Augustin on Psalms 125
1. This Psalm, belonging to the number of the Songs of Degrees, teacheth us, while we ascend and raise our minds unto the Lord our God in loving charity and piety, not to fix our gaze upon men who are prosperous in this world, with a happiness that is false and unstable, and altogether seductive; where they cherish nothing save pride, and their heart freezeth up against God, and is made hard against the shower of His grace, so that it beareth not fruit. ...
2. "They that put their trust in the Lord shall be even as the mount Sion: they shall not be removed for ever" (verse 1).
3. Who are these? "They shall stand fast for ever, who dwell in Jerusalem" (verse 2). If we understand this earthly Jerusalem, all who dwelt therein have been excluded by wars and by the destruction of the city: thou now seekest a Jew in the city of Jerusalem, and findest him not. Why then will "they that dwell in Jerusalem not be moved for ever," save because there is another Jerusalem, of which ye are wont to hear much? She is our mother, for whom we sigh and groan in this pilgrimage, that we may return unto her. ... They then who dwell therein "shall never be moved." But they who dwelt in that earthly Jerusalem, have been moved; first in heart, afterwards by exile. When they were moved in heart and fell, then they crucified the King of the heavenly Jerusalem herself; they were already spiritually without, and shut out of doors their very King. For they cast Him out without their city, anti crucified Him without.(1) He too cast them out of His city, that is, of the everlasting Jerusalem, the Mother of us all, who is in Heaven.
4. What is this Jerusalem? He briefly describes it. "The mountains stand around Jerusalem" (verse 2). Is it anything great, that we are in a city surrounded by mountains? Is this the whole of our happiness, that we shall have a city which mountains surround? Do we not know what mountains are? or what are mountains save swellings of the earth? Different then from these are those mountains that we love, lofty mountains, preachers of truth, whether Angels, or Apostles, or Prophets. They stand around Jerusalem; they surround her, and, as it were, form a wall for her. Of these lovely and delightful mountains Scripture constantly speaketh. ... They are the mountains of whom we sing: "I lifted up mine eyes unto the mountains, from whence my help shall come:"(2) because in this life we have help from the holy Scriptures.(3) And through the mountains that receive peace, the little hills received righteousness: for what saith he of the mountains themselves? He said not, they have peace from themselves, or they make peace, or generate peace; but, they receive peace. The Lord is the source, whence they receive peace. So therefore lift up thine eyes to the mountains for the sake of peace, that thy help may come from the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth. Again, the Holy Spirit mentioning these mountains saith this: "Thou dost light them wonderfully from Thy everlasting mountains."(4) He said not, the mountains light them: but, Thou lightest them from Thy everlasting mountains: through those mountains whom Thou hast willed to be everlasting, preaching the Gospel, Thou lighting them, not the mountains. Such then are the "mountains that stand around Jerusalem."
5. And that ye may know what sort of mountains these be that stand around Jerusalem; where Scripture hath mentioned good mountains, very rarely, and hardly, and perhaps never, doth it fail instantly to mention the Lord also, or allude to Him at the same moment, that our hopes rest not in the mountains. ... Lest thou again shouldest tarry in the mountains, he at once addeth," Even so the Lord standeth round about His people:" that thy hope might not lie in the mountains, but in Him who lighteth the mountains.(5) For when He dwelleth in the mountains, that is, in the Saints, He Himself is round about His people; and He hath Himself walled His people with a spiritual fortification, that it may not be moved for evermore. But when Scripture speaketh of evil mountains, it addeth not the Lord unto them. Such mountains, we have already told you often, signify certain mighty, but evil, souls. For ye are not to suppose, brethren, that heresies could be produced through any little souls. None save great men have been the authors of heresies; but in proportion as they were mighty, so were they evil, mountains. For they were not such mountains as would receive peace, that the hills might receive righteousness; but they received dissension from their father the devil. There were therefore mountains: beware thou fly not to such mountains. For men will come, and say unto thee, There is a great hero, there is a great man! How great was that Donatus! How great is Maximian! and a certain Photinus, what a great man he was! And Arius too, how illustrious he was! All these I have mentioned are mountains, but mountains that cause shipwreck.(6) ...
6. But love such mountains, in whom the Lord is. Then do those very mountains love thee, if thou hast not placed hope in them.(5) See, brethren, what the mountains of God are. Thence they are so called in another passage: "Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God."(1) Not their righteousness, but "Thy righteousness." Hear that great mountain the Apostle. "That I may be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ."(2) But they who have chosen to be mountains through their own righteousness, as certain Jews or Pharisees their rulers, are thus blamed: "Being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."(3) But they who have submitted themselves are exalted in such a manner as to be humble. In that they are great, they are mountains; in that they submit themselves unto God, they are valleys: and in that they have the capacity of piety, they receive the plenteousness of peace, and transmit the copious irrigation to the hills, only beware, at present, what mountains thou lovest. If thou wish to be loved by good mountains, place not thy trust even in good mountains. For how great a mountain was Paul? where is one like him found? We speak of the greatness of men. Can any one readily be found of so great grace? Nevertheless, he feared lest that bird should place trust in him: and what doth he say: "Was Paul crucified for you?"(4) But lift up your eyes unto the mountains, whence help may come unto you: for, "I have planted, Apollos hath watered:" but, your help cometh from the Lord, who hath made Heaven and earth; for, "God gave the increase."(5) "The mountains," therefore, "stand around Jerusalem." But as "the mountains stand around Jerusalem, even so standeth the Lord round about His people, from this time forth for evermore." If therefore the mountains stand around Jerusalem, and the Lord standeth round about His people, the Lord bindeth His people into one bond of love and peace, so that they who trust in the Lord, like the mount Sion, may not be moved for evermore: and this is, "from this time forth for evermore."
7. "For the Lord will not leave the rod of the ungodly upon the lot of the righteous, lest the righteous put forth their hands unto wickedness" (verse 3). At present indeed the righteous suffer in some measure, and at present the unrighteous sometimes tyrannize over the righteous. In what ways? Sometimes the unrighteous arrive at worldly honours: when they have arrived at them, and have been made either judges or kings; for God doth this for the discipline of His folk, for the discipline of His people; the honour due to their power must needs be shown them. For thus hath God ordained His Church, that every power ordained in the world may have honour, and sometimes from those who are better than those in power. For the sake of illustration I take one instance; hence calculate the grades of all powers. The primary and every day relation of authority between man and man is that between master and slave. Almost all houses have a power of this sort. There are masters, there are also slaves; these are different names, but men and men are equal names.(6) And what saith the Apostle, teaching that slaves are subject to their masters? "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh:" for there is a Master according to the Spirit. He is the true and everlasting Master; but those temporal masters are for a time only. When thou walkest in the way, when thou livest in this life, Christ doth not wish to make thee proud. It hath been thy lot to become a Christian, and to have a man for thy master: thou wast not made a Christian, that thou mightest disdain to be a servant. For when by Christ's command thou servest a man, thou servest not the man, but Him who commanded thee. He saith this also: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh."(7) Behold, he hath not made men free from being servants, but good servants from bad servants. How much do the rich owe to Christ, who orders their house for them! so that if thou hast had an unbelieving servant, suppose Christ convert him, and say not to him, Leave thy master, thou hast now known Him who is thy true Master: he perhaps is ungodly and unjust, thou art now faithful and righteous: it is unworthy that a righteous and faithful man should serve an unjust and unbelieving master. He spoke not thus unto him, but rather, Serve him: and to confirm the servant, added, Serve as I served; I before thee served the unjust. ... If the Lord of heaven and earth, through whom all things were created, served the unworthy, asked mercy for His furious persecutors, and, as it were, showed Himself as their Physician at His Advent (for physicians also, better both in art and health, serve the sick): how much more ought not a man to disdain, with his whole mind, and his whole good will, with his whole love to serve even a bad master! Behold, a better serveth an inferior, but for a season. Understand what I have said of the master and slave, to be true also of powers and kings, of all the exalted stations of this world. For sometimes they are good powers, and fear God; sometimes they fear not God. Julian was an infidel Emperor, an apostate, a wicked man, an idolater; Christian soldiers served an infidel Emperor; when they came to the cause of Christ, they acknowledged Him only who was in heaven. If he called upon them at any time to worship idols, to offer incense; they preferred God to him: but whenever he commanded them to deploy into line, to march against this or that nation, they at once obeyed. They distinguished their everlasting from their temporal master; and yet they were, for the sake of their everlasting Master, submissive to their temporal master.
8. But will it be thus always, that the ungodly have power over the righteous? It will not be so. The rod of the ungodly is felt for a season upon the lot of the righteous; but it is not left there, it will not be there for everse A time will come, when Christ, appearing in his glory, shall gather all nations before Him.(1) And thou wilt see there many slaves among the sheep, and many masters among the goats; and again many masters among the sheep, many slaves among the goats. For all slaves are not good--do not infer this from the consolation we have given to servants--nor are all masters evil, because we have thus repressed the pride of masters. There are good masters who believe, and there are evil: there are good servants who believe, and there are evil. But as long as good servants serve evil masters, let them endure for a season. "For God will not leave the rod of the ungodly upon the lot of the righteous." Why will He not? "Lest the righteous put forth their hand unto wickedness:" that the righteous may endure for a season the domination of the ungodly, and may understand that this is not for ever, but may prepare themselves to possess their everlasting heritage. ...
9. And he therefore addeth, "Do well, O Lord, unto those that are good and true of heart" (verse 4). They who are fight in heart, of whom I was speaking a little before,--they who follow the will of God, not their own will,--reflect upon this. But they who wish to follow God, allow Him to go before, and themselves to follow; not themselves to go before, and Him to follow; and in all things they find Him good, whether chastening, or consoling, or exercising, or crowning, or cleansing, or enlightening; as the Apostle saith, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God."(2)
10. Whence the Psalmist at once addeth: "As for such as turn aside, the Lord shall lead them forth unto strangling with the workers of unrighteousness" (verse 5): that is, those whose deeds they have imitated; because they took delight in their present pleasures, and did not believe in their punishments to come. What then shall they have, who are righteous in heart, and who turn not back? Let us now come to the heritage itself, brethren, for we are sons. What shall we possess? What is our heritage? what is our country: what is it called? Peace. In this we salute you, this we announce to you, this the mountains receive, and the little hills receive as righteousness.(3) Peace is Christ: "for He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us."(4) Since we are sons, we shall have an inheritance. And what shall this inheritance be called, but peace? And consider that they who love not peace are disinherited. Now they who divide unity, love not peace. Peace is the possession of the pious, the possession of heirs. And who are heirs? Sons. ... Since then Christ the Son of God is peace, He therefore came to gather together His own, and to separate them from the wicked. From what wicked men? From those who hate Jerusalem, who hate peace, who wish to tear unity asunder, who believe not peace, who preach a false peace to the people, and have it not. To whom answer is made, when they say,(5) "Peace be with you," "And with thy spirit:" but they speak falsely, and they hear falsely. Unto whom do they say, Peace be with you? To those whom they separate from the peace of the whole earth. And unto whom is it said, "And with thy spirit"? To those who embrace dissensions, and who hate peace. For if peace were in their spirit, would they not love unity, and leave dissensions? Speaking then false words, they hear false words. Let us speak true words, and hear true words. Let us be Israel, and let us embrace peace; for Jerusalem is a vision of peace, and we are Israel, "and peace is upon Israel."
1. ... How man had come into captivity, let us ask the Apostle Paul. ... For he saith: "For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin."(7) Behold whence we became captives; because we were sold trader sin. Who sold us? We ourselves, who consented to the seducer. We could sell ourselves; we could not redeem ourselves. We sold ourselves by consent of sin, we are redeemed in the faith of righteousness. For innocent blood was given for us, that we might be redeemed. Whatsoever blood he shed in persecuting the righteous, what kind of blood did he shed? Righteous men's blood, indeed, he shed; they were Prophets, righteous men, our fathers, and Martyrs. Whose blood he shed, yet all coming of the offspring of sin. One blood he shed of Him who was not justified,(8) but born righteous: by shedding that blood, he lost those whom he held. For they for whom innocent blood was given were redeemed, and, turned back from their captivity, they sing this Psalm.
2. "When the Lord turned back the captivity of Sion, we became as those that are comforted" (verse 1). He meant by this to say, we became joyful. When? "When the Lord turned back the captivity of Sion." What is Sion? Jerusalem, the same is also the eternal Sion. How is Sion eternal, how is Sion captive? In angels eternal, in men captive. For not all the citizens of that city are captives, but those who are away from thence, they are captives. Man was a citizen of Jerusalem, but sold under sin he became a pilgrim. Of his progeny was born the human race, and the captivity of Sion filled all lands. And how is this captivity of Sion a shadow of that Jerusalem? The shadow of that Sion, which was granted to the Jews, in an image, in a figure, was in captivity in Babylonia, and after seventy years that people turned back to its own city.(1) ... But when all time is past, then we return to our country, as after seventy years that people returned from the Babylonish captivity, for Babylon is this world; since Babylon is interpreted "confusion." ... So then this whole life of human affairs is confusion, which belongeth not unto God. In this confusion, in this Babylonish land, Sion is held captive. But "the Lord hath turned back the captivity of Sion." "And we became," he saith, "as those that are comforted." That is, we rejoiced as receiving consolation. Consolation is not save for the unhappy, consolation is not save for them that groan, that mourn. Wherefore, "as those that are comforted," except because we are still mourning? We mourn for our present lot, we are comforted in hope: when the present is passed by, of our mourning will come everlasting joy, when there will be no need of consolation, because we shall be wounded with no distress. But wherefore saith he "as" those that are comforted, and saith not comforted? This word "as," is not always put for likeness: when we say "As," it sometimes refers to the actual case, sometimes to likeness: here it is with reference to the actual case. ... Walk therefore in Christ, and sing rejoicing, sing as one that is comforted; because He went before thee who hath commanded thee to follow Him.
3. "Then was our mouth filled with joy, and our tongue with exultation" (verse 2). That mouth, brethren, which we have in our body, how is it "filled with joy"? It useth not to be "filled," save with meat, or drink, or some such thing put into the mouth. Sometimes our mouth is filled; and it is more that we say. to your holiness? when we have our mouth full, we cannot speak. But we have a mouth within, that is, in the heart, whence whatsoever proceedeth, if it is evil, defileth us, if it is good, cleanseth us. For concerning this very mouth ye heard when the Gospel was read. For the Jews reproached the Lord, because His disciples ate with unwashen hands.(3) They reproached who had cleanness without; and within were full of stains. They reproached, whose righteousness was only in the eyes of men. But the Lord sought our inward cleanness, which if we have, the outside must needs be clean also. "Cleanse," He saith, "the inside," and "the outside shall be clean also."(4)
4. But let us return to what was just now read from the Gospel, relating to the verse before us, "Our mouth was filled with joy, and our tongue with delight:" for we are inquiring what mouth and what tongue. Listen, beloved brethren. The Lord was scoffed at, because His disciples ate with unwashed hands. The Lord answered them as was fitting, and said unto the crowds whom He had called unto Him, "Hear ye all, and understand: not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."(5) What is this? when He said, what goeth into the mouth, He meant only the mouth of the body. For meat goeth in, and meats defile not a man; because, "All things are clean to the clean;" and, "every creature of God is good, and none to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving."(6) ...
5. Guard the mouth of thy heart from evil, and thou wilt be innocent: the tongue of thy body will be innocent, thy hands will be innocent; even thy feet will be innocent, thy eyes, thy ears, will be innocent; all thy members will serve under righteousness, because a righteous commander hath thy heart. "Then shall they say among the heathen, the Lord hath done great things for them."
6. "Yea, the Lord hath done great things for us already, whereof we rejoice" (verse3). Consider, my brethren, if Sion doth not at present say this among the heathen, throughout the whole world; consider if men are not running unto the Church. In the whole world our redemption is received; Amen is answered. The dwellers in Jerusalem, therefore, captive, destined to return, pilgrims, sighing for their country, speak thus among the heathen. What do they say? "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we rejoice." Have they done anything for themselves? They have done ill with themselves, for they have sold themselves under sin. The Redeemer came, and did the good things for them.
7. "Turn our captivity, O Lord, as the torrents in the south" (verse 4). Consider, my brethren, what this meaneth. ... As torrents are turned in the south, so turn our captivity. In a certain passage Scripture saith, in admonishing us concerning good works, "Thy sins also shall melt away, even as the ice in fair warm weather."(1) Our sins therefore bound us. How? As the cold bindeth the water that it run not. Bound with the frost of our sins, we have frozen. But the south wind is a warm wind: when the south wind blows, the ice melts, and the torrents are filled. Now winter streams are called torrents; for filled with sudden rains they run with great force. We had therefore become frozen in captivity; our sins bound us: the south wind the Holy Spirit hath blown: our sins are forgiven us, we are released from the frost of iniquity; as the ice in fair weather, our sins are melted. Let us run unto our country, as the torrents in the south. ...
8. For the next words are, "They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy"(verse 5). In this life, which is full of tears, let us sow. What shall we sow? Good works. Works of mercy are our seeds: of which seeds the Apostle saith, "Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap if we faint not."(2) Speaking therefore of almsgiving itself, what saith he? "This I say; he that soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly."(3) He therefore who soweth plentifully, shall reap plentifully: he who soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly: and he that soweth nothing, shall reap nothing. Why do ye long for ample estates, where ye may sow plentifully? There is not a wider field on which ye can sow than Christ, who hath willed that we should sow in Himself. Your soil is the Church; sow as much as ye can. But thou hast not enough to do this. Hast thou the will?(4) As what thou hadst would be nothing, if thou hadst not a good will; so do not despond, because thou hast not, if thou hast a good will. For what dost thou sow? Mercy. And what wilt thou reap? Peace. Said the Angels, Peace on earth unto rich men? No, but, "Peace on earth unto men of a good will."(5) Zacchæus had a strong will, Zacchæus had great charity.(6) ... Did then that widow who cast her two farthings into the treasury, sow little? Nay, as much as Zacchæus. For she had narrower means, but an equal will. She gave her two mites(7) with as good a will as Zacchæus gave the half of his patrimony. If thou consider what they gave, thou wilt find their gifts different; if thou look to the source, thou wilt find them equal; she gave whatever she had, and he gave what he had. ... But if they are beggars whose profession is asking alms, in trouble they also have what to bestow upon one another. God hath not so forsaken them, but that they have wherein they may be tried by their bestowing of alms. This man cannot walk; he who can walk, lendeth his feet to the lame; he who seeth, lendeth his eyes to the blind; and he who is young and sound, lendeth his strength to the old or the infirm, carrieth him: the one is poor, the other is rich.
9. Sometimes also the rich man is found to be poor, and something is bestowed upon him by the poor. Somebody cometh to a river, so much the more delicate as he is more rich; he cannot pass over: if he were to pass over with bare limbs, he would catch cold, would be ill, would die: a poor man more active in body cometh up: he carries the rich man over; he giveth alms unto the rich. Think not therefore those only poor, who have not money. ...Thus love ye, thus be ye affectioned unto one another. Attend not solely to yourselves: but to those who are in want around you. But because these things take place in this life with troubles and cares, faint not. Ye sow in tears, ye shall reap in joy.
10. How, my brethren? When the farmer goeth forth with the plough, carrying seed, is not the wind sometimes keen, and doth not the shower sometimes deter him? He looketh to the sky, seeth it lowering, shivers with cold, nevertheless goeth forth, and soweth. For he feareth lest while he is observing the foul weather, and awaiting sunshine, the time may pass away, and he may not find anything to reap. Put not off, my brethren; sow in wintry weather, sow good works, even while ye weep; for, "They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy." They sow their seed, good will, and good works. "They went on their way and wept, casting their seed" (verse 6). Why did they weep? Because they were among the miserable, and were themselves miserable. It is better, my brethren, that no man should be miserable, than that thou shouldest do alms. ... Nevertheless, as long as there are objects for its exercise, let us not fail amid those troubles to sow our seed. Although we sow in tears, yet shall we reap in joy. For in that resurrection of the dead, each man shall receive his own sheaves, that is, the produce of his seed, the crown of joys and of delight. Then will there be a joyous triumph, when we shall laugh at death, wherein we groaned before: then shall they say to death, "O death, where is thy strife? O death, where is thy sting?"(8) But why do they now rejoice? Because. "they bring their sheaves with them."
11. In this Psalm we have chiefly exhorted you to do deeds of alms, because it is thence that we ascend; and ye see that he who ascendeth, singeth the song of steps. Remember: do not love to descend, instead of to ascend, but reflect upon your ascent: because he who descended from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among thieves.(1) ... The Samaritan as He passed by slighted us not: He healed us, He raised us upon His beast, upon His flesh; He led us to she inn, that is, the Church; He entrusted us to the host, that is, to the Apostle; He gave two pence, whereby we might be healed,(2) the love of God, and the love of our neighbour. The Apostle spent more; for, though it was allowed unto all the Apostles to receive, as Christ's soldiers, pay from Christ's subjects,(3) that Apostle, nevertheless, toiled with his own hands, and excused the subjects the maintenance owing to him.(4) All this hath already happened: if we have descended, and have been wounded; let us asscend, let us sing, and make progress, in order that we may arrive.
1. Among all the Songs entitled the Song of degrees, this Psalm hath a further addition in the title, that it is "Solomon's." For thus it is entitled, "A Song of degrees of Solomon. It hath therefore aroused our attention, and caused us to enquire the reason of this addition, "of Solomon." For it is needless to repeat explanations of the other words, Song of degrees. ... Solomon was in his time David's son, a great man, through whom many holy precepts and healthful admonitions and divine mysteries have been wrought by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. Solomon himself was a lover of women, and was rejected by God: and this lust was so great a snare unto him, that he was induced by women even to sacrifice to idols,(6) as Scripture witnesseth concerning him. But if, by his fall what was delivered through him were blotted out, it would be judged that he had himself delivered these precepts, and not that they were delivered through him. The mercy of God, therefore, and His Spirit, excellently wrought that whatever of good was declared through Solomon, might be attributed unto God; and the man's sin, unto the man. What marvel that Solomon fell among God's people? Did not Adam fall in Paradise? Did not an angel fall from heaven, and become the devil? We are thereby taught, that no hope must be placed in any among men. ... The name of Solomon is interpreted to mean peacemaker: now Christ is the True Peacemaker, of whom the Apostle saith, "He is our Peace, who hath made both one."(7) ...Since, therefore, He is the true Solomon; for that Solomon was the figure of this Peace maker, when he built the temple; that thou mayest not think he who built the house unto God was the true Solomon, Scripture showing unto thee another Solomon, thus commences this Psalm: "Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it" (verse 1). The Lord, therefore, buildeth the house, the Lord Jesus Christ buildeth His own house. Many toil in building: but, except He build, "their labour is but lost that build it." Who are they who toil in building it? All who preach the word of God in the Church, the ministers of God's mysteries. We are all running, we are all toiling, we are all building now; and before us others have run, toiled, and built: but" except the Lord build, their labour is but lost." Thus the Apostles seeing some fall bewailed these men, in that they had laboured in vain for them.(8) We, therefore, speak without, He buildeth within. We can observe with what attention ye hear us; He alone who knoweth your thoughts, knoweth what ye think. He Himself buildeth, He Himself admonisheth, He Himself openeth the understanding, He Himself kindleth your understanding unto faith; nevertheless, we also toil like workmen; but, "except the Lord build," etc.
2. But that which is the house of God is also a city. For the house of God is the people of God; for the house of God is the temple of God. ... This is Jerusalem: she hath guards: as she hath builders, labouring at her building up, so also hath she guards. To this guardianship these words of the Apostle relate: "I fear, lest by any means your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ."(9) He was guarding the Church. He kept watch, to the utmost of his power, over those over whom he was set. The Bishops also do this. For a higher place was for this reason given the Bishops, that they might be themselves the superintendents and as it were the guardians of the people. For the Greek word Episcopus, and the vernacular Superintendent, are the same; for the Bishop superintends, in that he looks overse As a higher place is assigned to the vinedresser in the charge of the vineyard, so also to the Bishops a more exalted station is alloted. And a perilous account is rendered of this high station, except we stand here with a heart that causeth us to stand beneath your feet in humility, and pray for you, that He who knoweth your minds may be Himself your keeper. Since we can see you both coming in and going out; but we are so unable to see what are the thoughts of your hearts, that we cannot even see what ye do in your houses. How then can we guard you? As men: as far as we are able, as far as we have received power. And because we guard you like men, and cannot guard you perfectly, shall ye therefore remain without a keeper? Far be it! For where is He of whom it is said, "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain?" (verse 1). We are watchful on our guard, but vain in our watchfulness, except He who seeth your thoughts guard you. He keepeth guard while ye are awake, He keepeth guard also whilst ye are asleep. For He hath once slept on the Cross, and hath risen again; He no longer sleepeth. Be ye Israel: for "the Keeper of Israel neither sleepeth nor slumbereth."(1) Yea, brethren, if we wish to be kept beneath the shadow of God's wings, let us be Israel. For we guard you in our office of stewards; but we wish to be guarded together with you. We are as it were shepherds unto you; but beneath that Shepherd we are fellow-sheep with you. We are as it were your teachers from this station; but beneath Him, the One Master, we are schoolfellows with you in this school.
3. If we wish to be guarded by Him who was humbled for our sakes, and who was exalted to keep us, let us be humble. Let no one assume anything unto himself. No man hath any good, except he hath received it from Him who alone is good. But he who chooseth to arrogate wisdom unto himself, is a fool. Let him be humble, that wisdom may come, and may enlighten him. But if, before wisdom cometh unto him, he imagine that he is wise; he riseth before light, and walketh in darkness. What doth he hear in this Psalm? "It is but lost labour that ye haste to rise up before dawn" (verse 2). What meaneth this? If ye arise before light ariseth, ye must needs lose your labour, because ye will be in the dark. Our light, Christ, hath arisen; it is good for thee to rise after Christ, not to rise before Christ. Who rise before Christ? They who choose to prefer themselves to Christ. And who are they who wish to prefer themselves to Christ? They who wish to be exalted here, where He was humble. Let them, therefore, be humble here, if they wish to be exalted there, where Christ is exalted ....The Lord recalled the sons of Zebedee to humility, and said unto them, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?"(2) I came to be humble: and are ye wishing to be exalted before Me? The way I go, do ye follow, He saith. For if ye choose to go this way where I do not go, your labour is lost, in rising before dawn. Peter too had risen before the light, when he wished to give the Lord advice, deterring Him from suffering for us .... But what did our Lord do? He caused him to rise after the Light: "Get thee behind Me, Satan."(3) He was Satan, because he wished to rise before Light. "Get thee behind Me:" that I may precede, thou mayest follow: where I go, there thou mayest go; and mayest not wish to lead Me, where thou wouldest go ....
4. And as if thou shouldest say, When shall we rise? we are ordered now to sit: when will be our rising? When the Lord's was. Look unto Him, who went before thee: for if thou heedest not Him, "it is lost labour for thee to rise before dawn." When was He raised? When He had died. Hope therefore for thine uplifting after thy death: have hope in the resurrection of the dead, because He rose again and ascended. But where did He sleep? On the Cross. When He slept on the Cross, He bore a sign, yea, He fulfilled what had been signified in Adam: for when Adam was asleep, a rib was drawn from him and Eve was created;(4) so also while the Lord slept on the Cross, His side was transfixed with a spear, and the Sacraments flowed forth,(5) whence the Church was born. For the Church the Lord's Bride was created from His side, as Eve was created from the side of Adam. But as she was made from his side no otherwise than while sleeping, so the Church was created from His side no otherwise than while dying. If therefore He rose not from the dead save when He had died, dost thou hope for exaltation save after this life? But that this Psalm might teach thee, in case thou shouldest ask, When shall I rise? perhaps before I have sat down? he addeth, "When He hath given His beloved sleep" (verse 3 ). God giveth this when His beloved have fallen asleep; then His beloved, that is, Christ's, shall rise. For all indeed shall rise, but not as His beloved. There is a resurrection of all the dead; but what saith the Apostle? "We shall all rise, but we shall not all be changed."(6) They rise unto punishment: we rise as our Lord rose, that we may follow our Head, if we are members of Him. .. Hope for such a resurrection; and for the sake of this be a Christian, not for the sake of this world's happiness. For if thou wish to be a Christian for the sake of this world's happiness, since He thy Light sought not worldly happiness; thou art wishing to rise before the light; thou must needs continue in darkness. Be changed, follow thy Light; rise where(7) He rose again: first sit down, and thus rise, "when He giveth His beloved sleep."
5. As if thou shouldest ask again, who are the beloved? "Lo, children, (he reward of the fruit of the womb, are an heritage of the Lord-(8) (verse 3). Since he saith, "fruit of the womb," these children have been born in travail. There is a certain woman, in whom what was said unto Eve," in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children," is shown after a spiritual manner. The Church beareth children, the Bride of Christ; and if she beareth them, she travaileth of them. In figure of her, Eve was called also "the Mother of all living."(1) He who said, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you,"(2) was amongst the members of her who travaileth. But she travailed not in vain, nor brought forth in vain: there will be a holy seed at the resurrection of the dead: the righteous who are at present scattered over the whole world shall abound. The Church groaneth for them, the Church travaileth of them; but in that resurrection of the dead, the offspring of the Church shall appear, pain and groaning shall pass away ....
6. "Like as the arrows in the hand of the mighty one, even so are the children of those that are shot out" (verse 4). Whence hath sprung this heritage, brethren? Whence hath sprung so numerous a heritage? Some have been shot out from the Lord's hand, as arrows, and have gone far, and have filled the whole earth, whence the Saints spring. For this is the heritage whereof it is said, "Desire of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession."(3) And how doth this possession extend and increase unto the world's uttermost parts? Because, "like as the arrows in the hand of the mighty one," etc. Arrows are shot forth from the bow, and the stronger the arm which hath sent it forth, the farther flieth the arrow. But what is stronger than the darting of the Lord? From His bow He sendeth forth His Apostles: there could not be a spot left where an arrow shot by so strong an arm would not reach; it hath reached Unto the uttermost parts of the earth. The reason it went no farther was, that there were no more of the human race beyond. For He hath such strength, that even if there were a spot beyond, whither the arrow could fly, He would dart the arrow thither. Such are the children of those who are shot forth as they that are shot forth.(4)...
7. Perhaps the Apostles themselves are styled the sons of those who have been shaken out, the sons of the Prophets. For the Prophets comprised closed and covered mysteries: they were shaken, that they might come forth thence manifestly .... Except the prophecy involved were sifted with diligence, would the concealed meanings come forth unto us? All these meanings were therefore closed before the Lord's advent. The Lord came, and shook out these hidden meanings, and they were made manifest; the Prophets were shaken out, and the Apostles were born. Since then they were born of the Prophets who had been shaken out, the Apostles are sons of those that were shaken out. They, placed as the arrows in the hand of the giant, have reached the uttermost parts of the earth ....The Apostles the sons of the Prophets have been like as the arrows in the hand of a mighty one. If He is mighty, He hath shaken them out with a mighty hand; if He hath shaken them out with a mighty hand, they whom He hath shaken forth have arrived even at the uttermost parts of the earth.
8. "Blessed is the man who hath filled his desire from them" (verse 5). Well, my brethren, who filleth his desire from them? Who loveth not the world. He who is filled with the desire of the world, hath no room for that to enter which they have preached. Pour forth what thou carriest, and become fit for that which thou hast not. That is, thou desirest riches: thou canst not fill thy desire from them: thou desirest honours upon earth, thou desirest those things which God hath given even unto beasts of burden, that is, temporal pleasure, bodily health, and the like; thou wilt not fulfil thy desire from them .... "He shall not be ashamed, when he speaketh with his enemies in the gate." Brethren, let us speak in the gate, that is, let all know what we speak. For he who chooseth not to speak in the gate, wisheth what he speaketh to be hidden, and perhaps wisheth it to be hidden for this reason, that it is evil. If he be confident, let him speak in the gate; as it is said of Wisdom, "She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city."(5) As long as they hold unto righteousness in innocency, they shall not be ashamed: this is to preach at the gate. And who is he who preacheth at the gate? He who preacheth in Christ; because Christ is the gate whereby we enter into that city.(6) ... They, therefore, who speak against Christ, are without the gate; because they seek their own honours, not those of Christ. But he who preacheth in the gate, seeketh Christ's honour, not his own: and, therefore, he who preacheth in the gate, saith, Trust not in me; for ye will not enter through me, but through the gate. While they who wish men to trust in themselves, wish them not to enter through the gate: it is no marvel if the gate be closed against them, and if they vainly knock for it to be opened.(7)
Augustin on Psalms 125