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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. My heart is inditing * of a good matter.

Monastic (Septuagesima). My heart is inditing of a good matter.

Ambrosian. My soul longeth after Thee, O GOD. Kyr. Kyr. Kyr.

1 We have heard with our ears, O GOD,2 our fathers have told us: what thou hast done in their time of old;

With our ears. But what is the use of the phrase? Can we ever hear in any other way? There is a deep meaning here. Unless GOD so purges our ears,* that they are capable of imbibing the lesson He would teach, the tales of past deliverance may be repeated over and over again, without making any impression on our hearts. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”* “By hearing ye shall hear,* and shall not understand.” We hear of their deliverances,* and doubt of our own; we see how GOD’S Right Hand was then stretched out to save, and think it is shortened now. (Z.) Cardinal Hugo notices from this text three necessary requirements for learning well:*—1. Intention and attention in him who learns: (we have heard with our ears.) 2. Authority in him that teaches: (our fathers have told us.) 3. Love between the teacher and the taught: (our fathers.) What thou hast done: or, more correctly, The work that Thou hast done. Why only work in the singular, when such innumerable deliverances had been wrought by Him, from the passage of the Red Sea to the destruction of the hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians? Because all these were but types of that one great work,* that one stretching forth of the LORD’S Hand, when Satan was vanquished, death destroyed, the kingdom of heaven opened to all believers. I like this better than the explanation of the Carmelite, (Ay.) who sees, in the opening verses of this Psalm, the five great benefits wrought by GOD for the race of man.

This verse formed a part of some editions of the Sarum Litany, as it does of the present English Litany.

2 How thou hast driven out the heathen with thy hand, and planted them in: how thou hast destroyed the nations, and cast them out.

That Hand, then nailed to the Cross for us and for our salvation,* nevertheless even then was beginning to burst the bands by which the Prince of the powers of this world lorded it over the whole earth.

Manus clavis perforatas,

Et cruore purpuratas,

Cordi premo præ amore,

Sitibundo bibens ore

Cruoris stillicidium.

These are the Hands with which that patient dresser of the vineyard planted the Gentile Church on a very fruitful hill; the hands with which,* bleeding and torn from their combat, He plucked up the briars and thorns that would have occupied their place, and planted them in. Take the two clauses, if you will, as referring to the type and the antitype; the first of the Jewish Church, the second of the Church of the Gentiles. (L.) Hence they dwell on the seven Canaanitish nations as types of the seven deadly sins:*

The Canaanite

              Avarice.

 

Amorite

              Luxury.

 

Hittite

              Sloth.

 

Perizzite

              Pride.

 

Hivite

              Envy.

 

Jebusite

              Ignorance.

 

Girgashite

              Gluttony.

 

3a (3) For they gat not the land in possession through their own sword: neither was it their own arm that helped them;

3b (4) But thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance: because thou hadst a favour unto them.

It was probably with reference to this verse that Achior, in his speech to Holofernes, is made, in the Vulgate, to say, “Everywhere they entered in without arrow and bow, and without shield and sword; for their GOD did fight for them, and overcame.”* And in this sense, (L.) too, S. Paul says, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” And perhaps also, with reference to this: “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth:” that is, the Land of the Living.

By their own sword. And so one of their most miraculous deliverances was that when the watchword of the three hundred was, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!” The land. Take it,* as we have already done, of the Land of the Living, if you will; take it also of the land, this little territory of the body which we have to hold in subjugation,* and too often utterly to re-conquer, for GOD. Thy Right Hand, and Thine Arm, and the Light of Thy Countenance. Some,* but not perhaps very appropriately, see here a reference to the Blessed TRINITY; others, the three principal offices of our LORD, (Ay.) as Consoler, Strengthener, Illuminator. Light of Thy Countenance. We may take it either of that clear bright Light which He is to the souls of His people, “Thy Word is a light to my paths,”—and again, in that loveliest of metaphors, “And He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain:”* or it may be applied to that terrible glory by which the LORD’S enemies have so often been dismayed and overwhelmed; and which we considered at length in the 18th Psalm. And so Apollinarius seems to have taken it here:

ἀλλὰ τεὴ παλάμη, καὶ σῆς μέγα φέγγος ὀπωπῆς

Because Thou hadst a favour unto them. It is1 exactly the same phrase that was uttered at our LORD’S Baptism: “In Him I am well pleased.” Because in Him, therefore in them: “for Thy servant David’s sake, turn not away the presence of Thine Anointed.” And this, it was which formed the subject of that first anthem of the Angels; εὐδοκία,1 as the last MS. research seems to prove, manifested in, rather than to, men.

4 (5) Thou art my King, O GOD: send help unto Jacob.

What help? The later commentators, (L.) such as Lorinus, here tell us that S. Augustine is to be “cautiously read,” because he refers the entire fulness and consummation of that hope to the period following the Resurrection. We, perhaps, may be forgiven for believing, with those older doctors, that the Beatific Vision (except in the case of martyrs) will not be the portion even of saints, much more of the rest of GOD’S elect, till death has been entirely swallowed up in victory; and then that the glorious completion of help will be of a verity sent unto Jacob, when all his tribes shall be gathered in, all his warfare accomplished, all his iniquity pardoned. Thou art my King, O God. The LXX. and the Vulgate, (but not the Hebrew,) Thou art my King and my God. But, as they ask, who can say this of a truth? Who has thus taken for his king Him That was crowned with thorns, (G.) Whose sceptre was a reed, Who reigned from the Tree? Who so poor of spirit as to choose the poor Monarch? Who so renunciant of the world, as to choose the Sovereign That had not where to lay His Head? And yet, Send help unto Jacob. Jacob, His true people, in that, as a Prince, they have power with Him, and prevail: in that they supplant the world, the flesh, and the devil. And notice, Jacob needs help: the supplanter cannot carry on his long and wearisome struggle without the assistance of his LORD: Israel, (Ay.) he that sees GOD, needs no help, warfare being at an end, danger impossible, temptation a thing of the past. Send help. In the Vulgate it is, salvations. And S. Ambrose takes occasion to say how,* not this or that help, this or that deliverance, we owe to the GOD of our salvation; but all help, all mercy, all loving kindness: according to that saying of the Apostle, “And the LORD shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me to His heavenly kingdom.”* S. Albert asks by what authority can man call GOD his King,* when He is rather the King of Angels?—when those blessed spirits might say, with the men of Israel in old time, We have ten parts in the King, and we also have more right in David than ye.”* And he answers, “Because it is written, ‘Verily, He took not on Him the nature of Angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham.’ ”* And there is another sense to be elicited from the plural, (G.) salvations. Esau had but one blessing, and that the earthly and the (in itself) worthless one; plenty of corn and wine, richness of the earth, abundance of dew. Jacob had this; but he had the other and better blessing, the heavenly blessing, also: so that the qui mandas salutes Jacob is emphatically true.

5 (6) Through thee will we overthrow our enemies: and in thy Name we will tread them under, that rise up against us.

Overthrow scarcely gives the force of the Hebrew. Rebut comes nearest to it: כִּךָ צָרֵינוּ נְנַנֵּחַ the metaphor being taken from the battles of horned animals. So in the LXX.: ἐν σοὶ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ἡμῶν κερατιοῦμεν: in the Galliean, (A.) ventilabimus cornu: in the Roman,* ventilabimus only. Arietare would be,* perhaps,* the nearest Latin expression; and its force is dwelt on by most of the commentators. They take these horns of Him Who was indeed, like the bullock of old times, our Sacrifice; or of the unicorn, to whom our mighty Deliverer is so often likened. Or again, they see in the horns themselves, with which we are to push,* the arms of the Cross; and so Tertullian and S. Cyprian. Not like those lying horns made by the false prophet Zedekiah, (L.) with the message, “Thus saith the LORD: With these shalt thou push the Assyrians, until thou have consumed them:”* nor yet like those four horns seen by Zechariah, of which the Prophet was told, “These be the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem:”* nor, again, like those of which Amos upbraids the possessors, “Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought; which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?”*

And in Thy Name. How, over and over again, does that Name of all glory come before us! Surely, as with S. Bernard, so with David: “Whatever I read, it is unsavoury, except I there find that Title; it is insipid, unless it be savoured with that Name!” And here,* more, S. Cyril will have us remember GOD’S declaration to Pharaoh, one of, those that did indeed “rise up against us:” “In very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, that My Name may be declared throughout all the earth.”* To return again to the horn:1 they lay a great stress on the kind of horn—the oneness of it—“My horn is exalted as the unicorn’s:” that one Horn of our strength, that one Name under heaven given among men, whereby they may be saved. (Ay.) And no doubt it was in great measure from this text that those early emperors carried   the on their standards.

Christus purpureum gemmanti textus in auro

Signabat Labarum. (Cd.)

That rise up against us. In nos it is in almost all the Fathers, and so in the Roman; but in the Gallican1 version we have in nobis, which the other commentators, if they mention it at all, mention it to blame. But deep S. Thomas observes, “Most truly said; for what injury could our spiritual enemies do us,* unless they could rise up in us as well as against us? ‘The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me:’ but in us, or against us, or both, in His Name we shall tread them under, Who subdued them in His own strength.”*

6 (7) For I will not trust in my bow: it is not my sword that shall help me;

Lay the stress,” says S. Ambrose,* “on the my; for there is a bow in which must be all our salvation and all our desire.” That Bow set in the clouds of tribulation; that Bow given by the promise of the LORD, (L.) in Whom the seven graces of the HOLY GHOST reside fully; that Bow which we, as faithful watergalls, are to imitate. And this was the favourite lesson of the wonder-working ascetics of the desert,—

Holy Macarius and great Antony,”

that none can obtain a victory who knows not that he cannot obtain it. O glorious Christian paradox! foolishness to them that are beginning the race,* but of what perfect comfort to those that have nearly attained the goal?

Or, in another sense: the bow,* which sends to, and smites at, a distance, is prayer. And still the emphasis is on my. Not in my prayers, as mine, but as presented with the much incense by the Angel; yea, rather, as made His own by the LORD of the Angels. And hence it is well said, “Also he bade them teach the children of Israel the use of the bow;”* which, indeed, we have need to learn by diligent use, if ever we seek to prevail by it. And there is no more striking exhortation to the employment of this bow than the fourth sermon of S. Macarius. Well did those ancient ascetics of the desert know how to send up their prayers to the GOD That heareth prayer,* and mightily did they succeed in their petitions. My sword. They take it of good works, the fittest weapon wherewith to fight against Satan; and yet it is not my sword that shall help me neither, because “of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things.”

7 (8) But it is thou that savest us from our enemies: and puttest them to confusion that hate us.

This and the preceding verse are, (Ay.) in the Vulgate, in the past. Savest us: and how? In three ways, says the Carmelite. First, by penitence from our sins; as it is written, “In His days Judah shall be saved;”* but Judah is, by interpretation, Confession. Secondly, the innocent shall be saved by the purity of his actions. The patient shall be saved by long-suffering in tribulation. But they all—knowing how much yet remains before our salvation shall be complete—with one accord take the past or present of the future. So S. Augustine: “Da prophetam cui non tantum certum sit præteritum sed futurum: et quemadmodum tibi quod meministi factum non potest fieri ut non sit factum: sic ille quod novit futurum, non potest fieri ut non fiat.”

8 (9) We make our boast of GOD all day long: and will praise thy Name for ever.

We shall be praised is the Vulgate, unless, indeed, the laudabimur is a mere deponent. The LXX. have ἐπαινεθησόμεθα• answering fairly enough to הִלַּלְנוּ of the Hebrew. We will glory is perhaps the nearest expression. But that is a beautiful sense which takes the passive meaning, as Apollinarius does:

ἠμάτιον κλέος ἄμμι παρʼ ἀθανάτῳ βασιλῆι.

That He Who gives the power will give the reward; He Who bestows the grace will guerdon that grace with glory; (Ay.) that He Who conquers in us will crown in us that victory which He has bestowed. We make our boast of God. As it is written in the Prophet, Let not the rich man glory in his riches; let not the mighty man glory in his might:” exactly that which David over and over tells us, “Hold not Thy tongue, O GOD of my praise:” “The LORD is my strength and my song.” And will praise Thy Name for ever.

Ave Nomen1 dulce JESUS!

Tu de monte Lapis cæsus,

Et vitalis mentis esus,

Ad te clamet homo læsus.

Ave Nomen admirandum,

Orbe toto prædicandum,

JESU dulcis ad narrandum,

Nos accendas ad amandum.

Ave, dives tu diei!

Adsis mihi, Fili Dei:

Ne me vincant Amorrhæi

Recordare, JESU, mei!

9 (10) But now thou art far off, and puttest us to confusion: and goest not forth with our armies.

10 (11) Thou makest us to turn our backs upon our enemies: so that they which hate us spoil our goods.

But now. This, then, is that season, in which, as S. Peter says, “if need be,”* we must be in heaviness through manifold temptation. And,* remembering this, it is pleasant to translate that and now, as some do by although. True, we have these troubles, but we know them to be the only way to rest; true, for awhile we suffer, but, “if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.”

11 (12) Thou lettest us be eaten up like sheep: and hast scattered us among the heathen.

This is the first time that the word sheep, in a metaphorical meaning, afterwards so favourite a metaphor, occurs in the Psalms: we may as well therefore, in this place, hear the mystical reasons which Cardinal Hugo gives for the selection of that animal as the type of GOD’S people.

Fœta bidens: dormit vestita: lupum timet: imbres

Carne juvat; pelle; vellere; lacte; fimo.

Cernit humum balans: edit herbas: hostia: velox

Pastorem sequitur: in grege sola dolet.

Ruminat: innocuo cornu: pede, vertice duro:

Tonsa tacet: maculat morbida peste gregem.

As sheep of slaughter. That is, (A.) they explain, because devoured by the roaring lion that goeth about; and, so devoured by him, turning into a part of his substance, and increasing his strength. Or, in another sense, martyrs thus destroyed by their enemies became to them the means of eternal life; and most truly of all, the Lamb, the Lamb of GOD, in the same night in which He was accounted to be slain did indeed in truth give His Flesh to be the life of the world. That which His people do only mystically, and in a far off type, He does really and substantially, and in no figure of speech. And scattered us among the heathen. (L.) Manifestly the Psalm was written at a very late period of the Jewish history:—and how marvellously it applies to the young Christian Church. Thou lettest us be eaten up like sheep: “They stoned Stephen, calling upon GOD:”* and scatterest us among the heathen. “Now they that were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice,”* &c. (whence the Gospel preached to the Gentiles.) Thou lettest us. The scriptural S. Albert will have us remember,* that, unless GOD permitted, the enemy could have no advantage. “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? Did not the LORD, He against whom we have sinned?”* And again: “Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?”* Eaten up like sheep. And notice: those sheep are only fit to be eaten, that are barren. So they only are permitted to fall a prey to the spiritual Lion, who bring forth no good works. S. Albert also curiously enough compares the being scattered among the heathen like sheep with that passage in the Hebrews, “They wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy.”*

12 (13) Thou sellest thy people for nought: and takest no money for them.

The Hebrew is quite plain; but a various reading of the LXX. has given rise to a considerable discrepancy of interpretation, and a beautiful variety of meaning. There can be no doubt that the original Greek was—καὶ οὐκ ἦν πλήθος ἐν τοῖς ἀλλάγμασιν αὐτῶν• there was no multitude,—was no advantage or enrichment, in their commutations,—in the sale or barter of GOD’S people. But through the carelessness of some transcriber, ἀλλάγμασιν became ἀλαλάγμασιν—there was no multitude nor quantity of their exultations: that is, the Church was plunged into grief which allowed no triumphal strain. S. Augustine1 therefore reads: et non fuit multitudo in exultationibus eorum; all the others, in commutationibus eorum; except the Ambrosian which has in commutationibus nostris. The Greek Church (using the word in its peculiar signification) agrees with the Western, in reading ἀλλάγμασι, but the Slavonic, curiously enough, follows the other reading. This is also alluded to by the Master of the Sentences,—S. Cyril, Euthymius, S. Nicephorus, S. Aleuin.

For nought: that is, (G.) for no earthly price;—no sum that a worldling can understand. That which the Martyr sells himself for,—or is sold by his LORD for, is what? Truly, “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away”—but it is reserved. Truly an habitation in that City whose gates are of twelve several pearls, and whose streets of pure gold like transparent glass; but then it is invisible to human eyes.

Cœlestis Patriæ mens inhians bonis

Mundi spernit opes,* fluxaque gaudia:

Vitæ quin etiam, præ Domini lucro

Jacturam facilem putat.

Thou sellest Thy people for nought. So it seemed then; and now, we take up those glorious words of the Eastern Church:

Προπατόρων, Πατέρων, Πατριαρχῶν, Ἀποστόλων, Μαρτύρων, Ἱεραρχῶν, Προφητῶν καὶ Ὁσίων σου, Ἀσκητῶν καὶ Δικαίων, καὶ παντὸς ὀνόματος ἐγγεγραμμένου ἐν Βίβλῳ Ζωῆς, τὴν ἁγίαν μνήμην τελοῦντες, Χριστὲ ὁ Θεὸς, πάντας συγκινοῦμεν, εἰς πρεσβείαν δεόμενοι• Εἰρήνευσον τὸν κόσμον σου διʼ αὐτῶν, ὡς φιλάνθρωπος, ἵνα πάντες βοῶμεν σοι• Ὁ Θεὸς ὁ ἐνδοξαζόμενος ἐν βουλῇ Ἁγίων σου, σὺ ὑπάρχεις ἀληθῶς ὁ δοξάσας ἀξίως τὴν μνήμην αὐτῶν. And takest no money for them. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed by corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious Blood of CHRIST, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot.”* In the literal sense, as regards the Jews, they quote most happily that passage from Tacitus, where he is speaking of their banishment from Rome: Et si ob gravitatem cœli interiissent, (Cd.) vile damnum. The Jews themselves speak of thirty captives sold after the siege of Jerusalem for one silver piece: meet retribution,* says Hugh of Florence, to those who had sold their One LORD for thirty pieces of silver.

But it is pleasanter still to raise one’s eyes to the martyrs, and see how the LORD sold them—how He gave them to the horrible agonies, the miserable shame, the prolonged tortures of the arena, for nothing less than the unspeakable glory which they have thereby won.

Mundus pulcher ne placeret

Deus traxit pulchrior:

Egit, mundus ne terreret,

Deus terribilior.

O totius cœli luce

Dignum certe prælium!

Cogitatâ, Christi Cruce

Dulce fit Martyrium.

13 (14) Thou makest us to be rebuked of our neighbours: to be laughed to scorn, and had in derision of them that are round about us.

14 (15) Thou makest us to be a by-word among the heathen: and that the people shake their heads at us.

We have spoken of the martyrs: let us turn our eyes to the Martyr of martyrs on Calvary. Rebuked indeed! In the first and chief place,* “Thy rebuke hath broken His heart;” but rebuked of His neighbours also. His neighbours in place: “the thieves also that were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth.”* His neighbours, in that “verily He took not on Him the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham;” and the cry was, “Let CHRIST, the King of Israel, come down now from the Cross, that we may see and believe!”* And therefore, rightly afterwards were the Jews rebuked of—deserted for—passed over in exchange for—the Gentiles—as it is written: “Seeing ye … judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”* And thou, O Christian, disquiet thyself not when herein thou art called to drink of thy LORD’S cup. “If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; and in like manner, If they have derided Me, they will also deride you.”* A by-word. Marvellously said: first Christian,* then Nazarene, and now Saint. In the LXX. and the Vulgate it is yet more: in similitudinem, εἰς παραβολήν. (L.) And they tell us truly how, as the proverbs of the True Solomon are verily “to know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding,” so the devil’s proverbs are plentiful, and (in their way) sparkling with a kind of earthly wisdom, fit to captivate the simple believer: to be a proverb or similitude:—that is, when we have suffered in GOD’S cause, that Satan or the world should pervert our sufferings to our ruin; or, miserably worse,* when we, professedly GOD’S servants, have fallen deeply, and thereby brought dishonour on our Master and on our side,—is always spoken of in Scripture as the greatest of evils. And especially, as the Saints particularly warn us, no worse parable or proverb can the servants of GOD be made to His enemies, than by their intestine quarrels. Nestor speaks truly:—

Verily, great is the woe that shall fall on the land of Achaia;

Verily, Priam himself shall rejoice, and the children of Priam;

While on the Trojan army shall rest the gladness of spirit,

When they shall hear that ye, who are first in the war of Achaians,

First in their counsels of peace, thus strive and wrangle together.

Our neighbours. I think that the Hebrew gives a truer picture of the war in which we are engaged. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”* These truly may be, and are, our neighbours; but they are more than that: we are made a reproach לִשְׁכֵנֵינוּ to our INVADERS: those who are continually pressing forward us,—trying to get more than they have,—taking the ell for the inch. So in another Psalm,* הָיִינוּ חֶרְפָּה לִשְׁכֵנֵינוּ, to our invaders, again.

15 (16) My confusion is daily before me: and the shame of my face hath covered me;

16 (17) For the voice of the slanderer and blasphemer: for the enemy and avenger.

And now it is no longer the Church, but the Head of the Church, Who speaks. Daily: for those long periods of shame and misery on the Cross formed an age,* to be reckoned by a long succession of days. My confusion: that out of the twelve, My elect band, My chosen warriors, the men of My countenance, the men whom I had strengthened, comforted, warned,—in whose mouths had been but a few hours ago, “Though all men, yet not I,”—they have all forsaken Me at the first struggle. So the Saints who followed the Passion represent the LORD of the Passion. And notice this: My confusion is before Me. So it must have been,* when those that ought to have been His most valiant soldiers, so foully fell away; and the shame of My face hath covered Me, when all but one of them kept away. “Woe,* that the Face,” cries out the Eastern Church, “the Joy of the Angels, the Glory of the Blessed, should thus be marred and disfigured by the sins of the daughter of my people! O JESUS, my JESUS, O perishing One for the perishing, O shamed One for the shamed, O Head degloried that I may henceforth be glorified, what sacrifice of love have I to offer?—what vessels can I prepare for my Joseph: my Joseph, Whom an evil beast hath devoured,—my Joseph, That without doubt is rent in pieces?—but yet Whose shame shall be rolled away, Whose glory shall return to His Countenance, when it shall be proclaimed by the Voice of the Archangel and the rending of the rocks, ‘Joseph is yet alive, and is governor over all the land!’ ” Or,* taking it in another sense, “O glorious shame,” says S. Ambrose, “which is for CHRIST’S sake! O miserable shame, which is against Him! Glorious shame, if the law be that, in thee, CHRIST be scourged, be fettered, be imprisoned, be brought before the magistrate! Wretched and forlorn shame if then thou say, with Pharaoh, ‘I know not the LORD,’—with Peter, ‘I know not this man of whom ye speak.’ ” From the voice. And S. Thomas most appositely compares the most subtle device of the arch persecutor Maximin,* when gathering together those miserable women, the greatest and most notorious sinners in every principal city, he made them add to all their iniquities this abominable rest,—that the followers of CHRIST had been the most guilty, the most abandoned, of their followers in sin. (G.) Gerhohus,—let us imagine that his commentary on the more immediately preceding Psalms was written in the time of some deep trouble,—has now of a long season said nothing worthy of himself. Let us attend to him here, where he developes that which I just now quoted from S. Ambrose:—“But note, that there are two kinds of confusion; whence the Wise Man saith, ‘There is a shame which bringeth sin, and there is a shame which is glory and grace.’* Shame1 is sinful when we are ashamed of things in which there is no shame: for example, the humble ministration to our brethren in their necessities, the washing their feet, or when we are ashamed to have that sin animadverted on in the presence of men, when we have not been ashamed to contract the vile guilt of its commission in the Presence of GOD. But shame then brings glory, when we so blush in the Presence of GOD for our sins, that we are in no wise confounded regarding the fact of their purgation; as Mary, who blushed not at the guests, when, to the end that she might be washed by the LORD, she washed His feet with her tears: that she might be cleansed, she cleansed; that she might be anointed,2 she anointed; and endured the ridicule and exprobation of the Pharisee and his companions, not without a certain confusion. But this confusion won for her great glory; for her many sins were remitted to her, with all their true shame, because she so dearly loved as to undertake that humble ministry of washing in the presence of the guests.… But this humble ministry raised her to a lofty and glorious one, since afterwards it is written that she anointed His head with very precious ointment of spikenard. What more glorious than this? The Baptist, though sanctified from the womb, dared not to touch the holy Head of GOD, save at the LORD’S express command. But this woman, uncommanded, not in presumption, but in love and a good conscience, anointed a Head venerable to the Angels themselves. Great is the glory to have ascended from the Feet to the Head of CHRIST, whether any one, through belief in His true Humanity, rises to the cognition of His true Divinity, or by ministering through almsdeeds to His least ones on earth, is raised to the altitude of His super-celestial Godhead.”

17 (18) And though all this be come upon us, yet do we not forget thee: nor behave ourselves frowardly in thy covenant.

18 (19) Our heart is not turned back: neither our steps gone out of thy way;

19 (20) No, not when thou hast smitten us into the place of dragons: and covered us with the shadow of death.

And as they well observe, we here have the fourfold use of affliction. 1. Humiliation—Thou hast humbled us in the place of dragons; (Ay.) 2. Remembrance of GOD—if we have forgotten; 3. Hatred of sin—Shall not God search it out? 4. Self-mortification—And are counted as mortified sheep. Into the place of dragons. And according to our translation, that is dangerous enough; but tenfold dangerous as most of the mediæval commentators have taken it, Into the place of syrens. (L.) For if it be perilous to be attacked by open and malicious enemies, it is a thousand times more dangerous to be lulled into security, or enticed to sins of sloth and pleasure by those friends of which the syrens were only the too true type. This is what Bernard of Cluny means when he says,

The miserable pleasures

Of the body shall decay;

The bland and flattering struggles

Of the flesh shall pass away.

And so they quote that verse in Isaiah, “And owls shall dwell there, and syrens shall dance there.”* And again in Micah, “I will make a wailing like the syrens, and mourning as the owls.”* Then from this same verse S. Ambrose draws well the contrast between the human nature of our LORD and our own: how His Body was not a body of death, but of life; how, so far from casting the shadow of death, it was resplendent with the glory of true existence; that its afflictions brought our consolation, its humiliation our exaltation: nay, and further, that, as the face of Moses drew a certain effulgence of glory from the full blaze of the Divine Majesty, so our flesh, dark, weak, and sinful in itself, has, from its contact with, or rather co-incorporation into, our LORDS human nature, received the seeds in the present life of that which will, in the life to come, be its perfect and eternal glorification.

20 (21) If we have forgotten the Name of our GOD, and holden up our hands to any strange god: 21 shall not GOD search it out? for he knoweth the very secrets of the heart.

22 For thy sake also are we killed all the day long: and are counted as sheep appointed to be slain.

Whence observe that adversity causes us to remember GOD. (Ay.) And they make a very ingenious remark on the so frequent negative use of the word if, as here: that he who once begins to parley with temptation, to question if he shall follow GOD’S will or his own, to ask IF he shall tread in our LORD’S steps or in the path of his private fancy, (L.) is as good as lost. And holden up our hands—or, as it is in the Septuagint and the Vulgate,* stretched forth our hands. How can we, they ask, stretch forth our hands to any one save to Him Who stretched forth His hands for us on the Cross? The very fact of stretching forth the hands shows the profession. It is the Cross that makes the Christian. If we have forgotten the Name of our God. There is a passage of such rare beauty in Ayguan on this subject, that—though over and over again I have had occasion to speak of this Blessed Name, and GOD forbid it should ever be otherwise—I cannot refrain from quoting it here:—“Next, as Peter of Ravenna says, this is the Name which gives hearing to the deaf, power of walking to the lame, speech to the dumb, life to the dead, and which chases the whole power of the devil from those whom he has possessed: whence this Name appears to be that theriac, of which the physician Avicenna says that it is the most sublime of all medicines, and is serviceable in the most desperate cases. He adds, that those who employ it in the hour of their health can be hurt by no poison, and are subject to no plague. And true it is that this Name of JESUS avails not only to expel present, but to repel future ills: whence Bernard saith, ‘Thou hast an electuary, O my soul, enshrined in the vessel of this Name, efficacious against all pestilence.’ And therefore it is written in the 4th of the Acts, ‘For there is none other Name under heaven.’ Then, too, this Name is our comfort. S. Isidore says that the wild olive is a tree bitter, unfruitful, and uncultivated; in which, however, if a branch of the true olive be inserted, it changes the very nature of the tree, and converts it to its own likeness. So also that unfruitful olive of sinful human nature, which may well be called bitter, seeing that it goes softly all its years in the bitterness of its soul; seeing also that, as Jeremiah saith, ‘It is an evil thing and bitter that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy GOD.’* Into that sad and bitter tree, I say, let the sprig of olive be inserted, which the dove bare back in her mouth at evening. And what is that sprig but the NAME of JESUS? This is the proper nature of that branch, whence saith Richard of S. Victor, ‘JESUS, O Name of sweetness, O Name of delectation, O Name of comfort to the soul, O Name of most blessed hope. Therefore, O JESUS, be Thou my JESUS!’ ” The secrets of the heart. S. Ambrose will rather have it from the version of Aquila, the visions of the heart.1 He would say that GOD sees and pays attention to the passing fancies,—the castle-buildings as we should now speak,—which occupy so much time and so many hearts. Shall not God search it out? Not, as it is very well said, that He may Himself learn, (C.) but that He may teach us: not that He Who foresaw every secret or vision of our heart from eternity, has occasion to be informed of it now, but that we, remembering the Eye that is always upon us, “may live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” And are counted as sheep appointed to be slain. Or, as the hymn tells us—

Cæduntur gladiis more bidentium:

Non murmur resonat, non querimonia;

Sed corde tacito mens bene conscia

Conservat patientiam.

And they take the metaphor of sheep to signify the fruitfulness of the sufferings of the martyrs, (L.) according to that proverb, so dear to primitive times. Or others understand the metaphor of the utter helplessness of the sheep, (C.) having neither arms of offence nor defence. And lastly, from these sheep appointed to the slaughter, who would not raise his eyes to the LAMB of GOD That taketh away the sins of the world?

23 Up, LORD, why sleepest thou: awake, and be not absent from us for ever.

24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face: and forgettest our misery and trouble?

Shall we take it of the voice of the Apostles during the time that their dear LORD was sleeping in the grave? (C.) or (as others) of the martyrs pleading as S. John heard them; “How long, O LORD, (A.) holy and just, dost Thou not avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”* They do not fail to notice the sleep of many of GOD’S saints, taking it in connection with that verse, “I sleep, but my heart waketh,”* that is, waketh to, and trusteth in, GOD. So Jacob, when he fled from his brother; so Elijah,* when he escaped from Jezebel; so Jonah,* while the idolaters were in terror; so Peter, in the prison; so Adam,* while yet innocent; so Abraham,* before one of his most remarkable visions. And they may well compare this apparent sleep of our LORD (actual,* on the lake of Galilee; metaphorical, as the great historian of the Church applies it to the infamous lives of the successors of S. Peter in the tenth century) with that sleep with which Elijah taunted the worshippers of Baal, “Peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked:” all the more bitter irony, if we believe, as no doubt the truth is, that on other occasions the demon whom they worshipped had enabled his priests to perform the very same miracle which his worshippers were expecting then. (G.) Up, Lord, why sleepest Thou? And is it not a reflection on the faith of the Apostles, that David in the darker dispensation should have asked so plain a question, when the two that went to Emmaus could believe no further than this; “We trusted that it had been He Which should have redeemed Israel;” and even S. Mary Magdalene could only say, “They have taken away my LORD, and I know not where they have laid Him.” Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face? S. Ambrose takes this as the complaint of the heathen world before the Advent of our LORD. Wherefore hidest Thou as yet Him Who is the brightness of Thy glory,* and the express image of Thy Person? It is the same complaint that we have before now so constantly heard; the sound which,* finding its utterance in a Gentile mouth, could say,

Adgredere, O magnos, aderit jam tempus, honores,

Cara deum soboles, magnum Jovis incrementum!

Adspice convexo nutantem pondere mundum;

Terrasque tractusque maris cælumque profundum:

Adspice, venturo lætantur ut omnia sæclo!

25 For our soul is brought low, even unto the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the ground.

26 Arise, and help us: and deliver us for thy mercy’s sake.

It is not ill-observed by S. Augustine how this expression, (A.) Our soul is brought low even unto the dust, is merely an amplification of that verse in the first Psalm, where the wicked “are like the chaff” or dust “that the wind scattereth away from the face of the earth.” And so in another Psalm it is written, “Thou shalt bring me into the dust of death.”* So, take it in which sense you will, with reference to the wicked in this life, or with reference to the corruption of death, they do not fail to see the complaint of our LORD in His Passion. And with respect to the nature of dust,* mediæval writers give it us—

Aridus, instabilis, sterilis, levis, innumerosus,

Sordidus, exeæcat, pulices facit, imbrc lutum fit.

Cleaveth. But the word is a great deal stronger than this: it is almost, as S. Jerome translates it, Is glued to the ground. And so they all, (Ay.) those great masters of spiritual learning, tell us how utterly impossible a thing it is of ourselves to rise from those earthly trammels and desires to which we are thus bound. (G.) But yet, from these very words they bid us take comfort; reminding us of Him Who might most truly have used them in the moment of His agony, which agony was, nevertheless, only the beginning of His victory. (C.) And that which happened to its Head may, save through their own fault, also befall the members; more especially if they only take in their hearts, as well as on their lips, the prayer which follows in the last verse. Of that verse I have only to observe, that where we read for Thy mercies’ sake, the Vulgate and the LXX. give it for Thy Name’s sake. Of that most blessed Name we have spoken so often and so lately, that we will not repeat the same thoughts now.

And therefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, of Whom our fathers have told us what He hath done in their time of old; and to the SON, Who is the King That sends help unto Jacob: and to the HOLY GHOST, Whom we make our boast all the day long;

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








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