Psalm CXLVII. 5901
1. It is said to us, “Praise the Lord” (Psa. 147.1). This is said to all nations, not to us alone. And these words, sounded forth through separate places by the Readers, each Church heareth separately; but the one same Voice of God proclaimeth unto all, that we praise Him. And as though we asked wherefore we ought to praise the Lord, behold what reason he hath brought forward: “Praise the Lord,” he saith, “for a Psalm is good.” Is this all the reward of them that praise?…The “Psalm” is praise of God. This then he saith, “Praise the Lord, for it is good to praise the Lord.” Let us not thus pass over the praise of the Lord. It is spoken, and hath passed: it is done, and we are silent: we have praised, and then rested; we have sung, and then rested. We go forth to some business which awaits us, and when other employments have found us, shall the praise of God cease in us? Not so: thy tongue praiseth but for a while, let thy life ever praise. Thus then “a Psalm is good.”
2. For a “Psalm” is a song, not any kind of song, but a song to a psaltery. A psaltery is a kind of instrument of music, like the lyre and the harp, and such kinds of instruments, which were invented for music. He therefore who singeth Psalms, not only singeth with his voice, but with a certain instrument besides, which is called a psaltery, he accompanieth his voice with his hands. Wilt thou then sing a Psalm? Let not thy voice alone sound the praises of God; but let thy works also be in harmony with thy voice.…To please then the ear, sing with thy voice; but with thy heart be not silent, with thy life be not still. Thou devisest no fraud in thy heart: thou singest a Psalm to God. When thou eatest and drinkest, sing a Psalm: not by intermingling sweet sounds suited to the ear, but by eating and drinking moderately, frugally, temperately: for thus saith the Apostle, “whether ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 5902 …If by immoderate voracity thou exceedest the due bounds of nature, and gluttest thyself in excess of wine, however great praises of God thy tongue sound, yet thy life blasphemeth Him. After food and drink thou liest down to sleep: in thy bed neither commit any pollution, nor go beyond the license given by the law of God: let thy marriage bed be kept chaste with thy wife: and if thou desire to beget children, yet let there not be unbridled sensuality of lust: in thy bed give honour to thy wife, 5903 for ye are both members of Christ, both made by Him, both renewed by His Blood: so doing thou praisest God, nor will thy praise be altogether silent. What, when sleep has come over thee? Let not an evil conscience rouse thee from rest: so doth the innocence of thy sleep praise God.…
3. “Let praises be pleasant to our God.” How? If He be praised by our good lives. Hear that then praise will be pleasant to Him. In another place it is said, “Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner.” 5904 If then in the mouth of a sinner praise is not seemly, neither is it pleasant, for that only is pleasant which is seemly.…For praise may be pleasant to a man, when he heareth one praising with neat and clever sentiments, and with a sweet voice; but “let praise be pleasant to our God,” whose ears are open not to the mouth, but to the heart; not to the tongue, but to the life of him that praiseth.
4. Who is “our God,” that praise should be pleasant to Him? He maketh Himself sweet to us, He commendeth Himself to us; thanks to His condescension.…“But God commendeth His love to us”…“in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 5905 …Let us see whether it be the commendation which the Apostle speaketh of, that Christ died for the sinners and ungodly: “the Lord who buildeth up Jerusalem, and gathereth the dispersions of Israel” (Psa. 147.2). For the people of Jerusalem are the people of Israel. It is Jerusalem “eternal in the heavens,” whereof the Angels are citizens also.…All the citizens then of that city, through “seeing God,” rejoice in that great and wide and heavenly city; they gaze upon God Himself. But we are wanderers from that city, driven out by sin, that we should not remain there; weighed down by mortality, that we should not return thither. God looked back on our wandering, and He p. 666 who “buildeth up Jerusalem,” restored the part that had fallen. How restored He the part that had fallen?…He sent then to our captive estate His Son as a Redeemer. Take with Thee, said He, a bag, bear therein the price of the captives. For He put on Him our mortal flesh, and therein was the Blood, by the shedding of which we were to be redeemed. With that Blood He “gathered the dispersions of Israel.” And if He gathered them that before were dispersed, how must we strive that they be gathered who now are dispersed? If the dispersed have been gathered, that in the Hand of the Builder they might be fashioned into the building, how should they be gathered who through disquiet have fallen from the Hand of the Builder? Behold whom we praise; behold to whom we owe praise all our life long.
5. How doth He gather? What doeth He in order to gather? “Who healeth the bruised in heart” (Psa. 147.3). Behold the way in which the dispersions of Israel are gathered, by the healing of the bruised in heart. They who are not of a bruised heart, are not healed. What is to bruise the heart? Let it be known, brethren, let it be done, that ye may be able to be healed. For it is told in many other places of Scripture;…“the sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit, a bruised and contrite heart God will not despise.” He healeth then the bruised in heart, for He draweth nigh unto them to heal them; as is said in another place, “the Lord is nigh unto them who have bruised their heart.” 5906 Who are they that have “bruised their heart”? The humble. Who are they that have not “bruised their heart”? The proud. The bruised heart shall be healed, the puffed up heart shall be dashed down. For for this purpose perhaps is it dashed down, that being bruised it may be healed. Let not our heart then, brethren, desire to be set upright, before it be upright. It is ill for that to be uplifted which is not first corrected.…
6. What are the means whereby He “bindeth up their bruises”? Just as physicians bind up fractures. For sometimes (observe this, beloved; it is well known to those who have observed it, or have heard it from physicians), sometimes when limbs are sound, but are crooked and distorted, physicians break them in order to set them straight, and make a new wound, because the soundness which was distorted was amiss.…
7. What are these means whereby He bindeth? The sacraments of this present life, whereby in the mean time we obtain our comfort: and all the words we speak to you, words which sound and pass away, all that is done in the Church in this present time, are the means whereby “He bindeth up our bruises.” For just as, when the limb has become perfectly sound, the physician taketh off the bandage; so in our own city Jerusalem, when we shall have been made equal to the Angels, think ye that we shall receive there, what we have received here? Will it be needful then that the Gospel be read to us, that our faith may abide? or that hands be laid upon us by any Bishop? All these are means of binding up fractures; when we have attained perfect soundness, they will be taken off; but we should never attain it, if they were not bound up.
8. “Who telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names” (Psa. 147.4). What great matter is it for God to “tell the number of the stars”! Men even have endeavoured to do this; whether they have been able to achieve it, is their concern; they would not however attempt it, did they not think that they should achieve it. Let us leave alone what they can do, and how far they have attained; for God I think it no great matter to count all the stars. Or doth He perhaps go over the number, lest He should forget it? Is it any great thing for God to number the stars, by whom “the very hairs of your head are numbered”? 5907 The stars are certain lights in the Church comforting our night; all of whom the Apostle saith, “In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding the Word of life.” 5908 These stars God counteth; all who shall reign with Him, all who are to be gathered into the Body of His only-begotten Son, He hath counted, and still counteth them. Whoso is unworthy, is not even counted. Many too have believed, or rather may, with a kind of shadowy appearance of faith, have attached themselves to His people: yet He knoweth what He counteth, what He winnoweth away. For so great is the height of the Gospel, that it hath come to pass as was said, “I have declared, and have spoken: they are multiplied above number:” 5909 there are then among the people certain supernumeraries, so to speak. What do I mean by supernumeraries? More than will be there. Within these walls are more than will be in the kingdom of God, in the heavenly Jerusalem; these are above the number. Let each one of you consider whether he shineth in darkness, whether he refuseth to be led astray by the dark iniquity of the world; if he be not led astray, nor conquered, he will be, as it were, a star, which God already numbereth. “And calling them all by their names,” he saith. Herein is our whole reward. We may have certain names with God, that God may p. 667 know our names, this we ought to wish, for this to act, for this to busy ourselves, as far as we are able; not to rejoice in other things, not even in certain spiritual gifts.…When the disciples returned from their mission exulting, and saying, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us in Thy Name” 5910 —then He (knowing that many would say, “have we not in Thy Name cast out devils?” to whom He should say, “I know you not”) said, “In this rejoice not, that the devils are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” 5911
9. “Great is our Lord” (Psa. 147.5). The Psalmist is filled with joy, he hath poured out his words wonderfully: yet somewhat he was unable to speak, and how availed he to think on it? “And great is His power, and of His understanding is no numbering.” He who “numbereth the stars,” Himself cannot be numbered. Who can expound this? who can worthily even imagine what is meant by, “and of His understanding is no number”?…Whatsoever then that is infinite this world containeth, though it be infinite to man, yet is not to God: too little is it to say, to God: even by the angels it is numbered. His understanding surpasses all calculators; it cannot be counted by us. Numbers themselves who numbereth? What than is there with God? wherewith made He all things, and where made He all things, to whom it is said, “Thou hast arrayed all things in measure, number, and weight”? 5912 Or who can number, or measure, or weigh, measure and number and weight themselves, wherein God hath ordered all things? Therefore, “of His understanding is no number.” Let human voices be hushed, human thoughts still: let them not stretch themselves out to incomprehensible things, as though they could comprehend them, but as though they were to partake of them, for partakers we shall be.…Partakers then we shall be: let none doubt it: Scripture saith it. And of what shall we be partakers, as though these were parts in God, as though God were divided into parts? Who then can explain how many become partakers of one single substance? Require not then that which I think ye see cannot fitly be said: but return to the healing of the Saviour, bruise your heart. He will guide it, He will bind it up where it is broken, He will make it perfectly sound; and then those things will not be impossible with us, which now are impossible. For it is good that he confess weakness, who desireth to attain to the divine nature.
10. “The Lord taketh up the gentle” (Psa. 147.6). For example; thou understandest not, thou failest to understand, canst not attain: honour Gods Scripture, honour Gods Word, though it be not plain: in reverence wait for understanding. Be not wanton to accuse either the obscurity or seeming contradiction of Scripture. There is nothing in it contradictory: somewhat there is which is obscure, not in order that it may be denied thee, but that it may exercise him that shall afterward receive it. When then it is obscure, that is the Physicians doing, that thou mayest knock. He willed that thou shouldest be exercised in knocking; He willed it, that He might open to thee when thou knockest. By knocking thou shalt be exercised; exercised, thou shalt be enlarged; enlarged, thou shalt contain what is given. Be not then indignant for that it is shut; be mild, be gentle. Kick not against what is dark, nor say, It were better said, if it were said thus. For how canst thou thus say, or judge how it is expedient it be said? It is said as it is expedient it be said. Let not the sick man seek to amend his remedies: the Physician knoweth how to temper them: believe Him who careth for thee. Therefore what cometh next?…“The Lord taketh up the gentle, but humbleth the sinners even to the ground,” he intended a certain sort of sinners to be understood, from the gentleness mentioned first. By sinners then in this place, we understand the fierce, and those who are not gentle. Wherefore doth He “humble them even to the earth”? They carp at objects of understanding, they shall perceive only things earthly. 5913
11. “Begin to the Lord in confession” (Psa. 147.7). Begin with this, if thou wouldest arrive at a clear understanding of the truth. If thou wilt be brought from the road of faith to the profession of the reality, “begin in confession.” First accuse thyself: accuse thyself, praise God. What after confession? Let good works follow. “Sing unto our God upon the harp.” What is, “Upon the harp”? As I have already explained, just like the Psalm upon the psaltery, so also is the “harp:” not with voice only, but with works.
12. …“Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth” (Psa. 147.8). Now thou art alarmed, because thou canst not see the heaven: when it hath rained thou shalt gather fruit, and shalt see clear sky. Perhaps our God hath done this. For had we not the obscurity of Scripture as an occasion, we should not say to you those things wherein ye rejoice. This then perhaps is the rain whereat ye rejoice. It would not be possible for it to be expressed to you by our tongue, were it not that God covereth with clouds of figures the heaven of the Scriptures. For this purpose willed He that the words of the Prophets should p. 668 be obscure, that the servants of God might afterwards have that by interpreting which they might flow over the ears and hearts of men, that they might receive from the clouds of God the fatness of spiritual joy. “Who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains, and herb for the service of men.” Behold the fruit of the rain. “Who maketh,” saith he, “grass to grow upon the mountains.” Doth it not also grow upon the low ground? Yes, but it is a great thing that it groweth “on the mountains.”…For nothing could be more barren than the hard mountains. “And herb for the service of men.” What “service”? Listen to Paul himself. “And ourselves,” saith he, “your servants for Jesus Christs sake.” 5914 He who said, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your carnal things?” yet said, that he was a “servant.” For we are your servants, brethren. Let none of us speak of himself, as though he were greater than you. We shall be greater if we are more humble. “But whosoever will be great among you” (it is the Lords saying), “shall be your servant.” 5915 Paul the Apostle, indeed, living by his own labour, refused even to receive “the grass of the mountains;” he chose to want; nevertheless, the mountains gave “grass.” Because he chose not to receive, ought the mountains therefore not to give, and so to remain barren? Fruit is due to the rain, food is due to the servant, as the Lord saith, “Eat such things as they give you:” and that they should not think that they gave aught of their own, He added, “for the labourer is worthy of his hire.” 5916
13. …Just now has been read, “Give to every one that asketh of thee;” 5917 and in another place Scripture 5918 saith, “Let alms sweat in thy hand, till thou findest a righteous man to whom to give it.” One there is who seeketh thee, another thou oughtest to seek. Leave not indeed him who seeketh thee empty, for, “give to every one that asketh of thee;” yet still there is another whom thou oughtest to seek; “find a righteous man to whom to give it.” Ye will never do this, unless ye have somewhat set aside from your substance, each what pleaseth him according to the needs of his family, as a sort of debt to be paid to the treasury. If Christ have not a state 5919 of His own, neither hath He a treasury. 5920 …Cut off then and prune off some fixed 5921 sum either from thy yearly profits or thy daily gains, else thou seemest as it were to give of thy capital, and thy hand must needs hesitate, when thou puttest it forth to that which thou hast not vowed. Cut off some part of thy income; a tenth if thou choosest, though that is but little. For it is said that the Pharisees gave a tenth; “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” 5922 And what saith the Lord? “Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” 5923 He whose righteousness thou oughtest to exceed, giveth a tenth: thou givest not even a thousandth. How wilt thou surpass him whom thou matchest not? “Who prepareth rain for the earth.”
14. “And giveth unto the cattle their food” (Psa. 147.9). These are the cattle he meaneth, even Gods flocks. God defraudeth not His flock of their food through men, for whose “service He maketh the grass to grow.” “And to the young of the ravens that call upon Him.” Shall we perchance think this, that the ravens call upon God to give them their food? Think not that the unreasoning creature calls upon God: no creature knows how to call upon God, save the reasonable alone. Consider it as spoken in a figure, lest thou think, as some evil men say, that the souls of men migrate into cattle, dogs, swine, ravens. Give this no place in your hearts or in your faith. The soul of man is made after the image of God: He will not give His image to dog or swine. Who are “the young of the ravens”? The Israelites used to say that they alone were righteous, because to them the Law had been given: all other men of every nation they used to call sinners. And in truth all nations were given up to sin, to idolatry, to the worship of stones and stocks: but did they continue so? Although the ravens themselves, our fathers, did not, yet we, “the young of the ravens,” do call upon God. 5924 …For “the young of the ravens,” who seemed to worship the images of their forefathers, have advanced, and turned to God. And now thou hearest “the young of the ravens” calling upon the one God. What then? Sayest thou to “the young of the ravens,” “hast thou left thy father?” Plainly I have, saith he; for he is a raven who calls not upon God. I, “the young of the raven,” do call upon God.
15. “In the power of an horse He will not take pleasure” (Psa. 147.10). The power “of an horse” is pride. For the horse seemeth adapted as it were to bear a man aloft, that he may be more uplifted as he goes. And in truth he has a neck which typifieth a sort of pride. Let not men exalt themselves upon their worth, let them p. 669 not think themselves uplifted by their distinctions; let them beware lest they be thrown by an untamed horse. 5925 …“Nor in the tabernacle of a man will He delight.” For the tabernacle of the Lord is the Holy Church spread throughout the whole world. Heretics, separating themselves from the Churchs tabernacles, have set up tabernacles for themselves. For if perchance it be the lot of any, who is good and pious, who confesseth his own weakness, who is “the young of a raven that calleth on God,” not to enjoy worldly distinction, he goeth not out of the Church, he setteth not up for himself a tent outside the Church, wherein God will not delight. But what saith he? “I have chosen to be cast away in the house of God, rather than to dwell in the tents of sinners.” 5926
16. But what addeth he? “The Lord will delight in them that fear Him, and in them that hope in His mercy” (Psa. 147.11). A robber is feared, and a wild beast is feared, and an unjust and powerful man is much feared. “The Lord will delight in them that hope in His mercy.” Behold, Judas, who betrayed our Lord, feared, but he did not hope in His mercy.…It is well indeed that thou hast feared, but only if thou trustedst in His mercy, whom thou hast feared. He in despair “went and hanged himself.” In such wise then fear the Lord, that thou trust in His mercy.…
17. “Praise in unison, O Jerusalem, thy God” (Psa. 147.12). Abiding yet in captivity, they behold those flocks, or rather, the one flock of all its citizens, gathered from all sides into that city; they see the joy of the mass, now after threshings and winnowings placed in the garner, fearing nothing, suffering no toil nor trouble; and, as yet abiding here, in the midst of the threshing they send forward their joy of hope, and pant for it, joining as it were their hearts to the Angels of God, and to that people which shall abide with them in joy for ever. For what wilt thou then do, O Jerusalem? Surely toil and groaning will pass away. What wilt thou do? wilt thou plough, or sow, or plant vines, or make voyages, or trade? What wilt thou do? Will it still be thy duty to be engaged in the works thou now doest, good though they are, and spring from mercy? Consider thy numbers, consider on all sides thy company: see whether any hungers, for thee to give bread to; see whether any thirsts, for thee to give a cup of cold water to; see whether any is a stranger, for thee to take in; see whether any is sick, for thee to visit; see whether any is at strife, for thee to reconcile him; see whether any is dying, for thee to bury him. What then wilt thou do? “Praise in unison, O Jerusalem, thy God.” Behold, this is thy business. As is wont to be said in inscriptions, “Use it and be happy.” 5927
18. Be ye Jerusalem; remember of whom it is said, “Lord, in Thy city their image Thou shalt bring to nought.” 5928 These are they who now rejoice in such pomps; among them are they who have not come hither to-day because there is a show. To whom is it a gift? 5929 to whom is it a loss? or why is it a gift? why is it a loss? For not they only who exhibit such shows are smitten with loss, but with much greater loss are they smitten who delight in gazing on them. The former have their chest drained of its gold, the latter have their breast robbed of the riches of righteousness. Most of the exhibiters of shows have to mourn for selling their estates; how ought the sinners to mourn, for losing their souls: Was it then for this that the Lord cried out on the Lords Day, “Watch ye,” that to-day men should watch in this way. I beseech you, ye citizens of Jerusalem, I beseech you by the peace of Jerusalem, by the Redeemer, the Builder, the Ruler of Jerusalem, that ye address your prayers to God for them. May they see, may they feel, that they are trifling; and, intent as they are on the sights which please them, may at length look on themselves, and be displeased. For in many we rejoice that this has already been done: and once we too sat there and were mad: and how many think we now sit there, who shall yet be, not only Christians, but also Bishops! From what is past, we conjecture what is to be: from what has already been done, we announce beforehand what God will do. Let your prayers be wakeful, ye groan not for nothing. Certainly they who have already escaped, praying for those who are still in danger, because they too having been among those in danger, are heard; and God shall drag His people out of the captivity of Babylon; by all means He shall redeem and deliver them, and the number of the saints who bear the image of God shall be perfected.…“Praise in unison,” because thou consistest of many: “praise,” because thou hast been made one. 5930 “We being many,” saith the Apostle, “are one in Christ.” 5931 As then we are many, “we praise in unison;” as we are one, we “praise.” The same are many and one, because He in whom they are one 5932 is ever One. 5933
19. Wherefore, saith this Jerusalem, do I praise in unison the Lord, and, as Sion, praise my God? Jerusalem is the same as Sion. For different reasons has it the two names. Jerusalem meaneth p. 670 “visions of peace;” Sion meaneth “watching.” 5934 See whether these words do not sound like sights; 5935 that the Gentiles may not think that they have sights and we have none. Sometimes after the theatre or amphitheatre breaks up, when the crowd of lost ones begins to be vomited forth from that den, sometimes, retaining in their minds images of their vain amusements, and feeding their memory with things not only useless but even hurtful, rejoicing in them as if they were sweet, while they are really deadly; they see often, it may be, the servants of God pass by, they recognise them by their garb or headdress, or they know them by sight, 5936 and they say to one another, or inwardly, “Wretched people, how much they lose!” Brethren, let us return their good will (for they do mean it well) with prayers to the Lord. They wish us well; but “he that loveth iniquity, hateth his own soul.” 5937 If he hateth his own soul, how shall he love my soul? Yet with a perverse, and empty, and vain good will, if indeed it may be called good will, they grieve that we lose what they love: let us pray that they lose not what we love. Behold of what character that Jerusalem is to be which he exhorteth to praise, or rather foreseeth will praise. For the praises of that city, when we shall see and love and praise, will not need to be urged on and stirred up by the voice of prophecy; but the Prophets now say this, to drink in as far as while they remain in this flesh they can, the future joys of the blessed, and then giving them forth into our ears, to arouse in us love of that city. Let us burn with longing, let us not be slothful in spirit. “Praise thy God, O Sion.”
20. He saith, “He hath made strong the bars of thy gates” (Psa. 147.13). The making bars strong is not for open gates, but shut ones, wherefore most manuscripts read, “He hath made strong the bolts 5938 of thy gates.” Observe, beloved. He biddeth Jerusalem when closed in to praise the Lord. We praise in unison now, we praise now; but it is amid offences. Many where we wish not, enter in: many though we wish it not, go out: therefore offences are frequent. “And because iniquity hath abounded,” saith the Truth, “the love of many waxeth cold:” 5939 because men come in whom we cannot discern, because men go out whom we cannot retain. Wherefore is this? Because not yet is there perfection, not yet is there the bliss that shall be. Wherefore is this? Because as yet it is the threshing-floor, not yet the garner. What therefore will be then, save no fear that aught of this kind will happen? He said not only, He hath set, but, “He hath made strong the bars of thy gates.” Let none go out, let none come in. Let none go out, we rejoice: let none come in, we fear. Nay, fear not this: when thou hast entered it will be said: only be thou in the number of virgins, who carried their oil with them.…
21. “He hath blessed thy children within thee.” Who? He “who hath set peace as thy borders.” How ye all exult! 5940 Love peace, my brethren. Greatly are we delighted, when the love of peace crieth from your hearts. How greatly doth it delight you! I had said nothing: I had explained nothing: I but read the verse, and ye shouted. What was it that shouted in you? The love of peace.…children of the kingdom, O citizens of Jerusalem, in Jerusalem is the vision of peace: and all who love peace are blest in her, and they enter in, when the doors are being shut, and the bars made strong. This, which when but named ye so love and esteem, this follow after, this long for: this love in your home, in your business, in your wives, in your sons, in your slaves, in your friends, in your enemies.…
22. What ye cried out a while ago at the very mention of peace, ye cried from longing: your cry was from thirst, not from fulness; for there will be perfect righteousness where will be perfect peace. Now we hunger and thirst after righteousness. “They shall be filled.” 5941 How shall they be filled? When we have arrived at peace. Therefore when he had said, “Who hath set peace for thy borders,” because there is fulness and no want, he added at once, “and filleth thee with the fat of wheat” (Psa. 147.14).…
23. “Who sendeth forth His Word to the earth” (Psa. 147.15). Behold, on earth we toil, weary, fainting, sluggish, cold: when should we be raised up to the fat of wheat that satisfieth, did not He send His Word to the earth, whereby we were weighed down, to the earth, whereby we were hindered from returning? He sent His Word, He deserted us not even in the wilderness, He rained manna from heaven. “Who sendeth forth His Word to the earth;” and to earth His Word came. How? or what is His Word? “Even unto swiftness His Word runneth.” He said not, “His Word is swift,” but, “His Word runneth even unto swiftness.” Let us understand, my brethren: He could not have chosen a better word. He who is hot grows hot by heat, he who is cold grows cold by cold, he who is swift becometh swift by swiftness.…To what degree then doth it run? “Even to swiftness.” Increase as much as you will the swiftness of the Word, and say, It is as swift as this or that, as birds, as the winds, as the Angels; is any of these as great as swiftness itself, “even unto swiftness”? What is swiftness itself, brethp. 671 ren? It is everywhere; it is not in part. This belongeth to the Word of God, not to be in part, to be everywhere by Himself the Word, whereby He is “the Power of God and the Wisdom of God,” 5942 before He had taken flesh upon Him. If we think of God in the Form of God, the Word equal to the Father, this is the Wisdom of God, of which is said, “It reacheth from one end to the other mightily.” 5943 What mighty speed! “It reacheth from one end to the other mightily.”…
24. We then are burdened by the sluggishness of this cold body, and the bonds of this earthly and corruptible life; have we no hope of receiving “the Word,” which “runneth even unto swiftness”? or hath abandoned us, though by the body we are depressed to the lowest depths? Did not He predestinate us, before we were born in this mortal and sluggish body? He then, who predestinated us, gave snow to the earth, even ourselves. For now let us come to those somewhat obscure verses of the Psalm, let those entanglements begin to be unrolled. Behold, we are sluggish on this earth, and are as it were frozen here. And just as happens to the flakes of snow, for they freeze above, then fall down; so as love groweth cold, human nature falleth down to this earth, and involved in a sluggish body becometh like snow. But in that snow are predestined sons of God. For, “He giveth snow like wool” (Psa. 147.16). What is “like wool”? It meaneth, of the snow which He hath given, of these, who are as yet slow in spirit and cold, whom He hath predestinated, He is about to make somewhat. For wool is the material of a garment: when we see wool, we look on it as a sort of preparation for a garment. Therefore since He hath predestinated these, who at present are cold and creep on earth, and as yet glow not with the spirit of love (for as yet He speaketh of predestination), God hath given these as a sort of wool: He is about to make of them a garment. Rightly did the “raiment” of Christ “shine” on the mountain, “like snow.” 5944 The raiment of Christ did shine like snow, as though of that snow a garment had already been made: of which wool, that is, of the snow which He gave like wool, they being as yet predestined, were sluggish: but wait, see what followeth. Since He gave them as wool, a garment is made of them. For as the Church is called the Body of Christ, so is the Church also called the garment of Christ: hence cometh that which is said by the Apostle, “that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle.” 5945 Let Him then present unto Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle; let Him make Himself a garment of that wool, which He had predestinated in the snow. While men are yet unbelieving, and cold, and sluggish, let Him make a garment of this wool. That it may be washed from spots, let it be cleansed by faith: that it may have no wrinkle, let it be stretched out upon the cross.…
25. “He scattereth mist like ashes.” “He scattereth,” saith the Psalmist, “mist like ashes.” Who? He “who giveth snow like wool.” For whom He predestined, He calleth to repentance; for “whom He predestined, them He also called.” But “ashes” are connected with repentance. Hear Him calling to repentance, when He upbraided certain cities, saying, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they had long ago repented in dust and ashes.” 5946 Therefore, “He scattereth mist like ashes.” What is, “He scattereth mist like ashes”? When a man is called to learn about God, and it is said to him, “Receive the truth;” he beginneth to wish to receive the Truth, but is not able; he seeth that He is under a sort of darkness, which before he saw not.…Wander not in the mist, follow in faith. But forasmuch as thou endeavourest to see and art not able, repent of thy sins, for mist is scattered like ashes. Repent thee now of having been obstinate against God, repent of having followed thine own evil ways. Thou hast come into this state where it is difficult for thee to see the vision of bliss, and the mist will be healthful to thee, which God scattereth like ashes. Thou thyself art as yet a mist, but like ashes. For they that are penitent, as yet roll themselves in ashes, my brethren, testifying, as it were, that they are like it, saying unto God, “I am ashes.” For a certain Scripture saith, “I have despised myself, and wasted away, I have reckoned myself earth and ashes.” 5947 This is the humility of the penitent. When Abraham speaketh to his God, and wisheth the burning of Sodom to be disclosed to him, he saith, “I am but earth and ashes.” 5948 How hath this humility ever been found in great and holy men!
26. “Who sendeth His crystal like morsels of bread” (Psa. 147.17). We need not spend our toil again in saying what crystal is. We have already said it, and I do not think that ye, beloved, have forgotten it. What is then, “He sendeth His crystal like morsels of bread”? What is “crystal”? It is very hard, it is very tightly congealed; it can not, like snow, be easily melted. Snow, hardened by many years duration, and by the succession of ages, is called “crystal,” and this “He sendp. 672 eth like morsels of bread.” What meaneth this? They were too hard, no longer fit to be compared to snow, but to crystal; but they too are predestinated and called, and some of them even so as to feed others, to be useful to others also. And what need is there to enumerate many, whom we happen to know, this one and that one? Every one when he thinks can recall to mind how hardened and obstinate some of those whom he knows have been, how they have struggled against the truth; yet now they preach the truth, they have been made morsels of bread. Who is that one Bread? “We being many,” saith the Apostle, “are one Body in Christ;” 5949 he saith also, “we being many are one Bread and one Body.” 5950 If then the whole Body of Christ is one Bread, the members of Christ are morsels of Bread. Of some that are hard He maketh members of Himself, and useful for feeding others.…Behold, the Apostle Paul was a crystal, hard, resisting the truth, crying out against the Gospel, hardening himself, as it were, against the sun.…Since then he was crystal, he appeared clear and white, but he was hard and very cold. How was he bright and white? “An Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee.” Behold the brightness of crystal. Now hear the hardness of crystal. “As touching zeal, persecuting the Church” 5951 of Christ. Among the stoners of the holy martyr Stephen, was he, hard, perhaps harder than all. “For he kept the raiment of all who were stoning,” 5952 so that he stoned by the hands of all.
27. Thus then we see “the snow, the mist, the crystal:” it is good that He blow and thaw them. For if He blow not, if He Himself thaw not the hardness of this ice, “in the face of His cold who shall stand?” He abandoneth a sinner, behold, He calleth him not; behold, He openeth not his perception; behold, He poureth not in grace; let the man thaw himself, if he can, from the ice of folly. He cannot. Wherefore can he not? “In the face of His cold who shall stand?” Behold him then growing harder, and saying, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Behold, I am growing cold, behold, I am growing hard, what heat shall thaw me that I may run? “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?.…In the face of His cold who shall stand?” And who shall free himself, if God abandon him? Who is it that freeth? “The grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 5953 Are we then to despair? God forbid. For it goeth on, “He shall send out His Word, and melt them” (Psa. 147.18). Let not then the snow despair, nor the mist, nor the crystal. For of the snow, as of wool, a garment is being made. That mist findeth safety in repentance: for, “whom He predestinated, them He also called.” But even though they be the very hardest among the predestinated, though they have been for a long time hardening, and are become crystal, they will not be hard to the mercy of God. “He shall send out His Word, and melt them.” What is “melt”? Understand not “melt” in an ill sense: it meaneth, He shall liquefy, He shall thaw them. For they are hard through pride. Rightly is pride called also dulness: for whatever is dull, is also cold.…Despair not even of the crystal. Hear a saying of the crystal. “Who before was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.” 5954 But wherefore doth God melt the crystal? That the snow despair not of itself. For he saith, “For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them that hereafter should believe on Him unto eternal life.” 5955 God then calleth unto the Gentiles, “Be melted, O crystal; come, ye snows.” “His Spirit shall blow, and the waters shall flow.” Lo, the “crystal” and the “snows” are melted, they turn into water, “let them that thirst, come and drink.” 5956 Saul, hard as crystal, persecuted Stephen unto death; Paul, now in the living water, 5957 calleth the Gentiles to the Fount.…
28. “Announcing His Word unto Jacob, His Righteousnesses and Judgments unto Israel” (Psa. 147.19). What “Righteousnesses,” what “Judgments”? Because whatever mankind had suffered here before, when it was “snow” and “mist” and “crystal,” it suffered for the deserts of its pride and uplifting against God. Let us go back to the origin of our fall, and see that most truly is it sung in the Psalm, “Before I was troubled I went wrong.” 5958 But he who says, “Before I was troubled I went wrong,” saith also, “It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I may learn Thy Righteousnesses.” 5959 These righteousnesses Jacob learnt from God, who made him to wrestle with an Angel; under the guise of which Angel, God Himself wrestled with him. He held Him, he exerted violence to hold Him, he prevailed to hold Him: He caused Himself to be held, in mercy, not in weakness. Jacob therefore wrestled, and prevailed: he held Him and when he seemed to have conquered Him asked to be blessed of Him. 5960 How did he understand with Whom he had wrestled, Whom he had held? Wherefore did he wrestle violently, and hold Him? Because “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” 5961 Wherefore then did he wrestle? Because it is with toil. Wherefore do we with p. 673 difficulty hold, what we so easily lose? Lest, easily getting back what we have lost, we learn to lose that which we hold. Let man have toil to hold: he will hold firmly, what he has only held after toil. These His judgments therefore God manifested to Jacob and Israel.…
29. “He hath not done so to the whole race” (Psa. 147.20). Let none deceive you: it is not announced to any nation, this judgment of God; namely, how the righteous and the unrighteous suffer, how all suffer for their deserts, how the righteous themselves are freed by the grace of God, not in their own merits. This is not announced to the whole race, but only to Jacob, only to Israel. What then do we, if He hath not announced it to the whole race, but only to Jacob, only to Israel? Where will we be? In Jacob. “He hath not manifested His judgments to them.” To whom? To all nations. How then are the “snows” called, when the crystal is melted? How are the nations called, now Paul is justified? How, save to be in Jacob? The wild olive is cut off from its stock, to be grafted into the olive: now they belong to the olive, no longer ought they to be called nations, 5962 but one nation in Christ, the nation of Jacob, the nation of Israel…What is Israel? “Seeing God.” Where shall he see God? In peace. What peace? The peace of Jerusalem; for, saith he, “He hath set peace for thy borders.” There shall we praise: there shall we all be one, in One, unto One: for then, though many, we shall not be scattered.
Fiscus. [The author says: “For know ye what fiscus means? Fiscus is a bag, and from the same source come also the words fiscella and fiscina. Think not that fiscus is a kind of dragon, because men are alarmed when they hear of the collector of the fiscus: the fiscus is the public purse. The Lord had one here on earth when he had the bag: and the bag was entrusted to Judas.”—C.]668:5921 668:5922 668:5923 668:5924 669:5925 669:5926 669:5927
Utere felix. This and other like expressions seem, from Morcelli, Opera Epigraphica, vol. i. p. 415, to have been usual in inscriptions upon cups and like works of art, probably when given as presents.669:5928 669:5929 669:5930 669:5931 669:5932 669:5933 670:5934 670:5935 670:5936 670:5937 670:5938 670:5939 670:5940 670:5941 671:5942 671:5943 671:5944 671:5945 671:5946 671:5947
Job xxx. 19, Vulg.671:5948 672:5949 672:5950 672:5951 672:5952 672:5953 672:5954 672:5955 672:5956 672:5957 672:5958 672:5959 672:5960
Gen. xxxii. 24, etc.672:5961 673:5962
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