81. “My soul hath failed for Thy salvation: and I have hoped because of Thy word” (Psa. 119.81). It is not every failing that should be supposed to be blameable or deserving punishment: there is also a failing that is laudable or desirable.…For it is said of a good failing: “My soul hath a desire and failing to enter into the courts of the Lord.” 5245 So also here he saith not, faileth away from Thy salvation, but “faileth for Thy salvation,” that is, towards Thy salvation. This losing ground is therefore good: for it doth indicate a longing after good, not as yet indeed gained, but most eagerly and earnestly desired. But who saith this, save the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people, 5246 longing for Christ from the origin of the human race even unto the end of this world, in the persons of those who, each in his own time, have lived, are living, or are to live here?…The first seasons of the Church, therefore, had Saints, before the Virgins delivery, who desired the advent of His Incarnation: but these times, since He hath ascended into heaven, have Saints who desire His manifestation to judge the quick and the dead.…“And I have hoped because of Thy word:” that is, of Thy promise; a hope which causeth us to await with patience that which is not seen by those who believe. Here also the Greek hath the word ἐπήλπισα, which some of our translators have preferred rendering by, “hoped-more;” since beyond doubt it will be greater than can be described.
82. “Mine eyes,” he saith, “have failed for Thy word, saying, O when wilt Thou comfort me?” (Psa. 119.82). Behold that praiseworthy and blessed failing, in the eyes again, but his inner eyes, not arising from infirmity of mind, but from the strength of his longing for the promise of God: for this he saith, “for Thy p. 574 word.” But in what sense can such eyes say, “When wilt Thou comfort me?” save when we pray and groan with such earnestness and ardent expectation? For the tongue, not the eyes, is wont to speak: but in some sense the voice of the eyes is the longing of prayer. But in the words, “When wilt Thou comfort me?” he showeth that he endureth as it were delay. Whence is this also, “How long, Lord, wilt Thou punish me?” 5247 And this is done either that the happiness may be the sweeter when deferred, or this is the sentiment of those who long, since the space of time, which may be short to Him who cometh to their aid, is tedious to the loving. But God knoweth what He doth and when, for He “hath ordered all things in measure and number and weight.” 5248
83. But when spiritual desires burn, carnal desires without doubt cool: on this account followeth, “Since I am become like a bottle in the frost, I do not forget Thy righteousnesses” (Psa. 119.83). Truly he desireth this mortal flesh to be understood by the bottle, the heavenly blessing by the frost, whereby the lusts of the flesh as it were by the binding of the frost become sluggish; and hence it ariseth that the righteousnesses of God do not slip from the memory, as long as we do not meditate apart from them; since what the Apostle saith is brought to pass: “Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” 5249 “And I do not forget Thy righteousness:” that is, I forget them not, because I have become such. For the fervour of lust hath cooled, that the memory of love might glow.
84. “How many are the days of Thy servant? when wilt Thou be avenged of them that persecute me?” (Psa. 119.84). In the Apocalypse, 5250 these are the words of the Martyrs, and long-suffering is enjoined them until the number of their brethren be fulfilled. The body of Christ then is asking concerning its days, what they are to be in this world, and that no man might suppose that the Church would cease to exist here before the end of the world came, and that some time would elapse in this world, while the Church was now no more on earth; therefore, when he had enquired concerning the days, he added also respecting the judgment, showing indeed that the Church would exist on earth until the judgment, when vengeance shall fall upon Her persecutors. But if any one wonder why he should ask that question, to which when asked by the disciples, their Master replied, “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons;” 5251 why should we not believe that in this passage of the Psalm it was prophesied that they should ask this very question, and that the words of the Church, which were so long before uttered here, were fulfilled in their question?
85. In what followeth: “The wicked have told me pleasant tales: but not like Thy law, O Lord” (Psa. 119.85): the Latin translators have endeavoured to render the Greek ‡δολεσχίας, which cannot be expressed in one Latin word, so that some have rendered it “delights,” and others “fablings,” so that we must understand to be meant some kind of compositions, but in discourse of a nature to give pleasure. Both secular literature, and the Jewish book entitled Deuterosis, 5252 containing besides the canon of divine Scripture thousands of tales, comprise these in their different sects and professions; the vain and wandering loquacity of heretics holds them also. All these he wished to be considered as wicked, by whom he saith that ‡δολεσχίαι were related to him, that is, compositions which gave pleasure solely in their style: “But not,” he addeth, “as Thy law, O Lord;” because truth, not words, pleases me therein. 5253
86. Lastly, he addeth, “All Thy commandments are truth: they have persecuted me unjustly; O be Thou my help” (Psa. 119.86). And the whole sense dependeth upon the foregoing: “How many are the days of Thy servant: when wilt Thou be avenged of them that persecute me?” 5254 For that they may persecute me, they have related to me these pleasant tales; but I have preferred Thy law to them, which on that account hath pleased me more, because all Thy commandments are true; not as in their discourses, where vanity aboundeth. And for this reason “they have persecuted me falsely,” because in me they have persecuted nothing save the truth. Therefore help Thou me, that I may struggle for the truth even unto death; because this is at once Thy commandment, and therefore it is also the truth.
87. When the Church acted thus, She suffered what he hath added, “They had almost made an end of me upon earth” (Psa. 119.87): a great slaughter of martyrs having been made, while they confess and preach the truth. But since it is not in vain said, “O help Thou me;” he addeth, “But I forsook not Thy commandments.”
88. And that She might persevere unto the end, “O quicken me,” he saith, “after Thy loving mercy: and so shall I keep the testimonies of Thy mouth” (Psa. 119.88); where the Greek hath Μαρτύρια. This was not to be passed over in silence, on account of that sweetest name of Martyrs, who beyond doubt when so great cruelty of the persecutors was raging, that the Church p. 575 was almost made an end of upon earth, would never have kept the testimonies of God, unless that had been vouchsafed them which is here spoken of, “O quicken me after Thy loving-kindness.” For they were quickened, lest by loving life, they should deny the life, and by denying it, should lose it: and thus they who for life refused to forsake the truth, lived by dying for the truth.
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