Augustin on Psalms 11911
31. In this great Psalm there cometh next in order that which, with the Lord's help, we must consider and treat of. "Set a law for me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes, and I shall seek it alway" (verse 33). ...
35. Why doth this man still pray for a law to be laid down for him; which, if it had not been laid down for him, he could not have run the way of God's commandments in the breadth of his heart? But since one speaketh who is growing in grace, and who knoweth that it is God's gift that he profiteth in grace; what else doth he pray, when he prayeth that a law may be laid down for him, save that he may profit more and more? As, if thou holdest a full cup, and givest it to a thirsty man; he both exhausts it by drinking it, and prayeth for it by still longing for it. ...
33. But what meaneth, "Evermore "? ... Doth "evermore" mean as long as we live here, because we progress in grace so long; but after this life, he who was in a good course of improvement here, is made perfect there? Here the law of God is examined into, as long as we progress in it, both by knowing it and by loving it: but there its fulness abideth for our enjoyment, not for our examination. Thus also is this spoken, "Seek His face evermore."' Where, evermore, save here? For we shall not there also seek the face of God, when "we shall see face to face."' Or if that which is loved without a change of affection is rightly said to be sought after, and our only object is, that it be not lost, we shall indeed evermore seek the law of God, that is, the truth of God: for in this very Psalm it is said, "And Thy law is the truth."(3) It is now sought, that it may be held fast; it will then be held fast that it may not be lost. ...
34. "Give me understanding, and I shall search Thy law, yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart" (verse 34). For when each man hath searched the law, and searched its deep things, in which its whole meaning doth consist; he ought indeed to love God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind; and his neighbour as himself. "For on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."(4) This he seemeth to have promised, when he said, "Yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart."
35. But since he hath no power to do even this, save he be aided by Him who commandeth him to do what He commandeth, "Make me," he addeth, "to go in the path of Thy commandments, for therein is my desire" (verse 35 ). My desire is powerless, unless Thou Thyself makest me to go where I desire. And this is surely the very path, that is, the path of God's commandments, which he had already said that he had run, when his heart was enlarged by the Lord. And this he calleth a "path," because "the way is narrow which leadeth unto life;"(5) and since it is narrow, we cannot run therein save with a heart enlarged. ...
36. He next saith, "Incline mine heart unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness" (verse 36). This then he prayeth, that he may profit in the will itself.(6) ... But the Apostle saith, "Avarice is a root of all evils."(7) But in the Greek, whence these words have been rendered into our tongue, the word used by the Apostle is not pleonexia, which occurs in this passage of the Psalms; but Filarguria, by which is signified "love of money." But the Apostle must be understood to have meant genus by species when he used this word, that is, to have meant avarice universally and generally by love of money, which is truly the root of all evils.(8) ... If therefore our heart be not inclined to covetousness, we fear God only for God's sake, so that He is the only reward of our serving Him. Let us love Him in Himself, let us love Him in ourselves, Him in our neighbours whom we love as ourselves, whether they have Him, or in order that they may have Him. ...
37. The next words in the Psalm which we have undertaken to expound are, "O turn away mine eyes, lest they behold vanity: and quicken Thou me in Thy way" (verse 37). Vanity and truth are directly contrary to one another. The desires of this world are vanity: but Christ, who freeth us from the world, is truth. He is the way, too, wherein this man wisheth to be quickened, for He is also the life: "I am the way, the truth, and the life,"(9) are His own words.
38. ... He prayeth that those eyes wherewith we consider on what account we do what we do, may be turned away that they behold not vanity; that is, that he may not look to vanity, as his motive, when he doeth anything good. In this vanity the first place is held by the love of men's praise, on account of which many great deeds have been wrought by those who are styled great in this world, and who have been much praised in heathen states, seeking glory not with God, but among men, and on account of this living in appearance prudently, courageously, temperately, and righteously; and when they have reached this they have reached their reward: vain men, and vain reward.(1) ... Moreover, if it be a vain thing to do good works for the sake of men's praises, how much more vain for the sake of getting money, or increasing it, or retaining it, and any other temporal advantage, which cometh unto us from without? Since "all things are vanity: what is man's abundance, with all his toil, wherein he laboureth under the sun?"(2) For our temporal welfare itself finally we ought not to do our good works, but rather for the sake of that everlasting welfare which we hope for, where we may enjoy an unchangeable good, which we shall have from God, nay, what God Himself is unto us. For if God's Saints were to do good works for the sake of this temporal welfare, never would the martyrs of Christ achieve a good work of confession in the loss of this same welfare. ...
39. "O stablish Thy word in Thy servant, that I may fear Thee" (verse 38). And what else is this than, Grant unto me that I may do according to what Thou sayest? For the word of God is not stablished in those who remove it in themselves by acting contrary to it; but it is stablished in those in whom it is immoveable. God therefore stablisheth His word, that they may fear Him, in those unto whom He giveth the spirit of the fear of Him; not that fear of which the Apostle saith, "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;"(3) for "perfect love casteth out" this "fear,"(4) but that fear which the Prophet calleth "the spirit of the fear of the Lord;"(5) that fear which "is pure, and endureth for ever;"(6) that fear which feareth to offend Him whom it loveth.
40. "Take away my reproach which I have suspected, for Thy judgments are sweet" (verse 39). Who is he who suspected his own reproach, and who doth not know his own reproach better than that of his neighbour? For a man may rather suspect another's than his own; since he knoweth not that which he suspecteth; but in each one's own reproach there is not suspicion for him, but knowledge, wherein conscience speaketh. What then mean the words, "the rebuke which I have suspected"? The meaning of them must be derived from the former verse; since as long as a man doth not turn away his eyes lest they behold vanity, he suspecteth in others what is going on in himself; so that he believeth another to worship God, or do good works, from the same motive as himself. For men can see what we do, but with a view to what end we act, is hidden. ...
41. "Behold, I have coveted Thy commandments: O quicken Thou me in Thy righteousness" (verse 40). Behold, I have coveted to love Thee with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and my neighbour as myself, but, "O quicken Thou me" not in my own, but "in Thy righteousness," that is, fill me with that love which I have longed for. Aid me that I may do that which Thou chargest me: Thyself give what Thou dost command. "O quicken Thou me in Thy righteousness:" for in myself I had that which would cause my death: but I find not save in Thee whence I may live. Christ is Thy righteousness, "Who of God is made unto us wisdom," etc.(7) And in Him I find Thy commandments, which I have coveted, that in Thy righteousness, that is, in Him, Thou mayest quicken me. For the Word Himself is God; and "the Word was made flesh,"(8) that He Himself also might be my neighbour.
42. "And let Thy loving mercy come also unto us, O Lord" (verse 41). This sentence seems annexed to the foregoing: for he doth not say, Let it come unto me, but, "And let it come unto me." ... What then doth he here pray for, save that through His loving mercy who commanded, he may perform the commandments which he hath coveted? For he explaineth in some degree what he meant by adding, "even Thy salvation, according to Thy word:" that is, according to Thy promise. Whence the Apostle desireth us to be understood as the children of promise:(9) that we may not imagine that what we are is our own work, but refer the whole to the grace of God. ... Christ Himself is the Salvation of God, so that the whole body of Christ may say, "By the grace of God I am what I am."(10)
43. "And so shall I make answer," he saith, "to them that reproach me with the word" (verse 42). It is doubtful whether it be "reproach me with a word;" or, "I will answer with a word;" but either signifieth Christ. They to whom Christ crucified is a stumbling-block or foolishness," reproach us with Him; ignorant that "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt in us;"(8) the Word which "was in the beginning," and "was with God, and was God."(12) But although they may not reproach us with the Word which is unknown unto them, because His Divinity is not known unto those by whom His weakness on the Cross is despised; let us nevertheless make answer of the Word, and let us not be terrified or confounded by their reproaches. For "if they had known" the Word, "they would never have crucified the Lord of glory."(1) ... Therefore, when the Psalmist had said, "I will make answer unto them that reproach me with the word:" he at once addeth, "For my trust is in Thy words," which meaneth exactly, in Thy promises.
44. "O take not the word of Thy truth away out of my mouth even exceedingly" (verse 43). He saith, out of my mouth, because the unity of the body is speaking, among whose members those also are counted who failed at the hour by denying, but by penitence afterwards came again to life, or even, by renewing their confession, received the palm of martyrdom, which they had lost. The word of truth, therefore, was not "even exceedingly," or, as some copies have it, even every way, that is not altogether taken from the mouth of Peter, in whom was the type of the Church; because although he denied for the hour, being disturbed with fear, yet by weeping he was restored,(2) and by confessing was afterwards crowned. The whole body of Christ therefore speaketh. ... Next followeth, "for I have hoped in Thy judgments." Or, as some have more strictly rendered it from the Greek, "I have hoped more;"(3) a word which, although compounded in a somewhat unusual way, yet answers the necessary purpose of conveying the truth in a translation. ... Behold the saints and the humble in heart when they have trusted in Thee, have not failed in persecutions: behold also those who from trusting in themselves have failed, and nevertheless have belonged to the Very Body, have wept when they became known unto themselves, and have found Thy grace a more solid support, because they have lost their own pride.
45. "So shall I alway keep Thy law" (verse 44): that is, if Thou wilt not take the word of Thy truth out of my mouth. "Yea, unto age, and age of age:" he showeth what he meant by "alway." For sometimes by "alway" is meant, as long as we live here; but this is not, "unto age, and age of age."(4) For it is better thus translated than as some copies have, "to eternity, and to age of age," since they could not say, and to eternity of eternity. That law therefore should be understood, of which the Apostle saith, "Love is the fulfilling of the law."(5) For this will be kept by the saints, from whose mouth the word of truth is not taken, that is, by the Church of Christ Herself, not only during this world, that is, until this world is ended; but for another also which is styled, "world without end."(6) ... 46. "And I walked at liberty: for I sought Thy precepts" (verse 45). ... "And I walked at liberty." Here the copulative conjunction, "and," is not used as a connecting particle; for he doth not say, and I will walk, as he had said, "and I will keep Thy commandments for ever and ever:" or if this latter verse be in the optative mood, and may I keep Thy law; he doth not add, And may I walk at liberty, as if he had desired and prayed for both of these things; but he saith, "And I walked at liberty." If this conjunction were not used here, and if the sentence were introduced free from any such connection with what preceded, "I walked at liberty," the reader would never be induced by anything unusual in the mode of speech to think he should seek for some hidden sense. Doubtless, then, he wished what he hath not said to be understood, that is, that his prayers had been heard; and he then added what he had become: as if he were to say, When I prayed for these things, Thou heardest me, "And I walked at liberty;" and so with the remaining expressions which he hath added to the same purpose.
47. ... Whence after he had said, "And I walked at liberty," he subjoined the reason, "For I sought out Thy commandments." Some copies have not "commandments" but "testimonies:" but we find "commandments" in most, and especially in the Greek; and who would hesitate rather to believe this tongue, as prior to our own,(7) and that from which these Psalms have been rendered into Latin? If then we wish to know how he sought out these commandments, or how they ought to be sought out, let us consider what our good Master, who both taught and gave them, saith: "Ask, and it shall be given you."(8) And a little lower, "If ye then," He saith, "being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask Him."(9) Where He evidently showeth, that the words He had spoken, seek, ask, knock, belong only to earnestness in asking, that is, in praying. Moreover, another Evangelist saith not, He will give good things to them that ask Him; which may be understood in many ways, either as earthly or spiritual blessings; but has excluded other interpretations, and very carefully expressed what our Lord wished us to pray earnestly and instantly for, in these words: "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him."(10) ...
48. "I spoke of Thy 'testimonies also," he saith, "before kings, and I was not ashamed" (verse 46): as one who had sought and had received grace to answer those who reproached him with the word, and the promise that the word of truth should not be taken from his mouth. Struggling for this truth even unto death, not even before kings was he ashamed to speak of it. For testimonies, whereof he doth avow that he was speaking, are in Greek styled marturia, a word which we now employ instead of the Latin. The name of "Martyrs," unto whom Jesus foretold, that they should confess Him even before kings,(1) is derived hence.
49. "And I meditated," he saith, "on Thy commandments, which I have loved" (verse 47). "My hands also have I lifted up unto Thy commandments, which I have loved" (verse 48); or, as some copies read, "which I have loved exceedingly," or" too much," or" vehemently," as they have chosen to render the Greek word marturia. He then loved the commandments of God because he walked at liberty; that is, through the Holy Spirit, through whom love itself is shed abroad,(2) and enlargeth the hearts of the faithful. But he loved, both in thought and in acts. With a view to thought, he saith, "And I meditated:" as to action, "My hands also have I lifted up." But to both sentences, he hath annexed the words, "which I have loved:" for "the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart."(3) ... The following words, "And my study was in Thy statutes," relate to both. This expression most of the translators have preferred to this, "I rejoiced in," or "I talked of," a version which some have given from the Greek sFodra. For he who keepeth the commandments of God, which he loveth, both in thought and in works taking delight in them, is exercised with joy, and with a certain abundance of speech, in the judgments of God.
11915 (Ps 119,49-56)
50. "O remember Thy word unto Thy servant, wherein Thou hast given me hope" (verse 49). Is forgetfulness incident to God, as it is to man? Why then is it said unto Him, "O remember"? Although in other passages of holy Scripture this very word is used, as, "Why hast Thou forgotten me?"(4) and, "Wherefore forgettest Thou our misery?"(5) ... These expressions are borrowed from moral discourses on human affections; although God doth these things according to a fixed dispensation, with no failing memory, nor with an understanding obscured, nor with a will changed. When therefore it is said unto Him, "O remember," the desire of him who prayeth is displayed, because he asketh for what was promised; God is not admonished, as if the promise had escaped from His mind. "O remember," he saith, "Thy word unto Thy servant:" that is, fulfil Thy promise to Thy servant. "Wherein Thou hast given me hope:" that is, in Thy Word, since Thou hast promised, Thou hast caused me to hope.
51. "The same is my comfort in my humiliation" (verse 50). Namely, that hope which is given to the humble, as the Scripture saith: "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."(6) Whence also our Lord Himself saith with His own lips, "For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."(7) We well understand here that humiliation also, not whereby each man humbleth himself by confessing his sins, and by not arrogating righteousness to himself; but when each man is humbled by some tribulation or mortification which his pride deserved; or when he is exercised and proved by endurance;(8) whence a little after this Psalm saith, "Before I was troubled, I went wrong." ... And the Lord Jesus, when He foretold that this humiliation would be brought upon His disciples by their persecutors, did not leave them without a hope; but gave them one, whereby they might find comfort, in these words: "In your patience shall ye possess your souls;" and declared even of their very bodies, which might be put to death by their enemies, and seemingly be utterly annihilated, that not a hair of their heads should perish.(9) This hope was given to Christ's Body, that is, to the Church, that it might be a comfort to Her in her humiliation. ... This hope He gave in the prayer which He taught us, where He enjoined us to say, "Lead us not into temptation:. ... for He in a manner implicitly promised that He would give to His disciples in their danger that which He taught them to ask for in their prayers. And indeed this Psalm is rather to be understood to speak of this hope: "For 'Thy word hath quickened me." Which they have rendered more closely who have put not "word," but "utterance." For the Greek has logion, which is"utterance;" not logos, which is "word."
52. The next verse is, "The proud dealt exceeding wickedly: yet have I not shrinked from Thy law" (verse 51). By the proud he wished to be understood the persecutors of the pious; and he therefore added, "yet have I not shrinked from Thy laws," because the persecution of the proud attempted to force him to do this. He saith that they dealt "exceeding wickedly," because they were not only wicked themselves, but even tried to make the godly wicked. In this humiliation, that is, in this tribulation, that hope comforted him which was given in the word of God, who promised aid, that the faith of the Martyrs might not faint; and who by the presence of His Spirit gave strength to them in their toils, that they might escape from the snare of the fowlers.(1) ...
53. "For I was mindful of Thy judgments from the beginning of the world, O Lord, and received comfort" (verse 52); or, as other copies have it, "and I was exhorted," that is, t received exhortation. For either might be rendered for the Greek pareklhqhn. "From the beginning of the world," that is, from the birth of the human race, "I was mindful of Thy judgments" upon the vessels of wrath, which are fitted unto perdition: "and I received comfort," since through these also hast Thou shown the riches of Thy glory on the vessels of Thy mercy.(2)
54." Weariness hath held me; for the ungodly that forsake Thy law" (verse 53). "Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage" (verse 54). This is the low estate, in the house of mortality, of the man who so journeth away from Paradise and the Jerusalem above, whence one going down to Jericho fell among robbers; but, in consequence of the deed of mercy which was done him by that Samaritan,(3) the statutes of God became his song in the house of his pilgrimage; although he was weary for the ungodly that forsook the law of God, since he was compelled to converse with them for a season in this life, until the floor be threshed. But these two verses may be adapted to the two clauses of the preceding verse, respectively.
55." I have thought upon Thy Name, O Lord, in the night-season, and have kept Thy law" (verse 55). Night is that low estate wherein is the trouble of mortality; night is in the proud who deal exceeding wickedly; night is the fear for the ungodly who forsake the law of the Lord; night is, lastly, the house of this pilgrimage, "until the Lord come, and bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise of God."(4) In this night, therefore, man ought to remember the Name of the Lord; "So that he who glorieth, may glory in the Lord."(5)
56. Considering this, he addeth, "This was made unto me, because I sought out Thy righteousnesses" (verse 56). "Thy" righteousnesses, whereby Thou dost justify the ungodly; not mine, which never make me godly, but proud. For this man was not one of those who, "ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."(6) Others have better interpreted these righteousnesses, as those whereby men are justified for nought through God's grace, though by themselves they cannot be righteous, "justifications."(7) But what meaneth, "This was made unto me "? What is "This "? It is perhaps the law? as he had said, "and I have kept Thy law;" to which he subjoins," This was made unto me," meaning, "This was made my law." We must therefore enquire first what was thus made unto him, next in what manner, whatever it may have been, was made unto him. "This," he saith, "was made unto me:" not "This law," for the Greek, as I have said, refuseth this sense. Perhaps then, "This night:" since the preceding sentence stands thus: "I have thought upon Thy Name, O Lord, in the night-season:" and the next words are, "This was made unto me:" since then it is not the law, it must truly be the night which is thus spoken of. What then meaneth, "I had the night-season: for I have sought out Thy righteousnesses"? Rather light had come unto him than night, since he sought out the righteousnesses of God. And it is thus rightly understood, "It was made unto me," as if it were said, It became night for my sake, that is, that it might profit me. For that low estate of mortality is not absurdly understood as night, where the hearts of mortals are hid to one another, so that from such darkness innumerable and heavy temptations arise. ...
11916 (Ps 119,57-64)
57. Let us hear what followeth: "I have promised to keep Thy law." What meaneth, "My portion, O Lord: I have promised to keep Thy law" (verse 57); save because the Lord will be each man's portion then, when he hath kept His law? Consider therefore what he subjoineth: "I entreated Thy face, with my whole heart:" and saying in what manner he prayed: "O be merciful," he saith, "unto me, according to Thy word" (verse 58). And as if he had been heard and aided by' Him whom he prayed unto, "I thought," he saith, "on mine own ways, and turned away my feet unto Thy testimonies" (verse 59). That is, I turned them away from mine own ways, which displeased me, that they might follow Thy testimonies, and there might find a path. For most of the copies have not, "Because I thought," as is read in some; but only, "I thought." But what is here written, "and I turned away my feet:" some read, "Because I thought, Thou also hast turned away my feet:" that this may rather be ascribed to the grace of God, according to the Apostle's words, "For it is God who worketh in us."(8) ...
58. Lastly, when he had received this blessing of grace, he saith, "I was ready, and was not disturbed, that I may keep Thy commandments" (verse 60). Which some have rendered, "to keeping Thy commandments," some "that I should keep," others "to keep," the Greek being tou Fulaxasqai.
59. But in what manner he was ready to keep the divine commandments, he hath added, in these words: "The bands of the ungodly have surrounded me: but I have not forgotten Thy law" (verse 61). "The bands of the ungodly" are the hindrances of our enemies, whether spiritual, as the devil and his angels, or carnal the children of disobedience, in whom the devil worketh.(1) For this word peccatorum is not from peccata, "sins;" but from peccatores, "sinners." Therefore when they threaten evils, with which to alarm the righteous, that they may not suffer for the law of God, they, so to speak, entangle them with bands, with a strong and tough cord of their own. For "they draw iniquity like a long rope,"(2) and thus endeavour to entangle the holy, and sometimes are allowed so to do.
60. "At midnight," he saith, "I rise to give thanks unto Thee: because of Thy righteous judgments" (verse 62). This very fact, that the bands of the ungodly surround the righteous, is one of the righteous judgments of God. On which account the Apostle Peter saith, "The time is come when judgment must begin at the house of the Lord."(3) For he saith this of the persecutions which the Church suffered, when the bands of the ungodly surrounded them. I suppose, therefore, that by "midnight "we should understand the heavier seasons of tribulation. In which he said, "I arose:" since He did not so afflict him, as to cast him down; but tried him, so that he arose, that is, that through this very tribulation he might advance unto a bolder confession.
61. For I imagine that what followeth, "I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and keep Thy commandments" (verse 63), doth relate to the Head Himself, as it is in the Epistle which is inscribed to the Hebrews: "Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren."(4) ... Therefore Jesus Himself speaketh in this prophecy: some things in His Members and in the Unity of His Body, as if in one man diffused over the whole world, and growing up in succession throughout the roll of ages: and some things in Himself our Head. And on this account, that since He became the companion of His brethren, God of men, the Immortal of the mortal, for this reason the seed felt upon the earth, that by its death it might produce much fruit; he next addeth concerning this very fruit, "The earth, O Lord, is full of Thy mercy" (verse 64). And whence this, save when the ungodly is justified? That we may make progress in the knowledge of this grace, he addeth, "O teach me Thy righteousnesses!"
11917 (Ps 119,65-73)
62. "Thou hast dealt in sweetness with Thy servant: according unto Thy word;" or rather, "according unto Thine utterance" (verse 65). The Greek word krhstoths hath been variously rendered by our translators by the words "sweetness" and "goodness." But since sweetness may exist also in evil, since all unlawful and unclean things afford pleasure, and it may also exist in that carnal pleasure which is permitted; we ought to understand the word "sweetness," which the Greeks termed krhstoths, of spiritual blessings: for on this account our translators have preferred to term it "goodness." I think therefore that nothing else is meant by the words, "Thou hast dealt in sweetness with Thy servant," than this, Thou hast made me feel delight in that which is good. For when that which is good delighteth, it is a great gift of God. But when the good work which the law commandeth is done from a fear of punishment, not from a delight in righteousness, when God is dreaded, not loved; it is the act of a slave, not of a freeman.(5)
63. "O learn me sweetness, and understanding, and knowledge," he saith," for I have believed Thy commandments" (verse 66). He prayeth these things may be increased and perfected. For they who said, "Lord, increase our faith,"(6) had faith. And as long as we live in this world, these are the words of those who are making progress. But he addeth, "understanding," or, as most copies read, "discipline." Now the word discipline, for which the Greeks use padeia is employed in Scripture, where instruction through tribulation is to be understood: according to the words, "Whom the Lord loveth He disciplineth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."(7) In the literature of the Church this is usually called discipline. For this word, padeia used in the Greek in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the Latin translator saith, "No discipline for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous," etc.(9) He therefore toward whom the Lord dealeth in sweetness, that is, he in whom He mercifully inspires delight in that which is good, ought to pray instantly, that this gift may be so increased unto him, that he may not only despise all other delights in comparison with it, but also that he may endure any amount of sufferings for its sake. Thus is discipline health-fully added to sweetness. This discipline ought not to be desired, and prayed for, for a small measure of grace and goodness, that is, holy love; but for so great, as may not be extinguished by the weight of the chastening: ... so much in fact as to enable him to endure with the utmost patience the discipline. In the third place is mentioned knowledge; since, if knowledge in its greatness outstrips the increase of love, it doth not edify, but "puffeth up."(1) ...
64. But in that he saith, not, Give unto me; but, "O learn me;" how is the sweetness taught, if it be not given? Since many know what doth not delight them, and find no sweetness in things of which they have knowledge. For sweetness cannot be learnt, unless it please. Also discipline, which signifieth the tribulation which chasteneth, is learnt by receiving; that is, not by hearing, or reading, or thinking, but by feeling. ...
65. He addeth," for I have believed Thy commandments," and herein we may justly enquire, why he said not, I obeyed, rather than, I believed. For commandments are one thing, promises another. We undertake to obey commandments, that we may deserve to receive promises. We therefore believe promises, obey commandments. ... Teach me therefore sweetness by inspiring charity, teach me discipline by giving patience, teach me knowledge by enlightening my understanding: "for I have believed Thy commandments." I have believed that Thou who art God, and who givest unto man whence Thou mayest cause him to do what Thou commandest, hast commanded these things.
66. "Before I was humbled, I went wrong; wherefore I have kept Thy word" (verse 67); or, as some have it more closely, "Thy utterance," that is, lest I should be humbled again. This is better referred to that humiliation which took place in Adam, in whom the whole human creature, as it were, being corrupted at the root, as it refused to be subject to truth, "was made subject to vanity."(2) Which it was profitable to the vessels of mercy to feel, that by throwing down pride, obedience might be loved, and misery perish, never again to return.
67. "Sweet art Thou, O Lord;" or, as many have it, "Sweet art Thou, .even Thou, O Lord" (verse 68). Some also, "Sweet art Thou," or, "Good art Thou:" as we have before treated of this word: "and in Thy sweetness teach me Thy statutes." He truly desireth to do the righteousnesses of God, since he desireth to learn them in His sweetness from Him unto whom he hath said, "Sweet art Thou, O Lord."
68. Next he saith, "The iniquity of the proud hath been multiplied upon me" (verse 69): of those, that is, whom it profited not that human nature was humbled after it went wrong. "But I will search Thy commandments with my whole heart." Howsoever, he saith, iniquity shall abound, love shall not grow cold in me.(3) He, as it were, saith this, who in His sweetness learneth the righteousnesses of God. For in proportion as the commandments of Him who aideth us are the more sweet, so much the more doth he who loveth Him search after them, that he may perform them when known, and may learn them by doing them; because they are more perfectly understood when they are performed.
69. "Their heart is curdled as milk" (verse 70). Whose, save the proud, whose iniquity he hath said hath been multiplied upon him? But he wisheth it to be understood by this word, and in this passage, that their heart hath become hard. It is used also in a good sense,(4) and is understood to mean, full of grace: for this word, some have also interpreted "curdled." ...
70. "It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me: that I might learn Thy righteousnesses" (verse 71). He hath said something kindred to this above. For by the fruit itself he showeth that it was a good thing for him to be humbled; but in the former passage he hath stated the cause also, in that he had felt beforehand that humiliation which resulted from his punishment, when he went wrong. But in these words, "Wherefore have I kept Thy word:" and again in these, "That I might learn Thy righteousnesses:" he seemeth to me to have signified, that to know these is the same thing as to keep them, to keep them the same thing as to know them. For Christ knew what He reproved; and yet He reproved sin, though it is said of Him that "He knew not sin."(5) He knew therefore by a kind of knowledge, and again He knew not by a kind of ignorance. Thus also many learn the righteousnesses of God, and learn them not.. For they know them in a certain way; and, again do not know them from a kind of ignorance, since they do them not. In this sense the Psalmist therefore is to be understood to have said, That I might learn Thy righteousnesses," meaning that kind of knowledge whereby they are performed.
71. But that this is not gained, save through love, wherein he who doeth them hath delight, on which account it is said, "In Thy sweetness teach me Thy righteousnesses:" the following verse showeth, wherein he saith, "The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver" (verse 72): so that love loveth the law of God more than avarice loveth thousands of gold and silver.
Augustin on Psalms 11911