Augustin on Psalms




Editor’s Preface.

The delightful task of editing these Enarrations, which was what I undertook, became, indeed, a very painful one when the general editor informed me that the whole work must be comprised in a single volume of the series. This allowed but one hundred pages to each one of the six volumes of the Oxford translation. But I felt that my learned friend was right (1) in deciding that St. Augustin’s treatment of the Psalms must not be wanting to the series, and (2) that the exposition is so diffuse and digressive, that it readily admits of abridgement, if these exceptional features supply the material for retrenchments. In working out the result, I have “done what I could.” I have preserved the African Psalter entire, with as much of the comment as was possible; even so overrunning, at the publishers’ cost, the six hundred pages which were all subscribers might expect. The only means of avoiding this was to omit entirely the CXIXth Psalm, an expedient to which I could not consent.

To the primitive believers came the Psalter, like an aftermath, wet with the dews of a new birth as from the womb of the morning. The Spirit had descended upon it anew, as showers upon the mown grass; and it had sprung up afresh, sweeter than before, for the pasture of flocks. The Church received it as full of Christ, as the inheritance of a nobler and truer Israel, for which His coming had illuminated it with a genuine interpretation, painting even its darker and clouded surfaces with the bow of promise, now made the symbol of an everlasting covenant and of all promises fulfilled in Him. Hence the local and temporary meanings of the Psalms were regarded as insignificant. Their Sinaitic comminations and their conformities to the Law were but prophecies which the Jews had voluntarily appropriated by rejecting the Son of David. They were types of what had been fulfilled in their rejected Messiah. The Church received the Psalter from the temple and the synagogue,1 and adopted it into liturgic use, “with hymns and spiritual songs,” all magnifying the crucified and glorified Christ. With the fulfillment of prophecy by the destruction of the Temple and the dispersion of the Jews, everything pertaining to the law was sloughed from its ripened stalk; and the Psalter blossomed with the consummate flowers and fruitage which were its deeper intent, and which had waited so long to be disclosed. The true David had come, and little thought of the typical David was to be entertained: the true Israel was to be seen everywhere, and the dead images of legal rites and symbols were to be interpreted only by the Gospel. To bring out its hidden meanings, the reading and chanting of the Psalter received the accentuation of antiphons and doxologies, and constantly elevated the worshippers into the newness of the spirit out of the oldness of the letter. Thus the whole book breathed a sweetness unknown to the Hebrews, but for which kings and prophets had patiently waited. The name of Jesus disclosed itself in every reference to salvation, and perfumed these sacred odes with a flavour that could come only from “the Root and the Offspring of David.” Such was the Psalter to the primitive faithful: the walk of Emmaus had opened their eyes to behold the Lord. To the true interpretation of the Psalms St. Paul had supplied the key, and from the beginning of the Church’s institutions we find evidences of the enthusiasm with which the Psalter was appropriated in all of the richness of its evangelic import. The earliest Fathers are full of what the genius of Augustin has embodied in his Enarrations, which nobody must confound with works of scientific exegesis. The author’s one idea was widely different from that of modern critics. His “accommodations” of Scripture, as they would now be called, are part of the system which the Church had received, of which Christ was the Alpha and the Omega, and in which the foreshadowing David was nowhere.2 He who comes to this volume with any other conception of its uses will be sadly disappointed. In the critical study of the Psalms, with all of the modern helps, such as Delitzch and others have so richly supplied, let us not fail to exercise ourselves day and night; but if, as Christians, we wish to catch the living Spirit that animates the “wheels” or mechanical structure of the Psalms, let us learn from Augustin that indeed in every sense a greater than David, a “greater than Solomon, is here.” The fanciful ingenuity with which our author interweaves the New Testament with the Psalms will at first provoke a smile. His ideas seem often overstrained and unnatural. But let us reflect that he is animating the Church of Christ with the true “spirit of prophecy,” which is the “testimony of Jesus;” that his object is to hang Gospel associations upon every stem and twig that come from the root of Jesse, and to wean even the Hebrew Christians from their instinctive references to the Law. Let us adopt these joint conceptions of the work, and we shall find in it a glorious illustration of the Apostle’s assurance, “Ye are not come unto the mount that burned with fire, …but unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, …and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.”

In every way the divine and the student will find this work, even as here presented, a noble introduction to patristic studies. Let us observe also what it proves. It gives us the old African psalter in all its rude and uncouth conceptions of the Septuagint, and teaches us how much we owe to the erudition and labours of St. Jerome. First of all, the dignity of the Holy Scriptures, and their importance to all Christians, are assumed. Its historical values are very great: it shows the absolute freedom of the early Church fro the corruptions of mediaevalism. The Pentecostal unity of Christendom, the Catholic and Apostolic system as defined in the constitutions of Nicaea and Constantinople, the autonomy of national Churches, the independence of the African Church (illustrated by the personal history of Augustin, who rejected communion with the Bishop of Rome when he stretched his claims beyond seas), and the dogmatic primacy of the patriarchate of Carthage in Latin Christendom as the mother of its theology, are assumed in every reflection upon the Donatists, and in the tone and voice of the great preacher himself, to whom the Western Churches owe all that survives their schism and corruptions, even to our own day. But the ethical and doctrinal teacher will find the charm of these pages, (1) in their correspondence with the evangelical precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, and their freedom from the tainted distinctions and dilutions of modern casuists; (2) in their perpetual enforcement of the Pauline ideas of justification, harmonized successfully with those of St. James; (3) in the faithful exhibition of the doctrines of grace; (4) and in the loyalty to Jesus Christ of every word; abasing human merit, and presenting Him as “the end of the law for righteousness,” with an uncompromising tenacity, and a persevering reiteration of this fundamental verity which seems to foresee the gross departure of Western Churches from their original purity, and to “lay an anchor to windward” for their restoration to orthodoxy.

The readers of this volume will need little reference to the innumerable commentaries which have been devoted to the Psalter; but I must mention the exceptional work of the late erudite J. Mason Neale, D.D., because it throws light on the liturgical history of the Psalter the Western Churches. The learned commentary of the late Bishop of Lincoln, Dr. Wordsworth, will be found to combine in a remarkable degree, with critical exposition, the Augustinian spirit of devout evangelical associations and elevations.

The editor of this volume blesses God for much spiritual help and comfort afforded by the review of these “songs of our pilgrimage,” with which his task has enriched the latest years of that period of our mortality beyond which all is but labour and sorrow.

May 10, 1888.

A. C. C.


It remains to note that I have had the Benedictine edition in the types of Louvain and of Migne constantly at hand, and have referred to them not only in all cases of doubt, but for general refreshment of mind; the epigrammatic beauty and consonance of Augustin’s Latin being untranslatable. From the Oxford translations I have rarely departed, and in all important instances have noted the wherefore in the margin. It was not the design of this series to give the reader any other than the masterly work of the scholars to whom we owe its appearance. Other instances have been such inconsiderable adaptations as are demanded in the suture of parts dislocated by abridgment. My brief annotations are always bracketed and marked by an initial of my name).


It seems necessary to give the following outline of the history of this Oxford translation. It was undertaken as part of the great series of original translations which appeared “under the patronage of William, Archbishop of Canterbury, from its commencement, a.d. 1836, until his Grace’s departure in peace, a.d. 1848.” It proposed to include all the “Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church before the division of the East and West,” and this exposition was dedicated as a memorial of Archbishop Howley in the following words:—

To the memory of the most reverend father in God, William, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England, formerly Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, this Library of ancient bishops, fathers, doctors, martyrs, confessors, of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church, undertaken amid his encouragement, and carried on for twelve years under his sanction, until his departure hence in peace, is gratefully and reverently inscribed.

The preface to the first volume was by the saintly Charles Marriott of Oriel College, with whom I enjoyed some acquaintance. It is well worth preserving here, and is as follows:—

In any commentary on a portion of the Old Testament by a writer unacquainted with Hebrew, exact criticism, and freedom from mistake, must not be expected. But the Psalms have been so in the mouth and in the heart of God’s people in all languages, that it has been necessary often to find an explanation suitable to imperfect translations. And no doubt it is intended that we should use such explanations for the purpose of edification, when we are unable to be more accurate, though in proving doctrine it is necessary always to remember and allow for any want of acquaintance with the original, or uncertainty with respect to its actual meaning. However, the main scope and bearing of the text is rarely affected by such points as vary in different translations, and the analogy of the faith is sufficient to prevent a Catholic3 mind from adopting any error in consequence of a text seeming to bear a heterodox meaning. Perhaps the errors of translation in the existing versions may have led the Fathers to adopt rules of interpretation ranging too far from the simple and literal; but having such translations, they could hardly use them otherwise. Meanwhile St. Augustin will be found to excel in the intense apprehension of those great truths which pervade the whole of Sacred Writ, and in the vivid and powerful exposition of what bears upon them. It is hardly possible to read his practical and forcible applications of Holy Scripture, without feeling those truths by the faith of which we ought to live brought home to the heart in a wonderful manner. His was a mind that strove earnestly to solve the great problems of human life, and after exhausting the resources, and discovering the emptiness, of erroneous systems, found truth and rest at last in Catholic Christianity, in the religion of the Bible as expounded by St. Ambrose. And though we must look to his Confessions for the full view of all his cravings after real good, and their ultimate satisfaction, yet throughout his works we have the benefit of the earnestness with which he sought to feed on the “sincere milk of the word.”

His mystical and allegorical interpretation, in spite of occasional mistakes, which belong rather to the translation than to himself, will be found in general of great value. It is to a considerable extent systematic, and the same interpretation of the same symbols is repeated throughout the work, and is indeed often common to him with other Fathers. The “feet” taken for the affections, “clouds” for the Apostles, and many other instances, are of very frequent occurrence. And it is evident that a few such general interpretations must be a great help to those who wish to make an allegorical use of those portions of Holy Scripture which are adapted for it. Nor are they adhered to with such strictness as to deprive the reader of the benefit of other explanations, where it appears that some other metaphor or allegory was intended. Both St. Augustin and St. Gregory acknowledge, and at times impress on their readers, that metaphorical language is used in Holy Scripture with various meanings under the same symbol.

The discourses on the Psalms are not carried throughout on the same plan, but still are tolerably complete as a commentary, since the longer expositions furnish the means of filing out the shorter notices, in thought at least, to the attentive reader of the whole. They were not delivered continuously, nor all at the same place. Occasionally the author is led by the circumstances of the time into long discussions of a controversial character, especially with respect to the Donatists, against whose narrow and exclusive views he urges strongly the prophecies relating to the universality of the Church. Occasionally a Psalm is first reviewed briefly, so as to give a general clew to its interpretation, and then enlarged upon in several discourses.

For the present translation, as far as the first thirty Psalms, the editors are indebted to a friend who conceals his name; for the remainder of the volume, with part of the next which is to appear, to the Ap J. E. Tweed, M.a., chaplain of Christ Church, Oxford.

C. M.

Oxford, 1847).

After the first two volumes edited by Mr. Tweed of Christ Church, the third volume (carrying the work down to the end of Psalm lxxv). appeared with this announcement signed by Mr. Marriott: “The whole of it, as well as a few Psalms at the end of the former and the beginning of the following volume, is translated by T. Scratton, Esq., M.A., of Christ Church, Oxford.” The fifth volume appeared in April, 1853, with the name of the Ap H. M. Wilkins, M.a., of Merton College, as translator. In December, 1857, came forth the last volume, with the following advertisement from the pen of Dr. Pusey:—

The first hundred pages of this volume were printed, when it pleased God to withdraw from all further toil our friend, the Ap C. Marriott, upon whose editorial labours the Library of the Fathers had for some years wholly depended. Full of activity in the cause of truth and religious knowledge, full of practical benevolence, expanding himself, his strength, his paternal inheritance, in works of piety and charity, in one night his labour was closed, and he was removed from active duty to wait in stillness for his Lord’s last call. His friends may perhaps rather thankfully wonder that God allowed one, threatened in many ways with severe disease, to labour for Him so long and so variously, than think it strange that He suddenly, and for them prematurely, allowed him thus far to enter into his rest. To those who knew him best, it has been a marvel how, with heath so frail, he was enabled in such various ways, and for so many years, to do active good in his generation. Early called, and ever obeying the call, he has been allowed both active duty and an early rest.

This volume, long delayed, has been completed by the Ap H. Walford, Vice-Principal of St. Edmund’s Hall. The principal of St. Edmund Hall, Dr. Barrow, has, with great kindness, allowed himself to be referred to in obscure passages.

St. Augustin’s Commentary on the Psalms, then, is now, by the blessing of God, completed for the first time in an English garb. Although, as a commentary, it from time to time fails us, because it explains minutely and verbally a translation of Holy Scripture different from and inferior to our own, yet, on this very ground, it is the more valuable when the translations agree. For St. Augustin was so impressed with the sense of the depth of Holy Scripture, that when it seems to him, on the surface, plainest, then he is the more assured of its hidden depth. True to this belief, St. Augustin pressed out word by word of Holy Scripture, and that, always in dependence on the inward teaching of God the Holy Ghost who wrote it, until he had extracted some fullness of meaning from it. More also, perhaps, than any other work of St. Augustin, this commentary abounds in those condensed statements of doctrinal and practical truth which are so instructive, because at once so comprehensive and so accurate.

May He under whose gracious influence this great work was written, be with its readers also, and make it now, as heretofore, a treasure to this portion of His Church.

E. B. P.

Advent, 1857).

St. Aurelius Augustin

Bishop of Hippo

St. Augustin on the Psalms.


Ps 1)

1. "Blessed is the man that hath not gone away in the counsel of the ungodly" (verse 1). This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Man.(1) "Blessed is the man that hath not gone away in the counsel of the ungodly," as "the man of earth did,"(2) who consented to his wife deceived by the serpent, to the transgressing the commandment of God. "Nor stood in the way of sinners." For He came indeed in the way of sinners, by being born as sinners are; but He "stood" not therein, for that the enticements of the world held Him not. And hath not sat in the seat of pestilence." He willed not an earthly kingdom, with pride, which is well taken for "the seat of pestilence;" for that there is hardly any one who is free from the love of rule, and craves not human glory. For a "pestilence" is disease widely spread, and involving all or nearly all. Yet "the seat of pestilence" may be more appropriately understood of hurtful doctrine; "whose word spreadeth as a canker."(3) The order too of the words must be considered: "went away, stood, sat." For he "went away," when he drew back from God. He "stood," when he took pleasure in sin. He "sat," when, confirmed in his pride, he could not go back, unless set free by Him, who neither "hath gone away in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of pestilence.

2. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law will he meditate by day and by night (verse 2). The law is not made for a righteous man," 4 says the Apostle. But it is one thing to be in the law, another under the law. Whoso is in the law, acteth according to the law; whoso is under the law, is acted upon according to the law: the one therefore is free, the other a slave. Again, the law, which is written and imposed upon the servant, is one thing; the law, which is mentally discerned by him who needeth not its "letter," is another thing. "He will meditate by day and by night," is to be understood either as without ceasing; or "by day" in joy," by night" in tribulations. For it is said, "Abraham saw my day, and was glad:"(5) and of tribulation it is said, "my reins also have instructed me, even unto the night."(6)

3. "And he shall be like a tree planted hard by the running streams of waters" (verse 3); that is either Very "Wisdom,"(7) which vouchsafed to assume man's nature for our salvation; that as man He might be "the tree planted hard by the running streams of waters;" for in this sense can that too be taken which is said in another Psalm, "the river of God is full of water."(8) Or by the Holy Ghost, of whom it is said, "He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost;"(9) and again, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink;"(10) and again, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that asketh water of thee, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water, of which whoso drinketh shall never thirst, but it shall be made in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."(11) Or, "by the running streams of waters" may be by the sins of the people, because first the waters are called "peoples" in the Apocalypse;(12) and again, by "running stream" is not unreasonably understood "fall," which hath relation to sin. That "tree" then, that is, our Lord, from the running streams of water, that is, from the sinful people's drawing them by the way into the roots of His discipline, will "bring forth fruit," that is, will establish Churches; "in His season," that is, after He hath been glorified by His Resurrection and Ascension into heaven. For then, by the sending of the Holy Ghost to the Apostles, and by the confirming of their faith in Him, and their mission to the world, He made the Churches to "bring forth fruit." "His leaf also shall not fall," that is, His Word shall not be in vain. For, "all flesh is grass, and the glory of man as the flower of grass; the grass withereth, and the flower falleth, but the word of the Lord abideth for everse(1) And whatsoever He doeth shall prosper" that is, whatsoever that tree shall bear; which all must be taken of fruit and leaves, that is, deeds and words.

4. "The ungodly are not so," they are not so, "but are like the dust which the wind casteth forth from the face of the earth" (verse 4). "The earth" is here to be taken as that stedfastness in God, with a view to which it is said, "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, yea, I have a goodly heritage."(2) With a view to this it is said, "Wait on the Lord and keep His ways, and He shall exalt thee to inherit the earth."(3) With a view to this it is said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."(4) A comparison too is derived hence, for as this visible earth supports and contains the outer man, so that earth invisible the inner man. "From the face of" which "earth the wind casteth forth the ungodly," that is, pride, in that it puffeth him up. On his guard against which he, who was inebriated by the richness of the house of the Lord, and drunken of the torrent stream of its pleasures, saith, "Let not the foot of pride come against me."(5) From this earth pride cast forth him who said, "I will place my seat in the north, and I will be like the Most High."(6) From the face of the earth it cast forth him also who, after that he had consented and tasted of the forbidden tree that he might be as God, hid himself from the Face of God.(7) That his earth has reference to the inner man, and that man(8) is cast forth thence by pride, may be particularly seen in that which is written, "Why is earth and ashes proud? Because, in his life, he cast forth his bowels."(9) For, whence he hath been cast forth, he is not unreasonably said to have cast forth himself.

5. "Therefore the ungodly rise not in the judgment" (verse 5): "therefore," namely, because "as dust they are cast forth from the face of the earth." And well did he say that this should be taken away from them, which in their pride they court, namely, that they may judge; so that this same idea is more clearly expressed in the following sentence, "nor sinners in the counsel of the righteous." For it is usual for what goes before,(10) to be thus repeated more clearly. So that by "sinners" should be understood the "ungodly;" what is before "in the judgment," should be here "in the counsel of the righteous." Or if indeed the ungodly are one thing, and sinners another, so that although every ungodly man is a sinner, yet every sinner is not ungodly; "The ungodly rise not in the judgment," that is, they shall rise indeed, but not that they should be judged, for they are already appointed to most certain punishment. But "sinners" do not rise "in counsel of the just" that is that the may, judge, but perad venture that they may be judged; so as of these it were said, "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall then suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."

6. "For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous" (verse 6). As it is said, medicine knows health, but knows not disease, and yet disease is recognised by the art of medicine. In like manner can it be said that "the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous," but the way of the ungodly He knoweth not. Not that the Lord is ignorant of anything, and yet He says to sinners, "I never knew you."(11) "But the way of the ungodly shall perish;" is the same as if it were said, the way of the ungodly the Lord knoweth not. But it is expressed more plainly that this should be not to be known of the Lord, namely, to "perish;" and this to be known of the Lord, namely, to "abide;" so as that to be should appertain to the knowledge of God, but to His not knowing not to be. For the Lord saith, "I AM that I AM," and, "I AM hath sent me."(12)


Ps 2)

1. "Why do the heathen rage, and the people meditate vain things?" (verse 1). "The kings of the earth have stood up, and the rulers taken counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Christ" (verse 2). It is said, "why?" as if it were said, in vain. For what they wished, namely, Christ's destruction, they accomplished not; for this is spoken of our Lord's persecutors, of whom also mention is made in the Acts of the Apostles.(13)

2. "Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yoke from us" (verse 3). Although it admits of another acceptation, yet is it more fitly understood as in the person of those who are said to "meditate vain things." So that "let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yoke from us," may be, let us do our endeavour, that the Christian religion do not bind us, nor be imposed upon us.

3. "He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn, and the Lord shall have them in derision" (verse 4). The sentence is repeated; for "He who dwelleth in the heavens," is afterwards put, "the Lord;" and for "shall laugh them to scorn," is afterwards put, "shall have them in derision." Nothing of this however must be taken in a carnal sort, as if God either laugheth with cheek, or derideth with nostril; but it is to be understood of that power which He giveth to His saints, that they seeing things to come, namely, that the Name and rule of Christ is to pervade posterity and possess all nations, should understand that those men "meditate a vain thing." For this power whereby these things are foreknown is God's "laughter" and "derision." "He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn." If by "heavens" we understand holy souls, by these God, as foreknowing what is to come, will "laugh them to scorn, and have them in derision."

4. "Then He shall speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure" (verse 5). For showing more clearly how He will "speak unto them," he added, He will "vex them;" so that "in His wrath," is, "in His sore displeasure." But by the "wrath and sore displeasure" of the Lord God must not be understood any mental perturbation; but the might whereby He most justly avengeth, by the subjection of all creation to His service. For that is to be observed and remembered which is written in the Wisdom of Solomon, "But Thou, Lord of power, judgest with tranquillity, and with great favour orderest us." The "wrath" of God then is an emotion which is produced in the soul which knoweth the law of God, when it sees this same law transgressed by the sinner. For by this emotion of righteous souls many things are avenged. Although the "wrath" of God can be well understood of that darkening of the mind, which overtakes those who transgress the law of God.

5. "Yet am I set by Him as King upon Sion, His holy hill, preaching His decree" (verse 6). This is clearly spoken in the Person of the very Lord our Saviour Christ. But if Sion signify, as some interpret, beholding, we must not understand it of anything rather than of the Church, where daily is the desire raised of beholding the bright glory of God, according to that of the Apostle, "but we with open face beholding the glory of the Lord."(2) Therefore the meaning of this is, Yet I am set by Him as King over His holy Church; which for its eminence and stability He calleth a mountain. "Yet I am set by Him as King." I, that is, whose "bands" they were meditating "to break asunder," and whose "yoke" to "cast away." "Preaching His decree." Who doth not see the meaning of this, seeing it is daily practised?

6. "The Lord hath said unto me, Thou artMy Son, to-day have I begotten Thee" (verse 7)., Although that day may also seem to be prophetically spoken of, on which Jesus Christ was born according to the flesh ;. and in eternity there is nothing past as if it had ceased to be, nor future as if it were not yet, but present only, since whatever is eternal, always is; yet as "today" intimates presentiality, a divine interpretation is given to that expression, "To-day have I begotten Thee," whereby the uncorrupt and Catholic faith proclaims the eternal generation of the power and Wisdom of God, who is the Only-begotten Son.

7. "Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance" (verse 8). This has at once a temporal sense with reference to the Manhood which He took on Himself, who offered up Himself as a Sacrifice in the stead of all sacrifices, who also maketh intercession for us; so that the words, "ask of Me," may be referred to all this temporal dispensation, which has been instituted for mankind, namely, that the "nations" should be joined to the Name of Christ, and so be redeemed from death, and possessed by God. "I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance," which so possess them for their salvation, and to bear unto Thee spiritual fruit. "And the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession." The same repeated, "The uttermost parts of the earth," is put for "the nations;" but more clearly, that we might understand all the nations. And "Thy possession" stands for "Thine inheritance."

8. "Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron," with inflexible justice, and "Thou shall break them like a potter's vessel" (verse 9); hat is, "Thou shalt break" in them earthly lusts, and the filthy doings of the old man, and whatsoever hath been derived and inured from the sinful clay. "And now understand, ye kings" (verse 10). "And now;" that is, being now renewed, your covering of clay worn out, that is, the carnal vessels of error which belong to your past life, "now understand," ye who now are "kings;" that is, able now to govern all that is servile and brutish in you, able now too to fight, not as "they who beat the air, but chastening your bodies, and bringing them into subjection."(3) "Be instructed, all ye who judge the earth." This again is a repetition; "Be instructed" is instead of "understand; and" ye who judge the earth instead of ye kings. For He signifies the spiritual by "those who judge the earth." For whatsoever we judge, is below us; and whatsoever is below the spiritual man, is with good reason called "the earth;" because it is defiled with earthly corruption.

9. "Serve the Lord with fear;" lest what is said, "Ye kings and judges of the earth," turn into pride: "And rejoice with trembling" (verse 11). Very excellently is "rejoice" added, lest "serve the Lord with fear" should seem to tend to misery. But again, lest this same rejoicing should run on to unrestrained inconsiderateness, there is added "with trembling," that it might avail for a warning, and for the careful guarding of holiness. It can also be taken thus, "And now ye kings understand;" that is, And now that I am set as King, be ye not sad, kings of the earth, as if your excellency were taken from you, but rather "understand and be instructed." For it is expedient for you, that ye should be under Him, by whom understanding and instruction are given you. And this is expedient for you, that ye lord it not with rashness, but that ye "serve the Lord" of all "with fear," and "rejoice" in bliss most sure and most pure, with all caution and carefulness, lest ye fall therefrom into pride.

10. "Lay hold of discipline,(1) lest at any time the Lord be angry, and ye perish from the righteous way" (verse 12). This is the same as, "understand," and, "be instructed." For to understand and be instructed, this is to lay hold of discipline. Still in that it is said, "lay hold of," it is plainly enough intimated that there is some protection and defence against all things which might do hurt unless with so great carefulness it be laid hold of. "Lest at any time the Lord be angry," is expressed with a doubt, not as regards the vision of the prophet to whom it is certain, but as regards those who are warned; for they, to whom it is not openly revealed, are wont to think with doubt of the anger of God. This then they ought to say to themselves, let us "lay hold of discipline, lest at any time the Lord be angry, and we perish from the righteous way." Now, how "the Lord be angry" is to be taken, has been said above. And "ye perish from the righteous way." This is a great punishment, and dreaded by those who have had any perception of the sweetness of righteousness; for he who perisheth from the way of righteousness, in much misery will wander through the ways of unrighteousness.

11. "When His anger shall be shortly kindled, blessed are all they who put their trust in Him;" that is, when the vengeance shall come which is prepared for the ungodly and for sinners, not only will it not light on those "who put their trust in" the Lord, but it will even avail for the foundation and exaltation of a kingdom for them. For he said not, "When His anger shall be shortly kindled," safe "are all they who put their trust in Him," as though they should have this only thereby, to be exempt from punishment; but he said, "blessed ;" in which there is the sum and accumulation of all good things. Now the meaning of "shortly" I suppose to be this, that it will be something sudden, whilst sinners will deem it far off and long to Come,

Augustin on Psalms