1. From its commencement, dearly beloved, does this great Psalm exhort us unto bliss, which there is no one who desires not....And therefore this is the lesson which he teaches, who says,
Blessed are those that are undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord Psalm 118:1. As much as to say, I know what you wish, you are seeking bliss: if then you would be blessed, be undefiled. For the former all desire, the latter fear: yet without it what all wish cannot be attained. But where will any one be undefiled, save in the way? In what way, save in the law of the Lord?...
2. Listen now to what he adds:
Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and seek Him with their whole heart Psalm 118:2. No other class of the blessed seems to me to be mentioned in these words, than that which has been already spoken of. For to examine into the testimonies of the Lord, and to seek Him with all the heart, this is to be undefiled in the way, this is to walk in the law of the Lord. He then goes on to say,
For they who do wickedness, shall not walk in His ways Psalm 118:3. And yet we know that the workers of wickedness do search the testimonies of the Lord for this reason, that they prefer being learned to being righteous: we know that others also search the testimonies of the Lord, not because they are already living well, but that they may know how they ought to live. Such then do not as yet walk undefiled in the law of the Lord, and for this reason are not as yet blessed....
3. It is written, and is read, and is true, in this Psalm, that
They who do wickedness, walk not in His ways Psalm 118:3. But we must endeavour, with the help of God,
hand are both we and our words, Wisdom 7:16 that what is rightly said, by not being rightly understood, may not confuse the reader or hearer. For we must beware, lest all the Saints, whose words these are, 1 John 1:8-9 may either not be thought to walk in the ways of the Lord, since sin is wickedness, and
they who do wickedness, walk not in His ways; or, because it is not doubtful that they walk in the ways of the Lord, may be thought to have no sin, which is beyond doubt false. For it is not said merely for the sake of avoiding arrogance and pride. Otherwise it would not be added,
And the truth is not in us; but it would be said, Humility is not in us: especially because the following words throw a clearer light on the meaning, and remove all the causes of doubt. For when the blessed John had said this, he added,
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 ...
4. What means,
You have charged that we shall keep Your commandments too much? Psalm 118:4. Is it,
You have charged too much? Or,
to keep too much? Whichever of these we understand, the sense seems contrary to that memorable and noble sentiment which the Greeks praise in their wise men, and which the Latins agree in praising.
Do nothing too much.. ..But the Latin language sometimes uses the word nimis in such a sense, that we find it in the holy Scripture, and employ it in our discourses, as signifying, very much. In this passage,
You have charged that we keep Your commandments too much, we simply understand very much, if we understand rightly; and if we say to any very dear friend, I love you too much, we do not wish to be understood to mean more than is fitting, but very much.
O that, he says,
my ways were made so direct, that I might keep Your statutes Psalm 118:5. Thou indeed hast charged: O that I could realize what you have charged. When you hear,
O that, recognise the words of one wishing; and having recognised the expression of a wish, lay aside the pride of presumption. For who says that he desires what he has in such a manner in his power, that without need of any help he can do it? Therefore if man desires what God charges, God must be prayed to grant Himself what He enjoins....
So shall I not be confounded, while I have respect unto all Your commandments Psalm 118:6. We ought to look upon the commandments of God, whether when they are read, or when they are recalled to memory, as a looking-glass, as the Apostle James says. James 1:23-25 This man wishes himself to be such, that he may regard as in a mirror the commandments of God, and may not be confounded; because he chooses not merely to be a hearer of them, but a doer. On this account he desires that his ways may be made direct to keep the statutes of God. How to be made direct, save by the grace of God? Otherwise he will find in the law of God not a source of rejoicing, but of confusion, if he has chosen to look into commandments, which he does not.
I will confess unto You, he says,
O Lord, in the directing of my heart; in that I shall have learned the judgments of Your righteousness Psalm 118:7. This is not the confession of sins, but of praise; as He also says in whom there was no sin,
I will confess unto You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth; Matthew 11:25 and as it is written in the Book of Ecclesiasticus,
Thus shall you say in confession, of all the works of God, that they are very good. Sirach 39:15-16
I will confess unto You, he says,
in the directing of my heart. Indeed, if my ways are made straight, I will confess unto You, since You have done it, and this is Your praise, and not mine....
8. Next he adds:
I will keep Your ordinances Psalm 118:8....But what is it that follows?
O forsake me not even exceedingly! or, as some copies have it,
even too much, instead of,
even exceedingly. But since God had left the world to the desert of sins, He would have forsaken it
even exceedingly, if so powerful a cure had not supported it, that is, the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ; but now, according to this prayer of the body of Christ, He forsook it not
even exceedingly; for, 2 Corinthians 5:19 ...
Wherewithal shall a young man correct his way? Even by keeping Your words Psalm 118:9. He questions himself, and answers himself.
Wherewithal? So far it is a question: next comes the answer,
even by keeping Your words. But in this place the keeping of the words of God, must be understood as the obeying His commandments in deed: for they are kept in memory in vain, if they are not kept in life also. But what is meant by
young man here? For he might have said, wherewithal shall any one (homo) correct his way? Or, wherewithal shall a man (vir) correct his way? Which is usually put by the Scriptures in such a way, that the whole human race is understood....But in this passage he says neither any one, nor a man, but,
a young man. Is then an old man to be despaired of? Or does an old man correct his way by any other means than by ruling himself after God's word? Or is it perhaps an admonition at what age we ought chiefly to correct our way; according to what is elsewhere written,
My son, gather instruction from your youth up: so shall you find wisdom till your gray hairs. Sirach 6:18 There is another mode of interpreting it, by recognising in the expression the younger son in the Gospel, Luke 15:12, etc. who returned to himself, and said,
I will arise and go to my father. Luke 15:18 Wherewithal did he correct his way, save by ruling himself after the words of God, which he desired as one longing for his father's bread....
With my whole heart, he says,
have I sought you; O repel me not from Your commandments Psalm 118:10. Behold, he prays that he may be aided to keep the words of God, wherewith he had said that the young man corrected his way. For this is the meaning of the words,
O repel me not from Your commandments: for what is it to be repelled of God, save not to be aided? For human infirmity is not equal to obeying His righteous and exalted commandments, unless His love does prevent and aid. But those whom He aids not, these He is justly said to repel....
Your words have I hid within my heart, that I may not sin against You Psalm 118:11. He at once sought the Divine aid, lest the words of God might be hidden without fruit in his heart, unless works of righteousness followed. For after saying this, he added,
Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your righteousnesses Psalm 118:12.
Teach me, he says, as they learn who do them; not as they who merely remember them, that they may have somewhat to speak of. Why then does he say,
Teach me Your righteousnesses, save because he wishes to learn them by deeds, not by speaking or retaining them in his memory? Since then, as it is read in another Psalm,
He shall give blessing, who gave the law; therefore,
Blessed are You, O Lord, he says,
O teach me Your righteousness. For because I have hidden Your words in my heart, that I may not sin against You, You have given a law; give also the blessing of Your grace, that by doing right I may learn what Thou by teaching hast commanded....
With my lips have I been telling of all the judgments of Your mouth Psalm 118:13; that is, I have kept silent nothing of Your judgments, which Thou willed should become known to me through Your words, but I have been telling of all of them without exception with my lips. This he seems to me to signify, since he says not, all Your judgments, but,
all the judgments of Your mouth; that is, which You have revealed unto me: that by His mouth we may understand His word, which He has discovered unto us in many revelations of the Saints, and in the two Testaments; all which judgments the Church ceases not to declare at all times with her lips.
I have had as great delight in the way Your testimonies, as in all manner of riches Psalm 118:14. We understand that there is no more speedy, no more sure, no shorter, no higher way of the testimonies of God than Christ,
in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:3 Thence he says that he has had as great delight in this way, as in all riches. Those are the testimonies, by which He deigns to prove unto us how much He loves us.. ..
I will talk of Your commandments, and have respect unto Your ways Psalm 118:15. And thus the Church does exercise herself in the commandments of God, by speaking in the copious disputations of the learned against all the enemies of the Christian and Catholic faith; which are fruitful to those who compose them, if nothing but the ways of the Lord is regarded in them; but
All the ways of the Lord are, as it is written,
mercy and truth; the fullness of which both is found in Christ. Through this sweet exercise is gained also what he subjoins:
My meditation shall be in Your statutes, and I will not forget Your word Psalm 118:16.
My meditation shall be therein, that I may not forget them. Thus the blessed man in the first Psalm
shall meditate in the law of the Lord
day and night.. ..
15. He had said,
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? Even by keeping Your words. Behold he now more openly asks aid that he may do this:
Reward, he says,
Your servant: let me live, and keep Your word Psalm 118:17...It this reward that he asks, who says,
Reward Your servant. For there are four modes of reward: either evil for evil, as God will reward everlasting fire to the unrighteous; or good for good, as He will reward an everlasting kingdom to the righteous; or good for evil, as Christ by grace justifies the ungodly; or evil for good, as Judas and the Jews through their wickedness persecuted Christ. Of these four modes of reward, the first two belong to justice, whereby evil is rewarded for evil, good for good; the third to mercy, whereby good is rewarded for evil; the fourth God knows not, for to none does He reward evil for good. But that which I have placed third in order, is in the first instance necessary: for unless God rewarded good for evil, there would be none to whom He could reward good for good....
Open Thou my eyes, and I will consider wondrous things of Your law Psalm 118:18. What he adds,
I am a lodger upon earth Psalm 118:19: or, as some copies read,
I am a sojourner upon earth, O hide not Your commandments from me, has the same meaning....
18. Here an important question arises respecting the soul. For the words, I am a sojourner, or lodger, or stranger upon earth, cannot seem to have been said in reference to the body, since the body derives its origin from the earth. But in this most profound question I dare not define anything. For if it might justly have been said in respect of the soul (which God forbid we should suppose derived from the earth),
I am a lodger, or
stranger upon earth; or in reference to the whole man, since he was at one time an inhabitant of Paradise, where he who spoke these words was not; or, what is more free from all controversy, if it be not every man who could say this, but one to whom an everlasting country has been promised in heaven: this I know,
that the life of man on earth is a temptation; Job 7:1 and that
there is a heavy yoke upon the sons of Adam. Sirach 40:1 But it pleases me more to discuss the question in accordance with this construction, that we say we are tenants or strangers upon earth, because we have found our country above, whence we have received a pledge, and where when we have arrived we shall never depart.. ..
19. Those whose conversation is in heaven, as far as they abide here conversant, are in truth strangers. Let them pray therefore that the commandments of God may not be hidden from them, whereby they may be freed from this temporary sojourn, by loving God, with whom they will be for evermore; and by loving their neighbour, that he may be there where they also themselves will be.
20. But what is loved by loving, if love itself be not loved? Whence by consequence that stranger upon earth, after praying that the commandments of God might not be hidden from him, wherein love is enjoined either solely or principally; declares that he desires to have a love for love itself, saying, Psalm 118:20. This coveting is worthy of praise, not of condemnation....
21. But he says not, God, save that they are not desired, while love has no warmth toward winning them, though their light is so clear and shining....
22. Psalm 118:21. For the proud err from the commandments of God. For it is one thing not to fulfil the commandments of God through infirmity or ignorance; another to err from them through pride; as they have done, who have begotten us in our mortal state unto these evils....But consider now, after saying,
You have rebuked the proud, he says not, Cursed are they that have erred from Your commandments; so that only that sin of the first men should come into the mind; but he says,
Cursed are they that do err. For it was needful that all might be terrified by that example, that they might not err from the divine commandments, and by loving righteousness in all time, recover in the toil of this world, what we lost in the pleasure of Paradise.
O turn from me shame and rebuke; for I have sought out Your testimonies Psalm 118:22. Testimonies are called in Greek μαρτύρια, which word we now use for the Latin word: whence those who on account of their testimony to Christ have been brought low by various sufferings, and have contended unto death for the truth, are not called testes, but by the Greek term Martyrs. Since then ye hear in this term one more familiar and grateful, let us take these words as if it were said,
O turn from me shame and rebuke; because I have sought out Your martyrdoms. When the body of Christ speaks thus, does it consider it any punishment to hear rebuke and shame from the ungodly and the proud, since it rather reaches the crown by this means? Why then does it pray that it should be removed from it as something heavy and insupportable, save because, as I said, it prays for its very enemies, to whom it sees it is destructive, to cast the holy name of Christ as a reproach to Christians....For my enemies, whom Thou enjoinest to be loved by me, who more and more die and are lost, when they despise Your martyrdoms and accuse them in me, will indeed be recalled to life and be found, if they reverence Your martyrdoms in me. Thus it has happened: this we see. Behold, martyrdom in the name of Christ, both with men and in this world, is not only not a disgrace, but a great ornament: behold, not only in the sight of the Lord, but in the sight of men,
precious is the death of His Saints; behold, His martyrs are not only not despised, but honoured with great distinctions....
Princes also did sit and speak against me: but Your servant is exercised in Your statutes Psalm 118:23. Thou who desirest to know what sort of exercise this was, understand what he has added,
For Your testimonies are my meditation, and Your statutes are my counsellors Psalm 118:24. Remember what I have above instructed you, that testimonies are acts of martyrdom. Remember that among the statutes of the Lord there is none more difficult and more worthy of admiration, than that every man should love his enemies. Matthew 5:44 Thus then the body of Christ was exercised, so that it meditated on the acts of martyrdom that testified of Him, and loved those from whom, while they rebuked and despised the Church for these very martyrdoms, she suffered persecutions....
My soul cleaves to the pavement: O quicken Thou me according to Your word Psalm 118:25. What means,
My soul cleaves to the pavement, O quicken Thou me according to Your word?...If we look upon the whole world as one great house, we see that the heavens represent its vaulting, the earth therefore will be its pavement. He wishes therefore to be rescued from earthly things, and to say with the Apostle,
Our conversation is in heaven. To cling therefore to earthly things is the soul's death; the contrary of which evil, life is prayed for, when he says,
O quicken Thou me.
26. ...The body itself also, because it is of the earth, is reasonably understood by the word pavement; since, because it is still corruptible and weighs down the soul, Wisdom 9:15 we justly groan while in it, and say unto God,
O quicken Thou me. For we shall not be without our bodies when we shall be for evermore with the Lord; 1 Thessalonians 4:17 but then because they will not be corruptible, nor will they weigh down our souls, if we view it strictly, we shall not cleave unto them, but they rather unto us, and we unto God....
27. For what he was by himself, he confesses in the following words:
I have acknowledged my ways, and You heard me Psalm 118:26. Some copies indeed read,
Your ways: but more, and the best Greek, read
my ways, that is, evil ways. For he seems to me to say this; I have confessed my sins, and You have heard me; that is, so that You would remit them.
O teach me Your statutes. I have acknowledged my ways: You have blotted them out: teach me Yours. So teach me, that I may act; not merely that I may know how I ought to act. For as it is said of the Lord, that He knew not sin, 2 Corinthians 5:21 and it is understood, that He did no sin; so also he ought truly to be said to know righteousness, who does it. This is the prayer of one who is improving....
28. Finally he adds,
Intimate to me the way of Your righteousness Psalm 118:27; or, as some copies have it,
instruct me; which is expressed more closely from the Greek,
Make me to understand the way of Your righteousnesses; so shall I be exercised in Your wondrous things. These higher commandments, which he desires to understand by edification, he calls the wondrous things of God. There are then some righteousnesses of God so wondrous, that human weakness may be believed incapable of fulfilling them by those who have not tried. Whence the Psalmist, struggling and wearied with the difficulty of obeying them, says,
My soul has slumbered for very heaviness: O establish Thou me with Your word! Psalm 118:28. What means, has slumbered? save that he has cooled in the hope which he had entertained of being able to reach them. But, he adds,
Stablish Thou me with Your word: that I may not by slumbering fall away from those duties which I feel that I have already attained: establish Thou me therefore in those words of Yours that I already hold, that I may be able to reach unto others through edification.
Take Thou from me the way of iniquity Psalm 118:29. And since the law of works has entered in, that sin might abound; Romans 5:20 he adds,
And pity me according to Your law. By what law, save by the law of faith? Hear the Apostle:
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works. Nay: but by the law of faith. Romans 3:27 This is the law of faith, whereby we believe and pray that it may be granted us through grace; that we may effect that which we cannot fulfil through ourselves; that we may not, ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish our own, fail to submit ourselves unto the righteousness of God. Romans 10:3
30. But after he had said,
And pity me according to Your law; he mentions some of those blessings which he has already obtained, that he may ask others that he has not yet gained. For he says,
I have chosen the way of truth: and Your judgments I have not forgotten Psalm 118:30.
I have stuck unto Your testimonies: O Lord, confound me not Psalm 118:31: may I persevere in striving toward the point whereunto I am running: may I arrive whither I am running! So then
it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. Romans 9:16 He next says,
I will run the way of Your commandments, when You have widened my heart Psalm 118:32. I could not run had Thou not widened my heart. The sense of the words,
I have chosen the way of truth, and Your judgments I have not forgotten: I have stuck unto Your testimonies, is clearly explained in this verse. For this running is along the way of the commandments of God. And because he does allege unto the Lord rather His blessings than his own deservings; as if it were said unto him, How have you run that way, by choosing, and by not forgetting the judgments of God, and by sticking to His testimonies? Couldest thou do these things by yourself? I could not, he replies. It is not therefore through my own will, as though it needed no aid of Yours; but because
You have widened my heart. The widening of the heart is the delight we take in righteousness. This is the gift of God, the effect of which is, that we are not straitened in His commandments through the fear of punishment, but widened through love, and the delight we have in righteousness....
31. In this great Psalm there comes next in order that which, with the Lord's help, we must consider and treat of.
Set a law for me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall seek it always Psalm 118:33....
32. Why does this man still pray for a law to be laid down for him; which, if it had not been laid down for him, he could not have run the way of God's commandments in the breadth of his heart? But since one speaks who is growing in grace, and who knows that it is God's gift that he profits in grace; what else does he pray, when he prays that a law may be laid down for him, save that he may profit more and more? As, if you hold a full cup, and givest it to a thirsty man; he both exhausts it by drinking it, and prays for it by still longing for it....
33. But what means,
evermore mean as long as we live here, because we progress in grace so long; but after this life, he who was in a good course of improvement here, is made perfect there? Here the law of God is examined into, as long as we progress in it, both by knowing it and by loving it: but there its fullness abides for our enjoyment, not for our examination. Thus also is this spoken,
Seek His face evermore. Where, evermore, save here? For we shall not there also seek the face of God, when
we shall see face to face. 1 Corinthians 13:12 Or if that which is loved without a change of affection is rightly said to be sought after, and our only object is, that it be not lost, we shall indeed evermore seek the law of God, that is, the truth of God: for in this very Psalm it is said,
And Your law is the truth. It is now sought, that it may be held fast; it will then be held fast that it may not be lost....
Give me understanding, and I shall search Your law, yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart Psalm 118:34. For when each man has searched the law, and searched its deep things, in which its whole meaning does consist; he ought indeed to love God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind; and his neighbour as himself.
For on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 22:37-40 This he seems to have promised, when he said,
Yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart.
35. But since he has no power to do even this, save he be aided by Him who commands him to do what He commands,
Make me, he adds,
to go in the path of Your commandments, for therein is my desire Psalm 118:35. My desire is powerless, unless You Yourself makest me to go where I desire. And this is surely the very path, that is, the path of God's commandments, which he had already said that he had run, when his heart was enlarged by the Lord. And this he calls a
the way is narrow which leads unto life; Matthew 7:14 and since it is narrow, we cannot run therein save with a heart enlarged....
36. He next says,
Incline mine heart unto Your testimonies, and not to covetousness Psalm 118:36. This then he prays, that he may profit in the will itself.. ..But the Apostle says,
Avarice is a root of all evils. 1 Timothy 6:10 But in the Greek, whence these words have been rendered into our tongue, the word used by the Apostle is not πλεονεξία, which occurs in this passage of the Psalms; but φιλαργυρία, by which is signified avarice universally and generally by love of money, which is truly the root of all evils. Genesis 3:5 ...If therefore our heart be not inclined to covetousness, we fear God only for God's sake, so that He is the only reward of our serving Him. Let us love Him in Himself, let us love Him in ourselves, Him in our neighbours whom we love as ourselves, whether they have Him, or in order that they may have Him....
37. The next words in the Psalm which we have undertaken to expound are,
O turn away my eyes, lest they behold vanity: and quicken Thou me in Your way Psalm 118:37. Vanity and truth are directly contrary to one another. The desires of this world are vanity: but Christ, who frees us from the world, is truth. He is the way, too, wherein this man wishes to be quickened, for He is also the life:
I am the way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6 are His own words.
38. ...He prays that those eyes wherewith we consider on what account we do what we do, may be turned away that they behold not vanity; that is, that he may not look to vanity, as his motive, when he does anything good. In this vanity the first place is held by the love of men's praise, on account of which many great deeds have been wrought by those who are styled great in this world, and who have been much praised in heathen states, seeking glory not with God, but among men, and on account of this living in appearance prudently, courageously, temperately, and righteously; and when they have reached this they have reached their reward: vain men, and vain reward. Matthew 6:1 ...Moreover, if it be a vain thing to do good works for the sake of men's praises, how much more vain for the sake of getting money, or increasing it, or retaining it, and any other temporal advantage, which comes unto us from without? Since
all things are vanity: what is man's abundance, with all his toil, wherein he labours under the sun? Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 For our temporal welfare itself finally we ought not to do our good works, but rather for the sake of that everlasting welfare which we hope for, where we may enjoy an unchangeable good, which we shall have from God, nay, what God Himself is unto us. For if God's Saints were to do good works for the sake of this temporal welfare, never would the martyrs of Christ achieve a good work of confession in the loss of this same welfare....
O establish Your word in Your servant, that I may fear You Psalm 118:38. And what else is this than, Grant unto me that I may do according to what You say? For the word of God is not established in those who remove it in themselves by acting contrary to it; but it is established in those in whom it is immoveable. God therefore establishes His word, that they may fear Him, in those unto whom He gives the spirit of the fear of Him; not that fear of which the Apostle says,
You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; Romans 8:15 for
perfect love casts out this
fear, 1 John 4:18 but that fear which the Prophet calls
the spirit of the fear of the Lord; Isaiah 11:2 that fear which
is pure, and endures for ever; that fear which fears to offend Him whom it loves.
Take away my reproach which I have suspected, for Your judgments are sweet Psalm 118:39. Who is he who suspected his own reproach, and who does not know his own reproach better than that of his neighbour? For a man may rather suspect another's than his own; since he knows not that which he suspects; but in each one's own reproach there is not suspicion for him, but knowledge, wherein conscience speaks. What then mean the words,
the rebuke which I have suspected? The meaning of them must be derived from the former verse; since as long as a man does not turn away his eyes lest they behold vanity, he suspects in others what is going on in himself; so that he believes another to worship God, or do good works, from the same motive as himself. For men can see what we do, but with a view to what end we act, is hidden....
Behold, I have coveted Your commandments: O quicken Thou me in Your righteousness Psalm 118:40. Behold, I have coveted to love You with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and my neighbour as myself, but,
O quicken Thou me not in my own, but
in Your righteousness, that is, fill me with that love which I have longed for. Aid me that I may do that which Thou chargest me: Yourself give what Thou dost command.
O quicken Thou me in Your righteousness: for in myself I had that which would cause my death: but I find not save in You whence I may live. Christ is Your righteousness,
Who of God is made unto us wisdom, etc. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 And in Him I find Your commandments, which I have coveted, that in Your righteousness, that is, in Him, You may quicken me. For the Word Himself is God; and
the Word was made flesh, John 1:14 that He Himself also might be my neighbour.
And let Your loving mercy come also unto us, O Lord Psalm 118:41. This sentence seems annexed to the foregoing: for he does not say, Let it come unto me, but,
And let it come unto me....What then does he here pray for, save that through His loving mercy who commanded, he may perform the commandments which he has coveted? For he explains in some degree what he meant by adding,
even Your salvation, according to Your word: that is, according to Your promise. Whence the Apostle desires us to be understood as the children of promise: Romans 9:8 that we may not imagine that what we are is our own work, but refer the whole to the grace of God....Christ Himself is the Salvation of God, so that the whole body of Christ may say,
By the grace of God I am what I am. 1 Corinthians 15:10
And so shall I make answer, he says,
to them that reproach me with the word Psalm 118:42. It is doubtful whether it be
reproach me with a word; or,
I will answer with a word; but either signifies Christ. They to whom Christ crucified is a stumbling-block or foolishness, 1 Corinthians 1:23 reproach us with Him; ignorant that
the Word was made flesh, and dwelt in us; John 1:14 the Word which
was in the beginning, and
was with God, and was God. John 1:1 But although they may not reproach us with the Word which is unknown unto them, because His Divinity is not known unto those by whom His weakness on the Cross is despised; let us nevertheless make answer of the Word, and let us not be terrified or confounded by their reproaches. For
if they had known the Word,
they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:8 ...Therefore, when the Psalmist had said,
I will make answer unto them that reproach me with the word: he at once adds,
For my trust is in Your words, which means exactly, in Your promises.
O take not the word of Your truth away out of my mouth even exceedingly Psalm 118:43. He says, out of my mouth, because the unity of the body is speaking, among whose members those also are counted who failed at the hour by denying, but by penitence afterwards came again to life, or even, by renewing their confession, received the palm of martyrdom, which they had lost. The word of truth, therefore, was not
even exceedingly, or, as some copies have it, even every way, that is not altogether taken from the mouth of Peter, in whom was the type of the Church; because although he denied for the hour, being disturbed with fear, yet by weeping he was restored, Matthew 26:70-75 and by confessing was afterwards crowned. The whole body of Christ therefore speaks....Next follows,
for I have hoped in Your judgments. Or, as some have more strictly rendered it from the Greek,
I have hoped more; a word which, although compounded in a somewhat unusual way, yet answers the necessary purpose of conveying the truth in a translation....Behold the saints and the humble in heart when they have trusted in You, have not failed in persecutions: behold also those who from trusting in themselves have failed, and nevertheless have belonged to the Very Body, have wept when they became known unto themselves, and have found Your grace a more solid support, because they have lost their own pride.
So shall I always keep Your law Psalm 118:44: that is, if You will not take the word of Your truth out of my mouth.
Yea, unto age, and age of age: he shows what he meant by
alway. For sometimes by
alway is meant, as long as we live here; but this is not,
unto age, and age of age. For it is better thus translated than as some copies have,
to eternity, and to age of age, since they could not say, and to eternity of eternity. That law therefore should be understood, of which the Apostle says,
Love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:10 For this will be kept by the saints, from whose mouth the word of truth is not taken, that is, by the Church of Christ Herself, not only during this world, that is, until this world is ended; but for another also which is styled,
world without end.. ..
And I walked at liberty: for I sought Your precepts Psalm 118:45....
And I walked at liberty. Here the copulative conjunction,
and, is not used as a connecting particle; for he does not say, and I will walk, as he had said,
and I will keep Your commandments for ever and ever: or if this latter verse be in the optative mood, and may I keep Your law; he does not add, And may I walk at liberty, as if he had desired and prayed for both of these things; but he says,
And I walked at liberty. If this conjunction were not used here, and if the sentence were introduced free from any such connection with what preceded,
I walked at liberty, the reader would never be induced by anything unusual in the mode of speech to think he should seek for some hidden sense. Doubtless, then, he wished what he has not said to be understood, that is, that his prayers had been heard; and he then added what he had become: as if he were to say, When I prayed for these things, You heard me,
And I walked at liberty; and so with the remaining expressions which he has added to the same purpose.
47. ...Whence after he had said,
And I walked at liberty, he subjoined the reason,
For I sought out Your commandments. Some copies have not
testimonies: but we find
commandments in most, and especially in the Greek; and who would hesitate rather to believe this tongue, as prior to our own, and that from which these Psalms have been rendered into Latin? If then we wish to know how he sought out these commandments, or how they ought to be sought out, let us consider what our good Master, who both taught and gave them, says:
Ask, and it shall be given you. Matthew 7:7 And a little lower,
If you then, He says,
being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask Him. Matthew 7:11 Where He evidently shows, that the words He had spoken, seek, ask, knock, belong only to earnestness in asking, that is, in praying. Moreover, another Evangelist says not, He will give good things to them that ask Him; which may be understood in many ways, either as earthly or spiritual blessings; but has excluded other interpretations, and very carefully expressed what our Lord wished us to pray earnestly and instantly for, in these words:
How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.. ..
I spoke of Your testimonies also, he says,
before kings, and I was not ashamed Psalm 118:46: as one who had sought and had received grace to answer those who reproached him with the word, and the promise that the word of truth should not be taken from his mouth. Struggling for this truth even unto death, not even before kings was he ashamed to speak of it. For testimonies, whereof he does avow that he was speaking, are in Greek styled μαρτύρια, a word which we now employ instead of the Latin. The name of
Martyrs, unto whom Jesus foretold, that they should confess Him even before kings, Matthew 10:18 is derived hence.
And I meditated, he says,
on Your commandments, which I have loved Psalm 118:47.
My hands also have I lifted up unto Your commandments, which I have loved Psalm 118:48; or, as some copies read,
which I have loved exceedingly, or
too much, or
vehemently, as they have chosen to render the Greek word σφόδρα . He then loved the commandments of God because he walked at liberty; that is, through the Holy Spirit, through whom love itself is shed abroad, Romans 5:5 and enlarges the hearts of the faithful. But he loved, both in thought and in acts. With a view to thought, he says,
And I meditated: as to action,
My hands also have I lifted up. But to both sentences, he has annexed the words,
which I have loved: for
the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart. 1 Timothy 1:5 ...The following words,
And my study was in Your statutes, relate to both. This expression most of the translators have preferred to this,
I rejoiced in, or
I talked of, a version which some have given from the Greek ἠ δολcommandments of God, which he loves, both in thought and in works taking delight in them, is exercised with joy, and with a certain abundance of speech, in the judgments of God.
O remember Your word unto Your servant, wherein You have given me hope Psalm 118:49. Is forgetfulness incident to God, as it is to man? Why then is it said unto Him,
O remember? Although in other passages of holy Scripture this very word is used, as,
Why have You forgotten me? and,
Wherefore forgettest Thou our misery?. ..These expressions are borrowed from moral discourses on human affections; although God does these things according to a fixed dispensation, with no failing memory, nor with an understanding obscured, nor with a will changed. When therefore it is said unto Him,
O remember, the desire of him who prays is displayed, because he asks for what was promised; God is not admonished, as if the promise had escaped from His mind.
O remember, he says,
Your word unto Your servant: that is, fulfil Your promise to Your servant.
Wherein You have given me hope: that is, in Your Word, since You have promised, You have caused me to hope.
The same is my comfort in my humiliation Psalm 118:50. Namely, that hope which is given to the humble, as the Scripture says:
For whosoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. We well understand here that humiliation also, not whereby each man humbles himself by confessing his sins, and by not arrogating righteousness to himself; but when each man is humbled by some tribulation or mortification which his pride deserved; or when he is exercised and proved by endurance; Sirach 2:4-5 whence a little after this Psalm says,
Before I was troubled, I went wrong....And the Lord Jesus, when He foretold that this humiliation would be brought upon His disciples by their persecutors, did not leave them without a hope; but gave them one, whereby they might find comfort, in these words:
In your patience shall you possess your souls; and declared even of their very bodies, which might be put to death by their enemies, and seemingly be utterly annihilated, that not a hair of their heads should perish. Luke 21:17-18 This hope was given to Christ's Body, that is, to the Church, that it might be a comfort to Her in her humiliation....This hope He gave in the prayer which He taught us, where He enjoined us to say,
Lead us not into temptation: Matthew 6:13 for He in a manner implicitly promised that He would give to His disciples in their danger that which He taught them to ask for in their prayers. And indeed this Psalm is rather to be understood to speak of this hope:
For Your word has quickened me. Which they have rendered more closely who have put not
utterance. For the Greek has λόγιον, which is
utterance; not λόγος, which is
52. The next verse is,
The proud dealt exceeding wickedly: yet have I not shrinked from Your law Psalm 118:51. By the proud he wished to be understood the persecutors of the pious; and he therefore added,
yet have I not shrinked from Your laws, because the persecution of the proud attempted to force him to do this. He says that they dealt
exceeding wickedly, because they were not only wicked themselves, but even tried to make the godly wicked. In this humiliation, that is, in this tribulation, that hope comforted him which was given in the word of God, who promised aid, that the faith of the Martyrs might not faint; and who by the presence of His Spirit gave strength to them in their toils, that they might escape from the snare of the fowlers.. ..
For I was mindful of Your judgments from the beginning of the world, O Lord, and received comfort Psalm 118:52; or, as other copies have it,
and I was exhorted, that is, received exhortation. For either might be rendered for the Greek pareklhqhn.
From the beginning of the world, that is, from the birth of the human race,
I was mindful of Your judgments upon the vessels of wrath, which are fitted unto perdition:
and I received comfort, since through these also have You shown the riches of Your glory on the vessels of Your mercy. Romans 9:22-23
Weariness has held me; for the ungodly that forsake Your law Psalm 118:53.
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage Psalm 118:54. This is the low estate, in the house of mortality, of the man who sojourns away from Paradise and the Jerusalem above, whence one going down to Jericho fell among robbers; but, in consequence of the deed of mercy which was done him by that Samaritan, Luke 10:30, 37 the statutes of God became his song in the house of his pilgrimage; although he was weary for the ungodly that forsook the law of God, since he was compelled to converse with them for a season in this life, until the floor be threshed. But these two verses may be adapted to the two clauses of the preceding verse, respectively.
I have thought upon Your Name, O Lord, in the night-season, and have kept Your law Psalm 118:55. Night is that low estate wherein is the trouble of mortality; night is in the proud who deal exceeding wickedly; night is the fear for the ungodly who forsake the law of the Lord; night is, lastly, the house of this pilgrimage,
until the Lord come, and bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise of God. 1 Corinthians 4:5 In this night, therefore, man ought to remember the Name of the Lord; 1 Corinthians 1:31
56. Considering this, he adds,
This was made unto me, because I sought out Your righteousnesses Psalm 118:56.
Your righteousnesses, whereby Thou dost justify the ungodly; not mine, which never make me godly, but proud. For this man was not one of those who,
ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. Romans 10:3 Others have better interpreted these righteousnesses, as those whereby men are justified for nought through God's grace, though by themselves they cannot be righteous,
justifications. But what means,
This was made unto me? What is
This? It is perhaps the law? As he had said,
and I have kept Your law; to which he subjoins,
This was made unto me, meaning,
This was made my law. We must therefore enquire first what was thus made unto him, next in what manner, whatever it may have been, was made unto him.
This, he says,
was made unto me: not
This law, for the Greek, as I have said, refuses this sense. Perhaps then,
This night: since the preceding sentence stands thus:
I have thought upon Your Name, O Lord, in the night-season: and the next words are,
This was made unto me: since then it is not the law, it must truly be the night which is thus spoken of. What then means,
I had the night-season: for I have sought out Your righteousnesses? Rather light had come unto him than night, since he sought out the righteousnesses of God. And it is thus rightly understood,
It was made unto me, as if it were said, It became night for my sake, that is, that it might profit me. For that low estate of mortality is not absurdly understood as night, where the hearts of mortals are hid to one another, so that from such darkness innumerable and heavy temptations arise....
57. Let us hear what follows:
I have promised to keep Your law. What means,
My portion, O Lord: I have promised to keep Your law Psalm 118:57; save because the Lord will be each man's portion then, when he has kept His law? Consider therefore what he subjoins:
I entreated Your face, with my whole heart: and saying in what manner he prayed:
O be merciful, he says,
unto me, according to Your word Psalm 118:58. And as if he had been heard and aided by Him whom he prayed unto,
I thought, he says,
on my own ways, and turned away my feet unto Your testimonies Psalm 118:59. That is, I turned them away from my own ways, which displeased me, that they might follow Your testimonies, and there might find a path. For most of the copies have not,
Because I thought, as is read in some; but only,
I thought. But what is here written,
and I turned away my feet: some read,
Because I thought, Thou also hast turned away my feet: that this may rather be ascribed to the grace of God, according to the Apostle's words,
For it is God who works in us. Philippians 2:13 ...
58. Lastly, when he had received this blessing of grace, he says,
I was ready, and was not disturbed, that I may keep Your commandments Psalm 118:60. Which some have rendered,
to keeping Your commandments, some
that I should keep, others
to keep, the Greek being τοῦ φυλcommandments, he has added, in these words:
The bands of the ungodly have surrounded me: but I have not forgotten Your law Psalm 118:61.
The bands of the ungodly are the hindrances of our enemies, whether spiritual, as the devil and his angels, or carnal, the children of disobedience, in whom the devil works. Ephesians 2:2 For this word peccatorum is not from peccata,
sins; but from peccatores,
sinners. Therefore when they threaten evils, with which to alarm the righteous, that they may not suffer for the law of God, they, so to speak, entangle them with bands, with a strong and tough cord of their own. For
they draw iniquity like a long rope, Isaiah 5:18 and thus endeavour to entangle the holy, and sometimes are allowed so to do.
At midnight, he says,
I rise to give thanks unto You: because of Your righteous judgments Psalm 118:62. This very fact, that the bands of the ungodly surround the righteous, is one of the righteous judgments of God. On which account the Apostle Peter says,
The time has come when judgment must begin at the house of the Lord. 1 Peter 4:17 For he says this of the persecutions which the Church suffered, when the bands of the ungodly surrounded them. I suppose, therefore, that by
midnight we should understand the heavier seasons of tribulation. In which he said,
I arose: since He did not so afflict him, as to cast him down; but tried him, so that he arose, that is, that through this very tribulation he might advance unto a bolder confession.
61. For I imagine that what follows,
I am a companion of all them that fear You, and keep Your commandments Psalm 118:63, does relate to the Head Himself, as it is in the Epistle which is inscribed to the Hebrews:
Both He that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.. ..Therefore Jesus Himself speaks in this prophecy: some things in His Members and in the Unity of His Body, as if in one man diffused over the whole world, and growing up in succession throughout the roll of ages: and some things in Himself our Head. And on this account, that since He became the companion of His brethren, God of men, the Immortal of the mortal, for this reason the seed fell upon the earth, that by its death it might produce much fruit; he next adds concerning this very fruit,
The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy Psalm 118:64. And whence this, save when the ungodly is justified? That we may make progress in the knowledge of this grace, he adds,
O teach me Your righteousnesses!
You have dealt in sweetness with Your servant: according unto Your word; or rather,
according unto Your utterance Psalm 118:65. The Greek word χρηστότης has been variously rendered by our translators by the words
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,
You have dealt in sweetness with Your servant, than this, You have made me feel delight in that which is good. For when that which is good delights, it is a great gift of God. But when the good work which the law commands 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.
O learn me sweetness, and understanding, and knowledge, he says,
for I have believed Your commandments Psalm 118:66. He prays these things may be increased and perfected. For they who said,
Lord, increase our faith, Luke 17:5 had faith. And as long as we live in this world, these are the words of those who are making progress. But he adds,
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 loves He disciplines, and scourges every son whom He receives. Hebrews 12:6 In the literature of the Church this is usually called discipline. For this word, παιδεία, is used in the Greek in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the Latin translator says,
No discipline for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous, etc. Hebrews 12:11 He therefore toward whom the Lord deals 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 sufferings 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 does not edify, but
puffs up. 1 Corinthians 8:1 ...
64. But in that he says, not, Give unto me; but,
O learn me; how is the sweetness taught, if it be not given? Since many know what does not delight them, and find no sweetness in things of which they have knowledge. For sweetness cannot be learned, unless it please. Also discipline, which signifies the tribulation which chastens, is learned by receiving; that is, not by hearing, or reading, or thinking, but by feeling....
65. He adds,
for I have believed Your 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 Your commandments. I have believed that Thou who art God, and who givest unto man whence You may cause him to do what You command, hast commanded these things.
Before I was humbled, I went wrong; wherefore I have kept Your word Psalm 118:67; or, as some have it more closely,
Your 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. 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.
Sweet are You, O Lord; or, as many have it,
Sweet are You, even Thou, O Lord Psalm 118:68. Some also,
Sweet are You, or,
Good are You: as we have before treated of this word:
and in Your sweetness teach me Your statutes. He truly desires to do the righteousnesses of God, since he desires to learn them in His sweetness from Him unto whom he has said,
Sweet are You, O Lord.
68. Next he says,
The iniquity of the proud has been multiplied upon me Psalm 118:69: of those, that is, whom it profited not that human nature was humbled after it went wrong.
But I will search Your commandments with my whole heart. Howsoever, he says, iniquity shall abound, love shall not grow cold in me. Matthew 24:12 He, as it were, says this, who in His sweetness learns the righteousnesses of God. For in proportion as the commandments of Him who aids us are the more sweet, so much the more does he who loves 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.
Their heart is curdled as milk Psalm 118:70. Whose, save the proud, whose iniquity he has said has been multiplied upon him? But he wishes it to be understood by this word, and in this passage, that their heart has become hard. It is used also in a good sense, and is understood to mean, full of grace: for this word, some have also interpreted
It is good for me that You have humbled me: that I might learn Your righteousnesses Psalm 118:71. He has said something kindred to this above. For by the fruit itself he shows that it was a good thing for him to be humbled; but in the former passage he has 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 Your word: and again in these,
That I might learn Your righteousnesses: he seems 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 2 Corinthians 5:21 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 Your righteousnesses, meaning that kind of knowledge whereby they are performed.
71. But that this is not gained, save through love, wherein he who does them has delight, on which account it is said,
In Your sweetness teach me Your righteousnesses: the following verse shows, wherein he says,
The law of Your mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver Psalm 118:72: so that love loves the law of God more than avarice loves thousands of gold and silver.
Your hands have made me, and fashioned me Psalm 118:73. The hands of God are the power of God. Or if the plural number moves them, since it is not said, Your hand, but,
Your hands; let them understand by the hands of God the power and wisdom of God, both of which titles are given to one Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:24 who is also understood under the figure, Arm of the Lord. Or let them understand by the hands of God, the Son and the Holy Spirit; since the Holy Spirit works conjointly with the Father and the Son: whence says the Apostle,
But all these works that one and the self-same Spirit: 1 Corinthians 12:11 he said,
one and the self-same; lest as many spirits as works might be imagined, not that the Spirit works without the Father and the Son. It is easy therefore to see how the hands of God are to be understood: provided, at the same time, that He be not denied to do those things through His Word which He does by His hands: nor be considered not to do those things with His hands, which He does through His word....But is this said in respect of Adam? From whom since all men were propagated, what man, since Adam was made, may not say that he himself also was made by reason of procreation and generation from Adam? Or may it rightly be said, in this sense,
Your hands have made me, and fashioned me, namely, that every man is born even of his parents not without the work of God, God creating, they generating? Since, if the creative power of God be withdrawn from things, they perish: nor is anything at all, either of the world's elements, or of parents, or of seeds, produced, if God does not create it....
73. The Greek version has a more concise expression for our,
Give me understanding, συνLatin cannot do; as if one could not say, Heal me; and it were necessary to say, Give me health, as it is here said,
Give me understanding; or, make me whole, as here it may be said, make me intelligent. This indeed an Angel could do: for he said to Daniel,
I have come to give you understanding; Daniel 10:14 and this word is in the Greek, as it is here also, συνLatin translator were to render θεραπεῦσαί σε by sanitatem dare tibi. For the Latin interpreter would not make a circumlocution by saying, to give you understanding, if, as we say from health,
to heal you, so one could say from intellect,
to intellectuate you. But if an Angel could do this, what reason is there that this man should pray that this be done for him by God? Is it because God had commanded the Angel to do it? Just so: for Christ is understood to have given this command to the Angel. Daniel 8:15-16 ...
That I may learn Your commandments. Since Thou, says he, hast formed me, do Thou new form me; that that may be done in Christ's Body, which the Apostle speaks of,
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2
They that fear You, he says,
will see me, and be glad Psalm 118:74: or, as other copies have it,
will be joyful: because I have hoped in Your word: that is, in the things which You have promised, that they may be the sons of promise, the seed of Abraham, in whom all nations are blessed. Who are they who fear God, and whom will they see and be glad, because he has put his trust in the word of God? Whether it be the body of Christ, that is, the Church, whose words these are through Christ, or within it, and concerning it, these are as it were the words of Christ concerning Himself; are not they themselves among those who fear God?...The same persons, who see the Church and are glad, are the Church. But why said he not, They who fear You see me, and are glad: whereas he has written,
fear You, in the present tense; while the verbs
shall see, and shall
be glad, are futures? Is it because in the present state there is fear, as long as
man's life is a temptation upon earth; but the gladness which he desired to be understood, will be then, when
the righteous shall shine in the kingdom of their Father like the sun. Matthew 13:43 ...
I know, she says,
O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in Your truth You have humbled me Psalm 118:75.
O let Your merciful kindness be my comfort, according to Your word unto Your servant Psalm 118:76. Mercy and truth are so spoken of in the Divine Word, that, while they are found in many passages, especially in the Psalms, it is also so read in one place,
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth. And here indeed he has placed truth first, whereby we are humbled unto death, by the judgment of Him whose judgments are righteousness: next mercy, whereby we are renewed unto life, by the promise of Him whose blessing is His grace. For this reason he says,
according to Your Word unto Your servant: that is, according to that which You have promised unto Your servant. Whether therefore it be regeneration whereby we are here adopted among the sons of God, or faith and hope and charity, which three are built up in us, although they come from the mercy of God; nevertheless, in this stormy and troublesome life they are the consolations of the miserable, not the joys of the blessed.
77. But since those things are destined to happen after and through these, he next says,
O let Your loving mercies come upon me, and I shall live Psalm 118:77. For then indeed I shall truly live, when I shall not be able to fear lest I die. This is styled life absolutely and without any addition; nor is any life save that which is everlasting and blessed understood, as though it alone were to be called life, compared with which that which we now lead ought rather to be called death than life: according to those words in the Gospel,
If you will enter into life, keep the commandments. Matthew 19:17 ...
78. He then goes on as follows:
Let the proud be confounded, for they have unrighteously practised iniquity against me: but I will be occupied in Your commandments Psalm 118:78. Behold, what he says, the meditation of the law of God, or rather, his meditation the law of God.
Let such as fear You, he says,
and have known Your testimonies, be turned unto me Psalm 118:79. But who is he who says this? For no mortal will venture to say this, or if he say it, should be listened to. Indeed, it is He who above also has interposed His own words, saying,
I am a partaker with all them that fear You. Because He was made sharer in our mortal state, that we might also become partakers in His Divine Nature, we became sharers in One unto life, He a sharer in many unto death. He it is unto whom they that fear God turn, and who know the testimonies of God, so long before predicted of Him through the Prophets, a little before displayed in His presence through miracles.
O let my heart, he says,
be unspotted in Your righteousnesses, that I be not ashamed Psalm 118:80. He returns to the words of His body, that is, His holy people, and now prays that his heart may be made unspotted, that is, the heart of His members;
in the righteousnesses of God, not in their own strength: for He has prayed for this, not presumed upon it. In the words he has added,
that I be not ashamed, there is a resemblance to some of the earlier verses of this Psalm. Whereas there, in the words,
O that, he signifies a wish, he has here expressed himself in the more open words of one praying:
O let my heart be sound: so that in neither of these two sentences, each of which is one and the same, there is found the boldness of one who trusts in his own free will against grace. While he says there,
so shall I not be confounded: he says here,
that I be not ashamed. The heart then of the members and the body of Christ is made unspotted, through the grace of God, by means of the very Head of that Body, that is, through Jesus Christ our Lord, by the
laver of regeneration, Titus 3:5 wherein all our past sins have been blotted out; through the aid of the Spirit, whereby we lust against the flesh, that we be not overcome in our fight; Galatians 5:17 through the efficacy of the Lord's Prayer, wherein we say,
Forgive us our trespasses. Matthew 6:12 Thus regeneration having been given to us, our conflict having been aided, prayer having been poured forth, our heart is made unspotted, so that we be not ashamed. Luke 6:37-38
81. Psalm 118:81. 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 has a desire and failing to enter into the courts of the Lord. So also here he says not, fails away from Your salvation, but
fails for Your salvation, that is, towards Your salvation. This losing ground is therefore good: for it does indicate a longing after good, not as yet indeed gained, but most eagerly and earnestly desired. But who says this, save the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people, 1 Peter 2:9 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 Virgin's delivery, who desired the advent of His Incarnation: but these times, since He has ascended into heaven, have Saints who desire His manifestation to judge the quick and the dead....
And I have hoped because of Your word: that is, of Your promise; a hope which causes us to await with patience that which is not seen by those who believe. Here also the Greek has the word ἐ πήλπισα, which some of our translators have preferred rendering by,
hoped-more; since beyond doubt it will be greater than can be described.
My eyes, he says,
have failed for Your word, saying, O when will You comfort me? Psalm 118:82. 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 says,
for Your word. But in what sense can such eyes say,
When will You 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 will You comfort me? he shows that he endures as it were delay. Whence is this also,
How long, Lord, will You punish me? 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 comes to their aid, is tedious to the loving. But God knows what He does and when, for He
has ordered all things in measure and number and weight. Wisdom 11:18
83. But when spiritual desires burn, carnal desires without doubt cool: on this account follows,
Since I have become like a bottle in the frost, I do not forget Your righteousnesses Psalm 118:83. Truly he desires 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 arises 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 says is brought to pass:
Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Romans 13:14
And I do not forget Your righteousness: that is, I forget them not, because I have become such. For the fervour of lust has cooled, that the memory of love might glow.
How many are the days of Your servant? When will You be avenged of them that persecute me? Psalm 118:84. In the Apocalypse, Revelation 6:10-11 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; Acts 1:7 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 follows:
The wicked have told me pleasant tales: but not like Your law, O Lord Psalm 118:85: the Latin translators have endeavoured to render the Greek 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, 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 says that law, O Lord; because truth, not words, pleases me therein.
86. Lastly, he adds,
All Your commandments are truth: they have persecuted me unjustly; O be Thou my help Psalm 118:86. And the whole sense depends upon the foregoing:
How many are the days of Your servant: when will You be avenged of them that persecute me? For that they may persecute me, they have related to me these pleasant tales; but I have preferred Your law to them, which on that account has pleased me more, because all Your commandments are true; not as in their discourses, where vanity abounds. 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 Your commandment, and therefore it is also the truth.
87. When the Church acted thus, She suffered what he has added,
They had almost made an end of me upon earth Psalm 118:87: 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 adds,
But I forsook not Your commandments.
88. And that She might persevere unto the end,
O quicken me, he says,
after Your loving mercy: and so shall I keep the testimonies of Your mouth Psalm 118:88; where the Greek has 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 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 Your 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.
89. The man who speaks in this Psalm, as if he were tired of human mutability, whence this life is full of temptations, among his tribulations, on account of which he had above said,
The wicked have persecuted me; and,
They have almost made an end of me upon earth Psalm 118:89; burning with longings for the heavenly Jerusalem; looked up to the realms above, and said,
O Lord, Your word endures for ever in heaven; that is, among Your Angels who serve everlastingly in Your armies, without desertion.
90. But the next verse, after heaven, pertains consequently to earth. For this is one verse of the eight which relate to this letter. For eight verses are appended to each of these Hebrew letters, until this long Psalm be ended.
Your truth also remains from one generation to the other: You have laid the foundation of the earth, and it abides Psalm 118:90. Beholding therefore the earth next after heaven with the gaze of a faithful mind, he finds in it generations which are not in heaven, and says,
Your truth remains from one generation to the other: signifying all generations by this expression, from which the Truth of God was never absent in His saints, at one time fewer, at one time more in number, according as the times happened or shall happen to vary; or wishing two particular generations to be understood, one pertaining to the Law and the Prophets, another to the Gospel....
Day continues according to Your ordinance Psalm 118:91. For all these things are day:
and this is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it: and
let us walk honestly as in the day. Romans 13:13
For all things serve You. He said all things of some:
all which belong to this day
serve You. For the ungodly of whom it is said,
I have compared your mother unto the night, do not serve You.
92. He then looks back towards the source of this earth's deliverance, which caused it to abide when founded; and adds,
If my delight had not been in Your law, I should perchance have perished in my humiliation Psalm 118:92. This is the law of faith, not a vain faith, but that which works through love. Galatians 5:6 Through this grace is gained, which makes men courageous in temporal tribulation, that they may not perish in the humiliation of mortality.
I will never forget, he says,
Your righteousnesses, for with them You have quickened me Psalm 118:93. Behold how it was that he did not perish in his humiliation. For, save God quickens, what is man, Who can indeed kill, but cannot quicken himself?
94. He next adds:
I am Yours: O save me, for I have sought Your righteousnesses Psalm 118:94. We must not understand lightly the words,
I am Yours. For what is not His? Why then is it that the Psalmist has commended himself unto God somewhat in a more familiar sense, in these words,
I am Yours: O save me; save because he wished it to be understood that he had desired to be his own only to his harm, which is the first and the greatest evil of disobedience? And as if he should say, I wished to be my own, and I lost myself:
I am Yours, he says,
O save me, for I have sought Your righteousnesses; not my own inclinations, whereby I was my own, but
Your righteousnesses, that I might now be Yours.
The ungodly, he says,
have awaited me that they might destroy me; but I have understood Your testimonies Psalm 118:95. What means,
that they might destroy me? Did he then fear that he should perish altogether at the death of his body? God forbid! And what means,
have awaited me, save that he should consent with them unto iniquity? For then they would destroy him. And he has said why he has not perished:
I understood Your testimonies. The Greek word, Μαρτύρια, sounds more familiarly to the ears of the Church. For though they should slay me not consenting unto them, yet while I confessed Your testimonies (martyria) I should not perish; but they who, that they might destroy me, were waiting till I should consent unto them, tortured me even when I did confess them. Yet he did not leave that which he had understood, looking on it and seeing an end without end, if only he should persevere unto the end.
96. Lastly, he next says,
I have seen an end of all consummation: but Your commandment is exceeding broad Psalm 118:96. For he had entered into the sanctuary of God, and had understood the end. Now
all consummation appears to me in this place to signify, the striving even unto death for the truth, Sirach 4:28 and the endurance of every evil for the true and chief good: the end of which consummation is to excel in the kingdom of Christ, which has no end; and there to have without death, without pain, and with great honour, life, acquired by the death of this life, and by sorrows and reproaches. But in what he has added,
Your commandment is exceeding broad; I understand only love. For what would it have profited him, whatever death impended over him, in the midst of whatsoever torment, to confess those testimonies, if love were not in the confessor?...Broad therefore is the commandment of charity, that twofold commandment, whereby we are enjoined to love God and our neighbour. But what is broader than that,
hang all the Law and the Prophets? Matthew 22:37-40
97. We have frequently admonished you, that love was to be understood by that praiseworthy breadth, by means of which, while we do the commandments of God, we feel no straitness. On this account also after saying above in this great Psalm,
Your commandment is exceeding broad: in the following verse he shows wherefore it is broad:
what love have I unto Your law, O Lord! Psalm 118:97. Love is therefore the breadth of the commandment. For how can it be that what God commands to be loved, be loved, and yet the commandment itself be not loved? For this itself is the law;
in all the day, he says,
is my study in it. Behold how I have loved it, that in the whole day my study is in it; or rather, as the Greek has it,
all the day long, which more fully expresses the continuance of meditation. Now that is to be understood through all time; which is, for ever. By such love lust is driven out: lust, which repeatedly opposes our performing the commandments of the law, when
the flesh lusts against the spirit: Galatians 5:17 against which the spirit lusting, ought so to love the law of God, that it be its study during the whole day....
98. And he then adds:
You have made me to understand Your commandment above mine enemies; for it is ever with me Psalm 118:98. For Romans 10:2-3 But the Psalmist, who understands the commandment of God above these his enemies, wishes to be found with the Apostle,
not having his Philippians 3:9 not that the Law which his enemies read is not of God, but because they do not understand it, like him who understands it above his enemies, by clinging to the Stone upon which they stumbled. For
Christ is the end of the law, etc., Romans 10:4
that they may be justified freely through His grace; Romans 3:24 not like those who imagine that they obey the law of their own strength, and are therefore, though by God's law, yet still endeavouring to set up their own righteousness; but as the son of promise, who hungering and thirsty after it, Matthew 5:6 by seeking, by asking, by knocking, Matthew 7:7 as it were begs it of the Father, that being adopted he may receive it through His only-begotten Son....His enemies sought from the same commandment temporal rewards; and therefore it was not unto them for ever, as it was unto this man. For they who have translated
for ever have rendered better than they who have written
for an age, since at the end of time there can be no longer a commandment of the law....
99. But what means the following verse,
I have more understanding than my teachers? Psalm 118:99. Who is he who had more understanding than all his teachers? Who, I ask, is he, who dares to prefer himself in understanding above all the Prophets, who not only by speaking taught with so excellent authority those who lived with them, but also their posterity by writing?...What is here said, could not have been spoken in Solomon's person....I recognise plainly Him who had more understanding than His teachers, since when He was a boy of twelve years of age, Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, and was found by His parents after three days' space,
sitting in the temple among the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. Luke 2:42-46 The Son Himself has said,
As My Father has taught Me, I speak these things. John 8:28 It is very difficult to understand this of the Person of the Word; unless we can comprehend that it is the same thing for the Son to be taught as to be begotten of the Father....
He took upon Himself the form of a servant; Philippians 2:7 for when He had assumed this form, men of more advanced age might think Him fit to be taught as a boy; but He whom the Father taught, had more understanding than all His teachers.
For Your testimonies, He says,
are my study. For this reason He had more understanding than all His teachers, because He studied the testimonies of God, which, as concerning Himself, He knew better than they, when He spoke these words:
You sent unto John, and he bore witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man, etc. John 5:33-36
100. But these teachers may be understood very reasonably to be those aged men, of whom he presently says,
I am wiser than mine elders Psalm 118:100. And this seems to me to be repeated here thus, that that age of His which is well known to us in the Gospel might be called to our remembrance; the age of boyhood, during which He was sitting among the aged, understanding more than all His teachers. For the smaller and the greater in age are wont to be termed younger and elder, although neither of them has arrived at or approached old age; although if we are concerned to seek in the Gospel the express term, elders, more than whom He understood, we find it when the Scribes and Pharisees said unto Him,
Why do Your disciples transgression the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. Matthew 15:2 Behold the transgression of the tradition of the elders is objected to Him. But He who was wiser than His elders, let us hear what answer He made them. Why do ye also, He asked,
transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? Matthew 15:3 ...
101. But what comes next, does not seem to apply to the Head, but to the Body:
I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your words Psalm 118:101. For that Head of ours, the Saviour of the Body Himself, could not be borne by carnal lust into any evil way, so that it should be needful for Him to refrain His feet, as though they would go there of their own accord; which we do, when we refrain our evil desires, which He had not, that they may not follow evil ways. For thus we are able to keep the word of God, if we Sirach 18:30 so that they attain unto the evils desired; but rather curb them with the spirit which lusts against the flesh, Galatians 5:17 that they may not drag us away, seduced and overthrown, through evil ways.
I have not shrunk, he says,
from Your judgments: for You have laid down a law for me Psalm 118:102. He has stated what made him fear, so that he refrained his feet from every evil way....Thou, more inward than my inmost self, You have laid down a law within my heart by Your Spirit, as it were by Your fingers, that I might not fear it as a slave without love, but might love it with a chaste fear as a son, and fear it with a chaste love.
103. Consider then what follows:
O how sweet are Your words unto my throat! Psalm 118:103. Or, as it is more literally rendered from the Greek,
Your utterances, above honey and the honeycomb unto my mouth. This is that sweetness which the Lord gives,
So that the earth yield her increase: that we do good truly in a good spirit, that is, not from the dread of carnal evil, but from the gladness of spiritual good. Some copies indeed do not read
honeycomb: but the majority do. Now the open teaching of wisdom is like honey; but that is like the comb which is squeezed from the more recondite mysteries, as if from cells of wax, by the mouth of the teacher, as if he were chewing it: but it is sweet to the mouth of the heart, not to the mouth of the flesh.
104. But what mean the words,
Through Your commandments I get understanding? Psalm 118:104. For the expressions, I have understood Your commandments: and,
I get understanding through Your commandments; are different. Something else then he signifies that he has understood from the commandments of God: that is, as far as I can see, he says, that by obeying God's commandments he has arrived at the comprehension of those things which he had longed to know....These then are the words of the spiritual members of Christ,
Through Your commandments I get understanding. For the body of Christ rightly says these words in those, to whom, while they keep the commandments, a richer knowledge of wisdom is given on account of this very keeping of the commandments.
Therefore, he adds, love of righteousness should hate all iniquity: that love, which is so much the stronger, in proportion as the sweetness of a higher wisdom does inspire it, a wisdom given unto him who obeys God, and gets understanding from His commandments.
Your word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my paths Psalm 118:105. The word
lantern appears in the word
my feet are also repeated in
my paths. What then means
Your Word? John 1:1 Is it He who was in the beginning God with God, that is, the Word by whom all things were made? It is not thus. For that Word is a light, but is not a lantern. For a lantern is a creature, not a creator; and it is lighted by participation of an unchangeable light....For no creature, howsoever rational and intellectual, is lighted by itself, but is lighted by participation of eternal Truth: although sometimes day is spoken of, not meaning the Lord, but that
day which the Lord has made, and on account of which it is said,
Come unto Him, and be lightened. On account of which participation, inasmuch as the Mediator Himself became Man, He is styled lantern in the Apocalypse. Revelation 21:23 But this sense is a solitary one; for it cannot be divinely spoken of any of the saints, nor in any wise lawfully said of any,
The Word was made flesh, John 1:14 save of the
one Mediator between God and men. 1 Timothy 2:5 Since therefore the only-begotten Word, coequal with the Father, is styled a light; and man when enlightened by the Word is also called a light, who is styled also a lantern, as John, as the Apostles; and since no man of these is the Word, and that Word by whom they were enlightened is not a lantern; what is this word, which is thus called a light and a lantern at the same time, save we understand the word which was sent unto the Prophets, or which was preached through the Apostles; not Christ the Word, but the word of Christ, of which it is written,
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God? Romans 10:17 For the Apostle Peter also, comparing the prophetical word to a lantern, says,
whereunto ye do well that you take heed, as unto a lantern, that shines in a dark place. 2 Peter 1:19 What, therefore, he here says,
Your word is the word which is contained in all the holy Scriptures.
I have sworn, and am steadfastly purposed to keep Your righteous judgments Psalm 118:106: as one who walked aright in the light of that lantern, and kept to straight paths. For he calls what he has determined by a sacrament, an oath; because the mind ought to be so fixed in keeping the righteous judgments of God, that its determination should be in the place of an oath. Now the righteous judgments of God are kept by faith; when, under the righteous judgment of God, neither any good work is believed to be fruitless, nor any sin unpunished; but, because the body of Christ has suffered many most grievous evils for this faith, he says,
I was humbled above measure Psalm 118:107. He does not say, I have humbled myself, so that we must needs understand that humiliation which is commanded; but he says,
I was humbled above-measure; that is, suffered a very heavy persecution, because he swore and was steadfastly purposed to keep the righteous judgments of God. And, lest in such trouble faith herself might faint he adds,
Quicken me, O Lord, according to Your word: that is, according to Your promise. For the word of the promises of God is a lantern to the feet, and a light to the paths. Thus also above, in the humiliation of persecution, he prayed that God would quicken him.. ..
Make the freewill offerings of my mouth well pleasing, O Lord Psalm 118:108: that is, let them please You; do not reject, but approve them. By the freewill offerings of the mouth are well understood the sacrifices of praise, offered up in the confession of love, not from the fear of necessity; whence it is said,
a freewill offering will I offer You. But what does he add?
and teach me Your judgments? Had he not himself said above,
From Your judgments I have not swerved? How could he have done thus, if he knew them not? Moreover, if he knew them, in what sense does he here say,
and teach me Your judgments? Is it as in a former passage,
You have dealt in sweetness with Your servant: presently after which we find,
teach me sweetness? This passage we explained as the words of one who was gaining in grace, and praying that he might receive in addition to what he had received.
My soul is always in Your hand Psalm 118:109. Some copies read,
in my hand: but most,
in Your hand; and this latter is indeed easy. For
the souls of the righteous are in God's hand: Wisdom 3:1 in whose hand are both we and our words. Wisdom 7:16
And I do not forget Your law: as if his memory were aided to remember God's law by the hands of Him in whose hands is his soul. But how the words,
My soul is in my hands, can be understood, I know not. For these are the words of the righteous, not of the ungodly; of one who is returning to the Father, not departing from the Father.. ..Is it perhaps said,
My soul is in my hands, in this sense, as if he offered it to God to be quickened? Whence in another passage it is said,
Unto You, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul. Since here too he had said above,
Quicken Thou me.
The ungodly, he says,
have laid a snare for me: but yet I swerved not from Your commandments Psalm 118:110. Whence this, unless because his soul is in the hands of God, or in his own hands is offered to God to be quickened?
Your testimonies have I gained in heritage for ever Psalm 118:111. Some wishing to express in one word what is put in one word in the Greek, have translated it hereditavi. Which although it might be Latin, yet would rather signify one who gave an inheritance than one who received it, hereditavi being like ditavi. Better, therefore, the whole sense is conveyed in two words, whether we say,
I have possessed in heritage, or,
I have gotten in heritage: not gotten heritage, but
gotten in heritage. If it be asked, what he gained in heritage, he replies,
Your testimonies. What does he wish to be understood, save that he might become a witness of God, and confess His testimonies, that is, that he might become a Martyr of God, and might declare His testimonies, as the Martyrs do, was a gift bestowed upon him by the Father, of whom he is heir?...But even their wish was prepared by the Lord. For this reason he says he has gained them in heritage, and this
for ever; because they have not in them the temporal glory of men who seek vain things, but the eternal glory of those who suffer for a short season, and who reign without end. Whence the next words,
Because they are the very joy of my heart: although the affliction of the body, yet the very joy of the heart.
111. He then adds:
I have applied my heart to fulfil Your righteousness for ever, for my reward Psalm 118:112. He who says,
I have applied my heart, had before said,
Incline my heart unto Your testimonies: so that we may understand that it is at once a divine gift, and an act of free will. But are we to fulfil the righteousnesses of God for ever? Those works which we perform in regard to the need of our neighbours, cannot be everlasting, any more than their need; but if we do not do them from love, there is no righteousness; if we do them from love, that love is everlasting, and an everlasting reward is in store for it.
I have hated the unrighteous; and Your law have I loved Psalm 118:113. He says not, I hate the wicked, and love the righteous; or, I hate iniquity, and love Your law; but, after saying,
I have hated the unrighteous, he explains why, by adding,
and Your law have I loved; to show, that he did not hate human nature in unrighteous men, but their unrighteousness whereby they are foes to the law, which he loves.
113. He next adds:
You are my helper and my taker up Psalm 118:114:
my helper, to do good works:
my taker up, to escape evil ones. In the next words,
I have hoped more on Your word, he speaks as a son of promise.
114. But what is the meaning of the following verse:
Away from me, you wicked, and I will search the commandments of my God? Psalm 118:115. For he says not, I will perform; but,
I will search. In order, therefore, that he may diligently and perfectly learn that law, he bids the wicked depart from him, and even forcibly drives them away from his company. For the wicked exercise us in the fulfilment of the commandments, but lead us away from searching into them; not only when they persecute, or wish to litigate with us; but even when they court us, and honour us, and yet expect us to occupy ourselves in aiding their own vicious and busy desire, and to bestow our time upon them; or at least harass the weak, and compel them to bring their causes before us: to whom we dare not say,
Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? Luke 12:14 For the Apostle instituted ecclesiastical judges of such causes, forbidding Christians to contend in the forum. 1 Corinthians 6:1-6 ...Certainly, on account of those who carry on law suits pertinaciously with one another, and, when they harass the good, scorn our judgments, and cause us to lose the time that should be employed upon things divine; surely, I say, on account of these men we also may exclaim in these words of the Body of Christ,
Away from me, you wicked! And I will search the commandments of my God.
O establish me according to Your word and I shall live: and let me not be disappointed of my hope Psalm 118:116. He who had before said,
You are my taker up, prays that he may be more and more borne up, and be led unto that, for the sake of which he endures so many troubles; trusting that he may there live in a truer sense, than in these dreams of human affairs. For it is said of the future,
and I shall live, as if we did not live in this dead body. While
we await the redemption of our body, we are saved by hope, and hoping for that we see not, we await with patience. Romans 8:23-25 But hope disappoints not, if the love of God be spread abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which is given unto us. Romans 5:5 And, as though it were answered him in silence, Thou dost not wish to be disappointed of your hope? Cease not to meditate upon My righteousnesses: and, feeling that this meditation is usually hindered by the weaknesses of the soul,
Help me, he says,
and I shall be safe; yea, I will meditate in Your righteousnesses always Psalm 118:117.
You have scorned all, or, as it seems more closely translated from the Greek,
You have brought to nought all them that depart from Your righteousnesses: for their thought is unrighteous Psalm 118:118. For this reason he exclaimed,
Help Thou me, and I shall be safe; yea, I will meditate in Your righteousnesses always: because God brings to nought all those who depart from His righteousnesses. But why do they depart? Because
their thought is, he says,
unrighteous. They advance in that direction, while they depart from God. All deeds, good or bad, proceed from the thoughts: in his thoughts every man is innocent, in his thoughts every man is guilty....
117. The next words in the Psalm are,
I have counted, or
esteemed, all the ungodly of the earth as transgressors Psalm 118:119. In the Latin version many different renderings are given of the Greek ἐ λογισloved Your testimonies: make it far more profound. For the Apostle says,
The law works wrath; and, explaining these words, he adds,
For where no law is, there is no transgression: Romans 4:15 thereby showing that not all are transgressors. For all have not the law. That all have not the law, he declares more explicitly in another passage,
as many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law. Romans 2:12 What then means,
I have held all the ungodly of the earth as transgressors?
As transgressors; or rather
transgressing, for the Greek says, παραβαίνοντας, not παραβ
The law entered that sin might abound. But since all sins are remitted through grace, not only those which are committed without the law, but those also which are committed in the law; he adds, Romans 5:20 ...But, indeed, when the Apostle said,
As many as have sinned without law, shall perish without law, he was speaking of that law which God gave to His people Israel through Moses His servant....For some even Catholic expositors, from a want of sufficient heedfulness, have pronounced contrary to the truth, that those who have sinned without the law perish; and that those who have sinned in the law, are only judged, and do not perish, as if they should be considered destined to be cleansed by means of transitory punishments, as he of whom it is said,
he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.. ..The Psalmist also has subjoined:
Therefore I loved Your testimonies. As if he should say: Since the law, whether given in paradise, or implanted by nature, or promulgated in writing, has made all the sinners of the earth transgressors;
Therefore I loved Your testimonies, which are in Your laws of Your grace; so that not my but Your righteousness is in me. For the law profits unto this end, that it send us forward unto grace. For not only because it testifies towards the manifestation of the righteousness of God, which is without the law; but also in this very point that it renders men transgressors, so that the letter even slays, it drives us to fly unto the quickening Spirit, through whom the whole of our sins may be blotted out, and the love of righteous deeds be inspired. 2 Corinthians 3:6 ...
118. The grace of God, then, being known, which alone frees from transgression, which is committed through knowledge of the law, he says, in prayer,
Fix with nails my flesh in Your fear Psalm 118:120. For this some Latin interpreters have literally rendered the Greek καθήλωσον, which that language has expressed in one word. Some have preferred to render by the word confige, without adding clavis; and while they thus desire to construe one Latin by one Greek word, have failed to express the full meaning of the Greek καθήλωσον, because in confige nails are not mentioned, but καθήλωσον cannot be taken but of nails, nor can
fix with nails be expressed without using two words in Latin....Hath he added,
For I have feared Your judgments? What means,
Fix me in Your fear: for I have feared? If he had already feared, or if he was now fearing, why did he still pray God to crucify his flesh in His fear? Did he wish so much additional fear imparted to him as would suffice for crucifying his flesh, that is, his carnal lusts and affections; as though he should say, Perfect in me the fear of You; for I have feared Your judgments? But there is here even a higher sense, which must, as far as God allows, be derived from searching the recesses of this Scripture: that is, in the chaste fear of You, which abides from age to age, let my carnal desires be quenched;
For I have feared Your judgments, when the law, which could not give me righteousness, threatened me punishment....For the inclination to sin lives, and it then appears in deed, when impunity may be hoped for. But when punishment is considered sure to follow, it lives latently: nevertheless it lives. For it would rather it were lawful to sin, and it grieves that what the law forbids, is not lawful; because it is not spiritually delighted with the blessing of the law, but carnally fears the evil which it threatens. But that love, which casts out this fear, fears with a chaste fear to sin, although no punishment follow; because it does not even judge that impunity will follow, since from love of righteousness it considers the very sin itself a punishment. With such a fear the flesh is crucified; since carnal delights, which are forbidden rather than avoided by the letter of the law, are overcome by the delight in spiritual blessings, and also when the victory is perfected are destroyed.
I have dealt judgment and righteousness; O give me not over unto mine oppressors Psalm 118:121. It is not wonderful that he should have dealt judgment and righteousness, since he had above prayed for a chaste fear from God, whereby to fix with nails his flesh, that is, his carnal lusts, which are wont to hinder our judgment from being right. But although in our customary speech judgment is either right or wrong, whence it is said unto men in the Gospel,
Judge not according to the persons, but judge righteous judgment: John 7:24 nevertheless in this passage judgment is used as though, if it were not righteous, it ought not to be called judgment; otherwise it would not be enough to say,
I have dealt judgment, but it would be said, I have dealt righteous judgment....
120. Whoso therefore in the chaste fear of God has his flesh crucified, and corrupted by no carnal allurement, deals judgment and the work of righteousness, ought to pray that he may not be given up to his adversaries; that is, that he may not, through his dread of suffering evils, yield unto his adversaries to do evil. For he receives power of endurance, which guards him from being overcome with pain, from Him from whom he receives the victory over lust, which prevents his being seduced by pleasure.
121. He next says,
Take off Your servant to that which is good, that the proud calumniate me not Psalm 118:122. They drive me on, that I may fall into evil; do Thou take me off to that which is good. They who rendered these words by the Latin, calumnientur, have followed a Greek expression, not commonly used in Latin. Have the words, Let not the proud calumniate me, the same force, as, Let them
not succeed in calumniating me?
122. ...To prefigure His Cross, Moses by the merciful command of God raised aloft on a pole the image of a serpent in the desert, that the likeness of sinful flesh which must be crucified in Christ might be prefigured. John 3:14 By gazing upon this healing Cross, we cast out all the poison of the scandals of the proud: the Cross, which the Psalmist intently looking upon, says,
My eyes have failed for Your salvation, and for the words of Your righteousness Psalm 118:123. For God made Christ Himself
to be sin for us, on account of the likeness of sinful flesh, that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him. For His utterance of the righteousness of God he therefore says that his eyes have failed, from gazing ardently and eagerly, while, remembering human infirmity, he longs for divine grace in Christ.
123. In connection with this he goes on to say,
O deal with Your servant according to Your loving mercy Psalm 118:124; not according to my righteousness.
And teach me, he says,
Your righteousnesses; those beyond doubt, whereby God renders men righteous, not they themselves.
I am Your servant. O grant me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies Psalm 118:125. This petition must never be intermitted. For it suffices not to have received understanding, and to have learned the testimonies of God, unless it be evermore received, and evermore in a manner quaffed from the fountain of eternal light. For the testimonies of God are the better and the better known, the more understanding a man attains to.
It is time, he says,
for the Lord to lay to His hand Psalm 118:126. For this is the reading of most copies: not as some have,
O Lord. Now what is this, save the grace which was revealed in Christ at its own time? Of which season the Apostle says,
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son. Galatians 4:4 ...But wherefore is it that, seemingly anxious to show the Lord that it was time to lay to His hand, he has subjoined,
They have scattered Your law; as if it were the season for the Lord to act, because the proud scattered His law. For what means this? In the wickedness of transgression, they have not guarded its integrity. It was needful therefore that the Law should be given to the proud and those presuming in the freedom of their own will, after a transgression of which whosoever were contrite and humbled, might run no longer by the Law, but by faith, to aiding grace. When the Law therefore was scattered, it was time that mercy should be sent through the only-begotten Son of God.
Therefore, he says,
I love Your commandments above gold and topaz Psalm 118:127. Grace has this object, that the commandments, which could not be fulfilled by fear, may be fulfilled by love...Therefore, they are above gold and topaz stones. For this is read in another Psalm also,
Above gold and exceeding precious stones. For topaz is a stone considered very precious. But they not understanding the hidden grace which was in the Old Testament, screened as it were by the veil (this was signified when they were unable to gaze upon the face of Moses), endeavoured to obey the commandments of God for the sake of an earthly and carnal reward, but could not obey them; because they did not love them, but something else. Whence these were not the works of the willing, but rather the burdens of the unwilling. But when the commandments are loved for their own sake
above gold and exceeding precious stones, all earthly reward compared with the commandments themselves is vile; nor are any other goods of man comparable in any respect with those goods whereby man himself is made good.
Therefore, he says,
was I made straight unto all Your commandments Psalm 118:128. I was made straight, doubtless, because I loved them; and I clung by love to them, which were straight, that I might also myself become straight. Then what he adds, naturally follows:
and every unrighteous way I utterly abhor. For how could it be that he who loved the straight could do anything save abhor an unrighteous way? For as, if he loved gold and precious stones, he would abhor all that might bring loss of such property: thus, since he loved the commandments of God, he abhorred the path of iniquity, as one of the most savage rocks in the sailor's track, whereon he must needs suffer shipwreck of things so precious. That this may not be his lot, he who sails on the wood of the Cross with the divine commandments as his freight, steers far from thence.
Your testimonies are wonderful: therefore has my soul searched them Psalm 118:129. Who counts, even by their kinds, the testimonies of God? Heaven and earth, His visible and invisible works, declare in some manner the testimony of His goodness and greatness; and the very ordinary and accustomed course of nature, whereby the seasons are rapidly revolved, in all things after their kinds, however temporal and perishable, however held cheap through our constant experience of them, give, if a pious thinker give heed to them, a testimony to the Creator. But which of these is not wonderful, if we measure each not by its habitual presence, but by reason? But if we venture to bring all nature within the comprehensive view of one act of contemplation, does not that take place in us which the prophet describes,
I considered Your works, and trembled? Habakkuk 3:2 Yet the Psalmist was not terrified in his wonder at creation, but rather said that this was the reason that he ought to search it, because it was wonderful. For after saying,
Your testimonies are wonderful, he adds,
therefore has my soul searched them; as if he had become more curious from the difficulty of thoroughly searching them. For the more abstruse are the causes of anything, the more wonderful it is...
When your word goes forth, he says,
it gives light, and makes His little ones to understand Psalm 118:130. What is the little one save the humble and weak? Be not proud therefore, presume not in your own strength, which is nought; and you will understand why a good law was given by a good God, though it cannot give life. For it was given for this end, that it might make you a little one instead of great, that it might show that you had not strength to do the law of your own power: and that thus, wanting aid and destitute, you might fly unto grace, saying,
Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak.. ..Let all be little ones, and let all the world be guilty before You: because
by the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in Your sight; Romans 3:19-21 These are Your wonderful testimonies, which the soul of this little one has searched; and has therefore found, because he became humbled and a little one. For who does Your commandments as they ought to be done, that is, by Galatians 5:6 save love itself be shed abroad in his heart through the Holy Spirit? Romans 5:5
130. This is confessed by this little one;
I opened my mouth, he says,
and drew in the spirit: for I longed for Your commandments Psalm 118:131. What did he long for, save to obey the divine commandments? But there was no possibility of the weak doing hard things, the little one great things: he opened his mouth, confessing that he could not do them of himself: and drew in power to do them: he opened his mouth, by seeking, asking, knocking: Matthew 7:7 and thirsty drank in the good Spirit, which enabled him to do what he could not do by himself,
the commandment holy and just and good. Romans 7:12 Not that they themselves who
are led by the Spirit of God, Romans 8:14 do nothing; but that they may not do nothing good, they are moved to act by the good Spirit. For so much the more is every man made a good son, in proportion as the good Spirit is given unto Him by the Father in a greater measure.
131. He still prays. He has opened his mouth, and drawn in the Spirit; but he still knocks in prayer unto the Father, and seeks: he drinks, but the more sweet he finds it, the more eagerly does he thirst. Hear the words of him in his thirst.
O look Thou upon me, he says,
and be merciful unto me: according to the judgment of those that love Your Name Psalm 118:132: that is, according to the judgment You have dealt unto all who love Your Name; since You have first loved them, to cause them to love You. For thus says the Apostle John, 1 John 4:19
132. See what the Psalmist next most openly says:
Order my steps after Your word: and so shall no wickedness have dominion over me Psalm 118:133. Where what else does he say than this, Make me upright and free according to Your promise. But so much the more as the love of God reigns in every man, so much the less has wickedness dominion over him. What else then does he seek than that by the gift of God he may love God? For by loving God he loves himself, so that he may healthily love his neighbour also as himself: on which commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 22:37-40 What then does he pray, save that God may cause the fulfillment by His help of those commandments which He imposes by His bidding?
133. But what means this that he says,
O deliver me from the calumnies of men: so shall I keep Your commandments? Psalm 118:134...Did not the holy people of God much the more gloriously keep the commandments among these very calumnies, when they were at their hottest in the midst of tribulations, when they yielded not to their persecutors to commit impieties? But, in truth, the meaning of these words is this: Do Thou, by pouring upon me Your Spirit, guard me from being overcome by the terrors of human calumny, and from being drawn over to their evil deeds away from Your commandments. For if You have thus dealt with me, that is, if You have in this manner delivered me by the gift of patience from their calumnies, so that I fear not the false charges they prefer against me; among those very calumnies I will keep Your commandments.
Show the light of Your countenance on Your servant, and teach me your statutes Psalm 118:135: that is, manifest Your presence, by succouring and aiding me.
And teach me Your righteousnesses. Teach me to work them: as it is more plainly expressed elsewhere,
Teach me to do Your will. For they who hear, although they retain in their memories what they hear, are by no means to be considered to have learned, unless they do. For it is the word of Truth:
Every man that has heard and has learned of the Father, comes unto Me. John 6:45 He therefore who obeys not in deed, that is, who comes not, has not learned.
My eyes have descended streams of waters, because they have not kept Your law Psalm 118:136: that is, my eyes. For in some copies there is this reading,
Because I have not kept Your law, streams of waters therefore
descended, that is, floods of tears.. ..
136. Thus, then, as if giving a reason why he had cause to weep much, and to mourn deeply for his sin, he says,
Righteous are You, O Lord, and true is Your judgment Psalm 118:137.
You have commanded Your testimonies, righteousness, and Your truth exceedingly Psalm 118:138. This righteousness of God and righteous judgment and truth, is to be feared by every sinner: for thereby all who are condemned are condemned of God; nor is there one who can righteously complain against the righteous God of his own damnation. Therefore the tears of the penitent are needful; since if his impenitent heart were condemned, he would be most justly condemned. He indeed calls the testimonies of God righteousness: for He proves himself righteous by giving righteous commandments. And this is truth also, that God may become known by such testimonies.
137. But what is it that follows:
My zeal has caused me to pine Psalm 118:139; or, as other copies read, Your zeal? Others have also,
The zeal of Your house: and,
has eaten me up, instead of,
has caused me to pine. This, as it seems to me, has been considered as an emendation to be introduced from another Psalm, where it is written,
The zeal of Your house has eaten me up: a text quoted also, as we know, in the Gospel. The two words, however,
has caused me to pine, and
has eaten me up, are somewhat like. But the words,
my zeal, which most of the copies read, occasion no dispute: for what wonder is it if every man pines away from his own zeal? The words read in other copies,
Your zeal, signify a man zealous for God, not for himself: but there is no difficulty in using
my in the same sense...The Psalmist's jealousy is therefore also to be understood in a good sense: for he adds the cause, and says,
Because mine enemies have forgotten Your words....
138. Then considering with himself with what a flame of love he burned for the commandments of God:
Fiery, says he,
is Your word exceedingly, and Your servant has loved it Psalm 118:140. Justly jealous was he of the impenitent heart in His enemies, who had forgotten God's word; for he endeavoured to bring them unto that which he himself most ardently loved.
I am young, and of no reputation; yet do I not forget Your righteousnesses: not as my enemies, who
have forgotten Your words Psalm 118:141. The younger seems to grieve for those older than himself who had forgotten the righteousnesses of God, while he himself had not forgotten. For what means,
I am young, yet do I not forget? save this, Those older than me have forgotten. For the Greek word is νεώτερος, the same as that used in the words above,
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? This is a comparative, and is therefore well understood in its relation to some one older. Let us therefore here recognize the two nations, who were striving even in Rebecca's womb; when it was said to her, not from works, but of Him that calls,
The elder shall serve the younger. But the younger says here that he is of no reputation: for this reason he has become greater: since
behold, they that were first are last, and they that were last first. Matthew 20:16
140. It is no wonder that they have forgotten the words of God, who have chosen to set up their own righteousness, ignorant of the righteousness of God; Romans 10:3 but he, the younger, has not forgotten, for he has not wished to have a righteousness of his own, but that of God, of which he now also says,
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is the truth Psalm 118:142. For how is not the law truth, through which came the knowledge of sin, and that which gives testimony of the righteousness of God? For thus the Apostle says:
The righteousness of God is manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. Romans 3:20-21
141. On account of this law the younger suffered persecution from the elder, so that the younger says what follows:
Trouble and hardship have taken hold upon me: yet is my meditation in Your commandments Psalm 118:143. Let them rage, let them persecute; as long as the commandments of God be not abandoned, and, after those commandments, let even those who rage be loved.
Your testimonies are righteousness unto everlasting: O grant me understanding, and I shall live Psalm 118:144. This younger one prays for understanding; which if he had not, he would not be
wiser than the aged; but he prays for it in trouble and hardships, that he may thereby understand how contemptible is all that his persecuting enemies can take from him, by whom he says he has been despised. Therefore he has said,
and I shall live: because if trouble and heaviness reached such a pitch, that his life should be terminated by the hands of his persecuting enemies, he will live for ever, who preferrs to temporal things, righteousness which remains for evermore. This righteousness in trouble and hardship are the Martyria Dei, that is, the testimonies of God, for which Martyrs have been crowned.
143. ...He who sings this Psalm, mentions such a prayer of his own:
I have called with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord! Psalm 118:145. For to what end his cry profits, he adds:
I will search out Your righteousnesses. For this purpose then he has called with his whole heart, and has longed that this might be given him by the Lord listening unto him, that he may search out His righteousnesses...
I have called, save me Psalm 118:146 or as some copies, both Greek and Latin, have it,
I have called to You. But what is,
I have called to You, save that by calling I have invoked You? But when he had said,
save me; what did he add?
And I will keep Your testimonies: that is, that I may not, through infirmity, deny You. For the health of the soul causes that to be done which it is known to be our duty to do, and thus in striving even to the death of the body, if the extremity of temptation demand this in defence of the truth of the divine testimonies: but where there is not health of the soul, weakness yields, and truth is deserted...
I have prevented in midnight, he says,
and have cried: In Your words have I trusted Psalm 118:147. If we refer this to each of the faithful, and to the literal character of the act; it oft happens that the love of God is awake in that hour of the night, and, the love of prayer strongly urging us, the time of prayer, which is wont to be after the crowing of the cock, is not awaited, but prevented. But if we understand night of the whole of this world's duration; we indeed cry unto God at midnight, and prevent the fullness of time in which He will restore us what He has promised, as is elsewhere read,
Let us prevent His presence with confession. Although if we choose to understand the unripe season of this night, before the fullness of time had come, Galatians 4:4 that is, the ripe season when Christ should be manifested in the flesh; neither was the Church then silent, but preventing this fullness of time, in prophecy cried out, and trusted in the words of God, who was able to do what He promised, that in the seed of Abraham all nations should be blessed.
146. The Church says also what follows,
My eyes have prevented the morning watch, that I might meditate on Your words Psalm 118:148. Let us suppose the morning to mean the season when
a light arose for them that sat in the shadow of death; Isaiah 9:2 did not the eyes of the Church prevent this morning watch, in those Saints who before were on earth, because they foresaw beforehand that this would come to pass, so that they meditated on the words of God, which then were, and announced these things to be destined in the Law and the Prophets?
Hear my voice, O Lord, according to Your loving-mercy; and quicken Thou me according to Your judgment Psalm 118:149. For first God according to His loving-mercy takes away punishment from sinners, and will give them life afterwards, when righteous, according to His judgment; for it is not without a meaning that it is said unto Him,
My song shall be of mercy and judgment: unto You, O Lord; in this order of the terms: although the season of mercy itself be not without judgment, whereof the Apostle says,
If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 11:31 ...And the final season of judgment shall not be without mercy, since as the Psalm says,
He crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness. But
judgment shall be without mercy, but
unto those on the left,
who have not dealt mercy. James 2:13
maliciously Psalm 118:150. Then they that persecute draw near, when they go the length of torturing and destroying the flesh: whence the twenty-first Psalm, wherein the Lord's Passion is prophesied, says,
O go not from me, for trouble is hard at hand; where those things are spoken of which He suffered when His Passion was not imminent upon Him, but actually realized.
And are far from Your law. The nearer they drew to the persecuting the righteous, so much the farther were they from righteousness. But what harm did they do unto those, to whom they drew near by persecution; since the approach of their Lord is nearer unto their souls, by whom they no wise are forsaken?
149. Lastly, it follows,
You are near at hand, O Lord, and all Your ways are truth Psalm 118:151. Even in their troubles, it has been a wonted confession of the saints, to ascribe truth unto God, because they suffer them not undeservedly. So did Queen Esther, Esther 14:6-7 so did holy Daniel, Daniel 9:4, 16 so did the three men in the furnace, so do other associates in their sanctity confess. But it may be asked, in what sense it is here said,
All Your ways are truth; since in another Psalm it is read,
All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth. But towards the saints, All the ways of the Lord are at once mercy and truth: since He aids them even in judgment, and thus mercy is not wanting; and in having mercy upon them, He performs that which He has promised, so that truth is not wanting. But towards all, both those whom He frees, and those whom He condemns, all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth; because where He does not show mercy, the truth of His vengeance is displayed. For He frees many who have not deserved, but He condemns none who has not deserved it.
From the beginning I have known, he says,
as concerning Your testimonies, that You have grounded them for ever Psalm 118:152...What are these testimonies, save those wherein God has declared that He will give an everlasting kingdom unto His sons? And since He has declared that He will give this in His only-begotten Son, he said that the testimonies themselves were grounded for ever. For that which God has promised through them, was everlasting. And for this reason the words,
You have grounded them, are rightly thus understood, because they are shown to be true in Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11 Whence then did the Psalmist know this in the beginning, save because the Church speaks, which was not wanting to the earth from the commencement of the human race, the first-fruits whereof was the holy Abel, himself sacrificed in testimony of the future blood of the Mediator that should be shed by a wicked brother? Genesis 4:8 For this also was at the beginning,
They two shall be one flesh: Genesis 2:24 which great mystery the Apostle Paul expounding, says,
I speak concerning Christ and the Church. Ephesians 5:32
151. Let no man, set in Christ's body, imagine these words to be alien from himself, since in truth it is the whole body of Christ placed in this humble state that speaks:
O consider my humiliation, and deliver me: for I forget not Your law Psalm 118:153. In this place we cannot understand any law of God so suitably, as that whereby it is immutably determined that
every one that exalts himself, shall be abased; and every one that humbles himself; shall be exalted.
Avenge Thou, he says,
my cause, and deliver me Psalm 118:154. The former sentence is here almost repeated. And what is there said,
For I do not forget Your law, agrees with what we read here,
Quicken me, according to Your word. For these words are the law of God, which he has not forgot, so that he has abased himself, and will therefore be exalted. But the words,
Quicken me, pertain to this very exaltation; for the exaltation of the saints is everlasting life.
Health, he says,
is far from the ungodly: for they regard not Your righteousnesses Psalm 118:155. This separates you, that what they have not done, you have done, that is, you have regarded the righteousnesses of God. But
what have you that you have not received? 1 Corinthians 4:7 Are you not he who a little before said,
I will keep Your righteousnesses? Thou therefore hast received from Him, unto whom you called, the power to keep them. He therefore does Himself separate you from those from whom health is far, because they have not regarded the righteousnesses of God.
154. This he saw himself also. For I should not see it, save I saw it in Him, save I were in Him. For these are the words of the Body of Christ, whose members we are. He saw this, I say, and at once added,
Great are Your mercies, O Lord Psalm 118:156. Even our seeking out Your righteousnesses, then, comes of Your mercies.
Quicken me according to Your judgment. For I know that Your judgments will not be upon me without Your mercy.
Many there are that trouble me, and persecute me; yet do I not swerve from Your testimonies Psalm 118:157. This has been realized: we know it, we recollect it, we acknowledge it. The whole earth has been crimsoned by the blood of Martyrs; heaven is flowery with the crowns of Martyrs, the Churches are adorned with the memorials of Martyrs, seasons distinguished by the birthdays of Martyrs, cures more frequent by the merits of Martyrs. Whence this, save because that has been fulfilled which was prophesied of that Man who has been spread abroad around the whole world. We recognize this, and render thanks to the Lord our God. For thou, man, you have yourself said in another Psalm,
If the Lord Himself had not been on our side, they would have swallowed us up quick. Behold the reason why you have not swerved from His testimonies, and hast won the palm of your heavenly calling amid the hands of the many who persecuted and troubled you.
I have seen, he says,
the foolish, and I pined Psalm 118:158: or, as other copies read,
I have seen them that keep not covenant: this is the reading of most. But who are they who have not kept covenant, save they who have swerved from the testimonies of God, not bearing the tribulation of their many persecutors? Now this is the covenant, that he who shall have conquered shall be crowned. They who, not bearing persecution, have by denial swerved from the testimonies of God, have not kept the covenant. These then the Psalmist saw, and pined, for he loved them. For that jealousy is good, springing from love, not from envy. He adds in what respect they had failed to keep the covenant,
Because they kept not Your word. For this they denied in their tribulations.
157. And he commends himself as differing from them, and says,
Behold, how I have loved Your commandments Psalm 118:159. He says not, I have not denied Your words or testimonies, as the Martyrs were urged to do, and, when they refused, suffered intolerable torments: but he said this wherein is the fruit of all sufferings; for,
if I give up my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3 The Psalmist, praising this virtue, says,
Behold, how I have loved Your commandments. Then he asks his reward,
O Lord, quicken me, according to Your mercy. These put me to death, do Thou quicken me. But if a reward be asked of mercy, which justice is bound to give; how much greater is that mercy, which enabled him to gain the victory, on account of which the reward was sought for?
The beginning, he says,
of Your words is truth; all the judgments of Your righteousness endure for evermore Psalm 118:160. From truth, he says, Your words do proceed, and they are therefore truthful, and deceive no man, for in them life is announced to the righteous, punishment to the ungodly. These are the everlasting judgments of God's righteousness.
159. We know what persecutions the body of Christ, that is, the holy Church, suffered from the kings of the earth. Let us therefore here also recognise the words of the Church:
Princes have persecuted me without a cause: and my heart has stood in awe of You Psalm 118:161. For how had the Christians injured the kingdoms of the earth, although their King promised them the kingdom of heaven? How, I ask, had they injured the kingdoms of earth? Did their King forbid His soldiers to pay and to render due service to the kings of the earth? Says He not to the Jews who were striving to calumniate Him,
Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's? Matthew 22:21 Did He not even in His own Person pay tribute from the mouth of a fish? Matthew 17:24-26 Did not His forerunner, when the soldiers of this kingdom were seeking what they ought to do for their everlasting salvation, instead of replying, Loose your belts, throw away your arms, desert your king, that you may wage war for the Lord, answer, Luke 3:14 Did not one of His soldiers, His most beloved companion, say to his fellow soldiers, the provincials, so to speak, of Christ,
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers? Does he not enjoin the Church to pray for even kings themselves? 1 Timothy 2:1-2 How then have the Christians offended against them? What due have they not rendered? In what have not Christians obeyed the monarchs of earth? The kings of the earth therefore have persecuted the Christians without a cause. They too had their threatening words: I banish, I proscribe, I slay, I torture with claws, I burn with fires, I expose to beasts, I tear the limbs piecemeal. But heed what he has subjoined:
And my heart has stood in awe of Your word. My heart has stood in awe of these words, Matthew 10:28
Fear not them that kill the body, etc. I have scorned man who persecutes me, and have overcome the devil that would seduce me.
160. Then follows,
I am as glad of Your word as one that finds great spoils Psalm 118:162. By the same words he conquered, of which he stood in awe. For spoils are stripped from the conquered; as he was overcome and despoiled of whom it is said in the Gospel,
except he first bind the strong man. Matthew 12:29 But many spoils were found, when, admiring the endurance of the Martyrs, even the persecutors believed; and they who had plotted to injure our King by the injury of His soldiers, were gained over by Him in addition. Whoever therefore stands in awe of the words of God, fearing lest he be overcome in the contest, rejoices as conqueror in the same words.
As for iniquity, I hate and abhor it; but Your law have I loved Psalm 118:163. That awe, therefore, of His word did not create hatred of those words, but maintained his love unimpaired. For the words of God are no other than the law of God. Far be it therefore that love perish through fear, where fear is chaste. Thus fathers are at once feared and loved by affectionate sons; thus does the chaste wife at once fear her husband, lest she be forsaken by him, and loves him, that she may enjoy his love. If then the human father and the human husband desire at once to be feared and loved; much more does our Father who is in heaven, Matthew 6:9 and that Bridegroom,
beautiful beyond the sons of men, not in the flesh, but in goodness. For by whom is the law of God loved, save by those by whom God is loved? And what that is severe has the father's law to good sons? Hebrews 12:6 Let the Father's judgments therefore be praised even in the scourge, if His promises be loved in the reward.
162. Such was, assuredly, the conduct of the Psalmist, who says,
Seven times a day do I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments Psalm 118:164. The words
seven times a day, signify
evermore. For this number is wont to be a symbol of universality; because after six days of the divine work of creation, a seventh of rest was added; Genesis 2:2 and all times roll on through a revolving cycle of seven days. For no other reason it was said,
a just man falls seven times, and rises up again: Proverbs 24:16 that is, the just man perishes not, though brought low in every way, yet not induced to transgress, otherwise he will not be just. For the words,
falls seven times, are employed to express every kind of tribulation, whereby man is cast down in the sight of men: and the words,
rises up again, signify that he profits from all these tribulations. The following sentence in this passage sufficiently illustrates the foregoing words: for it follows,
but the wicked shall fall into mischief. Not to be deprived of strength in any evils, is therefore the falling seven times, and the rising again of the just man. Justly has the Church then praised God seven times in a day for His righteous judgments; because, when it was time that judgment should begin at the house of God, 1 Peter 4:17 she did not faint in all her tribulations, but was glorified with the crowns of Martyrs.
Great is the peace, he says,
that they have who love Your law: and there is no offense to them Psalm 118:165. Does this mean that the law itself is not an offense to them that love it, or that there is no offense from any source unto them that love the law? But both senses are rightly understood. For he who loves the law of God, honours in it even what he does not understand; and what seems to him to sound absurd, he judges rather that he does not understand, and that there is some great meaning hidden: thus the law of God is not an offense to him...
I have waited, he says,
for Your saving health, O Lord, and have loved Your commandments Psalm 118:166. For what would it have profited the righteous of old to have loved the commandments of God, save Christ, who is the saving health of God, had freed them; by the gift of whose Spirit also they were able to love the commandments of God? If therefore they who loved God's commandments, waited for His saving health; how much more necessary was Jesus, that is, the saving Health of God, for the salvation of those that did not love His commandments? This prophecy may suit also the Saints of the period since the revelation of grace, and the preaching of the Gospel, for they that love God's commandments look for Christ, that
when Christ, our life, shall appear, we may then
appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:4
My soul has kept Your testimonies, and I have loved them exceedingly: or, as some copies read,
has loved them, understanding,
my soul Psalm 118:167. The testimonies of God are kept, while they are not denied. This is the office of Martyrs, for testimonies are called Martyria in Greek. But since it profits nothing, even to be burnt with flames without charity, 1 Corinthians 13:3 he adds,
and I have loved them exceedingly....For he who loves, keeps them in the Spirit of truth and faithfulness. But generally, while the commandments of God are kept, they against whose will they are kept become our foes: then, indeed, His testimonies also must be kept courageously, lest they be denied when the enemy persecutes. After the Psalmist, then, had declared that he had done both these things, he ascribes unto God his having been enabled to do so, by adding,
because all my ways are in Your sight. He says therefore,
I have kept Your commandments and Your testimonies; because all my ways are in Your sight Psalm 118:168. As much as to say, Had You turned away Your face from me, I should have been confounded, nor could I keep Your commandments and testimonies.
I have kept them, then, because
all my ways are in Your sight. With a look favouring and aiding man, he meant it to be understood that God sees his ways: according to the prayer,
O hide not Thou Your face from me.. ..
166. Let us now hear the words of one praying: since we know who is praying, and we recognise ourselves, if we be not reprobate, among the members of this one praying.
Let my prayer come near in Your sight, O Lord Psalm 118:169: for,
The Lord is near unto them that are of a contrite heart.
Give me understanding, according to Your word. He claims a promise. For he says,
according to Your word, which is to say, according to Your promise. For the Lord promised this when He said,
I will inform you.
Let my request come before Your presence, O Lord: deliver me, according to Your word Psalm 118:170. He repeats what he has asked. For his former words,
Let my prayer come near in Your presence, O Lord: are like what he says,
Let my request come before Your presence, O Lord: and the words,
Give me understanding according to Your word, agree with these,
Deliver me according to Your word. For by receiving understanding he is delivered, who of himself through want of understanding is deceived.
My lips shall burst forth praise: when You have taught me Your righteousnesses Psalm 118:171. We know how God teaches those who are docile unto God. For every one who has heard from the Father and has learned, comes unto Him
who justifies the ungodly: so that he may keep the righteousnesses of God not only by retaining them in his memory, but also by doing them. Thus does he who glories, glory not in himself, but in the Lord, 1 Corinthians 1:31 and burst forth praise.
169. But as he has now learned, and praised God his Teacher, he next wishes to teach.
Yea, my tongue shall declare Your word: for all Your commandments are righteousness Psalm 118:172. When he says that he will declare these things, he becomes a minister of the word. For though God teach within, nevertheless
faith comes from hearing: and how do they hear without a preacher? For, because
God gives the increase, 1 Corinthians 3:7 is no reason why we need not plant and water.
Let Your hand be stretched forth (fiat, be made) to save me, for I have chosen Your commandments Psalm 118:173. That I might not fear, and that not only might my heart hold fast, but my tongue also utter Your words:
I have chosen Your commandments, and have stifled fear with love. Let Your hand therefore be stretched forth, to save me from another's hand. Thus God saved the Martyrs, when He permitted them not to be slain in their souls: for
vain is the safety of man in the flesh. The words,
Let Your hand be made, may also be taken to mean Christ the Hand of God...Certainly where we read the following words,
I have longed for Your salvation, O Lord Psalm 118:174: even if all our foes be reluctant, let Christ the Salvation of God occur to us: the righteous men of old confess that they longed for Him, the Church longed for His destined coming from His mother's womb, the Church longs for His coming at His Father's right hand. Subjoined to this sentence are the words,
And Your law is my meditation: for the Law gives testimony unto Christ.
171. But in this faith, though the heathen rage furiously, and the people imagine a vain thing: though the flesh be slain while it preaches You:
My soul shall live, and shall praise You: and Your judgments shall help me Psalm 118:175. These are those judgments, which it was time should begin at the house of the Lord. 1 Peter 4:17 But
they will help me, he says. And who cannot see how much the blood of the Church has aided the Church? How great a harvest has risen in the whole world from that sowing?
172. At last he opens himself completely, and shows what person was speaking throughout the whole Psalm.
I have gone astray, he says,
like a sheep that is lost: O seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments Psalm 118:176. Let the lost sheep be sought, let the lost sheep be quickened, for whose sake its Shepherd left the ninety and nine in the wilderness, Matthew 18:12-13 and while seeking it, was torn by Jewish thorns. But it is still being sought, let it still be sought, partly found let it still be sought. For as to that company, among whom the Psalmist says,
I do not forget Your commandments, it has been found; but through those who choose the commandments of God, gather them together, love them, it is still sought, and by means of the blood of its Shepherd shed and sprinkled abroad, it is found in all nations.
Source. Translated by J.E. Tweed. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 8. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1801119.htm>.
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