Psalm XXXVI. 810
1. …“The ungodly hath said in himself that he will sin: there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psa. 36.1). Not of one man, but of a race of ungodly men he speaketh, who fight against their own selves, by not understanding, that so they may live well; not because they cannot, but because they will not. For it is one thing, when one endeavours to understand some thing, and through infirmity of flesh cannot; as saith the Scripture 811 in a certain place, “For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things;” but another when the human heart acts mischievously against itself, so that what it could understand, if it had but good will thereto, it understandeth not, not because it is difficult, but because the will is contrary. But so it is when men love their own sins, and hate Gods Commandments. For the Word of God is thy adversary, if thou be a friend to thy ungodliness; but if thou art an adversary to thy ungodliness, the Word of God is thy friend, as well as the adversary of thy ungodliness.…
2. “For he hath wrought deceitfully in His sight” (Psa. 36.2). In whose sight? In His, whose fear was not before the eyes of him that did work deceitfully. “To find out his iniquity, and hate it.” He wrought so as not to find it. For there are men who as it were endeavour to seek out their iniquity, and fear to find it; because if they should find it, it is said to them, Depart from it: this thou didst before thou knewest; thou didst iniquity being in ignorance; God giveth pardon: now thou hast discovered it, forsake it, that to thy ignorance pardon may easily be given; and that with a clear face thou mayest say to God, “Remember not the sins of my youth, and of my ignorance.” 812 Thus he seeketh it, thus he feareth lest he find it; for he seeketh it deceitfully. When saith a man, I knew not that it was sin? When he hath seen that it is sin, and ceaseth to do the sin, which he did only because he was ignorant: such an one in truth would know his sin, to find it out, and hate it. But now many “work deceitfully to find out their iniquity:” they work not from their heart to find it out and hate it. But because in the very search after iniquity, there is p. 87 deceit, in the finding it there will be defence of it. For when one hath found his iniquity, lo now it is manifest to him that it is iniquity. Do it not, thou sayest. And he who wrought deceitfully to find it out, now he hath found, hateth it not; for what saith he? How many do this! Who is there that doth it not? And will God destroy them all? Or at least he saith this: if God would not these things to be done, would men live who commit the same? Seest thou that thou didst work deceitfully to find out thy iniquity? For if not deceitfully but sincerely thou hadst wrought, thou wouldest now have found it out, and hated it; now thou hast found it out, and thou defendest it; therefore thou didst work deceitfully, when thou soughtest it.
3. “The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he would not understand, that he might do good” (Psa. 36.3). Ye see that he attributeth that to the will: for there are men who would understand and cannot, and there are men who would not understand, and therefore understand not. “He would not understand, that he might do good.”
4. “He hath meditated iniquity on his bed.” What said He, “On his bed?” (Psa. 36.4). “The ungodly hath said in himself, that he will sin:” what above he said, in himself, that here he said, “On his bed.” Our bed is our heart: there we suffer the tossing of an evil conscience; and there we rest when our conscience is good. Whoso loveth the bed of his heart, let him do some good therein. There is our bed, where the Lord Jesus Christ commands us to pray. “Enter into thy chamber, and shut thy door.” 813 What is, “Shut thy door?” Expect not from God such things as are without, but such as are within; “and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” Who is he that shutteth not the door? He who asketh much from God such things, and in such wise directeth all his prayers, that he may receive the goods that are of this world. Thy door is open, the multitude seeth when thou prayest. What is it to shut thy door? To ask that of God, which God alone knoweth how He giveth. What is that for which thou prayest, when thou hast shut the door? What “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, or hath entered into the heart of man.” 814 And haply it hath not entered into thy very bed, that is, into thy heart. But God knoweth what He will give: but when shall it be? When the Lord shall be revealed, when the Judge shall appear.…
5. “He hath set himself in every way that is not good.” What is, “he hath set himself”? He hath sinned perseveringly. Whence also of a certain pious and good man it is said, “He hath not stood in the way of sinners.” 815 As this “hath not stood,” so that “hath set himself.” “But wickedness hath he not hated.” There is the end, there the fruit: if a man cannot but have wickedness, let him at least hate it. For when thou hatest it, it scarcely occurs to thee to do any wickedness. For sin is in our mortal body, but what saith the Apostle? “Let not sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” 816 When beginneth it not to be therein? When that shall be fulfilled in us which he saith, “When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality.” 817 Before this come to pass, there is a delighting in sin in the body, but greater is the delighting and the pleasure in the Word of Wisdom, in the Commandment of God. Overcome sin and the lust thereof. Sin and iniquity do thou hate, that thou mayest join thyself to God, who hateth it as well as thou. Now being joined in mind unto the Law of God, in mind thou servest the Law of God. And if in the flesh thou therefore servest 818 the law of sin, 819 because there are in thee certain carnal delightings, then will there be none when thou shalt no longer fight. It is one thing not to fight, and to be in true and lasting peace; another to fight and overcome; another to fight and to be overcome; another not to fight at all, but to be carried away.…
6. “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and Thy truth reacheth even unto the clouds” (Psa. 36.5). I know not what Mercy of Him he meaneth, which is in the heavens. For the Mercy of the Lord is also in the earth. Thou hast it written, “The earth is full of the Mercy of the Lord.” 820 Of what Mercy then speaketh He, when He saith, “Thy Mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens”? The gifts of God are partly temporal and earthly, partly eternal and heavenly. Whoso for this worshippeth God, that he may receive those temporal and earthly goods, which are open to all, is still as it were like the brutes: he enjoyeth indeed the Mercy of God, but not that which is excepted, which shall not be given, save only to the righteous, to the holy, to the good. What are the gifts which abound to all? “He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” 821 Who hath not this Mercy of God, first that he hath being, that he is distinguished from the brutes, that he is a rational animal, so as to understand God; secondly, that he enjoys this light, this air, rain, fruits, diversity of seasons, and all the earthly comforts, health of body, the affection of friends, the safety of his p. 88 family? All these are good, and they are Gods gifts.…
7. But this man rightly understood what mercy he should pray for from God. “Thy Mercy, O Lord, is in the Heavens; and Thy Truth reacheth even to the clouds.” That is, the Mercy which Thou givest to Thy Saints, is Heavenly, not earthly; is Eternal, not temporal. And how couldest Thou declare it unto men? Because “Thy Truth reacheth even unto the clouds.” For who could know the Heavenly Mercy of God, unless God should declare it unto men? How did He declare it? By sending His truth even unto the clouds. What are the clouds? The Preachers of the Word of God.…Truth reached even to the clouds: therefore unto us could be declared the Mercy of God, which is in Heaven and not in earth. And truly, Brethren, the clouds are the Preachers of the Word of Truth. When God threateneth through His Preachers, He thunders through the clouds. When God worketh miracles through His Preachers, He lightneth through the clouds, He terrifieth through the clouds, and watereth by the rain. Those Preachers, then, by whom is preached the Gospel of God, are the clouds of God. Let us then hope for Mercy, but for that which is in the Heavens.
8. “Thy Righteousness is like the mountains of God: Thy Judgments are a great deep” (Psa. 36.6). Who are the mountains of God? Those who are called clouds, the same are also the mountains of God. The great Preachers are the mountains of God. And as when the sun riseth, he first clothes the mountains with light, and thence the light descends to the lowest parts of the earth: so our Lord Jesus Christ, when He came, first irradiated the height of the Apostles, first enlightened the mountains, and so His Light descended to the valley of the world. And therefore saith He in a certain Psalm, “I lifted up mine eyes unto the mountains, from whence cometh my help.” 822 But think not that the mountains themselves will give thee help: for they receive what they may give, give not of their own. And if thou remain in the mountains, thy hope will not be strong: but in Him who enlighteneth the mountains, ought to be thy hope and presumption. Thy help indeed will come to thee through the mountains, because the Scriptures are administered to thee through the mountains, through the great Preachers of the Truth: but fix not thy hope in them. Hear what He saith next following: “I lifted up mine eyes unto the mountains, from whence cometh my help.” What then? Do the mountains give thee help? No; hear what follows, “My help cometh from the Lord, which made Heaven and earth.” 823 Through the mountains cometh help, but not from the mountains. From whom then? “From the Lord, which made Heaven and earth.”…
9. “Thy Judgments are like the great abyss.” The abyss he calleth the depth of sin, whither every one cometh by despising God; as in a certain place it is said, “God gave them over to their own hearts lusts, to do the things which are not convenient.” 824 …Because then they were proud and ungrateful, they were held worthy to be delivered up to the lusts of their own hearts, and became a great abyss, so that they not only sinned, but also worked craftily, lest they should understand their iniquity, and hate it. That is the depth of wickedness, to be unwilling to find it out and to hate it. But how one cometh to that depth, see; “Thy Judgments are the great abyss.” As the mountains are by the Righteousness of God, 825 who through His Grace become great: so also through His Judgments come they unto the depth, who sink lowest. By this then let the mountains delight thee, by this turn away from the abyss, and turn thyself unto that, of which it is said, “My help cometh from the Lord.” But whereby? “I have lifted up mine eyes unto the mountains.” What meaneth this? I will speak plainly. 826 In the Church of God thou findest an abyss, thou findest also mountains; thou findest there but few good, because the mountains are few, the abyss broad; that is, thou findest many living ill after the wrath of God, because they have so worked that they are delivered up to the lusts of their own heart; so now they defend their sins and confess them not; but say, Why? What have I done? Such an one did this, and such an one did that. Now will they even defend what the Divine Word reproves. This is the abyss. Therefore in a certain place 827 saith the Scripture (hear this abyss), “The sinner when he cometh unto the depth of sin despiseth.” See, “Thy Judgments are like the great abyss.” But yet not art thou a mountain; not yet art thou in the abyss; fly from the abyss, tend towards the mountains; but yet remain not on the mountains. “For thy help cometh from the Lord, which made Heaven and earth.”
10. Because he said, Thy Mercy is in the Heavens, that it may be known to be also on earth, he said, “O Lord, Thou savest man and beast, 828 as Thy Mercy is multiplied, O God” (Psa. 36.7). Great is Thy Mercy, and manifold is Thy Mercy, O God; and that showest Thou both to man and beast. For from whom is the saving of men? From God. Is not the saving of beasts also from God? For He who made p. 89 man, made also beasts; He who made both, saveth both; but the saving of beasts is temporal. But there are who as a great thing ask this of God, which He hath given to beasts. “Thy Mercy, O God, is multiplied,” so that not only unto men, but unto beasts also is given the same saving which is given to men, a carnal and temporal saving.
11. Have not men then somewhat reserved with God, which beasts deserve not, and whereunto beasts arrive not? They have evidently. And where is that which they have. “The children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings.” Attend, my Beloved, to this most pleasant sentence; “Thou savest man and beast.” First, he spake of “man and beast,” then of “the children of men;” as though “men” were one, “the children of men” other. Sometimes in Scripture children of men is said generally of all men, sometimes in some proper manner, with some proper signification, so that not all men are understood; chiefly when there is a distinction. For not without reason is it here put; “O Lord, Thou savest man and beast: but the children of men;” as though setting aside the first, he keepeth separate the children of men. Separate from whom? Not only from beasts, but also from men, who seek from God the saving of beasts, and desire this as a great thing. Who then are the children of men? Those who put their trust under the shadow of His wings. For those men together with beasts rejoice in possession, but the children of men rejoice in hope: those follow after present goods with beasts, these hope for future goods with Angels.…
12. “They shall be satiated 829 with the fulness of Thy House” (Psa. 36.8). He promiseth us some great thing. He would speak it, and He speaketh it not. Can He not, or do not we receive it? I dare, my Brethren, to say, even of holy tongues and hearts, by which Truth is declared to us, that it can neither be spoken, which they declared, nor even thought of. For it is a great thing, and ineffable; and even they saw through a glass darkly, as saith the Apostle, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face.” 830 Lo, they who saw through a glass darkly, thus burst forth. What then shall we be, when we shall see face to face? That with which they travailed in heart, and could not with their tongue bring forth, that men might receive it. For what necessity was there that he should say, “They shall be satiated with the fulness of Thy House”? He sought a word whereby to express from human things what he would say; and because he saw that men drowning themselves in drunkenness receive indeed wine without measure, but lose their senses, he saw what to say; for when shall have been received that ineffable joy, then shall be lost in a manner the human soul, it shall become Divine, and be satiated with the fulness of Gods House. Wherefore also in another Psalm it is said, “Thy cup inebriating, how excellent is it!” 831 With this cup were the Martyrs satiated when going to their passion, they knew not their own. What so inebriated as not to know a wife weeping, not children, not parents? They knew them not, they thought not that they were before their eyes. Wonder not: they were inebriated. Wherewith were they so? Lo, they had received a cup wherewith they were satiated. Wherefore he also gives thanks to God, saying, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me? I will take the cup of Salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord.” 832 Therefore, Brethren of men, let us be children and let us trust under the shadow of His wings and be satiated with the fulness of His House. As I could, I have spoken; and as far as I can I see; and how far I see, I cannot speak. 833 “And of the torrent of Thy Pleasure shalt Thou give them to drink.” A torrent we call water coming with a flood. There will be a flood of Gods Mercy to overflow and inebriate those who now put their trust under the shadow of His wings. What is that Pleasure? As it were a torrent inebriating the thirsty. Let him then who thirsts now, lay up hope: whoso thirsts now, let him have hope; when inebriated, he shall have possession: before he have possession, let him thirst in hope. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” 834
13. With what fountain then wilt thou be overflowed, and whence runneth such a torrent of His Pleasure? “For with Thee,” saith he, “is the fountain of Life.” What is the fountain of Life, but Christ? He came to thee in the flesh, that He might bedew thy thirsty lips: He will satisfy thee trusting, who bedewed thee thirsting. “For with Thee is the fountain of Life; in Thy Light shall we see light” (Psa. 36.9). Here a fountain is one thing, light another: there not so. For that which is the Fountain, the same is also Light: and whatever thou wilt thou callest It, for It is not what thou callest It: for thou canst not find a fit name: for It remaineth not in one name. If thou shouldest say, that It is Light only, it would be said to thee, Then without cause am I told to hunger p. 90 and thirst, for who is there that eateth light? It is said to me plainly, directly, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” 835 If It is Light, my eyes must I prepare. Prepare also lips; for That which is Light is also a Fountain: a Fountain, because It satisfieth the thirsty: Light, because It enlighteneth the blind. Here sometimes, light is in one place, a fountain in another. For sometimes fountains run even in darkness; and sometimes in the desert thou sufferest the sun, findest no fountain: here then can these two be separated: there thou shalt not be wearied, for there is a Fountain; there thou shalt not be darkened, for there is Light.
14. “Show forth Thy Mercy unto them that know Thee; Thy Righteousness to them that are of a right heart” (Psa. 36.10). As I have said, Those are of a right heart who follow in this life the Will of God. The will of God is sometimes that thou shouldest be whole, sometimes that thou shouldest be sick. If when thou art whole Gods Will be sweet, and when thou art sick Gods Will be bitter; thou art not of a right heart. Wherefore? Because thou wilt not make right thy will according to Gods Will, but wilt bend Gods Will to thine. That is right, but thou art crooked: thy will must be made right to That, not That made crooked to thee; and thou wilt have a right heart. It is well with thee in this world; be God blessed, who comforteth thee: it goeth hardly with thee in this world; be God blessed, because He 836 chasteneth and proveth thee; and so wilt thou be of a right heart, saying, “I will bless the Lord at all times: His Praise shall be ever in my mouth.” 837
15. “Let not the foot of pride come against me” (Psa. 36.11). But now he said, The children of men shall put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings: they shall be satiated with the fulness of Thy House. When one hath begun to be plentifully overflowed with that Fountain, let him take heed lest he grow proud. For the same was not wanting to Adam, the first man: but the foot of pride came against him, and the hand of the sinner removed him, that is, the proud hand of the devil. As he who seduced him, said of himself, “I will sit in the sides of the north;” 838 so he persuaded him, by saying, “Taste, and ye shall be as gods.” 839 By pride then have we so fallen as to arrive at this mortality. And because pride had wounded us, humility maketh us whole. God came humbly, that from such great wound of pride He might heal man. He came, for “The Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us.” 840 He was taken by the Jews; He was reviled of them. Ye heard when the Gospel was read, what they said, and to Whom they said, “Thou hast a devil:” 841 and He said not, Ye have a devil, for ye are still in your sins, and the devil possesseth your hearts. He said not this, which if He had said, He had said truly: but it was not meet that He should say it, lest He should seem not to preach Truth, but to retort evil speaking. He let go what He heard as though He heard it not. For a Physician was He, and to cure the madman had He come. As a Physician careth not what he may hear from the madman; but how the madman may recover and become sane; nor even if he receive a blow from the madman, careth he; but while he to him giveth new wounds, he cureth his old fever: so also the Lord came to the sick man, to the madman came He, that whatever He might hear, whatever He might suffer, He should despise; by this very thing teaching us humility, that being taught by humility, we might be healed from pride: from which he here prayeth to be delivered, saying, “Let not the foot of pride come against me; neither let the hand of the sinner remove me.” For if the foot of pride come, the hand of the sinner removeth. What is the hand of the sinner? The working of him that adviseth ill. Hast thou become proud? Quickly he corrupteth thee who adviseth ill. Humbly fix thyself in God, and care not much what is said to thee. Hence is that which is elsewhere spoken, “From my secret sins cleanse Thou me; and from others sins also keep Thy servant.” 842 What is, “From my secret sins”? “Let not the foot of pride come against me.” What is, “From other mens sins also keep Thy servant”? “Let not the hand of the wicked remove me.” Keep that which is within, and thou shalt not fear from without.
16. But wherefore so greatly fearest thou this? Because it is said, “Thereby have fallen all that work iniquity” (Psa. 36.12); so that they have come into that abyss of which it is said, “Thy judgments are like the great abyss:” so that they have come even to that deep wherein sinners who despise have fallen. “Have fallen.” Whereby did they first fall? By the foot of pride. Hear the foot of pride. “When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.” Therefore came against them the foot of pride, whereby they came into the depth. “God gave them over to their own hearts lusts, to do those things which are not convenient.” 843 The root of sin, and the head of sin feared he who said, “Let not the foot of pride come against me.” Wherefore said he, “the foot”? Because by walking proudly man deserted God, and departed from Him. His foot, called he his p. 91 affection. “Let not the foot of pride come against me: let not the hand of the wicked remove me:” that is, let not the works of the wicked remove me from Thee, that I should wish to imitate them. But wherefore said he this against pride, “Thereby have fallen all that work iniquity”? Because those who now are ungodly, have fallen by pride. Therefore when the Lord would caution His Church, He said, “It shall watch thy head, and thou shalt watch 844 his heel.” 845 The serpent watcheth when the foot of pride may come against thee, when thou mayest fall, that he may cast thee down. But watch thou his head: the beginning of all sin is pride. 846 “Thereby have fallen all that work iniquity: they are driven out, and are not able to stand.” He first, who in the Truth stood not, then, through him, they whom God sent out of Paradise. Whence he, the humble, who said that he was not worthy to unloose His shoes latchet, is not driven out, but standeth and heareth Him, and rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegrooms voice; 847 not because of his own, lest the foot of pride come against him, and he be driven out, and be not able to stand.…
Wisd. ix. 15. [Here cited as Scripture, but only deuterocanonical (as St. Jerome testifies), illustrating the Law and the Prophets, but not of authority in itself.—C.]86:812 87:813 87:814 87:815 87:816 87:817 87:818
i.e., “art subject to it,” not “obeyest it.” He is not here speaking of actual wilful sin, but of motions toward sin to which the man does not consent. [Concupiscence, art. ix. Angl. XXXIX. Articles.—C.]87:819 87:820 87:821 88:822 88:823 88:824 88:825 88:826 88:827 88:828 89:829 89:830 89:831
Ps. xxiii. 5, LXX.89:832 89:833
[To spiritualize inebriation seems a difficult task; but as in heraldry we introduce the boar and the serpent for other qualities than their filth and their venom, so here the suggestion is explained by a reference to Acts 2:13, Eph. 5:18, 19.—C.]89:834 90:835 90:836 90:837 90:838 90:839 90:840 90:841
John viii. 48. [This was then the Gospel for the day, or one of the Lessons.—C.]90:842 90:843 91:844 91:845 91:846 91:847
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