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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.

Monastic.

              Fight Thou * against them that fight against me.

 

Parisian. When they were in trouble * I behaved myself as though it had been my friend or my brother.

Ambrosian. Say unto my soul, * O LORD, I am thy salvation. Kyr. Kyr. Kyr.

Mozarabic. Say unto my soul, O LORD, * I am thy salvation.

1 Plead thou my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: and fight thou against them that fight against me.

This is the second of the Passion Psalms: (C.) the first being Psalm 22. They notice that, as He was thirty-four years old according to the flesh when He entered on His Passion,* so this Psalm comes rightly in order as 34. (according to Western reckoning.) So highly did the African Church esteem it, that it was given to S. Augustine by his fellow Bishops to write a treatise on. Plead Thou my cause. It is a great spectacle, S. Augustine very nobly says, to see GOD armed on thy behalf. But armed He is for us, whenever in His strength we take the battle in hand with our inbred corruptions: (A.) whenever, for His truth’s sake, we go forth to battle with the world. And then, “If GOD be for us, who can be against us?” Or, as it is in the Vulgate, Judge, O Lord, them that hurt me. As a patient sufferer said of old,* when asked what was his greatest comfort in an overwhelming storm of calumny, “The LORD is Judge.” As much as to imply that, let whatever judgment be passed upon him by men, a tribunal of perfect equity existed in the LORD’S mountain. If we see in this verse, as the Master of Sentences does, the general cry of the saints to GOD, then it is a parallel text with that prayer in the Apocalypse, (Ay.) “How long, O LORD, holy and true, dost Thou not avenge our blood?” But take it rather of the LORD Himself, in the last stage of mortal weakness, the ashy paleness of death stealing over His face, the drops of most precious Blood almost ceasing to fall from the wounded hands and feet,—that hour when, according to the belief of the Church, Satan made his last and fiercest assault on this spotless Lamb, as he will on us,—that hour when His own prophecy was fulfilled,* “The Prince of this world cometh:” and then hear Him, knowing that the salvation of the world hung on His victory alone, that the misery or beatitude of all generations depended on His mighty arm, then stretched in weakness on the Cross, and fastened to it with dreadful nails,—hear Him cry to His FATHER and our FATHER, to His GOD and our GOD, Plead Thou My cause, O Lord, with them that strive with Me!* It is well observed by Hugh of S. Victor, that the punishment of those who secretly oppose the righteous is frequently reserved to the next life: Plead Thou: whereas open adversaries are openly crushed in this: Fight Thou. Here, once for all, it is well to quote S. Asterius’s six reasons for imprecations like these in the Psalms.* 1. The emendation of those against whom they are uttered. 2. That their punishment may be in this world, not the next. 3. That others may learn wisdom by their sufferings. 4. That our own existence may be freed from their plague and danger. 5. That others may be terrified, and fear to do the like. 6. That the triumph may not be given to unbelievers, of asking, Where is now their GOD?1 Venerable Bede understands the first clause of the Head,* the second of the members: that strive with Me, namely, while our LORD still tabernacled on earth; that fight against Me, to the end of time, and after His Ascent to the FATHER.* Against them. And who are they? S. Albert well observes, that David had three principal enemies: Goliath, Saul, Absalom. Goliath, by the assent of all, is a type of Satan. Saul, which by interpretation is craving, signifies the flesh, which in very deed is ever craving. Absalom, which means The Father’s Peace, is the world, which comes with a show of feigned peace in the hope of luring the soul. It is the same thing which Adam of S. Victor tells us:

Caro, mundus, demonia,*

Diversa movent prælia:

Incursu tot phantasmatum

Turbatur cordis Sabbatum.

2 Lay hand upon the shield and buckler: and stand up to help me.

He has before asked for assistance: (C.) he now specifies the kind of assistance that he needs.* Hugh of S. Victor says very well (with reference to the Vulgate, which has it, Apprehende arma et scutum); “We fight with arms, we are protected by a shield. For the world fights against the elect in a twofold manner: by word and by sword. The word of falsehood we overthrow by wisdom: the sword of adversity we resist by patience. Wisdom therefore forms the arms, patience the shield which we take. But why do we say to GOD, Lay hand upon the shield and buckler, unless because He, fighting in us, arms us against our adversaries? because, as we receive His gifts from Him, so without Him, we cannot use those gifts to our salvation?” Or we may take it mystically,* of the Incarnation of our Blessed LORD. The arms, or sword, His blessed soul, which could not fulfil its entire purpose till drawn forth, so to speak, from the sheath of its body. The shield, that Body itself, exposed to so many blows, made of metal molten from the earth, (Ay.) glittering in the sun. And it was only by means of that Incarnation that the GOD, Who willeth not the death of a sinner, did really stand up to help us. And see again the likeness between the Head and the members. “Take unto you the whole armour of GOD,” says S. Paul to the latter: Lay hand upon the shield and buckler, says David to the former. Because He, therefore you: no use in our girding ourselves with spiritual armour, unless He, in the first place, had girded it on Himself.

[As it is written in another place: “He shall take to Him His jealousy for complete armour, and make the creature His weapon for the revenge of His enemies.* He shall put on righteousness as a breastplate, and true judgment instead of an helmet. He shall take holiness for an invincible shield, His severe wrath shall He sharpen for a sword.” These are the weapons of which the Psalmist has need. But as the just, when made perfect, “shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks,”* so GOD too, when punishment is over, will change His complete armour of jealousy for the vestments of peace, the breastplate for the alb and rational,1 the helmet for a priestly mitre, the shield into the holiness of peace, wrath into lovingkindness.]

3 Bring forth the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.

First, there is a difficulty in the meaning. Stop “the way,” say both of our versions. Both the Italic and Vulgate, without finishing the sense, conclude adversus eos. But we will rather take it,* Bring forth the spear and the bowstring:1 a translation which, I think, has some peculiar beauties of its own. If he spoke principally of defensive armour before, now he seems to turn to that which is offensive. For it is not enough to the Christian warrior only not to be conquered; he must in his turn assail. “Ye shall take them captives, whose captives ye were.” “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” And thus here, not only the spear, to attack in hand-to-hand conflict, but when the invading hosts of evil spirits have been put to flight, then the bowstring, still further to confuse and to overwhelm their rout. A most true signification; but,* if you prefer the other interpretation, (Z.) the commentators will tell you how shutting up the way is utter destruction; the victorious host behind, the hand of the LORD, an insurmountable barrier,* stretched out before. Just as the men of Ai: “they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side: and they smote them so that they let none of them remain, or escape.”* Just again as it was when the Angel stood before Baalam and his ass: when “he went further and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn, either to the right hand or to the left.”* (Ay.) Say unto my soul. “To say,” with GOD, is the same thing as to do; and I have already explained why “He spoke,” or “He said,” is so often employed for “He did.” Some would take My soul in the sense of “My earthly life:” and then it becomes a figure for the LORD’S Resurrection. That precious Body must indeed for a while be deprived of its proper life; but GOD the FATHER would still be with it, would still preserve it from corruption, would still be its salvation. Or, if we will, we may take the figure into our mouth, and address it to Him Who, “in that He hath suffered, is able also to succour.”* I am thy salvation. It is said in another place, “There is no help for him in his GOD.” But he, whose hosts said so, is a liar, and the father of it; convicted of being so here. And there is an intimacy, and closeness, and dearness in that phrase, say unto my soul, which nothing else can express. “Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem,”* is the Prophet’s command. “Speak to the heart of thy servants,”* says Joab to David. It is written of Hezekiah, before the great invasion of Sennacherib, that he “spoke to the heart”* of the people. “I will allure her, and speak to her heart,”* says the LORD Himself of His Church. O Thou true David, thus speak Thou to us, when we are wearied out with the burden and heat of the day! O Thou true Hezekiah, thus encourage us, when the spiritual Assyrian draws nigh to besiege the citadel of our hearts, with all his hosts: and, save in Thee, we have no trust nor hope!

4 Let them be confounded, and put to shame, that seek after my soul: let them be turned back, and brought to confusion, that imagine mischief for me.

Notice this: how over and over again shame is spoken of as the portion of GOD’S enemies. “Some to shame and everlasting contempt”*—their final doom. And so in the Prophet: “Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded.” And therefore it was that He endured such shame on the Cross. For we are sadly too apt to forget,* in reading of the sufferings of martyrs, and of Him That is the Martyr of Martyrs, how great a part of that bitter cup was filled by shame. And well was it said by the Martyr-Archbishop on the scaffold: “JESUS despised the shame for me; and GOD forbid that I should not despise the shame for Him!” But there is no occasion to confine this passage of the Psalmist to an evil sense; (Cd.) it may be taken as a prayer that they may experience such salutary shame in this world,* as not to be put to everlasting confusion in the next. That seek after my soul. But how is this, when in another place he complains with bitter grief, “No man sought after my soul?” Compare the two passages, (A.) and learn how slack are the efforts of those that seek after our souls for good, compared with the eagerness and perseverance of those that seek after it to destroy it. Put to shame.* Well says S. Bernard, “What will be the confusion, what the shame, what the grief, when, in the sight of all, the turpitude of evil men shall be stripped bare, their ignominy revealed, their filth made manifest! When the sinner, then made immortal, shall be gnawed by the worm of internal conscience with all its malignity shall be gnawed?—ay, consumed by it: and there shall be no place for dissimulation, nor hope of salvation.”

Ah! quem podéra crêr quando vivia*

Na sancta obediencia e justa vida,

Que taes contas, e tal desconto havia

Para a minima culpa commettida!

Quão mal tamanho excesso tentavia

Como arrisca a Graça ja perdida!

Que preceito difficil e scabroso

Não fôra facil, brando, e deleitoso!

Seek after my soul. They ingeniously give the speech of the ancient monarch to the true King of Sodom: “Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.”*

5 Let them be as the dust before the wind: and the angel of the LORD scattering them.

6 Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the LORD persecute them.

The literal reference, (L.) no doubt, is to the Egyptians. Dust before the wind, when they said, but too late, Let us flee! their way, dark and slippery, is the plague of darkness. And notice the horror and magnificence of the vengeance, the Angel still further dispersing that which is already scattered by the wind: hurrying forward and pressing on (as the Vulgate well has it, coarctans) those who, (A.) had they time to be cautious, were yet in the extreme of danger. “A horrible way,” says S. Augustine. “Darkness alone who feareth not? A slippery way alone who avoideth not? In a dark and slippery way how shall men go? where set foot?—These two ills are the great punishments of men—darkness, (Ay.) ignorance; a slippery way, luxury.” They take slippery of the sin of impurity, because it is, so to speak, a sliding slope to every other crime: as David began with adultery and ended in murder. Solomon began with unbridled lust, and ended in idolatry. Whence notice how often, in her ferial hymns, the Western Church prays to be defended from every thing that is lubricum.

Ne fœda sit vel lubrica*

Compago nostri corporis;

Per quam Averni ignibus

Ipsi crememur acrius.

And again—

Pater potentis gratiæ*

Culpam releget lubricam.

And again—

Oculi nec peccent lubrici*

Nec noxa corpus inquinet.

And yet once more—

Excita sensu* lubrico1

Te cordis alta somniant.

But take these verses in their highest and noblest sense,* as spoken by our Blessed LORD on the Cross. The darkness, the miraculous darkness of the Three Hours is passing off; and with it, their last effort being now all but over, their last battle being now all but lost, the host of evil spirits that have had their station all the weary time by that tree where the world’s Salvation hung, are hasting off together into the abyss. There, as they hurry along, retreating with the retreating darkness, and pursued by those Heavenly Spirits who have kept watch by the Cross, “Let their way,” exclaims the Man of Sorrows, now almost the LORD of Glory, “Let their way be dark and slippery, and the Angel of the Lord persecuting them.”

[The loving and merciful temper of the great Western divines is well shown in Haymo of Halberstadt’s explanation of this verse. He takes it of the conversion of sinners. Let them, says he, be lifted up from earthly things and raised towards heaven as easily as dust, by the rushing mighty wind of the Spirit of GOD, and let His Angel,* whether a good one persuading, or an evil one terrifying, aid the work, compelling them (Vulg.), should they resist the Spirit, so that they may be converted, whether voluntarily or by compulsion, and that the way of sin, once bright and pleasant to them, may appear dark and perilous to them thenceforward.]

7 For they have privily laid their net to destroy me without a cause: yea, even without a cause have they made a pit for my soul.

And first notice the net and the pit: (L.) as if to show us that Satan has various kinds of temptations, answering to the characters whom he endeavours to destroy; just as some animals are taken by the snare,* some by the pitfall. Cardinal Hugo notes the multitude of sins heaped up together in this one verse—malice in privily, or, as it is in the Vulgate, without reason; deceit in the net; cruelty in to destroy me: folly in without a cause; presumption in that it is done against my soul, which is committed to GOD, and is no longer under my own care. Net. That was a marvellous vision of S. Antony, in which he saw the whole world full of the snares of Satan: marvellous, and oh! how true!

Scilicet illa fuit spectri feralis imago

Antonî celso vertice visa jugi:*

Cum paruere oculi collecta sub unius ictum

Omnia, quæ mundo dedita regna jacent.

Omniaque hæc ingens obsepserat undique rete,

Multaque furtivis stamina sparsa viis:

Quisque suas fraudes—sensit sua vincula quisque;

Hic caput, ille pedes vinctus, et ille manus.

Nets. And so they were in our dear LORD’s pilgrimage. (Ay.) The Herodians had their net—the lawfulness of giving tribute to Cæsar—the lawyer his, Who is my neighbour? the Sadducees theirs, In the Resurrection,* whose wife shall she be? But the deadliest net of all was the stone and the seal, and the quaternion of soldiers to keep guard. “Pilate saith unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure AS YE CAN.” Oh bitter irony, more biting and poignant than ever was irony yet! Without a cause. “For what more without a cause,” (C.) says Cassiodorus, “than this, to turn those very words to a crime and a reproach which were spoken for salvation?”

8 Let a sudden destruction come upon him unawares, and his net, that he hath laid privily, catch himself: that he may fall into his own mischief.

Here is another instance of that which I shall have occasion to mention hereafter, the mixture of singular and plural in reference to the enemies of David. “They have privily laid their net—without a cause have they made a pit;” and now, Let a sudden destruction come upon him unawares. S. Paulinus tells us, “All the figure of this world which passeth away, and by the eyes allureth the heart,* is spread with diabolical nets. Let us believe the Prophet, that we walk in the midst of gins and amongst swords.”* Origen long before had understood a verse of the Canticles in a similar way. Where we and the Vulgate read it, “Showing himself through the lattice,” that commentator interpreted it, “having broken through and peering out from the nets which Satan has flung all round the world.” And truly at length Satan was caught in his own mischief; when, endeavouring to destroy the preacher of truth, he made manifest the Divinity of JESUS CHRIST.

[And so Adam of S. Victor:

Prædo vorax,* monstrum tartareum,

Carnem videns, nec cavens laqueum,

In latentem ruens aculeum,

Aduncatur.]

9 And, my soul, be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation.

10 All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee, who deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him: yea, the poor, and him that is in misery, from him that spoileth him?

They observe on the likeness there is between this verse and the commencement of the Magnificat. (Ay.) And rightly. When the net of Satan has come on himself, then is the time that the exceeding and eternal weight of glory begins for our LORD; that when that net has been broken on Mount Calvary, then follows the glorious Ascension from Mount Olivet. And the expression is not without its own force, All my bones shall say. For the prophecy went long before that “a bone of Him shall not be broken:” and thus, remaining unbroken when those of the thieves were broken, they may well here be represented as praising the love and faithfulness of GOD. Lord, who is like unto Thee? We may well say with Augustine, (A.) “It is better to use these words than to endeavour to explain them.” It is the question whence the archangel Michael derives his name: so the old hymn:

Ut Deus quis? sonat Michael;

Ut fortis! tonat Gabriel;

Salutis dona Raphael;

Laudatur his Emmanuel.

And they go through the titles which our LORD claims to Himself, (Ay.) “The LORD is our Judge, the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is our King,” and ask the question as S. Gregory does, looking at the different judges, and lawgivers, and kings raised up for GOD’s people. Lord, who is like unto Thee, Who deliverest the poor? They take it with one accord of this poor human nature of ours; so weak in itself, so subject in the best to be led astray,* so destitute of all good gifts which may make it acceptable to GOD. From him that is too strong for him. And so the great poet of the Eastern Church, Joseph of the Studium,* exclaims very well in one of his Lent hymns: “O my soul, how canst thou go forth to battle with thy spiritual enemy? with what armour canst thou gird thyself? what troops hast thou to fight on thy behalf? where are even thy ten thousand to oppose him that cometh against thee with twenty thousand? If thou hast to struggle against principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world, in whom canst thou place thy dependence save in Him only Who is King of Kings and LORD of Lords?” And notice this:* in the first clause the poor only is mentioned; in the second, both the poor and him that is in misery. Why is this? Because in the first he refers to our LORD’s lift upon earth; in the second, to the time when He Himself has been received up into heaven, and the Church is left to carry on her warfare alone. But still it is, the poor and him that is in misery: the poor, for He is the poor King even yet, coming among us so humbly as He does under the form of bread and wine. And yet He suffers in the sufferings of the Church that is in misery: “In all their afflictions He was afflicted;” “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” Or others, taking the three words as they stand in the Vulgate, inops, egens, pauper, see in the first a poverty of grace; in the second, a poverty of means to serve GOD; in the third, a poverty of happiness. And all these needs, as they truly say, are supplied by GOD; Who says to the first,* “My grace is sufficient for thee;” Who in the second rewarded him that had the two talents equally in proportion with him that had the five; and Who comforts the third by declaring that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed.

11 False witnesses did rise up: they laid to my charge things that I knew not.

12 They rewarded me evil for good: to the great discomfort of my soul.

The type speaks of the Antitype, David of the Son of David. (L.) We know how false witnesses rose up against David while he was in the courts of Saul, while he was in the wilderness, while he was in the land of the Philistines: “It is told me that he dealeth very subtilly.”* But more truly still this verse sets before us the judgment-seat of Caiaphas, when the witnesses, quoting the LORD’s words, perverted His meaning, and yet even so did not agree together. (Ay.) They take the opportunity of entering at length with S. Jerome into the reason why these witnesses, who in one sense said what was true, are yet called false witnesses; and how they fell short in their credibility of the conditions required to make testimony valid, as given in the old verses:

Conditio, sexus, ætas, discretio, fama,

Et fortuna, fides; in testibus ista requires.

To the great discomfort: or as it is even still more strongly in the Vulgate, the sterility of my soul. As much as to say, speaking after the manner of men, it was impossible that a heart so ungratefully outraged should bring forth any fruit of kindness towards them that had thus dealt towards it. (L.) “Many good works have I showed you from My FATHER; for which of these works do ye stone Me?” Evil for good. It is on this that that most touching hymn of the Church, the Improperia on Good Friday, entirely turns. They are too well known to need quotation here: but take a few stanzas from the cognate hymn, which will make the best commentary on our verse:

O popule mi, quid merui?

In quo te contristavi?

Nonne quibus debui

Bonis te amavi?

En liberum te dominum

Cunctorum procreavi;

Et mundum palatium

Tibi fabrieavi.

Tu pauculis argenteis

Me hosti vendidisti;

Et ut scurram, olleis

Regem providisti.

Ut unicum te filium

Meo sinu fovi:

Semper tuum commodum

Sedulo promovi.

Tu scommatis et colaphis

Hanc curam rependisti,

Probris tu me pluribus

Captum affecisti.

O popule mi, num merui

Horrende sic tractari?

Et tam miserabili

Modo laniari?

13 Nevertheless, when they were sick, I put on sackcloth, and humbled my soul with fasting: and my prayer shall turn into mine own bosom.

When they were sick, even as the world was sick to death all those four thousand years before the LORD’s Advent.

Salvasti mundum languidum*

Donans eis remedium.

I put on sackcloth. Namely, the sackcloth, the poor, rough, unsightly habiliments of human nature. Or they take it in another sense: as sackcloth is made of skins of goats, and a goat is the symbol of wickedness, so our LORD clad Himself with the appearance of our sins, (A.) just as Jacob put on the skin of the goat before he went in to his father Isaac. With fasting. How with fasting,* the forty days in the wilderness may tell. But observe this, that after the Son of Man had entered on His ministry, thenceforth He came eating and drinking. And herein is their mistake who, (C.) comparing the ascetic life of S. John Baptist with the secular life—to use the word in its secular sense—of our LORD, thence argue, that, as what He did must needs be most perfect, the worldly life is higher in GOD’s account than that which would avoid the world. But they forget that our Blessed LORD came to be a pattern of both lives; and that for thirty years of the one He was pleased to undergo but three years of the other; whence their own argument is turned the other way. It is not altogether without its beauty,* the explanation which would refer to the closing act of the sickness of the world; when the LORD humbled His soul with fasting at the time that they gave Him vinegar mingled with myrrh, and when He had tasted thereof He would not drink; and in those very hours it was that He may be said to have put on sackcloth, when there was darkness over all the world, as it is written, “I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.”* When they were sick: it is in the Vulgate, (C.) Cum mihi molesti essent,—When they were troublesome unto me. And hence they take occasion to dwell on the meekness and patience of Him that could so speak; that so characterised all the cruelty and malice of the Jews. And they observe, again, how, by the times when the LORD, (Ay.) during His public ministry, vouchsafed for the moment to fast, He taught some marvellous truths. When He was athirst and sat by the well, He said for the first time plainly, “I that speak unto thee am He.” When He came and sought figs on the barren fig-tree and found none, He gave His disciples, and through them the Church, the unbounded gift of miracles. My prayer shall turn into mine own bosom. They take it of the elect, who may be said, like the disciple whom JESUS loved,* to lie in His bosom. “I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them whom Thou hast given Me.” And this is a better interpretation than that of Eusebius, who will have it to mean, that, had our LORD’s Prayer ascended to the FATHER, it must infallibly have been heard for the Jews; but their iniquities weighed it down, so to speak, prevented its rising, forced it to return to the place from whence it came. (D. C.) Or if we look away from the Master to the servants, we may take it in the sense of our LORD’s saying, “If the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it; but if not, it shall turn to you again.”* The Cardinal John Vitalis, who wrote a very useful compendium of this Psalm, rightly gathers from these verses that there are four things necessary in order that a fast should be acceptable to GOD. 1. True contrition: I wept and chastened my self with fasting. 2. Earnest devotion: My prayer shall turn, &c.,—that is, My prayer having ascended to the throne of GOD, shall come back to me, (L.) fraught with all the good things for which it was sent. 3. Kindness to others: in the next verse. 4. Severity to oneself; I put on sackcloth.

14 I behaved myself as though it had been my friend, or my brother: I went heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.

And they compare our LORD’s own, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings!” They refer,* too, to the kiss with which, according to tradition, it was the custom of the SAVIOUR to greet His disciples at their going out and at their return: whence Judas’ sign. I behaved Myself as though it had been My friend. “JESUS saith unto him, Friend,* wherefore art thou come?” The Vulgate gives the latter clause of the verse differently: as one that grieveth and goeth in sorrow, so was I humbled. And S. Jerome translates it, As one for whom his mother mourneth. I went heavily. When else, but in the journey in the Via Dolorosa, (L.) when the fire of GOD’s wrath was kindled already, when the wood of the Cross was prepared, and the patient Lamb bare the one on His shoulder, and endured the other in His very heart?* I behaved Myself as though it had been My brother. For this our True Joseph did indeed, when He beheld His brethren, lost in sin, led away captive by Satan, weep over them; so that all the house of the true Pharaoh, the blessed Angels heard.*

15 But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the very abjects came together against me unawares, making mouths at me, and ceased not.

Marvellous prophecy of the Cross! second only—if indeed second—to that in the 22nd Psalm. Still closer to the history, if we take the Vulgate: The scourges were gathered together upon Me. Even so,* O LORD JESU, the ploughers ploughed upon Thy back, and made long furrows: precious furrows for us, where are sown patience for the present life, and glory in the next; where are sown hope that maketh not ashamed, and love that many waters cannot quench. The very abjects. Even those worst of abjects, who said, “GOD, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are;” who had set the poor sinner before the LORD with their “Moses in the Law commanded that such should be stoned.” Making mouths at Me. And is it not wonderful that, well knowing this prophecy, yet the Chief Priests and Scribes should have so fulfilled it, as that it should be written concerning them, “They that passed by mocked Him,* wagging their heads?” The Vulgate gives the latter part: they were scattered, and turned not to repentance. And so indeed their devices were scattered: their devices of mockery, the reed, the purple robe, the title, turned into the proclamation of the True King; their seal and quaternion of soldiers made the means of more gloriously attesting the verity of His Resurrection. And yet, most surely, they were not turned to repentance:* for as soon as the soldiers brought tidings of that greatest of miracles, they were ready with their bribe and their preconcerted lie. Or, take it of the Church,* and then most truly is it written, gathered themselves together. For what kind of torture, what species of ignominy was not put in force against those valiant soldiers or JESUS CHRIST? The very abjects. Such as those Roman Emperors who wallowed in the deepest abysses of unspeakable impurity,—who spent their lives in inventing new sins, of whose doings even that awful first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is but the faint shadow: and it needs to penetrate the horrors of the great Sixth Satire to comprehend somewhat of the real state of the heathen world when the LORD came.

16 With the flatterers were busy mockers: who gnashed upon me with their teeth.

The flatterers. “Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of GOD in truth.”* Who gnashed. As when they led Him to the Mount of Precipitation to cast Him down therefrom; as when they cried out, “Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!” For thus this “Morning Hind” was given over to the cruel dogs,* who first gnashed and ground those teeth with which they were afterwards to tear the innocent Victim in pieces. Gnash now your teeth against Him, O remorseless Jews! The time shall come when ye shall gnash them for yourselves; when,* not before the judgment-seat, not in the Pavement, not around the Cross, but in the outer darkness, but in the truer Tophet, but in the abode of Satan, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth! And so it is written in the Prophets, “All Thine enemies have opened their mouth against Thee: they hiss and gnash the teeth.”* And still the LORD says to them, as to the hosts of another Sennacherib, “Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice,* and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.”*

17 LORD, how long wilt thou look upon this: O deliver my soul from the calamities which they bring on me, and my darling from the lions.

How long? “He asks,” says one, “out of sympathy with human weakness, (C.) and to manifest Himself True Man; for long and short are not the terms of Him, with Whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Deliver. Or, as the Vulgate has it much more strikingly, Restore. And then, as it was the prayer of the LORD, so it may well be the supplication of all His members, now going down into the valley of the shadow of death. The calamities. All those, when fearfulness and trembling come upon us, and an horrible dread hath overwhelmed us. Which they bring on Me: they, (L.) that terrible THEY, of whom we read in the Parable, “This night shall THEY require thy soul of thee.” My darling. O bitter irony, if applied to the larger number of those who profess and call themselves Christians! The soul their darling! when they might have addressed it over and over again in those fearful words of the great Portuguese preacher,* “My soul, I know well that I am slaying thee and damning thee now; but if at this present moment I murder thee by my sin, by my repentance I intend, at some future time, to raise thee up again.” This their darling! which they neglect, endanger, mislead all their life, and then only, when they draw near to the gates of death, begin to cry out, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Some, (C.) putting these words in the LORD’s mouth, will understand them of His Body: dear indeed, precious indeed, raged at indeed by many lions, so mangled on the Cross, so marred more than any man, so torn with the scourge, so defiled with the spitting. Or, again, in another sense we may take the words to ourselves, and pray that our darling, (A.) while there is yet time, may be restored from the spiritual lion, who goeth about, seeking whom he may devour, and into whose power we have so often fallen.

18 So will I give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.

What congregation,* save the great multitude that no man can number, out of every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue? Then were the LORD’s thanks rendered to His FATHER and our FATHER, to His GOD and our GOD, when, returning victorious,—when, leading captivity captive,—when, having smitten the gates of brass, and broken the bars of iron in sunder,—when, having left that most dear promise to the Church, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,”—He sat down at the Right Hand of the FATHER, from thenceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. And see how clearly He distinguishes between the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant. O great congregation indeed, verily great, verily glorious, whither “the tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD, to testify unto Israel, to give thanks unto the Name of the LORD!” And the much people are the earthly followers of the Lamb, (Ay.) not yet before the throne, but already washing their robes, and making them white in His Blood. It is, both in the LXX. and the Vulgate, I will praise Thee among the heavy people. The people, that is, as yet weighed down by the burden of their sins: oppressed with many sorrows; not as yet able to lay aside every weight, though endeavouring to run with patience the race that is set before them. Others,* however, take heavy in the sense of earnest, staid, sober; the reverse of the waverer, unstable in all his ways. So S. Augustine: (A.) “In a weighty people, (C.) which the wind of temptation carries not away, in such is GOD praised; for in the chaff He is ever blasphemed.” S. Thomas gives both explanations.1

19 O let not them that are mine enemies triumph over me ungodly: neither let them wink with their eyes that hate me without a cause.

As for a while they did with regard to the Head,—the whole of that “next day that followed, the Day of Preparation;” when it was continually, “That Deceiver, (Ay.) while He was yet alive.” So, once more, was it, when Diocletian and his fellows reared up the pillar which proclaimed the absolute destruction of the Nazarite worship: so those coins, which carry down the supposed triumph to this very day. And it shall be so yet once more, a triumph for the time most perfect of all, when, the Two Witnesses having been now slain, “they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts to one another.”* That hate Me without a cause. We have2 our LORD’s own authority to apply the words to Himself; the HOLT GHOST here, as in so many other places, teaching us that the mystical system of interpretation is His own. “But this cometh to pass,* that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated Me without a cause.”

20 And why? their communing is not for peace: but they imagine deceitful words against them that are quiet in the land.

Through the very common confusion between the negative and the pronoun, (L.) the LXX. and the Vulgate have it,* They spake peace to Me, which seems better in accordance with the guile mentioned in the other verses. And even thus, O LORD JESUS, Judas spake peace to Thee, when, in the darkness of that night, he drew nigh to Thee with his Hail, Master! Even thus also do they now speak peace, who give Thee that most unrighteous kiss, when they receive that most precious Body and drink Thy Blood unworthily! The latter part of the clause is very obscure in the Vulgate. And while they spake in the wrath of the earth they imagined deceit.* Some take this to mean, “while they spake in wrath about earthly things;” as when the Jews said,* “The Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” Other some, (D. C.) “While they spake in concealed wrath.” But He—if we follow our own version—was indeed quiet in the land,* Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not: He was quiet Who,* when the two Apostles would have called down fire from heaven, rebuked them with, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.”

21 They gaped upon me with their mouths, and said: Fie on thee, fie on thee, we saw it with our eyes.

And how better might the verse be quoted than here:* “Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.”* When they stood round Him on the pavement, when they gathered about Him on the Cross,* this, Whom they smote with the palms of their hands,—as the Eastern Church says,—“was He Who, when He laid His hands on the sick, cured them in a moment; this, Whom they defiled with their filthy spittings, was He Who, when He had made clay of the spittle, gave sight to the blind; this, Whom they tormented with a crown of thorns, was He Who hath crowned the heavens with a diadem of stars; this, Whom they clad in a purple robe, He Who yearly spreads over the earth the green beauty of spring.” Fie on Thee! Fie on Thee! It is the same interjection of malicious joy that they used when the LORD of all hung on the Cross: “Ah, Thou that destroyest the temple!” And here, in the mystical sense, they take the saying of the Prophet, “Thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy Brother in the day when He became a Stranger:”* a Stranger, that is, from His FATHER, because of the weight of our sins: shouldest not so have looked: shouldest have looked as the Israelites to the Brazen Serpent, as it is written, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved.”* We have seen it with our eyes: the day for which they longed: the day when the Son of Man was delivered into the hands of sinners: the day when the Scriptures should be fulfilled, (D. C.) that thus it must be. Or they take it, even more strikingly, of the just man, falling seven times a day, and when rising, assaulted by the legion of evil spirits that keep watch over him with their “Fie on thee! fie on thee! we saw it!” Yet be of good courage, O follower of the Crucified! that which they say of thee, with more or less reason, they said of Him without any cause; and He allowed them to say it to the very end, that He might take on Himself the burden of thy sins. And this is that which is written by the prophet, (Ay.) “All Thine enemies have opened their mouth against Thee they hiss and gnash their teeth: they say, We have swallowed her up: certainly this is the day that we looked for we have found, we have seen it.”* And now as they thus stood by the Cross was that accomplished which was written by the Prophet,* “Mine heritage is unto Me as a lion in the forest: it crieth out against Me: therefore have I hated it.”*

22 This thou hast seen, O LORD: hold not thy tongue then, go not far from me, O LORD.

23 Awake, and stand up to judge my quarrel: avenge thou my cause, my GOD, and my LORD.

24 Judge me, O LORD my GOD, according to thy righteousness: and let them not triumph over me.

We saw it with our eyes,”—Thou hast seen: and oh, (L.) how differently! They saw the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief in the last agonies of earthly existence; He saw the mighty GOD, the Everlasting FATHER, the Prince of Peace, opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers. They saw their desires accomplished, their Victim in the toils, their hate satisfied: He saw them speaking great swelling words against the Most High. And so still those evil spirits see our falls, that they may have wherewithal to accuse us: that, when we stand before the Judgment-seat of GOD, Satan may stand at our right hand to resist us. He sees them that He may pity them: (D. C.) sees us, that He may lift us up from them; sees us,* that He may encourage us against them. And notice here how the promise of CHRIST, and the work of CHRIST in us and by us, have given us now a claim on GOD’s mercy, as well as on His justice; how, in the strictest sense, we have “right to the Tree of Life.” Whence he fears not to say, (Ay.) Judge me, O Lord, according to Thy righteousness. Yet not barely so: he puts in one expression, by which he shows under what aspect he desires them to be tried: Judge me, O Lord my God, because His SON is my ransom; and since His SON is my ransom, therefore my cause goes no longer by mercy alone, but by justice also. There is another reading, Judge Me according to My righteousness, which indeed applies admirably to the SON of GOD. “For,” (Ay.) says the great Carmelite expositor, “it is with merit and reward as it is with ascending and descending water. The law of water is that it will ascend as high as it has descended. Thus the LORD for our sakes was abject below all other men; made a contempt to them; trampled under their feet: wherefore now, according to His humanity, He is exalted far above all things, both that are in heaven and in earth,—exalted according to the righteousness of the FATHER’s promise, exalted according to the merit of His own humiliation.”

25 Let them not say in their hearts, There, there, so would we have it: neither let them say, We have devoured him.

26 Let them be put to confusion and shame together, that rejoice at my trouble: let them be clothed with rebuke and dishonour, that boast themselves against me.

We have devoured him. It is a bold saying of Augustine, (A.) but a very true one: “The world seeks to swallow thee up: do thou then boldly slay it, and devour it instead. Cut it in pieces, grind it down: as it was said to Peter, ‘Kill, and eat:’ do thou kill in them what they are; make them that which thou art. Therefore, perhaps, that calf, being ground to powder, was cast into the water and given to the children of Israel to drink, that so the body of ungodliness might be swallowed up by Israel,” Let them be put to confusion. See what is said on verse 4 of this same Psalm.

[Clothed with rebuke and dishonour. This, remarks Origen,* is the vesture which Satan gives to them who are baptized into him, whereas those who have put on CHRIST in Baptism are clothed with righteousness and wisdom.]

27 Let them be glad and rejoice, that favour my righteous dealing: yea, let them say alway, Blessed be the LORD, who hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.

28 And as for my tongue, it shall be talking of thy righteousness: and of thy praise all the day long.

That favour My righteous dealing. It is the LORD That speaks; but how are His words to be taken?* That desire My righteousness, it is in the Vulgate: whence they understand it of such as attribute all they have done of good,* or endured of ill, to no merit or power of their own, but to His merit and power, Who of GOD is made unto us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption. Others take it,* That so desire My righteousness, as to imitate it, to tread in My footsteps, to keep Me always before them. Or, again: that so favour My righteous dealing, as to stand on My side in the great battle with Satan. It is as if the LORD, returning from the slaughter of His adversaries, looks up to us as that conqueror of old time with His,—“Who is on My side? who?” Of His servant. Even as it is written, “Behold,* My servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” His Servant, and ours too; (C.) for what is there that this good and faithful Servant doth not for us? He ministers to our infirmities; He spreads His own banquet for us;* He bears our sicknesses and weaknesses for us: because man will not serve GOD, therefore GOD shall serve man,*—shall be obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. In the prosperity. Or as it is in the Vulgate, Let them say alway, Let the Lord be magnified, who desire (not desireth) the peace of His Servant. That is, who long for the full acquisition of that most precious of all legacies, “Peace I leave you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you;” who desire this peace,—this, and none other; no peace with the world, no peace with Satan; war to the end with them: but still peace, the earnest and foretaste of that perfect peace which is only to be found in Jerusalem, (Ay.) the Vision of Peace. And thus notice the two clauses: the one of this world,* As for my tongue, it shall be talking of Thy righteousness; the other of the next world,* and of Thy praise all the day long. All the day, the eternal day; the

Clara dies, æterna dies, septemplice Phœbo;

the

Endless noon-day, glorious noon-day;

the day of the happy ones; the day that hath no need of the sun to give it light, or to mark out its hours; for the LORD GOD doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the Light thereof; neither has it any hours, any lapse of time, any beginning nor ending, any morn, nor any eve. Or we may take it of the earthly day, if we will; and then Augustine will tell us, in a noble passage, how to keep up this continual praise. “And whose tongue endureth to speak the praise of GOD all the day long? See, (A.) now, I have made a discourse something longer than my wont, and ye are wearied. I will suggest a remedy, whereby thou mayest praise GOD all the day long, if thou wilt. Whatever thou doest, do well, and thou hast praised GOD. When thou singest a hymn, thou praisest GOD; but to what advantage thy tongue, unless thy heart also praise Him? Hast thou ceased from singing hymns, and departed, that thou mayest refresh thyself? Be not intemperate, and thou hast praised GOD. Dost thou go away to sleep? Rise to do no evil, and thou hast praised GOD. Dost thou transact business? Do no wrong, and thou hast praised GOD. Dost thou till thy field? Raise not strife, and thou hast praised GOD. In the innocency of thy works prepare thyself to praise GOD all the day long.”

And therefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, Who hath pleasure in the prosperity of His Servant; and to the SON, against Whom false witnesses did rise up, laying to His charge things that He knew not; and to the HOLY GHOST, Who pleadeth our cause;

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








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