He specifies Egypt and Ethiopia, the former as being very hostile to the true religion, and the latter as being a very remote country. The fathers think that in the expression, “Ethiopia stretching out her hands,” he alludes to the eunuch of Queen Candace, who was converted to the Christian religion long before any one from Egypt, or any other country of the gentiles. Read Acts, chap. 8

32 Sing to God, ye kingdoms of the earth: sing ye to the Lord: Sing ye to God,

He proceeds to foretell, in the shape of an exhortation, the conversion of the gentiles to the Christian religion. “Ye kingdoms of the earth,” of the whole world irrespective of Israel or Juda; “sing to God,” in faith acknowledging him as the true God, sing his praises. “Sing ye to the Lord,” not only in words but by good works.

33 Who mounteth above the heaven of heavens, to the east. Behold he will give to his voice the voice of power:

He who, after his ascension on high, sits on the highest heaven, the fountain of light, whence all light has its source and origin. The words “who mounteth above the heaven of heavens,” do not imply ascent, but the act of sitting on them, as on a throne; such is the force of the Hebrew word, as we explained in regard of the words, “who ascendeth upon the west.” The prophet then means to convey that Christ our Lord, after his ascension to heaven, of which he spoke when he said, “Thou hast ascended on high,” came to be higher and more elevated than heaven itself, sitting thereon as a man would on a horse or a chariot, or as a king upon his throne. The words, “to the east,” correspond exactly with what he said before, “who ascendeth upon the west;” that is, because he has all darkness beneath him, while he is himself in light, in light inaccessible, the source of all light that is communicated to Angels and to men. “Behold he will give to his voice the voice of power.” He that appeared so humble and “was dumb as a lamb before his shearer,” now sits on the heaven of heavens, and will shortly “give to his voice the voice of power;” make it most powerful and effective, which shall come to pass, “when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.” No more powerful voice can be imagined. It was the voice of power that said, “Young man, I say unto thee, arise;” as also, “Lazaras, come forth.” Imagine, then, if possible, the power of that voice that will, on the last day, in one moment, bring together, animate, and raise up the ashes of all the dead from the beginning of the world! It will also be a voice of power that will on that day pronounce, “Go, ye cursed, into eternal fire;” and “Come, ye blessed, possess the kingdom prepared for you;” Which voice, in both cases, will be obeyed without the slightest effort at resistance. In truth, when compared to such a voice, all the laws, edicts, and commands of the rulers of this world sink into insignificance. Hence he most properly adds,

34 Give ye glory to God for Israel, his magnificence, and his power is in the clouds.
35 God is wonderful in his saints: the God of Israel is he who will give power and strength to his people. Blessed be God.

“Give ye glory to God for Israel.” Glorify God for the favors conferred on his elect; “all things for the elect;” “his magnificence and his power is in the clouds;” a reason for glorifying him, for God’s magnificence and power will be especially displayed to Israel; when they shall be “caught up together in the clouds to meet Christ in the air;” and shall sit on the clouds, like so many princes on splendid and elevated thrones, on the right and on the left of the Almighty Judge. Then may it well be said, “God is wonderful in his saints;” for then will the whole world clearly understand that God, in raising his saints from the lowest depths to the greatest height, from profound abasement to the highest and most exalted glory, was truly “wonderful;” for “the God of Israel,” of his chosen people, will then “give power and strength to his people,” will endow his elect with true and real immortality. “Blessed be God.” The consequence of what he related, for with great justice all should bless that God whose mercy, justice, power, and wisdom so wonderfully appear in so many mysteries.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 47

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

Ps 47:1 O clap your hands, all ye nations: shout unto God with the voice of joy,

The holy prophet invites all nations to express the gladness of their heart by their language and their gesture. He includes all, for the glory of the head is in common with that of the body, and the body comprises not only the Jews, but all nations; for the Church, which is Christ’s body, is spread over all the world. From his invitation to clap hands, we are not to infer we are called upon to do so in the literal sense of the expression; but we are called upon to be as internally glad and joyful as those who give expression to their joy by clapping their hands, by dancing, and such gestures. Such is evidently his meaning; because, in Psalm 96, the same prophet calls not only on men to exult and applaud, but also on the heavens and earth, rivers, mountains, and trees, which are all metaphorical expressions, and signify nothing more than the abundance of joy in the mind of man, that would, if possible, bring all nature to share it with them.

Ps 47:2 For the Lord is high, terrible: a great king over all the earth.

He assigns a reason for having invited all nations to rejoice and exult, the first being derived from the greatness of Christ, who he declares to be “high,” by reason of his divinity, “terrible,” by reason of his power, and “a great king,” by reason of his providence and government. “For the Lord is high.” Sing to him with applause and exultation, all ye nations, because Christ our Lord and God is high, cannot be higher, as regards his divine nature, in which he excels all created beings. Do so, because he is “terrible,” as regards his power, which nothing can resist. Do so, finally, because “he is a great king over all the earth,” being supreme, absolute, and universal rector of the whole world.

Ps 47:3 He hath subdued the people under us; and the nations under our feet.

A second argument, drawn from the favors God originally conferred on his Church, when he brought it out of the land of Egypt; for then God brought his people into the land of promise, and subjected the nations and people in possession of it to his own people, and made them trample on the necks of the kings of those nations, as we read in Josue, chap. 1.

Ps 47:4 He hath chosen for us his inheritance, the beauty of Jacob which he hath loved.

A third argument, drawn from another favor, by which the same Christ God, having ejected the Chananeans, and having introduced his people into their land, chose from the believing Jews, from his Apostles and the other Disciples, the primitive Church as his own and his peculiar inheritance. “He hath chosen for us;” that means, in us, or from us; “his inheritance,” his own peculiar people; “the beauty of Jacob which he loved;” that is, he selected the flower of the Jewish people, called after Jacob, for which he had a special love, and formed his Church from it, as his peculiar inheritance. We have here to remark that, though most of the Jews were stiff necked, and prone to idolatry, and, consequently, reprobate, there were, however, very many holy patriarchs among them, whose spirituality and innocence was most pleasing to God. Hence the Apostle, Rom. 11, says, “The Jews were most dear to God, for the sake of the fathers;” and that their church was the good olive tree, “some of whose branches were broken, because of unbelief;” and that the converted gentiles, whom he calls the wild olives, were grafted in their place; and to the same converted gentiles he thus addresses himself: “And if some of the branches be broken, and thou, being a wild olive tree, art ingrafted in them, and art made partaker of the root and of the fatness of the olive tree. Boast not against the branches, but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.” This, then, is “the beauty of Jacob,” that caused him “to choose an inheritance” from the Jewish people, which he afterwards caused to increase and multiply.

Ps 47:5 God is ascended with jubilee, and the Lord with the sound of trumpet.

The fourth reason for joy and gladness; because, after the Lord “chose his inheritance” from the Jewish people, that is to say, selected his Apostles and Disciples from among them, he ascended into heaven, and raised our nature, indissolubly united to his own, above all the heavens, above all the Angels, and above all created beings. For though this passage does not say to what place he ascended, it is clearly expressed in Psalm 68, “He ascended on high, and led captivity captive;” and, in the same Psalm, “Who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the east.” The meaning, then, is, “God hath ascended,” Christ has ascended, but by virtue of his own power, inasmuch as he is God. “With jubilee and the sound of trumpet,” which is to be understood of the spiritual rejoicing, and the chanting of the Angels; for, as far as the ascension of Christ before his Apostles was concerned, it occurred in silence, and they probably neither heard nor saw the chanting, nor the persons of the Angels, lest their attention may be diverted from the great mystery that was then in process; namely, the extraordinary elevation of that nature, to which was said, “Thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return,” in its ascent in great glory and immortality above the highest heavens.

Ps 47:6 Sing praises to our God, sing ye: sing praises to our king, sing ye.
Ps 47:7 For God is the king of all the earth: sing ye wisely.

Before offering a fifth reason for praising God, he excites all to break out in repeated expressions of admiration at his having ascended so gloriously. “Sing praises to him,” by reason of his being our God; “sing praises to him,” by reason of his being King; and, thirdly, “sing praises to him,” because he is “King of all the earth;” and do so, not only repeatedly, but “wisely,” with care and attention, making no mistakes therein, for any duty rendered to a great king must be gone through in such manner.

Ps 47:8 God shall reign over the nations: God sitteth on his holy throne.

A fifth reason for singing and chanting to God, “with the voice of joy,” derived from Christ, after his ascension to heaven, having sent his Apostles to preach the Gospel, and to gather the gentiles to his fold. “God shall reign over the nations.” Christ, not content with the inheritance he got in the Jewish people, shall also reign over the gentiles; because, by the preaching of the Apostles, he will bring them all to the true faith. But, in the meantime, “God sitteth on his holy throne,” he sits at the right hand of his Father, the most holy, most just position he can occupy, and which “no iniquity can touch.”

Ps 47:9 The princes of the people are gathered together, with the God of Abraham: for the strong gods of the earth are exceedingly exalted.

He explains the sentence, “God shall reign over the nations,” because the preaching of the Apostles would bring the “princes of the people” to the true faith, oblige them to abandon their idols, and turn to the God of Abraham, who is the only true God, that thus he may be their God, and they his people. “For the strong gods of the earth are exceedingly exalted;” the great men amongst the gentiles, who had been slaves of sin, and servants of their idols, are now, by their conversion, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 148

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

Ps 148:1 Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise ye him in the high places.
Ps 148:2 Praise ye him, all his angels, praise ye him, all his hosts.

The Angels, as residing in the supreme heavens, as it were, in the very palace of the eternal King, get the first invitation. The words “praise ye” are not used in a spirit of command or exhortation, as if the Angels were deficient in their duty, and needed such; it is spoken in a spirit of invitation and strong affection by the prophet, who is highly excited and inflamed with the love of God, as if he said, Oh that all created things would praise their Creator! and you, ye Angels, who hold the first place in creation, follow up the praise you daily offer him; “from the heavens,” indicates where the Angels reside, which he repeats when he adds, “praise ye him in the high places.” This he explains more clearly when he adds who they are that dwell there, saying, “praise ye him, all his hosts,” meaning the heavenly powers, and not the sun, moon, and stars, as some will have it; first, because nothing is more usual than such repetitions with David; secondly, the holy fathers are unanimous that these words refer to the Cherubim, Seraphim, and the other Angels; thirdly, from Lk. 2, where the Angels are called “The multitude of the heavenly host;” and fourthly, from Psalm 102, where the Angels are more clearly indicated, when he says, “Bless the Lord, all ye his hosts; you ministers of his, that do his will.”

Ps 148:3 Praise ye him, O sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars and light.
Ps 148:4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens: and let all the waters that are above the heavens

From the Angels, who, as being endowed with reason and intelligence, praise God in the strict sense of the word, he descends to the heavenly bodies who do not offer that intellectual praise they are incapable of, but still praise him by reason of their greatness, grandeur, size, speed, efficacy, splendor, and beauty, just as every beautiful work redounds to the credit of its maker. He names the sun first, it being universally allowed to be the principal body in nature; next, the moon, it being apparently next in size to the sun; then he calls upon the stars, concluding with “the light,” by which he means the light derived from the sun, moon, and stars. Having enumerated the heavenly bodies, he then calls upon “the heaven of heavens,” that is, the superior heavens, beneath which lie the inferior heavens in which the clouds and the birds move about; whence we read in the Scriptures, “the birds of heaven, the clouds of heaven.” To those upper heavens he adds the waters that lie above the heavens, thus leaving no one thing in the superior part of the world without an invitation. In regard of those waters men are at liberty to argue to a certain extent, but in other respects they are not. First, it is certain that the waters named here are material, not spiritual waters, an error into which Origen fell, and which was exposed by the holy fathers. Secondly, that these waters are above, and not in, the heavens, as some erroneously imagine, for the prophet indicates it clearly here, by calling on the “heaven of heavens” to praise him, and at once adds, “all the waters that are above the heavens,” those heavens, surely, that he had just quoted; and in Psalm 103, when speaking of the same heavens, he says, “Who stretchest out the heavens like a pavilion, who coverest the higher rooms thereof with water;” and Moses, in the first chapter of Genesis, clearly places water over the firmament, in which firmament he shortly after places the stars; and more clearly in Daniel 3, where all the works of the Lord are enumerated, in order; first are placed the Angels, then the heavens, then the waters that are over the heavens, then the sun, moon, stars, and other inferior beings. Thirdly, these waters are incorruptible and eternal, for to them, as well as to the other things hereinbefore enumerated, applies what he subsequently adds, “He hath established them forever, and for ages of ages.”

Ps 148:5 Praise the name of the Lord. For he spoke, and they were made: he commanded, and they were created.
Ps 148:6 He hath established them for ever, and for ages of ages: he hath made a decree, and it shall not pass away.

The reason why all those things aforesaid should praise God is, because they were all made by him, and will remain forever incorrupt; and what is much more wonderful, they were made without any labor, without any loss of time, by one word or command brought from nonexistence to existence, and that for eternity. He merely said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” He commanded a thing that had no existence to start into existence, and at once it, in obedience to his command, appeared. “He hath established them forever, and for ages of ages.” He endowed them with immortality, in order that, like the inferior bodies, they may not rise up and die again. “He hath made a decree,” passed a decree on this matter; “and it shall not pass away,” a decree that will not evaporate or become a dead letter, but will remain, and by remaining will preserve the very things it has reference to, so that they shall not pass away.

Ps 148:7 Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all ye deeps:

He now passes to the perishable elements and to the world below, which consists of the earth, the air, the water, the beasts, fishes, fowl, as also the thunder, lightning, hail, winds, and other such matters. And as he first said, “Praise ye the Lord from the heavens,” he now says, “Praise the Lord from the earth;” and as he classified all the superior beings under the head of the things belonging to heaven which is the seat of the Angels, so he deems it right now to bring all the inferior things under the head of those belonging to the earth, it being the seat of man. Hence, his reason for not naming fire, or air, or water; in the first place, because the earth constitutes the second part of the world, and all other things, whether fire, air, or water, are subject to man, who inhabits it. “Praise the Lord from the earth,” all you who live on the earth, or belong to it, and he mentions first the waters and the fishes who dive in the depths of the earth; for the dragons mean the sea monsters; and the deeps, the deep seas in which they reside; as we read in Psalm 103, “The sea dragon which thou hast formed to play therein,” that is, the sea; and in Psalm 73, “Thou didst crush the heads of the dragons in the waters.”

Ps 148:8 Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds, which fulfil his word:

From the waters he passes to the air, where the fires exist; viz., lightning, thunderbolts, coruscations, as also hail, snow, ice, and the stormy winds, those furious winds that cause the storms and bring so much rain with them, all of which “fulfil his word;” that is, obey his commands, which last expression he adds with a view to let us see that all those accidents, that are looked upon by man as so many calamities, come from the hand of God, who makes use of them as so many instruments of his justice or of his mercy to punish the wicked or to deter the just from sin; and, therefore, that they do not come from chance, nor should they be called calamities but blessings, being the instruments of a good and gracious God.

Ps 148:9 Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars:

From the air he now reverts to the earth, and first alludes to the more striking parts of it, the “mountains and hills,” which, of course, include the plains and the valleys, for you cannot have one without the other. He then passes to the products of the earth, naming the trees first that produce fruit, and then those that do not, such as the cedar, which however, serves for house and shipbuilding. He then touches on the animals that are to be found on the earth, briefly enumerating the principal ones, the wild, the domestic, and the beasts of burden; and finally, the serpents that crawl along the ground, and the birds that fly aloft in the air. He calls upon and challenges them all to praise God, not that they are capable of any such thing, but that man, by reflecting on their use and benefit to him, may praise God, and return him due thanks for them. But what benefit do the wild beasts, the lions, serpents, even the gnats and the wasps confer on man? A great deal, for, whether they inspire us with terror, or annoy and torment us, they are calculated to remind us of our weakness and infirmity, and to what we have come through the disobedience of our first parents, by which we lost a great part of the dominion we previously had over all animals.

Ps 148:10 Beasts and all cattle: serpents and feathered fowls:
Ps 148:11 Kings of the earth and all people: princes and all judges of the earth:
Ps 148:12 Young men and maidens: let the old with the younger, praise the name of the Lord:
Ps 148:13 For his name alone is exalted.

He finally invites all mankind to praise God, and, in order to comprehend all manner of people, he mentions three different classes of people in respect of power, sex, and age. “Kings and people,” they who command and they who obey; and, as all those who do command are not equal in authority, he adds, “princes,” having supreme power, “and all judges of the earth,” having subordinate authority; and here is the difference of power. “Young men and maidens,” which includes the sexes, “the old with the younger,” to comprehend all ages. All, then, be they princes or subjects, men or women, old or young, are summoned to praise the Lord. “For his name alone is exalted;” for there is no other name truly sublime, and worthy of all praise, but the name of God. Created things, however great, when compared with God’s greatness, sink into insignificance; and whatever greatness or excellence they may be possessed of they have entirely from him, who alone is called, and justly is, the Most High.

Ps 148:14 The praise of him is above heaven and earth: and he hath exalted the horn of his people. A hymn to all his saints to the children of Israel, a people approaching to him. Alleluia.

He assigns a reason for having said, “For his name alone is exalted,” because, says he, “The praise of him is above heaven and earth;” that is, everything in heaven and on earth declare his praise so full of everything of his glory, or, as Habacuc has it, “His glory covered the heavens, and the earth is full of his praise;” therefore “his name alone is exalted.” And “he hath exalted the horn of his people;” he, of himself, alone exalted and sublime, has exalted the power and glory of his people Israel, because he selected them as his own people, gave them divine laws, written with his own finger, and cared them with a special providence. “A hymn to all his saints; to the children of Israel, a people approaching to him, Alleluia.” This is the conclusion of the Psalm, as it were to say, The hymn, then, to be sung to God should be specially sung by all his saints; that is, by all those dedicated and consecrated to him, the children of Israel especially, inasmuch as they come nearer to God than any other people, through true knowledge and faith, true worship and adoration, true filial confidence and love. This, however, as St. Augustine properly observes, applies not to the children of Israel according to the flesh, but according to the spirit; for the former being stiff necked never made any approach to God, as St. Stephen reproached them. “You always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did so do you also. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain those who foretold of the coming of the Just One, of whom you have been the betrayers and murderers;” and the Apostle, Rom. 9, points out who are the true children of Israel when he says, “For all are not Israelites that are of Israel; neither are all they who are the seed of Abraham’s children;” that is to say, not they who are the children of the flesh are the children of God, but they that are the children of the promise are counted for “the seed.” And in the same epistle, chap. 4, he tells them that they were the children of Abraham “who follow the steps of the faith that our father Abraham had,” be they circumcised or not circumcised. Nor should we exclude all the children of Israel according to the flesh, for in such case we would exclude the prophets and the Apostles; we exclude those only who are Israelites according to the flesh alone, of whom St. Stephen speaks as above, and to whom the Precursor said, “Ye offspring of vipers, who hath shown you to flee from the wrath to come? do not begin to say, We have Abraham for our father,” and to whom the Lord himself said, “If you be the children of Abraham do the works of Abraham—you are of your father the devil.” Finally, such are they, who, after having renounced the Lord, are scattered all over the world, without a king, a priesthood, and even without a God.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 138

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

Ps 138:1 I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: for thou hast heard the words of my mouth. I will sing praise to thee in the sight of the angels:
Ps 138:2 I will worship towards thy holy temple, and I will give glory to thy name. For thy mercy, and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy holy name above all.

The prophet commences by promising a sacrifice of praise, and that with his whole heart, inasmuch as he was about to return thanks for his own everlasting, and that of the whole people’s, salvation. “I will praise thee, O Lord;” I will give you a tribute of praise and thanksgiving; no lip one; but from the deepest recesses of my heart; quite alive to it, with my affections engaged on it; “for thou hast heard, the words of my mouth;” in other words, the prayer I put before you. “I will sing praise to thee in the sight of thy Angels.” He declares that his praise will be commensurate to the dignity of the audience. As he is to sing before the Angels who attend on the Almighty, he will be more careful of what he will sing, as he knows before whom he has to sing. Undoubtedly, if we, when we recite the same Psalms, would consider or reflect that we are seen and heard by the holy Angels, who praise our attention and devotion, or who note our carelessness and our distractions, we would recite them much better than we usually get through them. “I will worship towards thy holy temple,” in thy material temple, while singing to your name; I will turn in spirit to your temple aloft, and, fixed therein by prayer and contemplation, “I will give glory to thy name. For thy mercy and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy holy name above all.” Here will be the subject of my song. I will praise you with my whole heart, for your great mercy, and your truth in adhering to what you promised our fathers, by virtue of which you took pity on the human race, and thus magnified Christ, who is your holy word and name, inasmuch as you gave him a name that is above every name. For, by such an act you showed your unspeakable mercy—mercy we should never cease to laud—when you exalted mankind, that had been degraded even to hell by sin, above all the heavens and all created things, through Christ, and you thus more than carried out the truth that always marks your promise.

Ps 138:3 In what day soever I shall call upon thee, hear me: thou shalt multiply strength in my soul.

From the fact of your having so magnified thy holy name, I ask you to hear me whenever I shall put my wants before you; for your Holy One has said, “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name he will give you.” “Thou shalt multiply strength in my soul.” What I earnestly beg of you is to multiply, which means to increase, not the number of my years, nor my wealth, nor my children, nor anything else of the sort; “but strength in my soul,” so as to enable me to resist my evil desires, to bear all crosses with patience, to tread in the path of justice without fatigue, to offer violence to the kingdom of heaven, that thus I may ultimately come to him, “whom thou hast magnified.”

Ps 138:4 May all the kings of the earth give glory to thee: for they have heard all the words of thy mouth.

As he said previously, “Thou hast magnified thy holy name above all,” making use of the past, instead of the future tense, inasmuch as, by the spirit of prophecy, he looked at the future as if it were actually gone by, so he now predicts the conversion of the gentiles, in the imperative mood. Your Holy One having been magnified by his resurrection and ascension, may all the kings of the earth, (as they will,) “give glory to thee;” because, through the preaching of the Apostles, “they have heard all the words of thy mouth;” that is, all you chose to reveal to the world through the prophets and Apostles, words which were at first confined to Judea; “because the words of God were committed to them,” but were afterwards heard by all the kings and people of the world, through the Apostles; “for their sound went all over the earth.”

Ps 138:5 And let them sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory of the Lord.

He goes on with the explanation of the mystery of the calling of the gentiles, “And let them sing in the ways of the Lord;” that is, the kings and people aforesaid will tread in the ways of the Lord, which are mercy and truth; for it is by them that God comes down to man, and man gets up to God; his mercy being exercised by mercifully forgiving the penitent, and justly punishing the impenitent; and our mercy being exercised by freely forgiving those who injure us, by dealing justly with all, and by giving to God and the neighbor what we owe to both. Such people will set about their work in no lazy, grudging manner, but in joy and good spirits; for they will sing, “great is the glory of the Lord.” For they will every other day have a better knowledge of, and will more admire the great things God will have accomplished, and how wonderfully he will have glorified his Christ, who is our head, and the extent of the riches of the glory of the inheritance to the saints.

Ps 138:6 For the Lord is high, and looketh on the low: and the high he knoweth afar off.

The great glory of the Lord consists in this, that high as he is, nay, even the very highest, by reason of his nature, dignity, power, wisdom, and authority; still, “he looketh on the low,” for he came down from heaven to them, for “he was seen upon earth, and conversed with men;” “and the high he knoweth afar off,” because he draws far away from the proud, or casts them far away from him as he cast the devil, the prince of the proud, from heaven into hell. This doctrine of holy humility is most necessary to all, especially to all in any responsible position, for such people run a great risk of being carried away by their pride. But why does God, the High One, love the lowly instead of the high, whereas all love what is similar to themselves? God loves those who are truly raised on high, and not those who place themselves on a false elevation; for the former are very like, the latter most unlike him. And thus, the humble, conscious that they have nothing from themselves, are replenished with all manner of good, and are raised by God to the highest dignity; while the proud, “who thought they were something when they were nothing,” remain empty, and being filled and distended with vanity alone, are utterly discarded.

Ps 138:7 If I shall walk in the midst of tribulation, thou wilt quicken me: and thou hast stretched forth thy hand against the wrath of my enemies: and thy right hand hath saved me.

As God, who is on high, regards the low with the greatest kindness, David, fully cognizant of his own low position, confidently promises himself God’s assistance in every trouble. “If I shall walk in the midst of tribulation,” so as to be surrounded on all sides by it, still “thou wilt quicken me;” you will preserve me alive, unhurt, unharmed. “And thou hast stretched forth thy hand against the wrath of my enemies;” when my enemies surrounded me, and sought to devour me, you interposed and protected me, “and thy right hand hath saved me;” your strength and power, Christ, hath saved me.

Ps 138:8 The Lord will repay for me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: O despise not the works of thy hands.

He explains how God’s “right hand saves us,” because “the Lord,” who is your right hand, “will repay for me;” will satisfy you, the Father, for my sins; as he says in another place, “then did I pay that which I took not away;” he will also repay my enemies, as I am not able to repay them by punishing them. “Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever;” has no end, and, therefore, I ask you, “do not despise the work of thy hands.” Don’t give up the work you have commenced in your mercy, through the inspiration of faith, hope, and charity, but complete it by preserving, by increasing, by perfecting it. With great propriety he says, “the works of thy hands,” not of our hands, because whatever good we have we have it from God’s bounty, without whom we are not only unable to do anything, but even “we are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves.” 2 Cor. 3:5.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 79

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

The church in time of persecution prayeth for relief. It seems to belong to the time of the Maccabees

1 O God, the heathens are come into thy inheritance, they have defiled thy holy temple: they have made Jerusalem as a place to keep fruit.

The prophet, putting himself in the position of the people in the time of the Machabees, addresses God, complaining of the destruction of the temple and of the city. “O God, the heathens are come;” the pagan idolaters, “into thy inheritance;” to that city and province which you have selected from the entire world to be your own. Inheritance and possession are synonymous in the Scriptures. He tells, then, for what purpose the heathens came into his inheritance. “They have defiled thy holy temple,” which they did in the time of Antiochus, when they set up an idol in the temple, and profaned the altars by offering sacrifices to idols on them. “They have made Jerusalem as a place to keep fruit;” they left the royal city so desolate that it had no longer the look of a city, but looked rather like a hut set up to watch the fruit in a garden or vineyard; that such was the case is stated in 1 Mac. 3, where we read, “And Jerusalem was not inhabited, but was like a desert.”

2 They have given the dead bodies of thy servants to be meat for the fowls of the air: the flesh of thy saints for the beasts of the earth.
3 They have poured out their blood as water, round about Jerusalem and there was none to bury them.

Having deplored the devastation of the temple and the city, he now deplores the slaughter of the people, and the cruelty and the barbarity of the enemy who would not suffer the corpses of the slain to be buried. “They have given the dead bodies” of the Jews that were killed, not for interment, but exposed them to be eaten by the crows and the dogs. “They hare poured out their blood as water;” in great abundance, without regard to time or person; “and there was none to bury them;” and their bodies, therefore, were left to the birds of the air and the beasts of the fields. This was accomplished several times, and especially in the slaughter of three score of the leading men of the Jews, who were put to death in one day by Alcimus, as we read in 1 Mach. 7, where this very verse is quoted, when speaking of the slaughter.

4 We are become a reproach to our neighbours: a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.

He now deplores the infamy attached to them by such persecution. “We are become a reproach to our neighbors,” to the neighboring kingdoms of the Moabites, Ammonites, and others, who despise and mock us as weak and contemptible fellows.

5 How long, O Lord, wilt thou be angry for ever: shall thy zeal be kindled like a fire?

The prophet, seeing God’s anger so terribly excited against his people, that he feared for their total destruction, in deprecation of which he earnestly asks, “How long wilt thou be angry?” and he repeats it, saying, “shall thy zeal be kindled like a fire?” when he compares God’s anger to a fire, which if not extinguished at once, rapidly spreads and consumes everything before it.

6 Pour out thy wrath upon the nations that have not known thee: and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.

He prays here that God’s anger may be turned on the enemies of his people. We thy children, bad as we may be, are still thy children; we know you to be the true God, we worship you, we invoke you; rather, then, “pour forth thy wrath upon the nations that have not known thee;” who have not thee for their God, who do not invoke your name, who do not believe you to be omnipotent. This would seem to contradict the saying of our Savior, Luke 12, “And that servant who knew the will of his Lord, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” St. Augustine replies, that the Gospel speaks of servants belonging to the same family, with whom the fault, and, consequently, the punishment is greater in proportion to their cognizance of the extent of it; but much more grievously do they sin, and much more severe will be the punishment of those who do not belong to the family; nay more, but are sworn enemies, “serving the creature rather than the Creator,” and grievously persecute the entire family; and it is of such persons the following verse speaks.

7 Because they have devoured Jacob; and have laid waste his place.

Not only have they paid no regard to the invocation of the Almighty, but they eat up his people as they would so much bread, robbing them, banishing them, putting them to death, seeking to drive them to apostasy, by threats and torments; “and have laid waste his place,” the city of Jerusalem which they left waste and desolate.

8 Remember not our former iniquities: let thy mercies speedily prevent us, for we are become exceeding poor.

For fear God’s people, in accusing their enemies, and deeming them worthy of punishment, would appear to be justifying themselves, as if their own punishment were not deserved, and that they were afflicted more through the power of their enemies than through the justice of God, in this verse they confess their own sins, and the sins of their fathers, and appeal to the mercy of a Father instead of the justice of a judge. “Remember not our former iniquities.” Punish us not for our old sins, nor for those of our fathers. God sometimes revenges the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation, as we read in Exod. 20. Even the Lord himself says, Mt. 23, “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers;” and, in few verses after, “That upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias.” Nor does this contradict Ezechiel, who says, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of his father;” for the son, strictly speaking, is punished for his own sins, but he is said sometimes to be punished for the sins of his parents, for God would not have punished him, though he might have done so in justice, but for the sins of his parents. “Let thy mercies speedily prevent us;” we are rushing to destruction if your mercy will not speedily interfere; and he tells why, when he says, “for we are become exceeding poor;” afflicted, humbled, attenuated, wanting; not only the riches of this world, but also help and assistance.

9 Help us, O God, our saviour: and for the glory of thy name, O Lord, deliver us: and forgive us our sins for thy name’s sake:

The prophet now explains how “God’s mercies prevent us,” which he does in the shape of a prayer rather than an instruction. “Help us, O God, our Savior;” may your mercies prevent us, by helping us in doing what is right, so as to avoid sins of the future, and in doing penance to atone for sins of the past. He says, “help us,” to show that free will, instead of being suspended by grace, is only helped by it; for no one can be said to be helped but he who does something through the cooperation of grace. He then explains both by saying, “And for the glory of thy name, O Lord, deliver us.” Deliver us from the death of future sin, by helping us in doing what is right; not on account of our merits, but for your own glory. “And forgive us our sins, for thy name’s sake;” and for the sake of the same glory, and not for our sake, forgive us our past sins, by helping us to do penance.

10 Lest they should say among the Gentiles: Where is their God? And let him be made known among the nations before our eyes, By the revenging the blood of thy servants, which hath been shed:

Here is the reason why, in the preceding verse, he appealed to God by the glory of his name, “lest they should say among the gentiles: Where is their God?” where is the God that was wont to protect the Jews? He must have deserted them like an imbecile or a coward, or he is quite ignorant of what they have come to. “And let him be made known among the nations before our eyes;” such blasphemies will be uttered not only here, but they will spread among the surrounding nations; and when we hear and see them, we must needs be the more grievously afflicted. “By the revenging the blood of thy servant which hath been shed.” That your name, then, be not blasphemed, revenge the blood of your servants so cruelly spilled.

11 Let the sighing of the prisoners come in before thee. According to the greatness of thy arm, take possession of the children of them that have been put to death.

Let the groans of thy servants in captivity, and even in chains, come before thee. “According to the greatness of thy arm, take possession of the children of them that have been put to death.” The prophet, speaking in the person of God’s people, had previously asked two things, namely, that vengeance may be inflicted for the slain, and that the captives doomed to death may be freed; he now repeats the prayer, but inverts it, first asking for protection for the living, then vengeance for the dead. “According to the greatness of thy arm, take possession of the children of them that have been put to death.” As your arm is most powerful, bravely resist our persecutors, and take possession (it being your peculiar inheritance) of the remnants of your people, to wit, the children of those who have been slain by the enemy. “And render to our neighbors seven fold in their bosom,” punish our neighbors seven fold, and hide it in their bosom, so that it will not be easy for them to get quit of it: “the reproach wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord;” as they reproached you with imbecility and folly, as if you were not the true God, show them that they were the real imbeciles and fools, and, instead of being men, were rather the vermin of the earth, or dust and ashes.

12 And render to our neighbours sevenfold in their bosom: the reproach wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord.
13 But we thy people, and the sheep of thy pasture, will give thanks to thee for ever. We will
shew forth thy praise, unto generation and generation.

St. Augustine, writing on the words, “render to our neighbor,” says, with much truth, that such and similar expressions are to be read rather as predictions than imprecations; for the Psalm is concluded by the certain prediction that God’s praise would have no end. They, says he, (and they deserve it) will get seven fold punishment in their bosom; but we will give thanks to thee;” we will praise thee, and preach up thy glory to all ages. That was foreshadowed to the Jews, with whom the Machabees held sway for many years after the persecution of Antiochus; but will be more completely accomplished in the Church of Christ, which, after many and varied persecutions, will, on the day of judgment, see all her persecutors receive in their bosom the reward of their iniquity, while she, with Christ her King, will, in the heavenly Jerusalem, praise her God through ages of ages.

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