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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.

Parisian. With my whole heart * have I sought Thee, O LORD, O teach me Thy statutes.

Mozarabic. The LORD is my strength, and my song, and is become my salvation.

This Psalm, from internal evidence, is certainly one of the Post-Captivity series, composed for some festival of the highest importance. There are at least four occasions to which it appears suitable, but two of them take rank above the others in probability, namely, the Dedication of the Second Temple (Ezra 6:15, 18) and the first great Feast of Tabernacles held in the new Temple after its consecration (Neh. 8:13–18.) The two other views put forward by modern critics, that the Psalm refers to the erection of the altar, and the Feast of Tabernacles kept then (Ezra 3:1–4,) or else to the laying of the foundation-stone of the new building (Ezra 3:8–13,) are both quite untenable in the face of expressions which clearly imply the completion of the restored erection, whose gates, corner-stone, altar, and whole circuit are directly named in successive verses. On the whole, the balance of evidence is in favour of the Feast of Tabernacles recorded in Nehemiah 8:13. In the first place, as already mentioned under Ps. 81:3, when we find “the feast” mentioned by itself with no further detail, it always means that of Tabernacles, the greatest holyday of the Law; which accords with the phrase, “This is the day,” in verse 24. Secondly, we know as a fact that this Psalm was actually used upon that festival in the ritual of the Second Temple, though the modern Jewish use of it, as part of the Hallel, upon every great feast and on the New Moons, prevents this argument from being conclusive. Thirdly, the mention of tents or “tabernacles” in verse 15 may very probably have reference to the booths made by the people to keep that feast in, for the first time since the days of Joshua, whereupon, “there was very great gladness,” (Neh. 8:17,) a phrase incidentally agreeing with the same connection of ideas in the Psalm. But it must be allowed that there are isolated passages in the course of the poem which severally favour the views which place it earlier than the completion of the Temple, albeit the entire scope is subversive of them, and there is thus no improbability in an ingenious suggestion that the Psalm grew with the Temple itself, and that we have it now in the final shape it took after successive recastings to fit it for use at each stage of the restoration. It has been in use as a Sunday Psalm in the Western Church, with special reference to the weekly commemoration of Easter, from a very remote time, a view foreshadowed by the Rabbinical application of it to Messiah, as testified by RR. Shelomo and Kimchi.

1 O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is gracious: because his mercy endureth for ever.

2 Let Israel now confess, that he is gracious: and that his mercy endureth for ever.

3 Let the house of Aaron now confess: that his mercy endureth for ever.

4 Yea, let them now that fear the LORD confess: that his mercy endureth for ever.

We read in the Revelation of the Apostle John that a great multitude sings Alleluia in heaven, (C.) which the four living creatures also and the four-and-twenty elders utter as they worship the LORD, which the whole of that host of heaven joins in singing with melodious gladness to the sound of the clear-toned trumpet. Wherefore let us too haste with eagerness to this duty of praise. For if we sing with a pure heart, we join with those saintly powers in their loving devotion, and that which we know to make the bliss of heavenly beings becomes the honour and grace of earthly ones. Wherefore let us gaze on this Psalm shining with its beauteous opening, for at the very beginning it terminates four verses with the same ending, to teach us by this fourfold exhortation that the whole world ought to praise the one GOD with the Gospel number.* The Psalm is wrought with a texture of glowing colours, setting the Four Gospels at its head in the four similar verses. And as the High Priest’s vesture shone, wrought with threads of gold and variegated needlework, having bells upon the hem, so this Psalm, composed with beautiful variety, contains in its beginning, in its end, and scattered throughout it in diverse places with harmonious words, the praise of CHRIST our true High Priest, and sounds like a cymbal with its golden bells.* The same persons are invited to unite in the strains of praise as were enjoined in a previous Psalm to trust in the LORD as their help and shield;* first of all, the whole Hebrew nation; secondly, the chiefs of the national religion; thirdly, the believing Gentiles. And thus we are taught the progress of the Christian Church, when it began with the twelve Apostles, when, a little after the LORD’S Resurrection, “a great company of the priests were obedient unto the Faith,”* when, finally, the multitudes of the Gentiles were brought into the fold.

In the first purport of the Psalm, (L.) as celebrating the worship of GOD in the revived Temple,* it is the precise fulfilment of Jeremiah’s prophecy: “Thus saith the LORD, Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast, the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness; the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride; the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for His mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.”* And the strain began when the builders under Ezra laid the foundations of the house of the LORD, when the priests with trumpets and the Levites with cymbals revived the ancient ceremonial appointed by David,* as they were imitating the memorable event of his translation of the Ark to Jerusalem out of a Philistine household.

The double meaning of the LXX. (A.) and Vulgate word confess,* (which has been here employed by the Prayer Book to represent a different word, say,) as denoting acknowledgment of sin as well as ascription of praise, is dwelt on by more than one commentator, though they agree that jubilant praise is the chief intention in this case. And they remind us that the reason for praise is of the briefest, that the Lord is good, for “none is good, but one, that is, GOD,”* and that He does not limit this attribute to Himself in His essence, but diffuses it at all times and everywhere, because His mercy endureth for ever. (D. C.) Let us therefore now, in the time of grace, in the full knowledge of the Incarnation, praise Him for that His mercy, Who came to our rescue, and Who abideth LORD and King for evermore.

5 I called upon the LORD in trouble: and the LORD heard me at large.

All the old versions except the Syriac have missed the force of contrast in the Hebrew wording of this verse, where strait or narrowness (exactly the Greek στενοχωρία and Latin angustiœ) is the word for trouble, answering to the large place (A. V.) πλατυσμόν, latitudine, of the second strophe. The primary notion is that of passing through a narrow defile into a wide plain, and it is not impossible that there may have been a blending of literalism and symbolism intended here at the first use of the Psalm, in procession to the new Temple, as the line of worshippers emerged from the close streets of the city into the open square in front of the building; no unfit emblem of their passage from the restraints of captivity into the recovered freedom of their own land.

The verse is then taken in threefold reference to CHRIST, (D. C.) to the Church, and to the faithful soul. The LORD JESUS called upon His FATHER in the Agony of the Garden, in the Passion of the Cross, in the narrow prison of the grave, and the FATHER heard Him in the wide place of Heaven, setting Him free in the Resurrection, exalting Him in the Ascension. The Church, too, calling upon the LORD out of the narrow limits of that cradle of the Faith,* the upper chamber in Jerusalem, was made to extend far and wide over the face of the earth, and was brought safely through the sore straits of the ten persecutions into the full enjoyment of liberty and peace. And, finally, the soul,* after much suffering and trial, (L.) is brought by GOD into that “exceeding broad commandment”* which is the knowledge of Divine love;* is brought out of the narrow scope and petty details of earthly things into the boundless expanse of heavenly contemplation. (C.)

6 The LORD is on my side: I will not fear what man doeth unto me.

7 The LORD taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon mine enemies.

The Psalmist,* in the former of these verses, contrasts the mighty aid of GOD with the feeble assault of men, to show his just ground of confidence. Yet he does not therefore say, I shall not suffer, but, I will not fear. Suffering he may have in abundance, but the saying of the LORD JESUS is in his ears, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.”* And it is added, The Lord taketh my part with them that help me,* as showing, that although He alone is our true defence and shield, making all other allies superfluous, yet it is His pleasure to work as it were unseen, and with instruments,* often compelling the bitterest foes of His Church to do her work in the very act of endeavouring to subvert her; just as the very hatred of the Jews forced Christians out of the position of a subordinate school of Hebrew thought into an independent creed, loosed from the veil and yoke of the Law, and capable of conquering the Empire, a result mainly contributed to by the Pagan subversion of the Jewish polity and worship. So one of the last champions of classical heathenism, in the days of its miserable death-bed under Honorius, complains:

Atque utinam nunquam Judæa subacta fuisset

Pompeii bellis,* imperiove Titi!

Latius excisæ pestis contagia serpunt,

Victoresque suos natio victa premit.

And would that Jewry had not been in war

By Pompey conquered, or by Titus ruled,

The taint of that slain plague now creeps more far,

The vanquished nation hath its masters schooled.

So that in truth, (L.) the Martyrs and Confessors,* thus overcoming by endurance, saw their desire upon their enemies in their conversion, as their LORD had seen His victory over the foes of mankind, as every steadfast Christian resists still the sons of wickedness, saying to himself in every time of need, “Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man that shall be made as grass, and forgettest the LORD thy Maker?”* The Vulgate translates, not incorrectly, I shall look down upon mine enemies, as the LORD did first from the Cross, and then from the height of heaven, converting the thief from the one watch-tower, and the persecutor Saul of Tarsus from the other. The enemies on whom we, lifted up on the Rock,* have to look down, are the world, the flesh, and the devil; despising the first for its vanity, the second for its vileness, the third for his malice. And we may also include all our ghostly foes under this head, (A.) for the Church has to fight not only against man, “against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”*

8 It is better to trust in the LORD: than to put any confidence in man.

9 It is better to trust in the LORD: than to put any confidence in princes.

The history of the court intrigues which hampered for so long a time the execution of the edict of Cyrus, a dead letter during the whole period of the reigns of Cambyses and Smerdis the Magian, and not really carried out till the sixth year of Darius Hystaspes, a delay of full twenty years, obviously explains the allusion in the text.* They take the counsel, (A.) besides its literal meaning, as a warning to man not to trust in his own free-will and powers for good, nor even in the princes of GOD’S Church, the saints and angels, but in GOD alone; for, as one who is himself ranked amongst the Saints comments, however valuable their prayers may be to us, there is this one fact to be borne in mind, that GOD can help us without them,* but they cannot be of the least help to us without GOD.

10 All nations compassed me round about: but in the Name of the LORD will I destroy them.

11 They kept me in on every side, they kept me in, I say, on every side: but in the Name of the LORD will I destroy them.

12 They came about me like bees, and are extinct even as the fire among the thorns: for in the Name of the LORD I will destroy them.

Once again, there is a direct historical reference here to the coalition against Israel in the earliest days of the return,* which issued in the counter-decree of Artaxerxes, forbidding the crection of the Temple; and to the final victory over this opposition, won by the faith and perseverance of the Jews. (A.) The words are applied also to the conspiracy against the LORD JESUS, (C.) and then to the persecutions endured by His Body the Church. The Gentiles, in the persons of Herod, Pilate, and the Roman soldiers, encompassed Him; the Jews too buzzed around Him with their angry murmurs, and blazed up against Him with their fierce but short-lived rage: and in the very act of stinging Him, the bees made His honey spread all over the world. The LXX. and the text which S. Augustine had before him read here, As the bees the honeycomb, so that the angry Jews, toiling in their anger around the LORD, were but making Him, by His Passion, sweeter and dearer to all His Saints, and they did but perish themselves, leaving their stings behind them. Further, (L.) their malice, while it raged against His mortal body, destroying it, as fire does the thorns, left the Root of Jesse still uninjured, to spring up again with the green foliage and fragrant blossoms of the Rose of Sharon, in the glad springtime of the Resurrection.* So too, (R.) the persecutions which the Church suffered at the hands of the Pagans did but pour into the Saints the honey of virtue, making them sweeter and more fitting examples of imitation, while the flame kindled by their enemies consumed their faults and errors, utterly abolished by their valiant endurance of torture and death, sufferings most brief in duration, but rewarded with a blessed eternity.* Applied to the soul, they remind us how our tempters, suggesting the idea of sweetness and enjoyment to us, leave behind them a deadly sting, while they are so far from conferring any real honey upon us that they strive to suck out of the flowers of our hearts all the sweetness of the HOLY SPIRIT,* so as to leave us dry. Yet again,* as the chief rage of bees is directed against any who approach the hive to obtain honey thence,* so we read that when the Israelites attempted to enter the land that floweth with milk and honey, the Amorites came out against them, and chased them, “as bees do,”* and destroyed them; and in like manner our spiritual foes sally out and chase any of us whom they see bent on forcing our way into the true Land of Promise, flowing with that milk and honey which CHRIST gives His children for their food.

13 Thou hast thrust sore at me, that I might fall: but the LORD was my help.

This apostrophe to the enemies of Israel,* here looked on as one person, is paraphrased by the Chaldee in reference to spiritual troubles, (D. C.) My sin pressed me hard to overthrow me. And the Carthusian reminds us how the LORD JESUS was dealt with in Nazareth,* when “all they in the synagogue were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong; but He, passing through the midst of them, went His way,”* a type of His own Resurrection later and of the deliverance He grants to His people when similarly beset; (Ay.) as He saved Peter when he was sinking in the waters, lifting him with His hand; and again, even more lovingly rescuing him from the fall of his soul after the threefold denial: “for a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again; but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”*

14 The LORD is my strength, and my song: and is become my salvation.

Who then are they that fall when they are thrust, (A.) save those who choose to be their own strength and song? No man falls in a struggle, save he whose strength and praise fall with him. Wherefore he whose strength and song is the LORD, can no more fall than the LORD Himself.

We may note in the use of these words,* already familiar as part of the hymn of victory chanted by Moses at the Red Sea,* and prophesied by Isaiah as to be heard again in the mouth of the chosen people, the feeling amongst the worshippers in the new Temple that the festival they were keeping was indeed “like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.”* We may use the words for our own,* because the LORD is our strength, in that it is in His might, not our own, that we conquer; He is our song,* because we make Him the theme of our praise, and He suffers those of us who conquer to join in the song of Moses and the Lamb, and He is our salvation, our JESUS, Who hath ransomed us from destruction. And therefore it follows aptly:

15 The voice of joy and health is in the dwellings of the righteous: the right hand of the LORD bringeth mighty things to pass.

16 The right hand of the LORD hath the pre-eminence: the right hand of the LORD bringeth mighty things to pass.

For health and dwellings, we should read with the more exact and emphatic A. V., LXX., and Vulgate, salvation and tabernacles.* It is most probable that we have here a reference to the great rejoicings at the Feast of Tabernacles held immediately upon the dedication of the second Temple,* with a retrospective allusion to the passage of the Red Sea.* The Church of GOD on earth is said to dwell in tents, as marking her condition of warfare, and also that the Saints* “here have no continuing city, but seek one to come,” and beset as they are on all sides by their enemies, yet their battle-cry evermore is,* “In the Name of the LORD I will destroy them,”* and therefore the shout of victory, of joy, and of security goes up incessantly from the camp of the host of GOD. The world has its voice of joy, but not the voice of salvation, penitent sinners have the voice of salvation,* but not the voice of joy; but Saints made perfect have both together here in the way, and more fully when glorified in their Country. For what must be their joy in their country when they can be so glad even in a strange land? What their delight at home,* who are thus cheerful in exile? What will they do in the peace of life everlasting,* whose joy is thus abundant even in their pilgrimage? And the Greek Fathers, applying the verse especially to the Religious Life,* and to the humble cells of the Lauras in the Thebaid, (Z.) speak of the uniform cheerfulness of their monastic inmates, who acted up to the spirit of that precept of one of their own superiors,* the Abbat Apollonius, who was wont to say, “We, by reason of salvation, ought not to be sad, seeing that we are to be heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Gentiles will be sad, Jews may weep, sinners mourn; but the righteous shall be joyful. They who busy themselves with earthly thoughts in their mind rejoice in earthly things, but we, who have been accounted worthy of so great a hope, how should we not alway rejoice,* seeing that the Apostle exhorts us to rejoice alway and to give thanks in all things?” In the threefold mention of the right hand of the Lord which follows, the mystery of the Holy Trinity is veiled. (Cd.) The right hand of the FATHER, mighty in creation, formed man in His own image, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. The right hand of the SON exalted (LXX. Vulg.) man, uniting mortality to Godhead, lifting man from the grave in the Resurrection, from the earth in the Ascension, so that Man hath now the pre-eminence, because He is the right hand of GOD. (D. C.) The right hand of the HOLY GHOST showered down abundant gifts of grace and power upon the Church in the day of Pentecost.

17 I shall not die, but live: and declare the works of the LORD.

18 The LORD hath chastened and corrected me: but he hath not given me over unto death.

This is the voice of joy and health, (Z.) the victorious shout from the camp of the righteous, going up in honour of the LORD’S Resurrection, when, as we sing in Paschal-tide—

Death and life, in wondrous strife,*

Came to conflict, sharp and sore,

Life’s Monarch, He that died, now dies no more.

And then the words may be taken of His Martyrs also, (C.) dying cheerfully for Him, sure of a blessed arising, insomuch that the Church styles the anniversary of their passions not by the title of death, but of birthday,* as denoting that they are born thereby into a happier life. All the persecutions which the Church endured, even when she seemed at the last gasp of existence, were in vain to overthrow her, and she was merely purified, not destroyed, by suffering. It is not only illustrious Saints who may take these words upon their lips, but every faithful disciple of CHRIST, for He hath said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.”* I will declare the works of the Lord. It is the promise of the Church,* that the more fiercely she is persecuted,* the more will she spread abroad the news of the Gospel, the more boldly will she preach the Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Second Coming of CHRIST. (C.) It is the voice of the Martyrs, each of them declaring that his own endurance of torture and death for CHRIST’S sake will be noised everywhere and recognized as the work of the LORD’S might, not of man’s weakness, and thus each of them, “being dead, yet speaketh.” It is the voice of every ransomed sinner, calling to others, and saying, “O come hither, and hearken, all ye that fear GOD: and I will tell you what He hath done for my soul;”* for He hath not given me over unto death, (D. C.) because “Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell, neither shalt Thou suffer Thy holy one”*—holy in virtue of CHRIST our Righteousness—“to see corruption.”

19 Open me the gates of righteousness: that I may go into them, and give thanks unto the LORD.

20 This is the gate of the LORD: the righteous shall enter into it.

At this point in the Psalm, it would seem that the procession at last reaches the porch of the Temple, and calls to the warders to throw the gates open in order to allow its passage. Then a voice from within chants a response,* warning the advancing throngs of the sacredness of the shrine they have reached, (C.) and the holiness which befits those who would fain enter its hallowed precincts. (A.) For us a more beautiful gate into a more holy shrine is open, (L.) as we seek the kingdom of GOD and His righteousness, for we have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the Blood of JESUS, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His Flesh.”* And the LORD Himself bears witness to His Apostle, saying, “I am the Door; by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”* This is the gate which the Church desires to be thrown open for her,* and for the thronging crowds which come thither, by the preaching of the Apostles and other heralds of the Gospel, to whom the LORD hath committed the keys of the kingdom of heaven.* And as the LORD JESUS Himself entered the gates of heaven by His Passion, so “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of GOD,”* so that we may take these words as addressed by the Martyrs to their executioners, beseeching them so to conform them to their Master’s sufferings, (L.) that they may follow in His train, while the chorus of angels obedient to His command, Open Me the gates of righteousness, (D. C.) addresses the janitors of heaven: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in;”* and not only the King, but His true followers, for it is written in another place, “Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.”* And we may note, that while the call from without is, “Open me the gates,” the answer from within is, (C.) This is the gate, but one; one LORD, one faith, one baptism; for the numerous minor entrances, the twelve apostolic porches, all must be reached by one road only, and afford no separate and independent access into the courts of the LORD.* So, when the unlearned ask that the Doctors of the Church may expound the Holy Scriptures, those gates of the LORD, to them, by opening their sense, the answer of a wise teacher will be, that they all converge to one entrance into the kingdom of heaven, the LORD JESUS; so again when the penitent ask for absolution from the Bishops and Priests of the Church,* and desire to make confession to the LORD, they are warned that there is but one gate through which they can gain access, and that however various the ministers may be through whose agency they seek reconciliation, yet their confession is to GOD alone, and from GOD alone comes their absolution; wherefore, in the spirit of hope aroused by such a thought, this is one of the Psalms appointed by the Western Church in the office for the commendation of a departing soul,* as though putting words into its mouth, wherewith encouraged, it may knock boldly at the gates of Paradise.

21 I will thank thee, for thou hast heard me: and art become my salvation.

This is the devotion paid by him who has found the gate he sought, (B.) and has known that gate to be JESUS his SAVIOUR, Who heard at last the yearning prayers of His Saints, (Ay.) and by taking upon Him the nature of man in the Incarnation, became our salvation. Simeon departed in peace, having seen Him; and He said to His own disciples, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: for I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them, and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.”* And this unspeakable goodness of His is enforced for us by the phrase, becamest my salvation, which is more than art my salvation, or gavest me salvation,* for it denotes that the Eternal, that He might save us, suffered change, and became what He was not, mortal and passible, that He might bestow on us grace and glory, and enable us to give thanks to Him in the heavenly Jerusalem, for having been our salvation from sin and death.*

22 The same stone which the builders refused: is become the head-stone in the corner.

23 This is the LORD’S doing: and it is marvellous in our eyes.

We have no means of knowing if these verses refer to any historical event; but more than one scholar has supposed that they may very possibly enshrine for us some such incident of the building of the second Temple on the foundations of the first, as that the workmen accidentally uncovered one of the stones, perhaps the very foundation stone, of Solomon’s stately shrine, and were disposed to reject it, till overruled by the priests, who compelled them to set it up in the most honourable place, at the point of juncture of the two walls.* But the old mystical interpretation of the passage by the Rabbins was that it refers to Messiah,* although some of them, assuming the Psalm to speak of David, take him, as the prince who re-united Israel and Judah under one sceptre after having been for a time rejected by the former, to be the corner-stone intended, albeit the later date of Isaiah’s prophecy disproves this view: “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation.”* For us no room for question remains, because the LORD JESUS has directly applied the verse to Himself, and to His rejection by the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees, saying to them: “Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the LORD’S doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of GOD shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And when the Chief Priests and Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that He spake of them,”* as indeed His chief Apostle expressly says that He did,* when He, the Living stone, chosen of GOD, and precious, was disallowed of men, and “became a stone of stumbling and rock of offence to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient.”* (P.) He is the cornerstone for four reasons: He has joined GOD and Man together, two natures in His one Person; He has united the Old and New Testaments; (L.) He has blended Jews and Gentiles in one Catholic Church; He links the Church Militant and Triumphant together in one Communion of Saints. It is the Lord’s doing, and marvellous in our eyes, because that Stone was cut out without hands, (C.) was Very GOD and Very Man, conceived by the HOLY GHOST, and born of the Virgin Mary.* Hence we sing of Him as “the sure foundation, and the precious corner-stone” in the hymn of Dedication;* and as Adam of S. Victor similarly sings:

Once refused, and once rejected,*

Now that stone hath been elected,

As a trophy is erected,*

At the Temple’s corner stands.

Slaying sin, but not our nature,

He creates a newborn creature,

Binds Himself the duplicature,

Of the people with His bands.

24 This is the day which the LORD hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Whether these words refer to the actual festival upon which the Psalm was originally sung, or to the “Day of salvation,” the whole period of the wonderful restoration of Israel from exile, acknowledged in the previous verse to be the work of the LORD, Who had brought back His despised and suffering people to a place of honour and safety, after bringing utter destruction on its oppressor, Babylon, and saying of that proud city by the mouth of His Prophet, “They shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations, but thou shalt be desolate for ever, saith the LORD;”* (A.) at any rate there is no doubt as to the Christian application of the verse. From very early times, (D. C.) it has been held to apply not merely to the new time of grace,* after the abolition of the Law, but in an especial manner to Easter Day, styled by S. Ignatius of Antioch, “Queen and chief of all the days.”* The verse in question is used as an anthem instead of the hymn at Lauds and Vespers from Easter Eve till Low Sunday in the Gregorian rite, and also as a response in the first Nocturn of the Circumcision,* regarded as the Octave of the Nativity; while it was formerly employed in some Churches on the Feast of the Annunciation.* Cardinal Bellarmine observes, that although the Angel’s “good tidings of great joy” to the shepherds, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a SAVIOUR,”* would seem to justify the application of the verse to Christmas, (C.) yet as CHRIST’S rejection was to follow His Nativity, and His place as the corner-stone was not openly appointed until after the Resurrection, we are bound to prefer the latter feast, which is thus celebrated as the Day in many a hymn of East and West alike: Thus the Golden Canon bursts into song:

Thou hallowed chosen morn of praise,*

That best and greatest shinest!

Lady and Queen, and day of days,

Of things divine, divinest,

On Thee our praises CHRIST adore,

For ever and for evermore.

Nor is the Western Church, as already observed, behindhand in her exultation:

Hail thou day of days most glorious,*

Happy day, in Christ victorious,*

Day with gladness meritorious,

First of days!

25 Help me now, O LORD: O LORD, send us now prosperity.

26 Blessed be he that cometh in the Name of the LORD:

As the LORD JESUS applied an earlier part of the Psalm to Himself,* so here we find the welcoming plaudits addressed to Him by the multitudes during the Palm Sunday procession to Jerusalem. Help me now is the Hosanna cry, left untranslated amid the Greek of the New Testament, and the fact that both this festival and that of Easter fall on the first day of the week makes the song of gladness and the prayer for divine assistance equally suited to the Christian Sunday. In the Hebrew ritual, the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles was called the “Great Hosanna,” and the name hosannas was even extended to the branches of trees, palm and myrtle, which were borne in the procession; whence it would seem that over and above the notion of a triumphal march (perhaps borrowed by the Maccabees from Greek usage) which may have been entertained by the multitudes who escorted the LORD into Jerusalem,* the other idea, (L.) that of rest in the Land of Promise, was even more directly present to their minds, as betokening their hopes from a King of the house of David Who should expel the Gentile oppressor, and cause Israel to sit once more in peace under the vines and fig-trees of Canaan. So we, in like manner, pray to Him first to save us, by delivering us from the tyranny of sin, and then to send us prosperity,* by causing all our present evils to work together for good, and bring us into the perfect rest of heaven.

Blessed be He that cometh, in the Name of the Lord.1 And that in contrast to such as come in their own name,* without any divine authorization, as CHRIST Himself said to the Jews, “I am come in My FATHER’S Name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.”* It is very well said Who cometh,* not who came, for He is always coming to those who need Him, always passing by unseen, always near, and ready to show Himself when we call. We have a further proof that this is the true collocation of the words from another saying of the Redeemer, “Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say. Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the LORD.”* Were it not for this, and for the express form of one cry of the multitude, “Blessed be He that cometh as King in the Name of the LORD;” we might follow the present Hebrew accents, and understand the words as a priestly benediction on the zealous worshippers who thronged to the Temple, reading the sentence, Blessed in the Name of the Lord be he (i.e. every one) that cometh, [to worship Him here.] And in fact there is Jewish authority for saying that this was the greeting given at Jerusalem to the caravans of pilgrims as they arrived to keep the great festivals:* a sense which accords very well with the latter strophe of the verse:

we have wished you good luck, ye that are of the house of the LORD.

The Prayer Book version here (though agreeing with a gloss of S. Chrysostom) misses the plain meaning of the passage, which is correctly given by all the old versions, as well as by the A. V., We have blessed you from the house of the Lord, words spoken by the Priests and Levites standing on the threshold of the Temple to receive the procession of worshippers. And it is mystically explained of the ministry of the Word and Sacraments to the people, (C.) at the hands of the Priests of the Church,* whence come the healing waters of Baptism, whereof Joel saith, “A fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley;”* while we may also take it of the love and help exhibited to us on earth by the Angels and Saints of the heavenly Jerusalem.*

27 GOD is the LORD, who hath showed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, yea, even unto the horns of the altar.

He hath showed us light, (Ay.) Who is Himself “the Day-spring from on high that hath visited us,”* Who is the True Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. And as the first reference here is undoubtedly to the deliverance of Israel out of the darkness of bondage, so we may see in it an allusion to the glory of Easter,* the “splendour-bearing day.” So Adam sings, with many another hymnodist:

The Light of CHRIST the LORD hath shone,*

The Light renowned, the Light but one,

The Light of light, the light of glee,

The Light of endless radiancy.

He hath given us the HOLY GHOST, (D. C.) to shine with sevenfold rays in our hearts, He hath given us His Word, to be a lantern unto our feet, He hath given us wisdom to see clearly the way of salvation, He hath given us His sacraments of illumination, “and of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.”* Bind the sacrifice with, cords. The Hebrew is more exactly חָג, the festival itself, taken to mean the festal victim, as it is also in Exodus 23:18, and is so translated by LXX. and Vulgate. Some difficulty arises from the following words, unto the horns of the altar, for there is no evidence that the victims were fastened there in any such wise. Consequently,* the Chaldee explains the phrase as meaning, Bind the victim, and bring it bound to the altar, on whose horns its blood is then to be sprinkled. It is not impossible, however, that the phrase may be figurative, and mean, “Bind up your festival with religious associations, especially with acts of sacrifice, and do not make it a piece of mere worldly rejoicing.” The LXX. and Vulgate, agreeing with Symmachus and S. Jerome, interpret the words somewhat differently, Set up the festival with densities (πυκάζουσιν, condensis) that is,* with “shady boughs,” as the Douay version has it, thickly-twined leafy branches (S. Hieron. frondosis) adorning the Temple throughout its courts and wreathing the victims also; obviously understanding the passage to refer to the Feast of Tabernacles. The difficulty in the way of accepting this view is that while עֲבֹתִים, meaning simply “twists,” might stand for twined branches as well as cords, (cf. Ezek. 19:11; 31:3, 10, 14,) it does not appear that the verb אִסְרוּ is ever used in the sense of wreathing, but only in that of binding or tying. The commentators (some of whom read confrequetationes instead of condensis) explain the verse as denoting first the duty of Christians to assemble in crowds at the House of GOD, (A.) as well the outward and visible churches of earth,* as the unseen shrine of inward spiritual worship:* and then of shunning all sin and servile work, but persevering in the thick abundance of good works. (C.) We should come as far as the horns of the altar, by remaining to receive the Blessed Sacrament of CHRIST’S Body and Blood, instead of contenting ourselves, like too many, with going away in the middle of the service just after the Gospel, as an expositor writing at the beginning of the sixth century warns his readers. We ought not to be content, observes another of a somewhat later day, with the mere altar,* but with the horn of the altar, for as the horn in Holy Writ is the emblem of strength and power, so here it means for us the virtue of the Blessed Sacrament, for the bare act of Communion is of no profit, nay, is harmful to unworthy recipients, and we should therefore so prepare ourselves as to obtain not the Sacrament only,* but its benefits. Yet again, as the Cross is CHRIST’S altar, so we keep our feast-day at its horn when we conform ourselves to His Passion, in order that we may keep a better festival in the time of the open vision; when we behold that other horn of the altar, the exaltation in heaven of His godhead, whose Manhood is our altar and sacrifice on earth.

28 Thou art my GOD, and I will thank thee: thou art my GOD, and I will praise thee.

This is the confession of the faithful soul which believes in the verity of CHRIST’S Resurrection, (D. C.) saying to Him, like Thomas, “My LORD and my GOD.”* As GOD, He is entitled to awe and worship, but in that we have a right, each of us, to call Him my God, He has a dearer title to our gratitude and adoration,* since He has become ours by giving Himself entirely for us and to us. Thou art my God, says the faithful soul, contemplating Him as He hangs dying on the Cross, and I will thank Thee for Thy wondrous love; Thou art my God,* reigning in heaven, and I will praise Thee for Thy glorious majesty.

29 O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is gracious: and his mercy endureth for ever.

The Psalm ends as it begins, with the notes of praise, betokening that our life here ought to praise GOD, that we may rejoice with the Saints in chanting the endless Alleluia in the world to come.* It begins and ends with CHRIST, the Alpha and Omega, (C.) Whom we should praise at every time, doing all to the honour of His Name, (D. C.) confessing ourselves to be miserable sinners both at the very beginning of our strivings to lead a holy life,* and when we have reached the close of our mortal pilgrimage, and ascribing to Him alone the thanks and praise Who giveth us the victory.

Wherefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, Whose mercy endureth for ever; glory be to the SON, the Corner-stone, the King that cometh in the Name of the LORD; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, the LORD Who hath showed us Light.

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








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