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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. Wednesday: Vespers. [Little Office B. V. M.: Compline.]

Monastic. Tuesday: Vespers.

Ambrosian. Wednesday: Vespers.

Parisian. Wednesday: Vespers.

Lyons. Wednesday: Vespers.

Quignon. Wednesday: Prime.

ANTIPHONS.

Gregorian.

Monastic.

Parisian.

Lyons.

              Let Israel trust in the LORD.

 

Ambrosian. Let Israel trust in the LORD, from this time forth for evermore. K. K. K.

Mozarabic. As Ambrosian.

This beautiful Psalm, if David’s, as the title asserts, may fitly be taken in close connection with its immediate successor, which recalls the bringing up of the Ark into the sanctuary in Zion;* and be regarded as the expansion of that saying of the Prophet-King, when rebuked by Queen Michal for lowering himself by laying aside his royal robes and assuming the garb of a mere chorister: “I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight.”* The Jewish commentators,* however, and some Christian expositors,* understand the occasion of the Psalm to be the pestilence sent after the census taken by Joab at David’s orders.* If, as seems on the whole more probable, it is a Post-Captivity Psalm, then its intention undoubtedly is to act as a warning to the newly restored nation, lest the joy of their deliverance should prove too much for them, and hurry them into spiritual pride or into unrestrained revelling. Its place in the Pilgrim-ritual probably was, as already suggested, intended to mark the time of near approach to the Temple, after the city gates had been passed by the caravan, and to check, by its tone of hushed reverence, the overflow of excited spirits likely to break out so near the final goal of a long and perilous journey.

1a (1) LORD, I am not high-minded: I have no proud looks.

The parallel of the wording in the two clauses is much better brought out by the A. V. which, in exact agreement with LXX. and Vulgate,* has: LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty. It is a common saying, observes Arnobius, that a household is modelled on the conduct of its master; and if this opinion held good between Christian and Christian, as it does between masters and slaves, we might then be justly called servants of CHRIST. For He, albeit LORD of heaven and earth, “thought it not robbery to be equal with GOD, but humbled Himself and took upon Him the form of a servant,”* saying, LORD, My heart is not haughty. Come then, servant after the pattern of the LORD, why art thou, lowly by nature, lifted up? He, the Judge, is declared to be lowly, but we are proud; He boasted not Himself, but we are boastful. There is, in these opening words of the Psalm, a confession that only GOD’S grace, not man’s inherent strength,* has enabled him to climb so far as this degree of ascent from the valley of weeping; there is at once a check put on inward thoughts of pride in the heart,* and outward tokens of that pride shown by the uplifted glances and proud looks of the eyes. (A.) And in saying, My heart is not haughty, the Psalmist says less than he means,* for his intent is to declare that his heart is humbled and lowly, and therefore a sacrifice acceptable to GOD.*

1b (2) I do not exercise myself in great matters: which are too high for me.

That is, (A.) I have not sought for fame and influence amongst the ignorant by engaging in studies and pursuits above my powers,* in order to gratify my pride; or, again, I have not aimed at rank and station imposing on me responsibilities too great for me to undertake, words which may be applied to the manner in which the kingdom came, unsought, to David. The literal rendering, which is that of LXX. and Vulgate, is, I do not walk in great things, nor in things too wonderful for me. (H.) It is a very perilous thing, remarks S. Hilary, for us to be content with walking in moderate things, and not to dwell amidst wonderful things. For GOD’S words are great, and He is wonderful in the highest, and how then can it be a good thing that the Prophet declares that he has not been walking in great and wonderful things? But the words above me show how we must understand it, and GOD’S commandments are not beyond our comprehension, for He hath said, “This commandment which I command thee this day is not too wonderful for thee.”* Pilate walked in great things, (C.) when he said to the SAVIOUR, “Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?”* Simon Magus walked in things too wonderful for him,* when he so misunderstood the gift of the SPIRIT as to think it might be purchased with money, and was merely a variety of the magic he professed himself.* The Greek Fathers for the most part take great here to mean great men, (Z.) persons eminent for rank, power, and wealth, and explain it of the preference felt by the Psalmist for the company of the poor; a gloss which, though not borne out by the Hebrew, is very apposite when we explain the whole Psalm of that LORD “Who chose the nobles of His kingdom from the peasants and fishers of Galilee. But as there is no question of the true meaning of the sentence, it is better to take it as denoting the acquiescent faith with which a true servant of GOD accepts the truth of those mysteries of religion which are inexplicable by human reason,* not because they contradict it, but because they are too vast for it to grasp.

2 (3) But I refrain my soul, and keep it low, like as a child that is weaned from his mother: yea, my soul is even as a weaned child.

I refrain, rather, I have levelled my soul, made it even and calm, and quieted it, lulling it, as it were to sleep, and that as a weaned child, upon (Heb., LXX., Vulg.) his mothers. That is, weariness and disappointment have brought me back to GOD, to lean upon Him in utter trust, even after He has taken from me that which I chiefly looked to for comfort. The figure is taken from a baby’s first real sorrow, when he not merely feels pain, but is allowed no access to that which was his solace hitherto. He moans, and frets, and sobs, but at last quiets himself, and rests in trustful love on his mother’s bosom, feeling sure that he may confide in her, although it is she who has denied him what he desired. One of our own poets has with his own quaint beauty expressed this idea of disappointment bringing the soul to GOD under the very same image, though not worked out in detail:

When GOD at first made man

Having a glass of blessings standing by;*

Let Us, said He, pour on him all We can:

Let the world’s riches, which dispersed lie,

Contract into a span.

So strength first made a way:

Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure:

When almost all was out, GOD made a stay,

Perceiving that alone, of all His treasure,

Rest in the bottom lay.

For if I should, said He,

Bestow this jewel also on My creature,

He would adore My gifts instead of Me,

And rest in Nature, not the GOD of Nature,

So both should losers be.

Yet let him keep the rest,

But keep them with repining restlessness:

Let him be rich and weary, that at least,

If goodness lead him not, then weariness

May toss him to My breast.

So, the Lamb of GOD Himself, (Who had been as a babe on His Mother’s bosom, and as a weaned child had put His hand on the cockatrice’ den,*) when the breasts of the Divine consolations were withdrawn from Him upon the Cross,* nevertheless, after one cry of human agony forced from Him at being forsaken, laid Himself patiently to rest on the bosom of GOD, saying, “FATHER, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.”* The structure of the verse in LXX. and Vulgate differs from this, as they read, If I have not thought humbly but have uplifted my soul,—as a weaned child is upon his mother,* so be retribution upon my soul. Some of the commentators, beginning with Origen, explain this in substantial agreement with the gloss just given, taking the verse as a foreshadowing of the Gospel maxim, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”* Others take the latter half of the verse as a punishment invoked by the Psalmist on himself. If I have been proud, (G.) let GOD withdraw nourishment from my soul, till it becomes weak as an infant refused the breast, and unable to take any other food; or, as it is also taken, Let vengeance cling to me, and lie as closely upon me as a babe does on its mother’s breast. (B.) But the other interpretation is deeper and truer, that GOD makes the sorrows and disappointments of this world the school of training for His servants, so that whereas the Apostle saith to his yet imperfect converts, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat, for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither are ye now able, for ye are yet carnal;”* the Prophet asks, “Whom shall He teach knowledge? and whom shall He make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.”* So the Cluniac:

In hope we struggle onward,*

While here we must be fed

With milk, as tender infants,

But there with living Bread.

Because, (Ay.) here we, newly born in faith, must be nourished with the milk of CHRIST’S Manhood, before we are able to receive the Bread of His Godhead, and see Him face to face, a truth symbolized by the ancient Church giving,* as a nursing mother, milk and honey to the newly-baptized, before admitting them to eat at the LORD’S Table.

3 (4) O Israel, trust in the LORD: from this time forth for evermore.

This ending of the Psalm tells us whither true humility tends.* The Psalmist, preaching the duty of holiness to the people, (L.) does not tell them to look to himself, to follow his teaching, to mould themselves to his will, but to trust in the Lord, and that not for a time only, nor at intervals, but through the whole of life on earth, (A.) and through the endless years of eternity.

Wherefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, the GOD of Israel; glory be to the SON, Who lay as a weaned child on the breast of Blessed Mary; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, Who feedeth us with the sincere milk of the Word.

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








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