Augustin on Psalms 54
1. The title of this Psalm hath fruit in the prolixity thereof, if it be understood: and because the Psalm is short, let us make up our not having to tarry over the Psalm by tarrying over the title. For upon this dependeth every verse which is sung. If any one, therefore, observe that which on the front of the house is fixed, secure he will enter; and, when he shall have entered, he will not err. For this on the post itself is prominently marked, namely, in what manner within he may not be in error. The title thereof standeth thus: "At the end, in hymns, understanding to David himself, when there came the Ziphites, and said to Saul, Behold, is not David hidden with us?" That Saul was persecutor of the holy man David, very well we know: that Saul was bearing the figure of a temporal kingdom, not to life but to death belonging, this also to your Love we remember to have imparted. And also that David himself was bearing the figure of Christ, or of the Body of Christ, ye ought both to know and to call to mind, ye that have already learned.(6) What then of the Ziphites? There was a certain village, Ziph, whereof the inhabitants were Ziphites, in whose country David had hidden himself, when Saul would find and slay him. These Ziphites then, when they had learned this, betrayed him to the king his persecutor, saying, "Behold, is not David hidden with us?" Of no good to them indeed was their betrayal, and to David himself of no harm. For their evil disposition was shown: but Saul not even after their betrayal could seize David; but rather in a certain cave in that very country, when into his hands Saul had been given to slay, David spared him, and that which he had in his power he did not(7) But the other was seeking to do that which he had not in his power. Let them that have been Ziphites take heed: let us see those whom to us the Psalm presenteth to be understood by the occasion of those same men.
2. If we inquire then by what word is translated Ziphites, we find, "Men flourishing." Flourishing then were certain enemies to holy David, flourishing before him hiding. We may find them in mankind, if we are willing to understand the Psalm. Let us find here at first David hiding, and we shall find his adversaries flourishing. Observe David hiding: "For ye are dead," saith the Apostle to the members of Christ," and your life is hid with Christ in God."(1) These men, therefore, that are hiding, when shall they be flourishing? "When Christ," he saith, "your life, shall have appeared, then ye also with Him shall appear in glory."(2) When these men shall be flourishing, then shall be those Ziphites withering. For observe to what flower their glory is compared: "All flesh is grass, and the honour of flesh as the flower of grass."(3) What is the end? "The grass hath withered, and the flower hath fallen off." Where then shall be David? See what followeth: "But the Word of the Lord abideth for everse" ...
3. These men sometimes are observed of the weak sons of light, and their feet totter, when they have seen evil men in felicity to flourish, and they say to themselves, "Of what profit to me is innocence? What doth it advantage me that I serve God, that I keep His commandments, that I oppress no one, from no one plunder anything, hurt no one, that what I can I bestow? behold, all these things I do, and they flourish, I toil." But why? Wouldest thou also wish to be a Ziphite? They flourish in the world, wither in judgment, and after withering, into fire everlasting shall be cast: wouldest thou also choose this? Art thou ignorant of what He hath promised thee, who to thee hath come, what in Himself here He displayed? If the flower of the Ziphites were to be desired, would not Himself thy Lord also in this world have flourished? Or indeed was there wanting to Him the power to flourish? Nay but here He chose rather amid the Ziphites to hide, and to say to Pontius Pilate, as if to one being himself also a flower of the Ziphites, and in suspicion about His kingdom, "My kingdom is not of this world."(4) Therefore here He was hidden: and all good men are hidden here, because their good is within, it is concealed, in the heart it is, where is faith, where charity, where hope, where their treasure is. Do these good things appear in the world? Both these good things are hidden, and the reward of these good things is hidden. ...
4. "O God, in Thy name make me safe, and in Thy virtue judge me" (verse 1). Let the Church say this, hiding amid the Ziphites. Let the Christian body say this, keeping secret the good of its morals, expecting in secret the reward of its merits, let it say this: "In Thy virtues judge me." Thou hast come, O Christ, humble Thou hast appeared, despised Thou hast been, scourged hast been, crucified hast been slain hast been; but, on the third day hast risen, on the fortieth day into Heaven hast ascended: Thou sittest at the right hand of the Father, and no one seeth: Thy Spirit thence Thou hast sent, which men that were worthy have received; fulfilled with Thy love, the praise of that very humility of Thine throughout the world and nations they have preached: Thy name I see to excel among mankind, but nevertheless as weak to us hast Thou been preached. For not even did that Teacher of the Gentiles say, that among us he knew anything, "Save Christ Jesus, and Him crucified;"(6) in order that of Him we might choose the reproach, rather than the glory of the flourishing Ziphites. Nevertheless, of Him he saith what? "Although He died of weakness, yet He liveth of the power(7) of God." He came then that He might die of weakness, He is to come that He may judge in the power of God: but through the weakness of the Cross His name hath been illustrious. Whosoever shall not have believed upon the name made illustrious through weakness, shall stand in awe at the Judge, when He shall have come in power. But, lest He that once was weak, when He shall have come strong, with that fan send us to the left hand; may He "save us in His name, and judge us in His virtue." For who so rash as to have desired this, as to say to God, for instance "Judge me"? Is it not wont to be said to men for a curse, "God judge thee"? So evidently it is a curse, if He judge thee in His virtue; and shall not have saved thee in His name: but when in name precedent He shall have saved thee, to thy health in virtue consequent He shall judge. Be thou without care: that judgment shall not to thee be punishment, but dividing. For in a certain Psalm s thus is said: "Judge me, O God, and divide my cause from the nation unholy." ...
5. "O God, hearken to my prayer, in Thy ears receive the words of my mouth" (verse 2). ... To Thee may my prayer attain, driven forth and darted out from the desire of Thy eternal blessings: to Thy ears I send it forth, aid it that it may reach, lest it fall short in the middle of the way, and fainting as it were it fall down. But even if there result not to me now the good things which I ask, I am secured nevertheless that hereafter they will come. For even in the case of transgressions a certain man is said to have asked of God, and not to have been hearkened to for his good. For privations of this world had inspired him to prayer, and being set in temporal tribulations he had wished that temporal tribulations should pass away, and there should return the flower of grass; and he saith, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"(9) The very voice of Christ it is, but for His members' sake. "The words," he saith, "of my transgressions I have cried to Thee throughout the day, and Thou hast not hearkened: and by night, and not for the sake of folly to me:" that is, "and by night I have cried, and Thou hast not hearkened; and nevertheless in this very thing that Thou hast not hearkened, it is not for the sake of folly to me that Thou hast not hearkened, but rather for the sake of wisdom that Thou hast not hearkened, that I might perceive what of Thee I ought to ask. For those things I was asking which to my cost perchance I should have received." Thou askest riches, O man; how many have been overset through their riches? Whence knowest thou whether to thee riches may profit? Have not many poor men more safely been in obscurity; having become rich men, so soon as they have begun to blaze forth, they have been a prey to the stronger? How much better they would have lain concealed, how much better they would have been unknown, that have begun to be inquired after not for the sake of what they were, but for the sake of what they had! In these temporal things therefore, brethren, we admonish and exhort you in the Lord, that ye ask not anything as if it were a thing settled, but that which God knoweth to be expedient for you. For what is expedient for you, ye know not at all. Sometimes that which ye think to be for you is against you, and that which ye think to be against you is for you. For sick ye are; do not dictate to the physician the medicines he may choose to set beside you. If the teacher of the Gentiles, Paul the Apostle, saith, "For what we should pray for as we ought, we know not,"(1) how much more we? Who nevertheless, when he seemed to himself to pray wisely, namely, that from him should be taken away the thorn of the flesh, the angel of Satan, that did buffet him, in order that he might not in the greatness of the revelations be lifted up, heard from the Lord what? Was that done which he wished? Nay,(2) in order to that being done which was expedient, he heard from the Lord, I say, what? "Thrice," he saith, "I besought the Lord that He would take it from me; and He said to me, My Grace sufficeth for thee: for virtue in weakness is made perfect."(3) Salve to the wound I have applied; when I applied it I know, when it should be taken away I know. Let not a sick man draw back from the hands of the physician, let him not give advice to the physician. So it is with all these things temporal. There are tribulations; if well thou worshippest God, thou wilt know that He knoweth what is expedient for each man: there are prosperities; take the more heed, lest these same corrupt thy soul, so that it withdraw from Him that hath given these things. ...
6. "For aliens have risen up against me" (verse 3). What "aliens"? Was not David himself a Jew of the tribe of Judah? But the very place Ziph belonged to the tribe of Judah; it was of the Jews. How then "aliens "? Not in city, not in tribe, not in kindred, but in flower.(4) ... But see the Ziphites, see them for a time flourishing. With reason "alien" sons. Thou amid the Ziphites hiding saidst what? "Blessed the people whereof the Lord is its God." Out of this affection this prayer(5) is being sent forth into the ears of the Lord, when it is said, "for aliens have risen up against me."
7. "And mighty men have sought after my soul." For in a new manner, my brethren, they would destroy the race of holy men, and the race of them that abstain from hoping in this world, all they that have hope in this world. Certainly commingled they are, certainly together they live. Very much to one another are opposed these two sorts: the one of those that place no hope but in things secular, and in temporal felicity, and the other of those that do firmly place their trope in the Lord God. And though concordant are these Ziphites, do not much trust to their concord: temptations are wanting; when there shall have come any temptation, so as that a person may be reproved for the flower of the world, I say not to thee he will quarrel with the Bishop, but not even to the Church Herself will he draw near, lest there fall any part of the grass.(6) Wherefore have I said these words, brethren? Because now gladly ye all hear in the name of Christ, and according as ye understand, so ye shout out at the word; ye would not indeed shout at it unless ye understood.(7) This your understanding ought to be fruitful. But whether it is fruitful, temptation doth try; lest suddenly when ye are said to be ours, through temptation ye be found aliens, and it be said, "Aliens have risen up against me, and mighty men have sought my soul." Be not that said which followeth, "They have not set forth God before their face." For when will he set God before his face, before whose eyes there is nought but the world? namely, how he may have coin upon coin, how flocks may be increased, how barns may be filled, how it may be said to his soul, "Thou hast many good things, be merry, feast, take thy fill." Doth he set before his face Him, that unto one so boasting and so blooming with the flower of the Ziphites saith, "Fool" (that is, "man not understanding," "man unwise"), "this night shall be taken from thee thy soul; all these things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be?"(1)
8. "For behold, God helpeth me" (verse 4). Even themselves know not themselves, amid whom I am hiding. But if they too were to set God before their face, they would find in what manner God helpeth me. For all holy men are helped by God, but within, where no one seeth For in like manner as the conscience of ungodly men is a great punishment, so a great joy is the very conscience of godly men. "For our glory this is," saith the Apostle, "the testimony of our conscience."(2) In this within, not in the flower of the Ziphites without, doth glory that man that now saith, "For behold God helpeth me." Surely though afar off are to be those things which He promiseth, this day have I a sweet and present help; to-day in my heart's joy I find that without cause certain say, "Who doth show to us good things? For there is signed upon us the light of Thy countenance, O Lord, Thou hast put pleasantness into my heart."(3) Not into my vineyard, not into my flock, not into my cask, not into my table, but" into my heart." "For behold God helpeth me." How doth He help thee?"And the Lord is the lifter up of my soul."
9. "Turn away evil things unto mine enemies" (verse 5). So however green they are, so however they flourish, for the fire they are being(4) reserved. "In Thy virtue destroy Thou them." Because to wit they flourish now, because to wit they spring up like grass:(5) do not thou be a man unwise and foolish, so that by giving thought to these things thou perish for ever and everse For, "Turn Thou away evil things unto mine enemies." For if thou shalt have place in the body of David Himself, in His virtue He will destroy them. These men flourish in the felicity of the world, perish in the virtue of God. Not in the same manner as they flourish, do they also perish: for they flourish for a time, perish for everlasting: flourish in unreal good things, perish in real torments. "In Thy strength destroy," whom in Thy weakness Thou hast endured.
10. "Voluntarily I will sacrifice to Thee" (verse 6). Who can even understand this good thing of the heart, at another's speaking thereof, unless in himself he hath tasted it? What is, "Voluntarily I will sacrifice to Thee"?... For what sacrifice here shall I take, brethren? or what worthily shall I offer to the Lord for His mercy? Victims shall. I seek from flock of sheep, ram shall I select, for any bull in the herds shall I look out, frankincense indeed from the land of the Sabaeans shall I bring? What shall I do? What offer; except that whereof He speaketh, "Sacrifice of praise shall honour Me"?(6) Wherefore then "voluntarily"? Because truly I love that which I praise. I praise God, and in the self-same praise I rejoice: in the praise of Himself I rejoice, at whom being praised, I blush not. For He is not praised in the same manner as by those who love the theatrical follies is praised either by a charioteer, or a hunter, or actor of any kind, and by their praisers, other praisers are invited, are exhorted, to shout together: and when all have shouted, ofttimes, if their favourite is overcome, they are all put to the blush. Not so is our God : be He praised with the will, loved with charity: let it be gratuitous (or voluntary) that He is loved and that He is praised. What is "gratuitous "? Himself for the sake of Himself, not for the sake of something else. For if thou praisest God in order that He may give thee something else, no longer freely dost thou love God. Thou wouldest blush, if thy wife for the sake of riches were to love thee, and perchance if poverty should befall thee, should begin to think of adultery. Seeing that therefore thou wouldest be loved by thy partner freely, wilt thou for anything else love God? What reward art thou to receive of God, O covetous man? Not earth for thee, but Himself He keepeth, who made heaven and earth. "Voluntarily I will sacrifice to Thee:" do it not of necessity. For if for the sake of anything else thou praisest God, out of necessity thou praisest. ... These things also which He hath given, because of the Giver are good things. For He giveth entirely, He giveth these temporal things: and to certain men to their good, to certain men to their harm, after the height and depth of His judgments. ... "Voluntarily I will sacrifice to Thee." Wherefore "voluntarily"? Because gratis. What is gratis? "And I will confess to Thy name, O Lord, for it is a good thing:" for nothing else, but because a "good thing" it is. Doth he say, "I will confess to Thy name, O Lord," because Thou givest me fruitful manors, because Thou givest me gold and silver, because Thou givest me extended riches, abundant money, most exalted dignity? Nay. But what? "For it is a good thing." Nothing I find better than Thy name.
11. "For out of all tribulation Thou hast delivered me" (verse 7). For this cause I have perceived how good a thing is Thy name: for if this I were able before tribulations to acknowledge, perchance for me there had been no need of them. But tribulation hath been applied for admonition, admonition hath redounded to Thy praise. For I should not have understood where I was, except of my weakness I had been admonished. "Out of all tribulations," therefore, "Thou hast delivered me. And upon mine enemies mine eye hath looked back:" upon those Ziphites "mine eye hath looked back." Yea, their flower I have passed over in loftiness of heart, unto Thee I have come, and thence I have looked back upon them, and have seen that "All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass:"(1) as in a certain place is also said, "I have seen the ungodly man to be exalted and raised up like(2) the cedars of Lebanon: I passed by, and, lo! he was not."(3) Wherefore "he was not"? Because thou hast passed by. What is," because thou hast passed by"? Because not to no purpose hast thou heard "Lift up thy heart;" because not on earth, where thou wouldest have rotted, thou hast remained; because thou hast lifted thy soul to God, and thou hast mounted beyond the cedars of Lebanon, and from that elevation hast observed: and "Lo! he was not;" and thou hast sought him, and there hath not been found place for him. No longer is labour before thee; because thou hast entered into the sanctuary of God, and hast understood for the last things.(4) So also here thus he concludeth. "And upon mine enemies mine eye hath looked back." This do ye therefore, brethren, with your souls; lift up your hearts, sharpen the edge of your mind, learn truly to love God, learn to despise the present world, learn voluntarily to sacrifice the offerings of praise; to the end that, mounting beyond the flower of the grass, ye may look back upon your enemies.
1. Of this Psalm the title is: "At the end, in hymns, understanding to David himself." What the "end" is, we will briefly call to your recollection, because ye have known it. "For the end of the Law is Christ, for righteousness unto every man believing."(6) Be the attention therefore directed unto the End, directed unto Christ. Wherefore is He called the end? Because whatever we do, to Him we refer it, and when to Him we shall have come home, more to ask we shall not have. For there is an end spoken of which doth consume, there is an end spoken of which doth make perfect. In one sense, for instance, we understand it, when we hear, there is ended the food which was in eating; and in another sense we understand it when we hear, there is ended the vesture which was in weaving: in each case we hear, there is ended; but the food so that it no longer is, the vesture so that it is perfected. Our end therefore ought to be our perfection, our perfection Christ. For in Him we are made perfect, because of Himself the Head, the Members are we. And he hath been spoken of as "the End of the Law," because without Him no one doth make perfect the Law. When therefore ye hear in the Psalms, "At the end,"--for many Psalms are thus superscribed,--be not your thought upon consuming, but upon consummation.
2. "In hymens:" in praises. For whether we are troubled and are straitened, or whether we rejoice and exult, He is to be praised, who both in tribulations doth instruct, and in gladness doth comfort. For the praise of God from the heart and mouth of a Christian man ought not to depart; not that he may be praising in prosperity, and speaking evil in adversity; but after the manner that this Psalm doth prescribe, "I will speak good of the Lord in every time, alway the praise of Him is in my mouth." Thou dost rejoice; acknowledge a Father indulging: thou art troubled; acknowledge a Father chastening. Whether He indulge, or whether He chasten, He is instructing one for whom He is preparing an inheritance.
3. What then is, "Understanding to David himself"? David indeed was, as we know, a holy prophet, king of Israel, son of Jesse:(7) but because out of his seed there came for our salvation after the flesh the Lord Jesus Christ,(8) often under that name He is figured, and David instead of Christ is in a figure set down, because of the origin of the Flesh of the Same. For after some sort He is Son of David, after some sort He is the Lord of David; Son of David after the flesh, Lord of David after the divinity. For if by Him have been made all-things,(9) by Him also David himself hath been made, out of whose seed He came to men. Moreover, when the Lord had questioned the Jews, whose Son they affirmed Christ to be, they made answer, "David's:" where the Lord chides the Jews, when they said that He was the Son of David.(10) He saw that they had stayed at the flesh, and had lost sight of the divinity; and He reproveth them by propounding a question: "How then doth David himself in spirit call Him Lord, 'The Lord hath said unto my Lord.' ... If then He in spirit calleth Him Lord, how is He is Son?"(11) A question He propounded; His being Son He denied not. Ye have heard "Lord;" say ye how He is his "Son:" ye have heard "Son;(11) say how He is "Lord." This question the Catholic Faith solveth. How "Lord"? Because "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."(1) How "Son"? Because "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.(2) Because then David in a figure is Christ, but Christ, as we have often reminded your Love, is both Head and Body; neither ought we to speak of ourselves as alien from Christ, of whom we are members, nor to count ourselves as if we were any other thing: because "The two shall be in one flesh."(3) "This is a great Sacrament," saith the Apostle, "but I speak in regard of Christ and the Church."(4) Because then whole Christ is" Head and Body;" when we hear, "Understanding to David himself," understand we ourselves also in David. Let the members of Christ understand, and Christ in His members understand, and the members of Christ in Christ understand: because Head and Members are one Christ. The Head was in heaven, and was saying, "Why dost thou persecute Me?"(5) We with Him are in heaven through hope, Himself is with us on earth through love. Therefore "understanding to David himself." Be we admonished when we hear, and let the Church understand: for there belongeth to us great diligence to understand in what evil we now are, and from what evil we desire to be delivered, remembering the Prayer of the Lord, where at the end we say," Deliver us from evil."(6) Therefore amid many tribulations of this world, this Psalm complaineth somewhat of understanding. He lamenteth not with it, who hath not understanding. But furthermore, dearly beloved, we ought to remember, that after the image of God we have been made, and that not in any other part than in the understanding itself. For in many things by beasts we are surpassed: but when a man knoweth himself to have been made after the image of God,(7) therein something in himself he acknowledgeth to be more than hath been given to dumb animals. But on consideration of all those things which a man hath, he findeth himself in this thing peculiarly distinguished from a dumb animal, in that he hath himself an understanding. Whence certain men despising in themselves that peculiar and especial thing which from their Maker they had received, the Maker Himself reproveth, saying, "Do not become like horse and mule, in which there is no understanding."(8) ...
4. "Hear Thou, O God, my entreaty, and despise not my prayer: give heed unto me, and hearken unto me" (verse 1). Of one earnest, anxious, of one set in tribulation, are these words. He is praying, suffering many things, from evil yearning to be delivered: it remaineth that we hear in what evil he is, and when he beginneth to speak, let us acknowledge there ourselves to be; in order that the tribulation being shared, we may conjoin prayer. "I have been made sad in my exercise, and have been troubled" (verse 2). Where made sad, where troubled? "'In my exercise," he saith. Of evil men, whom he suffereth, he hath made mention, and the same suffering of evil men he hath called his "exercise." Think ye not that without profit there are evil men in this world, and that no good God maketh of them. Every evil man either on this account liveth that he may be corrected, or on this account liveth that through him a good man may be exercised. O that therefore they that do now exercise us would be converted, and together with us be exercised! Nevertheless, so long as they are such as to exercise, let us not hate them: because in that wherein any one of them is evil, whether unto the end he is to persevere, we know not; and ofttimes when to thyself thou seemest to have been hating an enemy, thou hast been hating a brother, and knowest not. The devil and his angels in the holy Scriptures have been manifested to us, that for fire everlasting they have been destined. Of them only must amendment be despaired of. ... Therefore since this rule of Love for thee is fixed, that imitating the Father thou shouldest love an enemy: for, He saith, "love your enemies:"(9) in this precept how wouldest thou be exercised, if thou hadst no enemy to suffer? Thou seest then that he profiteth thee somewhat: and let God sparing evil men profit thee, so that thou show mercy: because perchance thou too, if thou art a good man, out of an evil man hast been made a good man: and if God spared not evil men, not even thou wouldest be found to return thanks. May He therefore spare others, that hath spared thee also. For it were not right, when thou hadst passed through, to close up the way of godliness.
5. Whence then doth this man pray, set among evil men, with whose enmities he was being exercised? Why saith he, "I have been made sad in my exercise, and have been troubled"? While he is extending his love so as to love enemies, he hath been affected with disgust, being bayed at all around by the enmities of many men, by the frenzy of many and under a sort of human infirmity he hath sunk. He hath seen himself now begin to be pierced through with an evil suggestion of the devil, to bring on hatred against his enemies: wrestling against hatred in order to perfect love herself, in the very fight, and in the wrestling, he hath been troubled. For there is his voice in another Psalm, "Mine eye hath been troubled, because of anger." And what followeth there? "I have waxen old among all mine enemies."(10) As if in storm and waves he were beginning to sink, like Peter.(1) For he doth trample the waves of this world, that loveth enemies. Christ on the sea was walking fearless, from whose heart there could not by any means be taken away the love of an enemy, who hanging on the Cross did say, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."(2) Peter too would walk. He as Head, Peter as Body: because, "Upon this rock," He saith, "I will build My Church."(3) He was bidden to walk, and he was walking by the Grace of Him bidding, not by his own strength. But when he saw the wind mighty, he feared; and then he began to sink, being troubled in his exercise. By what mighty wind? "By the voice of the enemy, and by the tribulation of the sinner" (verse 3). Therefore, in the same manner as he cried out on the waves, "Lord, I perish, save me,"(1) a similar voice from this man hath preceded, "Hearken unto me." Wherefore? For what sufferest thou? Of what dost thou groan? "I have been made sad in my exercise." To be exercised indeed among evil men Thou hast set me, but too much they have risen up, beyond my powers: calm Thou one troubled, stretch forth a hand to one sinking. "For they have brought down upon me iniquity, and in anger they were shadowing me." Ye have heard of waves and winds: one as it were humbled they were insulting, and he was praying: on every side against him with the roar of insult they were raging, but he within was calling upon Him whom they did not see. ...
6. But this man being troubled and made sad was praying, his eye being disturbed as it were on account of anger.(4) But the anger of a brother if it shall have been inveterate is then hatred. Anger doth trouble the eye, hatred doth quench it: anger is a straw, hatred is a beam. Sometimes thou hatest and chidest an angry man: in thee is hatred, in him whom thou chidest anger: with reason to thee is said, "Cast out first the beam from thine own eye, and so thou shall see to cast out the straw from thy brother's eye."(5) For that ye may know how much difference there is between anger and hatred: day by day men are angry with their sons, show me them that hate their(6) sons! This man being troubled was praying even when made sad, wrestling against all revilings of all revilers; not in order that he might conquer any one of them by giving back reviling, but that he might not hate any one of them. Hence he prayeth, hence asketh: "From the voice of the enemy and from the tribulation of the sinner." "My heart hath been troubled in me" (verse 4). This is the same as elsewhere hath been said," Mine eye because of anger hath been troubled."(4) And if eye hath been troubled, what followeth? "And fear of death hath fallen upon me." Our life is love: if life is love, death is hatred. When a man hath begun to fear lest he should hate him that he was loving, it is death he is fearing; and a sharper death, and a more inward death, whereby soul is killed, not body. Thou didst mind a man raging against thee; what was he to do, against whom thine own Lord had given thee security, saying, "Fear not them that kill the body"?(7) He by raging killeth body, thou by keeping hatred hast killed soul; and he the body of another, thou thine own soul. "Fear," therefore, "of death hath fallen upon me."
7. "Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and darkness hath covered me" (verse 5 ). "And I have said," "He that hateth his brother, is in darkness until now."(8) If love is light, hatred is darkness. And what saith to himself one set in that weakness and troubled in that exercise? "Who shall give me wings as to a dove, and I shall fly and shall rest?" (verse 6). Either for death he was wishing, or for solitude he was longing. So long, he saith, as this is the work with me, as this command is given me, that I should love enemies, the revilings of these men, increasing and shadowing me, do derange mine eye, perturb my sight, penetrate my heart, slay my soul. I could wish to depart, but(9) weak I am, lest by abiding I should add sins to sins: or at least may I be separated for a little space from mankind, lest my wound suffer from frequent blows, in order that when it hath been made whole it may be brought back to the exercise. This is what takes place, brethren, and there ariseth ofttimes in the mind of the servant of God a longing for solitude, for no other reason than because of the multitude of tribulations and scandals, and he saith, "Who shall give me wings?" Doth he find himself without wings, or rather with bound wings? If they are wanting, be they given; if bound, be they loosed; because even he that looseth a bird's wings, either giveth, or giveth back to it its wings. For it had not as though its own them, wherewith it could not fly. Bound wings make a burden. "Who," he saith, "shall give me wings as to a dove, and I shall fly and shall rest?" Shall rest, where? I have said there are two senses here: either, as saith the Apostle, "To be dissolved and to be with Christ, for it is by far the best thing."(10) ... Even he that amended cannot be, is thine, either by the fellowship of the human race, or ofttimes by Church Communion; he is within, what wilt thou do? whither wilt go? whither separate thyself, in order that these things thou mayest not suffer? But go to him, speak, exhort, coax, threaten, reprove. I have done all things, whatever powers I had I have expended and have drained, nothing I see have I prevailed; all my labour hath been spent out, sorrow hath remained. How then shall my heart rest from such men, except I say, "Who shall give me wings?" "As to a dove," however, not as to a raven. A dove seeketh a flying away from troubles, but she loseth not love. For a dove as a type of love is set forth, and in her the plaint is loved. Nothing is so fond of plaints as a dove: day and night she complaineth, as though she were set here where she ought to complain. What then saith this lover? Revilings of men to bear I am unable, they roar, with frenzy are carried away, are inflamed with indignation, in anger they shadow(1) me; to do good to them I am unable; O that I might rest somewhere, being separated from them in body, not in love; lest in me there should be troubled love itself: with my words and my speech no good can I do them, by praying for them perchance I shall do good. These words men say, but ofttimes they are so bound, that to fly they are not able. For perchance they are not bound with any birdlime, but are bound by duty. But if they are bound with care and duty, and to leave it are unable, let them say," I was wishing to be dissolved and to be with Christ, for it is by far the best thing: to abide in the flesh is necessary because of you."(2) A dove bound back by affection, not by cupidity, was not able to fly away because of duty to be fulfilled, not because of little merit. Nevertheless a longing in heart must needs be; nor doth any man suffer this longing, but he that hath begun to walk in that narrow way:(3) in order that he may know that there are not wanting to the Church persecutions, even in this time, when a calm is seen in the Church, at least with respect to those persecutions which our Martyrs have suffered. But there are not wanting persecutions, because a true saying is this, "All that will godly to live in Christ, shall suffer persecution."(4) ...
8. "Behold I have gone afar fleeing, and have abode in the desert" (verse 7). In what desert? Wherever thou shalt be, there will gather them together other men, the desert with thee they will seek, will attach themselves to thy life, thou canst not thrust back the society of brethren: there are mingled with thee also evil men; still exercise is thy due portion," Behold I have gone afar, and have abode in the desert." In what desert? It is perchance in the conscience, whither no man entereth, where no one is with thee, where thou art and God. For if in the desert, in any place, what wilt thou do with men gathering themselves together? For thou wilt not be able to be separated from mankind, so long as among men thou livest.(5) ...
9. "I was looking for him that should save me from weakness of mind and tempest (verse 8). Sea there is, tempest there is: nothing for thee remaineth but to cry out, "Lord, I perish."(6) Let Him stretch forth hand, who doth the waves tread fearlessly, let Him relieve thy dread, let Him confirm in Himself thy security, let Him speak to thee within, and say to thee, "Give heed to Me, what I have borne:" an evil brother perchance thou art suffering, or an enemy without art suffering; which of these have I not suffered? There roared without Jews, within a disciple was betraying. There rageth therefore tempest, but He doth save men from weakness of mind, and tempest. Perchance thy ship is being troubled, because He in thee is sleeping. The sea was raging, the bark wherein the disciples were sailing was being tossed; but Christ was sleeping: at length it was seen by them that among them was sleeping the Ruler(7) and Creator of winds; they drew near and awoke Christ;(8) He commanded(9) the winds, and there was a great calm. With reason then perchance thy heart is troubled, because thou hast forgotten Him on whom thou hast believed: beyond endurance thou art suffering, because it hath not come into thy mind what for thee Christ hath borne. If unto thy mind cometh not Christ, He sleepeth: awake Christ, recall faith. For then in thee Christ is sleeping, if thou hast forgotten the sufferings of Christ: then in thee Christ is watching, if thou hast remembered the sufferings of Christ. But when with full heart thou shalt have considered what He hath suffered, wilt not thou too with equanimity endure? and perchance rejoicing, because thou hast been found in some likeness of the sufferings of thy King. When therefore on these things thinking thou hast begun to be comforted and to rejoice, He hath arisen, He hath commanded the winds; therefore there is a great calm. "I was looking for Him that should save me from weakness of mind and tempest."
10. "Sink, O Lord, and divide the tongues of them" (verse 9). He is referring to men troubling him and shadowing him, and he hath wished this thing not of anger, brethren. They that have wickedly lifted up themselves, for them it is expedient that they be sunk. They that have wickedly conspired, it is expedient for them that their tongues should be divided: to good let them consent, and let their tongues agree together. But if to one purpose(10) there were a whispering against me,(11) he saith, all mine enemies, let them lose their "one purpose" in evil, divided be the tongues of them, let them not with themselves agree together. "Sink, O Lord, and divide the tongues of them." Wherefore "sink"? Because themselves they have lifted up. Wherefore "divide"? Because for an evil thing they have united. Recollect that tower of proud men made after the deluge: what said the proud men? Lest we perish in a deluge, let us make a lofty tower.(1) In pride they were thinking themselves to be fortified, they builded up a lofty tower, and the Lord divided the tongues of them. Then they began not to understand one another; hence arose the beginning of many tongues. For before, one tongue there was: but one tongue for men agreeing was good, one tongue for humble men was good: but when that gathering together did into a union of pride fall headlong, God spared them; even though He divided the tongues, lest by understanding one another they should make a destructive unity. Through proud men, divided were the tongues; through humble Apostles, united were the tongues. Spirit of pride dispersed tongues, Spirit Holy united tongues. For when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, with the tongues of all men they spake,(2) by all men they were understood: tongues dispersed, into one were united. Therefore if still they rage and are Gentiles, it is expedient for them divided to have their tongues. They would have one tongue; let them come to the Church; because even among the diversity of tongues of flesh, one is the tongue in faith of heart.
11. "For I have seen iniquity and contradiction in the city." With reason this man was seeking the desert, for he saw iniquity and contradiction in the city. There is a certain city turbulent: the same it was that was building a tower, the same was confounded and called Babylon, the same through innumerable nations dispersed:(3) thence is gathered the Church into the desert of a good conscience. For he saw contradiction in the city. "Christ cometh."--"What Christ?" thou contradictest.--"Son of God."--" And hath God a Son?" thou contradictest.--"He was born of a virgin, suffered, rose again."--"And whence is it possible for this to be done?" thou contradictest.--Give heed at least to the glory of the Cross itself. Now on the brow of kings that Cross hath been fixed, over which enemies insulted. The effect hath proved the virtue.(4) It hath subdued the world, not with steel, but with wood. The wood of the Cross deserving of insults hath seemed to enemies, and before the wood itself standing they were wagging the head, and saying, "If Son of God He is, let Him come down from the Cross."(5) He was stretching forth His hands to a people unbelieving and contradicting. For if just he is that of faith liveth,(6) unjust he is that hath not faith. By that which here he saith "iniquity," I understand unbelief. The Lord therefore was seeing in the city iniquity and contradiction, and was stretching forth His hands to a people unbelieving and contradicting: and nevertheless waiting for these same, He was saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."(7) Even now indeed there rage the remnant of that city, even now they contradict. From the brows of all men now He is stretching forth hands to the remnant unbelieving and contradicting.
12. "Day and night there will compass it upon the walls thereof iniquity, and labour."(8) "Upon the walls thereof;" upon the fortifications thereof, holding as it were the heads thereof, the noble men thereof. If that noble man were a Christian, not one would remain a pagan! Oft-times men say, "no one would remain a pagan, if he were a Christian." Ofttimes men say, "If he too were made a Christian, who would remain a pagan?" Because therefore not yet they are made Christians, as if walls they are of that city unbelieving and contradicting. How long shall these walls stand? Not always shall they stand. The Ark is going around the walls of Jericho: there shall come a time at the seventh going round of the Ark, when all the walls of the city unbelieving and contradicting shall fall.(9) Until it come to pass, this man is being troubled in his exercise; and enduring the remains of men contradicting, he would choose wings for flying away, would choose the rest of the desert. Yea let him continue amid men contradicting, let him endure menaces, drink revilings, and look for Him that will save him from weakness of mind and tempest: let him look upon the Head, the pattern for his life,(10) let him be made calm in hope, even if he is troubled in fact. "Day and night there will compass it upon the walls thereof iniquity; and labour in the midst thereof and injustice." And for this reason labour is there, because iniquity is there: because injustice is there, therefore also labour is there. But let them hear him stretching forth hands. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour."(11) Ye cry, ye contradict, ye revile: He on the contrary, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour," in your pride, and ye shall rest in My humility. "Learn of Me," He saith, "for meek I am and humble in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls."(12) For whence do they labour, but because they are not meek and humble in heart? God humble was made, let man blush to be proud.
13. "There hath not failed from the streets thereof usury and deceit" (verse 11). Usury and deceit are not hidden at least, because they are evil things, but in public they rage. For he that in his house doth any evil thing, however for his evil thing doth blush: "In the streets thereof usury and deceit." Money-lending(1) even hath a profession, Money-lending also is called a science; a corporation is spoken of, a corporation as if necessary to the state, and of its profession it payeth revenue; so entirely indeed in the streets is that which should have been hidden. There is also another usury worse, when thou forgivest not that which to thee is owed; and the eye is disturbed in that verse of the prayer, "Forgive us our debts--as we too forgive our debtors."(2) For what there wilt thou do, when thou art going to pray, and coming to that same verse? An insulting word thou hast heard: thou wouldest exact the punishment of condemnation. Do but consent to exact just so much as thou hast given, thou usurer of injuries! With the fist thou hast been smitten, slaying thou seekest. Evil usury! How wilt thou go to prayer? If thou shall have left praying, which way wilt thou come round unto the Lord? Behold thou wilt say: "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven so on earth." Thou wilt say, "Our daily bread give us today." Thou wilt come to, "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors."(3) Even in that evil city let there abound these usuries; let them not enter the walls where the breast is smitten l What wilt thou do? because there thou and that verse are(4) in the midst? Petitions for thee hath a heavenly Lawyer composed.(5) He that knew what used there to be done, said to thee, "Otherwise thou shall not obtain." "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that if ye shall have forgiven men sins, they shall be forgiven you; but if ye shall not have forgiven sins unto men, neither will your Father forgive you."(6) Who saith this? He that knoweth what there is being done, in the place whereat thou art standing to make request. See how Himself hath willed to be thy Advocate; Himself thy Counsellor? Himself the Assessor of the Father Himself thy Judge hath said, "Otherwise thou shalt not receive." What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not receive, unless thou shall speak; wilt not receive if falsely thou shall speak. Therefore either thou must do and speak, or else what thou askest thou wilt not earn; because they that this do not do, are in the midst of those evil usuries. Be they engaged therein, that yet do idols either adore or desire: do not thou, O people of God, do not thou, O people of Christ, do not thou the Body of Him the Head! Give heed to the bond s of thy peace, give heed to the promise of thy life. For what doth it profit thee, that thou exactest for injuries which thou hast endured? doth vengeance refresh thee? Therefore, over the evil of another shalt thou rejoice? Thou hast suffered evil; pardon thou; be not ye two.(9) ...
14. "For if an enemy had upbraided me" (verse 12). And indeed above he was "troubled in his exercise" by the voice of the enemy and by the tribulation of the sinner, perhaps being placed in that city, that proud city that was building a tower, which was "sunk,"(10) that divided might be the tongues: give heed to his inward groaning because of perils from false brethren. "For if an enemy had upbraided me, I would have undergone it assuredly, and if he that did hate me had over me spoken great words," that is, through pride had on me trampled, did magnify himself above me, did threaten me all in his power: "I would hide myself assuredly from him." From him that is abroad, thou wouldest hide thyself where? Amid those that are within. But now see whether anything else remaineth, but that thou seek solitude. "But thou," he saith, "man of one mind, my guide and my friend" (verse 13). Perchance sometimes good counsel thou hast given, perchance sometimes thou hast gone before me, and some wholesome advice thou hast given me: in the Church of God together we have been. "But thou, ... that together with me didst take sweet morsels" (verse 14). What are the sweet morsels? Not all they that are present know: but let them not be soured that do know, in order that they may be able to say to them that as yet know not: "Taste ye and see, how sweet is the Lord."(11) "In the House of God we have walked with consent." Whence then dissension? Thou that wast within, hast become one without. He hath walked with me in the House of God with consent: another house hath he set up against the House of God. Wherefore hath that been forsaken, wherein we have walked with consent?(12) wherefore hath that been deserted, wherein together we did take sweet morsels?
15. "Let there come death upon them, and let them go down unto Hell living" (verse 15). How hath he cited and hath made us call to mind that first beginning of schism, when in that first people of the Jews certain proud men separated themselves, and would without have sacrificed? A new death upon them came: the earth opened herself, and swallowed them up alive.(1) "Let there come," he saith, "death upon them, and let them go down into Hell living." What is "living"? knowing that they are perishing, and yet perishing. Hear of living men perishing and being swallowed up in a gulf of the earth, that is, being swallowed up in the voraciousness of earthly desires.(2) Thou sayest to a man, What aileth thee, brother? Brethren we are, one God we invoke, in one Christ we believe, one Gospel we hear, one Psalm we sing, one Amen we respond, one Hallelujah we sound, one Easter we celebrate: why art thou without and I am within? Ofttimes one straitened, and perceiving how true are the charges which are made, saith, May God requite our ancestors! Therefore alive he perisheth. In the next place thou continuest and thus givest warning. At least let the evil of separation stand alone, why dost thou adjoin thereto that of rebaptism? Acknowledge in me what thou hast; and if thou hatest me, spare thou Christ in me. And this evil thing doth frequently and very greatly displease them. ... Because they themselves have the Scriptures in their hands, and know well by daily reading how the Church Catholic through the whole world is so spread, that in a word all contradiction is void; and that there cannot be found any support for their schism they know well: therefore unto the lower places living they go down, because the evil which they do, they know evil to be. But the former a fire of divine indignation consumed. For being inflamed with desire of strife, from their evil leaders they would not depart. There came upon fire a fire, upon the heat of dissension the heat of consuming. "For naughtiness is in their lodgings, in the midst of them." "In their lodgings,"(3) wherein they tarry and pass away. For here they are not alway to be: and nevertheless in defence of a temporal animosity they are fighting so fiercely. "In their lodgings is iniquity; in the midst of them is iniquity:" no part of them is so near the middle of them as their heart.
16. "Therefore to the Lord I have cried out" (verse 16). The Body of Christ and the oneness of Christ in anguish, in weariness, in uneasiness, in the tribulation of its exercise, that One Man, Oneness in One Body set, when He was wearying His soul in crying out from the ends of the earth; saith, "From the ends of the earth to Thee I have cried out, when My heart was being vexed."(4) Himself one, but a oneness s that One! and Himself one, not in one place one, but from the ends of the earth is crying as one. How from the ends of the earth should there cry one, except in many there were one? "I to the Lord have cried out." Rightly do thou cry out to the Lord, cry not to Donatus: lest for thee he be instead of the Lord a lord, that under the Lord would not be a fellow-servant.
17. "In evening, in morning, at noon-day I will recount and will tell forth, and He shall hearken to my voice" 6 (verse 18). Do thou proclaim glad tidings, keep not secret that which thou hast received, "in evening" of things gone by, "in morning" of things to be, at "noonday" of things ever to be. Therefore, to that which he saith "in evening" belongeth that which he recounteth: to that which he saith, "in morning," belongeth that which he telleth forth: to that which he saith "at noon-day," belongeth that wherein his voice is hearkened to. For the end is at noon-day; that is to say, whence there is no going down unto setting. For at noon-day there is light full high, the splendour of wisdom, the fervour of love. "In evening and in morning and at noonday." "In evening," the Lord on the Cross; "in morning," in Resurrection; "at noon-day," in Ascension. I will recount in evening the patience of Him dying, I will tell forth in morning the life of Him rising, I will pray that He hearken at noon-day sitting at the right hand of the Father. He shall hearken to my voice, That intercedeth for us.(7) How great is the security of this man. How great the consolation, how great the refuge "from weakness of mind and tempest," against evil men, against ungodly men both without and within, and in the case of those that are without though they had been within.
18. Therefore, my Brethren, those that in the very congregation of these walls ye see to be rebellious men, proud, seeking their own, lifted up; not having a zeal for God that is chaste, sound, quiet, but ascribing to themselves much; ready for dissension, but not finding opportunity; are the very chaff of the Lord's floor.(8) From hence these few men the wind of pride hath dislodged: the whole floor will not fly, save when He at the last shall winnow. But what shall we do, save with this man sing, with this man pray, with this man mourn and say securely, "He shall redeem in peace my soul" (verse 18). Against them that love not peace: "in peace He shall redeem my soul." "Because with those that hated peace I was peace-making."(9) "He shall redeem in peace my soul, from those that draw near to me." For from those that are afar from me, it is an easy case: not so soon doth he deceive me that saith, Come, pray to an idol: he is very far from me. Art thou a Christian? A Christian, he saith. Out of a neighbouring place he is my adversary, he is at hand. "He shall redeem in peace my soul, from those that draw near to me: for in many things they were with me." Wherefore have I said, "draw near to me"? Because "in many things they were with me." In this verse two propositions occur. "In many things they were with me." Baptism we had both of us, in that they were with me: the Gospel we both read, they were in that with me: the festivals of martyrs we celebrated, they were there with me: Easter's solemnity we attended, they were there with me. But not entirely with me: in schism not with me, in heresy not with me. In many things with me, in few things not with me. But in these few things wherein not with me, there is no profit to them of the many things wherein they were with me. For see, brethren, how many things hath recounted the Apostle Paul: one thing, he hath said, if it shall have been wanting, in vain are those things. "If with the tongues of men and of angels I shall speak," he saith, "if I have all prophecy, and all faith, and all knowledge; if mountains I shall remove, if I shall bestow all my goods upon the poor, if I shall deliver my body even so that it be burned. How many things he hath enumerated! To all these many things let there be wanting one thing, charity; the former in number are more, the latter in weight is greater. Therefore in all Sacraments they are with me, in one charity not with me: "In many things they were with me." Again, by a different expression: "For in many things they were with me." They that themselves have separated from me, with me they were, not in few things, but in many things. For throughout the whole world few are the grains, many are the chaffs. Therefore he saith what? In chaff with me they were, in wheat with me they were not. And the chaff is nearly related to the wheat, from one seed it goeth forth, in one field is rooted, with one rain is nourished, the same reaper it suffereth, the same threshing sustaineth, the same winnowing awaiteth, but not into one barn entereth.
19. "God will hear me, and He shall humble them That is before ages" (verse 19). For they rely on some leader or other of theirs that hath begun but yesterday. "He shall humble them That is before ages." For even if with reference to time Christ is of Mary the Virgin, nevertheless before ages: "In the beginning He is the Word and the Word with God, and the Word God."(2) "He shall humble them That is before ages. For to them is no changing:" of them I "speak to whom is no changing." He knew of some to persevere, and in the perseverance of their own wickedness to die. For we see them, and to them is no changing: they that die in that same perverseness, in that same schism, to them is no changing. God shall humble them, shall humble them in damnation, because they are exalted in dissension. To them is no changing, because they are not changed for the better, but for the worse: neither while they are here, nor in the resurrection. For all we shall rise again, but(3) not all shall be changed. Wherefore? Because "'To them is no changing: and they have not feared God." ...
20. "He stretcheth forth His hand in requiting" (verse 20). "They have polluted His Testament." Read the testament which they have polluted: "In thy seed shall be blessed all nations."(4) Thou against these words of the Testator sayest what? The Africa of holy Donatus hath alone deserved this grace, in him hath remained the Church of Christ. Say at least the Church of Donatus. Wherefore addest thou, of Christ? Of whom it is said, "In thy seed shall be blessed all nations." After Donatus wilt thou go? Set aside Christ, and then secede. See therefore what followeth: "They have polluted His Testament." What Testament? To Abraham have been spoken the promises, and to his seed. The Apostle saith, "Nevertheless, a man's testament confirmed no one maketh void, or super-addeth to: to Abraham have been spoken the promises, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as if in many; but as if in one, And to thy Seed, which is Christ."(5) In this Christ, therefore, what Testament hath been promised? "In thy seed shall be blessed all nations." Thou that hast given up the unity of all nations, and in a part hast remained, hast polluted His Testament. ...
21. "And His heart hath drawn near" (verse 22). Of whom do we understand it, except of Him, by the anger of whom they have been divided? How "hath his heart drawn near"? In such sort, that we may understand His will. For by Keretics hath been vindicated the Catholic Church, and by those that think evil have been proved those that think well. For many things lay hid in the Scriptures: and when heretics had been cut off, with questions they troubled the Church of God: then those things were opened which lay hid, and the will of God was understood.(6) Thence is said in another Psalm, "In order that they might be excluded that have been proved with silverse"(7) For let them be excluded, He hath said, let them come forth, let them appear. Whence even in silver-working men are called "excluders," that is, pressers out of form from the sort of confusion of the lump. Therefore many men that could understand and expound the Scriptures very excellently, were hidden among the people of God: but they did not declare the solution of difficult questions, when no reviler again urged them. For was the Trinity perfectly treated of before the Arians snarled thereat? Was repentance perfectly treated of before the Novatians opposed? So not perfectly of Baptism was it treated, before rebaptizers removed outside(1) contradicted; nor of the very oneness of Christ were the doctrines clearly stated which have been stated, save after that this separation began to press upon the weak: in order that they that knew how to treat of and solve these questions (lest the weak should perish vexed with the questions of the ungodly), by their discourses and disputations should bring out unto open day the dark things of the Law.(2) ... This obscure sense see in what manner the Apostle bringeth out into light; "It is needful," he saith, "that also heresies there be, in order that men proved may be made manifest among you."(3) What is "men proved"? Proved with silver, proved with the word. What is "may be made manifest"? May be brought out.(4) Wherefore this? Because of heretics. So therefore these also "have been divided because of the anger of His countenance, and His heart hath drawn near."
22. "His discourses have been softened above oil, and themselves are darts" (verse 21). For certain things in the Scriptures were seeming hard, while they were obscure; when explained, they have been softened. For even the first heresy in the disciples of Christ, as it were from the hardness of His discourse arose. For when He said, "Except a man shall have eaten My flesh and shall have drunk My blood, he shall not have life in himself:" they, not understanding, said to one another, "Hard is this discourse, who can hear it?" Saying that, "Hard is this discourse," they separated from Him: He remained with the others, the twelve. When they had intimated to Him, that by His discourse they had been scandalized, "Will ye also," He saith, "choose to go?" Then Peter: "Thou hast the Word of life eternal: to whom shall we go?"(5) Attend, we beseech you, and ye little ones learn godliness. Did Peter by any means at that time understand the secret of that discourse of the Lord? Not yet he understood: but that good were the words which he understood not, godly he believed. Therefore if hard is a discourse, and not yet is understood, be it hard to an ungodly man, but to thee be it by godliness softened: for whenever it is solved, it both will become for thee oil, and even unto the bones it will penetrate.
23. Furthermore, just as Peter, after their having been scandalized by the hardness, as they thought, of the discourse of the Lord, even then said, "to whom shall we go?" so he hath added, "Cast upon the Lord thy care, and He shall Himself nourish thee up" (verse 22). A little one thou art, not yet thou understandest the secret things of words: perchance from thee the bread is hidden, and as yet with milk thou must be fed:(6) be not angry with the breasts: they will make thee fit for the table, for which now little fitted thou art. Behold by the division of heretics many hard things have been softened: His discourses that were hard have been softened above oil, and they are themselves darts. They have armed men preaching the Gospel: and the very discourses are aimed at the breast of every one that heareth, by men instant in season and out of season: by those discourses, by those words, as though by arrows, hearts of men unto the love of peace are smitten. Hard they were, and soft they have been made. Being softened they have not lost their virtue, but into darts have been converted. ... Upon the Lord cast thyself. Behold thou wilt cast thyself upon the Lord, let no one put himself in the place of the Lord. "Cast upon the Lord thy care." ...
24. But to the others what? "But Thou, O God, shall bring them down unto the pit of corruption" (verse 23). The pit of corruption is the darkness of sinking under. When blind leadeth blind, they both fall into a ditch.(7) God bringeth them down into the pit of corruption, not because He is the author of their own guilt, but because He is Himself the judge of their iniquities. "For God hath delivered them unto the desires of their heart."(8) For they have loved darkness, and not light; they have loved blindness, and not seeing. For behold the Lord Jesus hath shone out to the whole world, let them sing in unity with the whole world: "For there is not one that can hide himself from the heat of Him."(9) But they passing over from the whole to a part, from the body to a wound, from life to a limb cut off, shall meet with what, but going into the pit of corruption?
25. "Men of bloods and of deceitfulness." Men of bloods, because of slayings he calleth them: and O that they were corporal and not spiritual slayings. For blood from the flesh going forth, is seen and shuddered at: who seeth the blood of the heart in a man rebaptized? Those deaths require other eyes. Although even about these visible deaths Circumcelliones armed everywhere remain not quiet. And if we think of these visible deaths, there are men of bloods. Give heed to the armed man, whether he is a man of peace and not of blood. If at least a club only he were to carry, well; but he carrieth a sling, carrieth an axe, carrieth stones, carrieth lances; and carrying these weapons, wherever they may they scour, for the blood of innocent men they thirst.(1) Therefore even with regard to these visible deaths there are men of bloods. But even of them let us say, O that such deaths alone they perpetrated, and souls they slew not. These that are men of bloods and of deceit, let them not suppose that we thus wrongly understand men of bloods, of them that kill souls: they themselves of their Maximianists(2) have so understood it. For when they condemned them, in the very sentence of their Council they have set down these words: "Swift are the feet of them to shed the blood" (of the proclaimers(3)), "tribulation and calamity are in the ways of them, and the way of peace they have not known."(4) This of the Maximianists they have said. But I ask of them, when have the Maximianists shed the body's blood; not because they too would not shed, if there were so great a multitude as could shed, but because of the fear in their minority rather they have suffered somewhat from others, than have themselves at any time done any such thing. Therefore I question the Donatist and say: In thy Council thou hast set down of the Maximianists, "Swift are the feet of them to shed blood." Show me one of whom the Maximianists have hurt so much as a finger! What other thing to me is he to answer, than that which I say? They that have separated themselves from unity,(5) and who slay souls by leading astray, spiritually, not carnally, do shed blood. Very well thou hast expounded, but in thy exposition acknowledge their own deeds. "Men of bloods and of deceitfulness." In guile is deceitfulness, in dissimulation, in seduction. What therefore of those very men that have been divided because of the anger of His countenance? They are themselves men of bloods and of deceit.
26. But of them he saith what? "They shall not halve their days." What is, "They shall not halve their days"? They shall not make progress as much as they think: within the time which they expect, they shall perish. For he is that partridge, whereof hath been said, "In the half of his days they shall leave him, and in his last days he shall be an unwise one."(6) They make progress, but for a time. For what saith the Apostle? "But evil men and seducers shall make progress for the worse, themselves erring, and other men into error driving."(7) But "a blind man leading a blind man, together into a ditch they fall."(8) Deservedly they fall "into the pit of corruption." What therefore saith he? They shall make progress for the worse: not however for long. For a little before he hath said, "But further they shall not make progress:"(9) that is, "shall not halve their days." Let the Apostle proceed and tell wherefore: "For the madness of them shall be manifest to all men, as also was that of the others." "But I in Thee will hope, O Lord." But deservedly they shall not halve their days, because in man they have hoped. But I from days temporal have reached unto day eternal. Wherefore? Because in Thee I have hoped, O Lord.
Augustin on Psalms 54