Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Expositions on the Book of Psalms.: Psalm CXXXV
Psalm CXXXV. 5649
1. Very pleasant ought it be to us, and we should rejoice because it is pleasant, to which this Psalm exhorteth us. For it says, “Praise the name of the Lord” (Psa. 135.1). And it forthwith appends the reason, why it is just to praise the name of the Lord. “Praise the Lord, ye servants.” What more just? what more worthy? what more thankful?…For if He teaches His own servants who have deserved well of Him, the preachers of His Word, the rulers of His Church, the worshippers of His name, the obeyers of His command, that in their own conscience they should possess the sweetness of their life, lest they be corrupted by the praise or disheartened by the reproach of men; how much the more is He above all, the unchangeable One, who teacheth these things, neither the greater if thou praisest, or the less if thou reproachest.…For ye will do nothing out of place, by praising your Lord, as servants. And if ye were to be for ever only servants, ye ought to praise the Lord; how much more ought ye servants to praise the Lord, that ye may hereafter gain the privilege of sons?
2. …Therefore, “Ye who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God, praise the Lord” (Psa. 135.2). Be thankful; ye were without, and ye stand within. Since then ye stand, is it a small thing for you to think where He should be praised, who raised you when you were cast down, and caused you to stand in His house, to know Him, and to praise Him? Is it a small boon, that we stand in the house of the Lord?…If one thinks of this, and is not unthankful, he will utterly despise himself in comparison with the love of his Lord, who hath done so great things for him. And since he hath nothing wherewith to repay God for so great benefits, what remains for him but to give Him thanks, not to repay Him? It belongs to the very act of thanksgiving, to “receive the cup of the Lord, and to call upon His name.” 5650 For what can the servant repay the Lord for all that He hath given him? 5651
3. What reason shall I give why you should praise Him? “Because the Lord is good” (Psa. 135.3). Briefly in one word is here explained the praise of the Lord our God. “The Lord is good;” good, not in the same manner as the things which He here made are good. For God made all things very good; 5652 not only good, but also very good. He made the sky and earth, and all things which are in them good, and He made them very good. If He made all these things good, of what sort is He who made them?…
4. How far can we speak of His goodness? Who can conceive in his heart, or apprehend how good the Lord is? Let us however return to ourselves, and in us recognise Him, and praise p. 625 the Maker in His works, because we are not fit to contemplate Him Himself. And in hope that we may be able to contemplate Him, when our heart hath been purified by faith, that hereafter it may rejoice in the Truth; now as He cannot be seen by us, let us look at His works, that we may not live without praising Him. So I 5653 have said, “Praise the Lord, for He is good; sing praises unto His Name, for He is sweet”.…He is Mediator, and thereupon is sweet. What is sweeter than angels food? How can God not be sweet, since man ate angels food? For men and angels live not on different meat. That is truth, that is wisdom, that is the goodness of God, but thou canst not enjoy it in like wise with the angels.…That man might eat angels food, the Creator of the angels was made man. 5654 If ye taste, sing praises; if ye have tasted how sweet the Lord is, sing praises; if that which ye have tasted has a good savour, praise it; who is so unthankful to cook or purveyor, as not to return thanks by praising what he tastes, if he be pleased by any food. If we are not silent on such occasions, shall we be silent concerning Him, who has given us all things?…
5. “For the Lord hath chosen Jacob to Himself, Israel for His own possession” (Psa. 135.4).…Let not Jacob therefore extol himself, let him not boast himself, or ascribe it to his own merits. He was known before, predestinated before, elected before, not elected for his own merits, but found out, and gifted with life by the grace of God. So with all the Gentiles; for how did the wild-olive deserve, that it should be grafted in, from the bitterness of its berries, the barrenness of its wildness? It was the wood of the wilderness, not of the Lords field, and yet He of His mercy grafted the wild-olive into the (true) olive. But up to this time the wild-olive was not grafted in.
6. …“Because,” says he, “I know that the Lord is great, and our God is above all gods” (Psa. 135.5). If we should say to him, we ask thee, explain to us His greatness; would he not perchance answer us, He whom I see is not so very great, if He be able to be expounded by me. Let him then return to His works, and tell us. Let him hold in his conscience the greatness of God, which he has seen, which he has committed to our faith, whither he could not lead our eyes, and enumerate some of the things which the Lord hath done here; that unto us, who cannot see His greatness as he can, He may become sweet through the works of His which we can comprehend.…
7. “All whatsoever the Lord willed, He made in the heaven, and in the earth, in the sea, and in all its deep places” (Psa. 135.6). Who can comprehend these things? Who can enumerate the works of the Lord in the heaven and earth, in the sea, and in all deep places? Yet if we cannot comprehend them all, we should believe and hold them without question, because whatever creature is in heaven, whatever is in earth, whatever is in the sea and in all deep places, has been made by the Lord.…
8. “Raising the clouds from the ends of the earth” (Psa. 135.7). We see these works of God in His creation. For the clouds come from the ends of the earth to the midst thereof, and rain; thou scannest not whence they arise. Hence the prophet signifies this, from “the ends of the earth,” whether it be from the bottom, or from the circumference of the ends of the earth, whencesoever He wills He raises the clouds, only from the earth. “He hath made lightnings into rain.” For lightnings without rain would frighten thee, and bestow nothing on thee. “He maketh lightnings unto rain.” It lightens, and thou tremblest; it rains, thou rejoicest. “He hath made lightnings unto rain.” He who terrified thee, Himself causest that thou shouldest rejoice. “Who bringeth the winds out of His treasures,” their causes are hidden, thou knowest not whence they come. When the wind blows, thou feelest it; why it blows, or from what treasure of His wisdom it is brought forth, thou knowest not; 5655 yet thou owest to God the worship of faith, for it would not blow unless He had bidden who made it, unless He had brought it forth who created it.
9. We see therefore these things in that work of His; we praise, we marvel at, we bless God; let us see what He has done among men for His people. “Who smote the first-born of Egypt” (Psa. 135.8). But withal those divine doings are told which thou mightest love, those are not told which thou mightest fear. Attend, and see that also when He is angry, He doeth what He willeth. “From man even unto beast. He sent signs and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt!” (Psa. 135.9). Ye know, ye have read what the hand of the Lord did by Moses in Egypt, to crush and cast down the proud Egyptians, “on Pharaoh and on all his servants.” Little did He in Egypt: what did He after His people was led out thence? “Who smote many nations” (Psa. 135.10), who possessed that land, which God willed to give His people. “And slew mighty kings, Sehon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan” (Psa. 135.11). All these things which the Psalm records simply, do we read likewise in others of the Lords books, and there the hand of the Lord is great. When thou seest p. 626 what has been done to the wicked, take heed lest it be done to thee.…But when the good man sees what the wicked has suffered, let him cleanse himself from all iniquity, lest he fall into a like punishment, a like chastisement. Then ye have thoroughly understood these things. What did God then? He drove out the wicked, “And he gave their land for an inheritance, even an inheritance to Israel His servant” (Psa. 135.12).
10. Then follows the loud cry of His praise. “Thy Name, O Lord, is for ever and ever” (Psa. 135.13), after all these things which Thou hast done. For what do I see that Thou hast done? I behold Thy creation which Thou hast made in heaven, I behold this lower part, where we dwell, and here I see Thy gifts of clouds, and winds, and rain. I regard Thy people; Thou leddest them from the house of bondage, and didst signs and wonders upon their enemies. Thou punishedst those who caused them trouble, Thou dravest the wicked from their land, Thou killedst their kings, Thou gavest their land to Thy people: I have seen all these things, and filled with joy have said, “Lord, Thy Name is for ever and ever.”…
11. All these things then did God overthrow, in the body at that time, when our fathers were led out of the land of Egypt, in the spirit now. Nor does His Hand cease until the end. Therefore deem not that these mighty deeds of God were then finished and have ceased. “Thy Name, O Lord,” he says, “is for ever.” 5656 That is, Thy loving-kindness ceaseth not, Thy hand ceaseth not for ever from doing these things, which then Thou didst afore declare in a figure. “But they are written for our admonition, on whom the end of the ages is come.” 5657 One generation and another generation; the generation by which we are made the faithful, and are born again by baptism; the generation by which we shall rise again from the dead, and shall live with the Angels for ever. Thy Memorial, O Lord, is above this generation, and above that; for neither doth He now forget to call us, nor then will He forget to crown us.
12. “The Lord hath judged His people, and will be called upon among His servants” (Psa. 135.14). Already hath He judged the people. Save the final judgment, the people of the Jews is judged. What is “judged”? The just are taken away, the unjust are left. But if I lie, or am thought to lie, because I have said, it is already judged, hear the Lord saying, “I have come for judgment into this world, that they who see not may see, and they who see may be made blind.” 5658 The proud are made blind, the lowly are enlightened. Therefore, “He hath judged His people.” Isaiah spake the judgment. “And now, thou house of Jacob, come ye, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” 5659 This is a small matter; but what follows? “For He hath put away His people, the house of Israel.” The house of Jacob is the house of Israel; for he who is Jacob, the same is Israel.…Therefore God had judged His people, by separating the evil and the good; that is to say, “He shall be called upon among His servants.” By whom? By the Gentiles. For how vast are the nations who have come in by faith. How many farms and desert places now come in to us? They come thence no one can tell how numerously; they would believe. We say to them, What will ye? They answer, To know the glory of God. Believe, my brethren, that we wonder and rejoice at such a claim of these rustic people. They come I know not whither, roused up by I know not whom. How shall I say, I know not by whom? I know indeed by whom, because He says, “No one cometh to Me, save whom the Father draweth.” 5660 They come suddenly from the woods, the desert, the most distant and lofty mountains, to the Church; and many of them, nay, near all hold this language, so that we see of a truth that God teacheth them within. 5661 The prophecy of Scripture is fulfilled, when it says, “And they shall all be taught of God.” 5662 We say to them, What do ye long for? And they answer, To see the glory of God. 5663 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” 5664 They believe, they are sanctified, they will to have clergy ordained for them. Is it not fulfilled, “and He will be called upon among His servants”?
13. Lastly, after all that arrangement and dispensation, the Spirit of God turns itself to reproaching and ridiculing those idols, which are now ridiculed by their very worshippers. “The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold” (Psa. 135.15). As God made all these things, who made whatever He would in heaven and earth, what can anything that man maketh be, but an object of ridicule, not adoration? Was He perchance about to speak of “the idols of the Gentiles,” that we might despise them all? was He about to speak of the idols of the heathen, stones and wood, plaster and pottery? I say not these, they are mean materials. I speak of that which they specially love, that which they specially honour. “The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold, the work of mens hands.” Surely it is gold, surely it is silver: because silver glitters, and gold glitters, have they therefore eyes, or do they see?…But as these things are senseless, why make ye men of silver and gold to be gods? See ye not that the gods which ye make see not? p. 627 “They have a mouth, and will not speak; they have eyes, and will not see” (Psa. 135.16); “they have ears, and will not hear; neither is there any breath in their mouth” (Psa. 135.17); “they have nostrils, and will not smell; they have hands, and will not work; they have feet, and will not walk.” All these things could the carpenter, the silversmith, the goldsmith make, both eyes, and ears, and nostrils, and mouth, and hands, and feet, but he could give neither sight to the eyes, nor hearing to the ears, nor speech to the mouth, nor smell to the nostrils, nor motion to the hands, or going to the feet.
14. And man, thou laughest doubtless at what thou hast made, if thou knowest by whom thou art made. But of them who know not, what is said? “All they who make them, and all they who trust in them, are like them” (Psa. 135.18). And ye believe, brethren, that there is a likeness to these idols expressed not in their flesh, but in their inner man. For “they have ears, and hear not.” God calls to them indeed, “He who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” 5665 They have eyes, and see not, for they have the eyes of the body, and not the eyes of faith. Lastly, this prophecy is fulfilled among all the nations.…Is it not fulfilled? Is it not seen, as it is written? And they who remain have eyes, and see not; have nostrils, and smell not. They perceive not that savour. “We are a good savour of Christ,” 5666 as the apostle says everywhere. What profiteth it, that they have nostrils, and smell not that so sweet savour of Christ? Truly it is done in them, and truly it is said of them, “All they who make them,” etc.
15. But daily do men believe through the miracles of Christ our Lord; daily the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf are opened, the nostrils of the senseless are breathed into, the tongues of the dumb are loosed, the hands of the palsied are strengthened, the feet of the lame are guided; sons of Abraham are raised up of these stones, 5667 to all of whom be it said, “Bless the Lord, ye house of Israel” (Psa. 135.19). All are sons of Abraham; and if sons of Abraham are raised up from these stones, it is plain that they are rather the house of Israel who belong to the house of Israel, the seed of Abraham, not by the flesh, but by faith. But even granting that it is said of that house, and the people of Israel is meant, from thence did the Apostles and thousands of the circumcised believe? “Bless the Lord, ye house of Aaron. Bless the Lord, ye house of Levi” (Psa. 135.20). Bless the Lord, ye nations, this is, the “house of Israel” generally; bless Him, ye leaders, this is, the “house of Aaron;” bless Him, ye servants, this is, the “house of Levi.” What of the other nations? “Ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord.”
16. Let us also with one voice say what follows: “Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, who dwelleth in Jerusalem” (Psa. 135.21). Out of Zion is Jerusalem too. Zion is “watching,” Jerusalem the “vision of peace.” In what Jerusalem will He dwell now? In that which has fallen? Nay, but in that which is our mother, which is in the heavens, of which it is said, “The desolate hath more children than she which hath a husband.” 5668 For now the Lord is from Zion, because we watch when He will come; now as long as we live in hope, we are in Zion. When our way is ended, we shall dwell in that city which will never fall, because the Lord dwelleth in her, and keepeth her, which is the vision of peace, the eternal Jerusalem; for the praise of which, my brethren, language sufficeth not; where we shall find no enemy, either within the Church or without the Church, neither in our flesh, nor in our thoughts. For “death shall be swallowed up in victory,” 5669 and we shall be free to see God in eternal peace, being made citizens of Jerusalem, the city of God.
Lat. CXXXIV. A discourse to the people.624:5650
Ps. cxvi. 13.624:5651
Ps. cxvi. 12.624:5652
Gen. i. 31.625:5653
“He hath said,” Oxf. mss.625:5654
Ps. lxxviii. 25.625:5655
John iii. 8.626:5656
Ps. cxxxv. 13.626:5657
1 Cor. x. 11.626:5658
John ix. 39.626:5659
Isa. ii. 5.626:5660
John vi. 44.626:5661
[These rustics are the pagani living in hamlets; he thus notes the rarity of Paganism in cities.—C.]626:5662
Isa. liv. 13.626:5663
John vi. 45.626:5664
Rom. iii. 23.627:5665
Matt. xi. 15.627:5666
2 Cor. ii. 15.627:5667
Matt. iii. 9.627:5668
Isa. 54:1, Gal. 4:27.627:5669
1 Cor. xv. 54.
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