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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. I will love Thee, * O LORD, my strength.

Parisian. 1st Section: I will love Thee, * O LORD, my strength. 2nd Section: I was also incorrupt before Him, * and eschewed mine own wickedness. 3rd Section: Thy right hand shall hold me up, * and Thy loving correction shall make me great.

Mozarabic. My strength, I will love Thee, O LORD, my stony rock.

1–2 (1) I will love thee, O LORD, my strength; the LORD is my stony rock, and my defence: my SAVIOUR, my GOD, and my might, in whom I will trust, my buckler, the horn also of my salvation, and my refuge.

In the mouth of two witnesses let every word be established. David and S. Paul knew but of one cure for weakness. I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength. “I can do all things through CHRIST, Which strengthened me.”* O marvellous weakness of the Man of Sorrows, thus becoming the strength of His followers: weakness that marked His whole earthly life, His companion in the cradle, in His many journeys, (G.) on the Cross, and there by that one sentence, “It is finished,” turned into everlasting life. So let us be content to be weak with Thee here, O LORD JESU, that hereafter, in that one moment of death, when our warfare is accomplished, our infirmity may also be abolished for ever! Well and beautifully writes Hugh of S. Victor: “First, He is our SAVIOUR,* because He saves us from the power of the devil; then our Defence, because, since we distrust our own strength, He undertakes the charge of us; then our Stony Rock, to support us when we stand; then our Strength, to crown us when we fight. Our SAVIOUR in Baptism, our Defence in repentance, our Stony Rock by patience, our Strength by victory. The order of this first verse is the order of escaping evil.1 The next verse shows us by what order he attains good.2 My God, because He illuminates by faith. My Might, because He assists in good works. In Whom I will trust, because He inflames my heart with His love. My Buckler, (Protector,) because He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. The Horn of my salvation, because He causes me to despise the assaults of the devil. Lastly, my Refuge, because, when the course of this world is passed, He will be my eternal Refuge in heaven.” No wonder that on these names holy men have dwelt at great length, and with singular delight. Notice that of all the characters in which GOD is here represented, that of hope is the only one in which the prophet speaks actively of his own duty resulting from it; and this, they say, (Cd.) because, since no man is lost till he despairs, hope is in one sense the greatest and most important of Christian graces: “We are saved by hope.” Observe that our hope in GOD is threefold: for His pardon, whence the remission of sins; for His grace, whence the possibility of good works; for His glory, whence the everlasting crown. Observe that a part of this verse is quoted by S. Paul, Heb. 2:13: “I will put my trust in Him.”3

3 (2) I will call upon the LORD, which is worthy to be praised: so shall I be safe from mine enemies.

I will call upon the Lord. David gives us the promise of being heard: S. Paul, manifestly alluding to it, confirms it, “Whosoever shall call on the Name of the LORD shall be saved.”* Which is worthy to be praised. Notice here that favourite argument of all GOD’s servants: because past succour, therefore future help. Worthy to be praised for deliverance in former times; therefore, I will call upon Him still. So shall I be safe from mine enemies. And oh, how happy is he that has discovered the virtue of this so! so, and no otherwise: that has not to run hither and thither, to run to other succour first, and then, as a last resort, turn to GOD; that does not in the first place send to Baalzebub, god of Ekron, and then request the help of Elijah!

But now S. Paul gives us the clue to the higher meaning of these verses, expressly putting them into our LORD’s mouth. And thus, (Cd.) if I hear David say, “I will call upon the LORD, so shall I be safe,” I hear the Son of David say, “FATHER, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me, and I knew that Thou heardest Me always.”* I hear David say, I will call upon the Lord, Which is worthy to be praised: I see the Son of David rise up a long while before day, go out, and depart into a solitary place to pray. I hear David say, The Lord is my might; I hear the Son of David say, “Thou hast given Me power over all flesh.”* Yes; they are His words with which the Psalm begins, and they are His actions and sufferings to which it will now lead us.

4 (3) The sorrows of death compassed me: and the overflowings of ungodliness made me afraid.

He leads us by the Via Dolorosa to the sorrows of Calvary; to those overflowings of ungodliness from the blaspheming multitude that were yet so completely the fulfilment of ancient prophecy. But we must take that expression in a deeper sense, (G.) if we would see how it is that this made Him afraid. The ungodliness of the whole world,—every single crime, from the moment in which Eve stretched forth her hand to the forbidden fruit, to the last sin that shall be accomplished before the Sign of the Son of Man shall appear in heaven,—these wickednesses indeed went over His head, and were like a sore burden, too heavy for Him to bear. “By Thy unknown sufferings,” prays the Greek Ectene, “JESU, deliver us.” “By the weight of ungodliness that pressed sore upon Thee and overwhelmed Thee, set us free from our many iniquities,” prays the Syriac Office. The overflowings, or, (Cd.) as the Vulgate has it, the torrents. “Well called torrents,”* says Cardinal Hugo: “first, because of the impetuosity of a torrent. Next, because, put an obstacle in its way, and it rushes all the more vehemently, just as we long most for that which is prohibited. ‘The law entered, that the offence might abound.’* Thirdly, because it is turbid; thus sin also causes the mind to become troubled. ‘My soul also is sore troubled.’ Fourthly, because it is tumultuous. ‘The wicked are like a troubled sea, that cannot rest.’* Next, because it hollows and wears away the earth, as sin the body. ‘The waters wear the stones; Thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth, and Thou destroyest the hope of man.’ Sixthly, because it is sudden and accidental. Next, because it sweeps away everything that is unstable, as sin those who are not rooted in charity. ‘That ye, being rooted and grounded in love.’* ‘The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon.’* The next, that it throws itself into the sea, as the sinner throws himself into hell. Ninthly, it has its origin in melted snow: thus sin is of the devil, who was once whiter than snow in heaven, and then dissolved by the lust of pride.”

5 (4) The pains of hell came about me: the snares of death overtook me.

Here it is well to remember the general rule laid down by those who have treated the mystical sense of the Psalter.* “Such is the unity of the Church, that is to say of its Head and its members, that, as if they were one body and person, they used one language, although the words they employ may sometimes be referred to different objects. For some things are properly said by the Head only, some by the Head and members. Again, among the latter, it is sometimes the past, sometimes the present, sometimes those who are to come that speak; and yet, through the diversity of the circumstances, Scripture uses one form of expression, and speaks in one person.” Thus indeed the Head might speak, when the pains of hell came about Him in the garden of Gethsemane; when the snares of death overtook Him, the band that came with lanterns, and torches, and weapons, and bound Him, and led Him to Annas. And what the Head said then, over and over again the Church has had reason to cry out. Again and again, in the savage persecutions of heathen powers, when such forms of torture were devised as none but Satan himself could have suggested, the pains of hell came about her: again and again, in the subterfuges, (G.) and prevarications, and artifices of heretics,—sufficient, if it had been possible, to deceive the very elect,—the snares of death overtook her.

6a (5) In my trouble I will call upon the LORD: and complain unto my GOD.

Thus again did the Head: thus at all times must the members do. In that His trouble, He indeed called upon the LORD, “FATHER, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me:” not twice only, as the Psalmist here, but three times. Thus also, (G.) treading in His footsteps, His members have followed Him, in His prayer as well as in His affliction. Peter is kept in prison; but “prayer is made without ceasing of the Church unto GOD for him.”* Paul and Silas are thrown into the dungeon: at midnight they pray and sing praises unto GOD, and the prisoners hear them.* Stephen, in the midst of the shower of stones, cried with a loud voice, “LORD, lay not this sin to their charge.”

6b (6) So shall he hear my voice out of his holy temple: and my complaint shall come before him, it shall enter even into his ears.

So of our Head: “He was heard in that He feared.”* And notice, as holy men have always remarked, the emphasis with which this clause applies to Him: (Cd.) that voice was heard from His holy temple in a different sense, as issuing from it, not as received in it; as issuing from that temple of His Body to be destroyed by the Jews, and raised again in three days. And to a certain degree thus also every faithful soul may take the words to herself. The voice of distress which she sends up to GOD pleads to be accepted by Him, for this very reason, that it issues from that which was made His holy temple at Baptism; because the distress or temptation assaults that which is His; because it would defile that which is holy; because it would sacrilegiously profane a temple of the Living GOD. And observe that so. Shall we say that the first clause, “I will call upon the LORD,” is not the way to be heard; but that the change, “I will complain unto my GOD,” is answered immediately by the SO shall He hear? My complaint shall come before Him. And a fearful thing it is for those against whom the complaint comes. “Behold, the hire of the labourers that have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them that have reaped have entered into the ears of the LORD of Sabaoth.”*

7 The earth trembled and quaked: the very foundations also of the hills shook, and were removed, because he was wroth.

8 There went a smoke out in his presence: and a consuming fire out of his mouth, so that coals were kindled at it.

It is almost curious to see how they who looked for CHRIST, and for Him only, in the Psalms, were too intent on that search to notice,—or, as compared with it, thought it vain to point out,—the sublimest passage in the whole Psalter: a strain of poetry to be matched, if anywhere, only where the LORD answers Job out of the whirlwind. And when that last complaint, “FATHER, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit,” had entered into the ears of GOD, (A.) then “the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;” then “the centurion and they that were with him saw the earthquake:” then the very foundations also of the hills,—of that hill of David on which the temple was built,—so shook and were so removed, that “the veil was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom,” and an access opened to the Holy of Holies. And yet, though He was wroth, He remembered love; for next we have the smoke in His presence: the “much incense” of the fervent prayer; (G.) we have the consuming fire of love, that love which “is strong as death,” that “jealousy,” which is “cruel as the grave,” kindling the coals, the dark, foul, earthy substance of an unloving heart. These were the coals of the Apostles, which afterwards burnt so clearly through the whole world; (R.) those “coals of fire which had a most vehement flame.” And not only then, but daily and hourly does that same grace, (Z.) does that same love kindle the cold heart; making an Augustine, till then the slave of sin, in one moment the saint and Doctor of Grace. That consuming fire shall burn till the end of the world, melting all hardness, quickening all deadness, kindling all coldness: “We love Him, because He first loved us.”*

[And then, tropologically, the whole passage may be read of the penitent soul. At first earth, and carnal, it trembled at the threats of judgment, shaking itself thus loose from its attachment to sin. The* very foundations of the hills; all the proud, self-sufficient thoughts of this world were disturbed, and removed from pride and sin to humility and holiness, at the thought of GOD’s anger. The dark smoke of penitential supplication then went up before Him, and at last the fire of love kindled the dark black hearts of sinners, turning the coals into flame.]

9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and it was dark under his feet.

From the Passion we turn to the Incarnation, which none ever doubted to be here set forth. He bowed the heavens: He humbled the Divine nature; (Ay.) He emptied Himself of the glory which He had before the world was, and came down at the word of the Angel,—came down from the eternal palace of the heaven into the little cottage at Nazareth,—came down from the illimitable majesty of Him Who containeth all things, into the womb of Mary. And it was dark under His Feet. “The LORD said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.”* Here is that mystery into which the angels desire to look; that mystery which was hid from ages and from generations; that mystery by which, as S. Leo says, “the propriety of each nature and substance being preserved,* and both uniting so as to form one person, humility was assumed by majesty, infirmity by power, mortality by eternity; and to pay the debt of our condition, inviolable was united to passible nature: that one and the same Mediator of GOD and man, the Man CHRIST JESUS, might be able to die from the one, might not be able to die from the other.” This was the thick darkness in which the LORD came down.

[Cœlum DEUS inclinavit,*

Et descendit et intravit

Vas electum stirpe David

Quod ante promiserat.

And despite this humility,* nay, rather because of it, He put the evil one, who is darkness, under His feet. They take it also that He bows down the intellects of His great preachers, making them condescend to men of low estate by simplicity of teaching, that the ignorant,* though dark as respects mental culture, may yet be obedient to His law, and under His feet.]

10 He rode upon the cherubims, and did fly: he came flying upon the wings of the wind.

And first we remember those angels who in the night-watches announced His Birth at Bethlehem; (Z.) but there is a deeper sense than this. By the cherubim, whose name is derived from their perfect knowledge, (Ay.) no doubt the Apostles are meant. For they were indeed filled with the knowledge of that mystery of the Incarnation which had been concealed from other ages and generations;* and on their preaching the LORD was borne out as it were to all the world, flying upon the wings of the wind, from the marvellous swiftness with which the doctrine, once confined to a small corner of Judea, filled, as the Chief Priests and Pharisees themselves confessed, the whole world.

[As in the ninth verse we have the humiliation of CHRIST,* so in these comes His exaltation; the descent of the Godhead is followed by the Ascension of the Manhood.

Postquam hostem et inferna*

Spoliavit, ad superna

CHRISTUS redit gaudia,

Angelorum ascendenti,

Sicut olim descendenti,

Parantur obsequia.]

11 He made darkness his secret place: his pavilion round about him with dark water, and thick clouds to cover him.

Here again, we have the mystery of the Incarnation; the thick darkness in which the LORD said that He would dwell. His pavilion: that is, the Body He took of Mary, flesh of her flesh, (Ay.) and bone of her bone, with the dark waters of prophecy and the thick clouds, the preaching of the Apostles. Of old time the Jews had a type of this pavilion, when, as it is written, “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle: and Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”* That by the clouds Apostles and other teachers are meant we have proof in Isaiah, (Cd.) where, when the unfruitful vineyard is threatened with destruction, the last and severest sentence pronounced upon it is this: “I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”* And consider, the clouds are formed of water, and by the heat of the sun; and thus the Apostles themselves, (Ay.) basing all their doctrine on the water of Baptism, were drawn by the heat of the Sun of Righteousness to their work: dark and colourless in themselves, but gloriously reflecting His rays; and like earthly clouds, never reflecting them so beautifully as when in the sunset of their lives tinged with the crimson of martyrdom. Further, the clouds can only move as the wind impels them,—that wind which bloweth where it listeth;* so the Apostles went but whither they were compelled by that HOLY GHOST Who wrought in them. Do they seek to preach the Word in Asia?* They are forbidden of the HOLY GHOST. Do they assay to go into Bithynia? The SPIRIT suffers them not. And presently the reason is made clear by a vision, and they “assuredly gather that the LORD hath called them to preach the Gospel” in Macedonia. So that S. Gregory may well say, “By clouds it is certain that the holy Apostles and preachers of the Divine Word are designated, who, sent forth into ail parts of the world, can both raise with doctrine and lighten with miracles.”1 He made darkness His secret place. “But let us,” (B.) as S. Bruno well says, “who desire to find GOD, enter boldly into this darkness, like Moses, when he drew near to the thick darkness where GOD was; and also like Moses we shall have our reward in the LORD’s promise, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the Name of the LORD before thee.’ ” Dark waters. What are they but these very Psalms which we are considering dark,—not from their obscurity, but from their excess of brightness.2 “Were not,” says one, “the waters dark, when Isaiah prophesied of the Nativity, ‘There shall go forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse;’ (Ay.) when Jeremiah foretold the Cross, ‘Come and let us put wood into his bread;’* when Ezekiel spoke beforehand of the perpetual virginity of S. Mary, ‘This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it, because the LORD, the GOD of Israel, hath entered in by it; therefore shall it be shut?’* Or, once more, the dark waters and thick clouds may be the Sacraments, in which, while in this world militant, we see as through a glass darkly, waiting for that blessed time when we all “with open face beholding the glory of the LORD, (L.) shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory.”*

12 At the brightness of his presence his clouds removed: hailstones, and coals of fire.

But at length types, and symbols, and prophecies were lost in the truth: the darkness of their enigmas disappeared in the full blaze of light. At the brightness of His presence, (Ay.) Who is the dayspring from on high, Who is the Sun of Righteousness, His clouds removed. And what was the (L.) result? Hailstones and coals of fire. The reference in the first place is to that plague, when “the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground;”* but in the understanding the mystical form of the expressions, holy men seem equally divided into two opposite explanations. The hail, so clear, so hard, so overwhelming, is, every one is agreed, the threatening of the Gospel: the savour of death unto death; the “it had been better for them not to have known the way of truth.” But the coals of fire, what are they? Are we to take them,* as before, for the love of GOD, which, when the promises were made clear, and types were (A.) lost in the antitype, stood manifested to the world? Or, of the “consuming fire,” which the LORD is to His enemies, “the day that shall burn as an oven, when all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble?”* Let us understand it, rather, if S. Bruno, and Euthymius, and their followers will allow us, of GOD’s love: so the sense will be;—Prophecies and shadows have come to an end, and, coming to an end, reveal to us on the one side the “Depart from Me, ye cursed;” on the other, the “Come, ye blessed of My FATHER, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

13 The LORD also thundered out of heaven, and the Highest gave his thunder: hailstones, and coals of fire.

So it had been from the beginning. GOD had at sundry times and in divers manners spoken unto the Fathers by the Prophets: The Lord thundered out of heaven. But now, beside these ancient words, The Highest gave His thunder: He That had made Himself lowest for our sakes, and by (Cd.) virtue of that humiliation was highly exalted, and obtained the Name that is above every name; He, the Highest, now also spake,—spake of that which He had seen and heard with the FATHER,—spake of that which He would still do for (G.) those for whom He had once suffered,—spake of the many mansions which He had prepared for them,—spake of His will, that where He was, there they should be also. The Highest gave His thunder. And still the threatenings of vengeance, and still the fervency of love: hailstones and coals of fire.

14 He sent out his arrows, and scattered them: he cast forth lightnings, and destroyed them.

What are the arrows but those words of truth by which the Apostles sought to pierce the hard hearts of the heathen, (A.) and so to wound them here, that they might find everlasting healing hereafter? Those arrows, like that of him at Ramoth Gilead, often sent at a venture, were yet directed by the Master of the Apostles in their aim. Whence notice that it says not, They sent out their arrows, but He sent out His arrows. (Ay.) Such arrows, such lightnings, were those of the two surnamed by our LORD, Boanerges. And destroyed them. So destroyed them, so caused them to die to sin, as to make them able to say with the Apostle, “I live, yet not I, but CHRIST liveth in me.”* “And when,” cries S. Bruno, with a holy boldness, “when shall we too thus be destroyed? When shall we, (B.) crucifying the old man, and utterly abolishing the whole body of sin, be found worthy of the new and better life that is from CHRIST, and in CHRIST?” The Eastern Church, on the contrary, would generally seem to have taken the words in the opposite sense, and to have applied them to the enemies of our LORD. “It is written, destroyed them,” says Euthymius, “because the HOLY GHOST would not so much as (Z.) name, by the mouth of His Prophet, the evil spirits to whom He refers.” But surely, the more loving exposition of the Western Fathers is better than this.

15 The springs of waters were seen, and the foundations of the round world were discovered, at thy chiding, O LORD: at the blasting of the breath of thy displeasure.

By the waters we understand Holy Scripture; (Ay.) and the springs of this fountain,—the deepest, truest, most real meaning was seen of a truth, when the Incarnation unlocked the enigmas of the Old Testament. The foundations of the round world, that which is the base and substructure of the whole (A.) Church, was indeed revealed, when the hidden mysteries of sacrifices, and types, and parables were laid open at that moment when “the WORD was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Or you may take the foundations of the Church to (G.) mean the Apostles and Prophets. Of these foundations Micah speaks,* “Hear ye, O mountains, the LORD’s controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth;” and of their beauty Isaiah testifies, when he thus consoles the Church: “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempests, not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and will lay thy foundations with sapphires.”* The foundations of the round world were discovered at Thy chiding, O Lord: and so indeed they were, when He said, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken;”* and then “opened their understanding, that they should understand the Scriptures.” Therefore it was that, in mediæval times, the altars were stripped on Good Friday, to show that, by the Passion of CHRIST, the mysteries of the Law and the Prophets were revealed. (L.) Or, if we wish, we may understand the springs of water of the Baptismal fountain, revealed by virtue of the LORD’s Incarnation, and owing all its efficiency to that. At the blasting of the breath of Thy displeasure. For what was the message which heralded in and which accompanied the LORD’s preaching? “Repent ye:” “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come. Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.”

16 He shall send down from on high to fetch me: and shall take me out of many waters.

It is the Church that speaks: He shall send—but whom? (G.) None less than the SON. As it is written, “GOD so loved the world, that He sent His Only-begotten SON” to take me for His bride; as He spake by the mouth of His holy Prophets, “I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness.”* Out of many waters. Oh, what marvellous richness of meaning is there in these Psalms! so that, whichever way you turn, new vistas of interpretation open upon you,* each vying with the other in beauty. Shall we take these waters as the waves of affliction? concerning which it is written, “Save me, O GOD, for the waters are come in, even to my soul.”* And again, “I will pour My wrath upon them like water;”* or again, “We went through fire and water.”* Truly, out of such afflictions has the Church over and over again been taken; over and over again shall she be taken, till put into possession of her future inheritance, the blessed Country where there shall be no more sea. Or shall we rather see in these waters, a type of the many peoples out of which our Church is formed: which, indeed, is the Chaldee paraphrase, where we read, (Cd.) Shall take me out of many peoples? And if so, we have the effects of that preaching of the Apostles whereof we were now speaking, who by their labour and their blood, gathered the Church out of every language, and people, and nation. Or yet once more, Are we to find in these waters the type of Baptism, out of, and by means of which the Church is taken? as it is written, “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church.”*

17 He shall deliver me from my strongest enemy, and from them which hate me: for they are too mighty for me.

My strongest enemy. Little doubt of whom the Church speaks. Them which hate me: The Jews, in the first beginnings; the Emperors and magistrates of this world in their ten persecutions; the various sects of heresy springing up like so many heads of a hydra from the Father of all Lies; (G.) and last, but not least, that fearful enemy of worldliness which, if others have slain their thousands, has of a surety destroyed its ten thousands. Or hear in this verse the words of our LORD instead of those of the Church. He was delivered from His strongest enemy in the three temptations of the wilderness, and from them which hated Him; Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Lawyers, Annas, Caiaphas, (Ay.) Pontius Pilate; delivered over and over again till His time was come, and then finally and for ever delivered by those most blessed of all words, “It is finished.”

18 They prevented me in the day of my trouble: but the LORD was my upholder.

That is, taking the word in its largest sense, they prevailed against Me. (G.) But when? Only in the times of My earthly humiliation; only when I was made a little lower than the angels; only in that day of My trouble when the prophecy was fulfilled, “Thou shalt bruise His heel.” For the time of glory is to come, when there could be no more preventing, no more prevailing, on the part of the enemy. And notice, as a good man observes, that expression, (R.) My trouble: trouble that, as it were, belongs to me as a possession, as a privilege: My trouble, out of and by means of which, sprang My glory. Or it may be the voice of the Church; and then by my trouble (Ay.) she means the days of those persecutions when she could say with Job: “The days of affliction prevented me; I went mourning without the sun.”* Or with Jeremiah: “O LORD, behold my affliction; for the enemy hath magnified himself.”* They prevented me, but the Lord was my upholder.* And what trouble is not well borne—what difficulty is not happily encountered—if that may be its result?

[They, my spiritual enemies, prevented me by attacking me, (D. C.) an unconscious infant, with the weapon of original sin, in the day of my trouble of being born into this weary world, but the LORD saved me from their chains, for]

19 He brought me forth also into a place of liberty: he brought me forth, even because he had a favour unto me.

If it be our LORD that speaks, then He tells how from the narrowness of the grave He came forth to the possession of the wide earth: “The earth is the LORD’s, and all that therein is:”* nay, more, how He returned again into heaven, having won for Himself, according to His Manhood, the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. But if it be the Church that speaks, she tells how from the cramped limits of Judæa, (Ay.) she was called forth “to have dominion from one sea to another, and from the flood unto the world’s end.”* Or in another sense, how from the narrow laws concerning the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, (R.) she was led to see the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of that love which they so faintly, and feebly, and imperfectly prefigured. Or yet once more: how she was instructed in the fullest and widest range of divine mysteries; mysteries utterly hidden from Jewish eyes, and then first revealed when “the WORD was made flesh, (A.) and dwelt among us. He had a favour unto me: not I to Him. All came from Him first: and so it was the Apostle’s prayer and labour not that GOD should be reconciled to us, but that we should be reconciled to GOD.

[He brought me, (D. C.) by Baptism, into the glorious liberty of the children of GOD, rightly called, as by LXX. and Vulgate, a wide place, because faith, hope, and charity, then infused into the soul, enlarge its capacity and affections.]

20 The LORD shall reward me after my righteous dealing: according to the cleanness of my hands shall he recompense me.

From this passage,* Cardinal Hugo points out seven steps to blessedness. The first, GOD’s merciful election: because He had a favour unto me. The second, faith in the redemption of CHRIST; He brought me forth. (It is, in the Vulgate, “He saved me,” and the reference is to our LORD’s words, “Thy faith hath saved thee.”) The third, Love: into a place of liberty. The fourth, our free-will, which co-operates with GOD’s love; according to my righteous dealing. The fifth, good works, according to the cleanness of my hands. The sixth, perseverance: because I have kept. The seventh, eternal retribution: The Lord shall reward me. According to my righteous dealing. For one star differeth from another star in glory: or again, according to S. Mark’s one only peculiar parable, (A.) “The earth bringing forth fruit, the blade, then the ear, after that, the full corn in the ear.”* Or let them be the words of our LORD: and what was the reward of His Righteous dealing, but the multitude of souls for whose disobedience He atoned by His perfect obedience, whose life He purchased by His death? According to the cleanness of my hands. For He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. That cleanness which, touching the leper, imparted cleansing to him: (A.) which, nailed to the Cross, poured forth those precious streams which have been the purification of the whole world.

21 Because I have kept the ways of the LORD: and have not forsaken my GOD, as the wicked doth.

22 For I have an eye unto all his laws: and will not cast out his commandments from me.

Forsaken, alas! too often: (Ay.) the just man falleth seven times a day. By reason of the frailty of our nature, we cannot always stand upright. But not as the wicked doth. If the just man falleth so often, he riseth again. “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy, when I fall, I shall also arise.”* And notice the pronoun, My GOD: the reason which prevents him from thus forsaking; the strength which enables him thus to arise. The ways. For, says one, there are two ways: love of GOD, and love of our neighbour. So much for the past. Then comes the present. I have an eye; and to what? to all His laws. For “whosoever shall keep the whole law, (C.) and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”* And then the future, and will not cast out His commandments from me. But who may say this truly and perfectly, save He Who was the law-giver, as well as the law-keeper; the framer, as well as the observer of the commandments?

23 I was also uncorrupt before him: and eschewed mine own wickedness.

Uncorrupt, or, as it is in the Vulgate, immaculate. S. Augustine, (A.) in his work on the perfection of righteousness, explains how it is that good men may-be called perfect, even in this life: as where Moses says in the book of Deuteronomy, “Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy GOD.”* “Not, says he, that they contract no stains, but that they are eager and anxious to contract none; and that they do contract none of that mortal character that eats into and leaves marks on the soul.” “Herein do I exercise myself to have a conscience void of offence, both toward GOD and toward men.”* Here notice, David says not simply uncorrupt, but uncorrupt before Him. Easy enough to be uncorrupt before men; but the thing is to be, as S. Paul again says, holy and without blame before Him in love.* And eschewed mine own wickedness. They take it literally of the murder and adultery, the one deep stain of David’s life. But spiritually, we may understand it, as Jansenius does, of that concupiscence which, though not sin in itself, is metaphorically called so, as so easily leading into wickedness: the fuel which it only needs temptation to kindle into an active flame: the “sin that dwelleth in me,”* of S. Paul. Eschewed, because it is the one end and aim of a Christian life to keep this under, and bring it into subjection.

24 Therefore shall the LORD reward me after my righteous dealing: and according to the cleanness of my hands in his eye-sight.

Notice again: according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight; not according to that of the world: “not as pleasing men, but GOD, Which trieth the hearts,”* says the Apostle. But put the verse into the mouth of our LORD, and what was the reward of His righteous dealing? What, (G.) but the redemption of the whole human race potentially; and actually, the final beatification of those righteous and happy souls, whom, having loved, He will love to the end? And we need not be afraid to apply even those words, eschewed mine own wickedness, to the same blessed LORD. His own, as assumed and carried by Him “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.”* And this eschewing them, (R.) this being made responsible for, and brought into contact with that which was His so infinite abomination; this was one of those unknown sufferings of which what finite mind can venture to imagine the depth or the extent? Hence, by mediæval allegorists He is sometimes imagined as the ermine,* that dies of grief if its spotless fur be but in the least soiled.

25 With the holy thou shalt be holy: and with a perfect man thou shalt be perfect.

26 With the clean thou shalt be clean: and with the froward thou shalt learn frowardness.

They generally take these verses as the words of the Psalmist to GOD; (Ay.) setting forth that according to the measure of a man’s good works, will be the measure of GOD’s grace given him; the talent bestowed on him that had already ten talents. So, in one of his poems, S. Gregory Nazianzen:

As the soul’s measure through her earthly race,

So is the measure of celestial grace,”

To him that in the midst of darkness, and notwithstanding the rough, steep ascent, like Moses still struggles onwards and upwards to draw nearer to GOD; (G.) to him, also, as to Moses, GOD’s holiness shall be most fully revealed: and so of the other clauses. Or, as others take it, David is speaking to the true servant of GOD. With the holy thou shalt be holy: (L.) as GOD the FATHER is the Source and Foundation of all holiness, so in his own poor way, man, that is made after the similitude of GOD, will also try after holiness. With a perfect man thou shalt be perfect: as the SON of GOD, Man as well as GOD, took our nature upon Him, that all mankind should follow His example. With the clean thou shall be clean: (Ay.) that is, shalt strive hard to preserve that purity which the HOLY GHOST, the Giver of all purity, implanted in Baptism. With the froward thou shalt learn frowardness: that is, thy whole life should be one long struggle against, one continuous resistance to, him who is indeed froward, that great enemy both of GOD and man, whose never-ending temptations ought to teach us never-ending watchfulness: thou shall learn frowardness.

27 Thou shalt save the people that are in adversity: and shalt bring down the high looks of the proud.

It is the rule of CHRIST Himself. “Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”* And this verse might be taken as a compendium of all Church History; open any page at random, (Ay.) and you will find a commentary on it. And of our LORD Himself,—how did He save the people that were in adversity when on that first Easter night He manifested Himself, entering in through the closed doors to the Apostles; how again, when as the three Maries were much distressed and perplexed, who shall roll away the stone? they found that the angel had already rolled it away: “for”—and notice the beauty of the reason—“it was exceeding great.” As much as to say, that because the difficulty was so formidable, therefore GOD must, as it were, remove it by a supernatural ministry. It is a “for” which,* like many another little word in the Bible, may cheer and comfort us when we are in distress. And see how the high looks of the proud have been no less miraculously brought down: how, when the people shouted, “It is the voice of a GOD, and not of a man,”—“immediately, the angel of the LORD smote him, because he gave not GOD the glory:”* how, no sooner had Nebuchadnezzar uttered his “Is not this great Babylon which I have builded?” than the voice fell from heaven,* “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken, thy kingdom is departed from thee.” And how he of whom every enemy of GOD’s people is but the type, (C.) he who said,* “I will exalt my throne above the stars of GOD; I will be like the Most High,” he it was of whom the LORD said, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”*

28 Thou also shalt light my candle: the LORD my GOD shall make my darkness to be light.

My candle.* It is beautifully said: for, like a candle, no true servant of GOD can shine without at the same time consuming. “He was a burning and a shining light:” but the burning first and then the shining. Or take it of the faith of the Church: a light kindled upon her,—a light that it over and over again seems as if some blast of temptation would extinguish, (Ay.)—a light, if small in itself, the faith as a grain of mustard-seed, yet sending out its beams far and near in the darkness of this world. Thou also shalt—when none else can: and notice, too, how here, as so often, (D. C.) the Psalmist begins with speaking of GOD, and ends with speaking to Him. So the Bride in the Canticles, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for Thy love is better than wine.” Shall make my darkness to be light. So also the promise: “Who is there among you that.… walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the Name of the LORD, and stay himself upon his GOD.”* His GOD, as here the LORD my GOD: for no colder, no more distant appropriation of GOD’s love will serve the turn in such times of distress. My darkness to be light. Shall we take it of the darkness of that night and of that garden when they came to seek Him with lanterns, (G.) and torches, and weapons? Or of that darkness which was over all the earth from the sixth hour until the ninth hour? Or rather of that darkness—a darkness which might be felt—which came in even to our LORD’s soul, and attained its most fearful blackness when He uttered that cry, My GOD, My GOD, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” However we take it, if never such darkness to precede, never such brightness to follow. “At the brightness of that light,” says the Eastern Church, “let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; because the LORD hath showed strength with His arm, hath trampled down death by death, hath become the First-begotten from the dead; hath dispersed the darkness of hell, and hath poured glorious brilliancy on the world.”1 And notice how beautifully the description in the text rises. In this world, after all, our faith, our knowledge of GOD, (B.) are but as a candle; it remains for the next world to do away with these shadows for ever, to bring the light of happy morning after the dark and sad night, The Lord my God shall make my darkness to be light.

[The Targum expounds this verse of exiled Israel, whose candle was indeed quenched in captivity, but to be kindled again by Him Who is the Light of Israel, making His people see the consolations for the righteous in the world to come.* Many of the Western commentators see here the Apostles, Martyrs, and early preachers of the Gospel, who are the light of the world, bright with the knowledge, and warm with the love of GOD, (P.) and dispersing the darkness of heathenism. (Lu.) Others again will have it that man’s heart or intellect is the* lantern or candle, to be enlightened by grace; (A.) and yet once more,* a holy writer bids us look from the darkness of this world to the glory to be revealed in the Heavenly Country.

In te nunquam nubilata*

Aëris temperies,

Sole aolis illustrata

Semper est meridies,

In te non nox feasis grata,

Nec labor nec inquies.]

29 For in thee I shall discomfit an host of men: and with the help of my GOD I shall leap over the wall.

It is the LORD, in the full view of His Passion, (C.) Who speaks. For He beholds the host of men that are drawn up to oppose Him: the Jews, Pilate, Herod, the soldiers; and over each and all He prophesies His final victory. I shall leap over the wall. That wall of which Isaiah speaks, “Your iniquities have separated between you and your GOD, and your sins have hid His face from you.”* And again: “Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, and swelling out in a high wall.”* And so for us. Every wall which would intercept our course to GOD, every obstacle which Satan sets up that he may sore let and hinder us,—if we cannot sweep it away entirely, at least we must overcome it for ourselves and leap over it.1 And finally that last and most fearful wall, (Ay.) which before immortality was brought to light seemed the hindrance to any further advance, the wall of death, that also, following the example of our Leader we shall pass in safety. Of Him it is written,* “The fortress of the high fort of thy walls shall He bring down:” and by the help of our God, we also, as the children of Israel over the fallen walls of Jericho, shall go up to the city which we are seeking.

[Ono writer, with a quaint literalness, explains the wall to be the material barrier of the grave and of the closed doors of the upper chamber, (D. C.) through which CHRIST passed in His risen Body without disturbing them. It is strange that none of the commentators make any reference here to CHRIST as destroying the distinction between Jew and Gentile,* “Who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”]

30 The way of GOD is an undefiled way: the word of the LORD also is tried in the fire; he is the Defender of all them that put their trust in him.

And now notice the remarkable allusion to the Blessed Trinity.* The way of God, that law which He gave on Mount Sinai when the FATHER manifested Himself as a GOD afar off. The word of the Lord, the Incarnate Word, (C.) was indeed tried in the fire when, through so many sufferings and agonies, He was Himself according to His Manhood made perfect, and according to His Godhead opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. And again: He—the Blessed SPIRIT, He without Whom man would in vain strive against his enemies,—He of Whom it is written, “Except the LORD keep the city,” that is, the city of the heart, “the watchman,” that is, conscience, “waketh but in vain,”—He is the Defender of all them that put their trust in Him. Well for us that, (G.) since that way is so undefiled, and we ourselves so polluted, we have not an High Priest Which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, having been Himself tried in the fire! Well for us that, since that way is so beset with enemies, banded together to resist our progress, we have a Defender Who is no accepter of persons, but the safeguard of all them that put their trust in Him!

31 For who is GOD but the LORD: or who hath any strength, except our GOD?

32 It is GOD that girdeth me with strength of war: and maketh my way perfect.

Here again we have the Blessed Trinity most clearly set forth.* Who is God, but the Lord? The question of Michael the Archangel, when fighting with the dragon and his angels, whence his very name, Mi-cha-el.1 Learn, says the Spanish illation,* on the Festival of that Archangel, what is the power of preserving humility. While it ascribes everything that it can perform to GOD, it is also honoured with the very Name of GOD. For Michael by interpretation is, Who is as GOD? Or who hath any strength except our God? “for though He were crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of GOD.” So from the weakness of the Cross,* came our strength; from the anguish of the Cross, came our comfort; from the death of the Cross, came our life. And then again: It is God that girdeth me with strength of war: girdeth me at Baptism, giveth me power and strength to have victory and to triumph against the devil, the world, and the flesh: girdeth me at Confirmation, which is the very Sacrament of strength: girdeth me by preparing for me by His own sanctification of the material element “the Corn of the mighty.” And thus assisted by each Person of the ever Blessed Trinity, well may the Psalmist cry, and maketh my way perfect. Perfect it ought to be even here: perfect it is commanded to be;* “Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy GOD:” perfect it will be hereafter: “The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” And they also see here a reference to the battle with Goliath: (C.) a type of the great battle which decided the fate of the world. It is God, not Saul, that girdeth me with strength of war. “Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head.”*.… “And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these, for I have not proved them.” And thus our David was girded with strength of war, which to human eyes seemed weakness; armed with the staff of His Cross, and with the five smooth stones of His unconquerable wounds from the brook of affliction.

33 He maketh my feet like harts’ feet: and setteth me up on high.

It may be taken in two senses. Our LORD’s Feet were swift as the hart’s, (A.) when He came from heaven to work out our salvation. Or if we understand the hart to mean the ibex or some similar mountain goat, then the words will tell us how there was no difficulty too great to be overcome, (Ay.) no place too inaccessible to be scaled, when the Captain of our Salvation assaulted the fortress of the strong man armed. The Bride understands the word in the first sense, when she calls to herself Him Whom she loves: “Haste, my Beloved, and be Thou like to a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of spices.”* Habakkuk seems to take it in the second, when he says: “The LORD GOD is my strength,* and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and He will make me to walk in mine high places.” It must be confessed that the prayer of the Prophet shows even more faith than that of David. Setteth me up on high, says the Psalm,—“Will make me to walk upon MY high places,” (D. C.) says the Canticle. We younger brethren of that dear Elder Brother,—we co-heirs with Him Who is the blessed and only heir,—we may use that word my by right of adoption, which He can take into His mouth by right of inheritance.

34 He teacheth mine hands to fight: and mine arms shall break even a bow of steel.

He teacheth: (Ay.) and not as man teacheth. Thus He taught Gideon to fight with the innumerable host of Midian by sending to their homes two-and-twenty thousand, and retaining but ten thousand of his soldiers; and then again by reducing that remnant to the little band of three hundred who lapped when brought down to the water. Thus He taught Samson by abstaining from strong drink, and by suffering no razor to pass over his head. Thus He taught the three kings in the wilderness to war against their enemies, not by any strength of their armies, but by making ditches in the desert. Thus He taught David himself by waiting for the sound of the going in the tops of the mulberry trees. And so He taught the arms of the True David to fight when stretched on the Cross: nailed, to human sight, to the tree of suffering, but in reality, winning for themselves the crown of glory: helpless in the eyes of Scribes and Pharisees; in those of Archangels, laying hold of the two pillars, sin and death, whereon the house of Satan rested, and heaving them up from their foundation. (A.) And mine arm shall break1 even a bow of steel. Take it in the first sense; and the bow is that of which it is written, “The ungodly bend their bow and make ready their arrows within the quiver:”* for, as it is written in another place,* “Their sword shall go through their own heart, and their bow shall be broken.” That is, every effort, every aim, every device of the enemy shall be “knapped in sunder” by those victorious arms. Take it in the other sense, (G.) and the bow is that bow of prayer which sends the arrows of ejaculation to the throne of GOD: that bow which is answered by the heavenly bow of peace: that bow which, like the king of old, our LORD drew three times with all His might in the garden of Gethsemane. (Z.) This is the bow concerning which the True David, with respect to His own people, would follow the example of the David of old, in his command to his army: “Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow:”* without the employment of which any conflict with the spiritual Philistines must certainly be another defeat on Mount Gilboa.

35 Thou hast given me the defence of thy salvation: thy right hand also shall hold me up, and thy loving correction shall make me great.

The defence of Thy salvation. That which is indeed our true defence against the wear and tear of disease, and weakness,* and labour, the dissolution of death itself is the glory of the Resurrection. Or rather, they take Thy salvation to be Him Who is indeed all our salvation and all our desire; Him Whose Name is JESUS, which is by interpretation a Saviour. And even Rabbi Joden, (C.) and other Jewish expositors, take it of the Messiah. Thou hast given me: (L.) not I myself: “for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.”* Thy right hand: and there again we have that LORD Who, as the express image of the FATHER, is also the Right Hand of His Majesty. Hold me up, by having taken my nature; (Ay.) hold me up, by having atoned for my sins on the Cross; hold me up, by interceding for me at the throne of the FATHER. Thy loving correction shall make me great: for “whom the LORD loveth He chasteneth.” “Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me.” It is, in the Vulgate, “Thy discipline has corrected me to the end.” “There is,” says Hugh of S. Victor,* “a good and a bad end. The bad end is the depth of sin: the good end the consummation of virtue. But the discipline of the LORD correcteth to the end, because even they who have fallen into the abyss of iniquity are raised by it to the height of virtue. O good, O sweet discipline of GOD! O that we may know it! O that we may receive it! O that we may abide it! But how can this be? It consists in three things: in precepts, in temptations, in chastisements. In precepts GOD makes trial of your obedience; in temptations, of your constancy; in chastisements, of your patience. Obediently receive the precepts, constantly resist the temptations, patiently endure the chastisements. But these three things,—obedience, constancy, and patience,—can never be separated from each other, because each is necessary in all.” (L.) The translation of Eusebius gives a different sense still: “And my obedience, that shall increase me,” truly enough said of Him of Whom it is written, that because “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross, therefore GOD also hath highly exalted Him.”*

36 Thou shalt make room enough under me for to go: that my footsteps shall not slide.

Room enough: not like Balaam,* against whom the Angel of the LORD went forth, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. Room enough: not like the host of Holofernes, against whom the High Priest wrote that the passages of the hill country were to be kept; because “it was easy to stop them that would come up, for the passage was strait, for two men at the most.”* Room enough: (L.) not like to the tribe of Dan, of whom it is written, “The Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain, for they would not suffer them to come down into the valley.”* But according to the promise: “When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened:”* or again, “Thou hast set my feet in a large room.”* And how is this room to be made, (G.) except by charity, which, expands all things,—by the breadth of that love of CHRIST which passeth knowledge? That my footsteps shall not slide. That is, that, the example which our LORD left may not be thrown away upon us; that the pattern which He gave we may copy, setting our feet in the prints of His. For His footsteps are indeed, in a far higher sense than that of the poet,

Footprints which perhaps some other,

Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,

Some forlorn and shipwrecked brother

Seeing, may take heart again.”

He,” says Eusebius, “who follows JESUS, (Cd.) must needs tread in His steps; and, for the very reason that he travels on in the road travelled by our LORD, he finds the road firm, and that verse fulfilled, That my footsteps shall not slide.” Well says Gerhohus, speaking in the person of our LORD, “As I walked in heaven upon the lion and adder, and trod the young lion and the dragon under foot, (G.) when I beheld Satan as lightning fall thence, so also on earth My footsteps did not slide through the infirmity of the flesh; seeing that I crushed the head of the self-same tempter in the desert; seeing that I crush him still in My members, in whom, though they are, weak, I am strong; and in My Sacraments, the effect of which is not weakened, though they be celebrated by unholy and infirm ministers.”

37 I will follow upon mine enemies, and overtake them: neither will I turn again till I have destroyed them.

Upon Mine enemies. Thus saith the LORD of His persecutors: thus must we also say, (Ay.) not only of our besetting sins, but of that concupiscence which remains in the regenerate, and which, though not sin in itself, is the mother and source of all sin: remembering our vow to crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin. And of what this war must be, take an example in the commands given to the Jews: their seven nations are our seven deadly sins. “Thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them: thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them; for thou art an holy people, saith the LORD thy GOD.”* “Happy, happy soul,” (B.) cries a good Bishop, “if only thou wilt put this precept in practice! if only thou wilt take possession of the mountains of Canaan, and drive out the accursed tribes, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong!”* Nor turn again. For the true Joshua, like him of old, “drew not his hand back wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.”* And so of us also. Neither will I turn again. For “is not,” as Job said, “my life a warfare upon earth?”*

38 I will smite them, that they shall not be able to stand: but fall under my feet.

Fall. Still it is the LORD that speaks: (G.) He of Whom it is written, “They that dwell in the wilderness”—namely, the wilderness of this world—“shall kneel before Him; His enemies shall lick the dust:”* fall, therefore, in adoration; or, if not, fall in absolute and perpetual ruin. Under My feet. That is, under those that are sent forth by Me, to do My work, and to preach My Word; My apostles, My ambassadors till the end of time. (D. C.) And of them that will not fall in obedience it is written, “He shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of thy feet:”* just as Joshua, after the great victory by Gibeon, and the capture of the five kings, “said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings.”* “Thine enemies,”* is the promise to Israel, “shall be found liars unto thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places.”

39 Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou shalt throw down mine enemies under me.

But why again give thanks to GOD for His help against enemies, (Cd.) when already (ver. 35) David has done so? “Because,” answers Hugh of S. Victor, “we have to gird on our armour at the end as well as at the beginning of our Christian warfare.* When we have overthrown our enemies, then we are attacked by the most dangerous of all,—the pride of our very victory.” So the rhyme says, very well:

Cum bene pugnaris, cum cuncta subacta putaris,

Quæ magis infestat vincenda superbia restat.

Verily,” says Arnobius of Chartres, “the desire of human praise and glory is the ulcer of virtue, the moth of sanctity, on which, as the last of all evils, our enemy depends for victory.” (G.) Or, if you desire another reason for the twofold ascription of praise, others have made the first the thanksgiving, so to speak, of our LORD for His own victory; the second for the triumphs, in and through Him, of His people.

40 Thou hast made mine enemies also to turn their backs upon me: and I shall destroy them that hate me.

They have little to say on this verse, beyond—what is so easy to say and so difficult to act out—the happiness of such a victory: but pass on to

41 They shall cry, but there shall be none to help them: yea, even unto the LORD shall they cry, but he shall not hear them.

Sad examples enough there are of the truth of this prophecy. Of Esau it is written that he “found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”* Of Antiochus, (L.) though he vowed in his last illness “that also he would become a Jew himself, and go through all the world that was inhabited and declare the power of GOD, yet,”* continues the historian, “for all this his pains would not cease, for the just judgment of GOD was come upon him.” But most appropriately to this passage, it is written of Saul: “When he inquired of the LORD, the LORD would answer him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.”* And therefore the Prophet warns us: “Give glory to the LORD your GOD before He cause darkness, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains;”* as Saul’s feet indeed stumbled on the dark mountains of Gilboa. Even unto the Lord shall they cry: (R.) but not, as it has been well remarked, by a Mediator: and so, crying to Him in their own name, and by their own merits, they cry in vain.1

42 I will beat them as small as the dust before the wind: I will cast them out as the clay in the streets.

The dust before the wind: and nothing can more fitly express the miserable condition of the scattered Jews, (A.)—driven in the times of their persecution from one country to another, fugitives and exiles everywhere, branded by peculiar laws, and forbidden to find a resting-place and a home. (Ay.) Dust indeed, as not having received the dew of GOD’s grace. The clay in the streets. The broad way of this world, says Gerhohus, (G.) is full of this clay, and therefore of those luxurious and impure souls who wallow in it. But this clay shall perish, because “the world passeth away, and the lust thereof.” Nor shall there remain aught of that in which these worldly swine now delight themselves, in that new heaven and new earth wherein nothing can in any wise enter that defileth. Yet nevertheless of this clay,* as Didymus reminds us, the Master of the house will sometimes make to Himself vessels more precious in His eyes than of gold or silver: vessels of honour, sanctified, “meet for the Master’s use, (L.) and prepared unto every good work.”

[In the streets, because as the dust of a city is far more trodden under foot than that of the fields,* so the punishment of the rebellious Jews has been not once only, but again and again at the hands of different oppressors through the ages of their exile.]

43a (43) Thou shalt deliver me from the strivings of the people: and thou shalt make me the head of the heathen.

Strivings indeed; as that of Korah: (A.) “Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy.” (L.) As that of the High Priest: “Whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Cæsar.”* As that of the Jews, when “they were filled with envy, and spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.”* Or again: “As concerning this sect, we know that it is everywhere spoken against.”* So it was that holy Simeon prophesied of the “sign which should be spoken against:”* this is the lesson that we are taught by the Apostle, “Consider Him That endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself.”* Or take the word of the strivings of the Jews amongst themselves:* “There was much murmuring of the Jews among themselves; for some said, He is a good man; others said, Nay, but He deceiveth the people.”* Thou shalt make Me the head of the heathen. And even the Jewish Rabbis saw in this a prophecy of the Messiah; while Christian expositors with one voice,—Tertullian, S. Cyprian, S. Augustine, Procopius, Justin Martyr, S. Prosper, and S. Chrysostom,—all with one consent apply it to Him, and to Him only.

Reprobatus et abjectus,*

Lapis iste; nunc electus

In tropæum stat erectus,

Et in caput anguli.”

43b (44) A people whom I have not known: shall serve me.

First we have the obedience of the Gentiles,* before we hear of the disobedience of the Jews.* All mediæval writers expound with reference to this verse, the sad story of Tamar: a story where, more than anywhere else, we have to bear in mind the grand rule of S. Augustine, “Let us abhor the sin, but let us not quench the prophecy.” Here, too, we have fulfilled the prediction, “Behold, Thou shalt call a nation whom Thou knowest not, and nations that knew not Thee shall run unto Thee.”* And again: “I am sought of them that asked not for Me; I am found of them that sought Me not.”*

44 (45) As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: but the strange children shall dissemble with me.

[As soon as they hear, or more exactly,* with the old versions, and the margin of A. V., At the hearing of the ear, contrasting thus the ready obedience of the Gentiles, who had only the preaching of missionaries to trust to,* with the contradictions or strivings of the Jews, who saw and heard CHRIST Himself, and had the Scriptures besides.]

45 (46) The strange children shall fail: and be afraid out of their prisons.

The strange children. That is, (A.) the Jews: children indeed, is descended from faithful Abraham; but strange by rejecting Him Whose day Abraham desired to see. It is thus that almost all the Fathers interpret the passage, some few only taking it of the Gentiles: it is Osorius who most warmly supports this meaning. Shall dissemble with me. (Ay.) So they did when they said, “Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of GOD in truth; neither carest Thou for any man, for Thou regardest not the person of men.”* And they not only dissembled themselves, (B.) but were the cause of deceit in others: as when “they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept.”* S. Augustine, in expounding that passage, “Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out,”* says with reference to this text: “Children,* not my own, but strange children, as it is written, ‘Ye are of your father, the devil.’ ” The next clause is given differently in the Vulgate: “The strange children are inveterate, and halted from their paths.” Halted, they all say, from S. Augustine downwards, (A.) as receiving the Old, but rejecting the New Testament;* as was typified of old by Jacob’s halting upon his thigh. But even of these that thus halt it is written, as S. Jerome reminds us, “I will save her that halteth, and gather her that is driven out.”* And in the mean time, the exhortation to the Jews is, as it was of old, “How long halt ye between two opinions?”* But our own translation is not without its force. They shall be afraid in those prisons of sin whence they would not allow the Redeemer to say to them, “Turn ye to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope:”* prisons which nevertheless one day He shall destroy, when Jew as well as Gentile shall join in that verse, “He hath broken the gates of brass, and smitten the I bars of iron in sunder.”

46 (47) The LORD liveth, and blessed be my strong helper: and praised be the GOD of my salvation.

Notice the admirable sequence of these two verses. First, we have the Jews dissembling, and buying the perjury of the Roman soldiers: then, being indeed afraid when they found that Deceiver to have risen,* and “when they heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow:”* and lastly, as in the beginning of this verse, the reason, The Lord liveth. Liveth, after His three days’ slumber in the sepulchre; liveth, to burst the gaol and to scatter the guards; liveth, and was dead, and is alive for evermore. And it is well said, The Lord liveth: the slave died, but the LORD, the LORD of Life, the LORD of Glory, liveth again.* And notice the reference to the Blessed Trinity: The Lord liveth:—and blessed be my Strong Helper:*—and praised be the God of my salvation. Praised, or, as it is in the Vulgate, exalted. “Exalted,” says Gerhohus, very prettily, (G.) “be the GOD of my salvation, exalted be the Sun of Righteousness to the very height of His zodiac, that He may evoke throughout the whole world summer days,—days long and bright, in which we may say, The winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear. Whence, when He came into this world to endure the wintry miseries of mortality, it was in winter that to us a Child was born, unto us a Son was given. But rising as the First-born from the dead, He dedicated the season of spring to His Resurrection and Ascension, and so enter into that eternal summer where He has done with the miseries of winter for ever.”

47 (48) Even the GOD that seeth that I be avenged: and subdueth the people unto me.

48 (49) It is he that delivereth me from my cruel enemies, and setteth me up above mine adversaries: thou shalt rid me from the wicked man.

Avenger! But how? If it is CHRIST that speaks, then He says, “FATHER, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” If it be His Bride, then she says, (Ay.) “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” O, most sweet revenge, that fulfils the saying of Job, “He putteth forth His Hand upon the rock:”* the Hand pierced for our sakes, on the hard rock of the heart; that accomplishes the saying of the Psalmist,* “Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke:” the cold, dark mountains of human pride and self-will, which will one day be set on fire with the love of GOD: when the prediction of Isaiah shall come to pass,* “The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee, and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet.” Or, if we take it literally, this vengeance is a prophecy of that most terrible siege of Jerusalem, when the prayer was fulfilled, “His blood be on us, and on our children.”* And now notice—as so often—the Trinity of evil: My cruel enemies—Mine adversaries—the wicked man. “These,” (G.) says Gerhohus, “are the three bands which the Chaldæans made out;” and he interprets them of the Jews, the Pagans, and the heretics. And he well observes that this verse forms the Introit for the Wednesday in Passion-week. “It may well do so,” says he; “for the true Palm Sunday will never be celebrated by the Church till these attacks of her enemies shall have passed away for ever.” He sees a further type of the same thing in the Gospel for that Sunday: the Jews, when they said unto our LORD, “How long dost Thou make us to doubt?” played the part of His adversaries: when they said, “For a good work we stone Thee not, but for blasphemy,” of the wicked man; when they took up stones to stone Him, of His cruel enemies.

49 (50) For this cause will I give thanks unto thee; O LORD, among the Gentiles: and sing praises unto thy name.

And now comes the summing up of the whole. (Ay.) I will give thanks: I, in My Apostles; I, in My ambassadors till the end of time; I, in My Church, which shall have the heathen for her inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for her possession; I will give thanks among the Gentiles. Or, to apply this in a sense in which David could never have intended it, to the sweet Psalmist of Israel himself, then see how, (D. C.) from one end of the earth to the other, in every kindred and nation, and people and tongue, he still gives thanks unto the LORD; how, commented on by a thousand saints, with words interpreted into a thousand holy meanings, he still sings praises to that Name which is exalted above every name,—that Name, than which there is none other given under heaven whereby we must be saved.

50 (51) Great prosperity giveth he unto his King: and showeth loving-kindness unto David his Anointed, and unto his seed for evermore.

Unto his King: unto the King once crowned with thorns, (G.)—the King to Whom they once bowed the knee in mockery,—the King, Whose title as monarch was once the very title of His accusation: but now it is David His Anointed: anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. “The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you; and as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him. And now, little children, abide in Him.”* I cannot end the commentary on so long a Psalm better.

And therefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, Who showeth loving-kindness unto David His Anointed, and to His seed; and to the SON, CHRIST the King, the true David, Who goeth forth to sow His seed: and to the HOLY GHOST, Who is that loving-kindness itself;

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








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