Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Expositions on the Book of Psalms.: Part 2
The Second Part.
1. For, behold, the Jews are enemies, whom this Psalm seemeth to imply; the law of God they hold, and therefore of them hath been said, “Slay not them, lest sometime they forget Thy law:” in order that the nation of Jews might remain, and by it remaining the number of Christians might increase. Throughout all nations they remain certainly, and Jews they are, nor have they ceased to be what they were: that is, this nation hath not so yielded to Roman institutions, as to have lost the form of Jews; but hath been subjected to the Romans so as that it still retaineth its own laws; which are the laws of God. But what in their case hath been done? “Ye tithe mint and cummin, and have p. 242 forsaken the weightier matters of the law, mercy, and judgment, straining a gnat, but swallowing a camel.” 2262 This to them the Lord saith. And in truth so they are; they hold the law, hold the Prophets; read all things, sing all things: the light of the Prophets therein they see not, which is Christ Jesus. Not only Him now they see not, when he is sitting in Heaven: but not even at that time saw they Him, when among them humble He was walking, and they were made guilty by shedding the blood of the Same; but not all. This even to-day we commend to the notice of your Love. Not all: because many of them were turned to Him whom they slew, and by believing on Him, they obtained pardon even for the shedding of His blood: and they have given an example for men; how they ought not to despair that sin of whatsoever kind would be remitted to them, since even the killing of Christ was remitted to them confessing.…
2. What in them wilt Thou slay? The Crucify, Crucify, 2263 which they cried out, not them that cried out. For they willed to blot out, cut off, destroy Christ: but Thou, by raising to life Christ, whom they willed to destroy, dost slay the “transgressions of their mouth, the discourse of their lips.” For in that He whom they cried out should be destroyed, liveth, they are taken with dread: and that He whom on earth they despised, in heaven is adored by all nations, they wonder: thus are there slain the transgressions of them, and the discourse of their lips. What is, “let them be taken in their pride”? Because to no purpose have strong men rushed on, and it hath fallen out to them as it were to think themselves to have done somewhat, and they have prevailed against the Lord. They were able to crucify a man, weakness might prevail and virtue 2264 be slain; and they thought themselves somewhat, as it were strong men, as it were mighty men, as it were prevailing, as it were a lion prepared for prey, as it were fat bulls, as of them in another place he maketh mention: “Fat bulls have beset me.” 2265 But what have they done in the case of Christ? Not life, but death they have slain.…And what now hath come to pass in those men that have been converted? For it was told to them that He whom they slew rose again. They believed Him to have risen again, because they saw that He, being in Heaven, thence sent the Holy Spirit, and filled those that on Him believed; and they found themselves to have condemned nought, and to have done nought. Their doing issued in emptiness, the sin remained. Because therefore the doing was made void, but the sin remained upon the doers; they were taken in their pride, they saw themselves under their iniquity. 2266 It remained therefore for them to confess the sin, and for Him to pardon, that had given Himself up to sinners, and to forgive His death, having been slain by men dead, and making alive men dead. They were taken therefore in their pride.
3. “And out of cursing and lying shall be declared consummations, in anger of consummation, and they shall not be.” This too with difficulty is understood, to what is joined the “and they shall not be.” What shall they not be? Let us therefore examine the context above: when they shall have been taken in their pride, “there shall be declared out of cursing and lying consummations.” What are consummations? Perfections: for to be consummated, is to be perfected. One thing it is to be consummated, another thing to be consumed. For a thing is consummated which is so finished as that it is perfected: a thing is consumed which is so finished that it is not. Pride would not suffer a man to be perfected, nothing so much hindereth perfection. For let your Love attend a little to what I am saying; and see an evil very pernicious, very much to be guarded against. What sort of evil do ye think it is? How long could I enlarge upon how much evil there is in pride? The devil on that account alone is to be punished. Certes he is the chief of all sinners: certes he is the tempter to sin: to him is not ascribed adultery, not wine-bibbing, not fornication, not the robbing of others goods: by pride alone he fell. And since prides companion is envy, it must needs be that a proud man should envy.…In a word, all vices in evil-doings are to be feared, pride in well-doings is more to be feared. It is no wonder, then, that so humble is the Apostle, as to say, “When I am made weak, then I am strong.” 2267 For lest he should himself be tempted by this sin, what sort of medicine doth he say was applied to him against swelling by the Physician, who knew what He was healing? “Lest by the greatness,” he saith, “of the revelations I should be exalted, there was given to me a thorn of my flesh, the angel of Satan, to buffet me: wherefore thrice the Lord I besought, that it should depart from me: and He said to me, My grace is sufficient for thee, for virtue in weakness is made perfect.” 2268 See what the consummations are. An Apostle, the teacher of Gentiles, father of the faithful through the Gospel, received a thorn of the flesh whereby he might be buffeted. Which of us would dare to say this, unless he had not been ashamed to confess this? For if we shall have said that Paul had not suffered this; while to him as it were honour we give, a liar we make him. But bep. 243 cause truthful he is, and truth he hath spoken; it behoveth us to believe that there was given to him an angel of Satan, lest by the greatness of the revelations he should be exalted. Behold how much to be feared is the serpent of pride.…
4. What is, “in the anger of consummation shall be declared consummations”? There is an anger of consummation, and there is an anger of consuming. For every vengeance of God is called anger: sometimes God avengeth, to the end that He may make perfect; sometimes He avengeth, to the end that He may condemn. How doth He avenge, to the end that He may make perfect? “He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” 2269 How doth He avenge, to the end that He may condemn? When He shall have set ungodly men on the left hand, and shall have said to them, “Go ye into fire everlasting, that hath been prepared for the devil and his angels.” 2270 This is the anger of consuming, not that of consummation. But “there shall be declared consummations in the anger of consummation;” it shall be preached by the Apostles, that “where sin hath abounded, grace shall much more abound,” 2271 and the weakness of man hath belonged to the healing of humility. Those men thinking of this, and finding out and confessing their iniquities, “shall not be.” “Shall not be” what? In their pride.
5. “And they shall know how God shall have dominion of Jacob, and of the ends of the earth” (Psa. 59.13). For before they thought themselves just men, because the Jewish nation had received the Law, because it had kept the commandments of God: it is proved to them that it hath not kept them, since in the very commandments of God Christ it perceived not, because “blindness in part has happened to Israel.” 2272 Even the Jews themselves see that they ought not to despise the Gentiles, of whom they deemed as of dogs and sinners. For just as alike they have been found in iniquity, so alike they will attain unto salvation. “Not only to Jews,” saith the Apostle, “but also even to Gentiles.” 2273 For to this end the Stone which the builders set at nought, hath even been made for the Head of the corner, 2274 in order that two in itself It might join: for a corner doth unite two walls. The Jews thought themselves exalted and great: of the Gentiles they thought as weak, as sinners, as the servants of demons, as the worshippers of idols, and yet in both was there iniquity. Even the Jews have been proved sinners; because “there is none that doeth good, there is not even so much as one:” 2275 they have laid down their pride, and have not envied the salvation of the Gentiles, because they have known their own and their weakness to be alike: and in the Corner Stone being united, they have together worshipped the Lord.…
6. “They shall be converted at evening” (Psa. 59.14): that is, even if late, that is, after the slaying of our Lord Jesus Christ: “They shall be converted at evening: and hereafter they shall suffer hunger as dogs.” But “as dogs,” not as sheep or calves: “as dogs,” as Gentiles, as sinners; because they too have known their sin that thought themselves righteous.…It is a good thing therefore for a sinner to be humbled; and no one is more incurable than he that thinketh himself whole. “And they shall go around the city.” Already we have explained “city;” 2276 it is the “city of standing round;” all nations.
7. “They shall be scattered abroad in order that they may eat” (Psa. 59.15); that is, in order that they may gain others, in order that into their Body they may change believers. “But if they shall not be filled, they shall murmur.” Because above also he had spoken of the murmur of them, saying, “For who hath heard?” “And Thou, O Lord,” he saith, “shall deride them, saying, Who hath heard?” 2277 Wherefore? Because, as nothing Thou shall count all nations. Let the Psalm be concluded. See ye the Corner 2278 exulting, now with both walls rejoicing. The Jews were proud, humbled they have been; Gentiles were despairing, raised up they have been: let them come to the Corner, there let them meet, there run together, there find the kiss of peace; from different parts let them come, but with differing not come, those of Circumcision, these of uncircumcision. Far apart were the walls, but before that to the Corner they came: but in the Corner let them hold themselves, and now let the whole Church from both walls, say what? “But I will sing of Thy power, and I will exult in the morning of Thy mercy” (Psa. 59.16). In the morning when temptations have been overcome, in the morning when the night of this world shall have passed away; in the morning when no longer the lyings in wait of robbers and of the devil and of his angels we dread, in the morning when no longer by the lamp of prophecy we walk, but Himself the Word of God as it were a Sun we contemplate. “And I will exult in the morning of Thy mercy.” With reason in another Psalm is said, “In the morning I will stand by Thee, and I will meditate.” 2279 With reason also of the Lord Himself the Resurrection was at dawn, that there should be fulfilled that which hath been said in another Psalm, “In the evening shall tarry weeping and in the morning exultation.” 2280 For at even the disciples mourned our Lord Jesus p. 244 Christ as dead, at dawn at Him rising again they exulted. “For Thou hast become my taker up, and my refuge in the day of my tribulation.”
8. “My Helper, to Thee I will play, because Thou, O God, art my taker up” (Psa. 59.17). What was I, unless Thou didst succour? How much despaired of was I, unless Thou didst heal? Where was I lying, unless Thou didst come to me? Certes with a huge wound I was endangered, but that wound of mine did call for an Almighty Physician. To an Almighty Physician nothing is incurable.…Lastly, thinking of all good things whatsoever we may have, either in nature or in purpose, or in conversion itself, in faith, in hope, in charity, in good morals, in justice, in fear of God; all these to be only by His gifts, he hath thus concluded: “My God is my mercy:” He being filled with the good things of God hath not found what he might call his God, save “his mercy.” O name, under which no one must despair! If thou say, my salvation, I perceive that He giveth salvation; if thou say, my refuge, I perceive that thou takest refuge in Him; if thou say, my strength, I perceive that He giveth to thee strength: “my mercy,” is what? All that I am is of Thy mercy.…
Matt. 23:23, 24.242:2263
Matt. 27:23, John 19:5.242:2264
Ps. xxii. 12.242:2266
Acts 1:9, Acts 2:4, 37.242:2267
2 Cor. xii. 10.242:2268
2 Cor. xii. 7-9.243:2269
Heb. xii. 6.243:2270
Matt. xxv. 41.243:2271
Rom. v. 20.243:2272
Rom. xi. 25.243:2273
Rom. ii. 10.243:2274
Ps. cxviii. 22.243:2275
Ps. xiv. 3.243:2276
See p. 240, note 2.243:2277
Ps. lix. 7.243:2278
Eph. ii. 20.243:2279
Ps. v. 3.243:2280
Ps. xxx. 5.
Next: Psalm LX
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