Augustin on Psalms 107

PSALM 107 (106)

Ps 107)

1. This Psalm commendeth unto us the mercies of God, proved in ourselves, and is therefore the sweeter to the experienced. And it is a wonder if it can be pleasing to any one, except to him who has learned in his own case, what he hears in this Psalm. Yet was it written not for any one or two, but for the people of God, and set forth that it might know itself therein as in a mirror. Its title needeth not now to be treated, for it is Halleluia, and again Halleluia. Which we have a custom of singing at a certain time in our solemnities, after an old tradition of the Church: nor is it without a sacred meaning that we sing it on particular days.(11) Halleluia we sing indeed on certain days,(12) but every day we think it. For if in this word is signified the praise of God, though not in the mouth of the flesh, yet surely in the mouth of the heart. "His praise shall ever be in my mouth."(13) But that the title hath Halleluia not once only but twice, is not peculiar to this Psalm, but the former also hath it so. And as far as appears from its text, that was sung of the people of Israel, but this is sung of the universal Church of God, spread through the whole world. Perchance, it not unfitly hath Halleluia twice, because we cry, Abba, Father. Since Abba is nothing else but Father, yet not without meaning the Apostle said, "in whom we cry, Abba, Father;"(14) but because one wall indeed coming to the Corner Stone crieth Abba, but the other, from the other side crieth Father; viz., in that Corner Stone, "who is our Peace, who hath made both one." ...

2. "Confess unto the Lord that He is sweet, because for aye in His mercy" (verse 1). This confess ye that He is sweet, if ye have tasted, confess. But he cannot confess, who hath not chosen to taste, for whence shall he say that that is sweet, which he knoweth not. But ye if ye have tasted how sweet the Lord is,(1) "Confess ye to the Lord that He is sweet." If ye have tasted with eagerness, break forth(2) with confession. "For aye is His mercy," that is, for everse For here "for aye," is so put, since also in some other places of Scripture, for aye, that is, what in Greek is called eis aiwna, is understood for everse For His mercy is not for a time, so as not to be for ever, since for this purpose His present mercy is over men, that they may live with the Angels for ever.

3. "Let them say who are redeemed of the Lord, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of their enemies" (verse 2). Redeemed indeed it seems was also the people of Israel from the land of Egypt, from the hand of slavery, from fruitless labours, from miry works; yet let us see whether those who say these things, are they who were freed by the Lord from Egypt. It is not so. But who are they? "Those whom He redeemed." Still one might take it also of them, as redeemed from the hand of their enemies, that is, of the Egyptians. Let them be expressed exactly who they are, for whom this Psalm would be sung. "He gathered them from the lands;" these might still be the lands of Egypt, for there are many lands even in one province. Let him speak openly. "From the east and the west, from the north and the sea" (verse 3). Now then we understand these redeemed, in the whole circle of the earth. This people of God, freed from a great and broad Egypt, is led, as through the Red Sea,(3) that in Baptism it may make an end of its enemies. For by the sacrament as it were of the Red Sea, that is by Baptism consecrated with the Blood of Christ, the pursuing Egyptians, the sins, are washed away...."But all these things happened to them in a figure, and were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come."(4) ...

4. "They wandered in the wilderness, in a dry place, they found not the way of a city to dwell in" (verse 4). We have heard a wretched wandering; what of want? "Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them" (verse 5). But wherefore did it faint? for what good? For God is not cruel, but He maketh Himself known, in that it is expedient for us, that He be entreated by us fainting, and that aiding us He be loved. And therefore after this wandering, and hunger, and thirst, "And they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distress" (verse 6). And what did He for them, as they were wandering? "And He led them in the right way" (verse 7). They found not the way of a city to dwell in, with hunger and thirst they were vexed and faint, "and He led them into the right way, that they might go into a city to dwell in." How He helped their hunger and thirst, He saith not, but even this expect ye: "Let them confess unto the Lord His mercies, and His wonders towards the children of men" (verse 8). Tell them, ye that are experienced, to the inexperienced; ye that are already in the way, already directed towards finding the city, already at last free from hunger and thirst. "Because He hath satisfied the empty soul, and filled the hungry soul with good things" (verse 9).

5. "Them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, fast bound in beggary and iron" (verse 10). Whence this, but that thou wast attributing things to thyself? that thou wast not owning the grace of God? that thou wast rejecting the counsel of God s concerning thee? For see what He addeth: "Because they rebelled against the words of the Lord through pride" (verse 11), not knowing the righteousness of God, and wishing to establish their own,(6) "and they were bitter against the counsel of the Most High." "And their heart was brought low in labour" (verse 12). And now fight against lust; if God cease to aid thou mayest strive, thou canst not conquer. And when thou shalt be pressed by thine evil, thy heart will be brought low in labour, so that now with humbled heart thou mayest learn to cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"(7) ... Freed, thou wilt confess the mercies of the Lord. "And they cried unto the Lord when they were troubled, and He delivered them out of their distresses" (verse 13). They were freed from the second temptation. There remains that of weariness and loathing. But first see what He did for them when freed. "And He led them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bonds asunder" (verse 14). "Let them confess to the Lord His mercies, and His wonders to the children of men" (verse 15). Wherefore? what difficulties hath He overcome? "Because He brake the gates of brass, and snapped the bars of iron" (verse 16). "He took them up from the way of their iniquity, for because of their unrighteousnesses they were brought low" (verse 17). Because they gave honour to themselves, not to God, because they were establishing their own righteousness, not knowing the righteousness of God,(1) they were brought low. They found that they were helpless without His aid, who were presuming on their own strength alone.

6. "Their soul abhorred all manner of meat" (verse 18). Now they suffer satiety. They are sick of satiety. They are in danger from satiety. Unless perchance thou thinkest they could be killed with famine, but cannot with satiety. See what followeth. When he had said, "Their soul abhorred all manner of meat," lest thou shouldest think them, as it were, safe of their fulness, and not rather see that they would die of satiety: "And they came near," he saith, "even unto the gates of death." What then remaineth? That even when the word of God delighteth thee, thou account it not to thyself; nor for this be puffed up with any sort of arrogance, and having an appetite for food, proudly spurn at those who are in danger from satiety. "And they cried out unto the Lord when they were in trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses" (verse 19). And because it was a sickness not to be pleased, "He sent His Word, and healed them" (verse 20). See what evil there is in satiety; see whence He delivers, to whom he crieth that loathes his food. "He sent His Word, and healed them, and snatched them," from whence? not from wandering, not from hunger, not from the difficulty of overcoming sins, but "from their corruption." It is a sort of corruption of the mind to loathe what is sweet. Therefore also of this benefit, as of the others before, "Let them confess to the Lord His mercies, and His wonders unto the sons of men" (verse 21). "And sacrifice the sacrifice of praise" (verse 22). For now that He may be praised, the Lord is sweet, "and let them tell out His works with gladness." Not with weariness, not with sadness, not with anxiety, not with loathing, but "with gladness."

7. ... "They who go down on the sea in ships, doing their business on the mighty waters" (verse 23); that is, amongst many peoples. For that waters are often put for peoples, the Apocalypse of John is witness, when on John's asking what those waters were, it was answered him, they are peoples. They then who do their business on mighty waters, "they have seen the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep" (verse 24). For what is deeper than human hearts? hence often break forth winds; storms of sedition, and dissensions, disturb the ship. And what is done in them? God, willing that both they who steer, and they who are conveyed, should cry unto Him, "He spake, and the breath of the storm stood" (verse 25). What is, stood? Abode, continued, still disturbeth long tosseth; rageth, and passeth not away. "For He spake, and the breath of the storm stood." And what did that breath of the storm? "They go up even to the heavens," in daring; "They go down even into the deeps" (verse 26), in fearing. "Their soul wasted in miseries." "They were disturbed, and moved like a drunken man" (verse 27). They who sit at the helm, and they who faithfully love the ship, feel what I say. Certainly, when they speak, when they read, when they interpret, they appear wise. Woe for the storm! "and all their wisdom," he saith, "was swallowed up." Sometimes all human counsels fail; whichever way one turns himself, the waves roar, the storm rageth, the arms are powerless: where the prow may strike, to what wave the side may be exposed, whither the stricken ship may be allowed to drift, from what rocks she must be kept back lest she be lost, is impossible for her pilots to see. And what is left but that which follows? "And they cried out unto the Lord when they were troubled, and He delivered them from their distresses" (verse 28). "And He commanded the storm, and it stood unto clear air" (verse 29), "and the waves of it were still." Hear on this point the voice of a steersman, one that was in peril, was brought low, was freed. "I would not," he saith, "have you ignorant, brethren, of our distress, which befell us in Asia, that "we were pressed above strength, and above measure" (I see all his "wisdom swallowed up"), "so that we were weary," he saith, "even of life."(2) ... "And they were glad, because they were still, and He brought them into the haven of their desire" (verse 30). "Let His mercies confess unto the Lord, and His wonders towards the sons of men" (verse 31). Everywhere, without exception, let not our merits, not our strength, not our wisdom," confess unto the Lord," but, "His mercies." Let Him be loved in every deliverance of ours, who has been invoked in every distress.

8. "And let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the seat of the elders" (verse 32). Let them exalt, let them praise, peoples and elders, merchants and pilots. For what hath He done in this assembly? What hath He established? Whence hath He rescued it? What hath He granted it? Even as He resisted the proud, and gave grace to the humble:(3) the proud, that is, the first people of the Jews, arrogant, and extolling itself on its descent from Abraham, and because to that nation "were entrusted the oracles of God."(4) These things did not avail them unto soundness, but unto pride of heart, rather to swelling than to greatness. What then did God, resisting the proud, but giving grace to the humble; cutting off the natural branches for their pride; grafting in the wild olive for its humility? "He made the rivers a wilderness" (verse 33). Waters did run there, prophecies were in course. Seek now a prophet among the Jews; thou findest none. For "He made the outgoings of waters to be thirst." Let them say, "Now there is no prophet more, and He will not know us any more."(1) "A fruitful land to be saltpools" (verse 34). Thou seekest there the faith of Christ, thou findest not: thou seekest a prophet, thou findest not: thou seekest a sacrifice, thou findest not: thou seekest a temple, thou findest none. Wherefore this? "From the wickedness of them that dwell therein." Behold how He resisteth the proud: hear how He giveth grace to the humble. "He made the wilderness to be a standing water, and the dry ground to be outgoings of waters" (verse 35). "And He caused the hungry to dwell there" (verse 36). Because to Him it was said, "Thou art a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedec."(2) For thou seekest a sacrifice among the Jews; thou hast none after the order of Aaron. Thou seekest it after the order of Melchizedec; thou findest it not among them, but through the whole world it is celebrated in the Church. "From the rising of the sun to the setting thereof the name of the Lord is praised."(3) ... "And they sowed fields, and planted vineyards, and gat fruit of corn" (verse 37): at which that workman rejoiceth, who saith, "Not because I desire a gift, but I seek fruit."(4) "And He blessed them, and they were multiplied exceedingly, and their cattle were not diminished" (verse 38). This standeth. For "the foundation of God standeth sure; because the Lord knoweth them that are His."(5) They are called "beasts of burden," and "cattle," that walk simply in the Church, yet are useful; not much learned, but full of faith. Therefore, whether spiritual or carnal, "He blessed them."

9. "And they became few, and were vexed" (verse 39). Whence this? From athwart? Nay, from within. For that they should "become few," "They went out from us, but they were not of us."(6) But therefore he speaketh as of these, of whom he spake before, that they may be discerned with understanding; because he speaketh as if of the same, because of the sacraments they have in common. For they belong to the people of God, though not by the virtue, yet surely by the appearance of piety: for concerning them we have heard the Apostle, "In the last times there shall come grievous times, for there shall be men lovers of themselves."(7) The first evil is, "lovers of themselves;" that is, as being pleased with themselves. Would that they were not pleasing to themselves, and were pleasing to God: would that they would cry out in their difficulties, and be freed from their distresses. But while they presumed greatly on themselves, "they were made few." It is manifest, brethren: all who separate themselves from unity become few. For they are many; but in unity, while they are not parted from unity. For when the multitude of unity hath begun no more to belong to them, in heresy and schism, they are few. "And they were vexed, from distress of miseries and grief." "Contempt was poured on princes" (verse 40). For they were rejected by the Church of God, and the more because they wished to be princes, therefore they were despised, and became salt that had lost its savour, cast out abroad, so that it is trodden under foot of men.(8) "And He led them astray in the pathless place, and not in a way." Those above in the way, those directed to a city, and finally led thither, not led astray; but these, where there was no way, led astray. What is, "Led them astray"? God "gave them up to their own hearts' lusts."(9) For "led astray" means this, gave them up to themselves. For if thou enquire closely, it is they that lead themselves astray. ... "And He helped the poor out of beggary" (yet. 41). What meaneth this, brethren? Princes are despised, and the poor helped. The proud are cast aside, and the humble provided for. ... "And made him households like sheep." Thou understandest one poor man and one beggar of him concerning whom he said, "He hath helped the poor out of misery:" this poor man is now many households, this poor man is many nations; many Churches are one Church, one nation, one household, one sheep. These are great mysteries, great types, how profound, how full of hidden meanings; how sweetly discovered, since long hidden. Therefore, "the righteous will consider this, and rejoice: and the mouth of all wickedness shall be stopped" (verse 42). That wickedness that doth prate against unity, and compelleth truth to be made manifest, shall be convicted, and have its mouth stopped.

10. "Who is wise? and he will consider these things; and will understand the mercies of the Lord" (verse 43). ...Not his own deservings, not his own strength, not his own power; but "the mercies of the Lord;" who, when he was wandering and in want, led him back to the path, and fed him; who, when he was struggling against the difficulties of his sins, and bound down with the fetters of habit, released and freed him; who, when he loathed the Word of God, and was almost dying with a kind of weariness, restored him by sending him the medicine of His Word; who, when he was endangered among the risks of shipwreck and storm, stilled the sea, and brought him into port; who, finally, placed him in that people, where He giveth grace to the humble; not in that where he resisteth the proud; and hath made him His own, that remaining within he may be multiplied, not that going out he may be minished. The righteous see this, and rejoice. "The mouth," therefore, "of all wickedness shall be stopped."

PSALM 108 (107)

Ps 108)

1. I have not thought that the CVIIIth Psalm required an exposition; since I have already expounded it in the LVIIth Psalm,(2) and in the LXth, of the last divisions of which this Psalm consisteth. For the last part of the LVIIth is the first of this, as far as the verse, "Thy glory is above all the earth." Henceforth to the end, is the last part of the LXth: as the last part of the CXXXVth is the same as that of the CXVth,(3) from the verse, "The images of the heathen are but gold and silver: " as the XIVth(4) and LIIId,(5) with a few alterations in the middle, have everything the same from the beginning to the end. Whatever slight differences therefore occur in this CVIIIth Psalm, compared with those two, of parts of which it is composed, are easy to understand; just as we find in the LVIth,(6) "I will sing and give praise; awake, O my glory:" here," I will sing and give praise, with my glory."(7) Awake, is said there, that he may sing and give praise therewith. Also, there, "Thy mercy is great" (or, as some translate, "is lifted up") "unto the heavens;"(8) but here, "Thy mercy is great above the heavens."(9) For it is great unto the heavens, that it may be great in the heavens; and this is what he wished to express by "above the heavens." Also in the LXth, "I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem:"(10) here "I will be exalted, and will divide Shechem." (11) Where is shown what is signified in the division of Shechem, which it was prophesied should happen after the Lord's exaltation, and that this joy doth refer to that exaltation; so that He rejoiceth, because He is exalted. Whence he elsewhere saith, "Thou hast turned my heaviness into joy; Thou hast put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness."(12) Also there "Ephraim, the strength of my head:"(13) but here, "Ephraim the taking up of my head."(14) But strength cometh from taking up, that is, He maketh men strong by taking up, causing fruit in us; for the interpretation of Ephraim is, bearing fruit. But "taking up" may be understood of us, when we take up Christ; or of Christ, when He, who is Head of the Church, taketh us up. And the words, "them that trouble us," in the former Psalm,(15) are the same with "our enemies," in this.(16)

2. We are taught by this Psalm, that those titles which seem to refer to history are most rightly understood prophetically, according to the object of the composition of the Psalms. ... And yet this Psalm is composed of the latter portions of two,(17) whose titles are different. Where it is signified that each concur in a common object, not in the surface of the history, but in the depth of prophecy, the objects of both being united in this one, the title of which is, "A Song or Psalm of David:"(18) resembling neither of the former titles, otherwise than in the word David. Since, "in many places, and in diverse manners," as the Epistle to the Hebrews saith, "God spoke in former times to the fathers through the Prophets;"(19) yet He spoke of Him whom He sent afterwards, that the words of the Prophets might be fulfilled: for "all the promises of God in Him are yea."(20)

PSALM 109 (108)

Ps 109)

1. Every one who faithfully readeth the Acts of the Apostles, acknowledgeth that this Psalm containeth a prophecy of Christ; for it evidently appeareth that what is here written, "let his days be few, and let another take his office," is prophesied of Judas, the betrayer of Christ. ... For as some things are said which seem peculiarly to apply to the Apostle Peter, and yet are not clear in their meaning, unless when referred to the Church, whom he is acknowledged to have figuratively represented, on account of the primacy(22) which he bore among the Disciples; as it is written, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,"(23) and other passages of the like purport: so Judas doth represent those Jews who were enemies of Christ, who both then hated Christ, and now, in their line of succession, this species of wickedness continuing, hate Him. Of these men, and of this people, not only may what we read more openly discovered in this Psalm be conveniently understood, but also those things which are more expressly stated concerning Judas himself.

2. The Psalm, then, beginneth thus: "O God, be not silent as to my praise; for the mouth of the ungodly, yea, the mouth of the deceitful is opened upon me" (verse 1). Whence it appeareth, both that the blame, which the ungodly and the deceitful is not silent of, is false, and that the praise, which God is not silent of, is true. "For God is true, but every man a liar;"(1) for no man is true, except him in whom God speaketh. But the highest praise is that of the only-begotten Son of God, in which He is proclaimed even that which He is, the only-begotten Son of God. But this did not appear, but, when His weakness appeared, lay hid, when the mouth of the ungodly and deceitful was opened upon Him; and for this reason his mouth was opened, because His virtue was concealed: and he saith, "the mouth of the deceitful was opened," because the hatred which was covered by deceit burst out into language.

3. "They have spoken against me with false tongues" (verse 2): then chiefly when they praised him as a "good Master" with insidious adulation. Whence it is elsewhere said: "and they that praised me, are sworn together against me."(2) Next, because they burst into cries, "Crucify Him, crucify Him;"(3) he hath added, "They compassed me about also with words of hatred." They who with a treacherous tongue spoke words seemingly of love, and not of hatred, "against me," since they did this insidiously; afterwards "compassed me about with words" not of false and deceitful love, but of open "hatred, and fought against me without a cause." For as the pious love Christ for nought, so do the wicked hate Him for nought; for as truth is earnestly sought by the best men on its own account, without any advantage, external to itself, in view, so is wickedness sought by the worst men. Whence among secular authors it is said of a very bad man, "he was wicked and cruel for no object."(4)

4. "In place," saith he, "of loving me, they detracted from me" (verse 3). There are six different acts of this class, which may, when mentioned, very easily be borne in mind;(1) to return good for evil,(2) not to return evil for evil;(3) to return good for good,(4) to return evil for evil;(5) not to return good for good,(6) to return evil for good. The two first of these belong to the good, and the first of these two is the better; the two last belong to the wicked, and the latter of the two is the worse; the two middle to a sort of middle class of persons, but the first of these borders upon the good, the latter on the bad. We should remark these things in the holy Scriptures. Our Lord Himself returneth good for evil, who "justifieth the ungodly;"(5) and who, when hanging upon the Cross, said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."(6) ...

5. But after he had said, "in place of loving me, they detracted from me; "what doth he add? "But I gave myself unto prayer." He said not indeed what he prayed, but what can we better understand than for them themselves? For they were detracting greatly from Him whom they crucified, when they ridiculed Him as if He were a man, whom in their opinion they had conquered; from which Cross He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do;" so that while they in the depth of their malignity were rendering evil for good, He in the height of His goodness was rendering good for evil. ... The divine words then teach us by our Lord's example, that when we feel others ungrateful to us, not only in that they do not repay us with good, but even return evil for good, we should pray; He indeed for others who were raging against Him, or in sorrow, or endangered in faith; but we for ourselves in the first place, that we may by the mercy and aid of God conquer our own mind, by which we are borne on to the desire of revenge, when any detraction is made from us, either in our presence or our absence. ...

6. He addeth, "Thus have they rewarded me evil for good" (verse 4). And as if we asked, what evil? for what good? "And hatred," he saith, "for my good will." This is the sum total of their great guilt. For how could the persecutors injure Him who died of His own free-will, and not by compulsion? But this very hatred is the greatest crime of the persecutor, although it be the willing atonement of the sufferer. And he hath sufficiently explained the sense of the above words, "In place of loving me," since they owed love not as a general duty only, but in return for His love: in that he hath here added, "for my good will." This love He mentioneth in the Gospel, when He saith, "How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not!"(7)

7. He then beginneth to prophesy what they should receive for this very impiety; detailing their lot in such a manner, as if he wished its realization from a desire of revenge. Some not understanding this mode of predicting the future, under the appearance of wishing evil, suppose hatred to be returned for hatred, and an evil will for an evil will, since in truth it belongeth to few to distinguish, in what way the punishment of the wicked pleaseth the accuser, who longeth to satiate his enmity; and in how widely different a way it pleaseth the judge, who with a righteous mind punisheth sins. For the former returneth evil for evil: but the judge when he punisheth doth not return evil for evil, since he returneth justice to the unjust; and what is just, is surely good. He therefore punisheth not from delight in another's misery, which is evil for evil: but from love of justice, which is good for evil. ...

8. "Set thou an ungodly man to be ruler over him; and let Satan stand at his right hand" (verse 5). Though the complaint had been before concerning many, the Psalm is now speaking of one. ... Since therefore he is here speaking of the traitor Judas, who, according to the Scripture in the Acts of the Apostles, was to be punished with the penalty due to him,(1) what meaneth, "set thou an ungodly man over him," save him whom in the next verse he mentioneth by name, when he saith, "and let Satan stand at his right hand "? He therefore who refused to be subject unto Christ, deserved this, that he should have the devil set over him, that is, that he should be subject unto the devil. ... For this reason also it is said of those who, preferring the pleasures of this world to God, styled the people blessed who have such and such things, "their right hand is a right hand of iniquity."(2) ...

9. "When sentence is given upon him, let him be condemned, and let his prayer be turned into sin" (verse 6). For prayer is not righteous except through Christ, whom he sold in his atrocious sin: but the prayer which is not made through Christ, not only cannot blot out sin, but is itself turned into sin. But it may be inquired on what occasion Judas could have so prayed, that his prayer was turned into sin. I suppose that before he betrayed the Lord, while he was thinking of betraying Him; for he could no longer pray through Christ. For after he betrayed Him, and repented of it, if he prayed through Christ, he would ask for pardon; if he asked for pardon, he would have hope; if he had hope, he would hope for mercy; if he hoped for mercy, he would not have hanged himself in despair. ...

10. "Let his days be few" (verse 7). By "his days," he meant the days of his apostleship, which were few; since before the Passion of our Lord, they were ended by his crime and death. And as if it were asked, What then shall become of that most sacred number twelve, within which our Lord willed, not without a meaning, to limit His twelve first Apostles? he at once addeth, "and let another take his office." As much as to say, let both himself be punished according to his desert, and let his number be filled up.

11. "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow" (verse 8). After his death, both his children were fatherless, and his wife a widow. "Let his children be vagabonds, and be carried away, and beg their bread" (verse 9). By "vagabonds" he meaneth, uncertain whither to go, destitute of all help. "Let them be driven from their habitations." He here explaineth what he had said above, "Let them be carried away." How all this happened to his wife and children, the following verses explain.

12. "Let the extortioner search out all his substance, and let the strangers spoil his labour" (verse 10). "Let there be no man to help him" (verse 11): that is, to guard his posterity; wherefore followeth, "nor to have compassion on his fatherless children"

13. But as even orphans may, without one to help them, and without a guardian, nevertheless increase amid trouble and want, and preserve their race by descent; he next saith, "Let his posterity be destroyed; and in the next generation let his name be clean put out" (verse 12): that is, let what hath been generated by him generate no more, and quickly pass away.

14. But what is it that he next addeth? "Let the wickedness of his fathers be had in remembrance in the sight of the Lord, and let not the sin of his mother be done away" (verse 13). Is it to be understood, that even the sins of his fathers shall be visited upon him? For upon him they are not visited, who hath been changed in Christ, and hath ceased to be the child of the wicked, by not having imitated their conduct.(3) ... And to these words, "I will visit the sins of the fathers upon the children,"(4) is added, "who hate Me;" that is, hate Me as their fathers hated Me: so that as the effect of imitating the good is that even their own sins are blotted out, so the imitation of the wicked causeth men to suffer not their own deservings only, but those also of those whom they have imitated. ...

15. "Let them alway be against s the Lord" (verse 14). "Against the Lord," meaneth in the Lord's sight: for other translators have rendered this line, "let them be always in the sight of the Lord;" while others have rendered it, "let them be before the Lord alway;" as it is elsewhere said, "Thou hast set our misdeeds in Thy sight."(6) By "alway," he meaneth that this great crime should be without pardon, both here, and in a future life. "Let the memorial of them perish from off the earth:" that is, of his father and of his mother. By memorial of them, he meaneth, that which is preserved by successive generations: this he prophesied should perish from the earth, because both Judas himself, and his sons, who were the memorial of his father and mother, without any succeeding offspring, as it is said above, were consumed in the short space of one generation.(7) ...

16. "And that, because he remembered not to act mercifully" (verse 15); either Judas, or the people itself. But "remembered not" is better understood of the people: for if they slew Christ, they might well remember the deed in penitence, and act mercifully towards His members, whom they most perseveringly persecuted. For this reason he saith, "but persecuted the poor man and the beggar" (verse 16). It may indeed be understood of Judas; for the Lord did not disdain to become poor, when He was rich, that we might be enriched by His poverty.(1) But how shall I understand the word "beggar," save perhaps because He said to the Samaritan woman, "Give me to drink,"(2) and on the Cross He said, "I thirst."(3) But as to what followeth, I do not see how it can be understood of our Head Himself, that is, the Saviour of His own body, whom Judas persecuted. For after saying, "He persecuted the poor man and the beggar:" he addeth, "and to slay," that is, "that he might slay Him," for some have so rendered it," Him that was pricked at the heart." This expression is not commonly used except of the stings of past sins in the sorrows of penitence; as it is said of those who, when they had heard the Apostles after our Lord's ascension, were "pricked in heart," even they who had slain the Lord. ...

17. The Psalm then continueth: "His delight was in cursing, and it shall happen to him" (verse 17). Although Judas loved cursing, both in stealing from the money bag, and selling and betraying the Lord: nevertheless, that people more openly loved cursing, when they said, "His blood be on us, and on our children."(4) "He loved not blessing, therefore it shall be far from him." Such was Judas indeed, since he loved not Christ, in whom is everlasting blessing; but the Jewish people still more decidedly refused blessing, unto whom he who had been enlightened by the Lord said, "Will ye also be His disciples?"(5) "He clothed himself with cursing, like as with a raiment:" either Judas, or that people. "And it came into his bowels like water."(6) Both without, then, and within; without, like a garment; within, like water: since he hath come before the judgment-seat of Him "who hath power to destroy both body and soul in hell;"(7) the body without, the soul within. "And like oil into his bones." He showeth that he worketh evil with delight, and storeth up cursing for himself, that is, everlasting punishment; for blessing is eternal life. For at present evil deeds are his delight, flowing like water into his bowels, like oil into his bones; but it is styled cursing, because God hath appointed torments for such men.

18. "Let it be unto him as the cloak which covereth him" (verse 18). Since he hath before spoken of the cloak, why doth he repeat it? When he said, "He clothed himself with cursing as with a raiment;" doth the raiment with which he is "covered" differ from that with which he is "clothed"? For every man is clothed with his tunic, covered with his cloak; and what is this, save boasting in iniquity, even in the sight of men? "and as the girdle," he saith, "that he is alway girded withal." Men are girded chiefly that they may be better fit for toil, that they may not be hindered by the folds of their dress. He therefore girdeth himself with curses, who designeth an evil which he hath carefully contrived, not on a sudden impulse, and who learneth in such a manner to do evil, that he is always ready to commit it.

19. "This is the work of them that slander me before the Lord" (verse 19). He said not, "their reward," but, "their work:" for it is clear that by the clothing, covering, water, oil, and girdle, he was describing the very works by which eternal curses are procured. It is not then one Judas, but many, of whom it is said, "This is the work of them that slander me before the Lord." Although indeed the plural number might have been put for the singular; even as, when Herod died, it was said by the Angel, "They are dead which sought the young Child's life."(8) But who slander Christ more before the Lord, than they who slander the very words of the Lord, by declaring that it is not He whom the Law of the Lord and His Prophets announced beforehand? "And of those that speak evil against my soul:" by denying that He, when He had willed, could have arisen: though He saith, "I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again."(9)

20. "But work Thou with me, O Lord God" (verse 20). Some have thought "mercifully" should be understood, some have actually added it; but the best copies have the words thus: "But work Thou with me, O Lord God, for Thy Name's sake." Whence a higher sense should not be passed over, supposing the Son to have thus addressed the Father, "Deal Thou with Me," since the works of the Father and of the Son are the same. Where although we understand mercy,--for these words follow, "for sweet is Thy mercy,"--because he said not," In me," or, "over me;" or anything of this sort: but, "work Thou with Me;" we rightly understand that the Father and Son together work mercifully towards the vessels of mercy.(10) "Work with me,"(11) may also be understood to mean, help me. We use this expression in our daily language, when we are speaking of anything which is in our favour; "It works with us." For the Father aideth the Son, as far as the Deity aideth Man, on account of His having assumed the "form of a servant," to which Man, God, and to which "Form of a servant," the Lord too is Father. For in the "form of God," the Son needeth not aid, for He is equally all-powerful with the Father, on which account He also is the helper of men. ... And because when he had said, "Work Thou with me," he added, "for Thy Name's sake," he hath commended grace. For without previous deserving works, human nature was raised to such a height, that the whole in one, the Word and Flesh, that is, God and Man, was styled the Only-begotten Son of God. And this was done that that which had been lost might be sought by Him who had created it, through that which had not been lost; whence the following words, "For Thy mercy is sweet."

21. "O deliver me, for I am needy and poor" (verse 21). Need and poverty is that weakness, through which He was crucified.(1) "And my heart is disturbed within me." This alludeth to those words which He spoke when His Passion was drawing near, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."(2)

22. "I go hence like a shadow that declineth" (verse 22). By this he signified death itself. For as night comes of the shadow's declining, so death comes of mortal flesh. "And am driven away as the locusts." This I think would be more suitably understood of His members, that is, of His faithful disciples. That he might make it much plainer, he preferred writing "locusts" in the plural number: although many may be understood where the singular number is used, as in that passage, "He spake, and the locust came;"(3) but it would have been more obscure. His disciples, then, were driven away, that is, were put to flight by persecutors, either the multitude of whom He wished to be signified by the word locusts, or their passing from one place to another.

23. "My knees are weak through fasting" (verse 23). We read, that our Lord Christ underwent a fast of forty days:(4) but had fasting so great power over Him, that His knees were weakened? Or is this more suitably understood of His members, that is, of His saints? "And my flesh is changed because of the oil;"(5) because of spiritual grace, Whence Christ was so called from the Greek word, chrisma, which signifies unction. But the flesh was changed through the oil, not for the worse, but for the better, that is, rising from the dishonour of death to the glory of immortality. ...His flesh was not yet changed. But whether the Holy Spirit be represented by water through the notion of ablution or irrigation, or by oil through that of exultation and the inflaming of charity; It doth not differ from Itself, because Its types are different. For there is a great difference between the lion and the lamb, and yet Christ is represented by both. ...

24. "I became also a reproach unto them" (verse 24): through the death of the Cross. "For Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us."(6) "They looked upon Me, and shaked their heads." Because they beheld His crucifixion, without beholding His resurrection: they saw when His knees were weakened, they saw not when His flesh was changed.

25. "Help me, O Lord my God: O save me according to Thy mercy" (verse 25). This may be referred to the whole, both to the Head and to the body: to the Head, owing to His having taken the form of a servant; to the body, on account of the servants themselves. For He might even in them have said unto God, "Help Me:" and, "O save Me:" as in them He said unto Paul, "Why persecutest thou Me"?(7) The following words, "according to Thy mercy," describe grace given gratuitously, not according to the merit of works.

26. "And let them know how that this is Thy Hand, and that Thou, Lord, hast made it" (verse 26). He said, "Let them know," of those for whom He even prayed while they were raging; for even those who afterwards believed in Him were among the crowd who shook their heads in mockery of Him. But let those who ascribe unto God the shape of the human body, learn in what sense God hath a hand. Let us therefore understand, that the Hand of God meaneth Christ: whence it is elsewhere said, "Unto whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"(8)

27. "Though they curse, yet bless Thou" (verse 27). Vain therefore and false is the cursing of the sons of men, that have pleasure in vanity, and seek a lie;(9) but when God blesseth, He doth what He saith. "Let them be confounded that rise up against me." For their imagining that they have some power against Me, is the reason that they rise up against Me; but when I shall have been exalted above the heavens, and My glory shall have commenced spreading over the whole earth, they shall be confounded. "But Thy servant shall rejoice:" either on the right hand of the Father, or in His members when they rejoice, both in hope among temptations, and after temptations for evermore.

28. "Let my slanderers be clothed with shame" (verse 28): that is, let it shame them to have slandered me. But this may also be understood as a blessing, in that they are amended. "And let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a double cloak;" for diplois is a double cloak; that is, let them be confounded both within and without: both before God and before men.

29. "As for me, I will confess greatly(1) unto the Lord with my mouth" (verse 29). ... Is He said to "praise among the multitude" because He is with His Church here even unto the end of the world;(2) so that we may understand by "among the multitude," that He is honoured by this very multitude? For he is said to be in the midst, unto whom the chief honour is paid. But if the heart is, as it were, that which is mid-most of a man, no better construction can be put on this passage than this, I will praise Him in the hearts of many. For Christ dwelleth through faith in our hearts;(3) and therefore he saith, "with my mouth," that is, with the mouth of my body, which is the Church.

30. "For He stood at the right hand of the poor" (verse 30). It was said of Judas, "Let Satan stand at his right hand;" since he chose to increase his riches by selling Christ; but here the Lord stood at the right hand of the poor, that the Lord Himself might be the poor man's riches. "He stood at the right hand of the poor," not to multiply the years of a life that one day must end, nor to increase his stores, nor to render him strong in the strength of the body, or secure for a time; "but," he saith, "to save my soul from the persecutors." Now the soul is rendered safe from the persecutors, if we do not consent to them unto evil; but there is no such consent to them when the Lord standeth at the right hand of the poor, that he may not give way through his very poverty, that is, weakness. This aid was given to the Body of Christ in the case of all the holy Martyrs.

Augustin on Psalms 107