Augustin on Psalms 11930


11930 (Ps 119,153-160)

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 speaketh: "O consider my humiliation, and deliver me: for I forget not Thy law" (verse 153). In this place we cannot understand any law of God so suitably, as that whereby it is immutably determined that "every one that exalteth himself, shall be abased; and every one that humbleth himself; shall be exalted."(11)

152. "Avenge Thou," he saith, "my cause, and deliver me" (verse 154). The former sentence is here almost repeated. And what is there said, "For I do not forget Thy law," agreeth with what we read here, "Quicken me, according to Thy word." For these words are the law of God, which he hath not forgot, so that he hath 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.

153. "Health," he saith, "is far from the ungodly: for they regard not Thy righteousnesses" (verse 155). This separateth thee, that what they have not done, thou hast done, that is, thou hast regarded the righteousnesses of God. But "what hast thou that thou hast not received?"(12) Art thou not he who a little before didst say, "I will keep Thy righteousnesses"? Thou therefore hast received from Him, unto whom thou didst call, the power to keep them. He therefore doth Himself separate thee 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 Thy mercies, O Lord" (verse 156). Even our seeking out Thy righteousnesses, then, cometh of Thy mercies. "Quicken me according to Thy judgment." For I know that Thy judgments will not be upon me without Thy mercy.

155. "Many there are that trouble me, and persecute me; yet do I not swerve from Thy testimonies" (verse 157). This hath 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(1) by the merits of Martyrs. Whence this, save because that hath been fulfilled which was prophesied(2) of that Man who hath been spread abroad around the whole world. We recognise this, and render thanks to the Lord our God. For thou, man, thou hast thyself said in another Psalm, "If the Lord Himself had not been on our side, they would have swallowed us up quick."(3) Behold the reason why thou hast not swerved from His testimonies, and hast won the palm of thy heavenly calling amid the hands of the many who persecuted and troubled thee.

156. "I have seen," he saith," the foolish, and I pined" (verse 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 addeth in what respect they had failed to keep the covenant, "Because they kept not Thy word." For this they denied in their tribulations.

157. And he commendeth himself as differing from them, and saith, "Behold, how I have loved Thy commandments" (verse 159). He saith not, I have not denied Thy 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 profiteth me nothing."(4) The Psalmist, praising this virtue, saith, "Behold, how I have loved Thy commandments." Then he asketh his reward, "O Lord, quicken me, according to Thy 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?

158. "The beginning," he saith, "of Thy words is truth; all the judgments of Thy righteousness endure for evermore" (verse 160). From truth, he saith, Thy 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.


11931 (Ps 119,161-168)

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 hath stood in awe of Thee" (verse 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? Saith He not to the Jews who were striving to calumniate Him, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's"?(5) Did He not even in His own Person pay tribute from the mouth of a fish?(6) 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 ye may wage war for the Lord, answer, "Do violence to no man: neither accuse any falsely: and be content with your wages"?(7) Did not one of His soldiers, His most beloved companion,(8) say to his fellow soldiers, the provincials,(9) so to speak, of Christ, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers"?(10) Does he not enjoin the Church to pray for even kings themselves?" 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.(12) But heed what he hath subjoined: "And my heart hath stood in awe of Thy word." My heart hath stood in awe of these words,(13) "Fear not them that kill the body," etc. I have scorned man who persecuteth me, and have overcome the devil that would seduce me.

160. Then follows, "I am as glad of Thy word as one that findeth great spoils" (verse 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."(1) 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 standeth in awe of the words of God, fearing lest he be overcome in the contest, rejoiceth as conqueror in the same words.

161. "As for iniquity, I hate and abhor it; but Thy law have I loved" (verse 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 doth the chaste wife at once fear her husband, lest she be forsaken by him, and loveth 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 doth our Father who is in heaven,(2) and that Bridegroom, "beautiful beyond the sons of men,"(3) 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 hath the father's law to good sons?(4) 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 saith, "Seven times a day do I praise Thee, because of Thy righteous judgments" (verse 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; s and all times roll on through a revolving cycle of seven days. For no other reason it was said, "a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again:"(6) that is, the just man perisheth not, though brought low in every way, yet not induced to transgress, otherwise he will not be just· For the words, "falleth seven times," are employed to express every kind of tribulation, whereby man is cast down in the sight of men: and the words, "riseth up again," signify that he profiteth 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 hath 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,(7) she did not faint in all her tribulations, but was glorified with the crowns of Martyrs.

163. "Great is the peace," he saith, "that they have who love Thy law: and there is no offence to them" (verse 165). Doth this mean that the law itself is not an offence to them that love it, or that there is no offence from any source unto them that love the law? But both senses are rightly understood. For he who loveth the law of God, honoureth in it even what he doth not understand; and what seemeth to him to sound absurd, he judgeth rather that he doth not understand, and that there is some great meaning hidden: thus the law of God is not an offence to him. ...

164. "I have waited," he saith, "for Thy saving health, O Lord, and have loved Thy commandments" (verse 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."(8)

165. "My soul hath kept Thy testimonies, and I have loved them exceedingly:" or, as some copies read, "hath loved them," understanding, "my soul" (verse 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 profiteth nothing, even to be burnt with flames without charity,(9) he addeth, "and I have loved them exceedingly." ... For he who loveth, keepeth 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 persecuteth. After the Psalmist, then, had declared that he had done both these things, he ascribeth unto God his having been enabled to do so, by adding, "because all my ways are in Thy sight." He saith therefore, "I have g kept Thy commandments and Thy testimonies; n because all my ways are in Thy sight" (verse 168). As much as to say, Hadst Thou turned away Thy face from me, I should have been confounded, nor could I keep Thy commandments and testimonies. "I have kept them," then, because "all my ways are in Thy sight." With a look favouring and siding man, he meant it to be understood that God seeth his ways: according to the prayer, "O hide not Thou Thy face from me."(1) ...


Ps 119,169-176)

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 Thy sight, O Lord" (yet. 169): for, "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart."(2) "Give me understanding, according to Thy word." He claimeth a promise. For he saith, "according to Thy word," which is to say, according to Thy promise. For the Lord promised this when He said, "I will inform thee."(3)

167. "Let my request come before Thy presence, O Lord: deliver me, according to Thy word" (verse 170). He repeateth what he hath asked. For his former words," Let my prayer come near in Thy presence, O Lord:" are like unto what he saith, "Let my request come before Thy presence, O Lord:" and the words, "Give me understanding according to Thy word," agree with these, "Deliver me according to Thy word." For by receiving understanding he is delivered, who of himself through want of understanding is deceived.

168. "My lips shall burst forth praise: when Thou hast taught me Thy righteousnesses" (verse 171). We know how God teacheth those who are docile unto God. For every one who hath heard from the Father and hath learned, comes unto Him "who justifieth the ungodly:"(4) so that he may keep the righteousnesses of God not only by retaining them in his memory, but also by doing them. Thus doth he who glorieth, glory not in himself, but in the Lord,(5) and burst forth praise.

169. But as he hath now learned, and praised God his Teacher, he next wisheth to teach. "Yea, my tongue shall declare Thy word: for all Thy commandments are righteousness" (verse 172). When he saith that he will declare these things, he becometh a minister of the word. For though God teach within, nevertheless "faith cometh from hearing: and how do they hear without a preacher?"(6) For, because "God giveth the increase,"(7) is no reason why we need not plant and water.

170. "Let Thy hand be stretched forth (fiat, be made) to save me, for I have chosen Thy commandments" (verse 173). That I might not fear, and that not only might my heart hold fast, but my tongue also utter Thy words: "I have chosen Thy commandments," and have stifled fear with love. Let Thy 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"(8) in the flesh. The words, "Let Thy 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 Thy salvation, O Lord" (verse 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 longeth for His coming at His Father's right hand. Subjoined to this sentence are the words, "And Thy law is my meditation:" for the Law giveth testimony unto Christ.

171. But in this faith, though the heathen rage furiously, and the people imagine a vain thing:(9) though the flesh be slain while it preacheth Thee: "My soul shall live, and shall praise Thee: and Thy judgments shall help me" (verse 175). These are those judgments, which it was time should begin at the house of the Lord.(10) But "they will help me," he saith. And who cannot see how much the blood of the Church hath aided the Church? how great a harvest hath risen in the whole world from that sowing?

172. At last he openeth himself completely, and showeth what person was speaking throughout the whole Psalm. "I have gone astray," he saith, "like a sheep that is lost: O seek" Thy servant, for I do not forget Thy commandments" (verse 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,(12) 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 saith, "I do not forget Thy commandments," it hath 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.(1)

PSALM 120 (119)

Ps 120)

1. The Psalm which we have just heard chanted, and have responded to with our voices, is short, and very profitable. Ye will not long toil in hearing, nor will ye toil fruitlessly in working. For it is, according to the title prefixed to it, "A song of degrees."(3) Degrees are either of ascent or of descent. But degrees, as they are used in this Psalm, are of ascending. ... There are therefore both those who ascend and those who descend on that ladder.(4) Who are they that ascend? They who progress towards the understanding of things spiritual. Who are they that descend? They who, although, as far as men may, they enjoy the comprehension of things spiritual: nevertheless, descend unto the infants, to say to them such things as they can receive, so that, after being nourished with milk, they may become fitted and strong enough to take spiritual meat. ...

2. When therefore a man hath commenced thus to order his ascent; to speak more plainly, when a Christian hath begun to think of spiritual amendment, he beginneth to suffer the tongues of adversaries. Whoever hath not yet suffered from them, hath not yet made progress; whoever suffereth them not, doth not. even endeavour to improve. Doth he wish to know what we mean? Let him at the same time experience what is reported of us. Let him begin to improve, let him begin to wish to ascend, to wish to despise earthly, fragile, temporal objects, to hold worldly happiness for nothing, to think of God alone, not to rejoice in gain, not to pine at losses, to wish even to sell all his substance, and distribute it among the poor, and to follow Christ; let us see how he suffereth the tongues of detractors and of constant opponents, and--a still greater peril--of pretended counsellors, who lead him astray from salvation. ... He then, who will ascend, first of all prayeth God against these very tongues: for he saith, "When I was in trouble, I called on the Lord; and He heard me" (verse 1). Why did He hear him? That He might now place him at the steps of ascent.

3. "Deliver my soul, O Lord, from unrighteous lips, and from a deceitful tongue" (verse 2). What is a deceitful tongue? A treacherous tongue, one that hath the semblance of counsel, and the bane of real mischief. Such are those who say, And wilt thou do this, that nobody doth? Wilt thou be the only Christian? ... Some deter by dissuasion, others discourage yet more by their praise. For since such is the life that hath for some time been diffused over the world, so great is the authority of Christ, that not even a pagan ventureth to blame Christ.(5) He who cannot be censured is read. They cannot contradict Christ, they cannot contradict the Gospel, Christ cannot be censured; the deceitful tongue turneth itself to praise as an hindrance. If thou praisest, exhort. Why dost thou discourage with thy praise? ... Thou turnest thyself to another mode of dissuasion, that by false praise thou mayest turn me away from true praise;(6) nay, that by praising Christ thou mayest keep me away from Christ, saying, What is this? Behold these men have done this: thou, perhaps, wilt not be able: thou beginnest to ascend, thou fallest. It seemeth to warn thee: it is the serpent, it is the deceitful tongue, it hath poison. Pray against it, if thou wishest to ascend.

4. And thy Lord saith unto thee, "What shall be given thee, or what shall be set before thee, against the deceitful tongue?" (verse 3). What shall be given thee, that is, as a weapon to oppose to the deceitful tongue, to guard thyself against the deceitful tongue? "Or what shall be set before thee?" He asketh to try thee: for He will answer His own question. For He answers following up his own inquiry, "even sharp arrows of the Mighty One, with coals that desolate, or that lay waste" (verse 4). They that desolate, or that lay waste (for it is variously written in different copies), are the same, because by laying waste, as ye may observe, they easily lead unto desolation. What are these coals? First, beloved brethren, understand what are arrows. The "sharp arrows of the Mighty One," are the words of God. ... What then are the "coals that lay waste?" It is not enough to plead with words against a deceitful tongue and unrighteous lips: it is not enough to plead with words; we must plead with examples also. ... The word coals, then, is used to express the examples of many sinners converted to the Lord. Thou hearest men wonder, and say, I knew that man, how addicted he was to drinking, what a villain, what a lover of the circus, or of the amphitheatre, what a cheat: now how he serveth God, how innocent he hath become! Wonder not; he is a live coal. Thou rejoicest that he is alive, whom thou wast mourning as dead. But when thou praisest the living, if thou knowest how to praise, apply him to the dead, that he may be inflamed; whosoever is still slow to follow God, apply to him the coal which was extinguished, and have the arrow of God's word, and the coal that layeth waste, that thou mayest meet the deceitful tongue and the lying lips.

5. "Alas, that my sojourning is become far off!" (verse 5). It hath departed far from Thee: my pilgrimage hath become a far one. I have not yet reached that country, where I shall live with no wicked person; I have not yet reached that company of Angels, where I shall not fear offences. But why am I not as yet there? Because sojourning is pilgrimage. He is called a sojourner who dwells in a foreign land, not in his own country. And when is it far off? Sometimes, my brethren, when a man goeth abroad, he liveth among better persons, than he would perhaps live with in his own country: but it is not thus, when we go afar from that heavenly Jerusalem. For a man changeth his country, and this foreign sojourn is sometimes good for him; in travelling he findeth faithful friends, whom he could not find in his own country. He had enemies, so that he was driven from his country; and when he travelled, he found what he had not in his country. Such is not that country Jerusalem, where all are good: whoever travelleth away from thence, is among the evil; nor can he depart from the wicked, save when he shall return to the company of Angels, so as to be where he was before he travelled. There all are righteous and holy, who enjoy the word of God without reading, without letters: for what is written to us through pages,(1) they perceive there through the Face of God. What a country! A great country indeed, and wretched are the wanderers from that country.

6. But what he saith, "My pilgrimage hath been made distant," are the words of those, that is, of the Church herself, who toileth on this earth. It is her voice, which crieth out from the ends of the earth in another Psalm, saying, "From the ends of the earth have I cried unto Thee.(2) ... Where then doth he groan, and among whom doth he dwell? "I have had my habitation among the tents of Kedar." Since this is a Hebrew word, beyond doubt ye have not understood it. What meaneth, "I have had my habitation among the tents of Kedar"? "Kedar," as far as we remember of the interpretation of Hebrew words, signifieth darkness. "Kedar" rendered into Latin is called tenebrae. Now ye know that Abraham had two sons, whom indeed the Apostle mentioneth,(3) and declareth them to have been types of the two covenants. ... Ishmael therefore was in darkness, Isaac in light. Whoever here also seek earthly felicity in the Church, from God, shall belong to Ishmael. These are the very persons who gainsay the spiritual ones who are progressing, and detract from them, and have deceitful tongues and unrighteous lips. Against these the Psalmist, when ascending, prayed, and hot coals that lay waste, and swift and sharp arrows of the Mighty One, were given him for his defence. For among these he still liveth, until the whole floor be winnowed: he therefore said, "I have dwelt among the tents of Kedar." The tents of Ishmael are called those of Kedar. Thus the book of Genesis hath it: thus it hath, that Kedar belongeth unto Ishmael.(4) Isaac therefore is with Ishmael: that is, they who belong unto Isaac, live among those who belong unto Ishmael.(5) These wish to rise above, those wish to press them downwards: these wish to fly unto God, those endeavour to pluck their wings. ...

7. "My soul hath wandered much" (verse 6). Lest thou shouldest understand bodily wandering, he hath said that the soul wandered. The body wandereth in places, the soul wandereth in its affections. If thou love the earth, thou wanderest from God: if thou lovest God, thou risest unto God. Let us be exercised in the love of God, and of our neighbour, that we may return unto charity. If we fall towards the earth, we wither and decay. But one descended unto this one who had fallen, in order that he might arise. Speaking of the time of his wandering, he said that he wandered in the tents of Kedar. Wherefore? Because "my soul hath wandered much." He wandereth there where he ascendeth. He wandereth not in the body, he riseth not in the body. But wherein doth he ascend? "The ascent," he saith, "is in the heart."(6)

8. "With them that hated peace, I was peaceful" (verse 7). But howsoever ye may hear, most beloved brethren, ye will not be able to prove how truly ye sing, unless ye have begun to do that which ye sing. How much soever I say this, in whatsoever ways I may expound it, in whatsoever words I may turn it, it entereth not into the heart of him in whom its operation is not. Begin to act, and see what we speak. Then tears flow forth at each word, then the Psalm is sung, and the heart doeth what is sung in the Psalm. ... Who are they who hate peace? They who tear asunder unity. For had they not hated peace, they would have abode in unity. But they separated themselves, forsooth on this account, that they might be righteous, that they might not have the ungodly mixed with them. These words are either ours or theirs: decide whose. The Catholic Church saith, Unity must not be lost, the Church of God must not be cut off.(1) God will judge afterwards of the wicked and the good. ... This we also say: Love ye peace, love ye Christ. For if they, love peace, they love Christ. When therefore we say, Love ye peace, we say this, Love ye Christ. Wherefore? For the Apostle saith of Christ, "He is our peace, who hath made both one."(2) If Christ is therefore peace, because He hath made both one: why have ye made two of one? How then are ye peace-makers, if, when Christ maketh one of two, ye make two of one? But since we say these things, we are peace-makers with them that hate peace; and yet they who hate peace, when we spake to them, made war on us for nought.


Ps 121)

1. ... Let them "lift up their eyes to the hills whence cometh their help" (verse 1). What meaneth, The hills have been lightened? The San of righteousness hath already risen, the Gospel hath been already preached by the Apostles, the Scriptures have been preached, all the mysteries have been laid open, the veil hath been rent, the secret place of the temple hath been revealed: let them now at length lift their eyes up to the hills, whence their help cometh. ... "Of His fulness have all we received,"(4) he saith. Thy help therefore is from Him, of whose fulness the hills received, not from the hills;(5) towards which,(6) nevertheless, save thou lift thine eyes through the Scriptures, thou wilt not approach, so as to be lighted by Him.(7)

2. Sing therefore what followeth; if thou wish to hear how thou mayest most securely set thy feet on the steps, so that thou mayest not be fatigued in that ascent, nor stumble and fall: pray in these words: "Suffer not my foot to be moved!" (verse 3). Whereby are feet moved; whereby was the foot of him who was in Paradise moved? But first consider whereby the feet of him who was among the Angels were moved: who when his feet were moved fell, and from an Angel became a devil: for when his feet were moved he fell. Seek whereby he fell: he fell through pride. Nothing then moveth the feet, save pride: nothing moveth the feet to a fall, save pride. Charity moveth them to walk and to improve and to ascend; pride moveth them to fall. ... Rightly therefore the Psalmist, hearing how he may ascend and may not fall, prayeth unto God that he may profit from the vale of misery, and may not fail in the swelling of pride, in these words, "Suffer not my feet to be moved!" And He replieth unto him, "Let him that keepeth thee not sleep." Attend, my beloved. It is as if one thought were expressed in two sentences; the man while ascending and singing "the song of degrees," saith, "Suffer not my foot to be moved:" and it is as if God answered, Thou sayest unto Me, Let not my feet be moved: say also," Let Him that keepeth thee not sleep," and thy foot shall not be moved.

3. Choose for thyself Him, who will neither sleep nor slumber, and thy foot shall not be moved. God is never asleep: if thou dost wish to have a keeper who never sleepeth, choose God for thy keeper. "Suffer not my feet to be moved," thou sayest: well, very well: but He also saith unto thee, "Let not him that keepeth thee slumber." Thou perhaps wast about to turn thyself unto men as thy keepers, and to say, whom shall I find who will not sleep? what man will not slumber? whom do I find? whither shall I go? whither shall I return? The Psalmist telleth thee: "He that keepeth Israel, shall neither slumber nor sleep" (verse 4). Dost thou wish to have a keeper who neither slumbereth nor sleepeth? Behold, "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep:" for Christ keepeth Israel. Be thou then Israel. What meaneth Israel? It is interpreted, Seeing God. And how is God seen? First by faith: afterwards by sight. If thou canst not as yet see Him by sight, see Him by faith. ... Who is there, who will neither slumber nor sleep? when thou seekest among men, thou art deceived; thou wilt never find one. Trust not then in any man: every man slumbereth, and will sleep. When doth he slumber? When he beareth the flesh of weakness. When will he sleep? When he is dead. Trust not then in man. A mortal may slumber, he sleepeth in death. Seek not a keeper among men.

4. And who, thou askest, shall help me, save He who slumbereth not, nor sleepeth? Hear what followeth: "The Lord Himself is thy keeper" (verse 5). It is not therefore man, that slumbereth and sleepeth, but the Lord, that keepeth thee. How doth He keep thee? "The Lord is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand." ... It seemeth to me to have a hidden sense: otherwise he would have simply said, without qualification, "The Lord will keep thee," without adding," on thy right hand." For how? Doth God keep our right hand, and not our left? Did He not create the whole of us? Did not He who made our right hand, make our left hand also? Finally, if it pleased Him to speak of the right hand alone, why said He, "on the hand of thy right hand," and not at once "upon thy right hand"? Why should He say this, unless He were keeping somewhat here hidden for us to arrive at by knocking? For He would either say, "The Lord shall keep thee," and add no more; or if He would add the right hand, "The Lord shall keep thee upon thy right hand;" or at least, as He added "hand," He would say, "The Lord shall keep thee upon thy hand, even thy right hand,"(1) not "upon the hand of thy right hand." ...

5. I ask you, how ye interpret what is said in the Gospel, "Let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth"?(2) For if ye understand this, ye will discover what is your right hand, and what is your left: at the same time ye will also understand that God made both hands, the left and the right; yet the left ought not to know what the right doeth. By our left hand is meant all that we have in a temporal way; by our right hand is meant, whatever our Lord promiseth us that is immutable and eternal. But if He who will give everlasting life, Himself also consoleth our present life by these temporal blessings, He hath Himself made our right hand and our left. ...

6. Let us now come to this verse of the Psalm: "The Lord is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand" (verse 5). By hand he meaneth power. How do we prove this? Because the power of God also is styled the hand of God. ... Whereof John saith, "He gave unto them power to become the sons of God."(3) Whence hast thou received this power? "To them," he saith, "that believe in His Name." If then thou believest, this very power is given thee, to be among the sons of God. But to be among the sons of God, is to belong to the right hand. Thy faith therefore is the hand of thy right hand: that is, the power that is given thee, to be among the sons of God, is the hand of thy right hand. ...

7. "May the Lord shield thee upon the hand of thy right hand" (verse 6). I have said, and I believe ye have recognised it. For had ye not recognised it, and that from the Scriptures, ye would not signify your understanding of it by your voices.(4) Since then ye have understood, brethren, consider what followeth; wherefore the Lord shieldeth thee "upon the hand of thy right hand," that is, in thy faith, wherein we have received "power to become the sons of God," and to be on His right hand: wherefore should God shield us? On account of offences. Whence come offences? Offences are to be feared from two quarters, for there are two precepts upon which the whole Law hangeth and the Prophets, the love of God and of our neighbour.(5) The Church is loved for the sake of our neighbour, but God for the sake of God. Of God, is understood the sun figuratively: of the Church, is understood the moon figuratively. Whoever can err, so as to think otherwise of God than he ought, believing not the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost to be of one Substance, has been deceived by the cunning of heretics, chiefly of the Arians. If he hath believed anything less in the Son or in the Holy Spirit than in the Father, he hath suffered an offence in God; he is scorched by the sun. Whoever again believeth that the Church existeth in one province only,(6) and not that she is diffused over the whole world, and whoso believeth them that say, "Lo here," and "Lo there, is Christ,"(7) as ye but now heard when the Gospel was being read; since He who gave so great a price, purchased the whole world: he is offended, so to speak, in his neighbour, and is burnt by the moon. Whoever therefore erreth in the very Substance of Truth, is burnt by the sun, and is burnt through the day; because he erreth in Wisdom itself. ... God therefore hath made one sun, which riseth upon the good and the evil, that sun which the good and the evil see; but that Sun is another one, not created, not born, through whom all things were made;(8) where is the intelligence of the Immutable Truth: of this the ungodly say, "the Sun rose not upon us."(9) Whosoever erreth not in Wisdom itself, is not burnt by the sun. Whosoever erreth not in the Church, and in the Lord's Flesh, and in those things which were done for us in time, is not burnt by the moon. But every man although he believeth in Christ, erreth either in this or that respect, unless what is here prayed for, "The Lord is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand," is realized in him. He goeth on to say, "So that the sun shall not burn thee by day, nor the moon by night" (verse 6). Thy defence, therefore, is upon the hand of thy right hand for this reason, that the sun may not burn thee by day, nor the moon by night. Understand hence, brethren, that it is spoken figuratively. For, in truth, if we think of the visible sun, it burneth by day: doth the moon burn by night? But what is burning? Offence. Hear the Apostle's words: "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?"(1)

8. "For the Lord shall preserve thee from all evil" (verse 7). From offences in the sun, from offences in the moon, from all evil shall He preserve thee, who is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand, who will not sleep nor slumber. And for what reason? Because we are amid temptations: "The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil. The Lord preserve thy soul:" even thy very soul. "The Lord preserve thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth for evermore" (verse 8). Not thy body; for the Martyrs were consumed in the body: but "the Lord preserve thy soul;" for the Martyrs yielded not up their souls. The persecutors raged against Crispina,(2) whose birthday we are to-day celebrating; they were raging against a rich and delicate woman: but she was strong, for the Lord was her defence upon the hand of her right hand. He was her Keeper. Is there any one in Africa, my brethren, who knoweth her not? For she was most illustrious, noble in birth, abounding in wealth: but all these things were in her left hand, beneath her head. An enemy advanced to strike her head, and the left hand was presented to him, which was under her head. Her head was above, the right hand embraced her from above.(3) ...

Augustin on Psalms 11930