Augustin on Psalms 145
1. ...The title is, "Praise, to David himself." Praise to Christ Himself. And since He is called David, who came to us of the seed of David, yet He was our King, ruling us, and bringing us into His kingdom, therefore "Praise to David himself" is understood to mean, Praise to Christ Himself. Christ according to the flesh is David, because He is the Son of David: but according to His Divine Nature He is the Creator of David, and Lord of David. "I will exalt Thee, my God, my King; and I will bless Thy Name for the age, and age upon age" (verse 1). Ye see that the praise of God is here begun, and this praise is carried on even to the end of the Psalm. ... Now then begin to praise, if thou intendest to praise for everse He who will not praise in this transitory "age," will be silent when "age upon age" has come. But lest any one should in any otherwise also understand what he saith, "I will praise Thy Name for the age," and should seek another age, wherein to praise, he saith, "Every day will I bless Thee" (verse 2). Praise then and bless the Lord thy God every day, that when single days have passed, and there has come one day without end, thou mayest go from praise to praise, as "from strength to strength."(2) No day shall pass by, wherein I bless Thee not. And it is no wonder, if in thy day of joy thou bless the Lord. What if perchance some day of sorrow hath dawned on thee, as is natural in the circumstances of our mortal nature, as there is abundance of offences, as temptations are multiplied; what, if something sad befall thee, a man; wilt thou cease to praise God? wilt thou cease to bless thy Creator? If thou cease, thou hast lied in saying, "every day," etc. But if thou cease not, although it scent to thee to be ill with thee in the day of thy sorrow, yet in thy God it shall be well with thee. ...
2. "Great is the Lord, and very much to be praised" (verse 3). How much was he about to say? what terms was he about to seek? How vast a conception hath he included in the one word, "very much"? Imagine what thou wilt, for how can that be imagined, which cannot be contained? "He is very much to be praised. And of His Greatness there is no end;" therefore said he "very much:" lest perchance thou begin to wish to praise, and think that thou canst reach the end of His praises, whose Greatness can have no end. Think not then that He, whose Greatness has no end, can ever be enough praised by thee. Is it not then better that as He has no end, so neither should thy praise have end? His Greatness is without end; let thy praise also be without end. ...
3. For how great things besides has His boundless Goodness and illimitable Greatness made, which we do not know! When we lift the gaze of our eyes even to the heaven, and then recall it from sun, moon, and stars to the earth, and there is all this space where our sight can wander; beyond the heavens who can extend the eyesight of his mind, not to say of his flesh? So far then as His works are known to us, let us praise Him through His works.(3) "Generation and generation shall praise Thy works" (verse 4). Every generation shall praise Thy works. For perhaps every generation is meant by "generation and generation." ... Did he perchance mean to imply two generations by that repetition? For we are in this generation sons of God, we shall be in another generation sons of the Resurrection. Scripture hath called us "sons of the Resurrection;" the Resurrection itself it hath called Regeneration. "In the regeneration," it saith, "when the Son of Man shall be seated in His Majesty."(4) So also in another place; "For they shall not marry, nor be given in marriage, for they are the sons of the Resurrection." s Therefore "generation and generation shall praise Thy works. ... And they shall tell out Thine excellence." For neither shall they praise Thy works, save in order to "tell out Thine excellence." Boys at school are set to praise, and all such things are set before them to be praised, as God hath wrought: a mortal is set to praise the sun, the sky, the earth; to come to even lesser things, to praise a rose., or a laurel; all these are works of God: they are set, they are undertaken, they are praised: the works are lauded, of the Worker they are silent. I desire in the works to praise the Creator: I love not a thankless praiser. Dost thou praise what He hath made, and art silent of Him who made? In that which thou seest, what is it that thou praisest? The form, the usefulness, some virtue, some power in the things. If beauty delight thee, what is more beautiful than the Maker? If usefulness be praised, what more useful than He who made all things? If excellence be praised, what more excellent than He by whom all things were made? ...
4. "They shall speak of the magnificence of the glory of Thy Holiness, and shall record Thy wondrous deeds" (verse 5). "And the excellence of Thy fearful works shall they speak of: and Thy greatness, they shall relate it" (verse 6). "The remembrance of the abundance of Thy sweetness they shall pour forth" (verse 7): none but Thine. See whether this man, meditating on Thy works, hath turned aside from the Worker to the work: see whether he hath sunk from Him who made, to the things which He made. Of the things which He hath made, he hath made a step up to Him, not a descent from Him to them. For if thou love. these more than Him, thou wilt not have Him. And what profit is it to thee to overflow with the works, if the Worker leave thee? Truly thou shouldest love them; but love Him more, and love them for His sake. For He doth not hold out promises, without holding out threats also: if He held out no promises, there would be no encouragement; if He held out no threats, there would be no correction. They that praise Thee therefore shall "speak" also "of the excellence of Thy terrible deeds;" the excellence of that work of Thy hands which punisheth and administereth discipline, they shall speak of, they shall not be silent: for they shall not proclaim Thine everlasting kingdom, and be silent about Thine everlasting fire. For the praise of God, setting thee in the way, ought to show thee both what thou shouldest love, and what thou shouldest fear; what thou shouldest seek, and what thou shouldest shun; what thou shouldest choose, and what thou shouldest avoid. The time of choice is now, the time of receiving will be hereafter. Let then the excellence of Thy terrible things be told. Unlimited as it is, though "of Thy greatness there is no end," they shall not be silent about it. How shall they recount it, if there is no end of it? They shall recount it when they praise it; and because there is no end of it, so of His praise also there shall be no end.(1)
5. "The remembrance of the abundance of Thy sweetness they shall pour forth." O happy feasts! What shall they eat, who thus shall "pour forth"! ... So eat, that thou mayest pour forth again; so receive, that thou mayest give. Thou eatest, when thou learnest; thou pourest forth again, when thou teachest: thou eatest, when thou hearest; thou pourest forth again, when thou preachest; but that thou pourest forth, which thou hast first eaten. Finally, that most eager feaster John, to whom the very table of the Lord sufficed not, unless he leaned on the Lord's breast, and of his inmost heart drank in divine secrets; what did he pour forth? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God."(2) How is it that it sufficeth not to say, "Thy remembrance;" or, "the remembrance of Thine abundance"? Because, what availeth it if it be abundant, yet not sweet? So also it is annoying if it be sweet but too little.
6. ... By "pouring forth" this, His preachers "shall exult in His righteousness" not in their own. What then hast Thou done unto us, O Lord, whom we praise, that we should be, that we should praise, that we should "exult in Thy righteousness," that we should "utter forth the remembrance of the abundance of Thy sweetness"? Let us tell it, and, as we tell, let us praise.
7. "Merciful and pitiful is the Lord long-suffering, and very merciful (verse 8). "Sweet is the Lord to all, and His compassions reach into all His works" (verse 9). Were. He not such as this, there would be no seeking to recover us. Consider thyself: what didst thou deserve, O sinner? Despiser of God, what didst thou deserve? See if aught occur to thee but penalty, if aught occur to thee but punishment. Thou seest then what was due to thee, and what He hath given, who gave gratis. There was given pardon to the sinner; there was given the spirit of justification; there was given charity and love, wherein thou mayest do all good works; and beyond this, He will give thee also life everlasting, and fellowship with the angels: all of His mercy. ... Hear the Scripture: "I will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn, and live."(3) By these words of God, he is brought back to hope; but there is another snare to be feared, lest through this very hope he sin the more. What then didst thou also say, thou who through hope sinnest yet more? "Whensoever I turn, God will forgive me all; I will do whatsoever I will." Say not then, "To-morrow I will turn, tomorrow I will please God; and all to-day's and yesterday's deeds shall be forgiven me." Thou sayest true: God hath promised pardon to thy conversion; He hath not promised a to-morrow to thy delay.(4)
8. "Sweet is the Lord to all, and His compassions are over all His works." Why then doth He condemn? why doth He scourge? Are not they whom He condemneth, whom He scourgeth, His works? Plainly they are. And wilt thou know how "His compassions are over all His works"? Thence is that long-suffering, whereby "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good."(5) Are not "His compassions over all His works, who sendeth rain upon the just and upon the unjust"? In His long-suffering He waiteth for the sinner, saying, "Turn ye to Me, and I will turn to you."(6) Are not "His compassions over all His works"? And when He saith, "Go ye into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,"(1) this is not His compassion, but His severity. His compassion is given to His works: His severity is not over His works, but over thy works. Lastly, if thou remove thine own evil works, and there remain in thee nought but His work, His compassion will not leave thee: but if thou leavest not thy works, there will be severity over thy works, not over His works.
9. "Let all Thy works, O Lord, confess to Thee, and let Thy saints bless Thee" (verse 10). How so? Is not the earth His work? Are not the trees His work? Cattle, beasts, fish, fowl, are not they His works? Plainly they too are. And how shall these too confess to Him? I see indeed in the angels that His works confess to Him, for the angels are His works: and men are His works; and when men confess to Him, His works confess to Him; but have trees and stones the voice of confession? Yes, verily; "let all" His "works confess to" Him. What sayest thou? even the earth and the trees? ... But there ariseth the same question in regard of praise, as in regard of confession. For if earth and all things devoid of sensation therefore cannot confess, because they have no voice to confess with; neither will they be able to praise, because they have no voice to proclaim with. But do not those Three Children enumerate all things, as they walked amid the harmless flames, who had leisure not only not to fear, but even to praise God? They say to all things, heavenly and earthly, "Bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him for ever."(2) Behold how they praise. Let none think that the dumb stone or dumb animal hath reason wherewith to comprehend God. They who have thought this, have erred far from the truth. God hath ordered everything, and made everything: to some He hath given sense and understanding and immortality, as to the angels; to some He hath given sense and understanding with mortality, as to man; to some He hath given bodily sense, yet gave them not understanding, or immortality, as to cattle: to some He hath given neither sense, nor understanding, nor immortality, as to herbs, trees, stones: yet even these cannot be wanting in their kind, and by certain degrees He hath ordered His creation, from earth up to heaven, from visible to invisible, from mortal to immortal. This framework of creation, this most perfectly ordered beauty, ascending from lowest to highest, descending from highest to lowest, never broken, but tempered together of things unlike, all praiseth God. Wherefore then doth all praise God? Because when thou considerest it, and seest its beauty, thou in it praisest God. The beauty of the earth is a kind of voice of the dumb earth. ... And this which thou hast found in it, is the very voice of its confession, that thou praise the Creator. When thou hast thought on the universal beauty of this world, doth not its very beauty as it were with one voice answer thee, "I made not myself, God made me"?
10. For when Thy saints bless Thee, what say they? "They shall tell the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy Power" (verse 11). How powerful is God, who hath made the earth! how powerful is God, who hath filled the earth with good things! how powerful is God, who hath given to the animals each its own life! how powerful is God, who hath given different seeds to the womb of the earth, that they might make to spring up such various shoots, such beautiful trees! how powerful, how great is God! Do thou ask, creation answereth, and by its answer, as by the confession of the creature, thou, O saint of God, blessest God, and "talkest of His power."
11. "That they may make known to the sons of men Thy power, and the glory of the greatness of the beauty of Thy kingdom" (verse 12). Thy saints then commend "the glory of the greatness of the beauty of Thy kingdom," the glory of the greatness of its beauty. There is a certain "greatness of the beauty of Thy kingdom:" that is, Thy kingdom hath beauty, and great beauty. Since whatever hath beauty, hath beauty from Thee, how great beauty hath Thy whole kingdom! Let not the kingdom frighten us: it hath beauty also, wherewith to delight us. For what is that beauty, which the saints shall hereafter enjoy, to whom it shall be said, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, enjoy the kingdom"?(3) Whence shall they come? whither shall they come? Behold, brethren, and, if ye can, as far as ye can, think of the beauty of that kingdom which is to come; whence our prayer saith, "Thy kingdom come." For that kingdom we desire may come, that kingdom the saints proclaim to be coming. Observe this world: it is beautiful. How beautiful are earth, sea, air, heavens, stars. Do not all these frighten him who considereth them? Is not the beauty of them so conspicuous, that it seemeth as though nothing more beautiful could be found? And here, in this beauty, in this fairness almost unspeakable, here worm and mice and all creeping things of the earth live with thee, they live with thee in all this beauty. How great is the beauty of that kingdom where none but angels live with Thee! There is a greatness of a certain beauty; let it be loved before it is seen, that when it is seen, it may be retained.
12. "Thy kingdom." What kingdom mean I? "a kingdom of all ages." For the kingdom of this age too hath its own beauty, but there is not in it that greatness of beauty, such as in the "kingdom of all ages." "And Thy dominion is in every generation and generation" (verse 13). This is the repetition we noticed, signifying either every generation, or the generation which will be after this generation. "Faithful is the Lord in His words, and holy in all His works."(1) "Faithful is the Lord in His words:" for what hath He promised that He hath not given? "Faithful is the Lord in His words." Hereto there are certain things which He hath promised, and hath not given; but let Him be believed from the things which He hath given. We might well believe Him, if He only spake: He willed not that we should believe Him speaking, but that we should have His Scriptures in our hands: ... as though a kind of bond of God's, which all who pass by might read, and might keep to the path of its promise. And how great things hath He already paid in accordance with that bond! Do men hesitate to believe Him concerning the Resurrection of the dead and the Life to come, which alone now remaineth to be paid, when, if He come to reckon with the unbelievers, the unbelievers must blush? If God say to thee, "Thou hast My bond: I have promised judgment, the separation of good and bad, everlasting life for the faithful, and wilt thou not believe? There in My bond read all that I have promised, reckon with me: verily even by counting up what I have paid, thou canst believe that I shall pay what still I owe. In that bond thou hast My only-begotten Son promised, "Whom I spared not, but gave Him up for you all:"(2) reckon this then among what is paid. Read the bond: I promised therein that I would give by My Son the earnest of the Holy Spirit: reckon that as paid. I promised therein the blood and the crowns of the glorious Martyrs; let the White Mass(3) remind you that My debt has been paid. ... He setteth before the eyes of all His payment of His debts: some He hath paid in the time of our ancestors, which we saw not: some He hath paid in our times, which they saw not; throughout all generations He hath paid what was written. And what remaineth? Do men not believe Him, when He hath paid all this? What remaineth? Behold thou hast reckoned: all this He hath paid: is He become unfaithful for the few things which remain? God forbid! Wherefore? Because "the Lord is faithful in His words, and holy in all His works."
13. "The Lord strengtheneth all that are falling" (verse 14). But who are "all that are falling"? All indeed fall in a general sense, but he meaneth those who fall in a particular way. For many fall froth Him, many also fall from their own imaginations. If they had evil imaginations, they fall from them, and "God strengthened all that are falling." They who lose anything in this world, yet are holy, are as it were dishonoured in this world, from rich become poor, from honoured of low estate, yet are they God's saints; they are, as it were, falling. But "God strengtheneth." For "the just falleth seven times, and riseth again; but the wicked shall be weakened in evils."(4) When evils befall the wicked, they are weakened thereby; when evils befall the righteous, "the Lord strengtheneth all that are falling." ... "And lifteth up all those that have been cast down:" all, that is, who belong to him; for" God resisteth the proud."(5)
14. "The eyes of all hope upon Thee, and Thou givest them food in due season" (verse 15). Just as when thou refreshest a sick man in due season, when he ought to receive, then Thou givest, and what he ought to receive, that Thou givest. Sometimes then men long, and he giveth not: he who tendeth, knoweth the time to give. Wherefore say I this, brethren? Lest any one be faint, if perchance he hath not been heard, when making some righteous request of God. For when he maketh any unrighteous request, he is heard to his punishment: but when making some righteous request of God, if perchance he have not been heard, let him not be down-hearted, let him not faint, let his eyes wait for the food, which He giveth in due season. When He giveth not, He therefore giveth not, lest that which He giveth do harm.(6) ... "Thou givest them meat in due season."
15. "Thou openest Thine Hand, and fillest every living thing with blessing" (verse 16). Though sometimes Thou givest not, yet "in due season" Thou givest: Thou delayest, not deniest, and that in due season." "Righteous is the Lord in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (verse 17). Both when He smiteth and when He healeth, He is righteous, and in Him unrighteousness is not. Finally, all His saints, when set in the midst of tribulation, have first praised His righteousness, and so sought His blessings. They first have said, "What Thou doest is righteous." So did Daniel ask, and other holy men: "Righteous are Thy judgments: rightly have we suffered: deservedly have we suffered." They laid not unrighteousness to God, they laid not to Him injustice and folly. First they praised Him scourging, and so they felt Him feeding.
16. "The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him" (verse 18). Where then is that, "Then shall they call upon Me, and I will not hear them"?(1) See then what follows: "all who call upon Him in truth." For many call upon Him, but not in truth. They seek something else from Him, but seek not Himself. Why lovest thou God? "Because He hath made me whole." That is clear: it was He that made thee so. For from none else cometh health, save Him. "Because He gave me," saith another, "a rich wife, whereas I before had nothing, and one that obeyeth me." This too He gave: thou sayest true. "He gave me," saith another, "sons many and good, He gave me a household, He gave me all good things." Dost thou love Him for this? ... Therefore if God is good, who hath given thee what thou hast, how much more blessed wilt thou be when He hath given thee Himself! Thou hast desired all these things of Him: I beseech thee desire of Him Himself also. For these things are not truly sweeter than He is, nor in any way are they to be compared to Him. He then who preferreth God Himself to all the things which he has received, whereat he rejoiceth, to the things he has received, he "calleth upon God in truth." ...
17. "He will perform the will of them that fear Him" (verse 19). He will perform it, He will perform it: though He perform it not at once, yet He will perform it. Certainly if therefore thou fearest God, that thou mayest do His will, behold even He in a manner ministereth to thee; He doeth thy will. "And He shall hear their prayer, and save them." Thou seem that for this purpose the Physician hears, that He may save. When? Hear the Apostle telling thee. "For we are saved in hope: but hope which is seen is not hope: but if what we see not we hope for, then do we with patience wait for it:(2) "the salvation," that is, which Peter calleth "ready to be revealed in the last time."(3)
18. "The Lord guardeth all that love Him, and all sinners He will destroy" (verse 20). Thou seest that there is severity with Him, with whom is so great sweetness. He will save all that hope in Him, all the faithful, all that fear Him, all that call upon Him in truth: "and all sinners He will destroy." What "all sinners," save those who persevere in sin; who dare to blame God, not themselves; who daily argue against God; who despair of pardon for their sins, and from this very despair heap up their gins; or who perversely promise themselves pardon, and through this very promise depart not from their sins and impiety? The time will come for all these to be separated, and for the two divisions to be made of them, one on the right hand, the other on the left; and for the righteous to receive the everlasting Kingdom, the wicked to go into everlasting fire. Since this is so, and we have heard the blessing of the Lord, the works of the Lord, the wondrous things of the Lord, the mercies of the Lord, the severity of the Lord, His Providence over all His works, the confession of all His works; observe how He concludeth in His praise, "My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless His holy Name for ever and ever" (verse 21).
1. ... Behold the Psalm soundeth; it is the voice of some one (and that some one are ye, if ye will), of some one encouraging his soul to praise God, and saying to himself, "Praise the Lord, O my soul" (verse 1). For sometimes in the tribulations and temptations of this present life, whether we will or no, our soul is troubled; of which troubling he speaketh in another Psalm.(5) But to remove this troubling, he suggesteth joy; not as yet in reality, but in hope; and saith to it when troubled and anxious, sad and sorrowing, "Hope in God, for I will yet confess to Him." ...
2. But who saith it, and to whom saith he it? What shall we say, brethren? Is it the flesh that saith, "Praise thou the Lord, O my soul"? And can the flesh suggest good counsel to the soul? However much the flesh be conquered, and subjected as a servant to us through strength which the Lord imparteth, that it serve us entirely as a bond slave, enough for us that it hinder us not. ... For the body, inasmuch as it is the body, is even beneath the soul; and every soul, however vile, is found more excellent than the most excellent body. And let not this seem to you to be wonderful, that even any vile and sinful soul is better than any great and most surpassing body. It is better, not in deserts, but in nature. The soul indeed is sinful, is stained with certain defilements of lusts; yet gold, though rusted, is better than the most polished lead. Let your mind then run over every part of creation, and ye will see that what we are saying is not incredible, that a soul, however blameable, is yet more praiseworthy than a praiseworthy body. There are two things, a soul and a body. The soul I chide, the body I praise: the soul I chide, because it is sinful; the body I praise, because it is sound. Yet it is in its own kind that I praise the soul, and in its own kind that I blame the soul: and so in its own kind I praise the body, or blame it. If you ask me which is better, what I have blamed or what I have praised, wondrous is the answer thou wilt receive. ... So you speak of the best horse and the worst man: yet thou preferrest the man thou findest fault with to the horse thou praisest. ... The nature of the soul is more excellent than the nature of the body: it surpasseth it by far, it is a thing spiritual, incorporeal, akin to the substance of God. It is somewhat invisible, it ruleth the body, moveth the limbs, guideth the senses, prepareth thoughts, putteth forth actions, taketh in images of countless things; who is there, in short, beloved brethren, who may suffice for the praises of the soul? And yet such is the grace given to it, that this man saith, "Praise the Lord, O my soul." ... It is not the flesh that saith it. Let the body be angel-like, still it is inferior to the soul, it cannot give advice to its superior. The flesh when duly obedient is the handmaid of the soul: the soul rules, the body obeys; the soul commands, the body performs; how then can the flesh give this advice to the soul? Is it then perchance the soul herself, who saith to herself, and in a manner commandeth herself, and exhorteth and asketh herself? For through certain passions in one part of her nature she wavered; but in another part, which they call the reasonable mind, the wisdom whereby she thinks, clinging to God, and now sighing towards Him, she perceives that certain inferior parts of her are troubled by worldly emotions, and by a certain excitement of earthly desires, betake them to outward things, leaving God who is within; so she recalleth herself from things outward to inward, from lower to higher, and says, "Praise the Lord, O my soul." ... The soul itself giveth itself counsel from the light of God by the reasonable mind, whereby it conceiveth the wisdom fixed in the everlasting nature of its Author. It readeth there of somewhat to be feared, to be praised, to be loved, to be longed for, and sought after: as yet it graspeth it not, it comprehendeth it not; it is, as it were, dazzled with brightness; it has not strength to abide there. Therefore it gathers itself, as it were, into a sound state, and saith, "Praise the Lord, O my soul." ... And then the soul, weighed down, as it were, and unable to stand up as is fitting, answereth the mind, "I will praise the Lord in my life" (verse 2). What is, "in my life"? Because now I am in my death. Therefore first encourage thyself, and say, "Praise the Lord, O my soul." Thy soul answereth thee, I do praise so far as I can, slightly, poorly, weakly. Wherefore? Because, "while we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord."(1) ...
3. "In my life." Now what has it? It might answer thee, "My death." Whence, "My death"? because I am absent from the Lord. For if to cling to Him is life, to depart from Him is death. But what comforteth thee? Hope. Now thou livest in hope: in hope praise, in hope sing. Thy death is from the sadness of this life, thou livest in hope of a future life. And how wilt thou praise thy Lord? "I will sing unto my God, as long as I have my being." What sort of praise is this, "I will sing unto my God as long as I have being"? Behold, my brethren, what sort of being this will be; where there will be everlasting praise, there will be also everlasting being. Behold, now thou hast being: dost thou sing unto God as long as thou hast being? Behold, thou wast singing, and hast turned thyself away to some business, thou singest no longer, yet thou hast being: thou hast being, yet thou singest not. It may be also thy desire turneth thee to somewhat; not only dost thou not sing, but thou even offendest His ears, yet thou hast being. What praise will that be, when thou praisest as long as thou bast being? But what meaneth, "as long as I have being"? Will there be any time when he will not be? Nay, rather, that "long" will be everlasting, and therefore it will be truly "long." For whatever hath end in time, however prolonged it is, is yet not "long." ...
4. "Put not your trust in princes" (verse 3). Brethren, here we receive a mighty task; it is a voice from heaven, from above it soundeth to us. For now through some kind of weakness the soul of man, whensoever it is in tribulation here, despaireth of God, and chooseth to rely on man. Let it be said to one when set in some affliction, "There is a great man, by whom thou mayest be set free;" he smileth, he rejoiceth, he is lifted up. But if it is said to him, "God freeth thee," he is chilled, so to speak, by despair. The aid of a mortal is promised, and thou rejoicest; the aid of the Immortal is promised, and art thou sad? It is promised thee that thou shalt be freed by one who needeth to be freed with thee, and thou exultest, as at some great aid: thou art promised that Liberator, who needeth none to free Him, and thou despairest, as though it were but a fable. Woe to such thoughts: they wander far; truly there is sad and great death in them. Approach, begin to long, begin to seek and to know Him by whom thou wast made. For He will not leave His work, if He be not left by His work.
5. ... "His breath shall go forth, and he shall return to his earth: in that day shall all his thoughts perish" (verse 4). Where is swelling? where is pride? where is boasting? But perhaps he will have passed to a good place, if indeed he have passed. For I know not whither he who spake thus hath passed. For he spake in pride; and I know not whither such men pass, save that I look into another Psalm, and see that their passage is an evil one. "I beheld the wicked lifted up above the cedars of Libanus, and I passed by, and, lo, he was not; and I sought him, and his place was not found."(1) The good man, who passed by, and found not the wicked, reached a place where the wicked is not. Wherefore, brethren, let us all listen: brethren, beloved of God, let us all listen; in whatsoever tribulation, in whatsoever longing for the heavenly gift, "let us not trust in princes, nor in sons of men, in whom is no salvation." All this is mortal, fleeting, perishable. What then must we do, if we are not to hope in sons of men, nor in princes? What must we do? "Blessed is he whose Helper is the God of Jacob" (verse 5): not this man or that man; not this angel or that angel; but," blessed is he whose Helper is the God of Jacob:" for to Jacob also so great an Helper was He, that of Jacob He made him Israel. O mighty help! now he is Israel, "seeing God." While then thou art placed here, and a wanderer not yet seeing God, if thou hast the God of Jacob for thy Helper, from Jacob thou wilt become Israel, and wilt be "seeing God," and all toil and all groans shall come to an end, gnawing cares shall cease, happy praises shall succeed. "Blessed is he whose Helper is the God of Jacob;" of this Jacob. Wherefore is he happy? Meanwhile, while yet groaning in this life, "his hope is in the Lord his God." ... Who is this, "Lord his God"? ... "To us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things."(2) Therefore let Him be thy hope, even the Lord thy God; in Him let thy hope be. His hope too is in the lord his god, who worshippeth Saturn; his hope is in the lord his god, who worshippeth Neptune or Mercury; yea more, I add, who worshippeth his belly, of whom is said, "whose god is their belly."(3) The one is the god of the one, the other of the other. Who is this "blessed" one? for "his hope is in the Lord his God." But who is He? "Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them" (verse 6). My brethren, we have a great God; let us bless His holy Name, that He hath deigned to make us His possession. As yet thou seest not God; thou canst not fully love what as yet thou seest not. All that thou seest, He hath made. Thou admirest the world; why not the Maker of the world? Thou lookest up to the heavens, and art amazed: thou considerest the whole earth, and tremblest; when canst thou contain in thy thought the vastness of the sea? Look at the countless number of the stars, look at all the many kind of seeds, all the different sorts of animals, all that swimmeth in the water, creepeth on the earth, flieth in the sky, hovereth in the air; how great are all these, how beautiful, how fair, how amazing! Behold, He who made all these, is thy God. Put thy hope in Him, that thou mayest be happy. "His hope is in the Lord his God." Observe, my brethren, the mighty God, the good God, who maketh all these things. ... If he mentioned these things only, perhaps thou wouldest answer me, "God, who made heaven and earth and sea, is a great God: but doth He think of me?" It would be said to thee, "He made thee." How so? am I heaven, or am I earth, or am I sea? Surely it is plain; I am neither heaven, nor earth, nor sea: yet I am on earth. At least thou grantest me this, that thou art on earth. Hear then, that God made not only heaven and earth and sea: for He "made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them." If then He made all that is in them, He made thee also. It is too little to say, thee; the sparrow, the locust, the worm, none of these did He not make, and He careth for all. His care refers not to His commandment, for this commandment He gave to man alone. ... As regards then the tenor of the commandment, "God doth not take care for oxen:"(4) as regards His providential care of the universe, whereby He created all things, and ruleth the world, "Thou, Lord, shall save both man and beast." Here perhaps some one may say to me, "God careth not for oxen," comes from the New Testament: "Thou, Lord, shalt save both man and beast," is from the Old Testament. There are some who find fault and say, that these two Testaments agree not with one another. ... Let us hear the Lord Himself, the Chief and Master of the Apostles: "Consider," saith He, "the fowls of the air; they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and your heavenly Father feedeth them."(5) Therefore even beside men, these animals are objects of care to God, to be fed, not to receive a law. As far then as regards giving a law, "God careth not for oxen:" as regards creating, feeding, governing, ruling, all things have to do with God. "Are not two sparrows sold for one farthing?" saith our Lord Jesus Christ, "and one of them shall not fall to the ground without the will of your Father: how much better are ye than they."(6) Perhaps thou sayest, God counteth me not in this great multitude. There follows here a wondrous passage in the Gospel: "the hairs of your head are all numbered."(7)
6. Who keepeth truth for ever." What "truth for ever"? what "truth" doth He "keeps" and wherein doth "He keep it for ever"? "Who executeth judgment for them that suffer wrong" (verse 7). He avengeth them that suffer wrong. There cometh at once to thee the voice of the Apostle: "now therefore there is altogether a fault among you, that ye go to law one with another: why do ye not rather suffer wrong?"(1) He urged thee not to suffer annoyance, but to suffer wrong: for not every annoyance is wrong. For whatever thou sufferest lawfully is not a wrong; lest perchance thou shouldest say, I also am among those who have suffered wrong, for I have suffered such a thing in such a place, and such a thing for such a reason. Consider whether thou hast suffered a wrong. Robbers suffer many things, but they suffer no wrong. Wicked men, evil doers, housebreakers, adulterers, seducers, all these suffer many evils, yet is there no wrong. It is one thing to suffer wrong; it is another to suffer tribulation, or penalty, or annoyance, or punishment. Consider where thou art; see what thou hast done; see why thou art suffering; and then thou seest what thou art suffering. Right and wrong are contraries. Right is what is just. For not all that is called right, is right. What if a man lay down for you unjust right? nor indeed is it to be called right, if it is unjust. That is true right, which is also just. Consider what thou hast done, not what thou art suffering. If thou hast done right, thou art suffering wrong; if thou hast done wrong, thou art suffering right. ...
7. "Who giveth food to the hungry." Behold, from thee I look for nothing: "God giveth food to the hungry." Who are "the hungry"? All. What is, all? To all things that have life, to all men He giveth food: doth He not reserve some food for His beloved? If they have another kind of hunger, they have also another kind of food. Let us first enquire what their hunger is, and then we shall find their food. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."(2) We ought to be God's hungry ones. ... "The Lord looseth them that are lettered; the Lord lifteth up them that are dashed down; the Lord maketh wise them that are blind" (verse 8). Perfectly hath he by this last sentence explained to us all the preceding ones: lest perchance, when he had said, "the Lord looseth them that are fettered," we should refer it to those fettered ones, who for some crime are bound in irons by their masters: and in that he said, "He lifteth up them that are dashed down," there should occur to our minds some one stumbling or falling, or thrown from a horse. There is another kind of fall, there are other kinds of fetters, just as there is other darkness and other light. Whereas he said, "He maketh the blind wise;" he would not say, He enlightened the blind, lest thou shouldest understand this also in reference to the flesh, as the man was enlightened by the Lord, when He anointed his eyes with clay made with spittle, and so healed him: that thou mightest not look for anything of this sort, when He is speaking of spiritual things, he pointeth to a sort of light of wisdom, wherewith the blind are enlightened. Therefore in the same way as the blind are enlightened with the light of wisdom, so are the fettered set free, and those who are dashed down are lifted up. Whereby then have we been fettered? whereby dashed down? Our body was once an ornament to us: now, we have sinned, and thereby have had fetters put on us. What are our fetters? Our mortality. ... "The Lord loveth the righteous." And who are the "righteous"? How far are they righteous now? Just as thou hast; "the Lord, guardeth proselytes" (verse 9). "Proselytes" are strangers. Every Church of the Gentiles is a stranger. For it cometh in to the Fathers, not sprung of their flesh, but their daughter by imitating them. Yet the Lord, not any man, guardeth them. "The orphan and widow He will take up." Let none think that He taketh up the orphan for his inheritance, or the widow for any business of hers. True, God doth help them; and in all the duties of the human race, he doeth a good work, who taketh care of an orphan, who abandoneth not a widow: but in a certain way we are all orphans, not because our Father is dead, but because He is absent.(3). ...
8. "And the way of sinners He shall root out." What is, "the way of sinners"? To mock at these things which we say. "Who is an orphan, who a widow? What kingdom of heaven, what punishment of hell is there? These are fables of the Christians. To what I see, to that will I live: "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."(4) Beware lest such men persuade you of aught: let them not enter through your ears into your heart; let them find thorns in your ears: let him, who seeketh to enter thus, go away pierced: for "evil communications corrupt good manners."(5) But here perhaps thou wilt say, "Wherefore then are they prosperous? Behold, they worship not God, and commit every kind of evil daily: yet they abound in those things, through want of which I toil." Be not envious against sinners. What they receive, thou seest; what is in store for them, seest thou not? ... Wilt thou not believe even the Lord thy God, who saith, "Broad and spacious is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that walk by it"?(6) This "way the Lord will root out." And, when "the way of sinners" has been "rooted out," what remaineth for us? "Come, ye blessed of My father, enjoy the Kingdom;"(1) "The Lord shall reign for ever" (verse 10). "O Sion, thy God" shall reign for ever; surely thy God will not reign without thee. "For generation and generation." He hath said it twice, because he could not say it for everse And think not that eternity is bounded by finite words. The word eternity consists of four syllables; in itself it is without end. It could not be commended to thee, save thus," for generation and generation." Too little hath he said: if he spoke it all day long, it were too narrow: if he spoke it all his life, must he not at length hold his peace? Love eternity: without end shalt thou reign, if Christ be thine End, with whom thou shalt reign for ever and everse Amen.
Augustin on Psalms 145