Augustin on Psalms 36
1. ... "The ungodly hath said in himself that he will sin: there is no fear of God before his eyes" (verse 1). Not of one man, but of a race of ungodly men he speaketh, who fight against their own selves, by not understanding, that so they may live well; not because they cannot, but because they will not. For it is one thing, when one endeavours to understand some thing, and through infirmity of flesh cannot; as saith the Scripture(6) in a certain place, "For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things;" but another when the human heart acts mischievously against itself, so that what it could understand, if it had but good will thereto, it understandeth not, not because it is difficult, but because the will is contrary. But so it is when men love their own sins, and hate God's Commandments. For the Word of God is thy adversary, if thou be a friend to thy ungodliness; but if thou art an adversary to thy ungodliness, the Word of God is thy friend, as well as the adversary of thy ungodliness. ...
2 (3). "For he hath wrought deceitfully in His sight" (verse 2). In whose sight? In His, whose fear was not before the eyes of him that did work deceitfully. "To find out his iniquity, and hate it." He wrought so as not to find it. For there are men who as it were endeavour to seek out their iniquity, and fear to find it; because if they should find it, it is said to them, Depart from it: this thou didst before thou knewest; thou didst iniquity being in ignorance; God giveth pardon: now thou hast discovered it, forsake it, that to thy ignorance pardon may easily be given; and that with a clear face thou mayest say to God, "Remember not the sins of my youth, and of my ignorance."(7) Thus he seeketh it, thus he feareth lest he find it; for he seeketh it deceitfully. When saith a man, I knew not that it was sin? When he hath seen that it is sin, and ceaseth to do the sin, which he did only because he was ignorant: such an one in truth would know his sin, to find it out, and hate it. But now many "work deceitfully to find out their iniquity:" they work not from their heart to find it out and hate it. But because in the very search after iniquity, there is deceit, in the finding it there will be defence of it. For when one hath found his iniquity, lo now it is manifest to him that it is iniquity. Do it not, thou sayest. And he who wrought deceitfully to find it out, now he hath found, hateth it not; for what saith he? How many do this! Who is there that doth it not? And will God destroy them all? Or at least he saith this: if God would not these things to be done, would men live who commit the same? Seest thou that thou didst work deceitfully to find out thy iniquity? For if not deceitfully but sincerely thou hadst wrought, thou wouldest now have found it out, and hated it; now thou hast found it out, and thou defendest it; therefore thou didst work deceitfully, when thou soughtest it.
1. Ps 36,3. - 2. Ps 24,7.
3 (4). "The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he would not understand, that he might do good" (verse 3). Ye see that he attributeth that to the will: for there are men who would understand and cannot, and there are men who would not understand, and therefore understand not. "He would not understand, that he might do good."
1. Ps 35,4.
4 (5). "He hath meditated iniquity on his bed." What said He, "On his bed?" (verse 4). "The ungodly hath said in himself, that he will sin:" what above he said, in himself, that here he said, "On his bed." Our bed is our heart: there we suffer the tossing of an evil conscience; and there we rest when our conscience is good. Whoso loveth the bed of his heart, let him do some good therein. There is our bed, where the Lord Jesus Christ commands us to pray. "Enter into thy chamber, and shut thy door."(1) What is, "Shut thy door?" Expect not from God such things as are without, but such as are within; "and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Who is he that shutteth not the door? He who asketh much from God such things, and in such wise directeth all his prayers, that he may receive the goods that are of this world. Thy door is open, the multitude seeth when thou prayest. What is it to shut thy door? To ask that of God, which God alone knoweth how He giveth. What is that for which thou prayest, when thou hast shut the door? What "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, or hath entered into the heart of man."(2) And haply it hath not entered into thy very bed, that is, into thy heart. But God knoweth what He will give: but when shall it be? When the Lord shall be revealed, when the Judge shall appear... .
- 2. Ps 36,5. - 3. Mt 6,6. - 1. 1Co 2,9. - 2. Mt 25,34. - 3. Sg 5,3. - 4. Mt 25,41,- 5. Ps 11,7. - 6. Ep 3,20.
5 (6). "He hath set himself in every way that is not good." What is, "he hath set himself"? He hath sinned perseveringly. Whence also of a certain pious and good man it is said, "He hath not stood in the way of sinners."(3) As this "hath not stood," so that "hath set himself." "But wickedness hath he not hated." There is the end, there the fruit: if a man cannot but have wickedness, let him at least hate it. For when thou hatest it, it scarcely occurs to thee to do any wickedness. For sin is in our mortal body, but what saith the Apostle? "Let not sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof."(4) When beginneth it not to be therein? When that shall be fulfilled in us which he saith, "When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality."(5) Before this come to pass, there is a delighting in sin in the body, but greater is the delighting and the pleasure in the Word of Wisdom, in the Commandment of God. Overcome sin and the lust thereof. Sin and iniquity do thou hate, that thou mayest join thyself to God, who hateth it as well as thou. Now being joined in mind unto the Law of God, in mind thou servest the Law of God. And if in the flesh thou therefore servest(6) the law of sin,(7) because there are in thee certain carnal delightings, then will there be none when thou shalt no longer fight. It is one thing not to fight, and to be in true and lasting peace; another to fight and overcome; another to fight and to be overcome; another not to fight at all, but to be carried away. ...
1. Ps 36,5.- 2. .- 3. Rm 6,12. - 4. 1Co 15,53. - 1. Rm 6,25.
6 (7). "Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and Thy truth reacheth even unto the clouds" (verse 5). I know not what Mercy of Him he meaneth, which is in the heavens. For the Mercy of the Lord is also in the earth. Thou hast it written, "The earth is full of the Mercy of the Lord."(8) Of what Mercy then speaketh He, when He saith, "Thy Mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens"? The gifts of God are partly temporal and earthly, partly eternal and heavenly. Whoso for this worshippeth God, that he may receive those temporal and earthly goods, which are open to all, is still as it were like the brutes: he enjoyeth indeed the Mercy of God, but not that which is excepted, which shall not be given, save only to the righteous, to the holy, to the good. What are the gifts which abound to all? "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."(9) Who hath not this Mercy of God, first that he hath being, that he is distinguished from the brutes, that he is a rational animal, so as to understand God; secondly, that he enjoys this light, this air, rain, fruits, diversity of seasons, and all the earthly comforts, health of body, the affection of friends, the safety of his family? All these are good, and they are God's gifts... .
- 2. Rm 23-25. - 3. Ps 36,6. - 4. Ps 22,5.
7. But this man rightly understood what mercy he should pray for from God. "Thy Mercy, O Lord, is in the Heavens; and Thy Truth reacheth even to the clouds." That is, the Mercy which Thou givest to Thy Saints, is Heavenly, not earthly; is Eternal, not temporal. And how couldest Thou declare it unto men? Because "Thy Truth reacheth even unto the clouds." For who could know the Heavenly Mercy of God, unless God should declare it unto men? How did He declare it? By sending His truth even unto the clouds. What are the clouds? The Preachers of the Word of God... . Truth reached even to the clouds: therefore unto us could be declared the Mercy of God, which is in Heaven and not in earth. And truly, Brethren, the clouds are the Preachers of the Word of Truth. When God threateneth through His Preachers, He thunders through the clouds. When God worketh miracles through His Preachers, He lightneth through the clouds, He terrifieth through the clouds, and watereth by the rain. Those Preachers, then, by whom is preached the Gospel of God, are the clouds of God. Let us then hope for Mercy, but for that which is in the Heavens.
8. "Thy Righteousness is like the mountains of God: Thy Judgments are a great deep" (verse 6). Who are the mountains of God? Those who are called clouds, the same are also the mountains of God. The great Preachers are the mountains of God. And as when the sun riseth, he first clothes the mountains with light, and thence the light descends to the lowest parts of the earth: so our Lord Jesus Christ, when He came, first irradiated the height of the Apostles, first enlightened the mountains, and so His Light descended to the valley of the world. And therefore saith He in a certain Psalm, "I lifted up mine eyes unto the mountains, from whence cometh my help."(1) But think not that the mountains themselves will give thee help: for they receive what they may give, give not of their own. And if thou remain in the mountains, thy hope will not be strong: but in Him who enlighteneth the mountains, ought to be thy hope and presumption. Thy help indeed will come to thee through the mountains, because the Scriptures are administered to thee through the mountains, through the great Preachers of the Truth: but fix not thy hope in them. Hear what He saith next following: "I lifted up mine eyes unto the mountains, from whence cometh my help." What then? Do the mountains give thee help? No; hear what follows, "My help cometh from the Lord, which made Heaven and earth."(2) Through the mountains cometh help, but not from the mountains. From whom then? "From the Lord, which made Heaven and earth." ...
9. "Thy Judgments are like the great abyss." The abyss he calleth the depth of sin, whither every one cometh by despising God; as in a certain place it is said, "God gave them over to their own hearts' lusts, to do the things which are not convenient."(3) ... Because then they were proud and ungrateful, they were held worthy to be delivered up to the lusts of their own hearts, and became a great abyss, so that they not only sinned, but also worked craftily, lest they should understand their iniquity, and hate it. That is the depth of wickedness, to be unwilling to find it out and to hate it. But how one cometh to that depth, see; "Thy Judgments are the great abyss." As the mountains are by the Righteousness of God,(4) who through His Grace become great: so also through His Judgments come they unto the depth, who sink lowest. By this then let the mountains delight thee, by this turn away from the abyss, and turn thyself unto that, of which it is said, "My help cometh from the Lord." But whereby? "I have lifted up mine eyes unto the mountains." What meaneth this? I will speak plainly.(5) In the Church of God thou findest an abyss, thou findest also mountains; thou findest there but few good, because the mountains are few, the abyss broad; that is, thou findest many living ill after the wrath of God, because they have so worked that they are delivered up to the lusts of their own heart; so now they defend their sins and confess them not; but say, Why? What have I done? Such an one did this, and such an one did that. Now will they even defend what the Divine Word reproves. This is the abyss. Therefore in a certain place(6) saith the Scripture (hear this abyss), "The sinner when he cometh unto the depth of sin despiseth." See, "Thy Judgments are like the great abyss." But yet not art thou a mountain; not yet art thou in the abyss; fly from the abyss, tend towards the mountains; but yet remain not on the mountains. "For thy help cometh from the Lord, which made Heaven and earth."
10. Because he said, Thy Mercy is in the Heavens, that it may be known to be also on earth, he said, "O Lord, Thou surest man and beast,(7) as Thy Mercy is multiplied, O God" (verse 7). Great is Thy Mercy, and manifold is Thy Mercy, O God; and that showest Thou both to man and beast. For from whom is the saving of men? From God. Is not the saving of beasts also from God? For He who made man, made also beasts; He who made both, saveth both; but the saving of beasts is temporal. But there are who as a great thing ask this of God, which He hath given to beasts. "Thy Mercy, O God, is multiplied," so that not only unto men, but unto beasts also is given the same saving which is given to men, a carnal and temporal saving.
11. Have not men then somewhat reserved with God, which beasts deserve not, and where-unto beasts arrive not? They have evidently. And where is that which they have. "The children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings." Attend, my Beloved, to this most pleasant sentence; "Thou savest man and beast." First, he spake of "man and beast," then of "the children of men;" as though "men" were one, "the children of mea" other. Sometimes in Scripture children of men is said generally of all men, sometimes in some proper manner, with some proper signification, so that not all men are understood; chiefly when there is a distinction. For not without reason is it here put; "O Lord, Thou savest man and beast: but the children of men;" as though setting aside the first, he keepeth separate the children of men. Separate from whom? Not only from beasts, but also from men, who seek from God the saving of beasts, and desire this as a great thing. Who then are the children of men? Those who put their trust under the shadow of His wings. For those men together with beasts rejoice in possession, but the children of men rejoice in hope: those follow after present goods with beasts, these hope for future goods with Angels. ...
12. "They shall be satiated (1) with the fulness of Thy House" (verse 8). He promiseth us some great thing. He would speak it, and He speaketh it not. Can He not, or do not we receive it? I dare, my Brethren, to say, even of holy tongues and hearts, by which Truth is declared to us, that it can neither be spoken, which they declared, nor even thought of. For it is a great thing, and ineffable; and even they saw through a glass darkly, as saith the Apostle, "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face."(2) Lo, they who saw through a glass darkly, thus burst forth. What then shall we be, when we shall see face to face? That with which they travailed in heart, and could not with their tongue bring forth, that men might receive it. For what necessity was there that he should say, "They shall be satiated with the fulness of Thy House"? He sought a word whereby to express from human things what he would say; and because he saw that men drowning themselves in drunkenness receive indeed wine without measure, but lose their senses, he saw what to say; for when shall have been received that ineffable joy, then shall be lost in a manner the human soul, it shall become Divine, and be satiated with the fulness of God's House. Wherefore also in another Psalm it is said, "Thy cup inebriating, how excellent is it!"(3) With this cup were the Martyrs satiated when going to their passion, they knew not their own. What so inebriated as not to know a wife weeping, not children, not parents? They knew them not they thought not that they were before their eyes. Wonder not: they were inebriated Wherewith were they so? Lo, they had received a cup wherewith they were satiated Wherefore he also gives thanks to God, saying "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me? I will take the cup of Salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord." Therefore, Brethren of men," let us be "children and let us trust under the shadow of His wings and be satiated with the fulness of His House As I could, I have spoken; and as far as I can I see; and how far I see, I cannot speak. "And of the torrent of Thy Pleasure shalt Thou give them to drink." A torrent we call water coming with a flood. There will be a flood of God's Mercy to overflow and inebriate those who now put their trust under the shadow of His wings. What is that Pleasure? As it were a torrent inebriating the thirsty. Let him then who thirsts now, lay up hope: whoso thirsts now, let him have hope; when inebriated, he shall have possession: before he have possession, let him thirst in hope. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."(6)
13. With what fountain then wilt thou be overflowed, and whence runneth such a torrent of His Pleasure? "For with Thee," saith he, "is the fountain of Life." What is the fountain of Life, but Christ? He came to thee in the flesh, that He might bedew thy thirsty lips: He will satisfy thee trusting, who bedewed thee thirsting. "For with Thee is the fountain of Life; in Thy Light shall we see light" (verse 9). Here a fountain is one thing, light another: there not so. For that which is the Fountain, the same is also Light: and whatever thou wilt thou callest It, for It is not what thou callest It: for thou canst not find a fit name: for It remaineth not in one name. If thou shouldest say, that It is Light only, it would be said to thee, Then without cause am I told to hunger and thirst, for who is there that eateth light? It is said to me plainly, directly, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."(1) If It is Light, my eyes must I prepare. Prepare also lips; for That which is Light is also a Fountain: a Fountain, because It satisfieth the thirsty: Light, because It enlighteneth the blind. Here sometimes, light is in one place, a fountain in another. For sometimes fountains run even in darkness; and sometimes in the desert thou sufferest the sun, findest no fountain: here then can these two be separated: there thou shall not be wearied, for there is a Fountain; there thou shall not be darkened, for there is Light.
14. "Show forth Thy Mercy unto them that know Thee; Thy Righteousness to them that are of a fight heart" (verse 10). As I have said, Those are of a right heart who follow in this life the Will of God. The will of God is sometimes that thou shouldest be whole, sometimes that thou shouldest be sick. If when thou art whole God's Will be sweet, and when thou art sick God's Will be bitter; thou art not of a right heart. Wherefore? Because thou wilt not make right thy will according to God's Will, but wilt bend God's Will to thine. That is right, but thou art crooked: thy will must be made right to That, not That made crooked to thee; and thou wilt have a right heart. It is well with thee in this world; be God blessed, who comforteth thee: it goeth hardly with thee in this world; be God blessed, because He(2) chasteneth and proveth thee; and so wilt thou be of a right heart, saying, "I will bless the Lord at all times: His Praise shall be ever in my mouth."(3)
15. "Let not the foot of pride come against me" (verse 11). But now he said, The children of men shall put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings: they shall be satiated with the fulness of Thy House. When one hath begun to be plentifully overflowed with that Fountain, let him take heed lest he grow proud. For the same was not wanting to Adam, the first man: but the foot of pride came against him, and the hand of the sinner removed him, that is, the proud hand of the devil. As he who seduced him, said of himself, "I will sit in the sides of the north;"(4) so he persuaded him, by saying, "Taste, and ye shall be as gods."(5) By pride then have we so fallen as to arrive at this mortality. And because pride had wounded us, humility maketh us whole. God came humbly, that from such great wound of pride He might heal man. He came, for "The Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us."(6) He was taken by the Jews; He was reviled of them. Ye heard when the Gospel was read, what they said, and to Whom they said, "Thou hast a devil:"(7) and He said not, Ye have a devil, for ye are still in your sins, and the devil possesseth your hearts. He said not this, which if He had said, He had said truly: but it was not meet that He should say it, lest He should seem not to preach Truth, but to retort evil speaking. He let go what He heard as though He heard it not. For a Physician was He, and to cure the madman had He come. As a Physician careth not what he may hear from the madman; but how the madman may recover and become sane; nor even if he receive a blow from the madman, careth he; but while he to him giveth new wounds, he cureth his old fever: so also the Lord came to the 'sick man, to the madman came He, that whatever He might hear, whatever He might suffer, He should despise; by this very thing teaching us humility, that being taught by humility, we might be healed from pride: from which he here prayeth to be delivered, saying, "Let not the foot of pride come against me; neither let the hand of the sinner remove me." For if the foot of pride come, the hand of the sinner removeth. What is the hand of the sinner? The working of him that adviseth ill. Hast thou become proud? Quickly he corrupteth thee who adviseth ill. Humbly fix thyself in God, and care not much what is said to thee. Hence is that which is elsewhere spoken, "From my secret sins cleanse Thou me; and from others' sins also keep Thy servant."(8) What is, "From my secret sins"? "Let not the foot of pride come against me." What is, "From other men's sins also keep Thy servant"? "Let not the hand of the wicked remove me." Keep that which is within, and thou shall not fear from without.
16. But wherefore so greatly fearest thou this? Because it is said, "Thereby have fallen all that work iniquity" (verse 12); so that they have come into that abyss of which it is said, "Thy judgments are like the great abyss:" so that they have come even to that deep wherein sinners who despise have fallen. "Have fallen." Whereby did they first fall? By the foot of pride. Hear the foot of pride. "When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God." Therefore came against them the foot of pride, whereby they came into the depth. "God gave them over to their own hearts' lusts, to do those things which are not convenient."(9) The root of sin, and the head of sin feared he who said, "Let not the foot of pride come against me." Wherefore said he, "the foot"? Because by walking proudly man deserted God, and departed from Him. His foot, called he his affection. "Let not the foot of pride come against me: let not the hand of the wicked remove me:" that is, let not the works of the wicked remove me from Thee, that I should wish to imitate them. But wherefore said he this against pride, "Thereby have fallen all that work iniquity"? Because those who now are ungodly, have fallen by pride. Therefore when the Lord would caution His Church, He said, "It shall watch thy head, and thou shall watch(1) his heel."(2) The serpent watcheth when the foot of pride may come against thee, when thou mayest fall, that he may cast thee down. But watch thou his head: the beginning of all sin is pride.(3) "Thereby have fallen all that work iniquity: they are driven out, and are not able to stand." He first, who in the Truth stood not, then, through him, they whom God sent out of Paradise. Whence he, the humble, who said that he was not worthy to unloose His shoe's latchet, is not driven out, but standeth and heareth Him, and rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom's voice;(4) not because of his own, lest the foot of pride come against him, and he be driven out, and be not able to stand. ...
1. With tenor do they hear of the coming of the last day, who will not be secure by living well: and who fain would live ill, long. But it was for useful purposes that God willed that day to remain unknown; that the heart may be ever ready to expect that of which it knows it is to come, but knows not when it is to come. Seeing, however, that our Lord Jesus Christ was sent to us to be our "Master,"(6) He said, that "of the day not even the Son of Man knew,"(7) because it was not part of His office as our Master that through Him it should become known to us. For indeed the Father knoweth nothing that the Son knoweth not; since that is the Very Knowledge of the Father Itself, which is His Wisdom; now His Son, His Word, is "His Wisdom." But because it was not for our good to know that, which however was known to Him who came indeed to teach us, though not to teach us that which it was not good for us to know, He not only, as a Master, taught us something, but also, as a Master, left something untaught. For, as a Master, He knew how both to teach us what was good for us, and not to teach us what was injurious. Now thus, according to a certain form of speech, the Son(8) is said not to know what He does not teach: that is, in the same way that we are daily in the habit of speaking, He is said not to know what He causes us not to know.(9) ...
2. This it is that disturbs you who are a Christian; that you see men of bad lives prospering, and surrounded with abundance of things like these; you see them sound in health, distinguished with proud honours; you see their family unvisited by misfortune; the happiness of their relatives, the obsequious attendance of their dependants, their most commanding influence, theirs life uninterrupted by any sad event; you see their characters most profligate, their external resources most affluent; and your heart says that there is no Divine judgment; that all things are carried to and fro by accidents, and blown about in disorderly; and irregular motions. For if God, thou sayest, regarded human affairs, would his iniquity flourish, and my innocence suffer? Every sickness of the soul hath in Scripture its proper remedy. Let him then whose sickness is of that kind that he says in his heart things like these, let him drink this Psalm by way of potion. ...
3. "Be not envious because of evil-doers, neither be envious against the workers of iniquity" (verse 1). "For they shall soon wither like the grass, and shall fade like the herbs of the meadow" (verse 2). That which to thee seemeth long, is "soon" in the sight of God. Conform(10) thou thyself to God; and it will be "soon" to thee. That which he here calls "grass," that we understand by the "herbs of the meadow." They are some worthless things, occupying the surface only of the ground, they have no depth of root. In the winter then they are green; but when the summer sun shall begin to scorch, they will wither away. For now it is the season of winter. Thy glory cloth not as yet appear. But if thy love hath but a deep root, like that of many trees during winter, the frost passes away, the summer (that is, the Day of Judgment) will come; then will the greenness of the grass wither away. Then will the glory of the trees appear. "For ye" (saith the Apostle) "are dead."(11) even as trees seem to be in winter, as it were dead, as it were withered. What is our hope then, if we are dead? The root is within; where our root is, there is our life also, for there our love is fixed. "And your life is hid with Christ in God."(11) When shall he wither who is thus rooted? But when will our spring be? When our summer? When will the honour of foliage clothe us around, and the fulness of fruit make us rich? When shall this come to pass? Hear what follows: "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." And what then shall we do now? "Be not envious because of the evil-doers, neither be envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon wither like the grass, and fade like the herb of the meadow."
4. What shouldest thou do then? "Trust in the Lord" (verse 3). For they too trust, but not "in the Lord." Their hope is perishable. Their hope is short-lived, frail, fleeting, transitory, baseless. "Trust thou in the Lord." "Behold," thou sayest, "I do trust; what am I to do?" "And do good." Do not do that evil which thou beholdest in those men, who are prosperous in wickedness. "Do good, and dwell in the land." Lest haply thou shouldest be doing good without "dwelling in the land." For it is the Church that is the Lord's land. It is her whom He, the Father, the tiller of it, waters and cultivates. For there are many that, as it were, do good works, but yet, in that they do not "dwell in the land," they do not belong to the husbandman. Therefore do thou thy good, not outside of the land, but do thou "dwell in the land." And what shall I have? "And thou shalt be fed in its riches." What are the riches of that land? Her riches are her Lord! Her riches are her God l He it is to whom it is said, "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup."(1) In a late discourse we suggested to you, dearly beloved, that God is our possession,(2) and that we are at the same time God's possession. Hear how that He is Himself the riches of that land. "Delight thyself in the Lord" (verse 4). As if thou hadst put the question, and hadst said "Show me the riches of that land, in which thou biddest me dwell, he says, "Delight thyself in the Lord."
5. "And He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Understand in their proper signification,(3) "the desires of thine heart." Distinguish the "desires of thine heart" from the desires of thy flesh; distinguish as much as thou canst. It is not without a meaning that it is said in a certain Psalm, "God is" (the strength) "of mine heart." For there it says in what follows: "And God is my portion for everse" For instance: One labours under bodily blindness. He asks that he may receive his sight. Let him ask it; for God does that too, and gives those blessings also. But these things are asked for even by the wicked. This is a desire of the flesh. One is sick, and prays to be made sound. From the point of death he is restored to health. That too is a desire of the flesh, as are all of such a kind. What is "the desire of the heart"? As the desire of the flesh is to wish to have one's eyesight restored, to enable him, that is, to see that light, which can be seen by such eyes; so "the desire of the heart" relates to a different sort of light. For, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Delight thou thyself in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart."
6. "Behold" (you say), "I do long after it, I do ask for it, I do desire it. Shall I then accomplish it?" No. Who shall then? "Reveal thy way unto the Lord: trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass" (verse 5). Mention to Him what thou sufferest, mention to Him what thou dost desire. For what is it that thou sufferest? "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh."(4) What is it then that thou dost desire? "Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"(5) And because it is He "Himself" that "will bring it to pass," when thou shall have "revealed thy ways unto Him;" hear what follows: "The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord." What is it then that He is to bring to pass, since it is said, "Reveal thy way unto Him, and He will bring it to pass"? What will He bring to pass? "And He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light" (verse 6). For now, "thy righteousness" is hid. Now it is a thing of faith; not yet of sight. You believe something that you may do it. You do not yet see that in which you believe. But when thou shall begin to see that, which thou didst believe before, "thy righteousness will be brought forth to the light," because it is thy faith that was (6) thy righteousness. For "the just lives by faith."
7. "And He shall bring forth thy judgment as the noon-day." That is to say, "as the clear light." It was too little to say, "as the light." For we call it "light" already, even when it but dawns: we call it light even while the sun is rising. But never is the light brighter than at mid-day. Therefore He will not only "bring forth thy righteousness as the light," but "thy judgment shall be as the noon-day." For now dost thou make thy "judgment" to follow Christ. This is thy purposé: this is thy choice: this is thy "judgment."...
8. "What should I do then?" Hear what thou shouldest do. "Submit thee to the Lord, and entreat Him" (verse 7). Be this thy life, to obey His commandments. For this is to submit thee to Him; and to entreat Him until He give thee what He hath promised. Let good works "continue;"(1) let prayer "continue." For "men ought always to pray, and not to faint."(2) Wherein dost thou show that thou art "submitted to Him"? In doing what He hath commanded. But haply thou dost not receive thy wages as yet, because as yet thou art not able. For He is already able to give them; but thou art not already able to receive them. Exercise thou thyself in works. Labour in the vineyard; at the close of the day crave thy wages. "Faithful is He" who brought thee into the vineyard. "Submit thee to the Lord, and entreat Him."
9. "See! I do so; I do 'submit to the Lord, and I do entreat.' But what do you think? That neighbour of mine is a wicked man, living a bad life, and prosperous! His thefts, adulteries, robberies, are known to me. Lifted up above every one, proud, and raised on high by wickedness, he deigns not to notice me. In these circumstances, how shall I hold out with patience?" This is a sickness; drink, by way of remedy. "Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way." He prospereth, but it is "in his way:" thou sufferest, but it is in God's way! His portion is prosperity on his way, misery on arriving at its end: yours, toil on the road, happiness in its termination. "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; and the way of the ungodly shall perish."(3) Thou walkest those ways which "the Lord knoweth," and if thou dost suffer toil in them, they do not deceive thee. The "way of the ungodly" is but a transitory happiness; at the end of the way the happiness is at an end also. Why? Because that way is "the broad road;" its termination leads to the pit of hell. Now, thy way is narrow; and "few there be" that enter in through it:(4) but into how ample a field it comes at the last, thou oughtest to consider. "Fret not thyself at him who prospereth in his way; because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass." "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath" (verse 8). Wherefore art thou wroth? Wherefore is it that, through that passion and indignation, thou dost blaspheme, or almost blaspheme? Against "the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass, cease from anger, and forsake wrath." Knowest thou not whither that wrath tempts thee on? Thou art on the point of saying unto God, that He is unjust. It tends to that. "Look! why is that man prosperous, and this man in adversity?" Consider what thought it begets: stifle the wicked notion. "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:" so that now returning to thy senses, thou mayest say, "Mine eye is disturbed because of wrath."(5) What eye is that, but the eye of faith? To the eye of thy faith I appeal.(6) Thou didst believe in Christ: why didst thou believe? What did He promise thee? If it was the happiness of this world that Christ promised thee, then murmur against Christ; yes! murmur against Him, when thou seest the wicked flourishing. What of happiness did He promise? What, save in the Resurrection of the Dead? But what in this life? That which was His portion. His portion, I say! Dost thou, servant and disciple, disdain what thy Lord, what thy Master bore? ... "For evil-doers shall be cut off" (verse 9). "But I see their prosperity." Believe Him who saith, "they shall be cut off;" Him who seeth better than thou, since His eye anger cannot cloud. "For evildoers shall be cut off. But those that wait upon the Lord,"--not upon any one that can deceive them; but verily on Him who is the Truth itself,--"But those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the land." What "land," but that Jerusalem, with the love of which whosoever is inflamed, shall come to peace at the last.
10. "But how long is the sinner to flourish? How long shall I have to endure?" Thou art impatient;(7) that which seems long to thee, will soon come to pass. It is infirmity makes that seem long, which is really short, as is found in the case of the longings of sick men. Nothing seems so long as the mixing of the potion for him when athirst. For all that his attendants are making all speed, lest haply the patient be angry; "When will it be done? (he cries). When will it be drest? When will it be served?" Those who are waiting upon you are making haste, but your infirmity fancies that long which is being done with expedition. Behold ye, therefore, our Physician complying with the infirmity of the patient, saying, "How long shall I have to endure? How long will it be?" "Yet a little while, and the sinner shall not be" (verse 10). Is it certainly among sinners, and because of the sinner, that thou murmurest? "A little while, and he shall not be." Lest haply because I said, "They that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the land," thou shouldest think that waiting to be of very long duration. Wait "a little while," thou shalt receive without end what thou waitest for. A little while, a moderate space. Review the years from Adam's time up to this day; run through the Scriptures. It is almost yesterday that he fell from Paradise! So many ages have been measured out, and unrolled.(1) Where now are the past ages? Even so, however, shall the few which remain, pass away also. Hadst thou been living throughout all that time, since Adam was banished from Paradise up to this present day, thou wouldest certainly see that the life, which had thus flown away, had not been of long duration. But how long is the duration of each individual's life? Add any number of years you please: prolong old age to its longest duration: what is it? Is it not but a morning breeze? Be it so, however, that the Day of Judgment is far off, when the reward of the righteous and of the unrighteous is to come: your last day at all events cannot be far off. Make thyself ready against this! For such as thou shall have departed from this life, shalt thou be restored to the other. At the close of that short life, you will not yet be, where the Saints shall be, to whom it shall be said, "Come, ye blessed of My Father: inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world."(2) You will not yet be there? Who does not know that? But you may already be there, where that beggar, once "covered with sores," was seen at a distance, at rest, by that proud and unfruitful "rich man" in the midst of his torments.(3) Surely hid in that rest thou waitest in security for the Day of Judgment, when thou art to receive again a body, to be changed so as to be made equal to an Angel. How long then is that for which we are impatient, and are saying, "When will it come? Will it tarry long?" This our sons will say hereafter, and our sons' sons will say too; and, though each one of these in succession will say this same thing, that "little while" that is yet to be, passes away, as all that is already past hath passed away already! O thou sick one! "Yet a little while, and the sinner shall not be. Yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and thou shalt not find him." ...
11. "But the meek shall inherit the land"(4) (verse 11). That land is the one of which we have often spoken, the holy Jerusalem, which is to be released from these her pilgrimages, and to live for ever with God, and on God. Therefore, "They shall inherit the land." What shall be their delight? "And they shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." Let the ungodly man delight himself here in the multitude of his gold, in the multitude of his silver, in the multitude of his slaves, in the multitude, lastly, of his baths, his roses, his intoxicating wines, his most sumptuous and luxurious banquets. Is this the power thou enviest? Is this the glory-that delights thee? Would not his fate be worthy to be deplored, even if he were to be so for ever? What shall be thy delights? "And they shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." Peace shall be thy gold. Peace shall be thy silverse Peace shall be thy lands. Peace shall be thy life, thy God Peace. Peace shall be to thee whatsoever thou dost desire. ...
Augustin on Psalms 36