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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. Thou shalt keep * us, O LORD, Thou shalt preserve us.

Parisian. Lighten * mine eyes, that I sleep not in death.

Monastic. I will sing unto the LORD * Who hath given me good things.

Mozarabic. My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation; I will sing of the LORD because He hath dealt so lovingly with me.

There have not been wanting holy men who have seen in this Psalm a prophecy of the four monarchies by which the Jewish nation has at different times been led captive: the Babylonian; (Ay.) the Assyrian; the Græco-Syrian; and the Roman: from which captivities they were delivered respectively by Cyrus,* by Darius, by the Maccabees; while from the last their deliverance is still future. To this also they refer that verse in Amos (2:4,) “Thus saith the LORD, For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof.” That is, that though the iniquities which were punished by the first three captivities, were forgiven, (L.) the fourth, namely, the death of our LORD, which led to the last, has not yet been pardoned. Of this last they take the first verse, How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord, for ever? Of the Babylonian captivity, How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? Of the Assyrian, How long shall I take counsel in my soul, and be so vexed in my heart? Of the Græco-Syrian, How long shall mine enemies triumph over me? But leaving this, let us rather see in the question,

1 How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD, for ever: how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?

the complaint of the heathen world before the Advent of CHRIST; when it was, as S. Paul says, “filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity:”* when, as Isaiah tells us, to “Look unto the earth” was to “behold trouble, and darkness, and dimness of anguish.”* (Ay.) How long wilt Thou forget me, when the promise was once given that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head,—that out of Sion should come a Deliverer,—that the earth should be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? Where notice that by the Face of GOD here as so often, reference is made to the Incarnation. As the face is that by which we principally know a man, so by our LORD’s taking our nature, and by that alone, we attain to the knowledge of GOD. “Ye saw no manner of similitude,”* says Moses. “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the FATHER,”* writes S. John. But it is also the voice of every faithful soul, (G.) walking in darkness and having no light, yet endeavouring after the Prophet’s injunction to rest on the Name of the LORD, and stay herself upon her GOD. For such an absence does indeed seem for ever. Thy face. That Face, which for us was buffeted, for us blindfolded, for us spit upon; the model of that patience which the very question here asked renders necessary. And yet the asking it is in itself a proof of GOD’s favour. “It is no small advantage,” says S. Chrysostom, “to have any feeling that GOD is forgetting us. Many suffer this desertion and neither know it nor lament it. Holy David not only knew it, but reckoned the time of its endurance.”

2 How long shall I seek counsel in my soul, and be so vexed in my heart: how long shall mine enemies triumph over me?

Seek counsel: that is, when, as S. Paul says, the world was “feeling after” the LORD, so blindly and so hopelessly; everywhere, in real truth, erecting altars to the Unknown GOD: alive to the misery of sin, but knowing of no deliverer; trembling under its guilt, (B.) but unable to conceive of any SAVIOUR. And be so vexed in my heart;—by the various schemes of philosophers, each contradicting the other, and all contradicting the truth, with their different teachings as to the chief good, the existence or non-existence of the gods, and of a future state, and the like. How long shall mine enemies triumph over me? O question, never to be answered by the wisdom of this world, but only by the doctrine of the Cross! When Adam, says the legend, had fallen sick of the sickness of which he died, he sent Seth to the place where he was wont to pray, and desired healing from GOD. An Angel gave three seeds into the hand of the son; and “Place them,” he said, “in your father’s mouth; when they bear fruit, he shall recover of his disease.” From these seeds grew the tree whereof the Cross was made: and thus the prophecy was fulfilled: thus, too, the answer is given here to the poor world’s How long?

[Seek counsel, by earnest meditation in the Law,* trying through its circumcision, prayers, sacrifices, and other rites, to be delivered from the bondage of sin. How long shall mine enemies triumph? It is the cry of the righteous souls detained in Hades, observes one commentator, (D. C.) wearying for the Deliverer Who was to bring them into Paradise. It is the cry of the Jewish Church, remarks another, (P.) seeing the worship of devils and idols prevailing throughout the world, in despite of her testimony to the Unity of GOD.]

3 Consider, and hear me, O LORD my GOD: lighten mine eyes that I sleep not in death.

The voice of the world still: but yet more strikingly the voice of the faithful soul in the season of her distress and desertion.* Consider: for the promise is, “His eyes consider the poor.” Thus they considered Peter that he slept not in the death of his denial: thus have they considered every faithful penitent from that time to this, (Ay.) giving him the desire of crying for mercy, without which there can be no answer of peace. It is well said, therefore, Consider first, and then, hear. O Lord, my God. Where once more notice the appropriation to himself of Him That is the GOD of all. Lighten mine eyes: by the Incarnation; as it is written, “To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of Thy people Israel;”* and again, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.”*

[Lighten mine eyes.* Where note that the eyes of the inner man are his understanding and his affections,* which both need to be enlightened by the wisdom and love of CHRIST. He who makes any compact with the prince of this world, does it only on the terms offered by Nahash “the serpent,” that his right eye,* the organ of charity, may be thrust out. But he who tastes and sees how gracious the LORD is,* fares like Jonathan,* whose eyes were enlightened by his tasting the honey on the rod, typifying the sweetness of the Cross.]

4 Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him: for if I be cast down, they that trouble me will rejoice at it.

The old argument from the time of Moses downwards, for GOD’s mercy—“Wherefore should the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did He bring them out?”*—“Then the Egyptians shall hear it, and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land.”* “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their GOD?”* “Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high and the LORD hath not done all this.”* And so Judith; Lest the Gentiles should say, Where is their GOD?”

[Cast down. The A. V. rightly, (Z.) as the ancient versions, when I am moved. It is not in completed success that they rejoice, but in their assurance of future victory if I quit my post of vantage, if I leave my strong castle for the undefended plain, if I venture out of the sure haven into the perilous sea. There is no apter comment on these two verses than the Greek Vesper Hymn:

Lighten mine eyes,* O SAVIOUR,

Or sleep in death shall I;

And he, my wakeful tempter,

Triumphantly shall cry:

He could not make their darkness light,

Nor guard them through the hour of night!”]

5 But my trust is in thy mercy: and my heart is joyful in thy salvation.

Where notice that he asks the two things which all need; and he asks them in the order in which they are required: to be spared and to be helped. Notwithstanding all past falls, notwithstanding his present dereliction by GOD,* my trust is in Thy mercy: and the mercy that spares shall enlarge itself into the grace that crowns: “He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it.”* My heart is joyful in Thy salvation. The mercy that spared on Good Friday: the salvation that triumphed on Easter Day.

6 I will sing of the LORD, because he hath dealt so lovingly with me: yea, I will praise the Name of the LORD most Highest.

Hath dealt. Are we to take it as the language of a strong faith which looks on the triumph, though yet future, with the same certainty as if it were already vouchsafed? or of the thankfulness which in the very trial and affliction can see the LORD’s dealing so lovingly? I will praise the Name of the Lord. (C.) As if,—which is so often the case,—the Prophet foresaw that in that very Name would lie all strength, all victory: that the title set up over the Cross would be the banner of every follower of the Crucified: that

Hujus regis sub vexillo

Statu degis in tranquillo;*

Hostes tui fugiunt:

Nomen JESU meditatum

Belli fugat apparatum:

Hostes victi rugiunt.

And therefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, Who will not forget His servants for ever; and to the SON, the Angel of the Great Counsel (ver. 2:) and to the HOLY GHOST, Who lighteneth our eyes that we sleep not in death;

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








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