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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. As preceding Psalm. [Epiphany: All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship Thee, O LORD. So in all the other uses. Sacred Heart: Thou art good and gracious. O LORD* and of great mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.]

Monastic. Bow down * Thine ear, O LORD, and hear me.

Parisian. Be merciful unto me * O LORD, for I have called to Thee all the day long.

Ambrosian. Preserve Thou my soul, O LORD* for I am holy.

Mozarabic. For Thou, LORD, art good and gracious * and of great mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.

1 Bow down thine ear, O LORD, and hear me: for I am poor, and in misery.

This Psalm, though bearing the name of David in the superscription, is held by the Greek Fathers, (Z.) S. Basil and Theodoret, to be of a much later day, and to be probably the composition of Hezekiah. There are two circumstances on the face of the matter which lend weight to this adjudication of it away from David. First, the Psalm, if Davidic, stands alone in this third book of the Psalter, with no companion. Secondly, it is in a considerable degree a cento from earlier Psalms, or at any rate borrows many of its thoughts and phrases from them, and at least three passages are derived from the Pentateuch, and thus it is structurally unlike the original Psalms of the Prophet King. Yet it is a King of Israel who speaks throughout, whether as author of the Psalm, or as having it put in his mouth by one of the Korhite poets, and therefore we may truly say with S. Augustine, (A.) that it is our LORD JESUS CHRIST Who prays for us, Who prays in us, and is to be prayed to by us. He prays for us, as our High Priest; He prays in us, as our Head; He is prayed to by us, as our GOD. Let us then recognize our own words in Him, and His words in us. He saith, then, in the form of a servant, and thou, O servant, in the form of thy LORD, sayest, Bow down Thine ear, O Lord. He boweth down the ear, if thou lift not up thy neck. For He draweth nigh to the holy, but departeth far from the uplifted, save those humble, whom He hath Himself lifted up. It is not to the rich, but to the poor and needy, (Vulg.) to the humble penitent, confessing his sin, and needing mercy, not to him who is full and haughty, who boasteth, as in want of nothing, and saith, “I thank Thee, that I am not as this publican.”* Bow down Thine ear, then, as a kind physician stoops over the couch of a sick man, too feeble to raise himself or to speak aloud,* and hear me, pouring my griefs out. It is spoken in the Person of CHRIST, Who asks to be heard,* first because of His voluntary humility,* so that His FATHER needs to bow down to Him; and next, because of His voluntary poverty, poor, in having no help from friends; needy, as lacking all earthly riches.

2 Preserve thou my soul, for I am holy: my GOD, save thy servant, that putteth his trust in thee.

Taking these words as the prayer of CHRIST on behalf of His human soul and life, (L.) that He might not be slain untimely by His enemies, before He had fulfilled His work; there is no difficulty in the words I am holy,* for in Him, the Holy One of GOD, was no sin at all. But how can guilty man take these words upon his lips, and make such a plea to GOD? Because CHRIST, (A.) our Head, is not only Holy in Himself, but is the cause of holiness in others. He hath given us the grace of Baptism and remission of sins, so that, as the Apostle saith, when after speaking of many kinds of sinners, he adds, “Such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the Name of the LORD JESUS, and by the SPIRIT of our GOD.”* Each of the faithful may therefore say, I am holy. It is not the pride of conceit, but the confession of gratitude, (Z.) and the acknowledgment that we have been solemnly dedicated to GOD’S service, and are therefore holy in at least the same sense that the utensils of Divine worship are so. (Cd.) And then, so far from expressing self-confidence, it is an acknowledgment of the increased peril of the Saint, of his greater need of a SAVIOUR, because his very holiness exposes him to more malignant attacks from his spiritual foes. “The enemy,”* observes one of the most eloquent of early preachers, “aims at the general rather than at the soldier; nor does he beset the dead, but the living; so too the devil seeks not to ensnare sinners, whom he holds already as his subjects, but toils to ensnare the righteous.”* Save Thy servant. He asks for salvation, as he had just before asked for preservation and safe-keeping, lest he should lose the gift when bestowed, and then he adds the reason, by saying, that putteth his trust in Thee, because when GOD saves His servant, He is saving His own property; and when He saves a servant that trusteth in Him,* He proves Himself faithful and just in that He fulfils His promises. And observe how precisely, in this sense, the words agree with Hezekiah’s prayer in his sickness: “Remember me, O LORD, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight.”* And this reference further points the fitness of the Psalm for its use in the Visitation of the Sick,* as prescribed by the Latin Church.

3 Be merciful unto me, O LORD: for I will call daily upon thee.

It is one and the same GOD and Man JESUS CHRIST, (C.) Who asks mercy, and Who bestows it; teaching us that GOD’S loving-kindness must be earnestly intreated by perseverance in prayer; as He saith Himself in the Gospel, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”* Daily, (Symmachus) or with LXX., Vulgate, and margin of A. V., All the day. That is, for each of us, prayer at all periods of our lives, in the dawn of youth, in the noon of maturity, in the evening of old age; (C.) and again, as all the day embraces darkness and light, so our prayer should ascend in adversity and prosperity alike. (Ay.) We may pray with the whole day in yet another sense, with clear and enlightened minds, which have cast away the works of darkness. (R.) And though each of us cries to GOD in his own time, and passes away to be succeeded by another, (A.) yet each of us, as a member of CHRIST, does but swell the petition that goes up unceasingly from CHRIST’S Body, which is, as it were, but one man on earth, crying through all the day of this world till the night of the doom cometh, while our Head is, yet more unceasingly, pleading for us in the eternal day of heaven to the FATHER.

4 Comfort the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.

It is He Who was forced to say, (D. C.) “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,”* that utters this petition, that His FATHER may rejoice (A. V., LXX., Vulg.) His soul by the deliverance of the Patriarchs from Hades, by His own Resurrection, and by the justification of His people through that means. For us, the first and last clause have a close, yet contrasted connection. (R.) Rejoice the soul which Thou didst first sadden, by leaving it to its own miserable liberty, free to descend into the depths of sin and sorrow, abandoning Thy glorious and happy service; (A.) rejoice it, because I have lifted it up from the earth, where is nought but grief and bitterness, to Thee, where there is pleasure for evermore. Lift up your heart, then, from the earth, as you would your wheat, storing it high up, lest it should rot on the ground. How can I? asks a sinner. What cords, what engines, what ladders do I need? The steps are thine affections, the path is thy will. Thou ascendest by loving, thou descendest by neglect. Standing on earth, thou art in heaven, if thou love GOD.* Note, too, the going-up in these verses, how the ascent is made by prayer. The petitioner is first described as poor, then holy, next trusting, after that calling, finally, lifted up to God.* And each epithet has its fitting verb; bow down to the poor, preserve the holy, save the trusting, be merciful to the caller, rejoice the lifted-up. It is the whole gamut of love from the Incarnation to the Ascension, it tells us that CHRIST’S humiliation will be our glory and joy.

5 For thou, LORD, art good and gracious: and of great mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

This is what gave him courage to lift up his soul to receive consolation, for as S. John saith, “GOD is light, and in Him is no darkness at all,”* so we may say, GOD is sweet, (Vulg.) and in Him is no bitterness at all; while on the other hand, there is little sweetness and much bitterness in fleshly consolations.* And GOD is not only sweet, but gentle (Vulg.) so that He does not repel those who approach Him, but endures their imperfection. (A.) For He listens to our prayers, however unskilfully worded, and broken by wandering thoughts; nay, receives them graciously, and hearkens to them; whereas a human friend, if he saw his acquaintance, after accosting him, turn away without awaiting reply to his questions, and address some one else; and still more a judge, who found the very man who had appealed to him, turning to gossip with others in court,* would never tolerate such discourtesy. Again, GOD is good, in that He deals lovingly with His servants, laying few and easy commands upon them, and helping them by His grace to obey these commands; while He is gracious, in that He does not exact the full rigour of just penalty from repentant sinners, but receives them readily back into grace and favour, which is the force of the A. V. ready to forgive. And these same attributes are those of which the Apostle makes mention, beseeching his Corinthian disciples “by the meekness and gentleness of CHRIST.”* Of great mercy. His mercy is great and plenteous,* (A. V. Vulg.) because it is sufficient for all sin and all sinners. But copious though it be, He will not waste it, for He reserves it for all them that call upon Him. Hence we gather, first the advantage of perseverance in prayer, for we shall be continually heard, and receive mercy if we enrol ourselves in that number, (C.) as there is no respect of persons, nor any stinting, with GOD; and next, what it is we ought to call for. (A.) Upon Thee, the Psalmist says, and this shows us the meaning of that other saying, “Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer,”* that there may be a calling in prayer which is no true calling upon GOD. For you call on the thing you love, for which you are inwardly crying out, which you wish to come to you; it may be money, rank, the death of an enemy; but in that case you are calling on them, not on GOD, and are making of Him merely an instrument for your appetites, not a hearkener to your better longings. Call on GOD, then, as loving Him, and as desiring Himself, and He will be of great mercy unto you.

6 Give ear, LORD, unto my prayer: and ponder the voice of my humble desires.

7 In the time of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou hearest me.

The Psalmist asks that GOD may not only give ear, (R.) that is, mercifully permit the supplicant to approach Him in prayer, and listen to him, but that He will ponder or attend, that His wisdom may come into operation as well as His mercy,* and the two may jointly fulfil the petition to the uttermost. (D. C.) In the time of my trouble, as respects CHRIST, is spoken of His suffering life, (A.) and especially of His Passion; and as regards Christians it means the whole time of their sorrowful exile and pilgrimage here on earth, far from their Country, for the more they love and long for that country, the sorer is the daily trouble of the pilgrimage. It is also true of any special persecution,* distress, or even of inward temptation, according to that saying of a Saint, Prosperity closes the mouth, adversity opens it. For Thou hearest me. (Ay.) The Carmelite reminds us in this place of the prevenient grace of GOD, which hears our prayers before we utter them, nay, which has heard them from all eternity, foreseeing that they would be offered, and has inspired us with the will and desire of uttering them. Observe, finally, that all the Psalm, down to this point, (P.) may be taken as the prayer of CHRIST in His Passion on behalf of His whole Church, for He saith Himself, (L.) “I knew that Thou hearest Me always;”* but especially “when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death, and was heard for His piety.”*

8 Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O LORD: there is not one that can do as thou doest.

If we take this Psalm as the utterance of Hezekiah,* these words will form the fitting reply to the insulting message of Rab-shakeh: “Let not thy GOD in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly, and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed?”* The verse, if applied to the FATHER, refutes the Semi-Arians,* who asserted that the SON was not Consubstantial with Him, but only a Being of similar substance and nature to GOD, that is, like Him;* whereas confession of the co-equality of the FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST in the Undivided Trinity removes this difficulty at once. We have here, moreover, the reason for taking refuge with GOD,* and for calling upon Him only, because there is none like unto Him, in essence, in power, in wisdom, in goodness;* whether amongst men of exalted rank and power, as kings or judges, or amongst the purest saints and loftiest angels. Yet, we are told, “Ye are Gods;”* and again, that “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” There is no contradiction, for though we shall reflect His glory, (Ay.) as a pool reflects the sun, we shall not be like Him in essence,* for He is eternally and self-existently Almighty, all-wise, all-good, whereas we are but His creatures, deriving our faculties and graces from Him as their source. Even the SON, as speaker in this Psalm, fitly addresses these words to the Everlasting FATHER, because He utters them in the nature of His Manhood, whereby He is inferior to the FATHER, albeit co-equal with Him in Godhead.

There is not one that can do as Thou doest. (Z.) It is the voice of the Church concerning CHRIST. For His created works are not intended only, nor His providence over all His creatures, visible and invisible, but His restoration of His creation, His destruction of the tyrant, His slaying of death, which He effected by His own death, and that successful fishing of the whole world which He wrought by a few mean fishers, not to cite His deeds of miraculous power. (L.) Not one. And yet He promised His disciples, “He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.”* But He clears up the difficulty later, saying, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” He wrought miracles of His own inherent power, they by derived and commissioned authority. Accordingly, the Prince of the Apostles saith, “Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The GOD of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the GOD of our fathers, hath glorified His SON JESUS; and His Name, through faith in His Name, hath made this man strong.”*

9 All nations whom thou hast made, shall come and worship thee, O LORD: and shall glorify thy Name.

This, in its literal sense,* seems to be looking forward to the effect on the nations around of Sennacherib’s overthrow, fulfilled when “many brought gifts unto the LORD to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah, king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth.”* But it has a deeper significance in foretelling the ingathering of the Gentiles, whence it is used as the Epiphany antiphon to the whole Psalm.* The words were uttered, remarks S. Augustine, (A.) when but a few, in the one Hebrew nation, worshipped GOD, and were believed in defiance of sight, and yet now that they are in process of fulfilment, men doubt them. He applies the verse himself to refutation of the Donatists, who held that the true faith of the Catholic Church was limited to one corner of Africa. (L.) All nations, not only as typified by the Wise Men from the East, but further, by the converts of many peoples and languages, made on the Day of Pentecost;* the first fruits of the commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Whom Thou hast made. That is, not merely some out of every nation under heaven, but men once more appearing as GOD made them, in His own image and likeness,* now restored and renewed by CHRIST’S redeeming grace, (L.) not as defaced by the devil and by their own free-will abused to sin. So it is written in another Psalm, “The people which shall be created, shall praise the LORD,”* created, that is, anew by the supernatural and regenerating grace of CHRIST, for “of His own will begat He us with the word of truth.”* Shall come and worship Thee.* Not necessarily by bodily motion from one place to another, but by believing, in whatsoever places they are, as is spoken by the Prophet: “Men shall worship Him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.”* And glorify Thy Name. It is true of the Saints now, who obey the Apostle’s precept, “Glorify GOD in your body and in your spirit, which are GOD’S.”* It will be true of all nations at the last day,* when,* willing or unwilling, they must adore CHRIST sitting on His throne, worshipping Him, some in love and some in fear, but all glorifying His Name, according to the prophecy in the Song of Moses and of the Lamb chanted by the Saints on the sea of glass, saying, “Great and marvellous are Thy works, LORD GOD Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of Saints. Who shall not fear Thee, O LORD, and glorify Thy Name? for Thou only art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before Thee, for Thy judgments are made manifest.”*

10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art GOD alone.

This is the reason why the worship of false gods must cease,* and why all nations shall come and glorify the LORD, especially in the Day of Judgment, when His marvellous power shall be fully displayed, so that the Apostle dwells particularly on the word great, as betokening His manifestation then, saying,* “Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great GOD and our SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.” There is, (L.) besides, a confession of the Trinity in Unity in the verse. Thou art great, applies peculiarly to the Everlasting FATHER, the LORD and Source of all; and doest wondrous things, tells us of the SON, by Whom the worlds were created, the mystery of redemption effected, the miracles of the Gospel wrought; Thou art God, teaches us that the HOLY GHOST is a Divine Person, not a mere influence or manifestation, (C.) while alone joins the Three together in One indivisible Godhead.

11 Teach me thy way, O LORD, and I will walk in thy truth: O knit my heart unto thee, that I may fear thy Name.

The LXX. and Vulgate translate, (L.) Lead me in Thy way, but as Lorinus truly observes, with no variation of meaning from the original, which does not signify the communication of a bare speculative knowledge, but practical instruction, and actual guidance in the paths of GOD’S commandments. (A.) Thy way, Thy truth, is CHRIST. Therefore the Body goes to Him, and comes from Him. He saith, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.”* It is one thing for GOD to lead us to the way, and another to lead us in the way. They who are out of the way are not Christians, or at any rate not Catholics, but are being led towards the way. But when that is done, and they have become Catholics in CHRIST, they are led by Himself in the way itself, that they fall not. And I will walk in Thy truth. Some,* especially of the Greek Fathers, take these words as contrasted to some extent with the preceding ones, and interpret the way as denoting action, and truth as signifying contemplation. (Z.) But it is better to take it as denoting progress in holiness, or as covering the entire ground of a devout life. The prayer is like that of the penitent sinner,* asking GOD to put out His hand to guide him, as a blind and sickly child asks for the help of a wayfarer to put him in the straight road. It is asked, How can words such as these be put into the mouth of CHRIST? They answer, (L.) for the most part, that the Head is speaking here for His members, not for Himself, just as He spoke to Saul in the vision near Damascus. (D. C.) But the Carthusian will have it that this is the prayer of the SAVIOUR that His human soul might be led in that way of GOD which brought it down to the Patriarchs in Hades, thence into Paradise, next to be reunited with His Body in the Resurrection, and finally to be exalted together with it to heaven at the Ascension. O knit my heart unto Thee. This version, albeit giving a very deep and beautiful meaning, does not exactly express the original, in which the words unto Thee are not found. It is true that the heart may be so knit to GOD as to be interpenetrated with His fear, as an old poet tells us:

No,* self-deceiving heart, lest thou shouldst cast

Thy cords away, and burst the bands at last

Of Thy Redeemer’s tender love, I’ll try

What further fastness in His fear doth lie.

The cords of love soakéd in lust may rot,

And bands of bounty are too oft forgot:

But holy filial fear, like to a nail

Fastened in a sure place, will never fail.

This, driven home, will take

Fast hold, and make

Thee that thou darest not thy GOD forsake.

But the A. V., with S. Jerome and Symmachus, gives the correct rendering: Unite my heart, make it so whole and undivided that it may entirely love and fear Thee,* not partly fear Thee and partly fear the world; nor divide its worship between Thee and other gods;* and further, that whereas it is now disturbed and broken up with the waves and storms of passion, trouble, and sin, GOD may still it, (L.) and bring it to a perfect quiet, presenting an unruffled and tranquil surface, like the Sea in a great calm. He unites the heart of the whole Church too,* by granting it unity of faith towards GOD and of love towards brethren. But the LXX. and Vulgate read, Let my heart rejoice, that it may fear Thy Name. It is lest we should be ensnared by over-confidence, the Doctor of Grace warns us, (A.) that this is written, lest the excitement of unrestrained joy, even in spiritual things, should cause us to stray from the road.* Or, as another great Western Doctor comments, although the Saints are certain, even here, of their hope, yet they have reason to dread temptation, so that joy and fear are mingled in their spiritual experience. (L.) So we are to take heed that we do not find written in this place, Let my heart rejoice that it may feel secure, but that it may fear, in order that between the rejoicing of hope, and the fear of temptation we may be tried and chastened, and feel gladness in GOD’S pardon, yet so as never to forget that we may fall again. We need,* as has been well said, to be glad in our victory, but to fear because of the conflict.* Yet the Greek Fathers take it in a deeper and more spiritual sense, alleging that the fear of GOD is itself a source of true and pure delight to His Saints. (Z.) And thus one of themselves has truly said,* “The fear of the LORD is a paradise of delights, but where the fear of the LORD is not, there will the foxes dwell.” Only it must not be a servile fear lest GOD should punish us, which is an impure feeling;* but a loving fear, lest He should leave us, which is pure. And with this latter fear even the LORD JESUS, in His Manhood, was filled, so that we may take the words of Him, (D. C.) and explain them in the light of His bitterest cry upon the Cross.

12 I will thank thee, O LORD my GOD, with all my heart: and will praise thy Name for evermore.

The Vulgate word here for give thanks is, as usual, confess, that is, make grateful acknowledgment of bounties. But the Latin commentators constantly take it of confession of sin, and therefore one of them,* dwelling here upon that duty, tells us to lay particular stress on the words with my whole heart. (Ay.) For the heart, that is, the intellectual part of man’s being, is made up of four things, thought or imagination, memory, understanding, and will. Each of these should play its part in a good confession. There ought to be thought, in careful preparation for the Sacrament of penance; memory, in duly recalling former offences; understanding, in a full recognition of the enormity of sin, and the grievousness of one’s own faults; will, in the firm resolution to amend. But, taking the words in their more literal signification, we may note that the whole heart here is the result of the prayer in the verse before, that GOD may unite the heart. Henceforth it gives thanks to Him under all circumstances, in adversity as well as in prosperity, and puts its entire trust in Him, not confiding partly in temporal successes, and yielding Him but a divided confidence. And as CHRIST, in His human nature, gave us the most perfect example of entire devotion to GOD the FATHER; (D. C.) these words apply to Him as well as to His Saints, who plead for blessings to come in the best of all ways,* by showing themselves mindful and grateful in respect of past favours. And will praise Thy Name for evermore. This evermore is threefold. It is the whole life of the pardoned sinner,* thenceforth devoted to GOD’S glory and service; it is the continuous life of the Church Militant on earth, wherein, throughout succeeding ages, the praise of GOD never ceases, so that our Head can speak of this act of His Body as His own; it is, finally, the everlasting Alleluia of heaven, which awaits the Saints who have conquered.

13 For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the nethermost hell.

Here is the special cause for gratitude. And taking it of the Head, (A.) as so many do, we see in it a prophetic thanksgiving for the Resurrection. S. Augustine, dwelling on the word nethermost, and arguing fairly that the word implies the existence of at least two hells, urges, that when we take the whole verse of CHRIST, we must interpret the first hell to be this earth, so called from lying so far beneath heaven, and from being so defiled with sin, and harassed with trouble. Into this first hell the LORD came by His Nativity; into the second or nethermost, the grave and place of departed spirits, He came by His death, and was delivered thence by the Resurrection. But if the words are to be put in the mouth of one of His members, then it is a thanksgiving for being rescued from that part of Hades where the rich man lay in torments, parted by a great gulf from that happier place where Abraham carried Lazarus in his bosom.* In that nethermost hell no one gives thanks to GOD, nor can any come forth thence, wherefore deliverance from it is truly great mercy, seeing that it confers everlasting blessings. (Z.) And Euthymius, who ascribes the Psalm to David, in taking the nethermost hell to mean the double guilt of adultery and murder into which the king fell, so that deliverance from it means pardon of mortal sin, and may be thus applied to every penitent similarly rescued,* has warrant from the Proverbs on his side, wherein the sin of lust is more than once so described. For the Wise Man saith of a strange woman that “her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death; and again, “her guests are in the depths of hell.”*

14 O GOD, (C.) the proud are risen against me: and the congregations of naughty men have sought after my soul, and have not set thee before their eyes.

Here is the anticipation of the Passion, of the secret council of the Chief Priests and Pharisees, followed by the cries of the multitude for the Crucifixion of the LORD. And then, spoken of His Body the Church, it is a cry for protection against heathen persecutors, seeking the lives of Christians, and still more against heretics and false brethren,* plotting against that faith which is the very soul of the Church’s being. (A.) And the individual believer prays in these words to be delivered from the principalities and powers of evil,* those ghostly enemies which wage unceasing war against the soul.

15 But thou, O LORD GOD, art full of compassion and mercy: long-suffering, plenteous in goodness and truth.

Here he showeth the cause of this suffering, (Ay.) why GOD permitted them so to rise against CHRIST, and to deliver Him over to death. And he saith that this was of GOD’S great mercy, Who spared not His own SON, but delivered Him up for us all, so that the Passion of CHRIST was a work of great compassion and mercy. And the SON also is here referred to, as voluntarily giving Himself as a sacrifice for us, according to His most true promise; He Who was longsuffering, in that He bore so much for ourselves, plenteous in goodness, because He came to save, plenteous in truth, because He ever taught the truth, (A.) as even His enemies acknowledged, saying, “Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of GOD in truth.”* And therefore He is styled in the Apocalypse, “Faithful and True.”*

Note, further, that there are seven names of GOD set down here,* answering to seven of His energies, and as many classes of men with whom He is in certain relations. He is LORD to them who serve Him, and He demands service from all; as it is written, “The nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish.”* He is GOD, to them that worship Him, for “the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation.”* He is full of compassion, for “His mercies are over all His works;”* He is full of mercy, in that He helpeth the unhappy. He is longsuffering with sinners: “Therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto you.”* Plenteous in goodness, in bestowing His eternal rewards, for “eye hath not seen, O GOD, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him.”* And truth, in punishing the guilty, for “let GOD be true, but every man a liar.”*

16 O turn thee then unto me, and have mercy upon me: give thy strength unto thy servant, and help the son of thine handmaid.

Because of all the attributes of GOD enumerated in the previous verse, He is now called on to show His saving power. And the commentators, with almost one voice, agree in explaining this passage of the prayer of CHRIST for His Resurrection. In saying, Turn Thee unto Me, or as LXX.* and Vulgate have it, Look again upon Me, He asks for His FATHER’S protection, for “the eyes of the LORD are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers.” In saying, Have mercy upon Me, He asks for deliverance from misery; in adding, Give Thy strength (or with Vulg. empire) unto Thy servant, He asks for judicial power over the world, and that because of His perfect obedience. This He foretold, earlier than His Passion, saying, “The FATHER judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the SON;”* and He confirmed it after His rising again,* when He said to His disciples, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth.”* In saying, Help the Son of Thine handmaid, He asks for the Resurrection, and that in His character as the offspring of that pure Virgin who answered the Angel’s message with the words, “Behold the handmaid of the LORD, be it unto me according to thy word.”* Several of the Latins dwell on the ambiguous word puero, meaning child as well as servant, here found in the Vulgate, (C.) and remind us that it is spoken of Him touching Whom, by reason of His innocence, the Prophet saith: “Unto us a child is born,”* Who was like a child in His poverty, His holiness, His placability, and His obedience.

Each of His members,* too, can utter this prayer, who is GOD’S servant and child because of adoption and obedience, who is the son of His handmaid, the Church, who may look for a share in that empire of which the LORD said to His Apostles, (R.) “In the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”* For the promise is not limited to them, inasmuch as He saith in another place, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne.”* And although all Christian men are proud to bear the title of servant of GOD, (L.) as all Christian women, like S. Agatha before the prefect, rejoice to call themselves by the name of handmaid,* yet none is so exactly the son of a handmaid as a convert from the bondage of Paganism, who has entered into the glorious liberty of the children of GOD, and acquired in Baptism the strength of the HOLY GHOST, (A.) strength sufficient to overcome all the spiritual enemies of the soul.* Note, moreover, the deep humility of the double expression, servant, and son of Thine handmaid. They are no mere repetition,* for a man may be reduced into a state of servitude from one of freedom, as a captive in war, albeit sprung of noble ancestry; but if he be the son of a handmaid, he is born a slave, and has had no time of liberty to look back upon. And in this sense the children born of the Church, GOD’S faithful handmaid, are His from the first moment of their spiritual creation.

17 Show some token upon me for good: that they who hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.

Hitherto he has asked for internal consolation,* for secret bestowal of help; but now he asks for an external sign of favour, to the dismay of his enemies. And, still applying the Psalm literally to Hezekiah, we may bear in mind two such proofs of Divine favour towards him; the destruction of Sennacherib’s army, and the going back of the shadow on the sun-dial of Ahaz. The Chaldee,* ascribing the Psalm to David, represents this as a prayer for a miracle, that of the spontaneous opening of the gates of Solomon’s temple, to be vouchsafed him for David’s sake, when bringing up the ark into its new sanctuary. Applied to CHRIST,* the Greek Fathers prefer to take the sign here of the Virgin-birth of the LORD, according to that saying in Isaiah, “The LORD Himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His Name Immanuel;”* a sign which was truly for good, (A.) and made the spiritual foes of man ashamed. But the Latins take it of the Resurrection, looking to that other saying, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall be no sign given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas; for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”* That they who hate Me may see it, and be ashamed,* with that wholesome confusion which leadeth to repentance, (D. C.) that they may be converted and live; or, if they resist obstinately, with the final shame which awaits them at the doom, when the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in heaven, for the good of His servants, (A.) and the destruction of His foes. Applying the verse to the Christian soul,* they remind us,* on the one hand,* of that sign of the Cross which fortifies us against evil,* and affrays our enemies; and on the other, yet more deeply, that we have been “sealed with that HOLY SPIRIT of promise.”* And both these meanings appear in that victory of the Church through the sign which Constantine is said to have beheld in heaven, on the eve of his decisive triumph over his Pagan opponent. (C.) Thou, Lord, hast holpen Me, and comforted Me. Thou hast holpen Me in the battle, comforted Me amidst the sorrows of the Passion; (R.) holpen Me when I was in the grave, comforted Me in the joy of the Resurrection. And in like manner,* the LORD shows a sign upon us for good, whenever He converts sinners by the example of Saints, or works any great deliverance for His people,* whom He helps in their life-long struggle here, and comforts with the everlasting blessedness of heaven.

Wherefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, Who is great, and GOD alone; glory be to the SON, Who is full of compassion and mercy; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, Who giveth His strength unto His servants.

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








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