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A Commentary On The Book Of Psalms - Saint Robert Bellarmine

Translated From The Latin Of St. Robert Bellarmine By Ven. John O’Sullivan, D.D. Archdeacon Of Kerry

First Published In 1866 By: James Duffy & Co., Dublin & London

Copyright 2016 Ecatholic2000.Com Published For The Greater Glory Of God


  • Translator’s Preface
  • Dedication Of The Original Edition (1866)
  • Life Of Bellarmine
  • Preface I
  • Preface II
  • Psalm 1 - The Happiness Of The Just: And The Evil State Of The Wicked
  • Psalm 2 - The Vain Efforts Of Persecutors Against Christ And His Church
  • Psalm 3 - The Psalm Of David When He Fled From The Face Of His Son Absalom
  • Psalm 4 - The Prophet Teaches Us To Fly To God In Tribulation, With Confidence In Him
  • Psalm 5 - A Prayer To God Against The Iniquities Of Men
  • Psalm 6 - A Prayer Of A Penitent Sinner, Under The Scourge Of God. The First Penitential Psalm
  • Psalm 7 - David, Trusting In The Justice Of His Cause, Prayeth For God’s Help Against His Enemies
  • Psalm 8
  • Psalm 9 - The Church Praiseth God For His Protection Against Her Enemies
  • Psalm 10 - The Just Man’s Confidence In God, In The Midst Of Persecutions
  • Psalm 11 - The Prophet Calls For God’s Help Against The Wicked
  • Psalm 12 - A Prayer In Tribulation
  • Psalm 13 - The General Corruption Of Man Before Our Redemption By Christ
  • Psalm 14 - What Kind Of Men Shall Dwell In The Heavenly Sion
  • Psalm 15 - Christ’s Future Victory And Triumph Over The World, And Death
  • Psalm 16 - A Just Man’s Prayer In Tribulation Against The Malice Of His Enemies
  • Psalm 17 - David’s Thanks To God For His Delivery From All His Enemies
  • Psalm 18 - The Works Of God Show Forth His Glory: His Law Is Greatly To Be Esteemed And Loved
  • Psalm 19 - A Prayer For The King
  • Psalm 20 - Praise To God For Christ’s Exaltation After His Passion
  • Psalm 21 - Christ’s Passion: And The Conversion Of The Gentiles
  • Psalm 22 - God’s Spiritual Benefits To Faithful Souls
  • Psalm 23 - Who Are They That Shall Ascend To Heaven; Christ’s Triumphant Ascension Thither
  • Psalm 24 - A Prayer For Grace, Mercy, And Protection Against Our Enemies
  • Psalm 25 - David’s Prayer To God In His Distress, To Be Delivered, That He May Come To Worship Him In His Tabernacle
  • Psalm 26 - David’s Faith And Hope In God
  • Psalm 27 - David’s Prayer That His Enemies May Not Prevail Over Him
  • Psalm 28 - An Invitation To Glorify God, With A Commemoration Of His Mighty Works
  • Psalm 29 - David Praiseth God For His Deliverance, And His Merciful Dealings With Him
  • Psalm 30 - A Prayer Of A Just Man Under Affliction
  • Psalm 31 - The Second Penitential Psalm
  • Psalm 32 - An Exhortation To Praise God, And To Trust In Him
  • Psalm 33 - An Exhortation To The Praise And Service Of God
  • Psalm 34 - David, In The Person Of Christ, Prayeth Against His Persecutors; Prophetically Foreshowing The Punishments That Shall Fall Upon Them
  • Psalm 35 - The Malice Of Sinners, And The Goodness Of God
  • Psalm 36 - An Exhortation To Despise This World, And The Short Prosperity Of The Wicked; And To Trust In Providence
  • Psalm 37 - A Prayer Of A Penitent For The Remission Of His Sins. The Third Penitential Psalm
  • Psalm 38 - A Just Man’s Peace And Patience In His Sufferings: Considering The Vanity Of The World, And The Providence Of God
  • Psalm 39 - Christ’s Coming, And Redeeming Mankind
  • Psalm 40 - The Happiness Of Him That Shall Believe In Christ, Notwithstanding The Humility And Poverty In Which He Shall Come: The Malice Of His Enemies, Especially Of The Traitor Judas
  • Psalm 41 - The Fervent Desire Of The Just After God: Hope In Afflictions
  • Psalm 42 - The Prophet Aspireth After The Temple And Altar Of God
  • Psalm 43 - The Church Commemorates Former Favors, And Present Afflictions: Under Which She Prays For Succor
  • Psalm 44 - The Excellence Of Christ’s Kingdom And The Endowments Of His Church
  • Psalm 45 - The Church, In Persecution, Trusteth In The Protection Of God
  • Psalm 46 - The Gentiles Are Invited To Praise God For The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of Christ
  • Psalm 47 - God Is Greatly To Be Praised For The Establishment Of His Church
  • Psalm 48 - The Folly Of Worldlings Who Live On In Sin, Without Thinking Of Death Or Hell
  • Psalm 49 - The Coming Of Christ: Who Prefers Virtue And Inward Purity Before The Blood Victims
  • Psalm 50 - The Repentance And Confession Of David After His Sin. The Fourth Penitential Psalm
  • Psalm 51 - David Condemns The Wickedness Of Doeg, And Foretells His Destruction
  • Psalm 52 - The General Corruption Of Man Before The Coming Of Christ
  • Psalm 53 - A Prayer For Help In Distress
  • Psalm 54 - A Prayer Of A Just Man Under Persecution From The Wicked. It Agrees To Christ Persecuted By The Jews, And Betrayed By Judas
  • Psalm 55 - A Prayer Of David In Danger And Distress
  • Psalm 56 - The Prophet Prays In His Affliction, And Praises God For His Delivery
  • Psalm 57 - David Reproves The Wicked, And Foretells Their Punishment
  • Psalm 58 - A Prayer To Be Delivered From The Wicked, With Confidence In God’s Help And Protection. It Agrees To Christ And His Enemies The Jews
  • Psalm 59 - After Many Afflictions, The Church Of Christ Shall Prevail
  • Psalm 60 - A Prayer For The Coming Of The Kingdom Of Christ, Which Shall Have No End
  • Psalm 61 - The Prophet Encourages Himself And All Others To Trust In God, And Serve Him
  • Psalm 62 - The Prophet Aspireth After God
  • Psalm 63 - A Prayer In Affliction, With Confidence In God That He Will Bring To Naught The Machinations Of Persecutors
  • Psalm 64 - God Is To Be Praised In His Church, To Which All Nations Shall Be Called
  • Psalm 65 - An Invitation To Praise God
  • Psalm 66 - A Prayer For The Propagation Of The Church
  • Psalm 67 - The Glorious Establishment Of The Church Of The New Testament, Prefigured By The Benefits Bestowed On The People Of Israel
  • Psalm 68 - Christ In His Passion Declareth The Greatness Of His Sufferings, And The Malice Of His Persecutors The Jews; And Foretelleth Their Reprobation
  • Psalm 69 - A Prayer In Persecution
  • Psalm 70 - A Prayer For Perseverance
  • Psalm 71 - A Prophecy Of The Coming Of Christ, And Of His Kingdom: Prefigured By Solomon And His Happy Reign
  • Psalm 72 - The Temptation Of The Weak, Upon Seeing The Prosperity Of The Wicked, Is Overcome By The Consideration Of The Justice Of God, Who Will Quickly Render To Every One According To His Works
  • Psalm 73 - A Prayer Of The Church Under Grievous Persecutions
  • Psalm 74 - Where Is A Just Judgment To Come: Therefore Let The Wicked Take Care
  • Psalm 75 - God Is Known In His Church: And Exerts His Power In Protecting It. It Alludes To The Slaughter Of The Assyrians, In The Days Of King Ezechias
  • Psalm 76 - The Faithful Have Recourse To God In Trouble Of Mind, With Confidence In His Mercy And Power
  • Psalm 77 - God’s Great Benefits To The People Of Israel, Notwithstanding Their Ingratitude
  • Psalm 78 - The Church In Time Of Persecution Prayeth For Relief. It Seems To Belong To The Time Of The Machabees
  • Psalm 79 - A Prayer For The Church In Tribulation, Commemorating God’s Former Favors
  • Psalm 80 - An Invitation To A Solemn Praising Of God
  • Psalm 81 - An Exhortation To Judges And Men In Power
  • Psalm 82 - A Prayer Against The Enemies Of God’s Church
  • Psalm 83 - The Soul Aspireth After Heaven; Rejoicing In The Meantime, In Being In The Communion Of God’s Church Upon Earth
  • Psalm 84 - The Coming Of Christ To Bring Peace And Salvation To Man
  • Psalm 85 - A Prayer For God’s Grace To Assist Us To The End
  • Psalm 86 - The Glory Of The Church Of Christ
  • Psalm 87 - A Prayer Of One Under Grievous Affliction: It Agrees To Christ In His Passion, And Alludes To His Death And Burial
  • Psalm 88 - The Perpetuity Of The Church Of Christ, In Consequence Of The Promises Of God: Which, Notwithstanding, God Permits Her To Suffer Sometimes Most Grievous Afflictions
  • Psalm 89 - A Prayer For The Mercy Of God: Recounting The Shortness And Miseries Of The Days Of Man
  • Psalm 90 - The Just Is Secure Under The Protection Of God
  • Psalm 91 - God Is To Be Praised For His Wondrous Works
  • Psalm 92 - The Glory And Stability Of The Kingdom, That Is Of The Church Of Christ
  • Psalm 93 - God Shall Judge And Punish The Oppressors Of His People
  • Psalm 94 - An Invitation To Adore And Serve God, And To Hear His Voice
  • Psalm 95 - An Exhortation To Praise God For The Coming Of Christ And His Kingdom
  • Psalm 96 - All Are Invited To Rejoice At The Glorious Coming And Reign Of Christ
  • Psalm 97 - All Are Again Invited To Praise The Lord, For The Victories Of Christ
  • Psalm 98 - The Reign Of The Lord In Sion; That Is, Of Christ In His Church
  • Psalm 99 - All Are Invited To Rejoice In God The Creator Of All
  • Psalm 100 - The Prophet Exhorteth All By His Example, To Follow Mercy And Justice
  • Psalm 101 - A Prayer For One In Affliction: The Fifth Penitential Psalm
  • Psalm 102 - Thanksgiving To God For His Mercies
  • Psalm 103 - God Is To Be Praised For His Mighty Works; And Wonderful Providence
  • Psalm 104 - A Thanksgiving To God For His Benefits To His People Of Israel
  • Psalm 105 - A Confession Of The Manifold Sins And Ingratitudes Of The Israelites
  • Psalm 106 - All Are Invited To Give Thanks To God For His Perpetual Providence Over Men
  • Psalm 107 - The Prophet Praiseth God For Benefits Received
  • Psalm 108 - David, In The Person Of Christ, Prayeth Against His Persecutors; More Especially The Traitor Judas: Foretelling And Approving His Just Punishment For His Obstinacy In Sin, And Final Impenitence
  • Psalm 109 - Christ’s Exaltation, And Everlasting Priesthood
  • Psalm 110 - God Is To Be Praised For His Graces And Benefits To His Church
  • Psalm 111 - The Good Man Is Happy
  • Psalm 112 - God Is To Be Praised, For His Regard To The Poor And Humble
  • Psalm 113 - God Hath Shown His Power In Delivering His People; Idols Are Vain. The Hebrews Divide This Into Two Psalms
  • Psalm 114 - The Prayer Of A Just Man In Affliction, With A Lively Confidence In God
  • Psalm 115 - This In The Hebrew Is Joined With The Foregoing Psalm, And Continues To Express The Faith And Gratitude Of The Psalmist
  • Psalm 116 - All Nations Are Called Upon To Praise God For His Mercy And Truth
  • Psalm 117 - The Psalmist Praises God For His Delivery From Evils; Puts His Whole Trust In Him, And Foretells The Coming Of Christ
  • Psalm 118 - Of The Excellence Of Virtue Consisting In The Love And Observance Of The Commandments Of God
  • Psalm 119 - A Prayer In Tribulation
  • Psalm 120 - God Is The Keeper Of His Servants
  • Psalm 121 - The Desire And Hope Of The Just For The Coming Of The Kingdom Of God, And The Peace Of His Church
  • Psalm 122 - A Prayer In Affliction, With Confidence In God
  • Psalm 123 - The Church Giveth Glory To God For Her Deliverance From The Hands Of Her Enemies
  • Psalm 124 - The Just Are Always Under God’s Protection
  • Psalm 125 - The People Of God Rejoice At Their Delivery From Captivity
  • Psalm 126 - Nothing Can Be Done Without God’s Grace And Blessing
  • Psalm 127 - The Fear Of God Is The Way To Happiness
  • Psalm 128 - The Church Of God Is Invincible; Her Persecutors Come To Nothing
  • Psalm 129 - A Prayer Of A Sinner, Trusting In The Mercies Of God. The Sixth Penitential Psalm
  • Psalm 130 - The Prophet’s Humility
  • Psalm 131 - A Prayer For The Fulfilling Of The Promise Made To David
  • Psalm 132 - The Happiness Of Brotherly Love And Concord
  • Psalm 133 - An Exhortation To Praise God Continually
  • Psalm 134 - An Exhortation To Praise God: The Vanity Of Idols
  • Psalm 135 - God Is To Be Praised For His Wonderful Works
  • Psalm 136 - The Lamentation Of The People Of God In Their Captivity In Babylon
  • Psalm 137 - Thanksgiving To God For His Benefits
  • Psalm 138 - God’s Special Providence Over His Servants
  • Psalm 139 - A Prayer To Be Delivered From The Wicked
  • Psalm 140 - A Prayer Against Sinful Words And Deceitful Flatterers
  • Psalm 141 - A Prayer Of David In Extremity Of Danger
  • Psalm 142 - The Psalmist In Tribulation Calleth Upon God For His Delivery. The Seventh Penitential Psalm
  • Psalm 143 - The Prophet Praiseth God, And Prayeth To Be Delivered From His Enemies. No Worldly Happiness Is To Be Compared With That Of Serving God
  • Psalm 144 - A Psalm Of Praise, To The Infinite Majesty Of God
  • Psalm 145 - We Are Not To Trust In Men, But In God Alone
  • Psalm 146 - An Exhortation To Praise God For His Benefits
  • Psalm 147 - The Church Is Called Upon To Praise God For His Peculiar Graces And Favors To His People. In The Hebrew This Psalm Is Joined To The Foregoing
  • Psalm 148 - All Creatures Are Invited To Praise Their Creator
  • Psalm 149 - The Church Is Particularly Bound To Praise God
  • Psalm 150 - An Exhortation To Praise God With All Sorts Of Instruments


The Cardinal’s dedication to the Holy Father, and the approval of the Bishop of the Diocese of undertaking a translation of the Commentary, would form a sufficient, and perhaps the best, preface to the present translation of it. I would call special attention to the observation of the Bishop, “In these days the Psalms are little used in the private devotions of lay Catholics; and forms of prayer, which have no authoritative sanction, and which are often little recommendable, either for sentiment or expression, are used, instead of those which have been dictated by the Holy Ghost. The reason of this notable change in the practice of the faithful must be that they do not understand the Psalms.”

It is for the use of the laity, principally, that I have undertaken this translation, at the same time that I cannot help thinking that it will prove a useful Book to the clergy also; as it will prove much more readable, and the explanation more unbroken than in the original which is encumbered with endless disquisitions on Hebrew roots, and different versions and readings, as well as the defense of the Vulgate, which the Cardinal avows was one of his principal objects in undertaking the Commentary. Divested of such discussions, the clergy, I am sure, will find greater pleasure in recurring to the pure, unbroken Commentary, from which the quantity of Greek and Hebrew lore in the original was sufficient to deter most of them.

I have also to observe that the Cardinal’s prefaces to the several Psalms, interesting as they are to the scholar, seemed to me to be quite the reverse to the ordinary class of the laity, before whom it was my principal object to bring the study and the use of the Psalms, as a form of prayer. I have therefore, substituted the simple, substantial headings in the Douay, for the elaborate and learned disquisitions of the Cardinal, in the hope of making the book more readable and more attractive to the laity. My Rev. Brethren in the Ministry will, no doubt, detect many faults and errors in the translation, but when they understand that the time occupied in it was merely snatched from the duties of a parish in the mountains, consisting of 55,000 acres, they will, I am sure, make due allowance for them.

Approval Of Translation

As the Psalms of David form the principal part of the authorized prayers of the Church, it is most desirable that all the faithful should know their literal and mystic meaning. The Clergy and Religious, who are bound to recite the Divine Office, must daily read many of the Psalms. If, in addition to the meaning of the words, they know the historic sense of the Psalm, and its spiritual application to Christ and to his kingdom, they will, according to the counsel of St. Paul, pray with the spirit, and they will also pray with the understanding. (1 Cor. 15:15)

In the early ages of the Church, the Psalms were so familiar to the laity, that it was found impossible to adopt the better version, made by St. Jerome from the Hebrew, for all had the older version by heart. In these days the Psalms are little used in the private devotions of lay Catholics; and forms of prayer, which have no authoritative sanction and which are often little recommendable either for sentiment or expression, are used instead of those which have been dictated by the Holy Ghost. The reason of this notable change in the practice of the faithful must be that they do not understand the Psalms. Any attempt to render them more intelligible, and thus to restore their use, is most praiseworthy. The Commentary of the venerable Cardinal Bellarmine is remarkable for clearness of exposition, and for suggesting the spiritual meanings best calculated to awaken and cherish devotion. Archdeacon O’Sullivan, P.P. of Kenmare, and V.G. of the Diocese of Kerry, has undertaken to translate this Commentary, omitting those portions which are purely philosophical, or which relate to the discrepancy and reconciliation of the texts and versions. We have seen a portion of the manuscript, and we believe that the translation is faithful. It will supply a most easy and ready means of understanding the Psalms, of appreciating their beauty, and of entering into the spirit of the inspired song.

V DAVID MORIARTY, Bishop of Kerry.

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To Our Most Holy Father And Lord Paul The Fifth Supreme Pontiff From Robert, Cardinal Bellarmine Of The Holy Roman Church

The moment I was called from a religious Order to the dignity of the Cardinal by the command of the Supreme Pontiff, Clement VIII., I began to consider that the study and contemplation of sacred matter should not be easily abandoned by reason of the increase of public duties. And when I was in doubt as to what part of the sacred Scriptures I should select for meditation and for explanation, the Psalms that are daily read by all ecclesiastics, and understood by very few, at once occurred to me. Nor was I deterred by the number of those who had already taken great trouble in explaining the Psalms; for such is their obscurity that no amount of labour in explaining them would seem to be superfluous. I, therefore, spent any time I could spare from public duties, especially in the quiet of the night, in meditating on the Psalms of David, and not without pleasure and advantage to myself. And though I was engaged for the whole three years that I was Archbishop at Capua, and, after that, at Rome, in publishing various little treatises, during which time I had to suspend for several months the work I had thus begun, at length, however, through God’s assistance, I have been enabled, within this year, to complete the Explanation of Psalms. I never intended to enter into, much less to adopt, the explanations offered by other commentators. My object was to try to be brief and clear, to defend the Vulgate as far as I was able, and to provide for the spiritual refection and devotion of the reader. Hence, if I am not mistaken, all the Psalms have been explained with sufficient clearness, though not at equal length; and, no doubt, complaints will be made of my having been too sparing in my notes on some of the Psalms, especially on some of the first, fair enough withal, and perhaps too diffuse, with some; but one’s devotion is not equally ardent at all times, nor is his mind equally active, and I have composed this treatment of the Psalms more by my own meditation than by much reading of books.

Be that as it may, I thought it but right, Most Holy Father, to present it to your Holiness, for the purpose of giving an account to you, my Father and my Lord, of the manner in which not only my public and official duties were discharged, but also how my time was occupied in private; as, also, that you, who, as judge, rule over the whole Church, as Vicar of Christ, may kindly correct any error that may have crept into this, as I expect, my last, publication. Meantime, I will pray God to grant your Holiness a long and happy life in this world, and a life of everlasting happiness in the next.

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Robert Bellarmine, the great champion of the prerogatives of the See of Rome, an Italian Jesuit, and one of the most celebrated controversial writers of his time, was born at Monte Pulciano, in Tuscany, in 1542. His mother, Cynthia Cervin, was sister to Pope Marcellus II. At eighteen years of age he entered into the Society of Jesus, and discovered such precocity of genius that he was employed in preaching before he was ordained Priest, which did not take place till 1569, when he was ordained Priest by Cornelius Jansenius, Bishop of Ghent, and was placed in the theological chair of the University of Louvain. His success in teaching and preaching was so great that he is said to have for his auditors persons of the Protestant persuasion, both from Holland and England. After a residence of seven years at Louvain he returned to Italy, when Gregory XIII chose him to give controversial lectures in the College which he had just founded, which he did with so much applause that Sixtus V sent him into France, as a person who might be of great service in case any dispute in religion should arise, as theologian to the Legate, Cardinal Gaetano. He returned to Rome in about ten months, where he had several offices conferred on him by his own Society, as well as by the Pope. Clement VIII, nine years afterwards, raised him to the Cardinalate with this eulogium, “We choose him, because the Church of God does not possess his equal in learning.” In 1601, he was advanced to the Archbishopric of Capua, and displayed in his diocese a zeal equal to his learning. He devoted the third part of his revenue to the relief of the poor, visited the sick in the hospitals, and the prisoners in the dungeons, and, concealing the donor, secretly conveyed them money. After exercising his archiepiscopal functions, with singular attention for about four years, he was recalled to Rome by Paul V, who was anxious to have him about his person, on which occasion he resigned his Archbishopric, without receiving any pension from it. He continued to attend to ecclesiastical affairs till the year 1621, when, finding himself declining in health, he left the Vatican, and retired to a house of his Order, where he died, on the 17th of September, in the same year, at the age of 79. At his death, he bequeathed one half of his soul to the Virgin Mary, and the other half to Jesus Christ; and, after his decease, he was regarded as a saint. The Swiss guard belonging to the Pope were placed round his coffin, in order to keep off the crowd, which pressed to touch and kiss the body, and everything he had made use of was, carried away as a venerable and valuable relic.

Bellarmine, as a theological writer, was one of the most distinguished members of his Order, and no man ever defended the cause of the true Church, or of its visible Head, the supreme Vicar of Christ, with more success. The eminent writers of the Protestant sect, who dogmatised in his time, paid him a high compliment, as, during the space of forty or fifty years, there was scarcely one who did not make him a target for the artillery of error. Their attacks were vain; for, although he stated their objections with a force and clearness themselves might be happy to rival, he confuted them in such a manner as to leave no room for a reply. His chief work is his Controversies, 4 vols. Folio. His opinions of the power of the sovereign Pontiff over temporal princes did not give satisfaction to his patron, Sixtus V, as he rejected that power in a direct sense. He was, however, so strenuous an advocate of the indirect power that he seemed to consider the contrary opinion as bordering on heresy. Besides his Commentary on the Psalms, and other works, he has left to the Church a collection of Sermons, a Hebrew Grammar, and two Ascetical Treatises, entitled “The Sighs of the Doves,” and “The Elevation of the Mind to God.” These last productions of his pen breathe a solid and enlightened piety. The reader cannot fail to be struck with the piety, humility, and simplicity of his dedication of the present work to the Holy Father,

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1. Before we come to the explication of the individual Psalms, it seems that a few things should be explained. First, concerning the excellence of the Psalms; second, concerning the terms “Psalm” and “Psaltery”; third, concerning the division and ordering of the Psalms; fourth, concerning the author.

2. Their excellence, to be sure, can be understood to derive both from the subject matter and also from the form and kind of the writing. The Book of Psalms, in fact, is a sort of compendium and summation of the entire Old Testament; whatever Moses either handed down in history or taught in the Law, and whatever the other Prophets wrote, either exhorting men to virtue or foretelling the future, all of this is contained in the briefest compass in the Psalms of David. For in Psalms 8, 77, 103, 104, 134 and others, the creation of the world, the deeds performed by the patriarchs, the Egyptian captivity, the plagues in Egypt, the wandering of the people in the desert, the entrance into the Promised Land and other things are splendidly set forth by this kind of writing. In Psalm 118 the Law given by God is extolled with wonderful praises, and all men are incited to keep it. In Psalms 2, 15, 21, 44, 68, 71 and others, Christ’s kingship, His origin, His preaching and miracles, His Passion, Resurrection and Ascension, and the growth of the Church are so manifestly foretold, that the sacred author seems to have been an evangelist rather than a prophet. Finally, in Psalm 1 and in almost all of those following, he exhorts the listeners to virtue, restrains them from vice, invites, attracts, threatens and frightens them; and all of these things are not simply set down in a narrative, but in various sorts of songs, with poetic phrases and many admirable metaphors, until at last this new form of expression snatches up souls in such love and praise of God, that nothing sweeter, nothing more salutary could ever be sung or heard. Therefore Saint Basil is correct when he writes in his commentary on the first Psalm, that the Psalms of David draw tears even from a heart of stone; and Saint John Chrysostom rightly affirms in his commentary on Psalm 137 that those who sing the Psalms properly lead choirs together with the angels and, as it were, vie with them in the praise and love of God.

3. We come now to the terms Psalm and Psaltery. To us Psaltery means the book of the Psalms; Saint Augustine, for instance, uses the term thus in Letter 140 to Audax when he says, “I do not have the Psaltery translated from the Hebrew by Saint Jerome.” So too Saint Jerome, in the Letter to Sophronius on the Order and Titles of the Psalms, remarks: “I know that some people think the Psalter is divided into five books.” But in the Sacred Scriptures, Psaltery is a musical instrument drawn up with ten strings, which in Hebrew is called nebel. Saint Basil in his commentary on the first Psalm and Saint Augustine in his commentary on Psalm thirty-two inform us that the psaltery differs from the harp and the lyre in that the harp and the lyre emit sound from their lower part, whereas the psaltery produces tones in its higher part. Saint Hilary, in his Prologue to the Psalms, adds that the psaltery was a straight instrument, without any curve or bend. Very frequent mention is made of this instrument in the Holy Bible, and Psalm 32 speaks of it in verse 2: Sing to [the Lord] with the psaltery, the instrument of ten strings.

Psalm, in Hebrew mizmor, means song or tone; it is derived from the verb zamar, which signifies both to sing and also to play the harp or the psaltery, in precisely the same way as the verb psallô in Greek. As for the meaning of psallendi manibus, that is, “striking an instrument”, we find an instance of the phrase in 1 Kings 16:16: “Thy servants … will seek out a man skilful in playing on the harp, that when the evil spirit from the Lord is upon thee, he may play with his hand, and thou mayest bear it more easily.” The same is found in chapters 17, 18 and elsewhere. As for the meaning of psallendi voce, that is, “singing”, we find it in Psalm 32:3, “Sing well unto Him with a loud noise”; it is also used by the Apostle in 1 Cor. 14:15, “I will sing with the spirit; I will sing also with the understanding,” that is, I shall sing with the spirit or breath of my mouth, singing in a bodily voice the praises of God; and I shall sing with the spirit of my heart, desiring and loving the glory of the selfsame God. Moreover, according to Saint Hilary and Saint John Chrysostom, each of whom authored a Prologue to the Psalms, there is this difference between Psalm and Canticle, and between Psalmum Cantici and Canticum Psalmi: that a Psalm is the sound of a musical instrument alone without any human voice singing, whereas a Canticle is the voice of a singer without instrumental accompaniment; Psalmus Cantici [“psalm of a canticle”] is said when the canticle is sung first and the psalm tone follows: Canticum Psalmi [“canticle of a psalm”] when a singing voice is heard imitating the instrumental tone which went before. Furthermore, not any song or musical tone whatsoever can be termed “Psalms of David”, but rather those by which are sung either the praises of God or prayers to God or an exhortation to virtue, and not empty fables or wanton loves or the flattery of princes. Hence the Book of Psalms is entitled in Hebrew sepher thehillim, that is, book of hymns or divine praises; and after the conclusion of Psalm 71, the last of all those which David sang, we read: The praises of David are ended, that is, David’s prayers. The Psalms, as a whole, contain either the praises of God or prayers to God, or both at once; although there are some which are entirely devoted to exhorting men to virtue, such as the first and second Psalms, etc.

4. Now as for what pertains to the division and order of the Psaltery: the Hebrews divide the Psaltery into five books, as Saint Jerome testifies both in the Prologue Galeato and also in the Letter to Sophronius cited above [in no. 3]; wherever Amen, Amen is written at the end of a Psalm, they reckon that a book is ended at that place; Amen, Amen is written at the end of Psalms 40, 71, 88 and 105, and to these four books they add a fifth extending from Psalm 106 to Psalm 150. Yet this Hebrew tradition is not in conformity with Sacred Scripture, and therefore it is refuted by the same Saint Jerome in the Letter to Sophronius which we have mentioned above, and also by Saint Hilary in his Prologue to the Psalms. The title at the head of the Psaltery, both in the Hebrew Bible and in the Septuagint edition, is the book of hymns; and in Luke 20:42 the Lord Himself speaks, saying, “David himself saith in the book of Psalms: The LORD said to my Lord …”; and in Acts 1:20 Saint Peter speaks, saying, “It is written in the book of Psalms: Let their habitation become desolate, etc.” Furthermore the order of the Psalms is not arranged according to the time at which they were written. It suffices to note that Psalm 3 was written when David was fleeing persecution by his son Absalom; indeed, Psalm 50 had been written much earlier, evidently when the same David was rebuked by Nathan for his crime of adultery and murder; Psalm 141, moreover, had been written still earlier, undoubtedly when the same David was lying hidden in a cave for fear of King Saul; and Psalm 143 had been written long before, to wit, when David fought Goliath the giant: finally it is probable, or almost certain, that Psalm 71 is the latest of all chronologically, since it was written when Solomon had already begun to reign, and after this Psalm is added: The praises of David, son of Jesse, are ended; and nevertheless we see this Psalm, not in the last place, but situated almost in the middle. Therefore it is not easy to discern why the Psalms are arranged as we now find them. Nevertheless we should not reject the opinion or suspicion of those who say that the first fifty Psalms, of which the last is Have mercy on me, O God, pertain to penitents or beginners in the spiritual life; the next fifty, which end with the Psalm, Mercy and judgment I will sing to Thee, O Lord, pertain to the just or the proficient; and the final fifty which conclude with the Psalm, Praise ye the Lord in His holy places, pertain to men who are accomplished or the perfect: the Psalms were so arranged either by Esdras, as Saint Athanasius seems to think in his Synopsis, or else the Septuagint translators, as Saint Hilary teaches in his Prologue to the Psalms.

5. The question remains as to the author of the Psalms. There are two opinions among the Church Fathers: on the one hand Saint Athanasius in his Synopsis, Saint Hilary in the Prologue to the Psalms, and Saint Jerome in his Letter to Sophronius on the Order of the Psalms and in his Letter to Cyprian in which he interprets Psalm 89, maintain that there are various authors of the Psalms, for instance all those who are named in the titles, David, Moses, Solomon, Asaph, Idithun and others. To the contrary, Saint John Chrysostom, Theodoret, Euthymius and Cassiodorus in the Preface to the Commentaries on the Psalms, and Saint Augustine in Book 17 of The City of God, Chapter 14, acknowledge David to be the sole author of all the Psalms. We can be sure of three things. First, the primary author of all the Psalms is the Holy Spirit; the Apostle Peter testifies to this in Acts 1:16, and likewise the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 3:7; and David himself in 2 Kings 23:1 says, “The Spirit of the Lord hath spoken by me, and His word by my tongue”; and in Psalm 44:1, “My tongue is the pen of a scrivener that writeth swiftly.” Therefore, whether David or Moses or someone else composed the Psalms, they themselves were like writing instruments, whereas the Holy Spirit was the One Who wrote by means of them. Truly, what need is there to dispute about the pen, when one is sure about the writer? Second, to me it seems certain that the greater part of the Psalms are by David; for at the end of Psalm 71 we read: “The praises of David, son of Jesse, are ended.” In the same way in the Second Book of Kings, Chapter 23, verse 1 it says: David was “the excellent psalmist of Israel”; finally in 2 Paralipomenon, Chapter 5 it says: “Singers had been appointed to sing the Psalms which David made.” Third, it appears to me to be proven that the Psalms lacking titles are by David, as well as all those which bear the name David in their titles, whether it is written Of David or For David; for Psalm 2 lacks a title, and nevertheless in Acts 4:25 the Apostles affirm that it is a Psalm composed by David: and Psalm 94 lacks a title in the Hebrew version, and the Apostle attributes it to David in Hebrews 4:7. Furthermore, the Psalms which lack titles in the Hebrew codex are ascribed in the Greek text to David; accordingly it may be believed that the titles which were in the Hebrew codex were excised when the Septuagint translators rendered the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek language. Finally the rule of the Hebrews, who say that a Psalm which lacks a title is by the author who wrote the previous one, is proven to be false; for according to this rule, the first and second Psalms would have no author, since both lack a title. Besides, Psalm 89 is ascribed to Moses, and the ten following Psalms, which lack titles, would have to be ascribed to Moses as well. But this cannot be done, since Psalm 98 makes mention of Samuel, who was born quite a long time after the death of Moses. Several difficulties of this sort appear when one tries to explain the title of Psalm eighty-nine. That not only those Psalms are by David which have Of David in the title, but also those which have For David, is proved by Saint Augustine from Psalm one hundred nine, which has: tô Davíd, ipsi David; and yet Our Lord says in Matthew 22:43: “How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord?”

And so these things concerning the author of the Psalms seem to me to be certain. As for the remaining Psalms which bear the title Moses or Solomon or Asaph or Idithun or Ethan or the sons of Core: I consider as acceptable the opinion of Athanasius, Hilary and Jerome, but more probable that of Chrysostom, Augustine, Theodoret and of others who followed them. Why do I think that the later opinion is preferable? The reason is that it is more common and was even more common a thousand years ago. Saint Augustine testifies to this in Book 17 of The City of God, Chapter 14, and Theodoret in the Preface to the Psalms. Similarly, since it is sufficiently well established that Asaph, Idithun, Ethan and the sons of Core were singers rather than prophets, it follows that the Psalms were attributed to them in the titles because they were given to them to sing, not because they themselves had composed them; which can be understood from the fact that in the same title sometimes the name David is placed with that of Idithun, or of another, as can be seen in the titles of Psalms 38, 61, 64, 136, 137 and 138. In conclusion let it be added that in Luke 20:41, where the Lord says, “David himself saith in the book of Psalms,” that He seems to attribute the entire book of the Psalms to David.

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(This second preface, according to the 1931 critical edition, has been found only in manuscript, not having appeared in the original printed edition. The translation is that of Michael J. Miller)

1. The Book of Psalms, even if it is, properly speaking, the third part of the Old Testament, as Our Lord says in Luke 24:44, “all things must needs be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the psalms, concerning me,” nevertheless is also a sort of summation or as it were a compendium of all of Sacred Scripture. For the Book of Psalms contains accounts from sacred history, as is evident from Psalms 77, 103, 104 and others; it contains many very plain prophetic oracles, as is evident from Psalms 2, 21, 44, 60 and others; it contains laws and precepts, as is evident in Psalm 118; it contains “hagiographa” in almost all the Psalms, that is, exhortations to virtue, discouragement from vice, threats, promises, examples, remedies for vices, divine praises, prayers to God, in short a complete, natural, moral and supernatural theology.

2. This compendium of Sacred Scripture, indeed, is not only framed in verse, so that it may be learned with pleasure and more easily committed to memory, but is also composed of poetic phrases and admirable metaphors, as though in some new kind of speech, such that if it is fittingly understood, nothing sweeter, nothing more salutary could ever be sung or heard. Furthermore it so snatches up souls into the praises of God and so inflames them, as Saint Basil testifies in his commentary on the first Psalm, that it elicits tears even from a heart of stone; Saint John Chrysostom has said in his commentary on Psalm one hundred thirty-seven that those who sing the Psalms properly lead choirs together with the angels and, as it were, vie with them in the praises and love of God; or if this seems an exaggeration, it cannot be denied that the Davidic songs are like an echo of the heavenly canticles with which “the morning stars praised [God] and all the sons of God made a joyful melody” (Job 38:7).

3. The word Psalm is Greek, as is Psaltery; the Hebrew term for a Psalm is mizmor, whereas Psaltery is termed nebel, which has ten strings, as is evident from Psalm 143:9. The Book of Psalms is called in Hebrew sepher thehillim, that is, the book of hymns or of praises; we can see why these names are often confused, although Saint Jerome in commenting on Chapter 5 of the Epistle to the Ephesians says that it is a Psalm when moral doctrine is imparted, while it is a hymn when God is praised. Between a Psalm and a canticle, which in Hebrew is shir, there seems to be this difference, according to Hilary, that a psalm is sung accompanied by an instrument, while the canticle is sung without instruments; canticum Psalmi or Psalmus cantici was when it was sung partly by the human voice alone and partly by the human voice with the sound of instruments: Psalm 143:9, “To Thee, O God, I will sing a new canticle: on the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings I will sing praises to Thee.”

4. There is much controversy about the author of the Psalms. To me two things seem to be certain: first that the greater part of the Psalms are by David: for at the end of Psalm 71, which is thought to be the latest of them all, it says, “The praises of David, son of Jesse, are ended.” Similarly in 2 Kings 23:1 ff. David is called “the excellent psalmist of Israel” and it is said that “the Holy Spirit hath spoken” by him; and at 2 Paralipomenon 5 it is said that the singers in the temple were accustomed to sing the psalms which David had made. Second, that not only the Psalms which in the titles are ascribed to David, but also all those which lack a title in Hebrew are by David. For the second Psalm lacks a title, and nevertheless at Acts 4:25 the apostles say that it is David’s. Besides, all the Psalms which lack titles in Hebrew are said to be by David in the Greek text of the Septuagint translators; therefore it is very likely that not a few titles were excised from the Hebrew version which were present when the Septuagint interpreters translated the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek language. Finally the rule of the Hebrews, who say that Psalms without titles are by the author of the preceding Psalm, is false; for according to this rule, the first and second psalms are by nobody, since both of them lack a title. Moreover Psalm 90 would have to be by Moses, since Psalm 89 is ascribed to Moses and the next ten lack a title. But this cannot be, since in Psalm 98:6 mention is made of Samuel, who was born long after Moses’ time: “Moses,” it says, “and Aaron among his priests; and Samuel among those who call on the name of the Lord.” Nor could it be said that Moses had foreseen in a vision the future Samuel; for in this Psalm things are narrated in the past, and mention is made of Samuel as someone who had preceded the writer of the Psalm. As for the remaining Psalms, which bear in their titles the name of Asaph or Ethan or Moses or others, it is not unlikely that those named in the titles were the authors, as Saint Athanasius maintains in the Synopsis, Saint Hilary in the Preface to the Psalms, and Saint Jerome in the Preface to the Psalms to Sophronius and in his letter to Cyprian on Psalm 89.

5. But neither is it improbable, it is perhaps even more likely, that all of the Psalms are by David, as Saint Augustine maintains in Book 17 of The City of God, Chapter 14; and also Origen, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Euthymius, Cassiodorus and others: why, moreover, those names are placed in the titles, we shall explain for each individual Psalm.

6. We must not omit, moreover, noting that the Psalms are not arranged in the Psaltery in the order in which they were written: for the third Psalm was written when David “fled from the face of his son, Absalom”; whereas Psalm fifty was written when he was rebuked by Nathan for his sin of adultery and murder, which had taken place long before the persecution by Absalom. Psalm one hundred forty-one was written long before that, when evidently David was in a cave because of Saul’s persecution. Psalm one hundred forty-three was written against Goliath; accordingly of them all it must be the first or among the first. Finally, Psalm seventy-one seems to have been written last, since the reign of Solomon is already beginning, and at the end of it is added: “The praises of David, son of Jesse, are ended”; nevertheless it is not situated in the last place.

Why the Psalms are arranged in this way is not at all certain; though some suspect them to be disposed as follows: the first fifty as being suitable for beginners, the next fifty for the proficient, and the final fifty for the perfect.

7. The Psaltery is divided according to the Hebrews into five books, as Saint Jerome testifies in the Prologue Galeato; wherever Amen is found at the end of a Psalm, the Hebrews consider that a book is ended; Amen is in fact found at the end of Psalms forty, seventy-one, eighty-eight and one hundred five: to which they add a fifth book comprising from Psalm one hundred six to the end of the psaltery. But the same Saint Jerome in his Preface to the Psalms to Sophronius contends that this is a new tradition of the Hebrews; both because the title of the Psaltery is The Book of hymns and because in the New Testaments Scriptures, when the Psalms are quoted, it is said “as it is written in the book of Psalms” (Luke 20:41 and Acts 1:20).

We will speak about the titles of the Psalms and about other things pertaining to their explication, each in its proper place.

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Psalm 1


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 In the first and second verses the prophet teaches that happiness, as far as it is attainable in this world, is only to be had in conjunction with true justice. As the apostle teaches (Rom. 14) “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” For the truly just are alone the friends of God, nay more, his children, and thus heirs of the kingdom, happy in the hope that belongs to the most perfect happiness, meanwhile, here below enjoying that solid joy and peace “that surpasseth all understanding.” In this first verse he gives a negative description of the just man; in the second an affirmative, briefly stating here that he is just and thence happy who declines from evil and doeth good. Observe attentively and remember that David, as well as the other prophets, is very fond of repetitions, making the second part of a verse either a repetition or an explanation of the first. For instance, Ex. 15, “He is my God and I will glorify him; the God of my father, and I will exalt him;” Deut. 32, “Let my doctrine gather as the rain, let my speech distill as the dew;” Ps. 33, “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall be always in my mouth.” These ornamental repetitions are of frequent occurrence among the prophets. The first part of the verse, then, conveys to us the happiness of the man who breaks not the law of God; but David making use of a metaphor, conveys the idea in a poetic manner. “Happy,” says he, “is the man who hath not walked,” etc.; that is to say, happy is he who is really just: and he is just who hath not gone in the counsel of the ungodly; that is to say, who has not followed the counsel, laws, or opinion of the wicked, which are altogether at variance with the way, that is, the law of God. The second part of the same verse expresses the same in similar words. For, when he says, “Nor stood in the way of sinners,” he does not mean standing but walking. Standing here does not mean simply to stand, but to walk, and to continue walking. “Who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners,” are here synonymous, for both convey that he is just who retires from the way, that is, from the law and counsel of sinners. And as the law of God is broken not only by the evil doer but also by the evil teacher, according to Mt. 5, “Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of those least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven;” the prophet, therefore, adds: “nor sat in the chair of pestilence;” as much as to say, Blessed is he who neither in word nor deed broke through the law of God. “To sit in the chair of pestilence” means, to be among, to keep company with wicked men, with them to despise the law of God, as in nowise pertaining to a happy life, but, on the contrary, looking upon it as more advantageous to indulge in all the passions and desires of the flesh. The words, “sitting in the chair of pestilence,” are well expressed by Malach. 3, “You have said: He laboreth in vain that serveth God, and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinances?”

2 In this second verse the just man is affirmatively described; and here also we have two sentences, one of which is nearly a repetition of the other. He is truly said to be just or happy, who wishes to do the will of the Lord; because to be just in this life we are not required to be free from all manner of offense, for, St. James says, chap. 3, “We all offend in many things;” but it suffices for us to be so disposed towards the law of God, that we desire, above all things, to carry it out; and if we happen to fall into any sin, as undoubtedly we often do, that it is against our will we so fall, that is to say, against the love we entertain towards God and his law, thus making the matter a sin, not a crime, a venial one instead of a deadly one. The same is differently expressed in another psalm: “The law of his God is in his heart.” For the will or the heart of a just man is in the law of God, and the law of God is in the will or the heart of the just. The law is in the heart, as it were, on its throne; and the heart is in the law, as it would be in anything ardently loved, constantly thought of and desired; which is further expressed in the next sentence: “And on his law he shall meditate day and night;” that means to have the law so in his will, and his will in the law, by constantly exercising his mind in reflecting on and loving it, so that all his actions may be in accordance with it. The words, “day and night,” do not imply that the just man must at every moment be absorbed in the contemplation of the divine law; it means that he should most frequently reflect on it, and be mindful of it when he may have anything to think of, to say, or to do, in which he may apprehend a danger of its violation.

3 After declaring who should really be called just, the prophet now declares such just person to be happy, in his hope here, in the reality hereafter. He compares him to a tree growing by the riverside, having all the necessaries towards its perfect growth. For some trees produce leaves only, nor do they retain them long; other trees have the leaves, and keep them always, but the fruit thereon ripens either too soon or too late; others bring out the fruit, and always keep their leaves, but they do not bring all the fruit to maturity: the trees, therefore, which produce the leaves and the fruit, and though they keep the leaves still ripen all the fruit, alone deserve the name of being the most perfect, such are the pine, the palm, and the olive, to which the Scripture usually compares the just; and it is to such trees, the prophet compares them here. For the just, as the apostle has it, “founded and rooted in charity,” as being friends, are close to the living fountain, whence they always draw a flow of grace, and produce good works in the fitting time; everything “cooperating with them to good,” they are always blooming in glory and honor. For, though they may sometimes be despised by the carnal, they are held in honor by the wise, and, which is of more consequence, by the Angels, and even by God himself. This applies only to the present life, but with that, they produce their fruit in season, because they work out true salvation, to be had in the fitting time, namely, after their death; whereas the wicked look for it before their time, namely, in this world, and thus lose it here and there. And they always retain their leaves, because, according to St. Peter, they shall receive “A neverfading crown of glory;” and, according to Ps. 111, “The just shall be in everlasting remembrance.” And, finally, “Whatever they do shall prosper,” because whatever they may do, even to the giving of the cup of cold water, shall receive a full and perfect reward.

4 Another argument in favor of the happiness of the just, drawn by the prophet from a contrast with the misery of the wicked. For, lest any one may suppose that the just enjoy the aforesaid favors in common with others, from natural causes, and not from the special providence of God, he adds, “not so the wicked;” that is to say, instead of such favor it will be quite the other way with them. In most beautiful language he contrasts the misery of the wicked with the happiness of the just. The just, by reason of the abundance of divine grace, are verdant, and produce the fruit, and never lose their bloom or fail in repaying the labor expended on them. On the other hand, the wicked, wanting the divine grace, dry and barren, like the finest dust scattered by the wind, leave no trace of themselves, and not only lose glory, wealth, and pleasure—but even themselves, in the bargain, for all eternity.

5 A beautiful connection of the last verses of the psalm with the first. He started by saying that the just did not sit in council nor consort with the wicked; and now he says that the wicked will not rise in the company of the just, in other words, that a very different sentence is in store for each.

6 A reason for God’s decision, viz., his knowledge of good and bad.

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Psalm 2


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David, recognizing in spirit the coming Messias, the many persecutions he was to undergo, to end in his most successful reign, commences by taunting his persecutors. “And the people devised vain things,” foreshadowing the folly of the Jews, “when they took counsel to destroy Jesus.”

2 After saying in general, that both gentiles and people rose up against Christ, he now descends to particulars, and attributes the excitement not so much to the people as to those placed over them. The first of whom was Herod. Next the princes and the people, as the gospel has it, “All Jerusalem was troubled with him.” Then Pontius Pilate and the princes of that day. Then, after the passion and resurrection of our Lord, all the persecutions of the Roman emperors. So clearly foreshadowed is the Messias in this verse that the apostles, in the fourth chapter of the Acts, not only literally applied it to our Savior, but even the old Jewish Rabbis hold it to apply to the Savior the infatuated Jews are still foolishly looking out for! Observe the propriety of the words used here. The gentiles are said “to rage,” as if they were animals void of reason; while the Jewish people are made “to meditate vain things,” having taken counsel to destroy Jesus.

3 The prophet assigns a reason for such rage and conspiracy; it was for fear they may be subjected to the law of Christ, so opposed to their carnal desires, and the wisdom of the world. These words are then, as it were, spoken by the kings and princes. The law here gets the name of bonds and yoke, because such it is, in point of fact, to the wicked; whereas, to the just, it is “sweeter than honey, and more desirable than gold and precious stones,” as we read in Ps. 18.

4 Here the prophet shows again how vain was the labor of the kings and princes in assailing the Christian religion. For the religion of Christ is of divine origin, and nobody can offer resistance to God. “He that dwelleth in heaven” is very appropriate, inasmuch as it shows that God sees all, is above all, and without any trouble can baffle all their counsels, and demolish all their plans. “Shall laugh at and deride them,” means that God in his wisdom, by means of signs and wonders, through the patience of the martyrs, through the conversion of nations and peoples, and through other means known to himself alone, will so confound them that they shall be an object of laughter and ridicule to every one. That we see fulfilled. The pagan and the Jewish priesthood are now ridiculed by all. They have neither temples nor sacrifice; and all the persecutors of the Church have met a miserable end.

5 He explains the manner in which God has held the enemies of Christ up to ridicule, not in language, but in the most grievous punishments and afflictions; for instance, Herod, stricken by the Angel; Maximinus, eaten up by vermin, and others. Strictly speaking, God is not subject to anger or fury; his judgments are always tranquil; but he is metaphorically said to rage and to be angry, when he punishes with severity, especially when the correction does not conduce to the salvation of the culprit. Such anger and fury belong to those who do not, like physicians, hurt to heal, but hurt to kill. Thus, when David says, “Lord, reprove me not in thy fury, nor correct me in thy anger,” he prays for the reproof and correction of a father, not of an enemy; and that it may tend to his salvation, and not to his detriment.

6 Having spoken of the rebellious sentiments and expressions of Christ’s enemies, he introduces the Redeemer now, as if answering them. I am appointed king, not by man, but by God, and therefore, man’s threats I regard not. I am ordained king on Sion, his holy mountain; that is, on his Church, the city built on a mountain, of which Jerusalem was the type; the principal part of which, and most beloved and sanctified by God, was Sion, as he says in Ps. 86, “The Lord loveth the gates of Sion beyond all the tabernacles of Jacob.”

7 Here is the beginning and the foundation of God’s decree. For to Christ, as being the true and natural Son of God, is due all power in heaven and on earth. Three generations are here alluded to. The first, when in the day of eternity, I God begot you God. The second, when, on the day of your birth, I begot thee according to the flesh, made you God Man, without the seed of man, your mother remaining inviolate, without the stain of sin. Thirdly, I begot you today, that is, on the day of your resurrection, when, by my divine power, I restored you to life, and that a glorious and immortal one.

8 As if God the Father were to say: You my natural Son, the incarnation of my power raised from the dead, have just right to ask me for power over all nations as your inheritance, and the whole world, even to its remotest boundaries, as your possession of right.

We have to observe here, that the word inheritance is frequently applied in the Scripture to one’s property, even though it may not have come to them by inheritance, and thus the people of God are called his inheritance, and he theirs. And as property was frequently divided among brothers by lot, and then measured by chains, the words inheritance, part, lot, chain, possession, became synonymous; two of them even are sometimes united, as, “The Lord is the part of my inheritance,” that is, the part that came to me by inheritance; and in another place, Deut. 32, “Jacob, the lot of his inheritance,” meaning that the people of Israel were the Lord’s inheritance, which he selected for himself, measured with chains, and separated from the inheritance of others. Thus all nations are here said to be the inheritance of Christ, as the words, “The utmost parts of the earth for thy possession,” evidently convey. We are to observe, secondly, that by the kingdom of Christ is meant his spiritual kingdom, that is, his Church, which was to be spread over the whole world. The meaning of the verse then is, that Christ was placed king over Sion, that is, over God’s people; but that his kingdom was not, like that of David or Solomon, confined to the kingdoms of Judea or Palestine, but was to extend over all nations, and to include all the kingdoms of the world, according to Daniel’s prophecy, chap. 2, infidels even included, for “All power on earth and in heaven is granted unto me,” and he is “appointed judge of the living and of the dead,” Acts 10.

9 The extreme and most just power of Christ over his Church, and over all mankind, through which he can as easily reward the good and punish the wicked, as a potter can make and break the vessels of clay, is here indicated. In the first part, the iron rod expresses the most just, inflexible, and irresistible power of Christ; in the second, the vessels of clay expose the frailty of the human race. The word “Break them in pieces” does not imply that Christ will actually do so, but that he can do so if he wills; breaking their sins and infidelities in pieces, through his mercy, and from vessels of reproach forming them into vessels of honor; or breaking them in pieces in everlasting fire, in all justice, they having richly deserved it.

10 The prophet now exhorts the kings of this world on whom the people depend as their resistance to Christ has been in vain, to freely subject themselves to him, the true and supreme king of all kings; and as, generally speaking, from wrong judgment proceed wrong affections, he first exhorts them to correct their judgment, to understand the truth and be rightly informed. Then he exhorts them to correct their evil affections, and, instead of hating Christ, to begin to serve, to love, and to revere him. Hence he adds:

11 A wonderful admixture of love and fear, as if he were to say, blend love with your fear, and fear with your love. The Hebrew for “fear” signifies filial not slavish fear, and thus the meaning of the first part of the sentence is, serve the Lord as a son would his father; but also, when you exult as a child before him, forget not to fear him, as is beautifully conveyed in the second part of this verse.

12 The meaning of these words is, that the kings should not only correct their judgment and affections, and that they should be instructed and obedient but that they should do so with great fervor; because the Hebrew word implies that they should not only do the thing, but do it with all their might, their strength, and their desire, assigning a very cogent reason for it, “lest at any time the Lord be angry, “and you perish from the just way.” The most grievous punishment inflicted on princes is when God, on account of their sins, gives them up to the “reprobate sense,” Rom. 1, permits them to be deceived by wicked counselors, and do much evil, for which they are lost to this world and the next; such were Pharaoh, Roboam, Achab, and others, in whom the most grievous sins became the punishment of other sins, such being not a small slip from the straight road, but an entire loss and extermination of the path of justice.

13 The conclusion of the Psalm, in which the holy prophet pronounces how it may be inferred from the preceding, how good and useful it is to love God and serve him with one’s whole heart, for, in the day of judgment, which cannot be far distant, such people alone can have any confidence. He says, “in a short time,” to signify that the terrible day is shortly to come; for a thousand years are like yesterday that passed; nor can that be called long that has an end. “His wrath shall be kindled,” to give us to understand that the day of judgment will be exclusively a day of justice and revenge, leaving no place for mercy. “Blessed are all they that trust in him;” not that confidence will suffice—it will only when it is based on true friendship.

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Psalm 3


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David, addressing himself in prayer to God, complains of and wonders at the number of his enemies, for, as we read in 2 Kings 15, “All Israel was then most cordially following Absalom.” Such was the case with Christ, especially in his passion, for then his son, that is, his people, rebelled against him, crying out: “we have no king but Caesar;” and he, like a sick man and a fugitive, was obliged to fly from them through his death; but speedily returned through his resurrection. Absalom signifies the peace of the father, because, in fact, it was the son only that stirred up the war; but the father was always at peace, both as regards David, who wept at the death of his son, and as regards Christ, who prayed for his persecutors; and as Achitophel, the intimate friend and counselor of David, was the person to betray him in the rebellion of his son, and afterwards hanged himself, similar was the end of Judas, one of Christ’s most familiar friends, who also hanged himself.

2 This would appear to apply to the inward temptations of the devil, seeking to make him despair, as if his confidence in God had been to no purpose. To it also may be referred what the people were then naturally saying, namely, that notwithstanding David’s great confidence in God, he was then apparently entirely abandoned by him; a thing quite common for the ignorant to take up, when they see pious people in trouble. Thus, Job’s wife reproaches him, “Do you still remain in your simplicity?” So with Tobias’s wife, when she said, “Your hope is now evidently come to nothing, and your alms now appear.” And so they said of Christ: “He has confided in God, let him free him now if he will.”

3 What one in trouble, a just man such as David, and especially what Christ, the head of all the just, would say. The meaning is, many tell me I put my hope in God to no purpose; but they are quite mistaken, for you, Lord, never desert those that confide in thee; therefore you are “my protector,” to ward off the weapons of my enemies, not content with which you become “my glory,” that is to say, the cause of my glory. Hence it arises that you come to be “the lifter up of my head;” that is to say, you make me, who a while ago hung my head in grief and sorrow, hold it up now in joy and exultation.

4 A proof of David’s confidence. He appealed to the Almighty, and, at once, he was heard. Observe the expression, “I have cried with my voice;” as much as to say, not silently, indifferently, or passively, but loudly, emphatically. “From his holy hill,” means either Sion, or, more probably, the kingdom of heaven.

5 In the persecution of Absalom David made no resistance, but lay down as one would to sleep, but soon after awoke, strengthened by the Lord to recover his kingdom, “because the Lord hath protected” him.

6 Clearly applicable to David, who, on recovering courage, rose up and got ready to meet his enemies; and, therefore, now exclaims he has no fear of the countless enemy, confiding, as he does, not in his own power, or the arms of his allies, but in God; and he therefore supplicates him to rise and save him from the hands of the enemy. Observe the connection between the word “arise,” in this verse, and “I have risen,” in the preceding, as much as to say, I have on your inspiration arisen, and do you now at my request arise in my defense.

7 An acknowledgment of the divine protection, and his deliverance from his enemies, whose teeth were so broken that, though they may bark, they could not possibly injure or bite.

8 An invocation of the divine blessing, and thanksgiving for the benefits conferred by him.

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Psalm 4


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David, in the person of the Church, or any faithful soul advising sinners to follow its example, exhorts them to be converted, to put their confidence in God, to abandon evil, and do good, giving himself as an example—for when he was in trouble, he invoked the Almighty, and was heard. “The God of my justice heard me,” that is to say, the God from whom all my justice proceeds, whose grace makes me just. He then tells how he was heard, “When I was in distress thou hast enlarged me.” God sometimes hears us by removing the tribulation; sometimes by giving patience to bear it, which is a greater favor; sometimes by not only giving the patience to bear it, but even to be glad of it, which is the greatest favor of all, and it is that of which the prophet speaks here. Tribulation hems us in; joy enlarges our hearts; but when one glories in tribulation, his sadness is changed into joy, and tribulations bring to such persons not hemming in, but enlargement. “Have mercy on me; and hear my prayer.” He asks for continuation of the grace, as if he said, Hear me always, pity me always, as you have done hitherto. The holy prophet knew that while here below we are always exposed to danger, if his mercy do not only go before, but also accompany and follow us.

2 That is to say, how long will you have a heart of stone, a hard one, inclined to the earth, thinking of nothing but the goods of this world? For, according to the Lord, “The hearts are weighed down by excess, drunkenness, and the cares of this world;” and because hardened hearts are not susceptible of celestial thoughts, but only of terrestrial and transitory, they only love what is terrestrial and transitory; and as we take trouble only in seeking for the things we ardently love, the prophet adds, “Why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?” The goods of this world are called vain and fallacious, because they are neither stable nor solid, though they may seem to be so; and are therefore, with justice, designated as false and fallacious, especially when compared to those of eternity.

3 This is the strongest reason that can be advanced for man holding himself disengaged from temporal things. Because the Holy One of God, meaning the Son of God, the only one among men free from sin, came from heaven to us. Hence the demon, in Mark 4, exclaimed: “I know you are the Holy One of God.” And this Holy One went his way, doing good, suffering persecutions, despising the things of this world, holding up those of the other, and by such a new route arrived at eternal happiness, corporally reigning in heaven, and spiritually happy forever. And as he is our guide, and went before us to prepare a place for us; undoubtedly, if we walk in his footsteps, we will come to true and everlasting happiness. And as he is not only our Leader, but also our Advocate and Mediator, David therefore adds: “The Lord will hear me when I shall cry unto him;” that is to say, I am now quite sure of being heard when I know there is on the right hand of God an intercessor on my behalf.

4 The Holy Ghost having severely reproved and admonished mankind, and advised them to repent, tells them now what they ought to do, and instructs them to have a holy horror of sin, to resist their evil desires, and, by such means, to avoid sin; and, should they happen to fall, at once to be sorry and contrite; and not to stop at the doing no harm, but to go further, by offering the sacrifice of justice in doing good. “Be angry, and sin not;” that is to say, when your wicked and rebellious temper, the top and bottom of all our sins, stirs us up, let your anger vent itself on your own poor corrupt self; contend with it, so that you shall not fall into sin. St. Basil tells us that anger was implanted in us by God, to be a source of merit. “The things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds;” that is to say, in the dead hour of night, when you shall be alone in your bedchamber, free from all cares; then turn over all your shortcomings, and in God’s presence be sorry for them, imitating the example of David himself, who in Psalm 6 says, “Every night I will wash my bed; I will water my couch with my tears,” thus carrying out the advice he gave to others.

5 The second part of sanctity is here portrayed, namely, the going farther than doing no evil, but producing good. Good works are here called the sacrifice of justice, by reason of their being highly agreeable to God, and their contributing to his glory. “Let them see your good works, that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven,” saith our Lord. St. Paul on alms says: “I have received your offerings in the odor of sweetness;” on fasting, and other corporal works he has, Romans 12, “I beseech you, therefore, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God;” observe, though, how he adds: “and trust in the Lord,” for fear of presumption, which is always lying in wait on our good works. We must work well, but in such manner as not to be proudly confident in our works, like the Pharisee, “Who gave thanks to God, that he was not like other men,” etc. Let us rather hope in the Lord, who will enable us to avoid sin, to produce good works, and arrive at the harbor of eternal salvation. For, as presumption is like a poison destroying the merit of our good works, so humble diffidence in our own strength, and a reliance on God, is like salt, seasoning and preserving all our good actions. “Many say, Who showeth us good things?” A common objection of the carnal, who are numerous, hence “many.” When we preach to them the contempt of things here below, and exhort them to innocence and justice, many reply, Who will show us what is good, if the things we see and handle be not good? Who has come up from hell? Who has gone up to heaven?

6 The prophet replies by saying that the path of justice has been pointed out to us by God; that we have a master within us, the light of natural reason, to point out the real truth, for “this light is signed upon us” indelibly, that is, on our superior part; for we consist of two parts, the soul, the superior, and the body, the inferior. In the superior part is the light that puts us above the brutes, a light derived from the countenance of God, and wherein we are the image and likeness of God. By means of this light we can, in the first place, understand the road that leads to happiness; for the natural law, so written on our hearts, that even iniquity itself cannot blot it out, teaches that we should not do to another what we would not have done to ourselves, and therefore, that we must not steal, commit adultery, etc. Through the grace of God we can also understand that real happiness consists in making ourselves as like as possible to God, for the perfection of an image is to be as like as possible to the original. Such considerations produce great joy, hope, and love of God in the mind, for what is more pleasing than the reflection of one’s being the living image of a thing of infinite beauty, and that he is dearly beloved by that same omnipotent original? However, as all have not such emotions, David concludes the verse by saying, thou hast “given gladness,” not in their hearts, but “in mine,” which all just and pious people equally experience.

7 Another argument from which men may understand that God is the author of all good, for it is he who, in the fitting time, multiplies the grain and produces the fruit, as St. Paul has it, Acts 14, “Nevertheless he left not himself without testimony, doing good from heaven, giving rains and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

8 David’s conclusion then is, whatever the conduct of those whom I have been exhorting may be, my desire is to confide entirely in God, and rest altogether in him. “In peace,” that is, in the most perfect tranquillity; “in the self same” that is, in union, along with. “I will sleep and rest,” that is, I will securely lie down, and profoundly sleep. Observe the word “self same,” a word of frequent use in the Psalms, and signifies with, or in union with.

9 A reason for his casting all his solicitude on God, and for his saying that he would sleep and rest in peace in the other world, because God, by his most true and faithful promises, made him to settle himself in hope alone. Thus the just man, the friend of God, dwells in divine hope alone, as he would in a fortified house, doing what in him lies for this world as well as for the next, not confiding in his own strength nor in anything created, but in God alone, and, therefore, is not confounded, but securely sleeps, and will sleep with equal security in the world to come.

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Psalm 5


Explanation Of The Psalm

1–2 In three ways one is not heard by another; either because the words are not heard; or because the words are not understood; or because the person to whom they are addressed is otherwise engaged. God sees everything, understands everything, and looks after everything; but he is said, sometimes, to see not, to understand not, to abandon everything, because he so despises the intercessor; as if he did not see, understand, or care about his prayers. Therefore, the holy prophet, when about to pray, commences by asking that God may see, understand, and attend to him. Now God despises the suppliant as if he did not see him or hear him, when the one who puts up the prayer, puts it up in so distracted a way that he does not actually feel what he is saying, or prays so coldly that his prayer cannot possibly ascend. In such cases God holds himself as if he did not know what was wanted, when the petitioner himself did not seem to know, in his asking for things of no possible use to him, however urgent and ardent he may have been in asking for them. Then finally, God is like one paying no attention to the suppliant, when the suppliant is unworthy of being heard, by reason of his want of humility, confidence, or other requisites; or by reason of the sinful state in which he is still, and his having no idea of penance. The prophet then, inspired by the Holy Ghost, with consummate skill asks God for the gift of perfect prayer; that is to say, that when he shall pray, his prayers may not be repulsed, but that they may be heard, understood, and attended to adding, “My King,” for a king is supposed to hear his people; and “My God,” raising up an additional claim as a creature, and therefore depending on his Creator for everything.

3–4 I will not only pray, but I will stand up in contemplation; in the morning, before the cares of the world obtrude; and the principal subject of my meditation shall be your hatred of sin; your great regard for innocence and justice; and therefore, you being justice and the light, if I wish to please you, I must aim at justice and innocence, and hate iniquity.

5 God not only hates sin, but sinners too; and therefore, the wicked shall receive no hospitality from him: “Nor shall the unjust abide before thy eyes;” that is; you will not look long upon them with an eye of clemency, He may look upon them for a while with eye of clemency and give them much of the goods of this world; but such will not be of long continuance, for in a short time he will fling them from his face unto eternal perdition.

6 God’s hatred of evil, or evil doers, is not only negative, but he positively hates, seeks to destroy them, and, actually, will do so: and as sin is committed by act, word, thought, or desire, each is here enumerated; first, the “Workers of iniquity;” secondly, they that “Speak a lie;” thirdly, “The bloody and the deceitful.”

7 After saying, that in the morning he would meditate on the hatred God bears to sin and to sinners, he now tells us the fruit of such meditation, saying, “But as for me, in the multitude of thy mercy” as much as to say, relying on thy great mercy, and not on my own strength, to avoid sin, “I will come into thy house,” the house of prayer. “I will worship towards thy holy temple,” that is to say, I will throw myself prostrate in presence of thy tabernacle, “in thy fear,” for in fear and trembling will I implore your assistance.

8 From God’s house he now puts up the prayer that God may lead him in his justice; that is, through the paths of justice, by causing him to keep all his commandments, and thus to avoid all sin; which is the same as “Direct my way in thy sight;” in other words, make me walk the straight road, having God always before me. And he makes therein special mention of his enemies; for divine grace is needed against them, to direct, to protect, to anticipate, and to follow up the number of enemies who lie in wait for us, and seek to lead us to sin, be they demons or mortals, making use of threats or allurements. He includes in the word enemies all those who, however friendly they may appear to be, come in the way of our salvation. For, “Man’s domestics are his enemies.” The meaning, then, is, make me walk the straight road before thee. We should always ask the grace of God to walk in the way of his commandments.

9–10 He assigns a reason for his praying for help against his insidious enemies, namely, their purpose of injuring him, and the difficulty of avoiding their stratagems. “There is no truth in their mouth,” he says, because, when they want to deceive, they terrify, seeking to make one avoid some trifling evil, that thereby they may be led into a greater one; when they want to deceive us in another shape, they allure by persuading us to go after some good of no value, and thereby lose one of great value. “Their heart is vain” within, and they are perverse without. They relish nothing, desire nothing, and can, therefore, speak of nothing but what is vain. And he repeats the same in the following verse, but inverting the order of it. “Their heart is an open sepulchre,” being a repetition of, “their heart is vain;” and “they dealt deceitfully with their tongues,” being a repetition of, “there is no truth in their mouth.” In making use then, of the words, “throat,” “open sepulchre,” he implies that the mouth, throat, and tongue, being the members wherewith speech is pronounced or issued, are, as it were, the mouth of the sepulchre; and that the soul or heart, the seat of the bad, foul, horrid thoughts and desires, like fetid and putrid corpses, and exhaling the foul odors of sinful language form the interior of the sepulchre. And he therefore adds, “They dealt deceitfully with their tongues;” that is, my enemies, having no truth in their hearts, not only say what is false, but also what is deceitful, because they would, under the show of rectitude, persuade me to what is bad. “Judge them, O Lord,” etc. This must be taken more as a prophecy than an imprecation. It means that the enemies of the just will not only be excluded from the inheritance, but they will be condemned to eternal punishment, and will accomplish none of the objects they seek for. “Judge them” is more significant in the Hebrew, which makes it, “condemn them.” “Let them fall from their devices,” that is, let them be disappointed in the hope they had of perverting the elect. “According to the multitude of their wickedness cast them out.” that is, their sins will drive them from the inheritance into everlasting darkness: “for they have provoked thee, O Lord,” that is to say, because when they thought themselves they were injuring others, it was in reality God they injured, as we have in 1 Kings 8, “They have not cast you, but me out;” and in Acts 5, “You have not lied to men, but to God.”

11–12 The happy inheritance of the just, as promised in the Psalm, is here predicted. “Let them all be glad that hope in thee,” that is to say, though the just are now engaged in a laborious contest, let them rejoice in hope; not putting their hope in the vanities of this world, but in the true God, through whom, in the proper time, they will exult forever in his praise. “And thou shalt dwell in them,” making them, as it were, your habitation; they will, therefore, be in God, as he is in them; and he will be all unto all in them. And this external praise and exultation will arise from the immense internal joy and glory which will be their lot. “For all they that love thy name shall glory in thee:” namely, all the truly just, love making them the just, the friends, the sons of God. Their glory will arise from “your blessing the just,” that is, from your blessing every just man; and with the blessing, conferring favors on them, by giving them the crown of glory they deserve. And as the benevolence of God, who elected us before the foundation of the world, is the root of all good, inasmuch as from it proceed vocation, justification, merit, and glory itself, he thus concludes, “O Lord, thou hast crowned us as with a shield of thy good will.” I acknowledge, O Lord, that all our happiness comes from thy grace and goodness, which, like the shield of the soldier, surrounds and protects us. The same idea is expressed in Psalm 102, “Who crowneth thee in mercy and compassion.”

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Psalm 6


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The prayer of one truly penitent and contrite, and hating sin supremely. For God then chastises the sinner in anger and rage, when the chastisement does not proceed from the fatherly love he bears us, with a view to our correction, but to annihilate the sinner, and to satisfy his own justice. This happens in this world, when the sinner is struck with blindness and obstinacy, so that sin becomes the punishment of sin; and in the other world, when the soul is consigned to hell’s flames; stricken with such horror, and fearing the abyss of the judgments of God, he does not say against the scourge of punishment which, instead of separating from, rather brings us nearer to God; but he dreads the supreme evil and misfortune of being abandoned to the desires of his heart, to his ignominious passions, to obduracy, and blindness, and finally to eternal separation from God. Anger and fury are here synonymous, so are reprove and rebuke; for the prophets not infrequently use such repetitions, by way of emphasis or explanation.

2 The penitent uses some arguments to move God not to rebuke him in his fury, the first drawn from his own weakness, as if he said, Lord, do not look upon my sins as offenses against yourself; but as my own wretchedness and infirmity; and, therefore, punish me not as a judge, but as a physician heal me. Burn me, cut me, if you will; but with a view to heal me in your mercy, and not to destroy me in your justice. For our sins are real miseries, and the more malice we have in committing them, the greater do they become; while the less knowledge and fear we have of them, the greater is the misery it entails on us. Therefore, says he, “Have mercy on me, for I am weak;” that is to say, look with mercy on my sins, however great and numerous, in the light of so many diseases and infirmities, that make me weak and feeble. “Heal me O Lord, for my bones are troubled.” The same idea in different language; for when God does have mercy, he removes the misery, and consequently, heals the sore; and thus, “having mercy” is synonymous with “healing.” The same applies to “because I am infirm,” and “my bones are troubled;” for bones denote health and strength, and one’s bones are said to be troubled when one’s health fails, or his strength is impaired or debilitated.

3 A second argument from the consciousness of his sin, as he has it in Psalm 1, “For I know my iniquity.” In other words, I am not only wretched, but I acknowledge it; and therefore, my soul, looking in upon its wretchedness and deformity, is so horrified, confused, and filled with wholesome fear, that it becomes impatient and clamorous; “but thou, O Lord, how long?” Why not pity me; why not heal me? The word “how long,” without any other word, is very significant, for it indicates the expression of a troubled soul unable to utter a full sentence.

4 The third argument, drawn from God’s mercy; “Turn to me;” that is, look on me; for God’s look is the source of all our good. “Turn thy face, and we will be saved;” and in another, Psalm 29, he says, “You turned away your face, and I became confused;” and when the “Lord looked on Peter, he began to weep bitterly;” and St. James, chap. 1, calls “God the Father of lights;” for as the sun by its light enlightens, warms, and enlivens our bodies, so God, looking upon us with an eye of affection, illuminates, inflames, and warms our souls. “And deliver my soul;” rescue it from the pit into which it has fallen; from the noose of the hunter, in which it is held bound and captive; deliver it from the hands of its enemies, into which sin has consigned it. “Save me;” that is, deliver me from the imminent damnation of hell; for, properly speaking, to save one, means to save them from the imminent danger of death. Observe the order followed here. First, God turns to us, and looks upon us with his grace. Secondly, we turn to him, and thus the soul is rescued from sin. Thirdly, so saved from sin, we are saved from the danger of imminent damnation. And all these stages in the process of justification, turn up, not from any previous merits of ours, (for what does a sinner merit but punishment?) but through the mercy of God; and he therefore adds, “for thy mercy’s sake,” as if he said, I dare to ask so great a favor, having no reliance whatever on my own merits, but on your mercy.

5 A fourth argument, deduced from the glory of God. I ask, he says, not “to be rebuked in thy fury,” because in such case I should undoubtedly be consigned to eternal death; and thus both your praise and your memory would be partly lost, for the damned have no recollection of God, so as to praise him; nor is there any one in hell to confess to God, that is, to praise him by confessing his prodigies and his goodness. Some will have the death spoken of here, to the death of the body only; and by hell, they mean the grave; and make the sense to be, that the dead lying in their graves do not praise God, and are not mindful of him, as they have no feeling, and they quote the words of Ezechias, chap. 38, “For hell will not confess to thee, nor will death praise thee,” while it is pretty clear that Ezechias only asked to be delivered from the danger of corporal death. But I consider that the passage should be understood to mean everlasting death and the hell of the damned. For, though Ezechias feared the death of the body, he feared also the death of the soul, and, therefore, in his thanksgiving to God, he sang the canticle, because he felt that the restoration of his bodily health was a sort of intimation to him, that God in his goodness had remitted his sins, and delivered him from the danger of hell, and therefore, he says: “But you have rescued my soul that it may not be lost: you have cast all my sins behind your back, because hell will not confess to thee, nor death praise thee; they who descend into the lake will not expect thy truth.” All these arguments would be of no weight, were the death of the body alone in question here. For though the dead in the body and lying in their graves, are incapable of praising God, yet their souls live and praise him, and even their very bodies in the grave expect God’s truth, that is, his faithful promise of resuscitating them. They alone who descend into the lake of eternal damnation neither expect God’s truth, nor remember his benefices, nor give him present or future praise. So said passage of Ezechias has been understood by St. Jerome and the other fathers.

6 The fifth argument, drawn from fruits worthy of penance. For, as the apostle has it, 1 Cor. 11, “If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged;” that is to say, if we would condemn and punish ourselves, God would not condemn nor punish us. For he spares those who do not spare themselves. He, therefore says, that he not only understands and detests his guilt, but that he will also, as far forth as he can, punish himself, both now and for the future. “I have labored in my groanings,” which means, I have deplored my sins with such a flood of tears, that I am thoroughly tired, though I do not still cease to shed them; for, “I will wash my bed every night,” means that every night, instead of enjoying sleep or rest, I will copiously deplore my sins, and water my couch with my tears. Here we must notice the profusion of tears and the long duration of them. For the Hebrew for washing conveys the idea, that the quantity of tears shed was so great that one might swim in them, and even the word watering implies a large quantity, when the whole bed was washed with them. “I will water” also is very significant, for it implies the quantity of tears shed to be so great that they ran like a stream. The words “every night” are ambiguous in the Hebrew, for they may signify the whole night, in which sense St. Jerome has taken it, or every night, as it is understood by the Septuagint. In either sense, wonderful to be told, and, perhaps, true in both senses, namely, that every night a long time was spent by him in shedding tears. A serious consideration for those who, after the commission of many and grievous sins, can scarce bring themselves to shed a single tear when they come to ask pardon for them.

7 The effect of such a profuse effusion of tears. The Hebrew, instead of the word “trouble,” has “worn out” or “grown dark,” to show how great was his anger and indignation with himself for the hideousness of his sins; and so profuse his tears in consequence, that his eyes grew dim and melted. “I have grown old amongst my enemies;” that means, I cannot but be highly indignant with myself for never having perfectly conquered any vice, never subdued any of my spiritual enemies, but have grown old among them all. By enemies, he means all who provoke one to sin, be they demons or men, or vice itself, and evil habits.

8 Having taken to heart so much his having grown old amid his enemies, he exclaims, “Depart from me;” that is to say, relying on the divine assistance, I will consort no more with you, I will not yield to your temptations. “For the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping;” that is to say, the Lord, moved to mercy by my tears, has not only forgiven them, but has given me greater grace to resist you.

9 An explanation of the former verse, and repeated two or three times, to show the certainty of his having been heard; and that thereby he may gather fresh courage to resist temptation.

10 A final prayer for a total end to his spiritual difficulties. “Let them be ashamed and very much troubled” for having effected nothing, but, on the contrary, having labored in vain. “Let them be turned back” to their own place from whence they came, “And be ashamed very speedily;” that is, let them be off as quickly as possible, and in confusion at my determination not to defer my conversion; but on the contrary, from this hour, this moment, I enter on the straight and perfect way of the Lord.

This conclusion may also be looked upon as a prayer for the conversion of those who, by their persecutions or their temptations, had been the cause of his sins. He prays that they too, by coming to know the truth, and to hate sin, “May be ashamed, and very much troubled,” and thus the more quickly converted to God. Finally, these words may be taken in the nature of an imprecation, to take effect on the day of judgment; for on that day all the wicked, whether men or demons, who attempted to stir up the just to impatience or to any other sin, “Will be ashamed, and very much troubled,” and will “Be turned back” to see the truth, but without benefiting themselves thereby. Then shall they say, as it is in Wisd. 5, “We therefore have strayed, from the way of truth.” That will come about very quickly, because “The day of the Lord tarrieth not,” though we may think otherwise. But when it shall come, and come all of a sudden, then will be seen how quickly it came.

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Psalm 7


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 “In thee have I put my trust,” because nearly all have deserted me, so that my very son Absalom, and my father in law Saul, seek to put me to death. I have no one to trust in but you, my God. “Save me from all them that persecute me.” Numerous were his persecutors—some by their advice, some by their maledictions, some by war and arms.

2 Meaning the leader of the persecution; for fear, says he, Saul or Absalom “seize upon my soul,” that is, take my life without any mercy, just as the lion seizes on other animals, “while there is no one to redeem me, nor to save,” that is, if you do not redeem and save me; for David knew that all human industry, without God, was of no avail. The word “redeem” is used in the Scripture for any sort of deliverance, though, properly speaking, it supposes something to be paid on redemption. For, as God is said to sell those he alienates from his mercy, and delivers to the ministers of his justice for punishment; so he is said to redeem those whom, in his mercy, he liberates, after rescuing them from the same ministers.

3–4 A reason assigned for asking deliverance of God, namely, on account of God’s knowledge of his innocence, thereby refuting Saul and Semei’s calumny of his plotting against Saul, and his invasion of the kingdom: for he asserts that he not only did not return evil for good, nor even evil for evil, but, on the contrary, that he returned good for evil. He first asserts that he did not return evil for good. “If I have done this,” that is, if I have conspired against the king, or invaded the kingdom by any fraud or force; “if there be iniquity in my hands,” that is, if I have done evil, returning it for good, I who was treated with such honor by Saul, adopted as his son in law, placed over a thousand soldiers—if I have been, as he asserts, the person to conspire against him, “If I have rendered to them that repaid me evils;” that means, when Saul and Semei, for all the favors I conferred on them, would only give evil in return, even to seek my death, I did not seek theirs, though I might easily, and could with impunity have done so. “Let me deservedly fall empty before my enemies,” which means, if such calumnies of theirs be not false, I don’t murmur at, nor refuse to fall “empty” in battle, that is, without any military glory, having inflicted no injury on the enemy, and after having suffered a great deal.

5 The evils he imprecates on himself, if the calumnies of Saul or Semei be true. See how they rise. First, “Let the enemy pursue my soul,” that is, endeavor to kill me. Second, “And take it,” in such way that I cannot possibly escape when he takes me to kill me. Third, “And tread down my life on the earth;” put me to an ignominious death, such as the death of those who are trampled under foot, and bruised to atoms. Fourth, “And bring down my glory to the dust;” that my memory, instead of being exalted and revered, may be forever infamous and opprobrious.

6 Having asserted his innocence, he justly asks of God to defend him. And as God is metaphorically said to sleep when he does not help; and to rise from sleep when he begins to help, as in Psalm 53, “Rise, why sleepest thou, O Lord?” he now says, “Rise in thy anger;” that is, be angry with my enemies; repel and terrify them, lest they hurt me. “And be exalted in the borders of my enemies,” means much the same, for the meaning is, appear aloft in the borders of my enemies, that all may see you, and be sensible of your presence. “And arise, O Lord my God, in the precept which thou hast commanded.”

Hitherto he had simply asked of God help against his enemies; he now assigns a reason for God’s granting it; and that is, because God had ordered the judges of the land to free the innocent from their oppressors; whence it follows that God, who is the supreme Judge over all judges, ought to do so too. “Rise in the precept thou hast commanded;” that is, agreeably to the order you gave.

7 Your interference in reducing my enemies and defending me, will bring many to know you, to confess to you, to praise you, and to surround you with a congregation; for wherever any are congregated in thy name, there art thou in the midst of them. Having asserted that “A congregation of people would surround him,” he now adds, “and for their sakes return on high.” As you have exalted yourself in the territory of my enemies, terrifying them from the throne of your justice, on my account, do the same when necessary—return on high again, for the sake of the congregation that praise thee.

8 A reason assigned for standing by and supporting the congregation of people that adhered to him; he, being the supreme Judge and Sovereign, to whom it properly appertained to protect and govern those under his charge. “Judge me, O Lord, according to my justice, and according to my innocence in me.” The conclusion of the whole imprecation. Conscious of the falsehood of the calumny of Saul and Semei, and having God witness thereto, he asks him, as the supreme Judge, to judge his cause according to its justice and his innocence, and to give to every one their desert.

9 This may be called the second part of the Psalm, in which the prophet teaches evil doers that they harm themselves; and exhorts all to be converted from iniquity to justice. “The wickedness of sinners shall be brought to naught;” that is, let them do all in them lies—use all their efforts to injure the just—it will be all in vain, to no purpose; because “You direct the just;” by your providence you guide him, so that he shall neither turn to the right nor to the left. You alone can do so, for to you alone are the truly just known, inasmuch as it is you that search their hearts; that is, know their thoughts and their loins, that is, their desires.

10 From a universal opinion he infers, in particular, that it is right for him to expect help from the Lord; for it is just that God should help the just, for it belongs to him, as searcher of hearts, to save those that are upright of heart, that is, those who are truly just before God.

11 God is a just judge, both strong and patient; but not at all times angry or threatening, only when he is driven thereto by the evil doings of those who know how severely he prohibits certain actions to sinners; and yet they hesitate not in doing them.

12 To prove that God is not always angry or threatening, but that he only sometimes gives way to his wrath, and carries out the threats he menaced, he adds, “Except you will be converted, he will brandish his sword,” that is, he will so wield it in destruction, that it will appear to emit light; and he will use the bow as well as the sword, for, “he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.” The sword and the bow are introduced to show that God strikes from near and from afar. When the sin committed is proximate and patent, then God strikes at once, and openly, as if with a sword. When the sin is remote, or occult, then he seems to strike from a distance, as if with an arrow.

13 For fear we should suppose that the divine weapons could be easily repelled or avoided, he says those weapons are “instruments of death,” that the arrows are made of inflammable matter, so as to become weapons of fire, penetrating and consuming, with the greatest rapidity, everything they strike. The literal translation would be, “Vessels of death;” but vessels are most frequently used in the Scriptures to signify arms or instruments; thus, in Psalm 70, “Vessels of psalms;” Is. 22, “Vessels of music;” Jeremias 50, “Vessels of anger;” chap. 51, “Vessels of war.”

14 In the three following verses the prophet shows that such weapons, being really fiery weapons, are sent with the greatest force, and sure to be unerring. For God’s providence so arranges that the very evil the sinners prepare for the just should prove fatal to themselves; for such is the wonderful hatred of God for sinners as to cause all their machinations to retort upon themselves. The sinner, says he, “hath conceived sorrow and brought forth iniquity; and dug a pit,” and dug it deeply, that he might take away the life of the just man, either publicly or privately; but, through God’s intervention, the sinner fell into his own pit, and “the sorrow he conceived,” and the “iniquity he brought forth,” have redounded on his own head. To explain in detail, “He hath been in labor with injustice.” That is to say, the sinner has been guilty of some act of violence or injustice to the just man. The word, “He has been in labor” is not to be looked upon here as different from the word “brought forth,” in the end of the verse; they both mean the same, as he presently explains more clearly what seed it is that he has been in “labor with,” or “brought forth.” “He hath conceived sorrow, and brought forth iniquity.” The seed as well as the fetus is conceived. “Conception of sorrow,” means conception of hatred, or envy of the neighbor, which are the seed of all evil; and hatred and envy are most properly designated by conception of sorrow, for hatred and envy distort and destroy the mind of the person possessed by them. From the bad seed thus conceived spring the bad actions, such as murder, rapine, detraction, false testimony, and the like; and though some may consider the three expressions, “He hath been in labor with injustice;” “He hath conceived sorrow,” and “Brought forth iniquity?” to refer to three different things, and parturition would seem to be midway between conception and birth; but, in reality, two things only, as I said before, are implied, because two only apply to the verse 2; next, “His sorrow shall be turned on his own head, and his iniquity shall come down upon his crown;” again, if “the conceiving of sorrow” be distinct from the “being in labor with injustice,” it ought to precede, not to follow. By the words then, “he hath been in labor with injustice,” is meant a summary of the entire, of which conception and bringing forth is an explanation.

15 After saying that the sinner had brought forth iniquity against the just, he adds, that “he opened a pit” giving us to understand by such similes, that the wicked plot against the just sometimes privately, sometimes openly; and as parturition and delving are sometimes troublesome and laborious enough, so are the evil doings of the sinner—hence the exclamation of the damned, Wisd. 5, “We have walked the difficult ways.” “And he is fallen into the hole he made.” The prophet now begins to show that the evil doings of the sinner hurt themselves alone, and that they are the sword and the arrows of God; and having finished with the latter, he takes it up again, saying: “He hath opened a pit,” in the hope that the just man, ignorant of its existence, may fall into it, but instead thereof himself fell in.

16 Not only occult sins, such as the opening of the pit, but even public, such as hatred or envy externally manifested, and the sins springing from hatred and envy, such as bloodshed and rapine and the like, will, by the divine dispensation, recoil on the evil doer; we have examples in Saul and David; the Jews and Christ; the persecutors and the martyrs.

17 The Psalm concludes in praise to God. Literally it is, “I will confess,” which expression in the Scriptures is constantly used for praise, for he who praises him confesses he is worthy of such praise “according to his justice.” I will give him not more praise than he merits who so wonderfully delivers the just and punishes the sinner. “And I will sing to the name of the Lord the Most High;” the same idea in different language, viz., I will sing a hymn to the highest God, to the supreme Judge, who sits on a most lofty throne above all other judges.

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Psalm 8

Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Reflecting on God’s greatness, the prophet is wrapped in admiration at the idea of a God, so great in himself, condescending to look upon or to heap such and so many favors on man, a thing of dust and ashes. “O Lord,” says he, who art the source of all being, whence all created things are derived; and, therefore, “Our Lord,” that is to say, thou art Lord of all, “how admirable is thy name in the whole earth!” how wonderful is thy glory, or the good fame of thy name diffused through the whole world, to the great admiration of all who care to reflect on it. Isaias, chap. 6, says the same in other language: “The whole earth is full of his glory.” He calls the name of God admirable, because though the admirers may be few, when few reflect on God’s works; however, the name is most worthy of admiration when all creatures constantly praise the Creator in the sense that all beautiful productions are said to praise the producer, and in such wise the whole earth is full of the glory of God; for whatever is on earth, even to the minutest particle, declares the infinite power and wisdom of the Creator. “For thy magnificence is elevated above the heavens.” A reason why God’s name should be so admirable on earth, inasmuch as his magnificence is elevated above the heavens, that is, cannot be contained by them; it is such that the whole world cannot contain it. “His glory covered the heavens, and the earth is full of his praise,” Habacuc chap. 3. The magnificence of great princes is estimated from their expensive manner of living, their building great cities or palaces, their keeping up great retinues or armies, or their distribution of great presents. God created the universe for a palace, having the earth for its pavement, the heavens for its roof. He feeds all living things, who are beyond counting. He has already bestowed on the angels and saints, who are the most numerous, and will hereafter on the just, a most ample kingdom, not temporal but eternal. Truly great, then, is his magnificence.

2 An answer to an objection likely to be raised. If the glory of God so fill the earth and his magnificence be elevated above the heavens, how comes it that all do not know and praise him? The answer is, that God does not condescend to be known or praised by the proud, who presume on their own strength, but by the humble and the little ones, according to Mt. 11, “I confess to thee, Father, because thou hast hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones.” Hence, God’s glory and greatness are greatly increased, when he is known only by those he wishes should know him. This verse may have a double meaning. First, to understand infants and sucklings as meaning mankind, who really are such, when compared to the Angels, when there is question of understanding divine matters; and the sense would be from the mouth of mortals you have perfected praise, revealing your glory to them, “because of thy enemies;” that is, to confound the rebellious angels. “That thou mayest destroy the enemy and the avenger;” that is, that you may outwit the wisdom of your primary enemy, the devil, and his defenders, or avengers, the host of his followers, the reprobate angels. Secondly, by “infants and sucklings,” may be understood humble people, little ones in their own eyes, and not versed in the science of the world; like many of the prophets and apostles, and a great number of monks and holy virgins, and mere children too, who, in early years, have so perfectly understood the glory of God, that they had no hesitation in spilling their blood for it. In such sense did our Savior quote this very Psalm, Mt. 21, “Have you never read that from the mouth of infants and sucklings he hath perfected praise?” By enemies are meant the wise ones of this world, and their apologists, who, with all their knowledge of God, have not glorified him as such, and, therefore, “became vain in their thoughts,” as St. Paul expresses it.

3 Holy David ranks himself here among the infants and sucklings praising God; as if he were to say, here is one, a humble shepherd, to chant your praise. “For I will behold the heavens;” that is, I will attentively consider that wonderful work of yours, and praise you the Creator of such a work. He makes use of the phrase, “the works of thy fingers;” as much as to say, formed by your fingers, not by your arms, to show with what facility they were created by God; and furthermore, that valuable and precious works, not requiring labor but skill, are generally the work of the fingers and not of the arms. Mention is not made of the sun here, for it was mostly at night that David would so turn to contemplation; that being the time most meet for it. “At midnight I rose to confess to thee,” Ps. 118; and in Ps. 62, “I will meditate on thee in the morning;” and Isaias, chap. 62. “My soul hath longed for thee in the night.” It is at night that the heavens are seen embellished with the moon and stars, “Which thou hast founded;” all created from nothing, raised by you from the foundation without having had any previous existence.

4 The greatness of God, in himself, having been established, he now proceeds to extol his greatness towards man. “What is man,” that you, the Creator of heaven and earth, deign to remember him? as if he said the greatest favor possible to be conferred on man, who is mere dust and ashes, is the bare remembrance of him by God; and as such remembrance is not a naked one, but with a view to confer favors on man, he adds, by way of explanation, “or the son of man that thou visitest him?” Man, and the son of man, mean the same, unless one would raise an uncalled for distinction, by saying that the words, “son of man,” are used to show the divine favors were not conferred on the first man to the exclusion of his posterity. The word “visitest him,” implies the special providence God has for all men, especially that which he displayed, by coming into the world, assuming human flesh, “being seen on earth, and conversing among men,” Baruch 3. Such is, properly speaking, the visitation alluded to in Lk. 1. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who has visited and redeemed his people;” and subsequently, same chapter, “The orient from on high hath visited us.” Such visitation could not but elicit, “What is man that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man that thou visitest him?”

5 This verse has a double meaning, a literal and an allegorical. In the literal sense, three favors of God to the human race are enumerated. First, being created by God of so noble a nature as to be very little less than that of the Angels. Secondly, to be so distinguished in honor and glory beyond all other creatures, inasmuch as he has been made to the image and likeness of God, and endowed with reason and free will. Thirdly, from the power and dominion over all things, especially animals, that have been conferred by God upon him; and, therefore, he adds:

6–8 By sheep and oxen are meant all domestic animals: by the beasts of the field are meant wild animals. The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, are easily understood, including the monsters as well as the fish of the sea. To come now to the allegorical sense of the preceding verses, which is quite certain, and intended by God, if we believe St. Paul, in Heb. 2, and 1 Cor. 15, the meaning is, that Christ, man, by that most remarkable visitation of God; that is to say, by the incarnation of the Word, was made less than the Angels in some degree, by his passion, as would appear from the Angels coming to comfort him in his passion, whereas Angels are immortal, and exempt from all suffering; and, however, Christ suffered and died then and there. Absolutely speaking, however, Christ was always superior to the Angels, and superior in every respect. That was shown clearly, when he “was crowned with honor and glory;” that is to say, when in his resurrection in a glorious and immortal body, and by his wonderful ascension, he was exalted above all God’s works, to the right hand of his Father. All things are subject to him, without exception, “except him” as the apostle, 1 Cor. 13, says, “Who has subjected everything to him.” His principal subjects are, first, human beings, believers, included in “sheep and oxen,” subjects and prelates; and unbelievers, under the head of “The beasts of the field.” “Then Angels, superior to mankind, come under the head of the birds of the air, that rise aloft, and constantly chant the praises of God. Finally, the fishes of the sea represent the evil spirits, who, from the lowest abyss are insensible to God’s praise, and revel in the meanest and lowest dissipation.

9 A repetition of the first verse, as if he said, how justly I set out with the exclamation, “O Lord our Lord, how admirable is thy name in all the earth.”

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Psalm 9


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The matter of the Psalm is here proposed, viz., the praise of God for his wonderful works. The words, “With my whole heart,” signify the subject to be praised is one of the highest importance, and, therefore, to be done with all his might and affections. The words, “All thy wonders” imply that the subject of his praise is so expansive as to comprehend in one view all the wonderful works of God. Such, in reality, was the redemption of man; a work of infinite mercy, in which are comprehended all the beneficent acts of God, as the apostle has it, Ephesians 1, “To establish all things in Christ;” that is, to comprehend, to reduce everything into one sum through him.

2 The same sentiment, in different language, or, perhaps, rather an explanation; as if he said, with exultation and joy will I confess to thee, with joy in my heart and exultation in my exterior, thus confessing with all my affections. Playing on the harp before thee, O Most High, will I relate all thy wonders, chanting them to thy glory.

3 He begins to narrate the victory of Christ over the devil and his satellites, and speaks in the person of the entire Church. “When my enemy shall be turned back,” that means, when my enemy, the devil, flying from your face, shall begin to turn back, then all his soldiers “Shall be weakened, and perish;” that is to say, the moment they see their leader to fly, they will become unnerved, will fly, scatter as if they had been actually destroyed. Of such flight the Lord himself speaks in the gospel, Jn. 12, “Now is the judgment of the world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”

4 A reason assigned for the devil’s flight and the scattering of his forces; for you, my Lord, the Son of God, “hast maintained my judgment and my cause;” that is, you have put an end to the litigation, the struggle, and the contest between mankind, or the Church and the devil. For the devil maintained that mankind was justly held in bondage by him, and therefore harassed it in a most tyrannical manner, until Christ, by his sufferings on the cross, thereby atoning for man, put an end to the struggle; hence the expression, “Thou hast sat on the throne, who judgest justice,” meaning the cross, as St. Leo has it, in his eighth Sermon on the Passion of our Lord: “O unspeakable glory of the passion, in which are united the judgment seat of God, the judgment of the world, and the power of the crucified;” and these are in reality the occult things of the Son, which by some are prefixed as a title to this Psalm. For he who, to all appearance, seemed to be guilty and was suffering punishment in the greatest ignominy, at that very moment was sitting on his throne, “judged justice,” that is, judged most justly, inasmuch as now that the price had been paid, man was delivered, and the devil despoiled of his dominion over him, and actually, as the apostle has it, Col. 2, “Blotting out the handwriting of the decree which was against us, which was contrary to us, and the same he took out of the way, fastening it to the cross.”

5 The devil having been subdued through the cross, Christ our Lord, through his apostles, “rebuked the gentiles,” “convicting the world of sin, of justice, and of judgment,” as the Lord himself foretold: and in such manner “The wicked one hath perished;” that is the wickedness of idolatry perished, and man from impiety was brought to love God. Which was effected not only among the impious of that time, but Christ so entirely destroyed idolatry and the religion of the gentiles forever, that it can never appear again, having been plucked out from the roots. A thing we see already fulfilled, the Jews themselves, who were most prone to idolatry, having never attempted to return to it. “Forever and ever,” to signify true, real eternity, having no end, for fear any one should suppose that a very long time, but still a definite one, was intended.

6 A reason assigned for idolatry not being likely to return, inasmuch as the power of the devil and his strongholds had disappeared, and he has no means of carrying on an offensive or a defensive warfare, “His swords having failed”—”unto the end;” that is, thoroughly, without a single exception—not one remaining. By “the swords of the enemy” we may also understand the temptations, or suggestions, which may be looked upon as the words of the devil, in the same sense that the apostle calls the word of God, “The sword of the Spirit.” The same apostle calls the temptations of the devil, “weapons of fire;” and such weapons are said “to have failed,” because they cannot injure those armed in the faith of Jesus Christ. In which sense, St. Anthony, in his life of St. Athanasius, quoted this very passage, proving therefrom that the temptations of the devil are most easily repulsed by the sign of the cross. By “their cities” may be understood all infidels, in whom the devil dwells without disturbance; these were destroyed by Christ when he put down idolatry. Our Lord himself seems to have this in view when he says, in Lk. 11, “When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things which he possessed are in peace. But if a stronger than he come upon him, and overcome him, he will take away all his armor, wherein he trusted, and will distribute his spoils.” When the devil held possession, everything he possessed was in peace; because, while man is in a state of infidelity, he is always in the power of the devil, however morally good his life may have been, as has been the case with many pagan philosophers. But Christ, having got possession, by the extirpation of infidelity and the introduction of the knowledge of the true God, the devil lost his all. “Their memory has perished with a noise;” that is to say, the memory of idolatry, idolaters, and of the whole kingdom of Satan has perished amidst much noise and confusion. For the whole world resisted Christ; the most powerful kings and emperors sought to stand up for and defend their idols; but the more the world raged, the more idolatry tottered, and the remembrance of it was being blotted out; and, finally, the cessation of persecution was succeeded by a total destruction of idolatry.

7 Christ’s memory, on the contrary, will never fade after his death and resurrection. “All power in heaven and on earth was given to him,” which David alludes to here; as if he said, after such contest with the devil, the Lord “Hath prepared,” or, as the Hebrew has it, established “His throne in judgment;” that is, for the purpose of judging; and he, the Prince of the kings of the earth, “Shall judge the world;” meaning the people of the whole world, “In equity and justice,” two words used synonymously. Christ is said to sit in judgment on the world, though there may be many wicked and infidel princes in the world in rebellion against him, but who can, however, devise nothing—do nothing against his will and permission.

Explained Above

8–9 From the fact of Christ’s being the future ruler, to govern with supreme justice, he infers the poor, who are usually oppressed by the great, will have great consolation. Let the poor fear no longer, for the Lord, sitting in heaven, “Is become a refuge” to them; and, furthermore, “A helper in due time in tribulation;” that is, when necessity may require it. For the divine help never comes so opportunely, as when we are overwhelmed in trouble, with no human being to console us; and this promise will be most surely fulfilled to all who truly seek and fear God; and therefore, he adds:

10 The prophet speaks now in the third, instead of the first person, a thing he often does, from some new inspiration. With great justice can all “Who know your name;” that is to say, not only by the sound of it, but in reality; and fully understand the significance of it, and thence know the power and the mercy of God, put their confidence in you in all their difficulties. Much more so can your friends, “Since thou hast not forsaken;” that is, you never have forsaken “Those that seek thee.” By those “That seek him” he means those that covet his grace, and with all their heart seek to please him.

11 After a fervent appeal to God, he makes one to man in the same spirit; exhorting them too, to praise God, and to bring others to do so. The Lord is said “To dwell in Sion,” for there was the “Ark of the testament,” and “The place of prayer;” and this is put in here by way of apposition, that the true God may be distinguished from the false, who dwell in caves and the shrines of the gentiles. The word “ways” comprehends the thoughts, counsels, plans, inventions, the wonderful works of God, that are so resplendent in the redemption of man. Thus the meaning of the whole verse is: Sing to God a hymn of praise; announce to the gentiles his wonderful designs, his wonderful wisdom; and, in consequence, his wonderful works, that all nations, when they hear them, may unite in his praise.

12 The prophet returns to what he previously asserted: namely, that the Lord was a “Just Judge,” the “Refuge of the poor in tribulation;” and takes up an objection that may be possibly raised, to wit, the fact of our seeing the poor, however pious, persecuted by the wealthy, sometimes even unto death. The answer is, “Praise God,” says he, “for though he sometimes seems to forget his poor,” such is not the case. “For requiring;” that is to say, inquiring into their daily actions, and examining them severally. “Their blood he hath remembered, he hath not forgotten the cry of the poor,” who, in their persecutions, had appealed to him; which recollection of their sufferings will appear in its own time, when the punishment of the oppressors and the glory of the oppressed shall be declared.

13 Having thanked God for past favors, he now asks his assistance, in present and future difficulties. The prayer of the Church against her visible and invisible enemies. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, see my humiliation,” that is, my total prostration, caused by my enemies.

14 The first part of this verse has a connection with the verse preceding. The meaning is, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, see my humiliation;” you, O Lord, “That liftest me up from the gates of death,” meaning you that keep me far removed from the gates of death. Those gates are supposed to be very deep; for the prophet does not allude to the death of the body, but to the death of the soul by sin, or everlasting death; and, therefore, he makes use of the word “Exalt,” to be far removed from the said gates. By the “Gates of death,” or of hell, the multitude of our infernal enemies would seem to be implied. The great body of the Jewish people were wont to assemble at the gates, whether for matters of justice or any other public business, and thus the word “Gates” got to signify a large assemblage of the people. Hence, we have in Matthew, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against her;” and in the last chapter of Ecclesiasticus, “From the gates of tribulation that have encompassed me.” And here we may note the beauty of the contrast between the gates of death, and the gates of the daughter of Sion or Jerusalem; the former are in the lowest bottom; the latter, on a high mountain: in the former are assembled the evil spirits; in the latter the people of God: from the gates of the former come forth nothing but temptations and war, that lead to death; the gates of the latter “Are built on peace;” for Jerusalem “Has put peace as its boundary;” and it is named as “The vision of peace.” The Church, then, “Is lifted up from the gates of death,” to announce God’s praise, “In the gates of the daughter of Sion;” which means being delivered from all temptations that may lead her to eternal death; to acknowledge the great grace conferred on her by her liberator, and to praise him with the Angels of God, who are in the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem.

15 Having been liberated from the “gates of death,” “I will rejoice in thy salvation;” that is, in the salvation you bestowed on me; since “the gentiles who laid a snare for me” have been caught in the very snare they laid, as they would in the deepest mud, from whence they cannot extricate themselves; in other words, their persecution did much harm to them, none to me; and the same may be said not only of their open and avowed persecution, but also of their private persecution, which, “like a snare, they laid for me.” May be too, that the avowed persecutions of Diocletian and others of the Roman emperors, and the disguised persecutions of Julian the Apostate, and other heretical emperors, are here intended.

16 From this wonderful dispensation of Providence, who turns the arms and the wiles of the wicked on themselves, David gathers that God will come to be known. “The Lord shall be known when he executeth judgment;” that is, his judgments will be so admired that he will be known to be the true and supreme God; and mainly, through his providence in causing the sinner “to be caught in the works of his own hands:” namely, when he falls into “the destruction he had prepared for others,” and “the snare which he had hid for them.”

17 To be taken as a prophecy, not as an imprecation. “Shall be turned,” means in the Hebrew, “shall return;” which is applied to sinners, inasmuch as the devil, when he seduced them, made them his slaves; and, therefore, they will return to him. For God created man in innocence: the devil made him a sinner. As our Savior, in Jn. 8, says, “You are from your father, the devil.” The latter part of the verse, “all the nations that forget God,” declares who the sinners are that “will return to hell:” namely, all those “who forget God.” For the forgetting of God is the root of all sin; for he who sins turns away from God unto the creature.

18 Sinners, therefore, who are in the habit of oppressing the poor will be cast into hell; for God, sooner or later, will avenge their wrongs; for, though he may seem to forget them for a time, “he does not forget them to the end,” but will one time remember them; and, therefore, “the patience of the poor shall not perish forever.” When the patience of the poor is said not to perish, it does not mean that their patience in itself will be everlasting; but that it will in its effects, inasmuch as its reward will be everlasting.

19 Having predicted the final ruin of the wicked, he now asks for their coercion. “Arise, O Lord, let not man be strengthened;” that is, let not man, a handful of dust, prevail against God, his Creator. “Let the gentiles be judged in thy sight;” meaning, let judgment issue against them, as we have in another Psalm, “Judge them, O God.”

20 The judgment that issued against the gentiles, who persecuted the Church, was quite manifest when they became subject to a Christian prince. They then plainly saw they were weak mortals, and could not prevail against Christ. That the prophet predicts, but in the shape of a prayer. The word “lawgiver,” in the Hebrew, means a teacher, or a terrible character. And as the prophet spoke of a terrible teacher, who was to teach and to command with authority, the Septuagint, most properly, used the word legislator. By the legislator, many have said Christ is meant; many more say, Antichrist is alluded to. Let every one have their own opinion. Mine is, that he alludes to Jovinianus, Valentinian, Theodosius, and such characters.

21 This verse, according to the Hebrew version, is the first of Psalm 10, but not recognized as such by the Septuagint; and it is most likely that such division of the Psalm was made in later times, by those who considered that the matter of the latter part of the Psalm was quite different from the first part; because, in the first part, hitherto the Church was exulting in the victory of God over his and her own enemies; and in the succeeding part she mourns over the success of the same enemies over the Church. The whole difference, though, consists, not in the matter, but in the times of which David prophesies. In the beginning of the Psalm, David exulted in spirit on account of the secret mysteries of the Son of God, who by his death subdued the evil spirits and paganism, and destroyed their idols; and then in the end of the said part, and the beginning of this part, foretells the persecutions that will be raised by the gentiles, and by the evil minded persons, assuming betimes such a magnitude that it would appear God had entirely forgotten the people he had delivered with such glory to himself; and as he said previously, “The Lord is become a refuge for the poor; a helper in due time in tribulation:” having before him another time, namely, that in which God permitted the poor to be oppressed by the more powerful, he says, “Why, O Lord, hast thou retired afar off?” that is to say, permitted such a raid of the unjust on the just, as if you were not present, and had “retired afar off. Why dost thou slight us in our wants, in the time of trouble?” Why not help us when we need help; and that is most in the time of trouble?

22 Rather a difficult verse, but the sense would seem to be, “Whilst the wicked man is proud,” that is, while in his prosperity he appears full of vain boasting, “the poor is set on fire;” that means, is scandalized, and lights internally with anger: “They are caught in the counsels which they devise;” that is, both one and the other are caught; the impious man, by attributing all his happiness to himself, and thus deceiving himself; and the just man, seeing such prosperity, and not understanding it, equally deceives and involves himself. The expression, “The counsels which they devise,” is a Graecism, and has been translated literally, and merely signifies their thoughts. This verse would seem to supply a reason for the preceding one, showing that the prophet had implored of God “not to slight their wants in the time of trouble,” because the prosperity of the wicked is equally hurtful to the sinner and to the just, contributing, as it does, to the pride of the former, and the scandal of the latter.

23 The reason assigned why prosperity makes “the wicked man proud,” and “the poor is set on fire;” because, when the sinner doeth evil, and by reason of his being in power, and having riches, he is praised by many, as if he were doing right; and his desires, however sinful and unjust, are applauded; and hence it comes that “The unjust man is blessed,” when he rather deserved to be cursed and reviled.

24 He goes on to explain the malice of the proud sinner: “He hath provoked the Lord,” at a time that he should have, with all his might, sought for a reconciliation with him; but, “According to the multitude of his wrath he will not seek him;” that is, his extravagant anger towards the afflicted poor will not let him seek God to be reconciled to him. For his mind has been so blinded by arrogance, that he never reflects how great an evil it is to provoke Almighty God.

25 The blind sinner thinks not of God. The Hebrew puts it more expressively, “God is not in all his thoughts,” meaning in none of his thoughts, however numerous they may be, he never turns on God. “His ways are filthy at all times,” a consequence of the preceding; for, when he never thinks of God, never directs his steps to God, or to ought but gratifying his carnal desires, all his ways, therefore, that is, all his actions are filthy with the mire of concupiscence. “Thy judgments are removed from his sight.” The only thing that could turn him from his evil ways, the dreadful reflection on thy judgments, is far from his heart; and he, therefore, fearless of God, “Rules over all his enemies;” that is, tyrannically oppresses all he considers as such.

26 The vain confidence of the wicked man! who thinks that nothing can harm him. “He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved;” nobody can disturb me, or bring me down from my station, forever and ever; I shall meet no evil.

27 Having described the heart of the wicked man that never thinks on God, or his judgments, nor fears anything from them, he now describes his mouth, and afterwards his actions. Under the head of malediction, “or cursing,” may be classed blasphemies against God, and railing against men; under “bitterness” come detraction, contention, murmuring, and such like, indicative of hatred and rancor; finally, “to deceit” belong calumnious lies, and perjuries. The expression, “under his tongue are labor and sorrow,” explains the effect of the evils so enumerated; for the effect of all the evil words of the impious “is labor and sorrow, under his tongue;” that is, the labor and sorrow of wretched mortals, and the matter on which his tongue is constantly exercised.

28 He comes now to describe the evil works, the oppression of the poor, making use of a metaphorical expression, taken from those who, when they meditate assassination, conceal themselves in a house for the purpose of observing the ingress and egress of those whose lives they are bent upon; and the meaning is, that those wicked and powerful people enter into a conspiracy with other rich and powerful people, to circumvent the poor by various arts and stratagems, and so destroy them entirely.

29–30 The metaphor used in the twenty eighth verse is here explained by different metaphors. In that verse he compared the oppressor of the poor, to one man lying in ambush for another. In verse twenty nine he compares him to a lion, lying in wait for the weaker beasts; and finally, to a man laying snares for wild beasts, and catching them. “He lieth in wait to catch the poor,” which he does by enticing him, when off his guard, and draws him to himself. “In his net he will bring him down;” that is, will oppress and trample on him; will fall down, and rush upon him. “When he shall have power over the poor;” when he shall have made himself entirely their master. These verses contain a beautiful allusion to the wicked man’s intention, who then dreadfully comes into the slavery of the devil, when he seems to have made poor people slaves to himself.

31 The cause of all the impiety being the wicked man’s thinking within himself, that God was, and ever would be, indifferent to human affairs.

32 A prayer to God to curb the wicked. “Arise,” as if from sleep, “and let thy hand be exalted,” to strike; for the hands of a passive man, or of one asleep, are either hanging down, or folded.

33 He again repeats the cause of the wicked man’s offending God: namely, thinking that God will not punish him.

34 He contradicts the above by saying: you “do see it,” and you “will require it,” O God, because, “Thou considered the labor and sorrow” of the poor, and in due time you will “deliver into thy hands” the wicked to be punished; and justly, because to you, the Father of all, belongs the special care “of the poor man and the orphan.”

35 “Break thou the arm;” that is, the power and strength of the sinner, that so humbled, he may repent and sin no more; so that afterwards “his sin shall be sought, and shall not be found:” as Isaias has it, 28, “Vexation alone shall make you understand what you hear;” and in Ps. 82, “Fill their faces with shame, and they will seek thy name.”

36 He predicts the fulfillment of his prayer. “The Lord shall reign;” that is, always will reign in spite of his enemies; nay, his enemies even shall “Perish from his land;” that is, shall be exterminated from this world, for the world is God’s land, as we read in Ps. 23, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”

37 He uses the past for the future tense, on account of the certainty of the thing being done; and the word “Desire,” instead of prayer, to show how sure and quickly they would be heard; as if he said, God, the searcher of hearts, will not wait for their prayers, but will even hear their desires, that usually precede prayer. “Desire” and “Preparation of their heart” are the same, desire being a preliminary to prayer.

38 “The Lord hath heard the desire of the poor,”—”to judge for the fatherless and for the humble;” that is, to protect the fatherless and the humble against their oppressors, in order that man, who is upon earth, a creature, should not “Presume to magnify himself” against God, who is in heaven, and man’s Creator. All these denunciations of the oppressors of the poor are considered, by a figure, to apply to Antichrist. So St. Jerome and St. Augustine say: but if they are applied, as I consider they ought, in the literal sense, to the oppressors of the poor in general, they prove how great is the sin of such oppression, when the Holy Spirit denounces it at such length, and in such expressive language.

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Psalm 10


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The cry of the just man, who, under the weight of calumny is nigh tempted to despair and to desert his calling. “In the Lord I put any trust.” He is everywhere, and all powerful. “How then do you say to my soul,” that is to me—the phrase being much in use among the Hebrews—that is, why seek to persuade me? He addresses either the demons tempting him, or his own internal concupiscence stirred up by the devil. “Get thee away hence to the mountain like a sparrow;” that means, give up your calling, and man’s society, and go where there are no temptations, no dangers; for sparrows, when they dread the birds of prey, fly to the tops of mountains, where such birds cannot follow them. In regard of temptations, such mountains offer no protection, save in man’s imagination; who, when subject to grievous temptations, imagine change of place will save them from such trouble; and who, in a fit of desperation, will put an end to their existence, as if it were the mountain to save them; while the just man is patient, and stands his ground—knowing these temptations to exist in all places—with God’s help there to meet them.

2 A reason for flying to the mountains for deserting one’s vocation from an excess of fear, suggested by temptations: namely, the just being daily persecuted by the wicked, whether by calumny or in any other shape. Calumny is compared “to the arrows that shoot in the dark;” to give us to understand that they not only inflict a grievous wound, but that it is nigh impossible to guard against them. The two verses taken together may be thus interpreted. One cannot now be upright of heart, seeing the number of snares daily laid for them on all sides; they must therefore fly away to an inaccessible mountain, shun the company of man altogether; a thing impossible: or succumb to custom, by deserting the paths of justice. The just man thus replies to the temptation, “I will confide in the Lord,” and will, therefore, neither fly to an inhabitable mountain, nor will desert the path of justice.

3 By an appeal to Heaven, he confirms the truth of the just being persecuted by the wicked; for the wicked “have destroyed the things which thou hast made;” that is, your most perfect laws, counsels, and the commands you gave your people: and, instead of doing good for evil, as you wish, they do evil for good, calumniating and persecuting the just without any pretence or reason. “But what has the just man done?” Nothing whatever; he has given them no provocation, “But they hated without cause.”

4 He begins to assign a reason for confiding in God, and disregarding the threats of men, inasmuch as he is a judge sitting in heaven, whence he can see all things and has all men under control. “The Lord is in his holy temple;” by his holy temple he means the highest heavens, the temple not made by human hands; which he expresses more clearly when he adds, “The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes look upon the poor.” From that highest throne, from which nothing can be hid, God beholds the poor; and, therefore, they cannot be harmed without God’s knowledge or permission, a matter of the greatest consolation to them. What follows is more declaratory of the providence of God. For God not only sees men, but by a glance discerns and distinguishes the good from the bad, and all their works. The expression, “His eyelids examine,” means nothing more than he sees distinctly; such figurative expressions occur very often in the Psalms. The eyelids then here mean the eyes; the eyes, the mind: to interrogate means to know with as much exactness as if he previously interrogated and examined with the greatest minuteness.

5 God not only knows exactly the just and the sinner, but he also rewards or punishes them according to their merit. Therefore, “He that loveth iniquity hateth his own soul;” that is to say, himself; for he will be most grievously punished for his iniquity, a beautiful and most elegant sentence. For he who loves iniquity, in seeming to love his soul, that is, himself, by gratifying himself, commits sin; and thereby, in reality hates his soul, and destroys it, as our Savior, John 12, has it, “Who loves his soul shall lose it;” in other words, who wrongfully loves himself truly hates himself.

6 A proof of the wicked “having hated their own souls,” because God will rain upon them in this life snares in the greatest abundance, as numerous as drops of rain; that is to say, will permit them daily to fall into fresh and greater sins, striking them with blindness, and “giving them up to a reprobate sense,” one of the most dreadful and severe punishments. And as to the next life, “Fire and brimstone, and storms of winds;” that is, the most burning and scorching blasts in hell, “will be the part of their chalice;” meaning their portion and inheritance. We have to observe that the word “chalice” signifies inheritance, a usual meaning for it in the Scripture, as, “The Lord is the part of my inheritance, and of my chalice;” when the two expressions mean the one thing, viz., his inheritance as he immediately explains by adding, “You will restore my inheritance unto me.” Inheritance is called a cup, because as the cup at a feast, at least at the paschal feast, was divided among the guests, whence the expression of Lk. 22, “Take and divide it between you;” so an inheritance is divided between the sons of the same father. The same word inheritance is sometimes called, part or portion, as, “The Lord is my part;” in another place, “The Lord is my portion;” sometimes, “The part of my inheritance;” which does not mean that the Lord is a part of his inheritance, but that the Lord is the part that came to him by inheritance; so that inheritance and part of the inheritance mean the same: so, with regard to chalice and part of the chalice, which means the portion of the chalice that came to one upon a division. In very nice language he gives the children of the devil, to whom the Lord, in Jn. 8, said, “You are from your father the devil,” the inheritance belonging to him, namely, the horrible punishment designated by “Fire, brimstone, and the spirit of winds.”

7 God, being strictly just in himself, must, of necessity, punish the wicked with great severity. “For God is light, and there is no darkness in him; And hath loved justice,” that is, good works in all those he created to his likeness, he repeats the same when he says, “His countenance hath beheld righteousness;” by righteousness is meant a declaration of justice. For the justice alluded to here is not the virtue that regulates the mutual dealings or intercourse of man and man; but a universal justice, that embraces all virtues, the summary of which is the love of God and of the neighbor. “For the end of the commandment is love.” 1 Tim. 1; and, “Who loveth hath fulfilled the law.” Rom. 13. The expression, “his countenance hath beheld righteousness,” implies more than simply seeing; it means to see with a look of approbation, as the words in Ps. 1. “The Lord knoweth the way of the just.” Thou hast loved justice and seen righteousness, mean the same thing.

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Psalm 11


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Save me, O Lord, from all dangers, for there is nobody else in whom I can confide; “For there is now no saint;” for there is scarce in the world to be found any one truly “Pious and merciful,” (for such is the real meaning of the Hebrew word,) and not merciful only, but truthful. For “truths are decayed among the children of men;” that is, scarce one can be found to speak the simple truth.

2 He proves that “there is now no saint;” that is, “No pious and merciful man;” since men in general, instead of speaking in a good and useful manner to their neighbor, “Speak vain things” only; things that cannot rescue them from dangers, whence they speak in vain.

He also proves that truth has failed since “deceitful lips,” that is, the lips of man, “Have spoken with a double heart,” saying one thing, and doing another; and thus seeking to deceive.

3 An imprecation, but in the spirit of prophecy. By way of imprecation, he predicts that it will come to pass, that all who seek to deceive, will be deceived themselves; and while they imagine they are profiting much by their dishonesty, will lose everything, and themselves along with it, for all eternity. “The tongue that speaketh proud things;” he that boasts of his frauds and deceits, as appears from the following verse.

4 He explains the connection, “The tongue that speaketh proud things,” and “the deceitful lips:” inasmuch as all deceitful people confide mostly in their tongue, so as to imagine they want nothing else, nor should they be subject in any way to the Lord. “We will magnify our tongue;” when we make it boast of all its frauds in procuring for us the happiness we enjoy: “Our lips are our own,” a very ambiguous phrase in the Latin text, but very clear in the Hebrew and Greek; and the meaning is, our lips are with us; that is, prove for us, stand up for us. The prophet proceeds to explain the confidence the wicked place in their lips, as if they were the most powerful weapon they could use against others; and, therefore, he makes them add, “Who is Lord over us?” As if they said, we acknowledge no superior, when through our tongue we hold all in subjection.

5 Having taught that confidence was not to be put in man, he now teaches that confidence is to be placed in God, whose promises are most faithful; by a figure of speech, making God himself speak and promise his assistance to the humble, and to the afflicted. “By reason of the misery of the needy,” who groan under the deceits and the oppressions of the wicked, I will not defer helping them, but “now will I arise,” as if from sleep, and will stand by them. “I will set him in safety: I will deal confidently in his regard.” He explains what he will do upon rising: “I will set him in safety;” I will place them in safety, I will so establish them in safety, that they must forever be safe. “I will deal confidently in his regard,” that is, no one shall prevent, I will act boldly and freely in the matter. The Greek word implies confidence, freedom, and boldness.

6 The prophet now teaches that the foregoing promises are not like the promises of deceitful man, but most certain and true. “The words of the Lord are pure words;” that is, pure, chaste, and, as the Hebrew implies, not dyed, or counterfeit, but sincere and trustworthy, as “Silver tried by the fire;” that is, like the purest silver in sound, weight, and color, such as “Silver tried in the fire,” and not only in the fire, “But purged from the earth;” that is, approved of by the most versed in the trade of gold and silver; and finally, not once, “But seven times refined.” In the Hebrew, the expression, “Purged from the earth,” is very obscure.

7 He infers from the preceding, that God will fulfill his promises. You, our Redeemer and Lord, will guard us, for the Greek, as well as the Hebrew word, implies, not only salvation, but, furthermore, an extension of it in guarding and preserving.

8 As if one asked, what will become of the wicked, while you protect us? He replies, “The wicked will walk round about,” (while we are quietly reposing under your wings,) constantly running after the things of this world, yet never coming at the enjoyment of their desires; and they will be forever thus “Walking round about,” while the world lasts, because, “According to thy highness, thou hast multiplied the children of men,” and “the number of fools is infinite,” and in such a multitude there must be forever an immense number of those “Walking round about,” straying from God.

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Psalm 12


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 When the sinful desires are very powerful, God seems to forget and to desert the soul; when the understanding is obscured by darkness, he seems to turn from the soul. He, being the light, illuminates, when he shows his face, and leaves all in darkness when he turns it away. The man under temptation then exclaims, in reference to the first, “how long, O Lord, wilt thou forget me unto the end?” And in reference to the second, “How long dost thou turn away thy face from me?”

2 Inverting the order, he complains, first, of the darkness he is wrapt in; secondly, of the sinful desires he is unwillingly subject to. In consequence of the obscurity of my understanding, “How long shall I take counsels in my soul?” That is to say, devise various plans to deliver myself from the evil; and, again, looking at these wicked desires that infest my heart, “How long shall I have sorrow in my heart all the day?” How long shall I have sorrow and grieve, for fear I may have offended God; and do so daily, that is, the whole day, without intermission.

3 Both evils are here comprehended. For the “Enemy is then exalted” over man, when he oppresses him, both by the suggestion of sinful thoughts, which he cannot banish; and by involving him in darkness he cannot dissipate; and thus, as if he were suffering grievously, he cries to God, “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

4 He next invokes the divine assistance against both evils. “Consider,” that is, turn your face, “and hear me,” that is, don’t forget, don’t desert, help me; I entreat you, “Enlighten my eyes.” The same prayer more clearly expressed and repeated, “Enlighten:” banish the darkness of my mind, by turning to, and regarding me, “That I may never sleep in death:” that by consenting to my evil desires, my soul may not be lost. The death of the soul or body is not uncommonly called sleep in the Scriptures, because God can as easily wake one from either, as we can wake the sleeping. The words that “I may never sleep,” signify that man, when he yields to temptation, sleeps as it were, and feels no further torment from the temptation: but as rest of that sort, so far from being wholesome, is fatal, the words “In death” are appended. Man, then, may be freed from temptation in two ways, either by banishing the tempter, through the grace of God; or by indulging his passions, by consenting to the sin: he prays here to be freed in the first manner, for fear, to his serious cost, he may be freed in the second manner; that is, by sleeping in the consent to sin, and he gives a reason for desiring to be freed from temptation in the next verse.

5 The devil certainly would exult on having conquered a servant of God, a thing that would tend to lessen God’s glory. A reason assigned for his praying, “Lest at any time my enemy say: I have prevailed against him.” For “They that trouble me will rejoice when I am moved;” that is, they will do so, not only on my entire prostration, but even on my appearing to be slightly shaken; for, as “there is joy in heaven, for one sinner that does penance, more than for ninety nine just that do not need penance;” so the evil spirits more exult in even the approach to sin of one perfect man, than they would in the reveling of confirmed sinners in the most grievous sins. Hence it would appear that David, in writing this Psalm, had merely in view the delivery of the just man from the temptation of the devil; and not, as some would have it, his own delivery from Saul’s persecution. During that persecution, he was daily obliged to move about, in which case the words, “They will rejoice when I am moved,” as if he considered it of great importance not to move, would be quite inapplicable.

6 Another reason why the just man should be helped by God, because, “trusting in his mercy,” and not relying on his own strength, he resisted the tempter. The last reason he assigns for moving God to help him, is a promise that when freed from the temptation, he will not prove ungrateful to his liberator, but will thank God for the benefit, in heart, words, and deeds. “My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.” My heart shall bound with joy, on attaining salvation, attributing the whole to you, and praising you for it. The mouth will do its duty, for, “I will sing to the Lord, who giveth me good things.” Deeds are comprehended in the expression, “I will sing;” for the word sing properly means in the Hebrew, to strike the harp. Hence the Scripture says, “David sang with his hands,” 1 Kings 18, and in Psalm 144:9, “With a psaltry of ten strings will I sing unto thee.” He therefore promises, that he will exult in his heart, will sing with his mouth and strike the harp with his hands, that his entire body and soul may be engaged in celebrating God’s praises. “I will sing to the name” means, to chant the praises of God.

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Psalm 13


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 To such a pitch of folly has human nature, corrupted in our first parent, arrived, that one can be found, without daring to express it, yet to “say in his heart there is no God.” David does not convey here, that one particular person said so, but that men in general, through the corruption of their intellect, had come to such a pitch of blindness, as to become entirely regardless of their last end, and to think there was no God who regarded mankind, or to whom they would be accountable. “The fool,” that is, the man bereft of all sense, “said in his heart, There is no God;” that is, began to think God had no existence, and not only was the mind become corrupt and foolish, but also, so was the will; so that men, in general, leaned to sin, never to good; for the avoiding of sin, and the doing good, are very different things, when we speak of an act absolutely and perfectly good. For men without faith or grace, acting on the strength of corrupt nature alone, generally fall into sin; yet sometimes produce certain moral good works, which cannot be called sin; yet are not perfectly and absolutely good, when they do not bring man to the chief good. David, therefore, says, “They are corrupt and become abominable in their ways;” that is, in their desires or affections: hence themselves are corrupted and abominable. “There is none that doeth good; no not one.” Mankind is so corrupted in desire and in iniquity, but still not so generally that all their desires and actions should be considered corrupt and unjust. For surely when an infidel, moved by compassion, has mercy on the poor or cares their children, he doeth no evil. But nobody depending on the strength of corrupt nature alone, can perfectly and absolutely produce a good action. Hence, we see, that this passage, when properly understood, proves nothing for the heretics who abuse it, to prove that all the acts of a sinner, or of a nonregenerated, are sins.

2–3 Having said that human nature was corrupt in mind and in will, he shows now whence he had such knowledge: namely, from revelation. For God, who knows everything, saw it, and revealed it to his prophets. He describes God looking down from heaven, as if he were a mortal from his lofty look out, to see “If there be any that understood;” that is, not corrupted in his mind; “Or seeking God;” that is, not corrupted in his will, who could understand and love, and thus seek God, who is the supreme good. What God knew, that is, made us know, he explains in those words: “They are all gone aside;” that is, he saw they had all become useless to God, inasmuch as they neither serve, worship, nor render him any tribute of praise; and, finally, that he saw none to do a work perfectly and absolutely good. “Their throat is an open sepulchre.” The remainder of this verse is not in the Hebrew, nor in the Septuagint, nor in the Latin edition of Psalm 52, where the same passage occurs; but, whereas St. Paul, in Romans 3, quotes all these expressions consecutively, as if they belonged to one Psalm, we may consider they did originally belong to it, and were accidentally lost or omitted from it. These verses give us an idea of the malice of the wicked, who by word and deed do harm to their neighbor. “Their throat is an open sepulchre.” For, as the stench of the putrid corpse exhales from an opened tomb, so from their mouth issues filthy language, the exhalation of their corrupted heart. “With their tongues they acted deceitfully:” that is, by making use, not only of filthy but deceitful language. “The poison of asps is under their lips;” which words are not only filthy and deceitful, but, furthermore, poisonous, and deadly, and leading to sin. “Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood.” Those abandoned characters not only rail and fiercely contend in language; but are involved in evil action, and injure every one. For they whose mouths are full of maledictions and railing, are always ready to run swiftly to slaughter and bloodshed. “Destruction and unhappiness in their ways and the way of peace they have not known:” that is, all their thoughts turn upon destruction, devastation, and affliction, of the neighbor, because “The way of peace they have not known;” that is, what belongs to peace. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” The root of all the aforesaid evils; because they clearly cast overboard all fear of God, saying in their hearts, “There is no God.”

4 Here we can justly infer, that this universal corruption of human nature is to be understood of human nature in itself and depending on its own natural strength alone. For, through the grace of God, men become truly just and pious, and they are designated here as “My people” who are despised and persecuted by the wicked. “Shall all they know that work iniquity;” addressed to the wicked, by way of reproof, as if he said, will they be always insensible, will they ever open their eyes, will they ever begin to learn? “Who devour my people as they eat bread;” which means, that the wicked may, from such evils, be warned of their iniquity. For as bread, though eaten daily, is always relished; So the wicked take pleasure in daily harassing the poor, and never tire of it.

5 A reason assigned for such wickedness, namely: “They have not called upon the Lord:” they put their trust not in God, but in things created; and, therefore, “There have they trembled for fear, where there was no fear;” and, therefore, not knowing in whom to hope, or whom to fear, they trembled at encountering adversity, or going back in their prosperity; things of small moment, and transitory, which should have been above their consideration: whereas, had they put their trust in God, “And sought the kingdom of God and his justice, all these things shall be added unto you.”

6 Another reason for the wicked being seized with fear, when there is no ground for fear, “For the Lord is in the just generation;” which means, as the wicked neither invoked nor trusted in God, he deserts them, and takes up with “The just generation:” and once deserted by God, the true light, truth itself they walk in darkness, and therefore fear when they have no cause for fear. He then appeals to the wicked themselves. “You have confounded the counsel of the poor man, but the Lord is his hope.” Are you so blind as not only to abandon God yourselves, but even to mock those who have not? For you “Have confounded;” that is, derided, made the poor man blush, for doing what you call a foolish thing, the putting his hope in God, whereas he entirely depends on him. For to the worldly it seems a foolish thing to put our trust in God whom we don’t see; and not to trust in the riches of this world and other things we do see.

7 This last verse is a prayer to God for the speedy coming of the Savior, to deliver mankind from that captivity of the devil, in which all the wicked and perverse, whose sins and enormities he had just described, were bound. “Who shall give out of Sion the salvation of Israel?” That is, would that salvation to Israel should quickly come from Sion; “For salvation is from the Jews;” as the Lord said to the Samaritan woman, John 4; and not only from the Jews, that is, from the tribe of Juda, but from the family of David, whose city was named Sion. Salvation, therefore, or the promised Savior, was promised and expected from Sion, the city of David; that is, from the stock of David, who was to save Israel; that is, his people. Christ is called “Savior of Israel his people;” because, though in reality he came to save the whole world, he did not actually save beyond a certain number, who are called the people of God and spiritual Israel. “When the Lord shall have turned away the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.” As much as to say, I beseech and pray for “salvation from Sion;” and, therefore, for the Savior “to free us from captivity;” because, when that shall be effected, then truly and perfectly, “Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad;” that is, the people of God, who are spiritually called Jacob and Israel, for both names belong to one person. And that such promises, and similar ones, belong not exclusively to the carnal Jews, but to God’s people, composed of Jews and gentiles, is clearly established by St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans.

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Psalm 14


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The prophet, in alluding to Mount Sion and the tabernacle of God thereon, means the “heavenly Jerusalem,” and the tabernacle not made by human hands; for the prophets foretold the kingdom of heaven through such figures: St. Paul makes frequent mention of the “celestial tabernacle,” Hebrew 8 and 9; and in chap. 12, Mount Sion is called “The city of the living God;” and St. John, in the Apocalypse, makes mention of “the celestial Sion;” and, in chap. 21, he says, “Behold the tabernacle of God with man, and he will dwell with them.” The prophet then asks, “Who is to dwell?” That means, to have a fixed, certain residence, on the top of that lofty mount, from which, by reason of its out topping all others, there is no further ascent; for here on earth there can be no permanent residence nor real rest.

2 A most summary and comprehensive answer; as if he said, “Who declineth from evil and doeth good?” who does not offend God by the commission of a sin, or the omission of a duty? He who lives without committing a mortal sin “walketh without blemish;” and he who discharges all his obligations, not through fear of punishment, but from a sense of duty, is one “that worketh justice.”

3 Coming now to particulars, he says, “The man to dwell in the house of the Lord” is he who doeth no evil in heart, mouth or action, “Who speaketh truth in his heart.” For all who set more value than they ought on the things of this world, do not speak truth in their heart; and whoever consent to sin speak not truth in their heart, because they consider a matter will profit them, which rather injures. Thus, all the sins of the heart may be reduced to false judgment as their main root. Speaking of sins by the mouth, he says, “Who hath not used deceit in his tongue;” for detractions and flattery, and such sins, may be aptly styled “deceits.” Such man not only did no evil himself, but did all in his way to prevent it in others, and thus committed no sin in his actions, “nor taken up a reproach against his neighbor.” He has not listened to vituperation, detraction, stories or calumnies against his neighbor; and, instead of giving ear to the ill disposed, has rather despised them; while, on the contrary, he has glorified, honored, and helped the good who fear God. Great praise is due to him who hates sin, not only in himself, but in others.

4 All this is explained above.

5 Having explained the virtues of a good man, in general, he now touches on one vice in particular, from which any one aspiring to be heir to the kingdom of heaven should be specially exempt, namely, avarice. His reason for touching on this vice in particular, is either because, according to Tim 1:6, “It is the root of all evils,” or because this vice always was and is still, peculiar to the Jews. Now, avarice turns up in contracts otherwise lawful, or in unlawful contracts, or in bribes. The first class come under “He that sweareth to his neighbor, and deceiveth not.” The second class are designated by the expression, “He that hath not put out his money to usury.” The third class, the worst of all, are they “Who take bribes against the innocent.” “He that doeth those things shall not be moved forever.” The question put in the first verse is here answered. He says, that they who live according to what was just laid down will have an everlasting habitation in the kingdom of heaven. “He that doeth,” etc., will securely dwell in God’s tabernacle, will rest in his holy mountain, without the slightest fear of ever being disturbed therein.

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Psalm 15


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Which may be supposed to be said by Christ or by any sincere Christian; that is, guard, protect me from the impending trouble, for in thee alone, and in no created being, have I put my trust, which is evident from what follows: for,

2 I have confessed to the Lord, and said from my heart: “Thou art my God,” varying the expression from Lord, “for thou hast no need of my goods,” but I rather have need of thine; you, in nowise, depend on me, I entirely depend on you; you are, therefore, my only true and supreme Lord, and, therefore, in thee alone I hope and confide. These expressions proceed from the prophet in the person of Christ; at the time he was not only man, but liable to suffering and death.

3 “As God has no need of my goods,” I will seek to confer them on his elect, and of which friendly intentions God is witness, for “He has made wonderful all my desires in them;” that is, all my benevolence and good will towards his saints and his elect. God is said to have made the benevolence of Christ to the elect wonderful, by declaring it both through the prophets, through the various figures of the Old Testament, as well as by the miracles of Christ and his apostles; and wonderful was Christ’s love for his elect, when he laid down his life for them.

4 The effect of the benevolence of Christ towards his elect; they who, by reason of the grievous wounds of sin, so as to be unable to walk, when healed by the grace of God now began to run in the way of the commandments. “Their infirmities are multiplied;” that is, their spiritual infirmities and diseases; hence the apostle to the Romans, chap. 5, “When we were as yet infirm, Christ suffered for us;” and, in a few verses after, in explanation of the passage, he says: “When we were sinners.” The Hebrew for “infirmity” is made by many translators to stand for “idols;” such is not its signification; it properly means infirmity accompanied with pain, and may be figuratively applied to idols; because idols are infirm and powerless, or because they make sinners of men, and thus infirm. “Afterwards they made haste,” which means the very weakest among them, made so by the multiplicity of their sins, but afterwards, restored by grace, became so strong “as to exult in running their way.” Such was the case in the infancy of the Church, when the converts so hastened to the scaffold. “I will not gather together their meetings for blood offerings;” I do not approve of their “meetings for blood offerings;” and, therefore, I will not call them together, “nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips;” I will not only refuse to call such meetings together, but I will not even speak or make mention of such meetings. The connection between this latter part and the beginning of the verse now appears, for he assigns a reason why the elect, after having fallen into a number of sins, and especially idolatry, made such haste “in running in the way of the Lord;” because, in consequence of their having the most thorough abhorrence of idols and of their worship, so much so, as not to allow their name even to be mentioned; he therefore cleansed the elect in Christ from the sin of idolatry, and thus made them saints, “To run in the way of his commandments.”

5 Having declared his detestation of idols and of sin, he adds his reason for so doing: because he places all his happiness in God alone. An expression most becoming the Redeemer who, entirely “separated from sinners,” and in thorough union with God the Father, places all his happiness in him. A thing we, too, as far as we are able, are bound to. “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance;” that is, the portion which came to me by inheritance, my whole, my all, my everything; “and of my cup;” a repetition of the idea, for the word “cup,” from being divided among the guests, is often made to signify the inheritance which is divided among the children. If you will, “inheritance” may signify substantial wealth, or valuables, and “cup,” delicacies; when the meaning would be, that all my substantial and refined pleasures are fixed in God alone; “it is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me.” These words are supposed to have been used by Christ, while yet a mortal, before he had got full possession of his inheritance. When we use them, we hold all happiness in God in desire, but not yet in actual possession. That possession is in God’s keeping, and he will hand it over to us on the last day, as he did to Christ on the day of his resurrection. St. Paul alludes to this when he says, “For I know whom I have believed; and I am certain that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him, against that day.”

6 By a simile drawn from an inheritance in this world, he declares the superiority of that in eternity, for those who seek God and his glory. When an inheritance was divided among a family, the fields were measured with lines, and divided, and lots were cast for the several divisions; and the lines were said to fall in goodly places, when the best part of the land was had by lot. The meaning then is, I have obtained the best part of the inheritance by a most fortunate cast or lot, “for my inheritance is goodly to me;” a mere repetition of the same. He alludes to the division by lot; that he may remind us that the principle of the inheritance comes from predestination, and predestination in our regard is a sort of lot; whence St. Paul, Ephes. 1:11, says, “In whom we are also called by lot;” and Coloss. 1:12, “To be partakers of the lot of the saints.”

7 Thanks to God for having inspired him with the thought, and inflamed him with the desire of choosing so valuable an inheritance. “I will bless the Lord.” I will praise him, the author of such a blessing, “who hath given me understanding,” who makes me know, and prudently choose the inheritance; “moreover my reins also have corrected me even till night.” Reins or loins, in the Scriptures signify affections, or desires; whence the expression, “Searching the heart and reins;” and, “prove my heart and my reins;” the heart signifying the thoughts; the reins, the affections: “night” means the time of tribulation; and day, that of prosperity: the expression “correct me,” would be more properly translated by the word “instructed.” Thus the sense will be: not only in prosperity, but in adversity, my whole affections, inflamed to love God, instructed me in a most urgent manner to bear my sufferings patiently, hoping for the best always from Almighty God.

8 From the intelligent and affectionate manner in which he praised God, in the preceding verse, it is quite clear God must have been always before his eyes, for the soul is more where it loves, than where it animates. “For he is at my right hand, that I be not moved;” nor was I deceived in having God always before my eyes; that is, the eyes of my heart; for he is really always on my right hand, as if he were protecting my side, and preceding me, like a brave auxiliary; that I may not be disturbed from my path, but persist and persevere to the very end.

9 He now tells what that “great inheritance” is that God is “to restore” to him and to others, who have chosen God. “Therefore,” because the “Lord is on my right hand,” a most faithful helper and protector, “my heart hath been glad,” with that true and solid joy of which our Lord speaks in the gospel, when he says, “Your heart shall rejoice, and nobody shall take your joy from you.” “And my tongue hath rejoiced,” because eternal joy is wont to show itself externally; moreover my flesh also shall rest in hope;” that is, my soul shall rejoice, and my flesh shall sleep in secure and placid death, being in certain expectation of a very speedy resurrection.

10 This is explained by the apostles Peter and Paul, Acts 2 and 13; and though, strictly speaking; it applies to Christ alone, whose soul was not left in hell, meaning the limbo of the holy fathers; nor did his body in the sepulchre undergo any putrefaction, yet we can all apply it to ourselves, inasmuch as we are members of Christ, and through him, as the apostle has it, “God has raised us up together,” 2 Ephes; and because our souls will not be left in hell, meaning purgatory, nor will our flesh see corruption.

11 The complete promise of the inheritance is here explained. “Thou hast made known to me the ways of life;” you have “taught me the way” of returning to life from death. A most beautiful metaphor, by which the mode of resurrection is called a way unknown up to that time, because nobody to that time, with the exception of Christ, had truly risen. And he adds, you have not only taught me the way of rising from the dead, but “Thou wilt fill me with joy with thy countenance;” making me glorious, immortal, and happy, by showing me your countenance; because, from the beatific vision, in which consists essential happiness, glory even redounds on the body, which glory was the only one that Christ had not always; for his soul had such glory from the time of his conception, “at thy right hand are delights even to the end.” Not content with conferring glory on me, you will place me on your right hand in heaven, where the glory will be everlasting. All which apply to the elect too, in a certain sense; to whom God shows the road to life when he teaches them that the observance of his law is the way to the kingdom of heaven. “He fills the elect too, with joy,” when he shows himself to them, “face to face;” when, with his right hand he offers them delights even unto the end;” when he places them on his right hand, and with his right hand fills them, as if from an inexhaustible fountain, with delights interminable. We may here note the incredible rashness of Theodore Bera, “You will not leave my soul in hell;” “You will not leave my body in the grave.” If this be not a corruption of the sacred text, we have none. I have demonstrated most clearly in the “Controversies,” that the words in this passage and in Acts 2, signify, both in the Hebrew and in the Greek, not “corpse” and “grave,” but “soul” and “hell,” and can signify nothing else.

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Psalm 16


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 He first prays that his just cause may be heard, for with a just judge, the cause is more regarded than the person; he asks then that his prayer may be attended to; for God not only loves justice, but also the just; and, as St. James has it, “The prayer of the just availeth much.” He finally unites both justice and prayer, when he says, “Give ear unto my prayer which proceedeth not from deceitful lips;” that is, my prayer that does not proceed from deceitful lips, but is based on justice. The meaning then is, Lord, may justice move thee; may prayer, the prayer of the just, move thee.

2 Another argument from the justice of God, as if he said: To you, O God, I appeal; by you, as being the most just of judges, I wished to be judged. “From thy countenance;” that is, from thy mouth let judgment proceed—my sentence be pronounced. “Let thy eyes behold the things that are equitable.” Close not thy eyes, and cloak not the calumnies of the wicked, but open them and see what justice demands.

3 A reason assigned for wishing to be judged by God, for he alone searches the hearts, and thoroughly knows the innocence of his servants. “Thou hast proved my heart;” you have tried me where no one else can, interiorly; you have proved my sincerity, and he tells how “Thou hast visited it by night.” On two occasions one’s interior may be seen; when an opportunity offers for sinning in private, and in the time of tribulation: for there are many wicked persons, to all appearance with a fair exterior, when they have an opportunity of committing sin in private, without any fear of detection, then only show what they are made of. So in the time of prosperity, the bad cannot be distinguished from the good, but apply the fire of persecution, and the gold shines out, the stubble burns. The first is expressed by the words, “Visited it by night;” that is, in secret, when an opportunity for committing sin presented itself; the second comes under the words, “Thou hast tried me by fire;” that is, with grievous tribulations; and yet thou hast found no iniquity in me.

4 He shows how it happened that “There was no iniquity found in him,” from the fact of his having kept to “The hard ways” of justice; not for any earthly hope or reason, but because such was agreeable to God’s commands. For those who observe God’s commandments from human motives do so exteriorly, when they are likely to be observed, and thus the latent iniquity is detected in them; but they who observe the commandments, in order to please God, keep them externally and internally, and thus no iniquity is detected in such persons. He therefore says: “I have kept hard ways;” that is, I have kept to the road of justice, however rough and rugged, nor has tribulation of any sort caused me to go out of it. “For the sake of the words of thy lips,” influenced thereto by your commandments, your threats, and your promises, “That my mouth may not speak the works of men:” that I may not be obliged to ask the help of man; that I may not put my hope in man; “Nor speak (meaning praise) the works of men.”

5 Acknowledging that it was not by his own strength, but by the grace of God, that he remained in the narrow path of justice, he asks God to confirm the favor. “Perfect thou my goings in thy paths: that my footsteps be not moved:” strengthen and make sure my footsteps in this your path, for fear, if deprived of thy help, I may stray from it.

6 Having explained the arguments derived from his own innocence, and from the justice of God, he again repeats the prayer in the beginning of the Psalm. Lord, to thee “I have cried, for thou hast heard me.” I have cried with confidence to thee, for on all occasions you have heard me, and now too, with your usual benignity, “Incline your ear to me, and hear my words.”

7 A third argument derived from God’s mercy. I have proved my innocence; have appealed to your justice. I now invoke your mercy, for, however innocent I may consider myself of the crimes for which I am suffering, I may have many other sins for which I may be justly punished. “Show forth thy wonderful mercies” then. Astonish every one at the extent of them in delivering me, for to you it belongs to deliver all who put their trust in thee.

8 Protect me, as you would “The apple of your eye,” with the greatest care, from those “that resist thy right hand:” in injuring those whom you protect, or who refuse to walk where you lead. This does not contradict the passage in the book of Esther, “There is no one who can resist thy will.” For the will spoken of there, is the will of his good pleasure which is always carried out; but here is meant the will of his expression, which is not always carried out, for God permits the wicked to do many things opposed to his expressed will; that is, against his law, and afterwards punishes them according to their merits. “The apple of your eye,” a most delicate, though valuable article, requiring the greatest care, and, therefore, provided by nature with various coverings, as well as with brows and eye lashes; such are we, frail and delicate, and such is the care we stand in need of. “Protect me under the shadow of thy wings.” The same petition, under another figure. As the chickens are covered by the wings of the hen, are hidden, and lie securely under them, so that the birds of prey cannot hurt them; the just man prays to be so protected from his persecutors.

9 “The face of the wicked,” signifies the sight of the wicked; as the wings of the hen cover the chickens, and prevent their being seen by the birds of prey; or it may mean the bite or the anger of the wicked, for their teeth, as well as their anger, are displayed in the faces. “Who have afflicted me,” means that the just man, having been so often and so severely bitten by the wicked, appeals to God’s protection, for fear of being entirely destroyed under the repeated biting. Such similes are of frequent occurrence in the Holy Scripture. “I will rejoice under the cover of thy wings,” Psalm 62; “He will overshadow thee with his shoulders: and under his wings thou shalt trust,” Psalm 90; and the Lord himself, in Mt. 23, “How often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and thou would not.” “My enemies have surrounded my soul.” The last argument drawn from the malice of his enemies. They have surrounded, pressed in upon me on every side.

10 That is, they have no mercy, though they see me reduced to the last extremities. “Shut up their fat” is synonymous with, “Closing his bowels;” that is, having no mercy, according to 1 Jn. 3, “He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him?” As fat increases, the bowels generally close; and the prophet chose the former expression, that he may not only declare the fact, but the cause of the bowels being closed, namely, the increase of the fat, which means, the wealth of this world, which causes man to be proud, to despise his neighbor, and thus spiritually “Shut up his bowels.”

11 In order to show the malice of his enemies, he goes on to show how they assail him, now in one way, presently in quite a different manner, yet always in a destructive manner. One time “They cast me forth;” Now “they surround me:” those who just banished me from sharing or enjoying anything with them now seek me, surround me that they may overwhelm me with injuries; and the reason is, because “they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth;” meaning they have firmly resolved not to look up to God, who is in heaven, nor to fear him; but to look down on the earth alone and seek for the things that belong to it.

12 They have not only surrounded me, but treated me with the greatest cruelty; with the same cruelty and avidity that a lion pounces on its prey, “and as a young lion dwelling in secret places;” the same idea repeated.

13 Having explained the malice of his enemies, he asks of God, who alone can do it, to come and free him. “Arise, O Lord;” do not defer your help any longer, “disappoint him;” that wicked man, who like a lion laid hold on me to devour me, disappoint his teeth, that he may not fasten them in me and kill me. And, in fact, it is God alone that can “disappoint” the action of any one or thing, however violent; as he disappointed the teeth of the lions from hurting; Daniel, and the fury of the fire from consuming the three thrown into the furnace; a source of consolation to the just, who know God’s power to be equal to protect them from either the teeth of the lion or the flames of the furnace. “Supplant him.” Deceive him; make him, by thy wonderful providence, suppose that when he is fastening his teeth in his own flesh, he is fastening them in the flesh of the just. “Deliver my soul from the wicked.” Do not allow me to be killed by the wicked, raging like a roaring lion; but save me, protect me. “Thy sword;” some connect it with the preceding; others make it the beginning of the next sentence. If we adopt the reading of the Vulgate, the meaning is, deliver my soul from the wicked; to do which you must take “thy sword” from your enemies; meaning their power of harm.

14 A prophetic imprecation, in which is predicted separation of the wicked from the just, the former obtaining the goods of this world, the latter those of the world to come. “divide them from the few;” separate the crowd of the wicked from “your little flock,” “in their life,” not only in the world to come, which is sure to them, but even in the present, which may be properly called “their life,” which alone they love and seek, separating themselves from the just, who are dead to the world. The separation consists herein, that “their belly is filled from thy hidden stores;” that is, they fill their belly with the fruits and good things of the earth, supplied by God’s bounty, from his hidden treasures every succeeding year, and say it is their own portion. “They are full of children: and they have left to their little ones the rest of their substance.” They abound in children, to whom they leave the residue of what themselves cannot consume, for the children of this world look upon it as supreme happiness to abound in riches, and to be blessed with heirs to enjoy them.

15 The difference herein consists, they covet an abundance of the good things of this world. “But I,” as well as the rest of the just, will “hunger after justice” here, to have satiety of glory and happiness hereafter; and, as I study to live in justice, in thy sight here, your glory will appear to me hereafter; and then will I be truly satisfied, having no more to seek or to desire.

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Psalm 17


Explanation Of The Psalm

1–2 What he expressed in one word, “my strength,” he now explains by several words, “my firmament, my refuge, my deliverer:” as if he said, I may justly call him my strength, when he is all the above names to me. When I lie down, he is my firmament; when I am in danger, he is my refuge; should I fall into the hands of the enemy, he will deliver me; and thus, in every respect, he is my strength and my courage. “My God is my helper, and in him will I put my trust: my protector and the horn of my salvation;” In the height of his affection to God, he repeats the epithets he used in the preceding verse, “my helper, my protector, and the horn of my salvation;” which correspond to “my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer.” His “helper,” because he keeps him upright, prevents him from falling, (rock being the derivation of the word in Hebrew,) according to Psalm 39, “He has put my feet on a rock;” and he therefore most properly adds, “in him will I put my trust” as being the surest of all foundations. “My protector,” in the Hebrew, “my shield,” to protect him from his enemies: “the horn of my salvation:” a most familiar expression in the Scriptures, to signify the power or means of salvation; being a metaphor, taken from horned animals, who use their horns for protection; thus, in Psalm 131, “I will bring forth a horn to David.” I will make David all powerful to conquer his enemies; like a rampant bull, with his horns full grown, and not like a sluggish calf, that has not yet got them. Ezech. 39. “In that day a horn shall bud forth to the house of Israel.” Micheas 1:4, “I will make thy horn iron.” Lk. 1, “He hath raised up a horn of salvation to us.” God, then, is called a “horn of safety” to David, and to all the just, because through him they are powerfully armed against their enemies, by putting their strength not in themselves, but in the Divine help and assistance; in the spirit of the apostle, “I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me.” The expression, “horn of safety,” corresponds with, “and any deliverer,” for God delivers us through the “horn of safety:” that is, through his own saving power. Finally, the word, “my support,” comprises all the rest, and corresponds to “my strength:” for whosoever God supports, he frees, protects, and confirms.

3 A conclusion from the preceding. I will, therefore, constantly praise God for so many benefits received; and in my difficulties, with unbounded confidence, will I apply to him, certain of being delivered from all manner of enemies.

4–5 He now enters, in detail, on God’s favors to him. He was in manifest danger of death, when Saul was lying in wait for him, to kill him, which danger he describes in various metaphors. “The sorrows of death surrounded me.” I was surrounded by so many dangers, that I despaired of my corporal safety; and, therefore, depressed with the grief and trouble of mind, incident to those whose death is at hand; “and the torrents of iniquity troubled me:” The grief and trouble above named, from the number, that like a torrent invaded and “troubled me,” after the manner of those who are hurried down, and whirled about by a roaring torrent. “The sorrows of hell encompassed me,” a repetition of the first part of the preceding verse, with the substitution of “hell” for “death.” They are, however, synonymous, for before the death of Christ, all went to hell, though not the same part of it; and, therefore, death and hell meant the same; the sorrows of hell, then, mean such sorrow as those usually suffer who are about to depart from this world to the next; “and the snares of death prevented me:” a repetition of “the torrents of iniquity troubled me.” For, as David was troubled with the “sorrows of death,” by reason of the multitude of wicked ones rising up against him, so “the snares of death” that “prevented” [encompassed] him, was the cause of the pains of hell to him. By the “snares of death,” he means the conspiracies of the wicked against him; and thus the meaning of the two verses is, that David, reflecting on his imminent danger of death, from the open invasion of his enemies rushing on him, like a roaring torrent, carrying everything before it—as well as from the conspiracies of the same enemies, in lurk for him, with snares, as for the unwary—was in great trouble.

6 Having told the extent of his danger, he now says that he had recourse to God through prayer, and that he was heard. “In my affliction.” In the height of my troubles from Saul’s persecution, and in many similar troubles, “I called upon the Lord,” in whom I am wont to put my entire confidence; “and I cried to my God.” A repetition in much use with David. “And he heard my voice from his holy temple.” My prayer reached the very summit of heaven, which is the temple of God; not made by human hands; truly holy, and can neither be violated nor polluted; “and my cry before him came into his ears.” A repetition, and to some extent an explanation, of the preceding verse; as much as to say, my importunity bursting forth with great affection, poured forth in his sight; that is, poured forth by me, with God before my eyes, has been heard.

7 The effect of having been heard by God, for he received such help from him against his enemies as enabled him to master and destroy them, and get possession again of his kingdom. The anger of God towards his enemies is most poetically described, for as the entire kingdom is in confusion when the king is angry, and makes preparation for war; so, when the King of the whole world is angry, the whole world is confused; and especially the three visible elements, earth, air, and water. He does not mean to imply that these three elements were actually confused, though the words seem to mean so much; but he means to tell us that such is God’s anger, that it can rock the earth to its very foundations; that it can cause in the air constant storms, dark clouds, thunder and lightning; and lastly, that it can so dry up the fountains, and the rivers, and the sea itself, so as to expose the caverns and the sources of the fountains. Beginning with the earth. “The earth shook and trembled; the foundations were troubled, and were moved, because he was angry with them.” When God is angry with the earth, every bit of it shakes and trembles, not only on its surface, but to its very center. And such concussion ensues not only when God is angry, but also when he makes known his presence on earth, for the earth is then in fearful reverence, acknowledging the majesty of the Creator. Thus, on the resurrection of Christ, there was a great motion of the earth; the same happened at his death; and in another Psalm we read, “At the presence of the Lord the earth was moved.” “Because he was angry with them;” not with the earth and the mountains, but with the people living thereon, and that by reason of their sins.

8 A further explanation of God’s action on the earth, when he chooses to show his presence thereon, making the earth not only to tremble, but even to smoke and to burn, which, Exod. 20 and Hebrews 12, tell us happened when he gave the law on Mount Sinai, “There went up a smoke in his wrath;” that is, in his anger he kindled such a fire on earth that created an immense smoke, “and a fire flamed from his face;” heat and smoke were accompanied by a destructive fire; “coals were kindled by it;” the anger of God made it burn so as to turn the whole earth into live coals, as he says in another place, Psalm 103, “Who looketh on the earth, and makes it tremble: who touches the mountains, and they smoke.”

9 Passing from the earth to the air, he shows what happens there when God wishes to manifest his presence or his anger. God is said to bow the heavens when he lets down a cloud in which he appears. The clouds ordinarily appear as a part of the heavens, and it is in a cloud God was wont to show himself, as appears from Num. 9, 1 Kings 3:8, Mt. 17, and in other places. “He bowed the heavens, and came down;” this means he let down a cloud, and showed himself in or through it; “And darkness was under his feet.” God dwelt in the cloud, as if he had darkness under his feet; all metaphorical expressions, to give us to understand that God may be present without one seeing him.

10 He goes on describing God’s action on the air, when he means to display his anger to man. He brings before us God in the shape of a man in arms, on a chariot, moving with the greatest velocity, and discharging his weapons against his enemies. The clouds are his chariot, according to Psalm 103: “Thou makest the clouds thy chariot, who walkest upon the wings of the winds.” The swiftest winds are his horses, who carry the clouds hither and thither. His weapons are the lightning that he shoots from the clouds. A truly wonderful description! No chariot lighter than the clouds, no horse fleeter than the wind, no weapons compared to the thunder of heaven. The chariots, too, fight from a vantage ground, whence they can harm without being harmed. “He ascended upon the Cherubim;” that is, God uses not only the clouds as a house or tent, but he uses them as a chariot, with the Cherubim as charioteers, and the winds as his horses. He is said “to ascend upon the Cherubim,” and “to fly on the wings of the winds:” that we may understand that he is not governed by, but that he governs the charioteers; and that he is the principal mover and guide both of the chariot and its driver. These expressions hold too, because God uses the services of the Angels in moving the clouds, which are a sort of aerial and most rapid chariots, as being drawn by the winds, a sort of winged quadrupeds, and, therefore, instead of walking, fly, and that fleeter than any bird.

11 Lest it may be supposed that God appeared visibly in the clouds, as he would in a chariot, he says he was invisibly present, and for that purpose made use of dark clouds, as a symbol of his being invisible. There is in these words a most elegant and poetic metaphor. “He made darkness his covert.” God so wrapped himself up in the dark clouds, that he lay as if in a hiding place, the dark clouds acting the part of a screen to him. “His pavilion round about him,” the same clouds being like a tent round about him, covering him on all sides. “Dark waters in the clouds of the air,” the tent above named being a dark cloud, as dark as those fully charged with rain, and when so dense and aqueous, may not improperly be called “dark waters in the clouds of the air.”

12 A description of the celestial warfare from the clouds, as if they were the armed chariots of the Deity. At the word of God the cloud opens, hail and lightning, like red hot coals, are at once projected. “At the brightness that was before him, the clouds passed.” Beautiful! The clouds burst by reason of the brightness of the latent Deity, as if they could not stand such brightness, and therefore burst and dissolve in his presence, vanish and pass away. “Hail and coals of fire” issue forth in abundance from the rupture. It happened in Pharaoh’s time, Exod, chap. 9, “And the hail and fire mixed with it drove on together.” The same happened in Josue’s wars against the five kings, Jos. 10, and on various other occasions.

13 A repetition of the above in different language. The cloud bursts, the dreadful crash called thunder is heard, generally followed by the thunderbolt. It is elegantly styled “His voice,” not only because God alone can produce or emit it, but because the sound is so great and so terrific, that to God alone it should be attributed as his own voice. Hence, God himself says to Job, 40, “If you have an arm like God, and if you thunder with like voice.” “And the highest gave his voice,” from which proceeded hail and lightning like red hot coals.

14 An explanation of the preceding verses, particularly of the words, “coals of fire.” These coals of fire were sent out on the bursting of the clouds, because God “Sent forth his arrows,” meaning his lightning. “And multiplied” them, and in such manner “Scattered and confused his enemies.”

15 God’s wonderful action on the waters next. They were suddenly and miraculously dried up. It happened in the Red Sea, and in the Jordan, as we read in Exod. 14, and Josue 4, on which occasions the bottom of the sea and of the river was exposed; which bottom is called here “The foundations of the world,” because they are so much lower than the surface of the land. “The fountains of waters appeared.” At God’s bidding, the waters were dried up, and then appeared the bottom of the fountains, and of the rivers, and of the sea; and thus “The foundations,” or the lowest parts of the earth, “Were discovered.” “At thy rebuke, O Lord.” What dried them? God’s rebuke—his order. How did he rebuke them? “At the blast of the spirit of thy wrath.” A metaphorical and poetical appellation of the wind, through whose agency, God in his anger, and for the purpose of rebuke, dried up the waters; for the Scripture tells us, Exod. 14, that it was by a scorching wind that the waters of the Red Sea were dried up. Thus, what he might have simply expressed as follows, You, Lord, by a most powerful wind, dried up the waters of the sea; he expresses in a more elegant and figurative manner, when he says, You rebuked the waters for hindering the passage of your people; you blew on them in the spirit of your wrath, and at once they fled; as he expresses it in Psalm 113, “What ailed thee, O sea, that thou didst flee?”

16 He now returns to relate God’s kindness to him in delivering him from his enemies. From the seventh verse to the present, he dwelt entirely on the power of God; and as he commenced by saying, “The torrents of iniquity troubled me,” and spoke in the foregoing verse of God’s spirit drying up the waters, so as to expose the bottom of the sea, and of the rivers, following up the same metaphor, he says now, “He sent from on high and took me.” He reached out his hand from on high to the very depth of the torrent, and “Took me,” and thus brought me out from “Many waters;” that is to say, rescued me, drowned and overwhelmed in a multiplicity of troubles.

17 What he said in a metaphorical sense in the last verse, he now explains in ordinary language; the words, “they were too strong for me,” must be taken in an imperfect sense, according to St. Jerome; for he assigns a reason why he had more need of the assistance of God, as his enemies were stronger than himself.

18 God’s goodness acknowledged again. My enemies, without any provocation, were the first to injure me; attacked me off my guard, “prevented,” (that is, surrounded,) me without my knowing it; but the Lord was watching for me, and rendered all their machinations harmless.

19 Again and again he brings up his delivery. To show how deeply God’s goodness was fixed in his mind. “He brought me into a large place.” When I was angustiated in a place where I may be easily overcome he brought me into “a large place,” where I may roam about at pleasure, having my enemies at a distance. “He saved me because he was well pleased with me.” My salvation from so many imminent dangers was all owing to his immense mercy in so loving me. For though David presently will put his own merits forward, he well knew that these very merits are God’s gratuitous gifts.

20–24 Having praised God for having delivered him from his enemies, he now adds that his delivery will be always sure to him, not only through mercy, but even through justice, because he not only hitherto did, but for the future will, lead the life of the just. For God, just in himself, loves, helps, and protects the just, “will reward me according to my justice.” Having done so heretofore, he will continue to reward me according to my merit, “Any according to the cleanness of my hands.” As I feel my justice not only in my heart but in my hands; that is, to just within and without, just in my heart, just in my actions, so God will reward me before himself and before men, and will guard me within and without. Is not this presumption? Why trumpet so his own merits? There is no presumption when the thing is done with sincerity, and God acknowledged to be the author of all our merit. Nehemias did so, so did Esdras, Ezechias, Isaias, and Esther. But how could David make such assertions? He who had been guilty of murder and adultery! He who exclaimed, Psalm 18, “Who can understand sins? From my secret ones cleanse me, O Lord;” and, in Psalm 113, “For in thy sight no man living shall be justified.” This objection leads some to think that David does not speak absolutely of his own justice, but of the justice of his cause, as compared with that of his enemies; others will have it that he limits his justice to his having remained in the true faith which his enemies did not, but the expressions, “Because I have kept the ways of the Lord;” “All his judgments are in nay sight;” “I shall be spotless with him,” are adverse to these opinions. We must only say, then, that David upholds his justice, inasmuch as he always had a sincere desire of serving God, and a firm purpose of never violating his law, and should he chance to slip, that he at once repented, and sincerely returned to God. The expression, “Who can understand sins?” may be understood of venial sins that are not inconsistent with justice; and the words, “For in thy sight no man living shall be justified,” may be understood of that justice which man may have independent of grace. For in such manner can no man be justified, for the just are only so through God’s sanctifying grace.

25–26 A reason for his having said he would get according to his justice from God, because God gives to every one according to his works. He speaks to God here, “With the holy thou wilt be holy;” with the pious and the merciful thou wilt deal kindly and mercifully. To the man who is innocent, that is, who doeth no injury, thou wilt do no injury, nor permit others to do it. “With the elect thou wilt be elect;” with the sincere and pure minded, (for such is the meaning of the Hebrew,) you will deal sincerely and candidly; “And with the perverse thou wilt be perverted:” he who showeth not mercy shall not meet with mercy from you; who harms shall be harmed by you; who acts not honestly, but roguishly, him will you similarly deal with.

27 He explains the two last verses, as if he said: “With the holy, thou wilt be holy; and with the innocent thou wilt be innocent:” because “Thou wilt save the humble people;” that is, because humility, the guardian of all virtues, is most pleasing to you, and to all humble souls you give your grace; but, “with the perverse thou wilt be perverted;” because you “will bring down the eyes of the proud;” that is, because pride, the queen of vices, is highly displeasing to thee, and, therefore, you always raise up the humble, and level all the proud. He makes special mention of the eyes here, because it is in them and the eyebrows that pride mostly shows itself.

28 Having spoken highly of his own justice and purity, he now points out their sources; and, therefore, praises God, especially as it was from him he had light, strength, and every other virtue. “For thou lightest my lamp, O Lord:” from thee I have the beginning of all good, which is light to distinguish true happiness from false, and true evils from false ones; for the first wound inflicted on human nature by original sin, was ignorance of the real good; and, therefore, the first cure begins by Divine light; “Thou lightest my lamp:” you alone light up the interior eye of my heart. “O my God, enlighten my darkness.” Father of lights, the true light, in whom there is no darkness, as you have hitherto lighted up the inward eyes of my heart, proceed now to enlighten my darkness by banishing it completely. For without the grace of God to enlighten us, all is pure darkness in our hearts, so far as supernatural mysteries are concerned.

29 The particle “for” is frequently redundant in the Psalms, so is the particle “and,” which requires to be noted, that a connection with something foregoing may not be looked for. The prophet having said that he had got from God that light, that is, the beginning of good works and true justice, now adds, that he got also courage and strength to do or to avoid those things such light prompted him to. “By thee I shall be delivered from temptation.” Relying on thy assistance to strengthen me, I will overcome all temptation, and conquer all evil; “Through my God I shall go over a wall.” Depending on the same divine assistance, and strengthened from the same source, I will accomplish everything, however difficult, were it even the surmounting of a lofty wall.

30 The reason why he has received so much light and strength from God, and why he so confides in him, is because God is true, good, and the protector of all that confide in him; and because he is the only true God, true Lord, from whom such things can be expected. “His way is undefiled;” that God of mine, whose way is undefiled, who is most holy, and acts most justly. “The words of the Lord are fire tried.” As gold is tried and proved in the fire, so the promises of the Lord are most certain and proved.

31 Another reason for confiding in him, for expecting light and strength from him, he alone being our true God. Whence we learn that our God alone is the true God, and as such that he is the true, firm, and solid rock in which we may safely confide and rest; and all who confide in any other thing must of necessity be deceived and confounded.

32 He now comes to mention in particular the gifts he got from God, by means of which he got freed from his enemies, and got possession again of his kingdom. He places strength and innocence first, two virtues rarely united, for the strong are always too ready to injure the weak. David, however, was truly strong, yet truly innocent, so much so, that even though it was in his power, he would not slay his enemy Saul.

33–34 He gives the particulars of the expression, “Girt me with strength,” by telling us how God bestowed on him wonderful agility in his feet, dexterity in his hands, and strength in his arms. The feet of the stag were not more nimble in topping the highest mountains, as he expresses it, “In setting himself upon high places;” as he proved, when in his flight from Saul, he was obliged to shelter in the highest and most inaccessible tops of the mountains. He adds, that his hands were trained to battle; and that he had arms of brass, to signify his strength and skill in military matters, of which there can be no doubt, if we only read the First and Second Books of Kings. The stone from his sling, fixed in the very head of Goliath, bears testimony to his dexterity, as do the bears and the lions killed by the mere strength of his arms.

35 He declares now his innocence, of which he had already spoken, when he said, ver. 32, “Thou hast made my way blameless;” for, as God was pleased to give him the grace of living blameless, he, therefore, constantly protected him; “Thou hast given me the protection of thy salvation;” for the celerity of foot, the dexterity of hand, and strength of arm against the king and his whole army would have been of little value, had he not had “The protection of salvation” too, that is, the divine protection to save him, and “the right hand (of God) to hold him up,” and support him. “And thy discipline hath corrected me to the end, and thy discipline the same shall teach me.” This, too, goes to show the innocence or “the blameless way” of David. I not only had the benefit of your protection, but your discipline; that is, your knowledge, which is had from the study of your law, so directed me, that I could not go astray; and when there was fear I might stray, by studying and inspecting it diligently “I got corrected,” set right, and so persevered to the end. “And thy discipline the same shall teach me.” By such discipline we may also understand the correction of a father, in which spirit God sometimes chastised David by temporary calamities, when, through human frailty, he would fall into some defects.

36 He proceeds to relate his victories, attributing them all to God; you have made me advance at a rapid pace in enlarging my kingdom, and I am not yet tired.

37–38 These expressions, spoken in the future time, do not belong to it, but to the past tense, as will appear from the following verse.

39 Hence it appears the prophet in the two preceding verses spoke of the past. As I said, “I will pursue after my enemies and overtake them:” God helped me to do it, for “He girded me with strength” to fight, and “subdued under me;” that is, made those fall, “that rose up against me.” “Girding with strength” is a common expression in the Scripture; thus, in Psalm 64, “Being girded with power who troublest the depths of the sea;” and, in Psalm 92, “The Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded himself;” and, Isaias 51, “Put on strength, O thou arm of the Lord;” and, finally, in Lk. 24, “But stay you in the city till you be endowed with power from on high.” He gives him to understand that, as strength and courage are of more value in a battle than the sword and helmet, the praise of the victory should be given more to the giver of the former than of the latter.

40 He returns to the same thing over and over, attributing the flight of his enemies to God’s interference entirely.

41 Another cause of the victory assigned, for God not only heard his prayers, but he refused to listen to those of his adversaries, though they put them up to him.

42 He speaks now of the remnant of his enemies. I have conquered them; but if any handful remain, I will crush them into the smallest pieces, and scatter them as dust is carried before the wind; and sweep them from the earth, as the mud of the streets is hurried along by a vehement wind.

43 That had been done already; for, before he wrote this Psalm, he had been delivered from the “contradictions” and rebellion “of the people;” and “was made head of the gentiles;” that is, became master of the kingdom. We are, therefore, to suppose him using the future tense for the past, a thing usual in the Hebrew, or he insinuates a continuation of past favors of that sort.

44–45 He had just reason for asking “to be delivered from the contradictions of his people,” having met with more fidelity and allegiance from some of the gentiles, than from the children of the people of Israel. A prophecy manifestly applying to Christ, rejected by the Jews, acknowledged by the gentiles. “The people which I knew not:” the Gabaonites, the Gethei, and others whom I knew not as brothers, “served me:” “at the hearing of the ear they have obeyed me,” at once, most promptly, the moment they heard the command. “The children that are strangers;” that is, the degenerate in their morals, “lied to me;” that is, deceived me, gave me sham obedience. “They have faded away;” fallen from me like dried leaves; that is, they have not behaved properly and fairly by me; alluding to the rebellion of Absalom, under the son of Bochrus, and others, “and have halted from their paths.” The children of adultery, who give sham service, “halt from their paths;” that is, turn from the straight path, in which they should have walked.

46 A conclusion of praise. Now, it appears that the Lord does live, and as he lives, so may he always live; and “let the God of my salvation be exalted.”

47 May that God who avenged the injuries offered me, and subdued the people who rebelled against me, and delivered me from the plots and attacks of my raging enemies, Saul and Absalom, be exalted.

48 A prayer for the continuation of the divine favors; namely, that he may be so “lifted up above them that rise up against him,” that they may struggle in vain when they cannot possibly reach so high, and thus, that he may be delivered “from the unjust man.”

49 Therefore, for this reason, “I will give glory;” that is, with praise will I acknowledge thy favors, not privately, but openly, before the whole body of the people, that all may learn to put their trust in the Lord.

50 May God increase and multiply safety of body, soul, and all other things beside, to the king he hath chosen; and may he deal everlasting mercy to David who has been ordered by him to be anointed as king, and to all his successors forever. Which prayer was fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord, who reigneth, and will reign for all eternity. Amen.

Table of Contents

Psalm 18


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Being about to institute a comparison between the law of God and his heavens, and thence to extol his law, he sets out by saying, that such are the grandeur of the heavens, that they at once proclaim the grandeur of their Maker. The heavens show forth the glory of God;” that is to say, the heavens preeminently, beyond all the other works of God, by their grandeur and beauty make his glory known to us; “and the firmament declareth the work of his hands.” The same repeated, for heavens and firmament signify the same thing, namely, the whole celestial display, consisting of son, moon, stars, etc., for we read in Genesis, that “God called the firmament heaven,” and in it placed the sun, moon, and stars. The word “heaven,” and “heavens,” are used indiscriminately in the Psalms, and governed by verbs in the plural, as well as the singular number, as are all nouns of multitude. The firmament, comprising all the heavenly bodies, announces and declares to men the work of the hands of God; that is his principal and most beautiful work, from which we may form some idea of his greatness and his glory.

2 What a beautiful announcement is that of God’s glory by the heavens. For three reasons. First because they announce it incessantly. Second, because they do it in the language of all nations. Third, because they announce it to the whole world. How do they do it incessantly? This verse shows us how, for the heavens announce his glory day and night by the beauty of the sun in the day, and that of the stars by night; but as the days and nights pass away, and are succeeded by others, the Psalmist most beautifully and poetically imagines one day having performed his course, and spent it in announcing the glory of God, and then hands over the duty to the following day to do likewise; and so with the night, having done her part, gives in charge to the following night to do the same; and thus, “Day to day uttereth speech:” when its course has run, it warns the following to be ready, “And night to night indicates knowledge.” When the night too has finished her task of praising God, she warns the following to be ready for the duty; and thus, without intermission, without interruption, day and night fall in, and lead the choir in chanting the praises of their Creator.

3 He now proves that the preaching of the heavens is delivered in all languages, that is to say, can be understood by all nations, as if the heavens spoke in the language of every one of them: because all nations, when they behold the beauty and the excellence of the heavens, cannot but understand the excellence and the superiority of him who made them.

4 The third source of praise of the eloquence of the heavens is, that they announce God’s glory, not only without intermission, and in all languages, but they do it, furthermore, all over the world. By sound is not meant noise, but the announcement of that glory that arises from beholding the beauty of the heavenly bodies. “Into all the earth,” and “Into the ends of the world,” mean the same, and is only a repetition of frequent use in the Psalms. St. Paul quotes this passage in proof of the preaching of Christ having reached all nations; from which we are to understand, that the apostles are allegorically meant here by the heavens. And in truth, the holy apostles and other holy preachers of the word, may deservedly be so compared to the heavens. For, by contemplation they are raised above the earth, ample through their charity, splendid through their wisdom, always serene through their peace of mind, through their intelligence quickly moved by obedience, thundering in their reproofs, flashing by their miracles, profuse in their gifts to others; and, in the spirit of true liberality, seeking nothing from them; free from the slightest speck, as regards sanctity of life; and, finally, the resting place of the supreme king, by reason of their perfect sanctity. “For the soul of the just is the seat of wisdom.”

5 Though the whole heavens declare the glory of God, the most splendid object in them, the sun, does so especially. The sun, then, being the most excellent object in the entire world, there God “Set his tabernacle.” He calls it a tabernacle, not a house, because he dwells there only for a while, during this short time of our peregrination, when we see him “Through a glass,” the glass of creatures, of which the sun is the principal. But when we shall come to our country, we shall see God, not “In his tabernacle in the sun,” but in his own home, the home of eternity. The prophet proves that God “Set his tabernacle in the sun,” by three arguments: the first, derived from its beauty, the second, from its strength, the third, from its beneficence. “And he as a bridegroom coming out of his bride chamber.” Here is the argument from his beauty. He rises, beautiful, bright, ornamented as a bridegroom in his wedding garments; and what can be grander, more beautiful, or more striking than the rising sun?

6 A second argument front the sun’s power and strength, which performs an immeasurable journey daily at such speed, without the smallest fatigue. “He rejoiced as a giant,” or as a stout, robust person, full of alacrity, (for such is the force of the Hebrew,) such as is peculiar to those who enter on anything with pleasure. “His going out is from the end of heaven, and his circuit even to the end thereof.” By the end of heaven is meant the east, for there he rises, and never stops till he comes there again; and thus, “His circuit is even to the end thereof: and there is no one that can hide himself from his heat.” The last argument, taken from the service rendered unto all created things by the sun. For the sun, by his enlivening heat, so fosters and nourishes all things, that he may be called the common parent of all things, on land and in the sea. Hence, the sun so assiduously and carefully traverses the entire globe, visits all creation, “That nothing can hide itself;” that is, lose a share of his wonderful favors.

7 The comparison is now applied. Beautiful are the heavens, more beautiful is the sun, but far and away more beautiful is the law of the Lord. Bright are the heavens, more bright is the sun, but much more bright is the law of the Lord. Useful are the heavens to man, more useful is the sun, but more useful than any is the law of the Lord. He then enumerates six encomiums of the divine law. First, “The law of the Lord is unspotted, converting souls.” Most beautiful is the law of the Lord, without spot, without stain tolerating nothing sinful, as the laws of man do; and thus, when properly studied and considered, brings the soul to love it, and consequently to love God, its author. The second encomium is in the words, “The testimony of the Lord is faithful, giving wisdom to little ones.” By “testimony” we are to understand the same law, because, in the Scriptures, and especially in the Psalms, God’s law is not only called the law, the precept, the commandment, and the like, which other writers also apply to it; but is further styled the testimony, the justice, the justification, the judgment, as any one can see, especially in Psalm 118. It is called the “testimony,” because it bears testimony to men, what the will of God is, what he requires of us, what punishments he has in store for the wicked, what rewards for the just. He says then, “The testimony of the Lord is faithful;” that is, God’s law, that will most assuredly reward the good and punish the wicked. “Giving wisdom to little ones;” that means, giving to the poor in understanding the light of prudence to direct them in doing good, and avoiding evil. By “little ones” he means those who do not abound in the wisdom of the world; and by “wisdom” he means that spiritual prudence that helps us to reform our habits, and mould them to the shape of the law of God.

8 The third encomium on the divine law is, that once we begin to love it, of which the first encomium treats, and to observe it, as treated of in the second, it diffuses a most extraordinary joy in the person, for nothing can be pleasanter than a good conscience. “The justices of the Lord;” that is, his law, his commandments, being most just, and making the observer of them just, “are right” and gladful; that is, “rejoicing the hearts;” for upright hearts harmonize with “right” precepts; and they, therefore, are glad, and rejoice when an occasion offers for the observance of the commandments. The fourth encomium is, “The commandment of the Lord is lightsome, enlightening the eyes.” The law of the Lord, through the bright light of divine wisdom, illuminates our intellectual vision, because it makes us understand God’s will, and what is really good and really bad. God’s law illuminates also in a preparatory manner, for wisdom will not approach the malevolent soul; and nothing proves such an obstacle to our knowing God, which is the essence of wisdom, as impurity of heart. “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.”

9 The fifth encomium is, that the law of the Lord causes the above named goods to be not only temporal but eternal; for the fear of the Lord, that makes one tremble at the idea of offending God, “endures forever and ever:” as to its reward, the rewards to be had from the observance of the law do not terminate with death, but hold forever, as he says in Psalm 9, “The patience of the poor shall not perish forever.” Both Greek and Hebrew imply, that the fear spoken of here is not that of a slave, but that of a child, without any admixture of servility; that of which Psalm 111 speaks, “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord; he shall delight exceedingly in his commandments.” For he who works from servile fear does not observe the commandments freely, but unwillingly; but he who is influenced by filial fear “Delights exceedingly in his commandments;” that is, is most anxious and desirous to observe them. The last encomium is, that the law of the Lord, being true and just in itself, needs no justification from any other quarter. “The judgments of the Lord are true, justified in themselves.” “The judgments of the Lord”—meaning his commandments, because through them God judges man, and they are the standard and the rule whereby to distinguish virtue from vice, and good works from bad—”are justified in themselves;” they require no one to prove they are just, the pure fact of their being God’s commands being quite sufficient for it. Along with that, the ten commandments, that are mainly alluded to here being nothing more than the principles of the natural law, so abound in justice, that they hold in all times, places, and circumstances, so as to admit of no dispensation; whereas other laws are obliged to yield betimes to circumstances.

10 The conclusion from the foregoing. Since God’s law is so good, so much preferable to all the riches and delicacies of this world, for they are “More to be desired than gold and many precious stones: and sweeter than honey and the honey comb;” that is, not only sweeter than honey itself, but sweeter than it is in its purest state, when it is overflowing the honeycomb. The word honey comb is introduced to correspond with the words, “many precious stones,” in the first part of the verse. How far removed is this truth from the ideas of the carnal! What a number of such people to be found who, for a small lucre, or a trifling gratification, are ready to despise God’s commandments! And yet, nothing can be more true than that the observance of God’s law is of more service, and confers greater happiness than any amount of wealth or worldly pleasure.

11 He proves by an example, or rather by his own experience, the truth of what he asserted. For, says he, your servant knows it by his own experience, having received innumerable favors from you, so long as he observed your commandments.

12 Having stated that he observed the commandments of God, he now corrects himself, and excepts sins of ignorance, which can hardly be guarded against, such as arise from human frailty.

13 The meaning of “From those of others spare thy servant,” is not to ask of God to forgive us the sins of others, in which sense this passage is commonly quoted but we ask God to protect us from the company of the wicked. For men of good will, such as David was, should especially guard against being ignorant of their own offenses, and especially against being seduced by the wicked; and the meaning of the prayer is, from those of others, that is, from men of other habits, “Spare thy servant;” that is, by sparing him, keep those ill disposed people from the friendship of thy servant. He next assigns a reason for his fear of keeping up any familiarity with the wicked, for if those bad men “shall have no dominion over me,” that is to say, by their familiarity get no hold of and master me, and thus bring me to act with them, “then shall I be without spot,” and “cleansed from the greatest sin;” namely, mortal sin; for every mortal sin may be called “the greatest crime,” because it turns us away from our good and great God; and directly leads us to the fearful punishment of hell.

14 Then shall I not only “be without spot,” but even the words of my mouth will be agreeable; and the hymns I chant to your praise, both with heart and voice, will be always pleasing to thee, coming as they will from a clear heart and simple mouth. May my canticles find favor with thee, through your own grace, and not through my merits; for, if I am “without spot,” “cleansed from the greatest sin,” and if my words are “such as may please,” the whole is thy gift, thy work, thy action, thou who art “my helper, my Redeemer:” my helper in prosperity, my Redeemer in adversity.

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Psalm 19


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Whereas David does not mention any one’s name, there is no doubt, but he addresses himself to him on whom all the longings of the just and the predictions of the prophets were centered. And, as if he were beholding Christ on the approach of his passion, arming himself with prayer, on coming forward to fight with the devil, he exclaims, “May the Lord hear thee in the day of tribulation:” that is, in your passion, when, as the apostle has it, Heb. 5, “Who offering up prayers and supplications, with a strong cry and tears, to him that was able to save him from death, was heard for his reverence.” He was heard, however, not by escaping death, but by dying that he may destroy death; and by rising, restore life; and so that shame may be turned into glory, and mortality into immortality, as he says himself, Jn. 17, “Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son;” and this is the hearing of which the prophet speaks, on which the following bears, “May the name of the God of Jacob protect thee.” By the word “name,” we are to understand the invocation, as we have in the last chapter of Mk. “In my name they will cast out devils.” It may also signify power or authority, as Jn. 5, “I have come in the name of my Father.” Or it may simply mean, God himself; for in the Scriptures the word “name” is used for the person to whom it belongs, as when St. Peter, Acts 4, says, “For there is no other name under heaven, given to men, whereby we must be saved.” He adds, “the name of the God of Jacob,” to signify the people of God, of whom Christ is the head; as if he said, May the God of his people protect thee; for if the head be protected, the whole body of the people will be consequently saved. We seek protection from the enemies’ weapons, for fear we may be hurt by them; and then, indeed, they would have been truly hurtful, could they have obstructed Christ’s resurrection, his name, or his religion, or the extension or propagation of his Church.

2 The sanctuary means Sion, as will presently appear, and was called holy by reason of the Ark of the Testament being placed on it. But another Sion, the heavenly one, would seem to be intended here, that of which the apostle speaks, Heb. 12, “But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, that heavenly Jerusalem.” Sion is introduced here to show that God beholds everything, as if from some elevated look out, (for such is the meaning of the word Sion,) whence he can easily behold Christ in his struggles, and supply him with reinforcements; and a place so high, from whence everything can be so easily seen, is not the mountain bearing that name, but the celestial Sion and thus, “May he send thee help from the sanctuary,” means from the highest heavens whence he beholds all things; “And defend thee out of Sion,” that is, from his lofty watch tower, from which he observes you.

3 Since our Lord, when about to combat the enemy of the human race, had recourse not only to prayer, but also to sacrifice; that is, not only prayed in words, but sacrificed in reality, and, as he had alluded to his prayer by the expression, “May the Lord hear thee;” he now touches on the sacrifice by saying, “May he be mindful of all thy sacrifices.” May he not despise them, but may he remember and regard them; “and may thy whole burnt offering be made fat.” May it be acceptable, as acceptable as the holocaust of fatted animals, for the fatter the better; and the more perfect an animal is, the more valuable is the holocaust. Hence, Daniel, chap. 3, “And as in thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be made in thy sight this day that it may please thee.” Now, Christ offered many sacrifices, and at last a holocaust, and therefore the prophet says, “May he be mindful of all thy sacrifices.” The many sacrifices are his numerous sufferings for the glory of God, whilst among us; the holocaust is that in which he ultimately offered himself up entirely, by dying on the cross; and thus, the meaning is, may the Lord always remember the passion and death of Christ. This would appear to be rather a prophecy than a prayer; in God’s sight, the passion of Christ, even from the beginning of the world, was always before him; is now, and ever will be before him; and is the source of infinite blessings to us.

4 The object of both prayer and sacrifice declared, that is, may God hear thee, and accept of thy sacrifice; that you may come at the end you seek, and accomplish what you desire, and that there may be no one to mar you therein. “May he give thee according to thy own heart.” Give you your wish, your heart’s desire, “And confirm all thy counsels:” carry out all your plans, further all your wishes, confirm all your desires; thus the meaning will be, may God hear thee, and receive thy sacrifice; that you may upset the machinations of the devil, redeem man from bondage, and give eternal life to those that believe in thee; for that such was the desire of Christ’s heart, on such did his whole wisdom and deliberations turn, is evident from the gospel, Jn. 1:3, “For this purpose the Son of God appeared, that he might destroy the works of the devil:” and St. Paul, 1 Tim. 1, “Christ came into this world to save sinners:” and the Lord himself says, Lk. 12, “The Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.”

5 When our prayer shall have been granted, when you shall have conquered the enemy, “We will rejoice” interiorly as well as exteriorly, “In thy salvation;” that is, for your safe return from the war, in which safety we also share. “And in the name of our Lord,” who granted such a victory, “We shall be exalted,” we shall consider and look upon ourselves as great and wonderful, not by reason of our own merit, but by reason of the great God to whom we belong.

6 Another repetition of his good wishes. “May the Lord,” therefore, “fulfill all thy petitions,” from which so many blessings are to follow. “Now have I known that the Lord hath saved his anointed. He will hear him from his holy heaven; the salvation of his right hand is in powers.” I am, therefore, emboldened in asking again, that the Lord may hear thee, may grant all your petitions; because, by a divine revelation, I now know that they will all be granted. “For I have known that the Lord hath saved,” that he certainly will save his Christ, and by predestination has already saved him, raised him from the dead, placed him in heaven, and stretched his enemies under his feet “He will hear him from his holy heaven.” Having stated that he saved him, he now explains, that he meant by salvation, a previous degree, not yet put into execution, but one that will certainly be carried out; “for he will hear him from his holy heaven,” and thus “The Lord will save his Christ.” “The salvation of his right hand is in powers.” This may be explained in two senses. The word “powers” may mean power and strength, (and the Hebrew favors such meaning,) and then it will read, Christ, “The salvation of his right hand,” will appear in great power; or the word powers may mean, princes and kings (and the Greek and Latin favor such meaning,) and then the meaning would be, “He will hear him from his holy heaven, and in his powers;” because, in appointing princes and rulers, or protecting them afterwards, “The salvation of his right hand” is peculiarly necessary. For though princes may seem to have many safeguards, such as horses, chariots, arms and soldiers, fortresses and munitions, all these are nothing, if “The salvation of the right hand” of God be not there too with them: and he, therefore, with great propriety, adds in the next verse,

7 He goes on with the account of Christ’s victory, as he had foreseen, saying: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses.” Some of the enemy trusted in armed chariots, some in ferocious horses, by which he comprehends all the instruments or weapons that were formerly used in war or for fight. “But we,” with Christ for our head and king, do not confide so much in horses or in chariots, as we do “In the name of the Lord our God.”

8 He shows how much more profitable it is to put one’s trust in God, than in horses and chariots. They who did, “Are bound, and have fallen; we who trusted in God are risen, and set upright.” See the wonderful change! Before the victory of Christ, the enemy of the human race bore himself aloft, as if in chariots and horses, and trampled on man, prostrate through original sin; in like manner, the princes of the Jews, Herod and Pilate, and other visible enemies of Christ, in their insolence, insulted the suffering Christ and his humble disciples, but soon after, “The former were bound, and have fallen;” while the latter “have risen, and set upright,” and will remain forever.

“O Lord, save the king, and hear us in the day, that we shall call upon thee.” He concludes, by uniting the first and last verses. Having commenced with “May the Lord hear thee in the day of tribulation,” he confirms it, by directing his prayer to God. “O Lord, save the king” from his tribulation; and us too, “In the day we shall call upon thee;” that is, in our tribulation, when we shall invoke none but thee.

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Psalm 20


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Having obtained a victory, “The King,” Christ, “Shall joy in thy strength,” for the strength and power he got from you to triumph so successfully over his enemies; “And in thy salvation,” the salvation you gave him, “shall rejoice,” nay, even “rejoice exceedingly.” One part of the verse thus explains the other.

2 Words corresponding to “May he give thee according to thy own heart,” in the last Psalm, a Hebrew idiom, by which granting a petition means, giving the thing asked for, as we read in 1 Kings 1:18. The priest Heli says to Anna, “The God of Israel grant thee thy petition which thou hast asked of him;” thus, “Thou hast given him his heart’s desire” means, thou hast given him what he desired; “And hast not withheld from him the will of his lips;” you have not refused him what he, by the expression of his lips, showed he wished for and desired. In one word that Christ got all he wished for in his heart and expressed with his lips.

3 How justly Christ must have rejoiced to find he not only got what he asked, but that God even anticipated his wishes, bestowed the greatest favors on him, without his even asking them. “Thou hast prevented him (anticipated) with blessings of sweetness;” and the meaning is, that Christ, without his asking them, was liberally endowed with God’s gifts, such as being conceived by the Holy Ghost, the being united in person with the Word, the infusion of all knowledge and virtue, and the beatific vision, all of which he got at the very instant of his conception, and was therefore “prevented (anticipated) with the blessings of sweetness.”

“Thou hast set on his head a crown of precious stones,” would seem to refer to his royalty and his priesthood, which, too, he had from his conception, and hence the name Christ; for a crown of gold marks the king as well as the priest.

4 He got the above named gifts by anticipation, without asking them; but corporeal glory and immortality and other gifts, he afterwards asked and got. “He asked life,” which he did on the eve of his passion. “He offered up prayers and supplications to him that was able to save him from death,” Heb. 5, “but God gave him length of days, forever and ever,” meaning life everlasting, that, “rising again from the dead, he may die no more, death shall have no more dominion over him,” Rom. 6. Jansenius would have David alluded to here; Euthymius and Theodoret, before him, say Ezechias was meant; but this verse disproves both, for neither David nor Ezechias got that length of days here mentioned.

5 God not only gave him life “forever and ever,” but he also “exalted him, and gave him a name which is above every name,” Phil. 2; for that was truly “the great glory he had in thy salvation,” the salvation through which God saved him; and hence, “thou wilt lay upon him glory and great beauty,” in lieu of the ignominious crown of thorns his enemies put upon him, rendering him, as Isaias, chap. 3, has it, “without beauty or comeliness.”

6 Having been “exalted to the right hand of the Father,” with “a name above every name,” a universal benediction of those “that are in heaven, on earth, and in hell,” will follow. “Thou shalt give him to be a blessing;” you will set him up as a common, a universal subject for thanksgiving, that all may bless him. “Thou shalt make him joyful in gladness with thy countenance;” signifying the joy consequent on the enjoyment of all those blessings; “With thy countenance” means, in thy presence, or before thee.

7 The aforesaid blessings will be fixed and firm for eternity, “For the king hopeth in the Lord;” in the infinite power of God, and not in the strength of man; “And through the mercy of the Most High,” through the infinite goodness of him who is above all, and to whom all are subject; “He,” therefore, “shall not be moved;” he will not waver, but remain secure for eternity.

8 Proving that neither Christ nor his kingdom will be disturbed, because all his enemies will be destroyed. “Let thy hand be found by all thy enemies, to punish them, which he repeats in the second part of the verse. He would seem now to address Christ rather than the Fathers because Christ was the special object of the hatred of the Jews, and of his other persecutors; and it is of him Psalm 109 speaks, “Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool.”

9 The punishment of his enemies described, “Thou shalt make them,” namely, his enemies, “as an oven of fire,” to burn on all sides, like “a lighted oven,” “in the time of thy anger;” in the day of thy wrath, viz., the day of judgment. For Christ our Lord “Shall trouble them in his wrath,” and then, at his command, everlasting fire will devour them, and make them “like an oven of fire.”

10 For fear any one may object that the posterity of Christ’s enemies would, one time or another, stand up for their fathers, and offer violence to Christ, the prophet now adds, that not only will his enemies be destroyed, but the same destruction will extend to their children, and to all their posterity.

11 Most justly shall they be punished, because they unjustly sought to injure you. With great propriety and accuracy David says, “They have intended evils against thee.” they could only intend them, for Christ, “in whom there was no sin,” could not be directly subject to punishment; but these wicked men “intended,” and, as it were, distorted such evils against him, such as contumelies, wounds, stripes, death itself, seeking to turn the innocent Christ from his path. “They have devised counsels which they have not been able to establish.” They had the evil intention of destroying Christ, and of obstructing his kingdom; a thing they could not accomplish, because God converted all these persecutions to the good of Christ himself, and of his faithful servants.

12 The great misfortune of the wicked is here described; scourging alone is to be their lot; and, to add to their misfortune, they will have a view of God’s elect, in the highest glory and happiness. “Thou shalt make them turn their back.” Nothing but their back shall be seen; they shall be all back, to be scourged all over. “In thy remnants thou shalt prepare their face;” the word “prepare” signifies “to direct,” in the Hebrew; and then the meaning is, you will direct their countenance, that is, of the wicked, to look “at thy remnants;” that is, the elect, whom you have left to yourself, and of whom it is written, Rom. 9, “The remnants will be saved.” This is a very difficult passage. Theodoret and Euthymius explain it thus: “Thou shalt make them turn their back:” rout them, make then fly, turn their back. “In thy remnants:” that is, in those that remain after them, their children. “Thou shalt prepare their face:” thou shalt satisfy thy anger. Let the reader choose between the two interpretations.

13 The Psalm concludes with a pious effusion of praise to Christ our King, with a prediction of what is to happen after the final destruction of all the wicked. “Be thou exalted, O Lord, in thy own strength.” You that once appeared so humble, so infirm even, as to suffer crucifixion, now, in your strength and power, after subduing your enemies, and shoving them into Gehenna, “be exalted” to the very highest heavens; meanwhile, “we,” thy elect, “will sing,” with our voice, and with all manner of musical instruments will celebrate thy power and glory, in the hope of one day coming to thy kingdom, there to praise thee forever and ever.

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Psalm 21


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David speaks here in the person of Christ hanging on the cross, in the height of his suffering, as appears from Mt. 27, in which we read that the Redeemer, just before he expired, exclaimed: “O God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The words, “Look upon me,” are not in the Hebrew; they were added by the Septuagint, for explanation sake. When Christ complains of having been forsaken by God, we are not to understand that he was forsaken by the Second Person, or that there was a dissolution of the hypostatic union, or that he lost the favor and friendship of the Father; but he signifies to us that God permitted his human nature to undergo those dreadful torments, and to suffer an ignominious death, from which he could, if he chose, most easily deliver him. Nor did such complaints proceed either from impatience or ignorance, as if Christ were ignorant of the cause of his suffering, or was not most willing to bear such abandonment in his suffering; such complaints were only a declaration of his most bitter sufferings. And whereas, through the whole course of his passion, with such patience did our Lord suffer, as not to let a single groan or sigh escape from him, so now, lest the bystanders may readily believe that he was rendered impassible by some superior power; therefore, when his last moments were nigh, he protests that he is true man, truly passible; forsaken by his Father in his sufferings, the bitterness and acuteness of which he then intimately felt. “O God, my God;” looking upon himself as a mere servant, he addresses the Father as his God, because, at that very moment, he was worshipping him as the true God, offering to him the most perfect sacrifice that ever had been offered, the sacrifice of his body. “Look upon me;” he asks him to behold how he suffers for his honor, to acknowledge, therefore, the obedience of his Son, and to accept the sacrifice so offered for the human race. “Why hast thou forsaken me?” As if he were surprised! Is it possible you could allow your beloved and only begotten Son to be overwhelmed in such an abyss of pain and sorrow? Similar expressions are met in Jn. 3, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son;” and, Rom. 8, “He did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” “Far from my salvation are the words of my sins.” Many, afraid of imputing sin to Christ, give a very forced explanation of these words. Some read them by way of interrogation, without any authority whatever. Others explain thus, “My sins,” having none, “are far from my salvation;” that is, are no obstacle to it. Without entering into other interpretations, mere gratuitous ones, inconsistent with the punctuation, the meaning simply is: with justice I said I was forsaken in my sufferings, because my exemption from them would be incompatible with my satisfying for the sins of the human race, which I have taken upon me, and which I mean to wipe away. And that Christ could take the sins of the human race upon himself, as if they were his own, is plainly shown in the Scripture, 1 Peter 2, “Who his own self bore our sins in his body upon the tree:” Isaias 53, “And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all:” and, 2 Cor. 5, “Him who knew no sin he hath made sin for us;” that is, a victim for sin. As a victim for sin, then, must be immolated, in order to cleanse from the sin, so Christ, having undertaken to become the victim for the sins of the world, with much propriety says, “Far from my salvation are the words of my sins;” that is, I cannot avoid death, since the sins of the whole world are upon me to satisfy for them. “The words of my sins” is a Hebraism, meaning the sins themselves. “Are far from my salvation,” are inconsistent with my salvation, and I must, therefore, needs suffer.

2 He assigns another proof of his being forsaken by God, and without any hope of temporal salvation. Though I may cry out day and night to be delivered from this death of the body, you will not hear me. He alludes to his two prayers, one at night in the garden, the other by day on the cross. “And it shall not be reputed as folly in me.” Though I may cry, and though I know you will not hear me, so far as my escaping temporal punishment or suffering is concerned; still, it will “not be folly in me,” because my principal object, the redemption of the human race, will be effected, and I will not be kept in death, but will rise to life everlasting.

3 He proves that it was not folly in him to cry out at night, even though he was not heard by day, and that for four reasons. First, because God is holy and merciful. Secondly, because he is wont kindly to hear those that call upon him. Thirdly, because he is in the greatest straits. Fourthly, because, from his nativity, he has confided in God, and in him alone. The present verse contains the first reason. You, O Lord, will certainly hear me, for you “dwell in the holy place;” you are all sanctity and piety; malice or cruelty cannot come near you, and, therefore, you are “the praise” of thy people “Israel;” both because the people of Israel praise thee, and they are praised on your account. For the greatest praise thy people can have is their having a God so holy in every respect.

4–5 Reason the second, from the instances of his kindness, numbers of which are to be found in Judges. As often as the children of Israel appealed to him, so often did he send them one of the judges to deliver them, such as Gedeon, Samson, Samuel etc.

6–8 The third reason, derived from the straits in which Christ is placed. “But I am a worm, and no man:” I am just now in that position that I am not only “made less than the Angels,” but even made less than man. “Despised and the most abject of men,” Isaias 53, nay, even beneath them, when even Barabbas and the robbers were preferred to me, and thus, I am now become so wretched, more “a worm than a man;” “the reproach of men;” at whom men blush, as they would at some opprobrious character; as did Peter, when he swore a solemn oath, “he knew not the man;” and “the outcast of the people;” one so rejected by the very scum of the people, that they called out, “Not this man but Barabbas.” “All they that saw me have laughed me to scorn:” When they saw me in that state they all mocked me, all manner of persons, high and low, priests and laics, Jews and gentiles; which was fulfilled when, as St. Luke 23, writes, “And the people stood beholding, and the rulers with them derided. And the soldiers also mocked him.” “They have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head.” This, too, was accomplished, as St. Matthew writes, chap. 27, “They blasphemed him, wagging their heads, and saying, Vah, thou who destroyest the temple of God.” “He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him.” St. Matthew testifies in the same place that the Jews made use of the very words, saying, “He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will.” Wonderful prophecy, predicting not only the facts, but the very words that would be used on the occasion.

9–10 The fourth reason, drawn from the eternal innocence of Christ. The word “For” does not imply a consequence; it is very often used in the Scriptures as a mere copulative; sometimes it is quite redundant. “You art he that hast drawn me out of the womb.” I am thine from my birth; specially so, because I have not been born like others; but, through thy singular favor, have been both conceived and born, my mother’s virginity remaining intact. “My hope from the breasts of my mother.” Not content with having “drawn me out of the womb,” it is you who principally nourished me; for, though apparently on the breast of any mother, I know milk from heaven was supplied by you; and, therefore, from her very breasts, I learned to hope and confide in thee. “I was cast upon thee from the womb;” The moment I left my mother’s womb, I fell into thy bosom, where I was cared with such singular love and affection. “From my mother’s womb thou art my God.” As well as you, from the moment of my birth, so providentially protected me, so I, from the earliest dawn of my life, began to serve and to love you as my God.

11 “Depart not from me,” according to some, is a part of the preceding verse, a matter of no great moment; it means, since “I was cast upon thee from the womb,” since “thou art my God,” I may with justice ask you to “depart not from me,” especially when my most grievous and my last “tribulation is very near;” that is, my death. “For tribulation is very near.” This verse may, perhaps, apply to his agony in the garden, when he was so overwhelmed with fear at the idea of his approaching passion; but, I am more inclined to think it should be understood of his actual passion at hand, both because he uses the perfect tense, when he says, “They have dug my hands and feet.” “They parted my garments amongst them;” and because he, before that, quoted the language of the Jews, boasting of their having nailed him to the cross; and, finally, because the very first verse of this Psalm was quoted by our Savior, when hanging on his cross. According, then, to his expression in the 2nd verse, “it shall not be reputed as folly in me.” I will not cry to thee to deliver me from death, but not to detain me therein.

12 An account of the cruelty of his enemies, whom he compares to bulls, lions, and dogs. He alludes to the High Priests and Pharisees, who insult him like bulls, goring him, as it were, with their horns, saying “Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God;” or, like lions with their mouths open, hungering for him; thirsting for his blood, and bellowing, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him;” or like dogs gnawing and biting him when they belied him, saying, “We have found this man perverting our nation;” and again, “If he were not a malefactor we would not have delivered him up to thee:” which calumnies and detractions were the cause of our Lord’s immediate crucifixion; and, therefore, he says presently, “They have dug my hands and feet.” To come now to particulars. “Many calves have surrounded me.” We are not to understand young weak calves, but grown, with horns, almost bulls; for the following, “fat bulls have besieged me,” is only a repetition. The High Priests and Pharisees are called “strong” and “fat,” because they were powerful and rich. Some will have it that by the “calves” he meant the populace; by the “bulls,” the Pharisees; not at all improbable; but I prefer the first explanation.

13 The High Priests and Pharisees panting for his death.

14–15 He tells in these verses how he dealt with the cruelty of his enemies. He offered no opposition to their violence, but always exhibited the humility, patience, and mildness, spoken of in Isaias, chap. 1, “I have not turned away my face from them that rebuke me and spit upon me;” and by 1 St. Peter, 2, “Who when he was reviled, did not revile; when he suffered he threatened not, but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly.” He, therefore, says, “I am poured out like water;” I made no resistance, allowed myself to be turned, driven in all directions, as one would turn a stream of water. “And all my bones are scattered;” I have lost all my strength, not in reality, but I do not wish to exercise it. I let my enemies use theirs, according to St. Luke 22, “This is your hour and the power of darkness.” I have, therefore, shown myself weak and feeble in my resistance, as if I were flesh entirely; “And all my bones are scattered;” and thus incapable of resistance. “My heart is become like wax melting in the midst of my bowels;” I have patiently borne, and meekly borne, all those injuries before man, but I have been also interiorly “humble of heart;” which heart has not been swollen with anger, nor hardened with rage, in a spirit of vengeance, but has been on the contrary, like “melted wax,” in the spirit of affection and love to them, in the spirit of mercy for their blindness, by virtue of which I prayed of you, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” “In the midst of my bowels;” a usual phrase in the Scripture, to express our internal feelings; thus, John 7, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water:” and, Cant. 5, “My bowels were moved at his touch:” “My strength is dried up like a potsherd.” My whole strength has dwindled away, dried up like a brickbat, when I allowed myself to be tied and beaten as if I were incapable of resisting them. “And my tongue adhered to my jaws:” I did not choose to say an offensive word to my enemies, or to complain of their wrongs. “And thou hast brought me down into the jaws of death.” In consequence of their persecutions, and my non resistance, you have, my God, without whose permission nothing can happen, brought me to my death and burial.

16–17 He tells us how he was “brought to the dust of death:” “For many dogs encompassed me;” meaning many detractors, namely, the High Priests and Pharisees, who, by accusing me falsely of seducing the people, of refusing to pay tribute, of aiming at the sovereignty, and similar charges, forced Pilate to give me up to the soldiers for crucifixion. “The council of the malignant hath besieged me;” an explanation merely of the last passage; for “the many dogs” are no other than the council; that is, the assembly “of the malignant.” The same malignant set, though they did not so with their own hands, did it through others. “They have dug my hands and feet.” They drove the nails through. “They have numbered all my bones,” a thing they could easily do, when his blessed hands were stretched out, and the strain on his whole body rendered his ribs and other bones so visible and so easy of counting. “And they have looked and stared upon me.” To add to the punishment of the cross, there was the ignominy of his nakedness. They inspected my whole person with the greatest curiosity, there being nothing to cover it.

18 All which was fulfilled to the letter, as may be read in St. John, chap. 19.

19 He returns to the prayer with which he commenced the Psalm, and to which he recurred again in verses 10 and 11, and now resumes it here. Having gone through the details of his passion, he now prays to God for a speedy resurrection, as it is it that will deliver him perfectly from the persecution of his enemies. “But thou, O Lord, remove not thy help to a distance from me.” My enemies have arrived at the height of their malice, have put out all their strength against me; it is, therefore, your part to look to me now, to defer your help no longer, but kindly to defend me against their machinations.

20–21 He tells the sort of assistance he requires. “Deliver my soul from the sword.” Deliver me from the instrument of death, making use of the word sword for any instrument, a thing common in the Scriptures, 2 Kings 12, “The sword shall not depart from thy house;” Ezechiel 33, “And see the sword coming upon the land;” Rom. 8, “Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or persecution? or the sword?” In like manner, the word soul is used here for life, a thing not uncommon in the Scriptures. “My only one from the hand of the dog;” by “the dog,” he means those dogs he had already spoken of; but he makes use here of the singular number by a figure, to show that the malice of them all appeared to be now concentrated in one, and, therefore, so much the more violent and malignant. “My only one;” he means his own life, which he loved in a singular manner, as being that of the incarnate Word. “Save me from the lion’s mouth;” that lion of which ver. 13. says, “They have opened their mouths against me, as a lion ravening and roaring;” “and my lowness from the horns of the unicorn.” He said before, “Fat bulls have besieged me.” Unicorns are now substituted for bulls, being much more fierce and wild, to show that the cruelty and ferocity of his enemies, so far from being softened by his many sufferings, was only excited and increased. Now, in all these petitions the Lord does not ask to have his temporal life spared; but, as we have repeatedly explained before, he asks that his life may be repaired quickly, and so repaired that he shall be no longer exposed or subject to the bite of the dog, the claws of the lion, or the horn of the bull or the unicorn.

22 He now begins to tell the fruit of his resurrection, the conversion of the world to God. “I will declare thy name to my brethren. When I shall have risen, I will send my apostles through the entire world, and through them, “I will declare my name;” that is, I will impart the knowledge of thy name and of thy Godhead to all men through them; all being my brothers, by reason of the flesh I assumed; and thus, “in the midst of the church will I praise thee;” no longer in a corner of Judea, but in the midst of the immense church, composed of Jews and gentiles, through the mouths of my ministers will I praise thee. St. Paul, writing to the Hebrews, quotes this passage, chap. 2, “For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church I will praise thee.”

23–24 Having said that he would “praise God in the midst of the church,” which was to be effected by getting his faithful to do so, he now exhorts the faithful to praise God, “Ye that fear the Lord;” ye who know and worship him; for fearing God, in the Scriptures, is synonymous with worshipping him; thus, Jonas, when questioned about his people, says, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the God who made the heavens and the earth;” and Daniel says, “Let all fear the God of Daniel;” and it is said of Judith, “that she feared God exceedingly.” The meaning, then, is, you who know and worship the true God, praise him; and, lest we should imagine this exhortation was addressed to a few, the Jews, for instance, he adds, “All ye seed of Jacob, glorify him. Let all the seed of Israel fear him;” that means, glorify, praise, and fear God, all ye children of Israel, and not only ye who are children in the flesh, but ye who are children according to the promise, namely, all the gentiles converted to Christianity; “Because he hath not slighted nor despised the supplication of the poor man.” He assigns a reason for wishing God to be praised by all, namely, because he heard the prayer he put up to him for his resurrection and glory, for his victory over the devil, and for the redemption of the human race. He calls himself “a poor man,” as, in truth, he was, when, in his agony, hanging on the cross, he hung naked, deserted, and suffering from hunger and thirst. “Neither hath he turned away his face from me, and when I cried to him he heard me.” A repetition of the preceding sentences.

25 Having encouraged his faithful to praise God, he now predicts the certainty of it. The praise I will chant to thee through my faithful will not be from a corner, nor from a handful of the Jews, but from the church of all nations. “I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear him.” Vows here signify sacrifices and oblations, as Isaias 9 has it, “They shall worship him in victims and offerings, and they shall make vows to the Lord, and perform them;” for when Christ saw how agreeable was the holocaust of his death to the Almighty, he promises now that, through his ministers, he will, in the best manner he can, most frequently renew the same holocaust, which he says, in the words, “I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear him;” through my ministers, the priests of the New Testament, I will most constantly immolate that most agreeable of all sacrifices to God; “in the sight of them that fear him;” of those that acknowledge, worship him, for the sacrifice may not be performed before infidels.

26 Of this sacrifice “the poor shall eat,” when they acknowledge their spiritual neediness and poverty; “and shall be filled, because they will taste of the good, exceeding all good; “and they shall praise the Lord,” thanking him for such an immense favor: “that seek him;” those that hunger for and eagerly seek him; “their hearts shall live forever.” Such will be the fruit of this reflection, that the hearts nourished by such excellent and noble food will lead a spiritual life—a life of grace here, and of glory forever; for so the Truth speaketh, in John 6, “Whosoever eateth of this bread shall live forever.” For, as perishable food supports the body for a time, so the imperishable food confers life everlasting.

27 He shows how it will happen that he shall have to praise God “in a great church,” because all nations will be converted to God through the merits of the sacrifice on the cross. “They shall remember” their first origin, how they were formed in their first parent, a thing they had quite forgotten, through original sin; and, therefore, they said to the wood and the stones, “Thou art my father,” Jerem. 3 “They shall remember” their first creation, “and all the ends of the earth shall be converted to the Lord;” that is, all the nations on the face of the globe, even to its remotest ends; that is to say, some from every nation. “And all the kindred of the gentiles shall adore in his sight.” An explanation of the preceding verse; because, “adoring” the Lord, and being converted to the Lord, imply the same thing; namely, the abandonment of idolatry by the whole human race all over the world.

28 They will deservedly be converted to and adore the Lord, because he, not the infernal spirits, being the true and natural king of all, will justly “have dominion over the nations.”

29 Having stated that “The poor shall eat and shall be filled, and shall praise the Lord;” and that “All the kindred of the gentiles shall adore in his sight,” for fear any one may suppose it was only the poor and the hungry would be called and converted, he now introduces the rich and the powerful. “All the fat ones have eaten, and have adored.” The very “fat ones” of this world, who abound in its blessings, such as princes, emperors, kings, they, too, shall eat of the Lord’s table, and will adore and praise the common Lord, whose sway is over all nations. In the style of the prophets, the perfect tense is used here for the future. Finally the words “that go down to the earth,” mean all mortals who to earth must return. “Shall fall before him;” shall bend their knees, and adore; and thus the conversion of the gentiles, the fruit of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, will be truly general.

30 He concludes by saying, that he and his posterity would thence forward live for God’s glory alone, and for his faithful service; the soul is put here for the entire man, which is often done in the Scripture.

31 An explanation of the expression, “My seed shall serve him,” for “the generation to come;” meaning the people, under the new dispensation, will get good news concerning the Lord and his justice, the justice of Faith. “Then shall be declared to the Lord a generation to come;” that means, the generation to come shall get the news; it shall be announced to them, for it is a Greek phrase, like the expression, “The poor have the gospel preached to them;” whereas, literally translated, it would mean, the poor preached the gospel: the meaning, then, is, not that the Lord will be declared to the generation to come, but the generation to come will be declared, as enlisted to the Lord; this is plain from the following, where he says, “The heavens shall show forth his justice to a people that shall be born;” now, “that shall be born,” and “the generation to come,” are one and the same. The Lord, then, will be declared to the coming generation, for the heavens, that holy people, will do it. The justice of faith is called the justice of God, which makes men truly just, and which God gratuitously gives to those who believe in Christ. For the gospel strongly inculcates that we are all sinners, that we cannot be justified of ourselves, but that through faith in Christ we are to expect justice from God alone.

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Psalm 22


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The happiness of the elect, under the figure of sheep in charge of some excellent shepherd, is described in this Psalm. David, one of such sheep, exclaims, “The Lord ruleth me, and I shall want nothing;” I am one of God’s sheep, and he being a most wise, powerful, and good shepherd, I may confidently assert, “I shall want nothing.” This is the language of one of the happy, “on the road,” and “in hope.” For the happy, actually so, and “at home,” do not use the future tense, but the present, because they are done with labor and grief, and have already “entered into the joy of their Lord.” But the blessed on the road, and in hope, cannot say, I want nothing, being subject to many passions; but they can justly say, “I will want nothing;” because, when they will want they will get; when they shall be hungry, they will not fail to be supplied with food; when they shall be sick, they will be sure of a physician. The words, “I shall want nothing,” come to be explained by him after. Sheep require, first, rich pasture; secondly, pure water; thirdly, one to bring them back when they stray; fourthly, to be brought through easy passages; fifthly, to be protected from wolves and wild beasts; sixthly, to be supported when tired and weary; seventhly, if cut or maimed by passing through cliffs or rocks, to be cured; and, lastly, at the close of day, at the end of their journey, to have a home wherein they may securely rest. All these matters God gives in abundance to his elect, and they can, therefore, justly say, “I shall want nothing.” David takes up the first in these words, “He hath set me in a place of pasture;” not in a barren or desert spot, but in prairie land, where an abundance of the choicest and most wholesome grass is to be had; where the sheep have food in abundance; the food, in a spiritual sense, being the knowledge of God, his sacraments, especially the Eucharist, Truth himself, for these are what support, nourish, and increase the spiritual life within us.

2 The second necessary for the sheep, viz., to have not only plenty of wholesome pasture, but to have plenty of pure water at hand, to be cooled in the heat and the thirst. The spiritual water that extinguishes the thirst of us sheep, is the grace of God, of which Christ himself speaks in the Gospel, Jn. 4, “Whosoever shall drink of the water I will give him, shall not thirst forever.” Nothing is so effectual in curbing our carnal desires, as a taste of the love of God; to the soul who once tastes of it, everything else seems insipid.

3 The third want of the sheep, the being brought back when they stray; for man, though he may by his own strength turn from God, cannot by his own strength return to him. He says then: The good shepherd sought me out when I strayed, brought me back, and, more than that, never allowed me to stray again—a peculiar privilege to the elect. “He hath led me on the paths of justice.” The fourth duty of the shepherd, made me walk in the narrow path of his commandments; and, thereby, lead the life of the just. That he effected by taking from the power and strength of the tempter, by an increase of charity, by additional sweetness, by illuminating with his justice, by enticements, by excitement, by endearment, by terror, and other innumerable ways, on which, if we would only reflect for a moment, we would never cease, during our whole lifetime, to return thanks to so sweet a Pastor; the more so, when all this has been done, not by reason of our previous merits, but “on account of his own name, that he may make known the riches of his mercy to the praise of the glory of his grace.”

4 The fifth service rendered the sheep, is their protection from wolves and other wild beasts. “For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death;” through dark, dreary places, exposed to all manner of dangers from wild beasts, robbers, precipices, “I will fear no evils, for thou art with me.” And, in truth, no one can well imagine the security a faithful soul feels when they bring to mind that God, who cannot be resisted, accompanies them. “The shadow of death” is of frequent recurrence in the Scripture; the proper meaning of which is that dense darkness, which shuts out all light, and is caused by death. The blind are said to be in darkness, because they see nothing; and with much more reason are the dead said to be so, because they feel nothing. Hence, the poets make the dead to dwell in shady places, wrapped up in darkness; and hence, the Scripture promiscuously uses darkness for the shadow of death, to explain one through the other, as in Job 3, “Let darkness and the shadow of death cover it;” and Job 10, “To a land that is dark, and covered with the mist of death;” Isaias 9, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen;” in each of which passages “dwelling in darkness,” and “dwelling in the region of the shadow of death,” are used to signify the same thing. And as dark places are exposed to a great many dangers, and we generally go through them with no small amount of fear, David, therefore, says, “Though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death:” in dense darkness, surrounded by danger, “I will fear no evils, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.” The sixth benefit conferred on the sheep, their being supported when weary. He now drops the simile of the sheep, and takes up the shepherd, for sheep are not supported, when weary, by a staff, but are carried on the shoulders of the shepherd; which God is always ready to offer his faithful souls when weary.

5 The seventh favor, namely, the wonderful consolation extended by God to his elect, in the troubles incidental to them in this world. The meaning of this verse is, not that God has prepared a table, wine and oil, against his enemies, as if they were the weapons wherewith to fight; but the meaning is, that God provides great consolations to meet great tribulations; and, as the enemy seeks to do us much injury, so God pours upon us many consolations, which are pictured as if we were enjoying a feast, where the table was overspread with the choicest meats, with the rarest wines, and the most precious perfumed ointments, such as we read of Mary Magdalen having poured on the head of our Savior. “Against them that afflict me.” This is clearer in the Greek, and the meaning of it is, that out of the persecution and trouble prepared for me by my enemies, you have extracted great consolation—a well furnished table for me. “thou hast anointed my head with oil.” Thou hast poured precious ointment on my head, and thus “made my face cheerful with oil:” nor was there wanting the cup of wine, inebriating me with thy grace, so “goodly,” and so “gladdening to the heart.” Such another passage occurs in Psalm 93, “According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy comforts have given joy to my soul.” And in 2 Cor. 7, “I am filled with comfort: I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.”

6 This is the last good, that brings to the supreme good. “Thy mercy will follow me,” not for a time, but forever, which is the peculiar privilege of the elect. “And that I may dwell;” that is, it will follow me for that purpose, “to dwell in the house of the Lord, unto length of days;” that is, forever.

Table of Contents

Psalm 23


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David proposes proving that of the immense family of the human race, Christ alone, and a few, very few others, as compared with the crowd, will enter God’s most holy and happy house; and for fear people may think they were not God’s creatures, but belonged to some other creator, as the Marcionists and Manicheans afterwards thought, he premises those two verses, in which he lays down that God is the Creator and Lord of the entire world, and of everything in it. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof;” that is, everything that is on or in it, and fills it. The second part of the verse explains the first, in which he states that it is principally to man he alludes, for to man alone the words, “that dwell therein,” can be applied.

2 He proves God to be Lord of the earth, and of all that dwell thereon, because it was he created the earth, and made it out top the waters so as to be habitable; for had he not made it higher than the sea and the rivers, they would have rushed in upon and overwhelmed it. God, then, having made the earth habitable, it follows that he is the Lord of all, both because man was made from the earth, and to the earth will return; and because man holds the earth here not as its Lord and master, but as a husbandman placed there by God to till and cultivate it.

3 Whereas all men are servants and husbandmen of God, and all equally till the land which is God’s. “Who shall ascend into the mountains of the Lord:” Will there be any one, and who will he be, worthy of ascending to the place where God is said peculiarly to dwell?

4 There will; they will ascend into the mountain of the Lord who have the four conditions here specified: First, they must be “Innocent in hands;” must have committed no sin. Second, must be “Clean of heart,” free from sinful thoughts or desires. Third, “Who hath not taken his soul in vain;” who not only has neither done nor thought any evil, but has done and thought everything that God could require of him, in order to obtain the end for which he was created. Fourth, “Nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbor;” easily understood. And thus the man who seeks to be worthy of “ascending into the mountain of the Lord,” must be perfect in every respect in his heart, in his language, in his actions, in the perfect discharge of all the duties that appertain to his station in life. Such conditions are to be found in Christ alone. He is the only one of whom it can be said, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth;” and as David says, in Psalm 13, “There is none that doeth good, no not one;” and Isaias, “We have all strayed like sheep;” and St. Paul, Rom. 3, “All have sinned and need the glory of God;” and, therefore, the Lord himself justly says, John 3, “And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.” All others are terrestrials, sprung from the earth. He alone is celestial, come from heaven; holy, innocent, unpolluted, set aside from sinners, and by his ascension, higher than the heavens. And it was not Christ alone that was to ascend to the mountain of the Lord, but his body too, the Church, which he “Cleansed with his blood, that he might present it to himself, a glorious church; not having spot nor wrinkle, nor any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish,” Ephes. 5; and, therefore, in the next verse, he says:

5 “He,” that is, Christ, “shall receive a blessing from the Lord,” favors in abundance, “and mercy from God his Savior,” for his body, the Church, in whose regard he is the Savior, because life everlasting in the kingdom of heaven, though justice to Christ, is mercy to the faithful; for, though the just deserve eternal life, by reason of God’s goodness, their own merits have the effect, through God’s mercy only, and thus are truly called the gifts of God. Hence, in Psalm 102, we have, “Who crowneth thee in mercy and compassion;” and in Rom. 6, “For the wages of sin is death: but the grace of God, everlasting life.”

6 The prophet now declares that the one he spoke of, “The innocent in hands,” the “clean of heart, who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord,” and “shall receive a blessing,” and “mercy from God” is Christ, the head, and not only the head, but the head with the body of the Church. “This is the generation of them that seek him;” that means, he that ascends to heaven, is the generator of those that are regenerated in Christ, whose principal study is to seek God, to thirst for a sight of his face, and to make for his holy mountain, with all their strength. And, in fact, a unique and perhaps characteristic sign of the elect of God, is to have a longing desire for their home, their country—heaven. The generation of the children of this world seek everything in preference to God, dread nothing more than death; and, if they got their choice, would prefer living always in this world, to “being dissolved and being with Christ.”

7 The holy prophet, having foreseen that one would be found worthy of “going up into the mountain of the Lord,” namely, Christ, declares that he will go up at once, and that the eternal gates of heaven will be opened to him. And in a poetic strain he at once addresses now the “Princes” of heaven, the Angels; then the “gates” themselves; orders the Angels to open, and the gates to be opened, nay, even spontaneously to admit the approaching King of Glory. He makes use of the words, “Lift up,” and “be ye lifted,” to show these are not ordinary gates, hanged to a wall or a post, but to the roof or ceiling, to show they should be raised up for admission.

8 He introduces him to the Princes of the heavenly Jerusalem as King, “Who is this king of glory?” not that the Angels, on the day of his ascension, were ignorant of Christ’s being the King of Glory, but to express their admiration at the novelty of human flesh ascending to the highest heavens, not as a guest or a stranger, but as the Lord of a glorious and everlasting community. The prophet answers, that Christ is the King of Glory, the Lord most valiant and powerful, who showed his power in battle against the prince of darkness, whom he conquered, despoiled, and left in chains.

9–10 The prophet imagines some hesitation on the part of the Angels in opening the gates, and he, therefore, second time thunders. “Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates,” thereby giving us to understand the great novelty of the matter, to find a terrestrial rising above celestial bodies—human flesh soaring above the angelic spirits themselves, to the amazement, wonder, and admiration of all nature. The Angels ask again, Who is this King of Glory? “The Lord of Hosts is the King of Glory,” is the reply. At the sound of that most familiar name, they at once open, and with joy receive the King of Glory. “Lord of hosts” is the peculiar title of the Creator, and never applied to any one in the Scriptures, but to God exclusively. The Hebrew word has been sometimes translated God of armies, as God really is, presiding over his armies of Angels, that are innumerable and most powerful; and besides, having all created beings serving under him, as we read in Psalm 148, “Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds which fulfill his word.” Pharaoh had a fair experience of his being the God of armies, when not only the Angels were brought to war upon him, but even the minutest animals, such as frogs, flies, and gnats, and along with them things inanimate, such as hail, fire, darkness, pestilence, and the like. Some have translated “Lord of Hosts,” “Lord of virtues;” but those who do, take “virtues” in the same sense as “Hosts,” and not in the sense of what is generally understood by virtues, namely, good moral actions or qualities.

Table of Contents

Psalm 24


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Having found no rest in creatures, but on the contrary, “briers and thorns” everywhere; disgusted with my former mode of life, and having torn my soul from the affections that tied it down to the earth, “I lifted it up” to thee. Through constant reflection, and love inspired by you, to you I began to cling, hoping for help from you in my temptations; and since “I put my trust in you, let me not be ashamed;” that is, I will not go from you in confusion, without having obtained the help I need, and thus be made “to blush” before my enemies.

2–3 An explanation of the words, “To blush before my enemies,” in the preceding verse, for he should blush if his “enemies were to laugh at him” for having vainly trusted in God. By “my enemies,” may be understood, both the wicked in this world, and the evil spirits, whose rejoicing and scoffing would produce intolerable confusion, were we seriously to reflect on it. He then gives a reason for his hope “of not being confounded,” because “none of them that wait on thee shall be confounded;” that means, because we have learned by long experience, from the examples of our ancestors, and from your own promises, that those who put their trust in you, and patiently expect your help, were never disappointed in their “waiting on you.” To “wait on the Lord” is a very common expression in the Scriptures, and means to expect him in the certain hope of assistance.

4 This verse may be interpreted in two ways; first, to signify that those who sin without cause, meaning those who sin through malice, and not through infirmity or ignorance, “would he confounded.” Such persons think neither of doing penance, nor of abandoning sin, and if they hope for anything from God, their hope is presumption. Another more literal meaning may be offered, viz., that both the visible and invisible enemies of the just would be confounded, for their persecutions of the just will be all in vain, because they will not accomplish the end they propose to themselves, the ruin of the just, and the bringing them to hell; whereas, on the contrary, such persecution becomes only an occasion to the just of exercising their virtue, and a source of everlasting merit. The prophet then throws back the confusion on his enemies, saying, Lord, do not allow me to be confounded, as I will, if my enemies laugh at me, and exult in my ruin; but, on the contrary, let them be confounded, when they see they have been persecuting me, and provoking me to impatience, without effecting their object, and in vain.

“Show, O Lord, thy ways to me, and teach me thy paths.” By “thy ways,” we understand his law, which is really the way to God. “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;” and the prophet having asked the Lord’s help against temptations, explains what help he specially wishes for, and says, “Show, O Lord, thy ways to me,” make me tread in the way of your commandments—”and teach me thy paths;” that is, show me that most narrow road of thy most just law, for thus will I escape the mocking of all my enemies, and instead of being confounded, all they who, by their temptations, sought to harass me, will be confounded. He asks to be taught the paths of the Lord, not speculatively, but practically; that is to say, he asks for such grace as may move his will to observe the commandments cheerfully.

5 A repetition of the foregoing, and a reason assigned for it. “Direct me in thy truth.” If left to myself, I will at once turn aside to the right or to the left, deserting the path of your commandments, on account of the prosperity or the adversity of this world: do you, therefore, take me by the hand, and direct me by the help of thy grace in the right path, “in thy truth;” namely, in thy law, which is the truest of all paths. “For all thy commands are truth,” Psalm 118.—”For thou art God my Savior;” of thee I ask this help, because you alone, being God, can save my soul; for there is no other physician that understands the diseases of the soul; and, therefore, there is no one able to cure them but God alone, much less is there one able to restore them to perfect health; and I specially ask this favor, which I hope, too, to obtain, because “On thee have I waited all the day long;” that is, with perseverance and patience I have waited for thy medicine, and look for relief from nobody else. It is a source of great merit with God never to give up the hope of his help in temptations, or to look to human consolation.

6 When God allows the soul to be harassed by temptation, or to wallow in sin, he seems to have forgotten his mercy; and thus the just man, after a long struggle with temptation, and seeing that, however he may desire it, he cannot guard against relapsing into sin, cries out to God to remember his former compassion and mercies. Between compassion and mercy there is this difference only, that the former seems to be the actual exercise or practice of mercy, the latter the habit of the virtue in the mind; and the same difference is observable in the Hebrew, though the words are much more dissimilar. The meaning then is—Remember, O Lord, that you were compassionate “from eternity,” and not only compassionate, but in the habit of showing mercy, and the most paternal tenderness to thy children; and, therefore, mercy is thy distinguishing, as well as thy natural, tendency.

7 He places forgetfulness in beautiful opposition to remembrance. Remember thy mercy, but forget my sins; for one is the cause of the other, for God then remembers his mercy when he does not wish to remember our sins any longer, but so remits and blots them out, as if they were consigned to eternal oblivion. He remembers, however, the sins and ignorance of youth; that is, the sins committed through human infirmity and ignorance, because to those more than any others does his mercy lend itself, according to the apostle, 1 Tim. 1, “But l obtained the mercy of God, because I did it ignorantly;” and, perhaps, David had no other sins to account for; and this certainly is the prayer of a just man, who seems to have had to contend with such sins only; and with that, sins committed through malice are not forgiven through prayer alone, but need “Fruits worthy of penance.” “According to thy mercy, remember thou me.” He declares what he said in the words, Remember thy bowels of compassion;” and forget my sins; for all this takes place when “God remembers the sinner according to his mercy.”

8 He assures himself of the certainty of obtaining the object of his hope, by reason of God’s goodness and justice; and thus, that he is wont to correct delinquents freely, because thereby he exercises his mercy towards man, and his justice towards sin; and the meaning is, “The Lord is sweet and righteous;” and, therefore, loves man, and hates sin; and, therefore, “gives a law;” that is, declares and points it out “to sinners in the way,” to persuade them to abandon the old path, and, from being bad and wicked, to become good and just.

9 A qualification of the expression in the last verse, “He will give a law to sinners;” which he says here does not apply to all sinners, but only to the mild and the meek, who do not resist God’s teachings, but rather covet instruction. “We will guide the mild in judgment;” that means, he will lead the humble and the mild through the straight path of his law, (for law and judgment appear to be synonymous, as we explained in Psalm 18,) which he then explains in other words, “He will teach the meek his ways,” that is, to the meek he will give the grace of knowing and loving, and thus fulfilling his law. Observe that the proud are not altogether excluded from the grace of God, but have their place assigned them. The proud, to be sure, are incapable of perfection, of which this Psalm principally treats, until, from the influence of fear, they do penance, and then, having shaken off the fear, become mild and humble. The grace of God, then, first softens and subdues the proud and the obstinate, and when thus humbled and contrite, “It guides them in judgment,” and “teaches them his ways.”

10 Having stated that not only were the meek guided by God, but that all God’s dealings with such souls were acts of mercy and justice, justice meaning the honor and truth that oblige men to perform their promises. “The ways of the Lord,” mean here his works, they being, in some respect, the “way” in which he comes to us; unless we prefer to understand the expression as meaning the Lord’s rules or customs, and, as it were, the law he uses. Thus, the “Ways of the Lord;” the law he gives us, by means of which, as by a straight road, we ascend direct to God, is sometimes intended by the expression; at other times, it signifies the law he uses himself, when, through his works, he descends to us. And as David had previously spoken at great length on the former, he now speaks of the latter, that is, of the law he made for himself, and which he observes towards us; and he, therefore, lays down, “All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth;” that is, his law, his custom, his mode of dealing with us, are all in mercy and truth; so that whatever he promises in his mercy, he invariably carries out in his truth. Who doth God so deal with? “With those that seek after his covenant and his testimonies.” He gives the name of testament, or “covenant,” to that bargain he made with man, when he gave him the law, that they should be his people, and he should be their God; which bargain is called a testament in the Scripture, because it contains a promise of inheritance, and require to be confirmed by the death of the testator, as it really was by the death of Christ, as a sign of which Moses sprinkled the whole people with blood, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you,” Exod. 24, and Heb. 9. He calls the law that God gave us “His testimonies,” because, as we have already stated, through the law God testifies his will to us. With those, then, who seek for the compact entered into by God with man to observe it, and, in like manner, seek for the law of God to carry it out, that is, with men of good will, fearing and loving God, he deals with such in the law of mercy and truth.

11 From the general law in which God deals with those that fear him, the prophet infers that he has a fair hope of his sins being forgiven. “For thy name’s sake, O Lord,” to make known thy mercy and thy truth, “Thou wilt pardon my sin, for it is great.” The word great may signify numerous, as a great people, in which sense St. James uses it, when he says, “We all offend in many things:” or, on account of the magnitude and the grievousness of the sins, for holy souls look upon trifles as grievous, which trifles are really grievous, if we consider the greatness of the person offended.

12 The prophet is now like one in love, now sighing for what he loves, now praising it, again sighing and longing for it. The just man was in love with the grace of God, ardently longed for the forgiveness of his sins, for the grace of living well, and pleasing God, and, therefore, now asks God’s grace thereto; at one time he praises the grace, and declares the happiness of those that fear God, that is, of those who have got such a grace; and again he returns to desire and to ask for it. Thus, in this verse and the two following, he declares the advantages those who fear God enjoy. “Who is the man that feareth the Lord?” Let such a man come forward and learn from me what a fortunate man he is. The next sentence, “He hath appointed him a law in the way he hath chosen.” Many think this a part of the happiness hereinbefore alluded to; that is to say, that man, fearing the Lord, will, in the first place, have the privilege of being instructed by God “in the way he hath chosen;” that is, in the state of life he may select. Not a bad interpretation, but I prefer another. The prophets are very much in the habit of repeating the same idea twice in the same verse, sometimes for explanation; and I imagine the meaning of the passage, “Who is the man that feareth the Lord?” to be, who, I say, is the man that God has instructed in his law, in the way that man has selected; that is, in the direct path of living a holy life, and moving to God, which he has already chosen of his free will. One part of the verse thus explains the other, for that is he who fears God, who, by his grace, chooses the road to him, which road is none other than the observance of the commandments.

13 The happiness of the man fearing God consists in this, that “his soul,” the man fearing the Lord, “shall dwell in good things,” shall enjoy those good things, not for a while, or in a transitory way, but forever, permanently. Nothing can be more true, for “To them that love God, all things work together unto good,” as the apostle, in his Epistle to the Romans, has it. Therefore, he that fears God must be always happy. In prosperity he will know how to enjoy it; in adversity, patience and the hope of a great reward in the kingdom of heaven will come to his help. Thus, he will always be glad, and rejoice. And himself will not only dwell in good things, but even his children; “His seed shall inherit the land;” inheritance and possession signifying the same thing, as we have already explained in Psalm 15. The children of those who fear God will possess the land, because they will live in peace therein, without any one to injure them, in the sense we have alluded to; because to the good “All things work together unto good;” and their very tribulations become a source of joy and merit.

14 The reason why those who fear God shall always “Dwell in good things,” is, because they do not depend on perishable and transitory things, but God himself is “their firmament;” that is, their hope is based on the friendship and help of God. Firmament means foundation, on which they rest, that foundation being God himself; and their reason for depending on him is, because “his covenant” makes it “manifest to them.” They who fear God know right well, and often call to mind, the treaty he entered into with man, to be their God, and to be a most loving parent to them, on the condition of their observing his laws; and they can, therefore, understand how, by reason of this compact, they can depend upon God, as upon a most solid foundation.

15 Having enlarged for a while on the happiness of those that fear the Lord, he now returns to wish and to pray for it: “My eyes are ever towards the Lord.” My mind’s eye has God ever before it, as being entirely dependent on him. The most effectual mode of prayer is, for one to place themselves in a most abject position, before the one from whom help is expected, and to propitiate the benignity of the great, rather by modestly, silently, and quietly pointing to our poverty, than by stunning them with our clamor. As we have in Psalm 122, “As the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress; so are our eyes unto the Lord our God until he have mercy on us.” “For he shall pluck thy feet out of the snare.” I have my eyes so intently fixed on God, because he will, as I trust, deliver me from all danger of temptations, which, like snares, beset us on all sides while here below. The expression may also mean, that I always keep up the intention of pleasing God, and of doing nothing opposed to his will. It may also mean the contemplation of the divine beauty, which is always before the mind’s eye of those that seriously love God; but, I consider the first explanation the most literal.

16 As he is always looking to God, he justly asks to be looked upon by him. Such was his silent prayer when he had his “eyes ever toward the Lord,” hoping he may regard with mercy his loneliness and his poverty. He says he is “alone,” lonely and desolate, or (which is better) because he had in spirit detached himself from the whole world, and attached himself to God alone. He calls himself “poor,” because in his humility he looked upon himself as destitute of all virtues and merits.

17 I am more inclined to think the temptations of sin are referred to here, rather than temporal troubles. David was one of those who, with the apostle, Rom. 7, groaned and said, “But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” “The necessities,” from which he seeks to be delivered, seem to be those most troublesome motions of concupiscence, which, in spite of us, will sometimes torment us, and even lead us to sin.

18 He follows up the prayer, and asks forgiveness for the sins into which he may have fallen by the force of temptation. For, though a soul fearing God may be grievously afflicted, and take great pains in resisting concupiscence, still the just man falls seven times; and yet, from his fall, he may be proved to be just; because, at once, by his tears, his prayers, and his contrition, he quickly wipes away the filth and dirt into which he had incautiously fallen. By “abjection,” we are not to understand the virtue of humility; but his abjection, properly speaking, his meanness. For the just man, when he means to become quite perfect, looks down thoroughly on himself, and still does not escape sin. Instead of “Forgive me my sins,” the Hebrew has “bear my sins,” expressive of the trouble of the true child of God, for fear God may be displeased by the great number of them; and he, therefore, exclaims, “bear them.” Do not be fatigued in carrying them, and supporting my weakness.

19 He argues now from the number and the cruelty of his enemies. Lord, says he, you have seen “My abjection and my labor;” behold, now, the multitude, the cruelty, and the iniquity of my spiritual enemies. The enemies who seek to draw us to sin, and incessantly inflame our concupiscence with red hot weapons, are the demons whom St. Paul calls “The spirits of wickedness;” that they are innumerable is well known; and that they burn with the worst sort of hatred, with “An unjust hatred” against us, is equally well known. Hatred is said to be unjust, or most unjust, when one hates another without cause, without any provocation. The hatred may also be said to be unjust, when one seeks to harm another; not for any lucre or benefit, to be derived therefrom, but, from the mere spirit of mischief. Such is the hatred of the devil towards the human race, especially towards the elect; for mankind never did any harm to the devil, but he, blinded by envy, was the ruin of man. “By the envy of the devil, death came into the world,” Wisd. 2. The same evil one now harasses the faithful by temptations, not for the purpose of deriving any benefit therefrom, but to gratify his delight in the ruin of the just.

20 Surrounded as I am by so many enemies, especially invisible ones, to resist whom I feel my own strength unequal, I have, therefore, recourse to you “to keep my soul,” and by your care of it, to free and deliver me from them. For freeing and delivering from the enemy does not suppose that a capture has been made, it equally applies when a capture is prevented. “Thou hast delivered my soul out of the lower hell,” Psalm 85, which means, as it does here, you have prevented my falling into it. The meaning may be also, Keep my soul in the prison of this body, in which I am detained a captive, “For the law of my members holds me a captive in the law of sin,” and afterwards, in the fitting time, deliver me.

21 Having said, in the preceding verse, that “I shall not be ashamed, for I have hoped in thee,” he gives a reason why he would fear to be ashamed at being deserted by God, and the reason is, that “many innocent and upright,” through the force of his example, especially from seeing him hope in God alone, “adhered to thee,” who certainly would cause him to blush and to be confounded were they to see him disappointed. “I shall not be ashamed,” then, has quite a different meaning in the end of the Psalm from what it had in the beginning of it. In the beginning the meaning was, “I will not be ashamed” before my enemies in their insolence; here it is, “I will not be ashamed” before my friends in their kind condolence.

22 David, being not only one of God’s people, but also the prince and head of others, having prayed at sufficient length for himself, he now adds a prayer for his people; a general one, as being unable to enter into the peculiar wants and difficulties of each individual.

Table of Contents

Psalm 25


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David, having a misunderstanding with the king, appeals to the King of kings, there being none other to whom he could appeal. “Judge me, O Lord.” Be you, O Lord, my judge; let not Saul take it on him, but do it yourself. “For I have walked in my innocence,” with confidence I challenge God’s judgment, because my conscience which God alone beholds, does not reprove me, “For I have walked in my innocence.” I have led an innocent life. “I have put my trust in the Lord, and shall not be weakened.” Trusting in God’s justice, I will not fail, but will conquer.

2 Having stated that he led an innocent life, he proves it by the testimony of God himself, who neither can deceive nor be deceived; for he does not tell God to “prove and try him,” in order to come at truth of which he was ignorant, but that he may make known to others what he in secret sees. David then, on the strength of a good conscience, and in the sincerity of his heart, speaks to the Lord, saying. “Prove me and try me;” search with the greatest diligence, examine the inmost and deepest recesses of my heart; nay more, “burn my reins and my heart,” examine my thoughts and desires as carefully as gold, when tested by the fire. I do not think David asks here to be proved and tried by adversity, or that “his reins and heart” should be scorched by the fire of tribulation, when he seems to be asking for the very contrary; but he asks, as I stated before, to be “proved and tried” by a most minute examination and inspection; and God having the most minute and exact knowledge of everything, that he may declare to the world the innocence of his servant, and thus silence the calumny of his enemies.

3 He assigns a reason for wishing to be “proved and tried,” inasmuch as his conscience encouraged him therein, as if he said, I beg of you to prove me, for I have trod thy paths, for “all thy ways are mercy and truth,” Psalm 24; and “thy mercy is before my eyes,” which I always look upon and consider, in the hope of being able to imitate it, and to act by my neighbors in conformity with it; “And I am well pleased with thy truth.” It has pleased me, and I have therefore lived according to it.

4–5 Theodoret, in my opinion, most properly says, that these words apply to the idolatrous assemblies of the gentiles in their temples, of which David had the greatest abhorrence, and which he witnessed while in exile with the king of the Philistines. Everything, he says, here appears to be put in opposition to what he says in other parts of the Psalm, for instance, “I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house;” and a little before that, “I will compass thy altar, O Lord;” and herein after, “In the churches will I bless thee, O Lord.” He calls the assembly of the idolaters the “council of vanity,” for what can be more vain? What, more vain than idols, false images? As the apostle says, “We know that an idol is nothing in the world,” 1 Cor. 7. Throughout the Scriptures idols are called vain, or vanities, Deut. 32, “They have provoked me with that which was no God and have angered me with their vanities;” and 1 Kings 12, “And turned not aside after vain things, which shall never profit you, nor deliver you, because they are vain.” See also 3 Kings 16; Jeremias 2, and various other passages. The same idolaters are styled, “Doers of unjust things,” because the height of injustice is to give to creatures the worship due to God alone. “The council of vanity,” in one verse is called the “Assembly of the malignant” in the next; “Doers of unjust things” in the same verse are called the “Wicked,” a name peculiarly appropriate to idolaters, in the following verse.

6 Having expressed his hatred of the conventicles of the idolatrous infidels, among whom he was then living, he adds, that he has, on the contrary, the most intense love for the tabernacle of the Lord and the assembly of the saints; and briefly states what he means to do when, through God’s assistance, he shall have been called from exile to his own country. “I will wash my hands among the innocent; and will compass thy altar, O Lord.” Before I go into thy temple, I will do what all pious people are wont to do: “I will wash my hands,” and go about your altar joining those in the act of it, in hymns of praise. For the meaning. Some will have it, that David alludes to the washing of hands, as a proof or sign of one’s innocence, as Pilate washed his hands before the Jews, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man;” as if he said, See, I have washed my hands, do not pollute them with the blood of this just man; and I, therefore, dare not condemn him. We often use a similar expression when we wish to get out of a thing. We say, “I wash my hands out of it.” I consider, however, the sense more likely to be, and more in keeping with the rest of the chapter, to consider David alluding to a custom of the Jews, who, previous to their entering into the tabernacle, purified both themselves and the victims they offered, which purifications or lotions, are called by the apostle Heb. 9, “Divers washings and justifications of the flesh;” and, as those external lotions ought to be the sign of internal purity, David, therefore, says, “I will wash my hands among the innocent,” as a sign of my real internal purity, as an innocent person would wash them; and not with the hypocrites, who do so with clean hands and unclean heart. The expression, “I will compass thy altar,” some understand of the number of victims; but I rather think it refers to those who in hymns of praise will go about the altar, as the following Psalm has it, “I have gone round, and have offered up a sacrifice of jubilation;” and in the very next verse to this we have, “That I may hear the voice of thy praise; and tell of all thy wondrous works.”

7 An explanation of the expression, “I will compass thy altar, O Lord,” that with the choir of worshipers I may hear, and join in singing the praises of the Lord. St. Augustine, arguing against the Pelagians, proves, with great accuracy and piety, from this passage, that they only hear the voice of God’s praise who refer all their actions, and all they possess, to God’s free gift. For the hearts of the just, “who have ears to hear,” are always devoted to God’s praise, thanking him for all their own merits and virtues; whereas, on the contrary, those who presume on their own justice, and are swollen with the idea of their own perfections, as if they had them by their own exertions, and not from God, do not hear “the voice of thy praise,” but the voice of their own praise.

8 Nothing gave him more trouble in his exile than the being unable to see the tabernacle of the Lord. His mind, deeply inflamed with the love of God, looked upon no spot on the earth more beautiful than that where God was wont to show himself visibly. The tabernacle that contained the ark of the covenant was called, “The house of God,” “the place of the habitation of his glory,” because a bright cloud would frequently descend thereon, to signify God’s presence there; the God “who inhabiteth light inaccessible,” Jam. 1:6, and because there, too, was the oracle from which God gave his responses.

9 Having appealed to God, at first, as a judge, and having exposed his innocence, of which God was witness, he concludes by a prayer, that judgment may be delivered in his favor, “Take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked.” Do not condemn me as you do the wicked; “My soul” means me, as it does frequently through the Scriptures; and by “Bloody men,” he means those who, like so many homicides, were persecuting him.

10 He tells us who are the wicked and the bloody men of whom he spoke in the foregoing verse; they are those who receive bribes for unfair judgments, glancing at the sins of those in power, the judges. With much point he says, “In whose hands are iniquities;” attributing the iniquity to that part of the body that touches the bribe, to show the bribe was the cause of the iniquity.

11 He repeats his reason for not being condemned with the wicked, namely, because “He walked in his innocence;” that is, led an innocent life. “Redeem me, and have mercy on me.” Deliver me from my present troubles, and then have mercy on me, that I may not fall into them again. The words “redeem” and “deliver,” most frequently have the same meaning in the Scriptures, unless, perhaps, the Holy Ghost may insinuate that any deliverance of the elect from tribulation may be called redemption, inasmuch as such is effected through the blood of Christ our Redeemer.

12 These words have reference to the concluding expression in the last verse, “have mercy on me.” I have asked to be delivered from my present trouble by reason of the rectitude of my life; I ask for future mercy, because “My foot hath stood;” that is to say, is firmly fixed and planted in the direct, honest road, and, therefore, I cannot easily leave the straight path of thy law; and, in thanksgiving for it, “I will bless thee” and praise thee “in the churches,” the assemblies of the pious.

Table of Contents

Psalm 26


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Tribulation brings on darkness, prosperity brings light and serenity; for tribulation confuses and confounds the soul, so that it cannot easily see how it ought to act, and thence is provoked to impatience, or to some other sin. But should God, by his divine light, dispel the darkness, the soul at once sees that the tribulation, which in the darkness of the night brought such horrors with it, was temporary and trifling; and sees, at the same time, that tribulation, when God protects us, can not only do us no harm, but even tends marvelously to our good. David, having learned this by experience, exclaims, therefore, for himself, and in the person of all the elect, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” In other words, ignorance and infirmity made me timid in my tribulation, but once the Lord “enlightened” my mind, he made me clearly see that no temporal calamity can be grievous or continuous, and healed my soul with the ointment of divine love. “I fear no one,” for truth expels darkness, and “perfect charity casteth out fear,” 1 John 4. “The Lord is the protector of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” another reason why he should no longer fear. The Lord not only is “my light and my salvation,” he will not desert me when enlightened and saved, but will constantly protect me with the shield of his providence and benevolence. “Of whom shall I be afraid,” then? “If God be for us, who is against us?” If a king, with a powerful armed escort, has no reason to fear, why should a servant of God, protected by his powerful and immortal master, have any fear about him? “Protected by the sign of the cross, instead of shield and helmet, I will securely penetrate the ranks of the enemy,” says St. Martin; for he was one of those who could confidently say, “The Lord is the protector of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”

2 He describes the effects of God’s protection, and, as is usual with the prophets, makes use of the past for the future tense, to show the certainty of the matter. The meaning is, God will so protect me, that when they who wish me harm, “shall draw near against me,” like dogs or lions, “seeking to eat my flesh,” “these enemies that so trouble me” will become “so weak” and “so fallen” by their efforts, that, instead of harming me, they will only damage themselves. That such is the case is clear from the example, not only of David himself, but of Christ, and the martyrs, and of all the saints.

3 To show what unbounded confidence he has in God, he now says that he not only despises his enemies individually, but that he even fears not “armies in camp” of his enemies, and not only so encamped but even in actual battle.

4 This “one thing,” so asked, is thought by some to mean the house where the ark of the covenant lay; who will have it that he asks to return from exile, that he may be near the ark. I prefer the opinion of St. Augustine, who understands it of heaven, which seems to be not only the true, but even the literal meaning. For David does not ask to dwell near “the house of the Lord,” but “in the house of the Lord;” and it is well known that David never lived in the house of the Lord, but in his own palace, which was a good distance from the tabernacle, more so before the tabernacle was brought to Mount Sion; and he could, had he so chosen it, when he was king, have lived as near as he pleased to the tabernacle. Along with that, this verse is a counterpart of one in Psalm 83, “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord; they shall praise thee forever and ever;” a phrase that can only be applied to those that dwell in God’s house in heaven. Finally, David, holy and perfect as he was, would never have so ardently desired or asked for any temporal favor in such terms as, “one thing I have asked of the Lord,” as if nothing else was to be asked. The prophet then, in this passage, tells us what is the real foundation of his confidence in God, and why he fears no temporal calamity. The foundation is a fervent love of God, for he that fervently loves the supreme and everlasting good, sets no value whatever on the things of this world. “One thing I have asked of the Lord; this I will seek after.” I ask for nothing temporal; I care not for the loss of the whole world, provided I be found worthy of possessing one thing; for that one thing alone do I care; that one thing alone have I asked; that one thing alone will I ask; namely, “to dwell in the house of the Lord;” not for a while, but, “For all the days of my life;” that is, during the life of the saints with God, which will certainly have no termination. Observe the point in the words, “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord;” for while here on earth we are the children, as well as the friends of God; however, we do not dwell with, but rather walk with God; nor do we rest in his house, but in his tent. “That I may see the delight of the Lord, and may visit his temple.” He tells us why he longs to dwell in the house of the Lord, because there perfect happiness reigns. For there is to be seen the beauty of God’s house and of the heavenly host; where nothing profane can enter, but where there is a daily sacrifice of jubilation and praise.

5 He assigns a reason for having so boldly asked for a place in the house of the Lord, and a sight of his beauty; because he had already got a taste of his sweetness, and a pledge of his love: as if he briefly said, Having received the grace, I dare to ask for the glory. The whole is metaphorical; for, correctly speaking, David was not “hid in the tabernacle” of the Lord, when Saul was in pursuit of him; but the whole passage means, in the evil days of the present time, God has defended and protected me as effectually as if he had placed and hidden me in the inmost recesses of his tabernacle, and from such condescension on God’s part, I confidently hope that I will one day arrive at his house, “The one thing I have asked;” the one thing “I will seek after.” The second part of the verse is, in other words, a repetition of the first.

6 By another metaphor he conveys the same idea; namely, that he was so defended and protected by God’s providence as if he were in a lofty and well fortified tower. Isaias uses the same metaphor when he says, 33:16, “He shall dwell on high; the fortifications of rocks shall be his highness.” The meaning then is, “He hath exalted me upon a rock;” placed me in an elevated, fortified position, and hence, “My head is lifted up above my enemies;” I have subdued and vanquished them all. Thus is described not only the protection and defense of the just, who cannot possibly be injured by any machinations of the enemy, according to 1 Peter 3, “And who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good?” but even we are told how the just arrived at such security; namely, by elevating the mind in contemplation to God and to eternity. For he that seriously meditates on eternity, and has an ardent love for God, is placed on a very lofty and well fortified tower, so that nothing can harm him, all earthly things having now become so vile in his sight. “I have gone round.” The prophet having spoken of contemplation, is himself now wrapped in it; is raised up above everything earthly, and breaks out in admiration of God’s works, and of the Almighty producer of them. “I have gone round.” I have taken a mental survey of God’s works in heaven and on earth; “And have offered up in his tabernacle a sacrifice of jubilation;” in this great tabernacle of God, the heavens, which I have ascended in spirit; in a loud voice, proceeding from intense admiration, I have offered my tribute of praise to God, the most agreeable sacrifice I could possibly offer him, as we read in another Psalm, “Offer to God the sacrifice of praise;” and, in the same Psalm, “The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me,” a thing I have not only already done, but will do daily, for “I will sing and recite a psalm to the Lord.”

7 He reverts to “One thing I have asked of the Lord,” which one petition he asks may be granted, burning as he is with a vehement desire of beholding his beloved. “Hear, O Lord, my voice with which I have cried to thee;” namely, when I asked for the “One thing.” “Have mercy on me,” suffering as I am in my exile, “and hear me.”

8–9 These verses require more to be reflected on and put into practice than to be explained. “My heart hath said to thee.” My desires have spoken to thee. “My face hath sought thee.” My interior eyes, fixed in the face of my soul, look for thy beauty—despise everything else. “Thy face, O Lord, will I still seek.” It shall be always my study to look for a sight of thee, in the hope not only of seeing thee face to face in the world to come; but that also, in this world, too, I may study one thing only, to catch your looks, and through them to be enlightened and inflamed. “Turn not away thy face from me.” Keep your eyes constantly on me, for fear my light may grow dark, and my charity grow cold. “Decline not in thy wrath from thy servant.” Allow me not to fall into sin, for fear you may desert me in your anger. St. Augustine justly observes that the fear alluded to here is not servile, but holy fear. Servile fear wishes for the master’s absence, to be able to offend with impunity, and, therefore, would not make use of the expression, “Decline not,” but would rather say, Go away, and decline; but holy fear, that truly loves the beloved, fears nothing more than his departure. “Be thou my helper.” Having asked God “not to decline in his wrath from his servant,” and that, from a consideration of the impossibility of his avoiding, by his own strength, the sins that provoke the anger of God, he cries out to him to continue helping him. The just man, then, asks God’s help to avoid sin; but should he unfortunately fall, he begs he may not be discarded entirely, but that he may, in mercy, be pardoned and cured; and he, therefore, adds, “O God, any Savior;” for a Savior’s duty is to heal and to cure, instead of rejecting and despising the unfortunate.

10 A very urgent reason assigned for God’s assisting him, there being none that loves us so ardently. Observe the third person used for the second in the end of the verse; instead of saying, Thou hast taken me up, he says, “The Lord hath taken me up,” and that through reverence for God. A similar change of person occurs in Genesis, where Rachel says to her father, “Let not my Lord be angry at my not being able to rise before you;” and, in Kings, Nathan says to David, “Has this word gone out from my Lord the king?” The expression, then, “The Lord hath taken me up,” is the same as, You, O Lord, have taken me up. These words beautifully express the goodness of God, for David was then no child, to feel the want of parents; nor could it have been any great loss to him to be without his parents, who then would rather have been a burden than a loss to him; the meaning then is, I am like a new born babe, deserted, abandoned by its natural parents, and thus exposed to all manner of danger; but when so cast away and deserted, you, O Lord, have, in the excess of your goodness, taken me up, fostered, nourished, and cherished me. And, in fact, any one that will only reflect on the frailty of human nature, the power of our invisible enemies, and how much we need the grace of God in all our actions, will not deny that we are, with the greatest justice, compared to infants exposed and abandoned by their parents. So convinced was Ezechias, the prophet, of his infirmity in this respect, that it was not to an exposed infant, but to a swallow’s young, unfledged, that he compared himself, Isaias 58, “Like the young of a swallow, so will I cry.”

11 Having compared himself to an exposed, deserted infant, adopted by God, he anon fairly asks to be shown how to walk. He asks the grace of being able to observe all his holy commandments, which he never loses sight of through the whole one hundred and fifty Psalms. What else could he do? when it was the only path to that heavenly house of God, which he had just declared to be the only wish and desire of his heart. “And guide me in the right path, because of my enemies;” that is, direct me in the way of your commandments, which is truly “the right path;” the most just, however narrow it may be. Others will have it that, “Teach me thy way” is a request for internal inspiration; and “Direct me in the right path,” means a petition for a loving desire of observing the commandments. The Words, “Because of my enemies,” imply the necessity of the grace of God in this pilgrimage here below, to protect us from our visible, as well as from our invisible enemies, who are in daily ambush, watching us, seeking to divert us from the straight road of virtue to the rugged and difficult passes of vice.

12 The same petition continued. He asks to be saved from being delivered up to “the will” of his enemies, especially his invisible ones. A similar expression occurs in Luke 23, “He gave Jesus up to their will.” “For unjust witnesses have risen up,” is by many referred to the false witnesses that so calumniated David; not an improbable explanation; but I consider that the sentence will be more in accordance with what preceded, as well as with what follows, and also with the subject of the whole Psalm, if we interpret these words as applying to the temptations, whether of demons or of men, who, by false promises, or by threats, seek to bring the just to impatience, or to any other sin, as we have in Psalm 118, “The wicked have told me fables, but not as thy law.”

13 He tells us why “iniquity hath lied to itself.” For I, in spite of all my enemies, “believe,” have the strongest confidence, that “I will see the good things of the Lord;” that is, those good things which, before God, are good; which make man happy, which alone are really good; and that, “in the land of the living,” in that land where death hath no place, no dominion.

14 He concludes by an apostrophe to himself, to have patience and confidence in God, saying, My soul, as you desire to dwell in the house of God, as you have so many pledges of his love, as you “believe to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living,” do not be disheartened in your trouble, do not look for any earthly consolation, but “wait patiently,” take courage in the Lord, act the part of a man, until the evil days shall have passed away, and the good ones shall have arrived.

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Psalm 27


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Words spoken by Christ as he hung on the cross, asking for a speedy resurrection. “Be not thou silent;” do not turn from me, as if you were deaf, and did not hear me. He asks in a few words, that he may be heard, and get an answer from God that his prayer would be heard. “Lest if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit;” he wishes for an answer, because if God will not hear him, and give him a favorable answer, he will be like all other mortals who die and go to the lower regions, never to return therefrom. “Lest if thou be silent to me;” for fear you may not hear me, and I may, in consequence, become like those “that go down into the pit,” never to come out of it but on the day of judgment. Another explanation may be offered, viz., If you do not hear me, I will be like the dead; for, as the dead can do nothing whatever, so man, without God’s assistance, can do nothing.

2 The expression, “Be not silent,” is more clearly expressed, for now he says, “Hear, O Lord, the voice of my supplication,” for he wished for an answer from God, to show he had been heard. “When I pray to thee;” the Hebrew implies, that when he did pray, he had his hands stretched out, for both Hebrews and gentiles were wont so to extend their hands in prayer; and, in using this expression, the prophet had before him the hands of our Lord extended on the cross and raised to heaven; for then, with the greatest truth, could he say, “When I pray to thee, when I lift up my hands;” when he prayed from the cross.

3 Christ alone could say truly what this verse contains, because he was the only one, in every respect, “separated from sinners.” And, being the only person in whom sin could find no place, he, with the greatest justice, asks that he may not be judged; that he may not perish with sinners, but that he should rather slay death itself; and, by rising from the dead, bear away a most triumphant victory from the prince of death, and from death itself. The meaning then, is, Do not drag me to death with others who are sinners, for I am no sinner. “Who speak peace with their neighbor, but evils are in their hearts.” He describes sinners in general from the sin most common and most universal among them, as he says in Psalm 115, “Every man is a liar;” and in Palm 42, “Deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man;” and, speaking of Christ, 1 St. Peter 2, says, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth;” as if sin and guile in his mouth were nearly synonymous terms. And there are very many who wish to appear friends, to be full of good will to their neighbor; and are so blinded by self love, that they have malice in their heart, and are entirely absorbed in hatred or envy towards the same neighbor.

4 This is not an imprecation, but a prophecy, as we before observed. The meaning is, that the wicked will have a wretched end of it, unless, from being wicked, they become good; and the meaning is, you will give them the punishment their works deserve; “And according to the wickedness of their inventions;” which means, that as they, in their malice, invented and devised various modes of harassing the just, so you, in your wisdom, will find various ways of tormenting the sinner. “Render to them their reward.” As they give the just evil for good, retort such conduct on them, by bringing down the evil they intended for the just, on their own heads.

5 From this verse it is clear that the preceding verse was a prophecy, and not an imprecation; for, he does not say destroy them, but thou shalt destroy them, in the future tense. Here the root of all evil is declared, that root being an unwillingness to understand the works of the Lord, the non appliance of one’s mind to learn, know, and reflect upon the wonderful things God was pleased to do in the creation, redemption, and government of the human race; for any one reflecting on them could not fail to be wonderfully inflamed with the love of God. Hence, St. Paul, 1 Cor. 2, says, “For if they had known it, they never would have crucified the Lord of glory.” And the Lord himself says, Luke 19, “If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are for thy peace. They shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone; because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation.” “Because they have not understood the works of the Lord, and the operations of his hands;” the latter words would seem to imply that in speaking of God’s works he means those that were directly done through himself, and not through secondary causes, such as the creation, the Incarnation, the miracles, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord, and the like; and he says, as sinners did not understand the works of the Lord, and particularly those produced by his own hands, namely, what he directly produced; therefore you, O Lord, “will destroy them;” and when you will destroy them, you will not regret having done so; and thus you will never “build them up.” The prophet takes up the words, “the operations of his hands,” as if it were a building God had in hands, and he says, As they did not understand the building of God, he will destroy them, and never again build them up; a thing that directly applies to the city, the temple, and the very kingdom of the Jews, which God, on account of their infidelity, destroyed, and which he will never build up again. It applies also to every sinner who does not bear in mind that he is an edifice raised by God, made to his own image, redeemed by his own blood, enriched with innumerable favors of nature and grace; but, nevertheless, will be so destroyed that they will never be rebuilt, and not more than a ruin of the edifice will be left, so that their punishment may be eternal.

6 He now passes to foretell the glory of the Lord’s resurrection, and in the person of Christ he thanks God in this verse.

7 He explains in what respect his prayer was heard, and says, “The Lord is my helper,” as he is wont to be. Therefore, “In him hath my heart confided;” which means, relying on the help and protection of God, I have not refused to engage in combat with the devil, and with death itself; nor have I been disappointed in my hope, for God’s help was such, that I had a very easy victory, “And my flesh hath flourished again.” He describes the effect of God’s help and protection, namely, his glorious resurrection, for which he praises God with his whole heart. My flesh, that had withered up in death, is not only restored to life, but to the bloom of youth, health, joy, and beauty. Therefore, “With my will, I will give praise to him” in praise and thanksgiving.

8 Such is to be the matter, the subject of the praise of which he spoke in the preceding verse, namely, “The Lord is the strength of his people,” a thing he proved when he so effectually protected the “salvation of the anointed,” (Christ,) who is the head of the whole people, and on whom the strength and safety of the whole people depend.

9 Christ, the head of the Church, having been glorified, it remains that his body, the people of God, who are his peculiar inheritance, he having acquired it with his blood, should be equally glorified. Christ then says to his Father, or the prophet says to Christ, “Save thy people,” and, in order to save them, “Bless them,” by justifying them “Rule them,” by shielding, by protecting them on the road; “Exalt” them, by glorifying them by glorifying them to eternity.

Table of Contents

Psalm 28


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The prophet, being about to chant the praises of the divine power, stirs up God’s peculiar people, to whom he was known, for “God is known in Judea, in Israel great is his name,” Psalm 73, to honor that power with the victims of the season, the hymns of their voice, and the prostration of their bodies. Taking the summons to refer to a later period, the explanation would be, that when about to chant the praises of the divinity, the perfecter of the tabernacle, that is, of the Church, who is the mother of all God’s children, he invites those children, so called by the inspiration of heaven, to offer to God sacrifice of praise. “Bring to the Lord, O ye children of God, the offspring of rams;” you that have been made children of God by the blood of the immaculate Lamb, bring your own lambs, bring the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, as he further explains in the following verse.

2 The prophet tells us what sort of sacrifice we should offer to God, namely, “Glory and honor;” that is, in your words and your works glorify the Lord; and not only in your words and works, but even in the carriage of your person, which should be so reverential as to make it appear to all that you acknowledge him as your supreme Master, and that you adore him as such. “Bring to the Lord glory to his name.”

Bring glory to the Lord, that is, to his name, by celebrating the name, fame, and knowledge of the Lord. “Adore ye the Lord in his holy court.” The holy court may mean either the vestibule of the Jewish tabernacle, to which all could resort, while the priests alone were permitted to enter the tabernacle; or the Catholic Church, which is like the porch or vestibule of the heavenly tabernacle. All, good and bad, are promiscuously permitted to enter the Church, but they alone will enter the heavenly tabernacle who can say to Christ, “Thou hast made us a kingdom and priests to our God.”

3 He now explains why he invited us to celebrate and praise the power of God, and the reason is, because the “voice of the Lord” has a wonderful influence on the elements of nature, as well as on the spiritual fabric of the Church. He then describes God’s action on the waters, on the air, on the fire, and, finally, on the earth; these four elements being the principal ones of this world here below, as known to us. God’s action on the water is described in the first chapter of Genesis, where it is said that “The spirit of the Lord moved over the waters;” “And God said, Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” “God also said, Let the waters that are under the heavens be gathered together in one place, and let the dry land appear.” Then was “the voice of the Lord upon the waters,” when God commanded a division in them, and, on their division, their retirement into one place, to the caverns of the earth, so that the earth may be habitable. That voice or command of God is called thunder; for, as thunder prostrates and makes us submit and obey, so, at the command of God, the waters retired, and betook themselves into lower places. This voice and thunder of God “was upon the waters,” because at that time water covered the whole surface of the earth, and there was, therefore, an immense abyss of water on the earth. This is more clearly described in Psalm 103, where he says, “The deep, like a garment, is its clothing; above the mountains shall the waters stand;” that is, the earth was covered all over by an immense body of water, so as even to cover the mountains. “At thy rebuke they shall flee; at the voice of thy thunder they shall fear. The mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which thou hast founded for them;” that is, at God’s command the waters retired as they would from a thunderbolt; and then there appeared the mountains raised up and the plains depressed. “Thou hast set bounds to them which they shall not pass over; neither shall they return to cover the earth.” At the voice of the Lord, not only have the waters retired and left the earth dry and habitable, but by reason of the same voice, a limit has been put to them which they will never dare to transgress. Another interpretation refers this passage to the beginning of the preaching of the gospel, which had its first rise when God, on the baptism of Christ in the Jordan, announced to the whole world that Jesus Christ was his Son, which is, as it were, the compendium of the Gospel. “The voice of the Lord on the waters” would then mean that magnificent declaration of God, on the baptism of Christ, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And then “The God of majesty thundered, and thundered upon many waters,” because then was instituted baptism, and all the waters of the world got the power of regenerating the children of God.

4 The praise here attributed to God’s voice can be well applied to either interpretation. For the voice of the Lord, in the first stages of creation, ordering the waters to divide, to betake themselves to the lower caverns of the earth, never to return, was not an empty or idle command, or without producing its effect; as thunder, that, generally speaking, does no more than make a great noise, but was full of nerve, efficacious and glorious, and produced the effect required. So also the voice of the Gospel, intoned by God himself, taken up by Christ and his apostles, was not an empty parade of words, like that of many philosophers and orators, but was most effective, being confirmed by signs and miracles. The efficacy of the preaching is conveyed in the words, “in power;” the splendor and glory of the miracles, in the word, “magnificence,” as St. Paul has it, 1 Cor. 2, “My preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the showing of the spirit and power;” and, 1 Thess. chap. 1, “For our gospel hath not been to you in word only, but in power also, and in the Holy Ghost.”

5 According to the first interpretation, the prophet passes now from the action of God upon the waters to his action on the air; and he tells us that “the voice of the Lord,” namely, his orders, raise the winds and the storms, which, in Psalm 118, he calls, “Stormy winds which fulfill his word.” How wonderful is God’s power! that can give such force and strength to a thing apparently so weak and feeble, that will, in one moment, tear up and lay prostrate the largest trees, that many men could not accomplish in many days. He quotes “cedars,” and the “cedars of Libanus,” they being the largest, deepest rooted, and longest lived trees in the world. According to the second explanation, the cedars of Libanus are those high people who, by reason of their power, their wisdom, or their eloquence, are so very high in their own estimation; or, in reference to the fragrance of the cedar, those people who are entirely devoted to pleasure and gluttony; or, in reference to density of foliage and endurance, those who are perverse and obstinate in error. All such cedars will be broken to pieces by the preaching of the Gospel, and brought down to Christian mildness and humility, and to the bringing forth fruits worthy of penance. History abounds in such examples.

6 According to the first explanation, the meaning of this passage is very easy and very beautiful, when explained through the Hebrew, and it means, The voice of the Lord will not only break the cedars of Libanus, but will even tear up entire cedars from the roots, and make them bound like so many calves. And not only the calves, but even the mountains themselves, will be made to bound like a young unicorn. Similar to it is the expression in Psalm 113, “The mountains skipped like rams, and the hills like the lambs of sheep.” According to the second interpretation, the meaning would be, The sound of the Gospel will not only break the cedars of Libanus, that is, men, however proud and high they may be, and bring them down to the humility of the Christian religion; but will even tear up the same cedars from the roots, and make them bound to another place; that is, will entirely detach them from all earthly affections, and bring them to nearly an angelic life; a thing clearly carried out in the apostles, who became so religious and so perfect upon earth, as to appear more like Angels than like men. And it is not one isolated cedar, but a whole forest of them, that the preaching of the gospel causes to bound and leap; that means, that it is not an individual or two that will be brought to faith, religion, and perfection, but whole masses and congregations. “And as the beloved sons of unicorns,” a most graceful animal in its movements, light and agile; such will be the avidity of all tribes and nations to obey the Gospel. According to the second interpretation, the meaning would be, The preaching of the Gospel will not only humble the powerful and the wise, but it will break them into pieces, and make them as small as a calf on Libanus. By the calf we properly understand Christ, who was not only humble and mild as a suckling calf, but was also offered up in sacrifice to God. “And as the beloved sons of unicorns;” that means, when those proud cedars of Libanus shall have been destroyed, the beloved Christ, the most beloved of his father, the desired of all nations, will appear, no longer the helpless calf, but the son of a most valiant unicorn. The majesty of God and the omnipotence of Christ then began for the first time to show itself, when, through the preaching of the fishermen, the orators, the philosophers, nay, the very kings of the world, began to believe in Christ. On the strength of the unicorn, see Job 36:7.

7 The prophet now passes from the action of God on the air to his action on the fire, and says, “His voice,” that is, his power and authority, “divideth the flames of fire,” which he does when, at his command, the thunderbolts of heaven, the most destructive and dreadful weapons that can be used against man, issue, as it were, from the forges of heaven, and are “divided,” to intimate how sharp and acute they are, as Moses expresses, when he makes the Lord say, “If I shall whet my sword as lightning.” According to the second interpretation, the voice of the Lord is the preaching of the Gospel, which divides the flames of fire, because the Holy Ghost sends various shafts in various ways through the hearts of men; and it was in such “cloven tongues, as it were of fire,” that the Holy Ghost settled on the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

8 His action on the earth is now the subject. The Hebrew for shaking implies more than mere shaking; it implies a shaking, previous to parturition, or the production of something. Thus, God’s wonderful power is brought out when he appears to be able not only to lay waste and denude the forests of Libanus, and make it a desert; but when he can from the very desert call up trees and animals, making it thus to shake with parturition. We have something like this idea in Psalm 106, “He hath turned rivers into a wilderness: a fruitful land into barrenness. He hath turned a wilderness into pools of water. And hath placed there the hungry: and they made a city for their habitation. And they sowed fields, and planted vineyards.” According to the second interpretation, the meaning would be, The barbarians who were, up to that time, so backward in the cultivation of their souls, and in the grace of God, so that, compared to other nations, they might have been called deserted, would also he brought to the light of the Gospel.

9 According to the first interpretation, the prophet, having praised God’s power in all the elements, water, air, fire, and earth, turns now to animals and plants, and afterwards to man. “The voice of the Lord prepareth the stags.” See God’s dealing with them! Job, chap. 39, tells us they bring forth their young with the greatest difficulty, and the reason seems to be that they bring them forth in a most perfect state, so that the moment they leave the mother’s womb they go to pasture, and never more trouble the mother, as we read in the same passage. “Preparing the stags,” then, means helping them in their difficult parturition, through which they could never pass, had not Providence mercifully helped them through it. “And he will discover the thick woods.” In the Hebrew it is, “Will open the woods,” and the meaning is, that nothing can be concealed or hidden from God, for he penetrates everything, acts upon everything, not only on animals, but on plants and trees, and men, too; and, therefore, he follows up by, “And in his temple all shall speak his glory.” All creatures in the universe, for the universe is God’s temple, will praise and glorify him.

According to the second interpretation, it would be thus, “The voice of the Lord prepareth the stags.” The preaching of the Gospel prepares devoted souls, aiming at perfection, and blasting with their spirit the poisoned serpents, to produce wonderful things; for what can be more wonderful, or more surprising, than for a weak, infirm man to do any thing deserving of life everlasting. And since the voice of the Lord causes such wonderful works, it will, therefore, “Discover the thick woods;” that is, on the day of judgment, “It will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart,” 1 Cor. 4; and then will God’s justice appear in that great theatre or temple, and will be recognized by the wicked, as well as by the just; for then will “Every knee be bent to Christ;” and all, whether with or against their will, shall exclaim, “Thou art just, O Lord, and right is thy judgment;” and thus, “All in his temple shall speak his glory.”

10 According to the first interpretation, the meaning is, that a reason is assigned here for all things giving glory to God, for “He maketh the flood to dwell;” he pours out his wholesome rain in such abundance on the earth, as to supply all the vegetable world with nutrition, which, in their turn, give support to animal life; and “the Lord shall sit king forever;” for it is he that guides, governs, and directs all these matters.

According to the second interpretation, when the Lord, on the day of judgment, shall have “discovered the thick woods,” and his justice shall have been praised by all, then he will “make a flood to dwell,” inundating the wicked with all manner of evils; and thus, all resistance being broken down, the whole power of demons, bad men, and all power in general being swept away, “the Lord shall sit King forever.” Some will have the flood here spoken of to refer to the deluge, others to baptism; and those who so explain it being of great weight and high position, I will not contradict them. “The Lord will give strength to his people: the Lord will bless his people with peace.”

The conclusion of the Psalm, in which, according to the first interpretation, having praised God for his dealings with all the inferior things and creatures of the world, he now praises him for “giving strength to his people;” nerve and strength to subdue all their enemies, and then to rest in profound and undisturbed peace. According to the second interpretation, herein is a promise of “strength” to resist temptation in this our pilgrimage, and a “Blessing;” namely, everlasting life in the world to come. Some pious people have remarked the significance of the words, the “Voice of the Lord,” being repeated exactly seven times in this chapter, and that this has reference to the seven Sacraments. Thus, the voice of the Lord “On the waters” alludes to Baptism; “In power,” confirmation, “In magnificence,” the Eucharist; “Breaking the cedars”, Penance; “Shaking the desert,” Orders; “Dividing the flame of fire;” Matrimony; “Prepareth the stags,” Extreme Unction.

Table of Contents

Psalm 29


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David, now established on his throne, after fortifying the citadel of Sion, and the city having been called after his name, finally, having built a most magnificent palace, and acknowledging God to be the author of so many favors, offers him the tribute of praise, saying, “I will extol thee, O Lord.” Exalted as thou art incapable of being more exalted; yet, to those who are not so fully cognizant of thy greatness, I will, as far as in me lies, by my preaching, “extol thee,” so that all may acknowledge thee to be the supreme Lord of all. “For thou hast upheld me,” raised me from nothing, from the lowest depths, even to the throne of thy kingdom. You have extolled me and I will therefore extol you; attributing my exaltation, not to my own merits, but to your greatness; you have exalted me, and I will humble myself in order to exalt you. “And hast not made my enemies to rejoice over me.” The consequence of such exaltation was, that his enemies, who were most numerous, and were for a long time seeking for his death, got no reason to be glad of his death, which they most eagerly looked for; but, on the contrary, had much source of grief at his exaltation, which with all their might they sought to obstruct.

In a prophetic sense, David speaks in the person of Christ; and of all the elect in general, as well as in particular, who, he foresaw, would be exalted in the kingdom of heaven, himself included. “I will extol thee, O Lord, for thou hast upheld me;” that means, how truly, O Lord, internally and externally will I extol thee, for my exaltation has led me to some idea of your immense sublimity; for, from the lowest earth, from the depth of misery, from mortality itself, thou hast raised me up and upheld me to the glory of resurrection and immortality, and thus to a heavenly and everlasting kingdom. “And hast not made my enemies to rejoice over me;” you have not indulged them in their impious desires of effecting my eternal destruction, a thing ardently sought for by the evil spirits in this and in the other world. The Jews, it is true, rejoiced when they extorted the sentence of death against Christ from Pilate; and the wicked not infrequently rejoice when they can deprive their neighbors of their properties, their riches, or even their lives; but their joy is short lived, followed by interminable punishment, so that it may rather be called the dream of joy than the reality of it.

2–3 The prophet brings to his memory how he was angustiated, previous to his getting possession of the kingdom, to show how true was his statement, that “His enemies were not made to rejoice over him.” “O Lord my God, I have cried to thee;” when I was in frequent danger of death, and sick at heart in consequence, you, O my God, have healed me, and so delivered me from impending death, as if you had taken me out of hell itself. “Thou hast saved me from them that go down into the pit;” means the very same, but that it is a little more obscure. The meaning is, You have raised me from the dead, which may with propriety be applied to David, who had suffered such persecution, and was driven to death’s door thereby. In a prophetic sense, it applies literally to Christ. “Thou hast healed me” of the wounds I suffered on the cross. “Brought my soul from hell,” from Limbo, and “saved me” by my resurrection. All the saints can equally exclaim on the last day, “Thou hast healed me,” most completely, in soul and body; “And brought my soul from hell,” for you have not let me into the hell of the damned. “And saved me from them that go down into the pit,” inasmuch as you have given me salvation, and life everlasting. The same idea turns up in Psalm 102, “Who healeth all thy diseases, who redeemeth thy life from destruction.”

4 Looking at the innumerable temporal blessings David had received from God, and the everlasting blessings his saints had received, he thinks it unbecoming in himself alone to thank God, and therefore invites all who had received similar favors to join him in praise. “Give praise to the memory of his holiness” means, praise his holy memory; just as “in his holy mountain” means the mountain of his holiness, by a Hebraism that uses the genitive for the ablative case; and the meaning is, praise him, praise his holy memory, because his remembrance of you was a holy one, a pious one, a paternal one, bent on rewarding you instead of punishing you. And, in truth, it is owing to God’s great goodness alone, which we should ever gratefully bear in mind, that while we, who always need his help, so often forget him, he, who wants nothing from us, should constantly bear us in mind; which he did in a most singular manner, when he sent his only Son to become our Savior; and, therefore, no wonder David should exclaim, in Psalm 8, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?”

5 He assigns a reason for having said that the holy recollection of God ought to be praised, because when God punishes us, he does so by reason of the “indignation” one’s sins provoke, that is, through a strict sense of justice; but in other respects, in his will and election it is to us life, not punishment. By anger then, we understand punishment and chastisement, called anger from its proceeding from anger. By indignation, is to be understood, according to St. Basil, the just judgment of God, “In the evening, weeping shall have place, and in the morning, gladness.” He proves that God’s anger towards the elect is only temporary, because to the lamentation produced by castigation and penance, joy will immediately succeed; and praise and thanksgiving is always connected with forgiveness and reconciliation, for between the evening and morning, that is, between day and night, nothing intervenes. Observe the propriety of attributing grief to the night, joy to the day, because, when we fall into sin, the light of divine grace abandons us; when we get to be reconciled, it comes back to us. Again, our passage through this world, in which we are mourning for our sins, groaning and sighing for our true country, heaven, is our night, in which we have no glimpse of God, the sun of justice; but the life to come, which 1 St. Peter, chap. 1, describes as one in which we shall “Rejoice with an unspeakable and glorified joy,” will be our day, because we shall see God face to face. This was fulfilled to the letter in Christ, who in the evening died in pain and suffering, in the morning rose in triumph and joy.

6 The alternations of anger and of life, of weeping and of gladness, alluded to in general by the prophet in the preceding verses, are now explained in detail; the prophet speaking sometimes in his own person, sometimes in that of the elect. First, speaking of himself, he says, that previous to his being put over the kingdom, such was his wealth, and in such peace did he possess it, that he thought his happiness should be everlasting. He would appear to allude to the time when, after having slain Goliath, he was in the highest favor with the king, the king’s son, and the whole mass of the people, to such an extent, that he was elected to be a tribune, and got the king’s daughter in marriage; and of that time he says, “In my abundance I said:” when I was so fortunate, and had such an abundance of everything, “I shall never be moved.” My happiness seems so firmly established that it must be everlasting.

7 He assigns a reason for his having said, “I shall never be moved;” because you, O my God, givest “strength,” nerve, and power, “to my beauty,” to my happiness; “in thy favor,” because such was your will, wish, and decree. “Thou turned away thy face from me, and I became troubled.” Now come the reverses. In the midst of all the aforesaid happiness, “thou turned away thy face from me;” you allowed me to incur the king’s displeasure, “and I became troubled,” suffered banishment, had to fly, ran several risks of death, and many other misfortunes. All these risks and dangers are more applicable, however, to the elect, in their troubles and peregrinations here below. Any one of the elect can justly say: In my abundance, that is, while God favored me with much grace, and his spiritual favors, I said I will never be moved. So said Peter, one of his principal elect, when he said, “Even though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee.” “O Lord, in thy favor thou gavest strength to my beauty;” that is, my strength was not my own but yours; for the whole beauty of my soul had its rise from the light of your justice and wisdom, and was kept up and maintained by your assistance. “You turned your face away from me.” To punish my presumption, you abandoned me, left me to myself; and, at once, I collapsed, fell, and “became troubled.” As regards Christ, these verses will apply to him, speaking in the person of his Church, his members, or even as speaking in his own person. For, as he said on the cross, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” so he could say, “Thou turned thy face away from me,” not because he was an enemy, but because he seemed to desert him in his passion; and then the meaning would be, “And in my abundance I said:” My human nature, having been endowed with the choicest graces, far and away beyond any other mortal, inasmuch as it was hypostatically united to God, the fountain of all grace, said, “I shall never be moved:” nothing can harm, hurt, or disturb me. “O Lord, in thy favor:” that means, to my beauty and my excellence, already superior to that of all men and Angels, you have added strength and power; that is, the indissoluble tie of the hypostatic union, and that “in thy favor,” which no one can resist. “Thou turned away thy face from me.” Notwithstanding that indissoluble tie of the hypostatic union, and without injuring “the strength of my beauty,” you “turned away your face from me:” from defending me, but it was for the salvation of mankind; and you wished the cup of my most bitter passion not to pass from me, that I may free mankind; therefore, “I became troubled:” began to fear, to grow weary, and to be sad, and I exclaimed, “My soul is sorrowful unto death.” We are not to infer from this that Christ had to suffer anything he did not expect, or of which he had no previous knowledge, for nothing could have injured or have harmed him against his own will; but he suffered the persecutions freely, and thus “troubled” himself. And, as Christ said to his Father, “Thou turned away thy face from me,” so he could say to himself, I have turned away the face of my divinity from helping my humanity, and thus willingly and knowingly I have been troubled.

8–9 These expressions are to be taken in the past, and not in the future tense; a thing not uncommon among the Hebrews. David then, in a historic sense, states that, in the time of his tribulation and danger, he cried out to the Lord, and, among other things, threw out to him, that his death would be of no use to the Lord, for, once dead, he could praise him no more. “To thee, O Lord, will I cry.” When I became troubled, by the aversion of your face from me, I did not despair of your mercy, but “I cried out to thee;” and in terms of deprecation said, “What profit is there in my blood?” That is, what will the spilling of my blood profit you, when my enemies shall have put me to death, and I shall have come to rottenness in the grave? Dust can offer you no tribute of praise. According to a prophetic and higher interpretation it means, that Christ, in his passion, cried out and prayed to the Lord, which was fulfilled at the time he, according to the apostle, Hebrews 5, “With a strong cry and tears, offered up prayers and supplications to him that was able to save him from death.” It was at that time he said, “What profit is there in my blood whilst I go down to corruption?” That is, how will my spilling my blood on the cross conduce to the glory of God or the salvation of mankind, if my body like that of all other mortals, is to rot and perish in the grave? For, as the apostle says, 1 Cor. 15, “If Christ be not risen again your faith is vain;” and Christ himself could not have returned to announce God’s truth to his apostles; nor could poor mortals, who are but dust and ashes, become spiritual, become children of God; to confess to him, and announce his truth to others, that is, the justice and the fidelity of God.

These words may be applied to each of the elect, who, touched with sorrow for having fallen into sin, cried out to God for pardon, that they may be able to confess to him, and announce to other sinners how true he is to his promises.

10 This verse clearly shows that the preceding verses should have been understood in the past instead of the future tense. The prophet asserts here, both in his own person, that of Christ, and that of the elect, that his cry was heard by God.

11 Here is the effect of his having been heard. David, from a wretched exile, becomes a powerful king. Christ rises from the dead, thus gaining a victory over death itself. Every one of the elect, on arriving at their heavenly kingdom from this valley of tears, can most justly exclaim, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into joy, thou hast cut my sack cloth, and hast compassed me with gladness.” You have changed my garb of mourning into that of joy, and you have not taken it simply off, but “hast cut” it, entirely destroyed it, as a sign that I am not to put it on again. The “sack cloth” means that wretched garb of mortality and misery that has been entirely destroyed, of no longer use to the saints, much less to Christ, who, “Rising from the dead, dies no more.”

12 The final end of the glory of Christ and his saints is the praise of God: “Blessed are those who dwell in thy house, forever and ever they will praise thee.” Let my glory, then, not my groans, for fear of death or of sin, sing to thee.

Table of Contents

Psalm 30


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 King David, in his flight from Absalom, destitute of all earthly assistance, appeals to God, and says, “In thee have I hoped,” and I am therefore confident, as you are all powerful, and most true to me, that you will not disappoint me in my hope. Agreeable to such hope, therefore, “Deliver me in thy justice;” that justice that prompts you to punish the wicked and free the just.

2 The persecution was pressing on him; his friends had sent him word to rest in no one place, to continue his flight, unless he chose to be destroyed; and therefore he prays to be heard at once, and to be delivered from the impending danger. “Be thou unto me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge, to save me.” Be like a well protected strong house to me; for there is no fortified place in this champaign country to which I can fly.

3 You are my stronghold to which I will fly for refuge. “And for thy name’s sake thou wilt lead me, and nourish me,” corresponds exactly with David’s history. His flight was so sudden, that he knew not whither to betake himself, nor whence to obtain the necessaries of life, until Providence directed Siba to him, with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred bunches of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs, and a vessel of wine; and he therefore says, “For thy name’s sake,” for the glory of your name, you will lead me to a safe place, and there supply me with provisions.

4 You will not only bring me to a safe place, and there provide for me, but you will also deliver me from the conspiracy, which, like a hidden snare, they have laid for me; alluding, to the conspiracy got up in Hebron against him by Absalom, when he neither dreaded nor even thought of the like.

5 Though full of hope, when he said, “Thou wilt bring me out of this snare,” being not yet quite secure of his life, he adds, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” to your care I entrust my life. And, as you have at other times frequently “redeemed me,” saved me from death, you who are a most true and most faithful God. These expressions lead many to think that the whole Psalm has reference to Christ, by reason of his having, while hanging on the cross, exclaimed, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” But though the Psalm, to the letter, may not be applicable to Christ, the Lord might have taken these words from the Psalm, when he wished to commend his spirit to his Father, just as St. Nicholas, in his last moments, repeated this with the preceding verses; and we, not infrequently, ourselves use them. The words, “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth,” appear to be against the application of the verse to Christ, for, instead of being the redeemed, he is the Redeemer. St. Augustine, attributes the first part of the verse to Christ, the latter to his people; for he is of opinion that the prophet is fond of speaking in the person of different characters—sometimes of Christ, sometimes in that of the people. All right and pious enough, when one is looking for a mystic sense or explanation; but when we look for the literal sense, it does not appear why different persons should be introduced, when there is nothing in the context or the punctuation to call for such change.

6 He assigns another reason for having “commended” his life to the hands of God, because God is wont to hate them who, instead of trusting in him, trust in “vanities,” that can afford them no possible help. “Thou hast hated them that regard vanities to no purpose;” those who regard dreams or omens, or the responses of demons, as Saul did, when he consulted the pythoness. Under the word “vanities,” may also be included those who, relying on human industry, craft, cunning, human aid or help to the exclusion of the divine help and counsel; all of which are vain and useless; and he, therefore, adds the words “to no purpose,” for all such exertions are, in reality, “to no purpose.” “But I have hoped in the Lord:” not so with me, I hoped in none, in nothing but God.

7–8 As “I hoped in the Lord,” I will “be glad and rejoice in thy mercy,” for the Divine mercy never deserts those who hope in him. “For thou hast regarded.” He brings up past favors, in the hope that, by his acknowledgment of them, he may obtain fresh ones. “I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy,” for I have a pledge of it in my deliverance from Saul; for then you “regarded my humility,” my abjection, and affliction; and then you “saved my soul” from the troubles that surrounded me, and from which I could not extricate myself. “And thou hast not shut me up in the hands of the enemy;” you did not allow Saul, who sought my death, to accomplish his purpose; but “thou hast set my feet in a spacious place;” you freed me from the troubles that encompassed me, and placed me, free and disembarrassed, as it were, on an open plain; at liberty to go about at pleasure.

9 Bearing past favors in mind, he prays for future ones, and relates his misfortunes. “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” As you have had mercy on me in former tribulations, have mercy now, too; for tribulation has again set in on me; and here they are, “My eye is troubled with wrath.” Whose wrath? God’s or his own? I rather think, with St. Augustine, God’s; for, it is clear, from the First and Second Book of Kings, that David, in all his persecutions, never burst into wrath, but was always most mild and most patient; and I, therefore, take the meaning to be, “in thy wrath,” in which you punish me for my sins, “my eye is troubled;” my corporeal eye has grown dim with my tears; or, the eye of my soul has grown dark: “my soul,” too, is confused, for it has been fearfully frightened; so also has been “my belly,” the very interior of my soul; that is, my memory; the receptacle of my thoughts. Thus the prophet makes brief allusion to the functions of the soul eye representing the intellect; the soul, the will; and the belly, the memory.

10 David, being now an old man, could justly say, “For my life is wasted with grief:” was spent in constant trouble and “sighs.” In the first thirty years of his life his troubles were innumerable. On being made king, for seven years he had to wage war against the descendants of Saul; he then had various wars with neighboring kingdoms; then with his own son. Then, the very care of a kingdom, to one who wishes to govern it conscientiously, is enough to “waste” one, and make them “sigh.” “My strength is weakened through poverty.” In addition to all his other afflictions, he has lost his strength. The first and last members of this sentence are synonymous; they mean the same thing: “my strength is weakened,” is the same as “my bones are disturbed;” for bones stand for health, power, strength. That was literally the case with David. He had to fly, without any provision whatever, to the most desert places; not only on foot, but even barefooted; and there to remain until relieved by his friends.

11 Another misfortune, consequent on his notorious persecution, the neighboring people, “enemies” of his, having heard of his base flight, began to despise him. His “acquaintances,” too began to fear that Absalom, should he succeed, may wreak his vengeance on them for having proved friendly to David. “They that saw me without;” an explanation of a fear to my acquaintance. Many of my acquaintance, when they saw me an outcast and afflicted, “Fled from me,” ran, fearing for their lives, should they be found to have come near me; and thus,

12 Their heart neither remembers me nor thinks of me, no more than if I were dead and buried, for they consider I am just as if such had been the case with me. “I am become as a vessel that is destroyed.” My friends and acquaintances have not only abandoned and forgotten me; but even the people around me despise and look down upon me, as they would upon a broken vessel, of no use or value, which is evident from the abuse they heap upon me. He evidently alludes here to Semei’s abuse, who, not content with abusing him, sought to stone him; looking upon him as an outcast and an exile, and as a broken vessel, that should be thrown into the sewer. And though the Scripture makes mention of Semei alone abusing him, it is probable that others did the same, and that they are here alluded to, when he says, “I have heard the blame of many.”

13 After the abuse of Semei, a conspiracy was entered into, in the presence of Absalom, to take David’s life, which is here alluded to. I am abused to my face; behind my back a conspiracy is entered into at Jerusalem to have my life.

14 The holy soul, in all his troubles, shows he did not despond, because he did not put his trust in the fallacious help of man, but in the all powerful God, whom no one can resist. “But I have put my trust in thee, O Lord.” Why? Because “I said” in my heart, “Thou art my God.” I have a great protector, without whose consent no one can take my life, because,

15 My life does not depend on lot or chance, but depends on your will and power. “Deliver me out of the hands of my enemies.” The meaning is quite plain, and needs no explanation.

16–17 The same petition renewed, but with additional arguments, calculated to move God to mercy. “Make thy face to shine upon thy servant;” that means, show me your face, or look on me, which is the same. For as God, when he is angry with us by reason of our sins, is said to turn away his face, or to put a cloud between him and us, and not to look on us; so, on the contrary, when he is reconciled, he is said to turn his face to us to regard us, and make “it shine upon us, so as to make us, too, a mass of light. He, therefore, first asks to be reconciled to God, in case he should have been angry with him; and assigns as a reason, his being a servant most ready at all times to do God’s behest and commands. He then adds, “Save me,” which is only the consequence of reconciliation; and to move him thereto, he adds, “In thy mercy,” not through my merits, but through your own pure mercy; and he adds a third argument, “Let me not be confounded, for I have called upon thee.” For it is the duty of a good and faithful master, who has promised to help those that confide in him, not to suffer one who so unceasingly and so confidently invoked him to be confounded. “Let the wicked be ashamed, and be brought down to hell.”

A prophetic imprecation, and one fulfilled immediately after; for Achitophel, the principal minister of Absalom, who had advised the most impious proceeding against David, was so confused, on his plans being defeated by divine Providence, and being unable to bear up against the confusion consequent thereon, hanged himself; and thus, “The wicked became ashamed, and was brought down to hell.”

18 Achitophel’s lips are called deceitful, because for a long time he pretended to be the fast friend of David; but the moment he got the opportunity, he betrayed his perfidy. “Which speak against the just;” against David, who had offered no injury to either Achitophel or to Absalom; and they spoke “Iniquity;” gave advice full of injustice, “With pride and abuse;” that is, with the greatest contempt and arrogance.

19 The holy prophet, feeling that he had been heard, and having felt a gleam of heavenly consolation, exclaims in admiration, as above. The verse may be thus explained. In the time of tribulation, God conceals the “Multitude of his sweetness;” that is, the unbounded rewards he has in store for the just, in order to prove them; but in a little time after he displays those very prizes and rewards, “In the sight of the sons of men,” that his servants may learn from thence to have greater hope in him. Thus, for a time he concealed his sweetness from David, while he was flying from his son’s persecution; but soon after he displayed the extent of his goodness to him, when he restored his kingdom to him in the greatest triumph. The very same thing happens to all the just, whose reward is now hid, but will appear to all on the day of judgment. It may be interpreted differently; thus, Truly manifold are the consolations, O Lord, that you pour into the inmost recesses of the hearts of those that fear you—that fear you with a filial, fond, and loving, not a servile, fear. For this is “The hidden manna which no man knoweth but he that receiveth it.” Such as was felt by David, when, in Psalm 93, he said, “According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy comforts have given joy to my soul.” And, as St. Paul, 2 Cor. 7, says, “I am filled with comfort, I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.” And if, in time of tribulation, such be the “Multitude of the sweetness” in the heart of the exile, who can conceive the amount of the joy in his heart when his triumph shall have been accomplished! “Which thou hast wrought for them that hope in thee, in the sight of the sons of men.” The sweetness “Thou hast wrought” for those who refuse all consolation but yours is perfect, most copious, most abundant; and all this “In the sight of the sons of men;” that is, in spite of them all, before their face; because the more pain they inflict externally, the more consolations you multiply internally. This sweetness is infused into the hearts of the just, “In the sight of the sons of men,” in another way, when the sons of men, who persecute the children of God, see what and how they suffer; for, carnal as they are, with the palate of their soul infected by sin, they cannot feel, nor even have an idea of the sweetness, though they see its effects in the meekness, patience, nay, even hilarity and peace of the just; and thus, their sweetness is, to a certain extent, hidden in the sight of the sons of men, though its effects are apparent.

20 He gives a description of the manner in which the just feel the sweetness of God in the day of tribulation; for, by love and contemplation, they are carried up to God; and in him find a house of refuge, as he says in this very Psalm, “Be thou unto me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge;” for those who know how to take refuge in God, think as little of all manner of tribulation as if it did not at all belong to them. “Thou shalt hide them,” those that fear thee, “In the secret of thy face;” in that hidden place, that is, in thy face; for the soul wrapt up in contemplation, feeling that God is attentively looking on it, observant of God’s slightest expression, burning with love at the idea of God’s beauty that is lodged, in dwelling, proof against “The disturbance of men;” that is, from all manner of evil that usually disturbs man. “Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle;” the same just will be protected in the very house in which yourself is lodged, for God has no house capable of containing him, he is his own house; and those who, in love and contemplation, dwell in God, “Make the Most High their refuge. No evil shall come to them, nor shall the scourge come near their dwelling,” as it is beautifully expressed in Psalm 90. In this tabernacle they are protected, not only from evil doers, as was explained in the preceding verse, but also from evil speakers, for such is the meaning of “The contradiction of tongues,” for they who can call upon God as a witness, care little for what man can say. And if the face of the Lord be such a retreat and a refuge to the elect, in the time when he is seen only “Through a glass in an obscure manner,” how will matters be when we shall see him as he really is? Then truly will our dwelling be in Jerusalem, the vision of peace, of which is written, in Psalm 147, “Who hath placed peace in thy borders.”

21 He now applies to himself, as being one of the just, what he had said in general, touching the consolation they feel in their troubles, and thanks God for it. “Blessed be the Lord, for his wonderful mercy to me in a fortified city,” because he “So hid me in the secret of his face,” which is like “a fortified city,” that my enemies could do me no harm.

22 He accuses himself of the despondence he was in when his persecution commenced. When I was almost idiotic through fear, I said to myself, “I am cast away from before thy eyes;” that is, you wish me no longer to govern; or no longer to live, as appears from your withholding that look of benignity and kindness, and that help with which you were wont to countenance me. As we read, in 2 Kings 15, of David, “If I shall find grace in the sight of the Lord, he will bring me again. If he shall say to me, Thou pleasest me not, I am ready, let him do that which is good before him.”

23–24 He now encourages all pious people, similarly suffering, not to cease loving God, and putting their trust in him; for, though the wicked may seem to persecute them with impunity for a while, they will ultimately suffer the bitterest punishment for it.

Table of Contents

Psalm 31


Explanation Of The Psalm

1–2 No one can fairly appreciate the value of health until they have had to deplore the loss of it. It was only when David tasted of the bitterness of sin that he first began to feel the sweetness of innocence. Hence, this Penitential Psalm starts in the praise of pardon and innocence; for they heal the soul, and are opposed to that sickness that is brought on by sin. He begins with pardon, as well for the sake of advancing from the inferior to the superior, as also, because it was only very lately his health had been restored. “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven.” How happy are they, who, notwithstanding their fall, are, still, not despised by God; but, roused by his grace, are converted to penance, and thus obtain pardon. “And whose sins are covered;” the same idea in different language; for sins, when forgiven, are covered and hidden, so as to appear no more; on which we shall presently have more to say. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin.” A transition from pardon, which applies to the many, to innocence, which belongs to the few, exclaiming, O truly happy and lucky he; who has done nothing that can be counted sin; and to whom, therefore, the Lord, who is most just in his judgments, “hath not imputed sin.” And not only has been free from actual sin, but even “in whose spirit there is no guile;” never committed sin in thought or word; for the word “Spirit” embraces both; that is, thought and words, in the former sense, being called the heart or the mind; and, in the latter sense, the spirit of the mouth or lips. Of the former, the apostle speaks, 1 Cor 2, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man, that is in him?” Of the latter, 1 Cor. 14, “I will pray in the spirit, I will pray also with the understanding: I will sing with the spirit, I will also sing with the understanding.” By innocence, we are to understand here, not the natural innocence, without the intervention of divine grace, which is of no effect; but, that innocence which God, by a gift of singular grace, has given to a few; through which the sin committed by others, namely, original sin, is so condoned, as not to suffer them, voluntarily, to commit any mortal sin; and this is the highest order of forgiveness. All manner of innocence, then, has a certain amount of remission of sin in connection with it; and of all, with the exception of Christ, it may be said, “They all sinned, and need the grace of God.” St. Paul, therefore, quotes this passage to prove that nobody could be justified by any works, but those springing from grace; and says, Rom. 4, “But to him that worketh not, yet believeth in him who justifieth the impious, his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God.” As David also termeth the blessedness of a man, to whom God reputeth justice without works; “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin.” From which it would appear that the Apostle understands the prophet to say, that they are not blessed who, by their own strength, work out justice; but they, who, through God’s grace, have been pardoned; and thus acquired justice. The prophet seems to have particular individuals in view here. Job, for instance, who says, in chap. 27, “Till I die I will not depart from my innocence. My justifications which I have begun to hold, I will not forsake: for my heart doth not reprehend me in all my life.” Abel, Henoch, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who are said in the Scriptures to have been free from sin, come under this head; and, perhaps, in spirit, he foresaw Jeremias. Both John the Baptist, sanctified in the womb, and the Virgin Mother, by a higher privilege, preserved not only from actual, but even from original sin. Heretics of the present day seek to prove three false dogmas from these verses. The Psalm has the title of understanding; the Holy Ghost, perhaps, having foreseen it would be so misunderstood. They assert that justification consists solely in the remission of sin, and not in the infusion of justice; from David having absolutely said, “Blessed are they whose sins are forgiven.” They say also, that this remission of sins is not a real, but an apparent remission, which does not actually remove the sins, but covers them, hides them, and renders them not imputable. They furthermore assert, from this passage, that once the sin is forgiven, no satisfaction need follow; for, if God exact even temporal punishment of the person justified, how can he be said not to impute sin? How can he be said not to impute while he punishes?

The holy prophet, however, who chose for a title to the Psalm that of understanding, clearly understood that God remitted no sin whatever without an infusion of his justice, and understood that thereby men from being wicked became, not only not wicked, but truly just; for, as the sun cannot expel the darkness without pouring in his light, so the sun of justice, and the Father of Men does not forgive sin but through the grace or justice which he pours into them; and therefore St. Paul, quoting this very passage, says, “As David also termeth the blessedness of a man to whom God reputeth justice without works,” from which words of the Apostle may be clearly inferred, that justice is really and truly included in the remission or nonimputation of sin. Both errors are easily refuted by an explanation of the words, “covered,” and “not imputed.” Sins are said here to be “covered,” not that they exist though covered and hidden from us, but because they are entirely destroyed, and grace has taken their place, and thus they are truly covered, so that even God, from whom nothing can be hidden, cannot see them; and thus the prophet uses various metaphors, to signify the remission of sins, so that the deficiency of explanation in one, may be supplied by another. The most remarkable occurs in Psalm 50, where he says, “Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.” Here the forgiveness of sins is said not merely to cover the stain and to hide it, but really to wash it, and to wash it in such a way as even to make it white even whiter than snow. What means, then, the removal of a stain, and the increasing its whiteness, but the removal of sin, and the infusion of grace? What means the substitution of light for darkness, but the removal of sin, and substitution of justice? We have the same in Isaias, chap. 1, “If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; and if they be as red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.” All the holy fathers so understand this passage, for they say the sins are covered, not that they remain, though they don’t appear; but that they are entirely removed, and do not appear, because they are not there; just as a plaster not only hides the wound but even removes it. As to the word “imputed,” our adversaries are quite mistaken. In the Scripture, it means, that we will not be held accountable, as we read in Wisdom 12, “Or who shall accuse thee, (impute to thee.) if the nations perish which thou hast made;” that is, who can bring you to an account, if all mankind be lost? who will bring you in guilty? In Ezechiel, chap. 33, God says of the penitent sinner, “None of his sins which he had committed, shall be imputed to him,” that he shall not be brought to an account for them; and in 2 Paralip. 30, “The Lord, who is good, will show mercy to all them who with their whole heart seek the Lord God of their fathers, and will not impute it to them that they are not sanctified;” meaning that he will easily pardon, will not be over strict in settling with them, by reason of their being more or less unprepared. Job 42 has “That folly may not be imputed to you;” and in 2 Tim. 4, “But all forsook me; may it not be laid to their charge;” that is, imputed to them; and in his Epistle to Philemon, “And if he hath wronged thee in anything or is in thy debt, put it to my account, (impute it to me,) I will repay it;” that is, charge me with it, I wish to be your debtor thereon. Now, sin can be said to be not imputed in two ways. First, when one has committed no sin, in reality owes nothing, and in such sense we understand that passage of the Book of Wisdom, already quoted, “Who shall impute it to thee if the nations perish which thou hast made.” For though all mankind were to perish, God would not have been the cause, and therefore it could not be imputed to him. In a similar sense we have explained this expression of David, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin;” that is, who has willfully done no evil to make him a debtor and a culprit before God. Secondly, if the sins have been condoned and forgiven, so that there now remains nothing to be imputed, in which sense many interpret this passage, as if the prophet were to say, Blessed is the man whom God will not call to account for his sins, because they have been already condoned and forgiven; which exposition we do not reject, though we prefer the first, because it agrees better with the following words, “And in whose spirit there is no guile.” The third mode of imputation devised by the heretics is, that though the sin remains in the soul of the sinner, still it is not considered or looked upon as sin by God, a notion having nothing in Scripture to support it, but even totally disproved by the Scripture; for when it says in various places, especially in Psalm 5, “Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity, thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie;” and if he hears and wishes to destroy all the wicked, he certainly must impute sin to them, so long as they remain in that state. Who can imagine that God, the just judge, who has no regard of persons, will not impute sin but justice, at the very time the unfortunate is wallowing in the mire of sin; so that whatever he may do, according to the Lutherans, is a sin. St. Justin, Martyr, in his dialogue with Tripto, in refuting an error, similar to that of the Lutherans, says, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin;” that is, to the penitent, whose sins God hath forgiven; and not in the sense that you erroneously preach up, that is, that the mere knowledge of God will get forgiveness for you, however numerous your sins may be. What we have stated of the nonimputation of sin, may be applied also to the imputation of justice. For, in the Scripture, the imputation of justice does not mean the reputing one to be just, when he really is not just, but it means the being reputed just by God, who is infallible. That expression in Genesis, “Abraham believed in God, and it was reputed to him unto justice,” quoted by St. Paul, Rom. 4, and St. James, chap. 2, signifies nothing more than the act of faith by Abraham was a just work, and considered as such by God. That passage in Psalm 105, “Then Phinees stood up and pacified him, and the slaughter ceased. And it was reputed to him unto justice to generation and generation for evermore.” What does it mean, but that the zeal of Phinees, in destroying certain sinners, was a most meritorious act, was considered as such by God, so much so, that the priesthood was secured to him, to his sons, and posterity for a number of years after in consequence. Of the same import is that expression in Rom. 4, “Now, to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt.” What does that mean, but that the reward is justly due to him that does a work worthy of reward. And what the Apostle frequently repeats in the same chapter, that “faith was reputed unto justice,” does not mean that faith was not actually, but was merely reputed justice; but it means, that faith working by charity was the very purest justice; not acquired by works previous to grace, but the gift and the infusion of God, and therefore reputed and accepted by God as true justice. The nonimputation of sin, then, does not mean that sin remains though not punished, but it signifies that there is nothing in the justified that can be accounted sin. Hence it can be seen how easily solved are the objections of the Lutherans on satisfaction; for if sin be not imputed by reason of the innocence of one’s life, no wonder that no satisfaction should be required of him that has done nothing to deserve it: but if the sin be not imputed by reason of pardon through grace, then the eternal punishment will not follow, but the temporal will, as we see happened David, to whom the prophet said, “The Lord also hath taken away thy sin; thou shalt not die: nevertheless, because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, for this thing, the child that is born to thee shall surely die.” Here we see that the sin was not imputed to his own death, but to the death of his son; that David was justified, and yet he had to suffer much in the death of his son, as a punishment for the sin he had committed.

3 Having thus put the happiness of the just before us, he deplores his own wretchedness thus, Happy they, but wretched me, who have not only lost my innocence, but put off, for an indefinite time, the asking pardon of my sins, and when I did at length avow them, began to cry out so constantly, that my bones were ground and weakened, my whole strength consumed and wasted. “Because I was silent;” and a long time he was silent; for he not only did not avow his crime of adultery, but he sought by all means to stifle all knowledge of it. He first used all endeavors to induce Urias to cohabit with his wife, that the child begot by himself may be looked upon as the child of Urias; failing in that, he committed murder, in the hope that by marrying Urias’s widow at once, any issue there might be should be considered as begotten after, and not previous to, the death of Urias. And, even after his marriage, he did not repent of his sin he waited for the birth of the child; and even then showed no symptoms of repentance until the prophet Nathan aroused him. Thus, for nearly a year, or longer, did he wallow in the mire of sin, and put off his conversion. He, therefore, says, “Because I was silent.” Did not confess my sin at once, sought to hide and conceal it; therefore, “My bones grew old whilst I cried out all the day long.” When I did avow my sin, I cried out so long and so bitterly, that my very bones got weak and old.

4 David suffered many misfortunes in punishment of his sins. The child born in adultery died an infant: his daughter Thamar was deflowered by her own brother, Amon: the same Amon was slain by his brother Absalom; and Absalom himself, in rebellion against his father, was slain, all matters of deep sorrow and grief to David; and it is to those scourges he alludes, when he says, “For day and night thy hand was heavy on me:” constantly, without ceasing, you laid on me. “I am turned in my anguish, whilst the thorn is fastened.” The scourge has been so severe, the thorn of tribulation has stuck so deep in me, that I have been brought to reflect on the enormity of my sins.

5 His conversion brought him to a true knowledge of his sins, which he seeks no longer to conceal, but to proclaim before God and man. “I have acknowledged,” does not imply that God did not know them previously. The judge, who has seen the accused committing the crime, knows he did the act, still he does not know it judicially until the culprit shall have pleaded guilty, or it shall have been proved by evidence. Thus, God saw David, saw him sinning, but wanting him to plead guilty, he applied the scourge, and then David did plead guilty, and said, not only, “I have sinned before the Lord,” which, previous to those scourges, he said to Nathan in private; but now, in public, he makes it known to the whole world, through this Psalm; and, therefore, most justly adds, “And my injustice I have not concealed. I said I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord, and thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sin.” To the comfort and consolation of all penitents, he enters into the unspeakable dealings of God in his mercy with himself. For, though God, “Who is light, and in whom there is no darkness,” has the most intense horror of the darkness of sinners, and is ready to cast the sinner into “external darkness” and everlasting punishment if he do not repent, is yet so ready to forgive when the penitent is sincere, that by his mercy and his clemency, he goes before or anticipates the confession or acknowledgment of our sins. He appears to refer to the time when Nathan, with God’s authority, upbraided him with his sins, and he at once, in a spirit of compunction, replied, “I have sinned;” and Nathan said, “The Lord also hath taken away thy sin, thou shalt not die.” Seeing the pardon so quickly granted, he considered, as was the fact, that the sin must have been forgiven before he confessed at all, but not before he had become internally contrite, which contrition embraced hatred of sin, love of God, and a desire of confessing, and making satisfaction. “I said I will confess.” In the bitterness of my heart I said, I will at once confess “against myself my injustice;” declare myself a culprit and a criminal, which you hardly waited for, as at once, with the clemency and the kindness of a father, “Thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sin;” as Nathan announced when he said, “The Lord also hath taken away thy sin.”

6 The prophet now asserts that many will follow his example, and from it learn to have recourse to God, to ask pardon for their sins, and thus to be delivered from the great evils consequent on sin. The meaning is, As you so mercifully pardon those who do penance, “every one that is holy,” every pious person that is truly holy, truly penitent, and, having begun to hate sin, seeks to enter into the love of you, “shall pray to thee,” and will have confidence in their prayers, and that “in a seasonable time,” before the time of mercy shall have passed away; while we are here below, while God invites us to penance. “Seek the Lord while he can be found; invoke him while he is near,” says Isaias. The second part of the verse has a double meaning; one is, Every one that is holy shall pray to thee in a seasonable time, that “in the flood of many waters, they shall not come nigh unto him;” that is, that on the day of judgment, when all manner of punishments shall pour down upon the wicked like a deluge, and the opportune season of prayer and penance shall have passed, that then they may be saved from such punishments. This appears very clear in the Hebrew. The second meaning is, “Every one that is holy shall pray to thee in a seasonable time,” and will act well and wisely in doing so; because, “in the flood of many waters,” when the wicked shall be inundated with calamities, as the earth was with water in the time of Noe, then the wicked “shall not come nigh unto him;” that is, to God, having let their opportunity pass.

7 Having obtained remission of the sin, he now asks for remission of the punishment due to it; namely, his deliverance from the tribulation brought on him by the sin. He seems to allude to the persecution he was suffering from his son Absalom, of which he had said so much in the previous Psalm. Alludes also, perhaps, to the temptations of the evil spirits, that perpetually surround and harass us. “Thou art my refuge from the trouble which hath encompassed me.” My friends have deserted me, my enemies hem me in and surround me on all sides, and I, therefore, have no certain refuge but in thy mercy, O God; you alone, then, are “my joy,” the cause of it, and deliver me, therefore, from them.

8 The Lord answers his prayer, and promises him the help he sought. He promises him three things. First, interior prudence, to enable him to guard against the snares of his enemies, and to distinguish them from his friends; that is conveyed in the words, “I will give thee understanding;” I will make thee intelligent and prudent. Secondly, the outward assistance of the singular providence of God, without which even the most prudent get into the greatest difficulties, and that is conveyed in the words, “I will instruct thee in this way in which thou shalt go.” Thirdly, perseverance in grace, which is the greatest favor of all, and peculiarly belongs to the elect. “I will fix my eyes upon thee;” I will not take them off you, but I will steadily and constantly look upon you with an eye of benignity, so that you shall never need the internal aid of prudence, or the external protection of providence.

9 The prophet now exhorts all, both good and bad, to learn from his example the evils consequent on sin, and the blessings to be derived from penance and virtue, he having tasted of both. Turning to the wicked first, he says, “Do not become like the horse and the mule, who have no understanding.” Endowed with reason, but not guided by your animal propensities; be not like the horse and the mule in your licentious desires, as I was; be not like the horse and the mule, in tearing and lashing at your fellow creatures, as I have been in regard of Urias. “With bit and bridle bind fast their jaws, who come not near unto thee.” He foretells the calamities in store for those who will act the part of the horse and the mule towards their neighbor. They will be forced by tribulations either to return to God, or will be prevented from injuring their neighbors to the extent they intended; but, as usual, this prophetic warning is expressed as if it were an imprecation. You will force those wicked men to obey you, as you would subdue a horse or a mule, with a bit and bridle, and make them obedient to you. The words bit and bridle are used in a metaphorical sense to signify the crosses and trials that God has sometimes recourse to, as he explains in the following verse.

10 An explanation of the bit and bridle. The impenitent sinner, still attached to sin, will be flayed with many a lash, both in this world and in the next. For, though sinners sometimes prosper, their sinful state is, in reality, a most grievous punishment, bringing with it punishments innumerable, solicitudes, anxieties, fears, dangers, remorse of conscience, and the like; nay, more; God, being a just judge, adds many other scourges; and, unless the sinner repent, and pray to God in the fitting season, he will undoubtedly come under the lash of the scourge that is everlasting. On the other hand the just man, who confides in the Lord, and not in human vanity, is so surrounded on all sides by the divine mercy, that the scourge cannot touch him on any side. Now, the divine mercy is the fountain of all good, and, therefore, when he says, “Mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord,” he means to give us some idea of the immense amount of blessings that those who attach themselves to God alone shall abundantly enjoy.

11 Having pronounced the just to be happy, in the beginning of the Psalm, he now in the end of it exhorts them to be glad, being a sort of indirect exhortation to persevere in justice, that their joy may be continuous also. “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye just, and glory all ye right of heart.” You just have great reason for rejoicing and gladness; but let it be “in the Lord,” who is the source of all the blessings you enjoy. Be not dejected by the losses or the rubs of this world, because in the world to come you will be amply repaid for them, in “a good measure, and pressed down, and shaken together, and running over;” while, in the meantime, you will not be left without spiritual consolation here below. “And glory all ye right of heart,” is a repetition of the same, for “glory” does not mean to be proud or puffed up, but to celebrate and sing God’s glory with joy; and the word is very generally used in the Scripture in such sense, as when the Apostle says, “We glory in tribulations.” The word glory, meaning pride and vanity, is to be found in Psalm 51, where he says, “Why do you glory in wickedness?” Here it has quite a different meaning, that of joy and gladness. By the “right of heart,” we understand the just; because, from righteousness of heart comes righteousness in word and in deed; and they are the just, whose hearts, words, and actions are conformable to that most righteous rule, the law of God, from which righteousness it comes that God becomes pleasing to man, and man to God; and whatever happens man, through God’s will or permission, is cheerfully received; and thus the heart becomes filled, not only with justice, but even “with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost,” which means the kingdom of God, as St. Paul, Rom. 14, explains it. With the greatest justice, then, David, having commenced with the expression, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,” now concludes with, “be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye just;” for the just alone are happy, and are in possession of true and solid joy.

Table of Contents

Psalm 32


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The rejoicing asked for here, includes the praising of God in joy; that is, praise him in rejoicing, not against your will, or in a sad or negligent manner, but with great affection, rejoicing and exulting in your hearts; and praise him not only internally but externally; because, “praise becometh the upright;” in other words, I specially invite you, ye just, to praise God, because it is the special duty of the just, who are called here the upright, as naturally they are; and with whom God, as being all righteousness, is always pleased. God is never pleased with the crooked or distorted; because his judgments and his actions are always straight and direct, and by no means square with the crookedness of the wicked; and hence, instead of freely praising God, they rather offend and blaspheme him.

2 He again exhorts the just to give God his tribute of praise, not only with their voice, but also with the musical instruments then used by the Jews; in which there is a mystical meaning, that we should praise God, not only by our words, but by our conduct; and, especially by the strict observance of the decalogue, signified by the instrument of ten strings; “That men, seeing our good works, may glorify our father who is in heaven.” Mt. 6.

3 By way of epilogue he joins the substance of the two preceding verses in this one. He had said that we should praise him with our voice, and sing to him with our instruments, and reminded us that we should do everything accurately and carefully. “Sing to him a new canticle;” that is a repetition of “rejoice in the Lord, O ye just;” and we are ordered to sing to him, not in one of the old chants, but in “a new canticle;” composed expressly for the occasion. “Sing well unto him with a loud noise,” is a repetition of “Give praise to the Lord on the harp;” and he orders it to be done, not in the ordinary way, not carelessly, or coldly, but with great music and effect, to show the importance of the occasion; thus, the word, loud voice, does not refer to the human voice, but to the noise of the instrument. The holy fathers justly direct our attention to the difference between the old and the new chant of praise. The old canticle was the one sung by the old man, “who born of the flesh, is flesh,” has a taste for things of the world, and is delighted with them; he praises God when fortune smiles on him; but the new man, who, renewed in the spirit of his mind, longs after the things of the other world, and takes pleasure in those things alone that appertain to heaven; he, too, praises God, praises him always, even in his persecutions, knowing as he does that they tend to his good. We are also warned by the words, “Sing well to him with a loud voice,” that when we do sing to him, we must do it with great care, attentively, devoutly, and with great affection, and interior joy. St. Benedict, in his Rule, lays down that Psalmody is a divine work, and should be preferred to any other work. St. Bernard has:—”My dearly beloved, I advise you to assist at the Divine Office, with a pure intention and an active mind; I say active, because I wish you to be active, as well as reverent; neither lazy, nor drowsy, nor nodding; nor sparing your voice, or clipping the words, not skipping sentences, nor in a weak and tremulous voice, full of sloth and effeminacy, but in an open and manly tone, vigorous, as well as affectionate, give out the language of the Holy Spirit.

4 He now assigns the reasons why God should be praised with so much affection, taken from his goodness, his power, and his wisdom. Of his goodness he says, “For the word of the Lord is right;” that is, both words and acts of the Lord are most just, most faithful, and most holy, as he expresses in different language, in Psalm 144, “The Lord is faithful in all his words; and holy in all his works.” By the “word of the Lord,” is meant what he commands, prohibits, promises, or threatens; and all these are most “right and done with faithfulness.” For, he commands nothing but what is good, prohibits nothing but what is bad; and, whatever he promises or threatens, he will most faithfully carry out. Therefore, “The word of the Lord is right,” and he is “faithful in all his words.” And his acts agree with his words; and, therefore, are said to be done in faithfulness; that is, they are faithful, just, and holy; and God is said to be holy in all his works.

5 The sanctity of the Lord in respect of words and actions, arises from his sanctity of will or of purpose, for “He loveth mercy and judgment; that means, he wishes first to give us the gifts of his grace, and then, according to the use we have made of them, to reward, or to punish us; and thus, all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth. In the first part of this verse we are informed of the goodness of God, arising from his mercy and justice; in the second, we are told that his mercy exceeds his justice, and is, as we have it in Psalm 118, “above all his works;” for to his mercy belongs the removal of every defeat and misery; and, as there are no created things that do not suffer some defect, there is nothing that does not need the mercy of God. Corruptible things of this world, however, suffer more and greater defects than the incorruptible things, that do not belong to this world; so that, when compared to them, they seem to have no defects; therefore, the prophet says, “The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord;” for by the earth he means, all corruptible things, for the earth is the dwelling place, not only of all mankind, all animals and plants, but also of birds and fishes; for though the former fly through the air, and the latter “perambulate the paths of the sea,” yet, both one and the other, rest on the earth. Now all corruptible things need the manifold mercy of God, to create, uphold, move, nourish, and repair them; but man, in addition, needs his mercy to go before him, to accompany him, to follow him, to forgive his sins, to arm, direct, and protect him, against the devil; and, therefore, he most justly says, “The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord.” We are to consider here also, that the perfect mercy that can remove all defects, belongs to God alone, for no one, having any defect whatever, can remove those of others, and thus, God is a pure, everlasting, all powerful, impersonation of infinite perfection; with justice, then, doth the Church sing, “O God whose province it is to have mercy.”

6 From praising his goodness, he comes now to praise his power, the principal and most conspicuous effect of which is the creation of heaven; the magnitude of which is increased by the reflection of its having been made by God without labor; in no time, without men or machinery, by his single word, and forever. He evidently alludes to the creation of the world, in Genesis 1, where “God said: let the firmament, be, and the firmament was made, and He called the firmament heaven.” The second part of the verse, “and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth,” would seem to be a mere repetition of the first part. For “the word,” and “the spirit of his mouth,” would seem to be much the same. By “The power of them,” is meant the stars, which, like a heavenly host, or celestial army, ornament the heavens to a wonderful degree, and shed their influence on things below. And though, by the “Word of the Lord,” and “the spirit of his mouth,” God’s orders are clearly understood, such is the meaning of both; there is no doubt but the Holy Ghost meant to glance at the mystery of the Holy Trinity to be revealed in the New Testament. We are not to notice the objection, that the prophet attributes the creation of heaven to the Word, and the creation of the stars to the Holy Ghost, as if God the Father made the heavens through the Son, and the stars through the Holy Ghost; because the acts of the Trinity cannot be separated, by reason of the unity of essence, which is the working power: and, therefore, when God the Father is said to have made the heavens through the Son, the Holy Ghost is not excluded; and when the power, or the celestial host, is said to have proceeded from the spirit of the mouth of the Lord, they are understood also to have proceeded from the Word, who proceeded from the mouth of the same Father, and from which Word the Spirit himself proceeded.

7 He goes on explaining God’s power, who not only created the heavens and the stars by one word, but collected all the waters that, at the creation, covered the whole globe, and shut them up in the deepest caverns and recesses of the earth; just as easy as one would fill a vessel with water, or shut up his money in a chest. “Laying up the depths in storehouses.” Shutting up the immense depths of waters that were on the earth and reached to the very heavens, with as much ease as one would shut up a sum of money in a safe. That the “depths” mean the mass of water that covered the earth is clear from Genesis 1, where it is said, “Darkness was over the depths.” By “treasures” is sometimes meant an abundance of gold, silver, or precious stones, as, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.” Sometimes it means the place in which such things are kept, as, “Every learned scribe produces from his treasure the new and the old;” and we read of the Magi, that “They opened their treasures, and offered unto him gold, frankincense, and myrrh,” in which latter sense the word “treasure” is to be understood here.

8 From what he has said of God’s power, he takes the occasion of exhorting all men to fear him, and have a horror of breaking his commandments.

9 The very best reason that could be offered for fearing God alone; because anything but God cannot harm us without God’s permission; and, on the other hand, there is nothing outside God that can defend us from his anger; because all things depend upon him for existence, God made everything by one word; for this reason, that his word is all powerful, full of authority, and cannot be resisted; and he, therefore, adds, “He commanded, and they were created.”

10 The prophet now comes to wisdom, to show that God deserves our praise in every respect. “He brings to naught the counsels of nations.” The wisdom of God is so far beyond and above, the wisdom of mankind that God, in one moment, blasts, blights, renders null and void all the plans and plots of men, however wisely and deliberately they may seem to have been laid. He repeats that in the words, “He rejecteth the devices of people;” he rejects all their devices as if they were so many fools, and deals in like manner with their princes, whose counsels, however wise they may seem to be, and framed by counselors abounding in wisdom and learning, are still “cast away” as of no value or importance. Truly wonderful is the wisdom of God, that catches the wise in their own cunning, and by some inexplicable dealing, so infatuates them, that what they judge will be of the highest importance and value to them, turns out to be the readiest road to their injury and destruction.

11 By an inscrutable wisdom, God mars the counsels of man, and does not allow them to accomplish what they purpose. Whereas, on the contrary, the wisdom of man is quite powerless against that of God; for, once he has decreed anything it is fixed to eternity. “Every counsel of mine will stand, and every will of mine shall be done, saith the Lord,” Isaias 43. Now, by “counsel,” as regards God, we are not to understand a consultation previous to election, for God has not to think a matter over, but, by one most simple act of his will, he decreed from eternity all he should ever do or carry out. The Scripture merely accommodates itself to our weakness and our usual manner of speaking, when it says, “The counsel of the Lord standeth forever;” that means, that what God in his wisdom has once decreed, cannot be disturbed nor be prevented being put into execution. He repeats that, when he says, “The thoughts of his heart to all generations;” that means, that whatever God once thought of doing can never be prevented, but will certainly be carried out, and in the way he intended. The Scripture, however, does not go so far in accommodating itself to our weakness as to exclude truth altogether, for, though there is no counsel with God previous to election, there is in his counsel what is most perfect, that is, the knowledge of all the means necessary to accomplish the most useful end; and though there may be in God one only, and that a most simple thought, that one, however, is equivalent to numberless ones.

12 From what he had said of the power, wisdom, and goodness of God, the prophet concludes that blessed must the people be, whose God is not an empty idol, but a Lord, most powerful, most wise, and most benevolent, on whose praises he had just been descanting; and then are we truly and perfectly happy, and blessed, when we have that great Lord for our God, and he has us for His peculiar people; the prophet then unites both when he says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord;” that is, blessed are they who acknowledge no God but the one Lord, “by whose word the heavens were established;” and in like manner, “blessed are the people whom he hath chosen for his inheritance;” that means, blessed are they whom the same great Lord hath chosen to be his own peculiar people, and as it were his own property and inheritance. These two things are so united that they cannot be separated, for they alone have the true God for their God, who worship him through faith, hope, and charity; and they only, whom he has chosen for his inheritance, whom he has preordained by his grace, called, and justified, and who worship him through faith, hope, and charity, and his people: a thing we should never lose sight of, for, whatever man may have, even though he may gain the entire world, he is still poor and wretched if he want God, who alone can fill up the bosom of his soul; and, on the other hand, he who possesses God, however poor he may be, is still happy and rich because, with God he has everything. Besides, man is God’s image; now, the beauty and great perfection of an image is to be like the original as possible; and then he will be really like to God, and therefore most happy, “when we shall see him as he is,” Jn. 3; for God’s happiness consists in seeing himself as he is; and thus, those who will never see him will be always most unlike him, and, therefore, truly miserable. Finally, anything beneath God is either meaner than man, as all corporal things, or equal to man, as the Angels are, for in the resurrection we will be equal to them. Now, nothing can make us more perfect, blessed, or happy, but something better and more perfect than ourselves; they, then, alone who cling to God, who become one spirit with him, are the only really happy; that is, they who love God, and are loved by him; who are happy here in hope, and are, in point of fact, happy when they cling to God by so happy a tie that can never be broken.

13–14 He proves what he said, namely, that, blessed is that people that have for their God the Lord, who made the heavens; because when God, looking down from heaven, as he would from an observatory, and seeing man, and knowing that no man, however brave or powerful he may appear to be, could be saved by his own merits; he looks upon his own people with the eye of a father, helps him and saves him, so that the just were deservedly called upon in the beginning of the Psalm to “Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just.” He, therefore, says, “The Lord hath looked down from heaven; he hath beheld all the sons of men;” that means, the Lord in heaven, from whom nothing can be concealed, sees not only his own people, but all mankind, and their various capabilities. The following verse has the same meaning.

15 He tells us now, that when God saw the “sons of men” from heaven, it was not in the dim, confused, and uncertain way that we see objects placed at a great distance, but that he saw most distinctly and minutely all their actions; that is, what they were doing, or might do, in mind or body; and thus, he saw all the thoughts, desires, words, acts, past, present, and future, of all men in general, and of each in particular; and he proves God’s power to see them thus, because “he made the heart of every one of them;” that is, he created their souls, and, therefore, their hearts; that is, their minds and will, from which all human actions spring; for he that could make the heart, could certainly search it. “Of every one of them;” that is, of every one of them separately, and, therefore he ought to understand all their works.

16 He explains what the all seeing eye really saw, and that was, that no one, by his own merits or exertions, could be delivered from the evils that surround us on all sides; and that we all need the mercy of God. He gives as an instance, that of the one most likely to boast of and confide in his own strength, the king. God saw that “the king is not saved by a great army;” great power, a great army, a great deal of money will not save or protect the king. “Nor shall the giant be saved by his own great strength;” his own strength will be as unserviceable to the strong, brave man, as is the great army to the king.

17 There are three things to rescue one from imminent danger; the strength of others, such as guards of soldiers; one’s own strength; a swift horse; the two former to meet the danger, the latter to fly from it. The psalmist had already said that the two former were insufficient, he says now that the third is equally so; and we have examples of all in the Book of Kings. An immense military force was unable to protect Saul; Goliath, the great giant, was slain by the youth David; Joram, the son of Achab, flying away in a swift chariot, was killed by a swifter arrow. “Vain is the horse for safety.” The man who depends on the velocity of his horses is greatly deceived; because such velocity may he impeded or overcome in a variety of ways, and is, therefore, very deceitful. “Neither shall he be saved by the abundance of His strength.” The horse, whose power is principally in his swiftness, will not save himself and his rider by means of it.

18–19 The conclusion of the argument, whereby the prophet undertook to prove the happiness of the nation who had God for their Lord. For God sees all men, and sees what little they can do of themselves, without his assistance. He has, however, peculiar regard to the just, to help them, to deliver them from the danger of death, and to find fair support for them in this world. “Behold, the eyes of the Lord are on them that fear him.” The truly just and the friends of God are beautifully described, as those who fear him and trust in him. For fear, without hope, is servile fear; hope, without fear, is presumption. Fear, combined with hope, is the mark of real love; that is, the generous love whereby God is loved, as a friend, a father, a spouse; such love, while it greatly fears doing anything that may possibly offend the beloved, still securely hopes and trusts that the mercy of the beloved will never be wanting. “To deliver their souls from death, and feed them in famine.” God’s reason for regarding with the eye of a father those who so fear him, while they trust in him, is to confer those two blessings on them, viz., to free them from the fear of death, and to support them while they live. As the just are afraid to offend God, he delivers them from the fear of being offended, that is, of their lives being endangered, which is a great blessing. To those who trust in his mercy, he shows perpetual mercy, “while he feeds them in famine;” and those two blessings can be understood of our corporal and temporal salvation, as well as of our spiritual and everlasting happiness. “He delivers their souls from death.” Our corporal salvation is looked after, since God, by a singular providence, delivers us from the various dangers of death, we could never escape of ourselves, or through any human agency. And after thus delivering us, he provides us with all the necessaries of life, especially in time of famine, when so many others are in extremes. In a spiritual sense, he “delivers their souls from death,” when he either prevents their falling into sin, which is a spiritual death, or, if they have sinned, brings them back by wholesome penance to grace, which is the spiritual life of the soul; and thus, in both ways, he delivers their souls from everlasting death. And those who are living to God, by means of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, “he feeds in famine;” while, in this desert, “a desert barren and without water,” on our journey to the land of promise, he feeds us with manna raining from heaven, and with water bursting from the rock; that is, while he supports and refreshes us by his heavenly consolations, he feeds, without satiating; he cools, without quenching our thirst; because the one and the other are reserved for the day when the glory of the Lord shall appear, when “we shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure.”

20 Hitherto he had addressed the just, the servants of God, exhorting them to “exult in the Lord,” and to praise God as a most indulgent and most merciful father. He now gives the reply of the just, who say, “Our soul waiteth for the Lord.” The just understand what the Holy Spirit wants when he invites them to exult and praise; that he wants them to do so, that they may thereby be encouraged to persevere in justice; to cling to God Almighty, not to turn from him through any amount of persecution; and, finally, to praise God more through their actions, than with their lips; and they reply that, marked as they have been by so many of God’s signal favors, they will most steadily remain in his fear and his love. “Our soul (say they) waiteth for the Lord.” Whatever may happen, it will not separate us from the love of God, nor will we look for any other to console us; but will patiently expect consolation from heaven, knowing it has been written, Habac. 2, “If it make any delay, wait for it: for it shall surely come, and it shall not be slack.” The soul is said to wait, by a Hebraism, by which the soul is used for the entire man, especially in spiritual matters. Thus, in Isaias 26, “Thy name and thy remembrance are the desire of the soul. My soul hath desired thee in the night;” and, Lamentation 3, “The Lord is good to them that hope in him, to the soul that seeketh him;” and the most Blessed Virgin says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” The just herein assign a reason for their having determined to wait for the Lord so long; because they know, from experience, that he always helped them in their prosperity, and protected them most faithfully and effectually in their adversity.

21 The just having responded to the first desire of the Holy Spirit, they now respond to the second, viz., that they should “rejoice in the Lord,” as has been explained in the first verse of the Psalm. They say they will do so most willingly. “In him our heart shall rejoice;” having hoped in the Lord, they have been assisted and protected by him, and, therefore, having learned from experience, how good and how powerful he is, they “rejoice in him,” and “trusting his name.”

22 The Psalm, as is frequently the case, concludes with a prayer, one quite apposite to the last verses, and to the entire Psalm, because it having been repeated that God has mercy on those that confide in him, and the just assert they did confide in him, and by reason of continuous danger, always need continuous mercy, they therefore conclude by, “Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us;” let it not cease, but continue; nay, even let new mercies be poured upon us, “as we have hoped in thee,” as your goodness led us to expect, and we promised to ourselves.

Table of Contents

Psalm 33


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 This is called an alphabetical Psalm, by reason of the first verse beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, the second, with the second letter, and so on—done, possibly, that it may be easier committed to memory, and be often chanted by the faithful. He commences by returning thanks with great affection. I will never forget God’s daily kindness, I will, rather “bless him at all times,” as long as I live, and he repeats it, saying, “his praise shall be always in my mouth.” The word always does not mean every moment, every day, every night, as if one had nothing else to do; but it means that he will do so in the proper time and place, to the end of his life, nay, more, as those Psalms will be sung to the end of time, David will thus, through others, “bless the Lord at all times.” This passage may be taken also in a spiritual sense, inasmuch as the just always praise God, when they are in the receipt of his favors as well as when they are afflicted by his trials, as Job did, when he said, “The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

2 I will not be alone in blessing God for his kindness to me at all times, but others too will bless him; for, whosoever shall hear of it will praise me for having baffled that wicked king; and will, at the same time, praise and bless God, who enabled me by such cleverness to save myself from him. “In the Lord shall my soul be praised;” I will be praised by all who shall hear of it; but “in the Lord,” for he, who by his signal providence, inspired me with the true counsels, and helped me to carry them out, so as to produce the desired effect, deserves the principal praise. The Hebrew implies, that the soul, that is, the entire person, is to be praised by itself; and the meaning then is, I will glory to a great extent for this fact, not in myself, but in the Lord, through whose protection and assistance I have escaped the danger. We learn from this passage that it is not always a sin to glory, or to speak in terms of praise of our own actions, and that it is then only sinful when we praise what deserves no praise, or when we do not acknowledge God to be the primary source of all good. “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord; for not he that commendeth himself is approved, but he whom God commendeth.” The next sentence, “Let the meek hear and rejoice,” implies, that the announcement of such joy is specially made to those to whom such dangers are familiar; such as the patient and the meek, such as are often oppressed by those in power, and find a most willing helper in God. “Let the meek,” the humble, the servants of God, like me, hear what happened to me, “and rejoice,” bless God for it.

3 He directs his discourse to the meek he had just told to hear and to rejoice, and he exhorts them not only to praise God individually, but to join and unite with him in praising God. “O magnify the Lord with me.” Let us acknowledge the Lord, who alone is truly great to be really so, and he who alone is supreme, let us with our voices proclaim to be supreme, “and extol his name;” speak loudly of his knowledge and fame, of his power and majesty. God is much pleased that the faithful, not only in private, but also in public prayer in our churches, should praise and glorify him, “that with one mouth you may unanimously glorify God,” Rom. 15.

4 He now assigns a reason for wishing to bless God at all times, and that is, because he found him the best and most powerful of liberators. “I sought the Lord” when I was grievously harassed, I fled to the Lord, implored his assistance, approached him with confidence, “and he heard me” with his usual kindness and mercy; and the consequence was, that “he delivered me from all my troubles.” Saul, the king, with his own hand, and through his satellites, sought to kill me, but through God’s protection I escaped; in the hurry of my flight I could bring neither arms nor provisions with me, yet the mercy of God at once raised up Achimelech the priest, to supply me with both; soon after, by my own imprudence, I fell into the hands of Achis, king of the Philistines, but through the inspiration, help, and protection of the same God, by wonderful and unheard of stratagems, I escaped the danger. Thus God, my most kind Lord and loving Father, “has delivered me from all the troubles” that have hitherto befallen me.

5 He now commences a most beautiful and effective exhortation to love and fear God, and to cast all our solicitude on him. “Come ye to him,” or as it is in the Hebrew, “look on him.” Behold, the light of consolation and gladness, when you remove the cloud of sadness that was darkening you up; for light signifies gladness, according to Psalm 96, “Light is risen to the just, and joy to the right of heart.” The passage may also be explained in a higher and a mystical sense; “come ye to him,” through conversion, “and be enlightened,” by the grace of justification; for divine enlightenment confers spiritual life; hence, the apostle, Ephes. 5, says, “Rise thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ will enlighten thee;” and Christ himself says, “He that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life;” and in Psalm 35, “For with thee is the fountain of life, and in thy light we shall see light;” where life and light are used synonymously. Besides, Baptism was formerly called, “illumination;” because, through it, men dead in sin, were regenerated, and from the darkness of sin, come to the light of life; “come,” therefore, “to him,” by conversion and penance, and he will be converted to you; and by the brightness of his countenance, that imparts so much vitality, coming as it does, from the increate Son and source of life, he will “enlighten” and vivify you. “And your faces shall not be confounded;” come with confidence, fear no repulse, he will hear you, receive you, and will not cause the slightest blush on your countenance. The face is said to be “confounded,” when the petitioner is refused, and goes away with a blush. Thus, Bethsabee said to king Solomon, “I desire one small petition of thee, do not put me to confusion.”

6 He proves the necessity of having recourse to God when in trouble, by his own example. “This poor man,” himself, in so destitute a state, that he had to beg some food of a priest, “cried,” in faith and confidence, knocked by ardent prayer at the gate of divine mercy, and “the Lord” at once “heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”

7 He already proved by example, he now proves by reason, that we should approach God in all confidence; because the Angel of the Lord, to whom [Psalm 90] he has given the just in charge, the moment he sees the soul in danger, is at once on the spot, and, as if with an encampment, so surrounds and protects it, that it can suffer no harm. Wonderful power of the Angels! One of them, equal to an army, whence it follows that those who fear God and have such a guard in waiting on them, should feel the greatest internal peace and security.

8 He goes on with his exhortation. Having said, “Come ye to him,” and having proved by his own experience, as well as by reason, that we should come to him in time of trouble, he now exhorts us to make a trial, and to prove by experience, that the fact is so. “O taste and see that the Lord is sweet.” Try it, look at it, judge for yourselves, and see; begin to reject all other consolations, and put all your trust in God alone; and “see,” that is, know, learn, “that the Lord is sweet” to those that depend on him. And, in fact, what sweeter can be imagined than a soul full of love, with a good conscience, a pure heart, and a candid faith, reposing in the bosom of the Supreme Good. Truly “blessed is the man that hopeth in him;” that is, in peace with God, and, in a certain hope, reposes in him. We stated that in the expression, “Come to him, and be enlightened,” another meaning may be found, referring to those who are enlightened by justification; and, in like manner, the expression, “O taste and see,” may be taken as referring to those who are more advanced; who, after being spiritually regenerated, begin to grow, and to require nourishment; according to 1 St. Peter, 2, “As new born infants desire the rational milk, without guile; that thereby you may grow unto salvation. If yet you have tasted that the Lord is sweet,” where St. Peter quotes this passage of the Psalm in the same sense that we have explained it. Even St. Paul, Heb. 6, identifies enlightening with tasting, “For it is impossible for those, who were once enlightened, have tasted also the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.”

9 After exhorting them to try how sweet is the Lord, he now encourages them to fear him, that is, to observe his commandments; or, which amounts to the same, to persevere in the justice and love of God, that being the foundation of the confidence by which we approach to God, and taste of the sweetness of his benefits. This verse is most properly connected with the preceding, even in the more elevated sense, because, as it is by approaching we begin, and by tasting we advance, so it is by fear we are made perfect, not by servile fear, but by the pure and filial fear that is the characteristic of the saints and of the perfect. “Fear the Lord all ye his saints,” for that fear supposes perfect love, for the perfect lover fears vehemently lest he may offend his beloved in any way; and he, therefore, most diligently conforms himself to the will of God, and observes his word in every thing; and he that thus keeps his word, “in this is the perfect love of God,” as 1 St. John 2. has it. Speaking of this fear, Job 28, says, “Behold, the fear of the Lord is wisdom itself,” Eccli. 1, “The fullness of wisdom is to fear God,” and chap. 23, “There is nothing better than the fear of God;” and Isaias 2, speaking of Christ, says, “The spirit of the fear of the Lord will fill him,” and finally, Ecclesiastes, in the last chapter, says, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is all man,” as if he said: The whole perfection of man, and all the good he may have in life consists in this, through fear of God to observe all his commandments, and the following words, “for there is no want to them that fear him,” convey the same in the higher meaning, for the essence of perfection is to feel no want. And, what want can the friend of God, who owns everything, feel, when the property of friends is common; and if the just appear sometimes to be in want, they really are not so, because they get patience, better than any riches, to bear it; nor can they be said to want riches, who do not desire or covet them, for the soul, and not the money box, ought to abound in riches. Still the same prophet, or rather the same Holy Spirit, who by his words instructs the learned by the very same words, but understood in an humbler sense, instructs the ignorant also, and exhorts them to fear God, “for there is no want to them that fear God;” that is, that God will supply his servants with the temporal things of the world, and will not desert them in time of necessity. And we have, both in the Scriptures, and in the lives of the saints, numberless examples of the wonderful providence of God in supplying his servants with the necessaries of life.

10 He proves the preceding by instituting a comparison between the wicked with those that fear the Lord. The latter will not only feel no want, but the former will, however rich they may have previously been, and by the repeated scourges of God will be reduced to extreme poverty. “The rich have wanted, and have suffered hunger;” that is, those who had been rich began to hunger and to need, because riches are fallacious and uncertain, and exposed to many and various dangers; “but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good;” they who put their hope, not in riches, but in God, as those do who fear God, they, however poor they may be, “shall not be deprived of any good;” that is, shall want no good. These words have a higher meaning also, namely, that those who are attached to the temporalities of this world always hunger and need, for they are always covetous and desirous of having more; but “they that seek the Lord,” as they seek a thing of infinite value, a thing greater than their desires, for, according to St. John, “God is greater than our heart,” they “shall not be deprived of any good,” because, as they cling to the Supreme Good, they possess all that is good.

11 The prophet having exhorted all to fear God, shows now the advantage of this fear, and in what it consists. “Come to me,” to the school of the Holy Spirit, the best school you can frequent; “hearken to me,” or rather to the Spirit of the Lord speaking through me, for so David himself says, in 2 Kings 23, “The Spirit of the Lord hath spoken by me, and his word by my tongue,” and when you do, “I will teach you to fear the Lord;” that is, in what it consists, and how useful is the fear of the Lord, to which I have so often and so earnestly invited you, as being the essence and the acme of all good and of all perfection.

12 He now explains the advantages and the end of the fear of the Lord, for it brings us long life and “good days;” that is, that life of bliss of which the just have a foretaste in this world, while they have in their hearts the “kingdom of God, which is justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;” and will have complete possession of it in the world to come, “when death shall be absorbed in victory.” “Who is the man that desireth life?” I promised to teach you the fear of the Lord, and I now fulfil my promise, and I tell you, that the end of the fear of the Lord is, what all covet, but few secure, that is, a true and a happy life. Now, those who wish to secure it must adopt the means I am going to point out; they, then, who say they wish for a happy life, and will not take the road that leads to it, they seem to be anything but serious in what they say, when they pursue the shadow and the image, instead of the reality. I therefore ask, who is he that really and truly wishes for true life, that truly loves to see good days, happy, blessed days?

13–14 The holy prophet now teaches how the fear of the Lord leads men to life, “and to see good days;” and lays down that the perfect observance of the commandments of God, or, in other words, the abstaining from all sins, of thought, word, or deed, is the true path to life, according to the words of our Savior, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;” now, such observance of the law, and such abandonment of sin, springs from the fear of the Lord, and, therefore, it is the fear of the Lord that, through the observance of his law, makes us come to true life and “good days.” “Keep thy tongue from evil.” Beware of offending God through your tongue, by lies, by perjury, by detraction, by opprobrious language, etc. He commences with the tongue, because the sins committed by it are of more frequent occurrence, and guarded against with more difficulty, for which reason St. James says, chap. 3, “If a man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.” “And thy lips from speaking guile.” Having prohibited in general all manner of sins of the tongue, he makes special mention of the sin of lying, as being much more grievous itself, and productive of various other sins. “Turn away from evil.” From sins of word, he passes to sins of deed, and first admonishes us to avoid sins of commission, such as murder, adultery, etc.; and then he adds, “and do good;” to beware of sins of omission, such as neglecting to honor our parents; giving due worship to God at the proper time; neglect of prayer, alms, fasting, etc., and similar good works. “Seek after peace, and pursue it.” He finally warns us to avoid sins of thought, such as anger, hatred, envy, and other minor affections of the soul; that thus we may have and retain true peace and tranquillity in everything we are concerned with. With great propriety, the prophet says, “seek after peace;” because the duty of a good man is not so much to be actually at peace with all, as to wish for it, and to be anxious for it; because, very often, others will not suffer us to be at peace with them; and, therefore, the apostle, Rom. 12, says, “If it be possible, as much as is in you, have peace with all men;” and David himself, in Psalm 119, says, “With them that hated peace I was peaceable;” which peace we are unable to maintain, not only with others, but even with ourselves; for we cannot maintain perfect peace whilst we are in this vale of misery. Hence the apostle says, Rom. 7, “But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind.” However, though perfect peace with ourselves is impossible, we must seek for it, we must try to acquire it, by subduing the members, by fasts; by subjecting the flesh to the spirit, that it may learn not to rebel at all, or, at least, to rebel less than it does against the sway of the mind. Finally, we must, with all the powers of our soul, seek for the peace that awaits us in the heavenly Jerusalem; for they who long as they ought for that peace, readily despise all temporal good and evil; and thus, even in this world, possess that peace with God, the one thing principally established by filial fear.

15 He proves the assertion he made, viz., that they who avoid sin, and observe the commandments of God, have “life and good days;” and the reason is, because God constantly regards the just, and always hears their prayers; and how can they avoid having: “good days,” who spend their lives under an all powerful guardian? For if the just have any intimation of evils impending on them, and they cry to God, they find his ears open and attentive to them; if they do not know or expect the said evils, God watches for them, and saves them from many dangers themselves neither saw nor understood; for it is for such purpose “the eyes of the Lord are upon the just,” to guard them from the evils not reached by their own eves. Wonderful goodness of God; Who should not be delighted at loving so good a God with his whole heart, and fearing him with the affection of a child? Who, on reflecting on these things, would not exclaim with the prophet, “Pierce thou my flesh with thy fear?” and, in another Psalm, 85, “Let my heart rejoice, that it may fear thy name.” But the just are not always heard by God—yes, they are heard; and if God does not do for them what they ask, it is because it would not be expedient for themselves to have it done. He is like the physician, who hears the request of the patient praying to escape the bitter dose, and still does not hear him, in order that he may cure him.

16 By contrasting God’s dealings with the wicked, the prophet greatly enhances his dealings with the just; for, “as the eyes of the Lord are upon the just,” to protect them, so he watches over “those that do evil things;” that is, over the wicked, not to protect them, but “to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth;” that is, that they may be utterly ruined and perish, and, not only themselves, but their children and all their posterity, until their memory be completely abolished. This does not always happen, either because the wicked themselves repent before the day of vengeance, or because their children and posterity do not follow their example, or because God’s vengeance is stayed by some otherwise and sufficient reason; and the psalmist states here only what generally takes place, and which is laid down in the very beginning of the Decalogue, “I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”

17 He proves the assertion, that “the eyes of the Lord are upon the just,” by the examples of the fathers in sacred history, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Josue, Gideon, and others; and, perhaps, in spirit, foresaw and proclaimed the delivery of Daniel from the den of the lions; of the three children from the fiery furnace; of Susanna, condemned to death through false witnesses. Perhaps, too, he had before him the example of the Machabees, who did not escape death and torments; as well as the apostles and martyrs, and Christ himself, who most unjustly suffered the most grievous torments at the hands of their enemies and persecutors. For they, in the truest sense, are delivered from all tribulation, who, as the Church celebrates them, “by a brief and holy death, possess a happy life.” They can most truly be said to have been heard when they cried, because they got what was so much superior to delivery from a temporal calamity. He gave them the precious gift of patience, and in reward of such patience a crown of everlasting glory.

18 He explains how God delivers the just from tribulation, and seems to enlarge on what he briefly threw out in Psalm 90, “I am with him in tribulation; I will deliver him, and I will glorify him;” that is, through patience I am with him in this life. “I will deliver him,” by the sleep of death; “and glorify him,” by a glorious resurrection. So he now says: “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart;” that is, God never deserts the just when they are afflicted and troubled in heart by injuries and persecutions, but is always at hand, ministering patience, mingling with it his heavenly consolations, to enable them to bear up against their trials, which will not be of long duration, for, presently, he will “save the humble of spirit;” those identical humble and afflicted in heart and spirit, and rescue them from all their troubles.

19 This verse properly belongs to the last part of the preceding verse: “He will save the humble of spirit.” He will save them, however numerous their troubles may be, and will save them from all their troubles. For “God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Here we are reminded that the faithful in this life are not promised an exemption from want, disease, ignominy, persecution, calumny, oppression, but are only promised spiritual consolation here, and full and perfect delivery hereafter.

20 This seems to apply to the glory of their resurrection, to which, undoubtedly, the expression of our Savior, “A hair from your head shall not be lost,” also applies. For that cannot be called broken, which, at once, becomes stronger and more beautiful than it was before it was broken. And, therefore, though the bones and all the members of the just may be scattered, or devoured by wild beasts, or cast into the sea, or consumed in the fire, God, however, preserves them all in the bosom of his providence; not one of them will be lost, but will all be renewed entire and glorified, at the resurrection.

21 For fear the wicked may suppose their pain and torments would be ended by death, as the atheists, or those who disbelieve the providence of God or the immortality of the soul, falsely persuade themselves of, the prophet adds, “The death of the wicked is very evil,” because it is the beginning of eternal torments; just as “the death of the saints is precious,” because it is the beginning of eternal rest and glory. “And they that hate the just shall be guilty;” that means, they who harass and hate the just, who persecute them, who look upon themselves as having accomplished a good work, and as conquerors, when they depress, despoil, and destroy the just, in the long run, “they shall be guilty;” that is, will stray from the paths of true happiness, and will speak in the language of Wisdom 5, “Therefore we have erred from the way of truth; and the light of justice hath not shined unto us; and the sun of understanding hath not risen upon us. We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways: but the way of the Lord we have not known. What hath pride profited us; or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow.”

22 The Psalm concludes by predicting a lot to the just very different from that predicted for the wicked, “The Lord will redeem” from all slavery, consequently from all evil, “the souls of his servants,” so soon as he shall have brought them out of the prison of the body and thus the death of the just will be the best, as Balaam rightly said, “May my soul die the death of the just, and may my last moments be like unto theirs,” Num. 23. “And none of them that trust in him shall offend,” will not miss their aim, fail in their course, but will arrive at the goal of eternal happiness; “all those” who confide not in their own strength, but in God.

We have here to remark, that hope of any sort, no more than faith of any sort, or faith that is dead, will not suffice to obtain eternal life; but here it is said, that hope will procure eternal life, because he supposes it to be the hope of the just, of those who fear and love God, which the Apostle Peter calls “lively (or living) hope.” Such hope and confidence as springs from patience, good works, and the testimony of a good conscience, according to St. Paul, Rom. 5., “Patience worketh trial, and trial hope;” and again, 1 Timothy 3, “For they that have ministered well, shall purchase to themselves a good degree, and much confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus;” and again, 1 John 3, “If our heart do not reprehend us we have confidence towards God.” This living and perfect hope brings us at once to what we want, to everlasting glory, so that we ultimately got possession of the object of our hope.

Table of Contents

Psalm 34


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 A petition for help against persecutors in general. To understand this verse properly we should understand Hebrew, from which it clearly appears that the verse means; “Judge them that judge me.” By a just judgment condemn them that unjustly condemned me, such as the chiefs of the Jews, Annas and Caiphas, and the chiefs of the gentiles, Pilate and Herod, who judged Christ most unjustly; and many kings and princes who, by most unjust judgments, condemned so many holy martyrs. And because the enemies of Christ and of his Church would have it appear that in their persecutions they were influenced only by a desire of upholding the law, and of acting agreeably to it; while they were, at the very time, acting as professed enemies, instead of impartial judges; and, with an assumption of piety, were only standing by their false superstitions, the Psalm adds: “Overthrow them that fight against me;” take up my cause, fight my battle; that when my enemies “are overthrown” by you, I may escape them, and depart the conqueror.

2 An explanation of the words, “Overthrow them that fight against me;” and as a warrior ought to be well armed with weapons defensive and offensive, he mentions the former in this verse, and the latter in the next; in the Hebrew the expression is, the shield and buckler; and to avoid a repetition of what appears to be much the same weapon, the Greeks and Latins translate it arms and the shield, that is, arms of protection and defense. The shield and buckler of God signify his good will, according to Psalm 5, “O Lord, thou hast crowned us as with a shield of thy good will.” They likewise signify justice and equity, as in Wisdom 5, “He will take equity for an invincible shield;” and, indeed, the benevolence with which God protects us is a real shield, for, any one loved by God is perfectly secure; and of him can be said, “Thou hast crowned him with a shield of thy good will.” The justice of God, called “equity” in the Scriptures, is the shield wherewith he protects from the judgments and the calumnies of the wicked; for, however severely and bitterly God may punish the wicked, he does so in justice, and, therefore, he regards not, and fears not, the sharpness or the bitterness of their tongues, or of their opinions, according to Psalm 50, “That thou mayest be justified in thy words, and mayest overcome when thou art judged;” and of it is said, “He will take equity for an invincible shield;” that is, when he shall come to the last judgment, and take up his arms to avenge himself on his enemies. There was, therefore, much significance in the repetition of the shield and buckler, since God takes up both, to protect us in his mercy and defend himself in his justice.

3 He now speaks of offensive arms, and says, unsheath your sword, and draw it against my persecutors. The word “bring out,” in the Hebrew, signifies a prompt and ready pull, the sword being sharp and in good order, and, therefore, easily drawn, as having no rust on it; “and shut up the way against them that persecute me;” put so many obstacles before them, that they will not be able to come near. The sword signifies the vindictive justice of God, that prompts him to punish the wicked, as we read in Deut. 32, “If I shall whet my sword as the lightning, and my hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to my enemies, and repay them that hate me;” and in Wisdom 5, “He will sharpen his severe wrath for a spear;” for the sword and the spear are arms of offense. Wonderful reflection for a faithful soul, to feel that God stands there armed with sword, shield, and lance, for its protection and hears him speaking to the heart “I am thy salvation.” For, though the assurance of the apostle, “If God be for us, who is against us,” ought to give us the greatest security, however, the Holy Ghost, to provide more effectually for our weakness, describes God in arms for us; and, in all description of arms, fighting against both the visible and invisible enemies, not only of the Church in general, but of each of the faithful in particular. “Say to my soul: I am thy salvation.” God’s defense of us; and, therefore, Christ asks for his Church and his faithful, that they may be apprised of such defense; and thereby have the more confidence. And though the term physician may seem to be more applicable to God here than “salvation,” still it is, in reality, more appropriate, because physicians and medicine do not always cure, and do not penetrate the substance of what they mean to cure; but God always does; he enters into the very recesses of our souls; and as a man in perfect health cannot but feel so, however destitute he may be in other respects, so it is impossible for the soul, when God is present by his grace, and wishes to heal it, not to be healed, however destitute it may be otherwise.

4 He tells us what is to happen to those against whom God takes up arms, saying, “Let them be confounded and ashamed.” Let those who thought to slay me be ashamed of losing the victory; for the two words, confounded and ashamed, have the same meaning, as here there is not question of reverential shame, but of the shame suffered by one that has been beaten; “that seek after my soul” is an ambiguous expression, sometimes taken in a good sense. “Flight hath failed me, and there is no one that hath regard to my soul,” Psalm 141; that is, I have no refuge; there is no one to know me, to “seek after” me, to defend me. Sometimes it is taken in a bad sense, as in this passage, and in various others, and means, to endeavor to take away one’s soul, that is, his life. “Let them be turned back, and be confounded.” Let them be not only confounded and overwhelmed with shame, but “let them be turned back;” retire in confusion, and conquered, “that desire evil against me;” they who planned my destruction.

5 He asks, in the third place, that they should not only be covered with confusion, and retire in confusion, but that the thing may be done quickly, and that they may be scattered in various places. Dust is carried by the wind with great force and with great speed to various places; and both force and speed are increased here by the terms used to designate them. For the term used for dust signifies the minutest, finest, lightest dust; and, therefore, the easier impelled; and it is not an ordinary wind that is to drive it, but “the Angel of the Lord, straitening them.”

6 He ultimately asks that they should not only be scattered and compelled to fly but that they should be irremediably hurried on to destruction. Fugitives are favored by a knowledge of the way, by a safe and firm road; or, if the way be slippery, by moving slowly on it. He prays they may have no one of those things in their favor, but, on the contrary, that they may be obliged to fly in “the dark,” and on a “slippery” road, when both eyes and feet will be powerless; with the Angel of the Lord pressing on them so urgently that they must, of necessity, be utterly ruined. This has been all fulfilled in regard of the Jews and the other persecutors of Christ and of his Church, who, by the just judgment of God, are enveloped in the darkness of ignorance, and in the slippery ways of concupiscence; and by the “pursuing” anger of God are daily falling into greater sins, and thus hasten in full speed to everlasting misery. This will be more fully developed on the day of judgment, for then the wicked will be confounded and made ashamed in so unspeakable a manner, that they will rush headlong into the infernal pit, under pressure of God’s vengeance; and forever, and as irremediably as the man who, in the dark, is hurled down a slippery precipice, from which he can never recover.

7–8 In the first six verses the prophet spoke in the person of Christ and of all the just, on persecutions in general; he now details three sorts of persecutions, generally inflicted on the just by sinners. First, they harass them by frauds and conspiracies. Secondly, by false witnesses. Thirdly, by open force, and that not confined to mere words. Of the first he says, “For without cause they have hidden their net for me, to destruction.” As, without any provocation on my part, they have been incessantly laying snares for me, I pray God that he may, in his providence, turn those snares to their own destruction. Which imprecation, as we before remarked, is not to be looked upon as an imprecation, but rather a prophecy. God’s providence often brings about such conspiracies to be of more harm to the conspirators themselves, sometimes to harm themselves, alone; like a torch which, set to burn a house, is burned itself before the house; sometimes is burned itself without burning the house at all; thus, the malice of the conspirators at once harms themselves; others, perhaps, not at all; certainly, less than it does the plotters; because injuries suffered are not at all as grievous as the injuries devised. “They have hidden their net for me, to destruction.” They determined to hang me, to destroy me; they set a net to catch me for the purpose; “without cause,” when I did them no harm whatever; “they have upbraided,” offended, abused me; laying snares for me, as if I were a wild beast. “Let the snare which he knoweth not come upon him.” May some unknown, unforeseen calamity, come on himself; may he fall into the same calamity he intended for me.

9–10 In these two verses the prophet describes the unspeakable joy of the just man when he finds himself delivered from those that lay in wait for him. The language is most poetic, metaphorical, and beautiful. The meaning is, When I shall have obtained my prayer, “my soul,” through which I live and move, through joy, “shall rejoice in the Lord,” in praise and thanksgiving, and will also “be delighted in his salvation,” which it sees now secure; or rather, will be delighted in God’s salvation, or its Savior; and not only my soul, but my body and all its members, even the lowest and most abject, such as the bones; and not only my bones, but “all my bones” even the very smallest of them will rejoice, and, if they could speak, would exclaim, Lord, who is like to thee? for there is nothing on earth or in heaven more powerful, more kind, more wise, or more amiable than you, who so powerfully and so mercifully rescue the poor from the grip of a much more powerful enemy, who sought, by violence, to take away not only his property, but his life. “All my bones shall say” is similar to the expression in Psalm 102, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and let all that is within me bless his holy name;” signifying the perfect joy that fills up the entire man. For sometimes the soul is in joy while the body is in pain, and then the joy is not complete and perfect; but when “God shall heal all our languor,” and “fill up all our desires in good things,” then, at length, shall the entire man, inspired by an unspeakable pleasure, diffused through all his members, even through his insensible bones, say to the Lord, “Who is like thee?” As insensible things are said to thirst when they need their necessary support, according to Psalm 62, “For thee my soul hath thirst, for thee my flesh, O how many ways;” thus, the same insensible things, when their wants are supplied, may be said to rejoice and be glad. “Who is like to thee?” who is equally disposed or powerful to “deliver the poor from the hand of them that are stronger?”

11–12 The prophet now comes to the second sort of persecutions, through which the wicked, by means of false witnesses, not privately, but openly persecute the just, and gives a highly wrought account of the wickedness of such witnesses. He says, “they rose up.” They did not wait to be summoned, they volunteered, accusing me of things “I knew not;” things I not only did not do, but even did not think of. For, we are said to “know not” what we do not approve, nor never did, as if we did not know how to do them. Thus, the Apostle says of Christ, 2 Cor. 3, “Him who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us.” Then he says, “They have asked me,” to show the forwardness and impudence of the said witnesses, who, not content with falsely accusing him before the judge, had the impudence to stand up and cross examine the accused themselves. Again, he says, “They repaid me evil for good.” These false witnesses, so far from having been injured by me, had been heaped with favors, and from pure malice thus calumniated me. He finally adds, “to the depriving me of my soul;” to show that it was no trifling injury they sought to inflict on him, but the greatest of all injuries. “The depriving him of his soul,” may have two meanings; first, by taking it as a general destruction and devastation, such as befell Job, who, in one day, lost his wealth, his children, his health; and even applies to the very destruction of his memory and of his name. It, secondly, may be taken as applying to one’s character, which, by the devil’s agency, or by that of his ministers, gets so damaged, that the just man is all but deprived of his soul.

13 Before he begins to speak of the third class of persecutions, he tells us how he dealt with the second, and says that he neither did evil for evil, nor thought of revenge, but betook himself in great humility to pray to God. “When they were troublesome to me.” I have not proudly insulted them, but, clothed in sackcloth, I began to fast, to make my prayers more acceptable to God. Sackcloth and fasting are the wings of prayer. The king of the Ninivites, when he turned to prayer in fasting and sackcloth, was heard, Jonas 3. We read the same of King Achab, where the wise man says, “The prayer of him that humbled himself shall penetrate the clouds.” And he adds, “And my prayer shall be turned into my bosom;” to show he had no doubt of his prayers producing the desired effect. Prayers put up in such humility, will not come to me back in vain, but will fill my bosom with heavenly consolation.

14 This verse is much more clearly expressed in the Hebrew, and the meaning of it is, in my affliction I not only abstained from doing evil for evil, but I even did good for evil, for I felt towards my enemies, as a friend would for his friend, as a brother for a brother, or rather as a mother for her ailing and languishing child. For, as a mother, when she sees her child ailing, in sorrow and sadness bends over it to raise it up, so did I in regard of my enemies. He could not give a more eloquent or a more touching account of his feelings to them. David actually carried out what he expresses here in the person of Christ, in his own person, and in that of all the perfect. He loved Saul as a brother, while he lived, and deplored him as a child when he died. Christ did the same in a higher degree, for, when he saw the city, he wept over it, and he compares his affection to that of the hen seeking to gather her little ones under her wings.

15 He tells us now how his persecutors did evil for good, and at the same time passes on to the third sort of persecutions; for the wicked, not content with harassing the just, by frauds and calumnies, seek also to injure them by doing them personal harm. “But they rejoiced against me.” I was grieving for their troubles, they were rejoicing at mine; and, not content with such impiety, they “came together,” armed with scourges, to destroy me if they could; “and I knew not,” was quite ignorant of their designs; so that I could not take any means to protect myself; or I bore them with such patience as to make one think I was quite ignorant of what they were intending.

16 He goes on to relate the malice of his enemies, and says they were not able to accomplish their designs, divine providence having undertaken the protection of his own to save them from harm. That still did not quiet them. What they could not effect by the infliction of personal injury, they sought to effect by foul language, derision, and insults. “They were separated.” The conventicle of those who came together to injure, to scourge me, “was separated,” scattered by the breath of God’s will, but still “they repented not,” as they should have done; on the contrary, “they tempted me, they scoffed at me with scorn, they gnashed upon me with their teeth.”

17 Having thus exposed all his persecutors, he now, in the person of all the just who suffer persecution, returns to prayer, and thereby connects the end with the beginning of the Psalm. And as God, when he neglects to punish the wicked, would seem to overlook them entirely, he says, “Lord, when wilt thou look upon me?” when will you prove to us that you see their wickedness, by punishing it? “Rescue thou my soul from their malice.” Take my life out of the danger it is in, while I am in their power, and make me as secure as I was before; which he repeats and expresses more clearly, when he says, “my only one from the lions.” I have one life only, and, therefore, very dear to me; save that by taking it out of the power of my enemies, who, like so many lions, seek to devour me, “gnashing upon me with their teeth.” St. Augustine would apply the expression, “my only one,” to the Church which Christ prays may be delivered from its persecutors. That is true enough, but I think the word should be taken literally here, and that it means his soul, or his life, in the same sense in which we read it in Psalm 21, “Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword, my only one from the hand of the dog.” The soul is very properly called the “only one,” as if it were the only object of our love. This temporal life is the foundation of all temporal good, while life everlasting is that of all good, and, therefore, the Lord says in the gospel, “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul, or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” and yet, such is the folly of many, that for a nothing they freely lose that soul that should have been the only object of their love.

18 Should he be delivered from his enemies, he promises he will not be ungrateful. “I will give thanks to thee in a great church.” I will not be silent as to your favors, but in public, before the whole congregation, I will proclaim them, which he repeats when he says, “I will praise thee in a strong people;” for giving thanks and praising are synonymous terms, so are the expressions, “great church” and “strong people.” The Church is called great by reason of its numbers, so are the people called strong by reason of their number; for a people may be called strong when its numbers are such that they need have no fear of the enemy. The prophet would seem to have the Christian Church in view, in which God is daily praised for the delivery of the faithful. The Church of Christ is truly great, spread as it is all over the world, and truly strong, since “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The Church triumphant also will be a great Church, consisting, as it will, “of a great crowd, which nobody could count,” and of a strong people; for the same passage tells us they will all “have palms in their hands.”

19 Returning to the prayer he had commenced, he begs to be delivered from his persecutors, especially from the hypocrites, who pretended to be his friends, while they were quite the reverse. “Let not them that are my enemies wrongfully,” they who, under the garb of friendship, still persecute me; which is the height of malice, to pretend to be one’s friend while they are plotting for his ruin. “Rejoice over me;” let them not glory in my downfall. “Who have hated me without cause, and wink with the eyes;” who hate me without any reason, when I did them no harm, yet pretend to be my friends, saluting me, nodding at me, winking in approbation of everything I say. St. Augustine asks, What is the meaning of “winking with the eyes?” Expressing, through their eyes, something very different from what they have in their heart.

20 He now explains the term “winking with the eyes.” They addressed me in terms of friendship, while they were bursting with anger within, and “devised guile” to destroy me.

21 The prophet now shows how faithfully he described his enemies, and their fictitious friendship, when the very set who, a little before, were caressing, and winking with their eyes on him, the moment they found he had fallen into the trap they had laid for him, at once “they opened their mouth,” and began openly to insult him, and to congratulate each other, “Well done, well done, our eyes have seen it;” his downfall we were so long and so anxiously looking for. This was all fulfilled in Christ; sometimes his enemies addressed him in the most flattering manner, “We know that thou art truthful, and that thou teachest the way of God in truth;” at the very time they were planning to take a hold of his language; and when they saw him nailed to the cross, “they opened their mouths wide,” insulting him, and exclaiming, “Vah, you that destroy the temple of God, and in three days dost rebuild it; save thy own self.”

22–24 The prophet resumes his prayer, repeating it over and over, with a view to move God’s affections. “Thou hast seen, O Lord,” the extent of the oppression suffered by your poor servant; “be not thou silent,” as if you either did not see, or were not able, or were not willing, to defend those that hope in thee. “Depart not from me.” Do not desert me in my troubles; nay more, “arise,” and like a just and powerful judge, “be attentive to my judgment,” to the quarrel between me and my persecutors, and “Judge me, O Lord, according to my justice;” that is, if thy justice, which is supreme and infallible, decide that I am unjustly oppressed by my enemies, deliver me from their hands, that they may no longer “rejoice over me.”

25–26 He here explains the meaning of a former expression, “Let not my enemies wrongfully rejoice over me;” for here he asks that they may not be able to “say in their hearts;” that is, to exult over me as if I were extinguished. Nor “let them say: we have swallowed him up;” as if I had been devoured by lions; but, on the contrary, having lost all hope of victory, “Let them blush and be ashamed,” every one of them, and that in no slight degree; but, “let them be clothed with confusion and shame;” these people who “speak great things against me;” who boasted of the power they had over me.

27–28 As well as the prophet prayed for the confusion of the wicked, he now prays that the just, the men of good will, who wish to keep their innocence, and desire their justice should appear openly, should exult and rejoice. He also exhorts those who are desirous of their own peace, such as will follow from their being delivered from their evils, to praise God. He finishes the Psalm in thanksgiving to God for all his favors. “My tongue shall meditate thy justice;” will be employed in declaring it; which he again repeats, by saying he will spend the “whole day” in doing so; that means frequently, repeatedly. St. Augustine remarks on this passage, that he is always praising God, who is always doing what is right.

Table of Contents

Psalm 35


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The prophet tells us the two primary roots of sin, one of which is in the will, whereby we determine on committing sin; the other is in the understanding, that does not consider the fear of the Lord forbidding sin. “The unjust hath said within himself,” that is, with himself, in his heart he determined to sin; that is, consented in his heart to sin. “The fear of God is not before his eyes.” He so consented, because in his heart he did not think of the fear of the Lord, who sees everything. Fear is used here for the object of it; that is, he did not think that God was just, powerful, and all seeing; for if he did he would be more afraid of one so powerful. When we fear any one, we are afraid to do anything bad in his presence; and thus, he who fears God, dares not to sin interiorly, for God searches even our hearts.

2 In this verse he proves his assertion, that the unjust man does not possess the fear of the Lord. For in his sight he hath done deceitfully with God himself, and with all men, “so that his iniquity may be found unto hatred,” and not for pardon, a thing he certainly would not have done had he feared God. For who would dare to transgress in the presence of a judge for whom he entertained the slightest fear?

3 He said the wicked man acted deceitfully; he now says he speaks deceitfully, and will presently add that he even thinks deceitfully, to show how remarkable is the perversity of him that feareth not God. The words of his mouth are in accordance with his acts; unjust, nay even so unjust that they are nothing but “iniquity and guile;” whatever he says tends to open injury or to deceit. “He would not understand that he might do well.” He cannot offer ignorance as an excuse, because it was voluntary; for he took no trouble to ascertain the law of justice, by self investigation, or by inquiring of others; having determined to lead a bad life, he despised the science of living well, that he may live badly.

4 In a retrograde order, he describes unjust acts, then sinful words, and now evil thoughts and affections; for though it is from the heart, as we read in the Gospel, that bad words and actions spring, still it is from the bad acts and words that we see and hear that we know the bad thoughts and desires that we can neither see nor hear. “He hath devised iniquity in his bed;” the bad actions and words were not produced or given utterance to suddenly, without premeditation, but devised long before in the privacy of his chamber. “He hath set himself on every way that is not good, but evil he hath not hated.” While he was thinking in his heart, and devising various plans of operation, he approved of every bad counsel, and thus began to set himself, to enter on “every way that is not good;” and, his will being corrupted, instead of hating malice, he rather loved it, not because of its badness, but because of its utility. “Every way that is not good,” means every way that is bad; as if he said, No good counsel pleased him; on the contrary, he chose to follow every bad counsel; and thus stood in every way not good; that is, in every bad way.

5–6 He now passes to another part of the Psalm, and shows that, however great the malice of some, still the goodness of God, which consists of his justice and his mercy, is greater. Of his mercy he says, “Thy mercy is in heaven.” So great is it that it reaches from the earth to the heavens, and fills all things, as is more clearly set forth in Psalm 107, “For thy mercy is great, above the heavens.” To mercy he unites truth; that is, faithfulness, by virtue of which he carries out whatsoever he promises in his mercy, and of which be says, in Psalm 144, “The Lord is faithful in all his words”—”and thy truth even to the clouds.” Mercy reaches even to the heavens with its attendant truth, which, too, reacheth to the clouds, that is, to heaven, where the clouds are. Nor is his justice, by virtue of which he gives to every one according to his works, less in God. For “thy justice is as the mountains of God;” great, like lofty mountains that sometimes out top the very clouds. Great things are often called “things of God;” as, “like the cedars of God.” To his justice he unites his judgments, being acts of justice, and says, “thy judgments are a great deep;” profound and inscrutable, like the deepest gulf, that is called an abyss, impenetrable to human eye. By all these similes of the height and the depth of the divine mercy and justice, as well as of his truth and judgments, we are given to understand that, as our corporeal eyes cannot scan those things above the clouds or below the earth, no more can we understand the greatness of the justice and of the mercy of God. “Men and beasts thou wilt preserve, O Lord.” The prophet now shows how boundless is God’s mercy, extending as it does to man and beasts; preserving, nourishing, filling with the gifts of this world, not only men, rational beings, but even beasts; that is, men who, like beasts, are led by their appetites and sensuality only—whose malice he had already explained. Truly infinite and stupendous is the mercy and goodness of God, who, when he could, with the greatest justice, destroy and reduce to nothing the wicked and the blasphemer; yet, at the very time that they are blaspheming, railing at, and breaking through all his commandments, is actually supporting, nourishing, feeding them, filling them with his delights, making his sun to shine on them, and watering their fields and their gardens with his rain from heaven.

7 The first part of the verse is a burst of admiration. Having spoken of God’s mercy to the wicked and the carnal, whom he designates as beasts, he now speaks of his mercy towards the pious and the spiritual, called by him “the children of men,” which may be called justice, in regard of the wicked too, who, he justly decreed, should have no share in such blessings. “The children of men shall put their trust under the cover of thy wings.” The beasts ought to be contented with the safety of their bodies; it was the only thing they knew, sought, or cared for. But the children of men will be, like the chickens under the wings of the hen, O most loving God, gathered together in quiet, expecting all happiness from you alone. Such words tend to give us some idea of the special providence, and the singular benevolence of God towards the pious; and, on the other hand, of the perfect and unbounded confidence they have in God, like the solicitude of the hen in regard of her chickens, and their confidence when under her wings. Nothing can be more to the purpose than the same simile, and it is frequently used by the Psalmist, as in Psalm 90, “In the cover of thy wings will I hope, my soul adhered to thee;” and in Psalm 90, “He will overshadow thee with his shoulders, and under his wings shalt thou trust.” How delightful is it not, and how preferable to all earthly delights, to be fostered under God’s wings; to experience the love that exceeds that of a father or a mother, is a thing that no one knows, until they shall have experienced it.

8 Protection under the wings of God is had in this world, when there is danger from birds or beasts of prey; but he now speaks of the future rewards, and gives the best description he can of those unspeakable rewards, by similes drawn from corporeal objects; the first is taken from the recipient, the second from the thing received. The recipient of anything is then content when he is so full and laden, that he can desire no more. That plenty, satisfying the entire appetite, is most happily described here as inebriation. He that is fond of drink is never fully satisfied until he shall have got inebriated, for, instead of coveting more drink, he then falls asleep. So it is with us; we are never satisfied in this life, we never rest, no matter what the amount of our prosperity may be; then only do we become full, saturated, content, and therefore happy, when we “get inebriated with the plenty of God’s house;” for then, our appetite being thoroughly satisfied, we sink into the sleep of eternal rest. Observe, he says, shall “be inebriated by the plenty,” not by the wine, to give us to understand that the word is not to be taken in its literal sense or meaning. The next simile is drawn from the thing received: “Thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure.” Three things are to be observed in a torrent. A great body of water rolling down from the mountains; a sudden inundation, a great river, all of a sudden, appears where a drop of water was not to be seen a few moments before; the force of the rolling water, carrying everything before it. Such will be the happiness of heaven! A great body of wisdom and knowledge will come down from the mountain, of which Ecclesiasticus writes, “The word of God is high in the fountain of wisdom;” that means, in the high mountain of the Deity is the word of God, the fountain of wisdom, from which mountain and fountain the blessed are suddenly inundated; for we who, through great labor, find after a long time in this world, imbibed wisdom in the minutest drops, will then, on a sudden, all at once, in one moment, after a clear vision of God, so abound in all knowledge, not only of things created, but of the very attributes of the Creator, that by the abundance of such wisdom and knowledge the soul will be hurried on to the love and the enjoyment of the supreme good. For in our heavenly home, we will not be free to love, or not to love, to enjoy, or not to enjoy, a blessing so great, but, through a most felicitous necessity, we will be driven to adhere to our supreme good, and, by a most intimate attachment, to revel in its sweetness.

9 He assigns a reason for the great inundation of wisdom and knowledge that will pour in upon the blessed from the vision of the Deity. Simply because “he is the fountain of life,” which is the same as the fountain of wisdom. God then, from the fact of his being the fountain of wisdom, is the fountain of life, for wisdom is life to the wise; and being the fountain of life he is the fountain of existence, because, life is existence to those that do exist. God, then, is called the fountain of wisdom, of life, of existence, because he derives his wisdom, his life, his essence, from no one, but is himself wisdom, life, existence; and all other things, whatever wisdom, life, existence they have, derive it from him. David uses the word fountain here to keep up the metaphor, as if he said, “Thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure, for with thee is the fountain,” from which it rises. He calls it “the fountain of life,” when one would think he should have called it the fountain of wisdom, because he wanted to show that the eternal life promised to the just, and desired by all as the supreme good, consisted entirely in this supreme wisdom, according to the Lord himself, Jn. 17, “This is life everlasting, that they may know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” He then adds, “and in thy light we shall see light,” to explain, in plainer language, what he had metaphorically expressed; for it means, through you, who are the light and the source of light, we shall see you the inaccessible and never failing light. We see God now, but reflected through his creatures; we see him in our mind, but by reasoning, by inference from his works; finally, we see him in faith, but not in form; but then we will see God in himself, and, as the Apostle has it, face to face, or as St. John has it, “we will see him as he is,” and not in a picture. And, as the same St. John has it, “God is light, there is no darkness in him.” He therefore most properly says here, “in thy light,” that is, in thy divinity, which is light, and not in types and figures, “shall we see light,” that is, yourself who art the true light that “enlighteneth every man coming into the world.” From this passage theologians properly infer, that there is a light of glory necessary to see God. For, though God is light, according to St. Paul, he is an “inaccessible light;” and, therefore, unless the mind get a certain elevation, and be strengthened by a certain gift of God, called the light of glory, it cannot fix its gaze on that uncreated light. We shall, therefore, see the light which is God, but it will be “in his light;” that is, assisted by the light of his glory which he bestows on those he condescends to admit to the beatific vision. The first explanation, however, is more literal.

10 He now tells us that these great favors, of which he had been speaking, belong to the just alone, designated by him as the “children of men,” to distinguish them from the wicked, whom he called “beasts.” He uses the imperative for the indicative mood, a thing not infrequent with the prophets. “Extend thy mercy to them that know thee;” that is, those alone who are familiarly and intimately acquainted with you, who live with you, who invoke you, who fear you in your commandments, and whom you hear in their prayers, in which style of language we have in the gospel, “Amen, I say unto you, I know you not”—”and thy justice to them that are right in heart,” and hold out or extend the same mercy which is also a crown of justice “to them that are right in heart,” to the just and the pious, whose heart is right and agreeable to thy righteousness and are, therefore, delighted with thy commandments and thy judgments; for the prophets as usual, put up the same prayer in different terms.

11 Solicitous for himself, fearful of missing such blessings, he now prays for the gift of perseverance, especially against a vice to which persons of his rank are very much exposed. “Let not the foot of pride come to me.” Do not, pray thee, let the proud come near me, for fear they may, by words, or by example, or through any other channel, draw me from the state of grace into the mire of sin. By the proud and the sinner, whose hand and foot, that is, whose approach and power he fears, is meant, principally, the devil; who is the king of all the children of pride; and after him, his servants and ministers. St. Augustine’s explanation also will suit; which is: “Let not the foot of pride come to me.” Let me not have the gait, the affectation of pride; “and let not the hand of the sinner move me;” let not the sinner have any influence over me that may bring me to sin; and thus, through my own fault, or through the temptation of others, be brought down from my position, and miserably fall.

12 He assigns a reason for his fear of pride; because, as Tobias says, chap. 4, “From pride all perdition took its beginning;” for the Angels and our first parents fell through pride, and through them sin entered into the world; and, after having so fallen from justice to iniquity, were banished from eternal happiness, and consigned to everlasting misery; for, “God resists the proud, and to the humble he gives his Grace.” “And could not stand,” in that place of happiness where they had been put by God, with a view of promoting them to better, should they persevere in virtue.

Table of Contents

Psalm 36


Explanation Of The Psalm

1–2 The prophet, in the character of a spiritual physician, admonishes the faithful, when they see the wicked prospering, not to be tempted to imitate them, or to be indignant or angry with God, as if he were treating them unjustly; because the prosperity of the evil doer will not be of long duration; nay, it will even have but a very brief existence; and then will God’s justice and providence, in not allowing them to exult and rejoice for any length of time, be made manifest to all. “Be not emulous of evil doers.” Do not imitate them; do not seek to do as they do. If they do wrong, do not the same. “Nor envy them that work iniquity.” When you see the wicked prosper, be not troubled, nor be angry with God for allowing them so to thrive in the world, as it is more clearly expressed in Psalm 72, “How good is God to Israel, to them that are of a right heart! But my feet were almost moved; my steps had well nigh slipt, because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked seeing the prosperity of sinners;” that means, God seems good to those who know and love him; but, poor creature as I am, I fell into doubt and misgiving, burning with zeal, as I thought, for justice sake, and with anger at seeing the prosperity of the wicked, who, while more deserving of torments and punishment, abound in all the temporal blessings of this world. “For they shall shortly wither away as grass.” A most appropriate idea for showing how short will be their prosperity. Grass and green herbs do not send their roots very deep into the earth, like the cedar and the palm tree, to which the just are usually compared. “The just shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus.” Hence, the grass and green herbs wither and rot in a short time; the cedar and the palm tree come to an immense age. And the prophet does not confine himself to their prosperity, which, he says, will be very brief in this world; but, he goes further, and says, themselves will be very quickly destroyed; and when they are gone, their happiness and prosperity is gone with them. And though they may enjoy many and prosperous years here, they are nothing compared to the lengthened, the everlasting happiness of the just. For “the just shall live forever,” Wisdom 5; and “the just shall be in everlasting remembrance.” Any one that wishes to see the brevity and the velocity of all things temporal, painted to the life, let him refer to Wisdom, chap. 5, “All those things are passed away like a shadow, and like a post that runneth on, and as a ship that passeth through the waves; whereof when it is gone by, the trace cannot be found, nor the path of its keel in the waters: or as when a bird flieth through the air; of the passage of which no mark can be found, but only the sound of the wings beating the light air, and parting it by the force of her flight; she moved her wings, and hath flown through; and there is no mark found afterwards of her way: or as when an arrow is shot at a mark, the divided air presently cometh together again, so that the passage thereof is not known: so we also being born, forthwith ceased to be; and have been able to show no mark of virtue; but are consumed in our wickedness.”

3–4 After seeking to frighten us out of our evil ways, David now tries to encourage us to do good. If you wish to be happy and blessed, understand who is the author of all happiness, look to him for it, and to no one else. “Trust in the Lord,” he, being master of all things, can alone give us what we want; but that our hope may be certain, and that we may not be confounded, “do good;” do what God’s commandments direct you; for he cannot put his trust in him he knows to be incensed against him; and then in perfect security you will “dwell in the land,” for who can turn you out when you are known to be the friend of him to whom the earth, and “the fullness thereof” belongs? nay, more, “you will be fed with its riches,” for it will throw up its fruits in abundance to feed you. But to work, to be in God’s peace, so that one may securely confide in him, they must have love; and, therefore, he says, “Delight in the Lord;” love God from your heart, let him be your delight, and then you will be safe, because, “he will give thee the requests of thy heart,” whatever your heart shall desire. An objection—we know many who “trusted in the Lord,” who “did good,” and who “delighted in the Lord,” and still were not allowed “to dwell in the land,” nor “to be fed with its riches,” nor to get “the requests of their heart:” to say nothing of the countless multitudes of holy souls who are in extreme want. Certainly St. Paul “trusted in the Lord,” and “did good;” and yet, according to himself, 1 Cor. 4, “He was hungry and thirsty, and was naked, and was cast out as the refuse and the off scouring of this world:” and though “he delighted in the Lord,” the Lord did not grant him “the request of his heart;” for, though he asked three times to “be delivered from the sting of his flesh,” yet he was not heard. The answer is: the greater part of those who are in extreme want do not “trust in the Lord” as they ought, do not observe his commandments as he requires, much less are they “delighted in the Lord;” for, to say nothing of the promises contained in this Psalm, Christ himself most clearly says to us, “Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? Seek ye, therefore, first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all those things shall be added unto you.” There can be no doubt, then, but that God will provide all necessaries for his own, if they really put their trust in him, and keep his commandments. If the contrary sometimes happens, as was the case with St. Paul, the reason is, because God chose to give them something better, with which they are more contented, and that is the great merit of patience; for the very same Paul, who so described his want and his other tribulations, wrote in another place, “I am filled with comfort, I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation;” and thus, though God did not grant “the requests of his heart,” by removing “the sting of his flesh,” he gave him an abundance of grace to convert that sting into a powerful source of triumph. He, therefore, withheld a thing of trifling value, that he may confer one of immense value, which he knew was the real “request of his heart.”

5–6 The prophet, in the capacity of a skilful physician, had prescribed a remedy for the internal disease of hunger, thirst, and the like; he now prescribes for the external disease of persecutions and calumnies. When such things happen, we are not forbidden to defend ourselves, and to repel the calumnies; but prayer to God, confidence in God, should be our principal resource and remedy, as was the case with Susanna, who, when condemned to death, through swearing of false witnesses, with tears in her eyes looked up to heaven, “for her heart had confidence in the Lord.” “Commit thy way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he will do it.” In prayer before God disclose all your actions to him, confide in him, commit your whole case to him, “and he will do it.” He will do justice to you. He will find out a means of detecting the falsehood of the witnesses who swore against you, so as to establish your innocence. That is more clearly expressed in the following, “and he will bring forth thy justice as a light.” God, in his wonderful providence, will cause your justice that was, as it were, buried in darkness, by the calumnies of your persecutors, to emerge and be refulgent in great brightness, as light is seen when enkindled, or brought out from a closed and darkened lantern. He repeats it, saying, “and thy judgment as the noon day.” He will establish your innocence as clearly, and make it to be seen as conspicuously as the sun is seen at noon. A thing literally carried out in the case of Susanna. At first her justice and her innocence were in darkness, she was convicted on the testimony not only of two witnesses, but even of two who professed to be together when they saw the thing, and whose character put them beyond suspicion; however, God at once raised up the spirit of Daniel, who, from the very lips of the same witnesses, so clearly establishes their own infamy, and the innocence of Susanna, that she was at once set at liberty, and they were consigned to an ignominious death.

7 The meaning of this passage, which may be considered as the fourth general spiritual rule, is, take care, and be always obedient to God; pray to him constantly, for fear the idea of seeing an unjust man successful in the world may tempt you and lead you to injustice. In fact, the success of the bad is a great temptation; but easily overcome by having God constantly before us, and clinging to him through prayer and obedience. Whoever will so unite himself to God stands, as it were, on an eminence; and, seeing the happiness of the sinner to be transient and temporary, has no difficulty in spurning and despising it. He therefore, says, “Be subject to the Lord, and pray to him.” Be obedient to God in all simplicity and honesty, and through prayer frequently converse and commune with him. “Envy not the man who prospereth in his way.” Do not seek to rival the man who is prosperous in life; that is, the man who is dishonestly so.

8–9 This verse is a repetition and explanation of the first verse. Throughout the whole Psalm the same idea is frequently repeated and inculcated, to explain it more clearly, and thereby to fix it more firmly on the memory. In the first verse he said, “Be not emulous of evil doers.” He now repeats, in clearer language, “cease from anger, and leave rage;” that is, when you see a bad man thriving, don’t get vexed or angry, don’t say, Why does this villain so prosper? Where is God’s justice? Where his providence? In the eighth verse he said, “have no emulation to do evil.” Do not seek to rival the wicked in their evil ways; do not imitate the enormities of those whose happiness you so envy, and adds, “for the evil doers shall be cut off,” to confirm what he had said before, “for they shall wither away as grass.” He then adds, “but they that wait upon the Lord shall inherit the land,” to repeat and confirm what he had said before, “trust in the Lord, and dwell in the land.” They wait on the Lord who patiently expect his promises, and expect them confidently, knowing the Lord, who made the promise, being both able and sure to carry it out; and thus, there is no doubt that the evil doers, though they may seem to flourish for a while, will not long flourish, but will be “cut off” from the land, and shoved into hell for eternal punishment; while those who keep themselves from sin, and expect their reward from God, “they shall inhabit the land,” for they shall get permanent hold of the land, of which they will never be deprived. In truth, when holy souls go to God, instead of losing possession of the land, they acquire both it and heaven along with it, when it is said of them, “that he will put them over all his property.”

10–11 Having said, that “the evil doers shall be cut off,” he now adds, that it will soon happen. “For yet a little while” and that “wicked” man, who seemed so happy, “shall not be,” cannot be found; “and thou shall seek his place and shalt not find it.” There will be no trace of him, like a barren tree torn up from the roots. “But the meek,” they who are neither indignant nor angry with God when they see the wicked prosper; but, on the contrary, patiently bear and take from God’s hand what it may please him to send, they will “inherit the land,” not only this land of exile, but that land that only deserves the name, that fixed and firm land, of which the Lord speaks in Mat. 5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land;” and as that land is called the Jerusalem, which means, the vision of peace, and whereas all its enemies are far removed from it, therefore “they shall delight in the multitude of peace;” they shall have great peace, because the number of inhabitants will be great to enjoy it; and the peace will be of long duration, or rather forever; and thus they shall enjoy the pleasure that peace always brings with it.

12–13 The just man is here advised to be in no great fear of the wicked, as God is guarding him. “The sinner shall watch the just man;” shall attentively look after everything he does, to see could he find any opening for destroying him; “and shall gnash upon them with his teeth;” like a dog, shall howl for his destruction, and through anger and fury expose his teeth, like a dog. “But the Lord shall laugh at him.” God, who beholds everything, in whose hand are all things, so that even a leaf does not fall to the ground without his order or permission, “shall laugh at him, for he foreseeth that his day shall come;” he will laugh at him, because he sees the end of the wicked man is just at hand; and that he will be taken off before he can put any of his designs against the just man into execution. Though God may sometimes allow the wicked to slay the just, the wicked, however, kills himself first, for he kills his own soul; and since the death of the just is precious in the sight of the Lord, his death, instead of being a loss, is to him a gain; on the other hand, the death of the sinner is the very reverse—is the commencement of his eternal punishment; and thus the sinner is always hurried off before he can injure the just. He is, therefore, justly “to be laughed at,” who, while he lies in wait for another, sees not his own impending destruction.

14–15 The prophet explains here, what he had more obscurely expressed in the twelfth verse. He said there, “The sinner shall watch the just man,” which he explains here, by saying, “The wicked have drawn out the sword, they have bent their bow.” The wicked stand with drawn swords, and bended bow, biding their time to shoot with the arrow, and slay with the sword the just man, “who is poor and needy,” but “upright of heart.” But God, who from on high beholds everything, causes their “swords to enter into their own hearts,” and “their bows to be broken,” and to injure themselves alone; and thus, “he will laugh at them.” What is said here of the real sword and quiver, may be also applied to the sword and quiver of the tongue, that sinners, perhaps oftener, make use of against the just. The just man is here designated as “the upright of heart,” because his heart is most conformable to the law of God, which is most upright; and as that law is the right way in which we must needs walk, the “upright of heart” is said to be right in his way, because he never departs from the right path, which is the law of the Lord. Observe also that the just man is called “the poor and needful,” because all the just are poor in spirit, and though they sometimes possess the riches of this world, they understand them not to be their own, since they have to render an account of them to God; or certainly David does not speak of all the just, but only of the poor and the needy, who are oppressed by the rich. Between the “poor” and “needy,” there is this difference, that the former signifies the humbler, the afflicted, the meek; while “needy” signifies, properly speaking, the one in want, who wishes for everything, because he is thoroughly destitute. Finally, the expression, “Let their sword enter into their own hearts, and let their bow be broken,” is more a prophecy than an imprecation. The sword of the sinner, drawn against the just, then enters into his own heart; when, while seeking to destroy the just, he really destroys himself. While he despoils the just man perhaps of his clothes, he robs himself of faith and charity; and while he deprives the just of his life, he deprives himself of the grace of God, which is the life of the soul; and while, by calumny, he shuts the just man up in prison, he precipitates himself into hell.

16–17 For fear the just should envy the rich wicked, and should, therefore, forsake justice to do evil, David encourages them in these two verses. “Better is a little to the just, than the great riches of the wicked;” that means, a trifling income will be of more value to the just man than an immense fortune to the sinner; and, therefore, the just man, with small means, is much happier than the sinner with a large revenue; and, therefore, justice, with little wealth, is more to be sought after than much wealth with justice. The reason is, because the just man, being guided by God, knows how to turn his riches to proper account: he is not avaricious, nor is he prodigal, and he is, therefore, neither needy, nor is he in want; he is not in debt, neither is he burdened with useless riches, to stimulate his pride or excite his passions. On the other hand, the sinner is both proud and prodigal, and knows not the use of money; hence he is always in want, always in debt, and cannot hold his position long, as appears from what follows, “For the arms of the wicked shall be broken into pieces; but the Lord strengtheneth the just;” that means, the power and strength of the sinner will easily fail, because he depends on the arm of the flesh, and his riches can afford him no help; but the strength and power of the just cannot fail, because he depends on the arm of God, who, being the friend of the just, confirms and supports him. Finally, the sinner, in spite of all his riches, will not escape everlasting death; because, when he shall die, he will carry nothing with him, nor will his glory descend with him, while the just man, who, instead of trusting in the riches of this world, trusted in God, shall live forever.

18–19 The prophet now confirms what he said a while ago, as to the happiness of the just, however scanty their fortune may be. “The Lord knoweth the days of the undefiled.” God approves of their life, favors and blesses them; and, therefore, their days will be prolonged, and their inheritance shall be protected for a long time. “They shall not be confounded in the evil time.” In the time of want and penury they will not be in confusion, because they will not be forced to beg; “and in the days of famine they shall be filled.” So far from there being any fear of their dying of hunger in time of famine, they will be so supplied that they may eat to satiety; things that often happen in this life, but most certainly will in the next. For, after this life, a most unheard of season of sterility will set in, when no one can either sow or reap; and the rich man in hell will thirst for one drop of water even, without getting it. Then, indeed, the immaculate, who stored nothing on earth, but put up everything in heaven, shall find their everlasting inheritance, and will not be confounded with the begging of the foolish virgins, “give us of your oil,” but will be fully satiated when the glory of the Lord shall have appeared.

20 A reason why “the inheritance of the just should be forever;” and why “they shall be filled in the days of famine.” That will be the case, “because the wicked,” who were wont to harass them, and deprive them of their property, “shall perish.” The remainder of the verse corresponds with the two last verses, and the meaning is, Holy souls, as being friends of God, shall have the “eternal inheritance,” and in the “evil day will not be confounded;” but the enemies of the Lord, as all sinners are, on the contrary, shall enjoy a very brief felicity; for, so soon as ever they come to be exalted, they will vanish like smoke, which the more it is exalted, the more it is scattered, leaving not even a track of itself behind.

21–22 He confirms what he had stated in verse 16, viz., “Better is a little to the just than the great riches of the wicked.” It frequently happens that the sinner, however rich, may borrow money without returning it, because they want to live, to be dressed, or to have finer houses than they can afford; hence, they are always in debt; while the just man, however limited in his fortune, knows how to make use of that little; and hence, can afford to “have mercy on the poor,” and “shall give without expecting to get it back.” “For such as bless him,” that is God, “shall inherit the land;” and thus will always have something to give—”but such as curse him;” the ungrateful, the blasphemer, “shall perish,” so that even if they wished to give, they won’t be able to do so.

23–24 He now begins to relate God’s singular providence in regard of the just, in order to confirm them, for fear the prosperity of the wicked may induce them to commit sin. He states, then, that the life of the just is guided and guarded by God. “With the Lord shall the steps of a man be directed.” The Lord, who made the just man, will direct his words and actions. “And he shall like well his way;” that is, either the just man shall like well and follow God’s way, or God shall like his, that is, the path he is pursuing. “When he shall fall, he shall not be bruised.” This may be referred to the disasters of the body as well as of the soul. For, should the just man meet any corporeal affliction or trouble, such as the falling down a precipice or into a pit, “he shall not be bruised;” he will not be entirely destroyed; for the “Lord putteth his hand under him,” assists him through his providence. Should he fall into the temptation of sin, “he shall not be bruised;” that is, he will not give full consent to mortal sin, nor will he lose his patience, his faith, or any other virtue, because God, by the assistance of his grace, will “put his hand under him.”

25–26 He proves, from his own experience, that the just “shall not be confounded in the evil time;” and also, that “in the days of famine they shall be filled.” I have been young, and now am old;” and in all that space of time “have not seen the just forsaken;” so as to be pinched by want; nor have I seen “his seed seeking bread;” that is, his children begging or seeking bread. On the contrary, I have seen the just man “showing mercy and lending;” so abounding in the riches of the world as to be able either to bestow altogether, or certainly to lend to his neighbors in their necessities; and, therefore, “his seed,” his descendants, not only shall feel no want, but they “shall be in blessing;” that is, blessed by God, they will abound in the goods of this world, or they will be blessed by all, as the children of the best of parents. Observe that the mendicant religions do not come under the sentence so pronounced here, because their mendicancy is voluntary, done through a love of poverty; nor can they be said to be forsaken by God, when he supports them by a wonderful providence. Other mendicants, generally speaking, are not the children of those who were wont “to show mercy and to lend;” to whom the promise was specially made. Very often they are neither just themselves nor the children of the just. Lastly, as we have already said, the truly just, and they who trust in God, though they may seem to be deserted by God, seeking a morsel of bread, like Lazarus, they have got something better than the goods of this world; nor would they give the virtue of patience they have got in exchange for all the riches of this world.

27–28 From what he had said of his experience from his youth to his old age, he concludes by an exhortation to “decline from evil and do good,” which are the two primary precepts of justice—”and dwell forever and ever;” be just, and you will, in security, “dwell in the land” forever. He assigns a reason why. Because “the Lord loveth judgment;” his just and holy servants; and I, therefore, assert that “they shall be reserved forever.” This promise, to a certain extent, applies to this world, where the just, through various successions, are wont to “dwell in the land” for a long time; but, properly and absolutely speaking, it applies to the future life, which, in the land of the living, will be everlasting.

29 This verse, as well as the latter part of the preceding verse, are so clear as to need no explanation.

30–31 Having previously said that divine Providence was on the watch to see that the just should not be oppressed by the wicked, he now adds, that the just themselves, by their own wisdom, which, too, is a gift of God, would enable them to save themselves from “their steps being supplanted” by the wicked. “The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom.” The just man will speak with so much wisdom, that he will not be caught in his language. To “meditate wisdom” means to be discreet in our conversation, as we have explained before; which he repeats when he adds, “and his tongue shall speak judgment;” that is, the tongue of the just man will not scatter words at random, but will speak what is right, and at the right time, which is the essence of speaking with wisdom; and he assigns a reason for it, saying, “the law of God is in his heart.”

The just man’s conversation is naturally seasoned with wisdom, because he has “the law of God in his heart;” and, therefore, while he is speaking he has the commandments of God before him, that he may not offend by his tongue; and, besides, “the law is a light,” Prov. 6; and, as the same David says, Psalm 18, “The law of the Lord enlighteneth the heart, giving wisdom to little ones;” and it is, therefore, no wonder if the just man, who has it in his heart, who loves to think on it should speak with wisdom—”and his steps shalt not be supplanted.” To supplant means to tumble another by tripping him, and that more by cunning and dexterity than by strength; but, as the just man always thinks wisely and acts wisely, he is always on his guard, and, therefore, his “steps shall not be supplanted.”

32–33 These two verses are an explanation of the two preceding. “The wicked watcheth the just man, and seeketh to put him to death,” carefully observes what he says and what he does, in order “to supplant him,” “and seeketh to put him to death;” first to trip him up, then to kill him, a thing that very often happens in unjust prosecutions, when the judge or a false accuser seeks first to entrap an innocent person, and then to put him to death. “But the Lord will not leave him in his hands.” The Lord will not allow the sinner so to keep the just man in his power, but will inspire him with wisdom, to detect the machinations of his enemies, and to speak with such wisdom as will enable him to elude them; “nor condemn him when he shall be judged.” The judge will not condemn the just man, when he shall come before him, for God will not permit justice to be so perverted.

34 An exhortation to the just to hope in God, and persevere in justice. “Expect the Lord.” Hope in God, even though he may seem to be tardy in his promise; “and keep his way,” observe his law, and turn not from the path of holiness and justice in which you have set out; “and he will exalt thee to inherit the land,” when his promises shall be fulfilled, that you may obtain the land of the living as your inheritance of right; “when the sinners shall perish, thou shalt see.” When all sinners, condemned by the judgment of God, shall have perished you will see what you now hope for.

35–36 Having said that, “when the sinners shall perish, thou shalt see;” the just man may naturally ask, when that will happen? and he therefore now says it will be immediately, for “I have seen the wicked highly exalted, and lifted up like the cedars of Libanus,” and placed in the highest degree of dignity and power, so abounding in wealth, subjects, friends, and the like, that one would say his happiness must needs be everlasting; nevertheless, scarcely “I passed by, and lo, he was not;” that is, in my way, I saw that man raised and rooted like the cedars of Libanus; I had scarcely passed him, when I looked back, and he had disappeared. “I sought him,” asked where he was, looked for some traces of his greatness, “and his place was not found,” as if he had never been there. These things are now of daily experience. To say nothing of petty kings and princes, where are those most powerful monarchs of the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans? Had history not recorded them, we would be in ignorance of their very existence. Thus, while the merest traces of such powers have disappeared, yet such is human pride, and so does it blind men up, that they cannot see what they actually touch; and will not acknowledge what they must, in spite of them, feel and experience.

37–38 A continuation of the exhortation. “Keep innocence,” by keeping yourself so, and “behold justice,” judge what is right towards your neighbor; “for there are remnants for the peaceable man,” because God will reward him, so that he will leave children after him. Or, in a higher meaning, because many good things are in store for the just after death, “For their good works follow those who die in the Lord,” Apoc. 14; on the contrary, “the unjust shall be destroyed together,” without any exception, and “the remnants of the wicked shall perish;” they will neither leave any property nor children to enjoy it, when they shall have consumed everything in their crimes and concupiscence.

39–40 A recapitulation of the whole Psalm sufficiently clear and perspicuous.

Table of Contents

Psalm 37


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The penitent David prays to God not to punish him in his anger and his wrath, as the judge deals with the culprit; but in his mercy, as the physician does with the patient. See the beginning of Psalm 6, on the difference between indignation and wrath, where we make them to be synonymous; but we will make a difference, we would say with St. Augustine, that they who are condemned to hell “are rebuked in indignation;” and “are chastised in wrath:” but David prays to God to punish him for his sins neither in hell nor in purgatory, but here in this world. St. Augustine warns us not to make little of the fire of purgatory, as the fire there is more severe than anything one can suffer in this world. Another observation is, that though God’s justice is taken here in the retributive sense, as well as in Psalm 2, verse 3, and Psalm 6, verse 1, still, in other places, it is used to signify the zeal of a father angry with his children, not with a view to destroy, but to protect them.

2 Knowing that nothing is of greater use in obtaining pardon of sin than a full knowledge of the evil of it, and the deploring our misfortune before God; in this and the few following verses he mourns over the unhappiness that mortal sin brings with it. He says, then, “Rebuke me not in thy indignation;” for I know, from experience, how severe it is; for “thy arrows are fastened in me.” I have been scourged with many calamities by you for my sins; “and thy hand hath been strong upon me;” yes, “your arrows are fastened in me;” and not lightly, for “your hand hath been strong upon me,” to send them home, to drive them in deeper. By such punishments and troubles, he seems to allude to the death of his son by Bethsabee, the dishonor of his daughter, the murder of his son, his expulsion from his kingdom, and other troubles, which God, in his vengeance, poured upon him. Perhaps, by those “arrows” he also had in view those fearful rebukes he got from the prophet Nathan, 2 Kings 12, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee from the hand of Saul, and gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wife into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and Juda. Why, therefore, hast thou despised the word of the Lord, to do evil in my sight? Thou hast killed Urias the Hethite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife. Therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house.” Such a reproof for benefits conferred, and such threats, must have deeply affected David, and overwhelmed him with shame, fear, and sorrow.

3 He describes the effect of God’s arrows, and says he is terribly confused, and cannot rest, while he brings to mind God’s anger, and his own sins that provoked it. “There is no health in my flesh, because of thy wrath,” your angry looks, that are always present to my mind, make my flesh to grieve and pine away; for interior trouble has its effect on the body, makes it to waste, languish, and decay. “There is no peace for my bones, because of my sins;” the deformity and hideousness of my sin so confuse me, that I cannot rest, my very bones tremble.

4 He gives a reason for being so dreadfully confused when he reflects upon his sins, and says it is because they are so numerous and so great. As to their number, he states, “for they have gone over my head.” Have grown into such a heap, that they all but crush me, as one who goes into a deep river, so as to allow the water to rise over his head, is overwhelmed by them. In regard of their magnitude, “and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon me;” my sins, like an insupportable burden, weigh down the powers of my soul, it being beyond my strength to satisfy so great a debt. David’s sin was that of adultery, coupled with murder; and now, truly penitent, he sees the many aggravations of both. He had injured a faithful servant, in depriving him of his wife, as well as of his life; he had offended Bethsabee, whom he solicited to sin, and thus spiritually killed her; he had offended his own wives, by not remaining faithful to them; he had offended the whole kingdom, nay, even the very infidels, by his bad example, for which Nathan said to him, “Thou hast caused the enemy to blaspheme the name of the Lord;” he had, lastly, offended God himself, whose laws he had openly transgressed. Counting up, therefore, the number of crimes and offenses he had committed, and the number of persons he had injured by his sins, he could justly exclaim, “My iniquities have gone over my head.” The grievousness of the sin can be estimated from the circumstances. David put Urias to death; first, an innocent man; secondly, a most faithful man; thirdly, one actually in arms for him; fourthly, after committing adultery with his wife, he seeks to add to the disgrace; fifthly, because he sought to make the man his own executioner; sixthly, when he wrote to Joab to procure Urias’s death, he gave him to understand that Urias was guilty of some grievous crime, and thus he injured the man’s character. His ingratitude to God, however, was the blackest feature in the whole transaction. God had bestowed on him all manner of temporal and spiritual favors in the greatest abundance, made him a great king, an accomplished prophet, a brave general, endowed him with prudence, strength, beauty, riches, everything that the heart of man could desire; all of which contributed to aggravate the heinousness of his sins, and which he must have acutely felt when he exclaimed, “My iniquities, as a heavy burden, are become heavy on me;” and the reason why so few conceive the sorrow they ought for their sins is, that few look back upon them, and weigh them with the reflection that David did.

5 This applies to the time between the commission of the sin of adultery and the admonition of Nathan the prophet, more than nine months. It was after the birth of the child that Nathan reproved David, and, therefore, during the nine months, David put off healing the wound through penance. Meanwhile, a sort of veil of forgetfulness had been drawn over the wound, which prevented its being seen while it never healed it; the wounds, however, remained, began to “putrefy and corrupt,” and to become more incurable, which he now deplores, saying, “My sores,” not by the fault of the physician, but through carelessness and forgetfulness, “are putrefied and corrupted, because of my foolishness.” My folly was the cause of not perceiving them, and the same folly caused me to allow them to putrefy, and thus spread the foul stench of the scandal in all quarters.

6 From the corruption and putrefaction of his sores he became “miserable and bowed down,” which can be understood in two senses, as regards the sin, or as regards the punishment. For he who sins grievously, especially against the sixth commandment, by the very fact becomes miserable, because he thereby abandons God, our supreme good; “bows himself down” to the earth, becomes like the beasts, and, therefore, miserable, very miserable, which is conveyed in the phrase, “even to the end;” namely, he is so miserable that he could not possibly be more so, or more “bowed down;” having given up the delights of the angels for the sensuality of the beasts. The expression, “to the end,” does not mean the end of life, or the world, or forever; but it means that he was so bowed down, that he could not be bowed down farther, as appears from the Hebrew. As regards the punishment, the passage may apply to that also; for the man guilty of sins of this class becomes “miserable, and is bowed down” very much, by remorse of conscience, by fear of God’s anger, and by the shame that so humbles and confounds him, that he has not the courage to raise his eyes to heaven. Both constructions of it can be united in this way. I am become miserable by reason of my sin, and the punishment consequent on it, and very much bowed down, because I have turned to carnal and groveling pleasure the face of that soul I should have fixed upon God; through shame, I dare not look up to heaven, and, thus humble and abject, I am forced to look upon the ground, and for all these reasons “I walked sorrowful all the day long,” my conscience always reproving and accusing one; for what pleasure can the wretch feel once he becomes cognizant of his own wretchedness.

7–8 He passes now from his own sins to the general corruption consequent on the sin of our first parents, which was the original source of his sin in particular; and from such corruption he says that he is afflicted and humbled, is continually roaring and groaning. “For my loins,” the seat of sensuality, having shaken off the yoke of original justice, are constantly bringing forth sinful and dangerous desires, and are thus “filled with illusions” of the evil spirits, “and there is no health in my flesh,” because nothing good is to be found therein,” but, on the contrary, a nest of evil passions that weaken it; therefore, “I am afflicted and humbled exceedingly,” because I am ashamed to have to say that I, a rational being, should not keep myself beyond the reach of such low concupiscence; and, therefore, “I roared,” through grief, “with the groaning of my heart,” which provoked me so to cry out and bemoan.

9 Having said that the groanings of his heart caused him to roar; he now tells us to whom those groans were directed, viz., to him who “searcheth the heart,” and knows “what the spirit desireth.” “Lord, all my desire is before thee;” you, O Lord alone, see the whole extent of my desires, which turn entirely on the being delivered from my evil concupiscence, that I may, at length, arrive at the sabbath of perfect rest; and, on this subject “my groaning is not hidden from thee,” similar to what the Apostle writes, Rom. 8, “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body.”

10 He goes on describing the corruption of human nature, and says, “My heart is troubled,” meaning, the intestinal war between his inferior and superior parts; and adds, “my strength hath left me;” for such is the weakness caused by the rebellion, that man must, whether he will or not, be subject to evil desires, and exclaim with the Apostle, Rom. 7, “For, to will good is present with me, but to accomplish that which is good I find not.” Finally, he adds, “and the light of my eyes itself is not with me.” The same rebellion has not only caused infirmity of purpose, but also blindness of intellect. We often judge of things not as they are, but as they appear to us; however badly disposed we may be, as those laboring under fever think what is sweet is bitter, and what is bitter is sweet; and, therefore, he does not say, the light of my eyes is extinct, but, “is not with me; for the light of prayer and of understanding is in the soul, but being oppressed by our corruptible body and our carnal desires, we cannot make use of it; and, therefore he says, the “light of my eyes,” meaning interior light, “is not with me,” to guide me though it is really within me. It is there in reality, but not practically.

11 Having described the internal war, that is constantly going on within man, he now speaks of the external war, the persecutions and sufferings that are consequent on sin. He first complains of his friends and neighbors rising up against him; particularly in Absalom’s rebellion; in which he was joined by a great number of David’s friends and neighbors. “And they that were near me stood afar off,” while some of his friends, such as Absalom and his companions, pressed in upon him to put him to death; his own servants and soldiers “who were near him,” stood aloof and did not protect him.

12–14 All these are true to the letter, as may be seen in the Second Book of Kings, where, when Semei railed at David, called him the son of Belial, the invader of the kingdom, he bore it with the most incredible patience, and would not allow one of his followers to harm or even reprove him; and thus, it was literally true of him that “he became as a deaf man, that heareth not; and as a dumb man, that hath no reproofs in his mouth.”

15 He assigns three reasons for having been so deaf and so silent; the first is, because he considered it would be of more service to him to put his trust in God, than in any defense he could set up for himself. I was silent, “for in thee, O Lord, have I hoped.” I paid no attention to all the false and idle abuse so heaped upon me; because I was conscious that you, who are the just judge, giving to everyone according to their works, and in whom I have always hoped, was looking at, and hearing everything; and as I did put my trust in thee, “thou wilt hear me, O Lord, my God,” and deliver me from their “unjust lips, and deceitful tongue.”

16 Another reason why he chose to be silent and deaf. It is better for me to have patience, and trust in God’s assistance, for fear, by getting into impatience, and returning malediction for malediction, God may desert me, and thus, “my enemies may rejoice over me;” may glory in my fall: “and whilst my feet are moved, they speak great things against me;” that is, I have much reason to fear my enemies would greatly rejoice at my downfall; for, “whilst my feet are moved,” when they begin to totter, and I appear inclined to fall, (as was the case in his son’s rebellion,) my “enemies spoke great things against me,” threatening me, and predicting the speedy loss of my kingdom.

17 A third reason for being silent and deaf before his enemies. My sins make me “ready for scourges,” not only of the tongue, but also of the lash; because “my sorrow,” which I richly deserved, “is continually before me.” Or, if you will, because “my sorrow,” that is, my sin, which is the cause of continual sorrow to me, never left my heart.

18 He assigns a reason for being prepared for the scourge, because I acknowledge and confess that I sinned, and thereby deserved it; “and I will think for my sin,” how I may make sufficient atonement for it. A salutary lesson to the sinner to use all efforts to make satisfaction, and gladly to seize on every opportunity of exercising their patience, when God is good enough to give them the opportunity.

19 Having explained the reasons why he thought proper to remain silent and deaf before his enemies, that by his patience he may propitiate the Almighty, he contrasts that patience with the malice of his enemies. He did not return evil for evil; they, on the contrary, returned evil for good; and yet they enjoyed life, they exulted and were strengthened, which are noted here by David, with a view of moving God to deal more mercifully with himself. “My enemies live, and are stronger than me;” I am humbled and afflicted, and yet bear everything as patiently as if I were deaf and dumb; in the meantime, “my enemies live;” are quite alive, and active, and exulting, “and are stronger than me;” have grown stronger and braver, and “are multiplied;” have increased in number “who hate me wrongfully,” without any just cause or provocation. He, probably, refers to Absalom’s conspiracy, who falsely persuaded the people that the king would appoint no judges but unjust ones, which he would remedy were he appointed king. Hence the people rebelled, and “with their whole heart followed Absalom.”

20 He proves his assertion as to his enemies hating him without any just cause, “They that render evil for good have detracted me without cause, because I followed goodness.” Most truly have my enemies hated me without cause, for the very people that most detracted me were those that “returned evil for good;” for instance, his son Absalom, and his minister Achitophel. Absalom had received many favors from his father. A short time before, his life, which he had forfeited by the murder of his brother, had been spared; and still he denounced his father as unjust and careless, telling those who came to the king for justice, “Your case seems to be fair and just, but the king will appoint no one to hear you.” 2 Kings 15. Achitophel, also, who was raised to the greatest honors by David, to be even his prime minister, forgot all and revolted to Absalom, and gave him most pernicious advice against his father. “And they that render evil for good have detracted me;” but they did so, “because I followed goodness;” because I acted sincerely and honestly in everything, in striking contrast to their unjust and impious thoughts and desires.

21–22 From what he said he infers that God will protect him, and prays he may, and nearly repeats the first verses of the Psalm. God punishes, in his indignation and in his wrath, when he deprives man of his grace, departs from him as from an enemy, and leaves him among his enemies, without giving him the slightest assistance. Having said in the beginning of the Psalm, “Rebuke me not, O Lord, in thy indignation,” so he now says again in the end, “forsake me not, O Lord my God.” Let not your grace desert me, for you are the Lord that made me, and the God that created me for yourself, the supreme happiness. “Do not depart from me,” as from an enemy; but rather, as a father, “attend unto my help;” look with care to my assistance; you, “O Lord, the God of my salvation,” you who are the source of my salvation, from whom alone I expect it, and in whom alone I trust. Such seems to be the literal meaning of this Psalm. However, as many of the holy fathers apply the Psalm to Christ, and it is possible that the whole Psalm was intended for Christ, we now give an explanation of it in that sense.

Another Explanation Of The Psalm 37

1 Christ speaks for his body, the Church, and prays it may be freed.

2 He says, he asks in justice for it, because he had taken upon himself the arrows of God’s anger that were upon it.

3 He describes his passion generally, by reason of which, “from the sole of his foot to the top of his head there was no health in him;” and when he says, “Because of my sins,” we are not to understand his own sins, but those he made his own, that he might atone for them.

4 He says, the reason there was no health in him, from the sole of his foot to the top of his head, was, that the sins he undertook to atone for were so numerous and so grievous, that they rose over his head, and weighed him down.

5–7 He says those things for his body, deploring the corruption of the human race, as if one would say: I am sick in my feet, my hands, and my stomach; the heart is speaking meanwhile, but does not speak of the pain itself suffers, but of what the members suffer.

8 He now begins to enter into the details of his passion, alluding here to the prayer in the garden.

9–10 The prayer in the garden, still alluded to, in which he asked “to have the chalice pass from him;” and he began to “be confused, to fear, to despond, and to be sad,” and to feel the full force of his approaching passion; he would not have the strength and light of the divine consolation, so that an Angel from heaven had to come and strengthen him.

11 Fulfilled to the letter in Judas his friend, and the Jews his neighbors, when they laid hands on him. The latter was fulfilled in Peter, who followed him at a distance, and the Apostles who fled altogether.

12 Alluding to the council of the chief priests, anxiously seeking false witnesses to destroy him.

13–14 Literally applying to Christ, who first before Caiphas, then before Pilate and Herod, set up no defense, but “like a lamb in the hands of the shearer, was silent,” Isaias 53.

15 An allusion to the same silence. He was silent before man, because he would not be silent before God, from whom he expected his reward, the salvation of his people.

16 Christ displayed the most unconquerable patience, for fear his enemies should rejoice at his want of it. “While his feet were moved;” while he appeared for a while to be weak and infirm, “they spoke great things against him, saying, “If he were not an evil doer, we would not have delivered him up to you.” “We found this man perverting our nation.”

17 And so he was scourged, slapped on the face, and crowned with thorns.

18 He will declare a sin he did not commit, but which he assumed to atone for; and “he will think,” yes, and anxiously, how to destroy it thoroughly, which he did, “when he bore our sins in his body upon the tree.” 1 Peter 2.

19 Accomplished when the chief priests, thinking they had succeeded, exulted, and insulted him as he hung upon the cross.

20 Namely, when they said to him on the cross, “Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God;” and also, “let him now come down from the cross.”

21 The very words our Savior made use of when he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

22 “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption; but help me, show me the ways of life, and fill me with joy with thy countenance,” Psalm 15.

Table of Contents

Psalm 38


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David, in his solicitude not to lose true happiness, deliberated and firmly resolved to use great circumspection in all his acts, so that, if possible, he should not sin, even by word, as if he heard the Apostle saying, “Walk with caution;” or another Apostle, “He that does not offend in word, he is a perfect man.” He commences, then, “I said.” I resolved with myself, made it a law, determined “I will take heed to my ways;” that I will most cautiously walk in the way that leads to life, that I will take great care where I put my steps, for fear of falling into a pit, or knocking against a stone, or choosing the slobbery instead of the clean path, or the crooked instead of the straight road; in one word, I resolved and determined to consider and reflect upon all my actions. And, as nothing is easier or more dangerous than to fall into sin through our tongue; for; from the inconsiderate use of it, arise “strife, contentions, quarrels,” and other evils, so numerous, that St. James said, “The tongue is a world of iniquity;” the prophet, therefore, emphatically says, “That I sin not with my tongue;” that is to say, in this respect especially, “I will take heed to my ways,” “that I may not sin with my tongue,” for thus I will escape incalculable evils. “I have set a guard to my mouth, when the sinner stood against me.” There is no time we are in greater danger of transgressing through our tongue than when we are provoked by detraction or by insult; and, therefore, the prophet says, “I have set a guard to my mouth, when the sinner stood against me;” that means, when any ill conditioned person should irritate me by detraction, reproaches, or injurious language of any sort, then, especially, “I set a guard on my mouth,” for fear of giving expression to anything I may afterwards regret.

2 He tells us what guard he put on his mouth. “I was dumb,” I was as silent as if I had been dumb, “and was humbled;” kept my patience in the greatest humility, “and kept silence from good things,” forbore even my just defense, and equally just reproof of those who offended me; “and my sorrow was renewed,” because I did not defend myself. Such is the explanation of St. Augustine.

3 He tells us the effect of the sorrow so renewed. “My heart grew hot within me;” from the sorrow so conceived, my heart began to warm into love; and then I began to meditate on the misery of man, the mercy of God, man’s ingratitude, and the overflowing love of God towards all classes, even towards the ungrateful and the wicked. “And in my meditation a fire shall flame out,” such a fire as that of which the two disciples said, “Was not our heart burning within us whilst he was speaking in the way, and opened to us the Scriptures?” Careful and attentive meditation on spiritual matters is the ordinary way to light up within us the fire of the love of God.

4 In consequence of that internal heat, “I spoke with my tongue,” not with the tongue, as we understand it, but in the tongue known to myself. “O Lord, make me know my end, and what is the number of my days;” we are not to imagine, for a moment, that he asked to know how long he had to live; that would have been a sinful and an idle curiosity; and, therefore, he prefaced it by saying, “I spoke with my tongue,” in language of my own, with a meaning of my own. He meant then to convey that the life of man is extremely short, and next to nothing. But as very few seem to know such truth, however clear and confirmed by experience, he prays to God not to let him fall into the error so many have fallen into, of looking upon that to be lasting that was so very transitory. For why are the greater part of mankind so intent on amassing riches? Why do they fight and contend for them so fiercely? Why do they neglect and despise the future so entirely, but because they either do not think, or do not believe that the present life will fly away like a shadow? He says, therefore, “O Lord, make me know my ends.” By thy grace enlighten me, that I may know the end of my life cannot be far away; “and what is the number of my days,” that by deep reflection I may see how few they are, and how short is my term here below. The following verses will prove this to be the true explanation. For though he was heard by the Lord, he does not say how long he had got to live; but he endeavors to prove, in various ways, that the term of human life is very short, especially when compared to eternity.

5 Having got the knowledge he asked from God, he states “his days are measurable,” so short that they can be easily measured; and, not satisfied with telling that so plainly, he adds, “and my substance is as nothing before thee.” What signifies the shortness of my days, when “my substance,” my very essence, my existence, is nothing in thy presence. It may be something in the sight of man, who sees the present only, but “before thee,” who beholdest the future, who seest eternity that hath no bounds, it is absolutely nothing. For, what are a few years, that glide away so quickly, compared to boundless eternity? “And, indeed, all things are vanity.” He explains more fully, and endeavors to persuade us of the truth he saw himself so clearly, not only is our life extremely short, but even “every man living,” be he king or monarch, whom all admire, and to whom all look up, he too, is all vanity, for, whatever health, strengths, beauty, riches, dignity, or power he may be possessed of, is all frail, fragile, and passing.

6 The prophet, seeing mankind buried in such a profound sleep, in spite of the forcible language he had hitherto used, has now recourse to more forcible language, in the hope of rousing them. As it may be objected to him that man’s life, after all, cannot be said to be nothing, when we see so many abounding in wealth, honors, health, strength, and the like; the prophet now asserts that such things are not real blessings, but the image and the shadow of true blessings; and, therefore, that men are fools in being troubled at not having them, or in losing them when they have them; just as a king who would fret and grieve for the loss of a toy kingdom, while he had his real kingdom. “Surely man passeth as an image.” Man walks and passes through life in the image, not in the reality of things, having before him on his journey, not the realities, but the images and the shadows. This life is but an image of the happy life that alone is the true one; the health of this life is only an image of the immortality that alone deserves the name of health; the beauty of this world is only the shadow of the beauty with which we will be clothed when “the just shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father.” The riches of this world are no riches, they are merely the image of the riches we shall have when we shall need nothing; for then God will be all unto all. The same may be said of wisdom, glory, grandeur, and everything else we call blessings. “And he is disquieted in vain.” Man, in his anxiety for keeping what he has, or for acquiring more, is troubled. In vain does he rejoice when he gains, and deplore when he loses, as if all those things were valuable, solid, and permanent; while they are but imaginary, frail, and perishable. “He storeth up, and he knoweth not for whom he shall gather those things.” By one argument, he proves how idle men are in laboring to acquire, increase, and protect the wealth of this world. People think they are storing up for their children and grandchildren, who will greatly revere the memory of their parents; while it not infrequently happens that those children die in early life, and the inheritance passes to a stranger or to an enemy. Often these very heirs, in a few years, squander and dissipate the savings and gatherings of the long life of the parents. Often an ungrateful heir comes in, who, instead of revering the memory of his parents, never ceases to damage and vilify it; and had all those things been foreseen, the owners would have sought to lodge their treasures in heaven, and certainly would have had a happier life of it here. See Ecclesiasticus, chap. 2, 4, 5 and 6.

7 Looking at the shortness and the vanity of this life, so clearly demonstrated, the prophet determines on putting his hope in God alone. “And now,” in this state of things, “what is my hope?” what do I hope for, ask for, wish for? “is it not the Lord?” is he not my hope, my desire. Turning to the Lord, then, he says, “and my substance is with thee.” My life, my riches, are with you; I hold all things created as nothing, I desire you alone beyond everything, because in you alone is everything.

8 As he said he despised all things earthly, looked to God alone, and “put all his hope in him;” he, in consequence, adds, that his only trouble is for his sins, and not for the reproaches of men, “Deliver thou me from all my iniquities.” They are the only things that can come in the way, and keep me from you; and, therefore, I earnestly pray you deliver me from them, from all of them; the past as well as the future, by blotting out the one, and preventing the other. Here we must remark, that the most perfect, though they despise the world, and seek God with their whole heart, have always something to ask forgiveness for; and, therefore, that they should be always sure to pray to God daily for pardon of their daily sins. “Thou hast made me a reproach to the fool.” This part of the verse has reference to the following verse, and is thus connected with it. Thou hast made me a reproach to the fool, and I was dumb, and opened not my mouth. He means to convey, that by reason of his having said that all things earthly were vain and despicable, and that we should put our hope in God alone, he was derided by the fools, who did not understand the things that pertain to God. As the Gospel says of Christ our Lord, “The Pharisees, who were all avaricious, heard those things, and scoffed at him.”

9 When I heard the fool reproach me, I neither answered nor defended myself; “I was dumb;” as if I had lost the use of my speech, nay, more, “I opened not my mouth.” I behaved as if l were deaf, and heard none of their reproaches, for those who are dumb, without being deaf, open their mouth, and attempt an answer; but those who are deaf and dumb, neither speak nor make at attempt at it; and he assigns the reason why he did so, “because thou hast done it;” it was you caused those reproaches to be cast upon me; it was you held me up for derision. He assigns the very same reason for bearing the railing of Semei with so much patience, 2 Kings 15.; “Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bid him curse David: and who is he that shall dare say, why hath he done so?” It must, however, be noted that God did not command Semei to rail at David, so as to make his obedience therein a meritorious act; for we know that Semei grievously sinned by so persecuting David, and that he was severely punished by Solomon for it afterwards; but God is said to have commanded Semei therein, because he saw his bad and evil dispositions, and made use of them to punish and correct David.

10–11 “Remove thy scourges from me.” I willingly submit to the scoffs and reproaches of the fool, knowing them to proceed from your fatherly correction, for my humiliation; but I cannot stand your scourges, and I beseech of you dispense with them. By his “scourges” he means the racks and torments which God, in his anger, has recourse to; not as a father or a physician, but as a judge, in the spirit in which David already said, “Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger.” Such scourges are blindness of intellect, hardness of heart, a reprobate sense, and damnation itself, to everlasting fire. “The strength of thy hand hath made me faint with rebukes.” The reason he is so extremely anxious to escape the scourges of God is, because he has had experience, both in himself and in others, of their severity. As to himself—I have felt the force and “the strength of thy hand,” blighting and withering me, so “that I fainted” in thy rebukes, when you cruelly and fearfully “rebuked me in your anger.” That he did when he suffered him, for his sin of adultery, to fall into the greater sin of murder; and into such blindness, that he did not come to himself for many months; nor know his state, that is, the loss of his soul: for no punishment is more grievous than when one sin is punished by the commission of another. The Apostle, Rom. 1., teaches us that sin is sometimes the punishment of sin; and a dreadful punishment; more to be feared than any other known punishment. “Because that when they had known God, they have not glorified him as God. Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, to uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies;” and again, “for this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections;” and again, “and as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient.” The prophet then says, that in addition to such cruel punishment, “thou hast corrected man for iniquity; and thou hast made his soul to waste away like a spider.” For the sins just named you have corrected the sinner in your wrath, and wasted away his soul like a spider, whose whole time is taken up in weaving webs to catch flies, and is, in the meantime, itself dried up and perishes. Thus the souls of the carnal, by the just judgment of God, are perpetually laboring in acquiring the things of this world, and in such labor waste all their understanding and intellect, whence the soul becomes so dried up and exhausted of the moisture of divine grace, as never to think of its salvation, or to be moved by the slightest desire of eternal happiness; as an antidote against which aridity the prophet asks, in Psalm 62., “Let my soul be filled as with marrow and fatness.” He concludes by saying, surely in vain is any man disquieted. Any man whose soul wastes away like a spider, is disgusted without cause, labors in vain, is needlessly troubled, for “what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his soul?”

12 He concludes the Psalm by praying to God with great affection. The matter of his prayer will be explained presently; but we have to remark here, that by the word “prayer” is meant the simple petition; and by “supplication,” earnest, vehement, loud petition; by “tears” are meant the affections, that have more effect with God than any words. “Be not silent.” He again demands to be heard, without telling what he wants; but he speaks to him who knows what the spirit desires. “Be not silent.” Answer your petitioner, despise not his entreaties; for he who is silent on hearing a petition, is supposed thereby to refuse to grant it. He assigns a reason why he should be heard, “for I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” For you know that I do not belong to this world, that I am “a stranger and a sojourner” in it, and, therefore, a citizen of Jerusalem, the city above, though I may wander here for a while. You have, then, a right to hear one of your own citizens, in his exile, crying to you from his wanderings. St. John Chrysostom remarks how great and spiritual a man David must have been, when, at the head of a kingdom, and abounding in riches, he so truly avows he is nothing more than a stranger and an exile.

13 He now explains what his prayer is, that of which he says in Psalm 31, “For this shall every one that is holy pray to thee in a seasonable time.” He asks, then, “with a strong cry and tears,” for pardon of his sins, that, his conscience being at ease, he may return in joy from his wanderings to his country; and, in fine, he asks for grace and glory; a petition put up to God, by those alone who seek him with all their heart, and despise the world and its vanities. “O forgive me;” be not a harsh creditor; press me not for payment of the debt; seek not to recover what I have foolishly squandered; “that I may be refreshed before I go hence;” before I leave the world; for, if you do not forgive me here, I will not go to rest, but to prison; therefore, “say to my soul, I am thy salvation,” before you order it to leave my body, “and be no more” “a stranger or a foreigner,” but “fellow citizen with the saints, and the domestic of God.”

Table of Contents

Psalm 39


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Christ, in the person of his people, declares how long the redemption was expected. It was looked for during four thousand years; while, in the meantime, mankind was promised deliverance from the miseries into which they had fallen by the sin of our first parents, sometimes through the prophets and patriarchs, sometimes through figures and oracles. “With expectation I have waited for the Lord,” for a long time, without any intermission. I have been expecting the Lord to have mercy, to visit and to free his people, “and he was attentive to me.” I have not been disappointed, for he has heard me.

2 He now explains the expression in the last verse, “he was attentive to me,” for “he heard my prayers;” and the consequence was, that “he brought me out of the pit of misery and the mire of dregs.” The Hebrew for “pit of misery” conveys the idea of a deep dark place, full of the “mire of dregs,” into which many have fallen, from whose groans and lamentations the greatest disorder and confusion ensue. Such is the state of the wicked, who have not known God and his commandments; and are stuck in the mud of their carnal desires, that renders them not only incapable of arriving at eternal happiness, but causes them to quarrel and wrangle perpetually with each other. The grace of the Redeemer brings us out of this pit, so soon as we begin, through faith, to know the true God, the real and eternal happiness; and, liberated through hope and charity from our carnal desires, we have peace with God and with ourselves. “And he set my feet upon a rock, and directed my steps.” He that had fallen into the “pit of misery,” fell from the path in which God had originally placed him, and made it a safe and easy path to the kingdom of heaven; and, therefore, he who afterwards rescued him “from the pit of misery and the mire of dregs,” put him back on a path solid and firm, and quite as straight and level; which is the meaning of, “he set my feet upon a rock,” the feet he rescued from a deep and miry pit he has put upon a high and firm rock, “and the rock was Christ;” for he says of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He, therefore, put the feet of the just on the faith, the doctrine, and the example of Christ, that they may follow his footsteps; “and directed my steps.” He not only put me on the solid, but also on the straight road, and thus “directed my steps in the way of peace.”

3 The moment God put me on the straight and firm road I began to “sing a new canticle.” Theretofore, while I was the “old man,” I sung nothing but what turned upon the world and its pleasures; but once I became “renewed in the spirit of my mind,” I began to sing “a new canticle” on the love of God, one that God himself “put into my mouth,” which, therefore, is one most agreeable to him. “Many shall see and shall fear, and they shall hope in the Lord.” God’s people now delivered from the pit of misery, or Christ himself, in the person of his people, so delivered, foretells that many will be likewise delivered. “Many shall see” the pit of misery, and those that have been saved from it, “and will fear and will hope in the Lord;” will fear the pit, and put their trust in the deliverer, for the first step to salvation is, when God, by his grace, begins to open the eyes of the sinner, to see his miserable state, and to feel through whom he can be delivered, and thence begins “to fear and to hope in the Lord.”

4 He invites, exhorts, and encourages all to imitate those who have been delivered. “Blessed is the man whose trust is in the name of the Lord.” Truly happy is he who has really placed all his hope in the Lord, who alone is all powerful and merciful; and, therefore, is both willing and able to deliver from every trouble, all those that put their trust in him. To make the matter clearer, he adds, “and who hath not regard to vanities, and lying follies;” who looked for help from no one, especially from vain, empty things, that can save no one; “and lying follies.” Such fallacious helps as have just been alluded to, including astrology, incantations, witchcraft, etc., in which many believe and confide, but which may be justly designated as “lying follies.”

5 He now proceeds to explain that most profound mystery of man’s redemption, through which many have been, and many more will be, brought out of “the pit of misery and the mire of dregs;” and he first states, in general, that the works of God are wonderful. “Thou hast multiplied thy wonderful works, O Lord my God, and in thy thoughts there is no one like to thee.” There is no one like thee in thy thoughts, or the forecasting of thy wisdom, not one to be compared to thee. “I have declared, and I have spoken; they are multiplied above number.” A reason assigned, why no one can be compared to God in regard of his wonderful works and profound thoughts; and he says, “I have declared, and I have spoken;” I have made known some of his wonderful works, through the prophets, through the wise, through the very elements of the world; for, “the heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the works of his hands.” “They are multiplied above number;” they are so numerous that they are past counting, and, therefore, cannot be properly announced or explained.

6 Truly “wonderful are all God’s works;” in all of them “the depth of his thoughts” most splendidly appear, but far and away, and beyond, and above all, in his work of the redemption: what can be imagined more marvelous than for God to stoop to the form of a servant, to become a beggar and a pauper, to rescue man from the “pit of misery,” and raise him to the enjoyment of heaven? To have the same God, in the form of a servant, scourged with rods, and crucified between robbers, that he may place his servants in the choir of Angels? and to carry out all these things with the greatest wisdom, the greatest justice, without offering the slightest injury to the Divinity, nay, even thereby augmenting his glory?! Christ himself, using the pen and the language of David, explains this mystery in the following verses. “Sacrifice and oblation thou didst not desire;” you would not be appeased by the sacrifice of cattle, nor by the oblation of bread and incense, but by a victim of infinite price; you, therefore, wished me to assume a mortal body, that by my “obedience even unto death,” I may atone for the disobedience of the first man; and since you refused “sacrifice” of cattle and “oblation” for sin, “then said I: Behold, I come,” that I may be the priest and the sacrifice; and thus satisfy for the human race, and “bring them out of the pit of misery and the mire of dregs.” Observe here, that by “sacrifice and oblations” we are rather to understand the victim or matter offered, than the rite or ceremony. Observe also, that though the prophet says, “sacrifice and oblations thou didst not desire,” we are not thence to infer the sacrifices of the old law were of no value; what he conveys is, that they were of no value in regard of making satisfaction for sin, as the Apostle says to the Hebrews, “For it is impossible that with the blood of oxen and goats, sins should be taken away.” “But thou hast pierced ears for me.” There are a variety of versions of this sentence, some conveying the idea of Christ having his ears ready for his father’s command to save man; the present reading conveying the idea, that he was in the hands of his father, like a slave who had his ears pierced, ready, at a moment’s notice, to do his master’s bidding.

7–8 He said, “Behold, I come;” he now tells us why, “that I should do thy will;” and the will of God was, that he should sanctify us by the oblation of his body, by his passion and death; so the Apostle explains this passage in Hebrews 10, where he quotes it, and adds, “by the which will we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once.” “In the head of the book it is written of me.” What book? Some will have it, Genesis; some, the First Psalm; some, the Prophets; others, the Gospel of St. John; others, the Book of Life; all defensible; but I look upon the most simple and most literal interpretation to be, the summary, or the whole of the Holy Scriptures. The Hebrew favors this interpretation; instead of “the head of the book,” it is in the Hebrew, “in the volume of the book,” that is to say, in the whole volume, because the whole Scripture has reference to Christ. Hence, the Lord himself says, “what is written in the law of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled;” and in the same gospel we read, “He interpreted to the two disciples; all that was written of him in the Scriptures, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets.” And our Lord, speaking of the Scriptures in general, said, “Search the Scriptures, for they bear testimony of me;” “In the head of the book,” then, does not mean the first chapter or title page of the book; but the substance and the true meaning is, All the Scriptures testify that I came into the world “that I should do thy will,” by obedience to you in the most trifling matters. Turning, then, to the Father, he adds, “O my God, I have desired it,” I have most cheerfully accepted your decree; “and thy law in the midst of my heart;” I have put thy law in the midst of my heart; there is nothing I have been more desirous, more anxious for, than to obey your law. Speaking of the just, David says, “God’s law is in his heart;” but; speaking of Christ, the head of the just, he says, “his law is in the midst of his heart,” and those who belong to Christ should have his Spirit, so that they may prefer his law to everything, so as to have it constantly before their memory, their will, and their understanding.

9 Though God’s principal object in the death of Christ was, that he should atone for mankind, he willed also that Christ should previously announce the Gospel; that his preaching may be the path to his passion; and that he may be not only a Redeemer, but also a teacher and a preacher to man; and he, therefore, says now, “I have declared thy justice;” I have announced thy most just law, and the works it requires, and that publicly, before countless crowds of people, of which yourself are witness. And, in fact, Christ never ceased preaching. From his infancy he preached, by example, contempt of the things of this world, modesty, temperance, humility. From his baptism, from the time that the Father said, “Hear ye him,” he began to preach, and never ceased to the day of his death, which he continued through his Apostles, and will continue, through their successors, to the end of the world.

10 Many preach while they expect any benefit thereby, or fear no injury in consequence; but when they cease to hope, or fear presses, they keep their preaching to themselves, and will not let it out. Not so with Christ; and, by his example, he tells us what to do thereon, and he, therefore says, “I have declared thy justice,” and “have not hidden it in my heart,” through negligence, fear, or any unworthy motive. His remarks on the justice that God requires from us, that is, that he announced it, and did not “hide it,” are now applied, in like manner, to God’s justice and mercy, for he calls justice truth; that is, the fidelity with which he gives to every one according to his works; and he calls mercy salvation, which he mercifully holds out to those who hope in him. He says, then, “I have declared thy truth and thy salvation;” that is to say, I have announced “the truth” that is in you, declaring to all how faithfully and how inexplicably you reward the good, and terribly punish the wicked; and I have, at the same time, announced “thy salvation;” that is, with what mercy you save all those that trust in thee. “I have not concealed thy mercy and thy truth from a great council.” What he called “salvation,” in the preceding sentence, he now expressly calls “mercy,” and connects it with truth, meaning justice. “I have not concealed,” through any fear whatever, “from a great council,” from any number however great, “thy mercy and thy truth,” but have publicly and boldly announced them. A fact easily proved from the Gospels.

11 He (Christ) passes now from his preaching to his passion; and, as well as he made known the justice and the mercy of the Father to mankind, he now prays to the Father not to defer the same mercy and justice towards himself, but by a speedy resurrection to deliver him from his death and passion. “Withhold not thou, O Lord, thy tender mercies from me.” Father, you see how bitter are my sufferings for having made known your justice and mercy to man; do you, therefore, “withhold not your mercies from me,” by immediately raising me up, as hitherto “thy mercy and thy truth have always upheld me.”

12 A reason for having said, “withhold not, O Lord, thy tender mercies from me,” because “evils without number have surrounded me.” Christ’s sufferings were truly without number, and seemed to crowd in upon him designedly. And they were thus innumerable, because our sins, for which he undertook to make satisfaction, were so. “My iniquities,” the iniquities of mankind, “which the Father placed upon him,” Isaias 53, and which he, therefore, looked upon as mine, “that I may bear them in my body upon the tree;” all those evils “have overtaken me, and I was not able to see.” They were so numerous that they blinded me up. For “they are multiplied above the hairs of my head;” exceed my hairs in number; and thus, overwhelmed by their number, I fainted, “and my heart hath forsaken me;” my strength, my very life, forsook me. This expression of Christ’s, “I was unable to see,” is not to be taken literally, as if the Lord could not see the number of the sins, by reason of their being so extremely numerous; for he certainly had a most accurate knowledge of all the sins, past, present, and future; but he uses the expressions in ordinary use, to signify how numerous were the sins he undertook to satisfy for. We have a similar expression in St. Mark 6, “And he could not do any mighty work there, and he wondered because of their unbelief.” He could have done any works he pleased there, but he is said not to have been able to do them, to give us an idea of the incredulity of the people that prevented him from doing them.

13 He now returns to the prayer he commenced in verse 11, and prays to be delivered, by a speedy resurrection, from such evils. “Be pleased, O Lord,” Father, whom I must, by reason of the form of a servant I have assumed, call Lord, be pleased “to deliver me” from the many troubles that have surrounded me. “look down, O Lord, to help me;” you seem as if you had for some time abandoned me, “and turned your face away from me,” leaving me to go through the sufferings of the cross without the slightest consolation; but now “look down to help me,” that you may at once replenish me in the joy of a glorious resurrection.

14 Christ’s enemies, who thought him entirely destroyed, were terribly confused at his resurrection. That he now prophesies in the form of an imprecation, a thing usual with the prophets. “Let them be confounded and ashamed together.” Let them be overwhelmed with confusion “that seek after my soul to take it away;” who seek to take away my life by putting me to death, and totally extinguishing me. Such was the intention of the Jews, a thing they thought they had accomplished when they nailed him to the cross. But immediately after, when they heard of his resurrection, saw it confirmed by signs and wonders, and believed by the mass of the people, “they were confounded and ashamed;” and will be infinitely more so on the last day, then they shall see him whom they impiously presumed to judge, and against whom they suborned false witnesses, judging the whole world with the greatest justice. “Let them be turned backward and be ashamed that desire evils to me.” A repetition of the preceding sentence, as if to strengthen it. “Let them be turned back,” retire in confusion, “and be ashamed,” blush with shame, “that desire evils to me; not only those who seek to kill me, but all who seek for my disgrace or confusion.

15 He repeats the same thing a third time, saying, “Let them immediately bear their confusion that say to me: It is well, it is well.” Let not their confusion be deferred, but after three short days let them be confounded, as they were, “who say to me, It is well, it is well;” that is, those who gloried in having triumphed over me, and congratulated each other thereon.

16 As he prophesied confusion to his persecutors in the form of an imprecation, so he now predicts joy to his subjects in the same form. “Let all that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee.” All those who seek the glory of God, who love him and put their trust in him, “will rejoice and be glad” in God; that is, with divine and unspeakable joy, “and say always, the Lord be magnified.” Let them not attribute any good they may have to themselves, but say, May “the Lord be magnified” by all “who love thy salvation;” who love the Savior you sent them, Christ Jesus; or who love and desire the true and everlasting salvation that you alone can confer.

17 He now returns to the state he was in at the time of his passion, (Christ,) and says, “but I am a beggar and poor;” needy and destitute of all human help. In the Hebrew, the first conveys the idea of poverty; the second of affliction; quite applicable to Christ, especially when he hung naked on the cross; but, however poor and afflicted he may have appeared to man, he was rich in the protection of his Father; and, therefore, he adds, “the Lord is careful for me.” The Lord is concerned for me. He calls his Father “the Lord,” because he speaks in the person of a servant; that is, as the Son of Man, in which nature he hung upon the cross. “Thou art my helper and my protector: O my God, be not slack.” What he had briefly expressed when he said, “the Lord is careful for me,” he now explains at greater length, saying, “Thou art my helper and my protector.” For God the Father was “careful” for his Son, by helping and protecting him, helping him in overcoming past dangers, protecting him by removing future ones. “O my God, be not slack;” namely, to deliver me from all trouble by a speedy resurrection.

Table of Contents

Psalm 40


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 That is to say, Blessed is he who reflects with care on Christ in his poverty, he will find him to have been poor from choice, not from necessity, and chose it to enrich us through the same poverty. He will find him also, while poor to all appearance, internally rich; for in him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” of God, Coloss. 2. He will also find him to have been poor in the flesh, while rich in his kingdom; for, while he was the “heir of the universe,” King of kings, and Lord of Lords, he was so poor as sometimes not to have “a place whereon to lay his head.” Furthermore, “blessed is he that understandeth” Christ, the poor man, naked, hanging on his cross; that is, blessed is he who deeply meditates on his passion; for Jeremias had already said, “Attend and see if there be sorrow like my sorrow;” and the Apostle repeats the same, Heb. 12, “For think diligently upon him who endureth such opposition from sinners against himself.” For they who understand, and seriously meditate on the passion of Christ, have an unspeakable treasure prepared for them. Finally, “Blessed is he that understandeth concerning the needy and the poor;” that is, Christ in his members, of whom he says, “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these, my least brethren, you did it to me.” Observe, however, the Psalm does not say, Blessed is he that gives alms to the poor; but, “blessed is he that understandeth concerning the needy and the poor;” that is to give us to understand that he only is “blessed” who prudently considers the necessities of the poor, and gives to the proper person at the proper time, and the proper amount of relief; and that not from vain glory, or in the hope of any temporal reward, but from the pure love of God. “The Lord will deliver him in the evil day.” The reason why “he that understandeth concerning the needy and the poor is blessed,” is because he will be saved from poverty himself; for “the evil day” signifies the day of want and need. By the “evil day,” however, in this passage, is meant the day of judgment, which will be a day of justice alone, and on which there will be extreme want of mercy and grace. On that day the lovers of the cross of Christ, and who, for his sake, had been generous to the poor, will be quite secure; for to them will be said, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me; sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.” Not only that, but even in this world will God deliver the merciful in “the evil day,” as we saw in Psalm 36, “they shall not be confounded in the evil time, and in the days of famine they shall be filled.” God is delighted beyond measure when he sees his children, in imitation of their Father, freely sharing with others what they have freely received; and, therefore, returns with interest what is given to the poor, according to Prov. 19, “he that hath mercy on the poor, lendeth to the Lord.”

2 He now explains the expression, “the Lord will deliver him in the evil day;” and, in the form of a prayer, predicts the blessings that will follow him “that understandeth concerning the needy and the poor.” The Lord “will preserve him,” watch him while he lives, “and give him life;” on his death will bring him to life again, by causing him to rise with the just; “and make him blessed upon the earth,” make him truly, perfectly, and completely happy in the land of the living, “and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies;” will neither in this world, nor in the next, subject him to the will or power of his enemies, be they men or demons.

3 As he promised so many blessings to the merciful, to those who “understand concerning the needy and the poor,” from which one may suppose that pious souls of that sort would have no troubles to encounter in this world, he now prepares them for many tribulations and temptations in this their exile, but not without an assurance of divine help and consolation. “The Lord help him on his bed of sorrow.” Should such a holy soul be struck down by any corporal or spiritual disease, “the Lord will help him;” will so console him to bear it with patience, and to feel it as a probation, from which probation such hope will arise, that he will be highly rejoiced, so as to glory in his troubles, saying, with the Apostle, “I am filled with comfort, I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.” To prove that this would happen, he then brings an example from the past, saying, “thou hast turned all his couch in his sickness.” Such, my sweet and merciful God, has been your treatment of all your faithful; for when you saw any poor soul weighed down by temptations or afflictions, you tended and consoled him with all the care that a nurse turns and makes up the bed of a patient, seeking thereby to refresh and to relieve him.

4 Christ now begins to declare himself the “needy and the poor man.” “I said: O Lord, be thou merciful to me;” have mercy on my mystic body, my weak members; “heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee;” I implore thy mercy, to heal the wounds of my faithful, whose sins I charge myself with, as if I had actually committed them. Another explanation of this verse may be to make Christ speak of his passion; thus, “be thou merciful to me” in my trouble, and quickly raise me, and thus free me from suffering; “heal my soul” which is “sorrowful even unto death,” and thus is sad, dejected languishing, fearing, grieving; “for l have sinned against thee,” for I have taken the sins of the whole world upon myself. That Christ does not speak of sins committed by himself is quite clear from verse 12, where he says, “But thou hast upheld me by reason of my innocence;” and, therefore, the person speaking here is not David, nor any one else, but he who alone was innocent, as far as his own acts were in question, while he bore the sins of others.

5 Evidently intended for the Pharisees and priests of the Jews, who thirsted intensely for the death of Christ, and had frequent conferences on the subject of it.

6 From the Jews he passes to Judas, “and if he came in to see me,” to see if the time had come for betraying me, “he spoke vain things;” invented some falsehood, for fear his purpose may be detected. This may refer also to others who came to Christ, “tempting him, to ensnare him in his speech.” That person, however, “spoke vain things” to Christ, while, in the meantime, “his heart gathered together iniquity to itself;” that means, his heart was full of deceit, and he, therefore, multiplied and “gathered together iniquity” to himself, to his everlasting ruin. Such is the just reward of the liars and the deceivers. While they seek to deceive others, they are themselves deceived by Satan; and while they are plotting the destruction of others, are, in reality, planning their own ruin. “He went out and spoke to the same purpose.” Judas, having assumed to be the friend of Christ, went out to his enemies, and assumed to be their friend.

7 Having got the proposal of the traitor Judas, his enemies began to whisper in conference with each other, fearing, if they spoke out, they may be heard, and they discussed the amount of the reward for betraying the Savior. “They devised evils to me;” took measures for my capture and subsequent death.

8 The consequence of the whispering among the Jews was, a fixed resolution to put Christ to death, because, “they determined against me an unjust word.” They passed a most unjust sentence and decree, that they would put me, no matter how innocent, to death. But he says immediately, “shall he that sleepeth rise again no more?” Which means, however unjust their decree may be, can they deprive me of the power of rising again? He calls his death sleep, because he can as easily rise from the dead as one can rouse his neighbor from sleep; a thing he foretold long before when he said, John 10, “No man taketh my life away from me; but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down; and I have power to take it up again.”

9 He assigns now a reason for his enemies having “determined an unjust word against him,” and puts the blame on Judas. “For even the man of my peace,” with whom I was on the terms a master would be with his servant, or a teacher with his disciple, that man, “in whom I trusted,” in whom I could confide as a friend and an associate. “Who ate my bread;” who sat at my table as a child or a domestic; “hath greatly supplanted me;” in so insidiously betraying me to my enemies. Our Lord quotes this passage in John 13, “I speak not of you all. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled: He that eateth bread with me, shall lift up his heel against me.” Observe here, with St. Augustine, that Judas is called “the man of peace,” because the prophet foresaw that Christ would be betrayed by a kiss, the sign of peace; which even our Savior alludes to, when he said, “Friend, to what art thou come?” and, “Judas, dost thou betray the son of man with a kiss?” In like manner the prophet says, “who ate my bread;” who sat at my table. We may also notice the expression, “in whom I trusted;” alluding to Christ’s confidence in Judas, so that he made him his treasurer. Observe again, the prophet’s sense of the aggravations; for he calls Judas “the man of my peace;” to show there was no quarrel, no cause of anger or enmity, between Christ and Judas; quite the reverse, for he adds, “in whom I trusted,” and made him treasurer of all I possessed in consequence.

Finally, he adds, that Judas was not only not his enemy, but was his friend; nay, more than his friend, on most intimate terms with him, loaded with favors by him. For, on the very night that he betrayed Christ, he not only partook of his ordinary meal with him, but even received the bread of Angels from him; had his feet washed by him; and, thus, had got the most convincing proofs of his extreme humility and love for him.

10 He now prays to his Father, and in the form of a prayer prophesies what was to happen; and, in fact, after his resurrection, he punished the Jews as they deserved. “But thou, O Lord, have mercy on me, and raise me up again, and I will requite them,” that means, they surely did “determine against me an unjust word” and by the treachery of my own disciple, “who supplanted me,” they will have my life; “but thou, O Lord, have mercy on me,” while dying on the cross, and immediately after “raise me up again,” and then, “I will requite them,” punish them as they deserve. And so he did punish them, and well. They have been dispersed and scattered all over the world, without a king, without a priest, without God, as Christ himself predicted, “the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof;” again, “your house shall be left to you desolate;” and in another place, “and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone.”

11 He states his prayer was heard, and could be known to have been heard, because “his enemy shall not rejoice over him.” Literally fulfilled in Judas, who hung himself before the death of Christ, and before he could make any use of his ill got bribe. This may also be applied to all his enemies, whose triumph was so short that it could hardly be called a triumph.

12 He informs his enemies that their joy on his death will be very brief, because he has been “upheld and exalted by God by reason of his innocence.”

13 The conclusion, which may be either that of Christ or the prophet, conveys no more than all honor and glory being due to Christ by reason of his exaltation and the confusion of his enemies forever and ever. So be it, so be it, are merely expressions in confirmation and acclamation.

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Psalm 41


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Love is a fiery affection, and, therefore, cannot be restrained, but breaks forth in words and sighs. To express his love somehow, David compares himself to a thirsty stag, saying, “As the hart panteth after the fountains of waters;” a most happy and expressive simile. The stag is noted for four peculiarities. It is a deadly enemy to serpents, and constantly at war with them. When it is pursued by the hunters, it betakes itself to the highest mountains as quickly as possible. By some natural instinct, they singularly carry out the advice of the Apostle, “Bear ye each other’s burdens;” for, according to St. Augustine, when they move in a body, or swim across a lake, the weaker ones rest their heads on the stronger, and are thus helped along. Finally, when they are tired after a combat with serpents, or a flight to the mountain, or from helping each other along, they seek to refresh themselves by copious droughts of water, from which they cannot be tempted or deterred. Such is a most perfect idea of the true lover of God. He has to wage a continued war against the serpents of his evil desires. When he is nigh overcome by temptation, or by persecutions, he flies away to the mount of contemplation, bears his neighbor’s infirmities with the greatest patience, and, above all, thirsts ardently for God, from whom he will not be held back by any earthly happiness or trouble. Such was David, though a soldier; so was Paul, Peter, and the other Apostles and martyrs; such were all who felt they were, while here below, in exile, and, through good and evil days, never lost sight of that country, the supreme object of their wishes.

2 He explains the meaning of “panting after God,” and why he should be so sought after. St. Chrysostom observes, that three things usually excite our love, and through it our thirst and desires; and these are the beauty of the object, favors conferred on us, and love itself, for beautiful objects almost compel one to love them; favors conferred, lead us to love the giver; and love on their part provokes mutual love. Should these three things be united in one person, that is, could there be found or imagined any one of surpassing beauty, conferring boundless favors daily on another, for whom they feel the most intense and ardent love, how could the latter possibly stand by not ardently loving the former in return? David shows here that these three things are united in God, in regard of himself; and, therefore, states that “he thirsts after him;” that is, he is inflamed by love and desire towards him. “My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God,” as the most beautiful, most noble, most excellent of all things; comprising all good, “strong,” not transitory or perishable, but permanent, everlasting. “Living,” active, intelligent, loving, pouring down continual favors on us, having great regard for us, boundless love for us. Such thirst after what is so good, so kind, so loving of me, forces me, from my whole heart, to exclaim, “When shall I come and appear before the face of the Lord?” When will there be an end to my pilgrimage, when the commencement of any joys?

3 He that will reflect attentively on the three points already alluded to, namely, the incomprehensible beauty of God, the multitude of his favors, and the extent of his love that caused him to deliver up his only begotten Son for us, cannot but burst into tears in his desire for getting the full possession of so great a good. David seriously reflected on these points, and, he, therefore, adds, “My tears have been my bread day and night.” My tears were my only food, I lived on them day and night; that is, during the whole term of my pilgrimage, whether in the days of prosperity, or the nights of adversity, my soul not only refused to be gladdened by any earthly consolation, or to be saddened by any temporal mishap; but, at all times, my tears have been my meat and my drink. “Whilst it is said to me daily,” by the wicked and the incredulous, “Where is thy God?” that means, while I wander about daily, “seeking whom my soul loveth,” my thoughts and my spirit said to me, “Where is thy God?” all those things you have seen in your search for him are beautiful, to be sure, but not like thy God. Where, then, is your God? Where will you look for him? When will you come and see the face of your God?

4 He goes on with the expression of his desires, “he poured out his soul,” which may be interpreted in three ways.

First, when about to enter the wonderful tabernacle, the very house of God. I cleared, banished all earthly delights out of my soul, that I may fill it with the delights of my Lord. Second, I extended, expanded my soul to be able to contain the immense good to be had in that wonderful tabernacle; where there is the “never failing plenty of the house of the Lord.” Third, “I poured out my soul:” rose above it in contemplation, as it is expressed in Lam. 3, “He shall sit solitary, and hold his peace; because he hath taken it upon himself.” And, in fact, in this our exile there is no more ready way of getting up to the “wonderful tabernacle,” and the actual house of God, than through our own soul, which is the image of God. It is more sublime than the heavens, and deeper than the abyss; and he who can steady his own soul and rise above it, will rise to him whose image it is, and he “will go over to the place of the wonderful tabernacle and the house of God.” To touch briefly on this ascent, let us consider: the soul is a spirit, and, therefore, far exceeds all things corporeal; and thus, God being a spirit, and the Creator, not only of bodies but of spirits, therefore, far exceeds not only bodies, but even spirits. Again, the soul, however simple and indivisible, is yet entire in the body and in all its parts; filling all the members, yet occupying none exclusively; thus, God, while he is one, and indivisible, still fills the whole world and all created things, everywhere entire, present everywhere, confined nowhere. Thirdly, the soul does not move about in the body, still carries it, guides it, governs it, quickens and enlivens it, as we see from the death of any one; for, the moment the soul departs, the body falls down at once, and in one moment loses all power of motion, sense, beauty, everything. Now, what the soul is to the body, God is to the universe; not that God is the soul of the universe, as some philosophers vainly imagined; but, because he seems to have a certain resemblance to the soul in these respects; for, while he remains fixed and unmoved in himself, “upholding all things by the word of his power,” and, “in him we live, move, and have our being.” Fourthly, the soul is intelligent, and our intellect has cognizance of all the senses, and knows many things beside, which no corporal sense can comprehend. So God is all intellect preeminently, replete with the knowledge of all men and Angels, and of infinitely more matters, far beyond our understanding. Fifthly, the soul knows many things not only in theory but even practically; hence, the endless productions of human ingenuity, in the various arts, trades, and manufactures; so exquisitely wrought as nearly to vie with nature; so also with the understanding of God, both in theory and practice, who without tools, without trouble, in a moment, by his sole word, from nothing made the universe. Sixthly, the soul is endowed with free will, and, therefore, moves the members of the body at its pleasure. Thus God, at his pleasure, governs all created things; and, therefore, David, in Psalm 118 says, “for all things serve thee.” And, not only is the soul, in its essence, the image of God, but in a remote sense it is the image of the Trinity; for there is in the soul intelligence representing the Father; knowledge derived therefrom, representing the Word of the Father; and love, springing from such intelligence, and knowledge, representing the Holy Ghost. There is also in the soul memory, intellect, and will, which, to some extent, represent the three divine Persons. “The soul then is poured in itself,” and rises over itself in contemplation, that it may be enabled to pass over to the “wonderful tabernacle;” and, therefore, the prophet adds, “for I shall go over to the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God.” By the place of the wonderful tabernacle is meant, the heavenly Jerusalem, the tabernacle in heaven not made by human hands, where the house of God is, of which he said in Psalm 26. “One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life.”—”With the voice of joy and praise, the noise of one feasting.” He tells us now, that in that ecstasy in which “he poured out his soul,” and in contemplation arrived at the site of “the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God,” that he did not do so in silence, but in loud acclamations, in admiration, and praise, in such joy and jubilee, as those enjoying a banquet cheerful and glad, such as is meet for the soul wrapt up in contemplation of the joys of the heavenly Jerusalem.

5 With such spirits and mental consolation he seeks to dry up his tears, saying, “Why art thou sad, O my soul?” Why should tears be your bread day and night? Why will you by such incessant tears so “trouble me?” “Hope in God,” though you don’t see him, you so ardently long for, yet hope in him, “for I will still give praise to him;” that means, though the time has not yet come, it will come when before his face I will praise God, and declare his mercies, and say to him, “the salvation of my countenance;” that is, you are my salvation, for you brighten up my countenance by your light, and my face to behold yours, “and I will know as I am known;” and from a clear knowledge I will say, “thou art my God.”

6 He now tells the alternations of sadness and consolation that were wont to seize him; sadness, in fear of the dangers of this life; consolation, from the hope and promise of the future. “My soul is troubled within myself.” Though I told my soul “to hope in God,” yet, when I looked in upon my weakness, and the little light and strength I possess, I was seized with great fear, and “my soul was troubled;” to cure which fear and terror I said, “I will remember thee from the land of Jordan and Hermoniim, from the little hill.” I will take my eyes off myself, and fix them on you, instead of fixing my eyes on the Jordan before me; I will think of the river “that gladdens your city, and the torrent of thy pleasure,” enjoyed by those who are there with you; and from this little hill Hermoniim, before me, I will remember your holy mountain, in which you dwell with your holy Angels; and with such recollections I will console my soul and my desires. Whether Hermoniim be a different mountain from Mount Hermon is not very clear; most probably it is, for Hermoniim is here spoken of as a small, whereas Hermon was a very large mountain.

7 He goes on with an account of the dangers and temptations of this life, comparing them to an inundation, alluding to that of Noe. “Deep calleth on deep.” An immense mass of water came rolling over me, and the moment it passed, another came in succession, as if called by the first. And those vast inundations poured in “at the noise of thy flood gates;” with such a noise and such a clamor, as if the flood gates of heaven were opened. “All thy heights,” all the lofty breakers, “and thy billows have passed over me;” the whole inundation, the universal deluge, passed over me. He alludes, as we said before, to the general deluge, when “the cataracts of heaven were opened;” that is, the quantity of rain that fell was such that would lead one to think some cataracts in heaven were opened, and that all the water burst forth with an unheard of force and violence, from which foundation arose the great abyss, an immense depth and quantity of water. This metaphor is used here to give an idea of the great dangers and temptations to which God will sometimes expose his elect. Men such as David, truly spiritual, alone are aware of the extent and magnitude of these temptations; for it is such people only know the boundless machinations of the enemy, and how grievous a matter it is to fall away from the grace of God.

8 After having described the extraordinary amount of temptation endured by him, he now tells us how he was in turn relieved by the consolations he got. “In the day time the Lord hath commanded his mercy,” which means, after those inundations of waters, and those dreadful abysses had cleared away; “in the day time” of prosperity, “the Lord hath commanded his mercy” to visit and console me; “and a canticle to him in the night,” in the night of tribulation and temptation; even “his canticle” will not cease, for I will, even in the night, sing his praises, thank and glorify him. “With me is prayer to the God of my life.” My song at night shall be in the secret of my heart, speaking with it rather than with my lips, looking upon him as the source of my salvation and my life, I will say to him,

9 He now admires the vicissitudes of the divine providence in governing us. If, O God, thou art really “my support, why hast thou forgotten me?” How does it come to pass that I should be overwhelmed by so many temptations and tribulations, that so pour down upon me, that, though you are my hope and my strength, you seem to have forsaken me? How does it happen again, that “I go mourning whilst my enemy afflicteth me?” while you are my helper and my protector.

10–11 Not only has my enemy “afflicted me” before your face, you who are “my support,” but even “whilst my bones are broken,” come to such a pitch of debility and infirmity, that I can scarce resist temptation. “My enemies who trouble me have reproached me,” asking me incessantly, “Where is thy God?” The very enemies who persecute and harass me, reproach me with the confidence I have in you, as if the confidence were of no avail, for they constantly ask, “Where is thy God?” who you boasted was “your helper and protector.” So Tobias was reproached, “where is thy hope for which thou gavest alms and buried the dead?” and again, “It is evident thy hope is come to nothing, and thy alms now appear.” So the Jews upbraided Christ on the cross, “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he will.” Thus also, his incredulous enemies insulted David in his troubles, but though he was for the moment “saddened and disquieted,” he only reproved himself, saying, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why dost thou disquiet me? Hope thou in God, for I will still give praise to him;” words we have already explained in verses 5 and 6 of this Psalm.

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Psalm 42


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David, severely pressed by Saul, or tempted by demons, and having no human succor to fall back upon, appeals to God as a judge: “Judge me, O God,” for I have no one else to seek justice of but of you; “and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy;” and take cognizance of the charge brought against me by an unholy people. The Hebrew and the Greek imply, that he asks God not only to judge him, but to pronounce in his favor; and he further asks, “Deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man;” so judge my cause, that you will thereby deliver me from such men.

2 This verse is almost the same as the ninth verse of the last chapter. The meaning is, as you, “O my God, art my strength,” and in you alone I trust, why do you seem “to have cast me off;” and I, thus cast off, “go sorrowful,” “whilst the enemy afflicteth me?” a friendly mode of expostulation, arising from his thorough confidence in God, in which he complains of God’s allowing him to be so punished as if he had “cast him off” entirely.

3 This verse proves what a spiritual man was David, and that he was more concerned for his delivery from mortal sin and the loss of eternal life, than from any temporal troubles. For he says, “Send forth thy light and thy truth;” grant me the light of thy grace and thy mercy, thy truth, and thy faithfulness, “for they will conduct me” in my perilous pilgrimage, and “bring me unto thy holy hill,” the heavenly Jerusalem, “and into thy tabernacles,” into thine own house, where there are “many mansions” and many tabernacles for thy elect.

4 He tells us what he will do when he gets to the “holy hill,” just what all the others in possession of God’s house are doing, offering God their sacrifice of praise, as David says in Psalm 83, “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord, they will praise thee forever and ever.” “I will go in to the altar of God” to offer up the sacrifice of praise; for the moment any one enters that house he becomes a priest, as we can infer from Apoc. 5, “Thou has made us to our God a kingdom and priests.” And I will not only go to thy altar, but I will go in to “God himself;’ I will appear before him as if I were brought into his most private apartment; “to God who giveth joy to my youth,” to the youth just acquired by me. For in heaven “our youth, like that of the eagle, shall be renewed;” and the Apostle says, Ephes. 4, “Till we all meet unto a perfect man unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ.”

5–6 He tells more clearly what sacrifice he means to offer at the altar of God, when he shall have come into the tabernacle not made by hands, the eternal one in heaven. “I will give praise to thee on the harp;” I will praise thee by acknowledging thy mercies, thy justice, and all thy wonderful works, which praise shall not be confined to my lips, for my harp shall join them. The harp is figuratively introduced as an instrument in recording God’s praises, as in Apoc. 5, “Having each of them harps in their hands,” and in chap. 14, “And the voice I heard was that of harpers playing on their harps.” The remaining part of these has been explained in the latter end of the previous Psalm.

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Psalm 43


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 God’s people under persecution, and groaning in affliction, brings to his recollection the wonderful things God was wont to do for the defense of his faithful, and wonders how he now seems to have deserted them, thereby hoping to move him to mercy. “O God,” says the prophet, speaking in the person of the Church, or the martyrs of both Testaments, “we have heard with our ears,” he might have said “we have heard,” simply, but he adds, “with our ears,” to express the greater certainty. St. John, in the beginning of his first epistle, uses the same language, “What we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled,” when he might have said, “we have seen and handled;” but such phrases, somehow, strengthen the assertions. They say, then, when they heard it, “Our fathers have declared to us.” It was not by vague rumor, or from people we did not know, that we heard it, but from our fathers; men worthy of belief, who never could have deceived us, “they declared to us.” What did they hear or learn from them? “The work thou hast wrought in their days, and in the days of old.” Our fathers told us not only of the wonderful works you did in their own times, but in the times of their fathers before them.

2 Descending to particulars, he instances one of the wonderful works God did for his faithful in the days of their fathers, “Thy hand destroyed the Gentiles;” you scattered, and destroyed, and expelled from the land of promise the Chananeans and Jebuseans that dwelt therein, “and thou planted them;” you established our fathers in their place; “Thou didst afflict the people and cast them out;” you harassed them in various grievous battles, until you finally rooted and “cast them out” of the land of promise. From this passage we can infer that what he said in the first verse, “Our fathers have declared to us the work thou hast wrought in their days,” does not refer to one particular date or epoch, but to a succession of events. Because the things recorded here happened in the time of Moses and Josue, who could not possibly have stated these matters to the Machabees, nor to the Apostles, nor even to David himself, but that those facts were handed down from one generation to another. “Thou planted them,” a highly figurative expression, implying that the Hebrews were as firmly fixed and rooted in the land of promise as if they had grown there, and that it would be as difficult to expel them as it would be to tear up a tree from its roots. Trees, also, once planted, not only grow and get firmly fixed in the earth, but they also increase and multiply, as David himself, in a beautiful metaphor, expresses it in Psalm 79, “Thou planted the roots thereof and it filled the land, the shadow of it covered the hills, and the branches thereof the cedars of God.”

3 He proves what he stated in the previous verse. “For they got not the possession of the land by their own sword;” that is to say, our fathers, it is true, in the days of Moses and Josue, fought with the Chananeans, but, had you not been their “helper and protector,” they would not only have failed in getting possession of the country, but they would not have been able to escape with their lives from the enemy, by reason of their being fewer in number, less skilled in war, and having fortified cities to oppose them. It was not, then, by their swords, or by their arms, that they got hold of the land of promise, “but thy right hand, and thy arm, and the light of thy countenance,” put them in possession, and preserved them in their battles with the Chananeans, from death or captivity; and all this, “because thou wast pleased with them;” all this was the consequence, not of their virtues or merits, but of your having freely chosen them to be your people. The truth of all this is evident from Josue 6, where we read that at the mere shout of the children of Israel, the walls of Jericho tumbled teetotally to the ground; and in chap. 10, where we read that while Josue was fighting, that God discharged a shower of hailstones on the enemy; and the Scripture says, “that many more mere killed with the hailstones, than were slain by the swords of the children of Israel.”

4 God’s people now expresses its admiration, saying, “Thou art thyself my king and my God;” you that assisted and protected our fathers by reason of being their king and their God, you are our God and our king too; the very same “who commandest the saving of Jacob;” you who were wont to save your people, called after Jacob. “Who commandest;” who savest your people, not by fighting for them, or helping them, as one king would another; but by a simple word, by a simple command.

5 He now shows that not only is God the same that he was in the days of their fathers, but that the people too are the same; and that they have the hope in God that their fathers had; and is, therefore, astonished how the same God can deal so differently with the same people; how he could bring them off conquerors on every occasion, and now permit them to be subdued and conquered. “Through thee we will push down our enemies with the horn;” we, too, if you help and protect us, will equally subdue our enemies; “and through thy name we will despise them that rise up against us;” once we invoke your name we will have no fear of the enemy, and will make little of any attempt of theirs upon us. “We will push down our enemies with the horn,” is a metaphor, taken from the bull, who uses his horns to strike down everything in his way; so we, relying on thy power, will break down every obstacle, and demolish all our enemies with the same ease and facility that the bull beats down everything before him.

6 He goes on with the resemblance between the past and present people of God. As they got not possession of the land by the sword, so I and my people “will not trust in my bow;” will not rely on our arms or our strength; “neither shall my sword save me;” I know and feel, that if we conquer, it will not be by our swords, but through your help.

7 He now explains the expression, “my sword shall not save me,” by saying, “but thou hast saved us from those that afflict us;” that is, I acknowledge my safety is not owing to my own strength, because, as often as I have been rescued from any danger, you “have saved us from those that afflict us;” and “put to shame;” so protecting us as to frustrate their designs, and cause them to retire in confusion “that hate us;” our enemies who sought to destroy us.

8 He infers from the foregoing, that God’s people, whenever they shall be delivered from any tribulation, will thank God for it, and give him the whole glory thereof. “In God shall we glory in him all the day long.” We won’t glory in ourselves, but we will always glory in God who delivered us; “and in thy name,” and in the name of the Lord we will praise and glorify him forever.

9 The stricken people now begin to complain; they are astonished! “But now!” you, who so favored and cherished us, “hast cast us off, and put us to shame.” In the days of Antiochus, to be called a Jew was a disgrace; under the Roman emperors, the name of a Christian was stamped with infamy, and the faithful seemed to have been abandoned by God. “And thou, O God, wilt not go out with our armies.” If we want to repel the incursions of our enemies, you, who always led us to the fight, will not now accompany us, to fight for your people.

10 The persecution continued. “Thou hast made us turn our back to our enemies.” We that were in the van, have been thrown back into the rear; obliged to follow our enemies as so many captives. And our enemies “that hated us,” used their own discretion, and “plundered for themselves,” converted everything to their own use.

11 A beautiful description of the sufferings of the martyrs. You let us be slaughtered as if we were so many sheep, who are daily killed in great numbers, without being able to offer the slightest resistance. “Thou hast scattered us amongst the nations,” those who were not slaughtered, were dispersed all over the world; as has been the case with many of the saints.

12 He alludes to another description of punishment to which the martyrs were subjected, as if they were the vilest of slaves; they were employed in cutting marble, or attending cattle, or obliged to combat with wild beasts in the theatres, for the amusement of the people. “Thou hast sold thy people for no price;” you have handed them over to their enemies, and got nothing in return, “and there was no reckoning in the exchange of them.” What you got in return for them was so small that it was not worth counting.

13 In addition to the corporal punishments, they were scoffed at and derided. God having suffered them to be visited by so many temporal calamities, all the neighbors around them began to scoff at and deride them.

14 When the gentiles wished to express anything very odious or baleful, they would compare it to us; and the people not only spoke in such terms of us, but they shook their heads at us, in hatred and derision.

15–16 He now describes the effect of his being so derided and jeered at; it quite confused and confounded him. During the whole of my persecution “my shame was before me;” it was always staring me in the face, and encompassing me all round like a veil and all this confusion was caused by “the voice of him that reproacheth and detracteth me;” by those who called me a fool for worshipping one that had been crucified; and an impious person for not worshipping the gods; falsely reproaching me with infanticide, incest, and similar crimes; and he explains who these were that so charged him when he adds, “at the face of the enemy and the persecutor,” all done by his enemies. Such confusion and shame, however, would not appear to apply to the holy martyrs, when it is written, “he that shall be ashamed of me, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when he shall come in his majesty and that of his Father,” Luke 9; and again, “He that shall acknowledge me before men, the Son of man will acknowledge him when he shall come with his holy Angels in the glory of his father.” The Lord does not prohibit shame and confusion when it does not prevent the acknowledgment of, or adherence to the truth. He censures those only who are so overcome by shame as not only not to acknowledge Christ, but even to deny him; and the following verse proves that it is not of such persons he speaks here.

17 Having related the favors of the Almighty to the fathers of old, and his desertion and abandonment of them in latter times, the prophet, speaking in their person, asserts that their sins cannot be alleged as a cause for treatment so different, and says, “All these things have come upon us,” we have suffered all these persecutions and troubles; and, however, “we have not forgotten thee,” we have not forsaken you to worship other gods. The term, “forgetting God,” is not infrequently applied to idolatry in the Scripture, as in Psalm 105, “They changed their glory into the likeness of a calf that eateth grass. They forgot God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt;” and in Deuteronomy 32,” They sacrificed to devils and not to God. Thou hast forsaken the God that begot thee, and hast forgotten, the Lord that created thee;” and in this very Psalm, “if we have forgotten the name of our God, and if we have spread forth our hands to a strange god.” They then insist that they did not worship any other god; and, therefore, they say, “We have not forgotten thee, and we have not done wickedly in thy Covenant;” that is to say, we have not only not acknowledged other gods in forgetfulness of you, but we have not even “done wickedly in thy covenant,” the covenant you struck with us for our observance on Mount Sinai. And thus they protest that they neither deserted God, nor transgressed his law.

18 They repeat the same, in different terms, to establish their innocence more fully; for they say, when we did go with you we did so cordially, we neither turned back nor deserted you.

19 The latter part of this verse should be read first, thus, “The shadow of death hath covered us, for thou hast humbled us in the place of affliction,” which means that we have been immersed in the depth of miseries.

20–21 They now prove, by the testimony of God himself, that they did not forget him, as they already stated; for they say, “If we have forgotten the name of our God, and if we have spread forth our hands to a strange god,” that is, to pray to him, “shall not God search out these things?” Most certainly he will, and find out all, “for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.” He will certainly find out that we did not forget his name, “because for thy sake we are killed all the day long.” They conclude by asking God to put an end to the persecution, because they are daily put to death and tormented by reason of their adherence to him; “We are counted as sheep for the slaughter,” butchered every day like so many sheep, who are incapable of offering any resistance.

22 While your business is thus being done, and your servants are suffering so much in doing it, why are you silent, as if you were asleep, and were not cognizant of it? “Arise from sleep;” act as they do who rise from their sleep, and begin to see what they did not see before; “arise” to help us, “and cast us not off” from your favor “to the end,” to the consummation, until, through your assistance, there shall be an end to the persecution. St. Paul alludes to this passage in Rom. 8, where he says, “Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecutions? or the sword? As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

23 He goes on with the same prayer, using two other metaphors. He drew one from sheep in the preceding verse, and now he takes one from the aversion of God’s face; and the other from his forgetfulness; neither of which can, properly, be applied to God. God, however, is said to turn away his face, as if he did not see our wretchedness, when he does not help us; and he is also said to forget when he does not succor the needy and the troubled, as if he altogether forgot them.

24 Continuing the same prayer, and knowing that the prayer of the humble is most grateful to God, he now says, that he has humbled himself to such a degree, that he can humble himself no more. He who prays while he stands, can humble himself by kneeling; and he who prays in that position, can humble himself still more by prostration; but when once so humbled, he can go no further. Now, one can be humbled in mind and body even to the earth: in mind, if he truly reflect, and understand, and acknowledge that he is mere dust, in the language of Abraham, who said, “I will speak to my Lord, I, who am but dust and ashes:” in his body, if he prays prostrate on the earth, as Matthew and Mark relate of our Lord. If Luke says he prayed on that occasion, on his knees, it only shows that he began the prayer on his knees, and concluded it in a prostrate position. The petitioners here pray in both positions, for they say, “For our soul is humbled down to the dust; our belly cleaveth to the earth.” Acknowledging ourselves to be dust, our bellies in prostration have adhered to the earth, while he prayed in that position.

25 He now adds the last and most efficacious reason for moving God to deal mercifully with his people; and that is, to save his name from further blasphemy. “Arise, and help, us,” in this our trouble; “and redeem us;” that is, deliver us, “for thy name’s sake;” that it may no longer be blasphemed, but glorified; and, as “thou hast sold thy people for no price,” redeem them now without any price; not for our deserts, but “for thy name’s sake;” through your mercy and kindness. For the better understanding of this, we will now discuss a few points that naturally present themselves to the reader. The first is, how it happens that the speakers in this Psalm complain of being punished, without having in anywise offended; while other saints generally attribute their persecutions to their own sins. Daniel, for instance, speaking of the captivity in Babylon, says: “We have sinned, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly, and have revolted; and we have gone aside from thy commandments and thy judgments.” And the three holy children thrown into the fiery furnace, from which they were miraculously delivered by God, confess to him as follows: “For thou hast executed true judgments in all the things that thou hast brought upon us and upon Jerusalem the holy city; for we have sinned, and committed iniquity, departing from thee; and we have trespassed in all things.” Such also is the language of the Machabees: “For we suffer thus for our sins.” The answer is, that God suffers his people to be persecuted by reason of their sins; but the inspired writers and speakers use different language, and different forms of speech. Sometimes they assume the person of the more infirm members, (“for we are one body, and members one of another,”) and charge themselves with the sins of their brethren, just as the tongue would charge itself for sins committed by the other members. Sometimes they speak in the person of the saints and of the perfect, who suffer grievously in the common persecution caused by the sins of others. Thus the Scriptures do not contradict each other, for Daniel and the Machabees spoke in the person of the infirm members; the persons speaking in this Psalm do it in their own proper, holy, and sanctified persons. The second question. When God persecutes the wicked, why does he punish the innocent along with them? The answer is: when the innocent so suffer, they are not persecuted, but tried; and God wishes, by a severe trial, as if by “the fire of the fining pot,” or “the fan of the floor,” so to purge his Church, and to make it appear who are the true, who are the false believers, who the gold, who the brass, who the grain, who the chaff; as the Apostle says, Rom. 5, “Patience worketh trial;” and in Wisdom 3, we read, “God hath tried them, and found them worthy of himself; as gold in the furnace he hath proved them.” Question the third. Why, then, do the saints complain of persecution, and pray for a speedy termination of it? We are ordered to endure tribulation, not to love it; and nobody loves what he is merely bound to tolerate, though he may love the act of toleration; for though he may rejoice in the toleration of any thing, he would prefer not being called upon to tolerate it. With that, persecutions and temptations are dangerous, and the victory over them being uncertain, the saints must not be too confident, or rely too much on their own strength. A fourth question. Why does God sometimes pour down so many favors on his people, and enable them to master their enemies; and at other times deprive them of all such favors, and allow them to be subdued and conquered by their enemies? To let all see that the gifts of Providence come from himself alone, and not from the evil spirits, or by chance. He, then, gives these gifts to his friends when he deems it expedient; but, for fear they may cling to or adhere to them, and take up with a stable for a house, with an exile for their country, he often takes them from them, as we have explained at length in the beginning of Psalm 41.

Table of Contents

Psalm 44


Explanation Of The The Psalm

1 This verse forms a preface to the rest of the Psalm. In it the prophet tells us that the whole proceeded from the mere inspiration of the Holy Ghost, without any cooperation on his part. For, though the whole of the holy Scripture is the word of God, and dictated by the Holy Spirit, there is, however, a great difference between the prophecies therein and the historical part, or the epistles. In the prophecies, the holy writers exercised neither their reflection, nor their memory, nor their reasoning powers; but they, simply, either wrote or spoke what God dictated to them, as Baruch testifies of Jeremias, when he said, “With his mouth he pronounced all these words, as if he were reading to me.” But when the sacred writers undertook a history, or an epistle, God inspired them with the desire to write, and so directed them, that they should write correctly, and without any errors, but yet in such manner as to oblige them, at the same time, to exercise their own memory and genius, in recording such transactions, and in digesting the order and the manner of so writing, as the author of the Machabees testifies in chap. 2. of the Second Book, worth reading, but too long to quote here. David, then, when he chanted God’s praises in the Psalms, or deplored his own calamities, or that of his people, drew upon his memory and his talents, and did not compose without some trouble; but when he comes to prophesy, as he does in this Psalm, he claims no part whatever therein beyond the mere service of his pen or of his tongue. Such is the essence of this preface, which was more clearly put by him in 2 Kings 23, where he says, “The Spirit of the Lord hath spoken by me, and his word by my tongue.” He, therefore, says, “my heart hath uttered a good word;” that is, my mind, from the fullness and abundance of the divine light and heavenly revelations, has given to men this Psalm, containing “a good word;” that is, a most grateful and saving word to all mankind. To understand the passage fully, we must go into details. First, observe the word the prophet uses, “hath uttered,” which, if translated literally, would have been, “belched up,” to show that this Psalm was not composed by him, nor left to his discretion; but, like wind that is involuntarily cast off the stomach, that he was obliged to give it out whether he would or not. Secondly, the prophet wished to express that he was not giving out all that God had revealed to him, but only a part; for, though belching is a sign of repletion, it is small in itself; for the prophets see many things, “of which it is not lawful for man to speak;” and, therefore, Isaias said, “My secret to myself;” and those who have had revelations from God, confess that they could not find words to express what they saw; and hence, perhaps, the prophet says, “my heart hath uttered a good word;” not good words, in the plural number. Thirdly, the Psalm is called a “good word,” because it does not predict any misfortune, such as the sacking of the city, or the captivity of the people, as the other prophecies do; but, on the contrary, all that is favorable and pleasant, and likely to bring great joy and gladness. Fourthly, in describing the emanation of this “good word” from the heart of David, he has regard to the production of the word eternal, and seeks to take us by the hand to lead us to understand the generation of the divine word, produced, not as sons are ordinarily produced, by generation, nor by election, nor chosen from a number of sons; but born of his father, the word of his mind, his only word, and, therefore, supremely excellent and good; so that the expression, “good word,” may be peculiarly applied to him. “I speak my works to the king.” Some will have these words to mean, I confess my sins to God; or, I speak those verses of the king; or, I dedicate my work to the king; or, I address the king; which explanations I won’t condemn; but the one I offer will agree better, I think, with what went before and what follows; for, in my opinion, this second sentence of the verse is only an explanation of the first part, and assigns a reason for his having said, “My heart hath uttered a good word;” just as if he said, I simply attribute all my acts to my king, who is God, and claim nothing for myself; therefore, I have not said, I have written this Psalm; but, “my heart hath uttered a good word;” because the thing did not proceed from me, but from the fullness of my illumination; which he explains more clearly in the next sentence, where he says, “My tongue is the pen of a scrivener that writeth swiftly;” that means, my tongue has certainly produced this Psalm, but not as my tongue, nor as a member of my body that is moved at my pleasure; but as the pen of the Holy Ghost, as if of a “scrivener that writeth swiftly.” He says, (observe) that his tongue is the pen of a scrivener that writeth swiftly, and not the tongue of a spirit that speaketh swiftly; because he means to show that his tongue was like a pen, a mere instrument in announcing the prophecy, and not part of a whole, like the members of the body; “that writeth swiftly,” to give us to understand that the Holy Ghost needs no time to consider what, how, and when matters are to be written; for they only write slowly who require to consider what they are to write, and how they will give expression to their ideas.

2 He now commences the praises of Christ, praising him, first, for his beauty; secondly, for his eloquence; as well as for his strength and vigor; thirdly, for the qualities of his mind; lastly, for his royal dignity and power, to which he adds his external beauties, such as the grandeur of his palaces and robes. He begins with beauty, for he is describing a spouse; and, as regards a spouse, eloquence takes precedence of beauty, strength of eloquence, virtue of strength, and divinity of virtues; and, therefore, he says, “Thou art beautiful above the sons of men.” The sentence, though, seems abrupt and obscure, when he does not say who is that beautiful person; but, as we remarked before, his reason for beginning with, “my heart hath uttered a good word,” to let us see that he only uttered some of what he saw, and not the entire; and thus the meaning is, No wonder, Christ, thou shouldst be called beloved, for “thou art beautiful above the sons of men.” Observe, he says, “above the sons of men;” not above the Angels, because God the Son did not become an Angel, but man; as if he said, You, my beloved, art man, but “beautiful above the sons of men;” and so he was; for, as regards his divinity, his beauty was boundless; as regards the qualities of his soul, he was more beautiful than any created spirit; and as regards the beauty of his glorified body, “it is more beautiful than the sun;” and “the sun and moon admire his beauty.” Next comes, “grace is poured abroad in thy lips,” an encomium derived from the graces of his language, thereby adding to that derived from his beauty; and he says, “it is poured abroad in thy lips,” to show that the beauty of Christ’s language was natural and permanent, and not acquired by study or practice; for we read in the Gospel, Luke 4, “And they wondered at the words of grace that proceeded from his mouth;” and, in John 7, “never did man speak like this man.” Saints Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, and especially Saint Matthew, felt the force of his words, the secret power in them that caused them, by a simple call, to abandon their all, and follow him. What is more wonderful! the sea, the winds, fevers and diseases, nay, even the very dead, felt the power of his voice; which, after all, must appear no great wonder, when we consider that it was the divine and substantial word that spoke in his sweetest and most effective accents, in the flesh he had assumed; “therefore hath God blessed thee forever.” No wonder you should “be beautiful,” and that “grace should be on thy lips,” because “God hath blessed thee forever.”

3 From the praise of his beauty and his eloquence, he now comes to extol his bravery; and, by a figure of speech, instead of telling us in what his bravery consists, he calls upon him to “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O thou most mighty;” as much as to say, Come, beloved of God, who art not only most beautiful and graceful, but also most valiant and brave; come, put on thy armor; come, and deliver your people; and he tells us in the following verse what sort of armor he means, saying:

4 The words, “With thy comeliness and thy beauty,” may be connected with the preceding verse, and the reading would be, “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, in thy comeliness and thy beauty;” or they can be connected with what follows; thus, “With thy comeliness and thy beauty set out, proceed prosperously, and reign;” but, in either reading, the meaning is the same; namely, that Christ has no other arms but “his beauty and his comeliness.” To understand which we must remember, that true and perfect beauty, as St. Augustine says, is the beauty of the soul that never stales, and pleases the eyes not only of men, but even of Angels, aye, even of God, who cannot be deceived. For, as ordinary beauty depends on a certain proportion of limb, and softness of complexion; thus the beauty of the soul is made up of justice, which is tantamount to the proportion of limb; and wisdom, which represents beauty of complexion; for it shines like light, or rather, as we read in Wisdom 7, “being compared with the light she is found before it.” The soul, then, that is guided in its will by justice, and in its understanding by wisdom, is truly beautiful. For these two qualifications make it so, and through them most dear to God; and are, at the same time, the most powerful weapons that Christ used in conquering the devil. For Christ contended with the devil, not through his omnipotence, as he might have done, but through his wisdom and his justice; subduing his craft by the one, and his malice by the other. The devil, by his craft, prompted the first man to anger God by his disobedience; and thereby to deprive God of the honor due to him, and all mankind of eternal life; uniting malice with his craftiness, and prompted thereto, moreover, by envy, seeing the place from which he had fallen was destined for man; but the wisdom of Christ was more than a match for such craft, because, by the obedience he, as man, tendered to God, he gave much greater honor to him than he had lost by the disobedience of Adam; and by the same obedience secured a much greater share of glory for the human race than they would have enjoyed, had Adam not fallen. With that, Christ, by his love, (which is the essence of true and perfect justice,) conquered the envy and malice of the devil, for he loved even his enemies, prayed on the very cross for his persecutors, chose to suffer and to die, in order to reconcile his enemies to God, and to make them from being enemies, his friends, brethren, and coheirs; and all that is conveyed in the expression, “in thy comeliness and thy beauty;” that is to say, in the comeliness of thy wisdom, and the beauty of thy justice, guided and armed with the sword, and the bow set out, proceed prosperously and reign; which means, advance in battle against the devil, prosper in the fight, and after having conquered and subdued the prince of this world, take possession of your kingdom, that you may forever after rule in the heart of man, through faith and love. “Because of truth and meekness and justice, and thy right hand shall conduct thee wonderfully.” He tells us why Christ should reign, and that is because he has the qualities that belong to a king, truth, meekness, and justice, from which we learn, that a king should be truthful and faithful to what he says, and just in what he does; which attributes are applied to God himself, in Psalm 144, “The Lord is faithful in all his words, and holy in all his works;” but, as there is a certain roughness or severity consequent on all justice, and is like a blemish on it, with Christ’s justice, which is most perfect, he couples meekness. For Christ is meekly just, judging, to be sure, with the strictest justice, but without harshness, or moroseness, conciliating instead of repelling those whom he judges. “And thy right hand shall conduct thee wonderfully.” By governing in such temper you will see your kingdom increase to a wonderful extent, and you will need no external aids, for your own “right hand,” your own strength and bravery will suffice “to thee wonderfully,” and so extend your kingdom until you shall have “put all your enemies under your footstool.”

5 He tells us how the right hand of Christ will conduct him so wonderfully in extending his kingdom, because “the arrows” that you will let fly at them “are sharp,” and will, therefore, penetrate “into the hearts of the king’s enemies;” your enemies will fall before you, and will be subdued by you. The arrows here signify the word of God, or the preaching of his word, for such are the instruments Christ generally uses in extending his kingdom; hence, he says in Psalm 2, “But I am appointed king by him over Sion his holy mountain, preaching his commandment” The word of God is called a sword, an arrow, a mallet, and various other instruments, for it has some similarity to them all. It is called a sharp arrow, for it wonderfully sinks into the heart of man, much deeper than the words of the most eloquent orator, as the Apostle, Heb. 4, says, “for the word of God is living and effectual; and more penetrating than any two edged sword.” The words, “under thee shall people fall,” should be read as if in a parenthesis; and they will only fall, and not be killed; they will only die to sin that they may live to justice; that they may be subject to Christ, to be subject to whom is to reign.

6 He now comes to the supreme dignity of the Messiah, openly calls him God, and declares his throne will be everlasting. This passage is quoted by St. Paul to the Hebrews, to prove that Christ is as much above the Angels, as is a master over his servant; or the Creator above the creature. He then, says, “Thy throne, O (Christ) God,” will not be a transient one, as was that of David, or Solomon, but will flourish “forever and ever.”

7 This verse may be interpreted in two ways, according to the force we put upon the word “therefore” in it. It may signify the effect produced, and the meaning would be, As you have loved justice and hated iniquity, by being “obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross,” therefore God anointed thee with the oil of gladness, that glorified thee, “and gave thee a name that is above every name, that at thy name every knee should bend, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and in hell.” Such glorification is properly styled “the unction of gladness;” because it puts an end to all pain and sorrow; “above thy fellows,” has its own signification; for, though the Angels have been, and men will be, glorified, nobody ever was, or will be, exalted to the right hand of the Father; and nobody ever got, or will get, a name above every name, with the exception of Christ, who is the head of men and Angels, and is at the same time God and man. In the second exposition, the word “therefore” is taken to signify the cause, and the meaning would be: you loved justice and hated iniquity, because God anointed you with the oil of spiritual grace in a much more copious manner than he gave it to any one else; and hence it arose that your graces were boundless, while all others got it in a limited manner, and only through you. Such is the explanation of St. Augustine, who calls our attention to the repetition of the word of God in this verse, and says, the first is the vocative, the second the nominative case, making the meaning to be, O Christ God! God your Father has anointed thee with the oil of gladness. The anointing, of course, applies only to his human nature.

8–9 A very difficult and obscure passage. The words need first to be explained. Myrrh is a well known bitter aromatic perfume. Stacte is a genuine term for a drop of anything, but seems to represent aloes here, which is also a bitter, but odoriferous gum, but different from myrrh; for we read in the Gospel, of Nicodemus having bought a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes for the embalmment of Christ. Cassia is the bark of a tree, highly aromatic also. By houses of ivory are meant sumptuous palaces, whose walls are inlaid or covered with ivory; just as Nero’s house was called golden, and the gates of Constantinople the golden gates, not because they were solid gold, but from the profusion of gilding on them; and thus is interpreted the expression in 3 Kings 22, “The ivory house built by Achab;” and, in Amos 3, “The ivory houses will be ruined.” The expression “daughters of kings,” means the multitudes of various kingdoms; for the holy Scriptures most commonly use the expression, daughter of Jerusalem, daughter of Babylon, daughter of the Assyrians, of Tyre, to designate the people of those places; or the words may be taken literally to mean daughters of princes; that is, holy, exalted souls, for the whole sentence is figurative. To come now to the meaning. These aromatic substances represent the gifts of the Holy Ghost, who diffuses a wonderful odor of sanctity; and the prophet having in the previous verse spoken of the unction of Christ, when he said, “therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee,” he now very properly introduces the myrrh, aloes, and cassia, in explanation of the beautiful odors consequent on such anointing, of which St. Paul speaks, 2 Cor. 2, when he says, “For we are unto God the good odor of Christ.” And as Christ, in his passion, especially exhaled the strongest odors of virtue, of resolute patience, of humble obedience, and ardent love, he, therefore, brings in myrrh, bitter, but odoriferous, to represent patience; aloes, also bitter, though aromatic, to represent humility and obedience: of which St. Paul says,”He humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death;” and, finally, cassia, warm and odoriferous, to represent that most ardent love that caused him to pray even for his persecutors, while they were nailing him to the cross. All these aromas flowed “from the garments and the ivory houses” of Christ. The “garments” mean Christ’s humanity, that covered his divinity, as it were, with a garment or a veil; and the “ivory houses” represent the same humanity, which, like a fair temple of ivory, afforded a residence to the divinity. It is not unusual in the Scriptures to call our human nature by the name of garment and house; thus, in 2 Cor. 5, he unites them when he says, “For we know if our earthly house of this habitation be dissolved, that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven. For in this also we groan, desiring to be clothed over with our habitation, which is from heaven, yet so that we may be found clothed, not naked. For we also who are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: because we would not be unclothed, but clothed over; that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” Here we have this mortal body of ours called a house and a tabernacle, as also a garment, with which “we would not be unclothed, but clothed;” and the heavenly house, in turn, a garment and a habitation. So with the human nature of Christ, that diffused such sweet odors of the virtues, it may be called a garment, and a house of ivory at the same time; unless one may wish to refer the garment to his soul, and the house of ivory to his body, which Christ himself seems to have had in view when he said to the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it up again.” The word “ivory houses,” being in the plural number, is an objection of no great value, for the prophet calls it a noun of multitude; just as we call a large establishment the buildings, though there, in reality, is only one object before our mind. “Out of which the daughters of kings have delighted thee in thy glory;” that is, from which perfumes, exhaling from the vestments and ivory houses of thy humanity; “the daughters of kings;” whether it means the royal and exalted souls, or multitudes of people from various kingdoms; “have delighted thee,” as they “ran after thee to the odor of thy ointments.” For Christ is greatly delighted when he sees multitudes of the saints, attracted by his odors, running after them; and, in fact, any one, once they get but the slightest scent of such odors as flow from the patience, humility, and love of Christ, cannot be prevented from running after them, and will endure any amount of torments sooner than suffer themselves to be separated from him, exclaiming, with the Apostle, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” And in this respect do the daughters of kings, when they run after the odor of his ointments, especially delight our Lord, because they do it to honor him, with a pure intention of glorifying him. The martyrs glorified God wonderfully when, by their sufferings, they ran after their master, to which himself alluded when he predicted Peter’s suffering, on which the Gospel remarks, “Signifying by what death he should glorify God.” “The queen stood on thy right hand in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety.” The prophecies hitherto regarded the bridegroom; he now turns to the bride, by which bride, as all commentators allow, is meant the Church; for St. Paul to the Ephesians 5, lays down directly that the Church is the bride of Christ. The principal meaning of the passage, then, is to take the bride as designating the Church. Any faithful, holy soul even, may be intended by it; particularly the Blessed Virgin, who, together with being his mother according to the flesh, is his spouse according to the spirit, and holds the first place among the members of the Church. It is, then, most appropriately used in the festivals of the Blessed Virgin, and of other virgins, to whom, with great propriety, the Church says, “Come, spouse of Christ.” David, then, addressing Christ, says, “The queen stood on thy right hand.” Thy spouse, who, from the fact of her being so, is a queen, stood by thee, “on thy right hand,” quite close to thee, in the place of honor, on thy right hand, “in gilded clothing,” in precious garments, such as become a queen. Take up now the several words. The word “stood,” in the perfect, instead of the future tense, is used here, a practice much in use with the prophets, who see the future as if it had actually passed; and, as St. Chrysostom remarks, she stood, instead of being seated, as queens usually are, to imply her inferiority to God, for it is only an equal, such as the Son, that can sit with him; and, therefore, the Church, as well as all the heavenly powers, are always said to stand before God. The word, in Hebrew, implies standing firmly, as if to convey that the bride was so sure, safe, and firm in her position that there could be no possible danger of her being rejected or repudiated.

10 He now addresses the Church herself; in terms of the most pious and friendly admonition. He calls her “daughter,” either because he speaks in the person of God the Father, or as one of the fathers of the Church. If applied to the Blessed Virgin, it requires no straining of expression, she being truly the daughter of David. “Hearken, O daughter,” hear the voice of your spouse, “and see,” attentively consider what you hear, “and incline thy ear;” humbly obey his commands, “and forget thy people and thy father’s house,” that you may the more freely serve your spouse, and forget the world and the things that belong to it, for the Church has been chosen from the world, and has come out from it; and though it is still in the world, it ought no more belong to it than does its spouse. By the world, is very properly understood the people who love the things of the world, which same world is the mansion of our old father Adam, who was driven into it from paradise. The word “forget” has much point in it, for it implies that we must cease to love the world so entirely and so completely, as if we had totally forgotten that we were ever in it, or that it had any existence.

11 He assigns a reason why the bride should leave her people, and her father’s house, and be entirely devoted to the love of her heavenly spouse, and to his service, for thus “the king shall greatly desire thy beauty,” and wish to have thee above him. And since the principal beauty of the bride is interior, as will be explained in a few verses after this one, consisting in virtue, especially in obedience to the commandments, or in love of which all the commandments turn; he therefore adds, “for he is the Lord thy God;” that is to say, the principal reason for his so loving your beauty, which is based, mainly on your obedience, is, because “he is the Lord thy God.” Nothing is more imperatively required by the Lord from his servants, or by God from his creatures, than obedience. And for fear there should be any mistake about his being the absolute Lord and true God, he adds, “and him they shall adore;” that is to say, your betrothed is one with whom you cannot claim equality, he is only so by grace, remaining still your Lord, and the Lord of all creatures, who are bound to adore him.

12 Having stated that the bridegroom would be adored, he now adds, that the bride too would get her share, would be honored as a queen, by presents and supplications. “And the daughters of Tyre with gifts, yea, all the rich among the people, shall entreat thy countenance;” the daughters of the gentiles, heretofore enemies to your Lord, will be brought under subjection to him, and will come to you, “and entreat your countenance,” will by your intercession, moving you not only by words and entreaties, but by gifts and presents: “all the rich among the people,” because, if the rich take up anything, consent or agree to it, the whole body generally follow them. “The daughters of Tyre,” the women of the city, meaning the whole city, but the women are specially named as generally having more immediate access to the queen, and more so than men have to the king; and as the bride here does not represent a single individual, but the Church, which is composed of men and women, so by the daughters of Tyre we understand, all the gentiles, be they men or women. Tyre was a great city of the gentiles, bounding the land of promise, and renowned for its greatness and riches, and is therefore made here to represent all the gentiles. “With gifts,” the offerings which the converted gentiles offered to build or to ornament churches, or to feed the poor, or for other pious purposes. “Shall entreat thy countenance;” some will have it, that thy countenance means the countenance of Christ, but the more simple explanation is, to refer to the Church. The expression is a Hebrew one, which signifies, to intercede for, or to deprecate one’s anger: thus Saul says, in 1 Kings 8, “And I have not appeased the face of the Lord;” and in Psalm 94, “Let us preoccupy his face in thanksgiving;” and in Psalm 118, “I entreated thy face with all my heart.” Entreating the face is an expression taken from the fact of our looking intently on the face of the person we seek to move, and judging from its expression, whether we are likely to succeed or to be refused.

13–14 Having spoken at such length of the beauty of the bride, for fear any one may suppose those beauties were beauties of the person, he now states that all those beauties were interior, regarding the mind alone. “All her glory,” whether as regards her person or her costly dress, are all spiritual, internal, and to be looked for in the heart alone. Hence St. Peter admonishes the women of his time to take the bride here described, as a model in the decoration of their interior. “Whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel, but the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptibility of a quiet and meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God.” We are not, however, hence justified in censuring the external decorations of the Church, and the altars, on the occasion of administering the sacraments, and on great festivals, for question is here, not of material edifices, but of men, who are the people of God, and members of Christ, whose principal ornament and decorations should consist in their virtues; from which virtues, however, good works ought to spring, “that those who see them, may glorify our Father who is in heaven,” as our Savior says. The “golden borders” most appositely represent charity, which is compared to gold, as being the most precious and valuable of all the virtues. We have already explained the variegated vestment, for which vestment the Apostle seems to speak, when he says, “Put ye on the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience. After her shall virgins be brought to the king.” Though there is only one spouse of Christ, one only beloved by him, the universal Church, there are a certain portion specially beloved by him, enjoy certain prerogatives; and they are those who have dedicated their virginity to God, in the hope of being better able to please him; of whom the Apostle says, “He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” Of such the prophet now speaks, and in these verses extols that virginity so precious in the sight of Christ, the virgin “who feedeth among the lilies.” After her shall virgins be brought to the king. “Next to his principal bride, the Church, shall rank all those celestial brides who have consecrated their virginity to God.” Her neighbors shall be brought to thee; that is, the only virgins that shall be introduced will be those that were neighbors to thee, by reason of acknowledging thy true Church.

15 He informs us of the joy consequent on such a number of nuptial feasts. The virgins will be “brought with gladness and rejoicing,” introduced to the nuptial feast, amidst the great joy and applause of the whole heavenly Jerusalem. He, perhaps, here alludes to the canticle which virgins alone were entitled to sing there. “And they sung as it were a new canticle before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the ancients; and no man could say the canticle, but those hundred forty-four thousand who were purchased from the earth. These are they who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These follow the lamb, whithersoever he goeth.” Happy souls that follow the lamb in his virginal path, and in joy and gladness chant that new canticle, unknown to the fathers of old, and which can be chanted by none other than themselves, and in such jubilation will be introduced to the celestial tabernacle, which may be called a palace from its magnificence, and a temple from its holiness.

16 Having hitherto dilated on the dignity and the ornamentation of the bridegroom and the bride, he now comes to the fruit of the marriage; saying, that a most prosperous issue will come from it, that will govern the entire world. It is doubtful, though, whether he here addresses the bridegroom or the bride, but most probably the latter; because, he had advised her to forget her people and her father’s house; and now, by way of consoling her for having left them, he promises her an abundance of children, and predicts that the fruit of the union between the Church and her heavenly spouse will be most prosperous and happy. “Instead of thy fathers sons are born to thee.” Instead of your fathers, who are now dead, that is, instead of the patriarchs and prophets, and fathers, you have left behind, and you have been ordered to forget; “sons are born to thee;” that is, Apostles and Disciples of Christ, able to teach, and make laws for the entire world; therefore, “thou shalt make them princes over all the earth.” And, in fact, the Apostles, the first children of the Church, made laws for the whole world, a thing never accomplished by any one temporal monarch. For, as St. John Chrysostom remarks, The Romans could not impose laws on the Persians, nor the Persians on the Romans; while the Apostles imposed laws upon both, and upon all other nations. And, as in the first age of the Church, the patriarch fathers had the Apostles as sons; thus, in the following age the Apostles as fathers had the Bishops as sons; who, though they may not be severally so, are, as a body, princes over the whole world; and, thus, by means of the succession of Bishops, the Church always has sons born to her for the fathers, for her to place in their position and dignities.

17 He concludes the Psalm by saying that those spiritual nuptials he had so lauded, and the fruit of the nuptials, would tend to the glory of God. For, says he, the sons who will supply the place of their fathers will become fathers in turn, and “will remember thy name;” will celebrate your grace and power, “throughout all generations.” St. John Chrysostom remarks that this prophecy applies to David’s own Psalms, that we now see celebrated and chanted all over the world. “Therefore shall people praise thee forever; yea, for ever and ever.” From the fact of the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, being always sure to “remember his name,” to chant and proclaim his praise, the prophet justly infers that the people entrusted to their care will do so too, and that “for ever, yea, for ever and ever;” that is, both here and hereafter.

Table of Contents

Psalm 45


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The soldiers of Christ overcome temptation as often by flight as by patience. When they must fly, God is their safest “refuge;” when they have to suffer; God is their “strength” and support; in both cases he is “their helper in troubles,” by affording a refuge when they fly, and enabling them to conquer when they stand. The expression, “which have found us exceedingly,” gives us to understand that the persecutions suffered by the Church, in her infancy, were both grievous and severe, and the more so, because sudden and unexpected; for, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, after the ascension of our Lord, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, the Church was progressing and increasing in Jerusalem in great peace and tranquillity; “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house; they took their meat with gladness and simplicity of heart; praising God together, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added daily to their society such as should be saved.” In a short time, however, a most violent persecution arose, the Apostles were scourged, Stephen was stoned, and all the Disciples, with the exception of the Apostles, were scattered.

2–3 Two most obscure verses; but we have only to follow St. Basil and St. Chrysostom. Having declared “God their refuge and strength,” he thinks he would remain unmoved, even though the sea and the land were to be turned upside down, and change places in fearful confusion. “Therefore,” say the people of God, “we will not fear when the earth shall be troubled;” whatever commotion may arise in it; “and the mountains shall be removed into the heart of the sea;” even though the very mountains, firmly fixed and planted by God himself, in such a way as to be looked upon as immovable, even though they may be tossed and rocked, and even cast into the deep; even in such case “we will not fear,” because God Almighty is “our refuge and our strength.” “Their waters roared and were troubled;” that, too, however great the roaring and confusion, did not make us fear. “The mountains were troubled with his strength.” Even though the very mountains, shaken from their foundations by the divine strength and power, should be hurled into the sea. For it is God alone who can so confuse the earth, hurl the mountains into the sea, and make it and the mountains along with it to tremble; according to Psalm 76, “The waters saw thee, O God, and they were afraid; and the depths were troubled;” and again, Psalm 103, “He looketh upon the earth, and maketh it tremble;” and, Isaias 51, “But I am the Lord thy God, who trouble the sea, and the waves thereof swell.” Thus, in these verses, God’s people declare how great is their confidence in him, when they would not entertain the slightest fear; even in the event of the whole world tumbling to atoms; from which also we may form some idea of the immense power of God, who can so shake and confuse all nature, as he really will previous to the last judgments, as we read in Luke 12, “When there shall be great earthquakes in various places, and by reason of the confusion of the sea and the roaring of the waves, men shall be withering away from fear.” Then will God’s people not only suffer no fear, but they will even look up, “and lift up their heads,” as it is expressed in the Gospel; for “their redemption is at hand.” All this may have a figurative meaning; taking the earth to represent men of earthly views, and the mountains to represent men not only of earthly views, but also proud, insolent characters, such as the kings of old, so hostile to the Church of God; and the sea to represent that abyss of trouble and confusion, in which all such characters will be hustled on the day of judgment. Thus, “The earth shall be troubled,” when the impious lovers of it “shall be troubled with terrible fear,” Wisdom 5; and “The mountains shall be removed into the heart of the sea;” that is, when the mighty kings, who formerly persecuted the Church, shall be overwhelmed in the deep abyss; and then “The waters roared, and were troubled;” when the last scourge shall so confound and confuse the wicked and their rulers, when God’s strength shall be brought to bear on them in his anger.

4–5 He now shows how it will happen that God’s people shall entertain no fear, even when “the earth shall be troubled, and the mountains removed into the heart of the sea;” because, instead of the immense confusion with which the wicked will be overwhelmed, an abundance of pleasure to gladden the Church, will be poured in upon it; and, instead of the unsteadiness of the mountains, that will be cast into the heart of the sea, the Church will enjoy an everlasting stability, because God will be in the midst of it. “The stream of the river maketh the city of God joyful.” That is to say, God’s people will have no fear, “when the earth shall be troubled;” because, instead of the fierce waves of the rude sea dashing against his Church, the sweet, somniferous, plentiful, bright, and pleasant waters of the purling river will, in great abundance, wash it, and glide by it in pleasant streams. “The Most High hath sanctified his own tabernacle.” No wonder the city of God should be joyful, when God saluted it, sanctified it, made it his own dwelling place, as we read in the Apocalypse, 21, “Behold, the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people.” God is in the midst thereof, it shall not be moved. “A contrast to the instability of the earth and the mountains; they will be moved and shaken, but the city of God need have no fear thereon, for” God is in the midst thereof; “that is, he never leaves it, is always present there,” in the midst of it,”in its inmost recesses, in its heart; and, therefore, instead of being moved or shaken, it will remain fixed and firm forever. He concludes by showing how all this is to be effected, and when; by adding, “God will help it in the morning early;” the city of God must have all joy and gladness, and that forever, because God will help it early in the beginning of the day, in the opening day of everlasting happiness. The Scripture calls the time of infidelity the darkness of the night, and the time of faith the morning, as St. Paul, Rom. 13, says, “The night hath passed, and the day appeareth;” and 2 St. Peter, chap. 1, “And we have the word of prophecy more firm; to which you do well to attend, as to a light shining in a dark place until the day dawn, and the morning star rise in your hearts;” and the spouse in the Canticles, chap. 2, calls the beloved, “Till the day break, and the shadows retire;” and the prophet Malachias, chap. 4, says, “But unto you that fear my name the sun of justice shall arise.”

6 He now expresses in plain language what he had hitherto expressed in figurative, namely, the ruin of the enemies of the Church, and the universal and lasting peace consequent thereon. He used the words earth and mountains before; he now speaks more clearly of nations and kingdoms. “Nations were troubled,” because their dissolution was approaching, “and kingdoms were bowed down,” tumbled from their glory, laid prostrate; “he uttered his voice;” God thundered from heaven, “and the earth trembled.” This destruction of the kingdoms of the world was more clearly predicted by Daniel, chap. 2, where he says that the kingdom of Christ “shall consume all these kingdoms, and itself shall stand forever,” which has been explained by the Apostle, 1 Cor 15, when he says, “Afterwards the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father, when he shall have abolished all principality, and authority, and power.”

7 In the midst of all this destruction of nations and kingdoms, God’s people will have no fear whatever, because they can always say, “The Lord of armies is with us.” “The God of Jacob is our protector, he has undertaken it. He is called the Lord of armies,” because his Angels who are most numerous and most powerful, obey his commands as we have in Psalm 102, “Mighty in strength, and executing his word;” and not only has he the Angels to carry out his orders, but, as we have it in Psalm 118, “Fire, hail, snow, ice, strong winds, which fulfil his word,” are also at his command, as we read in Psalm 118, “All things obey him.” Thus this verse advances two arguments to prove clearly that God’s people should entertain no fear; the first, from the fact of their being under the protection of God, who is all powerful to help them. The second, from the fact of his being most ready and willing to help them, as is clear from his styling himself the God of Jacob, the holy patriarch, and friend of God, from whose family he chose his only Son to assume human flesh.

8 He now exhorts all nations to reflect on God’s wonderful doings, and especially on the fact that will turn up at last; namely, that when all the enemies of Christ shall be removed, or rather, “laid under his footstool,” there will be an end to all war; and God alone will reign supreme, with no one to resist or gainsay him. That is the kingdom we expect and pray for, when we say daily, “Thy kingdom come.” “Come, and behold ye,” with the eye of faith and contemplation, and reflect on “the works of the Lord what wonder he hath done upon earth;” reflect upon God’s works, (using the past for the future, in prophetic style,) in this world, so wonderful and stupendous as to deserve the name of prodigies. And these prodigies will include his “making wars to cease even to the end of the earth,” a really wonderful thing to say he could so put an end to all war, as to preclude the possibility of its being ever renewed.

9 He explains how he will “make the wars to cease,” for the Lord will destroy all their offensive arms, such as the bow and the lance and the arms of defense, viz., the shield; and without arms, war cannot be waged. Some will have these verses apply to the temporary peace the Church enjoyed, under Augustus or Constantine; but they are much more applicable to the everlasting peace in store for the Church, when she shall cease to be militant, and become triumphant, having conquered and subdued all her enemies.

10 Having just invited all to “come, and behold the works of the Lord,” he now tells them how they are to come, if they wish really to understand them; and to impress the necessity of it, as well as to induce them to come, he speaks in the person of the Lord himself, saying “Be still, and see that I am God.” For to contemplate things divine, the mind must needs be disengaged from all worldly care, and avarice is at the bottom of all care; because it is from the lust of riches, dainties, honors, pleasure, and the like, that all troublesome thoughts are engendered, and never leave any one troubled with them at ease. Hence Jeremias says of the contemplative, Lam. 3, “He shall sit solitary, and hold his peace; because he hath taken it upon himself,” and the Lord commands us, Mat. 6, “But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy father in secret.” And he explains by his practice what be meant by “shutting the door,” for, generally speaking, when he wanted to pray, he went up on a mountain, and went alone, to shut himself out from all the cares, noise, and concerns of this world. But, as we said, the principal stillness we require is, abstraction from the desire of anything earthly; for when any one will not wrap himself up in, or covet what he sees, however occupied he may be in helping his neighbor, he will easily collect himself when he chooses, and when necessary, and he will “be still and see,” that the Lord only “is God.” He is the beginning and the end; he is the entire hope of the faithful on earth, and their true happiness in heaven. David was constantly occupied in governing his kingdom; St. Gregory, as well as many other holy popes, in discharging the duties of the pontificate, and yet they could enter into the most sublime contemplation, because they kept the wings of their souls unfettered and unsullied by the mire of concupiscence. The great Apostle himself, burdened as he was by the “solicitude of all the Churches,” obliged to seek a living by the “labor of his hands,” still being untrammeled, free from worldly desires, he, too, could “be still,” “and see,” and was carried up to the third heaven, and “heard the secret words which it is not granted to man to utter.” On the other hand, there are many idle persons, as far as the business of this world is concerned, but from their carnal desires and pursuits know not how to “be still.” “Be still,” look out for holy retirement, bring to it a pure and tranquil mind, “and see,” on deep reflection, “that I am God,” that I alone am God; that no created thing, however great or sublime, is God; I alone am him; that is, I alone am he, “from whom, through whom, and in whom are all things,” Rom. 2. I alone, am he, without whom you can do nothing, and are nothing; but in whom, and through whom, you can do everything. “I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted in the earth;” that is to say, when I shall have done the wonderful things just enumerated, I will appear exalted before all nations, before the whole world, so “that every knee shall bend, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and in hell.” In the end of the world, nobody will be found hardy enough to despise God, for all, with or against their will, will acknowledge his supreme dominion, and will be subject to him.

He concludes the Psalm by a repetition of verse 7, to show that the divine exhortation had the effect of stirring up and renewing the pious affections of the faithful.

Table of Contents

Psalm 46


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The holy prophet invites all nations to express the gladness of their heart by their language and their gesture. He includes all, for the glory of the head is in common with that of the body, and the body comprises not only the Jews, but all nations; for the Church, which is Christ’s body, is spread over all the world. From his invitation to clap hands, we are not to infer we are called upon to do so in the literal sense of the expression; but we are called upon to be as internally glad and joyful as those who give expression to their joy by clapping their hands, by dancing, and such gestures. Such is evidently his meaning; because, in Psalm 95, the same prophet calls not only on men to exult and applaud, but also on the heavens and earth, rivers, mountains, and trees, which are all metaphorical expressions, and signify nothing more than the abundance of joy in the mind of man, that would, if possible, bring all nature to share it with them.

2 He assigns a reason for having invited all nations to rejoice and exult, the first being derived from the greatness of Christ, who he declares to be “high,” by reason of his divinity, “terrible,” by reason of his power, and “a great king,” by reason of his providence and government. “For the Lord is high.” Sing to him with applause and exultation, all ye nations, because Christ our Lord and God is high, cannot be higher, as regards his divine nature, in which he excels all created beings. Do so, because he is “terrible,” as regards his power, which nothing can resist. Do so, finally, because “he is a great king over all the earth,” being supreme, absolute, and universal rector of the whole world.

3 A second argument, drawn from the favors God originally conferred on his Church, when he brought it out of the land of Egypt; for then God brought his people into the land of promise, and subjected the nations and people in possession of it to his own people, and made them trample on the necks of the kings of those nations, as we read in Josue, chap. 1.

4 A third argument, drawn from another favor, by which the same Christ God, having ejected the Chananeans, and having introduced his people into their land, chose from the believing Jews, from his Apostles and the other Disciples, the primitive Church as his own and his peculiar inheritance. “He hath chosen for us;” that means, in us, or from us; “his inheritance,” his own peculiar people; “the beauty of Jacob which he loved;” that is, he selected the flower of the Jewish people, called after Jacob, for which he had a special love, and formed his Church from it, as his peculiar inheritance. We have here to remark that, though most of the Jews were stiff necked, and prone to idolatry, and, consequently, reprobate, there were, however, very many holy patriarchs among them, whose spirituality and innocence was most pleasing to God. Hence the Apostle, Rom. 11, says, “The Jews were most dear to God, for the sake of the fathers;” and that their church was the good olive tree, “some of whose branches were broken, because of unbelief;” and that the converted gentiles, whom he calls the wild olives, were grafted in their place; and to the same converted gentiles he thus addresses himself: “And if some of the branches be broken, and thou, being a wild olive tree, art ingrafted in them, and art made partaker of the root and of the fatness of the olive tree. Boast not against the branches, but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.” This, then, is “the beauty of Jacob,” that caused him “to choose an inheritance” from the Jewish people, which he afterwards caused to increase and multiply.

5 The fourth reason for joy and gladness; because, after the Lord “chose his inheritance” from the Jewish people, that is to say, selected his Apostles and Disciples from among them, he ascended into heaven, and raised our nature, indissolubly united to his own, above all the heavens, above all the Angels, and above all created beings. For though this passage does not say to what place he ascended, it is clearly expressed in Psalm 67, “He ascended on high, and led captivity captive;” and, in the same Psalm, “Who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the east.” The meaning, then, is, “God hath ascended,” Christ has ascended, but by virtue of his own power, inasmuch as he is God. “With jubilee and the sound of trumpet,” which is to be understood of the spiritual rejoicing, and the chanting of the Angels; for, as far as the ascension of Christ before his Apostles was concerned, it occurred in silence, and they probably neither heard nor saw the chanting, nor the persons of the Angels, lest their attention may be diverted from the great mystery that was then in process; namely, the extraordinary elevation of that nature, to which was said, “Thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return,” in its ascent in great glory and immortality above the highest heavens.

6–7 Before offering a fifth reason for praising God, he excites all to break out in repeated expressions of admiration at his having ascended so gloriously. “Sing praises to him,” by reason of his being our God; “sing praises to him,” by reason of his being King; and, thirdly, “sing praises to him,” because he is “King of all the earth;” and do so, not only repeatedly, but “wisely,” with care and attention, making no mistakes therein, for any duty rendered to a great king must be gone through in such manner.

8 A fifth reason for singing and chanting to God, “with the voice of joy,” derived from Christ, after his ascension to heaven, having sent his Apostles to preach the Gospel, and to gather the gentiles to his fold. “God shall reign over the nations.” Christ, not content with the inheritance he got in the Jewish people, shall also reign over the gentiles; because, by the preaching of the Apostles, he will bring them all to the true faith. But, in the meantime, “God sitteth on his holy throne,” he sits at the right hand of his Father, the most holy, most just position he can occupy, and which “no iniquity can touch.”

9 He explains the sentence, “God shall reign over the nations,” because the preaching of the Apostles would bring the “princes of the people” to the true faith, oblige them to abandon their idols, and turn to the God of Abraham, who is the only true God, that thus he may be their God, and they his people. “For the strong gods of the earth are exceedingly exalted;” the great men amongst the gentiles, who had been slaves of sin, and servants of their idols, are now, by their conversion, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.

Table of Contents

Psalm 47


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The prophet, being about to praise a certain edifice, commences by praising the architect, and says that in the holy city the wonderful skill and wisdom of God, who built it, is truly displayed. “Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised;” and so he is, whether we look at his essence, his power, his wisdom, his justice, or his mercy, for all are infinite, everlasting, and incomprehensible; and thus, so much is God “exceedingly to be praised,” that all the Angels, all men, even all his own works would not suffice thereto; but of all things we have revealed, there is no one thing that can give us a greater idea of his greatness, or for which we should praise and thank him more, than the establishment of his Church; and, therefore, the prophet adds, “in the city of our God, in his holy mountain;” that is to say, the greatness of God, and for which he deserves so much praise, is conspicuous in the foundation and construction of his Church, which is “the city of our God, in his holy mountain;” that is, made as perfect as possible. For, it is said in Isaias 2, “The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on top of mountains.” And the Lord himself calls his Church “a city placed on a mountain.” To touch briefly on the remarkable points of this edifice, just consider, first, the incredible variety of nations, differing in language, manners, customs, and laws, so uniting in the profession of one faith, and the use of the same sacraments, as to form one people, nay, even one family. Consider, secondly, the same Church, founded on Peter, a poor, ignorant, rude fisherman; and yet founded so firmly, that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it; for, in spite of that world in which Christ’s Church is spending its exile, in spite of all the powers of darkness, in spite of all the persecutions of the wicked, she will ultimately arrive in safety at the land of promise; and, placed, at length, above the highest heavens, will reign undisturbed in everlasting happiness. Such things, certainly, could not be accomplished, but by the great God; that is, by a most powerful and skilful architect who, therefore, “is exceedingly to be praised,” or, rather, is beyond all praise.

2 The prophet assigns a reason why God should be so “exceedingly praised” in his Church, typified by Mount Sion and the city of Jerusalem, and assigns as a reason, God’s having “founded it with the joy of the whole earth,” using the word “founded” in the present, not in the past tense; for the establishment of the Church is always going on, and never a thing of the past. Various churches are daily springing up where one never existed before. For the Church is not like a small house, that takes little time to build, but is rather a great city, spread over the world; built in various ages, by spiritual architects, successors of the Apostles, who, by their preaching, lay Christ as the corner stone, and erect a spiritual edifice thereon. That foundation is laid “with the joy of the whole earth,” because, throughout the world, the Church is established by the preaching of the Gospel, which never fails to bring the most unbounded spiritual joy and gladness to those who receive it. It is, therefore, that such knowledge is compared by the Lord to a “treasure hidden in a field, which when a man hath found he hideth, and for joy thereof, goeth and selleth all he hath, and buyeth that field;” and, in the Acts of the Apostles, when the Church was being founded in Jerusalem, it is said, “They took their meat with gladness;” and, in chap. 8, speaking of the preaching of Philip, and his establishment of the Church in Samaria, it says, “And there was great joy in that city;” and the eunuch of Queen Candace, when he heard the faith from the same Philip, and was baptized, “went his way rejoicing;” and, in chap. 13, we read that when St. Paul began to preach to the gentiles, and lay the foundation of the Church, “The gentiles hearing this were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord.” When he talks of the foundation of Mount Sion, we are not to understand him as speaking of the mountain of that name; for that was in existence from the beginning of the world; but of the spiritual mountain, of which it was the type. Mount Sion means, then, the Church of Christ, so called by reason of the eminence of doctrine, and the perfection of life, to be found in the Church. The same Church is also styled “The side of the north,” because, as Mount Sion, lying on the north side of the land of promise, protects it from the withering, bitter blasts of the north wind, so the Church of Christ is like a wall, warding off the spiritual north blast; that is, the blast of the unclean spirits; for those who nestle in the bosom of the Church, that is to say, who receive her doctrine and obey her laws, are not easily injured by the north blast, spreading its pernicious dogmas by example. Finally, the same Church is called “The city of the great king,” which tends much to ennoble it, by reason of the Church of Christ having him for its king, who is Prince of the kings of the earth, and King of kings, and Lord of Lords. All other authorities in the Church are but servants, servants, of Christ, as the Apostle says, “Let a man so look upon us as the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God.” Even the very supreme head of the Church calls himself the vicar of Christ, and not only acknowledges himself to be the servant of God, but even the servant of his servants.

3 He now assigns a second reason for the Lord being “great and exceedingly to be praised” in his city of Jerusalem, because he not only founded it well, but constantly protects and exalts it. God, who founded his Church like a royal city, will then especially “be known in her houses;” that is, by all her inhabitants, when, in time of persecution, “he shall protect her.”

5–7 The Latin fathers, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine, explain these verses in a different way from the Greek fathers, Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Euthymius; the former apply it to the gentiles embracing the faith; the latter, to those resisting it. According to the Latins, the meaning is, The gentiles will cause God to be known in the Church. “For behold, the kings of the earth,” and their subjects, converted by the preaching and the miracles of the Apostles, assembled themselves, gathered together; that is to say, came into the one faith, out of various sects and superstitions, and became one people; so much so, “that they had but one heart and one soul,” as we read of the first Christians in the Acts, and their conversion was effected, for “they saw” the wonders and prodigies, “and they wondered;” and having come to a knowledge of the greatness of their error and their sin, in worshipping idols, instead of the true God, “they were troubled, they were moved,” by true penance; whence, also, “trembling took hold of them;” looking at the frightful risk they had so long run of eternal damnation. “There were pains,” no small or trifling ones, but smart, severe ones, like “the pains of a woman in labor;” which, however, ended in great joy. “But when she hath brought forth the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” Thus the sorrow of the penitent terminates in the most inexplicable joy, when the grace of adoption, the seed and the pledge of eternal salvation, is poured into his heart, and then is accomplished, “With a vehement wind thou shalt break in pieces the ships of Tharsis,” for the Holy Ghost, inhabiting the soul in process of justification, and inflaming it with the vehement warmth of his charity, “breaks in pieces the ships of Tharsis;” the vehicles of pride, luxury, and avarice; for we read in Kings and Paralipomenon, of the ships that hastened to Tharsis with flowing sails, bringing gold and silver from it; the swollen sails are the type of pride; the tossing of the ship, of luxury, and the gold and silver, of avarice.

8 These are the expressions of the children of the Church in rejoicing to know, by experience, what they had heard was promised, the stability of Christ’s Church. We have more reason to rejoice thereon, for we have heard Christ say, “On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it;” and now, after sixteen hundred years, after so many and so grievous persecutions, by pagans and heretics, we see it was impossible for the Church to have failed. The prophet then, speaking in the person of the faithful, says, “As we have heard” it foretold by the prophets and by the Apostles, “so have we seen” it accomplished in the Church, which is “the city of the Lord of Hosts,” whom all created things serve, and is, therefore, “the Lord of Hosts;” that is, of armies, “who is our God.” But what we have seen and heard is, that “God had founded it for ever,” so that there is no danger of its ever being destroyed.

9 An admission on the part of God’s people, that the great things God did, and still does for his Church, are not to be attributed to their own works or merits, but entirely to his mercy. The stability of thy Church and the other innumerable favors which we heard were promised, and we now see realized, have all come from your hands, and not from ours. We therefore acknowledge it “in the midst of thy temple;” publicly before all, that “we have received your mercy;” to it we attribute all our happiness.

10 He goes on, in the person of the same people, in praising God for the favors received from him, and as he commenced with, “Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised,” he now says, “According to thy name, so is also thy praise unto the ends of the earth;” that is to say, the measure of your praise must be coordinate with the greatness of your name. For, as the name of God was made known all over the world, by the great and wonderful things done by God, in the establishment and propagation of his Church; so also is Christ praised through the whole world, even to its very extremities: and he tells us why God will be praised for his justice, “Thy right hand is full of justice;” for God’s justice in rewarding the good, and punishing the wicked, is justly extolled all over the world. God’s hand is said to be “full of justice,” not that there is no mercy in his hand, but that there is no place or room for injustice. “For the Lord is just in all his works,” Psalm 144.

11 As “God’s right hand is full of justice,” the prophet exhorts his people to rejoice, knowing as they do, from experience, better than others, how just the Lord is. “Let mount Sion rejoice;” that is, his people signified by Mount Sion; “and the daughters of Juda be glad;” let the women unite therein with them. “Because of thy judgments;” looking at the justice with which you protected your friends, and chastised your enemies.

12–13 He now, in the end of the Psalm, exhorts them to build up and fortify the holy city of which he spoke in the second verse. Such a city is not like an ordinary material city, which is at once founded and built: the founding and building of the city intended here, will be going on to the end of the world, and must be built and renewed with living stones, that will need daily to be put in, until the perfect city shall be dedicated on the day of judgment. So the Apostle says, Ephes. 2, “In whom you are also built together into a habitation of God in the Spirit;” and in chap. 4, he says, “And some indeed he gave to be apostles, and some prophets, and others evangelists, and others pastors and teachers; for the perfection of the saints, for the work of the ministry, unto the edification of the body of Christ.” And 1 St. Peter, chap. 2, “To whom approaching the spiritual stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen and honored of God; be you also as living stones, built up, a spiritual house.” He, therefore, says, “Surround Sion, and encompass her.” Surround the holy city with walls, where they are needed. Holy souls are called the walls of a city, for they protect the rest of the people from their enemies; “Tell ye in his towers;” announce it publicly from some elevated place, (as we have already said,) the preaching of the Gospel is the instrument to found and build the city. “Set your hearts on her strength.” Think seriously on the defense of the city, that she may be in no wise exposed to the enemy; “And distribute her houses;” after the walls shall have been founded and built, set about the houses; and as a great many must needs be built, “distribute” their parts to the various workmen, that the houses may be the more quickly built, and the city be filled and increase; and thus it will come to pass “that ye may relate it in another generation;” that is, that by your having so multiplied God’s people, posterity may have the knowledge of God himself.

14 This is what is to be told to posterity, that God, who did so many wonders in his holy city Jerusalem, “He is our God unto eternity.” We will never desert him, nor will he desert us. We will be his people for ever, and “he shall rule us for evermore.”

Table of Contents

Psalm 48


Explanation Of The Psalm

1–2 This preface to the Psalm is written with a view to arrest the attention of the reader, by informing him that the matter to be treated of concerns all mankind, both present and future. The whole human race is, therefore, summoned to hear it; and as no known place could contain such a multitude, nor could the voice of any speaker reach them, we must only take it for granted that the prophet foresaw that his Psalms would be spread over the world, and to the end of time; and, therefore, that he was warranted in summoning all nations and people to hear him. “Hear these things, all ye nations,” because what I have to say concerns you all; “Give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world,” an explanation of the preceding sentence, as if he said, Don’t hear in a cursory way, in an ordinary way, but take it in carefully, keep it there for future reflection. “Ye inhabitants of the world” is an explanation of “all ye nations,” which latter expression may lead one to think he referred only to the gentiles, to guard against which he adds, “All ye inhabitants of the world,” to show that he addressed Jews as well as gentiles, whether assembled in cities or scattered on hill side and in valleys. Furthermore, to embrace future as well as the present generations, he speaks more generally, saying, “All you that are earth born and sons of men,” hear ye all, all you sprung from the earth; for all past, present, and future men have one common mother, earth, one common father, Adam; “Both rich and poor together,” to show that what he has to say applies to all, rich and poor, for there shall be no more regard of persons in the assembly now about to be addressed, than there will be on the last day, when we will be all called up for judgment.

3–4 The second part of the preface, in which he seeks to arrest the attention of his audience from two sources, from the dignity of the matter, and the dignity of the teacher. The dignity of the matter arises from its consisting of wisdom and prudence, and the language being plain and simple, but metaphorical and abstruse, such as becomes important subjects, in order that it may not be despised, and that it may not be understood save by the attentive and the intelligent. “My mouth shall speak wisdom,” will teach what it is that makes a man wise; “and the meditation of my heart, understanding;” what I think of in my heart, when given expression to, will teach what is calculated to make men understand; this being an explanation of the first part of the verse, for, having said at first, “My mouth shall speak,” for fear we should suppose his mouth would speak at random, he adds, “and the meditation of my heart;” that is to say, my mouth shall utter what my heart shall have seriously reflected on. Having said that he would “speak wisdom,” for fear any one may suppose he intended the wisdom of the world, he adds, “understanding,” or prudence. He, therefore, gives us to understand that his discourse is about to be on matters full of wisdom and prudence; the former contributing to make man wise in the contemplation of first causes, and the latter prudent in the direction of his path through life. He now comes to the dignity of the teacher, saying, “I will incline my ear to a parable,” I will listen to the Spirit speaking to me, and implicitly obey him; and then, “I will open my proposition on the psaltery,” the proposition revealed to me and inspired by God. By parable is meant something obscure, that requires attention and study to understand it; such is the force of the word in Hebrew, and the word is applied, in Judges 14, to the riddle proposed by Samson, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness:” “on the psaltery;” to prepare his audience, he will unite music with his discourse, in order to soothe their minds, that they may apply, with the greater attention, to his most important communications.

5 Now comes the parable, introduced by so elaborate a preface, proposed by the prophet to the whole human race, and explained also by him. The explanation, one would think, is as mysterious as is the parable, especially to worldlings, but not so to the true servants of God; “Why shall I fear in the evil day?” as if he said, what can frighten me on the day of judgment, which is called in Sophonias 1, “A day of wrath, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and misery, a day of darkness and obscurity, a day of clouds and whirlwinds, a day of the trumpet and alarm.” In other words, what will make me secure on that dreadful day of judgment, when my final lot, for good or for evil, will be cast? A great question certainly, and intimately affecting all. He explains his own parable, however, by adding at once, “The iniquity of my heel shall encompass me.” What will terrify me on that day will not be my poverty, for the Judge is incorruptible; will not be my lowness of birth, for he has no regard of persons; the malice of my advocate or witnesses will not harm, because all is known to the Judge; nor will the rank or power of my accusers, because the Judge has no fear of any one; no sort of iniquity will harm me, save and except the “iniquity of my heel;” that is, the iniquities of my old age, the iniquity persevered in to the end of my life, which, if found in me on that awful day, “will encompass me,” like a mound or a wall, leaving me no possible open for escape, for then there will be no room for penance or for pardon. On the other hand, what will render me secure and fearless on the same evil day, will not be riches, or nobility, the talent of my advocates or the power of my friends, but justice alone; and not every sort of justice, but the justice “of my heel;” that is, of the end of any life, whether I may have kept it from my youth, or obtained it by real and sincere penance.

6 The prophet having laid down, that for one to be secure in the evil day he had nothing but sin to fear, now adds, that many who do not understand the matter confide in their own strength, and thus glory in the riches they have acquired with great trouble, thinking there could be no fear of them in the evil day; and he proves that they are utterly mistaken, and that his parable and its explanation is most true. “They that trust in their own strength,” they who, relying on their own strength and power, as many of the children of the present day do, and fear not the evil day, consequently “glory in the multitude of their riches,” thinking that all things can be overcome and conquered by them. In fact, this world attaches great importance to wealth and riches, so that the wise man truly said, “All things obey money.” But in the evil day there will be no such thing as money, nor, if there were, would it be of any help or value; and therefore, the prophet adds,

7 He shows how idle is any trust or confidence in money, for “no brother can redeem,” however great his riches may be, nobody will be able to redeem his brother by riches on the evil day; and if one’s brother cannot do it, can any one else do it? “He shall not give to God his ransom;” however rich or opulent he may be, and though he may offer them all in mitigation of God’s anger on the evil day, they will neither avail for himself nor for any one else. For, as the Lord asks in the gospel, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” for the value of a human soul is beyond all the wealth of the world; and thus the blood of the only begotten of God, as being of infinite value, could alone purchase it; and thus he who, in contempt of this great favor, chooses to remain captive to the evil one, will come to the evil day and “will not give to God his ransom.”

8–9 “The price of the redemption of his soul” is an explanation of the last expression, “he shall not give to God his ransom,” a price the Son of God alone could pay; and the meaning of the passage, according to St. Augustine is, he that “trusted in the multitude of his riches” will “labor forever,” because his labor will be endless; and his life will be short, because it will be to the end, and no longer. Thus they who trust in their riches will not only neglect paying the price of their redemption, but they will labor for all eternity with the rich man in his torments; and they will lead a life of voluptuousness, which alone seems life to them, “unto the end” appointed and ordained by God.

10 Having said that the wicked man would so live on to the end of his natural life, he adds, in continuation of it, “He shall not see destruction when he shall see the wise dying.” He will continue the same career to his very old age, even though he may see the just and the wise cut off, and hurried away prematurely. For it often happens, that God gives length of days to those who are not to enjoy eternal life; as we see in the case of Lazarus, who died before the rich glutton. But, however prolonged the life of the wicked may be, it will ultimately have an end; and then is realized, “The senseless and the fool shall perish together;” and, thus, the meaning of the verse is, “He shall not see destruction;” though the fool, who trusts in his riches, may see many dying before him, he, too will ultimately come to the end of his natural life. St. Basil says the difference between the senseless and the fool is, that the former lacks sense to go through the ordinary business of life; while the latter, by no means lacks such worldly sense, but is sadly deficient as regards spirituals. “And they shall leave their riches to strangers.” He called those who trust in their riches “senseless and fools,” as did our Lord in the Gospel, when he said to a certain rich man, “Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee, whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” He, therefore, proves them to be real fools, because they know not how to make use of their riches, and they leave them to people of whom they have no knowledge whatever. “The senseless and the fool shall perish,” and, to heighten their folly, their riches will pass to strangers. St. Augustine justly observes, that even though the riches may pass to children or to nephews, they too, may be often called strangers, for they readily forget those gone before them; and even though they should chance not to forget them, they cannot help or assist them; like the rich man in hell, who had five brothers on earth, and could get no help from either of them, and thus, may be looked upon as quite strangers to him; the only one that could have helped was a stranger, Lazarus, who might have been a real friend and neighbor to him, had he been shown any mercy at the hands of the glutton.

11 They left their riches to others, keeping nothing for themselves but the narrow grave in which they are to lie forever. This will be “their dwelling place to all generations;” to the end of the world. “They have called their lands by their names.” No trace of them but the name; foolish mortals endeavor to perpetuate their memory, by calling their estates, or their houses, or books written by them, or by compelling others to keep up their name; thus, hoping to enroll their names in the records of this world, as they cannot expect it in the next.

12 Digressing from the senseless and from those who put their trust in riches, the prophet reproves the whole human race, saying, “And man when he was in honor did not understand;” man, in preference to all other animals, honored by God with intelligence, reason, and free will, stamped with his own image, gifted with an immortal soul, and dominion over all things on earth; did not understand the value of all this, but “is compared to senseless beasts,” without understanding; “and is become like to them;” like cattle, is solely bent on the present, regardless of the future; a slave to the beastly passions, whose master he should be; regardless of solid and everlasting happiness; seeking for empty and transient pleasures, which he should have thoroughly despised, in the hope of thereby securing everlasting happiness.

13 He goes on in explaining, or rather deploring the misery of mankind. “This way of theirs is a stumbling block to them.” The brutish life they lead, their habits, manners, and customs, are a “stumbling block” to them, it trips them up, utterly ruins them; and, to cap the climax of their misery, “they shall delight in their mouth;” they praise and applaud themselves and each other, for the crimes they commit, than which no folly can be greater.

14 Having said that men become like senseless beasts, by reason of their sins, he now states that theirs would be similar to such beasts, indicating the number, as well as the helplessness of those, who, after death, will be consigned to hell. Sheep are driven in flocks into the fold, and are brought to the slaughter house, without being capable of offering any resistance. Thus, God has less trouble in consigning the wicked, however rich and powerful they may have been, to everlasting punishment in hell, than would a shepherd to shut in his sheep, or hand them over to the butcher. “Death shall feed upon them;” death, like a wolf, will seize upon the wicked and consume them, as the wolf would so many sheep. “And the just shall have no dominion over them in the morning.” He continues a relation of the misery of the wicked consigned to hell, and says, that “in the morning,” that is, in the beginning of the new world, that will date from the general resurrection, the wicked will be entirely subject to the just, for the just will then sit in judgment on them, will lord it over them forever, and the wicked will have nothing whatever on that day to support them against the just, for all “their help,” which lay in their strength and power, “shall decay,” be of no avail in hell, “from their glory,” after all the glory they had in this world, while they dwelt in its noble palaces.

15 He now tells us what is to become of the just, among whom he numbers himself. Such, he says, will be the lot of the wicked, but the reverse will be the case with me, and with all like me, for “God will redeem my soul from the hand of hell,” will save me from hell, when he shall come and receive me. He seems here to allude to the redemption through Christ, and his descent into hell, for it was then truly, when he paid the price of the redemption of the just with his blood, and released them from the hand of hell, that he may be said to have taken those souls to himself.

16–17 He concludes, by exhorting the just, however poor, and those oppressed by the rich, not to fear them, as their term of this life will be very brief. “Be thou not afraid when a man shall be made rich;” do not dread his power, or let it make you forget the everlasting power of your omnipotent Creator; and do not fear when you see your enemy, not only grown into riches, but even “the glory of his house increased” by a numerous family, and wealthy relatives. “For when he shall die,” as die he must, be he rich or be he poor, “he shall take nothing away,” he will carry with him none of the goods of this world, “nor shall his glory descend with him;” neither his friends nor relations, nor his servants, much less his honors and dignities, will accompany him in his journey down. Thus, riches and the glory of the wicked are transient, their poverty and confusion are everlasting.

18 He assigns a reason why the wicked will not have the glory in hell that they had here. As they were wont to praise God only when he showered his favors on them, so God confines such favors to this world. “For in his lifetime his soul will be blessed.” The blessing conferred on the wicked man will be confined to the term of this life, for it is only during this life that God will confer temporal favors on him, or that man will praise, or rather flatter him. “And he will praise thee;” on the other hand, the wicked man will praise and extol God: “When thou shalt do well to him;” when the world shall thrive and prosper with him; but if any reverse should take place, he will blaspheme God, not like the just man, saying, “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall be for ever in my mouth;” or like Job, saying, “The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

19 The wicked man is often favored by God with innumerable blessings in this world, either to reward him for some good that is in him, or to soften his heart, and bring him to repentance; but, failing in that, “he shall go into the generations of his fathers,” that as well as he shared in their crimes, he too may share in their punishment; “and he shall never see light:” having taken too much pleasure in the light of honors, and the glories of this world, and neglected looking for the light of the glories of heaven, by a just judgment he shall be consigned to eternal darkness.

20 A repetition of verse 12, to show that want of sense is the principal cause of man’s misery, and that the majority of mankind would be shut out from eternal light, and consigned to darkness, for not having followed the light of reason; as also to account for so few comprehending the parable contained in this Psalm, such ignorance arising from the fact, sin caused “man to be compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them.”

Table of Contents

Psalm 49


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Beginning with the first coming of the Messiah, he says that God, who was wont to speak through the prophets, speaks now himself, and addresses not only the Jews, but the “whole earth,” meaning its inhabitants, as he really did through his Apostles; for “Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth.” He is called here “Lord of Lords,” to give us to understand that Christ is truly God, the Son of the true God, and enjoying the same divinity as his Father. There can be only one true God in reality, though many get the title, for instance, the gods of the gentiles, who are no more than demons; Angels and sanctified persons, by reason of their adoption, sometimes get the title; and the judges and rulers of the world, by way of comparison, sometimes are so called; but all these are subject to the one true and only God, who, therefore, is here styled “God of gods.” He, therefore, says, Our Lord Christ, who is “the God of gods” on his arrival in this world, “hath spoken” the words of his Gospel; “and he hath called the earth,” in inviting all to hear him, as he did when he said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily laden, and I will refresh you.” “From the rising of the sun to the going down thereof.” To give us to understand that by the word “earth” he did not mean Palestine, or any part of it, but the whole world.

2 He tells us in what place God began to speak. In Sion, as it was foretold by Isaias 2, “For the law shall come forth from Sion, and the word of the law from Jerusalem;” and, in the last chapter of Luke, “It behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead on the third day. And that penance and the remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” “From the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, he hath called the earth;” all created beings endowed with reason that inhabit the globe, “Out of Sion, the loveliness of his beauty.” When the Lord spoke, he spoke from Sion, a city of rare and surpassing beauty, and so it was; it is styled in the Lamentations as being “of perfect beauty,” a most noble, ancient, and populous city, the seat of government, and of the high priest, having in it the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, and many other accessories worthy of the capital of the kingdom and of religion; whence it was always considered the type of the divine and heavenly city.

3 He now foretells the second coming of Christ. The God of gods came and called the earth; but he came incognito, in the form of a servant, in human shape, in all his meekness, to redeem us by his death and passion; but he will secondly, “Come manifestly,” in all his pomp and power; not in an obscure manger, but in the clouds of heaven; not nailed to a cross between thieves, but on the judgment seat amidst his Angels. And he will not only “come manifestly,” but when he comes, “he will not keep silence,” as he did in his first coming, when, “like a lamb led to the slaughter, he did not open his mouth,” which silence he still observes, however cognizant he is of our sins; but he will come with a trumpet and with a dreadful noise, as we read in Matthew, “He will send his Angels with the trumpet and a loud voice, and they will gather together his elect from the four winds;” and, in 1 Thess 4, “For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trumpet of God;” and, in 1 Cor 15, “At the last trumpet, for the trumpet shall sound.” A fire shall burn before him: and a mighty tempest shall be round about him. “Alluding to the general conflagration of the world; that is, of everything in it, such as cities, gardens, vineyards, palaces, all animals and perishable things; of which St. Peter says, in his Epistle,” But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be dissolved with heat, and the earth and the works that are in it shall be burnt up. The meaning, then, is, “A fire shall burn before him,” to destroy everything on the face of the earth, and a “mighty tempest shall be round about him;” the whole world in confusion, land, sea, the air, the heavens, “men withering away for fear and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world.”

4 There will be an immense crowd present, such will be the spectacle to witness. “He shall call heaven from above;” all the Angels will be summoned, as we read in Matthew, “When the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all his Angels with him.” He will summon the earth too: all from Adam down will appear there; and this great assembly will be called “to judge his people;” to sit in judgment on them, and to separate the good from the bad; as we read in Matthew, “So shall it be at the end of the world, the Angels shall go out and shall separate the wicked from among the just;” and again, “He will separate the sheep from the goats;” that is to say, the celestial Judge will have as little trouble on that day, in selecting the just from out of the wicked, as would the shepherd, in distinguishing the sheep from the goats in his flock.

5 Though all men will be brought up for judgment, it concerns the faithful especially, “For they who do not believe are already judged,” John 3; hence, in Matthew, the faithful are specially introduced for judgment; and question is made, not on their faith, but on their works. By “the saints,” then, we are to understand the faithful members of God’s Church whether enrolled therein by circumcision or by baptism. Thus David says, in Psalm 85. “Preserve my soul for I am holy;” and the Apostle, in his Epistles, calls all Christians “holy.” He then addresses the Angels, and says, “Gather ye together his saints to him.” Bring up for judgment his own people who have been sanctified by him through the sacraments, and that such will be done through the Angels is clear from the passage in Matthew, “The Angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from among the just;” and further on, “He shall send his Angels with a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect.” “Who set his covenant before sacrifices,” explains who the saints are, they being those “who set his covenant before sacrifices;” which is expressed more clearly in the Hebrew, and means, they who have engaged themselves as God’s people, which engagement has been ratified by sacrificing to him, in which, principally, his worship consists. The meaning of the passage, then, is, that God’s saints would be summoned to judgment; that is, those who enter into an engagement with God to honor and serve him, and thus merit his blessing and protection.

6 When all shall have been assembled for judgment, then at length “The heavens shall declare his justice.” Sentence will be passed from heaven on the good and on the bad, from which all will see how great is the justice of God, a thing we don’t often see when he permits the just to be oppressed by the wicked; and all heaven and all its celestial spirits will confirm his justice, exclaiming, “Thou art just, O Lord, and righteous is thy judgment.” Nor can the celestials be deceived, “For God is judge,” in whom injustice can have no place.

7 The prophet now turns to the instruction of the people, and tells on what subject they are to be judged, of what they are to account for in judgment, so that every one may prepare himself. To give greater weight to his admonitions he introduces God himself, speaking in a most paternal and friendly manner. “Hear, O my people, and I will speak.” If you don’t hear me, I will not speak to you, but I will speak to others who have ears to hear. For the Lord, most justly, in Matthew 11, and other places, often says, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear;” for, as the ears of a deaf person are purely ornamental, and not useful; so those endowed with reason, and who will not apply it to understand anything concerning God, have the ears of their minds as if they had no such things at all. We must, then, when we wish God to speak to us, attentively reflect and consider on what he is saying. This he explains more clearly by adding, “O Israel! and I will testify to thee.” Hear, Israel, my people, and I will clearly show you what most concerns you. By Israel we are not to understand that people exclusively; the whole Christian world, who imitate the faith of Israel, are here comprehended; nay more, they are, perhaps, more specially alluded to; as the Apostle, Rom. 9, says, “For all are not Israelites that are of Israel; neither are all they who are the seed of Abraham, children; but they that are the children of the promise, are counted for the seed.” “I am God, thy God;” a reason why we should hear him who speaks, he being no less than God, and peculiarly our God; from which we have the strongest assurance that he knows how, and wishes, to give us the most useful instruction. If he be God, he knows every thing; if he be our God, he loves us; and, therefore, wishes to teach us what is most useful.

8 God does not look for sacrifices, as if he wanted them, or by reason of their being very agreeable to him; he rather looks for interior virtue, consisting in faith, hope, love, and obedience; with such adjuncts sacrifices are acceptable; without them, quite odious and hateful. So Samuel, 1 Kings 15, says, “Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims, and not rather that the voice of the Lord should be obeyed?” and Isaias, chap. 1, “To what purpose do you offer me the multitude of your victims, saith the Lord?” So our Lord himself speaks, Mat 23, “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: who pay title of mint, and anise, and cummin; and have let alone the weightier things of the law: judgment, and mercy, and faith.” And finally, David’s own language, in Psalm 1, where he says “For if thou hadst desired sacrifice I would indeed have given it; with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit, a contrite and humble heart, O God thou wilt not despise.” The meaning, then, is, “I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices.” I will not accuse you nor condemn you for the fewness of them, for they are sufficiently numerous, as “thy burnt offerings are always in my sight,” always to be found on my altar.

9–11 The second reason why God does not require sacrifice from us is, that he is himself Lord of everything, and if he wants sheep, or cattle, or birds, or any thing else, he can easily have them, without any trouble, having an intimate knowledge of them all, being their sovereign Master. “I will not take calves out of thy house,” because I have all such things of my own: beasts, birds, oxen; and not only beasts, birds, etc., but the “beauty of the field;” everything that grows; the fruits of the earth, that render the field beautiful, are mine.

12–13 A third reason assigned for God’s requiring nothing from us, either for his necessities or his convenience, and that is, because he neither hungers nor thirsts; he is, consequently, subject to neither heat nor cold, nor does he need anything; and were he to need anything, his wants would be at once supplied, he being the Lord of all things. “If I should hunger, I would not tell thee,” to provide food for me, “for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof.” Being a spiritual and immortal substance, I require no solid food, and, therefore, I need no “flesh of bullocks, or blood of goats.”

14–15 Having established the insufficiency of sacrifice, unaccompanied by interior submission and love, he now teaches us, that it is by such interior acts of virtue that God is most pleased, and that it is through such acts we can be saved in the last judgment. We have here to notice the difference between the praise of God, and the “sacrifice of praise;” we may praise God with our lips alone, but the “sacrifice of praise” can only be offered by those, who, on the altar of their hearts, light up the fire of charity, on which to pour the incense of praise to God; that is to say, by those who believe, and understand, to a certain extent, that God is supremely good, and after knowing and believing so much of him, love him with their whole heart, admire and praise him, as being most beautiful, most perfect, and most wise. The sacrifice of praise, then, is the mark and the consequence of our knowledge and love, and as the blessed in heaven always see and love God, of them is said, in Psalm 83, “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord; they shall praise thee for ever and ever.” He, therefore, says, “Offer to God the sacrifice of praise,” not with your bare lips, it must proceed from a thorough knowledge and love of God, “and pay thy vows to the Most High.” When you shall have praised God, as God, look upon him in the light of being the source and spring of every blessing you enjoy; look upon your own nothingness, thank him, and pay him that tribute of obedience, the principal one among “the vows” due to him, that you promised, when you became one of his people and family; and that is more pleasing to him than any sacrifice whatever, “For obedience is better than sacrifice,” 1 Kings 15 “And call upon me in the day of trouble;” as you were wont, in your prosperity, to acknowledge me as the source of every blessing, so in your troubles you should fly to me, and put your whole hope and trust in me, because “I will deliver thee” from every trouble; and you, in return, “shall glorify me” by the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

16 Having instructed the just, he now proceeds to take the wicked to task. “To the sinner, God hath said:” caused me to admonish him thus. “Why dost thou declare my justices, and take my covenant in thy mouth?” Why do you profess to know my law, to recount its precepts, to profess to belong to my family, to be a child of Abraham, when you neither observe my law, nor keep my compact, nor tread in Abraham’s footsteps?

17 He first alludes to their secret sins, then to their public sins. “Thou hast hated discipline,” set your mind entirely against the spirit of the law of God, “and cast my words behind thee;” forgot and despised them as completely as if you had thrown them over your shoulder.

18 Hatred and forgetfulness of the law of God lead at once to sins of deed, such as theft and adultery; and as these two sins, springing from avarice and luxury, are most common, the prophet makes special mention of them. “If thou didst see a thief, thou didst run with him;” and observe, he does not say, you too stole, or you too committed adultery, but not content with transgressing, you did it openly, ran with the thief, and was a partaker with the other, thereby boasting and glorying in your wickedness.

19 He now passes to sins by word, saying, from your mouth, as if from a spring, was poured forth all manner of foul language, lies, falsehoods, and deceits.

20 To aggravate those sins by word, they were spoken, not against a stranger, but against his own brethren, and it was done, not from a sudden impulse of anger, but deliberately. “Sitting,” charges were invented, and calumnies spread abroad against the brother born of the same womb.

21 God was looking on all the while, bearing with him, unwilling to chastise him, in the hope of his conversion. Thus, God sees and is silent, as if he did not see at all; but soon will come the day of judgment, when, as it is expressed in the third verse of this Psalm, “God will come manifestly, and shall not keep silence,” as he here declares, for he says, “Thou thought unjustly, that I shall be like to thee, but I will reprove thee, and set before thy face.” Unfortunate sinners, who have no fear of God, think their sins are not displeasing to him, but on the day of judgment they will understand what is said here, “Thou thought unjustly, that I shall be like to thee;” that I was wicked myself, and a friend of the wicked; but such is not the case, because “I will reprove thee” on the day of judgment, “and set before thy face;” make you to see the number and enormity of your sins, so that you cannot possibly gainsay the justice of your punishment.

22 An exhortation, on the part of the prophet, to those sinners who forget that God is a just and Almighty Judge, to reflect seriously on what has been just said, “Lest he snatch you away,” when they are thinking least of it, hurry them to judgment, and damn them as they deserve, “And there be none to deliver you.”

23 God now concludes, by laying down, that the way of salvation lies entirely in the one sacrifice of praise, so that those who daily offer it will be saved on the day of judgment, and those who neglect it will be condemned amongst the reprobate. “The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me;” whosoever will offer me such sacrifice will be acceptable in my sight, I will feel myself honored by him; “and there,” in that sacrifice, “is the way” to salvation, for by that route you will arrive at the place where “I will show him the salvation of God,” divine, full, and perfect salvation. How does it happen, though, that the essence of salvation is made to depend on the “Sacrifice of praise?” St. Augustine answers, because nobody truly praises God, unless he be really pious. The impious may praise him with their lips, but not by their lives; and thus their praise is idle, while their lives are in opposition to it. The “Sacrifice of praise,” too, as we have already observed, does not mean, simply, praise, but such praise as proceeds from the altar of our hearts, on which is burning the fire of love. The “Sacrifice of praise,” then, of necessity includes love; and it is, therefore, no wonder that it should be the sum of our salvation.

Table of Contents

Psalm 50


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 The prophet begins with a prayer, asking forgiveness of his sins assigns his first reason for asking forgiveness, thinks he can move God to forgive; and afterwards assigns other reasons. “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” In Psalms 111 and 123, David acknowledges and declares himself miserable, on account of the sin he committed, notwithstanding the abundance of the gifts of nature he was then enjoying; as, on the contrary, he declares those only happy “who fear the Lord,” and not those who abound in honors and riches; from which we may learn how erroneously the children of this world judge of misery and happiness. “According to thy great mercy.” I dare to ask your mercy because I am a wretch, for mercy looks upon misery to remove it. He calls it “great mercy,” because sin is a great misfortune; and because the mercy, through which God gives us temporal blessings, is but a trifling mercy compared to the forgiveness of sin; for God often confers temporal favors on his enemies, even on those he will condemn on the last day; but the grace of the remission of sin he only gives to those whom he intends to adopt as his children, and the heirs of his kingdom. David, then, not content with the small amount of mercy, through which he had got a noble kingdom, immense wealth, a large family, and dominion over his enemies, and the like, asks for the “great mercy,” which he knew consisted in the forgiveness of his sins, and the restoration of grace. “And, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my iniquity.” He repeats and explains the same expression; “Blot out my iniquity” being a mere repetition of “Have mercy on me, O God;” and, “According to the multitude of thy tender mercies” being a repetition of “According to thy great mercy;” inverting the order of the expressions, and thereby giving a certain elegance to the verse. Those words, then, “According to the multitude of thy tender mercies,” give us to understand how unbounded is the mercy shown by God to his beloved children; for the Hebrew word, strictly speaking, signifies the tender love of a father, which the Scripture is wont to express by, “The bowels of mercy;” and the Church, in the Collect of the eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, thus expresses, “O God, who, through the excess of your love, go farther than even the merits and even the prayers of your supplicants.” For, in fact, so great is the love of God for us, that he not only grants much more than we deserve, but even more than we dare to hope for. He shows that in the parable of the prodigal son. The father not only forgives the penitent but he runs to meet him, embraces him, kisses him, orders the most valuable clothes, and a precious ring for him, kills the fatted calf in compliment to him; and, finally, shows more marks of favor and love to him, after squandering all his property, than if he had returned after having achieved a signal victory over his enemies. “Blot out my iniquity,” refers to the sin and the stain left after it. David knew that he had not only incurred the punishment of everlasting death by his sin, but that it also left a stain on his soul that rendered it dark, deformed, and hateful to God; and the expression, “Blot out,” refers to both. When a debt is forgiven, the deeds are said to be cancelled, or blotted out; and stains are said to be blotted, when the thing stained is washed and purified. David, then, begs of God not to deal with him in the rigor of his justice, but with the mercy of a father, to forgive the sin, and wash away the stain left by it, by restoring the brightness of his grace.

2 Though the sin may be forgiven, and grace restored, there still remain in man the bad habits of vice, and the very concupiscence of the flesh, that make a man infirm and weak, just as he would be after having recovered from a heavy fit of sickness. The bad habits are gradually corrected by the practice of acts of virtue; but concupiscence, though it can be lessened, ordinarily speaking, is totally eradicated by death alone. And though our own earnest desires and endeavors go a great way to root out our vices, and to diminish our concupiscence, the grace of God, without which we can do nothing, with which we can do everything, is the principal agent therein. David was fully aware of all this, having written in Psalm 102, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all he hath done for thee, who forgiveth all thy iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases.” And, in this passage, after he had asked for the forgiveness of his sins, and, through Nathan the prophet, got this answer, “The Lord also hath taken away thy sin, thou shalt not die,” again begs to be washed and cleansed, to be more and more justified by additional graces; that, by the victory over his bad habits, and the repression of his concupiscence, his soul may become more fair and beautiful, and better able to resist temptation. He, therefore, says, “Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin;” that is to say I confidently hope my sins are blotted out through your grace, and that my soul is washed and cleansed from the filth and stains left upon it by the action of sin; but I ask, beg, and desire to be washed again and again by a fresh infusion of grace, that my soul may thereby be both purified and strengthened. A simpler explanation would be, to make this second petition turn on the magnitude of his sins; as if he said, Had my sin been an ordinary one, a simple ablution would suffice; but being a great, grievous, enormous one, I need additional ablutions to wash away every vestige of my sins.

3 The second reason assigned by him for obtaining forgiveness is, that he admits it, confesses it, and punishes himself by keeping it constantly before him. Pardon me, “For I know my iniquity;” I neither excuse nor deny it, I freely acknowledge it, and I am constantly grieved in thinking of it; for it “is always before me,” staring me in the face, and piercing me like a javelin. An example for us in the recitation of the penitential Psalms. We should be able truly to say, “My sin is always before me.” This we can do by keeping up a recollection of the sins that, through God’s goodness, have been forgiven, for thus we will be constantly reminded of our great ingratitude to so great a benefactor.

4 The third reason for his asking pardon of God is, that he has no other judge to fear. “To thee,” not against thee, he says, “have I sinned.” He had sinned against Urias, whose death he caused. He had sinned against Bethsabee, with whom he had committed adultery, and against the people, whom he scandalized; yet he says, “To thee only have I sinned;” as being the only judge before whom he could be convicted. There was no one else to sit in judgment on him, and if there were even, he could not be convicted, for want of evidence; for, though common report condemned him, there was no judicial proof of his guilt; still, he stood convicted before God, for his own conscience bore testimony against him before that God who searches the reins and heart; and he, therefore, candidly avows, “And I have done evil before thee;” for, though he did the evil in private, in the darkness of a closed chamber, he could not evade the all seeing eye of his Maker. “That thou mayest be justified in thy words.” I confess myself a sinner, thereby acknowledging the justice of the words you pronounced upon me by Nathan the prophet, when he accused me of murder and adultery. “And mayest overcome when thou art judged,” a repetition of the same idea; as if he said, There is no use in denying my crimes, for, if put upon my trial, I must acknowledge them; you will gain the cause, I will be cast therein.

5 The fourth reason is derived from our first origin, and the transmission of original sin, making us infirm and prone to sin; and, thereby, the more worthy of mercy and pity. The iniquities and the sins alluded to could not have been the sins of David’s parents, for his parents were pious and devout people; he alludes to the sins of our first parents, as is evident from the Hebrew.

6 The fifth reason, derived from the truth and simplicity of heart for which David was remarkable; God, being truth himself, has a special regard for men of truth, and, by reason of it, revealed many of the future mysteries to David, for there is scarcely a mystery appertaining to Christ or the Church, that he did not foresee and foretell in the Psalms. He, therefore, draws upon his own truthfulness now, to which he still adheres in confessing his sins, and by reason of such adherence to it he asks God to forgive him. “Behold, thou hast loved truth;” you have loved truth and sincerity of heart, as well as you hate duplicity and wickedness. “The uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made known to me” Loving truth as you do, and having formed me most truthful, you have rewarded me by revealing to me the most secret, profound mysteries, proofs of your infinite wisdom. The word “uncertain” does not imply any of the divine mysteries to be uncertain, in the sense that there is a probability of their not coming to pass; but they are “uncertain” to us, in regard of the time of their fulfillment; thus, we say the day of judgments or of our death, is uncertain, though nobody questions the certainty of both one and the other.

7 He now discloses one of the: “Uncertain and hidden things of his wisdom,” namely, that in the new dispensation men would be sprinkled with water in baptism, and thereby perfectly justified, alluding to the ceremony described in Numbers 19, where three things are said to be necessary to expiate uncleanness: the ashes of a red heifer, burnt as a holocaust; water mixed with the ashes; and hyssop to sprinkle it. The ashes signified the death of Christ; the water, baptism; and hyssop, faith; for hyssop is a stunted plant, generally growing on a rock. In the typical expiation, the water purified, but by virtue of the ashes of the slain heifer, and the aspersion with the hyssop; thus, the baptismal water purifies, by the application of the death and merits of Christ, through faith. It is, then, to the real, as well as the figurative expiation, that David refers when he says, “Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed;” for he asks for the cleansing which he knew was only emblematic, that by hyssop, which, however, he knew would be converted into the reality of the institution of baptism. To show God was the primary author of such purification, he does not say, let the priest sprinkle me, but, sprinkle me yourself; to show the perfection of the thorough cleansing to be had in baptism, destroying sin most effectually, and giving additional grace.

8 The effect and sign of perfect justification is, when “The Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God.” The prophet having known this by experience, asks for it again, saying, “To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness.” When you shall have perfectly cleansed me, you will, moreover, light up my interior with that spiritual joy and gladness that will make me feel my sins have been forgiven, and that I have been restored to your favor, and then “The bones that have been humbled shall rejoice;” “the bones” mean the powers of his mind, not the limbs of his body; for he says, immediately after, “A contrite and humbled heart, O Lord, thou wilt not despise;” and the meaning is, my mind, now dejected and weighed down, will then recover its strength, and rejoice when we learn that the fear that saddens and humbles us comes from God, and that it disposes the soul to the spirit of love that justifieth.

9 He now prays for the immediate accomplishment of what he predicted. He said previously, “Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed;” and also, “To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness;” and he now asks for them at once; first, for the remission of his sins; “Turn away thy face from my sins.” Do not look on my sins with a view to punish me, as Tobias said, “Lord, do not remember my sins.” Such expressions are purely figurative, for God, from whom nothing can be hidden, can neither turn away his face from, nor forget, our sins; but he is said “to turn away his face” or to forget, when he acts as those do, who do not reflect or remember, and such people do not punish; “And blot out all my iniquities;” to make the pardon a lasting, permanent one, for he that turns his face away from a piece of writing, may look on it again and consider the matter of it, but when the writing is destroyed, “blotted out,” it can no longer be read, a proof that when sin is forgiven it is thoroughly forgiven.

10 This verse corresponds with, “Thou shalt wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow;” for he asks not only for a remission of his sins, but for such an infusion of grace as may renew his soul, and make it bright and beautiful, a petition, telling against those who make justification to consist solely in the remission of sin. We are not to take it that a new heart is asked for, when he says, “Create;” the expression merely expresses a wish that his heart may be thoroughly cleansed and purified, and made, as it were, a new heart. The meaning, then, is, create cleanness in my heart; and there is a certain point in the word “Create,” to imply that God finds nothing in the heart of a sinner, whence to form cleanness in it; but that entirely, through his own great mercy, without any merit on their part, it is, that he justifies men; for, even though sinners are disposed to justification by faith and penance, still, faith, penance, and all such things are purely the gift of God. “And renew a right spirit within my bowels,” an explanation of the preceding sentence, for, to let us see that the meaning of “Creating a new heart,” is nothing more than creating cleanness in the heart, he now adds, “And renew a right spirit in my bowels,” instead of renew my bowels. The bowels mean, the interior affections of the soul; that is, the will, which was just now called the heart; a “right spirit” means, a right affection, in other words, charity; for by avarice or cupidity the affections of the heart become distorted, turn to creatures, especially to self, while charity or love directs them to the things above, especially to God. “A right spirit,” then, “is renewed in the bowels;” when the heart having been cleansed by grace, an ardent love of God, that had been displaced by sin, is renewed in the soul.

11 He now, mindful of his frailty, asks for the grace of perseverance; lest, being too much raised up by grace, he may happen to fall again. The expression, “Cast me not away from thy face,” is used in the Scripture to designate those who are cast off by God, without any hope or chance of reconciliation. Thus, in 1 Kings 15, the Lord said to Samuel, “How long wilt thou mourn over Saul whom I have rejected?” and 2 Kings 7, “But my mercy I will not take away from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before my face;” and in 4 Kings 24, “For the Lord was angry against Jerusalem, and against Juda, till he cast them out from his face.” He, therefore, says, “Cast me not away from thy face.” Allow me not to lapse again into sin, for fear you should deprive me of your grace forever. My having been washed, and made white as snow, and having had a right spirit renewed within me, would be of little value, if I were ultimately to be “cast away from your face,” with the reprobate. That such may not be the case, that it may not come to pass, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me,” give me the grace of perseverance, causing, through your grace, to make the Holy Spirit constantly abide in me, and thus preserve a “right spirit in my bowels.” Hence we learn, that God deserts nobody, until himself is first deserted; and that he does not withdraw his Holy Spirit from the just, until they extinguish it in themselves by sin; still, man must get the gift of perseverance, to enable him to avoid sin, and extinguish thereby the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle says, “Pray that you may do no evil;” and it is to such gift this passage of the Psalm refers, for when David says, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me;” he does not mean, don’t take it if I shall fall into sin; but, don’t take it, that I may not fall into sin.

12 This verse corresponds with the words, “To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness;” for, as he had predicted that an interior joy, borne testimony to by the Spirit speaking within him, would be the consequence of true and perfect justification, he now, after having asked for remission of his sins, and the infusion of grace with the gift of perseverance, asks for the sign and effect of such justification, saying, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” Through sin I have lost grace, and the joy consequent on it; and as I asked for the restoration of grace, I now, consequently, ask for the “joy of thy salvation;” the joy that arises from the salvation you bestow on me; and for fear he should be over joyful, and thereby lulled into a dangerous security, he adds, “And strengthen me with a perfect spirit.” I ask you to strengthen and confirm me in my good purposes by an inspiration of your perfect Spirit.

13 The fruit of his justification, tending to the glory of God and the benefit of many. Having been taken into favor after so many grievous offenses, “I will teach,” by word and example, “thy ways,” mercy, and justice; “For all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth;” and the consequence will be, that the wicked, following my example, will be converted to thee. David was a signal example to all posterity of God’s justice and mercy; of his mercy, because, notwithstanding his grievous crimes, the moment he exclaimed, “I have sinned before the Lord,” they were all forgiven; and of his justice, for the Lord inflicted most grievous temporal punishments on him, not only in the death of the son born in adultery, but soon after, in his expulsion from the kingdom, the public violation of his wives by his own son, and the slaughter of his sons Amon and Absalom. His example was useful, not only to the people of his own time, but to all unto the end of the world; for this Psalm, composed by him, is in use, and will be in use: so long as the Church militant shall be in existence. David, then, carried out what he promised in this Psalm, for he taught the wicked the ways of the Lord, thereby bringing many sinners to God, and will, doubtless, bring many more. It is also most likely that David, upon his repentance, did preach up the mercy of God to many, and that, through his exhortations, many sinners were converted to God.

14 Having prayed shortly before for his sins to be washed away, and having promised that he would teach sinners the ways of the Lord, he now prays to be freed from the punishment which Urias’s blood, unjustly spilt, called for, and promises to praise God’s justice. “Deliver me;” save me from the voice of Urias’s blood, which, unjustly spilled by me, cries out to thee and calls for vengeance; “Deliver me,” for he fancied he saw the blood, like a soldier in arms, staring him in the face; and, therefore, with great propriety, he adds, “O God, the God of my salvation;” for to deliver from imminent danger is the province of a Savior; and this, too, is a reason for his adding, “and my tongue shall extol thy justice;” for true deliverance and salvation was then had through the merits of Christ in prospective, as the same is had now through the same merits as of the past. The merits of Christ have in them the very essence of justice, and deserve the most unbounded praises both of lips and of heart on our part.

15 The consequence of the perfect justification and salvation of the sinner is, that his lips, which were wont to praise God, but were closed by sin, through his pardon should be opened again to praise and thank his Redeemer. He, therefore, says, “O Lord, thou wilt open any lips,” by forgiving and pardoning my sins, and restoring my joy and confidence; you will open my lips, and then “my mouth shall declare thy praise,” by proclaiming your mercy and justice, not only to the present but to all future ages.

16 He assigns a reason for offering the sacrifice of praise, because sacrifices of cattle are not pleasing to God; as if he said, “My mouth shall announce thy praise,” because I know you to prefer such sacrifice to that of brute animals; and if such sacrifices were pleasing to you, I would not hesitate in offering them. It is not to be inferred from this, that sacrifices of brute animals were in no respect pleasing to God, when it is clear, from the book of Leviticus, that they were instituted and ordered to be offered by him; but they are said to be of no value essentially, as if the slaughter of cattle were, in itself, a thing agreeable, or useful, or necessary to God. They are also said to be of no value in comparison with the sacrifice of the Eucharist, as appears from Malachias 1, where the old sacrifices, it is said, will cease, when “The clean oblation will be offered in all nations.” Sacrifices are also said to be of no value when they are offered by sinners, as we have in Isaias 1, “Obedience being more pleasing to God than the offering of victims.” Finally, sacrifices are said to be of no value as regards the expiation of sin; for, as the Apostle says, “It is impossible that sins could be taken away by the blood of bulls and goats;” and it is in such sense that David says here, “If thou hadst desired sacrifice,” for the remission of my sins, “I would indeed have given it;” but because “with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted,” so as to forgive me my sins through them, therefore “My mouth shall declare thy praise;” for, as we said in the explanation of the last Psalm, such sacrifice is the one most acceptable to God, being lighted on the altar of the heart with the fire of charity.

17 He explains more fully how acceptable to God is the sacrifice of praise; that sacrifice that springs from a contrite and humbled heart, when man, acknowledging his own misery and God’s mercy, humbles himself before his power, attributing all honor and glory to him, and confusion and disgrace to himself, as we read in Daniel 9, “Justice to thee, O Lord, but to us confusion of face;” and a little further on, “To us, O Lord, confusion of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers who have sinned, but to you, our Lord God, mercy and propitiation.” The expressions, “afflicted spirit” and “contrite heart,” are the same, and the one Hebrew expression is only given for both, but the interpreter chose to vary the words, and the meaning is the same. The spirit is said to be afflicted when the soul is affected with grief, and thus placed in trouble, by reason of the sin committed against God; so also, the heart is said to be contrite when the soul, full of grief for the sin committed, is, as it were, torn asunder, and reduced into powder, from its strong hardness and insensibility. Such contrition is the sacrifice most acceptable to God, for as well as he is offended by our sins, he is appeased by our repentance; and very properly is now added, “A contrite and humbled heart, O Lord, thou wilt not despise;” for God despises the proud, and resists them; but to the humble (who willingly submit to him) he always gives his grace, James 4.

18 The last reason assigned by David to appease God, to obtain perfect justice, and to make reparation after so grievous a fall; for he says, that as well as his fall proved an injury to the whole people, his recovery will be now a source of edification to them; and he, therefore, begs this favor for himself and for the whole city of Sion. “Deal favorably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion.” If I am not worthy of being heard, have regard to the city of which I am the head, and confer a favor on it by healing its head, “in thy good will;” in the good will, in which you were pleased to select this city as your own peculiar city. “That the walls of Jerusalem may be built up,” meaning himself, who, like a wall, guarded and defended the entire people.

19 The works of justice that please God as true spiritual sacrifices are the effect of justification, according to the Apostle, Heb. 13, “And do not forget to do good, and to impart, for by such sacrifices God’s favor is obtained;” and 1 Pet. 2, “Offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”—”Then,” when I shall have been thoroughly renewed and justified, “shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice;” all the good works of mine and my people, “oblations and whole burnt offerings.” All which good works will be so many spiritual oblations, so many spiritual holocausts. Spiritual oblations are the offering of one’s substance or property in alms for the love of God; and spiritual holocausts is the dedication of one’s self entirely to do God’s will and commands, according to Rom. 11, “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, your reasonable service.”—”Then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.” When it shall be seen that such sacrifices of justice are the most acceptable to you, people will vie with each other in loading your altar, not with the ordinary sacrifices, but with the most precious; for that of the calf was considered the sacrifice most valuable; and thus the “laying calves upon the altar” means the offering of works of the most perfect justice to the Lord God.

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Psalm 51


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Cicero, in his oration against Catiline, thus commences, “How long, Catiline, will you trifle with our patience?” and in the same style David commences with a similar interrogation, for the purpose of sharpening his rebuke. “Why dost thou glory in malice, thou that art mighty in iniquity?” Doeg, the Idumean, boasted that by his accusations he had ruined a priest of the Lord, and his entire family; for when Saul heard from Doeg that David had been hospitably received by Achimelech the priest, he burst into such a rage, that he not only ordered Doeg to put Achimelech to death, but also eighty-five other priests that were along with him; he then sacked their city, slaying men and women, babes and sucklings, nay, even the sheep, cows, and asses. See what a torrent of evil flowed from the calumny; so that he justly deserved to be styled “Mighty in iniquity.”

2 He draws a highly wrought picture of Doeg’s false information, first saying that it was not a sudden, but a long premeditated information. “All the day long thy tongue hath devised injustice.” You were constantly turning in your mind how to frame the false accusation, and, at length, when the opportunity offered, your tongue brought forth what it had been hatching for such a length of time; for, though thoughts are produced by the mind, David poetically attributes them to the tongue, as if the tongue was so radically bad in itself, that, though apparently silent, it was, in thought, speaking to itself. He then adds that the thing was put into execution with as much speed as a sharp razor would cut; elegantly contrasting the delay in forming the resolution with the celerity of putting it into execution; and, in fact, he lost very little time, when he got the opportunity, of carrying out what he had so long been hatching; for, in a very few words, he persuaded Saul that Achimelech the priest had entered into a conspiracy with David, which was a grievous deceit and imposition; and he, therefore, says, “As a sharp razor, thou hast wrought deceit;” that is, you deceived Saul, just as easily as a sharp razor cuts through the hair.

3 He tells us the source of that calumnious accusation, and says that it did not proceed from ignorance or accident, but from the perversity of the man; who always preferred evil to good, and lies to truth. “Thou hast loved malice more than goodness;” you were always more pleased to injure than to serve your neighbor; “and iniquity rather than to speak righteously,” to tell lies rather than truth. Observe, that instead of opposing falsehood to “speaking righteously,” he opposes “iniquity” to it, insinuating thereby, that Doeg’s falsehood was not one simply so, or a mere lie; it was more, because it caused the death of Achimelech, and was thus an “iniquity.”

4 He assigns further reason for calling Doeg’s conduct a lie and an iniquity, and says it was a truly fatal, pernicious falsehood, causing, as it did, the ruin of so many innocent people. “Thou hast loved all the words of ruin;” all the language by which you could hurry innocent people headlong to their ruin and perdition; and it appears from the first book of Kings, that Doeg’s lies caused the destruction of an entire City. “O deceitful tongue”—of Doeg.

5 He predicts that Doeg’s sin will not go unpunished, but that everlasting ruin is in store for him, in return for the temporal ruin of the priests, of which he was the cause. “Therefore will God destroy thee forever.” For this your sin God will utterly destroy you, not only in this world, but in the next; so that you shall be ruined for eternity, left absolutely desolate in this world, and damned forever in the world to come; such being the just retribution of the wicked, who, in seeking to injure others, injure themselves forever. He then explains in particular what he had laid down in general, saying, “He will pluck thee out.” The first stage of your punishment will be your banishment, the loss of your home, property, and country, sending you abroad an exile and a wanderer; “And thy root out of the land of the living,” will eradicate you and all your posterity from the earth; for children are like roots, shot out by the parents, which afterwards support and nourish him in turn.

6–7 Many will profit and be instructed by the punishment of the wicked informer. “The just shall see and fear;” just and holy people will consider his case, and be horrified; “And shall laugh at him, and say: Behold the man who made not God his helper, but trusted in the abundance of his riches;” will laugh at him for having acted most foolishly, for not putting his trust in God, who is all powerful, instead of the frail riches of this world, which are so easily lost. “And prevailed in his vanity;” will jeer him for having endeavored to advance by fraud and lies, instead of true and solid virtue. The expression “prevailed,” does not imply that he really did prevail, but that he thought he might prevail; and, though he may seem to do so for a time, the end will prove that he had to yield, instead of prevailing; “When the just shall stand in great constancy against those who hemmed them in,” Wisdom 5.

8 He concludes the Psalm by showing that he has taken quite a different path; for I will not be plucked up, nor rooted out as a withered tree, like Doeg; but I will send down my roots deeper and deeper, like “A fruitful olive tree,” always in bloom, always bearing fruit; and, being such, I have, consequently, “hoped in the mercy of God forever;” hoped that God would assist me forever, and to eternity. Observe the contrast he draws between himself and Doeg, the Idumean, comparing him to a dry log, and himself to a fruitful olive tree; he predicts that Doeg will be rooted out of the land, while himself will be rooted in the house of God. Doeg put his trust in his own riches; David in God’s mercy.

9 He returns thanks for a thing to happen, as if it had actually been done; for the future, as regards God and the prophets, is a matter of certainty, of the past. “I will praise thee forever;” I will always praise thee, “because thou hast done it;” have come to the determination of confounding him that trusteth in his riches, and consoling and comforting him that hopeth in thee. “And I will wait on thy name;” I will always hope in thee; such is the meaning of “Wait on thee;” and the name of God is used here for God himself. “For it is good in the sight of thy saints.” I will justly hope in your name, for your name is most sweet to the saints who have tasted of his sweetness.

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Psalm 52


Explanation Of The Psalm

This Psalm is very nearly the same as Psalm 13, to which we refer our reader; the only difference of any consequence is in the 6th verse of Psalm 13, which has it thus, “For the Lord is in the just generation, you have confounded the counsel of the poor man, but the Lord is his hope;” whereas in the latter part of the 6th verse in this Psalm, the reading is, “For God hath scattered the bones of them that please men, they have been confounded, because God hath despised them.” This, then, is the only verse that requires explanation here. It assigns a reason for the wicked trembling with fear, when they have no reason to fear, and the reason he assigns is, “For God hath scattered their bones;” has so enervated them, that they fear the merest trifles, a thing he brings about in his wonderful providence, rendering them foolish in their counsels, by impeding their efforts, and confounding their machinations. Bones are generally used as an expression in the Scripture to designate strength. “Of them that please men,” such people are always full of the fear of the world, of human respect, and their whole study is to please man; whereas, on the contrary, the Apostle teaches, “If I did yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” The prophet adds, “They have been confounded, because God hath despised them,” which seem to allude to the passage in Psalm 13, “You have confounded the counsel of the poor man, but the Lord is his hope;” you wicked have confounded the counsel of the poor man who put his trust in God, God will confound you, and make you blush, seeing all your counsels are vain, because you did not put your trust in God; and, therefore, he despised you and withheld his assistance from you. This may also have reference to the last judgment, when all the wicked will be confounded, for the universal Judge will then despise them, saying, “I do not know you, depart into everlasting fire.” The last verse is altogether similar to the last verse of Psalm 13, but that here, instead of “The Lord shall have turned away,” we have, “The Lord shall bring back.” But though turning away and bringing back seem to be very different expressions, in this place they bring out the same meaning, for God is said to turn away the captivity, when he destroys it, which he does, when he frees the captives, and he is said to bring back the captivity when he recalls the captives, and brings them back to their own country.

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Psalm 53


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 In defect of all human help, he prays to God for his help. “Save me, O God, by thy name,” in thy power, to which all things succumb; and he afterwards adds, “in thy strength,” expressing the same in different language. “Judge me;” that is, be my judge, defend me as I deserve, and avenge me of my enemy, for David had then none to appeal to but God alone to protect him from the king. This should serve as an example to us, never to despair of God’s help, even though death should appear to be at our doors, for God is everywhere, has everything in his power, and never despises his clients when they may have recourse to him.

2 Having acknowledged the power of the Lord, he now begs of him to apply his power to himself. “O God, hear my prayer;” I know you can do anything but I pray that you may wish to do it. I, therefore, ask that you may hear the prayer I put up to you, to exercise your power in saving me. He repeats it, “Give ear to the words of my mouth;” that is, turn not away your ears, and do not despise my prayer.

3 He explains the dangers from which he desires to be delivered, saying, “For strangers have risen up against me;” that is, the Zipheans, who, though seemingly neighbors, had their hearts far from me; rose up against me, urging Saul to persecute me; “And the mighty have sought after my soul.” Saul, with a force in arms, sought to have my life. Saul’s persecution was entirely grounded on his fears that David would, at one time come to the throne; and, therefore, sought to have his life at any risk; for though he knew him to be innocent, yet, so blinded was he by the desire of keeping the sovereignty in his own family, that he looked upon as fair and honorable, what, in reality, was the height of injustice; “And they have not set God before their eyes;” neither the Zipheans nor Saul and his satellites had the fear of God before them; the former preferring the king’s favor to God’s law; and the latter choosing to indulge in their ambition and lust for power, in preference to a love of justice, which God commands us to observe at all times. In fact the diverting one’s mind from God and the natural law known to all, is the beginning of all evil.

4 They “had not God before their eyes,” but God had them before his eyes; saw their evil designs, and did not suffer them to carry them into effect. The word “behold” implies a sudden light from God of his assurance that he would not be wanting in the time of need; and he speaks in the present tense, to show his being as certain of it, as if the thing had been actually accomplished. And, in fact, God’s interference was most sudden and unexpected; for, when Saul had so surrounded David with his army, that his escape seemed impossible, a messenger suddenly came to Saul, bringing news of the Philistines having come in a great body to ravage his kingdom; on hearing which he was obliged to give up the pursuit of David; who, in spirit, foresaw all this, and was, possibly, at the very moment pronouncing the words, “For behold, God is my helper; and the Lord is the protector of my soul.”

5 Such imprecations, as we have more than once remarked, are to be read as predictions; and so this reads in the Hebrew; and, in fact, it then and there turned up; for Saul, who was pursuing David, was now pursued by the Philistines; and thus, the “evils” that hung a short time before over David, were now pouring in upon Saul. The second part of the verse, “And cut them off in thy truth,” was also carried out soon after, for Saul and his army, among whom, no doubt, were many of David’s persecutors, perished in the mountains of Gelboe; “In thy truth,” means according to your promise, or your justice, by virtue of which you give unto every one according to their works.

6 Whether it was that the prophet foresaw his immediate escape from Saul, or that Saul, by reason of the Philistines’ incursion, departed while David was actually praying; he returns thanks to God, and says, “I will freely sacrifice to thee;” with all my heart I will give the sacrifice of praise; and he repeats it in other words; “And I will give praise to thy name;” which means, to thyself; “because it is good;” for God’s name, which means God himself, is the best of all; so that Christ said, “One is good, God.” St. Augustine, taking up the word “freely,” properly observes, that God should be loved purely on his own account; not with a view to any reward, but for his supreme and unspeakable goodness; and he who so loves him, does so in adversity as well as in prosperity; for God is just as good when he chastises, as when he nourishes and refreshes.

7 He proves God’s goodness from what happened, in having so speedily heard his servant; “For thou hast delivered me out of all trouble.” In revealing my certain deliverance to me, you have, already in hope, “delivered me from all trouble.” “And my eye hath looked down upon my enemies;” by virtue of the same revelation I have looked upon my enemies as already destroyed and prostrate; or, perhaps, they were actually so when the prophet was thus praying. This Psalm is daily recited in the canonical hour of Prime, in order that, in imitation of David, we may learn to strengthen ourselves with the arm of prayer against all our persecutors, at the beginning of each day, recollecting, “That all who wish to live piously in Jesus Christ shall suffer persecution.”

Table of Contents

Psalm 54


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David begins with a preface to arrest the benevolence of the Judge, and asks for a kind and patient hearing, saying, “Hear, O God, my prayer;” and for fear the prayer, or the person offering it, may not be agreeable, he recommends both, and first the prayer, saying, “And despise not my supplication;” that is, my humble and suppliant prayer, for such is the force of the word in Hebrew.

2 He now refers to the person praying, “Be attentive to me, and hear me.” Look on me in your mercy, listen to me patiently. It is possible that he repeats the same prayer three times, in reference to the Trinity; directing his “prayer,” to the Father; his “supplication” to the Son; and the person praying, to the Holy Ghost. The same prayer is repeated three times, to show his earnestness, as Christ did when he prayed in the garden, and as the Apostle Paul thrice asked of the Lord. “I am grieved in my exercise, and am troubled.” He now tells us why he prays. He was persecuted fiercely by his enemies, which saddened and dejected him; and he longed to be freed from such persecution, and therefore, in exercising, or turning the thing in his mind, he was “troubled” and confounded, not only for the present, but for the future, because,

3 “The voice of the enemy” threatening, vowing vengeance, and “the tribulation of the sinner,” the troubles they vowed to inflict on me, also grieved and troubled me. “The voice of the enemy” may refer to Saul or Absalom, as regards David; Caiphas and Annas, as regards Christ; or any persecutor, in regard of the just. “For they have cast iniquities upon me.” To show his fears were not groundless, “they,” his enemies, “cast iniquities” upon me; falsely accused me, reproached, abused me, “and in wrath they were troublesome to me,” such was the anger they got into against me, that they did not confine themselves to abusive language, but even sought to inflict personal injury.

4 Having said in the second verse that he was “troubled,” he now explains how he was troubled; it was in his heart, in the inmost recesses of it; and assigns a reason for it, saying, “The fear of death is fallen upon me;” nothing enters into the heart of man so deep, or upsets him so much, as the fear of death at the door; as was the case with David, when, with lamentations, he fled from Absalom; and with Christ, when he trembled in the garden, and fell into the bloody sweat, recorded in Mat. 26.

5 A repetition of the same idea, and a sort of summary of the whole thing. Fear got a hold of his soul, tremor of his body, and the gloom of grief enveloped the entire man; for, as joy exhilarates and expands the heart, so also sorrow contracts and confines it, and thus darkens it up; for which reason persons in grief fly to a dark chamber, hide themselves therein and close the windows.

6 Such are the expressions of the just, sighing for their heavenly country, where alone true rest is to be had; as if he said, Oh! that I could fly to the highest mountains of the heavenly Jerusalem, in imitation of the dove who escapes the bird of prey by soaring above him. The just man is, with great propriety, compared to a dove, harmless, prolific, innocent, conquering by flight instead of by resistance; and so with the just man, who flies from temptation, instead of wrestling with it.

7 Words most applicable to David, who, in his flight from Saul, and afterwards from Absalom, betook himself to the desert; as if he said, As I cannot, like a dove, ascend to a place of real rest, I did my utmost, for “I have gone afar off, flying away;” which is applicable to every just man in trouble, who, when he cannot get back to his own country, removes himself internally as far as he can from the tumult of the world, betakes himself to the solitude of his heart and conscience, where, alone, in conference with God, he finds rest to some extent.

8 In that solitude “I waited for him,” that is, for his help, “that hath saved me” as he often did before, “from pusillanimity of spirit and a storm;” that is, from great temptation, with little strength to go through it. Two things are united to show the more than ordinary necessity for the help of God. If we have small temptations to encounter, with little strength of mind, or great temptations, with much strength of mind, the contest will not be so unequal; but if one with little strength of mind has to encounter great temptations, they cannot possibly bear up against them. Such, he says, is his case now; and he prays to God to increase his strength, or else to lessen the temptation, or, which is preferable, to do both.

9 Having hoped for salvation through the Lord, he now prays to him to baffle the designs of his enemies. “Cast down.” Hurl my enemies into the abyss; for such is the force of the word in Hebrew; and he says how he wishes that to be done, by “dividing their tongues;” by causing such dissension among them, that they shall have no unity of purpose, and thus embarrass each other, as really happened to his enemies; for, after the taking of the city, when various plans for capturing David were suggested to Absalom, he was so infatuated by God as not to adopt the advice of Achitophel, but preferred another; and the consequence was that the expedition failed, and most of them miserably perished; and thus, by division of tongues, they were ruined. “For I have seen iniquity and contradiction in the city.” Words quite applicable to David, who had witnessed a most villainous conspiracy against his person, and most palpable rebellion (called contradiction here, because they contradicted David when they chose Absalom as king,) in the city. These words are applicable, to Christ, as well as to every innocent person who suffers unjust persecution and contradiction from the citizens of Babylon; that is, from the votaries of pleasure, who always persecute and hate those who are not of the world; but live in it as if they were foreigners and strangers.

10–11 He proceeds in describing the wickedness of the city, from which he had suffered so much persecution, and most expressively says, that iniquity, like an armed soldiery, had so got possession of its walls, that it was impossible for justice to enter. “Day and night,” that is, at all hours, “shall iniquity surround it upon its walls.” Vice, like a guard of soldiers on its walls will surround it; “And in the midst thereof are labor and injustice;” inside the city the poor were oppressed with “labor” by the “injustice” of the rich, who ground them down, and lorded it over them with impunity. “And usury and deceit have not departed from its streets.” The oppression was partly open, for they required enormous usury in the streets; and partly private, for they harassed and circumvented the poor by various “deceits.” Such was the state of things in David’s time, at Jerusalem; infinitely worse in the days of our Savior; and are quite applicable nowadays to Babylon; that is, to the lovers of this world, in whom the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life absolutely rule.

12–14 Having complained of the whole city and people in general, he now complains of one traitor in particular, who seems to be Achitophel, if we apply the Psalm to David; Judas, if to Christ; and any false friend, if we apply it to man in general. “For if my enemy,” any avowed one, “had reviled me, I would verily have borne with it;” it would be only what I should expect. “And if he that hated;” if such avowed enemy were to abuse, calumniate, and reproach me, “I would perhaps, have hidden myself from him,” to see would his anger cool in my absence, and to remove the occasion of his abuse. But I could not hide myself from you, nor could I dream of your betraying me, for you seemed to be “a man of one mind” with me, my most intimate friend, having only one heart, one soul with me; you were also “my guide,” my principal counselor, whose advice I always followed; for such was Achitophel, of whom we read in 2 Kings 16, “That the counsel he gave in those days, was as if a man should consult God.” As regards Judas, he is called a “guide,” having been appointed by Christ, with the other Apostles, over the people, according to Psalm 44, “Thou shalt make them princes over all the earth.” He was also “his familiar,” and “took sweet meats with him,” as is well known; and the meats are called sweet, because agreeable company makes them so. “By sweet meats,” St. Augustine says, the blessed Eucharist is meant, the sweetest of all meats, and possessing the flavor and virtue of all. Finally, he was not only of one mind, and his guide and familiar, but of the same opinion in regard of the sacred ceremonies; for “In the house of God we walked with consent.” There was no dissension between us in regard of anything connected with the worship of God.

15 An imprecation, or rather a prophecy, in the shape of an imprecation, of the punishment that was justly inflicted on Dathan and Abiron, who, for their sedition and rebellion, were swallowed up alive, they went “down alive into hell,” and so did many of those who followed Absalom in his rebellion against David, when, as we read in 2 Kings 16, “There were many more of the people whom the forest consumed, than whom the sword devoured that day.” The same came to pass in the siege of Jerusalem, when they dropped with hunger in the streets, or flung themselves from the walls; and the same happens to many sinners, who either close their eyes against the truth, or if they see it, still prefer remaining in a state in which they cannot possibly be saved. “For there is wickedness in their dwellings, in the midst of them.” A reason assigned for so severe an imprecation. Those who prefer so wicked a life, will be justly swallowed up alive, and will undergo everlasting punishment, “For there is wickedness in their dwellings,” and dwellings that are not empty, but “in the midst of them;” that is, at the very time they were fully inhabited.

16–17 He foretells the death of his enemies, and his own safety, “But I have cried to God” with an earnest prayer, “and he will save me” in the danger with which I am beset; and, thenceforward I will cry to him, not once, but twice, thrice; I will cry to him at evenings morning, and noon,” in telling and announcing my own misfortunes, and the mercies of the Lord, and “he shall hear my voice.” The practice of praying three times in the day was an usual one, as we read in Daniel 6, perhaps in honor of the Most Holy Trinity, a mystery not unknown to the prophets. He says, “Evening, morning, and noon,” rather than, morning, noon, and evening, because their festivals began in the evening, and were celebrated, according to Leviticus 23, from evening to evening, and, therefore, evening was the first, a practice still observed by the Church that begins the office with the first vespers.

18 He tells us in what respect he will be heard by God. “He shall redeem my soul in peace.” He will restore peace to it in spite of those “that draw near to me,” coming to close quarters to fight with me. “for among many they were with me;” my aggressors were most numerous, and I was singlehanded. This I consider the best interpretation of this most difficult passage.

19 I that am most unjustly oppressed, will be heard by him, “who is eternal,” and he will humble them. For there is no change with them, they have become hardened, and quite impenitent of their crimes. “They have not feared God;” they rather feared men, and, therefore,

20 To give them their deserts: and justly, “For they have defiled his covenant” by their scandalous lives, by not living up to the covenant God gave them, and therefore,

21 They are scattered and dispersed in God’s anger, “And his heart hath drawn near” to punish and chastise them. “his words are smoother than oil, and the same are darts.” He now reverts to the malice of the principal traitor, Achitophel, in regard of David; and Judas in respect to Christ. “His words are smoother than oil;” apparently soft, kind, smooth, and yet his language does not consist of words, but of darts; delighting the ear, but wounding the heart; such are all detractions, indelicate language, and all false presence of the betrayer.

22 In the end of the Psalm the prophet consoles himself and all in similar circumstances, and exhorts them to put their whole confidence in God, who is most undoubtedly solicitous for his servants and friends, as St. Peter reminds us in his 1 Epistle 5, “Casting all your solicitude upon him, for he hath care of you,” and is copiously explained by Christ himself, in the 6th chapter of Matthew, and in various other places; which passages are not to be understood as an encouragement to lead a life of idleness, and take no trouble about the world, but that we should not be over solicitous about the world, or depend more on our own strength and industry than on the providence and mercy of God. “Cast thy care,” you that fear God, “upon the Lord;” leave to divine providence what you need for your support, “and he shall sustain thee.” He will provide you with all necessaries, blessing your labors and prospering your work; and will not only “sustain” and support you, but will defend you from your enemies. And, though he may sometimes “suffer the just to waver,” whether by want of the necessaries of life, or by the persecution of the wicked, it will not be “forever.” These trials will not be of long duration, because God will not suffer the just to be always buffeted by the waves of affliction; for everlasting affliction belongs to the wicked alone, as the following verse expresses.

23 You, O Lord, in your capacity of Judge, will consign them to the pit of death, from which they will never rise. It is called the pit of destruction, for those who fall therein are perpetually dying; for they live always in punishment, that they may be always dying, and never find that death they so ardently long for. “Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.” Not only will those men of blood be cast into “the pit of destruction” hereafter, but even in this life will their days be shortened, for it is only just that those who take away a life should lose their own. So God says, Gen. 9, “Whosoever shall shed man’s blood, his blood shall be shed;” and the Lord himself said, “For all that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Now, all these testimonies in this Psalm, as well as those in Genesis and the Gospel, do not go to prove that all manner of persons who take life away shall lose their own; but those only who take it away unjustly, and especially, those who lie in ambush to do so, for such are, properly speaking, the “bloody and deceitful men.” Again, he does not imply that all who waylay and kill will perish by the sword; but that, generally speaking, they will be judicially put to death, or killed in battle, or by themselves, or by some chance, which is no chance in the sight of God, but a disposition of his providence. Finally, the expression, “shall not live out half their days,” is not to be taken in the strict sense of the words, it being only a figure of speech, to express the shortness of their lives. An objection to this passage is raised, from an expression in Psalm 72, where the Psalmist complains of sinners, “That full days shall be found in them,” to which may be stated, in reply, that the passage quoted refers to sinners not guilty of shedding blood; or to a few who are an exception to the rule that shortens the days of sinners. The prophet concludes with that most usual expression of his, “But I will trust in thee, O Lord,” which seems to have reference to the aforesaid; thus, that I may escape from my secret enemies, as well as my avowed ones; that I may not incur the punishment of the wicked, and fall into the pit of destruction; and that my days may not be cut short, “I will put my trust in thee, O Lord,” and not in my own strength.

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Psalm 55


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 He commences with a prayer for mercy, by reason of his avowal of his misery. He was suffering a most undeserved persecution from Saul, and in seeking to avoid it, he fell into a more grievous one from the Philistines; and, during a short respite from both he was obliged to lie concealed in a cave, an exile, and a destitute. “Have mercy on me, O Lord,” you, the only refuge of the wretched, “for man hath trodden me under foot,” meaning Saul, whom he designates man, rather than Saul, to contrast him with God; as if he said, Have mercy on me, O Lord, for it is my fellowman that afflicts me; when the earth despises me, I look up to the heavens; when my fellow servant persecutes me, I fly to my master. “All the day long he hath afflicted me,” his injuries were not passing, or momentary, but they continued to be heaped on me, he never let me rest. The truth of all this is apparent from 1 Kings. Nor is there any difficulty in applying this to Christ, who became man for our sake, and yet was always oppressed by man, and was afflicted from the day of his birth, to that of his burial; and after him it may refer to his Church, which is doomed to encounter persecution and trouble, even to the day of judgment. By the word “man,” is meant, either the devil, who is called in the Gospel, “The enemy,” or mankind wanting the Spirit of God, and, therefore, purely man, as the Apostle, 1 Cor. 3, says, “For, whereas there is amongst you envying and contention, are you not carnal, and walk according to man?” and immediately after, “Are you not men?” Whence the Lord himself, Mat. 16, says, “Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?” “But whom do you say that I am?”

2 David was persecuted, and his death sought for, not only by Saul, but by all his retainers; and the devil is helped by all his fallen angels, in his assaults on the Church.

3 However numerous my enemies may be, I will not fear them, but “from the height of the day I shall fear;” that is, I will fear God’s judgments, proceeding as they do from the most intense light, such as we have at midday, a light penetrating everything, even the inmost recesses of the heart; which fear shall be united with hope: for though I fear the brightness of your light, I will, at the same time, “trust” in your mercy and goodness.

4 He enters at greater length into the confidence he has in God, and his reasons for it. God had long since, through Samuel, promised him the kingdom, as we read in 1 Kings 13, where Samuel says of David, “The Lord hath sought him a man according to his own heart; and him hath the Lord commanded to be prince over his people;” and in 1 Kings 16, “He anointed him in the midst of his brethren.” Such was the promise that inspired him with so much confidence, and to it he alludes, when he says, “In God I will praise my words;” that is, relying on God’s assistance, I will ultimately praise the promises he made me, as most faithful, when they shall have been accomplished; and, therefore, “I will not fear what flesh can do against me.” I will not fear the threats and persecutions of my enemies, who, being flesh, are weak and feeble, when compared with God, who has assured me of the kingdom. This verse can be easily referred to Christ, for the Angel, when speaking to the Virgin, said, “The Lord will give him the throne of David his father;” and Christ could say with the greatest truth, I will not fear what flesh can do against me.

5 He returns to an account of the malice of his enemies, and says, that all the time he was among them, they never ceased impugning all his words and actions, and seeking his death; which is just as applicable to the Scribes and Pharisees, calumniating and plotting against our Savior, as it is to David’s enemies.

6 He now relates another malicious trait in his enemies. “They will dwell and hide themselves,” while they are apparently on the best of terms with me, living as friends and companions in one house with me, they will, meanwhile, hide themselves, plotting and conspiring against me: “They will watch my heel,” to trip me up, if possible, and destroy me. Such was the behavior of Saul’s dependents towards David, and of the Jews towards Christ. Though he speaks in the future tense, he intends the past, the Hebrew idiom allowing, in many cases, the future to be used for the past.

7 He now predicts the ruin of his enemies, God, in his justice, awarding to them what they intended for their neighbor. “As they have waited for my soul,” as they privately lay in wait for me to have my life, so you, O God, “for nothing shalt thou save them,” nothing will induce you to save them; but, “in thy anger thou shalt break the people in pieces,” and pursue them to destruction. And so he did; for Saul and his troops perished in the mountains of Gelboe. The Jews had their city sacked by the Romans, and the survivors of the siege were scattered over all the world, and they will be signally punished on the day of judgment.

8 Having discussed the punishment of his enemies, he now returns to pray for himself, saying, “O God, I have declared to thee my life;” I have put before you in my prayers, all my journeys, casualties, and labors, (for the Hebrew word for life comprehends so much;) and “Thou hast set my tears in thy sight;” you, most merciful and kind Father, have not turned your face away, but you have looked upon my face with pity “As also in thy promise;” a thing you could not well avoid, having promised me faithfully that you would protect me.

9 He concludes by thanking and praising God. Behold, he says, I have known by experience that, “in what day soever I shall call upon thee, behold, I know thou art my God;” that is, by listening to my prayer, you will prove that you are my God.

10 This verse has been already explained, it being nearly identical with verse 4, the difference being hardly worth explanation.

11 For all the favors conferred on him, he promises that he will discharge all the vows of praise he made while in tribulation. “In me, O God, are vows to thee,” I have a lively recollection of them all, “which I will pay, praises to thee;” these vows being promises of constant hymns of praise and thanksgiving to thee for all the favors conferred on me.

12 We have now a summary of all God’s favors. “Because thou hast delivered my soul from death;” you have saved me from Saul, or Achis, the king of the Philistines, who were bent on my ruin; “My feet from falling;” preserved me from falling into sin, notwithstanding the numerous temptations by which I was urged to destroy Saul, or to curse him; and saved me from the death of the body, as well as of the soul. “That I may please in the sight of God, in the light of the living;” in the light of this life, which those who are dead enjoy not; and in the light of grace, which infidels and sinners have not; that I may, at length, come to the light of eternal glory enjoyed by those who alone, and properly speaking, can be classed among the living. These words are applicable to Christ, who, by his resurrection, was delivered from the death of the body, without any possibility of his ever again being subject to it, or to any suffering, and lives and reigns on the right hand of the Father, “in the light of the living.” Amen.

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Psalm 56


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David hiding in a cave, prays to God to be delivered from Saul’s persecution; a type of Christ, who, too, concealed in a cave, as he was, while in the form of a servant, prays for the delivery of his body, the Church, from the persecution of Satan and his ministers. “Have mercy on me, O God.” God of mercy, take me out of the misery I am suffering, while my life is in danger, through the persecution of Saul. “For my soul trusteth in thee.” Whereas God promises his assistance to those that trust in him, confidence in God is the surest way to have his mercy extended to us. “And in the shadow of thy wings will I hope.” I have not only hitherto trusted in thee, but I will persevere and continue to trust in thee as long as may be necessary, which will be “until iniquity pass away;” until our pilgrimage here shall have an end; for so long will iniquity be found in this world. The metaphor of “The shadow of thy wings” is of frequent use in the Scriptures; in Psalm 16, we have, “Protect me under the shadow of thy wings;” in Psalm 62, “And I will rejoice under the covert of thy wings;” in Psalm 90, “Under his wings thou shalt trust;” and our Lord himself, in Mat. 23, says, “How often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not.” The meaning is, I will have as much confidence in your protection as the chickens have in that of their mother, when they gather under her wings for protection from the birds of prey; thereby conveying to us the signal love of God for his elect, and his special protection of them.

2 The confidence he has in God’s protection will make him “cry to God the Most High,” as being supreme judge, far and away above all other judges; and his reason for doing so is, because he knows, from experience, the advantage of thus appealing to God; “to God who hath done good to me;” who enabled me to avenge myself of my enemies, (such is the force of the Hebrew.) Saul had so surrounded a mountain to which David had fled, that his escape seemed absolutely impossible, when God so ordered that news came to Saul of an incursion of the Philistines into his kingdom, that compelled him to withdraw his troops from the pursuit of David, to his own great disgrace and sorrow, to which he briefly alludes in the following verse.

3–4 “He hath sent from heaven” help and assistance, “and delivered me,” when I was surrounded by the enemy’s legions, and all but killed or captured. “He hath made them a reproach that trod upon me.” He disgraced Saul and his soldiers, who were about to trample me to the dust, when they were unable to effect their purpose, by reason of their having to retire to meet the Philistines. “God hath sent his mercy and his truth;” his two hands, as it were, “his mercy,” to deliver me; “his truth,” that is, his justice, to shame and confound my enemies. “And he hath delivered my soul,” meaning my life, “from the midst of the young lions;” from Saul and his soldiers, fierce and ferocious as any lions. Notwithstanding this delivery, however, “I slept troubled;” for I feared the detractions and the calumnies of my enemies, “whose teeth are weapons, and their tongue a sharp sword;” that is to say, though the impending danger from the young lions was removed, I knew I was not safe from the tongues of the detractors and calumniators, who, from a distance, could still shoot their darts at me; and, therefore, “I slept troubled.”

5 Having related the extent of his fear, he prays to God to manifest his glory by inflicting punishment on his impious enemies. “Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens.” Sit on thy highest throne for judgment. “And thy glory above all the earth.” Let your glory be made known to all on earth, that all may understand and praise your justice.

6 He assigns a reason for calling down God’s vengeance on his enemies. For, along with many other persecutions, “They prepared a snare for my feet,” to trap me like a wild beast. “And they bowed down my soul.” Their persecutions and plots were so numerous, that, from constant care and trouble, I got bent and bowed down. He then repeats the same in another metaphor. “They dug a pit before my face;” right in my path, in the hope of my falling into it; “And they are fallen into it;” caught in the trap themselves, as actually happened to Saul, who went into the cave of Engaddi, to answer a call of nature, in which cave David and his friends had taken refuge. They urged David that now was the time to have Saul’s life, helpless and unsuspicious of danger as he was. David declined, but Saul fell into the pit.

7 He now, in the end of the Psalm, raises his soul to God, exclaiming, “My heat is ready, O God, my heart is ready;” ready to live, ready to die, ready to rule, ready to be trampled on, ready to take anything cheerfully from your hand. “I will sing and rehearse a psalm;” I will praise your justice, praise your mercy in song and music.

8 Having said he would “sing and rehearse a psalm,” that he may do it properly, he now invokes, not the muses, in the style of profane writers, but the Spirit of prophecy. “Arise my glory;” that is, that divine Spirit, through whose inspiration I have sung of the divine mysteries; “Arise psaltery and harp;” that is, my soul and my tongue; the psaltery, which yields the higher notes, representing the spirit; and the harp, which yields the lower notes, representing the tongue. “I will arise early;” the fittest time for contemplation, and for chanting God’s praises.

9 When David did rise in the morning to sing God’s praises, he says, “I will give praise to thee, O Lord, among the people;” that is, among the Jewish people; and, knowing that his Psalms would be chanted all over the world by the gentiles, as well as the Jews, he adds, “I will sing a psalm to thee among the nations.”

10 The subject of his praise to all nations will be his mercy, which has become so great that it has risen up to the heavens; not that his mercy, absolutely speaking, has so risen, for being infinite, it admits of no increase but in his works; and, in like manner, “thy truth,” which also has risen to the heavens; “clouds” being used here to signify them, an expression used by Christ himself; who says, “You shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

11 As God’s mercy and truth reach the heavens, it is only meet that his praise and glory should fill the heavens and the earth.

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Psalm 57


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 When men are asked whether it is right to steal, commit adultery, cheat, and the like, they, very properly, answer that it is not right; because the law written in their hearts teaches them so, and no one wishes to be robbed, abused, etc.; and thus, all evil doers stand convicted of deceit when they say so, and still rob, steal, commit adultery, etc.; things they would not do unless they believed a certain amount of good or advantage was in them. Not only that, but they stand convicted of falsehood while they cry up justice, and descant on the sin of theft, adultery, etc.; but they also prove themselves to be laboring under a deplorable blindness, loud in their denunciations of theft, etc., and, at the same time, devoted themselves to those vices, and dealing with others as they would not be dealt with themselves. For, if theft be good in itself, why are they unwilling to be plundered? If it be not good in itself, why plunder another? The Holy Spirit exclaims against such voluntary and inexcusable blindness, saying, “If, in very deed, you speak justice,” when you condemn theft, anger, etc.; “judge right things, ye sons of men;” consider in your hearts that you should not do them, and do not what you have acknowledged to be bad.

2 He shows he had reason for the admonition he gave them, to judge justly if they would speak justly; for, it appears, they did the very contrary; and thus spoke with the semblance of justice, while they were full of malice and deceit. “For in your heart you work iniquity;” you think of nothing but what is bad, and you do not stop there; for “your hands forge injustice in the earth;” your hands put into execution what your heart conceived.

3 Another misfortune of sinners is, that they fall, not after a lapse of years, but at once, almost from the cradle. “The wicked are alienated from the womb.” Scarcely out of the womb when they leave the straight path, the path of life, of happiness. “They have spoken false things;” lies and falsehood being usually the first sin committed by children; in lies and falsehood our corrupt nature first shows itself.

4–5 Having told us that sin, as a disease, attacks us in our very infancy, he now adds that the disease is of long duration, but that it is also a most grievous disease; sinners being sometimes so overpowered by it, and hurried on to ruin others by it, that they may be compared to serpents of a certain kind, that will yield to no incantations whatever. “Their madness,” the madness of those grievous sinners, such as Saul, “is according to the likeness of a serpent,” that no art will tame; nay, even like a “deaf asp,” that stops her ears with her tail, for fear she should “hear the voice of the charmers, nor of the wizard, that charmeth wisely;” that is, of one well skilled in charming. Whether such be true of the asp or not is no matter, for David speaks according to general opinion on the subject. St. Augustine observes that this passage no more approves of the arts and practices of wizards and charmers, than do the parables of our Lord regarding the unjust steward, and the man who found the treasure in the farm, of their honesty in such cases.

6 Having painted the enormity of the sins of certain persons, Saul being the principal person in view, he now describes the punishments in store for such sinners, by most appropriate similes. The first is in this verse, the gist of which is, that however great and formidable the power of the sinner may appear to be, still that he would be deprived of it. No animal more terrible, more formidable than a lion, and his teeth are the weapons he makes most use of, and the most destructive to his enemies. “God will break in pieces their teeth,” the teeth of the sinners, who, like lions, tear and plunder the unoffending. However powerful and strong like lions they may appear to be; “in their mouth,” while they are alive, and not after death—a thing easily done; and it is not the small teeth will be so broken, but their very grinders; for, “He shall break the grinders of the lions,” the largest and most durable of all the teeth.

7 Another simile, teaching us that the power of the wicked would be very brief, and, after a very short time, would be so extirpated that not a trace of it would be found; like a sudden fall of rain, that creates, for the moment, a great inundation, of which, in a few hours, not a trace can be found. Such was the case with Saul, Achab, Jeroboam, Nero, Caius, Domitian, and, with the great heresiarchs, Arius, Nestorius, and others. “They shall come to nothing, like water running down;” that runs with great velocity, leaving not a trace of itself. And lest we may suppose this happened in an ordinary way, he adds, “He hath bent his bow till they be weakened;” to show it was all God’s work, all his doings; for it was he who bent his bow against them, and kept it bent against them until they were utterly ruined.

8 The third simile, showing that it is as easy for God to destroy the power of the tyrant or the sinner, as it is for the fire or the sun to melt wax, which, however hard it may be, readily yields to the action of either. “Like wax that melteth away,” when the fire or the sun comes to act upon it, so shall the sinners “be taken away,” and utterly destroyed. “For fire hath fallen on them;” the fire of the anger of God; and being thus melted, they disappeared; “and they shall not see the sun;” a thing they could not do when they were utterly destroyed.

9 The last simile through which the prophet teaches us that the wicked will be uprooted and cut down by God, before they can carry out their wicked designs against the just, and thus balk them of the gratification they calculated on from their ruin. Thus Saul had an unhappy end, before he could rejoice on David’s death; so with Diocletian and the other persecutors of the Church, who had a miserable exit before they could witness the extirpation of Christianity they were so bent on. The simile is taken from thorns, which, when young, are easily cut down, but when they grow to any age, so as to get into timber, or, as the verse expresses it, “To know the briar,” cannot be rooted out but with great difficulty. “He swalloweth them up as alive in his wrath.” He will annihilate them as completely as if the earth opened and swallowed them up alive.

10 When the sinners shall have been so signally punished, “the just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge;” not through love of revenge, but from a love of justice, seeing it was God’s goodness that prevented himself from falling into such sins and meriting such punishment; and he will not only rejoice, but “he shall wash his hands in the blood of the sinner;” that is, his own good works will shine forth in bright contrast to the wickedness of the sinner. Contraries show more clearly when placed in juxtaposition; and the Scripture not infrequently uses the term “blood” to signify sin.

11 When the wicked shall be punished and the just shall rejoice, then, in reality, “man shall say;” the men, witnessing those things, will say. If justice brings any advantage with it, the greatest is, that God, the supreme Judge, does not let the wicked go unpunished, nor the just unrewarded; but he reverses all unjust judgments, and judges all, both good and bad, rewarding the good for all the good works they did, and for all the persecutions they suffered; and inflicting condign punishment on the wicked for all their bad acts, and for all the wantonness in which they reveled; and thus is fulfilled the sentence in the Apocalypse 18, “As much as she hath glorified herself; and hath been in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give unto her.”

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Psalm 58


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 David, hemmed in by the soldiers of Saul in his own house, as if he were in a prison, prays to Almighty God. It is also applicable to Christ as he lay in the sepulchre, with guards on it; and is also applicable to any just person in danger of death.

2 An explanation of the preceding verse. “My enemies,” in the first verse, are here called the “workers of iniquity,” for the just have no other enemies than such persons who can assign no reason for being so, but that they are wicked, and the others just. “They that rise up against me,” in the first verse, are called here “bloody men;” homicides, who rise up against their neighbor to spill their blood.

3 He assigns a reason for asking for deliverance, being in extreme danger, as he was, of losing his life. He was like a wild beast “caught” in the toils, and about to be destroyed. “The mighty have rushed in upon me;” such as Saul, Abner his general, and people of that class, to show he was persecuted, not by a few soldiers, but by a most powerful king, having a numerous army at his command.

4 These words, when referred to David, do not convey that he was absolutely free from sin, but that he was not guilty of the sin laid to his charge, that of rebellion against Saul. If referred to Christ, they are absolutely true, for “He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth;” 1 Peter 2. “Neither is it my iniquity nor my sin, O Lord; that is to say, “Though the mighty have rushed in upon me,” it is not my iniquity, nor my sins, nor any injury offered them by me that has provoked them. Because “without iniquity have I run;” my life has been a most inoffensive one. “And directed my steps;” have turned neither to the right nor to the left: to the right, to ingratiate myself with the rich; to the left, to oppress the poor and the humble.

5 He said that “he ran,” and that “he directed his steps.” Now, he that “directs his steps” will, undoubtedly, run to God, to whom, as to their last end, all good things are directed; and he, therefore, says, I, by my good acts, have directed my course to you; and do you, therefore, in return, protect me “by rising up to meet me.” “And behold” the danger I am in, and consider for the trouble I am in; nor can you plead inability or ignorance for you are the “Lord God of hosts;” and, as Lord, you can do everything; and, as God, you see and know everything; as Lord of Hosts you have thousands of Angels to do your bidding, and whom you can employ in helping me; you are, finally, “the God of Israel;” and, therefore, we have a special claim on your protection, by virtue of the compact you entered into with our fathers. “Attend to visit all the nations.” Let the day of universal judgment arrive, and then “have no mercy on all them that work iniquity;” spare no sinner; punish them all according to their deserts. These expressions should be understood in a prophetic, rather than an imprecatory sense, making the meaning to be, the great day of general retribution will come, at length, when all shall have to render an account to God, the supreme Judge; and God wilt then spare no wicked person, but “will bring all evil men to an evil end.” Hereon, however, St. Augustine raises question; how can it be true that God “will have no mercy on them that work iniquity,” when it is certain that he had mercy on David himself, though guilty of adultery and homicide; on Peter, who denied Christ; and on Paul, who so persecuted the Church. In thus extending his mercy, God acts, not as a Judge, but as the Father of mercies: through which mercy he softens the heart, and moves it to penance. But in this passage David speaks of God purely as Judge, “who will render unto every one according to their works;” and especially, on the last day, when he will neither spare nor have mercy on any wicked person.

6 He continues describing the wretched condition of the wicked on the last day, “They shall return at evening;” their conversion will be too late; they let the day pass, in which they might have worked and been converted, and now turn to penance of no value; such penance as Wisdom 5 describes, “Saying within themselves repenting, and groaning for anguish of spirit.” “And shall hunger like dogs;” for that justice they disregarded, when they could have had their fill of it, or for the rest and quiet they cannot now hope for; “And shall go round,” as the dogs do, “about the city” of God; the assembly of the elect, seeking in vain for admission; trying to move those within to look with mercy on them, but to no purpose; for none of the saints will, on that day, have the slightest pity on the workers of iniquity. Such retribution will be an essentially just one; for, in this life, the wicked “returned at evening;” sought the darkness of night, instead of the light of day. “And suffered hunger;” indulged in carnal passions with all the eagerness that hungry dogs devour their meat; and as the dogs “go round about the city” in quest of the carrion thrown into the trenches, so did they seek in all quarters for the gratification of their carnal desires. Others explain this passage as applying to the soldiers coming, like dogs, in the evening to destroy David. Others apply it to the conversion of the Jews in the end of the world.

7 He reverts to the malice of the wicked, speaking of it alternately with their punishment. “Behold,” they who sought my life “shall speak with their mouth,” in an under tone, for fear they may be heard; “And a sword is in their lips,” for it all turned on my death, and they did so with the greatest security, for they said to each other, “Who hath heard us?” Nobody.

8 They thought they were not heard, when they plotted so privately, and proposed doing wonders. “But thou, O Lord,” from whom nothing is secret, “shalt laugh at them,” for their folly; for you can not only baffle their designs with the greatest ease, but, even though they had the whole world to support them, “thou shalt bring all the nations to nothing.”

9–10 Remembering God’s omnipotence, compared with which all nations are reputed as nothing, he humbles himself before him with a view to merit his grace. “I will keep my strength to thee,” whatever strength I have is from you, and not from myself; and it is not possible, therefore, for me to keep it, but you will keep it because you gave it, “for thou art my protector.” I have the best reasons for thus confiding in you, for you have undertaken my protection from my infancy, being peculiarly my God, who alone I worship. “His mercy shall prevent me.” I do not speak idly, for God’s mercy, as it has hitherto attended me, will (as I trust) continue to attend me, and not allow me to be oppressed by my enemies. David could say so, with great justice, for, from his very youth, the grace of God was with him, and it strengthened him, especially when he killed the bear and the lion, and afterwards Goliath the giant, without a weapon, and while still a boy when he was anointed king by Samuel. All this is much more applicable to Christ, because not only from his boyhood or his infancy was he anointed, but even from his very conception. “He was anointed with the Holy Ghost, and with power,” Acts 10.

11 He now reverts to his enemies, and predicts their punishment, speaking in the person of Christ. “God shall let me see over my enemies;” will let me see the punishment in store for them. He has already revealed it to me, and when it shall have been accomplished, I will see the punishment they shall justly suffer. But I pray God to “slay them not,” not to extinguish the Jewish race entirely. “Lest at any time my people may forget,” he still has regard to his people, and wishes them not to be forgotten entirely. What I ask, therefore, is, that you would “scatter them by your power,” by that power that no one can resist; to scatter them all over the world, and “bring them down” from that pitch of glory they enjoyed when they were God’s peculiar people, and had their kings and their priesthood. All of which was literally accomplished in regard of the Jews.

12 He tells us now why the Jews were so scattered, “For the sin of their mouth,” when they said, “We have no king but Ceasar,” and “His blood be on us and on our children,” for God, with great justice, gave them the benefit of their prayer, according to Daniel 9, “And the people that shall deny him shall not be his.” “And let them be taken in their pride,” be led captives by the Romans, humbled and cast down on account of their pride, that made them boast of being children of Abraham, and of never having been slaves to any one, as may be seen in John 8. It was, in fact, their pride and contumacy that provoked the anger of the Roman people, as appears from Josephus. That, however, was the occasion; the real cause of their ruin was their pride, that made them despise the Son of God. “And for their cursing and lying they shall be talked of.” The cursing consisted in that dreadful imprecation quoted above, “His blood be on us;” and the other expression, “We have no king but Caesar,” was a palpable lie and a falsehood, for it is certain that they resisted paying tribute to him, and boasted they were a free people, never subject to any one, which was a downright falsehood, for they were subject to Pharao in Egypt, to Nabuchodonosor in Babylon, to the Philistines in the land of promise, and, at the very time of their boasting, to the Romans.

13 The prophet predicts that, in consequence of their cursing and lying, “they will be talked of;” published, proclaimed all over the world as such. “When they are consumed;” when, on the destruction of the city, all the power and glory of the Jewish people will be destroyed forever. “When they are consumed by the wrath;” not by any chance or fortuitous destruction, but by the destruction arising from God’s anger; which will, therefore, be a destruction so complete and entire, that the Jews can never again hope for a king or a seat of government; and, therefore, he adds, “and they shall be no more;” there will be no trace of them, neither of kingdom nor of people; they will be miserably dispersed and scattered, as we actually see accomplished. “And they shall know that God will rule Jacob;” when the Jews shall have been scattered throughout the world, then “they shall know” and clearly see that the true God is the God not only of Jacob, of the people of Israel, but he is also the God of “all the ends of the earth,” of the whole world, and all the nations thereon. Hitherto “God was known to Judea and in Israel, great was his name,” Psalm 95; and, in Psalm 78, was said, “Pour out thy wrath upon the nations that have not known thee; and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name;” but, after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the preaching of Christ’s Gospel through the world, the dispersed Jews saw the true God worshipped everywhere, idols broken, the Psalms of David chanted; and thus they learned that God was not the God of the Jews alone, but also of the gentiles.

14 They will never see more clearly the truth of the preceding verse, “that God rules Jacob and the ends of the earth,” than on the last day, when “we shall all stand before the tribunal of Christ,” and “every knee shall bend to him;” then “they shall return” to penance, but too late; for it will be in the “evening,” when the hour of mercy shall have passed; “they shall suffer hunger like dogs,” prowling and “going round about the city” of the elect, looking in vain for admission or consolation.

15 The same Jews, in their appeal to their patriarchs and prophets, will not be heard by them; but will be dispersed, looking for food like so many dogs; and, when they meet no consolation, get nothing, and are not acknowledged as children, they will begin to murmur and complain of their unhappy state.

16 Hitherto those impious persecutors had been his subject; he now, in his own person, or rather, in the person of Christ and the Church, which is his body, gives expression to his joy and gladness, accompanied by thanksgiving and praise of God. “but I will sing thy strength.” Those wretched beings may howl and grumble; but I, on the other hand, “will sing” and praise “thy strength,” so displayed by you in the total destruction of the wicked; “And will extol thy mercy;” with great delight will I praise thee for the mercy you displayed in the liberation and glorification of the just, and I will do so “in the morning,” before I turn to any other business or occupation. “For thou art become my support and my refuge in the day of my trouble.” He tells the effect of the mercy he promised to sing of, and that is, God becoming “his support;” undertaking to protect him, and affording him “a refuge in the day of his trouble.”

17 The same repeated, but differently expressed, to show his affection and gratitude to so great a benefactor. The word “helper” implies God’s power; “my defense” refers to his goodness, which causes him to take his elect under his protection. The words “my God” imply that he is our supreme good, and the final object of all our desires; finally, “my mercy” comprehends all God’s gifts, that enable us to come to him as the supreme good; for, as St. Augustine properly observes, it is of much more importance to us that he should be “our mercy,” than our salvation, our life, or our hope. For it was his mercy that made us to live and to exist, to be delivered from evil, and advance in virtue. By the mercy of God we were predestinated, called, justified, and will be finally glorified; for, though glorification depends on merit, our very merits are gifts of God, because, without his previous grace, they would be of no value. Justly, therefore, the prophet, in Psalm 102, says, “Who crowneth thee with mercy and compassion.”

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Psalm 59


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 He begins by a narration of the past afflictions of the people of Israel; “O God, thou hast cast us off,” from your fatherly care and protection, “and hast destroyed us,” allowing us to be harassed, oppressed, and destroyed by the Philistines, the Idumeans, the Moabites, and other enemies. “Thou hast been angry, and hast had mercy on us.” Thou hast been angry with us for our sins that provoked you, and therefore given us up to our enemies; but, shortly after thou “hast had mercy on us;” when, through your grace, you inspired us to do penance, and, after having done penance, delivered us from captivity and persecution. The truth of these expressions will at once appear to any one reading the book of Judges, and the first book of Kings. The Jews were left in the hands of their enemies by reason of their sins; on doing penance they were liberated. So with the Church of Christ. St. Cyprian attributes the persecution of the early Christians to their sins, which was sometimes so severe, that this verse was quite appropriate to them. The expression, “Hast had mercy on us,” refers especially to the fortitude of the martyrs; for, though God, angry with Christians for their sins, may permit persecution, he still had great mercy on the Church, in giving the grace of fortitude to so many Christians; and its glory, from the crowns of innumerable martyrs, was much greater than its depression from rapine or the ruin of its sacred edifices.

2 He explains the greatness of the persecution, for it was not one, or two, or many cities that were moved, but “the whole earth was moved.” If we take these words in reference to the Jews, the meaning will be, the whole land of promise was moved; if in reference to the persecution of the Christians, the meaning will be, the Church diffused over the whole earth. “Heal thou the breaches thereof, for it has been moved;” you who strike with fire and sword, not as an enemy, but as a physician, heal her wounds and “breaches,” for “it has been moved;” admonished by the scourge, it has been moved to penance; and she that, from a continued prosperity, had begun to halt and to falter, has now taken to run in the way of your commandments.

3 He goes on with the same subject, and says, “thou hast shown thy people hard things;” made your people to see and to feel severe persecution. “Thou hast made us drink the wine of sorrow;” taking advantage of this persecution, you have made us enter into ourselves, and drink the bitter, but wholesome cup of holy sorrow. The word “shown” conveys the idea of God’s kindness, who rather shows than inflicts trouble; and that with a view more of deterring than of punishing us; whence his chastisements are not at all as severe as they appear to be to the carnal; and therefore, the Apostle says, “Our present tribulation, which is momentary and light.” The words, “Thou hast made us drink,” convey to us also an idea of God’s goodness, who does not show us that most wholesome gift of penance, but pours it into our hearts, into the very depth of our hearts, and thus warms us, as wine warms the whole interior.

4 Through all those “hard things” meaning the persecutions and afflictions by which the just are harassed here below. God gives a warning to them that fear him, “To flee from before the bow,” that will shoot deadly arrows at the wicked on the last day; for the tribulations the just suffer here, in order to purge them from venial sin, are signs of the grievous punishments that await the wicked after this life, of which the Apostle Peter writes in his 1st Epistle, chap. 4, “For the time is that judgment should begin at the house of God. And if first at us, what shall be the end of those who believe not the gospel of God?” And his fellow Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 11, “But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we may not be damned with this world.” God, then, while he purges the elect, leads them to infer, from their own trouble, how great are the punishments in store for the wicked; and therefore, that they should by leading a pious and holy life, “Flee from before the bow;” which is now drawn, but, on the last day, will be let fly with such force as will destroy the wicked for all eternity. “That thy beloved may be delivered;” a prayer for the deliverance of his beloved from their troubles and persecutions.

5–7 He now begins to show that his prayer was heard, that he conquered all his enemies, and that he made a considerable addition to his kingdom. “God hath spoken in his holy place,” through me his holy prophet, to whom he has revealed what is to happen, most of which is already accomplished. The prophecy was a well known one, for Abner, Saul’s general, said to the people, 2 Kings 3, “The Lord hath spoken to David, saying: By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hands of the Philistines, and of all their enemies.” “I will rejoice, and I will divide Sichem.” Having mentioned the prophecy, he now comes to prove that it was already, in a great degree, fulfilled. “I will rejoice,” like a conqueror after a victory, with an extension of his kingdom, and first of all, “I will divide Sichem,” that is, Samaria; as master of it, I will form it into districts, make a census of its cities, towns, and villages, and appoint judges and magistrates in them; “And I will mete out the vale of tabernacles,” I will do the same in the country next it, called the vale of tabernacles from the fact of Jacob having first pitched his tent there, and bought part of the land of Sichem. Observe here, that David, in enumerating the provinces of his kingdom, begins with Sichem, a part of Samaria, and is generally applied to Samaria; as also from the vale of tabernacles, called also Sochot, because it was there Jacob and his sons got first hold of the land of promise. It is to be observed also, that he mentions here not more than Sichem, Sochot, Galaad, Manasses, and Ephraim, all of which belonged to the tribe of Joseph, because that was the greatest tribe of all, and thus he made it to signify all the tribes of Israel, or the kingdom of Israel. He makes separate mention afterwards of the tribe of Juda, uniting with it the tribe of Benjamin, and was called the kingdom of Juda, when the division was made under Roboam. He, therefore, adds, “Galaad is mine, and Manasses is mine,” mine is the country called after the man named Galaad, and mine is the country called after Manasses the son of Joseph. “And Ephraim is the strength of my head;” mine is the country named after Ephraim, another son of Joseph, a country full of brave men, the principal defense, strength, and support of my kingdom. “Juda is my king.” Having enumerated the provinces of the ten tribes, under the name of Manasses and Ephraim, he now adds the tribe of Juda, to which, as we said before, was united the tribe of Benjamin. “Juda is my king.” The whole country called Juda, from Juda the son of Jacob, is mine too. Juda is a royal tribe, as we read in 1 Paralipomenon 28, “For of Juda he chose the princes;” and Jacob himself, at his death, when blessing his sons, said of Juda. “The scepter shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh;” alluding to which promise David makes use of the word used by Jacob, that signifies either a king or a leader. He therefore says, “Juda is my king;” that is to say, the tribe of Juda, that always held the first place, and from which the kings, my fathers, sprung, is mine, and will supply the future kings.

8 Having enumerated the provinces of his own kingdom, he now enumerates the provinces of the enemy become tributary to him, first of which he names that of the Moabites, called Moab, after Moab, the son of Lot, the nephew of Abraham. “Moab is the pot of my hope.” The province of Moab, now subject to me, is like a pot full of meat, abounding in riches and plenty, and giving me great hopes. “Into Idumea will I stretch out my shoe;” Idumea is the country possessed by the descendants of Esau, brother to Jacob, and at the time this Psalm was written, though David had obtained a victory over them, having killed twelve thousand of them, he had not yet conquered the whole of Idumea. That he did so afterwards appears from 2 Kings 8, where we read, “And all Idumea became subject to David.” He therefore says, “Into Edom I will stretch my shoe.” I will proceed to wage war, and trample on Idumea. “To me the foreigners are made subject.” I have already subdued the Philistines, who are foreigners, so called having had no connection or affinity with the Israelites. The Idumeans, the Ammonites, and the Moabites, though not children of Jacob, were connected with the Israelites, for the Idumeans were descended from Esau or Edom, who was brother to Jacob; and the Ammonites and Moabites were descended from Lot.

9 Edom being the only nation not entirely subdued by David, and being the best fortified of all, he now says, “Who will lead me into the strong city?” Idumea was a real stronghold, and he asks who will be the leader of the expedition to subdue it; of its strength the prophet Abdias says, “The pride of thy heart hath lifted thee up, who dwellest in the clefts of the rocks, and settest up thy throne on high, who sayest in thy heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground? Though thou be exalted as an eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence I will bring thee down, saith the Lord.” And he tells us of what strong city he speaks, when he adds, “Who will lead me into Edom?” Who will help me to conquer Idumea? All this is most applicable to Christ and the Church. The kingdom of Juda means the Church, the Sichemites or Samaritans mean its enemies, who will, with great trouble, but with great certainty, be ultimately subdued. Ephraim and Manasses, typify the schismatics, inasmuch as Jeroboam drew them off from Jerusalem and the temple, and set up another altar; and they too will, at a fitting time, be subdued. The Idumeans are the type of the Jews, the last to submit, like the Jews, who, however, in the end will be brought to Christ.

10 He answers a question by asking another. Nobody can possibly bring us into the strongholds of the Idumeans, but you, “O God, who hast cast us off.” “And wilt not thou, O God, go out with our armies?” If you do, we must needs conquer; without your help, we will be the conquered.

11 You, therefore, who are alone the all powerful, give us that help that will free us from all trouble; for any human help is of no value.

12 Relying on God’s help we can do anything, and we will frustrate the designs of all those who seek to harm us.

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Psalm 60


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 A very brief preface, because it is the prayer of a just man or a Christian people, asking to be heard by God; not to turn away from them, but to take a considerate view of their case. The Hebrew for “supplication” conveys the idea of its being not an ordinary one put up in silence, but an ardent, loudly expressed appeal to God; and, therefore, more likely to arrest his attention. A cold prayer, coming from the lips alone, will hardly penetrate the clouds, much less the heaven of heavens.

2 David was never an exile in “The ends of the earth,” nor were the children of Israel; and, therefore, he must speak here in the person of the Church, which has spread over the whole world, to its very extremities, according to Psalm 2, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the gentiles for thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.” He therefore says, I (the Church) having been propagated to the ends of the earth, from those extremities of the earth, through the voice of all my members, “Have cried to thee” with a loud and earnest voice. The words, “Ends of the earth,” seem also to convey an idea of the distance between him who asks and him from whom he expects. God, to whom the appeal is made, is in heaven, and he who asks it in “The ends of the earth;” and hence he should needs cry aloud. The same idea is conveyed in the expression, “From the depths have I cried to thee, O Lord.” He should have a loud voice who, from the depths, expects that God, who sits aloft in the highest heavens, nay, even on the Cherubim, should hear him; in other words, the person who, cognizant of his own nothingness, when compared to the divine perfections, yet presumes to commune with God in prayer. “When my heart was in anguish thou hast exalted me on a rock.” He assigns a reason for appealing to God with such confidence, because he found the divine assistance never withheld from him when in trouble. “When,” on various other occasions, “my heart was in anguish,” by reason of various temptations that beset me, you heard me when I cried to you, and “exalted me on a rock;” the safest possible place I could be lodged in, afterwards called “a tower of strength.” That lofty rock is Christ; and anyone that will raise himself up to him in contemplation, considering how much he suffered for us, and what an end he had, will easily conquer, and despise the whole world beside.

3 He explains the expression, “Thou hast exalted me on a rock,” by the words, “Thou hast conducted me;” became my guide when I fled from the enemy, who assailed me with temptation. “For thou hast been my hope;” your escort and guidance consisted in inspiring me with hope, which not only upheld me, but made me bear everything with the greatest courage. And thus, you became “a tower of strength against the face of the enemy;” for he who trusts in God, and reflects on the sufferings of Christ, to what glory he came on his resurrection, that he is our head, from looking on whom we are to learn what we have to suffer on earth, and what we have a right to expect and desire in heaven; he undoubtedly stands on a highly fortified tower, where he can not only avoid the weapons of the enemy, but even hurl weapons at them.

4 He now tells us that, by the stronghold in the preceding verse, he does not mean the kingdom of heaven, but the resting place of the pilgrim here below; such is the force of the word in the Hebrew; and he says, I will take up my lodging in “that tower of strength;” and in the meantime, while there, “I shall be protected under the covert of thy wings,” as the hen protects her chickens from the birds of prey.

5 His confidence arises from the fact that, at all times, “Thou, my God, hast heard my prayer;” and that because, “Thou hast given an inheritance to them that fear thy name;” made me one of your heirs, your children. For if God has an everlasting inheritance for his children that fear him, will he not protect them on their journey thereto? What father ever despised or deserted his deserving children? “And if God be for us, who is against us?” We are absolutely sure and certain of the eternal inheritance in heaven, and God’s protection in this world, if we truly fear him.

6 The Prophet, bearing in mind that the inheritance of the saints is life everlasting, now informs us that this inheritance, so promised to the Church, should commence with its head; and, therefore, says, “Thou wilt add days to the days of the king;” you will multiply the days of Christ our king without end, “even to generation and generation;” to the day of eternity, which, though designated as a day, is equivalent to generation and generation, to ages of ages, and times of times without end. That the expression means eternity is evident from Psalm 118, where he says, “Forever, O Lord, thy word standeth firm in heaven. Thy truth unto all generations.” Which is similar to the expression in Psalm 134, “Thy name, O Lord, is forever; thy memorial, O Lord, unto all generations.” From which we clearly see that the Psalm is not applicable to David as king, but to Christ as king; for David did not live more than seventy years, nor did the sovereignty remain in his family. The eternity, then, of both king and kingdom, foretold in the Scriptures, is accomplished in Christ alone, for “There will be no end of his kingdom,” Luke 1 “And he, rising from the dead, shall die no more. Death shall have no more dominion over him.” Rom. 6.

7 Christ, the head of the Church, “abideth forever in the sight of God” for us; the Apostle testifies it was for such purpose he “entered into heaven itself, that he may appear now in the presence of God for us.” Instead of “abideth,” the Hebrew word has “he sitteth;” to show that he sits as a Judge, instead of standing as a servant. “His mercy and truth who shall search?” His mercy, in redeeming fallen man; and his truth, by virtue of which he has kept and will adhere to his promises. “Who shall search them,” for they are a great abyss; and, as the Apostle to the Ephesians says, “The charity of Christ surpasseth knowledge;” is beyond our comprehension.

8 As God’s mercy has been poured upon me in abundance, and his truth is so certain that I have no need of inquiring into it, “I will sing a psalm to thy name forever and ever;” I will praise you, my God, not only here on earth, but forever, with loud canticles and shouts of praise in heaven; that by doing so “I may pay my vows” of thanksgiving “from day to day,” all the days of my life, to the day that will not be succeeded by night.

Table of Contents

Psalm 61


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 A just man, fiercely assailed by various concupiscences, every one of which contend for a mastery over him, in his brave struggle, exclaims, “Shall not my soul be subject to God?” Is it not better and fitter for me to serve God than be a slave to avarice, pride, or concupiscence? “For from him is my salvation.” Those evil passions and desires offer me nothing but death everlasting; but God promises, and will certainly confer, eternal happiness, if I remain faithful to him.

2 My salvation not only depends on him, but “he is my God and my Savior.” The Hebrew has the word “rock” for God, to signify that in this world he is the rock we are to build upon, to take refuge on, and in the other world to be our Savior. In both he will be our protector here to defend us, hereafter to crown us; and, therefore, “I shall be moved no more.” I will not be much concerned or troubled, but remain firm, however grievous the temptations may be.

3 Having spoken of himself, he now turns to deplore the dreadful ruin of souls by the evil spirits through the agency of the various concupiscences. In truth, nobody can calculate the numbers brought to ruin by the evil spirits, through the agency of avarice, ambition, lust, anger, envy, and such evil passions. Full of indignation, therefore, against the evil spirits, he exclaims, “How long do you rush in upon a man?” will you never cease from persecuting man? “You will kill;” you all seek to destroy souls in various places and by various means, but with one common object. “As if a leaning wall and a tottering fence;” waging war upon poor, fallen human nature, so weak and corrupt, that it may aptly be compared to a tumbling wall and a rotten fence. A beautiful description of the malice and power of the demons, as well as of the frailty and weakness of human nature; for, in truth, since his fall, man may be compared to a tottering wall or heap, that requires the very smallest push to tumble it; for he is frail, and, as Genesis, chap. 8, has it, “Prone to evil from his youth;” and, therefore, the Apostle justly exclaims, “Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” and he immediately answers the question thus, “The grace of God by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

4 He returns to the subject he began with, and shows that the object of our spiritual enemies, in their attacks upon the just, is to deprive them of the everlasting rewards for which they envy them, and which they themselves lost through their own fault. “But they have thought to cast away my price.” They tempt, assault, excite my concupiscence to balk me of “my price;” that price by which I was redeemed, and thus deprive me of the dignity and great honor of everlasting glory. But I, on the contrary, “ran in thirst.” The more they sought to keep me back, the more ardently and thirstily I ran; for “The prize of the supernal vocation,” Phil. 3:14; “They blessed with their mouth, but cursed with their heart.” Their words were those of kindness, gently alluring to enjoy the present, and yield to pleasure; but, meanwhile, “They cursed with their heart,” knowing those very pleasures to be poison to the soul, and the most direct means of marring me in the pursuit of eternal happiness.

5–7 He now repeats the two first verses, to show the greatness of the temptations by which he was assailed; and that he so confided in God that he was in no way afraid of them. “But be thou, O my soul, subject to God.” However the enemy may rage do you, my soul, in silence and subjection, be obedient to God, “for from him is my patience;” say nothing, for he will certainly help you. “For he is my God;” this is word for word in the Hebrew with verse 2, which see. In verse 7 he concludes by saying he expects everything from God; that is, our true end, and the means to obtain it. Our true end consists in being delivered from all evils, and the possession of the supreme good; salvation implying the one, and glory the other: the means are God’s assistance and our own hope, as they are properly named in the text, “In God is my salvation and my glory.” From God I expect salvation and deliverance from all harm, and eternal glory, the supreme good; for when we shall see God, and become like him, and perfectly united to him, we shall be truly safe and happy.

8 He now exhorts everyone to the practice of that virtue, that God had so bounteously and gratuitously granted him to practice; first reminding them to put their trust in God alone, and not in anything created. “Trust in him, all ye congregation of people;” including every family, assembly, people, all men, not only Jews, but gentiles. “Pour out your hearts before him.” Make a sincere and open confession of your sins and wretchedness; make all your wants known to him; pray to him to have mercy on you, as Anna did, when she said, “I have poured forth my soul in the sight of the Lord;” and, as a matter of course, “God is our helper forever;” there is no doubt but he will help you.

9 Conscious of the smallness of the number that would follow his advice, he, therefore, inveighs now against the multitude of the wicked, saying, the greater part of men are quite devoid of true wisdom though they apparently abound in it; but it is that wisdom designated by the Scriptures as “the prudence of the flesh;” and, therefore, most men are vain, senseless, and imprudent; because “They are liars in the balances;” in false and fraudulent weights and measures. This observation applies not only to those who are engaged in trade and commerce, but to all mankind; for we, all of us gifted with reason, get that reason as a sort of balance or measure wherewith to distinguish real from apparent good, and then to choose the one, and reject the other. Now, the greater part of mankind, in doing so, miserably deceive themselves and others, by making use of such false measures, and what is worse, by doing so willfully. No one can deny that the greatest evil that can befall man is to commit sin, and thereby deserve hell’s torments; and that the greatest good that can be secured is grace in this life, and happiness in the next; and yet, when we come to weigh to measure one with the other in the balance, temporal gain will generally preponderate; and to secure it, the risk of eternal punishment will be incurred. “That by vanity they may together deceive;” though lies and vanity assume various shapes and forms, they agree in one point, in deceit.

10 He comes again to exhort, and especially against avarice, it being “the root of all evil;” secret frauds being expressed by the word “iniquity,” and open wrongs by the term “robberies;” and he goes farther, in prohibiting even an affection for riches, saying, “If riches abound, set not your heart on them.” St. Augustine beautifully remarks, that they who rob, see their plunder, but they do not see who, at the very moment, robs themselves; that is, the devil, who robs them of their soul. The same Augustine and Basil remark, that when riches abound, they begin to overflow and run away, and the blind and the covetous look only to their abundance, and never consider their flowing, nor perceive it. We are, therefore, reminded “not to set our heart on them,” for fear it, too, may flow with them, and be lost. When riches abound, then, having our hearts firmly and securely fixed on God, we should take care to let the riches flow, but to flow to advantage; like the prudent farmer, who directs the course of the stream to irrigate and enrich his land, but will be most careful in not allowing it to carry himself along.

11–12 He concludes by assigning a reason for not wishing for riches, and for guarding against all manner of sin; God, once for all, in one word, comprising everything. The two things announced to David are God’s power and mercy, for us to fear the one, and love the other; and, secondly, that he will “render to every man according to his works;” that his power will not unjustly oppress anyone nor will his mercy obstruct his justice; and they who seriously reflect on those two points, “and set their hearts on them” may be called the truly wise.

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Psalm 62


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 A just man tells us his first impulse at the dawn of day, and that is to seek God, to desire God, to confess his misery to him. “O God, my God;” my help, my strength, for without you I am nothing, can do nothing. “To thee do I watch by break of day.” The moment I open the eyes of my body, I open those of my mind, to behold you, the increased light; and thus I watch to look for you, instead of looking for the things of this world. I do so, because “For thee my soul hath thirsted;” it longs for thee as its meat and drink; its light and gladness. My flesh thirsts in various ways for thee, the fountain of all good. Though the flesh, properly speaking, cannot be said to thirst for God, it is said to thirst, because by reason of its manifold miseries, it needs his mercy, just as parched land is said to thirst for rain, without which it can produce nothing. Everyone has experienced the necessities, wants, and miseries of our corruptible flesh, which he alone, of whom it is said, “Who heals all your infirmities,” can heal.

2 The characteristics of a desert are three, uninhabited, inaccessible, without water; the second being the effect, and the third the cause, of the first; for a country is generally deserted by reason of a want of water; for that makes the ground dry and barren, and when so deserted and barren, it becomes inaccessible. The prophet means to convey that such uncultivated land, wanting not only the luxuries, but even the necessaries of life, was of great use to him in finding God. For the more the soul is destitute of the goods of this world, or, certainly, the more it takes its affections off them, and betakes itself to a spiritual desert, the more easily it ascends to the contemplation and enjoyment of things celestial. “In that desert land, and where there is no way and no water;” here I come to thee in spirit, raising up my soul to thee, as if I were “in thy sanctuary,” so that the desert became a sanctuary to me, “to see thy power and thy glory.”

3 The word “For” must be referred to the following, and not to the preceding; and the meaning is, I will not only see thy power and thy glory, but my lips shall daily praise you, for your mercy is better to me than life itself; for it was your mercy that gave me that life, that preserves that life; and the same mercy will make that life a much happier one to me, should I lose it for your sake; but if, for the purpose of preserving that life, I should fall from your grace and mercy, I will lose both my life and your mercy.

4 With such daily praise: “I will bless thee my life long;” whatever may befall me, whether in prosperity or adversity, I will bless you forever; “And in thy name I will lift up my hands.” Whenever I invoke your name, I will raise up my hands in prayer, expecting help from you alone in adversity; and, on the other hand, thanking you alone in my prosperity. The custom of raising the hands in prayer was practiced in both the old and the new law; for, when Moses lifted up his hands to God, the people conquered. And the Apostle, 1 Tim. 2, says, “Raising their pure hands.” St. Augustine reminds those who raise their hands to God in prayer, that if they wish to be heard, they should also raise their hands to do good works. Raising the hand also was used by the Jews as a form of oath; thus, we find Abraham saying “I lift up my hand to the Lord God, the Most High, the possessor of heaven and earth, that from the very woof thread unto the shoe latchet, I will not take of anything that are thine.” And, in the Apocalypse 10, “He lifted up his hand to heaven, and swore by him that liveth forever and ever.” The expression, then, may mean, I will swear by your name, and thus worship you alone as the true God.

5 Here is what he asked when he lifted his hands in prayer to God, that his “soul should be filled as with marrow and fatness;” that his soul should become replete with that spiritual marrow and fatness that acts upon the soul as the natural marrow and fatness do upon the body. Those who enjoy it are generally sound, strong, active, ruddy, and good humored; on the other hand, those who lack it are shriveled, weak, deformed, and gloomy; so those who are full of grace, of the spiritual richness here described, are devout, fervent, always in good temper; while, on the contrary, those who have it not, nauseate everything spiritual, are wasted away by listlessness; being quite weak and infirm, they can neither resist anything bad, nor do anything good. St. Augustine properly observes, that while we are in this desert, we cannot ask for and desire the feast of wisdom and justice, which we can only enjoy when we shall have arrived at our country; then will the expression of the Psalm, “And filleth thee with the fat of corn,” be fulfilled, as also that in Mat. 8, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall be filled;” and then, “my mouth,” for praise shall succeed to prayer, shall perfectly, without end, without tiring, praise God, “with joyful lips;” when we shall be so full that we shall want nothing; for, at present, no matter what we have, we always want something still; and thus we must have recourse to daily and constant prayer.

6 Not only in the next life, when “filled with marrow and fatness,” he will praise God with exultation, but also, while in this world, will he remember God and his gifts. “If I have remembered thee upon my bed;” in the depth of the night, as I lay thereon, much more so will I do it by day; and, therefore, “I will meditate on thee in the morning;” I will think and reflect on your power and glory for the following reason:

7–8 No wonder I should always reflect on your power and glory, “because thou hast been my helper,” always remembered me by helping and protecting me. St. Augustine gathers a useful lesson from this passage, for those who, while at their work, wish to remember God and to keep his fear and love before their eyes. To do that, they must, while lying on their bed at night, remember him, and reflect on his mercy and his promises. Most people go through their daily work as if God were not over them at all, and that because they have no fixed time for reflection or meditation. “And I will rejoice under the covert of thy wings.” Having said, “because thou hast been my helper,” for fear he may be considered as looking upon himself as now secure and indifferent as to God’s protection, he now adds, “And I will rejoice under the covert of thy wings.” I will keep myself under the cover of your wings, trusting in your protection. “I will rejoice,” being perfectly secure from the birds of prey. “My soul hath stuck close to thee.” Such protection, so many favors so moved me, that “my soul hath stuck close to thee,” united by a tie of charity so strong, that nothing can separate it; and for fear it may be supposed he was taking credit to himself for being so ardently attached to God, he adds, “Thy right hand hath received me.” I follow you, because you draw me; I love you, because you first loved me, and by loving me made me love you. Happy is he, who, however perfect he may be, ascribes all to God, and like a chicken, shelters himself under God’s wings. More happy is he who can truly say, “my soul hath stuck close to thee,” who, not only puts his trust in the covering of God’s wings, but also loves him so entirely, with his whole heart, that he can say with the Apostle, “Who shall separate me from the love of Christ?” and more happy than that again is he, who, by his own experience, or by the testimony of his conscience, has learned “that thy right hand received me,” for of such the Lord says, “And no man shall snatch them out of my hand. And no one can snatch them out of the hand of my Father, I and the Father are one.”

9–10 In the three last verses the prophet foretells the ultimate destruction and extermination of the persecutors of the just, and the everlasting happiness and felicity of the same just. “But they,” the wicked persecutors, “have sought my soul in vain,” endeavored in vain to have my life, to put me to death; for the wicked persecute the just, with a view of becoming masters of everything, and revel in pleasure and power; but to no purpose, for instead of being masters of the earth, they will be swallowed up by it: and when so condemned to hell, instead of the luxuries, the ease, and enjoyment they set their hearts on, they will never be allowed even a moment’s rest, but will be consigned to eternal punishment, inflicted by the demons who tear them more cruelly than so many ravenous wolves and foxes. “They shall go into the lowest parts of the earth.” See why they labored in vain, they thought to become masters, but instead of that, they will be hurled beneath the earth, into its very heart, and compelled to take up their abode forever in hell. “They shall be delivered into the hands of the sword.” They will have no rest in hell, much less will they enjoy the blessings of the earth, but will be “delivered into the hands of the sword,” given up for torment; for God’s punishments, as coming from a supreme and angry Judge, will be both grievous and interminable “They shall be the portion of foxes.” Instead of lording it over the just, they will be lorded over by the unjust demons, as being now their “lot and inheritance.” These demons are styled foxes, rather than lions or wolves, because they entrap sinners, and enslave them more by the cunning of the fox, than the strength of the lion.

11 How vain have been all the labors of the wicked! They will not only be disappointed in what they set their hearts upon, but they will not be able to deprive the just of their own, for “their king,” Christ, of whom the Jews said, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him,” whose name the pagans, with all their power, endeavored to eradicate, and which is blasphemed by all the wicked, will live and reign forever, and “shall rejoice in God”, sitting in glory on the right hand of the father; and “all they shall be praised (on the day of judgment) that swear by him,” they, who in this life, in spite of all persecution, religiously worship him as the true God, and swear by his name, or rather swear faithful obedience to him. All Christ’s faithful “will be praised,” “because the mouth is stopped of them that speak wicked things.” In the day of judgment, the mouth of all the wicked will be stopped, for then the truth will be manifest, and cannot be demurred to or gainsaid; and then the wicked will exclaim, as we read in Wisdom 5, “Therefore we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of justice hath not shined unto us, and the sun of understanding hath not risen upon us. Behold, how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints.” Thus the just will be praised by their very enemies, when the truth, having been exposed by God’s judgment, shall shut up the mouths of those who now, by their blasphemies, maledictions, calumnies, detractions, reproaches, and lies, “speak evil things.” Some apply those verses to David, others to Christ. Saul and the other enemies of David, who sought to kill him, that they might reign in security, truly “labored in vain,” for they were destroyed, and David had a glorious reign of it. So with the Jews, who sought to put Christ to death, “lest the Romans should come and take away their place and their nation,” they would not have a Lamb for their King, they preferred a fox and a lion together, for the Romans sacked their city, took away their kingdom, nearly annihilated themselves; while Christ rose again, had a glorious reign of it, “and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Table of Contents

Psalm 63


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 As usual, the prophet asks to be heard, and then tells what he wants. “Hear, O God, my prayer, when I make supplication to thee;” grant I may pray not in vain. “Deliver my soul, from the fear of the enemy.” A petition that may be understood in two ways; the first, making him ask to be delivered from the fear of the enemy about to kill him, by removing the cause of his fear; that is, by rendering the enemy either unable or unwilling to kill him, which seems to be the literal explanation. The second explanation makes him ask to be freed from this fear, not by removing the cause of it, but by such an increase of love and constancy as will make him rise above fear, to render him insensible to fear any death but the death by sin, or in other words, that he may “not fear men, that can kill the body and cannot kill the soul, but rather fear him that can destroy both body and soul in hell.” Such is the explanation of St. Augustine, a most useful and spiritual one, for in any tribulation nothing can be better than to be free from the fear of the world, and rooted in the fear of the Lord. In the latter view of it, Christ speaks in the person of his weak members; in the former view of the passage, he seems to have spoken in his own person; for as on the day before his passion, he let himself down to tremble, to fear, and to pray in the garden, saying, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;” so he wished it to be here predicted.

2 Christ now shows that his prayer was heard, and that, as well as he was heard in times past, his members would, in time to come. “Thou hast protected me from the assembly of the malignant.” We know from the Gospel, how often “the princes of the Jews assembled against Jesus to put him to death,” and to extinguish his name and his religion. This was not confined to the princes, for the very soldiers and satellites, “assembled to work iniquity;” that is, to mock, to scourge, to crucify our Savior. Yet God so protected him, that neither the assembly of the malicious Jews, nor the host of gentiles, “workers of iniquity,” could harm him. God, to be sure, suffered Christ’s person to be scourged and flayed, but those scourges and temporal death wrought our salvation, and were turned into glory and triumph, and the beginning made by the head, has been followed up by the members, and will continue to go on, for God protected the martyrs, so that the loss of their lives was not only of no harm to them, but even turned to their everlasting glory; and God will equally protect all the pious, by causing their tribulations and persecutions always to turn to their benefit.

3–4 These verses refer to “the assembly of the malignant,” who fought not with their hands, but with their tongues, that is, by their consultations, accusations, importunities with Pilate to destroy Christ. He compares the language of the malicious Jews to swords and arrows; the former striking openly and close to hand, the latter, from a distance, and without being seen. So with the Jews, they openly slew Christ with the sword of their tongue, when they brought him before the council, and accused him, and condemned him, as if he had been convicted saying, “He is guilty of death;” and afterwards, when they again accused him before Pilate, and over and over insisted on his being crucified. “For they have whetted their tongues like a sword,” to strike him by their cross questions in their examination. “They have bent their bow, a bitter thing.” They not only struck openly at him with the sword, but even in his absence, by private snares and plots they shot their arrows at hire, when they sent so many to him to take advantage of what he said, when they held private conference with Judas the traitor, and when they suborned false witnesses against him. “They have bent their bow a bitter thing,” laid snares that are nothing else but bitter and deadly things. “To shoot in secret the undefiled.” Such was the end, scope, and object of their conspiracy, to show that Christ was a sinner and a false one, which they sought to prove by false and suborned witnesses; that Christ, who was truly immaculate, and came into the world to wipe away the stain of sin from others.

5 Having said that the “assembly of the malignant” had “bent their bow” “to shoot at the undefiled,” he now predicts the certainty of it, from the fact of their being hardened and confirmed in wickedness; for the Holy Ghost foresaw and foretold, the more than incredible obstinacy of the Jews; which prophecy Isaias also predicted, chap. 6, to which St. John alludes in the 12 chap., “They will shoot at him on a sudden.” They will quite unexpectedly shoot their arrows from their ambush, “and will not fear;” will shoot boldly, having no fear of the Lord before them, and no respect for the all seeing eye of God. “They are resolute in wickedness.” They will have no fear in so shooting at the innocent, because they are obstinate and hardened, and have made up their minds to it in the very spirit in which they cried out to Pilate, “He is guilty of death;” and hence, when Pilate afterwards tried all means to divert them from such a crime, they only obstinately cried out, “Crucify him.” “They have talked of hiding snares.” To the obstinacy of the wicked Jews, he now adds their hypocrisy, through which they sought to cover their wickedness and malice, under pretence of allegiance to Caesar. Pilate knew that well; for, as St. Mat. says, “he knew that through envy they had delivered him up;” which they sought to conceal, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding to pay tribute to Caesar,” Luke 23; and again, “If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar’s friend; for, whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar.” The meaning, then, of “They have talked of hiding snares,” is, They said to each other, let us enter into a plot, pretending that we are concerned only for the injury done to Caesar by this man. “Who shall see them?” Who will ever find out what we are at? Who, therefore, shall punish us? As if God does not see everything or as if it were of no consequence to be seen by him, who is the supreme Judge of all.

6 The prophet proceeds in relating and enlarging on the malice of the Jews, who, not content with having recourse to treachery and hypocrisy, had recourse to a most searching investigation to try and make a case out against Christ. Hence, “The chief priest and all the council sought for false testimony against Jesus,” and, though the witnesses did not agree, they said to him, “Do you make no answer to what these testify against you?” “They have searched after iniquities,” then, means, to look out for false testimony, and then, knowingly to act on it, as if it were true. “They have failed in their search,” because they found nothing that bore even the semblance of truth; and, because, through God’s providence they were so struck with blindness, that they should make themselves an object of derision to every one, by bringing forward witnesses to prove to a fact that occurred while the witnesses were asleep; for, they said to the guards on the sepulchre, “Say you, that his disciples came by night, and stole him away when we were asleep.” “Man shall come to a deep heart.” Having entered into the perversity of the wicked enemies of Christ, he now predicts the part Christ himself was to take in these persecutions. “Man shall come to a deep heart;” that is, Christ, as man, “shall come to” offer and give himself up, as one ignorant and infirm, yet having an intimate knowledge of the secrets of their hearts. “Shall come to” all the sufferings they planned in their hearts for him; that is, will patiently and humbly bear all the injuries they, in “a deep heart,” with consummate and deep malice prepared for him. The “deep heart” may be also referred to Christ’s own heart; thus, He will enter into his own deep and profound heart, the heart in which he determined, in the form of a servant, to be abused and ill treated by the Jews, while the form of God, who was to raise him up, lay hid within.

7 While he humbles himself as man, he will be exalted as God; for then, especially, will the wisdom of God be seen superior to the malice of man, when it shall appear that Christ, by his death, conquered death, and by his resurrection, repaired life. “The arrows of children are their wounds.” The power and wisdom of God caused the wounds inflicted on the Savior to harm him just as little as would so many arrows shot from the hands of babies, whose weak and infirm hands can injure no one. And, in fact, what signifies the wounds that were perfectly healed in three days, or rather immediately? for his body rose impassible and immortal.

8 Their calumnies and blasphemies were of no more avail, than if they were so many swords of lead; “they are made weak,” against themselves, to their own detriment and danger, alluding to what he already said of them in the third verse, “For they have whetted their tongues like a sword; they have bent their bow, a bitter thing;” in other words, they labored to whet the sword of their tongue, and to shoot their deadly arrows from their bow; but their tongue became like a sword of lead, and their arrows like those of children. The same may be said of all the persecutors of the martyrs and of the just; for the day of judgment will show how little the cruelty of their persecutors harmed them. “When they shall stand with great constancy against those that have afflicted them.” Wisdom 5. “All that saw them were troubled.” He now tells us the consequence of the arrows of the Jews becoming arrows of children, and their calumnies and contumelies being all refuted by the resurrection of Christ; it was, that “All that saw them were troubled.” The Jews were astonished and confounded when they heard from the Apostles that he whom they had put to death had risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven, would come to judge the living and the dead; and saw what they heard confirmed by great signs from heaven.

9 All who had the right use of their reason began to tremble, to fear, and to say, “Men brethren what shall we do?” Of such holy fear St. Luke writes, Acts 2. “And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the Apostles in Jerusalem, and there was great fear in all.” “And they declared the works of God.” Those seized with such holy fear, especially the Apostles, who were in such terror when Christ arose and first appeared to them. “They declared the works of God;” began at once to preach his incarnation, passion, resurrection, doctrine, and miracles, “and understood his doings.” The word “and” is often used in the Scripture as it is here, to signify “because.” The Apostles, then, instructed by Christ, who after his resurrection, “opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures,” as also by the Holy Ghost, who descending on them, “taught them all truth,” John 16; they “understood his doings,” and announced them to the whole world.

10 The consequence of such preaching by the Apostles will be, that every one truly justified, that is, every one changed from a wicked to a just man, will thenceforth “rejoice in the Lord, and shall hope in him;” having shaken off all servile and worldly fear, “for the fruit of the spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity,” Gal. 5; and, ultimately, “all the upright in heart shall be praised;” all who shall have persevered in justice, and thus, had their hearts directed to God; who relished nothing, sought nothing, but what was pleasing to him; they will be praised by God in the great theater of the whole world; while, on the contrary, in the very same theater will the perverse in heart, be overwhelmed with intolerable confusion.

Table of Contents

Psalm 64


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Speaking in the person of the prophet of God, the prophet sets out from a principle most true in itself, from which he infers that their desire of returning to their own country is most just and rational. The principle is, that it is right for them to praise God, and pay their vows in Jerusalem. Praise is due to a good thing, and the highest praise to the supreme good; and this praise ought to be given where this supreme good is well known. Now, God was not known in Babylon, but he was known in Jerusalem; and it was, therefore, there the people ought to praise him. In like manner, vows, especially those which promised sacrifices, should be paid where there was a temple and an altar on which to offer them, which were to be found in Jerusalem only; and there therefore, should their vows be paid. Hence, he justly infers that God’s people have a right to long for, and to ask for, a return to their country. If such be true as regards a return to the terrestrial Jerusalem, much more true is it in reference to that celestial Jerusalem, where there is a much clearer idea of the extent of God’s goodness; where the tabernacle is not made by the hands, nor the altar of gold; but one on which all the citizens of Jerusalem offer themselves, lighting up with the fire of the most ardent love, as a holocaust to God. “A hymn, O God, becometh thee in Sion.” It is most meet that your people should sing your praises “in Sion,” where your greatness is well known, and not in a foreign land, where gods of sticks and stones, of gold and silver, are praised. “And a vow shall be paid to thee in Jerusalem.” It is meet that the same people should pay their vows of thanksgiving in Jerusalem, where your favors, and the vows of sacrifices are understood, where there is a temple and an altar dedicated to your name; and not in Babylon, where your favors are not acknowledged, and where there are neither altars nor temples, but those of idols; “For all the gods of the gentiles are devils,” Psalm 95.

2 From the fact of praise in Jerusalem being due to God, the people pray that God may grant them to return from captivity to praise him in Jerusalem; and not only that, but that all mankind may be converted to God, and come by faith to the terrestrial Jerusalem, the Church, and afterwards (in reality) to the celestial Jerusalem; for, as God “wishes all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” so his people desire and pray that all men may come to know and praise him. “Hear my prayer;” asking that, through your help, I may, as quickly as possible, sing a hymn to you in Sion, and pay you a vow in Jerusalem. “All flesh shall come to thee.” If you hear me I will not be alone, but all men will come and praise you, and pay you their vows. That is my wish and my desire, and, as far as in me lies, I will labor to carry it out, by my words and by my example. “All flesh” means all men, as is clear from many passages in Scripture, Gen. 6, “All flesh hath corrupted its way;” Joel 2, “I will pour out from my spirit on all flesh;” Isaias 40, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God;” Mat. 24, “If those days had not been shortened, all flesh would not be saved.”

3 Another reason for God’s people asking to be released from their captivity, and to be restored to their country, and that is, because it was the sins of their parents, and not their own, that brought such a calamity on them. At the end of the captivity, nearly all the Jews then in Babylon had been born there; and thus, it was only to the sins of their parents that the punishment could be attributed; just as we are indebted to our first parents for the captivity we are in to the devil. “The words of the wicked have prevailed over us;” that means, the wickedness of our progenitors has lighted on our heads, and weighed us down under the yoke of a most severe captivity; but you, most merciful Father, “wilt pardon our transgressions;” both those we have inherited from our parents, and to which, in imitation of their example, ourselves have made considerable additions. We have interpreted the, “words of the wicked,” as if read “the works of the wicked;” the former being not infrequently used in the Scripture to signify the latter. Thus, in Luke 2, “Let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us;” and in Psalm 21, “The words of my sins;” Psalm 104, “And he gave them words of signs;” and 2 Kings 1, “What is the word that is come to pass, tell me.”

4 A third reason for God’s people desiring and praying to be brought back to their country, taken from the happiness to be enjoyed there. “Happy is he whom thou hast chosen” from eternity, and in time raised to the dignity of becoming “fellow citizens with the saints and the domestics of God,” for “he shall dwell in thy courts;” that is, in thy house, a part being put for the whole. “We shall be filled with the good things of thy house, holy is thy temple.” Buoyed up now with hope, God’s people already number themselves among the blessed who dwell in his house, and say, that in that house they will have blessings in abundance, to such an extent, that nothing will be left to look for, which, applicable as it may be, either to the terrestrial Jerusalem, or to the Church militant, still, absolutely speaking, is applicable alone to our home in heaven. “We shall be filled with the good things of thy house;” we shall be so filled, that nothing can be said to be wanting, we shall have nothing to look for outside. What can be wanting in the house of him who made everything, who is the master of everything, who will be “all unto all,” in whom is an inexhaustible treasure of good? Of him is said, in Psalm 102, “Who satisfieth thy desire with good things;” and in Psalm 16, “We shall be satisfied when thy glory shall appear.” “Holy is thy temple.” In that holy city of Jerusalem, what will be most wonderful and worthy of love will be, that we will dwell in God as if in a house, and he will dwell in his temple; and thus, we will be his house, and he our house, according to the expression in John 15, “Remain in me and I in you;” and again, 1 John 4, “And he that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him.” And if such reciprocity of habitation commences in this world, on the way, it will certainly be carried to a much greater extent in the other world, our true country.

5 It is a really wonderful thing to see men born in sin, and so prone to sin, that Psalm 8 says of them, “They are corrupt, and become abominable in their ways, there is none that doeth good, no not one;” and Prov. 24, “For a just man shall fall seven times;” and in Psalm 142, “For in thy sight no man living shall be justified;” who, however, afterwards arrives at such a degree of sanctity and justice as not only to have no sin to account for, but even will never have any to account for; and thus becoming a holy temple on which the very Angels in heaven look with admiration. “Hear us, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth, and in the sea afar off.” He returns to prayer, assigning a fresh reason for his being heard, because God is a Savior, and all nations hope in him. “Hear us, O God,” when we ask to be freed from captivity, and brought back to our country, and we ask with confidence, for you are “our Savior,” who often saved us from our enemies and our persecutors; you are also “the hope of all the ends of the earth;” all nations hope in thee, even in the islands, “in the sea afar off.” The prophet had the conversion of all nations in view when he spoke thus, and speaks in the present tense, as if the thing were actually accomplished.

6–7 Another reason, drawn from the great power of God, who can easily, if he will deliver his people from captivity, and bring them back to their country, from which they had been expelled. He proves God’s omnipotence, from two contraries. From his having so firmly founded the earth, that no storm can stir its mountains; and, on the contrary, made the waters so liquid and moveable that every breeze, however slight, will stir them. “Thou who prepares” the mountains by thy strength,” raising the highest mountains by your power; “being girded with power,” having power on all sides, all round you, to raise those mountains. “Who troubles” the depth of the sea, the noise of its waves,” stirring up the depths of the sea, and making its billows to roar. “The gentiles shall be troubled.” As well as God’s power is seen in the stability of the mountains and the fluctuation of the sea, so his wisdom is displayed in now terrifying, now gladdening the human race. “The gentiles shall be troubled,” the whole human race, as he explains more fully in the next verse.

8 All manner of people, even to the remotest quarter of the globe, will be confused and will be afraid “at thy signs,” at your coruscations, thunder and lightning, as we read in 1 Kings 2, “The adversaries of the Lord shall fear him; and upon them shall be thunder in the heavens;” for nothing is more terrific, more alarming, no one thing makes the stoutest heart quail more than God’s thunder. Yet, that same God, by the rising and setting of the sun, gives wonderful gladness to man. When the sun rises, with what glee do they not turn out to their work? and when it sets, how sweet for them to rest and draw their breath! Again, what can be more beautiful than a glorious sunrise; nothing but the same sky, studded in the evening with countless stars, like so many precious jewels. “Thou shalt make the out goings of the morning and of the evening to be joyful.”

9 Having praised the power and the wisdom of God, he now comes to praise his goodness, especially shown in the admixture of earth and water; from which all the fruits of the earth spring, and without which life cannot be supported. The earth without water, and the water without earth, are quite unproductive. “Thou hast visited the earth,” which of itself “was empty and void;” but by your visit became rich and full. God’s visit was effective, and was not simply a vision of it, but a provision for it; and he tells how, when he adds, “and hast plentifully watered it;” abundantly irrigated it, and, by such irrigation, “Thou hast many ways enriched it;” made it exceedingly rich, and stored with abundance of good things. “The river of God is filled with water;” a fuller explanation of the manner in which the earth was enriched. The rivulets were filled with water, which nourished and fertilized the fields, and made them yield their fruits to support man and beast.

10 The same goodness of God extolled in different language; as much as to say, Go on, O Lord, saturate the fields, and thereby multiply the fruits of the earth, so as to be glad itself, and to gladden others.

11 By thy blessing thou shalt so benefit the whole circle of the year, that it will be like a crown daily ornamented with fresh flowers; and thus, always renewed, and, through such blessing, “thy fields,” thus enriched, “will be filled with plenty;” with an abundance of all good things.

12 Not only will the plains and the arable lands yield abundant crops, but even the desert, fit for pasture only, and beautiful by reason of the multitude of herbs and natural flowers, will be enriched, and “grow fat,” by the dews of heaven; and so will the “hills,” hitherto barren and uncultivated, they too will be clothed with such verdant herbage that on all sides all things will seem to be glad and to rejoice.

13 To sum up; there will be the greatest abundance and multiplication of cattle, as well as of the fruits of the earth. The lambs are now become sheep, the desert places now abound in sheep, and the valleys in corn; and all places, whether hills or valleys, whether cultivated or uncultivated, whether cattle or corn, all, in their own way, cry out in praise of God, and in their own language, sing their hymn of praise to their creator and benefactor. Now, all created things, in their own way, cry out and sing God’s praise, in order that man, for whose use and benefit they were created; may, mentally and orally, praise the same God, and return him thanks without ceasing. All these things were chanted by the holy prophet, in praise of the power, wisdom, and goodness of God, in order that he may be able to argue from thence that he ought to hope for, and to ask for, the delivery of his people from captivity, and their restoration to their country.

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Psalm 65


Explanation Of The Psalm

1–2 He invites the whole earth, that is, all the elect therein, to be glad, and to sing to God; all having common reason to rejoice in the resurrection of the just. He wishes three things to be exhibited in doing so: jubilation or gladness; the sound of the psaltery; and the human voice. Jubilation or gladness, which consists more in the interior affections than in words, is properly given to God. “Shout with joy to God;” for God, being a spirit, naturally regards such spiritual desire. The sound of the psaltery is due to his name; that is, to his fame, his glory. Finally, the human voice is to be employed in his praise. “Give glory to his praise;” take no glory to yourselves, give all to his praise.

3 The subject of God’s praise is to be the works of his supreme power and wisdom. “Say unto God,” when you wish to praise him, “How terrible are thy works, O Lord!” that is, thy works, by reason of their magnitude, strike terror into all. “In the multitude of thy strength thy enemies shall lie to thee;” such is thy power and strength, that you make liars of all your enemies, who boasted of your inability to do things of no great consequence. Numerous examples of this occur in the Scriptures. In Psalm 77 we read, “And they spoke ill of God, they said: Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?” Yet God, in his supreme power, sent such a quantity of quails into the desert as abundantly sufficed to feed them all; thus proving them liars, and for which he inflicted dreadful punishment on them. In like manner, when Eliseus the prophet, on the occasion of a most grievous famine, said, “Hear ye the word of the Lord: tomorrow, about this time, a bushel of fine flour shall be sold for a stater, in the gate of Samaria;” and one of the lords replied, “If the Lord should make flood gates in heaven, can that possibly be which thou sayest?” Yet God in his power proved him a liar, too; for it turned up that on the following day a bushel of fine flour was actually sold for a stater, and that lord, who so contradicted the prophet, was trampled on at the gate by the people, and met a miserable end. Such also were the lies of the Jews, when they insulted the Savior, as he hung on his cross, saying, “If thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Yet he, in his supreme power, wrought a much greater miracle; for he rose from the grave, which was a much greater work than to descend from the cross.

4–5 The prophet again stirs up all mankind to adore and praise God in the sincerity of their hearts; and, to do so with greater affection, he exhorts them to reflect on God’s works, and how terrible he is in his dealings with mankind.

6 He gives two examples of God’s wonderful acts, such as never could have been accomplished by human design. “Who turneth the sea into dry land.” The first miracle, recorded in Exodus, “And the children of Israel went through the midst of the sea dried up;” “In the river they shall pass on foot.” The second miracle, recorded in Josue 3, where God so dried up the Jordan, that the children of Israel required neither bridge nor boat to pass over, but went across dry on foot. “There shall we rejoice in him;” where those things have been done; there we have rejoiced in him, not taking any credit to ourselves as if they were our acts, but rejoicing and glorying in God, and have praised him, as may be seen in Exod. 15 and Josue 3. The prophet uses the future for the past, unless, perhaps, he meant to insinuate that these miracles would be succeeded by much greater ones, of which they were only the types and figures. A much greater miracle is that men should pass over the bitter sea of this life, and cross the river of mortality, that never ceases to run, and which swallow up and drown so many; and still come safe and alive to the land of eternal promise, and there rejoice in God himself, beholding him face to face; and yet this greater miracle is so accomplished by God, that many pass through this sea as if it were dry land, and cross this river with dry feet; that is to say, having no difficulty in despising all things temporal, be they good or be they bad; that is to say, being neither attached to the good things, nor fearing the evil things of this world, that they may arrive in security at the heavenly Jerusalem, where we will rejoice in him, not in hope, but in complete possession, for eternity.

7 This seems a digression addressed to the wicked, who despise submission to God, and refuse to praise him, for he reminds them of the omnipotence and the omniscience of God, “who by his power ruleth forever.” He rules with universal sway, and that of himself, and not by reason of having received power from any other; and also, “his eyes behold the nations,” sees them all, and from aloft notes what they are doing; and, therefore, “let not them that provoke him be exalted in themselves,” let them not be proud, or glory in their own strength, because they will not escape the hands of an all powerful, all seeing God.

8 After such digression, he now repeats the exhortation he made in the first and fourth verses, and now (the third time) he invites all nations to bless our God, who is the only true God, and to chant his praise with a voice so loud that it may be heard by all.

9 He now tells us the reason why he is so extremely anxious that God should be praised by all, and that is, because he saved him from the greatest dangers. “Who hath set my soul to live.” I wish God should be praised, because he saved my soul, and suffered me not to stumble or to fall. Such is the language of the elect on their arrival, through many and various temptations, at the port of safety. “My soul,” means the entire man, which is a most common expression in the Scriptures. “Who hath set,” signifies, preordained or predestinated to life eternal, or set me in the number of those who are to live forever. “And hath not suffered my feet to be moved;” has given me the gift of perseverance, which especially belongs to the predestined, for God protects and directs, so that they may not fall to the right or to the left, those whom he predestines.

10 The prophet explains the tribulations of the just by various metaphors, the first taken from the furnace in which silver is refined, to show that God suffers the just to undergo persecution, not for the purpose of harming them, but to prove them, that they may be shown to be proved, and pure, faithful, and sincere. For fire consumes straw, makes gold and silver more pure. Straw smokes in the fire, silver shines. Hence, the Angel said to Tobias, “Because thou wert acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee;” and in Wisdom 3, “God tempted them and found them worthy of him, like gold in a furnace he proved them;” and in Eccli. 27, “The furnace trieth the potter’s vessels, and the trial of affliction just men;” and 1 St. Peter 1, “That the trial of your faith, much more precious than gold which is tried by the fire, may be found unto praise, and glory, and honor, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

11 He now enters into particular afflictions, making use of various metaphors. “Thou hast brought us into a net,” you have handed us over to our enemies, who bound us with chains, manacles, and fetters, and threw us into prison; for as birds and wild beasts, when caught in a snare, are deprived of their liberty, so it may be said, that men, when deprived of their liberty, and shut up in prison, are bound with chains and fetters, “Thou hast laid afflictions on our back;” suffered us to be loaded and lashed, like so many wild beasts of burden, alluding to the various labors and hardships imposed by the wicked on the just, when they were forced to go down into mines, to hew marble, to carry heavy loads, and be stripped and lashed while so harassed and tormented.

12 You made men trample on our heads, as if we were captives of war; which also is metaphorical, to give us an idea of the tyranny and cruelty exercised by princes over their wretched subjects. Just and considerate princes are placed on the heads, or rather over their subjects; but they press so lightly on them, that the weight of obedience is scarcely felt; while cruel tyrants and inhuman princes, such as were the early persecutors of the Christians, such as Pharao of Egypt, and Nabuchodonosor of Assyria, so oppress their subjects by exactions, by edicts, pains and punishments, that they can scarcely breathe. The prophet shows most skillfully in this verse, how no part of the persons of the just is free from suffering; the hands and feet suffer from the snares; the back from the heavy loads; and the head from being trampled on. “We have passed through fire and water;” the last of those beautiful figures made use of by the prophet, to give us an idea of the sufferings of the saints. Fire and water are too opposites; fire burns, water gets congealed; the former is most active; the latter, most soft and easy. Fire dries up water, and water extinguishes fire; and therefore, when a man gets burned, water is applied to cool and to heal him; and yet, where there is question of afflicting the servants of God, both fire and water seem to conspire; the one to consume him, the other to suffocate him. By fire, then, we are to understand the more active punishments, such as stripes, wounds, burning, etc.; and by water, the slow, but constant punishments, such as exile, imprisonment, nakedness, hunger. But, as fire will consume wood, and will not consume gold, so also water will cause wood to rot and decay, and will not harm gold; and, as gold is purged of its dross by fire, so it is cleansed of all exterior dirt by fire. The just and the holy, then, who may be compared to gold, pass through fire and water without suffering any harm; because, in their tribulation, they keep their patience; and in their prosperity, their moderation; but the children of this world, like rotten timber, are consumed in the fire, or crumbled in the water; because, being unable to bear their troubles with patience, they murmur, they rail, they blaspheme; while, in their prosperity, they revel in all manner of luxury, pride, and effeminacy. The elect, therefore, say, “We have passed through fire and water, and thou hast brought us out into a refreshment;” because in our heavenly country there will be no lack of fire and water; that fire, however, in warming will refresh us, instead of destroying us in its fury; and that water, while it extinguishes our thirst, will not take away our life. We will thus be refreshed by both in their own way; that is to say, in heaven we shall have the fire of charity, which will heat without harming, perfecting instead of destroying; transforming us into God, instead of turning us into ashes. There will be an abundance of water; the real and eternal truths, the immense joys, and the ineffable pleasures; but such as will not enervate or weaken the soul, or stir up the concupiscence of the flesh against the spirit; and finally, will delight it by refreshing it, without suffocating it by excess.

13 This verse seems to be a conclusion from the preceding; as if he said, As you have brought us through fire and water, into a place of refreshment, “I will go into thy house,” for you led me to it, protected me in the way; and I will go “with burnt offerings;” I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving, for holocausts were offered only in thanksgiving. And, in fact, in no place is a more perfect holocaust offered than in heaven, where all the saints, lighted up with the fire of the purest love, and with the full affections of the soul, offer themselves unreservedly to God; for the whole study, the whole business of the just in heaven will be to praise God. “I will pay thee my vows.” Such a holocaust is due to you, for I promised it when I was in trouble. I will, therefore, enter into your house with burnt offerings, that I may discharge the vows that have been made; not by any one else, but which I distinctly promised with my own lips.

14–15 He tells what were the vows he promised in his trouble, and says he promised the richest sacrifices of cattle that could be made according to the law. These were three, rams, cows, and goats. Rams included lambs, cows included heifers, and goats, kids. “And my mouth had spoken when I was in trouble;” that is to say, I said “I will pay thee my vows,” which my lips have uttered when I was in trouble, and needed the divine assistance, and, with tears, implored his help. “Holocausts full of marrow, with burnt offerings of rams.” I will sacrifice fat lambs full of marrow, with a fragrant odor from the rams that will be slain along with them, and burnt as a holocaust. “I will offer to thee bullocks with goats;” to the holocaust of lambs and rams I will add another of bullocks and goats.

16 Speaking in the person of God’s elect, the prophet now exhorts us all to understand God’s favors, conferred by him on the saints, and their return for them, that in imitation of them we, too, may receive similar favors, and thus, in the end, arrive at the same rest and glory. “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what great things he hath done for my soul.” Come, all you who fear God, and hear me, and I will tell you what he has done for me. Observe the invitation given to those only “who fear God”, because, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;” he loosens the feet, opens the ears; and, therefore, he who has no fear of God will be called to no purpose, either to come or to hear.

17 Here is the first gift of God conferred on the soul, as announced by the assembly of the elect, supposed to speak here. This much God “has done for my soul;” given me faith and the spirit of prayer. For, “how shall they invoke him in whom they have not believed?” Through faith, then, I learned the wretched captivity in which I was held, and I learned who was my Savior and my Redeemer; and thus, “I cried to him with my mouth.” He now mentions a second favor, “And I extolled him with my tongue;” I not only prayed to my God, but I praised him, returned him thanks for the favors conferred, that thereby I may get fresh ones, sadly wanting to me. And all these acts of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving were the work of God’s own grace.

18 The third favor received from the Lord consisted in light to know the obstacles to his prayers being heard. “If I have looked at iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” To look at iniquity in the heart means to love it in secret, or to indulge in secret concupiscence, as we find in the Gospel, “Whosoever shall look upon a woman to lust after her.” For very many, both by their words and their acts, seem to have a thorough horror of sin, reprove and chastise sinners, and yet, in their hearts, where nobody can be a witness, they cherish sinful desires, and would gratify them if they could with impunity. Such hypocrites are not heard by God; he hears those only who hate iniquity in their heart, and, if they should chance to sin, confess it, and seek the physician who can heal them; and, whereas all the elect consist of such persons, the prophet therefore adds, in their name:

19 Because he is a searcher of hearts, God saw me sincerely sorry for my sins, and, so far from “looking at iniquity in my heart,” that I turned away from it in perfect horror. “And hath attended to the voice of my supplication;” because he saw me attending to the voice of his commandments, and not to the voice of the evil one, prompting me to wickedness.

20 May that God be praised and blessed forever who heaped such unbounded favors on me, the principal one being that he “hath not turned away my prayer,” nor taken away “his mercy from me.” Thus, through his mercy, I have persevered in the way of his commandments, have already obtained the reward of such perseverance, namely, deliverance from captivity, and a return to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Table of Contents

Psalm 66


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 With desire and earnestness David exclaims, “May God have mercy on us,” according to the great mercy that prompts him to send a Savior to us; and may he in such mercy “bless us,” which blessing we pray may not be confined to the things of this world, but “may he cause the light of his countenance to shine upon us,” which may be variously interpreted. First, God is said to make “the light of his countenance shine upon us,” when, having removed the clouds of his anger and indignation, he regards us with a look of benignity, as children, as friends, as restored to grace. Again, he is said to “cause the light of his countenance to shine upon us,” when, by the infusion of wisdom and love, he enlightens and warms us, as the sun is wont to do when no cloud intervenes. Finally, he is said to cause the light of his countenance to shine upon us when it pleases him to let us see him to a certain extent; which he did through the mystery of the Incarnation, when “He was seen upon earth, and conversed with men,” Baruch 3. And such seems to be the prayer of the prophet here, that God should show his countenance, if not in the form of God, at least in the form of man. He puts up the same petition in Psalm 79, where he says, “Thou that sittest upon the Cherubim shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasses.” And this being the mercy he originally asked, he, therefore, repeats, “and may he have mercy on us;” that means, may he, by such light, have mercy on us.

2 The reason why he so ardently longs for the light of God’s countenance is, that through that divine light we may, in this land of darkness know the way to God, to our country from which we have been so long exiled in darkness and the shade of death; which way most undoubtedly is Christ himself, who says, “I am the way;” and not only the way, but the light through which it is to be known, of which Isaias, chap. 9, says, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death light is risen.”—”Thy salvation in all nations” explains the first part of the verse, that the Savior may be known among all nations.

3 The prophet’s desires being in accordance with true charity, he wished that Christ should come upon earth; first, for the glory of God, then, for the benefit of mankind; and in this verse, therefore, he prays that all manner of people should praise, thank, and glorify him for so great and so universal a favor; that all worship and veneration of false gods should cease, and the one true God alone be acknowledged by all.

4 Next to the glory of God, let the benefit of mankind be acknowledged; and, therefore, “let the nations be glad and rejoice;” let all manner of people rejoice; “for thou,” through Christ, “judgest the people with justice;” you have destroyed the power of the tyrannical prince of darkness, and established the just authority of the Church in its stead. “And directest the nations upon earth;” governing and guiding them, by your most wholesome laws, to the harbor of life everlasting.

5–6 He again exhorts the people to praise God, assigning as an additional reason, that “the earth hath yielded her fruit;” that means, that the earth had at length yielded that fruit, to yield which she was created, namely, Christ in the flesh. For this is the fruit of which Isaias speaks when he says, “In that day the bud of the Lord shall be in magnificence and glory, and the fruit of the earth shall be high;” and in Psalm 84, “Our earth hath yielded its fruit;” fruit of such value, that, when compared to it, the earth seems never before to have yielded anything but thorns and briars.

7 Henceforth will come the agreeable change, that God will open his hands, and replenish us with all manner of blessings, spiritual ones especially; and, on the other hand, all men, in the utmost quarters of the globe, will fear the true God with a holy fear, and will pay him the tribute of obedience and praise. The name of God, three times repeated here, while it shows the strong affections of the prophet, would also seem to foreshadow the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, which was so clearly preached by Christ and his Apostles.

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Psalm 67


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 Such were the words used by Moses on the raising of the ark when the people were about to proceed on their journey, containing a prayer to God, that as the ark was raised and was carried before the people, he too may deign to rise up and defend and protect his people on their journey. David, then, in imitation of Moses, and having a prophetic knowledge of Christ’s resurrection, through which his human nature was to be raised, and to make him the future leader of all the elect to the land of promise, exclaims, “Let God arise.” Let Christ, who is God, arise from the dead, and precede his people to the heavenly Jerusalem. “Let his enemies be scattered;” that is, the Jews, who said, “We will not have this man to reign over us;” which has been literally carried out; for no nation was ever so scattered over the world as that of the Jews. “And let them that hate him flee from before his face.” Let his enemies, the demons now conquered and routed, fly before the face of God, now in triumph, and proving by his resurrection that he is the real true God.

2 The celerity and facility with which the presence of Christ scatters sinners could not be more expressively conveyed than by comparing them to the smoke that is dispelled by the wind, or wax that melts before the fire, and is consumed by it. If we understand the “wicked” here to apply to the demons, then we must not take it that they “perish,” strictly speaking; but, that they are so deprived of all strength and power as to render them perfectly harmless. If we apply the word “wicked” to men, the meaning will be, that the oppressors of the just will be quickly and severely punished by God.

3 The consequence of this signal punishment of the wicked will be, that the just, who have been so supported by God, “will feast;” will be refreshed in soul and body, and will “rejoice before God;” will give full vent to their joy; but, with such modesty and gravity, as becomes those who know that God’s eyes are always on them; “and be delighted with gladness;” will find such pleasure in their gladness, that they will have no occasion to turn to any carnal or dangerous pleasure.

4 These words are addressed to the Apostles and the first converts to Christianity. “Sing ye to God,” ye the first of the believers. “Sing a psalm to his name;” praise God by works and words for having deigned to make you cognizant of such mysteries; “make a way for him who ascendeth upon the west.” By your preaching prepare the way of the Lord, so that he who has already ascended upon the west, and has risen above all corruption and mortality, and is about to take up his abode, through faith, in the hearts of all nations, may, through your preaching, find the way prepared and open. “The Lord is his name;” and, therefore, has a right to rule; and he is Lord by right of creation, as well as of redemption. The words, “make a way,” do not mean, retire, but they mean, to make a road, a passage, where there was none before; by removing every obstacle, as it is said in Isaias, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord;” which he explains when he adds, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be lowered;” thereby inspiring the timid with confidence to raise themselves up in the hope of salvation; and taking down the proud through the fear of God’s judgments. The word “ascendeth” does not mean to ascend or rise up, but to be carried along on an exalted, elevated place, as appears from the Hebrew, from which, too, we learn that the words, “upon the west,” signify darkness, or a desert; to signify the corruption of human nature, that is full of drought and darkness. Christ, then, in his resurrection, is said “to ascend upon the west;” because, to a certain extent he is carried along, and rides triumphantly over death, darkness, and the desert of this world below. Such is the explanation of most of the holy fathers. “Rejoice ye before him;” you who have prepared his way, do not fear your persecutors, for “they shall be troubled;” at the fitting time, on the day of judgment, or, perhaps before, when God shall see it fit and opportune, “they shall be troubled,” and that severely.

5 No wonder they should be punished severely, for God has special charge of the oppressed, the orphan, the widow, and all afflicted; but especially the orphan and the widow; in a spiritual sense, that is, those who acknowledge no father, no spouse, in this world, but God alone, confide in him alone, love him alone, and long for the day when they shall see him; and, therefore, it is with them that he mostly dwells, and their hearts are “his holy place.”

6 Such as the primitive Christians, of one mind, one will, one faith, hope, and love, of whom the Acts say, they were “One soul, one heart;” “who bringeth out them that were bound in strength.” Behold God’s great love, who not only “maketh men of one manner to dwell in a house,” but he also “bringeth out them that were bound in strength;” that is, by the strength of his arm brings from captivity those that were bound in the chains of sin; and, what is more wonderful, “them that provoke” God by their incredulity; “that dwell,” as if they were dead, “in sepulchres” of the deepest iniquity; even such people, by the power of his grace, he brings out of their sepulchres, restores them to life, and “makes them to dwell of one manner in a house.” St. Augustine notes a difference between the bound and the buried. The bound are they who are caught in the chains of concupiscence; but, are anxious to be loosed, and pray for help thereto. The buried are they who come to the very lowest grade of iniquity, and when they do, despise salvation altogether, and exasperate God greatly thereby; and still God’s great love sometimes softens both one and the other, brings them to penance, and frees them from the slavery of the devil, the greatest ever known or thought of.

7–8 To make the benefits of the redemption of Christ more credible, he reminds them of past benefits, which were only types of the future. “O God, when thou didst go forth in the sight of thy people;” when you went before your people as a pillar of cloud by day, and as a pillar of fire by night; when you were going through the desert, after having passed the Red Sea, then “the earth was moved, and the heavens dropped.” It was moved when it began to tremble at the sight of God descending on mount Sinai, as we read in Exodus 19, where it is said, “And all the mount was terrible,” the Hebrew for which means trembling, or leaping. He is God of Sinai, by reason of his having appeared thereon. “The heavens dropped,” when manna fell from them; “at the presence of the God of Israel,” to show it was for the use of the people that the heavens did so drop.

9 The heavens dropped a certain rain, the manna, to our fathers in the desert; but you “have set aside a free rain;” a rain that descends freely; the grace of the Holy Ghost, which is called free or voluntary, because it does not descend by reason of our merits, as the rain is collected through exhalations from the earth; but is freely poured into the hearts of the faithful by the influence of the Holy Ghost; and it is said to be “set aside for thy inheritance,” because temporal blessings are common to all, faithful and infidels; but the grace of the Holy Ghost is set aside that it may be imparted to the faithful only, members of the Church, out of which there is no salvation. “And it was weakened, but thou hast made it perfect.” The word “and” has the force of the word “because;” and thus, the meaning is, because your inheritance was weakened through ignorance, and through concupiscence, in the worship of idols, and in the indulgence in all manner of vice, you have, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, confirmed and strengthened it by a salutary rain.

10 In that inheritance, the Church, which is irrigated by the water of heaven, “shall thy animals dwell;” the sheep of your flock, that you undertook to provide for and to feed; for you, O God, “hast provided” food, for instance, “for the poor,” for your people in want; “in thy sweetness,” agreeable to your goodness and mercy, that is always most sweet to the wretched and the needy.

11 He informs them what sort is the food that the Lord had prepared for his poor people; and says the food is his word. “The Lord shall give the word to them that preach good tidings;” the Lord will confer fluency of speech on those who preach his word, which is the food of souls; “with great power;” with such strength and efficacy that their adversaries will not be able to resist or to contradict them.

12 The king of great armies is also the king of the beloved of the beloved; that means of the most beloved, meaning Christ, most beloved by God and man; “and the beauty of the house,” in order to decorate and beautify his house, the Church; “shall divide spoils,” the spoils of the gentiles, brought to the true faith by the preaching of the Apostles.

13 A most obscure verse; but the general opinion of the fathers seems to be, that “lots” mean an inheritance, a possession; and that he thus addresses the Apostles, “If you,” who preach the Gospel, “sleep,” that is, rest between the two Testaments, the Old and New; acknowledging the authority of the prophets, as well as of the Apostles; then the “wings of the dove,” the faith and morals of the Church, shall “be covered with silver,” in the purity of wisdom, and “gilded” with the fervor of charity.

14–16 The prophet having compared the preachers of the Old and New Testament to “those who sleep among the lots,” and having compared the Church to a silvered and gilded dove, now compares the same preachers to a number of princes appointed by the supreme King, and the Church to a very high mountain, whitened with snow, and abounding in cattle giving milk. Mount Selmon is a very high mountain, having its summit always covered with snow, but in the bottom exceedingly rich and fertile. He therefore says, “When he that is in heaven,” Christ, who is God, the celestial, all powerful King, “appointeth,” divides and separates the provinces, appointing a prince over each; “kings over her;” the Apostles, who were placed over the Church, called previously the silvered dove; for, as he said in Psalm 44, “Thou shalt make them princes over all the earth,” to guide and govern the people. “They shall be whited with snow in Selmon;” then many people will be converted, and the darkness of their sins having been changed into the brightness of virtue, they shall be made more white than the snow on mount Selmon, the type of the Church. The same mount Selmon is “the mountain of God, a fat mountain;” for the Church, by reason of its dignity is like a mountain, it is the “mountain of God,” for God dwelleth in her, and chose a habitation for himself in her, and she is “a fat mountain,” abounding in the graces and gifts of the Holy Ghost. She is also “a curdled mountain,” because the milk of divine grace never fails or flows away, but remains as it were, curdled in her. “Why suspect, ye curdled mountains?” Why do ye suspect or imagine that there are any other mountains equally rich or curdled? There are no mountains as rich or as curdled as Selmon. For this is the only “mountain in which God is well pleased to dwell;” for his abode in it will not be temporary, as it was in Sinai, but “There the Lord shall dwell unto the end;” that is, forever. Hence it is vain for other mountains to rival, or to contend with it, or to envy it. Of this mountain we read in Isaias, chap. 2, “And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it: and many people shall go and say: Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths;” all of which certainly applies to the Church.

17–18 The prophet now draws a comparison between God’s descent on mount Sinai, to give the old law to the Jewish people; and Christ’s ascension to heaven, to send from thence the gifts of the Holy Ghost and the new law to Christians; with a view to show the source of so much milk and brightness in the Church. “The chariot of God is attended by ten thousands.” The chariot in which God rode when he descended on Sinai was drawn by an infinite number of Angels, not groaning or laboring under the load, but, “of them that rejoice,” delighted at having the honor of bearing their Master; “for the Lord is among them;” he was sitting “in Sinai in the holy place.” Of those holy Angels who descended with him, Moses speaks more plainly in Deut. 33, when he says, “The Lord came from Sinai, and from Seir he rose up to us; He hath appeared from mount Pharan, and with him thousands of saints.” The Angels are frequently called God’s chariot in the Scriptures, as in Psalm 79, “Who sittest on the Cherubim.” “Thou hast ascended on high.” St. Paul, Ephes. 4, applies this passage to Christ’s ascension; and the meaning is, the Lord formerly descended on Sinai, accompanied by many millions of Angels; but thou, the Messias, is forever ascended on high,” to the highest heavens; “hast led captivity captive;” made those who had been captives to the devils captives to yourself, commuted a most miserable captivity into a most glorious one; and thus, in triumph, accompanied by the countless myriads of the saints so redeemed, you entered into your kingdom. “Thou hast received gifts in men;” you have got the gifts of the Holy Ghost from your Father, for the men so redeemed, to whom you have given them. Such is the explanation of St. Paul, who thus quotes the passage, “Ascending on high, he led captivity captive, he gave gifts to men;” and this explanation agrees with the Gospel; for in John 14, we read, “I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Paraclete;” and, in chap. 15, “When the Paraclete shall come, whom I shall send you from the Father.” Now, among the gifts conferred by Christ on mankind the principal is charity, in which, according to the Apostle, consists the new law, Rom. 5, “Because the charity of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.” And, in Gal. 5, “But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continence, chastity.” “For those also that do not believe, the dwelling of the Lord God,” means that unbelievers even were converted through those gifts of the Holy Ghost, and got to be numbered among the happy captives.

19–20 Having described the ascension of Christ, who was our guide, to the kingdom of heaven, he gives thanks to God, saying, “Blessed be the Lord day by day,” which means every day. We bless God every day, because he blesses us every day, and showers his favors on us. “The God of our salvation;” the God on whom our salvation depends; for it is not simple protection we need, exposed, as we are, to a multiplicity of dangers. “Will make our journey prosperous to us;” will bless us every day; for he will not desert us on the road that we daily travel, until we shall have come to the day of eternity. We are thus promised daily, constant, protection from God while here below on our pilgrimage. “Our God is the God of salvation.” I had reason to say, God would make our journey prosperous, and protect us in more ways than one; for such are his characteristics, such is his nature; for our God is a God of salvation, of mercy, and of love. “And of the Lord, of the Lord, are the issues of death;” and through him we evade, or come out from, death; God alone can help us to escape everlasting death.

21 Having told what the Lord would do for his friends, he now tells us how he will deal with his enemies, who remained incredulous and refused to be subject to him. “God shall break the heads of his enemies;” he will humble their pride when he shall condemn them to hell to be punished with everlasting torments. “The hairy crown of them that walk in their sins.” The same idea, in different language; the “hairy crown” here being synonymous with the “heads,” and his “enemies” being called here “those that walk in their sins,” for they alone are enemies of God, who, instead of walking in his law, walk in their own sins; that is to say, spend their whole life in the commission of sin.

22–23 God here confirms the sentence pronounced by the prophet on the destruction of the wicked. I will turn them out of Basan, a rich and fertile country, and I will cast them into the depths of the sea, as I formerly did to Pharao. I will turn the wicked from their enjoyment and pleasure to final destruction; and such will be the carnage of the enemy, “that thy foot,” my people, “may be dipped in their blood, and the tongue of thy dogs be red with the same;” with their blood shed by the enemy.

24 Having related Christ’s victory and triumph over his enemies, he now informs us that they who witnessed such wonders began to publish them to the whole world, with great joy and acclamation. “They have seen thy going, O God;” that is, many witnessed what you did, your battles and your victories. “The goings (I say) of you who are my God and my king, who are now in your sanctuary;” whether that be heaven or the Church, for it may apply to either, Christ being visibly present in the one, and in the other, through faith and providence.

25 He alludes to the conduct of the children of Israel on their delivery from Pharao, when Moses, their leader, with other sons of Israel, sung the canticle, “Let us sing to the Lord for he is gloriously magnified. So Mary, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went after her with timbrel and with dances.” Thus, too, when the princes of the Church saw the triumph and victory of Christ, that freed us from the power of Satan, they “went before” other nations and people in proclaiming and announcing the praises of Christ. “Joined with singers;” in union with the holy Angels in heaven, singing God’s praises, by reason of the same victory, “in the midst of young damsels;” in the midst of the holy souls who ascended with Christ, and so are named, by reason of their being so lately admitted to eternal life, and to the society of the Angels, so chanting God’s praises.

26 This verse is to be read as if in a parenthesis. The prophet, foreseeing the future joy of the princes of the Church, exhorts them, “Bless ye God the Lord in the churches” they were about to establish, taking the subject of their praise “from the fountains of Israel;” namely, the promises of God to the patriarchs, and the prophecies that we now see fulfilled, and for which we rejoice.

27 He now returns to the former narration, and tells who are the princes he alluded to when he said, “Princes went before,” and says they were “Benjamin a youth,” the princes of Juda, of Zabulon, and of Nephthali, which, by the general consent of the fathers, mean the Apostles, who “are appointed princes over all the earth.” Benjamin, the youth, is named first, by whom the Apostle Paul is meant; he being of the tribe of Benjamin, and the last in point of call, labored more than all the rest in preaching, and praising the victories of Christ; and he, “in excess of mind,” was so united with the singers in the third heaven as not to know “whether he was in the body or out of the body,” as he testifies himself. By the princes of Juda are meant the Apostles, who belonged to that tribe, and are called Christ’s brethren in the Gospel, by reason of their being the Sons of Cleophas, the brother of Joseph the spouse of the Blessed Virgin; they were James and Simon. The other Apostles, are included in the princes of Zabulon and Nephthali, such as Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Matthew, who were from Bethsaida or Capharnaum, and the neighboring towns that belonged to Zabulon and Nephthali, as may be inferred from the passage in Mat. 4, “Now when Jesus had heard that John was delivered up, he retired into Galilee, and leaving the city of Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capharnaum on the sea coast, in the confines of Zabulon and Nephthalim, that what was said by Isaias the prophet might be fulfilled. The land of Zabulon and the land of Nephthali, the way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles. The people that sat in darkness saw great light, and to them that sat in the region of the shadow of death light is sprung up;” but, as the ten tribes did not return from captivity, as we read in the first book of Esdras, Juda and Benjamin, with the Levites, the Apostles are called princes of Zabulon and Nephthali, either because they were natives of the country of those two tribes, or because, perhaps, a few of those tribes did return in the company of the other Jews, which must have been the case, for Anna the prophetess was of the tribe of Asser.

28 The prophet now, after having described the victory of Christ, and the consequent joy of the Apostles, asks of God that the power so exercised by him in conquering his enemies, and founding his Church, may still be exercised in protecting and preserving his work. “Command thy strength” to look after the work you commenced, to strengthen and fortify it; which he explains more clearly when he says, “Confirm, O God, what thou hast wrought in us;” as much as, to say, you have delivered us from the power of Satan, you have brought us into the kingdom of your Son, you have planted the Church with the blood of the same Son, you have poured on us “the spirit of adoption of sons;” “confirm” all these things, the works of thy mercy.

29 This verse may apply to those who reign in heaven; because, in the temple of heaven, the saints offer God perpetual presents of praise; or it may apply to the spiritual kings, the priests of the Church, who daily offer their “presents,” the sacrifice of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of praise and prayer; and, finally, that of the conversion of souls; or it may apply to the temporal kings of the earth, who, to maintain public worship, and to support the ministers thereof, generously contribute thereto from their own revenue, of which the Prophet Isaias, chap. 60 and 66, spoke at length.

30–31 He now directs his prayer against the enemies of the Church, who seek to disturb its peace, and to impede the offerings of praise and the sacrifices of good works; and first, against her invisible enemies, saying, “Rebuke,” frighten, coerce, restrain “the wild beasts of the reeds;” the wild beasts that usually shelter themselves among the reeds, the demons, who are usually found among vain and light headed people, and in most places where rank weeds, the type of luxury, abound. In such terms does the Lord speak of the devil, under the title of Behemoth, in the Book of Job, chap. 40, where he says, “He sleepeth under the shadow, in the covert of the reed, and in moist places.” Then he adds concerning the enemies to be found among men, “The congregation of bulls, with the kine of the people,” meaning the assemblage of wicked princes raging like so many bulls, “with the kine of the people;” among a people without guile, and running wanton, like so many young heifers, “to exclude them who are tried with silver;” meaning that those impious princes and people, at the instigation and under the impulse of Satan, assembled to exclude, reject, and reduce to nothing the preachers of the Gospel, who had been proved like silver in a furnace, and found most faithful and pure. Here is clearly foreshown the grievous persecutions both by Jews and Pagans, after the ascent of Christ to heaven. “Scatter thou the nations that delight in wars.” He now foretells the victory they were to gain over their persecutors. “Scatter,” you will scatter all those who shall wage war against your people; and then “Ambassadors shall come out of Egypt,” asking for peace, and proffering submission. “Ethiopia,” which is farther off, “shall soon stretch out her hands to God;” will get before Egypt in the tender of her offerings and her homage to God. He specifies Egypt and Ethiopia, the former as being very hostile to the true religion, and the latter as being a very remote country. The fathers think that in the expression, “Ethiopia stretching out her hands,” he alludes to the eunuch of Queen Candace, who was converted to the Christian religion long before any one from Egypt, or any other country of the gentiles. Read Acts, chap. 8

32 He proceeds to foretell, in the shape of an exhortation, the conversion of the gentiles to the Christian religion. “Ye kingdoms of the earth,” of the whole world irrespective of Israel or Juda; “sing to God,” in faith acknowledging him as the true God, sing his praises. “Sing ye to the Lord,” not only in words but by good works.

33 He who, after his ascension on high, sits on the highest heaven, the fountain of light, whence all light has its source and origin. The words “who mounteth above the heaven of heavens,” do not imply ascent, but the act of sitting on them, as on a throne; such is the force of the Hebrew word, as we explained in regard of the words, “who ascendeth upon the west.” The prophet then means to convey that Christ our Lord, after his ascension to heaven, of which he spoke when he said, “Thou hast ascended on high,” came to be higher and more elevated than heaven itself, sitting thereon as a man would on a horse or a chariot, or as a king upon his throne. The words, “to the east,” correspond exactly with what he said before, “who ascendeth upon the west;” that is, because he has all darkness beneath him, while he is himself in light, in light inaccessible, the source of all light that is communicated to Angels and to men. “Behold he will give to his voice the voice of power.” He that appeared so humble and “was dumb as a lamb before his shearer,” now sits on the heaven of heavens, and will shortly “give to his voice the voice of power;” make it most powerful and effective, which shall come to pass, “when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.” No more powerful voice can be imagined. It was the voice of power that said, “Young man, I say unto thee, arise;” as also, “Lazaras, come forth.” Imagine, then, if possible, the power of that voice that will, on the last day, in one moment, bring together, animate, and raise up the ashes of all the dead from the beginning of the world! It will also be a voice of power that will on that day pronounce, “Go, ye cursed, into eternal fire;” and “Come, ye blessed, possess the kingdom prepared for you;” Which voice, in both cases, will be obeyed without the slightest effort at resistance. In truth, when compared to such a voice, all the laws, edicts, and commands of the rulers of this world sink into insignificance. Hence he most properly adds,

34 “Give ye glory to God for Israel.” Glorify God for the favors conferred on his elect; “all things for the elect;” “his magnificence and his power is in the clouds;” a reason for glorifying him, for God’s magnificence and power will be especially displayed to Israel; when they shall be “caught up together in the clouds to meet Christ in the air;” and shall sit on the clouds, like so many princes on splendid and elevated thrones, on the right and on the left of the Almighty Judge. Then may it well be said, “God is wonderful in his saints;” for then will the whole world clearly understand that God, in raising his saints from the lowest depths to the greatest height, from profound abasement to the highest and most exalted glory, was truly “wonderful;” for “the God of Israel,” of his chosen people, will then “give power and strength to his people,” will endow his elect with true and real immortality. “Blessed be God.” The consequence of what he related, for with great justice all should bless that God whose mercy, justice, power, and wisdom so wonderfully appear in so many mysteries.

Table of Contents

Psalm 68


Explanation Of The Psalm

1–2 The history of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Gospel, takes very little notice of the intensity of his sufferings, because the evangelists wished to show that it was quite voluntary, and borne with the greatest fortitude. But, as it was right that the world should know that the sufferings of Christ were intense beyond measure, and learn from thence the extent of their debt to the Redeemer, the Holy Ghost was pleased to reveal the intensity of his sufferings, long before, to the prophets, and, through them, as trustworthy witnesses and above suspicion, to be narrated to us. Isaias, therefore, wrote much about them, so did Jeremias, but none more than David. In the two first verses, then, of this Psalm the passion of Christ is compared to immersion of one into most deep and muddy water. “Save me, O God.” Not as regards my soul, for that he could not lose, but my body; and he does not ask that absolutely, but to express the intensity of the pains he was suffering, and the natural repugnance of man to death; in the same spirit in which he said in the garden, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” “For the waters have come in even unto my soul.” He now begins the simile of one tossed into the water. Because I am like one cast into the water, and just feeling it so to enter into his vitals as to prevent his further breathing, and, consequently, living. “I stick fast in the mire of the deep, and there is no sure standing.” I am like a man not only thrown into the deep, but even into a muddy deep, where there is no bottom, no standing. “I am come into the depth of the sea.” It is not into a small pool I have been thrown, but into a great and deep sea, overwhelmed by a heap of water over me; “and a tempest hath overwhelmed me,” because, a fierce storm of winds and waves has completely sunk me. This gives us some idea of the extent and the severity of Christ’s sufferings; for they were not confined to the simple death on the cross; his pains and his sufferings were all but innumerable. The “mire of the deep,” signifies the sins of the human race that kept him in punishment. The “tempest that overwhelmed him,” signifies God’s justice and decree that man’s sins should be atoned for, as also the rage and cruelty of the Jews, and it may also signify his own ardent love for mankind. That storm was the immediate cause of his passion, inasmuch as his love for us caused him to suffer, as the Apostle says, “Who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all;” and as St. Peter said to the Jews, “You have killed the author of life;” and St. Paul again, “Christ loved the church and delivered himself up for it.” The powerful storm then that sunk Christ into the depths of his death and passion, was partly good and laudable, partly bad and deserving extreme censure.

3 From this verse we can infer, that what he said in the two previous verses are not to be taken in the strict sense of the words, for if he had been drowned, he certainly could not cry out. This verse is also to be read under similar limitation, for Christ cried out in his passion, when he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and again, when he said, “Into thy hands, Father, I commend my spirit.” These cries could hardly have made him hoarse. Nor is it the fact that “his eyes failed,” expecting help from God. The meaning then is, that his sufferings were as intense and as continuous as with those whose pains make them hoarse in calling for help, and whose sight has failed in looking up to God for assistance in their sufferings. If Christ, then, was always silent, and “like a lamb led to the slaughter,” sought for no help, as if he were suffering nothing, it was all owing, not to the lightness of his sufferings, but to his own firmness, his power of endurance, and the extent of his love. Had his lamentations been at all commensurate to his sufferings, his jaws would certainly have become hoarse through constant vociferation, and his eyes would have become dim in his searches for one to help him; and, therefore, as we said at first, the prophet expresses the intensity of his sufferings, while the evangelist glanced at the extent of his constancy under them.

4 Speaking now in the person of Christ, he explains, in plain language, what he had figuratively expressed before. He compared Christ’s persecutors to a swell of waters, and to a violent tempest; he now plainly says they were most violent, and almost innumerable, and were thus fierce and violent without any provocation whatever. “They are multiplied above the hairs of my head.” They were more numerous than the hairs of my head, that can scarcely be counted. “Who hate me without cause.” Their number is clear from the Gospel, for beside the counsel of the Elders, Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees, there was the great body of the people, “who cried out, Crucify him.” Whole cohorts of the pagan soldiers joined them, for “Herod with his army mocked him.” In Pilate’s house, an entire company of soldiers assembled to deride him, to whom was added Judas the traitor, to betray him. And that “they hated him without cause,” cannot be questioned, for “he went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil,” and never harmed or injured any one. The excuse they put forth in the council, namely, “If we let him alone, so the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation,” was proved, by the event, to have been dictated by a false and a mistaken prudence; for though they did not let him alone, though they obstructed, as far as in them lay, the progress of the Gospel, still the Romans came, took their place and their nation away, which would not have befallen them, had they given a favorable reception to Christ the teacher and the source of peace, mildness, and love. The prophet gives an additional instance of their violence. “My enemies are grown strong who have wrongfully persecuted me.” My unjust persecutors are strengthened, have taken courage, have succeeded, and that through their injustice, for they compelled me to pay “that which I took not away,” to suffer punishment without deserving it. Every unjust man may be called a robber, because he robs God of his glory; and therefore, when he is punished, he pays for what he so took away. Now, Christ never robbed nor took away, for he never sinned, and yet underwent the severest punishment. That the thief hanging on the cross acknowledged, when he said, “And we indeed, justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this man hath done no evil.” Luke 23.

5 Having said that he suffered unjustly, and that he had to pay what he did not take away, he now assigns a reason for his having chosen so to suffer, when he might have easily delivered himself from such unjust persecution; and the reason he assigns is his own foolishness, and his offences, however hidden from the world, being well known to God. “My foolishness;” that is, the foolishness of Adam that he took upon himself, “and my offences,” the offences of Adam and his posterity, which he bore without committing. “O God, thou knowest my foolishness,” you know that I am suffering for the folly of the first man, who believed the deceiver when he told him, that by eating the forbidden fruit he would become equal to God; and through his disobedience what has been the result of his foolishness! St. Augustine adds, that the foolishness of Christ may be said to be that which may be looked upon as such by men, and may still be the height of wisdom, namely, that when by one word he may have delivered himself from death, still he preferred suffering the most bitter torments, and the death of the cross itself, to redeem his servants and even his enemies from torments and death. That seemed folly to men, but God knows that such folly is wiser than all human wisdom. Just as to those who know nothing of agriculture, it seems folly and an irreparable loss to throw a quantity of the best grain into the earth; but when the same grains are multiplied and gathered in the harvest, then, instead of its appearing to have been folly, it turns up to have been the height of wisdom.

6–7 In his solicitude for the members of his Church, and that his passion may not be a source of scandal to them, or perhaps of despair, in spite of his promise, he says, “Blessed is he who shall not be scandalized in me;” and on the eve of his passion, “You will be all scandalized in me this night;” he therefore now says, “Let them not be ashamed for me who look for thee;” that is to say, let not those who confide in thee be ashamed on my account, as if I had been abandoned by thee, and my hope had been vain. Let them not say, who will ever expect the Lord, or confide in the Lord, after his thus deserting and abandoning his only Son? which he repeats and explains, when he says, “Let them not be confounded on my account, who seek thee, O God of Israel;” the words being an explanation of the words, “Let them not be ashamed,” and the words, “who seek thee,” being synonymous with, “who look for thee.” Instead of Lord of Hosts, he has now O God of Israel, to show that men have just reason for confiding in him, he being Lord of Hosts, and therefore supreme in power; and at the same time he is the God of Israel, and in consequence, the friend and protector of his people, and therefore kind to them; and not only all powerful, but most willing, and ready to defend his own. He finally assigns his reason for this just demand. “Because for thy sake I have borne reproach;” it was for your honor, and not for my own sins, that I have suffered so much ignominy. It was on your account, that “shame hath covered my face,” for the same glory, your glory, I suffered contumely, stripes, derision, spits in the face, and the like, that truly filled my face with shame and confusion.

8–9 The prophet, speaking in the person of Christ, explains the cause of the persecution of the Jews. It was because the Lord censured and reproved their evil doings, as he himself says, John 7, “The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth, because I give testimony of it, that the works thereof are evil;” and in Wisdom, chap. 2, we read, “Let us lie in wait for the just, because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life.” He therefore says, “I am become a stranger to my brethren;” my brethren the Jews look upon me as a stranger, “and an alien to the sons of my mother;” I am looked upon as a foreigner and an alien by the sons of my mother, the synagogue. The very thing that John wrote in the beginning of his Gospel, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” For though they once said, “We know him and whence he is;” and the Lord himself said to them, “You know me and whence I am;” still, at another time, they said, “We know that the Lord hath spoken to Moses; but as to this man, we know not from whence he is;” that is, we know him not, he is a foreigner; and he tells why they looked upon him as a foreigner, when he says, “For the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up;” because zeal for God’s temporal house, the temple which the Jews were in the habit of daily profaning by secular business; as also for God’s spiritual house, the congregation of the faithful, that they were daily defiling by their vices; “eat me up;” consumed, fired, and pained him; and, under the influence of such zeal, he reproved the Jews grievously, as may be seen in different parts of the four evangelists; and, while he justly reproved them, with a view to their correction, they, in return, abused and blasphemed him, saying, “Thou hast a devil. Thou art a Samaritan. In Beelzebub the prince of devils, he casteth out devils; we know that this man is a sinner;” and he, therefore, now adds, “And the reproaches of them that reproached thee, are fallen upon me.” Any offence against the Son constitutes one against the Father, they being essentially one; and though all sins may be looked upon as common offences to the Father as well as to the Son, those connected with miracles may be said specially to touch the Father, on which Christ himself said, “The works which the Father hath given me to perfect, give testimony of me,” John 5; and in John 14, “The Father who abideth in me, he doth the works.” The calumny, then, in the reproach, “In Beelzebub the prince of devils, he casteth out devils,” offered special injury to the Father, inasmuch as it attributed those works of God, which the Son was performing in the name of his Father, and which the Father was producing through the Son, to the devil. Those “reproaches of them that reproached thee,” the Father, fell upon the Son, because it was him the Jews intended to calumniate, and not the Father, as also because the Son cheerfully suffered those calumnies that assailed the Father; and in this sense the verse is quoted by St. Paul, Rom. 15.

10–11 This is a very obscure passage, and the more so by reason of the difference between the Septuagint and the Hebrew versions. The most probable explanation of it seems to be as follows. The soul is taken here for the entire man, so that when David says, he “covered his soul,” he means, he covered himself, or covered his head, in fasting. Now, among the Jews, the covering one’s head was a sign of great grief and sorrow, and generally accompanied their fasts; hence we read in Psalm 34, “I humbled my soul in fasting;” and the practice of covering the head when in grief and trouble appears from many passages in the Scriptures; for instance, 2 Kings 13, “But David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, going up and weeping, walking barefoot, and with his head covered.” And in chap. 19, “And the king covered his head, and cried with a loud voice: O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, O my son;” and in Esther 6, “Aman hastened into his house, with his head covered.” And Isaias, speaking of the manner of fasting, has, chap. 58, “Is this such a fast as I have chosen for a man to afflict his soul for a day? is this it to wind his head about like a circle, and to spread sackcloth and ashes?” In this passage, “to wind his head about like a circle,” means to wind the covering about it, and bind his head all round tightly with it. Now, we don’t read that Christ fasted with his head covered, nor that he wore sackcloth, much less that he was derided for so doing; on the contrary, it was objected to him that he was, “Behold, a man that is a glutton and a wine drinker;” and his disciples were found fault with because they did not fast like the disciples of St. John and the Pharisees. It is true, the Lord fasted forty days in the desert, but that was a private fast, with which he could not be reproached. He also fasted several days while he was taken up in preaching, as he watched several nights while absorbed in prayer; but we do not read that they were made a matter of reproach to him either. Finally, in his passion, he fasted from the vespers of Thursday to the ninth hour on Friday, and, from exhaustion and the punishment, no doubt, both hungered and thirsted; nor was his head without being covered, for, covered with a helmet of thorns, he fasted severely and bitterly, with no other food than gall, and no drink but vinegar; and still we find no mention whatever in the Gospel of the sackcloth and ashes. We must, then, with St. Augustine, allow that these verses have a spiritual meaning, and are so to be explained; and then we are to understand the fasting in tears and sorrow to signify the ardent hunger and thirst for the salvation of souls that afflicted him so deeply; and the sackcloth to represent the mortal and frail flesh he chose to assume, that, by such humility, he may induce mortals to despise the things of this world, and long for those of the next; and, for such reasons, he became “a reproach,” and became also a “by word;” that is, a thing to be scoffed at among the Jews. And that Christ was derided and scoffed at is plain, from Mark 5; for, when he said, “The girl is not dead, but sleepeth, they laughed him to scorn;” and when he spoke of the necessity of giving alms, “Now, the Pharisees, who were covetous, heard all these things, and they derided him.” And, in his passion, he was derided by the soldiers, by Herod, by the high priests, and many others.

12 By way of appendix to the foregoing persecutions, he adds, The judges and the princes, in their councils, sought my death, suborned false witnesses against me; and, finally, condemned me. Judgment was generally delivered at the gates; hence we have, in Proverbs 31, “Her husband is honorable in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land.” “And they that drank wine made me their song;” not only in their public assemblies, but even in their private parties of pleasure, did they talk of me, making me the butt of their mirth and ridicule.

13 The prophet having hitherto explained the extent and the greatness of the sufferings of Christ, now enters into Christ’s prayer to his Father, to be delivered from such calamities, of which St. Paul writes, Heb. 5, “Who in the days of his flesh, offering up prayers and supplications with a strong cry and tears to him, that was able to save him from death, was heard for his reverence.” Whence we gather that Christ’s prayer was not an absolute prayer that he should not suffer, or that he should not die, but that he should not be detained in his passion or in death, in which “he was heard,” for that prayer was put up while he hung on the cross, and after three days, by a glorious resurrection, he was delivered from death, and every other tribulation. “But as for me, my prayer is to thee,” while they insulted and abused me, “my prayer is to thee.” I offered myself to thee, God the Father, for them, saying, “The time of thy good pleasure, O God,” the time defined by you, when it would be your good pleasure to deliver me from such torments, and to reconcile the whole world by such an oblation, has now arrived. We read the same in John 18, “Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son;” and John 19, “It is consummated.”—”In the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.” He goes on with his prayer, and asks, that as “the time of his good pleasure is come,” his prayer may be heard. “In the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation;” that is, through the immense mercy that prompted you to promise reconciliation through the passion of your Son. “In the truth of thy salvation,” and by reason of the truth; that is, the veracity and the certainty of salvation, for God is no less pious and merciful in promising that salvation which he did promise.

14–15 He asks to be delivered in the same figurative language that he used in the three first verses, under the figures of water, mud, and storm. “Draw me out of the mire, that I may not stick fast,” that I may not sink so deep in it, that I could not be pulled out, for he said previously, “I stick fast in the mire.” He now prays that he may not be kept fast in it. “Deliver me from them that hate me,” from my wicked persecutors, “and out of the deep waters,” from the grievous tribulations into which they have plunged me. “Let not the tempest of water drown me.” Having previously said, “a tempest hath overwhelmed me;” he, therefore, now asks that he may not be drowned in it, that he may not be detained in the deluge of water, which he explains by the expression, “nor the deep swallow me up,” so that I may never rise again. “And let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.” Let not the pit into which I have fallen close upon me; while it is open, there is some hope of escape, once it closes there is none.

16–18 In order to show the greatness and the extent of Christ’s sufferings, he now, speaking in the person of Christ, prays at greater length. “Hear me, O Lord, for thy mercy is kind;” and he offers three reasons for being heard, because of God’s mercy, by reason of the greatness of his pain; and the third by reason of his relentless enemies. The first is taken from the mercy of God, who is always most kind and merciful to those who are in trouble. The second reason is found in the verse, “And turn not away thy face.” God never turned away his face from his Son, though he seemed to do so when he left him hanging on the cross in the most intense pain, forcing him to exclaim, “O God, my God, why hast thou abandoned me?” and it is the same he has in view, when he says here, “Turn not away thy face from thy servant;” that is to say, leave me no longer in those torments. The third reason is found in the expressions “Attend to my soul and deliver it.” He asked in the previous verse to be “heard speedily,” and he now explains what he wanted, saying, “Attend to my soul;” that is, to my course of life now run, and deliver my soul by a speedy resurrection; and he assigns a reason for his so doing, which is the third, as we have already said, namely, “Save me because of my enemies;” take me from death and sorrow, restore me to life everlasting, that my enemies, when they shall have seen their efforts against me were fruitless, may be either confounded or converted; which really happened; for when the people heard that Christ arose from the grave, and saw the fact confirmed by evident signs and prodigies, many in sorrow began to say, “What shall we do men, brethren?” and three thousand were at once converted. More of them in their obstinacy were so confounded as to say, “What shall we do to those men? for a miracle indeed hath been done by them, conspicuous to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; it is manifest, and we cannot deny it.”

19–20 He calls God himself to witness the extent of his sufferings, and especially what he was suffering from slander and calumny, for high minded souls feel more thereon than they do from any corporal sufferings. “Thou knowest my reproach;” the calumnies they are heaping on me, “and my confusion,” the shame I suffer in consequence, for the innocent, in such cases, suffer as well as the guilty, when they see credit attached to the false accusations that are made against them; “and my shame,” the shame that follows confusion, however unjust it may be. “In thy sight are all they that afflict me.” As well as my afflictions cannot escape your notice, so you must see those who inflict them, from whom I can expect nothing but reproaches and misery, a thing my heart long since expected. “And I looked for one that would grieve together with me, and there was none.” He finally adds, that he not only had no one to console him under such sufferings, but in his hunger he got gall, and in his thirst vinegar. There were many at the time sorry for the death of Christ, but there were not many “grieving together with him;” that is, whose sorrow sprung from the same source as that of Christ’s. The Apostles and the pious women, to be sure, grieved for Christ’s death, for the death of his body, but Christ himself grieved the spiritual death, and the spiritual blindness of the Jews, who madly raged against the physician who came to cure them. In like manner, he looked for “one that would comfort me, and I found none;” because the comfort he looked for was the conversion of the wicked. During his passion many were hardened, few or none converted. The thief was converted, but it was in the very end of his passion; but in his very passion, the crowd cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him;” the Apostles were scandalized and fled; Peter denied him, Judas fell into despair.

21 It does not appear from the Scriptures that they gave him gall to eat, for St. Matthew, who mentions the gall, said it was given him to drink, and not to eat. “They gave him wine mixed with gall to drink,” which perhaps was not, properly speaking, gall at all, for it was a bitter drink; and St. Mark, relating the same, says it was wine mixed with myrrh, which possibly was the reason why St. Matthew did not quote this verse of the Psalm, as is his wont, when any passage is fulfilled by the life or doings of Christ. It is, therefore, probable that the word food is to be understood, in a spiritual sense, to signify to us the bitterness of the sins our blessed Savior had to digest in his passion. As regards the vinegar, it was not only spiritually but literally fulfilled, as is clear from John 10, where the evangelist states, that on Christ’s saying, “I thirst,” they offered him vinegar on a sponge, that the Scripture may be fulfilled, which was the passage here.

22–25 The prophet begins now, by way of imprecation, to foretell the calamities that were to fall on the Jews, by reason of their ingratitude and cruelty to Christ, who had been sent to them as a Savior and a Redeemer, and he enumerates the spiritual as well as the temporal punishments, of which we have daily instances.” “Let their table become as a snare before them.” The fathers say that “their table” means the reading of the Scriptures, being the table from which pious souls are fed with God’s truths; and he calls it a table, to place it in contrast with the gall they gave him for food; as if he said, They gave me gall for my food, and you will make their food and their table a snare before them. That table is daily before the Jews, for they daily read Moses and the prophets, but it is quite a snare to them, because by false and wrong interpretations they misunderstand it, and thus the very Scriptures, which, if faithfully studied, may bring them to life everlasting, leads them to eternal perdition, keeping them, as it does, in their incredulity. The same applies to them as “a recompense” for their wickedness, for it is right that they who do not wish to see the light should remain in the dark. It is also “a stumbling block” to them; for, instead of recognizing the corner stone sent to them by God, they rather dashed up and knocked themselves against it; and hence, it has become too, as Isaias 8 says, “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” “Let their eyes be darkened that they see not.” The root of the aforesaid evils is, God’s having allowed both their understanding and their affections, to be depraved. The eyes of their soul are darkened, nay more, according to St. Paul, “There is a veil upon their heart,” and furthermore, “They are blinded,” Isaias 6, Mat. 13, John 12, Rom. 11. Their affections, too, are depraved, for they have no taste for anything but the things of this world, which is conveyed in the words, “And their back bend thou down always;” that is to say, allow them to be ungrateful, and punish them for it, that they may be always groveling and bent down, so that they may see nothing but the earth. That we may understand such blindness and perversity to be the effect of God’s anger, he now adds, “Pour out thy indignation on them;” plain language enough, which the Apostle confirms, 1 Thess. 2, “Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets, and have persecuted us, and they please not God,” and in the next verse he adds, “for the wrath of God has come upon them to the end.” That wrath of God brought a spiritual plague on them first, and then a temporal one, for they were exiled from the land of promise, and scattered all over the world; to which the prophet alludes when be says, “Let their habitation be made desolate;” which was literally fulfilled when, by the orders of the Emperor Titus, Jerusalem was pulled down and rendered uninhabitable; it was, to be sure, afterwards rebuilt and inhabited, by gentiles, Christians, or Saracens, but not by the Jews. As far as the Jews, then, are concerned, it is still a desert, for a few only of them are allowed to live there, a thing predicted by our Lord himself, when he said, “Behold, your houses shall be left to you desolate.”

26–28 As the Jews were punished for having given gall for food to Christ, by having their own table turned into a snare for them, so the prophet says they will now be punished by adding iniquity upon their iniquity, in the same way that they heaped punishment upon punishment, and pains upon pains on Christ. But we have to explain how the Jews persecuted him whom God hath smitten, and how they added to the grief of his wounds. God does not seem to have smitten Christ, except in his allowing the Jews to smite him; and whatever he suffered seems to be from God as well as from the Jews. We are to understand, then, that Christ was smitten to a certain extent, in which the Jews had no part; and smitten, in other respects, by the Jews, with God’s permission. He was smitten by God, and the Jews had no part whatever in it, when he assumed mortal, frail, suffering flesh, subject to hunger, thirst, fatigue, heat, and cold, and many other grievances. Now, the Incarnation, that brought all those things on him, was the act of the Holy Ghost; and, in this way, God alone struck Christ, when, without any fault on his part, he was made subject to so many consequences of original sin. The Jews added to these inflictions when they wounded and persecuted Christ. For, though God advisedly meant and intended Christ so to suffer, and took advantage of the perversity of the Jews to bring it about, still, the Jews themselves, in their own malice and wickedness, persecuted and took away the life of the Redeemer. The prophet, therefore, says, “Because they have persecuted him whom thou hast smitten;” for smite him you did when you sent him into the world, “in the likeness of sinful flesh;” subject to hunger and thirst to heat and cold, and other innumerable inconveniences; him “they persecuted,” by calumnies, reproaches, and false testimonies; “and they have added to the grief of my wounds;” to the intense grief I felt at the consideration of their sins innumerable, and which I had undertaken to heal and to cure, as if the wounds were my own, they “added” the pain of the lash, the thorns, and the nails; and, even when I was dead, they “added” the wound in my side; and even when I had risen from the grave, and would seem to have been beyond their persecution, they followed it up by wounding me through my members, by stoning and slaying my disciples. “Add thou iniquity upon their iniquity.” As they have “added to the grief of my wounds,” so do you, O just Judge, “add iniquity upon their iniquity;” in thy justice, instead of delivering them from their first iniquity, let them accumulate iniquities. “Let them fill up the measure of their fathers,” that “upon them may come all the just blood that has been shed upon the earth.” God is said to do a thing when he permits it, and that not by chance, but by a fixed decree, to punish the sins of those who deserve so to be blinded and deserted; for no punishment is more severe than the causing one sin to be the punishment of another. “And let them not come into thy justice.” An explanation of the preceding sentence; for they who do “not enter into the justice” of God; that is, they who are not justified, who are not admitted to that justification which God gratuitously works in the vessels of mercy, they rush from sin to sin, adding sin to sin. “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living.” Some will have this to mean, let them be put to death; but the following sentence, “and with the just let them not be written,” altogether forbids that explanation. In the holy Scriptures nothing is more usual than for one member of a verse to be an explanation of the other; and thus, “with the just let them not be written,” is one and the same with “let them be blotted out of the book of the living,” which forbids any other interpretation of the living than those who alone have real life in them; that is, the just, the wicked being truly dead in their reins. The book of the living means that book in which the names of God’s true servants, who alone have got real justification, and who, as being children and heirs, are enrolled. For, in fact, the Jews, who were formerly God’s people, being now blotted out of the book of the living and the just, are no longer God’s people nor have they a part in the inheritance of the children of God; and, on the contrary, the gentiles, who were not God’s people, by faith in Christ came to be God’s people, and have a share in the kingdom of God. That was predicted by Ezechiel, chap. 13, “They shall not be in the council of my people, nor shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel;” and Daniel 9, “And the people that shall deny him, shall not be his;” and Osee 1, “For you are not my people, and I will not be yours;” and the Lord himself, in the Gospel, frequently promised the same to the Jews, saying, “The kingdom of God would be taken from them, and the children of the kingdom would be cast out;” And that, in their place, “many would come from the east and from the west, and repose with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.”

29 He now, at length, in the end of the Psalm, predicts the glory of Christ, and the edification of his Church, speaking as he did hitherto in the person of Christ. “I am poor and sorrowful;” so I was while I hung naked on the cross, covered all over with wounds. He thus, in leaving this world, took nothing with him but our sins and miseries; thus giving us an example, how by gladly despising the good things of this world, and bearing all its crosses with patience, we may tread in his footsteps. “Thy salvation, O God, hath set me up;” when I was in such a state, in need of everything good, overwhelmed with everything evil and bad, “thy salvation” raised me up from the dead, wiped away all my misery, and replenished me with blessings and happiness. For, how can unhappiness find a place in him, adopted by salvation itself, and circled all round by it.

30 Christ, in the form of man, raised up and glorified by God the Father, now returns him thanks, and will do so forever, saying, having now discharged my labors, and free as I am from all pain, I will never cease praising the name of God; that is, his power, “with a canticle,” that is, with joy and gladness; “and I will magnify him with praise;” a repetition of the same to produce effect.

31 The sacrifice of praise offered to God in heaven, is far and away beyond the most valuable sacrifices offered in the law, among which the most superior was that of a young heifer, whose hoofs and horns were just beginning to shoot; and yet my canticle of praise will be more acceptable in the sight of God than such a sacrifice.

32 He now mingles exhortation with his praises. Let the poor understand and consider those things, that they may learn to rejoice in their poverty. He speaks to those who are poor, as he is; that is, poor from choice, and not from necessity, and who, though they may be rich, dispense their riches as stewards and not as masters, agreeable to God’s will; that they may indulge, and not in a spirit of pride, in works of charity and not in the gratification of their passions; and, finally, who repeat the expression, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” with equal devotion, whether in prosperity or in adversity. “Seek ye God, and your soul shall live.” You poor in spirit, who despise everything earthly, as you are disencumbered of such a load, raise up your spirits, seek God, and your soul, which, as a perishable thing, cannot live, will then truly live. “Take heed, says Christ, and beware of all covetousness, for a man’s life doth not consist in the abundance of things which he possesseth.” Whereas, on the contrary, it is said of God, “In him was life” John 1; and in Psalm 35, “For with thee is the fountain of life;” and in Eccli. 1, “The word of God is high in the fountain of wisdom;” and in Prov. 8, “He that shall find me shall find life.” For wisdom is the life of a rational soul, and the soul is then most wise and most perfect, when it sees its first and supreme cause in itself, without anything coming between them. Seek God, then, by walking in the way of his commandments, diverging neither to the right nor to the left, and when you shall have come to him, then “your soul shall live.”

33 He assigns a reason for its being a good thing to seek God, that we may live, because the holy fathers visited by Christ, in his descent into Limbo, experienced the truth of it. They sought God for a long time, and were the first to find him; the way to eternal life having been opened by Christ, and they having been introduced thereto by him. “For the Lord hath heard the poor.” All the patriarchs and prophets were poor in spirit, dwelt in this world as so many strangers and pilgrims in search of their heavenly country. Such poor were heard by the Lord, and having heard them, “he hath not despised his prisoners,” for prisoners they were, inasmuch as they could not have passed from their prison to their heavenly country, had not Christ, by his death, burst the gates of hell, and broke its chains of iron.

34 He invites the whole universe to return thanks for the favors conferred on it, making special mention even of the reptiles, without mentioning men and Angels at all, of whose readiness to praise God he had no doubt.

35 The establishment of the Church, through the passion and resurrection of Christ, is now predicted, or, as some will have it, the establishment of the celestial Jerusalem, or perhaps both. “For God will save Sion.” He will protect from every danger and persecution on earth, and will afterwards endow with immortality, his primitive Church, formed out of the Jews; that is, the assembly of the Apostles and primitive disciples. “And the cities of Juda, shall be built up;” that is, that primitive Church will be propagated by the accession of many living stones, and many Churches will be built all over the world, called cities of Juda, that is, of confession, because the confession of the true faith builds up and propagates the Church, for Juda signifies confession. “And they shall dwell there.” He now foretells the solidity and the happiness of the Church. For the cities, that is, the inhabitants of the cities of Juda, “shall dwell there;” that is, in Sion, “and acquire it by inheritance;” for all the real faithful of the several churches acknowledge the Apostolic Church, that of Sion, excluding of course, heretics and schismatics. And the same true faithful, if they remain in the faith, “which worketh by charity,” will also inhabit the celestial Sion, and will “acquire it by inheritance,” because, “if sons, they are heirs also.” Rom. 8.

36 That means, not only will the primitive faithful, but even their posterity, possess that Sion, whether on earth or in heaven; for the Church of Christ, which is built on a rock, never dies. “And they that shall love his name shall dwell therein;” as many as shall be found to love his name shall permanently live in his Church, and afterwards in the celestial Sion. Those who shall be found on the last day to have had no charity, like chaff, will be separated from the corn, cast into the fire, and burned. Life everlasting is the reward of charity, according to St. James 1, who says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for, when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him.” Sinners, then, having faith alone, without charity, may belong to the Church as well as the just, in the way that the chaff lies in the barn as well as the grain; as good and bad fish are found together in a net; but they will not be so always, nor will they “acquire by inheritance” the heavenly Sion, that they may dwell forever therein.

Table of Contents

Psalm 69


Explanation Of The Psalm

1 A verse celebrated in the Catholic Church, as all the divine offices commence with it. For though it is peculiarly applicable to Christ hanging on the cross, it may be used by all the faithful in any danger whatever; and as we are in daily and great danger while we are on our pilgrimage here, and while “our adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour;” it is not only lawful, but expedient to repeat this verse very frequently. In this verse we ask great and speedy help to avert a great and imminent danger. The remainder of the Psalm is almost word for word with Ps. 39, which see.

Table of Contents

Psalm 70


Explanation Of The Psalm

1–2 The holy prophet, mindful of God’s promises to those who put their trust in him, and not presuming on his own strength, exclaims, “In thee, O Lord,” and not in myself nor in any other creature, “I have hoped,” certain, therefore, that I will “never be put to confusion.” I fly to you in my present trouble, and ask of you “to deliver and rescue me” from the hands of my persecutors; “in thy justice,” with that justice that prompts you to punish the wicked, and free the innocent. And, for effect, he repeats the prayer, saying, “Incline thy ear unto me, and save me;” hear my humble voice, save me in the present danger.

3 He now explains more clearly what he wants from God, and that is, that God should protect him like a city strongly fortified, and incapable of being penetrated by the enemy. The Hebrew implies that this fortified place was on a lofty rock and, in truth, there is no easier way of overcoming all troubles than the knowing how to ascend in spirit to God, and there to contemplate the everlasting happiness; and there one will at once despise everything human; thus, the tribulations, which otherwise would be counted severe and heavy, St. Paul calls “momentary and light.” “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor. 4. “For thou art my firmament and my refuge.” Be my protector, for you alone “are my firmament;” my firm and well built house, built of stone, as the Hebrew implies, to which I can fly; and “my refuge.”

Everything else, the favors of man, my own industry and exertions, are houses of mud or of straw, built on the sand; for what are all the goods of this world but frail, perishable things, in which fools alone confide? Happy they who understand so much; happier they who put them into practice.

4 He now descends to particulars, and asks to be delivered out of “the hand,” that is, from the power of the sinner, “the transgressor of the law, and of the unjust;” all of which literally apply to Absalom, Achitophel, and their servants, for this Psalm altogether corresponds with Psalm 30, which, by general consent, treats of Absalom’s persecution. “The hand of the sinner,” then, seems to be intended for Absalom, a perverse, wicked man; “the transgressors of the law” are the people who rise up in arms against their lawful king, and the “unjust” alludes to Achitophel, who in private, had fraudulently sought to injure David. Looking at the passage in a spiritual sense, the sinner may mean the devil, the unjust may mean heretics, and the transgressors of the law, tyrants and persecutors. The just man, however, desires to be freed not only from corporal trouble, but much more so from any danger to his soul, for fear he may, through fear of persecution, consent to sin, and run the risk of eternal death.

5–6 The Hebrew for patience here implies patience in hope, rather than in endurance, as we have it in Rom. 8, “We wait for it with patience;” and in James 5, “Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, patiently bearing till he receive the early and the later rain. Be you, therefore, also patient, and strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth near.” “For thou art my patience,” then, means, for it is from thee I am patiently expecting help. “My hope, O Lord, from my youth;” because I began to hope in you from the time that I first knew you, nay more, long before I was capable of knowing you, in your mercy you were my protector; because, “By thee have I been confirmed from the womb;” scarce had I come into the world, when I was in a most infirm state, incapable of invoking you, you extended your protection to me. Such favors God is wont to confer on all men, especially when they are of an age when they cannot help themselves; while very few are they who acknowledge such favors, or thank God sufficiently for them; and the prophet, therefore, who, by the light of the Holy Ghost, knew such to be the case, with great devotion exclaims, “By thee I have been confirmed from the womb; from my mother’s womb thou art my protector;” as much as to say, I know and confess, O Lord, that you cared me from my very infancy, which makes me now confidently hope that you will be my protector when I shall call upon you. “Of thee shall I continuously sing.” For such reasons, for such favors, I will always chant thy praises, in prosperity and adversity, in this world, and in the next.

7 Banished from my kingdom by my own son, a wretched fugitive instead of a glorious conqueror, I am the wonder of every one, especially when I seem to be so deserted by you whom I always worshipped, in whom I always trusted; but, however, you are a “strong helper,” and a steady one; and though, for a time, in your wisdom, you may appear to have deserted me, and allowed my enemies to get the better of me, still, when the proper time comes, you will be a “strong helper.” St. Augustine, taking a spiritual view of this passage, says, that he who despises the things of this world, patiently submits to injury, and thus goes in a contrary direction to that of mankind, may be called a wonder and a prodigy. Such was John the Baptist, Christ himself, Peter, Paul, and the other Apostles; such were all the martyrs and confessors, and others, who were looked upon by the wise ones of the world as fools, yet could truly say, I am become as a wonder to many, yet you are a strong helper, to carry me through the narrow gate, and to offer violence to the kingdom of heaven, when it will appear whether I was a fool or a wise man.

8 Whatever men may think or say of me, I therefore, wish that “my mouth may be filled with praise,” that nothing else may please me, may delight me, but to love thee and praise thy glory; and “the whole day,” that is, at all times, “to sing thy greatness and thy glory.” All they, and they alone, are like this holy king and prophet, who think, and feel, and deeply consider that there is nothing great, nothing worthy our admiration but God alone.

9 David was an old man when he was persecuted by Absalom; and, therefore, calling to mind the victories of his youth, nay, even of his boyhood, he says, “Cast me not off in the time of old age;” do not desert him you always stood by, now at the last moment. “When my strength shall fail;” when I am become weak and feeble, “do not thou forsake me;” when I want your help more than ever I did before.

10–11 Such was literally true of David, against whom his people, with Absalom at their head, and Achitophel as his counselor, rebelled; a thing they did under the impression that he was now grown old and weak, and abandoned by God. “And they that watched my soul,” my former counselors and guards, “have consulted together;” took counsel how they may destroy me, saying, as “God hath forsaken him, pursue and take him;” the very advice that Achitophel gave, which, however, had no effect, as God did not suffer it to be carried out. See 2 Kings 17.

12–13 While they were taking measures against David, he had recourse to God, who, without any trouble, could mar them all, as he really did. “O God, be not thou far from me,” as they boast you are, but rather “make haste to my help,” to save me from them. “Let them be confounded and come to nothing that detract my soul,” by your hastening to help me, let Absalom’s counselors be confounded, their plots fail, disappear, and vanish; and let those “that detract my soul,” that calumniate me, be rendered senseless. “Let them be covered with confusion and shame that seek my hurt;” a repetition of the foregoing.

14–15 Let them be confounded and come to nothing; “But I will always hope;” will confide more and more in you, having learned by experience the efficacy of your assistance, and will always “add to all thy praise;” singing new hymns to you for your new and repeated favors. “My mouth shall show forth thy justice,” with which you punish the wicked; and “thy salvation,” through which you free and save the innocent, “all day long;” that is, constantly. “Because I have not known learning.” How could David say this of himself, when he says, in Psalm 118, “I have understood more than all my teachers;” and the Psalms prove him to have been well up in both human and divine knowledge; for, though he was a shepherd and a soldier, he may not have been so entirely devoted to caring his flocks, or waging war, as not to be able to devote some time to literature and study? By the word “learning,” then, I take it that David means that human craft and cunning in which Achitophel, who had given counsel against him, abounded; and, by the words, “I have not known,” that he does not simply mean knowledge, but approbation and use; as we commonly say, “I don’t know you;” and, as St. Paul says, “that he knows nothing but Christ, and him crucified.” The meaning, then, is, “I have not known learning.” I know not the wisdom of this world; I confide not in the counsels of man; I approve not of human craft and cunning; but,

16 I will cling entirely to God’s omnipotence; in it will I confide, and will hide myself in it as I would in an impregnable fortress; and thus, “I will be mindful of thy justice alone;” I will lose sight completely of human counsel, of my own strength, or of my friends; but I will remember and bear in mind “thy justice alone,” by virtue of which you keep your promises and through which you punish the wicked, and crown the pious.

17 You taught me to despise human literature, and to trust in your power; and it was in consequence, that I, an unarmed youth, fought with a bear and a lion, and conquered both them and the giant Goliath. “And till now I will declare thy wonderful works;” while I live, to the last day of my life, I will record “the wonderful works” you enabled me to do in my youth.

18 And I ask, at the same time, that “unto old age you forsake me not,” but that you always may come to my aid, “until I show forth,” until I shall have finished the book of Psalms, through which I will show forth “thy arm,” thy strength, to all posterity. How David could say that he would announce God’s power to all posterity we have already explained, for he foresaw that the Psalms composed by him would be chanted all over the world to the end of time. “Thy power.” He explains what arm he is to announce, when he says, “thy power.”

19 He explains the meaning of the showing forth thy arm to the generation that is to come, and says, “thy power and thy justice;” that is to say, I will announce thy arm, which signifies your power united with your justice. God is all powerful, but he is still most just; he can do what he wills, but he wills nothing unjust. Now, such power and justice reaches even “to the highest great things” among God’s creatures, for God created by his power, not only the earth, and the sea, and all their inhabitants, but he also created the heavens, and the heavens of heavens, and the countless millions of Angels that dwell therein. Thus the arm of God’s power reaches even those highest great things. God’s justice also has not only punished sinful man, who is but dust and ashes, but he has also punished the most exalted among the Angels, who, for their pride, he hurled from heaven into the abyss. The arm of divine justice, then, has reached “the highest things,” so that one may well exclaim, “O God, who is like to thee?” Nor does this contradict the Scripture that says, “God made man to his likeness;” and 1 John 3, “We know that when he shall appear we shall be like to him; because we shall see him as he is.” For when David says here, “Who is like to thee?” he means, is equal to thee, equally wise, powerful, depending on no one, while all depend on him.

20–21 David consoles himself in his present calamity, by the fact of having escaped, through God’s assistance, from other calamities. “How many troubles hast thou shown me, many and grievous;” great in their variety and bitterness, borne by me in Saul’s persecution, “and turning, thou hast brought me to life,” when I was all but in the jaws of death, “and hast brought me back again from the depths of the earth;” deliver me from the height of misery, that nearly drove me to the other world. For “thou hast multiplied thy magnificence,” in accordance with the extent of my troubles, “and turning to me,” in mercy, while you chastised me, as a father you have wonderfully “comforted me,” when from a wretched exile you made me a prosperous king.

22–24 The prophet now predicts his delivery from the power of Absalom, and promises all manner of thanks in his heart, with his lips, and with all sorts of musical instruments. “For I will also,” when I shall have obtained the victory, “confess thy truth to thee;” will praise your justice and your fidelity, “with the instruments of psaltery,” with the musical instrument called the psaltery. And I will use the harp too, “thou Holy One of Israel;” a name applied to God, whom the people of Israel were bound to sanctify by public worship and due honor, for which he in return sanctified them by the sanctity of his