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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, O LORD GOD * make speed to save me. [Maundy Thursday. Let them be turned back and put to confusion * that wish me evil.]

Monastic. The same.

Lyons. The same.

Parisian. Let them be joyful * and glad in Thee, who delight in Thy salvation, O LORD.

Ambrosian. As preceding Psalm.

Mozarabic. First verse.

1 Haste thee, O GOD, to deliver me: make haste to help me, O LORD.

This Psalm is, with but very slight variations, merely a repetition of Psalm 40:13, to the end. But the first verse is noticeable as being more often recited in the Western Church than any other part of the Old Testament. The Versicle and Response,   O God, make speed to save us.   O Lord, make haste to help us, which are prefixed to the offices of all the Canonical Hours, and which are retained in the Anglican Matins and Evensong, are taken from it. On this usage, let us hear the Carthusian: (D. C.) “Great and wonderful is the virtue of the first verse of the present Psalm, wherefore rightly hath our Mother the Church, instructed by the HOLY GHOST, appointed that this verse should be recited at the beginning, or near the beginning, of each of the Hours, so that, protected by the shield of Divine assistance, we may escape all the snares of the enemy, who plots against us more determinedly, and opposes us more wickedly, when we are engaged in beginning divine service. Moreover, our most eminent Father, Cassian, in the first Book of his Collations, beautifully sets forth the praise of the verse, setting down what he heard from the mouth of the holy anchoret, the Abbat Isaac. That we may have, says he, continual remembrance of GOD, this verse is to be set inseparably before the mind, for it receives all the attacks which can be directed against man’s nature, and is thoroughly and suitably fitted to all conditions and every assault. It contains invocation of GOD against peril, the lowliness of devout confession, the vigilance of constant anxiety and fear, thought of frailty, trust in being heard, and in a safeguard ever standing by.” As the corresponding verses of the earlier Psalm were passed over in their place, the comments which follow have been drawn from glosses on both, combined as appeared most suitable. The opening words then, spoken in the Person of CHRIST, (B.) are primarily a prayer for His own Resurrection, and deliverance from the depth of hell; and then a petition for His mystical Body, (Ay.) the Church, (G.) to be preserved from the peril of false brethren and of open enemies. It is the prayer of the members too, penitent, in pain, (A.) crying out under the steel of the physician, but yet hoping.

2 Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: let them be turned backward and put to confusion that wish me evil.

Observe, (D. C.) says the Carthusian, that these words may be taken either in a good sense or a bad one, for there are two kinds of confusion mentioned in Scripture, according to that saying, “There is a shame that bringeth sin; and there is a shame which is glory and grace.”* And so it was with Saul, who was ashamed and confounded, (A.) and laid low, and then raised up again to preach what he had before persecuted. This confounding is necessary for the salvation of persecutors, that they may fear, instead of boasting and glorying in their cruel deeds. And it also speaks of the woe and terror which GOD sends on the impenitent, such as the awful death of Maximin Daïa and other persecutors, or the more terrible doom of the Last Day. That seek after My soul to destroy it. There is another seeking after the soul of CHRIST, (A.) which is that of the Bride, or even of those sinners who pursue the LORD’S soul, that they may imitate it, as a robber chases a man to take his cloak to warm himself, but here only the intent of murder is spoken of. Let them be turned backward. That they may follow Me. And so S. Peter, when he attempted to go before JESUS, by counselling Him, was met with the rebuke, “Get thee behind Me, Satan,”* that he might no longer be his LORD’S adversary, but His follower. All who censure the Christian religion and suggest amendments in it, or who count themselves wiser than the martyrs, do as S. Peter did in his error, and need the same rebuke. And we may take it also of all who would parley or offer to make terms of peace when our true Jehu (“the LORD is He,”) newly crowned, is riding to war against the house of Ahab. To each of them is said, when he advances, “What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind Me.”* There is another way in which those who will not turn backward in this wise, must do so at length, (G.) at the Judgment, before Him at Whose sight the soldiers fell back in the garden.

Retro ruent tum injusti ignes in perpetuos,*

Vermis quorum non morietur, flamma nee restinguitur.

But the Saints turn backward in yet another fashion, as Mary Magdalene turned, (G.) saying, “Master,” when JESUS called her by name. Who wish me evil. (B.) Not only those who seek after my soul with open violence, but those who nourish secret ill-will (R.) are to meet with the same check and punishment. And it is most aptly pointed out that the two clauses mark the successive perils of the Church, first from the open violence of heathen kings and people, seeking the utter abolition of Christianity by the slaughter of its adherents, and then the risk from false teachers and heretics. Heathen kings have been baptized, quaintly observes S. Remigius, but the devil is not baptized.

3 Let them for their reward be soon brought to shame: that cry over me, There, there.

They dwell on the word soon (not, by-the-by, in the Hebrew text.) (G.) as showing the greater guilt of the flatterers and mockers, whose punishment is to be speedier than even that of those who seek after the life of CHRIST. For There, there, all the old versions read, Well, well, or, in modern phrase, Bravo. And they take it first of those who hypocritically praised CHRIST, saying, “Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of GOD in truth,”* or who openly mocked Him with words of feigned homage, “Hail, King of the Jews.” And then it is spoken of those who attribute the good works of the Saints to human merit, and give praise to them for such works, instead of ascribing the fertility of the branches to the Vine, which bears and nourishes them. And so, the tongue of the flatterer harms more than the hand of the persecutor. (A.) Or it applies to those enemies of the soul, whether visible or invisible, who encourage a man in sin, by praising him for persevering in it.

4 But let all those that seek thee he joyful and glad in thee: and let all such as delight in thy salvation say alway, The LORD be praised.

That seek Thee. Not in the first instance, for He sought out the lost sheep Himself, and brought it back, on His shoulders when it knew Him not, but now, (A.) knowing His voice, it goes after Him and only with Him can find joy. Be joyful and glad. (D. C.) With outward tokens of rejoicing, but also with the deeper inward gladness of the soul. In Thee. Not in themselves,* lest they should fall through trust in their own strength, but, as it is written, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the LORD.”* Thy salvation. Not alone in the blessedness of heaven, but in Him whose countenance makes heaven blessed, the LORD JESUS, Who is the Salvation which the FATHER hath sent. Say alway, (G.) the Lord be praised. The Latin Fathers construe the sentence a little differently. The Lord be magnified alway. Magnified now in the Resurrection and glorifying of CHRIST, magnified from generation to generation unto the end of the world in continually granting pardon to sinners and grace to Saints. Or, (B.) if We construe the sentence as in the Prayer Book, we may take it of the perpetual canticle of heaven, and join in the words of the Mozarabie Breviary, “Alleluia in heaven and in earth; in heaven it is perpetuated, on earth it is sung. There it sounds unceasingly; here faithfully. There everlastingly, here sweetly. There happily, here harmoniously. There unspeakably, here earnestly. There, unsyllabled; here in measured strain. There, by the Angels; here, by the people.”*

5a (5) As for me, I am poor and in misery: haste thee unto me, O GOD.

It is most truly spoken of Him Who had not where to lay His head, (H.) Who was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. But, it is added in the fortieth Psalm, the Lord careth for me, with the care of a FATHER, for His Only-begotten and beloved SON, the care of the Divinity of the WORD for that Manhood which He assumed, the care of the HOLY GHOST for Him on Whom He descended in Jordan. And because it is so, I may cry, sure of being heard, Haste Thee unto me, O God, (B.) and raise me up in the joy of the Resurrection. It is the cry of all those who have hearkened to the warning voice of CHRIST, and who no longer say, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing,”* but have learnt that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;” and who therefore desire to buy of the LORD gold tried in the fire, and white raiment. Many of the Saints have dwelt on these words, (Ay.) spoken in the Person of CHRIST, as teaching the counsel of perfection in voluntary poverty, as a state well-pleasing to GOD. (G.) And observe, that all beings save GOD are always needy, because they require His aid, while He alone is “without need,”* and they are poor besides, when they have not got the things which they require. How true it is of mankind,* let a great Saint tell us; Man is a beggar and poor, for though he once was rich and noble, (enriched by GOD’S law, and joined in kinship with Him by the royal image,) yet he was reduced to such want that his poverty passed on to many generations, so that at last, brought up in that poverty, he was named poor. What art thou to do then, (A.) poor and needy one? Beg before the gate of GOD, knock, and it shall be opened to thee. And what are the alms? Let the Beatitude answer, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”*

5b (6) Thou art my helper, and my redeemer: O LORD, make no long tarrying.

Helper, in all good works—Redeemer from all evil ones. Make no long tarrying. It is the cry of the individual sinner, (D. C.) asking for instant help in trouble. (G.) It is the cry of the Church in days of persecution and affliction, and yet more, it is the prayer of all who long for the speedy coming of CHRIST, (A.) of the Martyrs under the golden Altar in heaven, who cry, “How long, O LORD, how long,” and of Confessors on earth uttering the petition, “Thy kingdom come.” And the answer is alike for all:

Ecce Rex desideratus

Et a justis expectatus,

Jam festinat exoratus,*

Ad salvandum præparatus!

Apparebit, non tardabit;

Veniet et demonstrabit

Gloriam quam mereantur

Qui pro fide tribulantur.


Glory be to the FATHER, Who maketh speed to save me; and to the SON, Who maketh haste to help me; and to the HOLY GHOST, my Helper and Redeemer, for the SPIRIT helpeth our infirmities, and where the SPIRIT of the LORD is, there is liberty.

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

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