Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Expositions on the Book of Psalms.: Teth.
62. “Thou hast dealt in sweetness with Thy servant: according unto Thy word;” or rather, “according unto Thine utterance” (Psa. 119.65). The Greek word χρηστότης hath been variously rendered by our translators by the words “sweetness” and “goodness.” But since sweetness may exist also in evil, since all unlawful and unclean things afford pleasure, and it may also exist in that carnal pleasure which is permitted; we ought to understand the word “sweetness,” which the Greeks termed χρηστότης, of spiritual blessings: for on this account our translators have preferred to term it “goodness.” I think therefore that nothing else is meant by the words, “Thou hast dealt in sweetness with Thy servant,” than this, Thou hast made me feel delight in that which is good. For when that which is good delighteth, it is a great gift of God. But when the good work which the law commandeth is done from a fear of punishment, not from a delight in righteousness, when God is dreaded, not loved; it is the act of a slave, not of a freeman. 5217
63. “O learn me sweetness, and understanding, and knowledge,” he saith, “for I have believed Thy commandments” (Psa. 119.66). He prayeth these things may be increased and perfected. For they who said, “Lord, increase our faith,” 5218 had faith. And as long as we live in this world, these are the words of those who are making progress. But he addeth, “understanding,” or, as most copies read, “discipline.” Now the word discipline, for which the Greeks use παιδεία, is employed in Scripture, where instruction through tribulation is to be understood: according to the words, “Whom the Lord loveth He disciplineth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” 5219 In the literature of the Church this is usually called discipline. For this word, παιδεία, 5220 is used in the Greek in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the Latin translator saith, “No discipline for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous,” etc. 5221 He therefore toward whom the Lord dealeth in sweetness, that is, he in whom He mercifully inspires delight in that which is good, ought to pray instantly, that this gift may be so increased unto him, that he may not only despise all other delights in comparison with it, but also that he may endure any amount of sufp. 571 ferings for its sake. Thus is discipline healthfully added to sweetness. This discipline ought not to be desired, and prayed for, for a small measure of grace and goodness, that is, holy love; but for so great, as may not be extinguished by the weight of the chastening:…so much in fact as to enable him to endure with the utmost patience the discipline. In the third place is mentioned knowledge; since, if knowledge in its greatness outstrips the increase of love, it doth not edify, but “puffeth up.” 5222 …
64. But in that he saith, not, Give unto me; but, “O learn me;” how is the sweetness taught, if it be not given? Since many know what doth not delight them, and find no sweetness in things of which they have knowledge. For sweetness cannot be learnt, unless it please. Also discipline, which signifieth the tribulation which chasteneth, is learnt by receiving; that is, not by hearing, or reading, or thinking, but by feeling.…
65. He addeth, “for I have believed Thy commandments,” and herein we may justly enquire, why he said not, I obeyed, rather than, I believed. For commandments are one thing, promises another. We undertake to obey commandments, that we may deserve to receive promises. We therefore believe promises, obey commandments.…Teach me therefore sweetness by inspiring charity, teach me discipline by giving patience, teach me knowledge by enlightening my understanding: “for I have believed Thy commandments.” I have believed that Thou who art God, and who givest unto man whence Thou mayest cause him to do what Thou commandest, hast commanded these things.
66. “Before I was humbled, I went wrong; wherefore I have kept Thy word” (Psa. 119.67); or, as some have it more closely, “Thy utterance,” that is, lest I should be humbled again. This is better referred to that humiliation which took place in Adam, in whom the whole human creature, as it were, being corrupted at the root, as it refused to be subject to truth, “was made subject to vanity.” 5223 Which it was profitable to the vessels of mercy to feel, that by throwing down pride, obedience might be loved, and misery perish, never again to return.
67. “Sweet art Thou, O Lord;” or, as many have it, “Sweet art Thou, even Thou, O Lord” (Psa. 119.68). Some also, “Sweet art Thou,” or, “Good art Thou:” as we have before treated of this word: “and in Thy sweetness teach me Thy statutes.” He truly desireth to do the righteousnesses of God, since he desireth to learn them in His sweetness from Him unto whom he hath said, “Sweet art Thou, O Lord.”
68. Next he saith, “The iniquity of the proud hath been multiplied upon me” (Psa. 119.69): of those, that is, whom it profited not that human nature was humbled after it went wrong. “But I will search Thy commandments with my whole heart.” Howsoever, he saith, iniquity shall abound, love shall not grow cold in me. 5224 He, as it were, saith this, who in His sweetness learneth the righteousnesses of God. For in proportion as the commandments of Him who aideth us are the more sweet, so much the more doth he who loveth Him search after them, that he may perform them when known, and may learn them by doing them; because they are more perfectly understood when they are performed.
69. “Their heart is curdled as milk” (Psa. 119.70). Whose, save the proud, whose iniquity he hath said hath been multiplied upon him? But he wisheth it to be understood by this word, and in this passage, that their heart hath become hard. It is used also in a good sense, 5225 and is understood to mean, full of grace: for this word, some have also interpreted “curdled.”…
70. “It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me: that I might learn Thy righteousnesses” (Psa. 119.71). He hath said something kindred to this above. For by the fruit itself he showeth that it was a good thing for him to be humbled; but in the former passage he hath stated the cause also, in that he had felt beforehand that humiliation which resulted from his punishment, when he went wrong. But in these words, “Wherefore have I kept Thy word:” and again in these, “That I might learn Thy righteousnesses:” he seemeth to me to have signified, that to know these is the same thing as to keep them, to keep them the same thing as to know them. For Christ knew what He reproved; and yet He reproved sin, though it is said of Him that “He knew not sin.” 5226 He knew therefore by a kind of knowledge, and again He knew not by a kind of ignorance. Thus also many learn the righteousnesses of God, and learn them not. For they know them in a certain way; and, again do not know them from a kind of ignorance, since they do them not. In this sense the Psalmist therefore is to be understood to have said, “That I might learn Thy righteousnesses,” meaning that kind of knowledge whereby they are performed.
71. But that this is not gained, save through love, wherein he who doeth them hath delight, on which account it is said, “In Thy sweetness teach me Thy righteousnesses:” the following verse showeth, wherein he saith, “The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver” (Psa. 119.72): so that love loveth the law of God more than avarice loveth thousands of gold and silver.
John 8:35, 1 John 4:18.570:5218
Luke xvii. 5.570:5219
Heb. xii. 6.570:5220
[See Clement, A.N.F. vol. ii. p. 213.]570:5221
Heb. xii. 11.571:5222
1 Cor. viii. 1.571:5223
Gen. 3:17, Rom. 8:20.571:5224
Matt. xxiv. 12.571:5225
Ps. lxviii. 15. “A hill that is cheesed, a rich hill.”571:5226
2 Cor. v. 21.
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