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| 4693 Lat. CIII. At Carthage, in his old age.
1. …“Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Let the soul of us all, made one in Christ, say this. “O Lord my God, Thou art magnified exceedingly!” (ver. 1). Where art Thou magnified? “Confession and beauty Thou hast put on.” Confess ye, that ye may be beautified, that He may put you on. “Clothed with light as a garment” (ver. 2). Clothed with His Church,
because she is made “light” in Him, who before was darkness in herself, as the apostle saith: “Ye were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord.”4694
“Stretching out the heaven like a skin:” either as easily as thou dost a skin, if it be “as easily,” so that thou mayest take it after the letter; or let us understand the authority of the Scriptures, spread out over the whole world, under the name of a skin; because mortality is signified in a skin,4695
but all the authority of the Divine Scriptures was dispensed unto us through mortal men, whose fame is still spreading abroad now they are dead.
2. “Who covereth with waters the upper parts thereof” (ver. 3). The upper parts of what? Of Heaven. What is Heaven? Figuratively only we said, the Divine Scripture. What are the upper parts of the Divine Scripture? The commandment of love, than which there is none more exalted.4696
But wherefore is love compared to waters? Because “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us.”4697
Whence is the Spirit Himself water? because “Jesus stood and cried, He that believeth on Me, out of his bosom shall flow rivers of living water.”4698
Whence do we prove that it was said of the Spirit? Let the Evangelist himself declare, who followeth it up, and saith, “But this spake He of the Spirit, which they were to receive, who should believe on Him.” “Who walketh above the wings of the winds;” that is, above the virtues of souls. What is the virtue of a soul? Love itself. But how doth He walk above it? Because the love of God toward us is greater than ours toward God.
3. “Who maketh spirits His angels, and flaming fire His ministers” (ver. 4): that is, those who are already spirits, who are spiritual, not carnal, He maketh His Angels, by sending them to preach His gospel. “And flaming fire His ministers.” For unless the minister that preacheth be on fire, he enflameth not him to whom he preacheth.
4. “He hath founded the earth upon its firmness” (ver. 5). He hath founded the Church upon the firmness of the Church. What is the firmness of the Church, but the foundation of the Church. What is the foundation of the Church, but that of which the Apostle saith, “Other foundation can no man lay but that is laid, which is Christ Jesus.”4699
And therefore, grounded on such a foundation, what hath she deserved to hear? “It shall not be bowed forever and ever.” “He founded the earth on its firmness.” That is, He hath founded the Church upon Christ the foundation. The Church will totter if the foundation totter; but when shall Christ totter, before whose coming unto us, and taking flesh on Him, “all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made;”4700
who holdeth all things by His Majesty,4701
and us by His goodness? Since Christ faileth not, “she shall not be bowed for ever and ever.” Where are they4702
who say that the Church hath perished from the world, when she cannot even be bowed.…
5. “The deep, like a garment, is its clothing” (ver. 6). Whose? Is it perchance God’s? But he had already said of His clothing, “Clothed with light as with a garment.”4703
I hear of God clothed in light, and that light, if we will, are we. What is, if we will? if we are no longer darkness. Therefore if God is clothed with light, whose clothing, again, is the deep? For an immense mass of waters is called the deep. All water, all the moist nature, and the substance everywhere shed abroad through the seas, and rivers, and hidden caves, is all together called by one name, the Deep. Therefore we understand the earth, of which he said,
“He hath founded the earth.” Of it I believe he said, “The deep, like a garment is its clothing.” For the water is as it were the clothing of the earth, surrounding it and covering it.…
6. “Above the mountains the waters shall stand:” that is, the clothing of the earth, which is the deep, so increased, that the waters stood even above the mountains. We read of this taking place in the deluge.…The Prophet minding to foretell future things, not to relate the past, therefore said it, because he would have it understood that the Church should be in a deluge of persecutions. For there was a time when the floods of persecutors had covered
God’s earth, God’s Church, and had so covered it, that not even those great ones appeared, who are the mountains. For when they fled everywhere, how did they but cease to appear? And perchance of those waters is that saying, “Save me, O God, for the waters are come in even unto my soul.”4704
Especially the waters which make the sea, stormy, unfruitful. For whatsoever earth the sea-water may have covered, it will not rather make it fruitful than bring it to barrenness. For there were also mountains beneath the waters, because above the mountains waters stood.4705
…Why were the Apostles hidden by flight? Because “above the mountains the waters stood.”4706
| 4705 Oxf. mss. “shall stand.”
The power of the waters was great, but how long? Hear what followeth.
| 4706 Oxf. mss. “shall stand.”
7. “From Thy rebuke they shall fly” (ver. 7). And this was done, brethren; from God’s rebuke the waters did fly; that is, they went back from pressing on the mountains. Now the mountains themselves stand forth, Peter and Paul: how do they tower! They who before were pressed down by persecutors, now are venerated by emperors. For the waters are fled from the rebuke of God; because “the heart of kings is in
the hand of God, He hath bent it whither He would;”4707
He commanded peace to be given by them to the Christians; the authority of the Apostles sprang up and towered high.…The waters fled from the rebuke of God. “From the voice of Thy thunder they shall be afraid.” Now who is there that would not be afraid, from the voice of God through the Apostles, the voice of God through the Scriptures, through His clouds? The sea is quieted, the waters have been made afraid, the mountains have been laid bare, the emperor hath given
the order. But who would have given the order, unless God had thundered? Because God willed, they commanded, and it was done. Therefore let no one of men arrogate anything to himself.
8. “The mountains ascend, and the plains go down, into the place which Thou hast founded for them” (ver. 8). He is still speaking of waters. Let us not here understand mountains as of earth; nor plains, as of earth: but waves so great that they may be compared to mountains. The sea did sometime toss, and its waves were as mountains, which could cover those mountains the Apostles. But how long do the mountains
ascend and the plains go down? They raged, and they are appeased. When they raged they were mountains: now they are appeased they are become plains: for He hath founded a place for them. There is a certain channel,4708
as it were a deep place, into which all those lately raging hearts of mortals have retired.…They were mountains formerly, now they are plains: yet, my brethren, even a dead calm4709
| 4708 Meatus, Ben. All the mss. metus, “a certain fear,” which may be the true reading.
is sea. For wherefore are they not now violent? wherefore do they not rage? Wherefore do they not try, if they cannot overthrow our earth, at least to cover it? Wherefore not?
9. Hear. “Thou hast set a bound which they shall not pass over, neither shall they turn again to cover the earth” (ver. 9). What then, because now the bitterest waves have received a measure, that we must be allowed to preach such things even with freedom; because they have had their due limit assigned, because they cannot pass over the bound that is set, nor shall they return to cover the earth; what is doing in the earth itself? What workings take place therein, now that the sea hath left it bare? Although at its beach slight waves do make their noise, although Pagans still murmur
round; the sound of the shores I hear, a deluge I dread not. What then; what is doing in the earth? “Who sendeth out springs in the little valleys” (ver. 10). “Thou sendest out,” he saith, “springs in the little valleys.” Ye know what little valleys are, lower places among the lands. For to hills and mountains, valleys and little valleys are opposed in contrary shape. Hills and mountains are swellings of the land: but valleys and little valleys, lownesses of the lands. Do not despise low places, thence flow springs. “Thou sendest out springs in the little valleys.” Hear a mountain. The
Apostle saith, “I laboured more than they all.” A certain greatness is brought before us: yet immediately, that the waters may flow, he hath made himself a valley: “Yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”4710
It is no contradiction that they who are mountains be also valleys: for as they are called mountains because of their spiritual greatness, so also valleys because of the humility of their spirit. “Not I,” he saith, “but the grace of God with me.”…
10. What is, “In the midst between the mountains the waters shall pass through”? We have heard who are the “mountains,” the great Preachers of the word, the exalted Angels of God, though still in mortal flesh; lofty not by their own power, but by His grace; but as far as relates to themselves, they are valleys, in their humility they send forth springs. “In the midst,” he saith, “between the mountains, the waters shall pass through.”
Let us suppose this said thus, “In the midst between the Apostles shall pass through the preachings of the Word of Truth.” What is, in the midst between the Apostles? What is called in the midst, is common. A common property, from which all alike live, is in the midst, and belongs not to me, but neither belongs it to thee, nor yet to me.…For if they are not in the midst, they are as it were private, they flow not for public use, and I have mine, and he has his own, it is not in the
midst for both me and him to have it; but such is not the preaching of peace.…Therefore, brethren, let what we have said to your Love serve to this purpose, because of the springs: that they may flow from you, be ye valleys, and communicate with all that which ye have from God. Let the waters flow in the midst, envy ye no one, drink, be filled, flow forth when ye are filled. Everywhere let the common water of God have the glory, not the private falsehoods of men.…
11. For it follows, “All the beasts of the wood shall drink” (ver. 11). We do indeed see this also in the visible creation, that the beasts of the wood drink of springs, and of streams that run between the mountains: but now since it hath pleased God to hide His own wisdom in the figures of such things, not to take it away from earnest seekers, but to close it to them that care not, and open it to them that knock; it hath also pleased our Lord God Himself to exhort you by us to this, that in all these things which are said as if of
the bodily and visible creation, we may seek something spiritually hidden, in which when found we may rejoice. The beasts of the wood, we understand the Gentiles, and Holy Scripture witnesses this in many places.…
12. These beasts, then, drink those waters, but passing; not staying, but passing; for all that teaching which in all this time is dispensed passeth.…Unless perchance your love thinketh that in that city to which it is said, “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, praise thy God, O Sion; for He hath made strong the bars of thy gates;”4711
when the bars are now strengthened and the city closed, whence, as we said some time since,4712
no friend goeth out, no enemy entereth;4713
that there we shall have a book to read, or speech to be explained as it is now explained to you. Therefore is it now treated, that there it may be held fast: therefore is it now divided by syllables, that there it may be contemplated whole and entire. The Word of God will not be wanting there: but yet not by letters, not by sounds, not by books,4714
| 4713 [This beautiful expression may be found in divers places in these expositions: e.g. on Ps. xlix. ver 15 (p. 186, supra), where it is of slightly different sense; also on Ps. lxxxv. ver. 9, (p. 407, supra), and, infra, on Ps. cxlviii. 13. The Latin is felicitous though varied: Unde amicus non exit, quo inimicus non intrat. I love the familiar English: “Where no enemy ever enters, and whence no friend
not by a reader, not by an expositor. How then? As, “In the beginning was the Word,” etc.4715
| 4714 [I suppose many Christians have said, “Shall I no more recall my Bible, and be refreshed by the recollection of these songs of our pilgrimage?” I could not think of heaven as a place where the Holy Scriptures should be forgotten. The author’s idea comforts me.—C.]
For He did not so come to us as to depart from thence; because He was in this world, and the world was made by Him. Such a Word are we to contemplate. For “the God of gods shall appear in Zion.”4716
But this when? After our pilgrimage, when the journey is done: if however after our journey is done we be not delivered to the Judge, that the Judge may send us to prison. But if when our journey is ended, as we hope, and wish, and endeavour, we shall have reached our Country, there shall we contemplate What we shall ever praise; nor shall That fail which is present to us, nor we, who enjoy: nor shall he be cloyed that eateth, nor shall that fail which he eateth.
Great and wonderful shall be that contemplation.…
13. “The onagers shall take for their thirst.” By onagers he meaneth some great beasts. For who knoweth not that wild asses are called onagers? He meaneth, therefore, some great untrained ones. For the Gentiles had no yoke of the Law: many nations lived after their own customs, ranging in proud boastfulness as in a wilderness. And so indeed did all the beasts, but the wild asses are put to signify the greater sort. They too shall drink for their
thirst, for for them too the waters flow. Thence drinks the hare, thence the wild ass: the hare little, the wild ass great; the hare timid, the wild ass fierce: either sort drinks thence, but each for his thirst.…So faithfully and gently doth it flow, as at once to satisfy the wild ass, and not to alarm the hare. The sound of Tully’s voice rings out, Cicero is read, it is some book, it is a dialogue of his, whether his own, or Plato’s, or by whatever such writer: some hear that
are unlearned, weak ones of less mind; who dareth to aspire to such a thing? It is a sound of water, and that perchance turbid, but certainly flowing so violently, that a timid animal dare not draw near and drink. To whom soundeth a Psalm, and he saith, It is too much for me? Behold now what the Psalm soundeth; certainly they are hidden mysteries, yet so it soundeth, that even children are delighted to hear, and the unlearned come to drink, and when filled burst forth in
14. Then the Psalm goes on in its text, “Upon them4717 the fowls of the heaven shall inhabit” (ver. 12).…Upon the mountains, then, the fowls of the air shall have their habitation. We see these birds dwell upon the mountains, but many of them dwell in plains, many in valleys, many in groves, many in gardens, not all upon mountains. There are some fowls that dwell not save on the mountains. Some spiritual souls doth this name denote. Fowls are spiritual hearts, which
enjoy the free air. In the clearness of heaven these birds delight, yet their feeding is on the mountains, there will they dwell. Ye know the mountains, they have been already treated of. Mountains are Prophets, mountains are Apostles, mountains are all preachers of the truth.…
15. But think not that those “fowls of heaven” follow their own authority; see what the Psalm saith: “From the midst of the rocks they shall give their voice.” Now, if I shall say to you, Believe, for this said Cicero, this said Plato, this said Pythagoras: which of you will not laugh at me? For I shall be a bird that shall send forth my voice not from the rock. What ought each one of you to say to me? what ought he who is thus instructed to
say? “If any one shall have preached unto you a gospel other than that ye have received, let him be anathema.”4718
What dost thou tell me of Plato, and of Cicero, and of Virgil? Thou hast before thee the rocks of the mountains, from the midst of the rocks give me thy voice. Let them be heard, who hear from the rock: let them be heard, because also in those many rocks the One Rock is heard: for “the Rock was Christ.”4719
Let them therefore be willingly heard, giving their voice from the midst of the rocks. Nothing is sweeter than such a voice of birds. They sound, and the rocks resound: they sound; spiritual men discuss: the rocks resound, testimonies of Scripture give answer. Lo! thence the fowls give their voice from the midst of the rocks, for they dwell on the mountains.
16. “Watering the mountains from the higher places” (ver. 13). Now if a Gentile uncircumcised man comes to us, about to believe in Christ, we give him baptism, and do not call him back to those works of the Law. And if a Jew asks us why we do that, we sound from the rock, we say, This Peter did, this Paul did: from the midst of the rocks we give our voice. But that rock, Peter himself, that great mountain, when he prayed and saw that vision, was watered from above.…
17. “From the fruit of Thy works shall the earth be satisfied.” What is, “From the fruit of Thy works”? Let no man glory in his own works: but “he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”4720
With Thy grace he is satisfied, when he is satisfied: let him not say that grace was given for his own merits. If it is called grace, “it is gratuitously given;” if it is returned for works, wages are paid.4721
Freely therefore receive, because ungodly thou art justified.
18. “Bringing forth grass for the cattle, and green herb for the service of men” (ver. 14). This is true, I perceive; I recognise the creation: the earth doth bring forth grass for the cattle, and green herb for the service of men. But I perceive the words, “Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox which treadeth out the corn: Doth God take care for oxen? For our sakes therefore the Scripture saith it.”
How then doth the earth bring forth grass for the cattle? Because “the Lord hath ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” He sent preachers, saying unto them, “Eat such things as are set before you of them: for the labourer is worthy of his hire.”4723
…They give spiritual, they receive carnal things; they give gold, they receive grass.…“If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things?”4724
This the Apostle said, a preacher so laborious, so indefatigable, so well tried, that he giveth this very grass to the earth. “Nevertheless,” he saith, “we have not used this power.” He showeth that it is due to him, yet he received it not; nor hath he condemned those who have received what was due. For those were to be condemned who exact what is not due, not they who accept their recompense: yet he gave up even his own recompense. Thou dost not cease to
owe to another, because one hath given up his dues, otherwise thou wilt not be the watered earth which bringeth forth grass for the cattle.…Thou receivest spiritual things, give carnal things in return: to the soldier they are due, to the soldier thou returnest them; thou art the paymaster4725
of Christ. “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? I speak not thus, that it should be so done unto me.”4726
| 4725 Provincialis. See this series, vol. vii. p. 440, note 3.
There has been such a soldier as gave up his rations of food even to the paymaster: yet let the paymaster pay the rations.…
19. “That it may bring forth bread out of the earth.” What bread? Christ. Out of what earth? From Peter, from Paul, from the other stewards of the truth. Hear that it is from the earth: “We have,” saith St. Paul, “this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”4727
He is the bread who descended from heaven,4728
that He might be brought forth out of the earth, when He is preached through the flesh of His servants. The earth bringeth forth grass, that it may bring forth bread from the earth. What earth bringeth forth grass? Pious, holy nations. That bread may be brought forth out of what earth? The word of God out of the Apostles, out of the stewards of God’s Sacraments, who still walk upon the earth, who still carry an earthly body.
20. “And wine maketh glad the heart of man” (ver. 15). Let no man prepare himself for intoxication; nay, let every man prepare him for intoxication. “How excellent is Thy cup which maketh inebriate!”4729
We choose not to say, Let no man be drunk. Be inebriated; yet beware, from what source. If the excellent cup of the Lord doth saturate you, your ebriety shall be seen in your works, it shall be seen in the holy love of righteousness, it shall, lastly, be seen in the estrangement of your mind, but from things earthly to heavenly. “To make him a cheerful countenance with oil.”…What is the making the countenance cheerful with oil? The grace of God; a sort of
shining for manifestation; as the Apostle saith, “The Spirit is given to every man for manifestation.”4730
A certain grace which men can clearly see in men, to conciliate holy love, is termed oil, for its divine splendour; and since it appeared most excellent in Christ, the whole world loveth Him; who though while here He was scorned, is now worshipped by every nation: “For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He shall be Governor among the people.”4731
For such is His grace, that many, who do not believe on Him, praise Him, and declare that they are unwilling to believe on Him, because no man can fulfil what He doth command. They who with reproaches once raged against Him, are hindered by His very praises. Yet by all is He loved, by all is He preached; because He is excellently anointed, therefore He is Christ: for He is called Christ from the Chrism or anointing which He had. Messiah in the Hebrew, Christ in the
Greek, Unctus in the Latin: but He anointeth over His whole Body. All therefore who come, receive grace, that their countenances may be made glad with oil.
21. “And bread strengtheneth man’s heart.” What is this, brethren? As it were, he hath forced us to understand what bread he was speaking of. For while that visible bread strengtheneth the stomach, feedeth the body, there is another bread which strengtheneth the heart, in that it is the bread of the heart.…There is therefore a wine that truly maketh glad the heart, and knoweth not to do aught else than to gladden the heart. But that thou mayest not
imagine that this indeed should be taken of the spiritual wine, but not of that spiritual bread; He hath shown this very point, that it is also spiritual: “and bread,” he saith, “strengtheneth man’s heart.” So understand it therefore of the bread as thou dost understand it of the wine; hunger inwardly, thirst inwardly: “Blessed are they,” saith our Lord, “who hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”4732
That bread is righteousness, that wine is righteousness: it is truth, Christ is truth.4733
“I am,” He said, “the living bread, who came down from heaven;”4734
and, “I am the Vine, and ye are the branches.”4735
22. “The trees of the plain shall be satisfied” (ver. 16): but with this grace, brought forth out of the earth. “The trees of the plain,” are the lower orders of the nations. “And the cedars of Libanus which He hath planted.” The cedars of Libanus, the powerful in the world, shall themselves be filled. The bread, and wine, and oil of Christ hath reached senators, nobles, kings; the trees of the plain are filled. First the humble are filled; next also the cedars of Libanus, yet those which He hath
planted; pious cedars, religious faithful; for such hath He planted. For the ungodly also are cedars of Libanus; for, “The Lord shall break the cedars of Libanus.”4736
For Libanus is a mountain: there are those trees, even according to the letter most long-lived and most excellent. But Libanus is interpreted, as we read in those who have written of these things, a brightness: and this brightness seemeth to belong to this world, which at present shineth and is refulgent with its pomps. There are the cedars of Libanus, which the Lord hath planted; those which the Lord hath planted shall be filled.…
23. “There shall the sparrows build their nests: their leader is the house of the coot” (ver. 17). Where shall the sparrows build? In the cedars of Libanus.…Who are the sparrows? Sparrows are birds indeed, and fowls of the air, but small fowls are wont to be called sparrows. There are therefore some spiritual ones that build in the cedars of Libanus: that is, there are certain servants of God who hear in
the Gospel, “Sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow Me.”4737
…Let him who hath resigned many things, not be proud. We know that Peter was a fisherman: what then could he give up, to follow our Lord? Or his brother Andrew, or John and James the sons of Zebedee, themselves also fishermen;4738
and yet what did they say? “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee.”4739
Our Lord said not to him, Thou hast forgotten thy poverty; what hast thou resigned, that thou shouldest receive the whole world? He, my brethren, who resigned not only what he had, but also what he longed to have, resigned much.…
24. But although the sparrows will build in the cedars of Libanus, “the house of the coot is their leader.” What is the house of the coot? The coot, as we all know, is a water bird, dwelling either among the marshes, or on the sea. It hath rarely or never a home on the shore; but in places in the midst of the waters, and thus usually in rocky islets, surrounded by the waves. We therefore understand that the rock is the fit home of the coot, it never dwelleth
more securely than on the rock. On what sort of rock? One placed in the sea. And if it is beaten by the waves, yet it breaketh the waves, is not broken by them: this is the excellency of the rock in the sea. How great waves beat on our Lord Jesus Christ? The Jews dashed against Him; they were broken, He remained whole. And let every one who doth imitate Christ, so dwell in this world, that is, in this sea, where he cannot but feel storms and tempests, that he may yield to no wind,
to no wave, but remain whole, while he meets them all. The home of the coot, therefore, is both strong and weak. The coot hath not a home on lofty spots; nothing is more firm and nothing more humble than that home. Sparrows build indeed in cedars, on account of actual need: but they hold that rock as their leader, which is beaten by the waves, and yet not broken; for they imitate the sufferings of Christ.…
25. What then followeth? “The loftiest hills are for the stags” (ver. 18). The stags are mighty, spiritual, passing in their course over all the thorny places of the thickets and woods. “He maketh my feet like harts’ feet, and setteth me up on high.”4740
Let them hold to the lofty hills, the lofty commandments of God; let them think on sublime subjects, let them hold those which stand forth most in the Scriptures, let them be justified in the highest: for those loftiest hills are for the stags. What of the humble beasts? what of the hare? what of the hedgehog? The hare is a small and weak animal: the hedgehog is also prickly: the one is a timid animal, the other is covered with prickles. What do the prickles
signify, except sinners? He who sinneth daily, although not great sins, is covered over with the smallest prickles. In his timidity he is a hare: in his being covered with the minutest sins, he is a hedgehog: and he cannot hold those lofty and perfect commandments. For “the loftiest hills are for the stags.” What then? do these perish? No. For so “is the rock the refuge for the hedgehogs and the hares.”4741
For the Lord is a refuge for the poor. Place that rock upon the land, it is a refuge for hedgehogs, and for hares: place it on the sea, it is the home of the coot. Everywhere the rock is useful. Even in the hills it is useful: for the hills without the rock’s foundation would fall into the deep.…
26. “He appointed the Moon for certain seasons” (ver. 19). We understand spiritually the Church increasing from the smallest size, and growing old as it were from the mortality of this life; yet so, that it draweth nearer unto the Sun. I speak not of this moon visible to the eye, but of that which is signified by this name. While the Church was in the dark, while she as yet appeared not, shone not forth as yet, men were led astray, and it was said, This is the Church, here is Christ; so that “while the Moon
was dark, they shot their arrows at the righteous in heart.”4742
How blind is he who now, when the Moon is full, wandereth astray? “He appointed the Moon for certain seasons.” For here the Church temporarily is passing away: for this subjection to death will not remain for ever: there will some time be an end of waxing and waning; it is appointed for certain seasons. “And the sun knoweth his going down.” And what sun is this, but that Sun of righteousness, whom the ungodly will lament on the day of judgment never
having risen for them; they who will say on that day, “Therefore we wandered from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness shone not on us, and the sun did not arise upon us.”4743
That sun riseth for him who understandeth Christ.…
27. Nor think, brethren, that the sun ought to be worshipped by some men, because the sun doth sometimes in the Scriptures signify Christ. For such is the madness of men;4744
as if we said that a creature should be worshipped, when it is said, the sun is an emblem of Christ. Then worship the rock also, for it also is a type of Christ.4745
| 4744 [What would our author have said to the teaching of the Trent Catechism on image-worship? See A.N.F. vol. iii. p. 76.—C.]
“He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter:”4746
worship the lamb also, since it is a type of Christ. “The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed;”4747
worship the lion also, since it signifieth Christ. Observe how numerous are the types of Christ: all these are Christ in similitude, not in essence.…
28. What then, when the sun went down, when our Lord suffered? There was a sort of darkness with the Apostles, hope failed, in those to whom He at first seemed great, and the Redeemer of all men. How so? “Thou didst make darkness, and it became night; wherein all the beasts of the forest shall move” (ver. 20).…Here the beasts of the forest are used in different ways: for these things are always
understood in varying senses; as our Lord Himself is at one time termed a lion, at another a lamb. What is so different as a lion and a lamb? But what sort of lamb? One that could overcome the wolf, overcome the lion. He is the Rock, He the Shepherd, He the Gate. The Shepherd entereth by the gate: and He saith, “I am the good Shepherd:” and, “I am the Door of the Sheep.”4748
…Learn thus to understand, when these things are spoken figuratively; lest perchance when ye have read that the Rock signifieth Christ,4749
ye may understand it to mean Him in every passage. In one place it meaneth one thing, another in another, just as we can only understand the meaning of a letter by seeing its position.4750
“The lion’s whelps roaring after their prey, do seek their meat from God” (ver. 21). Justly then our Lord, when nigh unto His going down, the very Sun of Righteousness recognising His going down, said to His disciples, as if darkness being about to come, the lion would roam about to seek whom he might devour, that that lion could devour no man, unless with leave: “Simon,” said He, “this night Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”
| 4750 Circumstantia sui exponuntur. [He adds, “If thou hast heard the first letter in the word Deus, and thinkest it must always belong to it alone, thou wilt blot it out in the word Diabolus. For the word Deus beginneth with the same letter as the word Diabolus: and nothing is so far apart, as God from the devil. Consider how utterly ignorant of things both human and divine he must be, who shall say of the letter D, it ought not to be used in the
beginning of the word devil; and when thou hast asked the reason, replieth, I read that letter in the name of God. Such a man is laughed at: for he is not worthy of an argument. Do not then so childishly interpret these divine things, as if any of you were to think, from my having said above that the beasts of the forest signifies the Gentiles, while I now say that they signify devils and the angels of disobedience, that I am contradicting what I said before. For they are only figures,
and wherever they occur, are explained by the context they have.”—C.]
When Peter thrice denied,4752
was he not already between the lion’s teeth?…
29. “The Sun hath arisen, and they get them away together, and lay them down in their dens” (ver. 22). More and more as the Sun riseth, so that Christ is recognised by the round world, and glorified therein, do the lion’s whelps get them away together; those devils recede from the persecution of the Church, who instigated men to persecute the house of God, by working in the sons of unbelief.
Now that none of them dareth persecute the Church, “the Sun hath arisen, and they get them away together.” And where are they? “And they lay them down in their dens.” Their dens are the hearts of the unbelieving. How many carry lions crouching in their hearts? They burst not forth thence, they make no assault upon the pilgrim Jerusalem. Wherefore do they not so? Because the Sun is already risen, and is shining over the whole world.
30. What art thou doing, O man of God? thou, O Church of God? what art thou, O body of Christ, whose Head is in Heaven? what art thou doing, O man, His unity? “Man,” he saith, “shall go forth to his work” (ver. 23). Let therefore this man work good works in the security of the peace of the Church, let him work unto the end. For sometime there will be a sort of general darkening, and a sort of assault will be made,
but in the evening, that is, in the end of the world: but now the Church doth work in peace and tranquillity; for “man shall go forth to his work, and to his labour, unto the evening.”
31. “O Lord, how great are made Thy works!” (ver. 24). Justly great, justly sublime! where were those works made, that are so great? what was that station where God stood, or that seat whereupon He sat, when He did those works? what was the place where He worked thus? whence did those so beautiful works proceed at the first? To take it word for word, every ordained creation, running by ordinance, beautiful by ordinance, rising by ordinance, setting by ordinance, going through all seasons by ordinance, whence
hath it proceeded? whence hath the Church herself received her rise, her growth, her perfection? In what manner is she destined to a consummation in immortality? with what heralding is she preached? by what mysteries is she recommended? by what types is she concealed? by what preaching is she revealed? where hath God done these things? I see great works. “How great are made Thy works, O Lord!” I ask where He hath made them: I find not the place: but I see what followeth: “In
Wisdom hast Thou made them all.” All therefore Thou hast made in Christ.…“The earth is full of Thy creation.” The earth is full of the creation of Christ. And how so? We discern how: for what was not made by the Father through the Son? Whatever walketh and doth crawl on earth, whatever doth swim in the waters, whatever flieth in the air, whatever doth revolve in heaven, how much more then the earth, the whole universe, is the work of God. But he seems to me to speak here
of some new creation, of which the Apostle saith, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God.”4754
All who believe in Christ, who put off the old man, and put on the new,4755
are a new creature. “The earth is full of Thy works.” On one spot of the earth He was crucified, in one small spot that seed fell into the earth, and died; but brought forth great fruit.…
32. “The earth is full of Thy creation.” Of what creation of Thine is the earth full? Of all trees and shrubs, of all animals and flocks, and of the whole of the human race; the earth is full of the creation of God. We see, know, read, recognise, praise, and in these we preach of Him; yet we are not able to praise respecting these things, as fully as our heart doth abound with praise after the beautiful contemplation of them. But we ought rather to
heed that creation, of which the Apostle saith, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”4756
What “old things have passed away”? In the Gentiles, all idolatry; in the Jews themselves, all that servitude unto the Law, all those sacrifices that were harbingers of the present Sacrifice. The oldness of man was then abundant; One came to renovate His own work, to melt His silver, to form His coin, and we now see the earth full of Christians believing in God, turning themselves away from their former uncleanness and idolatry, from a past hope to the hope of a new
age: and behold it is not yet realized, but is already possessed in hope, and through that very hope we now sing, and say, “The earth is full of Thy creation.” We do not as yet sing this in our country, nor yet in that rest which is promised, the bars of the gates of Jerusalem not being as yet made fast;4757
but still in our pilgrimage gazing upon the whole of this world, upon men who on every side are running unto the faith, fearing hell, despising death, loving eternal life, scorning the present, and filled with joy at such a spectacle, we say, “The earth is full of Thy creation.”
33. …“So is the great and wide sea also; wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts” (ver. 25). He speaketh of the sea as terrible. Snares creep in this world, and surprise the careless suddenly; for who numbereth the temptations that creep? They creep, but beware, lest they snatch us away. Let us keep watch on the Wood; even in the water,4758
even on the waves, we are safe: let not Christ sleep, let not faith sleep; if He hath slept, let Him be awakened; He will command the winds; He will calm the sea;4759
| 4758 Some mss. add, “On the cross let us sail;” but this may be a gloss.
the voyage will be ended, and we shall rejoice in our country. For I see in this terrible sea unbelievers still; for they dwell in barren and bitter waters: but they are both small and great. We know this: many little men of this world are still unbelievers, many great men of this world are so: there are living creatures, both small and great, in this sea. They hate the Church: the name of Christ is a burden to them: they rage not, because they are not
permitted; the cruelty which cannot burst forth in deeds, is shut up within the heart. For all, whether small or great, “creeping things, both small and great,” who at present grieve at the temples being shut, the altars overthrown, the images broken, the laws which make it a capital crime to sacrifice to idols; all who mourn on this account, are still in the sea. What then of us? And by what road then are we to journey unto our country? Through this very sea, but on the Wood.
Fear not the danger; that wood which holdeth together the world doth bear thee up.
34. “There shall go the ships” (ver. 26). Lo, ships float upon that which alarmed you, and sink not. By ships we understand churches; they go among the storms, among the tempests of temptations, among the waves of the world, among the beasts, both small and great. Christ on the wood of His cross is the Pilot. “There shall go the ships.” Let not the ships fear, let them not much mind where they float, but by
Whom they are steered. “There shall go the ships.” What voyage do they find tedious, when they feel that Christ is their Pilot? They will sail safely, let them sail diligently, they will reach their promised haven, they will be led to the land of rest.
35. There is also in that sea somewhat which transcends all creatures, great and small. What is this? Let us hear the Psalm: “There is that Leviathan, whom Thou hast formed to make sport of him.” There are creeping things innumerable, both small and great beasts; there shall the ships go, and shall not fear, not only the creeping things innumerable, and beasts both small and great, but not even the serpent which is there; “whom Thou,” he speaketh unto
God, “hast made to make sport of him.” This is a great mystery; and yet I am about to utter what ye already know. Ye know that a certain serpent is the enemy of the Church: ye have not seen him with the eyes of the flesh, but ye see him with the eyes of faith.…
36. This serpent then, our ancient enemy, glowing with rage, cunning in his wiles, is in the mighty sea. “Here is that Leviathan, whom Thou hast formed to make sport of him.” Do thou now make sport of the serpent: for for this end was this serpent made. He falling by his own sin from the sublime realms of the heavens, and made devil instead of angel, received a certain region of his own in this mighty and spacious sea. What thou thinkest his
kingdom, is his prison. For many say: wherefore hath the devil received so great power, that he may rule in this world, and prevaileth so much, can do so much? How much prevaileth he? How much can he do? Unless by permission, he can do nothing. Do thou so act, that he may not be allowed to attack thee; or if he be allowed to tempt thee, he may depart vanquished, and may not gain thee. For he hath been allowed to tempt some holy men, servants of God: they overcame him, because
they departed not from the way, they whose heel he watched, fell not.…
37. He then, my brethren, who doth wish to watch the serpent’s head, and safely to pass this sea; for it must be that this serpent dwelleth here, and, as I had commenced saying, the devil when he fell from heaven received this region; let him watch his head, on the part of the fear of the world, and of the lusts of the world. For it is hence that he suggesteth some object of fear or of desire; he trieth thy love, or thy fear. If thou fearest hell, and lovest
the kingdom of God, thou wilt watch his head.…“There is no power but of God.”4760
What then fearest thou? Let the dragon be in the waters, let the dragon be in the sea: thou art to pass through it. He is made so as to be made sport of, he is ordained to inhabit this place, this region is given him. Thou thinkest that this habitation is a great thing for him, because thou knowest not the dwellings of the angels whence he fell:4761
what seemeth to thee his glory, is his damnation.
| 4761 Oxf. mss. add, “Thou admirest the dwellings of the dead where he is cast down.”
38. …What then fearest thou? Perhaps he is about to try thy flesh: it is the scourge of thy Lord, not the power of thy tempter. His wish is to injure that salvation which is promised: but he is not allowed: but that he may not be allowed, have Christ for thy Head: repel the serpent’s head: consent not unto his suggestion, slip not from thy path. “There is that Leviathan, whom Thou hast made to make sport of him.”
39. Dost thou wish to see how incapable he is of hurting thee, unless permitted? “These,” he saith, “wait all upon Thee, that Thou mayest give them meat in due season” (ver. 27). And this serpent wisheth to devour, but he devoureth not whom he wisheth.…Thou hast heard what the serpent’s meat is. Thou dost not wish that God give thee to be devoured by the serpent; because not the serpent’s food: i.e. forsake not the Word of God. For where it is said to the serpent, “Dust thou shalt eat,” it is said to the transgressor, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”4762
Thou dost not wish to be the serpent’s food? be not dust. How, thou repliest, shall I not be dust? If thou hast not a taste for earthly things. Hear the Apostle, that thou mayest not be dust. For the body which thou wearest is earth: but do thou refuse to be earth. What meaneth this? “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”4763
If thou dost not set thy affections on earthly things, thou art not earth: if thou art not earth, thou art not devoured by the serpent, whose appointed food is earth. The Lord giveth the serpent his food when He will, what He will: but He judgeth rightly, he cannot be deceived, He giveth him not gold for earth. “When Thou hast given it them, they gather it.”…
40. “When thou openest Thy hand, they shall all be filled with good” (ver. 28). What is it, O Lord, that Thou openest Thy hand? Christ is Thy hand. “To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”4764
To whom it is revealed, unto him it is opened: for revelation is opening. “When Thou openest Thy hand, they shall all be filled with good.” When Thou revealest Thy Christ, “they shall all be filled with good.” But they have not good from themselves; this is oftentimes proved unto them. “When Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled” (ver. 29). Many filled with good have attributed to themselves what they had, and have wished to boast as in their own righteousnesses, and have said to themselves, I am righteous; I am great: and have become self-complacent. Unto these the Apostle speaketh: “What hast thou, that thou didst not receive?”4765
But God, wishing to prove unto man that whatever he hath he hath from Him, so that with good he may gain humility also, sometimes troubleth him; He turneth away His face from him, and he falleth into temptation; and He showeth him that his righteousness, and his walking aright, was only under His government.…
41. But wherefore dost Thou do this? wherefore dost Thou hide Thy face, that they may be troubled? “Thou shalt take away their breath, and they shall fail.” Their breath was their pride; they boast, they attribute things to themselves, they justify themselves. Hide, therefore, Thy face, that they may be troubled: take away their breath, and let them fail; let them cry unto Thee, “Hear me, O Lord, and that soon, for my spirit waxeth faint: hide not
Thy face from me.”4766
“Thou shalt take away their breath, and they shall fail, and shall be turned to their dust.” The man who repenteth of his sin discovereth himself, that he had not strength of himself; and doth confess unto God, saying, that he is earth and ashes. O proud one, thou art turned to thine own dust, thy breath hath been taken away; no longer dost thou boast thyself, no longer extol thyself, no longer justify thyself; thou seest that thou art made of
dust, and when the Lord turneth away His face, thou hast fallen back into thine own dust. Pray, therefore, confess thy dust and thy weakness.
42. And see what followeth: “Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit,4767 and they shall be made” (ver. 30). Thou shalt take away their spirit, and send forth Thine own: Thou shalt take away their spirit: they shall have no spirit of their own. Are they then forsaken? “Blessed are the poor in spirit:”4768
but they are not forsaken. They refused to have a spirit of their own: they shall have the Spirit of God. Such were our Lord’s words to the future martyrs:4769
“It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” Attribute not your courage to yourselves. If it is yours, He saith, and not Mine, it is obstinacy, not courage. “For we are His workmanship,” saith the Apostle, “created unto good works.”4770
From His Spirit we have received grace, that we may live unto righteousness: for it is He that justifieth the ungodly.4771
“Thou shalt take away their spirit, and they shall fail; Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be made: and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth:” that is, with new men, confessing themselves to have been justified, not righteous of their own power, so that the grace of God is in them. What then? When He hath taken away our spirit, we shall be turned again to our dust, beholding to our edification our weakness, that when we receive His Spirit we may
be refreshed. See what followeth: “Be the glory of the Lord for ever” (ver. 31). Not thine, not mine, not his, or his; not for a season, but “for ever.” “The Lord shall rejoice in His works.” Not in thine, as if they were thine: because if thy works are evil, it is through thy iniquity; if good, it is through the grace of God. “The Lord shall rejoice in His works.”
43. “Who looketh on the earth, and maketh it tremble; who toucheth the hills, and they shall smoke” (ver. 32). O earth, thou wast exulting in thy good, to thyself thou didst ascribe thy fulness and opulence; behold, the Lord looketh on thee, and causeth thee to tremble. May He look on thee, and make thee tremble: for the trembling of humility is better than the confidence of pride.…For it is God, he saith,
which worketh in you. For this reason then with trembling, because God worketh in you. Because He gave, because what thou hast cometh not from thee, thou shalt work with fear and trembling, for if thou fearest not Him, He will take away what He gave. Work, therefore, with trembling. Hear another Psalm: “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling.”4772
If we must rejoice with trembling, God beholdeth us, there cometh an earthquake; when God looketh upon us, let our hearts tremble; then will God rest there. Hear Him in another passage: “Upon whom shall My Spirit rest? Even on him that is lowly and quiet, and who trembleth at My Word.”4773
“Who looketh on the earth, and maketh it tremble; who toucheth the hills, and they shall smoke” (ver. 32). The hills were proud, and boastful of themselves, God had not touched them: He toucheth them, and they shall smoke. What meaneth the smoking of the hills? That they pray unto the Lord. Behold great hills, proud hills, vast hills, prayed not to God: they wished themselves to be entreated, and entreated not Him
who was above them. For what powerful, arrogant, proud man is there upon the earth, who deigneth humbly to entreat God? I speak of the ungodly, not of the “cedars of Libanus, which the Lord hath planted.” Every ungodly man, unhappy soul, knoweth not how to entreat God, while he wisheth himself to be entreated by men. He is a hill; it is needful that God touch him, that he may smoke: when he hath begun to smoke, he will offer prayers unto God, as it were the sacrifice of his
heart. He smoketh unto God, he then beateth his breast: he beginneth to weep, for smoke doth elicit tears.
44. “I will sing unto the Lord in my life” (ver. 33). What will sing? Everything that is willing. Let us sing unto the Lord in our life. Our life at present is only hope; our life will be eternity hereafter: the life of mortal life, is the hope of an everlasting life. “I will praise my God while I have my being.” Since I am in Him for ever and ever, while I have my being, I will praise my God. Let us not imagine that, when we have commenced praising God in that state, we shall have any other work:
our whole life will be for the praises of God. If we become weary of Him whom we praise, we may also become weary of praising. If He is ever loved, He is ever praised by us.
45. “Let my discourse be pleasing to Him: my joy shall be in the Lord” (ver. 34). What is the discourse of man unto God, save the confession of sins? Confess unto God what thou art, and thou hast discoursed with Him. Discourse unto Him, do good works, and discourse. “Wash you, make you clean,” saith Isaiah.4774
What is it to discourse unto God? Unfold thyself to him who knoweth thee, that He may unfold Himself to thee who knowest not Him. Behold, it is thy discourse that pleaseth the Lord; the offering of thy humility, the tribulation of thy heart, the holocaust of thy life, this pleaseth God. But what is pleasing to thyself? “My joy shall be in the Lord.” This is that discoursing which I meant between God and thyself: show thyself to Him who
knoweth thee, and He showeth Himself unto thee who knowest not him. Pleasing unto Him is thy confession: sweet unto thee is His grace. He hath spoken Himself unto thee. How? By the Word. What Word? Christ.…
46. “Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth” (ver. 35). He seemeth angry! O holy soul, which here doth sing and groan! Would that our soul were with that very soul! Would that it were coupled with it, associated, conjoined with it! It shall behold also His loving-kindness when he is angry. For who but he who is filled with charity, understandeth this? Thou tremblest, because he curseth. And who doth curse? A saint. Without doubt he is listened to. But it is said unto the saints, “Bless, and
curse not.” 4775
What is then the sense of the words, “Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth”? Let them utterly be consumed; let their spirit be taken away, that He may send forth His own Spirit, and they may be restored. “And the ungodly, so that they be no more.” In what that they be no more, save as wicked men? Let them therefore be justified, that they may no longer be ungodly. The Psalmist saw this, and was filled with joy, and repeateth the first verse of the
Psalm: “Bless thou the Lord, O my soul.” Let our soul bless the Lord, brethren, since He hath deigned to give unto us both understanding and the power of language, and unto you attention and earnestness in hearing. Let each, as he can recall to mind what he hath heard, by mutual conversation stir up the food ye have received, ruminate on what ye have heard, let it not descend in you into the bowels of forgetfulness. Let the treasure to be desired4776
rest upon your lips. These matters have been sought out and discovered with great labour, with great labour have they been announced and discoursed of; may our toil be fruitful unto you, and may our soul bless the Lord.
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