Augustin on Psalms 63

PSALM 63 (61)

Ps 63)

1. This psalm hath the title, "For David himself, when he was in the desert of Idumaea." By the name of Idumaea is understood this world. For Idumaea was a certain nation of men going astray, where idols were worshipped. In no good sense is put this Idumaea. If not in a good sense it is put, it must be understood that this life, wherein we suffer so great toils, and wherein to so great necessities we are made subject, by the name of Idumaea is signified.(10) Even here is a desert where there is much thirst, and ye are to hear the voice of One now thirsting in the desert. But if we acknowledge ourselves as thirsting, we shall acknowledge ourselves as drinking also. For he that thirsteth in this world, in the world to come shall be satisfied, according to the Lord's saying, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for the same shall be satisfied."(1) Therefore in this world we ought not to love fulness. Here we must thirst, in another place we shall be filled. But now in order that we may not faint in this desert, He sprinkleth upon us the dew of His word, and leaveth us not utterly to dry up, so that there should not be in our case any seeking of us again, but that we may so thirst as that we may drink. But in order that we may drink, with somewhat of His Grace we are sprinkled: nevertheless we thirst. And what saith our soul to God?

2. "God, my God, unto Thee from the light I watch" (verse 1). What is to watch? It is, not to sleep. What is to sleep? There is a sleep of the soul; there is a sleep of the body. Sleep of body we all ought to have: because if sleep of body is not taken, a man fainteth, the body itself fainteth. For our frail body cannot long sustain a soul watching and on the stretch on active works; if for a long time the soul shall have been intent on active pursuits, the body being frail and earthly holdeth her not, sustaineth her not for ever in activity, and fainteth and falleth. Therefore God hath granted sleep to the body, whereby are recruited the members of the body, in order that they may be able to sustain the soul watching. But of this let us take heed, namely, that our soul herself sleep not: for evil is the sleep of the soul. Good is the sleep of the body, whereby is recruited the health of the body. But the sleep of the soul is to forget her God. Whatsoever soul shall have forgotten her God, sleepeth. Therefore the Apostle saith to certain persons that forgot their God, and being as it were in sleep, did act the follies of the worship of idols--the Apostle, I say, saith to certain persons, "Rise, thou that sleepest, and rise up from the dead, and Christ shall enlighten thee."(2) Was the Apostle waking up one sleeping in body? Nay, but he was waking a soul sleeping, inasmuch as he was waking her, in order that she might be lightened by Christ. Therefore as to these same watchings saith this man, "God, my God, unto Thee from the light I watch." For thou wouldest not watch of thyself, unless there should arise thy Light, to wake thee from sleep. For Christ lighteneth souls, and maketh them to watch: but if His light He taketh away, they slumber. For for this cause to Him there is said in another psalm, "Lighten mine eyes, that I may never slumber in death."(3) ...

3. "My soul hath thirsted for Thee" (verse 2). Behold that desert of Idumaea. See how here he thirsteth: but see what good thing is here, "Hath thirsted for Thee." For there are they that thirst, but not for God. For every one that willeth anything to be granted to him, is in the heat of longing; the longing itself is the thirst of the soul. And see ye what(4) longings there are in the hearts of men: one longeth for gold, another longeth for silver, another longeth for possessions, another inheritance, another abundance of money, another many herds, another a wife, another honours, another sons. Ye see those longings, how they are in the hearts of men. All men are inflamed with longing, and scarce is found one to say, "My soul hath thirsted for Thee." For men thirst for the world: and perceive not themselves to be in the desert of Idumaea, where their souls ought to thirst for God. ...

4. Wisdom therefore must be thirsted after, righteousness must be thirsted after. With it we shall not be satisfied, with it we shall not be filled, save when this life shall have been ended, and we shall have come to that which God hath promised. For God hath promised equality with Angels:(5) and now the Angels thirst not as we do, they hunger not as we do; but they have the fulness of truth, of light, of immortal wisdom. Therefore blessed they are, and out of so great blessedness, because they are in that City, the Heavenly Jerusalem, afar from whence we now are sojourning in a strange land, they observe us sojourners, and they pity us, and by the command of the Lord they help us, in order that to this common country sometime we may return, and there with them sometime with the Lord's fountain of truth and eternity we may be filled. Now therefore let our soul thirst: whence doth our flesh also thirst, and this in many ways? "In many ways for Thee," he saith, "my flesh also." Because to our flesh also is promised Resurrection. As to our soul is promised blessedness, so also to our flesh is promised resurrection. ... For if God hath made us that were not, is it a great thing for Him to make again us that were? Therefore let not this seem to you to be incredible, because ye see dead men as it were decaying, and passing into ashes and into dust. Or if any dead man be burned, or if dogs tear him in pieces, do ye think that from this he will not rise again? All things which are dismembered, and into a sort of dust do decay, are entire with God. For into those elements of the world they pass, whence at first they have come, when we were made: we do not see them; but yet God will bring them forth, He knoweth whence, because even before we were, He created us from whence He knew. Such a resurrection of the flesh therefore to us is promised, as that, although it be the same flesh that now we carry(6) which is to rise again, yet it hath not the corruption which now it hath. For now because of the corruption of frailty, if we eat not, we faint and are hungry; if we drink not, we faint and are thirsty; if long time we watch we faint and sleep; if long time we sleep, we faint, therefore we watch. ... Secondly, see how without any standing is our flesh: for infancy passeth away into boyhood, and thou seekest infancy, and infancy is not, for now instead of infancy is boyhood: again this same also passeth into youth, thou seekest boyhood and findest not: the young man becometh a middle-aged man, thou seekest the young man and he is not: the middle-aged man becometh an old man, thou seekest a middle-aged man and findest not: and an old man dieth, thou seekest an old man and findest not: our age therefore standeth not still: everywhere is weariness, everywhere faintness, everywhere corruption. Observing what a hope of resurrection God promiseth to us, in all those our manifold faintings we thirst for that incorruption: and so our flesh manifoldly doth thirst for God.

5. Nevertheless, my brethren, the flesh of a good Christian and a believer even in this world for God doth thirst: for if the flesh hath need of bread, if it hath need of water, if it hath need of wine, if it hath need of money, if this flesh hath need of a beast, from God it ought to seek it, not from demons and idols and I know not what powers of this world. For there are certain who when they suffer hunger in this world, leave God and ask Mercury or ask Jove to give unto them, or her whom they call "Heavenly,"(1) or any the like demons: not for God their flesh thirsteth. But they that thirst for God,(2) everywhere ought to thirst for Him, both soul and flesh: for to the soul also God giveth His bread, that is the Word of Truth: and to the flesh God giveth the things which are necessary, for God hath made both soul and flesh. For the sake of thy flesh thou askest of demons: hath God made the soul, and the demons made the flesh? He that hath made the soul, the Same hath made the flesh also: He that hath made both of them, the Same feedeth both of them. Let either part of us thirst for God, and after labour manifold let either simply be filled.

6. But where thirsteth our soul, and our flesh manifoldly, not for any one but for Thee, O Lord, that is our God? it thirsteth where? "In a land desert, and without way, and without water." Of this world we have spoken, the same is Idumaea, this is the desert of Idumaea, whence the Psalm hath received its title. "In a land desert." Too little it is to say "desert," where no man dwelleth; it is besides, both "without way, and without water." O that the same desert had even a way: O that into this a man running, even knew where he might thence get forth! ... Evil is the desert, horrible, and to be feared: and nevertheless God hath pitied us, and hath made for us a way in the desert, Himself our Lord Jesus Christ:(3) and hath made for us a consolation in the desert, in sending to us preachers of His Word: and hath given to us water in the desert, by fulfilling with the Holy Spirit His preachers, in order that there might be created in them a well of water springing up unto life everlasting.(4) And, lo! we have here all things, but they are not of the desert. ...

7. "Thus in a holy thing I have appeared to Thee, that I might see Thy power and Thy glory" (verse 3). ...Unless a man first thirst in that desert, that is in the evil wherein he is, he never arriveth at the good, which is God. But "I have appeared to Thee," he saith, "in a holy thing." Now in a holy thing is there great consolation. "I have appeared to Thee," is what? In order that Thou mightest see me: and for this reason Thou hast seen me, in order that I might see Thee. "I have appeared to Thee, that I might see." He hath not said, "I have appeared to Thee, that Thou mightest see:" but, "I have appeared to Thee, that I might see Thy power and Thy glory." Whence also the Apostle, "But now," he saith, "knowing God, nay, having been known of God."(5) For first ye have appeared to God, in order that to you God might be able to appear. "That I might see Thy power and Thy glory." In truth in that forsaken place, that is, in that desert, if as though from the desert a man striveth to obtain enough for his sustenance, he will never see the power of the Lord, and the glory of the Lord, but he will remain to die of thirst, and will find neither way, nor consolation, nor water, whereby he may endure in the desert. But when he shall have lifted up himself to God, so as to say to Him out of all his inward parts, "My soul hath thirsted for Thee; how manifoldly for Thee also my flesh!" lest perchance even the things necessary for the flesh of others he ask, and not of God, or else long not for that resurrection of the flesh, which God hath promised to us: when, I say, he shall have lifted up himself, he will have no small consolations.

8. ... But ye have heard but now when the Gospel was being read in what terms He hath notified His Majesty: "I and My Father are One."(6) Behold how great a Majesty and how great an Equality with the Father hath come down to the flesh because of our infirmity. Behold how greatly beloved we have been, before that we loved God, If before that we loved God, so much by Him we were beloved, as that His Son, Equal with Himself, He made a Man for our sake, what doth He reserve for us now loving Him? Therefore many men think it to be a very small thing that the Son of God hath appeared on earth; because they are not in the Holy One, to them hath not appeared the power of the Same and the glory of the Same: that is, not yet have they a heart made holy, whence they may perceive the eminence of that virtue, and may render thanks to God, nor that to which for their own sakes so great an One came, unto what a nativity, unto what a Passion, they are not able to see, His glory and His power.(1)

9. "For better is Thy mercy than(2) lives." Many are the lives of men, but one life God promiseth: and He giveth not this to us as if for our merits but for His mercy. ... For what is so just a thing as that a sinner should be punished? Though a just thing it be that a sinner should be punished, it hath belonged to the mercy of Him not to punish a sinner but to justify him, and of a sinner to make a just man, and of an ungodly man to make a godly man. Therefore "His mercy is better than lives." What lives? Those which for themselves men have chosen. One hath chosen for himself a life of business, another a country life, another a life of usury, another a military life; one this, another that. Divers are the lives, but "better is Thy" life "than" our "lives." ... "My lips shall praise Thee." My lips would not praise Thee, unless before me were to go Thy mercy. By Thy gift Thee I praise, through Thy mercy Thee I praise. For I should not be able to praise God, unless He gave me to be able to praise Him.

10. "So I will speak good of Thee in my life, and in Thy name I will lift up my hands" (verse 5). Now in my life which to me Thou hast given, not in that which I have chosen after the world with the rest among many lives, but that which Thou hast given to me through Thy mercy, that I should praise Thee. "So I will speak good of Thee in my life." What is "so"? That to Thy mercy I may ascribe my life wherein Thee I praise, not to my merits. "And in Thy name I will lift up my hands." Lift up therefore hands in prayer. Our Lord hath lifted up for us His hands on the Cross, and stretched out were His hands for us, and therefore were His hands stretched out on the Cross, in order that our hands might be stretched out unto good works: because His Cross hath brought us mercy. Behold, He hath lifted up hands, and hath offered for us Himself a Sacrifice to God, and through that Sacrifice have been effaced all our sins. Let us also lift up our hands to God in prayer: and our hands being lifted up to God shall not be confounded, if they be exercised in good works. For what doth he that lifteth up hands? Whence hath it been commanded that with hands lifted up we should pray to God? For the Apostle saith, "Lifting up pure hands without anger and dissension."(3) It is in order that when thou liftest up hands to God, there may come into thy mind thy works. For whereas those hands are lifted up that thou mayest obtain that which thou wilt, those same hands thou thinkest in good works to exercise, that they may not blush to be lifted up to God. "In thy name I will lift up my hands." Those are our prayers in this Idumaea, in this desert, in the land without water and without way, where for us Christ is the Way,(4) but not the way of this earth.

11. ... Already our fathers are dead, but God liveth: here we could not always have fathers, but there we shall alway have one living Father, when we have our father-land. ... What sort of country is that? But thou lovest here riches. God Himself shall be to thee thy riches. But thou lovest a good fountain. What is more passing clear than that wisdom? What more bright? Whatsoever is an object of love here, in place of all thou shall have Him that hath made all things, "as though with marrow and fatness my soul should be filled: and lips of exultation shall praise Thy name." In this desert, in Thy name I will lift up my hands: let my soul be filled as though with marrow and fatness, "and my lips with exultation shall praise Thy name." For now is prayer, so long as there is thirst: when thirst shall have passed away, there passeth away praying and there succeedeth praising. "And lips of exultation shall praise Thy name."

12. "If I have remembered Thee upon my bed, in the dawnings I did meditate on thee (verse 7): because Thou hast become my helper" (verse 8). His "bed" he calleth his rest. When any one is at rest, let him be mindful of God; when any one is at rest, let him not by rest be dissolved, and forget God: if mindful he is of God when he is at rest, in his actions on God he doth meditate. For the dawn he hath called actions, because every man at dawn beginneth to do something. What therefore hath he said? If therefore I was not mindful on my bed, in the dawn also I did not meditate on Thee. Can he that thinketh not of God when he is at leisure, in his actions think of God? But he that is mindful of Him when he is at rest, on the Same doth meditate when he is doing, lest in action he should come short. Therefore he hath added what? "Because Thou has become my helper." For unless God aid our good works, they cannot be accomplished by us. And worthy things we ought to work: that is, as though in the light, since by Christ showing the way we work. Whosoever worketh evil things, in the night he worketh, not in the dawn; according to the Apostle, saying, "They that are drunken, in the night are drunken; and they that sleep, in the night do sleep; let us that are of the day, be sober."(1) He exhorteth us that after the day we should walk honestly: "As in the day, honestly let us walk."(2) And again, "Ye," he saith, "are sons of light, and sons of day; we are not of night nor of darkness."(3) Who are sons of night, and sons of darkness? They that work all evil things. To such a degree they are sons of night, that they fear lest the things which they work should be seen. ... No one therefore in the dawn worketh, except him that in Christ worketh. But he that while at leisure is mindful of Christ, on the Same doth meditate in all his actions, and He is a helper to him in a good work, lest through his weakness he fail. "And in the covering of Thy wings I will exult." I am cheerful in good works, because over me is the covering of Thy wings. If thou protect me not, forasmuch as I am a chicken, the kite will seize me. For our Lord Himself saith in a certain place to that Jerusalem, a certain city, where He was crucified: "Jerusalem," He saith, "Jerusalem, how often I have willed to gather thy sons, as though a hen her chickens, and thou wouldest not."(4) Little ones we are: therefore may God protect us under the shadow of His wings. What when we shall have grown greater? A good thing it is for us that even then He should protect us, so that under Him the greater, alway we be chickens. For alway He is greater, however much we may have grown. Let no one say, let Him protect me while I am a little one: as if sometime he would attain to such magnitude, as should be self-sufficient. Without the protection of God, nought thou art. Alway by Him let us desire to be protected: then alway in Him we shall have power to be great, if alway under Him little we be. "And in the covering of Thy wings I will exult."

13. "My soul hath been glued on behind Thee" (verse 9). See ye one longing, see ye one thirsting, see ye how he cleaveth to God. Let there spring up in you this affection. If already it is sprouting, let it be rained upon and grow: let it come to such strength, that ye also may say from the whole heart, "My soul hath been glued on behind Thee." Where is that same glue? The glue itself is love. Have thou love, wherewith as with glue thy soul may be glued on behind God. Not with God, but behind God; that He may go before, thou mayest follow. For he that shall have willed to go before God, by his I own counsel would live, and will not follow the commandments of God. Because of this even Peter was rebuked, when he willed to give counsel to Christ, who was going to suffer for us. ... "Far be it from Thee, O Lord, be Thou merciful to Thyself." And the Lord, "Go back behind Me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things which are of God, but the things which are of men."(5) Wherefore, the things which are of men? Because to go before Me thou desirest, go back behind Me, in order that thou mayest follow me: so that now following Christ lie might say, "My soul hath been glued on behind Thee." With reason he addeth, "Me Thy right hand hath taken up." This Christ hath said in us: that is in the Man(6) which He was bearing for us, which He was offering for us, He hath said this. The Church also said this in Christ, she saith it in her Head: for she too hath suffered here great persecutions, and by her individual members even now she suffereth. ...

14. "But themselves in vain have sought my soul. They shall go unto the lower places of the earth" (verse 9). Earth they were unwilling to lose, when they crucified Christ: into the lower places of the earth they have gone. What are the lower places of the earth? Earthly lusts. Better it is to walk upon earth, than by lust to go under earth. For every one that in prejudice of his salvation desireth earthly things, is under the earth: because earth he hath put before him, earth upon himself he hath put, and himself beneath he hath laid. They therefore fearing to lose earth, said what of the Lord Jesus Christ, when they saw great multitudes go after Him, forasmuch as He was doing wonderful things? "If we shall have let Him go alive, there will come the Romans, and will take away from us both place and nation."(7) They feared to lose earth, and they went under the earth: there befell them even what they feared. For they willed to kill Christ, that they might not lose earth; and earth they therefore lost, because Christ they slew. For when Christ had been slain, because the Lord Himself had said to them, "The kingdom shall be taken from you, and shall be given up to a nation doing righteousness:"(8) there followed them great calamities of persecutions: there conquered them Roman emperors, and kings of the nations: they were shut out from that very place where they crucified Christ, and now that place is full of Christian praisers: it hath no Jew, it hath been cleared of the enemies of Christ, it hath been fulfilled with the praisers of Christ. Behold, they have lost at the hands of the Romans the place, because Christ they slew, who to this end slew, that they might not lose the place at the hands of the Romans. Therefore, "They shall enter into the lower places of the earth."

15. "They shall be delivered unto the hands of the sword" (verse 10). In truth, thus it hath visibly befallen them, they have been taken by storm by enemies breaking in. "Portions of foxes they shall be." Foxes he calleth the kings of the world, that then were when Judaea was conquered. Hear in order that ye may know and perceive, that those he calleth foxes. Herod the king the Lord Himself hath called a fox. "Go ye," He saith, "and tell that fox."(1) See and observe, my brethren: Christ as King they would not have, and portions of foxes they have been made. For when Pilate the deputy governor in Judaea slew Christ at the voices of the Jews, he said to the same Jews, "Your King shall I crucify?"(2) Because He was called King of the Jews, and He was the true King. And they rejecting Christ said, "We have no king but Caesar." They rejected a Lamb, chose a fox: deservedly portions of foxes they were made.

16. "The King in truth,"(3) is so written, because they chose a fox, a King in truth they would not have. "The King in truth:" that is, the true King, to whom the title was inscribed, when He suffered. For Pilate set this title inscribed over His Head, "The King of the Jews," in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin tongues: in order that all they that should pass by might read of the glory of the King, and the infamy of the Jews themselves, who, rejecting the true King, chose the fox Caesar. "The King in truth shall rejoice in God." They have been made portions of foxes. ... "Stopped up is the mouth of men speaking unjust things." No one dareth now openly to speak against Christ, now all men fear Christ. "For stopped up is the mouth of men speaking unjust things." When in weakness the Lamb was, even foxes were bold against the Lamb. There conquered the Lion of the tribe of Judah,(4) and the foxes were silenced.

PSALM 64 (63)

Ps 64)

1. Though chiefly the Lord's Passion is noticed in this Psalm, neither could the Martyrs have been strong, unless they had beheld Him, that first suffered; nor such things would they have endured in suffering, as He did, unless they had hoped for such things in the Resurrection as He had showed of Himself: but your Holiness(6) knoweth that our Head is our Lord Jesus Christ, and that all that cleave unto Him are the members of Him the Head . ... And let no one say, that now-a-days in tribulation of passions we are not. For alway ye have heard this fact, how in those times the whole Church together as it were was smitten against, but now through individuals she is tried. Bound indeed is the devil, that he may not do as much as he could, that he may not do as much as he would: nevertheless, he is permitted to tempt as much as is expedient to men advancing. It is not expedient for us to be without temptations: nor should we beseech God that we be not tempted, but that we be not "led into temptation."(7)

2. Say we, therefore, ourselves also:" Hearken, O God, to my prayer, while I am troubled; from fear of the enemy deliver my soul" (verse 1). Enemies have raged against the Martyrs: for what was that voice of Christ's Body praying? For this it was praying, to be delivered from enemies, and that enemies might not have power to slay them. Were they not therefore hearkened to, because they were slain; and hath God forsaken His servants of a contrite heart, and despised men hoping in Him? Far be it. For "who hath called upon God, and hath been forsaken; who hath hoped in Him, and hath been deserted by Him?"(8) They were hearkened to therefore, and they were slain; and yet from enemies they were delivered. Others being afraid gave consent, and lived, and yet the same by enemies were swallowed up. The slain were delivered, the living were swallowed up. Thence is also that voice of thanksgiving, "Perchance alive they would have swallowed us up."(9) Therefore for this prayeth the voice of the Martyrs, "From fear of the enemy deliver Thou my soul:" not so that the enemy may not slay me, but that I may not fear an enemy slaying. For that to be fulfilled in the Psalm the servant prayeth, which but now in the Gospel the Lord was commanding. What but now was the Lord commanding? "Fear not them that kill the body, but the soul are not able to kill; but Him rather fear ye, that hath power to kill both body and soul in the hell of fire."(10) And He repeated, "Yea, I say unto you, fear Him."(11) Who are they that kill the body? Enemies. What was the Lord commanding? That they should not be feared. Be prayer offered, therefore, that He may grant what He hath commanded. "From fear of the enemy deliver my soul." Deliver me from fear of the enemy, and make me submit to the fear of Thee. I would not fear him that killeth the body, but I would fear Him that hath power to kill both body and soul in the hell of fire. For not from fear would I be free: but from fear of the enemy being free, under fear of the Lord a servant.

3. "Thou hast protected me from the gathering together of malignants, and from the multitude of men working iniquity" (verse 2). Now upon Himself our Head let us look. Like things many Martyrs have suffered: but nothing doth shine out so brightly as the Head of Martyrs; in Him rather let us behold what they have gone through. Protected He was from the multitude of malignants, God protecting Himself, the Son Himself and the Manhood(1) which He was carrying protecting His flesh: because Son of Man He is, and Son of God He is; Son of God because of the form of God, Son of Man because of the form of a servant: having in His power to lay down His life: and to take it again.(2) To Him what could enemies do? They killed body, soul they killed not. Observe. Too little therefore it were for the Lord to exhort the Martyrs with word, unless He had enforced it by example. Ye know what a gathering together there was of malignant Jews, and what a multitude there was of men working iniquity. What iniquity? That wherewith they willed to kill the Lord Jesus Christ. So many good works," He saith, "I have shown to you, for which of these will ye to kill Me?"(3) He endured all their infirm,(4) He healed all their sick, He preached the Kingdom of Heaven, He held not His peace at their vices, so that these same should have been displeasing to them, rather than the Physician by whom they were being made whole: for all these His remedies being ungrateful, like men delirious in high fever raving at the physician, they devised the plan of destroying Him that had come to heal them; as though therein they would prove whether He were indeed a man, that could die, or were somewhat above men, and would not suffer Himself to die. The word of these same men we perceive in the wisdom of Solomon: "with death most vile," say they, "let us condemn Him; let us question Him, for there will be regard in the discourses of Him; for if truly Son of God He is, let Him deliver Him."(5) Let us see therefore what was done.

4. "For they have whet like a sword their tongues" (verse 3). Which saith another Psalm also, "Sons of men; their teeth are arms and arrows, and their tongue is a sharp sword."(6) Let not the Jews say, we have not killed Christ. For to this end they gave Him to Pilate the judge, in order that they themselves might seem as it were guiltless of His death. ... But if he is guilty because he did it though unwillingly, are they innocent who compelled him to do it? By no means. But he gave sentence against Him, and commanded Him to be crucified: and in a manner himself killed Him; ye also, O ye Jews, killed Him. Whence did ye kill Him? With the sword of the tongue: for ye did whet your tongues. And when did ye smite, except when ye cried out, "Crucify, Crucify"?(7)

5. But on this account we must not pass over that which hath come into mind, lest perchance the reading of the Divine Scriptures should disquiet any one. One Evangelist saith that the Lord was crucified at the sixth hour,(8) and another at the third hour: (9) unless we understand it, we are disquieted. And when the sixth hour was already beginning, Pilate is said to have sat on the judgment-seat: and in reality when the Lord was lifted up upon the tree, it was the sixth hour. But another Evangelist, looking unto the mind of the Jews, how they wished themselves to seem guiltless of the death of the Lord, by his account proveth them guilty, saying, that the Lord was crucified at the third hour. But considering all the circumstance of the history, how many things might have been done, when before Pilate the Lord was being accused, in order that He might be crucified; we find that it might have been the third hour, when they cried out, "Crucify, Crucify." Therefore with more truth they killed at the time when they cried out. The ministers of the magistrate at the sixth hour crucified, the transgressors of the law at the third hour cried out: that which those did with hands at the sixth hour, these did with tongue at the third hour. More guilty are they that with crying out were raging, than they that in obedience were ministering. This is the whole of the Jews' sagacity, this is that which they sought as some great matter. Let us kill and let us not kill: so let us kill, as that we may not ourselves be judged to have killed.

6. "They have bended the bow, a bitter thing, in order that they may shoot in secret One unspotted" (verse 4). The bow he calleth lyings in wait. For he that with sword fighteth hand to hand, openly fighteth: he that shooteth an arrow deceiveth, in order to strike. For the arrow smiteth, before it is foreseen to come to wound. But whom could the lyings in wait of the human heart escape? Would they escape our Lord Jesus Christ, who had no need that any one should bear witness to Him of man? "For Himself knew what was in man,"(10) as the Evangelist testifieth. Nevertheless, let us hear them, and look upon them in their doings as if the Lord knew not what they devise. The expression he used, "They have bended the bow," is the same as, "in secret:" as if they were deceiving by lyings in wait. For ye know by what artifices they did this, how with money they bribed a disciple that clave to Him, in order that He might be betrayed to them,(1) how they procured false witnesses; with what lyings in wait and artifices they wrought, "in order that they might shoot in secret One unspotted." Great iniquity! Behold from a secret place there cometh an arrow, which striketh One unspotted, who had not even so much of spot as could be pierced with an arrow. A Lamb indeed He is unspotted, wholly unspotted, alway unspotted; not one from whom spots have been removed but that hath contracted not any spots. For He hath made many unspotted by forgiving sins, being Himself unspotted by not having sins. "Suddenly they shall shoot Him, and shall not fear. O heart hardened, to wish to kill a Man that did raise the dead! "Suddenly:" that is, insidiously, as if unexpectedly, as if not foreseen. For the Lord was like to one knowing not, being among men knowing not what He knew not and what He knew: yea, knowing not that there was nothing that He knew not, and that He knew all things, and to this end had come in order that they might do that which they thought they did by their own power.

7. "They have confirmed to themselves malignant discourse" (verse 5). There were done so great miracles, they were not moved, they persisted in the design of the evil discourse. He was given up to the judge: the judge trembleth, and they tremble not that have given Him up to the judge: trembleth power, and ferocity trembleth not: he would wash his hands, and they stain their tongues. But wherefore this? "They have confirmed to themselves malignant discourse." How many things did Pilate, how many things that they might be restrained! What said he? what did he? But "they have confirmed to themselves malignant discourse: Crucify, crucify."(2) The repetition is the confirmation of the "malignant discourse." Let us see in what manner "they have confirmed to themselves malignant discourse." "Your King shall I crucify?" They said, "We have no king but Caesar alone."(3) He was offering for King the Son of God: to a man they betook themselves: worthy were they to have the one, and not have the Other. "I find not anything in this Man," saith the judge, "wherefore He is worthy of death."(4) And they that "confirmed malignant discourse," said, "His blood be upon us and upon our sons."(5) "They confirmed malignant discourse," not to the Lord, but to" themselves." For how not to themselves when they say, "Upon us and upon our sons"? That which therefore they confirmed, to themselves they confirmed: because the same voice is elsewhere, "They dug before my face a ditch, and fell into it." Death killed not the Lord, but He death: but them iniquity killed, because they would not kill iniquity. ...

8. "They told, in order that they might hide traps: they said, Who shall see them?" (verse 5). They thought they would escape Him, whom they were killing, that they would escape God. Behold, suppose Christ was a man, like the rest of men, and knew not what was being contrived for Him: doth God also know not? O heart of man! wherefore hast thou said to thyself, Who seeth me? when He seeth that hath made thee? "They said, Who shall see them?"(6) God did see, Christ also was seeing: because Christ is also God. But wherefore did they think that He saw not? Hear the words following.

9. "They have searched out iniquity, they have failed, searching searchings" (verse 6): that is, deadly and acute designs. Let Him not be betrayed by us, but by His disciple: let Him not be killed by us, but by the judge: let us do all, and let us seem to have done nothing. ...

10. But what befell them? "They failed searching searchings." Whence? Because he saith, "Who shall see them?" that is, that no one saw(7) them. This they were saying, this among themselves they thought, that no one saw them. See what befalleth an evil soul: it departeth from the light of truth, and because itself seeth not God, it thinketh that itself is not seen by God. ...

11. For what followeth? "There shall draw near a man and a deep heart." They said, Who shall see us? They failed in searching searchings, evil counsels. There drew near a man to those same counsels, He suffered Himself to be held as a man. For He would not have been held except He were man, or have been seen except He were man, or have been smitten except He were man, or have been crucified or have died except He were man. There drew near a man therefore to all those sufferings, which in Him would have been of no avail except He were Man. But if He were not Man, there would not have been deliverance for man. There hath drawn near a Man "and a deep heart," that is, a secret "heart:" presenting before human faces Man, keeping within God: concealing the "form of God," wherein He is equal with the Father,(8) and presenting the form of a servant, wherein He is less than the Father. For Himself hath spoken of both: but one thing there is which He saith in the form of God, another thing in the form of a servant. He hath said in the form of God, "I and the Father are one: "(1) He hath said in the form of a servant, "For the Father is greater than I."(2) Whence in the form of God saith He, "I and the Father are one"? ...

12. "Arrows of infants have been made the strokes of them" (verse 7). Where is that savageness? where is that roar of the lion, of the people roaring and saying, "Crucify, Crucify"?(3) Where are the lyings in wait of men bending the bow? Have not "the strokes of them been made the arrows of infants"? Ye know in what manner infants make to themselves arrows of little canes. What do they strike, or whence do they strike? What is the hand, or what the weapon? what are the arms, or what the limbs?

13. "And the tongues of them have been made weak upon them" (verse 8). Let them whet now their tongues like a sword, let them confirm to themselves malignant discourse. Deservedly to themselves they have confirmed(4) it, because "the tongues of them have been made weak upon them." Could this be strong against God? "Iniquity," he saith," hath lied to itself;"(5) "their tongues have been made weak upon them." Behold, the Lord hath risen, that was killed. ... What thinkest thou of Him who from the cross came not down, and from the tomb rose again? What therefore did they effect? But even if the Lord had not risen again, what would they have effected, except what the persecutors of the martyrs have also effected? For the Martyrs have not yet risen again, and nevertheless they have effected nothing; of them not yet rising again we are now celebrating the nativities. Where is the madness of their raging? To what did they bring those their searchings, in which searchings they failed, so that even, when the Lord was dead and buried, they set guards at the tomb? For they said to Pilate, "That deceiver;" by this name the Lord Jesus Christ was called, for the comfort of His servants when they are called deceivers; they say therefore to Pilate, "That deceiver said when yet living, After three days I will rise again:"(6) ... They set for guards soldiers at the sepulchre. At the earth quaking, the Lord rose again: such miracles were done about the sepulchre, that even the very soldiers that had come for guards were made witnesses, if they chose to tell the truth: but the same covetousness which had led captive a disciple, the companion of Christ, led captive also the soldier that was guard of the sepulchre. We give you, they say, money; 7 and say ye, while yourselves were sleeping there came His disciples, and took Him away. ... Sleeping witnesses ye adduce: truly thou thyself hast fallen asleep, that in searching such devices hast failed. If they were sleeping, what could they see? if nothing they saw, how are they witnesses? But "they failed in searching searchings:" failed of the light of God, failed in the very completion of their designs: when that which they willed, nowise they were able to complete, surely they failed. Wherefore this? Because "there drew near a Man and a deep heart, and God was exalted." ...

14. "And every man feared" (verse 9). They that feared not, were not even men. "Every man feared;" that is, every one using reason to perceive the things which were done. Whence they that feared not, must rather be called cattle, rather beasts savage and cruel. A lion ramping and roaring is that people as yet. But in truth every man feared: that is, they that would believe, that trembled at the judgment to come. "And every man feared: and they declared the works of God." ... "And every man hath feared: and they have declared the works of God, and His doings they have perceived." What is, "His doings they have perceived"? Was it, O Lord Jesu Christ, that Thou wast silent, and like a sheep for a victim wast being led, and didst not open before the shearer Thy mouth,(8) and we thought Thee to be set in smiting and in grief,(9) and knowing how to bear weakness? 10 Was it that Thou wast hiding Thy beauty, O Thou beautiful in form before the sons of men?(11) Was it that Thou didst not seem to have beauty nor grace?(12) Thou didst bear on the Cross men reviling and saying," If Son of God He is, let Him come down from the Cross."(13) ... This thing they, that would have had Him come down from the Cross, perceived not: but when He rose again, and being glorified ascended into Heaven, they perceived the works of God.

15. "The just man shall rejoice in the Lord" (verse 10). Now the just man is not sad. For sad were the disciples at the Lord's being crucified; overcome with sadness, sorrowing they departed, they thought they had lost hope. He rose again, even when appearing to them He found them sad. He held the eyes of two men that walked in the way, so that by them he was not known, and He found them groaning and sighing, and He held them until He had expounded the Scriptures, and by the same Scriptures had shown that so it ought to have been done as it was done.(14) For He showed in the Scriptures, how after the third day it behoved the Lord to rise again.(15) And how on the third day would He have risen again, if from the Cross He had come down? ... Therefore let us all rejoice in the Lord, let us all after the faith be ONE JUST MAN, and let us all in one Body hold One Head, and let us rejoice in the Lord, not in ourselves: because our Good is not ourselves to ourselves, but He that hath made us. Himself is our good to make us glad. And let no one rejoice in himself, no one rely on himself, no one despair of himself: let no one rely on any man, whom he ought to bring in to be the partner of his own hope, not the giver of the hope.

16. Now because the Lord hath risen again, now because He hath ascended into Heaven, now because He hath showed that there is another life, now because it is evident that His counsels, wherein He lay concealed in deep heart, were not empty, because to this end That Blood was shed to be the price of the redeemed; now because all things are evident, because all things have been preached, because all things have been believed, under the whole of heaven, "the just man shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall hope in Him; and all men shall be praised that are right in heart." ... God is displeasing to thee, and thou art pleasing to thyself, of perverted and crooked heart thou art: and this is the worse, that the heart of God thou wouldest correct by thy heart, to make Him do what thou wilt have whereas thou oughtest to do what He willeth. What then? Thou wouldest make crooked the heart of God which alway is right, according to the depravity of thy own heart? How much better to correct thy heart by the rectitude of God? Hath not thy Lord taught thee this, of Whose Passion but now were we speaking? Was He not bearing thy weakness, when He said, "Sad is My soul even unto death "?(1) Was He not figuring thyself in Himself, when He was saying, "Father, if it be possible, let there pass from Me this cup"?(2). For the hearts of the Father and of the Son were not two and different: but in the form of a servant He carried thy heart, that He might teach it by His example. Now behold trouble found out as it were another heart of thine, which willed that there should pass away that which was impending: but God would not. God consenteth not to thy heart, do thou consent to the heart of God.

17. What followeth? If "there shall be praised all men right in heart," there shall be condemned the crooked in heart. Two things are set before thee now, choose while there is time. ... If of crooked heart thou hast become, there will come that Judgment, there will appear all the reasons on account of which God doeth all these things: and thou that wouldest not in this life correct thy heart by the rectitude of God, and prepare thyself for the right hand, where "there shall be praised all men right in heart," wilt be on the left, where at that time thou shalt hear, "Go ye into fire everlasting, that hath been prepared for the devil and his angels."(3) And will there be then time to correct the heart? Now therefore correct, brethren, now correct. Who doth hinder? Psalm is chanted, Gospel is read, Reader crieth, Preacher crieth; long-suffering is the Lord; thou sinnest, and He spareth; still thou sinnest, still He spareth, and still thou addest sin to sin. How long is God long-suffering? Thou wilt find God just also. We terrify because we fear; teach us not to fear, and we terrify no more. But better it is that God teach us to fear, than that any man teach us not to fear. ... Thou bringest forth grain, barn expect thou; bringest forth thorns, fire expect thou. But not yet hath come either the time of the barn or the time of the fire: now let there be preparation, and there will not be fear. In the name of Christ both we who speak are living, and ye to whom we speak are living: for amending our plan, and changing evil life into a good life, is there no place, is there no time? Can it not, if thou wilt, be done to-day? Can it not, if thou wilt, be now done? What must thou buy in order to do it, what specifics(4) must thou seek? To what Indies must thou sail? What ship prepare? Lo, while I am speaking, change the heart; and there is done what so often and so long while is cried out for, that it be done, and which bringeth forth everlasting punishment if it be not done.

Augustin on Psalms 63