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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: Serve the LORD * with fear, and rejoice unto Him with reverence. [Good Friday: The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers took counsel together, against the LORD, and against His Anointed. Easter Day: I desired of My FATHER, Alleluia. He gave Me the Gentiles, Alleluia, for an inheritance, Alleluia. Common of Many Martyrs: The LORD proved the elect as gold in the furnace, and received them as burnt offerings for evermore. Common of Confessors: Blessed is this saint, who trusted in the LORD, preached the law of the LORD, was set upon His holy hill.]

Parisian. Serve the LORD * and rejoice before Him: take hold of instruction.

Mozarabic. Be wise, now, therefore, O ye kings; be learned, ye that are judges of the earth: serve the LORD with fear.

According to some, this and the first Psalm form but one; which thus begins alike and ends in blessedness; begins with the blessedness of the Head,—blessed is the Man,—ends with the blessedness of the members,—blessed are all they that put their trust in Him. S. Paul, indeed, in his sermon at Antioch in Pisidia, says: “as it is also written in the Second Psalm, Thou art My SON, this day have I begotten Thee.”* But the better MSS. have, “in the first Psalm:” and, according to a capital rule of criticism, were the MS. authorities only equal, this, as being the stranger and more difficult reading, ought to be preferred. The probability, therefore, seems that, in Apostolic times, these two were really reckoned as one. It has been well said, that it is almost presumptuous to comment on this Psalm after an Apostle.

1 Why do the heathen so furiously rage together: and why do the people imagine a vain thing?

Why do the heathen so furiously rage together? In the literal sense, the Philistines, who before David was established in his kingdom, came up again and again to attack him: but spiritually, Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the Roman soldiers, (Ay.) who indeed furiously raged against our LORD, both in the judgment seat and on Mount Calvary. And the people, that is, the Jews, imagined a vain thing, when they took counsel how they “might entangle Him,”* Who spake as never man spake, “in His talk;” how they might kill the Prince of Life; how they might secure the Mighty GOD by a few soldiers and a little wax. Notice, that there is no distinct mention, here made of the Jews: Why do the heathen,—why do the people? For verily they deserved to lose all distinct and express recognition as a peculiar nation, (G.) when they had thus sunk below the wickedness of the heathen in crucifying the LORD of Glory. Imagine a vain thing: as GOD’s enemies always, when taking counsel against GOD’s people. “Ye thought evil against me,* but GOD meant it unto good to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

[A vain thing, turning still to the beggarly elements of the vanished Law,* its ceremonies and sacrifices, after the types had been fulfilled, and the kingdom of CHRIST set up.]

2 The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together: against the LORD, and against his Anointed.

The kings of the earth, Pontius Pilate and Herod, stand up, and the Rulers, the chief Priests and the Pharisees, take counsel together. So in another Psalm: “Princes also did sit and speak against me.”* Again, Kings of the earth may well signify the Prince of the powers of the air:* who, of a (Z.) surety, now lords it over the children of men. Against His Anointed. Where notice, that David was anointed King three times. 1. Secretly, in his father’s house, by Samuel. 2. In Hebron, by the men of Judah over that tribe only. 3. In the same city, (Ay.) over all Israel. In like manner, CHRIST may be said to have been anointed three times. In the first place, secretly and in His FATHER’s house; namely, by that secret foreknowledge of GOD, before all worlds, that He should be the Redeemer of man. Next, when He was sent into the world, and declared to be the SON of GOD with power; but still over the house of Judah only, that is, over His true servants: because, as the Apostle says, “we see not yet all things put under Him.”* But thirdly, He shall have all things subdued unto Him at the end of the world, as Israel, no less than Judah, finally submitted to David, according to that saying; “He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet.”*

3 Let us break their bonds asunder: and cast away their cords from us.

Let us break their bonds asunder. (Ay.) This we may understand in more ways than one. It may be spoken by the enemies of CHRIST exhorting each other to cast off His light yoke and His easy burden. Again, it may be spoken by CHRIST Himself, Who burst the bands of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of them. Again, in another sense, there may be a reference to the ceremonial yoke of the Jews, which the Apostles cast away, saying, Now,* therefore, why tempt ye GOD, to put a yoke upon our necks,* which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? And we may also use the words as an exhortation: Let us break the bands of sin, the heavy yoke wherewith the wicked, though thinking themselves free,* are in reality bound. By bonds we are restrained from doing what we would; by cords we are made to do that which we would not.

[Their bonds. Who are they? (D. C.) Some will have it that the words,* uttered by the Jews, denote the FATHER and the SON, since the Jews in dishonouring CHRIST, dishonoured His FATHER also. Others see in the plural word a reference to CHRIST and the Apostles. (C.) If we take the verse as the utterance of the Saints, it may well refer not only to their acceptance of the law of liberty, but to their overthrow of Pagan idolatry. A Greek Father,* (Z.) most singularly of all, puts the words in the mouth of the Angels who were spectators of the Passion, expressing their eagerness to deliver their King from His enemies.]

4 He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn: the LORD shall have them in derision.

He that dwelleth in heaven. Where notice, (H.) that it is said of our LORD, while engaged in His work on earth, He that dwelleth—not that dwelt—in heaven. And so S. Thomas teaches us in his Eucharistic hymn:

“The Word of GOD,* proceeding forth,

Yet leaving not the FATHER’S side,

And going to His work on earth,

Had reached at length life’s eventide.”

Shall laugh them to scorn, by turning all their devices to their own confusion. “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.”* They thought to put CHRIST to death,* and by His death He destroyed death. They thought to root out His Name from under heaven, and it had dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the world’s end. They thought to bind Him in the grave, and they did but make the truth of His Resurrection more manifest. The Lord shall have them in derision. Thou therefore, O Christian, take courage when thou art had in derision of men; remembering that the triumph of the wicked is but short, and that the shame and contempt of which David writes are everlasting.

5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath: and vex them in his sore displeasure.

This verse sets forth the present and future state of the wicked. He shall speak unto them by His Prophets, His Apostles, His Saints; He shall threaten them in His wrath, (D. C.) yet so as to leave them time and space for repentance. But if all this fails,—if the fig-tree, though dug about and tended, bears no fruit, then He shall vex them in His sore displeasure, when the smoke of their torments shall go up for ever and ever. And the Jews in the last siege of Jerusalem were thus vexed, (G.) when wrath came upon them to the uttermost. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath: then, when the due time was come, and not before. For at first, “as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.”*

6 Yet have I set my King: upon my holy hill of Sion.

Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill. Thus He was owned by the wise men: thus by the thief, “Remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom:”* thus in the title of His Cross, (Ay.) “The King of the Jews.” Of Sion. I shall have occasion, in the Third Dissertation, to enter at great length into the mystical distinction of Sion and Jerusalem; and to that section the reader is referred.

[Yet have I set my King, &c. The LXX., (L.) Vulgate, and Æthiopic, read here, putting the words into the mouth of CHRIST,* Yet I have been set as King by Him, &c. Even here, while proud men refused My yoke, I was King in Adullam, over every one that was in distress,* but now, made Head of the Church, I am set upon the throne of Sion, over the Jewish people first, and then over Gentiles too. Set. As David made Solomon king,* but not taking the honour to Himself before being called of GOD.]*

7 I will preach the law, whereof the LORD hath said unto me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

I will preach the law. (Ay.) But why one law? Because the end and sum of all the commandments is one, namely, love—the leaf,* as we saw, that shall not wither: the new commandment given unto us, that we love one another. This day: that is,* from all eternity; for in eternity there is neither past nor future. Again,* on the authority of S. Paul, it alludes more especially to the Resurrection. Nor is it wrong to refer the words to the Baptism of the LORD, seeing that then there came “a Voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved SON.”*

[This day.* The words apply not only to the eternal generation of the Consubstantial WORD, (A.) but to that especial day when the tidings were brought by the Archangel to the Maiden at Nazareth. Again, it may be fitly taken of the Nativity itself. And,* once more, this day denotes the time of grace, in which the “Dayspring from on high” (P.)* was sent to drive away the night of the world.]

8 Desire of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance: and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.

Desire of Me. And how did He desire it, but by His death? By that sacrifice,* of so infinite value that nothing is too great for it to obtain, He intercedes for us in three ways. By word,—as when He said, “FATHER, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”* By deed,—as when He shows for us the wounds in His Hands and His Feet; and by influence, as when He causes His people to intercede one for the other. And this prophecy was in part fulfilled when He said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word.”* I shall give thee. In that CHRIST is GOD,* with the FATHER He gives all things; in that He is Man, from the FATHER He receives all things. The heathen for Thine inheritance. No mention is here made of the Jews, because, as the Apostle speaks, they counted themselves unworthy of the grace of GOD. And note how completely the Psalms and the Gospel accord. After “This day have I begotten Thee,” follows, “I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance.”* And after the Resurrection, the LORD commanded, “Go ye, and teach all nations.”*

9 Thou shalt bruise them with a rod of iron: and break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

With a rod of iron. This may refer to the punishment of the wicked in this life, when GOD is often pleased to bruise them, if perchance their hearts may be softened. But in the next, they shall be dashed in pieces like a potter’s vessel, (L.) which cannot be mended, because there is no place for repentance in the grave. Or, again, if we refer the verse to the Jews, the rod of iron is the Roman empire, the fourth kingdom, which, as Daniel speaks,* shall be strong as iron. This was the sceptre of iron with which they were punished,* who put into the hand of GOD a reed for a sceptre.

[Like a potter’s vessel. By taking all earthly desires and affections away from the soul,* leaving it pure and clear, as the lamps which shone out when Gideon broke the pitchers.]*

10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be learned, ye that are judges of the earth.

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: because He that is the King of kings reveals Himself as the Eternal Wisdom. (Ay.) Be learned, ye that are judges of the earth, by the example of him who may be called Satan’s Judge, and who killed the Prince of Life.

[They are kings, who rule over whatever is servile and base, and animal in their own natures; they are judges of the earth, who look down on earthly things, and rate them at their true worth,* taught by the example of CHRIST, and thus like Him true pastors and rulers of the Church. And observe, that as three qualities go to make up a good king, valour against foes, wisdom in choosing the better part, and steadfast intention in fulfilling an appointed end, so these qualities are typified by the gifts which the three wise kings brought to CHRIST at His Epiphany.]

11 Serve the LORD in fear: and rejoice unto him with reverence.

In fear. The difference between the fear of GOD and the fear of the world is to be noted. The one shrinks from sin, the other from punishment; (Ay.) the one influences our thoughts, the other only our actions. And thus the schoolmen have distinguished four kinds of fear: the fear of man, by which we are led rather to do wrong than to suffer evil; servile fear, through which we are induced to avoid sin only from the dread of hell—and this fear, taken by itself, was, till later and later times, always held to be sinful;1 thirdly, initial fear, in which we avoid sin partly from the fear of hell, but partly also from the love of GOD, (P.) which is the fear of ordinary Christians; and filial fear, when we are afraid to disobey GOD only and altogether from the love we bear Him, which is the fear of Saints. Rejoice, because of the reward laid up for GOD’s servants; and yet with reverence, because we may come short of it.

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and so ye perish from the right way: if his wrath be kindled, (yea, but a little,) blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Kiss: expressing thereby, as to a monarch, both love and awe. Ye perish from the right way. Here, again, the Psalms and the New Testament give the same warning, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you?”* So David and S. Paul teach, that, after for awhile running our race with patience, (P.) we may nevertheless finally be lost. And we may do this, if His wrath be kindled, yea, but a little: therefore we are warned against little beginnings of sin. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him: because, “in a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD, thy Redeemer.”*

[Kiss the Son. So the Syriac alone of ancient versions, nearest to which is Aquila, who reads, καταφιλήσατε ἐκλεκτῶς. The Targum, LXX., Vulgate, and Æthiopic, with but slight variations, turn the words נַשְּׁקוּ בַר take hold of instruction1 (LXX. δράξασθε παιδείας, Vulg. apprehendite disciplinam,) and S. Jerome, following Symmachus, reads, Worship purely. Modern critics are divided, but the Prayer Book rendering is maintained by such scholars as De Wette, Gesenius, (A.) and Delitzsch. Take hold, as of a protection and shield in battle. (Z.) Take hold, as of a thing which flies from you, and must be seized in the instant, (G.) though that thing be the* discipline of a chastising GOD, which the Christian is to take patiently, (Ay.) as from a loving FATHER’s hand.]


Glory be to the FATHER, Who hath begotten the SON today, that is, eternally, and hath set Him as King, and heard His desire as that of a Priest; Glory be to the SON, Who desireth the FATHER for us, and possesseth the nations for an inheritance unto the utmost parts of the earth; Glory to the HOLY GHOST, Who is the Blessedness wherewith blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.

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

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