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A Commentary On The Psalms From Primitive and Mediæval Writers Volumes 1 To 4 by Rev. J.M. Neale D.D.

Gregorian. Serve the LORD, &c. [Easter Day: I laid me down and slept, and rose up again, for the LORD sustained me. Alleluia. Alleluia. Common of One Martyr: I did cry unto the LORD with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill. Many Martyrs: If they have suffered torments before men, the life of the elect is immortal for evermore. Common of Confessors: Thou art my glory, Thou art my defence, O LORD: Thou art He that liftest up my head: Thou hast heard me from Thy holy mountain.]

Parisian. They say * to my soul, there is no help for him in his GOD. But Thou, O LORD, art my defender.

This Psalm in its literal sense applies to the flight of David from Absalom, but mystically to the Son of David; and it is one of the six which relate to His Passion and Resurrection. In commenting on this Psalm I have followed almost exactly S. Bruno of Aste. The others are the 22nd, 43rd, 64th, 83rd, and 108th.

1 LORD, how are they increased that trouble me: many are they which rise against me.

Literally this refers to the multitude of those that troubled David. In his youth Saul, then the Philistines, now Absalom, Ahithophel, (Ay.) and Shimei. But principally it relates to CHRIST. How are they increased. Herod, when he slew the Holy Innocents, the Chief Priests and Scribes, the tempters that feigned themselves just men: Judas, Herod, Pontius Pilate, the band of soldiers; the thief that railed on Him; the standers-by at the Cross; yes, and the Apostles that forsook Him, and S. Peter that denied Him. Or we may understand the word of things as well as of persons. Our LORD was troubled in His Head, by the crown of thorns; in His hands, by the nails; in His side, by the spear; in His whole body, by the scourge; in His face, by the blows of the soldiers; in His sight, when He was blindfolded; in His hearing, when He was blasphemed; in His taste, when they gave Him vinegar to drink. (L.) And by this multiplication of suffering was brought to pass a multiplication of CHRIST’s elect, even as it is written, Lift up Thine eyes round about and see, all they gather themselves together, they come to Thee;”* and a multiplication of the abodes of the blessed, for it is said, “In My FATHER’S house are many mansions.”* Many that rise up. As the many false witnesses that rose up against JESUS to put Him to death.

[How. So as to include even one of My chosen disciples, (A.) without whose aid they could not have succeeded.]

2 Many one there be that say of my soul: There is no help for him in his GOD.

So said the Chief Priests: “He trusted in GOD; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him;”* “let Him save Himself, if He be CHRIST the chosen of GOD.”* And with reference to ourselves, the craft of the devil is often displayed in representing a sin to which we are tempted as trifling;* after we have committed it, as so great that there is no help for us in our God. (Ay.) Note the various helps which there are for the Christian: the help of redemption, against the deceit of sin; of illumination, against ignorance; of peace which passeth all understanding, against discord: of the hope of glory, against present trouble.

[No help for Him in His God. They said it, not merely when He hung on the Cross,* but when they rejected His miracles, saying, “He casteth out devils through Beelzebub.”*]

3 But thou, O LORD, art my defender: thou art my worship, and the lifter up of my head.

Here we have the patience of CHRIST under the revilings of His enemies. And we, like Him, may thus look to our FATHER in tribulation, as our defender, for all things work together for good to them that love Him: as our glory, (C.) for “we glory in tribulations also;”* as the lifter up of our head, for He that lifted up our great Head from the grave will raise us likewise, like the butler of Pharaoh, by His Resurrection on the third day,* the true birthday of the true Pharaoh.*

[Observe that the FATHER was the lifter up of the SON in two ways. First, (G.) by exalting Him on the Cross, that He might draw all men unto Him;* and then, by giving Him a Name which is above every name, so that the stone rejected of the builders was exalted to be the head of the corner.* GOD lifts up the head of His Saints,* when He raises their thoughts above all earthly desires to heavenly things.]

4 I did call upon the LORD with my voice: and he heard me out of his holy hill.

Thus is the efficacy of our LORD’S intercession set forth: (Ay.) I did call; as when He said, “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not;”* and again, “Neither pray I for these alone;”* and again, “FATHER, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me, may be with Me where I am.” Holy hill; even heaven, the hill to which we lift our eyes, and whence our help cometh.

[I did call, saying, “FATHER, the hour is come; glorify Thy SON,”* and “glorify Thy Name,” and He heard Me, answering, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”* And every Saint who calls on GOD is heard out of His holy hill, that is,* through CHRIST, (C.) Who, born of no human father, is the “stone cut out without hands, which became a great mountain.”*]

5 I laid me down and slept, and rose up again: for the LORD sustained me.

Still our blessed LORD is speaking: He laid Him down in the new sepulchre. He* slept His sleep of three days; He rose up again, the third day from the dead. It was sleep in three senses; as being voluntary, for He said, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again;”* as being short, for “His soul was not left in Hell;”* as being harmless, for the “Holy One saw no corruption.”

[I laid me down, is said of man, when he takes pleasure in the thought of sin,* and slept, indulging in sinful act, and forgetting GOD’s commands, and rose up again, in repentance, not of my own might, but of GOD’S grace, for He, the Lord, sustained me.]

6 I will not be afraid for ten thousands of the people: that have set themselves against me round about.

If her dear LORD showed His love for the Church by lying down and sleeping, and His might by rising again, (G.) surely she needs not to be afraid of ten thousands of enemies. And herein she further imitates that SAVIOUR, Who, when they cried, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him,” “for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross.”* That have set themselves against me round about.* Before, by alluring into sin; behind, by exciting memories of evil things; on our right, by prosperity; on our left, by misfortunes.

[Ten thousands of the people. This Psalm is fitly used by the Church in commemoration of the Martyrs, in whom this verse was fulfilled again and again to the letter, even by maidens and children, as they stood in the amphitheatre, alone, unpitied, the mark for the cruel stare of myriads of spectators, crying, Christianos ad leones.

Thus in the arena he stood by himself,* one minute, not longer:

Here on this side a child; on the other ten myriad pagans.

Then did the Christians in peace send up one deep supplication,

GOD would again show His praise in the mouth of babes and of sucklings:

Trembling nor fear none now; but Philemon came forward a little

Nearer the mouth of the den, where the creaking winch told was the lion.

Back flew the gate: black-maned, the beast, with the roar of his fury,

Sprang in one bound on the child,—and the child was in Abraham’s bosom.]

7 Up, LORD, and help me, O my GOD: for thou smitest all mine enemies upon the cheek-bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

The Church continues to cry to GOD for help, drawing from past deliverances present comfort. Note, both here and all through the Psalms, the repetition of that holy argument, “Because Thou hast been my helper, therefore under the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice.”*

[The teeth of the ungodly, (A.) are the evil speeches of envious and slanderous men, (C.) of whom the Apostle saith: “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Or, again, the words may denote those who cut men away from the fellowship of the just, and incorporate them into the body of the evil, as the teeth do with food. Opposed to these are the teeth of the righteous preachers of the Church, who bring men into the body of CHRIST, teeth which should not decay through luxury,* but be white with innocence, joined in charity, even in justice, firm in constancy, bony in vigour, biting into sin with doctrine and truth. Of such is written, “Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing.”*]

8 Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: and thy blessing is upon thy people.

Here our LORD teaches us what we are to believe; and what, if we believe, will be our reward. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord; there is the doctrine: Thy blessing is upon Thy people; there is the prayer.

[Wherefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, Who, lifting up my Head, which is CHRIST, is glorified in Him; glory be to the SON, Who laid Him down, and slept, and rose up again; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, Who is the Salvation and Blessing of which is said, Salvation is of the LORD, and Thy blessing is upon Thy people.

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








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