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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. [Christmas-Day. In the days of the LORD shall arise abundance of peace,* and He shall have dominion. Epiphany. The kings of Tharsis and of the isles shall give presents. Maundy Thursday. The LORD hath delivered the poor from the mighty, and the needy also, and him that hath no helper. Trinity Sunday. Deliver us, save us, quicken us, O Blessed Trinity.]

Monastic. Ferial. Truly GOD is loving unto Israel. [Christmas, Epiphany, and Maundy Thursday, as Gregorian. Trinity Sunday. Therefore the FATHER, the WORD, and the Comforter is one Substance, O Blessed Trinity.]

Parisian. I have not set before Mine eyes an unjust king.* Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I destroy.

Ambrosian. Spare, O LORD, the simple and needy.

Mozarabic. The mountains also shall bring peace: and the little hills righteousness unto the people.

This Psalm, one of the most conspicuously Messianic canticles of Scripture, is of disputed authorship. The majority of ancient commentators ascribe it to David, and often attribute it to the occasion of Solomon’s coronation. The greater number of later critics assign it to Solomon himself. But it is agreed on both sides that the Psalm contains many prophecies which never found their fulfilment in Solomon, and that it must refer to another and greater than he, that Prince of Peace, of Whom the wise king was but a type.

1 Give the king thy judgments, O GOD: and thy righteousness unto the king’s son.

The Psalmist, (A.) observes S. Augustine, does but foreshow that saying of the LORD in the Gospel, “The FATHER judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the SON.”* And note that CHRIST is styled both King, and King’s Son. He is King, (Z.) in that He is Very GOD from all eternity; He is the King’s SON, (L.) in that His Godhead is derived from the FATHER, Whose Only-begotten He is. And He is the King’s Son in another sense, (D. C.) in that by His Manhood He is of the house and lineage of David. The two members of the verse are, (A.) according to some commentators, only the same idea, restated for the sake of emphasis and variety, as in Ps. 2:4, and Ps. 19:1. Rather let us say, (Ay.) with Gerhohus, (G.) that it is a prayer to Him Who sometimes suffers unrighteous men to bear rule, and Who permits a Pilate to condemn the innocent, that He will make His SON judge in equity, and with righteous judgment. That He should do so was typified by the names of those who set the crown on Solomon’s head—Zadok, the “righteous,” and Nathan, “the giver,”—telling us of that righteousness which is not of the works of the Law, but of faith, given freely through grace from above.

2 Then shall he judge thy people according unto right: and defend the poor.

The Bible Version is here more in accord with the LXX. and Vulgate, (G.) and it runs, He shall judge Thy people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment. Thy people, he says, Thy poor, as he has already said Thy judgment and Thy righteousness, that he may dwell on the perfect harmony of will, the co-equal majesty of the SON with the FATHER, even as He Himself hath said,* “All Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine.” They have been His from all eternity as GOD; they are to be given to Him anew as Man. And whereas the Psalmist expresses CHRIST’S jurisdiction in two ways, (Ay.) so there is a double judgment, that of separation, whereby He parts the lowly from the proud; His people from aliens, even in this world; and that of doom, finally determining the lot of each according to his works. Thy poor. That is, (D. C.) the poor in spirit, who are blessed; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.* The world and the devil have their poor too—the miser, the arrogant,* the thief, the covetous, poor against his will. Thy poor. And we may take it of all Christians, but especially of the Apostles, (P.) who left all to follow CHRIST, and who shall sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Thus Thy people and Thy poor will in truth mean the same Church Militant, (A.) but distinguished into the general body of the faithful people,* and those voluntary poor who follow counsels of perfection. Wisely they, knowing how Holy Scripture again and again dwells on their blessedness, (L.) and on the danger of riches. Wherefore S. Peter Chrysologus says very well: “In heaven the first harvest is that of the hungry, the first payments in heaven are to the poor,* the dole of the needy is the first entry in the daily books of GOD.” Yet another interpretation explains the people of the Jewish, (Z.) the poor of the Gentile Church.

3 The mountains also shall bring peace: and the little hills righteousness unto the people.

By the mountains, (C.) observes Cassiodorus, are denoted the Apostles and Prophets, who preach the gospel of peace, that is, of CHRIST, the Prince of Peace, to the nations; and the hills denote the lesser saints, who have not attained the same heights of Divine grace, but who yet declare righteousness, by announcing the precepts of the LORD to the earth. Others interpret the mountains of the Angels, (Ay.) who brought, at the Nativity, the tidings of peace on earth, to men of good will; and explain the hills of earthly teachers.* Or, with Theodoret, we may take the mountains to denote the religious who withdrew from the world to such shelters. Yet, (Cd.) again, the mountains denote the authorities of the Church, to whom is committed the ministry of reconciliation, to establish peace between GOD and man; while the hills are the flock, (A.) who are bound to show righteousness by holy obedience to the Divine commands. And thus it will be the especial duty of the rulers, who have charge of peace, (R.) to prevent all schisms in the Church, that it may be One; and that of the hearers to be zealous in good works of righteousness, that it may be Holy. And these two things cannot be parted in CHRIST’S kingdom, (C.) for it is written, “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”*

4 He shall keep the simple folk by their right: defend the children of the poor, and punish the wrong-doer.

Rather, with A. V., LXX., and Vulgate, He shall judge the poor of the people. The greater number of the commentators take this as little more than a restatement of the second verse, and they explain the words the poor of the people as denoting all truly humble Christians. And they carry on this interpretation to the next clause. For, observes S. Augustine, (A.) the poor and the children of the poor mean the same persons, just as the same city is called Sion, and the daughter of Sion. Gerhohus, more happily, applies the varying language to the altered state of the Church. GOD, (G.) he says, protects and defends His people now, as He did in the days of the Apostles, His true poor. We, their spiritual children, are inferior to them in all saintliness; but He does not therefore cast us out. JESUS took His chosen, perfect disciples unto a high mountain apart, and there disclosed to them the deepest mysteries of grace; but He did not the less descend into the plain, to give there His instruction to the people. Euthymius, on the other hand, (Z.) explains the poor of the people to be those Jews who, clinging to the letter of the Law, rejected the rich Gospel message, and were judged accordingly. But the children of those poor, whom GOD defends (or, as the Vulgate, will save,) are such as have sought the Christian fold, and gained therein wealth, which their fathers, poor in faith and piety, and in the knowledge of GOD, never enjoyed. And punish the wrong-doer. The LXX. and Vulgate read, And humble the slanderer. They agree, for the most part, (A.) in explaining it of the devil, whom CHRIST humbled once when He made him fall as lightning from heaven; yet again, (C.) when He overcame him in the Temptation; most gloriously when, by His Resurrection, He bore from him the keys of death and hell. He will humble him again in the Judgment, (G.) by acquitting the saints from his accusations, and casting him down for ever. But the words have a further application, (D. C.) which comes out more fully in the A. V., And shall break in pieces the oppressor. Every tyrant, every persecutor of the righteous, every tempter of the Church, shall partake of the punishment of Antichrist, according to that saying, “He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.”*

5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endureth: from one generation to another.

It cannot be spoken of Solomon, remarks R. Kimchi, but must refer to the Messiah. How it refers to Him we may see in divers ways. The version before us, which is also that of S. Jerome and of the A. V., tells us of CHRIST as worshipped in the Church on earth, where “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” But it looks also forward to the manner in which He shall be served in heaven, when sun and moon have passed away, because “there is no fear in love,”* and His saints will then know the “perfect love which casteth out fear.”* S. Peter Damiani sings:

There nor waxing moon,* nor waning;

Sun, nor stars in courses bright;

For the Lamb to that glad City

Is the everlasting light:

There the daylight shines for ever,

And unknown are time and night.

The LXX. and Vulgate, (Ay.) however, read somewhat differently: And He shall abide with the sun, and before the moon. Where note, observes the Carmelite, that in CHRIST there is a twofold nature, Divine and human. He is simply eternal in that He is GOD; He is relatively eternal as Man. Moreover, the sun denotes all time, the moon all temporal things. And accordingly the sense is, He shall abide with the sun: that is, He shall abide according to His Manhood, so long as He will; to wit, in the Church by the Sacrament of His Body, as it is written, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”* This He says to confute those who allege that the Church or the Christian religion will ever cease to be. As respects His Godhead, it says before the moon. By the moon, which never abides in the same phase, we understand all creation, which is changeful. If then CHRIST abide before the moon, it follows that He abides before all creation, and thus is eternal, “JESUS CHRIST, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.”* Again, by the sun we may understand GOD the FATHER, because He, as the Sun, hath glory coeval with Himself; and so too has the SON, Who is the “brightness of His glory, and the express image of His Person,”* and therefore abides with the sun, beause He is coeternal with the FATHER as touching His Godhead. He also abides before the moon, by which we understand the Church, which shall pass through phases from mortal generations to the immortal one. And as He stands in sight of His Church, (G.) guarding it, so He abides before the moon. Once more, the words imply that the Church, tried by the prosperity of day and the adversity of night, will never be deserted by her LORD, Whose glory is her sun, Whose mild and pure life on earth is her moon. In that our Solomon dwelt among us in mortal and passible flesh, amidst many sorrows, He hath shown us the ways of patience, that we should “not be afraid for any terror by night, nor for the thing that walketh in darkness.”* And His Transfiguration on the Mount, when His Face shone as the sun, or rather His glory on the exalted throne of the FATHER’S Majesty, makes this world’s show and pomp mean in our eyes in the day of prosperity, that we be not hurt by “the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day,”* so long as the bright and gladsome vision of faith and hope is present to our sight.

6 He shall come down like the rain into a fleece of wool: even as the drops that water the earth.

The earliest commentators, as Tertullian and Lactantius, explain these words of the silence and secrecy of the Advent.* It is spoken, observes S. Augustine, of CHRIST’S First Coming. For as Gideon laid a fleece on the ground, which alone received the dew, (A.) whilst the ground remained dry, so Israel was that fleece, alone bedewed in the midst of a parched world; as He said, “I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel;”* and again, speaking to His disciples, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”* And as the sign was reversed, when the ground was wet and the fleece dry, so here is added, even as the drops that water the earth, because the Jewish people remains dry of the grace of CHRIST, and the whole round world throughout all nations is being rained on by clouds full of Christian grace. So too Ruffinus, more tersely: “CHRIST is the rain,* Judea the fleece, the multitude of the nations the earth.” With him agree some others also. But the majority of commentators explain the words of the mystery of CHRIST’S Incarnation. “What is so silent and noiseless,” asks S. Ambrose, “as rain pouring on a fleece of wool? It strikes no ears with sound, it sprinkles nobody with spray; but, unnoticed by man, it draws into its whole substance all the rain which is diffused through its many parts.* It knows not any severance, because of the firm passage, permitting, as it does, many passages through its softness; and that which seemed closed by reason of its density is open because of its tenuity. Rightly, I say, is Mary compared to a fleece, who conceived the LORD in such wise as to drink Him in with all her body, and yet suffer no rending of that body; but showed herself soft in obedience, firm in holiness. Rightly, I say, is Mary compared to a fleece, since from her fruit the garments of salvation are woven for the peoples. Mary is truly a fleece, since from her soft bosom the Lamb came forth, Who Himself wearing His Mother’s wool, that is, the flesh, covers the wounds of all nations with soft fleece. For the wound of every sin is bandaged with CHRIST’S wool, is fomented with CHRIST’S Blood; and, that it may recover health, is covered with CHRIST’S raiment.”* And S. Bernard speaks in similar language of this mystery. He came therein, observes Ayguan, not in His mighty power, (Ay.) but in the gentleness of deep humility, as was foretold: “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, lowly.”* Noting which, the Psalmist says, He shall come down like the rain into a fleece—that is, gently and imperceptibly He will come down into the Virgin, because He shall come with all lowliness and meekness.* And the simile is apt, as the Gloss notes; for as wool is not hurt by receiving or yielding water, (L.) so in the glorious Virgin Mary virginity abode inviolate before, during, and after her childbearing. So too S. Peter Chrysologus: The fleece, though it is of the body, yet knows not the body’s passions; and so, when there is virginity in the flesh, it knows not the sins of the flesh.* Wherefore that heavenly rain came with gentle descent into the virgin fleece, and the whole tide of Godhead hid itself in the thirsty fleece of our flesh, till, wrung out upon the Cross, it poured forth in the rain of salvation over all the lands. And thus the Western Church, in the Antiphons for Lauds of the Circumcision and First Vespers of the Purification includes this, which Sarum carries through the year as a Memorial: “When Thou wast born of a Virgin ineffably, then were the Scriptures fulfilled; as the dew upon the fleece didst Thou descend to save mankind, we praise Thee, O our GOD.”* So, too, in many a hymn, as thus:

Frondem,* florem, nueem sicca

Virga profert, et pudica

Virgo Dei Filium.

Fert cœlestem vellus rorem,

Creatura Creatorem,

Creaturæ pretium.

And as the rain on the fleece stains not,* but purifies, violates not, but beautifies, so CHRIST, born of the Virgin, left her brighter, fairer, more perfect than before. There is, however, another interpretation of the word נֵּז, here, and in all the old versions, translated fleece. It literally means, “that which is shorn or clipped;” and the A. V., with most later critics, explains it, mown grass. It is then, remarks Cardinal de Vio, spoken of the Second Advent, when CHRIST comes after the hope and bud of this life has been cut down by the scythe of death, that He may cause it to spring up again in the aftermath of the Resurrection.* And whereas most other commentators follow S. Augustine in explaining the drops that water the earth of the spread of the Gospel amongst the nations, Cajetan takes this also of the renewal of the earth after the Judgment. Parez is another exception. He explains the ground wetted when the fleece was dry, (P.) of the Church, empurpled with the Blood drained from CHRIST’S Body on the Cross.

7 In his time shall the righteous flourish: yea, and abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth,

The LXX. and Vulgate read as the first clause, (Ay.) In His days shall righteousness arise. It is, says Ayguan, a prophecy of that first true preaching of perfect righteousness, when He spoke the Sermon on the Mount to His disciples. It is more, (G.) according to Gerhohus—even the righteousness which is of faith, whereby the righteous lives, and is reconciled to GOD. And abundance of peace. Not of temporal peace, for He hath not come to send it on earth, but a sword. It is the peace of GOD which passeth all understanding, peace between GOD and man, between spirit and flesh, between the Church Triumphant of Angels and the spirits of just men made perfect in the LORD, and the Church Militant in its sojourn amongst mortals. And of this peace the Easter hymn sings:

Triumphat ille splendide,*

Qui dignus amplitudine

Soli polique patriam

Unam facit rempublicam.

Rightly is it called abundance of peace,”* exclaims Gilbert of Hoyland, “which is given without measure. How should it not be abundant which did away the offence, and heaped up the former grace? The first man in Paradise had peace, so that he could not be led away against his will; but he had no strength to will his return. He had grace that he need not go out; he had it not to come back at a wish. But now is peace more plenteous in the grace of CHRIST, which is freely offered after repeated transgressions, and rejects not, but recalls the penitents. Well is it named abundance of peace, which no wrong-doing can exhaust, (Cd.) which is ever more ready for pardon than for vengeance.” And therefore the first greeting He gave His disciples as He returned in triumph and glory from death was, “Peace be unto you;” denoting that, after He had laid the enemies of mankind low, had overcome death and harrowed hell, peace was the wage of His toils, the fruit of His Passion, the trophy of His Cross, the common gain of all. So an unknown poet sings:

Virgam pacis CHRISTUS portat,*

Qui nos regit et confortat

Manu sapientiæ;

Qui per virgam creat pacem,

Frangens virgam contumacem

Per virgam justitiæ.

Pax concordat malos bonis,

Per quam regnum Salomonis

Eleganter floruit;

De caminis Babylonis

Tres Hebræos cum coronis

Liberos eripuit.

So long as the moon endureth. More exactly, as in the margin of A. V., till there be no moon, with which agree the LXX. and Vulgate, till the moon be taken away. The moon is interpreted of the Church, which has no light save from the Sun of Righteousness, and is subject to incessant change and vicissitude here below. When the earthly Church shall vanish in the full light of the reappearing Sun,* then GOD shall be all in all. The Roman Psalter, S. Ambrose, Cassiodorus, (A.) and others read, till the moon be lifted up. That is, observes S. Augustine, till the Church be exalted, through the glory of the Resurrection, to reign with Him, (G.) the Firstborn from the dead, Who went before her in this glory, to sit at the right hand of the FATHER. Then she who is now “fair as the moon” shall be “clear as the sun.”* S. Chrysostom, somewhat differently, explains it to mean till the preaching of the Church be ended; the Church which is crescent in the good,* waning in the bad, but which at last shall be full in the saints, when the number of the predestined is filled up. There remains one very singular interpretation: the moon, (C.) as ruling the night, is explained by Procopius of Satan, (L.) the prince of the darkness of this world, whose light is cold and deceptive. And he notes that CHRIST suffered on the fourteenth day of the moon, when her brightness begins to wane, and is near to disappearing.

8 His dominion shall be also from the one sea to the other: and from the flood unto the world’s end.

The literal sense is from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, from the Euphrates to the Desert, denoting the wide scope of Solomon’s rule. It is next taken by all the commentators to denote the spread of CHRIST’S kingdom or earth. Then they come to the mystical sense. And first, (Ay.) from one sea to the other is explained of CHRIST’S coming forth from the hallowed womb of the Virgin Mary, who is the sea of glass, like unto crystal for purity and clearness before the throne of GOD, a sea into which all the rivers of grace empty themselves. Thence He comes to all penitent hearts, which are seas of bitter tears. And so Lope de Vega:

Ya, JESUS, mi corazon

No sabe mas de Ilorar,*

Que le ha convertido en mar

El mar de vuestra pasion.

This gives us another and finer idea for the first sea than that of Ayguan, while agreeing with him as to the second. Yet a third grouping may be found, by explaining the words of our LORD’S double sovereignty over earth and heaven; from the troublesome waves of this world, whereon His disciples are tossed in the ship of the Church, to that haven where

in the ocean of Thy love

We lose ourselves in heaven above.*

And from the flood unto the world’s end. They take the flood to be the River Jordan, (A.) where CHRIST’S ministry and preaching of the Gospel began, thence to spread over the whole earth. And it further denotes CHRIST’S especial rule over the baptized, whose spiritual life begins with the cleansing flood, and perseveres to the end of the world, because He is with them always till then.

9 They that dwell in the wilderness shall kneel before him: his enemies shall lick the dust.

The LXX., Vulgate, and Æthiopic Psalters read, (C.) The Ethiopians shall fall down before Him. The Ethiopians, says one, as clothed in coarse leathern garments, denote sinners laden with iniquity. Or, as another suggests,* those who are dark and black with sin. Others take it with equal literalness of the Queen of Sheba coming to Solomon, and of the conversion of Queen Candace at the preaching of her eunuch, followed by that of the king and a great part of the nation through the labours of S. Matthew. There is yet another explanation: the Ethiopians are said to be the devils, (Ay.) made subject to CHRIST by His victory on the Cross. (Z.) His enemies shall lick the dust. S. Clement of Alexandria aptly cites here the curse pronounced upon the serpent which deceived Eve,* and warns his readers against imitating the crafty being who,* as he grovels, seeks to bruise the heel of the just. Not dissimilar is the explanation that the words denote the low and earthly desires and aims of the ungodly. S. Augustine will have it to refer to heretics, (G.) loving mere human teachers, (A.) who are but dust, and not willing to hear the divine wisdom of the Church. It may, however, remarks Ayguan, (Ay.) be taken in a good sense also, that they who at first resisted CHRIST, shall at last become His true servants; as it is written, “The sons also of them that afflicted Thee shall come bending before Thee, and all they that despised Thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of Thy feet.”* Yet again, several take it of the Jews, literally because of the extremity of the famine in the siege under Titus,* when they were forced to devour all manner of filth;* and allegorically by reason of their mere earthly wisdom. Euthymius, (Z.) with a quaint exactness, interprets it of converts kissing the floors of churches, after the Eastern fashion.

10 The kings of Tharsis and of the isles shall give presents: the kings of Arabia and Saba shall bring gifts.

The words denote the universality of CHRIST’S Kingdom. (A.) And the first fulfilment of the prophecy must be sought in the adoration of the Magi, whose triple offering of gold, frankincense, and myrrh denotes the Godhead, Kingship, and Manhood of CHRIST. So Adam of S. Victor:

Tria dona reges ferunt:

Stella duce regem quærunt,*

Per quam semper certi erunt

De superno lumine,

Auro regem venerantes,

Thure Deum designantes,

Myrrhâ mortem memorautes,

Sacro docti flamine.

And as Arabia and Saba denote the far Eastern regions, so Tarshish and the isles point to the West, if we identify Tarshish with the Spanish Tartessus, as the isles most probably refer to the Archipelago. What rich treasures Spain and Saba (if Saba be Africa) shall bring to the feet of their King let Prudentius tell us:

Orbe de magno caput excitata,*

Obviam CHRISTO properanter ibit

Civitas quæque, pretiosa portans

Dona canistris.

Afra Carthago tua promet ossa,

Ore facundo Cypriane doctor:

Corduba Acisclum dabit et Zoellum

Tresque coronas.

Tu tribus gemmis diadema pulchrum

Offeres CHRISTO, genetrix piorum

Tarraco, intexit cui Fructuosus

Sutile vinclum.

And with this presentation of sacred relics agrees that remark of S. Augustine, (A.) that the kings are said to lead gifts, that is, to bring living victims, following them readily, to be offered to CHRIST. (C.) Cassiodorus, followed by many others, finds a mystical sense in the word Tharsis, which he interprets contemplation,1 and its kings will then be contemplative Saints; while the kings of the isles are those engaged in active life, surrounded by the sea of worldly cares, but rising above it firmly. He carries on the allegory to Arabia and Saba, which, as the lands of spices and perfumes, denote the temptations of the flesh; and their kings are the Saints who subdue them.

11 All kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall do him service.

We see not yet this prophecy fulfilled on earth, but in the Apocalyptic vision it has come to pass already in heaven. Kings shall fall down before Him, for it is written, “The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne.”* All nations do Him service; for again it is written, “I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our GOD which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”* But the LXX. and Vulgate read, All kings of the earth. And we may take it literally of the subjection of the Roman Empire to the Faith by the conversion of Constantine, (Ay.) or of the royalty of Christians drawn into the Catholic Church from all nations, and now made kings by ruling over their passions and desires, and serving CHRIST with body, mind, and will.*

12 For he shall deliver the poor when he crieth: the needy also, and him that hath no helper.

13 He shall be favourable to the simple and needy: and shall preserve the souls of the poor.

The LXX. and Vulgate read, (G.) He shall deliver the poor from the mighty one. Thus it tells of Him that spoiled the strong man armed who kept the souls of men as his goods in the palace of this world. And him that hath no helper.* For neither angel nor righteous man, neither law nor free-will, could help mankind, but only the Lion of the tribe of Judah. No helper. For man, (G.) like him who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, hath fallen from Paradise into the power of Satan, who hath stripped and wounded him, leaving him half dead. Neither Priest nor Levite, no help from the old Law, availed him, till the Great Physician came that way, poured oil and wine into his wounds, and placed him in the Church to recover. And because CHRIST is a skilful Physician, it is said that He is favourable (He spares, Vulg.) the simple and needy, but He does not spare their sins. He makes war on the disease, He cuts away the proud flesh, (Ay.) but He preserves the souls of the poor from their triple danger—slavery to the devil, pollution by sin, liability to punishment. And therefore, as the Master of the Sentences points out, CHRIST’S mercy and justice appear in His double gift of grace,* in that He spares first, instead of avenging Himself; then preserves the souls of His poor,* blotting out past sins, bestowing grace to guard against relapses, remitting the penalty due.

14 He shall deliver their souls from falsehood and wrong: and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

From falsehood, because He saves them from him who is the “father of lies,”* and from the worship of false gods, turning them “from these vanities unto the living GOD.” From wrong, because He hath “broken the rod of the oppressor.”* But the LXX. and Vulgate read, He shall redeem their souls from usury1 and from iniquity. What are these usuries but sins, (A.) which are also called debts? They seem to be called usury, because the punishments are more grievous than the sins. For instance: a homicide slays only the body of a man, but can in no wise hurt his soul; while his own soul and body perish together in hell. Again, (G.) eternal punishment is called usury, because it so far surpasses any pleasure or advantage which sin can give us here, just as heavy compound interest soon exceeds the principal of a debt. From iniquity is added because GOD is not content with remitting punishment, (A.) but desires that sinners should turn from their wickedness and live, He bestows grace upon them, whereby justified, they may become holy, and not merely escape hell, but be fitted for heaven. But S. Chrysostom reminds us that, while GOD exacts no usury for our sins, He will, according to the parable of the ten pounds, demand usury for the divine gifts He has bestowed on us. And dear shall their blood be in His sight. It is spoken of His martyrs, whom He delivered from the falsehood of heathenism, from the violent wrong of persecution; and of whom it is said in another Psalm, “Right dear in the sight of the LORD is the death of His Saints.”* Wherefore the Paris Breviary:

Quem lictor insanus sitit,*

Quem cæcus effundit furor,

Amor sacerdos prodigum

Christo cruorem consecrat.

Et ille, mixtus sanguini

Quem fudit in ligno Deus,

Fundentibus placabilem

Orare non cessat Deum.

The LXX. and Vulgate, (A.) however, for blood read name. So then their name is honourable in His sight, for it is His own. They have left behind them the Pagan names they once bore, (D. C.) derived from Gentile superstition, or from their own defects and misdeeds; and now they are called Christians, the sons of the Eternal FATHER. And therefore GOD foretold His will to the unbelieving Jews, “Ye shall leave your name for a curse unto My chosen; for the LORD GOD shall slay thee, and call His servants by another name, that he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the GOD of Truth.”* There is another reading: His Name shall be honourable in their sight. How honourable, (Z.) how precious, let the hymn tell us:

Nomen dulee,* nomen gratum, nomen ineffabile,

Dulcis JESUS appellatum, nomen delectabile,

Laxat pœnas et reatum, nomen est amabile.

Hoc est nomen adorandum, nomen summæ gloriæ,

Nomen semper meditandum in valle miseriæ,

Nomen digne venerandum supernorum curiæ.

15 He shall live, and unto him shall be given of the gold of Arabia; prayer shall be made ever unto him, and daily shall he be praised.

He shall live. And first let us take it of Him of Whom they said, “Let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause;”* and again, “Let us condemn Him with a shameful death.”* To Him alone can those words of Eastern reverence be addressed with truth, (L.) “O King, live for ever!”* for He only can say, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”* And next, it is spoken of Him as He lives in His Saints,* according to that saying of the Apostle, “I am crucified with CHRIST; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but CHRIST liveth in me.”* And with this nearly agrees that other interpretation,* that He shall live in the hearts of His poor. And unto Him shall be given of the gold of Arabia. Literally we may take it, with Cassiodorus, (C.) of the gifts brought by the Eastern wise men; mystically with S. Augustine, (A.) and most of those who follow him, of the intellectual wisdom of the Gentiles laid at the feet of CHRIST, as when Justin and Cyprian, Gregory Thaumaturgus, and Augustine himself devoted their powers to His service. Euthymius explains it of the Arab converts whom he supposes S. Paul to have made during his three years’ sojourn in their country. Prayer shall be made ever unto Him. This, (Z.) though true in fact, is not the meaning of the passage.* The A. V. reads, Prayer also shall be made for him continually. The LXX. and Vulgate are nearly the same, concerning Him; the Ambrosian Psalter, (Z.) as A. V., for Him. It is said, observes Euthymius, of the Prophets, who desired to see His day. (A.) It is said of Christians, remarks S. Augustine, (Ay.) who utter daily the petition, “Thy kingdom come.” They who are of Him, (G.) (de ipso, Vulg.,) notes the Carmelite, even members of His Body, ever make their prayer to Him. They pray (de ipso) in His own words,* says another, when they recite the Our FATHER. They shall pray (de ipso) in His strength, (Lu.) having none of their own. If it be further asked how we can be said to pray for CHRIST, we may answer with S. Augustine and S. Remigius, (A.) that we pray for His Body the Church, (R.) that it may be filled up with His elect; or, with a later commentator, that we may fitly, when desiring the spread of His kingdom, cry, with the children in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” And daily shall He be praised.* The LXX. and Vulgate read, All the day. Either way it denotes the perpetual worship paid to Him in earth and heaven, all the day of our toil here, before “the night cometh when no man can work;”* all the endless day of heaven, which hath no night. All the day. So a poet of our own:

The night becomes as day

When from the heart we say,

May JESUS CHRIST be praised.

In heaven’s eternal bliss

The loveliest strain is this,

May JESUS CHRIST be praised.

To GOD the WORD on high

The hosts of Angels cry,

May JESUS CHRIST be praised.

Be this while life is mine

My canticle divine,

May JESUS CHRIST be praised.

Be this the eternal song

Through all the ages on,

May JESUS CHRIST be praised.

16 There shall be an heap of corn in the earth, high upon the hills: his fruit shall shake like Libanus, and shall be green in the city like grass upon the earth.

There has been much doubt as to the precise meaning of the first clause in this verse. The word כִּסַּת here translated heap, occurs nowhere else, and a variety of renderings have been suggested. The A. V. reads handful. The LXX. στήριγμα, the Vulgate, similarly, firmamentum (both omitting the word corn) the Syriac Psalter multitude. Gesenius, somewhat alike, diffusion or abundance, with which Olshausen and Hupfeld agree. Delitzsch explains it a level surface, i.e., either a threshing-floor, or an artificial terrace for cultivation. The Chaldee Targum paraphrases פִּסַּת־בַּר as substance-making bread. And S. Jerome turns it a memorial of corn. According to the LXX. and Vulgate reading, the words of the Psalmist are but another form of the prophecy of Isaiah and Micah. “It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the tops of the mountains, (C.) and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.”* CHRIST the LORD is the firmament, or strong foundation of those Prophets and Apostles who are called mountains, and yet He is also lifted up over them. “We read,” (G.) observes Gerhohus, “that there was made ‘a firmament in the midst of the waters,’* when as yet ‘the earth was without form and void.’ We see the heaven adorned with stars, a beauteous and wondrous work, performed by the WORD, not yet Incarnate. But a far more wonderful and awful thing is that the WORD should become Flesh, and be a firmament on the earth, hitherto void and formless. There shall be a firmament upon the earth, for man did eat angels’ food, and this bread which strengthens man’s heart shall be a firmament upon the earth, as much fairer than that heavenly firmament as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than it. For He Who called that ethereal heaven the firmament because by firm division it parted the waters from the waters, He, setting a firmament on earth,* ‘hath given Him a Name which is above every name’ and hath bestowed on Him power and judgment to divide the waters from the waters: His people from them who are not His people. For the ‘waters are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.’ ”* There shall be a firmament upon the earth, remarks another, because they who rest on Him shall be firm and steadfast in faith and charity,* even amongst the cares and troubles of this life. Another, (though unauthoritative) reading in some Latin Psalters, however, frumentum instead of firmamentum, has brought back several of the expositors to the word corn, which is the prominent one in the Hebrew text. And they all take it then of the Holy Eucharist. A cloud of Rabbinical tradition hovers round the passage, and helps to frame it that we may see it in this aspect. Besides the rendering of the Targum given above, (L.) the following may be cited. In the Midrash Coheleth, (Cd.) a comment on Ecclesiastes,* it is said that as Moses caused manna to come down from heaven, so Messiah shall be a cake of corn upon the earth. Rabbi Jonathan in his Targum reads, There shall be a sacrifice of bread upon the earth, on the head of the mountains of the Church. And this is further explained in the Sepher-Kibucim to the effect that in the days of Messiah there shall be a cake of corn lifted in sacrifice over the heads of the priests in the temple. Herein, (Ay.) most naturally, the commentators see the Elevation of the Host, that primeval rite of the Divine Liturgy wherein He Who is the substantiating Bread, the Memorial Sacrifice, the Corn of mighty meu, is uplifted in oblation to the FATHER, Himself the Victim and Himself the Priest. Wherefore Hildebert of Tours:

Sub cruce, sub verbo natura novatur,* et aram

Panis honorifieat carne, cruore calix.

Presbyter idcirco, cum verba venitur ad illa,

In quibus altari gratia tanta datur,

Tollit utrumque, notans quod sit communibus escis

Altior, et quiddam majus utrumque gerat.

Again, we may find a more literal fulfilment of the prophecy in the events of the Gospel history, wherein He Who is the Bread of Life is seen so often “like a young hart upon the mountains.”* In the temple on Moriah, in the place of His first preaching, in the scene of many an hour of prayer, in the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion, the Ascension, again and again His feet are beautiful on the mountains.

Thrice for us the Word Incarnate high on holy hills was set,

Once on Tabor, once on Calvary, and again on Olivet;

Once to shine, and once to suffer, and once more, as King of kings,

With a merry noise ascending, borne by cherubs on their wings.

If, however, we explain the words of His husbandry, the Church, we shall still not lose our grasp of mystical interpretation. The heap or handful of corn will then denote the Christian body, the “city set on a hill that cannot be hid.” High upon the hills, either because raised on the “foundation of the Apostles and Prophets,”* those mountains of GOD’S house, or because of its own prominence in the world. Again, if we take the interpretation a floor or level spot covered with corn; this may denote one of two things. The corn, even after being parted from tares, has yet to be separated from its own husk and chaff on GOD’S lofty threshing-floor, and the words will thus denote the purifying of His people through afflictions in this world, and through the cleansing of purgatory in the intermediate state. Once more, Delitzsch’s interpretation, a terrace planted with corn, gives a very beautiful meaning. Till the Gospel came, only the plains and lower slopes of the life of holiness were cultivated. The higher ground soared rugged and barren far above, showing, indeed, peaks kissed by the first sunbeams, but difficult of ascent, and almost untrodden by man’s foot. Terrace after terrace now rises up the mountain side, and earth, borne slowly and laboriously from below, covers the bare rock, until the whole height is scaled, and the golden corn waves on the very summits of the spiritual life, to wit, the practice of those counsels of perfection which were once deemed too hard for men to follow. His fruit shall shake like Libanus. That is, the waving of the cornfield which the LORD hath blessed, shall be like that of the cedar-forest of Lebanon bending before the wind. And in this prophecy we may see shadowed the height to which the Gospel rises above the Law. For the stateliest forest-king known to the Hebrews is here compared to the single ear of corn, undistinguishable by human eyes from any other in the harvest. So even the humble and hidden Christian Saints of GOD in daily acts of holiness rise higher than the very mightiest seers of the elder dispensation,* because the Church is exalted above the Synagogue. And with this agrees the Æthiopie Psalter: His fruit shall be loftier than the cedar. The LXX. and Vulgate read a little differently: His fruit shall be lifted up above Lebanon. Lebanon, (A.) observes S. Augustine, we are wont to take as this world’s dignity, for Lebanon is a mountain bearing tall trees, and the name itself is interpreted ‘whiteness.’ What wonder is it then, if the fruit of CHRIST be exalted over every splendid position of this world, since the lovers of that fruit despise all worldly dignities? But if we take the words in a good sense, because of the “cedars of Libanus which He hath planted;”* what other fruit can be understood, as being exalted over this Libanus, save that whereof the Apostle speaketh when about to speak of charity, “and yet show I unto you a more excellent way?”* For this is put in the front place of divine gifts, in that passage where he saith, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love.”* Again; it may be taken of the effects of the Passion of CHRIST, (D. C.) lifting up His Saints above all the glory and temptations of the world. Or if we continue to take it of the Holy Eucharist, (Ay.) the words denote its preeminence over all other means of grace given by GOD to His Church. (P.) Euthymius sees here a reference to the idol-worship anciently practised in Lebanon, (Cd.) and the victory of the Gospel over it and all other idolatry. And shall be green in the city like grass upon the earth. (Z.) The LXX. and Vulgate have: They shall flourish out of the city like grass (or hay Vulg.) of the earth. From the Church, (A.) GOD’S city, notes S. Augustine, and as grass beareth fruit, like wheat, which is called grass in Holy Scripture.* There are two cities, adds Gerhohus, of either of which these words may be spoken, (G.) Jerusalem and Babylon. If we take it of the former, GOD’S city, then S. Augustine’s explanation holds, if of the latter, the city of the world and the devil, it warns us that all flesh is grass, and that all the goodliness of that city is as the flower of the field.* So they who seek an abiding city here shall quickly perish in the judgment, for as soon as the sun ariseth, straightway the grass shall be dried up. It is of this world we must understand the words, (C.) aptly remarks Cassiodorus, because it is written, out of the city, not in the city, that CHRIST’S fruit will flourish. They will rise out of the earthly state in which they are planted into the bright sun and pure air of His presence. And they are compared to grass, because of its freshness and beauty, (D. C.) not with any thought of its brief life, because theirs is immortal. The Carthusian, laying stress also on the words out of the city, draws a very different corollary from them. They are spoken, says he, of those who having approached to the Communion of CHRIST’S Body in the Eucharist, return from church strengthened and refreshed, (L.) and flourishing in grace. S. Antony of Padua, also referring to the Holy Eucharist, explains the text of the Angels winging their flight down from the heavenly city to gaze on the mysteries of the altar. Lastly; the city is taken to mean, as so often, the earthly Jerusalem, whence the Gospel began, so that the preachers who went forth from it flourished, (Z.) while those who remained behind perished quickly as the grass of the field.

17 His Name shall endure for ever; his Name shall remain under the sun among the posterities: which shall be blessed through him; and all the heathen shall praise him.

A very beautiful meaning of the second clause in this verse is lost as well in the Bible version as in this one, nor does it appear in LXX., Vulgate, or Syriac. For His Name shall remain, we shall read, (having regard to the word יִנֹּין)1 His Name shall burgeon, shall put forth fresh shoots. And we shall thus find a reference to the perpetual vitality of the Gospel, the way in which it continually renews its youth and vigour when men deem it most effete, and also to the incessant additions of Christian names to the roll-call of GOD’S army, made in the Sacrament of Baptism. The LXX. and Vulgate read, His Name abideth before the sun. Before the sun, (A.) because the sun is the measure of time, and the Eternal WORD is before all time. Before the sun, because CHRIST existed before the angels, who are compared to the sun, (Ay.) were created. And there is a Rabbinical saying that there were seven things existing before the world was made,* of which one was the Name of Messiah. With this agrees the Targum, Before the sun His Name was prepared. The reading of the margin in the A. V. is: His Name shall be as a son to continue his father’s name for ever, which is nearly that of R. Kimchi. Others take it: His Name shall be the Son. Either way it speaks of Him Who came down to reveal His FATHER unto us, Who is that Holy Thing born of the Virgin Mary, and “called the SON of GOD.”* Among the posterities which shall be blessed through Him. The LXX. and Vulgate, somewhat differently: In Him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed. It is the renewal of the promise made to Abraham. (D. C.) “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,”* on which we have the inspired comment of the Apostle, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is CHRIST.”* They explain also all the tribes of the earth of all elect souls, (Lu.) according to their varying merits, because it is written, “In My FATHER’S house are many mansions.”*

Ye know the many mansions

For many a glorious name,

And divers retributions,

That divers merits claim;

For midst the constellations

That deck our earthly sky,

This star than that is brighter,—

And so it is on high.

18 Blessed be the Lord GOD, even the GOD of Israel: which only doeth wondrous things;

19 And blessed be the Name of his Majesty for ever: and all the earth shall be filled with his Majesty. Amen, Amen.

The triple utterance of the Divine Name,* found in the Hebrew, but not in the LXX. and Vulgate, denotes, remarks S. Jerome, the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Observe, that in the four last verses of this Psalm four reasons are given why worship and praise are due to CHRIST. First, because of His Eternity, (P.) for His Name endureth before the sun; secondly, because of His infinite goodness and mercy, for all nations are to be blessed and redeemed through Him; thirdly, by reason of His omnipotence, for He only doeth wondrous things; fourthly, (G.) because of His supreme Majesty. Which only doeth wondrous things. For He alone does them by His own might, whether He work of Himself or through agents, which is true of no one else, since none worketh them without Him. And though He saith: “The FATHER that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works;”* yet without Him, Who is the hand, arm, might, and wisdom of the FATHER, the FATHER doeth nought, nor yet the SPIRIT of the FATHER, Who is His SPIRIT too, because the operation of the Most High Trinity is undivided. Thus He only doeth wondrous things, yet He is not alone, for it is Man, assumed into the WORD, of one essence with the FATHER and the HOLY GHOST, (Ay.) Who worketh in the might and power, or majesty of the whole Trinity.* And so it is written, “All things were made by Him;”* and again, “LORD, (D. C.) Thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” And therefore He says of His Saints, “He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also.”* For ever. It can be no prophecy for Solomon, observes Tertullian, since he fell into idolatry, and lost that glory he had in GOD beforetime.* It can only be of Him Who is the Name of GOD’S Majesty, (L.) the Eternal SON. And all the earth shall be filled with His Majesty. And that in divers ways, as first by the Incarnation, whereby His Infinite Majesty is united to all human nature, for man is called by the Fathers the “second world.”* Secondly, by the preaching of the Gospel, for “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”* Thirdly, (Cd.) by the glory of the Resurrection. So S. Bernard: “All the earth,* I say, shall be filled with the Majesty of the LORD, when it shall be clad in the glory of the Resurrection. Why then murmurest thou still, O hapless flesh? why resistest thou still, and strivest against the Spirit? If He humble thee, if He scourge thee, if He bring thee into bondage, it is for thy sake, doubtless, in thy generation, not less than for His own.” Amen. Amen. Rabbi Jehudah the Holy said, “He that said Amen in this world, is worthy to say it in the world to come. David, therefore, utters Amen twice in this Psalm, to show that one Amen belongs to this world, the other to that which is to come. He who saith Amen devoutly, is greater than he who uttereth the prayers, for the prayers are but the letter, and the Amen is the seal. The scribe writeth the letters, the Prince alone seals them.”* Amen, (Be it so, Vulg.) now, particularly, (G.) Amen then, universally. Amen now, for we need it as comfort in our journey. Amen then will befit the full joy of our heavenly country. Let us then all say Amen, Amen, with eager longing to behold the King Solomon, not only with that crown of thorns wherewith His mother crowned Him, denoting thereby the Church formed of sinners and set upon CHRIST as a crown, but also with that diadem wherewith His FATHER crowned Him, because of His death and passion, with honour and glory, setting Him on the throne of everlasting brightness. From which throne we pray that He may rule all that is not yet under Him, that the whole earth may be filled with His Majesty.

And therefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, the King Eternal, Who giveth His judgment unto the King His SON; glory be to the SON, the true King Solomon, Who maketh peace in all His kingdom; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, Who is the Peace of all them who fight for Solomon, and serve Him here below, and Who will be yet more fully the peace of them that reign with Him in heaven.

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








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