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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 and Monastic. Praise * the LORD, O my soul. [Whitsunday: Send forth Thy SPIRIT, and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth. Alleluia. Alleluia. Transfiguration: He is clothed with majesty and honour * decked with light as it were with a garment.]

Ambrosian. As Psalm 102.

Parisian. All * hast Thou made in wisdom, O LORD, the earth is full of Thy possession.

Lyons. Praise * the LORD, O my soul.

Mozarabic. Thou art clothed with majesty and honour * Thou deckest Thyself with light as it were with a garment.

This Psalm, the anthem of Natural Theology, and, as it were, the poetical re-casting of the Mosaic record of creation, sets before us, as no other part of Holy Scripture save, perhaps, the closing chapters of Job, the continual dependence of the universe on the guiding and sustaining influence of the Creator, Who is depicted throughout as the life which moves and energizes the whole mass, not as the maker of a machine, withdrawn from the work of His hands.

In its main outline, it follows the order of the Hexaëmeron in Genesis, beginning with the origin of light, and leading up to the formation of man, but it represents the process as a living and continuous evolution, rather than as a memory of a great event in the remote past. Less specific in its details than the Benedicite, it is more graphic and vivid in portraiture, and those who have pondered most deeply on the profound analogies which exist between the world of sense and that of thought, between the natural and the spiritual creation, will find it most easy to recognize the lessons of mystical theology which underlie, at no great distance from the surface, the letter of this magnificent poem. It is the first of the Alleluiatic Psalms in the Hebrew reckoning, but as the LXX. and Vulgate attribute that character to the succeeding one, the question will be discussed when treating of it.

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul: O LORD my GOD, thou art become exceeding glorious; thou art clothed with majesty and honour.

The Prophet calls on himself to bless the LORD, (C.) and knowing how mighty is the grace of unity in the Faith, he speaks to himself alone that which he would exhort all men. He saith, Thou art become exceeding great. We need to inquire closely into the force of these words, for was He at any time not great, that He should become great through men’s praises? Or what can be added unto Him, Who is the wonderful and incomprehensible fulness of all might? But GOD is magnified amongst men, when He is plainly seen by them to be great and exalted, so that they feel Him to be their Maker, the bestower of all good things, their Redeemer, and finally, their Judge. So, too, to put on, is to be clothed with some covering which one had not before. But when did GOD lack beauty (Vulg.), Who ever bestoweth all lovely things upon His creatures? Never;* but till He created the world, He was, so to speak, bare and unadorned, and unknown, but then, by making confession and beauty (Vulg.) that is, beautiful and graceful things, whereby He could be known and praised, He clad Himself therewith. (C.) And He became yet better known, yet more truly magnified, by His Incarnation, even in its very lowliness,* He was glorious in His Resurrection, exceeding glorious in His Ascension, exceeding glorious, because exceeding humbled first, for “Wisdom lifteth up the head of the lowly.”* Now, enthroned in the highest,* He is clothed with the majesty of heaven, with the honour paid Him by adoring Angels; (Ay.) and on earth, in His Church, He is girt about with the confession of repentant sinners, (A.) whom He robes in the beauty of His own righteousness.

2 Thou deckest thyself with light as it were with a garment: and spreadest out the heavens like a curtain.

CHRIST our LORD is revealed in these words as the Great High Priest of His own universe,* clad in the white vesture of perpetual holiness, while the heavens are spread around Him as “the tent for Him to dwell in,”* the Tabernacle whence He pours down His benediction, as they are also the scene of His perpetual intercession for mankind.* In the first literal sense, the verse describes the manner in which GOD, “Whom no man hath seen, or can see: dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto,”* has yet created light as conveying to our minds the best image of Himself, His ineffable radiance and unimaginable purity; (L.) according to that saying, “Light is the shadow of GOD;” whence some imagine that in this place the shining forms of the Angels, encompassing the throne of GOD, and deriving all their glory from vision of Him, are intended; or, as others will have it, the heavens themselves, studded with constellations as though with jewels,* are the garment of the Most High. (D. C.) Others prefer, however, to read the words in the sense of the Apostle’s saying,* “GOD is light, and in Him is no darkness at all,”* and to understand here the uncreated and vital glory of His essence.* The pure and stainless Manhood which the LORD took of His Virgin Mother, whereby He became known and visible to mortals, was likewise a garment of light, by reason of its holiness and the revelation it made; (L.) and its true beauty was disclosed for a little to the three Apostles in the vision of the Transfiguration; while a like glory, by Divine favour,* encompassed the mystic woman of the Apocalypse (whether we take her as the Blessed Mary or as the personified Church), clothed as she is with the sun, borne up on the moon, and diademed with twelve stars. And spreadest out the heavens like a curtain. (A.) How He did this thing, that He might clothe Himself with the Church as a garment of light, the Psalmist would fain set before us in certain typical mysteries; how the Church was made to be light, without spot or wrinkle, but white and shining in the raiment of her Spouse; we may observe by noting these words, like a skin (Vulg.), denoting the perfect ease with which GOD deals with His vast creation, far more readily than a shepherd pitches a tent, or a man unrolls a scroll, because His word alone is enough to effect His will; a marked contrast with the toil and pain which men must put forth in any trifling enlargement of their fixed dwellings or their roofs. That skin which He has stretched forth for us, is the great scroll of Holy Scripture, for as the parchment skin on which we write is taken from the bodies of dead animals, so the Bible was set forth by GOD for man after he fell by sin into the power of death. Out of that skin of death the heaven of Scripture was made, and while the living Prophets and Apostles were, for the most part, known to but few, and restricted within narrow limits, they, being dead, yet speak, and are now far more widely known and familiar, for while they yet lived, the skin was not stretched out, the heaven was not yet extended.

And whereas it was the valiant martyrdom of the Apostles and early Saints which spread their teaching far and wide in that Gentile world out into which the Jews drove them; (Ay.) now, on the other hand, there is little progress made in the conversion of heathen nations, because preachers and missionaries have no love for martyrdom, and do not care to peril their lives for the Gospel; wherefore the LORD complains of them by His Prophet: “There is none to stretch forth My tent any more, and to set up My curtains, for the pastors have become brutish, and have not sought the LORD.”* The heavens are spread out like a parchment also,* that they may be a great roll wherein the countless names of CHRIST’S Saints can be written, they are spread out as the curtains of a tent, to be the tabernacle wherein those Saints shall dwell; the new heavens, that is, which shall take the place of that former “heaven, departed as a scroll when it is rolled together.”* The Church Militant here in earth,* a fairer heaven than the visible sky,* enlightened by the Sun of wisdom and the moon of knowledge, studded with the starry examples of the Saints, is spread out like a tabernacle as a shelter and refuge for all who need it, as a shrine wherein perpetual worship is offered to the LORD. And it is most rightly said to be stretched out, (C.) for whereas only the righteous might seem to have any claim to it, yet GOD’S mercy has extended it so as to embrace the publican, the harlot, and the sinner, whom He thus shelters in the dwelling of the Bride, in token of His folding them Himself in the all-embracing love of the everlasting arms. And as each holy soul is His heaven too,* He stretches it out by enlarging its charity, and that in such self-denial and mortification as is typified by the skin, implying, as we saw before, the idea of death.

3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: and maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind.

The Hebrew is more properly upper chambers, (as LXX. ὑπερῷα) and the literal notion is that the dark and thick rain-clouds are, as it were, the foundations of GOD’S heavenly dwelling, while the bright ethereal clouds, much higher in the atmosphere,* are the upper chambers resting upon them. It is to be noted that the Latin word expressive of this same idea, cœnaculum, is used by Ennius and Plautus in the sense of the dwelling-place of the Gods in heaven. The ancient commentators, however, almost universally understand the phrase to denote a stratum of water superimposed, as a roof, above the visible sky, in fact, as “the waters above the firmament”* of the Book of Genesis, and enter at length into physical theories which are more ingenious than tenable or instructive, though closely adhering to the Vulgate, rendering here Who coverest the upper parts thereof with water,* which does not differ materially from the Chaldee paraphrase. The mystical sense of the true meaning is, nevertheless, recognized by Hesychius, (Cd.) who refers the verse to the Sacrament of Baptism, the foundation of that spiritual life which rises far into the heights of heaven; albeit he seems to think, like a Latin commentator,* that the idea presented is the immersion and covering over of the body of the neophyte with the waters of the baptistery. (A.) The Latins explain the upper parts of the heaven of Scripture to be charity, as the chief of graces, and this,* they say, is roofed over by the HOLY SPIRIT, typified by the waters;* while another view is, that we may here understand the surface letter of Holy Writ, covered over with deep mystical meanings.* And a Saint reminds us how an upper chamber was the scene of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, as also of the descent of the Paraclete in fiery tongues,* in type of our co-operation with GOD, as He comes down to meet us, who have ascended a little way to meet Him. And though he follows the notion of the waters covering the chamber, he might better have referred to the common phrase of ascending from the laver of baptism,” so often met in early Christian writings.

And maketh the clouds His chariot. The notion here presented is that of the noise of peals of thunder, resembling the roll of heavy wheels, while the swift movement of the lighter clouds through the air suggests the rapid pace of horses. Thus Horace:

Namque Diespiter

Igni corusco nubila dividens

Plerumque,* per purum sonantes

Egit equos, celeremque currum.

For the Lord of skies,

Though wont to cleave the clouds with vivid flame,

Through the clear heavens drove his echoing steeds,

And chariot fleet.

In such a chariot as this the LORD came to battle against the Egyptians,* in such a one He descended to give the Law on Sinai,* and when He went up, forty days after Easter, from Olivet in the presence of the Apostles, “a cloud received Him out of their sight.”* He is still borne into all regions of the world, (A.) into the hearts of countless disciples, by His true preachers, clouds which are high above the level of earth, which pour down the refreshing rain of doctrine, which are borne along by the mighty rushing wind of the HOLY GHOST,* which flash and blaze with the light of holiness and the power of miracles.* And walkest upon the wings of the wind. This is expounded by the Chaldee paraphrast into “clouds swift as the wings of an eagle.” (A.) And the notion is accepted by most of the Fathers, (C.) who see here simply a type of the rapidity of GOD’S operations, though they add a mystical sense also, taking the winds or spirits to mean righteous souls, on which GOD treads as His path, when they put themselves under His feet in loving subjection. But we may very well take the words in close connection with the immediately preceding clause,* and interpret them as the corresponding passage of Ps. 18:10, of the swiftness with which the preaching of the Gospel was communicated to the world from its starting-point at Jerusalem.

4 He maketh his angels spirits: and his ministers a flaming fire.

If it were not for the gloss upon this verse in the Epistle to the Hebrews (and for the plural predicate in the second clause following a subject in the singular) its most obvious literal sense would be,* He maketh the winds His messengers,* and the flaming fire His ministers,* as when He used a wind to dry the Red Sea before Israel,* and when He sent fire on the cities of the plain.* But the construction as given above is that of the New Testament citation,* which may be explained in two ways; first, that GOD gives His angelic messengers the swiftness of the winds, and the mighty force of burning flame, as we read of the horses and chariots of fire which caught away Elijah, and compassed Elisha in Dothan;* not that their faculties are limited to this extent, but because these are the most striking similes at hand. (A.) The other view is nearer to the grammatical construction,* and is that He maketh His spirits messengers to bear His will to men, and especially chooses out those who are kindled and glowing with the fervour of heavenly love. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation?”*

And is there care in heaven? And is there love

In heavenly spirits to these creatures base,*

That may compassion of their evils move?

There is:—else much more wretched were the case

Of men than beasts: But O! th’ exceeding grace

Of Highest GOD that loves His creatures so,

And all His workes with mercy doth embrace,

That blessed Angels He sends to and fro,

To serve to wicked man, to serve His wicked foe!

How oft do they their silver bowers leave,

To come to succour us that succour want!

How oft do they with golden pinions cleave

The flitting skyes, like flying pursuivant,

Against fowle feendes to ayd us militant!

They for us fight, they watch and dewly ward,

And their bright squadrons round about us plant;

And all for love, and nothing for reward:

O why should heavenly GOD to men have such regard?

It should be known,” observes S. Gregory, “that the word Angel is a title of office, not a description of nature. For those holy spirits of the heavenly country are always spirits, but they cannot always be styled Angels, for they are Angels only when some message is brought by them.”* And S. Jerome will help us to the reason why fire is named in this connection: “Angels are sent for various ministries, and especially to those who need purification, and because of former sins,* deserve to be purged in some degree by chastisements.” The rushing wind and fiery tongues of Pentecost justify us in applying this verse also to the Divine Commission of preachers of the Word, (L.) sent to sweep away the clouds of heathen darkness,* and to kindle and enlighten souls with the Gospel, that fire which their Master came to send on the earth.

5 He laid the foundations of the earth: that it never should move at any time.

Rising at once from the thought of the material earth, (Cd.) and that principle of gravity which keeps it in its appointed orbit, (A.) they bid us see here the creation of the Church, or of every holy soul which is the microcosm of the Church, steadfast and unshaken in faith, because of the firmness of the base on which it stands, for “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is JESUS CHRIST.”*

6 Thou coveredst it with the deep like as with a garment: the waters stand in the hills.

7 At thy rebuke they flee: at the voice of thy thunder they are afraid.

8 They go up as high as the hills, and down to the valleys beneath: even unto the place which thou hast appointed for them.

9 Thou hast set them their bounds, which they shall not pass: neither turn again to cover the earth.

This is the description of the gradual emerging of the earth from the shroud of waters which enveloped it at the first: and is in fact but the expansion of that one verse,* “And GOD said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry ground appear: and it was so.”* The waters are represented as fleeing hither and thither at the voice of the LORD, and either rising in waves as high as mountains and then sinking into abysses like the valleys,* (according to the version above and the Chaldee paraphrase) or else, by their gradual subsidence, permitting the mountains to rise and the valleys to sink into their appointed stations, (which is the sense of the LXX. reading, the A. V. margin,* and that of S. Jerome,) and then assuming their own permanent place, namely, the sea and springs, into which they are gathered. Their bounds are explained for us in another passage of Holy Writ, “Will ye not tremble at My presence, which have placed the sand for a bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it?”* “And I said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.”* It is not uninteresting to compare Ovid’s description of the harmonizing of chaos, far inferior as it is, merely as a piece of poetry, to this noble Psalm, and those who please may institute further comparison with the seventh book of Paradise Lost.

Circumfluus humor

Ultima possedit, solidumque coërcuit orbem.*

Sic ubi dispositam, quisquis fuit ille deorum,

Congeriem secuit, sectamque in membra redegit.

Principio terram, ne non æqualis ab omni

Parte foret, magni speciem glomeravit in orbis.

Tum freta diffudit, rapidisque tumescere ventis

Jussit, et ambitæ circumdare littora terra.

Addidit et fontes, et stagna immensa lacusque;

Fluminaque obliquis cinxit declivia ripis:

Quæ, diversa locis, partim sorbentur ab ipsa,

In mare perveniunt partim, campoque recepta

Liberioris aquæ, pro ripis littora pulsant.

Jussit et extendi campos, subsidere valles,

Fronde tegi silvas, lapidosos surgere montes.

Moisture, flowing round,

Seized the last place, and held the strong world bound.

Some God then clave the huge mass thus prepared,

And, after cleaving, into sections shared.

First, that the earth might on all sides appear

Equal in bulk, he shaped it a great sphere:

Then poured the billows, bade them swell when fanned

With gales, and gird the shores of compassed land.

Gave also springs, meres, broads full widely spread,

Hemmed the steep rivers in their winding bed,

(Which, varying in each region, are imbibed

In part by earth, while part, less circumscribed,

To ocean’s freer plain of waters reach,

And banked no longer, dash against the beach.)

And bade the valleys sink, the plains extend,

The woods be green, the craggy mounts ascend.

The mystical interpretation given to the verses, (C.) is the gradual arising of the Church Catholic out of the wild waves of heathen ignorance and darkness, which stood at first on the hills,* that is, oppressing and slaying GOD’S chief Saints, but then fleeing before the voice of the Sons of Thunder,* the Apostles of the LORD, and allowing the mountain heights of saintly contemplation, the lowly valleys of devout humility, to be plainly seen; while these waters of heathenism, though not altogether dried up, shall never again be suffered to sweep over the whole earth, whatever partial floods and deluges may waste local Churches, but have as their final bound the Second Coming of CHRIST, when there shall be “no more sea.”*

10 He sendeth the springs into the rivers: which run among the hills.

11 All beasts of the field drink thereof: and the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 Beside them shall the fowls of the air have their habitation: and sing among the branches.

For the rivers we should rather translate water-courses, the channels of a torrent down the side of a mountain, which is the exact force of the LXX. φάραγξιν.* As the vast expanse of the salt ocean,* referred to in the former verses, teaches us the mighty power of GOD, (L.) so His bounty and tenderness, not only to man, but to the lower animals, are set before us now in His provision of the sweet waters whence beasts and birds slake their thirst. The mystical interpretation is that from CHRIST, Who is the Rock, the streams of Gospel doctrine flow down to the valley in the channels which He has grooved in His great mountains,* the Apostles (those twelve wells of Elim,) (Ay.) and other eloquent preachers of the Word, so that men,* mere beasts of the field in comparison with the immortal Angels,* draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation, because “when He was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.”* Which run among the hills. The Vulgate, not dissimilarly, reads, The waters shall pass through in the midst of the mountains, that is, as it is explained, Christian teaching will flow forth amongst all nations from amidst the harmonious concord of the prelates and rulers of the Church, till not only the tame and domesticated beasts of the field,* that is, the partially instructed Jews and the more civilized Gentile races, but also the wild asses, the untaught and savage heathen, shall alike drink of those cool streams, while the birds, the Angels and those holy souls winging on high in prayer and contemplation, shall sing the praises of GOD among the branches of that Tree of Life which grows by the banks of the “pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of GOD and of the Lamb,”* for “the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”*

Quyte through the streetes,* with silver sound,

The Flood of Life doth flow;

Upon whose bankes, on everie syde,

The Wood of Life doth growe.

There trees for evermore beare fruite,

And evermore do springe;

There evermore the Angels sit,

And evermore doe singe.

For among the branches, (A.) however, the LXX. and Vulgate read, from the midst of the rocks, which they variously explain as from the firm testimonies of Scripture,* from the fellowship of the Apostles,* or from the surroundings of a hard and austere life, which causes no sorrow, but singing and gladness to the Saints of the LORD.

13 He watereth the hills from above: the earth is filled with the fruit of thy works.

As the hills are the source of the chief rivers which irrigate the earth, (L.) so they (too lofty for those rivers to reach) are in turn watered themselves from GOD’S chambers (A. V.) of the clouds, which pour down rain impartially on all those surfaces which are not already moistened by fountains, streams, and lakes, so that the whole earth, not merely a few isolated tracts, is satisfied (Vulg. A. V.) with the fruit of GOD’S works in that it produces the abundant harvests of which the succeeding verses speak. The mystical sense is explained by S. Augustine of the direct and immediate teaching of the Apostles by CHRIST Himself, (A.) as for example in the vision of the sheet full of unclean beasts shown to S. Peter, and the conversion of S. Paul on his road to Damascus, so that the torrents of Gospel teaching flowed down upon the plains below through the water-courses of these great hills, and watered the whole earth with the knowledge of the LORD, producing a great harvest of converted sinners. And, (C.) remembering that the same word upper chambers stands here as in the third verse,* we may well bear in mind that assembly of the disciples in Jerusalem, when the fiery rain of the HOLY GHOST came down upon them, and was communicated to the nations far and wide by the sermon of S. Peter and his fellows; when the multitude from many countries were astonished, as each man heard them speak in his own dialect, and many a one amongst them brought forth fruits meet for repentance, whereof the Prophet saith, “this is all the fruit to take away his sin.”*

14a (14) He bringeth forth grass for the cattle: and green herb for the service of men.

15 That he may bring food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man: and oil to make him a cheerful countenance, and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

The gradual ripening of the crops, “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear,”* is here set before us, with the distinction of the kinds of herbage designed for the use of animals alone from those intended for the benefit of man. (A.) The favourite exposition of the former verse is that it denotes the spirit of liberality which the rain of Gospel grace causes to spring up in the hearts of the hearers of the Word, so as to induce them to provide abundantly and cheerfully for the temporal needs of their teachers. “It is true, I see, and acknowledge,” observes S. Chrysostom,* “the fact is certain, the earth does bring forth grass for cattle and green herb for the service of men. But I see other cattle of the LORD, which are meant when it is said, ‘Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.* Doth GOD take care for oxen? Or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written.’ How then does the earth bring forth grass for the cattle? Because ‘the LORD hath ordained that they which preach the Gospel shall live of the Gospel.’ He sent forth preachers and said unto them, ‘Eat such things as are set before you, for the labourer is worthy of his hire.’* And when He said, Eat such things as are set before you, lest they should object, ‘We shall be despised at the tables of strangers, if we are in want; wouldst Thou have us so intrusive?’ No, saith He, it is not a gift of theirs, it is your hire. Hire for what? What do they give, what do they receive? They give spiritual things, they receive carnal things; they give gold, they receive grass. For ‘all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.’* All thy temporal superfluity and abundance is grass for the cattle. Hear for what cattle. ‘If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?’ ”* In like manner the Saint explains herb for the service of men, as signifying the same thing, the temporal offerings made to those who have become the servants of men by devoting themselves to the ministry of the Gospel. (C.) Another view is that the whole verse has to do, not with paying the hire of labourers, but with bestowing alms on the needy; of whom there are two classes, the noisy, persistent and shameless mendicants, compared to the cattle, and the self-respecting, patient, suffering poor, who have a right to the nobler title of men. And they cite a saying of an unknown author against indiscriminate almsgiving, which has a Talmudic ring in it: “Let thine alms sweat in thy hand, till thou find a righteous man on whom to bestow it.” So the Wise Man saith, “Give to the godly man, and help not the sinners. Do well unto him that is lowly, but give not to the ungodly; hold back thy bread, and give it not unto him, lest he overmaster thee thereby.”* A happier exposition, however, than either of the above,* is that which sees in these verses the gradual unfolding of doctrine, the ascent in spiritual instruction, from the grass for the cattle, that is, the plainest and simplest teaching for the perfectly unlearned, and the green herb for the service of men, the somewhat more advanced, but still primary catechizing of new converts; to the richer and more solid gifts of corn, and wine, and oil, which are held back for those who are able to receive them. But in each and all,* in grass and herb, in corn and wine alike, in the simplest rudiments, and in the profoundest speculations, the food of the soul is one and the same JESUS CHRIST,* growing up like a tender plant out of the pure soil of His virgin Mother, cut down and dried up like grass in the burning heat of the Passion, Himself that Bread which came down from Heaven, (Ay.) and yet was brought out of the earth, once in the Nativity, and again in the Resurrection, to be the spiritual food of man, as well in devout thought as in that Blessed Sacrament of His love,* wherein He is indeed the Wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and the Bread to strengthen man’s heart.

O Tree of Life! O Vine of GOD! Thou art amid us now;*

The Bread we break, the Wine we bless, are they not very Thou?

Veiled in His creatures comes our GOD; He comes Who dwells above,

The altogether lovely, and the Fount and Life of Love.

O come, ye heavy laden, and henceforth restful be;

O come, your weary weight of sin long since was laid on Me”—

This is Thy call, O Merciful; to all who will is given

To eat supernal Bread and drink the mystic Wine of heaven.

For how great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty! corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids.”*

And oil to make him a cheerful countenance. (B.) Our FATHER does not confine His bounty to giving us His SON, to be our food, our joy, and our strength, but He bestows upon us also the blessed Unction of His HOLY SPIRIT, Whom He sent upon the Apostles, and through them, on all redeemed mankind. There is, however, a certain ambiguity in the construction of the Hebrew,* which may be turned (as it is nearly by LXX., Vulgate, and S. Jerome,) in order to make his face cheerful [as though] with oil, taking this as a result produced by the wine, and not that oil is a separate gift, which is, however, the better way. Hence, some of the commentators explain this “oil of gladness”* to be grace, wherewith the LORD JESUS is altogether anointed, (A.) whence He is named CHRIST, and He anoints His preachers and messengers therewith, that they may give the Gospel freely, and not for sale;* while others take it of the Divine mercy which brings man out of his grief into gladness by the remission of sins, (R.) and confers upon him that regal chrism which makes him a king and priest to GOD.* Further, (C.) we are reminded that oil enters literally into the rites of four sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, (P.) and Unction of the Sick; while mystically the oil of mercy belongs to penance, and that of love to matrimony. One commentator,* seeming to bear in mind that saying of Pliny, “There are two liquors most grateful to men’s bodies, wine within, oil without,”* takes the oil here to mean the outward and visible graces and gifts of the SPIRIT, particularly the power of working miracles, which made the face of the Apostles to shine before men, giving them renown and lustre, while the wine signifies the inner working of the same SPIRIT, in heavenly operation upon the soul. If,* however, we do take the oil as a qualification of the wine, and not as an independent matter, we may fitly couple it with the last clause of the verse, bread to strengthen man’s heart, and take the whole passage of the Holy Eucharist: “For I feel that two things are most especially necessary to me in this life,* without which this miserable life will be unbearable to me: Prisoned in the dungeon of this body, I acknowledge that I need two things, to wit, food and light. Therefore Thou hast given me, a sick man, Thy Body for the refreshment of my soul and body, and hast made ‘Thy word a lantern unto my feet.’* Without these two I cannot live well; for the Word of GOD is the light of my soul, and Thy Sacrament is the Bread of Life.”* And one result of that blessed communion is the spirit of martyrdom,* the desire of sharing the Passion of CHRIST, a sweet and intoxicating wine pressed out for us from the Vine of the Cross, a food which strengthens man’s heart to bear all for JESUS.

16 The trees of the LORD also are full of sap: even the cedars of Libanus which he hath planted;

17 Wherein the birds make their nests: and the fir-trees are a dwelling for the stork.

The trees of the Lord are the indigenous ones, (L.) not planted by the hand of man, nor tended by human culture. The words of sap are not in the Hebrew,* and though the meaning does,* no doubt, ultimately, come to that, yet the immediate sense rather appears to be with rain, which continues the train of thought begun in verse 13. And the intention is to impress further the idea of the sweep and completeness of GOD’S providential care, not only in the creation, but in the maintenance, of the great forest trees, needing no hand but His to tend them. The usual reading of the LXX. here, followed by the Vulgate, is trees of the plain, (A.) implying their indigenous and wild condition, as distinguished from trees of an orchard or park. These trees of the Lord are, they tell us, the Gentile nations, heretofore uncultured and ignorant, but now filled not only with the refreshing showers of heaven, but with the corn and wine, and oil of GOD.* The cedars of Libanus come later in order, because He chose the base things of the world first, and filled the lowly and hungry with good things, before turning to the rich and mighty. There are cedars of Libanus in the world which never are so filled, those haughty and ungodly sinners, lying outside the Land of promise, of whom it is written, “The LORD breaketh the cedars of Libanus;”* but these, which are filled, are such only as He hath planted, for “every plant which My heavenly FATHER hath not planted, shall be rooted up.”* Note also that Libanus, meaning white, may be taken in two ways, of the shining pomp and splendour of worldly dignity, and of the purity of soul, the true whiteness of sanctification, conferred by the cleansing waters of heaven; so that here we may, in the latter sense, understand the more eminent Saints as intended.

Wherein the birds make their nests. The word עִפֳּרִים, meaning any small birds, (A.) is here translated by LXX. (C.) and Vulgate as sparrows, and the explanation given is that spiritual persons, and especially members of Religious Orders, are supported by the bounty of wealthy and powerful persons, from whose superfluous riches they are fed, in some corners of whose domains they build their convents, aptly called nests,* because they who erect them are conscious of being mere sojourners, and of having here no continuing city. The insignificance, gregariousness, and homely brown aspect of the sparrow, have made it a not inapt emblem of the monastic societies, and in fact the French name for the bird is moineau, (C.) “little monk.” Happy is that tree, observes Cassiodorus, (himself senator, consul, prime minister, who left all to become a simple monk,) where such a nest is built, for any that contains such an institution may know that it has been planted by GOD.

And the fir-trees are a dwelling-place for the stork. This, which is the true meaning of the last clause, is so unlike the LXX. and Vulgate reading, that the commentators are of no real assistance in arriving at the mystical sense. This appears to be that the Saints of secular and domestic life are here signified. The fir-tree,* from its utility in building and joinery, and from its yielding pitch for binding planks together, so as to exclude wind and damp, serves as a type of settled habitation, a notion brought out by the word house (A. V., LXX., Vulg.,) here contrasting with the nests of the earlier clause, and confirmed by the stork’s habit of returning year after year to the same spot.* The bird itself (called by the Greeks, “most pious of winged creatures,”)1 whose Hebrew name חֲסִירָה is derived from a root חָסַד, “to be kind,” is noted for its tenderness to its young, an affection popularly said to be reciprocated, so that the whole picture adequately corresponds to the suggested meaning. But the LXX. and Vulgate read, The house of the heron (ἐρωδιοῦ, herodii) is their leader, (L.) meaning that the larger size of that bird, and the alleged loftiness of its nest, give it a kind of kingship amongst the feathered tribes. The commentators, not being very clear as to the nature of the herodius, tell us that it is a bird of prey, of great size and strength, more than a match for the eagle, and thus a type of violent and daring sinners. But if these sinners will be converted,* and take refuge with CHRIST, then He Who is the Leader of the birds, of all spiritual and devout souls, becomes the house and shelter of the sinners too, and enables them to overcome the evil spirit whom the eagle typifies. Or again, reading the sentence conversely, they tell us that the bold sinner himself, who has once been the house of the herodius, on being converted, becomes the leader of spiritual persons, and eminent over them in capacity for good now as for evil previously, as instanced in S. Paul and S. Augustine.

18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats: and so are the stony rocks for the conies.

That is, the loftier mysteries of devout contemplation and the more difficult parts of Scripture form the favourite theme of meditation for soaring hearts, inasmuch as the literal meaning of the Hebrew name of the ibex or wild goat is climber. “Let not these animals seem vile to thee,* thou seest that the flock feeds in lofty places, to wit, on a mount. Therefore, where are precipices for others, there is no peril for the goats; there is the food of this flock, there their provender is sweeter, their pasture choicer. They are seen by their herdsmen, hanging from the wooded cliff, where can be no attacks by wolves, where the fruitful trees minister abundant produce.”*

The conies. These are included in the Proverbs amongst the “four things which be little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise,”* for though they “are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks.” The coney or hyrax is a small animal externally much resembling a rabbit or a marmot, though of a totally different species, and is noted for its extreme wariness, and the rapidity with which it hurries to the shelter of a cleft or cavern on the first alarm. It is thus a fit type of all timid souls,* unable for the bold climbing of stronger natures,* but finding a refuge not less sure than the highest hills in devout and lowly reliance on the Wounds and Passion of CHRIST,* the Rock of Ages cleft for their salvation. For wild goats and coneys, the LXX. and Vulgate read stags and hedgehogs, (A.) but there is no important difference introduced thereby into the exposition, save that a few of the commentators take the latter word to denote men still rough with small daily sins, who seek refuge and purification within the Church of CHRIST. And observe, (P.) that in these two verses we have three refuges set before us: the Tree of the Cross, the mount of prayer, the rocks of a steadfast faith in CHRIST.

19 He appointed the moon for certain seasons: and the sun knoweth his going down.

One meaning of the first clause is more fully set forth in another place: “He made the moon also to serve in her season for a declaration of times, and a sign of the world;* from the moon is the sign of feasts.”* But it may be extended to a wider significance, and embrace all the lunar phases, and the seasons of the year. S. Chrysostom understands by the moon here, drawing its light from the unseen sun, the Synagogue,* appointed only for the certain seasons of the Law and Prophets, but not knowing the mystery of the Passion, for only the Sun of Righteousness Himself knew of His coming Crucifixion, His awful setting in blood: saying, “FATHER, the hour is come; glorify Thy SON,* that Thy SON also may glorify Thee.”* The more usual exposition of the moon here is, however, as the Christian Church, (A.) waxing and waning, but never extinguished, but sometimes decrescent by reason of apostasy and coldness, (L.) sometimes shining at the full in the victories of the Martyrs. Only the sun is said to know, for the moon depends on him, and has no independent light of her own, and therefore must draw her knowledge from him, as the Church derives all her wisdom from CHRIST. And one of the things He knows, which we do not, is why He sets at times in the hearts of His people,* leaving them in the darkness of their sins or of their doubt and sorrow; wherefore it follows:

20 Thou makest darkness that it may be night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do move.

It was darkness, that of sorrow, in the hearts of the Apostles at the time of the LORD’S Passion,* when the wild rage of the populace, truly beasts of the forest, was wreaked on Him. It was darkness, that of sin, then too, in the hearts of the Jews, when the evil spirits, believing themselves victorious, assumed the mastery over them; and a little later, when the fierce heathen of Rome moved their camps and forces against the guilty city for its total overthrow.* Of these several glooms that darkness which lasted from the sixth to the ninth hour at the Crucifixion was a type; and so,* when the like overshadows our hearts, then evil thoughts and passions, the suggestions of our ghostly enemies, move and pass through (Vulg.) our minds;* while in the whole body of the Church,* the darkness and ignorance of incompetent and slothful pastors enables heretics to devour the LORD’S flock, as it is then “in darkness and the shadow of death.”*

21 The lions roaring after their prey: do seek their meat from GOD.

This the evil spirits did at the time of the Passion,* when they saw treason and cowardice invade the very college of the Apostles; when Judas betrayed, Peter denied, and the others fled. Wherefore the LORD saith, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired you, that he may sift you as wheat.”* They seek their meat from God, because, (A.) on the one hand, as we read in the story of holy Job, they can tempt no man unless GOD grant them permission; and again, their object is to draw sinners from GOD and to themselves.* Peter was dragged out of those very jaws: Judas was swallowed up. And the words hold good of rapacious kings and governments seizing on the property of the Church and of religious houses,* robbing from God, for “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”*

22 The sun ariseth, and they get them away together: and lay them down in their dens.

When the LORD arose again in the glory of His Resurrection,* the evil spirits and their tools, the chief Priests and Pharisees, (A.) were confounded and put to rout; when the Truth is boldly preached in all its clearness after a season of neglect and darkness, or of persecution, the enemies of the Gospel, Jews and heretics alike, retire to their lurking-places; when the Day-star arises in our hearts, the evil passions of the soul are lulled to rest, and hidden from the thought. Before the Resurrection,* the evil spirits had greater power in the world than now, and went up and down, seeking whom they might devour; but now their power is restricted, and they are compelled to lurk in dens, and not to range openly about. When the last great arising of the Sun of Righteousness shall take place,* and the LORD shall come in glory to judgment, then His enemies shall lay them down in their dens, in the everlasting prison of the bottomless pit. And because the evil spirits are fettered even now, and cannot work harm at their pleasure, we read,

23 Man goeth forth to his work, and to his labour: until the evening.

Here is the result of sunrise, (Ay.) teaching us the contrast between man and beast. For the wild beasts hide in the daytime, to avoid capture, but roam about at night for prey, while man, endowed with reason, rests in the night and toils in the day. Every one on whom CHRIST shines is prompted to toil for Him, and that till the evening of life, to the coming on of death; and thus the Apostles, and all other great preachers since, have gone forth to the labour of extending the Gospel kingdom, to last through the persecution of Antichrist, and to the very twilight of the world. Until the, evening, for “the night cometh when no man can work,”* but not ceasing until that time, for the LORD hath said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”* The toil may be heavy, and the hours slow, so that man is “as a servant that earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling that looketh for the reward of his work,”* but takes comfort, remembering that

Be the day weary,* or be the day long,

At the last the bell ringeth to evensong.

24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works: in wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches.

He does not undertake to answer his own question, (A.) How manifold? for he confesses GOD’S works to be greater than his own power of expression; whether these works belong to the creation of nature or to that of grace.* And observe how the concurrent operation of the Blessed Trinity is set forth: O Lord, how manifold are Thy works, teaches of the FATHER, (C.) the Source of all things; in Wisdom hast Thou made them all, tells us of the SON, the Eternal WORD, “CHRIST the power of GOD and the Wisdom of GOD,* by Whom were all things made, and without Him was not anything made that was made;”* the earth is full of Thy riches, is spoken of the HOLY GHOST, Who filleth the world. And they explain this last clause diversely of the Church, GOD’S possession (Vulg.) which fills the earth,* as it is made known in every land, or of the gifts of the sacraments, and those of faith, hope, and charity poured out on the world by the Gospel; or again of the special land of Judæa, filled by the Apostolic preaching with saintly disciples, the true riches of the LORD.

25 So is the great and wide sea also: wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.

So is. These words are not in the Hebrew, which is better translated Yonder is the great and wide sea, the expression of a writer living at some distance from the coast.* In this recurrence to the ocean, it is no longer mentioned, as in the sixth verse, merely as a shroud and pall which hid the earth, but as itself a field of creation, teeming with living things, and as wonderful as the earth and sky. Mystically, the great sea is the life of the present world, (L.) full of creeping things, temptations and perils,* both small and great, (Ay.) through which man must pass before he can reach the peaceful shores of his Country; lured as he is on his voyage by the siren voices of desire, pride, and avarice. The literal Hebrew of the epithet wide is given by LXX. and Vulgate, wide with hands, that is, stretching out its arms, as it were, to east and west; (R.) but the commentators take it as meaning wide for hands, that is,* affording ample employment to the Saints in the conversion of the heathen.

26 There go the ships, and there is that Leviathan: whom thou hast made to take his pastime therein.

These ships are the preachers which carry CHRIST into the hearts of men,* of the local Churches which pass over the sea amidst storms and tempests, piloted by CHRIST with the wood of the Cross. And observe, that as the world is the sea, and temptations and persecutions the storms, so if the Church be the ship, the Cross is the mast, faith the sail, good works her yards, the Apostles and doctors her crew, the HOLY GHOST the favourable wind, the harbour the end of the world, (L.) and the country reached everlasting life. This is that vessel of which we read, “And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him,”* of which it is true that “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.”* Every soul that has set out on the voyage for the Happy Isles is like a ship too,* whereof some make shipwreck of the faith, and never reach the haven, while others, more blessed in their undertaking,* come safe to land. And in saying there go the ships, we are taught that the way to heaven must needs be over the waters of Baptism. Leviathan, translated dragon by LXX. and Vulgate, cannot here mean, as it elsewhere does, the fresh-water crocodile, but stands for any sea monster,* taking its pastime, by sporting and playing freely in the waters. But the ambiguity of the Hebrew, reproduced by the Vulgate,* makes another reading possible, whom Thou hast made to sport with him, a sense borne out by the similar language, “Wilt thou play with him [leviathan] as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?”* And then the notion will be of the perfect ease with which GOD deals with the vast bulk of the monster as a mere toy in His hands.* There is a wild Jewish tradition that the male leviathan is for three hours daily the plaything of GOD, while the female, slain to avert the multiplication of such huge creatures, is salted down for the food of Israel in the days of Messiah. (Ay.) A literalist view, (D. C.) taken by some of the mediæval commentators,* albeit with some incredible adjuncts, sees here denoted the ease with which leviathan, despite his size and strength, is captured and killed by means of human skill and ingenuity pitted against brute force.

Mystically, they take it to mean the devil,* who, in despite of his power and craft, is made a mock of by GOD, by men, and by Angels; by GOD, when suffered to tempt men that they may advance in holiness; by men, whom he often finds stronger, like Job, the more he strives to weaken them; by Angels, whom he knows to be fully aware of all the circumstances of his fall. The LXX. rendering of Job 40:19, speaking of Behemoth, is “This is the beginning of the creation of the LORD, made to be sported with by the Angels;” whence S. Augustine, (A.) illustrating the present Psalm, remarks, “Wouldst thou mock the dragon? Be an Angel of GOD. But thou art not yet an Angel of GOD. Until thou be such, if thou do but hold the course towards it, there are Angels to mock the dragon, lest he should hurt thee. For the Angels of heaven are set over the powers of the air.” And thus, having lost his great power, he is made for a mock, so that any one who has CHRIST for his Head, can trample on the dragon, and bruise the head thereof, by refusing to yield to his suggestions, (P.) or to swerve from the right way. And so the Master Himself made a mock of the sea monster, luring him with the bait of Manhood which had the hook of Deity,* and does so still by daily rescuing sinners from his grasp through means of repentance.

27 These wait all upon thee: that thou mayest give them meat in due season.

28 When thou givest it them they gather it: and when thou openest thy hand they are filled with good.

The Psalmist once again turns to the contemplation of GOD’S continual providence and care for His creation, in that He does not simply make it, and having laid down certain fixed laws for its guidance,* withdraw Himself from all interference and supervision, but is its active and incessant ruler, so that all vital things live by His bounty, and would die were He to close His hand and turn His face away. All faithful souls wait upon GOD, (L.) that He may give them CHRIST’S Body and Blood to be their food, in the due season of love and penitence; and all persecutors, all evil spirits, (A.) and even the great dragon himself, must wait GOD’S pleasure before they can tempt or devour any man. When temptation comes, or when destruction comes, it is only in due season, (C.) at the time when Divine probation or Divine displeasure wills it. They then who would fain not be the dragon’s food, have to see that they be not earthy in their conversation, for it is written of the serpent, “Upon thy belly shalt thou go,* and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life;”* so that they whose conversation is in heaven are far above out of his reach, and are not fed upon, but feeders, for “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of GOD.”* And man obtains this when GOD discloses Himself by opening His Hand; that is, (A.) revealing His Only-Begotten SON, by Whom, and not by any efforts of our own, we are filled with good; with the graces of faith, hope, and charity, with the gifts of the Sacraments and of the SPIRIT in this life, and satiated with everlasting blessedness in the world to come; for “every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the FATHER of lights.”*

29 When thou hidest thy face they are troubled: when thou takest away their breath they die, and are turned again to their dust.

GOD turns away His face sometimes, (C.) lest men should ascribe to their own merit or holiness that good wherewith they are filled, and to teach them that His open hand is its efficient cause, so that they are troubled, till they pray to see once more the light of His countenance. And as He is the bestower of life, so He also takes it away, and as the withdrawal of His Spirit from any man means spiritual death, (for we read, “The Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him,”*) so a man thus punished is turned again to the dust, and becomes the prey of the creeping serpent. But the LORD also, (A.) in His mercy, after He has troubled sinners, takes away from them the spirit of pride and rebellion, so that they die to their sins, and make their confession to GOD in the dust of humility and repentance.

30 When thou lettest thy breath go forth they shall be made: and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

The force of the former clause here is seen better in the A. V. translation, nearly identical with LXX. and Vulgate. Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit,* they are created. That is, in the literal sense, whereas GOD destroys one generation of animated beings, reducing them to dust, He exercises His creative energy by calling a fresh generation into being, and thus replenishes the earth with creatures of every species. It is the same quickening and vivifying influence of which we read in the beginning of the Mosaic record, “The SPIRIT of GOD moved upon the face of the waters.”* And what He does in this wise by secondary causes, (Ay.) He is able to do at once by primary and immediate operation, so that the verse may be well understood of the general Resurrection, when the LORD GOD will say, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”* And besides this sense, there is the further one of the continual mission of the HOLY GHOST in the Church for the conversion of sinners, and their renewal by the new birth of Baptism, the new cleansing of repentance, “For we are His workmanship, created in CHRIST JESUS unto good works,”* wherefore, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man which after GOD is created in righteousness and true holiness.”* And it is rightly said the face of the earth, because the teaching of the Apostles, converting the Gentiles to the truth, has spread everywhere, “their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words into the ends of the world.”*

31 The glorious Majesty of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.

This ought rather to be taken, as by LXX. and Vulgate, as a prayer: Let the glory of the Lord be for ever.* The Psalmist begins with the praise of GOD’S glory and ends with prayer for its everlasting continuance.* His first petition is also the first in the Our FATHER.* Because the LORD renews the face of the earth, and creates afresh living creatures therein, because He maketh all things new, and will bring forth a new heaven and a new earth when the old have passed away, therefore His glory shall endure for ever. Not that it would cease to be, in its essence and eternity, were He alone in the universe, but that it can be manifested only while there is a creation to disclose, to serve, and to worship Him. And it is then said, The Lord shall rejoice in His works,* because He delights in the life, not in the death of His creatures, “for GOD made not death; neither hath He pleasure in the destruction of the living.”* When the new creation is complete, it will be said, as it was once before, “GOD saw every thing that He had made, and behold it was very good.”* But whereas it afterward “repented the LORD, and grieved Him at the heart,”* because of the fall of man, He will have no such sorrow and dishonour in the Resurrection,* for His works of mercy and of justice will be both made perfect, in destroying sin and rewarding holiness, so that the glorious majesty of the Lord shall endure for ever, (L.) as He is worshipped by His ransomed Saints, those works of His grace wherein He rejoices. And the FATHER, Who saved the world by the Incarnation and Passion of His SON, will look well pleased on Him, saying, “Behold Mine elect, in Whom My soul delighteth.”*

32 The earth shall tremble at the look of him: if he do but touch the hills, they shall smoke.

Amongst those works of GOD wherein He delights,* the conversion of sinners holds a high place, and He looks upon them when they are trusting in their own strength, till they tremble, (A.) and even the proud amongst them send up the smoking incense of confession and prayer from the height of their imagination to the footstool of His throne. The immediate reference is to the trembling and darkness on Sinai at the giving of the Law,* and some commentators see therein and here a type and prophecy of the earthquake which shall precede the Judgment, and the fire,* out of which the elect shall be saved, (R.) to which the smoke will be due.

33 I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will praise my GOD while I have my being.

34 And so shall my words please him: my joy shall be in the LORD.

I will sing, denotes our due service of praise and worship during all this mortal life, (A.) as long, too,* as we truly live by the SPIRIT of GOD; I will praise implies action, as the word signifies playing on an instrument, and tells us of the other service of good works, never to cease for the redeemed in this life, nor, perhaps, in that which is to come.

Others, however, comparing that voice of the Prophet, (Ay.) “Tate an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered;” explain the words here as denoting the mournful song of confession of sin. That song may be sung, observes the Carmelite, in bass, in tenor, in alto, as we pass from contrition to confession and thence to mortification. There are four chief faults in singing, remarks the Cardinal of S. Sabina; slurring over the notes,* singing false, being flat, and being in discord; and we may commit all these in confession, by being silent about some of our sins, misrepresenting others, making excuses to palliate them, or not being penitent at heart.

So shall my words please Him. More exactly, (Ay.) with LXX. and Vulgate, be sweet unto Him, for though confession is bitter to man, who offers it, yet it is sweet to GOD Who receives it. But, as a devout writer observes, “all is washed away in confession, the conscience is purified, bitterness is taken away, the waves are driven back, the calm returns, hope revives, and the soul becometh cheerful,”* wherefore is added here: My joy shall be in the Lord, when all pleasure in worldly delights has passed for ever from the soul.

JESU,* Thou joy of loving hearts,

Thou fount of life, Thou light of men,*

From the best bliss that earth imparts,*

We turn unfilled to Thee again.

35 As for sinners, they shall be consumed out of the earth, and the ungodly shall come to an end: praise thou the LORD, O my soul, praise the LORD.

The LXX. and Vulgate read this verse as a prayer, (L.) agreeing therein with the A. V. There is but one jarring note in the harmonious Psalm of creation, it is only man of all living things that can make GOD sad, and draw tears from the eyes of CHRIST.

All true, all faultless,* all in tune,

Creation’s wondrous choir,*

Opened in mystic unison

To last till time expire.

And still it lasts: by day and night,

With one consenting voice,

All hymn Thy glory, LORD, aright,

All worship and rejoice.

Man only mars the sweet accord,

O’erpowering with harsh din

The music of Thy works and word,

Ill matched with grief and sin.

And therefore the Psalmist prays that this discord may be amended; (A.) and that in one of two ways, either by the conversion of sinners, that burnt up with the fire of the HOLY GHOST, they may have no earthliness left remaining in them, but that all their ungodliness may come to end; (D. C.) or, if they harden themselves against the mercy of the LORD, they may be entirely taken away, that they be no longer a stumbling-block in the way of the elect.

Praise the Lord, O my soul. (C.) A dignified ending of the Psalm, as the like beginning of it is dignified, for we should ever be praising Him Who never ceaseth to bestow His bounties upon us. He is Alpha, and our life should begin with His praise:* He is Omega,* and it should close in like manner, for “the soul of blessing shall be made fat” with all the riches of GOD’S house, when He shall have put away evil for evermore.* And therefore, with deep significance, we have here as the final words of the Psalm, and for the first time in the Psalter, the cry of HALLELUJAH, Praise ye the Lord, celebrating His victory over sin, His judgments on the wicked; just as its first occurrence in the New Testament is in the vision of S. John,* “I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the LORD our GOD: for true and righteous are His judgments: for He hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of His servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia.”


Glory be to the FATHER, Who is clothed with majesty and honour; glory be to the SON, the Eternal Wisdom in Whom He hath made all things; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, the Author of the new creation, Who reneweth the face of the earth.

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

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