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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. Ferial. As preceding Psalm. [Common of Apostles. They have declared the works of the LORD * and have understood His deeds.]

Monastic. Ferial. Preserve my life * O LORD, from fear of the enemy.

Parisian. As Psalm 62.

Lyons. As Monastic.

Ambrosian. As Psalm 62.

1 Hear my voice, O GOD, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy.

There is a Jewish tradition in the Midrash that this Psalm was prophetic of Daniel, (L.) and that it was recited by him in the den of lions. (A.) It unquestionably contains several passages peculiarly apposite to that event. (C.) The Church has always interpreted it of CHRIST, and of the Martyrs, especially the Apostles. Stress has thus been laid on the latter clause of the first verse: Preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Not from the enemy himself, but from fear of him. Let him do his worst with the body, but let the soul remain unterrified, yielding neither to his menaces nor to his torture. So it is written, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.”* And still more, let there be no fear of that worst enemy of all, whose suggestions urge the human foes of the Church to their evil task. Let him be accosted in the words of S. Aurelius Prudentius:

O tortuose serpens,*

Qui mille per meandros

Fraudesque flexuosas

Agitas quieta corda,

Discede, CHRISTUS hic est,

Hic CHRISTUS est, liquesce,

Signum, quod ipse nôsti,

Dampnat tuam catervam.

Therefore, “Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid: sanctify the LORD of Hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.”*

2 Hide me from the gathering together of the froward: and from the insurrection of wicked doers.

This is an acknowledgment of past help, not a prayer, in the LXX. and Vulgate. Thou hast protected me from the assembly of the evil. The gathering together, when “assembled together the chief priests and the scribes, and the elders of the people, into the palace of the high priest, and consulted that they might take JESUS by subtilty, and kill Him.”* The insurrection (LXX. and Vulgate, the multitude,) when “the whole multitude of them arose, and led Him to Pilate.”* (A.) The comment of S. Augustine on this passage has been embodied by the Western Church in the Office for Good Friday. Thus he speaks: “Now upon Himself, our Head, let us look: Like things many Martyrs have suffered; but nothing doth shine out so brightly as the Head of Martyrs, in Him let us rather behold what they have gone through. Protected He was from the multitude of malignants, GOD protecting Himself, the SON Himself and the Manhood He was carrying, protecting His flesh; because Son of Man He is, and SON of GOD He is; SON of GOD because of the form of GOD, Son of Man because of the form of a servant; having in His power to lay down His life, and to take it again. To Him what could enemies do? They killed the body: the soul they killed not. Observe; too little therefore it were for the LORD to exhort the Martyrs by word, unless He had enforced it with example. Ye know what a gathering together there was of malignant Jews, and what a multitude there was of men working iniquity.” And it was true also of the Church in the ages of persecution, when the Christians were alike exposed to the formal inquisition of laws enacted by the Government, and to the savage attacks of infuriated mobs.

3 Who have whet their tongue like a sword: and shoot out their arrows, even bitter words.

Let not the Jews say, We have not killed CHRIST. For to this end they gave Him to Pilate the judge, (A.) in order that they themselves might seem as it were guiltless of His Death. For when Pilate had said unto them: “Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your law;”* they replied: “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” The iniquity of their deed they wished to lay upon a human judge; but did they deceive GOD the Judge? O ye Jews, ye killed Him; Whence did ye kill Him? With the sword of the tongue, for ye did whet your tongues. And when did ye smite, except when ye cried out, “Crucify, Crucify.”* And thus ye crucified Him with your tongues at the third hour, as the soldiers did with their hands at the sixth. And shoot out their arrows, even bitter words. Of accusation, before Pilate, of reviling, before the Cross. The LXX. and Vulgate render, And bend their bow, a bitter thing. The Targum paraphrases thus: They have anointed their arrows with deadly and bitter poison. (Ay.) The bow smites secretly, the sword openly. They smote with the tongue as a sword openly, when they cried “Crucify.” But they smote with the bow when they craftily plotted His death, and laid snares for Him, especially that He should be betrayed by a Disciple, which is a bitter thing.

4 That they may privily shoot at him that is perfect: suddenly do they hit him, and fear not.

Yes, truly was it foretold of Him by His ancestor seventeen hundred years before: “The archers have sorely grieved Him, and shot at Him, and hated Him: but His bow abode in strength, and the arms of His hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty GOD of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.)”* Privily, in their secret councils, in their bargain with Judas, in the irregular trial before Caiaphas. At Him that is perfect, or, with the Vulgate, spotless. Other targets for archers are marked with spots to direct the aim; (A.) this one, remarks S. Augustine, had not even so much of spot as could be pierced with an arrow. (D. C.) Suddenly, for His capture followed at once on the bargain of Judas. And fear not. Because they knew Him not, and thus had not the fear of GOD before their eyes. (H.) S. Hilary applies this passage to the attacks of ghostly enemies on the newly-baptized, who are washed from the spots of sin, but are not as yet steadfast in the faith, nor experienced in resisting temptations.

5 They encourage themselves in mischief: and commune among themselves how they may lay snares, and say, that no man shall see them.

Here the older versions agree in rendering: They have confirmed for themselves a wicked saying. (A.) That saying was, “Crucify, Crucify,” which they repeated again and again in their hate, as it is written, “They were instant with loud voices, requiring that He should be crucified.”* Further hear, adds S. Augustine, in what manner they confirmed malignant discourse. They said, “His Blood be on us and on our children.”* They confirmed to themselves malignant discourse, “not to the LORD, but to themselves. Death killed not the LORD, but He death; but them iniquity killed, because they would not kill iniquity. And they have continued to confirm a wicked saying, by denying the LORD’S Resurrection from the dead.* And commune among themselves how they may lay snares, and say, that no man shall see them. Plotting that the capture should be the act of a disciple, the condemnation that of a Roman judge, (B.) and the Crucifixion the deed of foreign soldiers, so that they might be held guiltless of all participation in the matter.

6 They imagine wickedness, and practise it: that they keep secret among themselves, every man in the deep of his heart.

The A. V. is clearer, and shows that the passage means to point out the craftiness of all the plotters. The LXX. and Vulgate are widely unlike this, and read, They have searched out iniquity, they have failed in searching out [Vulg. with] searchings. A man shall come, and [Vulg. to] a deep heart. (A.) The searching out is explained of their long plotting against the LORD, and especially of their treasonable bribe to Judas. The failure is the result of the Resurrection, and denotes the vain attempt to spread a story of the theft of the LORD’S Body by the Disciples. They have failed as Diocletian and his colleagues failed, (L.) when they raised the column to commemorate the total over-throw of the Christian Faith, beneath which, ten years later, the empire bowed. A man shall come, and a deep heart. So read the LXX., followed by many Latin Fathers. The Psalmist speaks of The Man, Whose heart, (A.) S. Augustine remarks, is deep, that is, secret, presenting before human faces Man, keeping GOD within. To a deep heart. And it may be spoken of that gradual perfecting of CHRIST’S human nature, whereby He came at last, even as Man, to the full knowledge of the deep things of GOD. But the reading of the Syriac Psalter is the loveliest of all. It is this: For the searching out from within the Son of Man, and from His deep heart. We shall find no worthier comment here than the language of S. Bernard,* echoed by the voice of a singer of our Israel. “Since we have once for all come to the most sweet Heart of JESUS, and as it is good for us to be here, let us not readily suffer ourselves to be torn from Him of Whom it is written, ‘They that depart from Me shall be written in the earth.’* What of those who draw near? Thou Thyself teachest us. Thou hast said to them which drew near to Thee, ‘Rejoice, for your names are written in heaven.’* Let us then come to Thee, and rejoice, and be glad in Thee, remembering Thy Heart. O how good, and how sweet to dwell in this Heart! At this temple, at this Holy of holies, at this Ark of the Covenant I will worship and praise the Name of the LORD, saying with David, My heart hath found that I should pray before my GOD.* I too have found the Heart of the loving JESUS, my King, my Brother, and my Friend. Shall I not then worship? In this Thy Heart, therefore, O most sweet JESU, and in my own, new found, I will worship Thee, my GOD. Only suffer my prayers to enter into the sanctuary where Thou hearest, nay, draw me altogether into Thy Heart.” So too the hymn:

Cor tuum est apertum,* ut intrem libere,

Ut cordi cor insertum condatur intime,

Ah JESU mi, amoris vi,

Dedisti to, ut darem me,

Ah amem te, ut amas me,

JESU suavissime!

Hic cordis firmamentum, hic tuta quies est,

Amoris fulcimentum, hic certa salus est,

In petræ hoc foramine,

In cordis hac macerie;

Hic muniar, hic uniar,

JESU carissime!

7 But GOD shall suddenly shoot at them with a swift arrow: that they shall be wounded.

Here the LXX. and Vulgate depart completely from the English version. The first clause they render, And God shall be exalted, connecting it with the previous sentence, A man shall come, and a deep heart. GOD shall be exalted in the human heart of CHRIST, by the perfect subjection of His own will to His FATHER’S. GOD, in the Person of CHRIST, shall be exalted by all the faithful who come to that Heart for comfort and shelter. The second clause in LXX. and Vulgate runs: Their smitings have become the arrows of children. (A.) That is, the Jewish weapons of attack were as idle as the toys of a child. Or, as it has also been taken, Their childish arrows have been their smitings, (D. C.) the ruin of their city and the scattering of their nation being the fruit of their useless attempt to stay the Gospel. (H.) Yet again, it has been interpreted of the preaching of the lowly Apostles, who, though they became as little children in docility and meekness, yet sent the arrows of their preaching home to many a heart.* And with these arrows was the Church smitten when she said, I am wounded with love.

8 Yea, their own tongues shall make them fall: insomuch that whoso seeth them shall laugh them to scorn.

The LXX. (in some copies) and Vulgate read, And their tongues became weak against them, (G.) all that saw them were troubled. It may be taken of the silence of the chief priests and rulers after the Resurrection, when, no longer daring to speak as they had done before, they feebly had recourse to the falsehood of the watch at the sepulchre. Yet again, their tongues became weak against themselves, because whereas they said that it was expedient that one man should die for the people, lest the Romans should come and take away their place and nation; (D. C.) the death of that Man proved their utter overthrow. Or it may be, their tongues became weak against the Apostles, and they were troubled when they saw them, as it is written, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled;”* and again, “They were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit with which”* Stephen “spake.” Moreover, because their own tongues have made them to fall; all that see them are troubled, and take the punishment of the Jews as a warning to themselves against rejecting the truth. Where note, that the Hebrew of this last clause is rather, “All that see them shall shake their heads,” in fit requital of that day, when “they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads.”* So the prophecy is fulfilled, “Because My people have forgotten Me.… every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head.”*

9 And all men that see it shall say, This hath GOD done: for they shall perceive that it is his work.

Here also the LXX. and Vulgate vary from the English Version. They read: And every man feared; they declared the works of God, and understood His deeds. The Prayer Book Version simply recognizes that the dispersion of the Jews is an act of Divine vengeance; the A. V., somewhat nearer to the Vulgate, brings in the idea of preaching. Because the Apostles feared GOD, observes S. Augustine, (A.) they feared not man, but declared the works of GOD, declared that a Man had come, (D. C.) and that GOD was exalted. And understood His deeds, by the illumination of the HOLY GHOST, (A.) especially after the Day of Pentecost, when CHRIST fulfilled His promise to them. What is, And they understood His deeds? Was it, O LORD JESU CHRIST, that Thou wast silent, and like a sheep for a victim wast being led, and didst not open before the shearer Thy mouth, and we thought Thee to be set in smiting and in grief, and knowing how to bear weakness? Was it that Thou wast hiding Thy beauty, O Thou beautiful in form before the sons of men? Was it that Thou didst not seem to have beauty or grace? Thou didst bear on the Cross men reviling and saying, “If He be the SON of GOD, let Him come down from the Cross.”* What servant of Thine and beloved of Thine, perchance knowing Thy power, cried not out and said, O that now He would come down, and all these that revile would be confounded! But it was not so: He must needs have died for the sake of men to die, and must rise again for the sake of men alway to live. This thing, they that would have had Him come down from the Cross, understood not; but when He rose again, and, being glorified, ascended into Heaven, they understood the works of GOD.

10 The righteous shall rejoice in the LORD, and put his trust in him: and all they that are true of heart shall be glad.

It is spoken firstly of that Just One Who rejoiced in doing His FATHER’S will, in the victory of His own Resurrection, in the glory of His Ascension. And then it holds of every faithful soul which is made glad by the Gospel tidings, and still more by the presence of CHRIST, risen and appearing bodily, as to the Apostles, invisibly in the hearts of Christians now. Thus the Church sings:

Omnis fidelis gaudeat,*

Et grates Deo referat,

Quantum quit tantum audeat

Laudesque dignas offerat.

JESUS in mundum veniens

Se manifestum præbuit,

Fines orbis pertransiens,

Consolari nos voluit.

Shall be glad. LXX. and Vulgate, Shall be praised. (P.) It was fulfilled in this world when, by the victory of Constantine, the despised Nazarenes were uplifted, and the finger of scorn was no longer pointed against them, when the Confessors of the previous persecution were honoured most of all living men, and next to the Martyrs in whose steps they had trodden. It will be fulfilled yet more blessedly when the LORD comes: “Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of all hearts: and then shall every man have praise of GOD.”*


Glory be to GOD the FATHER, Who is the Deep Heart, and to the SON, Who cometh to that Deep Heart; and to the HOLY GHOST, Who is the Gladness wherewith the righteous shall rejoice in the LORD.

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

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