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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. And we shall call * upon Thy Name, O LORD. [Maundy Thursday. I said unto the unrighteous, Speak not unrighteousness against GOD. Common of Apostles. The horns of the righteous shall be exalted. Alleluia.]

Parisian. Unto Thee, O GOD, * will we give thanks, and will call upon Thy Name: we will tell of Thy wondrous works.

Ambrosian. As Psalm 72.

Monastic. Ferial. As Psalm 73. [Maundy Thursday. As Gregorian. Common of Apostles. As Gregorian.]

Mozarabic. First verse of the Psalm.

1a (1) Unto thee, O GOD, do we give thanks: yea, unto thee do we give thanks.

1b (2) Thy Name also is so nigh: and that do thy wondrous works declare.

The Vulgate reads these two verses as one, and translates the whole, (A.) We will confess to Thee, O God, we will confess to Thee. We will invoke Thy Name, and tell of Thy wondrous works. Do not invoke before thou confess. Confess first, and then invoke. For thou art calling Him to thee Whom thou invokest. To whom, then, doth He draw near? Not to a proud man. It is written, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart.”* And the words We will confess are repeated, to show that we do not repent of having done so once. It is written in another Psalm, “Confess to the LORD, for He is good.”* Why, then, do ye fear to confess? Fear to confess to a human judge, lest he punish thee after confession; fear not to do so to GOD, but make Him by confession merciful, Whom thou canst not make ignorant by denial. We will confess to Thee, O God, and now, being safe, we will invoke Thy Name. We have emptied our heart by confession; come to us in our lowliness. And the sense is, besides, strengthened by repetition; as when the LORD saith, “Verily, verily, I say unto you;”* or when in the Psalms we read, “Amen, Amen;”* or when Pharaoh’s dream was doubled. There are, says the Carmelite, three kinds of confession: that of the tribunals, condemning the guilty; that of penitence, cleansing sin; that of praise, giving thanks. The first has no place here, (Ay.) and thus we will confess is said twice; first of repentance, and then of giving glory to GOD after absolution: wherefore is added, we will invoke Thy Name. For if any one invoke that Name indevoutly, (C.) he would seem to call for judgment, not for pardon. But the English Version is the true one, Thy Name is nigh. How can that be nigh, which is Most Highest, and “above every name?”* Because the Psalmist is looking forward to the Incarnation, when only it can be truly said to Israel, “The WORD is very nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart.”*

JESUS decus angelicum,*

In aure dulce canticum,

In ore mel mirificum,

In corde nectar cœlicum.

In mouth and heart alike, that does His wondrous work declare, even the great Sacrament of His Love, whereof is written, “O taste and see how gracious the LORD is!”*

But the Vulgate reading is, We will tell of Thy wondrous works.* That is, when we ourselves have come near to Thee in confession and lowliness, then, and not till then, we can go forth as preachers of Thy Word. Not till then; for we are warned in another Psalm, “Unto the ungodly said GOD,* Why dost thou preach My laws, and takest My Covenant in thy mouth?”* and again, “Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner, for it was not sent him of the LORD.” Thy works, not our own; for we preach not ourselves, (G.) nor seek our own glory, but that of Thy Name; and so let our good works be seen, that men may glorify, not us, but Thee. Thy wondrous works—Thine Incarnation, (P.) Nativity, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, which Thou hast wrought for man’s salvation. And this not only to gladden our own hearts, (Ay.) but to warn and alarm sinners; because there follows:

2 (3) When I receive the congregation: I shall judge according unto right.

It is no longer the voice of the Psalmist, but of CHRIST, telling us of judgment to come. When the mighty congregation, “the dead, small and great, stand before GOD,”* then shall He, Who was Himself judged unrighteously, judge righteous judgment, and reward every man according to his works. The Vulgate, instead of congregation, reads time, (G.) the set time appointed by the FATHER. It is the same word מוֹעֵד, which in Ps. 74:8 is translated in the Prayer Book houses, and in the Vulgate festivals. Its true meaning is, “a fixed time of assembly,” and hence it is often taken for the assembly itself. There is an evident reference here to the previous Psalm, (A.) implying that, whereas the ungodly have made GOD’S festival times to cease, He will requite them when His time of vengeance is at hand. Again, (Ay.) it is spoken of the Incarnation, when He, Who is before all time, began, as Man, to be in time, and subject to its laws. “O the marvel!”* exclaims the Holy Eastern Church, “GOD amongst men, the Incomprehensible in the womb, the Timeless One in time!” Then indeed did He judge according unto right, as it was foretold: “A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench: He shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”*

3 (4) The earth is weak, and all the inhabiters thereof: I bear up the pillars of it.

Is weak. Better with the A. V., is dissolved, nearly the same as the Vulgate, (A.) liquefacta. The earth. All the human race, sunk in sin, as S. Augustine will have it; the Jewish Church, melting and sliding down as a glacier from the Mount of the Law, (R.) as another takes it. In a good sense we may take the earth of the Church, once frozen hard in coldness, but now softened by the south wind breathing upon it, (G.) to make it the LORD’S garden, that it may bear fruits and flowers for Him. Then we may explain dissolved as meaning melted by the fire of GOD’S love,* so that all the inhabiters of the Church glide away from this world’s affections, and flow into the Heart of CHRIST. I bear up the pillars of it. More precisely, I have poised, or, with the Vulgate, I have strengthened. The pillars are the Apostles, (Ay.) and all other elect, whom, once weak, CHRIST hath strengthened by His Resurrection, strengthened in love, strengthened by the seven gifts of the HOLY GHOST; whence it is written, “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.”* And on these pillars a copious rain of allegory is poured. “The Saints,” observes one of themselves, “are fitly compared to pillars. For a pillar is tall, wherein is longsuffering; it is slender, denoting humility; it is level, without projecting, implying poverty; it is round, signifying eternity, which they desire.”* We should be strong as a pillar, in faith, remarks another; as straight, in equity; as erect, in intention; as lofty, in contemplation; as ready to bear up others, by words of comfort, by intercession of prayer, by example of action.* And the Carmelite tells us that the seven columns are fear, (Ay.) piety, knowledge, fortitude, counsel, understanding, and wisdom, which he compares to pillars of cloud, gold, silver, iron, smoke, marble, and peace, supporting his similes by Scriptural references.

5 I said unto the fools, Deal not so madly: and to the ungodly. Set not up your horn.

6 Set not up your horn on high: and speak not with a stiff neck.

I said, (G.) speaking Myself in Paradise before the Fall, and since by My Prophets and Apostles through the HOLY GHOST, unto the fools, (Vulg., the unrighteous,) but they would neither hear while they stood, so as not to fall, nor yet when fallen, (A.) so as to rise again. Set not up your horn, by continuance in sin, resisting GOD. On high, not merely sinning, (Ay.) but boasting of the sin, or, at any rate, excusing it. And speak not with a stiff neck. So the Hebrew and Syriac; but the LXX. and Vulgate read, And speak not unrighteousness against God, which is, in fact, a gloss, rather than the text.

6 (7) For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west: nor yet from the south.

The word הָרִים, here rightly translated promotion, or elevation, coming in the Hebrew at the close of the verse, is translated by the LXX. and Vulgate as hills, and joined with מִמִּדְבַּר, rendered in the Prayer Book and A. V. as south, less exactly than in the margin of the latter, which reads desert. The whole verse runs thus, then, in the Vulgate: For neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert hills; i.e., the chain of mountains lying to the south of Palestine.* Almost the oldest gloss on this passage is that of Rabbi Ezra, (Z.) followed by Euthymius, that it is a protest against the falsehoods of astrology and demonology, and a vindication of GOD’S Providence as the sole Power which disposes of our destiny. Others, (Cd.) more happily, see here a prophecy of the Catholic Church, not to be bounded, like the Jewish, by limits of country or race. Again, taking it with reference to the Judgment,* mentioned just before, (L.) it may well point out the impossibility of escaping in any direction from the hand of GOD. Of the sinner who strives to do so, we may well say with the heathen poet:

τόνδε κατάκρας

δειναὶ κυματοαγεῖς

ἄται κλονέουσιν ἀεὶ συνοῦσαι,

αἱ μὲν ἀπʼ ἀελίου δυσμᾶν,

αἱ δʼ ἀνατέλλοντος,

αἱ δʼ ἀνὰ μέσσαν ἀκτῖνʼ,

αἱ δὲ νυχίαν ἀπὸ Ῥιπᾶν.*

There is no place, (A.) says S. Augustine, whither thou mayest flee from GOD angry, save to GOD reconciled. Flee to Him. Again, they take the east of the elect, on whom the Sun of Righteousness arises in His glory; the west, (G.) of the evil, in whom His rays are quenched; and the desert hills of evil spirits,* mountains, in their obstinate pride, desert, in being unvisited by the grace of GOD. And we may also take the desert hills of those preachers who, (Ay.) set on high in the Church, are unfruitful in their lives. Gerhohus, (G.) in his burning zeal against the simoniacs of his day, turns the text against them, and compares them to those mountains of Gilboa, cursed by withholding of rain and dew, because there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away. All these, good and bad alike, must stand at the tribunal of CHRIST.*

7 (8) And why? GOD is the Judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

He putteth down one, (A.) as He did the Pharisee, who exalted himself, and was showing the Physician his whole members, not his wounds.* He lifteth up another, who humbleth himself as did the Publican. He putteth down the Jew, (Ay.) and lifteth up the Gentile. Very aptly another heathen bard may here be cited:

ῥέα μὲν γὰρ βριάει, ῥέα δὲ βριάοντα χαλέπτει,

ῥεῖα δʼ ἀρίζηλον μινύθει καὶ ἄδηλον ἀέξει,

ῥεῖα δέ τʼ ἰθύνει σκολιὸν καὶ ἀγήνορα κάρφει

Ζεὺς ὑψιβρεμέτης, ὃς ὑπέρτατα δώματα ναίει.*

8a (9) For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red: it is full mixed, and he poureth out of the same.

8b (10) As for the dregs thereof, all the ungodly of the earth shall drink them, and suck them out.

The Cup in the hand of the LORD is understood in the first place of His Law in Holy Scripture,* full of good wine, which maketh glad the heart of man. The wine is red. These words we may well take in their deepest meaning, when the mysteries hidden in that Cup were poured forth in the blood-shedding of the Passion.

Cuspis arundinea

Cum coronâ spineâ*

Sacra membra forat,

Fundatori vinca

Vina dat sanguinea,

Naturaque plorat,

Dum JESUS laborat.

But this is not the Hebrew, which is, The wine foams, nor yet the LXX. and Vulgate reading, Full of pure wine, (LXX. οἴνου ἀκράτου, Vulg. vini meri) with mixture. This pure wine,* continues S. Albert, is the spiritual meaning of Holy Writ, which GOD hath inclined from this [vessel] into that, (Vulg.,) to wit, taken from the Jews, and given to the Gentiles, as it is written, “The kingdom of GOD shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”* This spiritual sense is full of mixture, because the Old and New Testament are joined in the teaching of the Christian Church; unlike the Jews, (C.) who have only the Old, and the Manicheans, who admit but the New. As for the dregs thereof. The LXX. and Vulgate read here, The dregs thereof truly are not exhausted.1 That is, the mere carnal sense has not been poured out for the Church, but is left behind in the bottom of the cup, for sinners who refuse the good wine. And this holds especially of the Jews, (Ay.) clinging to mere typical and shadowy sacraments, while rejecting the substance. Again, (Z.) the cup is explained of the judgments of GOD. Euthymius says that we must understand two cups here, one of pure wine, of the unmingled wrath of GOD; the other full of mixture, wherein the water of mercy tempers the draught. Both are in the hands of GOD, and He pours from one into the other, according as His judgments are to be lighter or heavier. But the dregs are never mingled.* They are kept in their full strength for the finally impenitent. Again, the mixed cup may well refer to the Last Judgment, (B.) with its mingled retribution of lifting up and casting down for the elect and the reprobate, to the former of whom it will be pure wine, sweet, though terrible, but to the latter dregs never to be emptied. Vieyra,* in one of his noblest sermons, explains the cup of the terrors of hell. All sinners of the earth must drink of this cup; yet those who fear hell, not slavishly, nor because of its pains, but because GOD is blasphemed there, will drink only the pure and clear part of the cup; while those who dread the punishment, although loving the sin, must swallow the dregs. The Carthusian, (D. C.) after citing some of the previous explanations, gives yet another, following Hugh of S. Cher. He takes the pure wine of the unmingled gladness of the Saints in their country; the mixture,* of their blended sorrow and comfort in their journey here, where they are scourged by the rod of GOD, even when supported by His staff. And,* returning to that former explanation of the Passion, Vieyra, in another sermon, reminds us that the cup was pure wine, because of the perfect holiness of CHRIST; and it was full of mixture from our sins, which He took on Himself.

9 (11) But I will talk of the GOD of Jacob: and praise him for ever.

The Vulgate differs a little: But I will announce for evermore: I will sing unto the God of Jacob. They take the first clause diversely, (Ay.) as meaning, I will continue to warn men of GOD’S judgments, or else, I will declare the doctrine of CHRIST. And sing unto the God of Jacob, (D. C.) to the GOD of the supplanter, who wrestles against his sins till he overthrows them. Yes, and to the GOD of the younger son, (G.) Who gave him the inheritance which the elder brother despised.

10 (12) All the horns of the ungodly also will I break: and the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.

They take it first, as is natural, of the pride and obstinacy of sinners, but pass on to more hidden meanings. Thus we are told that there were ten horns of the Jewish dispensation,* to wit, the Patriarchs, Prophets, Judges, Kings, Priests, (L.) Levites, the Law, the Temple, Jerusalem, and the Messiah, all taken from them, (Cd.) and made over to the Gentile Church at the Coming of CHRIST. Again, the horns of the ungodly are the soul, body, wealth, power, knowledge, pleasure, and worldly wisdom of sinners, all of them vain to resist GOD. The horns of the righteous shall be exalted. Because, “in the midst of the throne, (L.) and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of GOD sent forth into all the earth.”* He Who is highly exalted is the “horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David.”* Or, we may take the horns of the righteous to be faith, exalted to open vision; hope, to comprehension; charity, to full fruition.* Again, the Carmelite understands the words of humility, (Ay.) typified by the bending of a beast’s horns towards the earth; of gentleness and mercy, from the horns of oil wherewith kings were anointed; and of purity, because the horn, though derived, like the bone, from the flesh, is, unlike the bone, uncovered by flesh, and thus denotes those who while in the body live as though out of it. And we may find yet another explanation in the four corners or horns of the Cross, which, S. Bernard tells us,* are patience, continence, prudence, and lowliness, all of them once lifted up on Calvary in the person of CHRIST, all to be lifted up to eternal glory in the persons of His Saints.

And therefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, to Whom we say, Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks; and to the SON, Who saith, When I receive the congregation, I shall judge according unto right, and all the horns of the ungodly will I break; and to the HOLY GHOST, by Whose gift the horns of the righteous shall be exalted for evermore.

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

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