Augustin on Psalms 113
1. ... When ye hear sung in the Psalms, Praise the Lord, ye children" (verse 1); imagine not that that exhortation pertaineth not unto you, because having already passed the youth of the body, ye are either blooming in (he prime of manhood, or growing gray with the honours of old age: for unto all of you the Apostle saith, "Brethren, be not children in understanding; howbeit, in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men."(10) What malice in particular, save pride? For it is pride that, presuming in false greatness, suffereth not man to walk along the narrow path, and to enter by the narrow gate; but the child easily entereth through the narrow entrance; and thus no man, save as a child, entereth into the kingdom of heaven. "Praise the Name of the Lord." ... Let Him therefore be alway proclaimed: "Blessed be the Name of the Lord, from this time forth for evermore" (verse 2). Let Him be proclaimed everywhere: "From the rising up of the sun unto the going down. of the same, praise ye the Name of the Lord" (verse 3).
2. If any of the holy children who praise the Name of the Lord were to ask of me and say to me, "for evermore" I understand to mean unto all eternity: but why" from this," and why is not the Name of the Lord blessed before this, and before all ages? I will answer the infant, who asketh not in contumacy. Unto you it is said, masters and children, unto you it is said, "Praise the Name of the Lord; blessed be the Name of the Lord:" let the Name of the Lord be blessed," from this," that is, from the moment ye speak these words. For ye begin to praise, but praise ye without end. ... Or, since in this passage he seemeth to signify rather humility than childhood, the contrary of which is the vain and false greatness of pride; and for this reason none but children praise the Lord, since the proud know not how to praise Him; let old age be childlike, and your childhood like old age; that is, that neither may your wisdom be with pride, nor your humility without wisdom, that ye may "praise the Lord from this for evermore." Wherever the Church of Christ is diffused in her childlike saints, "Praise ye the Name of the Lord;" that is, "from the rising up of the sun unto the going down of the same."
3. "The Lord is high above all heathen" (verse 4). The heathen are men: what wonder if the Lord be above all men? They see with their eyes those whom they worship high above themselves to shine in heaven, the sun and moon and stars, creatures which they serve while they neglect the Creator. But not only "is the Lord high above all heathen;" but "His glory" also "is above the heavens." The heavens look up unto Him above themselves; and the humble have Him together with them, who do not worship the heavens instead of Him, though placed in the flesh beneath the heavens.
4. "Who is like unto the Lord our God, that hath His dwelling so high; and yet beholdeth the humble?" (verse 5). Any one would think that He dwelleth in the lofty heavens, whence He may behold the humble things on earth; but "He beholdeth the humble things that are in heaven and earth" (verse 6): what then is His high dwelling, whence He beholdeth the humble things that are in heaven and earth? Are the humble things He beholdeth His own high dwelling itself? For He thus exalteth the humble, so as not to make them proud. He therefore both dwelleth in those whom He raiseth high, and maketh them heaven for Himself, that is, His own abode; and by seeing them not proud, but constantly subject to Himself, He beholdeth even in heaven itself these very humble things, in whom raised on high He dwelleth. For the Spirit thus speaketh through Isaiah "thus saith the Highest that dwelleth on high, that inhabiteth eternity; the Lord Most High, dwelling in the holy." He hath expounded what He meant by dwelling on high, by the more full expression, "dwelling in the holy." ...
5. And he hath moved us also to enquire whether the Lord our God beholdeth the same humble things in heaven and in earth: or different humble things in heaven to what He beholdeth on earth. ... But if the Lord our God beholdeth other humble things in heaven to what He doth on earth; I suppose that He already beholdeth in heaven those whom He hath called, and in whom He dwelleth; while on earth He beholdeth those whom He is now calling, that He may dwell in them. For He hath the one with Him musing on heavenly things, the others He is waking, while they yet dream things earthly. But since it is difficult to call even those humble, who have not as yet submitted their necks in piety to the gracious yoke of Christ, since the divine writings throughout the whole Psalm warn us to understand holy by the word humble; there is also another interpretation, which, Beloved, ye may consider with me. I believe that those are now meant by heavens who shall sit upon twelve thrones, and shall judge with the Lord;(1) and under the name of the earth, the rest of the multitude of the blessed, who shall be set on the right hand, that through works of mercy they may be praised and received into everlasting habitations by those whom they have made friends to themselves from the mammon of unrighteousness in this mortal life.(2) ...
6. "He taketh up the destitute out of the dust, and lifteth the poor out of the mire" (verse 7); "that He may set Him with the princes, even with the princes of His people" (verse 8). Let not then the heads of the exalted disdain to be humble, beneath the Lord's right hand. For though the faithful steward of the Lord's money be placed together with the princes of the people of God, although he be destined to sit on the twelve seats, and even to judge angels;(1) yet he is taken up destitute from the dust, and lifted from out of the mire. Was not he possibly lifted up from the mire, who "served divers lusts and pleasures "? ...
7. What then, brethren, if we have already heard of those humble things which are in heaven, lifted up from the mire, that they might be set with the princes of the people; have we by consequence heard nothing of the humble things which the Lord beholdeth on the earth? For those friends who will judge with their Lord are fewer, while those whom they receive into everlasting habitations are more in number. For although the whole of a heap of corn compared with the separate chaff may seem to contain few in number; yet considered by itself, it is abundant. ... The Church then speaketh thus in that sense, wherein she seemeth to bear no offspring among those crowds who have not given up all things, that they might follow the Lord, and might sit upon the twelve thrones.(1) But how many in the same crowd, who make unto themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,(2) shall stand on the right hand through works of mercy? He not only then lifteth up from the mire him whom He is to place with the princes of His people; but also, "Maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children" (verse 9): He who dwelleth on high, and beholdeth the humble things that are in heaven and earth, the seed of Abraham like the stars of heaven, holiness set on high in heavenly habitations; and like the sand on the sea shore, a merciful and countless multitude gathered together from the harmful waves, and the bitterness of impiety.
1. The river Jordan, when they were entering across it into the land of promise, when touched by the feet of the priests who bore the Ark, stood still from above with bridled stream, while it flowed down from below, where it ran on into the sea, until the whole people passed over, the priests standing on the dry ground.(1) We know these things, but yet we should not imagine in this Psalm, to which we have now answered by chanting Allelujah, that it is the purpose of the Holy Spirit, that while we call to mind those deeds of the past, we should not consider things like unto them yet to take place. For "these things," as the Apostle saith, "happened unto them for ensamples."(2)
2. "When Israel came out of Egypt, and the house of Jacob from among the strange people" (verse 1), "Judah was His sanctuary, and Israel His dominion" (verse 2); "the sea saw that and fled, Jordan was driven back" (verse 3). Think not that past deeds are related unto us, but rather that the future is predicted; since, while those miracles also were going on in that people, things present indeed were happening, but not without an intimation of things future. ... Some things he has related differently to what we have learnt and read there: that he might not truly be thought to be repeating past acts rather than to be prophesying future things. For in the first place, we read not that the Jordan was driven back, but that it stood still on the side nearest the source of its streams, while the people were passing through; next, we read not of the mountains and hills skipping: all which he hath added, and repeated. For after saying, "The sea saw that, and fled; Jordan was driven back:" he added," The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like young sheep" (verse 4): and then asketh, "What aileth thee, O thou sea, that thou reddest: and thou, Jordan, that thou wast driven back?" (verse 5 ). "Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like young sheep?" (verse 6).
3. Let us therefore consider what we are taught here; since both those deeds were typical of us, and these words exhort us to recognise ourselves. For if we hold with a firm heart the grace of God which hath been given us, we are Israel, the seed of Abraham: unto us the Apostle saith, "Therefore are ye the seed of Abraham."(3) ... Let therefore no Christian consider himself alien to the name of Israel. For we are joined in the corner stone with those among the Jews who believed, among whom we find the Apostles chief. Hence our Lord in another passage saith, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, that there may be one fold and one Shepherd."(4) The Christian people then is rather Israel, and the same is preferably the house of Jacob; for Israel and Jacob are the same. But that multitude of Jews, which was deservedly reprobated for its perfidy, for the pleasures of the flesh sold their birthright, so that they belonged not to Jacob, but rather to Esau. For ye know that it was said with this hidden meaning, "That the eider shah serve the younger." (5)
4. But Egypt, since it is said to mean affliction, or one who afflicteth, or one who oppresseth, is often used for an emblem of this world; from which we must spiritually withdraw, that we may not be bearing the yoke with unbelievers.(6) For thus each one becometh a fit citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, when he hath first renounced this world; just as that people could not be led into the land of promise, save first they had departed from Egypt. But as they did not depart thence, until freed by Divine help; so no man is turned away in heart from this world, unless aided by the gift of the Divine mercy. For what was there once prefigured, the same is fulfilled in every faithful one in the daily travailings of the Church, in this end of the world, in this, as the blessed John writeth, last time.(7) Hear the Apostle the teacher of the Gentiles, thus instructing us: "I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples."(8) What more do ye wish, most beloved brethren? For it is surely clear, not from human conjecture, but from the declaration of an Apostle, that is, of God and our Lord: for God spoke in them, and though from clouds of flesh, yet it was God who thundered: surely then it is clear by so great testimony that all these things which were done in figure, are now fulfilled in our salvation; because then the future was predicted, now the past is read, and the present observed.
5. Hear what is even more wonderful, that the hidden and veiled mysteries of the ancient books are in some degree revealed by the ancient books. For Micah the prophet speaketh thus. "According to the days of thy coming out of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things, etc.(9) ... In this Psalm, therefore, although the wonderful spirit of prophecy doth look into the future, yet it seemeth, as it were, to be merely detailing to the past. "Judah," he saith, "was His sanctuary: the sea saw that and fled:" "was," "saw," and" fled," are words of the past tense; and "Jordan was driven back, and the mountains skipped, and the earth trembled," in like manner have a past expression, without, however, any difficulty in understanding by them the future. ... For though it was so long after the departure of that people from Egypt, and so long before these seasons of the Church, that he sang what I have quoted; nevertheless, he withesseth that he is foretelling the future without any question. "According to the days," he saith, "of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things." "The nations shall see and be confounded." This is what is here said, "The sea saw that, and fled:" for if in this passage, through words of the past tense the future is secretly revealed, as is the case; who would venture to explain the words, "shall see and be confounded," of past events? And a little lower down he(1) alludeth more clearly than light itself to those very enemies of ours, who followed us flying, that they might slay us, that is, our sins, which are overwhelmed and extinguished in Baptism, just as the Egyptians were drowned in the sea, saying, since "He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He is of good will and merciful, He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us, He will drown our iniquities: and Thou wilt east all their sins into the depths of the sea."
6. What is it, most beloved? ye who know yourselves to be Israelites according to Abraham's seed, ye who are of the house of Jacob, heirs according to promise, know that even ye have gone forth from Egypt, since ye have renounced this world; that ye have gone forth from a foreign people, since by the confession of piety, ye have separated yourselves from the blasphemies of the Gentiles. For it is not your tongue, but a foreign one, which knoweth not how to praise God, to whom ye sing Allelujah. For "Judah" hath become "His sanctuary" in you; for "he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and by circumcision of the heart."(2) Examine then your hearts, if faith hath circumcised them, if confession hath cleansed them; in you "Judah" hath become "His sanctuary," in you "Israel" hath become "His dominion." For" He gave" unto you" the power to become the sons of God."(3) ...
7. But I would not that ye should seek without yourselves, how the Jordan was turned back, I would not ye should augur anything evil. For the Lord chideth those who have "turned" their "back" unto Him, "and not their face."(4) And whoever forsaketh the source of his being, and turneth away from his Creator; as a river into the sea, he glides into the bitter wickedness of this world. It is therefore good for him that he turn back, and that God whom he had set behind his back, may be before his face as he returneth; and that the sea of this world, which he had set before his face, when he was gliding on towards it, may become behind him; and that he may so forget what is behind him, that he may "reach forward to what is before him;"(5) which is profitable for him when once converted. ...
8. "Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob" (verse 7). What meaneth, "at the presence of the Lord," save at the presence of Him who said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."(6) For the earth trembled; but because it had remained slothful, it was made to tremble, so that it might be more firmly fixed at the presence of the Lord.
9. "Who turned the hard rock into standing waters, and the flint stone into springing wells" (verse 8). For He melted Himself, and what may be called His hardness to water those who believe on Him, that He might in them become "a fountain of water gushing forth unto everlasting life;"(7) because formerly, when He was not known, He seemed hard. Hence they who said, "This is an hard saying, who can bear it?(8) were confounded, and waited not until He should flow and stream upon them when the Scriptures were revealed. The rock, that hardness, was turned into pools of water, that stone into fountains of waters, when on His resurrection, "He expounded unto them, commencing with Moses and all the prophets, how Christ ought to suffer thus;"(9) and sent the Holy Ghost, of whom He said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink."(10)
115 (Ps 115)
1. "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give the praise" (verse 1). For that grace of the water that gushed from the rock ("now that rock was Christ "12), was not given on the score of works that had gone before, but of His mercy "that justifieth the ungodly."(13) For "Christ died for sinners,"(14) that men might not seek any glory of their own, but in the Lord's Name.
2. "For Thy loving mercy, and for Thy truth's sake" (verse 2). Observe how often these two qualities, loving mercy and truth, are joined together in the holy Scriptures. For in His loving mercy He called sinners, and in His truth He judgeth those who when called refused to come. "That the heathen may not say, Where is now their God?" For at the last, His loving mercy and truth will shine forth, when "the sign of the Son of man shall appear in heaven, and then shall all tribes of the earth cry woe;"(1) nor shall they then say, "Where is their God?" when He is no longer preached unto them to be believed in, but displayed before them to be trembled at.
3. "As for our God, He is in heaven above" (verse 3). Not in heaven, where they see the sun and moon, works of God which they adore, but "in heaven above," which overpasseth all heavenly and earthly bodies. Nor is our God in heaven in such a sense, as to dread a fall that should deprive Him of His throne, if heaven were withdrawn from under Him. "In heaven and earth He hath made whatsoever pleased Him." Nor doth He stand in need of His own works, as if He had place in them where He might abide; but endureth in His own eternity, wherein He abideth and hath done whatsoever pleased Him, both in heaven and earth; for they did not support Him, as a condition of their being created by Him: since, unless they had been created, they could not have supported Him. Therefore, in whatsoever He Himself dwelleth, He, so to speak, containeth this as in need of Himself, He is not contained by this as if He needed it. Or it may be thus understood: "In heaven and in earth He hath done whatsoever pleased Him," whether among the higher or the lower orders of His people, He hath made His grace His free gift, that no man may boast in the merits of his own works. ...
4. "Their idols," he saith, "are silver and gold, even the work of men's hands" (verse 4). That is, although we cannot display our God to your carnal eyes, whom ye ought to recognise through his works; yet be not seduced by your vain pretences, because ye can point with the finger to, the objects of your worship. For it were much worthlet for you not to have what to point to, than that your hearts' blindness should be displayed in what is exhibited to these eyes by you: for what do ye exhibit, save gold and silver? They have indeed both bronze, and wood, and earthenware idols, and of different materials of this description; but the Holy Spirit preferred mentioning the more precious material, because when every man hath blushed for that which he sets more by, he is much more easily turned away from the worship of meaner objects. For it is said in another passage of Scripture concerning the worshippers of images, "Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth."(2) But lest that man who speaketh thus not to a stone or stock, but to gold and silver, seem wiser to himself; let him look this way, let him turn hitherwards the ear of his heart: "The idols of the Gentiles are gold and silver." Nothing mean and contemptible is here mentioned: and indeed to that mind which is not earth, both gold and silver is earth, but more beautiful and brilliant, more solid and firm. Employ not then the hands of men, to create a false Deity out of that metal which a true God hath created; nay, a false man, whom thou mayest worship for a true God. ...
5. "For they have mouths, and speak not: eyes have they, and see not" (verse 5). "They have ears, and hear not: noses have they, and smell not" (verse 6). "They have hands, and handle not; feet have they, and walk not; neither cry they through their throat" (vet. 7). Even their artist therefore surpasseth them, since he had the faculty of moulding them by the motion and functions of his limbs: though thou wouldest be ashamed to worship that artist. Even thou surpassest them, though thou hast not made these things, since thou doest what they cannot do. Even a beast doth excel them; for unto this it is added, "neither cry they through their throat." For after he had said above, "they have mouths, and speak not;" what need was there, after he had enumerated the limbs from head to feet, to repeat what he had said of their crying through their throat; unless, I suppose, because we perceive that what he mentioned of the other members, was common to men and beasts? For they see, and hear, and smell, and walk, and some, apes for instance, handle with hands. But what he had said of the mouth, is peculiar to men: since beasts do not speak. But that no one might refer what hath been said to the works of human members alone, and prefer men only to the gods of the heathen; after all this he added these words, "neither cry they through their throat:" which again is common to men and cattle. ... How 'much better then do mice and serpents, and other animals of like sort, judge of the idols of the heathen, so to speak, for they regard not the human figure in them when they see not the human life. For this reason they usually build nests in them, and unless they are deterred by human movements, they seek for themselves no safer habitations. A man then moveth himself, that he may frighten away a living beast from his own god; and yet worshippeth that god who cannot move himself, as if he were powerful, from whom he drove away one better than the object of his worship . ... Even the dead surpasseth a deity who neither liveth nor hath lived . ...
6. But they seem to themselves to have a purer religion, who say, I neither worship an idol, nor a devil; but in the bodily image I behold an emblem 3 of that which I am bound to worship . ... They presume to reply, that they worship not the bodies themselves, but the deities which preside over the government of them. One sentence of the Apostle, therefore, testifieth to their punishment and condemnation; "Who," he saith, "have changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever."(1) For in the former part of this sentence he condemned idols; in the latter, the account they give of their idols: for by designating images wrought by an artificer by the names of the works of God's creation, they change the truth of God into a lie; while, by considering these works themselves as deities, and worshipping them as such, they serve the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever . ...
7. But, it will be said, we also have very many instruments and vessels made of materials or metal of this description for the purpose of celebrating the Sacraments, which being consecrated by these ministrations are called holy, in honour of Him who is thus worshipped for our salvation: and what indeed are these very instruments or vessels, but the work of men's hands? But have they mouth, and yet speak not? have they eyes, and see not? do we pray unto them, because through them we pray to God? This is the chief cause of this insane profanity, that the figure resembling the living person, which induces men to worship it, hath more influence in the minds of these miserable persons, than the evident fact that it is not living, so that it ought to be despised by the living.(2)
8. The result that ensueth is that described in the next verse: "They that make them are like unto them, and so are all such as put their trust in them" (verse 8). Let them therefore see with open eyes, and worship with shut and dead understandings, idols that neither see nor live. "But the house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord" (verse 9). "For hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."(3) But that this patience may endure to the end, "He is their helper and defender." Do perhaps spiritual persons (by whom carnal minds are built up in "the spirit of meekness," 4 because they pray as higher for lower minds) already see, and is that already to them reality which to the lower is hope? It is not so. For even "the house of Aaron hath hope in the Lord" (verse 10). Therefore, that they also may stretch forward perseveringly towards those things which are before them, and may run perseveringly, until they may apprehend that for which they are apprehendeds,(5) and may know even as they are known,(6) "He is their helper and defender." For both "fear the Lord, and have hoped in the Lord: He is their helper and defender" (verse 11).
9. For we do not by our deservings prevent the mercy of God; but, "The Lord hath been mindful of us, and hath blessed us. He hath blessed the house of Israel, He hath blessed the house of Aaron" (verse 12). But in blessing both of these, "He hath blessed all that fear the Lord" (verse 13). Dost thou ask, who are meant by both of these? He answereth, "both small and great." That is, the house of Israel with the house of Aaron, those who among that nation believed in Jesus the Saviour . ... For in the character of those who out of that nation believed, it is said, "Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha."(7) Seed, because when it has been scattered over the earth, it multiplied.
10. For the great ones, of the house of Aaron, have said, "May the Lord increase you more and more, you and your children" (verse 14). And thus it hath happened. For children that have been raised even from the stones have flocked unto Abraham:(8) sheep which were not of this fold, have flocked unto him, that there might be one flock, and one shepherd;(9) the faith of all nations was added, and the number grew, not only of wise priests, but of obedient peoples; the Lord increasing not only their fathers more and more, who in Christ might show the way to the rest who should imitate them, but also their children, who should follow their fathers' pious footsteps.
11. Therefore the Prophet saith unto these great and small, the mountains and the little hills, the rams and the young sheep, what followeth: "Ye are the blessed of the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (vet. 15). As if he should say, Ye are the blessed of the Lord, who made the heaven in the great, earth in the small: not this visible heaven, studded with luminaries which are objects to these eyes. For "The heaven of heavens is the Lord's" (verse 16); who hath elevated the minds of some saints to such a height, that they became teachable by no man, but by God Himself; in comparison of which heaven, whatever is discerned with carnal eyes is to be called earth; which "He hath given to the children of men;" that when it is contemplated, whether in that region which illumineth above, as that which is called heaven, or in that which is illumined beneath, which is properly called earth (since in comparison with that which is called heaven of heaven, the whole, as we have said, is earth;) the whole therefore of this earth He hath given to the children of men, that by the consideration of it, as far as they can, they may conceive of the Creator, whom with their yet weak hearts they cannot see without that aid to their conception.
12 . ... But nevertheless since they derive the truth and richness of wisdom, not from man nor through man, but through God Himself, they have received little ones who shall be heaven, that they may know that they are heaven of heaven; as yet however earth, unto which they say, "I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase."(1) For to those very sons of men whom He made heaven, He who knoweth how to provide for the earth through heaven, hath given earth upon which they work. May they therefore abide, heaven and earth, in their God, who made them, and let them live from Him, confessing unto Him, and praising Him; for if they choose to live from themselves, they shall die, as it is written, "From the dead, as though he were not, confession ceaseth."(2) But, "The dead praise not Thee, O Lord, neither all they that go down into silence" (verse 17). For the Scripture in another passage proclaimeth, "The sinner, when he cometh into the abyss of wickednesses, scorneth."(3) "But we, who live, will praise the Lord, from this time forth for evermore" (verse 18).
1. "I have loved, since the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer" (verse 1). Let the soul that is sojourning in absence from the Lord sing thus, let that sheep which had strayed sing thus, let that son who had "died and returned to life," who had "been lost and was found;"(5) let our soul sing thus, brethren, and most beloved sons. Let us be taught, and let us abide, and let us sing thus with the Saints: "I have loved: since the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer." Is this a reason for having loved, that the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer? and do we not rather love, because He hath heard, or that He may hear? What then meaneth, "I have loved, since the Lord will hear"? Doth he, because hope is wont to inflame love, say that he hath loved, since he hath hoped that God will listen to the voice of his prayer?
2. But whence hath he hoped for this? Since, he saith, "He hath inclined His ear unto me: and in my days I have called upon Him" (verse 2). I loved, therefore, because He will hear; He will hear, "because He hath inclined His ear unto me." But whence knowest thou, O human soul, that God hath inclined His ear unto thee, except thou sayest, "I have believed"? These three things, therefore, "abide, faith, hope, charity:"(6) because thou hast believed, thou hast hoped; because thou hast hoped, thou hast loved . ...
3. And what are thy days, since thou hast said, "In my days I have called upon Him "? Are they those perchance, in which "the fulness of time came," and "God sent His Son,"(7) who had already said, "In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee"?(8) ... I may rather call my days the days of my misery, the days of my mortality, the days according to Adam, full of toil and sweat, the days according to the ancient corruption. "For I lying, stuck fast in the deep mire,"(9) in another Psalm also have cried out, "Behold, Thou hast made my days old; . ... in these days of mine have I called upon Thee. For my days are different from the days of my Lord. I call those my days, which by my own daring I have made for myself, whereby I have forsaken Him: and, since He reigneth everywhere, and is all-powerful, and holdeth all things, I have deserved prison; that is, I have received the darkness of ignorance, and the bonds of mortality . ... For in these days of mine, "The snares of death compassed me round about, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me" (verse 3): pains that would not have overtaken me, had I not wandered from Thee. But now they have overtaken me; but I found them not, while I was rejoicing in the prosperity of the world, in which the snares of hell deceive the more.
4. But after" I too found trouble and heaviness, I called upon the Name of the Lord" (verse 4). For trouble and profitable sorrow I did not feel; trouble, wherein He giveth aid, unto whom it is said, "O be Thou our help in trouble: and vain is the help of man."(11) For I thought I might rejoice and exult in the vain help of man; but when I had heard from my Lord, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted:"(12) I did not wait until I should lose those temporal blessings in which I rejoiced, and should then mourn: but I gave heed to that very misery of mine which caused me to rejoice in such things, which I both feared to lose, and yet could not retain; I gave heed to it firmly and courageously, and I saw that I was not only agonized by the adversities of this world, but even bound by its good fortune; and thus "I found the trouble and heaviness" which had escaped me, "and called upon the Name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul." Let then the holy people of God say, "I called upon the Name of the Lord:" and let the remainder of the heathen hear, who do not as yet call upon the Name of the Lord; let them hear and seek, that they may discover trouble and heaviness, and may call upon the Name of the Lord, and be saved . ...
5. "Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful" (verse 5 ). He is gracious, righteous, and merciful. Gracious in the first place, because He hath inclined His ear unto me; and I knew not that the ear of God had approached my lips, till I was aroused by those beautiful feet, that I might call upon the Lord's Name: for who hath called upon Him, save he whom He first called? Hence therefore He is in the first place "gracious;" but "righteous," because He scourgeth; and again, "merciful," because He receiveth; for "He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth;" nor ought it to be so bitter to me that He scourgeth, as sweet that He receiveth. For how should not "The Lord, who keepeth little ones" (verse 6), scourge those whom, when of mature age, He seeketh to be heirs; "for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?(1) "I was in misery, and He helped me." He helped me, because I was in misery; for the pain which the physician causeth by his knife is not penal, but salutary.
6. "Turn again then unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath done good to thee" (verse 7): not for thy deservings, or through thy strength; but because the Lord hath done good to thee. "Since," he saith," He hath delivered my soul from death" (verse 8). It is wonderful, most beloved brethren, that, after he had said that his soul should turn unto rest, since the Lord had rewarded him; he added, since "He hath delivered my soul from death." Did it turn unto rest, because it was delivered from death? Is not rest more usually said of death? What is the action of him whose life is rest, and death disquietude? Such then ought to be the action of the soul, as may tend to a quiet security, not one that may increase restless toil; since He hath delivered it from death, who, pitying it, said, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," etc.(2) Meek therefore and humble, following, so to speak, Christ as its path, should the action of the soul be that tendeth towards repose; nevertheless, not slothful and supine; that it may finish its course, as it is written, "In quietness make perfect thy works."(3) "Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling." Whoever feeleth the chain of this flesh, chanteth these things as fulfilled in hope towards himself. For it is truly said, "I was in misery, and He delivered me;" but the Apostle saith this also truly, that we are saved by hope.(4) And that we are delivered from death, is well said to be already fulfilled, so that we may understand the death of unbelievers, of whom he saith, "Leave the dead to bury their dead."(5) ... He will then clear our eyes of tears, when He shall save our feet from falling. For there will then be no slipping of our feet as they walk, when there will be no sliding of the weak flesh. But now, however firm our path, which is Christ, be: yet since we place flesh, which we are enjoined to subdue, beneath us; in the very work of chastening and subduing it, it is a great thing not to fall: but not to slip in the flesh, who can attain? "I shall please in the sight of the Lord, in the land of the living" (verse 9) . ... We "labour" indeed now, because we are awaiting "the redemption of our body:(6) but, "when death shall have been swallowed up in victory, and this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality;"(7) then there will be no weeping, because there will be no falling; and no filling, because no corruption. And therefore we shall then no longer labour to please, but we shall be entirely pleasing in the sight of the Lord, in the land of the living.
7 . ... "I believed," saith he, "and therefore did I speak. But I was sorely brought down" (verse 10). For he suffered many tribulations, for the sake of the word which he faithfully held, faithfully preached; and he was sorely brought down; as they feared who loved the praise of men better than that of God. But what meaneth, "But I"? He should rather say, I believed, and therefore I have spoken, and I was sorely brought down: why did he add, "But I," save because a man may be sorely brought down by those who oppose the truth, the truth itself cannot, which he believeth and speaketh? Whence also the Apostle, when he was speaking of his chain, saith, "the word of God is not bound."(8) So this man also, since there is one person of the holy witnesses, that is, of the Martyrs of God, saith, "I believed, and therefore will I speak." "But I;" not that which I believed, not the word which I have delivered; "but I was sorely brought down."
8. "I said in my trance, All men are liars" (verse 11). By trance he meaneth fear, which when persecutors threaten, and when the sufferings of torture or death impend, human weakness suffereth. For this we understand, because in this Psalm the voice of Martyrs is heard. For trance is used in another sense also, when the mind is not beside itself by fear, but is possessed by some inspiration of revelation. "But I said in my haste, All men are liars." In consternation he hath had regard to his infirmity, and hath seen that he ought not to presume on himself; for as far as pertaineth to the man himself, he is a liar, but by the grace of God he is made true; lest yielding to the pressure of his enemies he might not speak what he had believed, but might deny it; even as it happened to Peter, since he had trusted in himself, and was to be taught that we ought not to trust in man. And if every one ought not to trust in man, surely not in himself; because he is a man. Rightly therefore in his fear did he perceive that every man was a liar; since they also whom no fear robs of their presence of mind, so that they never lie by yielding to the persecutors, are such by the gifts of God, not by their own strength . ...
9. "What," he asketh, "what reward shall I give unto the Lord, for all the benefits that He hath returned unto me?" (verse 12). He saith not, for all the benefits that He hath done unto me but "for all the benefits that He hath returned unto me." What deeds then on the man's Dart had preceded, that all the benefits of God were not said to be given, but returned? What had preceded, on the man's part, save sins? God therefore repayeth good for evil, whilst unto Him men repay evil for good; for such was the return of those who said, "This is the heir: come, let us kill him."(1)
10. But this man seeketh what he may return unto the Lord, and findeth not, save out of those things which the Lord Himself returneth. "I will receive," he saith, "the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord" (verse 13). "My vows will I render to the Lord, before all His people" (verse 14). Who hath given thee the cup of salvation, which when thou takest, and callest upon the Name of the Lord, thou shalt return unto Him a reward for all that He hath returned unto thee? Who, save He who saith, "Are ye able to drink the cup that I shall drink of?"(2) Who hath given unto thee to imitate His sufferings, save He who hath suffered before for thee? And therefore, "Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints" (verse 15). He purchased it by His Blood, which He first shed for the salvation of slaves, that they might not hesitate to shed their blood for the Lord's Name; which, nevertheless, would be profitable for their own interests, not for those of the Lord.
11. Let therefore the slave purchased at so great a price confess his condition, and say, "Behold, O Lord, how that I am Thy servant: "I am Thy servant, and the son of Thine hand-maid" (verse 16) . ... This, therefore, is the son of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is above, the free mother of us all.(3) And free indeed from sin she is, but the handmaid of righteousness; to whose sons still pilgrims it is said, "Ye have been called unto liberty;"(4) and again he maketh them servants, when he saith, "but by love serve one another." ... Let therefore that servant say unto God, Many call themselves martyrs, many Thy servants, because they hold Thy Name in various heresies and errors; but since they are beside Thy Church, they are not the children of Thy hand-maid. But "I am Thy servant, and the son of Thine handmaid." "Thou hast broken my bonds asunder."
12. "I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of praise" (verse 17). For I have not found any deserts of mine, since Thou hast broken my bonds asunder; I therefore owe Thee the sacrifice of praise; because, although I will boast that I am Thy servant, and the son of Thy hand-maid, I will glory not in myself, but in Thee, my Lord, who hast broken asunder my bonds, that when I return from my desertion, I may again be bound unto Thee.
13. "I will pay my vows unto the Lord" (vet. 18). What vows wilt thou pay? What victims hast thou vowed? what burnt-offerings, what hob ocausts? Dost thou refer to what thou hast said a little before, "I will receive the cup of salvation, and will call upon the Name of the Lord;" and, "I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving"? and indeed whosoever well considereth what he is vowing to the Lord, and what vows he is paying, let him vow himself, let him pay himself as a vow: this is exacted, this is due. On looking at the coin, the Lord saith, "Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things which are God's:"(5) his own image is rendered unto Caesar: let His image be rendered unto God.
14. "In the courts," he saith, "of the Lord's house" (verse 19). What is the Lord's house, the same is the Lord's handmaid: and what is God's house, save all His people? It therefore followeth, "In the sight of all His people." And now he more openly nameth his mother herself. For what else is His people, but what followeth, "In the midst of thee, O Jerusalem"? For than that which is returned grateful, if it be returned from peace, and in peace. But they who are not sons of this hand-maid, have loved war rather than peace . ...
Augustin on Psalms 113