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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: Blessed * be the LORD for evermore. [Precious Blood: When they saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs, but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith there came out blood and water.]

Monastic. As preceding Psalm.

Ambrosian. Ferial: As Psalm 92. [Easter Eve: They that hate Me shall flee far from Me, they are not ashamed to spit in My face. * They wounded the sinews of My feet, and marked out My path.]

Parisian. [Easter Eve: If the LORD had not helped me, my soul would have almost dwelt in hell.]

Mozarabic. The LORD will not fail His people, * neither will He forsake His inheritance.

1 O LORD GOD, to whom vengeance belongeth: thou GOD, to whom vengeance belongeth, show thyself.

2 Arise, thou Judge of the world: and reward the proud after their deserving.

This title of the Almighty, (Ay.) as God of vengeance, serves to correct the error that GOD deals with the universe only mediately, having laid down at the creation certain invariable laws for the government of the universe, and having then, so to speak, withdrawn Himself from His work, and allowed it to go on without Him. Here, on the contrary, it is plainly taught that He rules this lower world specially and directly, and is cognizant of and interested in all the dealings, good and bad, of mankind.* The prayer here is that He may shine forth (A. V. marg.), and no longer hide His avenging justice in the thick darkness, but display it openly, and irresistibly. But the LXX. and Vulgate treat the first and second verses differently, taking the former in the past tense, and translating, instead of show Thyself, either hath spoken boldly (ἐπαῤῥησιἁσατο) or hath dealt freely (liberè egit).1 And this is true of Him,* because He is not like mortal judges, who often have not the power to take vengeance on an offender, either because they are deterred through fear of consequences, or through hope of favour; or else because their jurisdiction is checked and limited by superior authority, whereas no such restrictions can bind the Most High. Arise, Thou Judge of the world. This title is the especial one of the LORD JESUS, because “the FATHER hath committed all judgment unto the SON,”* and He is therefore besought to exalt Himself, (LXX., Vulg., A. V.) either by ascending His Cross,* whereupon He triumphs over the proud enemies of our souls; (Cd.) or by the glories of His Resurrection and Ascension, (A.) whereby He is throned at the right hand of the FATHER. The notion of the Cross being the judicial seat of CHRIST is one which often reappears, as for example in the hymn of the Paris Breviary:

Holy Cross, thou seat of judgment,*

Where the Just One sat enthroned,

To pronounce the righteous sentence,

Yet His righteous ire disowned,

When He bare the wood of healing

Who the rod of vengeance owned.

But in whatever sense we take the seat, (L.) the word exalt will have the same spiritual force: for it is a call on the LORD to manifest Himself clearly, because He, as so great a Judge, ought to excel all other judges in righteousness as much as He does in power and dignity, and should therefore lift Himself up as though on a watch-tower, or some other lofty place, in order to behold all things which He is about to try, and not lower Himself to the level of what He condemns. Further, in calling Him God of vengeance,* we confess that the right of avenging ourselves is not lodged in our hands, and abdicate thereby all claim to exercise it, contenting ourselves with returning good for evil. And He is GOD of vengeances (Heb., LXX., Vulg.) in the plural, because His chastisements are not single,* but manifold, for He punishes the criminal in his own person and in that of others, in body and soul, in this life and the next. And this especially in the case of those who are earth, men of carnal desires and earthly wisdom, who have no savour of heavenly things. Reward the proud. (L.) It is spoken in threefold fashion, of Satan and his angels who fell by pride, of the Jews who crucified the LORD, because He foretold their humiliation, of false Christians who harden themselves and will not repent. And pride is the special sin against which GOD exercises His judgments, (Ay.) because it is loftiest in its origin as a spiritual fault, as it began amongst the Angels of heaven, and is still the besetting sin of lofty minds; because it is the most vigorous of sins, in that it spares no person, time, nor place; and the most crafty, because it can disguise itself, unlike almost every other temptation, in the garb of a virtue.

3 LORD, how long shall the ungodly: how long shall the ungodly triumph?

4 How long shall all wicked doers speak so disdainfully: and make such proud boasting?

The ungodly are twice named, not merely by way of emphasis, (Z.) but as marking their twofold offence, against the GOD Whose laws they despise and break, and the men whom they oppress and injure in so doing; and we may also take the words as denoting the two great classes of GOD’S foes, evil spirits and wicked men. And yet,* in the very terms wherein the Psalmist complains of the continued prevalence of the wicked, there is matter of comfort, for we have three (rather four, as A. V.) words to denote speaking, and only one, doers, to denote action, showing us that they are far more powerful with their tongues than with their hands. Hence too, we may gather that the teachers of false doctrine are the ungodly specially intended here. (B.)

5 They smite down thy people, O LORD: and trouble thine heritage.

6 They murder the widow, and the stranger: and put the fatherless to death.

Herein GOD is invoked by a double appeal.* As King, He is reminded that it is His people, and His heritage, which is assailed; as Judge, He is called to the special duty of a guardian of the laws, the aid of the weak, oppressed by overmastering force. And we may explain the sixth verse not merely as defining the special part of GOD’S heritage which is thus persecuted, but as being an exhaustive description of the whole.* For an old Jewish writer has pointed out how aptly the titles of widow and orphan befitted the Hebrew nation, because it had no helper save GOD only, and was cut off from all other people by its peculiar rites and usages, whereas the Gentiles, by their mutual alliances and intercourse, had, as it were, a multitude of kindred to help them in any strait. (A.) So too the Christian expositors see here in the widow,* the Church, or the faithful soul, waiting and longing for the absent Bridegroom; in the orphan, one looking only to a FATHER in heaven, having been given up by his former father, Satan, and his former mother, the world: in the stranger,* one who having become a proselyte to the Church of GOD, has no continuing city here in the world, but has become an alien to his old companions, and seeks, as a pilgrim, his way to a better country. These are the victims chiefly afflicted by the proud, who cannot endure the silent rebuke of the lowly servants of CHRIST, their mute appeal to Him to shine forth as their defender.

The Church has waited long,*

Her absent LORD to see,

And still in loneliness she waits,

A friendless stranger she.

Age after age has gone,

Sun after sun has set,

And still in weeds of widowhood

She weeps a mourner yet.

Come then, LORD JESU, come.

7 And yet they say, Tush, the LORD shall not see: neither shall the GOD of Jacob regard it.

He will not see the external act, (Ay.) nor regard or understand (LXX., Vulg.) the inward thought. (L.) Nevertheless, it is precisely as the GOD of Jacob that He is sure to regard it, for He spake to Moses in the Law: “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him;* for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.” Some will have it that the verse does not actually imply the utterance of this blasphemy,* but only a course of action in agreement with such a theory of GOD; but it seems more consonant with the scope of the Psalm and with the facts of history to explain the reference as being to that very speaking disdainfully of which the fourth verse complains. Thus the great poetical champion of practical atheism sings:*

Omnis enim per se divum natura necesse est

Immortali ævo summa cum pace fruatur,

Semota ab nostris rebus sejunctaque longe;

Nam privata dolore omni, privata periclis,

Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nil indiga nostri,

Nec bene promeritis capitur, nec tangitur ira.

For the whole nature of the Gods must needs

Enjoy undying life in perfect peace,

Removed and set afar from mortal deeds;

Since from all pain and risk it hath release,

Strong in its own resource, it lacks us not,

Thanks for no good, nor grows in anger hot.

8 Take heed, ye unwise among the people: O ye fools, when will ye understand?

They explain the unwise among the people as false teachers in the body of the Church, (C.) forming externally a part of GOD’S heritage,* although alien from it in spirit; while the fools are open infidels and blasphemers, (Ay.) or the uninstructed laity, contrasted with the evil clergy of the earlier clause. And of unwisdom and folly there are several kinds described in Holy Writ. There is that of mental imbecility; that of sheer wickedness or malice; that of base and filthy living; and that of unbelief and faithlessness. Yet the very words of reproach here addressed are enough to tell us that the condition of the fool is for the most part voluntary, for as S. Augustine wisely observes, If we could not be wise, and understand through our free-will,* it would not be commanded us in the words of Scripture, Take heed, ye unwise among the people, and ye fools, understand at last. For in the very fact that it is prescribed and commanded that we should understand, it requires our obedience, which cannot possibly be yielded without free-will.

9 He that planted the ear, shall he not hear: or he that made the eye, shall he not see?

It has been noticed,* from a very early time, in arguing against those Anthropomorphite sectaries who attributed bodily organs to GOD,* that the Psalmist here does not ascribe ears and eyes to Him,* but only the faculties of hearing and seeing, which He possesses, not by reason of having organs of sense, but as part of His essence; since, if those faculties did not exist in Him, He could not have so conceived them as to make them part of the creation.* They dwell too, on the word planted, as implying design, in that the ear was not spontaneously evolved by an act of vital force, but independently created by GOD for a certain object, just as a tree, not of indigenous growth, is of set purpose planted in some new place by the hand of man. They draw another lesson from the term used of the creation of the eye, which is not merely made, as the Prayer Book version reads, but formed, πλάσας,* finxit, directing our attention to the wonderful mechanism of the organs of sight, and thence to the marvellous skill of the Artificer.* And CHRIST the LORD, Who planted the spirit of obedience, which the ear typifies, in the heart of man, wills it to grow, which it cannot do unless it be shined upon by the Sun of Righteousness; that is, unless CHRIST Himself show us the nature, and set us an example, of that obedience. Shall He not hear, then? Shall He give a law, and not keep it Himself? By no means, for it is written, “Though He were a SON, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered,”* when He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.”* The ear is no garden or paradise of GOD if the words planted therein do not spring up, but remain as seeds in the sand, (Cd.) buried, rather than sown. (Ay.) And with respect to the eye, we are reminded that it, as well as the ear, has a double meaning; for the inward sight is the faculty of spiritual understanding, which is necessary in order that we may comprehend, so as to carry out, the commands we have received through the ear. Wherefore that is wise counsel of the Rabbins, that the three best safeguards against falling into sin,* are to remember first, that there is an ear which hears everything; secondly, that there is an eye which sees everything; thirdly, that there is a hand which writes everything in the Book of Knowledge which shall be opened at the Judgment.

10 Or he that nurtureth the heathen: it is he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he punish?

The word nurtureth here does not express the original with accuracy. We may choose between the chastiseth of A. V. and Vulgate, or the instructeth of the Targum and LXX., either of which will yield an adequate sense, (D. C.) the one pointing to the temporal punishments inflicted by GOD on whole nations, as the Egyptians, Canaanites, Assyria, and Babylon; the other, (C.) to His instruction, on the one hand by the agency of Holy Writ and the teaching of the Prophets and Apostles, and on the other,* by the operation of the individual conscience, (Z.) and of human laws regulating the limits of right and wrong even amongst those to whom no revelation had been granted.* It is He that teacheth man knowledge. This is the office of GOD the HOLY GHOST, Who teacheth us and guides us into all truth, and Who acts towards us as a master that instructs his pupils in school,* but expects them, on pain of stripes for failure, to repeat correctly to him the lesson he has thus taught. Shall not He punish? The word is rather reprove,* ἐλέγξει, arguet, and fits in thus precisely with that saying of CHRIST touching the Comforter, “When He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment;”* of sin which they did not shun, of righteousness which they did not love, of judgment which they did not fear. (Ay.) But if we accept the reading punish, we may then remember that GOD punishes in three ways: in love, and gently, for the purification and trial of His Saints; in anger, for the conversion of sinners; and in wrathful indignation, for the destruction of the obstinately impenitent.

11 The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man: that they are but vain.

There are three kinds of thoughts which come into the mind of man; (P.) those which GOD inspires, which are wise and holy; those which the devil suggests, which are evil and impure: and those which man devises for himself, and these are vain. Lest we should think that such vanity can be attributed only to the unwise and fools of whom a previous verse speaks, the Apostle, citing this passage, reads it, “The LORD knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain,”* as being engaged about transitory matters to the exclusion of eternal interests.

12 Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD: and teachest him in thy law;

Here is the true contrast to the vanity and sorrow of the man who is left to his own thoughts,* the blessedness of the Saint whom GOD Himself instructs (LXX. Vulg.) And observe that there are two distinct kinds of instruction, that which GOD conveys personally,* that is, in time past by His life as Man on earth as our example and pattern, but now by inner light, warning, and inspiration; and that which He bestows upon attentive students or hearers of His Word. And this teaching has four several objects, (Ay.) which are the avoidance of sin, the keeping of the commandments, the escaping everlasting punishment, and the desire of eternal life.

13 That thou mayest give him patience in time of adversity: until the pit be digged up for the ungodly.

It is something more than patience,* it is the rest, (A. V.) or tranquillity, implied in the LXX. πραὗναι, which GOD bestows on the souls, not on the bodies, of those whom He teaches, so that although the Saint must endure sorrow and trial here,* yet GOD mitigates (Vulg.) it for him, by giving him such delight in the law, and such spiritual joy as enables him to bear up against the weight of trouble; seeing that unmixed gladness is not given here, but in our Country. Therefore the Apostle encourages his converts, saying, “As ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation;”* and in another place, “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing,”* where we may observe that the word sorrowful is qualified by the word as, in order to denote that the rejoicing overpowers it; which is more clearly set forth a little later in the same epistle: “I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulations.”*

The Greek Fathers explain the day of adversity to be the final judgment of the ungodly,* and allege that suffering patiently endured in this world makes the tribunal of CHRIST less awful, and insures a milder sentence. Until the pit be digged up for the ungodly. (C.) The metaphor may be taken either from the pitfalls made by hunters to entrap wild beasts, or from the preparing the grave of a dying man. Either way, the words imply the certain destruction of sinners, and fix a limit to the sufferings of GOD’S scholars. This pit is one which sinners dig for themselves by their vices, (A.) and which the avenging Angels of GOD complete. And the intention of the ungodly is to make a high mound for their own exaltation, not observing that every increase of the height of it does but increase at the same time the depth of the yawning hollow at its base, into which they will surely fall; whether we take the pit itself to be shame and ruin in this world, bodily death, or condemnation at the Doom. (Ay.) But there is another pit, unlike all these, dug for the sinner in this life, to win him from his evil courses, namely, the wound in the spear-pierced side of CHRIST; open to receive all who will take refuge there from their enemies, as did the Israelites who hid themselves in pits from the Philistine invaders.* This pit continues to be dug all the time of this mortal life, because the call to repentance is unceasing, and therefore the troubles of the righteous are mitigated here, as one and another of his former oppressors are united to the company of the elect.

14 For the LORD will not fail his people: neither will he forsake his inheritance;

This is the answer to the complaint in the fifth verse of the havoc wrought by wicked doers against GOD’S people and heritage.* It is the assurance, not merely that their destructiveness will be checked in due time, but that it is in fact only an instrument in GOD’S hands for the fatherly correction of His chosen, and that only for a little time.

15 Until righteousness turn again unto judgment: all such as are true of heart shall follow it.

They explain this difficult passage in more ways than one,* both literally and mystically. And first, it may refer to the effects of GOD’S teaching. Justice and judgment have become separate, and even opposite things, man’s law has not been according to right and truth,* but GOD will not forsake His inheritance, nor cease His instruction, till He has wrought a change in this respect, and till justice is once more faithfully dispensed by the judges who sit to try causes.* Or again, it may be GOD’S judgment which is called in question by man, as though He were not equal in His dealings, because allowing the righteous to be oppressed and the wicked to prosper. Here again GOD will continue His teaching till He vindicates Himself to us, till we learn that the Judge of all the earth must do right. (C.) Mystically they take the words as referring to the Day of Judgment, when CHRIST Himself, our Righteousness, shall turn from His long-suffering and patience unto judgment upon sinners;* and when His Saints and Apostles, who have borne affliction and injustice here below, shall sit with Him as His assessors to try the very sinners who persecuted them upon earth. There is one other explanation,* in part the same as this: that GOD did not forsake His people and inheritance of Israel, until Incarnate Righteousness was brought into judgment before Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate, and denied, rejected, and condemned by His subjects. All they that are true of heart shall follow it. That is, as they variously explain,* all the Saints shall come with CHRIST unto judgment; or shall agree in the sentence He pronounces; or again, (P.) shall be themselves in full conformity with CHRIST’S righteousness. Some of the Latins point the sentence differently, and read with an interrogation,* Who shall be along with it? (Ay.) That is, Who shall be assessors at that true judgment? and the answer is: the true of heart. And on this truth or righteousness of heart, let us hear S. Augustine, (A.) “Because GOD is right, when thou fixest thine heart on Him, let thy care be to have a right heart, that GOD may be pleasant to it in all things. Let it be right with the rightness of intention, with the exclusion of froward thoughts, with steadfastness in contemplation. Let it be ready to follow the Will of GOD, in whatsoever direction it may know that will to move. Let it tend upwards, to contemplate and desire heavenly and divine things alone. Let it be pure, so as to suffer no evil thing to linger within it, nor let it account the tiniest stumbling-block as bearable, in its own conscience or in another’s.”

16 Who will rise up with me against the wicked: or who will take my part against the evil-doers?

Seeing then that all injustice will most surely come to an end,* the Psalmist asks who will be bold enough, in the mean time, while the reign of justice is still put off, to range himself on the side of oppressed truth, and to fight for the cause of GOD, (L.) when that cause seems to have the worst. It is true that GOD alone, without any helper, is able to defend and avenge His elect, but they who refuse to take His side will be involved in the punishment of His enemies, even though they did not actually share in their crime.* Just so, in the laws of Sparta, it was enacted that whoso allowed any offence to be committed in his presence without protest,* subjected himself to the full penalty due to the offence itself. And thus, when Israel made the golden calf, Moses said, “Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me,”* and employed the Levites as the instruments of Divine vengeance against the idolaters. So it may be taken, as many do take it, of the appeal made by CHRIST Himself for aid, not as really needing it, but in order that those who share His battle may share His triumph; and that He calls His disciples to resist, like Him, the temptation of wicked spirits, (Ay.) and the persecutions of the evildoers amongst men, Jews, Pagans, and worldly unbelievers. Or, as another, slightly varying, takes it, the SAVIOUR cries,* “I am holy, I was lifted up on the Cross, I died and rose again, and ascended a Conqueror to heaven. Which of the Saints, then, will arise and stand with Me? which shall be counted worthy, not only of the Resurrection, but of a place at My side?” But most of these expositors agree in understanding the passage of the conflict against sin in this life;* while one aptly points the metaphor by comparing it to a sudden night-attack upon a city, when the captain of the garrison sounds the alarm for his soldiers, that they may arise, quitting their beds, and then stand with him upon the walls to repel the foe.* Arising without standing is not enough, for there are many who so far arise as to teach men to resist the inward temptations of wicked spirits, but who do not stand when themselves corrupted by the example and seeming prosperity of human evil-doers. And that more fail than endure the test in this way is clear from the very word of inquiry, Who? denoting that the speaker is, for the time at least, alone.

17 If the LORD had not helped me: it had not failed but my soul had been put to silence.

This is a confession at once of the magnitude of the peril,* and of the grace of GOD; (Cd.) it casts aside every thought of personal strength or merit, and acknowledges man’s utter feebleness when not upheld by the arm of the LORD. The second clause is more exactly rendered by the A. V. My soul had almost dwelt in silence, which last word is explained by LXX. and Vulgate as Hades or hell (inferno). (Ay.) The literal meaning is a narrow escape from physical death; but mystically it is taken of CHRIST, Whose soul was not left in hell, and Who here, in His manhood, gives thanks to His FATHER for the Resurrection. Then it applies to each of His members, who,* but for that same Resurrection, would themselves have dwelt in Hades, or even in the lower deeps of Gehenna,* but who are now risen with CHRIST. And finally,* the words may be used by any faithful soul who feels that only GOD’S grace has preserved him from yielding to temptation and persecution, so as to fall into the pit and darkness of sin.

18 But when I said, My foot hath slipped: thy mercy, O LORD, held me up.

See how GOD loves confession. (A.) Thy foot slips, and thou dost not say, My foot slips, but thou sayest that thou standest when thou art falling. So then, if thou have begun slipping, if thou have commenced to totter, confess thy slip, that thou mayest not have to bewail thy fall, that He may help thee, that thy soul be not in hell. GOD wishes for confession, He wishes for humility.

Again, (Ay.) if these be words of CHRIST Himself, then His foot denotes any of His Apostles and preachers, who carry Him throughout the world by proclaiming the Gospel. These feet of His slipped, when they lost faith during His Passion. Peter denied Him, and all the others forsook Him and fled, breaking the faith they had vowed to CHRIST. But GOD’S mercy at once helped these slipping feet by leading them back to faith through repentance.

Any one, then, who is tempted or oppressed, and who fears to fall through consent or impatience, may use these words that he may be helped against falling by GOD’S mercy, when calling upon Him. That thou perish not, call upon GOD, saying, “LORD, save me,”* and straightway He stretcheth out the hand of His mercy as He did unto Peter, saying, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

19 In the multitude of the sorrows that I had in my heart: thy comforts have refreshed my soul.

The word here translated, as by LXX. and Vulgate, sorrows, is more exactly anxious thoughts,* those which branch out in different directions, and thus cause perplexity. In the multitude of these, or, as most of the old versions take it, according to the multitude of them, in exact proportion to man’s need, GOD sends His consolation. And in this sense, the word heart, or within me (S. Hieron.) is emphatic, since GOD does not give bodily comforts to the righteous in this life as a set-off against bodily pains; but He does give them spiritual comforts as a support in both physical and mental trouble. The special word here found in the Hebrew for comforts, תַּנְחוּמִים,1 occurs in only two other places; Isaiah 66:11, and Jeremiah 16:7; in the former of which it is applied to the mother who stills her crying infant by giving it the breast; and in the latter is used of the cup of strong wine, called the “cup of consolation,” given to mourners at a funeral by their friends, as the first refreshment after the fast for the dead. The fullest and yet the briefest comment on the passage is to be found in the words of S. Paul: “As ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”*

20 Wilt thou have anything to do with the stool of wickedness: which imagineth mischief as a law?

The stool of wickedness. It ought rather to be,* as in LXX. and A. V. the throne of iniquity or lawlessness. That is, the Psalmist is protesting not against mere obscure thieves and murderers, but against princes and judges, who pervert the laws they should defend, and by false judgments or wicked enactments oppress the people of GOD, and endeavour to destroy His Church, as did Antiochus Epiphanes and the Pagan Emperors in their various statutes against those who refused to conform to idolatrous rites. He asks if GOD, by tolerating them any longer, and delaying their punishment, can consent to be ranked, even in thought, on their side, and to be supposed their partner in guilt. The Greeks push the idea further, (Z.) and identify the throne of lawlessness with Satan, who frameth toil in commandment (LXX.,) that is, who either puts some troublesome obstacle in the way of our obedience to GOD,* through which we have to force our path laboriously, or else, by making the yoke of religion too heavy to bear by means of burdensome additions and stern repression, induces men to throw it off altogether. The Vulgate reading in the latter clause is different, Thou Who framest toil in commandment,* taking the words as still referring to GOD. That is, seeing that Thy commandments are so clear and precise, and that Thou art so desirous that they should be perfectly and laboriously observed, even through toil and sorrow, can it be that Thou art indifferent to right and wrong, and careless, like iniquitous judges, that the law is broken? or wilt Thou suffer those who will not toil in the commandment,* but who have given themselves to the service of Satan, and their souls to be his throne of iniquity, to have any place or fellowship with Thee?

There is an alternative explanation, (D. C.) moreover, applying the whole verse to an unrepentant sinner. Wilt thou not be converted, wilt thou suffer the throne of iniquity, that “seat of the scornful”* of which another Psalm speaks, the habitual practice of sin, to be inseparably joined to thee, thou who feignest (fingis) that GOD’S commands are too laborious and difficult for man to keep?

21 They gather them together against the soul of the righteous: and condemn the innocent blood.

It is the history of the sufferings of martyrs in all times of persecution, (C.) but especially of their King, the SAVIOUR Himself, Who is, in an especial sense, the Righteous and Innocent. It is against the righteous they gather themselves,* for him they will hunt (LXX. and Vulg.) because the souls of the unrighteous are their prey already, and they do not need to entrap afresh those who are ensnared.* Euthymius, who explains, as already mentioned, (Z.) the twentieth verse as a prayer against allowing Satan to take any part in the Last Judgment, will have it that the reason for that prayer is given here; namely, that the evil spirits will bring against the righteous accusations of sins committed either ignorantly or unwillingly, in order to ensnare them. The Carmelite, dwelling on the former explanation, (Ay.) observes that there are three things, any one of which makes a condemnation unjust: innocence on the part of the accused; irregularity in matter of law, especially failure of evidence; and hostile bias on the part of the judge; all which, he observes, were united in the sentence passed on the LORD JESUS. And lest we should pass over the verse as having no warning or lesson for ourselves, we are seasonably reminded that slander, detraction, and calumny,* is a condemning of innocent blood, even if it be not actually aimed at the life of the victim. Slander is unjust judgment, because it is a sentence passed by one who has no authorization as judge in the matter at all, because the same person acts as sole judge and witness, and that without any oath binding him to speak the truth; because there is no examination of the witness, and contrary evidence, even when stronger, is not admitted, and because the most frivolous and inconsistent conjectures are accepted as proofs.

22 But the LORD is my refuge: and my GOD is the strength of my confidence.

This is the triumphant cry of CHRIST’S soldiers,* recking nothing of the confederacy against them, knowing that they too are banded together, under an invincible Captain, against the throne of iniquity; and are to condemn the blood of the guilty when they sit by Him in judgment upon them.* GOD is the refuge of His Saints when He shelters them from evil, the temptations of sin, or the persecutions of enemies. He is the strength of their confidence, when He aids them in holiness, helping them to hope, and to obtain what they hope for, (D. C.) and that by the co-operation of His grace, so that their hope is not in vain, but they are able to do all things through Him that strengtheneth them. The words are explained also of CHRIST Himself, (Ay.) as well as of His followers, with special reference to the Resurrection.

23 He shall recompense them their wickedness, and destroy them in their own malice: yea, the LORD our GOD shall destroy them.

Here S. Augustine bids us notice the stress on the words in their own malice, (A.) whence he draws the lesson that GOD punishes us not so much for the things we do, as for the motive wherewith we do them. Judas Iscariot delivered up the LORD JESUS to death, but GOD the FATHER delivered Him up also. The sin of Judas worked out the purpose of GOD, and brought us a priceless blessing, but we thank GOD only, and turn away from the crime of the traitor. So too the persecutors of the martyrs were, all unwittingly, preparing and gemming crowns of gold for them, but in hate, which is the reason of their condemnation, the adequate cause of that vengeance which shall fall upon them, when the LORD GOD shows Himself.


Glory be to the FATHER, the LORD GOD; glory be to the SON, the Judge of the world; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, Whose comforts refresh the souls of the Saints.

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

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