Augustin on Psalms 35
1. ...The title of it causeth us no delay, for it is both brief, and to be understood not difficult, especially to those nursed in the Church of God. For so it is, "To David himself." The Psalm then is to David himself: now David is interpreted, Strong in hand, or Desirable. The Psalm then is to the Strong in hand, and Desirable, to Him who for us hath overcome death, who unto us hath promised life: for in this is He Strong in hand, that He hath overcome death for us; in this is He Desirable, that He hath promised unto us life eternal. For what stronger than that Hand which touched the bier, and he that was dead rose up?(4) What stronger than that Hand which overcame the world, not armed with steel, but pierced with wood? Or what more desirable than He, whom not having seen, the Martyrs wished even to die, that they might be worthy to come unto Him? Therefore is the Psalm unto Him: to Him let our heart, to Him our tongue sing worthily: if yet Himself shall deign to give somewhat to sing. ...
2. "Judge Thou, O Lord" (saith he), "them that hurt me, and fight Thou against them that fight against me" (verse 1). "If God be for us, who can be against us?"(5) And whereby doth God this for us? "Take hold" (saith he) "of arms and shield, and rise up to my help" (verse 2). A great spectacle is it, to see God armed for thee. And what is His Shield, what are His Arms? "Lord," in another place saith the man who here also speaketh, "as with the shield of Thy good-will hast Thou compassed us."(6) But His Arms, wherewith He may not only us defend, but also strike His enemies, if we have well profited, shall we ourselves be. For as we from Him have this, that we be armed, so is He armed from us. But He is armed from those whom He hath made, we are armed with those things which we have received from Him who made us: These our arms the Apostle in a certain place calleth, "The shield of Faith, the helmet of Salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."(7) He hath armed us with such arms as ye have heard, arms admirable, and unconquered, insuperable and shining; spiritual truly and invisible, because we have to fight also against invisible enemies. If thou seest thine enemy, let thine arms be seen. We are armed with faith in those things which we see not, and we overthrow enemies whom we see not. ...
1. Ps 35,1-2. - 2. Rm 8,31.- 3. Ps 5,13. - 4. Ep 6,16-17. 1. Ps 21,21. - 2. Ps 43,23.
3 (4). "Pour forth the weapon, and stop the way against them that persecute me" (verse 3). Who are they that persecute thee? Haply thy neighbour, or he whom thou hast offended, or to whom thou hast done wrong, or who would take away what is thine, or against whom thou preachest the truth, or whose sin thou rebukest, or whom living ill by thy well living thou offendest. There are indeed even these enemies to us, and they persecute us: but other enemies we are taught to know, those against whom we fight invisibly, of whom the Apostle warneth us, saying, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood,"(8) that is, against men; not against those whom ye see, but against those whom ye see not; "against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the world, of this darkness." ... "The whole world lieth in wickedness;"(9) therefore the Apostle explained of what world they were rulers, he said, "of this darkness." The rulers of this world, I say, are the rulers of this darkness. ...
4. And what follows? "Let them be confounded and put to shame, that seek after my soul" (verse 4): for to this end they seek after it, to destroy it. For I would that they would seek it for good! for in another Psalm he blameth this in men, that there was none who would seek after his soul: "Refuge failed me: there was none that would seek after my soul."(1) Who is this that saith, "There was none that would seek after my soul"?(2) Is it haply He, of whom so long before it was predicted, "They pierced My Hands and My Feet, they numbered all My Bones, they stared and looked upon Me, they have parted My Garments among them, and cast lots for My Vesture"?(3) Now all these things were done before their eyes, and there was none who would seek after His Soul. ...
1. Mt 8,24. - 2. Ps 35,3. - 3. Ep 6,12. - 4. Jn 1,10. - 5. 1Jn 5,19
5. ...Many have been confounded to their health: many, put to shame, have passed over from the persecution of Christ to the society of His members with devoted piety; and this would not have been, had they not been confounded and put to shame. Therefore he wished well to them. ... Let them not go before, but follow; let them not give counsel, but take it. For Peter would go before the Lord, when the Lord spake of His future Passion: he would to Him as it were give counsel for His health. The sick man to the Saviour give counsel for His health! And what said he to the Lord, affirming that His future Passion? "Be it far from Thee, Lord. Be gracious to Thyself. This shall not be to Thee." He would go before that the Lord might follow; and what said He? "Get thee behind Me, Satan."(4) By going before thou art Satan, by following thou wilt be a disciple. The same then is said to these also, "Let them be turned back and brought to confusion that think evil against me." For when they have begun to follow after, now they will not think evil against me, but desire my good.
6. What of others? For all are not so conquered as to be converted and believe: many continue in obstinacy, many preserve in heart the spirit of going before, and if they exert it not, yet they labour with it, and finding opportunity bring it forth. Of such, what followeth? "Let them be as dust before the wind" (verse 5). "Not so are the ungodly, not so; but as the dust which the wind driveth away from the face of the earth."(5) The wind is temptation; the dust are the ungodly. When temptation cometh, the dust is raised, it neither standeth nor resisteth. "Let them be as dust before the wind, and let the Angel of the Lord trouble them." "Let their way be darkness and slipping "(verse 6). A horrible way! Darkness alone who feareth not? A slippery way alone who avoids not? In a dark and slippery way how shall thou go? where set foot? These two ills are the great punishments of men: darkness, ignorance; a slippery way, luxury. "And let the Angel of the Lord persecute them;" that they be not able to stand. i For any one in a dark and slippery way, when he seeth that if he move his foot he will fall, and there is no light before his feet, haply resolveth to wait until light come; but here is the Angel of the Lord persecuting them. These things he predicted would come upon them, not as though he wished them to happen. Although the Prophet in the Spirit of God so speaketh these things, even as God doth the same, with sure judgment, with a judgment good, righteous, holy, tranquil; not moved with wrath, not with bitter jealousy, not with desire of wreaking enmities, but of punishing wickedness with righteousness; nevertheless, it is a prophecy.
1. Ep 5,8.- 2. Tt 2,8. - 3. Ps 3,2-3.- 4. Ps 35,4.
7 (10). But wherefore these so great evils? By what desert? Hear by what desert. "For without cause have they hid for me the corruption of their trap" (verse 7). For Him that is our Head, observe, the Jews did this: they hid the corruption of their trap. For whom hid they their trap? For Him who saw the hearts of those that hid. But yet was He among them like one ignorant, as though He were deceived, whereas they were in that deceived, that they thought Him to be deceived. For therefore was He as though deceived, living among them, because we among such as they were so to live, as to be without doubt deceived. He saw His betrayer, and chose him the more to a necessary work. By his evil He wrought a great good: and yet among the twelve was he chosen, lest even the small number of twelve should be without one evil. This was an example of patience to us, because it was necessary that we should live among the evil: it was necessary that we should endure the evil, either knowing them or knowing them not: an example of patience He gave thee lest thou shouldest fail, when thou hast begun to live among the evil. And because that School of Christ in the twelve failed not, how much more ought we to be firm, when in the great Church is fulfilled what was predicted of the mixture of the evil. ...
8 (11). But yet what is to be done? "Without a cause have they hid for me the corruption of their trap." What meaneth, "Without a cause"? I have done them no evil, I have hurt them not at all. "Vainly have they reviled my soul." What is, "Vainly"? Speaking falsely, proving nothing. "Let a trap come upon them which they know not of" (verse 8). A magnificent retribution, nothing more just! They have hidden a trap that I might know not: let a trap come upon them which they know not of. For I know of their trap. But what, trap is coming upon them? That which they know not of. Let us hear, lest haply he speak of that. "Let a trap come upon them, which they know not of." Perhaps that is one which they hid for him, that another which shall come upon themselves. Not so: but what? "The wicked shall be holden with the cords of his own sins."(1) Thereby are they deceived, whereby they would deceive. Thence shall come mischief to them, whence they endeavoured mischief. For it follows, "And let the net which they have hidden catch themselves, and let them fall into their own trap." As if any one should prepare a cup of poison for another, and forgetting should drink it up himself: or as if one should dig a pit, that his enemy might fall thereinto in the darkness and himself forgetting what he had dug, should first walk that way, and fall into it. ...
9 (12). This then for the wicked that would hurt me: what for me? "But my soul shall rejoice in the Lord" (verse 9); as in Him from whom it hath heard, "I am thy salvation;" as not seeking other riches from without; as not seeking to abound in pleasures and good things of earth; but loving freely the true Spouse, not from Him wishing to receive aught that may delight, but Him alone proposing to itself, by whom it may be delighted. For what better than God will be given unto me? God loveth me: God loveth thee. See He hath proposed to thee, Ask what thou wilt.(2) If the emperor should say to thee, Ask what thou wilt, what commands,(3) what dignities,(4) wouldest thou burst forth with! What great things wouldest thou propose to thyself, both to receive and to bestow! When God saith unto thee, Ask what thou wilt, what wilt thou ask? empty thy mind, exert thy avarice, stretch forward as far as possible, and enlarge thy desire: it is not any one, but Almighty God that said, Ask what thou wilt. If of possessions thou art a lover, thou wilt desire the whole earth, that all who are born may be thy husbandmen, or thy slaves. And what when thou hast possessed the whole earth? Thou wilt ask the sea, in which yet thou canst not live. In this greediness the fishes will have the better of thee. But perhaps thou wilt possess the islands. Pass over these also; ask the air although thou canst not fly; stretch thy desire even unto the heavens, call thine own the sun, the moon, and the stars, because He who made all said, Ask what thou wilt: yet nothing wilt thou find more precious, nothing wilt thou find better, than Himself who made all things. Him seek, who made all things, and in Him and from Him shalt thou have all things which He made. All things are precious, because all are beautiful; but what more beautiful than He? Strong are they; but what stronger than He? And nothing would He give thee rather than Himself. If aught better thou hast found, ask it. If thou ask aught else, thou wilt do wrong to Him, and harm to thyself, by preferring to Him that which He made, when He would give to thee Himself who made. ... "But my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation." The salvation of God is Christ: "For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."(5)
1. Ps 51,4.
10 (13). "All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto Thee" (verse 10). Who can speak anything worthily of these words? I think them only to be pronounced, not to be expounded. Why seekest thou this or that? What is like unto thy Lord? Him hast thou before thee. "The unrighteous have declared unto me delights, but not after Thy law, O Lord!"(6) Persecutors have been who have said, Worship Saturn, worship Mercury. I worship not idols (saith he): "Lord, who is like unto Thee? They have eyes, and see not; ears have they, but they hear not."(7) "Lord, who is like unto Thee," who hast made the eye to see, the ear to hear? But I (saith he) worship not idols, for them a workman made. Worship a tree or mountain; did a workman make them also? Here too, Lord, who is like unto Thee? Earthly things are shown unto me; Thou art Creator of the earth. And from these haply they turn to the higher creation, and say to me, Worship the Moon, worship this Sun, who with his light, as a great lamp in the Heavens, maketh the day. Here also I plainly say, "Lord, who is like unto Thee?" The Moon and the Stars Thou hast made, the Sun to rule the day hast Thou kindled, the Heavens hast Thou framed together. There are many invisible things better. But haply here also it is said to me, Worship Angels, adore Angels. And here also will I say, "Lord, who is like unto Thee?" Even the Angels Thou hast created. The Angels are nothing, but by seeing Thee. It is better with them to possess Thee, than by worshipping them to fall from Thee.
1. Ps 72,26,- 2. Ps 15,2-5. - 3. Lc 2,30. - 4. Ps 119,85. - 5. Ps 113,5-6.
11 (14). O Body of Christ, Holy Church, let all thy bones say, "Lord, who is like unto thee?" And if the flesh under persecution hath fallen away, let the bones say, "Lord, who is like unto Thee?" For of the righteous it is said, "The Lord keepeth all their bones; not one of them shall be broken."(8) Of how many righteous have the bones under persecution been broken? Finally, "The just shall live by faith,"(9) and "Christ justifieth the ungodly."(10) But how justifieth He any except believing and confessing? "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."(1) Therefore also that thief, although from His theft led to the judge, and from the judge to the cross, yet on the very cross was justified: with his heart he believed, with his mouth he confessed. For neither to a man unrighteous and not already justified, would the Lord have said, "To-day shall thou be with Me in Paradise,"(2) and yet his bones were broken. For when they came to take down the bodies, by reason of the approaching Sabbath, the Lord was found already dead, and His Bones were not broken.(3) But of those that yet lived, that they might be taken down, the legs were broken, that so from this pain having died, they might be buried. Were then of the one thief, who persisted in his ungodliness on the cross, the bones broken, and not also of the other who with his heart believed, and with his mouth made confession unto salvation? Where then is that which was said, "The Lord keepeth all his bones; not one of them shall be broken;" except that in the Body of the Lord the name of bones is given to all the righteous, the firm in heart, the strong, yielding to no persecutions, no temptations, so as to consent unto evil? ...
1. Ps 33,21. - 2. Rm 1,17. - 3. Rm 4,5. - 4. Rm 10,10. - 5. Lc 23,43. - Jn 19,33.
12. "Which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him; yea, the poor and needy from him that spoileth him." ...Who that deliverest, but He who is Strong in hand? Even that David shall deliver the poor from him that is too strong for him. For the devil was too strong for thee, and held thee, because he conquered thee, when thou consentedst unto him. But what hath the Strong in hand done? "No man entereth into a strong man's house, to spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man."(4) By His own Power, most Holy, most Magnificent, hath He bound the devil by pouring forth the weapon to stop the way against him, that He may deliver the poor and needy, to whom there was no helper.(5) For who is thy helper but the Lord to whom thou sayest, "O Lord, My Strength, and My Redeemer."(6) If thou wilt presume of thy own strength, thereby wilt thou fall, whereof thou hast presumed: if of another's, he would lord it over thee, not succour thee. He then alone is to be sought Who hath redeemed them, and made them free, and hath given His Blood to purchase them, and of His servants hath made them His Brethren. ...
13 (2). Let then our Head say, "False witnesses did rise up, they laid to My charge things that I knew not" (verse 11). But let us say to our Head, Lord, what knewest Thou not? Didst Thou indeed know not anything? Didst Thou not know the hearts of them that charged Thee? Didst Thou not foresee their deceits? Didst Thou not give Thyself into their hands knowingly? Hadst Thou not come that Thou mightest suffer by them? What then knewest Thou not? He knew not sin, and thereby He knew not sin, not by not judging, but by not committing. There are phrases of this kind also in daily use, as when thou sayest of any one, He knoweth not to stand, that is, he doth not stand; and, He knoweth not to do good, because he doth not good; and, He knoweth not to do ill, because he doth not ill. ... What knew not Christ so much, as to blaspheme? Thereof was He called in question by His persecutors, and because He spake truth, He was judged to have spoken blasphemy? But by whom? By them of whom it followeth, "They rewarded Me evil for good, and barrenness to My Soul" (verse 12). I gave unto them fruitfulness, they rewarded Me barrenness; I gave life, they death; I honour, they dishonour; I medicine, they wounds; and in all these which they rewarded Me, was truly barrenness. This barrenness in the tree He cursed, when seeking fruit He found none.(8) Leaves there were, and fruit there was not: words there were, and deeds there were not. See of words abundance, and of deeds barrenness. "Thou that preachest a man should not steal, stealest: thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, committest adultery."(9) Such were they who charged Christ with things that He knew not.
1. Ps 35,11-12. - 2. Mt 7,23.
14 (3). "But I, when they troubled me, clothed myself with sackcloth, and humbled my soul with fasting, and my prayer shall return into mine own bosom" (verse 13). ...Brethren, if for some little space with pious curiosity we lift the veil, and search with the intent eye of the heart the inner part of this Scripture, we find that even this the Lord did. Sackcloth, haply He calleth His mortal flesh. Wherefore Sackcloth? For the likeness of sinful flesh. For the Apostle saith, "God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, that through sin He might condemn sin in the flesh:"(10) that is, He clothed His Own Son with sackcloth, that through sackcloth" He might condemn the goats. Not that there was sin, I say not in the Word of God, but not even in that Holy Soul and Mind of a Man, which the Word and Wisdom of God had so joined to Himself as to be One Person. Nay, nor even in His very Body was any sin, but the likeness of sinful flesh there was in the Lord; because death is not but by sin,(12) and surely that Body was mortal. For had It not been mortal, It had not died; had It not died, It had not risen again; had It not risen again, It had not showed us an example of eternal life. So then death, which is caused by sin, is called sin; as we say the Greek tongue, the Latin tongue, meaning not the very member of flesh, but that which is done by the member of flesh. For the tongue in our members is one among others, as the eyes, nose, ears, and the rest: but the Greek tongue is Greek words, not that the tongue is words, but that words are by the tongue. ...So then the sin of the Lord is that which was caused by sin; because He assumed flesh, of the same lump which had deserved death by sin. For to speak more briefly, Mary who was of Adam died for sin,(1) Adam died for sin, and the Flesh of the Lord which was of Mary died to put away sin. With this sackcloth the Lord clothed Himself, and therefore was He not known, because He lay hid under sackcloth. "When they," saith He, "troubled Me, I clothed Myself with sackcloth:" that is, they raged, I lay hid. For had He not willed to lie hid neither could He have died, since in one moment of time one drop only of His Power, if indeed it is to be called a drop, He put forth, when they wished to seize Him, and at His one question, "Whom seek ye?" they all went back and fell to the ground.(2) Such power could He not have humbled in passion, if He had not lain hid under sackcloth.
1. Mt 21,19. - 1. Rm 8,3
15 (4). Again, if we have understood the sackcloth, how understand we the fasting? Wished Christ to eat, when He sought fruit on the tree,(3) and if He had found, would He have eaten? Wished Christ to drink, when He said to the woman of Samaria, "Give Me to drink"?(4) when He said on the Cross," I thirst"?(5) For what hungered, for what thirsted Christ, but our good works? Because in them that crucified and persecuted Him He had found no good works, He fasted; for they rewarded barrenness to His soul. For what a fast was His, who found barely one thief, whom on the Cross He might taste! For the Apostles had fled, and had hidden themselves in the multitude. And even Peter, who even to the death of his Lord had promised to persevere, had now thrice denied Him, had now wept, and still lay hid in the multitude, still feared lest He should be known. Lastly, having seen Him dead, all of them despaired of their own safety and despairing He found them, after His resurrection, and when He spake with them, found them grieving and mourning, no longer hoping anything... . In great fasting had the Lord remained, had He not refreshed them that He might feed on them. For He refreshed them, He comforted them, He confirmed them, and into His Own Body converted them. In this manner then was our Lord also in fasting.
1. Jn 4,7. - Jn 19,28.
16 (5). "And My prayer shall return into Mine Own Bosom." In the bosom of this verse is plainly a great depth, and may the Lord grant that it be fathomable by us. For in the "bosom" a secret is understood. And we ourselves, Brethren, are here well admonished to pray within our own bosom, where God seeth, where God heareth, where no human eye penetrateth, where none seeth but He who succoureth; where Susanna prayed, and her voice, though it was not heard by men, yet by God was heard.(6)... We read also that in the mount Jesus prayed alone,(7) we read that He passed the night in prayer,(8) even at the time of His Passion.(9) What then? "And My prayer shall return into Mine Own Bosom." I know not what better to understand concerning the Lord: take meanwhile what now occurs;(10) perhaps something better will occur hereafter, either to me or to some better: "My prayer shall return into Mine Own Bosom:" this I understand to be said, because in His Own Bosom He had the Father. "For God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself."(11) In Himself He had Him to whom He prayed. He was not far from Him, for Himself had said, "I am in the Father, and the Father in Me."(12) But because prayer rather belongeth to very Man for according as Christ is the Word, He prayeth not, but heareth prayer; and seeketh not to be succoured for Himself, but with the Father succoureth all): what is, "My prayer shall return into Mine Own Bosom," but in Me My Manhood invoketh in Me My Godhead.
Lc 24,18-21. - Da 13,35-44.
17 (6). "As a Neighbour, as our Brother, so I pleased Him: as one mourning and sorrowful, so I humbled myself" (verse 14). Now looketh He back to His Own Body: let us now look to this. When we rejoice m prayer, when our mind is calmed, not by the world's prosperity, but by the light of Truth: (who perceiveth this light, knoweth what I say, and he seeth and acknowledgeth what is said, "As a Neighbour, as our Brother, so I pleased Him"): even then our soul pleaseth God, not placed afar off, for, "In Him," saith one, "we live and move and have our being,"(13) but as a Brother, as a Neighbour, as a Friend. But if it be not such that it can so rejoice, so shine, so approach, so cleave unto Him, and seeth itself far off thence, then let it do what followeth, "As one mourning and sorrowful, so I humbled Myself. As our Brother, so I pleased Him," said He, drawing near; "As one mourning and sorrowful, so I humbled Myself," said He, removed and set afar off... . Did not Peter draw near, when he said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God"? And yet the same man became afar off by saying, "Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee." Lastly, what said He, his Neighbour, as it were, to him drawing near? "Blessed art thou, Simon, Barjona." To him afar off, as it were, and unlike, what said He? "Get thee behind Me, Satan."(1) To him drawing near, "Flesh and blood," saith He," hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father, which is in Heaven." His Light is shed over thee, in His Light thou shinest. But when having become afar off, he spake against the Lord's Passion, which should be for our Salvation, "Thou savourest not," said He, "the things that be of God, but those that be of men," One rightly placing together both of these saith in a certain Psalm, "I said in my ecstasy, I am cast off from before Thine Eyes."(2) In my ecstasy, would he not have said, had he not drawn near; for ecstasy, is the transporting of the mind. He poured: over himself his own soul, and drew near unto God; and through some cloud and weight of the flesh being again cast down to earth, and recollecting where he had been, and seeing where he was, he said, "I am cast off from before Thine Eyes." This then, "As a Neighbour, as our Brother, so I pleased Him," may He grant to be done in us; but when that is not, let even this be done, "As one mourning and sorrowful, so I humbled myself."
1. Ps 21,2 Mt 27,46. - 2. 2Co 5,19. - 3. Jn 14,10 - 1. Ac 17,28
18 (7). And against Me they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together"(3) (verse 15), against Me only: they rejoicing, I sorrowful. But we heard just now in the Gospel, "Blessed are they that mourn."(4) If they are blessed that mourn, miserable are they that laugh. "Against Me they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: scourges were gathered together against Me, and they knew not."(5) Because they laid to My charge things that I knew not, they also knew not Whom they charged.
19 (8). "They tempted Me, and mocked Me with mocking"(6) (verse 16). That is, they derided Me, they insulted Me; this of the Head, this of the Body. Consider, Brethren, the glory of the Church which now is; remember its past dishonours, remember how once were Christians everywhere put to flight, and wherever found, mocked, beaten, slain, exposed to beasts, burned, men rejoicing against them. As it was to the Head, so it is also to the Body. For as it was to the Lord on the Cross, so has it been to His Body in all that persecution which was made but now: nor even now cease the persecutions of the same. Wherever men find a Christian, they are wont to insult, to persecute, to deride him, to call him dull, senseless, of no spirit, of no knowledge. Do they what they will, Christ is in Heaven: do they what they will, He hath honoured His punishment, already hath He fixed His Cross in the foreheads of all; the ungodly is permitted to insult, to rage he is not permitted; but yet from that which the tongue uttereth, is understood what he beareth in his heart: "They gnashed upon Me with their teeth."
1. Mt 16,16-17 Mt 16,22-23. - 2. Ps 30,23. - 3. Ps 35,15. - 4. Mt 5,5. - 5. Ps 35,16.
20 (9). "Lord, when wilt Thou look on? Rescue My Soul from their deceits, My Darling from the lions" (verse 17). For to us the time is slow; and in our person is this said, "When wilt Thou look on?" that is, when shall we see vengeance upon those who insult us? When shall the Judge, overcome by weariness, hear the widow?(7) But our Judge, not from weariness, but from love, delayeth our salvation; from reason, not from need; not that He could not even now succour us, but that the number of us all may be filled up even to the end. And yet out of our desire, what do we say? "Lord, when wilt Thou look on? Rescue My Soul from their deceits, My Darling from the lions:" that is, My Church from raging powers.
21 (10). Lastly, wouldest thou know what is that Darling? Read the words following: "I will confess unto Thee, O Lord, in the great Congregation; in a weighty(8) people will I praise Thee" (verse 18). Truly saith He," I will confess unto Thee:" for confession is made in all the multitude, but not in all is God praised: the whole multitude heareth our confession,(9) but not in all the multitude is the praise of God. For in all the whole multitude, that is, in the Church which is spread abroad in the whole world, is chaff, and wheat: the chaff flieth, the wheat remaineth; therefore, "in a weighty people will I praise Thee." In a weighty people, which the wind of temptation carries not away, in such is God praised.For in the chaff He is ever blasphemed... .
1. Ps 34,17
22 (11). "Let not them that are Mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over Me:" for they rejoice lover Me because of My chaff. "Who hate Me without a cause;" that is, whom I never hurt; "winking with their eyes" (verse 19): that is, pretending hypocrites, "For they spake indeed peace to Me" (verse 20). What is, "winking with their eyes"? Declaring by their looks, what they carry not in their heart. And who are these "winking with their eyes"? "For they spake indeed peace to Me; and with wrath devised craftily." "Yea they opened their mouth wide against Me" (verse 21). First winking with their eyes, those lions sought to ravish and devour; first fawning they spake peace, and then with wrath devised craftily. What peace spake they? "Master, we know that Thou acceptest not man's person, and teachest the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" They spake indeed peace unto Me. What then? Didst not Thou know them, and deceived they Thee, winking with their eyes? Truly He knew them; therefore said He, "Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites?"(1) Afterward, "they opened their mouth wide against Me," crying, "Crucify Him, Crucify Him!(2) and said, Aha, Aha, our eyes have seen it." This, when they insulted Him, "Aha, Aha, Prophesy unto us, Thou Christ."(3) As their peace was pretended when they tempted Him concerning the money, so now insulting was their praise. "They said, Aha, Aha, our eyes have seen it" (verse 21): that is, Thy deeds, Thy miracles. This Man is the Christ. "If He be the Christ, let Him come down from the Cross, and we will believe Him. He saved others, Himself He cannot save."(4) "Our eyes have seen it." This is all whereof He boasted Himself, when "He called Himself the Son of God."(5) But the Lord was hanging patient upon the Cross: His power had He not lost, but He showed His patience. For what great thing was it for Him to come down from the Cross, who could afterward rise again from the sepulchre? But He seems to have yielded to His insulters; and this, beloved, that having risen again He should show Himself to His own, and not to them, and this is a great mystery; for His resurrection signified the New Life, but the New Life is known to His friends, not to His enemies.
1. 2Co 10,12. - 2. Ps 35,19-21. - 1. Mt 22,16-18.
23 (12). "This Thou hast seen, O Lord; keep not silence" (verse 22). What is, "keep not silence"? Judge Thou. For of judgment is it said in a certain place,(6) "I have kept silence; shall I keep silence for ever?" And of the delaying of judgment it is said to the sinner, "These things hast thou done, and I kept silence;" "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself."(7) How keepeth He silence, who speaketh by the Prophets, who speaketh with His own mouth in the Gospel, who speaketh by the Evangelists, who speaketh by us, when we speak the truth? What then? He keepeth silence from judgment, not from precept, not from doctrine. But this His judgment the Prophet in a manner invoketh, and predicteth: "Thou hast seen, O Lord: keep not silence; "that is, Thou wilt not keep silence, needs must that Thou wilt judge. "O Lord, be not far from Me." Until Thy judgment come, be not far from Me, as Thou hast promised, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."'
- 2. Mt 26,68. - 3. Ps 35,22. - 4. Ps 42,14. - 5. Ps 49,21
24 (13). "Arise, Lord, and attend to My judgment" (verse 23). To what judgment? That Thou art in tribulation; that Thou art tormented with labours and pains? Do not even many wicked men suffer the same? To what judgment? Therefore art Thou righteous, because Thou sufferest these things? No: but what? "To My judgment." What followeth? "Attend to My judgment; even to My cause, My God, and My Lord." Not to My punishment, but to My cause: not to that which the robber hath in common with Me, but to that whereof is said, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake."(8) For this cause is distinguished. For punishment is equal to good and bad. Therefore Martyrs, not the punishment, but the cause maketh, for if punishment made Martyrs, all the mines would be full of Martyrs, every chain would drag Martyrs, all that are executed with the sword would be crowned. Therefore let the cause be distinguished; let none say, because I suffer, I am righteous. Because He who first suffered, suffered for righteousness' sake, therefore He added a great exception, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake." For many having a good cause do persecution, and many having a bad cause suffer persecution. For if persecution could not be done rightly, it had not been said in a certain Psalm, "Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him did I persecute."(9) ... Let none then say, I suffer persecution: let him not sift the punishment, but prove the cause: lest if he prove not the cause, he be numbered with the ungodly. Therefore how watchfully, how excellently hath This Man recommended Himself, "O Lord, attend to My judgment," not to My punishments; "even to My cause, My God, and My Lord."
1. Mt 28,20. - 2. Ps 35,23. - 3. Mt 5,10. - 4. Ps 100,5.
25 (14). "Judge me, O Lord, according to My righteousness" (verse 24); that is, attend to My cause. Not according to My punishment, but "according to My righteousness, O Lord, My God," that is, according to this judge Thou Me. "And let them not rejoice over Me;" that is, Mine enemies.
1. Ps 35,24-26. - 2. Ps 133,1-3.
26 (15). "Let them not say in their heart, Aha, aha, so would we have it" (verse 25); that is, We have done what we could,(1) we have slain him, we have taken him away. "Let them not say:" show them that they have done nothing. "Let them not say, We have swallowed him up." Whence say those Martyrs, "If the Lord had not been on our side, then they had swallowed us up quick."(2) What is, "had swallowed us up "? Had passed into their own body. For that thou swallowest up, which thou passest into thy own body. The world would swallow thee up; swallow thou the world, pass it into thy own body: kill and eat. As it was said to Peter, "Kill and eat;"(3) do thou kill in them what they are, make them what thou art. But if they on the other hand persuade thee to ungodliness, thou art swallowed up by them. Not when they persecute thee art thou swallowed up by them, but when they persuade thee to be what they are. "Let them not say, We have swallowed him up." Do thou swallow up the body of Pagans. Why the body of Pagans? It would swallow thee up. Do thou to it, what it would to thee. Therefore perhaps that calf, being ground to powder, was cast into the water and given to the children of Israel to drink? that so the body of ungodliness might be swallowed up by Israel. "Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour" (verse 26); so that we may swallow up them ashamed and brought to confusion. "Who speak evil against me:" let them be ashamed, let them be brought to confusion.
27 (16). What sayest thou now, the Head with the Members? "Let them shout for joy and be glad that favour My righteous cause:" who cleave to My Body. Yea, let them say "continually, Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of His servant" (verse 27). "And my tongue shall speak of Thy righteousness, and of Thy praise all the day long" (verse 28). And whose tongue endureth to speak the praise of God all the day long? See now I have made a discourse something longer; ye are wearied. Who endureth to praise God all the day long? I will suggest a remedy, whereby thou mayest praise God all the day long if thou wilt. Whatever thou dost, do well, and thou hast praised God. When thou singest an hymn, thou praisest God, but what doth thy tongue, unless thy heart also praise Him? Hast thou ceased from singing hymns, and departed, that thou mayest refresh thyself? Be not drunken, and thou hast praised God. Dost thou go away to sleep? Rise not to do evil, and thou hast praised God. Dost thou transact business? Do no wrong, and thou hast praised God. Dost thou till thy field? Raise not strife, and thou hast praised God. In the innocency of thy works prepare thyself to praise God all the day long.
1. Ac 10,13. - 2. Ps 35,27-28.
Augustin on Psalms 35