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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. Thou shalt keep * us, O LORD, Thou shalt preserve us. [Ascension Day: The LORD is in His holy temple, * the LORD’s seat is in heaven. Alleluia. Common of One Martyr: The righteous LORD loveth righteousness, His countenance will behold the thing that is just.]

Parisian. Preserve me, * O LORD, for in Thee have I put my trust.

Mozarabic. The righteous LORD loveth righteousness; His countenance beholds the thing that is just.

1 In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye then to my soul, that she should flee as a bird unto the hill?

Notice first how remarkably the whole Psalm corresponds with the deliverance of Lot from Sodom. (C.) This verse with the Angel’s exhortation, “Escape to the mountains, lest thou be consumed,”* and Lot’s reply, “I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil take me and I die;” and again, The Lord’s seat is in heaven, and upon the ungodly He shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest, with “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire out of heaven:”* and again, His countenance will behold the thing that is just, with “Delivered just Lot.… for that righteous man vexed his righteous soul with their ungodly deeds.”*

But it is rather the voice of our LORD before His Passion.* How say ye then to my soul. “Be it far from Thee, LORD, this shall not happen unto Thee.” Unto the hill. For though for a while, (G.) before His time was fully come, He walked in the hill country near the wilderness, yet as soon as the day of His Passion had arrived, the only hill which He sought, was the hill of Calvary. Or if we take it of ourselves, we indeed, like birds which can only fly by making the sign of the Cross with their wings, must flee to Him Who is the true mountain of His people, and “hide ourselves there for a little moment till the indignation be overpast,”* before we can take to ourselves the wings of a dove and flee unto “GOD’s hill, in the which it pleaseth Him to dwell.”*

[Unto the hill. The hill is CHRIST, and the words may be taken of the enticing words of heretics,* urging men to flee out of the unity of the Church into the sects, alleging that CHRIST is with them. Another sees here the call made by the Jews to Christians, (D. C.) to flee away to the old Law, given on Mount Sinai, GOD’s hill,* and thus return to carnal ceremonies, abandoning the Gospel of grace. Yet again, there are those who flee from the plain of lowly reverence for Holy Writ to the hill of free-thought and human intellect.]

2 For lo, the ungodly bend their bow, and make ready their arrows within the quiver: that they may privily shoot at them which are true of heart.

The plottings of the Chief Priests and Pharisees that they might take JESUS by subtlety and kill Him. They bent their bow, (Ay.) when they hired Judas Iscariot for the betrayal of his Master; they made ready their arrows within the quiver, when they “sought false witnesses against JESUS to put Him to death.”* Them which are true of heart. Not alone the LORD Himself, the only true and righteous, but His Apostles, and the long line of those who should faithfully cleave to Him from that time to this. And as with the Master, so with the servants: witness the calumnies and the revilings that from the time of Joseph’s accusation by his mistress till the present day, have been the lot of GOD’s people.

[The ungodly heretics bend the bow of Holy Scripture by wresting it from its true meaning,* (C.) and make ready the arrows of apt texts and subtle arguments in the quiver of their heart and tongue. Privily, (R.) or, more exactly, with the old versions and margin of A. V.:* in darkness, that is, choosing the hard and dark sayings of the Bible as their ground. And, (D. C.) as a Saint acutely observes,* they defeat their own end by shooting in darkness, because they can neither aim with certainty nor avoid wounding themselves and their friends.]

3 For the foundations will be cast down: and what hath the righteous done?

We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.”* The foundations of all faith and hope will—so said the unbelief of the disciples—be cast down, if the Prince of Life shall die, if the LORD of Glory shall suffer as a malefactor, if the Resurrection shall be committed to the grave.* And what hath the righteous done? “We, indeed, justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this Man hath done nothing amiss.”

[The first clause runs differently in LXX., (C.) Vulgate, Syriac, and Æthiopic.* They have destroyed what Thou hast accomplished. The whole meaning and bent of Scripture, which they utterly pervert, (R.) say nearly all the commentators. They have destroyed Him Who is especially Thy handiwork, (P.) in crucifying Thy SON, observes one of them. And, once more, we may take it of the fall of once flourishing Churches, Persia, Egypt, Libya, and Japan, before the attacks of the infidel.]

4a (4) The LORD is in his holy temple: the LORD’s seat is in heaven.

Either the Eternal FATHER, (L.) Who, however He may seem for a time to forsake the Only-begotten SON, shall in due season highly exalt Him, and give Him the Name which is above every name, raising Him up to the right hand of that very seat in heaven: or the LORD Himself, the LORD that suffered on the Cross in His Manhood, was at that very moment, according to His Godhead, on His throne in heaven:

The Word of GOD proceeding forth,

Yet leaving not the FATHER’s side,

as S. Thomas says. Or we may take it of the virtue derived from this Passion to all those who, having been redeemed by it, (Cd.) are also endeavouring to be conformed to it. The Lord is in His holy temple, when the HOLY GHOST takes up His abode in a pure heart: even as He will be hereafter in that temple which shall be built up in heaven of His faithful people, when He removes them from their work on earth.

[Again,* the Lord is in His holy temple of the Church Militant here on earth, present where two or three are gathered together in His Name, present in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, while His seat is in heaven, where He is throned at the right hand of the FATHER.]

4b (5) His eyes consider the poor: and his eyelids try the children of men.

For thus the eyes of the FATHER considered Him, Who although He was rich, yet became poor: considered Him as the sacrifice and propitiation of the whole world: considered Him, as by that very act of humility winning for Himself, (G.) according to His humanity, the everlasting diadem. His eyelids try the children of men. They take it to mean that those hidden and mysterious counsels, the secret things which belong to the LORD our GOD, of which His servants sometimes catch as it were a glimpse, and then all is dark again, are His appointed trial for our faith, His touchstone whether we attain to the blessedness of those that have not seen and yet have believed.

[His eyes consider the poor,* because He watches unweariedly over them in His love, (P.) and allows no want of theirs to escape Him. His eyelids are sufficient to judge sinners, because His briefest glance sees even the most hidden sins. Again, they take the eyelids,* opening and closing like a book, to denote Holy Writ, the standard whereby man is to be tried. Others see here the sudden flashes of inspiration whereby men’s intellects or consciences are often roused to the true knowledge of divine things.*]

5 (6) The LORD alloweth the righteous: but the ungodly, and him that delighteth in wickedness doth his soul abhor.

Vulgate: The Lord questioneth the just and the wicked: but he that loveth iniquity hateth his own soul.

In our translation we must take the allowance of the righteous in the same sense as that saying of S. Peter, the righteous shall scarcely be saved.* But in the other version, from the Cross of suffering we come to the Throne of judgment, prefigured indeed by the separation of the penitent and impenitent thieves on Calvary. “Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth GOD, and him that serveth Him not:”* and shall discern also that however much the ungodly may have seemed to say to his own soul, “Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry,”* in the last day he will be found to have been its most cruel enemy.

6 (7) Upon the ungodly he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest: this shall be their portion to drink.

After the judgment follows the condemnation: prefigured as we have seen, (C.) by the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. Snares: because the allurements of Satan in this life, will be their worst punishments in the next, the fire of anger; the brimstone of impurity; the tempest of pride: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. This shall be their portion: compare it with the Psalmist’s own saying, “The LORD Himself is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup.”*

[The fiery storm;* the frozen blast;

The darkness thickly spread;

The shrieks of anguish rolling past;

The stench, as of the dead;

The pressure close, the stifling breath;

The sense of everlasting death;

The hellish crew; the spectres dim;

The fear, the thirst unquenchable;

All these with bitter torments fill

Their chalice to the brim.]

7 (8) For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness: his countenance will behold the thing that is just.

[Righteousness. The word in the Hebrew is plural, צְדָקֹות, (Lu.) and is so turned by LXX. and Vulgate, righteousnesses. And they point out that whereas GOD’s righteousness is one, and perfect, and infinite, man’s righteousnesses are various in degree and kind, yet all recognized and allowed by GOD, Who beholdeth the thing which is just. And that, because all our righteousnesses are but rays from the glory of that Uncreated Light, the Just One, the Holy Thing Who is the beloved SON of GOD, ever looking on Him.]

And therefore;

Glory be to the FATHER, the LORD Who is in His holy temple; and to the SON, the Righteous LORD, Who loveth righteousness: and to the HOLY GHOST, the Countenance by Whom all the just and the saints are illuminated;

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








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