Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Expositions on the Book of Psalms.: Psalm XLVI
Psalm XLVI. 1472
1. It is called, “A Psalm, to the end, for the sons of Korah, for things secret.” Secret is it then; but He Himself, who in the place of Calvary was crucified, ye know, hath rent the veil, 1473 that the secrets of the temple might be discovered. Furthermore since the Cross of our Lord was a key, whereby things closed might be opened; let us trust that He will be with us, that these secrets may be revealed. What is said, “To the end,” always ought to be understood of Christ. For “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” 1474 But The End He is called, not because He consumeth, but because He perfecteth. For ended call we the food which is eaten, and ended the coat which is woven, the former to consumption, the latter to perfection. Because then we have not where to go farther when we have come to Christ, Himself is called the end of our course. Nor ought we to think, that when we have come to Him, we ought to strive any further to come also to the Father. For this thought Philip also, when he said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” When he said, “It sufficeth us,” he sought the end of satisfaction and perfection. Then said He, “Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known Me, Philip: he that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father.” 1475 In Him then have we the Father, because He is in the Father, p. 156 and the Father in Him, and He and His Father are One. 1476
2. “Our God is a refuge and strength” (Psa. 46.1). There are some refuges wherein is no strength, whereto when any fleeth, he is more weakened than strengthened. Thou fleest, for example, to some one greater in the world, that thou mayest make thyself a powerful friend; this seemeth to thee a refuge. Yet so great are this worlds uncertainties, and so frequent grow the ruins of the powerful day by day, that when to such refuge thou art come, thou beginnest to fear more than ever therein.…Our refuge is not such, but our refuge is strength. When thither we have fled, we shall be firm.
3. “A helper in tribulations, which find us out too much.” Tribulations are many, and in every tribulation unto God must we flee; whether it be a tribulation in our estate, or in our bodys health, or about the peril of those dearest to us, or any other thing necessary to the sustaining of this life, refuge ought there to be none at all to a Christian man, other than his Saviour, other than his God, to whom when he has fled, he is strong. For he will not in himself be strong, nor will he to himself be strength, but He will be his strength, who has become his refuge. But, dearly beloved, among all tribulations of the human soul is no greater tribulation than the consciousness of sin. For if there be no wound herein, and that be sound within man which is called conscience, wherever else he may suffer tribulation, thither will he flee, and there find God.…Ye see, dearly beloved, when trees are cut down and proved by the carpenters, sometimes in the surface they seem as though injured and rotten; but the carpenter looks into the inner marrow as it were of the tree, and if within he find the wood sound, he promises that it will last in a building; nor will he be very anxious about the injured surface, when that which is within he declares sound. Furthermore, to man anything more inward than conscience is not found; what then profits it, if what is without is sound, and the marrow of conscience has become rotton? These are close and vehement overmuch, and as this Psalm saith, too great tribulations; yet even in these the Lord hath become a helper by forgiving sin. For the consciences of the ungodly hateth nothing save indulgence; for if one saith he hath great tribulations, being a confessed debtor to the treasury, when he beholdeth the narrowness of his estate, and seeth that he cannot be solvent; if on account of the distrainers every year hanging over him, he saith that he suffereth great tribulations, and doth not breathe freely except in hope of indulgence, and that in things earthly; 1477 how much more the debtor of penalties out of the abundance of sins: when shall he pay what he owes out of his evil conscience, when if he pay, he perisheth? For to pay this debt, is to undergo the penalties. Remaineth then that of His indulgence, we may be secure, yet so that, indulgence received, we return not again to contract debts.…
4. Now then, such security received, what say they? “Therefore will not we fear, when the earth shall be confounded” (Psa. 46.2). Just before anxious, suddenly secure; out of too great tribulations set in great tranquillity. For in them Christ was sleeping, therefore were they tossed: Christ awoke (as but now we heard out of the Gospel), He commanded the winds, and they were still. 1478 Since Christ is in each mans heart by faith, it is signified to us, that his heart as a ship in this worlds tempest is tossed, who forgetteth his faith: as though Christ sleeping it is tossed, but Christ awaking cometh tranquillity. Nay, the Lord Himself, what said He? “Where is your faith?” 1479 Christ aroused, aroused up faith, that what had been done in the ship, might be done in their hearts. “A helper in tribulations, which found us 1480 out too much.” He caused that therein should be great tranquillity.
5. See what tranquillity: “Therefore will not we fear when the earth shall be confounded, and the mountains shall be carried into the heart of the sea.” Then we shall find not fear. Let us seek mountains carried, and if we can find, it is manifest that this is our security. The Lord truly said to His disciples, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say to this mountain, Be Thou removed, and be Thou cast into the sea, and it shall be done.” 1481 Haply “to this mountain,” He said of Himself; for He is called a Mountain: “It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord shall be manifest.” 1482 But this Mountain is placed above other mountains; because the Apostles also are mountains, supporting this Mountain. Therefore followeth, “In the last days the Mountain of the Lord shall be manifest, established in the top of the mountains.” Therefore passeth It the tops of all mountains, and on the top of all mountains is It placed; because the mountains are preaching The Mountain. But the sea signifieth this world, in comparison of which sea, like earth seemed the nation of the Jews. For it was not covered over with the bitterness of idolatry, but, like dry land, was surrounded with the bitterness of the Gentiles as with sea. It was to be, that the earth be confounded, that is, that nation of p. 157 the Jews; and that the mountains be carried into the heart of the sea, that is, first that great Mountain established in the top of the mountains. For He deserted the nation of the Jews, and came among the Gentiles. He was carried from the earth into the sea. Who carrying Him? The Apostles, to whom He had said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and it shall be done:” that is, through your most faithful preaching it shall come to pass, that this mountain, that is, I Myself, be preached among the Gentiles, be glorified among the Gentiles, be acknowledged among the Gentiles, and that be fulfilled which was predicted of Me, “A people whom I have not known shall serve Me.” 1483 …
6. “The waters thereof roared, and were troubled” (Psa. 46.3): when the Gospel was preached, “What is this? He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods:” 1484 this the Athenians; but the Ephesians, with what tumult would they have slain the Apostles, when in the theatre, for their goddess Diana, they made such an uproar, as to be shouting, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” 1485 Amidst which waves and roaring of the sea, feared not they who to that refuge had fled. Nay, the Apostle Paul would enter in to the theatre, and was kept back by the disciples, because it was necessary that he should still abide in the flesh for their sakes. But yet, “the waters thereof roared, and were troubled: the mountains shook at the mightiness thereof.” Whose might? The seas? or rather Gods, of whom was said, “refuge and strength, a helper in tribulations, which have found us out too much?” For shaken were the mountains, that is, the powers of this world. For one thing are the mountains of God, another the mountains of the world: the mountains of the world, they whose head is the devil, the mountains of God, they whose Head is Christ. But by these mountains were shaken those mountains. Then gave they their voices against Christians, when the mountains were shaken, the waters roaring; for the mountains were shaken, and there was made a great earthquake, with quaking of the sea. But against whom this? Against the City founded upon a rock. The waters roar, the mountains shake, the Gospel being preached. What then, the City of God? Hear what followeth.
7. “The streams of the river make glad the City of God” (Psa. 46.4). When the mountains shake, when the sea rages, God deserteth not His City, by the streams of the river. What are these streams of the river? That overflowing of the Holy Spirit, of which the Lord said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, out of his bosom 1486 shall flow rivers of living water.” 1487 These rivers then flowed out of the bosom 1488 of Paul, Peter, John, the other Apostles, the other faithful Evangelists. Since these rivers flowed from one river, many “streams of the river make glad the City of God.” For that ye might know this to be said of the Holy Spirit, in the same Gospel next said the Evangelist, “But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that were to believe on Him should receive. For the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” 1489 Jesus being glorified after His Resurrection, glorified after His Ascension, on the day of Pentecost came the Holy Spirit, and filled the believers, 1490 who spake with tongues, and began to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Hence was the City of God made glad, while the sea was troubled by the roaring of its waters, while the mountains were confounded, asking what they should do, how drive out the new doctrine, how root out the race of Christians from the earth. Against whom? Against the streams of the river making glad the City of God. For thereby showed He of what river He spake; that He signified the Holy Spirit, by “the streams of the river make glad the City of God.” And what follows? “The Most High hath sanctified His tabernacle:” since then there followeth the mention of Sanctification, it is manifest that these streams of the river are to be understood of the Holy Spirit, by whom is sanctified every godly soul believing in Christ, that it may be made a citizen of the City of God.
8. “God is in the midst of her: she shall not be moved” (Psa. 46.5). Let the sea rage, the mountains shake; “God is in the midst of her: she shall not be moved.” What is, “in the midst of her”? That God stands in any one place, and they surround Him who believe in Him? Then is God circumscribed by place; and broad that which surroundeth, narrow that which is surrounded? God forbid. No such thing imagine of God, who is contained in no place, whose seat is the conscience of the godly: and so is Gods seat in the hearts of men, that if man fall from God, God in Himself abideth, not falleth like one not finding where to be. For rather doth He lift up thee, that thou mayest be in Him, than so lean upon thee, as if thou withdraw thyself, to fall. Himself if He withdraw, fall wilt thou: thyself if thou withdraw, fall will not He. What then is, “God is in the midst of her”? It signifieth that God is equal to all, and accepteth not persons. For as that which p. 158 is in the middle has equal distances to all the boundaries, so God is said to be in the middle, because He consulteth equally for all. “God is in the midst of her: she shall not be moved.” Wherefore shall she not be moved? Because God is in the midst of her. He is “the Helper in tribulations that have found us out too much. God shall help her with His Countenance.” What is, “with His Countenance”? With manifestation of Himself. How manifests God Himself, so as that we see His Countenance? I have already told you; ye have learned Gods Presence; we have learned it through His works. When from Him we receive any help so that we cannot at all doubt that it was granted to us by the Lord, then Gods Countenance is with us.
9. “The heathen are troubled” (Psa. 46.6). And how troubled? why troubled? To cast down the City of God, in the midst whereof is God? To overthrow the tabernacle sanctified, which God helpeth with His Countenance? No: with a wholesome trouble are the heathen now troubled. For what followeth? “And the kingdoms are bowed.” Bowed, saith He, are the kingdoms; not now erected that they may rage, but bowed that they may adore. When were the kingdoms bowed? When that came to pass which was predicted in another Psalm, “All kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall serve Him.” 1491 What cause made the kingdoms to bow? Hear the cause. “The Most High gave His Voice, and the earth was moved.” The fanatics 1492 of idolatry, like frogs in the marshes, clamoured, the more tumultuously, the more sordidly, in filth and mire. And what is the brawling of frogs to the thunder of the clouds? For out of them “the Most High gave His Voice, and the earth was moved:” He thundered out of His clouds. And what are His clouds? His Apostles, His preachers, by whom He thundered in precepts, lightened in miracles. The same are clouds who are also mountains: mountains for their height and firmness, clouds for their rain and fruitfulness. For these clouds watered the earth, of which it was said, “The Most High gave His Voice, and the earth was moved.” For it is of those clouds that He threateneth a certain barren vineyard, whence the mountains were carried into the heart of the sea; “I will command,” saith He, “the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.” 1493 This was fulfilled in that which I have mentioned, when the mountains were carried into the heart of the sea; when it was said, “It was necessary that the word of God should have been spoken first to you; but seeing ye put it from you, we turn to the Gentiles;” 1494 then was fulfilled, “I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.” The nation of the Jews hath just so remained as a fleece dry upon the ground. For this, ye know, happened in a certain miracle, the ground was dry, the fleece only was wet, yet rain in the fleece appeared not. 1495 So also the mystery of the New Testament appeared not in the nation of the Jews. What there was the fleece, is here the veil. For in the fleece was veiled the mystery. But on the ground, in all the nations open lieth Christs Gospel; the rain is manifest, the Grace of Christ is bare, for it is not covered with a veil. But that the rain might come out of it, the fleece was pressed. For by pressure they from themselves excluded Christ, and the Lord now from His clouds raineth on the ground, the fleece hath remained dry. But of them then “the Most High gave His Voice,” out of those clouds; by which Voice the kingdoms were bowed and worshipped.
10. “The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our taker up” (Psa. 46.7). Not any man, not any power, not, in short, Angel, or any creature either earthly or heavenly, but “the Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our taker up.” He who sent Angels, came after Angels, came that Angels might serve Him, came that men He might make equal to Angels. Mighty Grace! If God be for us, who can be against us? “The Lord of Hosts is with us.” What Lord of Hosts is with us? “If” (I say) “God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all; how hath He not with Him also freely given 1496 us all things.” 1497 Therefore be we secure, in tranquillity of heart nourish we a good conscience with the Bread of the Lord. “The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our taker up.” However great be thy infirmity, see who taketh thee up. One is sick, a physician is called to him. His own taken-up, the Physician calleth the sick man. Who hath taken him up? Even He. A great hope of salvation; a great Physician hath taken him up. What Physician? 1498 Every Physician save He is man: every Physician who cometh to a sick man, another day can be made sick, beside Him. “The God of Jacob is our taker up.” Make thyself altogether as a little child, such as are taken up by their parents. For those not taken up, are exposed; those taken up are nursed. Thinkest thou God hath so taken thee up, as when an infant thy mother took thee up? Not so, but to eternity. For thy voice is in that Psalm, “My father and my mother forsake me, but the Lord hath taken me up.” 1499
p. 159 11. “Come and see the works of the Lord” (Psa. 46.8). Now of this taking up, what hath the Lord done? Consider the whole world, come and see. For if thou comest not, thou seest not; if thou seest not, thou believest not; if thou believest not, thou standest afar off: if thou believest thou comest, if thou believest thou seest. For how came we to that mountain? Not on foot? Is it by ship? Is it on the wing? Is it on horses? For all that pertain to space and place, be not concerned, trouble not thyself, He cometh to thee. For out of a small stone He hath grown, and become a great mountain, so that He hath filled all the face of the earth. Why then wouldest thou by land come to Him, who filleth all lands? Lo, He hath already come: watch thou. By growing He waketh even sleepers; if yet there is not in them so deep sleep, as that they be hardened even against the mountain coming; but they hear, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” 1500 For it was a great thing for the Jews to see the stone. For the stone was yet small: and small they deservedly despised it, and despising they stumbled, and stumbling they were broken; remains that they be ground to powder. For so was it said of the stone, “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” 1501 It is one thing to be broken, another to be ground to powder. To be broken is less than to be ground to powder: but none grindeth He coming exalted, save whom He brake lying low. For now before His coming He lay low before the Jews, and they stumbled at Him, and were broken; hereafter shall He come in His Judgment, glorious and exalted, great and powerful, not weak to be judged, but strong to judge, and grind to powder those who were broken stumbling at Him. For “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence,” 1502 is He to them that believe not. Therefore, brethren, no wonder if the Jews acknowledged not Him, whom as a small stone lying before their feet they despised. They are to be wondered at, who even now so great a mountain will not acknowledge. The Jews at a small stone by not seeing stumbled; the heretics stumble at a mountain. For now that stone hath grown, now say we unto them, Lo, now is fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel, “The stone that was small became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” 1503 Wherefore stumble ye at Him, and go not rather up to Him? Who is so blind as to stumble at a mountain? Came He to thee that thou shouldest have whereat to stumble, and not have whereto to go up? “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.” 1504 Isaiah saith this: “Come ye, and let us go up.” What is, “Come ye, and let us go up”? “Come ye,” is, Believe ye. “Let us go up,” is, Let us profit. 1505 But they will neither come, nor go up, nor believe, nor profit. They bark against the mountain. Even now by so often stumbling on Him they are broken, and will not go up, choosing always to stumble. Say we to them, “Come ye, and see the works of the Lord:” what “prodigies He hath set forth through the earth.” Prodigies are called, because they portend something, those signs of miracles which were done when the world believed. And what thereafter came to pass, and what did they portend?
12. “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth” (Psa. 46.9). This not yet see we fulfilled: yet are there wars, wars among nations for sovereignty; among sects, among Jews, Pagans, Christians, heretics, are wars, frequent wars, some for the truth, some for falsehood contending. Not yet then is this fulfilled, “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;” but haply it shall be fulfilled. Or is it now also fulfilled? In some it is fulfilled; in the wheat it is fulfilled, in the tares it is not yet fulfilled. What is this then, “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth”? Wars He calleth whereby it is warred against God. But who warreth against God? Ungodliness. And what to God can ungodliness do? Nothing. What doth an earthen vessel dashed against the rock, however vehemently dashed? With so much greater harm to itself it cometh, with how much the greater force it cometh. These wars were great, frequent were they. Against God fought ungodliness, and earthen vessels were dashed in pieces, even men by presuming on themselves, by too much prevailing by their own strength. This is that, the shield whereof Job also named concerning one ungodly. “He runneth against God, upon the stiff neck of his shield.” 1506 What is, “upon the stiff neck of his shield”? Presuming too much upon his own protection. Were they such who said, “God is our refuge and strength, a Helper in tribulations which have found us out too much”? or in another Psalm, “For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.” 1507 When one learneth that in himself he is nothing, and help in himself has none, arms in him are broken in pieces, wars are made to cease. Such wars then destroyed that Voice of the Most High out of His holy clouds, whereby the earth was moved, and the kingdoms were bowed. These wars hath He made to cease unto the end of the earth. “He shall break the bow, and p. 160 dash in pieces the arms, and burn the shield with fire.” Bow, arms, shield, fire. 1508 The bow is plots; arms, public warfare; shields, vain presuming of self-protection: the fire wherewith they are burned, is that whereof the Lord said, “I am come to send fire on the earth;” 1509 of which fire saith the Psalm, “There is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” 1510 This fire burning, no arms of ungodliness shall remain in us, needs must all be broken, dashed in pieces, burned. Remain thou unharmed, not having any help of thine own; and the more weak thou art, having no arms thine own, the more He taketh thee up, of whom it is said, “The God of Jacob is our taker up.”…But when God taketh us up, doth He send us away unarmed? He armeth us, but with other arms, arms Evangelical, arms of truth, continence, salvation, faith, hope, charity. These arms shall we have, but not of ourselves: but the arms which of ourselves we had, are burnt up: yet if by that fire of the Holy Spirit we are kindled, whereof it is said, “He shall burn the shields with fire;” thee, who didst wish to be powerful in thyself, hath God made weak, that He may make thee strong in Him, because in thyself thou wast made weak.
13. What then followeth? “Be still.” To what purpose? “And see that I am God” (Psa. 46.10). That is, Not ye, but I am God. I created, I create anew; I formed, I form anew; I made, I make anew. If thou couldest not make thyself, how canst thou make thyself anew? This seeth not the contentious tumult of mans soul; to which contentious tumult is it said, “Be still.” That is, restrain your souls from contradiction. Do not argue, and, as it were, arm against God. Else yet live thy arms, not yet burned up with fire. But if they are burned, “Be still;” because ye have not wherewith to fight. But if ye be still in yourselves, and from Me seek all, who before presumed on yourselves, then shall ye “see that I am God.” “I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” Just before I said, by the name of earth is signified the nation of the Jews, by the name of sea the other nations. The mountains were carried into the heart of the sea; the nations are troubled, the kingdoms are bowed; the Most High gave His Voice, and the earth was moved. “The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our taker up” (Psa. 46.11). Miracles are done among the heathen, full filled is the faith of the heathen; burned are the arms of human presumption. Still are they, in tranquillity of heart, to acknowledge God the Author of all their gifts. And after this glorifying, doth He yet desert the people of the Jews? of which saith the Apostle, “I say unto you, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” 1511 That is, until the mountains be carried hither, the clouds rain here, the Lord here bows the kingdoms with His thunder, “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” And what thereafter? “And so all Israel shall be saved.” Therefore, here too observing the same order, “I will be exalted” (saith He) “among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth;” that is, both in the sea, and in the earth, that now might all say what followeth: “the God of Jacob is our taker up.”
Lat. XLV. [In his exordium the Saint recurs to his favourite idea as follows: “Korah is interpreted Baldness, and that our Lord, since in the place of the Bald skull [Matt. xxvii. 33] He was crucified, hath drawn unto Him many; like that corn of wheat, which except it die, should abide alone; and that those who are drawn unto Him are called sons of Korah [John 12:24, 32]. Thus much in the mystery. There were indeed some sons of Korah at the time when this was first sung [1 Chron. xxvi. 1], but to us ought the Spirit to give life, not the letter to be a veil” [2 Cor. iii. 6.]—C.]155:1473
Matt. xxvii. 51.155:1474
Rom. x. 4.155:1475
John 14:8, 9.156:1476
John 10:30, 38.156:1477
Many mss. “of earthly princes.”156:1478
Matt. viii. 24-26.156:1479
Luke viii. 25.156:1480
Matt. 17:20, Matt. 21:21.156:1482
Isa. ii. 2.157:1483
Ps. xviii. 43.157:1484
Acts xvii. 18.157:1485
Acts xix. 34.157:1486
[“Belly,” English version. But I have not hesitated to substitute a word more literal in fact, which relieves the text of a ludicrous profanation.—C.]157:1487
John 7:37, 38.157:1488
[“Belly,” English version. But I have not hesitated to substitute a word more literal in fact, which relieves the text of a ludicrous profanation.—C.]157:1489
John vii. 39.157:1490
Acts 2:1, 2.158:1491
Ps. lxxii. 11.158:1492
Isa. v. 6.158:1494
Acts xiii. 46.158:1495
Judg. vi. 36-40.158:1496
Rom. 8:31, 32.158:1498
Oxf. mss. add, “hath taken him up? What Physician?”158:1499
Ps. xxvii. 10.159:1500
Eph. v. 14.159:1501
Luke xx. 18.159:1502
1 Pet. ii. 8.159:1503
Dan. ii. 35.159:1504
Isa. ii. 3.159:1505
Oxf. mss. add, “come, and let us go up, believe, and let us profit.”159:1506
Job xv. 26.159:1507
Ps. xliv. 6.160:1508
Oxf. mss. “with fire.”160:1509
Luke xii. 49.160:1510
Ps. xix. 6.160:1511
Rom. xi. 25.
Next: Psalm XLVII
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