Early Church Fathers
1. Of this Psalm, the title seemeth not to need operose discussion: for simple and easy it appeareth. For thus it standeth: "For the end, for David himself a Psalm of a Song." But in many Psalms already we have reminded you what is "at the end: for the end of the Law is Christ for righteousness to every man believing:" He is the end which maketh perfect, not that which consumeth or destroyeth. Nevertheless, if any one endeavoureth to inquire, what meaneth, "a Psalm of a Song:" why not either "Psalm" or "Song," but both; or what is the difference between Psalm of Song, and Song of Psalm, because even thus of some Psalms the titles are inscribed: he will find perchance something which we leave for men more acute and more at leisure than ourselves. ...
2. "Let God rise up, and let His enemies be scattered" (ver. 1). Already this hath come to pass, Christ hath risen up, "who is over all things, God blessed for ever," and His enemies have been dispersed through all nations, to wit, the Jews; in that very place, where they practised their enmities, being overthrown in war, and thence through all places dispersed: and now they hate, but fear, and in that very fear they do that which followeth, "And let them that hate Him flee from His face." The flight indeed of the mind is fear. For in carnal flight, whither flee they from the face of Him who everywhere showeth the efficacy of His presence? "Whither shall I depart," saith he, "from Thy Spirit, and from Thy face whither shall I flee?" With mind, therefore, not with body, they flee; to wit, by being afraid, not by being hidden; and not from that face which they see not, but from that which they are compelled to see. For the face of Him hath His presence in His Church been called. ...
3. "As smoke faileth, let them fail" (ver. 2). For they lifted up themselves from the fires of their hatred unto the vapouring of pride, and against Heaven setting their mouth, and shouting, "Crucify, Crucify," Him taken captive they derided, Him hanging they mocked: and being soon conquered by that very Person against whom they swelled victorious, they vanished away. "As wax melteth from the face of fire, so let sinners perish from the face of God." Though perchance in this passage he hath referred to those men, whose hard-heartedness in tears of penitence is dissolved: yet this also may be understood, that he threateneth future judgment; because though in this world like smoke, in lifting up themselves, that is, in priding themselves, they have melted away, there will come to them at the last final damnation, so that from His face they will perish for everlasting, when in His own glory He shall have appeared, like fire, for the punishment of the ungodly, and the light of the righteous.
4. "Lastly, there followeth, "And let just men be joyous, and exult in the sight of God, let them delight in gladness" (ver. 3). For then shall they hear, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive ye the kingdom." "Let them be joyous," therefore, that have toiled, "and exult in the sight of God." For there will not be in this exultation, as though it were before men, any empty boasting; but (it will be) in the sight of Him who unerringly looketh into that which He hath granted. "Let them delight in gladness:" no longer exulting with trembling as in this world, so long as "human life is a trial upon earth." Secondly, he turneth himself to those very persons to whom he hath given so great hope, and to them while here living he speaketh and exhorteth: "Sing ye to God, psalm ye to His name" (ver. 4). Already on this subject in the exposition of the Title we have before spoken that which seemed meet. He singeth to God, that liveth to God: He psalmeth to His name, that worketh unto His Glory. In singing thus, in psalming thus, that is, by so living, by so working, "a way make ye to Him," he saith, "that hath ascended above the setting." A way make ye to Christ: so that through the beautiful feet of men telling good tidings, the hearts of men believing many have a way opened to Him. For the Same is He that hath ascended above the "setting:" either because the new life of one turned to Him receiveth Him not, except the old life shall have set by his renouncing this world, or because He ascended above the setting, when by rising again He conquered the downfall of the body. "For The Lord is His name." Which if they had known, the Lord of glory they never would have crucified.
5. "Exult ye in the sight of Him," O ye to whom hath been said, "Sing ye to God, psalm ye to the name of Him, a way make ye to Him that hath ascended above the setting," also "exult in the sight of Him:" as if "sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing." For while ye make a way to Him, while ye prepare a way whereby He may come and possess the nations, ye are to suffer in the sight of men many sorrowful things. But not only faint not, but even exult, not in the sight of men, but in the sight of God. "In hope rejoicing, in tribulation enduring:" "exult ye in the sight of Him." For they that in the sight of men trouble you, "shall be troubled by the face of Him, the Father of orphans and Judge of widows" (ver. 5). For desolate they suppose them to be, from whom ofttimes by the sword of the Word of God both parents from sons, and husbands from wives, are severed: but persons destitute and widowed have the consolation "of the Father of orphans and Judge of widows:" they have the consolation of Him that say to Him, "For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord hath taken up me:" and they that have hoped in the Lord, continuing in prayers by night and by day: by whose face those men shall be troubled when they shall have seen themselves prevail nothing, for that the whole world hath gone away after Him. For out of those orphans and widows, that is, persons destitute of partnership in this world's hope, the Lord for Himself doth build a Temple: whereof in continuation he saith, "The Lord is in His holy place."
6. For what is His place he hath disclosed, when he saith, "God that maketh to dwell men of one mood in a house" (ver. 6): men of one mind, of one sentiment: this is the holy place of the Lord. For when he had said, "The Lord is in His holy place:" as though we were inquiring in what place, since He is everywhere wholly, and no place of corporal space containeth Him; forthwith he hath subjoined somewhat, that we should not seek Him apart from ourselves, but rather being of one mood dwelling in a house, we should deserve that He also Himself deign to dwell among us. This is the holy place of the Lord, the thing that most men seek to have, a place where in prayer they may be hearkened unto. ...For as in a great house of a man, the Lord thereof doth not abide in every place whatsoever, but in some place doubtless more private and honourable: so God dwelleth not in all men that are in His house (for He dwelleth not in the vessels of dishonour), but His holy place are they whom "He maketh to dwell of one mood," or "of one manner, in a house." For what are called tropoi in Greek, by both modi and mores (moods and manners), in Latin may be interpreted. Nor hath the Greek writer, "Who maketh to dwell," but only "maketh to dwell." "The Lord," then, "is in His holy place."...
7. But to prove that by His Grace He buildeth to Himself this place, not for the sake of the merits preceding of those persons out of whom He buildeth it, see what followeth: "Who leadeth forth men fettered, in strength." For He looseth the heavy bonds of sins, wherewith they were fettered so that they could not walk in the way of the commandments: but He leadeth them forth "in strength," which before His Grace they had not. "Likewise men provoking that dwell in the tombs:" that is, every way dead, taken up with dead works. For these men provoke Him to anger by withstanding justice: for those fettered men perchance would walk, and are not able, and are praying of God that they may be able, and are saying to Him, "From my necessities lead me forth." By whom being heard, they give thanks, saying, "Thou hast broken asunder my bonds." But these provoking men that dwell in the tombs, are of that kind, which in another passage the Scripture pointeth out, saying, "From a dead man, as from one that is not, confession perisheth." Whence there is this saying, "When a sinner shall have come into the depth of evil things, he despiseth." For it is one thing to long for, another thing to fight against righteousness: one thing from evil to desire to be delivered, another thing one's evil doings to defend rather than to confess: both kinds nevertheless the Grace of Christ leadeth forth in strength. With what strength, but that wherewith against sin even unto blood they are to strive? For out of each kind are made meet persons, whereof to construct His holy place; those being loosened, these being raised to life. For even of the woman, whom Satan had bound for eighteen years, by His command He loosed the bonds; and Lazarus' death by His voice He overcame. He that hath done these things in bodies, is able to do more marvellous things in characters, and to make men of one mood to dwell in a house: "leading forth men fettered in strength, likewise men provoking that dwell in the tombs."
8. "O God, when Thou wentest forth before Thy people" (ver. 7). His going forth is perceived, when He appeareth in His works. But He appeareth not to all men, but to them that know how to spy out His works. For I do not now speak of those works which are conspicuous to all men, Heaven and earth and sea and all things that in them are; but the works whereby He leadeth forth men fettered in strength, likewise men provoking that dwell in the tombs, and maketh them of one manner to dwell in a house. Thus He goeth forth before His people, that is, before those that do perceive this His Grace. Lastly, there followeth, "When Thou wentest by in the desert, the earth was moved" (ver. 8). A desert were the nations, which knew not God: a desert they were, where by God Himself no law had been given, where no Prophet had dwelled, and foretold the Lord to come. "When," then, "Thou wentest by in the desert," when Thou wast preached in the nations; "the earth was moved," to the faith earthly men were stirred up. But whence was it moved? "For the heavens dropped from the face of God." Perchance here some one calleth to mind that time, when in the desert God was going over before His people, before the sons of Israel, by day in the pillar of cloud, by night in the brightness of fire; and determineth that thus it is that "the heavens dropped from the face of God," for manna He rained upon His people: that the same thing also is that which followeth, "Mount Sina from the face of the God of Israel," "with voluntary rain severing God to Thine inheritance" (ver. 9), namely, the God that on Mount Sina spake to Moses, when He gave the Law, so that the manna is the voluntary rain, which God severed for His inheritance, that is, for His people; because them alone He so fed, not the other nations also: so that what next he saith, "and it was weakened," is understood of the inheritance being itself weakened; for they murmuring, fastidiously loathed the manna, longing for victuals of flesh, and those things on which they had been accustomed to live in Egypt. ... Lastly, all those men in the desert were stricken down, nor were any of them except two found worthy to go into the land of promise. Although even if in the sons of them that inheritance be said to have been perfected, we ought more readily to hold to a spiritual sense. For all those things in a figure did happen to them; until the day should break, and the shadows should be removed.
9. May then the Lord open to us that knock; and may the secret things of His mysteries, as far as Himself vouchsafeth, be disclosed. For in order that the earth might be moved to the Truth when into the desert of the Gentiles the Gospel was passing, "the Heavens dropped from the face of God." These are the Heavens, whereof in another Psalm is sung, "The Heavens are telling forth the glory of God." ... So here also, "the Heavens dropped;" but "from the face of God." For even these very persons have been "saved through faith, and this not of themselves, but God's gift it is, not of works, lest perchance any man should be lifted up. For of Himself we are the workmanship," "that maketh men of one mood to dwell in a house."
10. But what is that which followeth, "Mount Sina from the face of the God of Israel"? Must there be understood "dropped;" so that what he hath called by the name of Heavens, the same he hath willed to be understood under the name of Mount Sina also; just as we said that those are called mountains, which were called Heavens? Nor in this sense ought it to move us that He saith "mountain," not mountains, while in that place they were called "Heavens," not Heaven: for in another Psalm also after it had been said, "The Heavens are telling forth the glory of God:" after the manner of Scripture repeating the same sense in different words, subsequently there is said, "And the firmament telleth the works of His hands." First he said "Heavens," not "Heaven:" and yet afterwards not "firmaments," but "firmament." For God called the firmament Heaven, as in Genesis hath been written. Thus then Heavens and Heaven, mountains and mountain, are not a different thing, but the very same thing: just as Churches many, and the One Church, are not a different thing, but the very same thing. Why then "Mount Sina, which gendereth unto bondage"? as saith the Apostle. Is perchance the Law itself to be understood in Mount Sina, as that which "the Heavens dropped from the face of God," in order that the earth might be moved? And is this the very moving of the earth, when men are troubled, because the Law they cannot fulfil? But if so it is, this is the voluntary rain, whereof in confirmation he saith, "Voluntary rain God severing to Thine inheritance:" because "He hath not done so to any nation, and His judgment He hath not manifested to them." God therefore set apart this voluntary rain to His inheritance because He gave the Law. And "there was made weak," either the Law, or the inheritance. The Law may be understood to have been made weak, because it was not fulfilled; not that of itself it is weak, but because it maketh men weak, by threatening punishment, and not aiding through grace. For also the very word the Apostle hath used, where he saith, "For that which was impossible of the Law, wherein it was made weak through the flesh:" willing to intimate that through the Spirit it is fulfilled: nevertheless, itself he hath said is made weak, because by weak men it cannot be fulfilled. But the inheritance, that is, the people, without any doubt is understood to have been made weak by the giving to them of the Law. For "the Law came in, that transgression might abound." But that which followeth, "But Thou hast made it perfect," to the Law is thus referred, forasmuch as it is made perfect, that is, is fulfilled after that which the Lord saith in the Gospel, "I have not come to annul the Law, but to fulfil." ... There is in these words yet another sense: which seemeth to me more to approve itself. For much more in accordance with the context, grace itself is understood to be the voluntary rain, because with no preceding merits of works it is given gratis. "For if grace, no longer of works: otherwise grace no longer is grace." ..."But to humble men He giveth grace." And it was made weak, but Thou hast made it perfect:" because "virtue in weakness is perfected." Some copies indeed, both Latin and Greek, have not "Mount Sina;" but, "from the face of the God of Sina, from the face of the God of Israel." That is, "The Heavens dropped from the face of God:" and, as if enquiry were made of what God, "from the face of the God," he saith, "of Sina, from the face of the God of Israel," that is, from the face of the God that gave the Law to the people of Israel. Why then "the Heavens dropped from the face of God," from the face of this God, but because thus was fulfilled that which had been foretold, "Blessing He shall give that hath given the Law"? The Law whereby to terrify a man that relieth on human powers; blessing, whereby He delivereth a man that hopeth in God. Thou then, O God, hast made perfect Thine inheritance; because it is made weak in itself, in order that it may be made perfect by Thee.
11. "Thine animals shall dwell therein" (ver. 10). "Thine," not their own; to Thee subject, not for themselves free; for Thee needy, not for themselves sufficient. Lastly, he continueth, "Thou hast prepared in Thine own sweetness for the needy, O God." "In Thine own sweetness," not in his meetness. For the needy he is, for he hath been made weak, in order that he may be made perfect: he hath acknowledged himself indigent, that he may be replenished. This is that sweetness, whereof in another place is said, "The Lord shall give sweetness, and our land shall give her fruit:" in order that a good work may be done not for fear, but for love; not for dread of punishment, but for love of righteousness. For this is true and sound freedom. But the Lord hath prepared this for one wanting, not for one abounding, whose reproach is that poverty: of which sort in another place is said, "Reproach to these men that abound, and contempt to proud men." For those he hath called proud, whom he hath called them that abound.
12. "The Lord shall give the Word" (ver. 11): to wit, food for His animals which shall dwell therein. But what shall these animals work to whom He shall give the word? What but that which followeth? "To them preaching the Gospel in much virtue." With what virtue, but with that strength wherein He leadeth forth men fettered? Perchance also here he speaketh of that virtue, wherewith in preaching the Gospel they wrought wondrous signs. Who then "shall give the Word to men preaching the Gospel with much virtue"? "The King," he saith, "of the virtues of the Beloved" (ver. 12). The Father therefore is King of the virtues of the Son. For the Beloved, when there is not specified any person that is beloved, by a substitution of name, of the Only Son is understood. Is not the Son Himself King of His virtues, to wit of the virtues serving Himself? Because with much virtue the King of Virtues shall give the Word to men preaching the Gospel, of Whom it hath been said, "The Lord of Virtues, He is the King of Glory?" But his not having said King of Virtues, but "King of the Virtues of the beloved," is a most usual expression in the Scriptures, if any one observe: which thing chiefly appeareth in those cases where even the person's own name is already expressed, so that it cannot at all be doubted that it is the same person of whom something is said. Of which sort also is that which in the Pentateuch in many passages is found: "And Moses did it, as the Lord commanded Moses." He said not that which is usual in our expressions, And Moses did, as the Lord commanded him; but, "Moses did as the Lord commanded Moses," as if one person were the Moses whom He commanded, and another person the Moses who did, whereas it is the very same. In the New Testament such expressions are most difficult to find. ... "The King," therefore, "of the virtues of the Beloved," thus may be understood, as if it were to be said, the King of His virtues, because both King of Virtues is Christ, and the Beloved is the very same Christ. However, this sense hath not so great urgency, as that no other can be accepted: because the Father also may be understood as King of the virtues of His Beloved Son, to whom the Beloved Himself saith, "All Mine are Thine, and Thine Mine." But if perchance it is asked, whether God the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ can be called King also, I know not whether any one would dare to withhold this name from Him in the passage where the Apostle saith, "But to the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God." Because even if this be said of the Trinity itself, therein is also God the Father. But if we do not carnally understand, "O God, Thy Judgment to the King give Thou, and Thy justice to the Son of the King:" I know not whether anything else hath been said than, "to Thy Son." King therefore is the Father also. Whence that verse of this Psalm, "King of the virtues of the Beloved;" in either way may be understood. When therefore he had said, "The Lord shall give the Word to men preaching the Gospel with much virtue:" because virtue itself by Him is ruled, and serveth Him by whom it is given; the Lord Himself, he saith, who shall give the Word to men preaching the Gospel with much virtue, is the King of the virtues of the Beloved.
13. In the next place there followeth, "Of the Beloved, and of the beauty of the House to divide the spoils." The repetition belongeth to eulogy. ... But whether it be repeated, or whether it be received as spoken once, the word which hath been set down, namely, "Beloved," I suppose that thus must be understood that which followeth, "and of the beauty of a house to divide the spoils;" as if there were said, "Chosen even to divide the spoils of the beauty of a house," that is, Chosen even for dividing the spoils. For beautiful Christ hath made His House, that is, the Church, by dividing to Her spoils: in the same manner as the Body is beautiful in the distribution of the members. "Spoils" moreover those are called that are stripped off from conquered foes. What this is the Gospel adviseth us in the passage where we read, "No one goeth into the house of a strong man to spoil his vessels, unless first he shall have bound the strong man." Christ therefore hath bound the devil with spiritual bonds, by overcoming death, and by ascending from Hell above the Heavens: He hath bound him by the Sacrament of His Incarnation, because though finding nothing in Him deserving of death, yet he was permitted to kill: and from him so bound He took away his vessels as though they were spoils. For he was working in the sons of disobedience, of whose unbelief he made use to work his own will. These vessels the Lord cleansing by the remission of sins, sanctifying these spoils wrested from the foe laid prostrate and bound, these He hath divided to the beauty of His House; making some apostles, some prophets, some pastors and doctors, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the Body of Christ. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and though all the members of the body are many, the body is one: so also is Christ. "Are all Apostles? Are all Prophets? Are all Powers? Have all the gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?" "But all these things worketh one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one his own gifts, as He willeth." And such is the beauty of the house, whereto the spoils are divided, that a lover thereof with this fairness being enkindled, crieth out, "O Lord, I have loved the grace of Thy House."
14. Now in that which followeth, he turneth himself to address the members themselves, whereof the beauty of the House is composed, saying, "If ye sleep in the midst of the lots, wings of a dove silvered, and between the shoulders thereof in the freshness of gold" (ver. 13). First, we must here examine the order of the words, in what manner the sentence is ended; which certainly awaiteth, when there is said, "If ye sleep:" secondly, in that which he saith, namely, "wings of dove silvered," whether in the singular number it must be understood as being, "of this wing" thereof, or in the plural as, "these wings." But the singular number the Greek excludeth, where always in the plural we read it written. But still it is uncertain whether it be these wings; or whether, "O ye wings," so as that he may seem to speak to the wings themselves. Whether therefore by the words which have preceded, that sentence be ended, so that the order is, "The Lord shall give the Word to men preaching the Gospel with much virtue, if ye sleep in the midst of the lots, O ye wings of a dove silvered:" or by these which follow, so that the order is, "If ye sleep in the midst of the lots, the wings of a dove silvered with snow shall be whitened in Selmon:" that is, the wings themselves shall be whitened, if ye sleep in the midst "of the lots:" so that he may be understood to say this to them that are divided to the beauty of the House, as it were spoils; that is, if ye sleep in the "midst ofthe lots," O ye that are divided to the beauty of the House, "through the manifestation of the Spirit unto profit," so that "to one indeed is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge," etc., if then ye sleep in the midst of the lots, then the wings of a dove silvered with snow shall be whitened in Selmon. It may also be thus: "If ye being the wings of a dove silvered, sleep in the midst of the lots, with snow they shall be whitened in Selmon," so as that those men be understood who through grace receive remission of sins. Whence also of the Church Herself, is said in the Song of Songs, "Who is She that goeth up whitened?" For this promise of God is held out through the Prophet, saying, "If your sins shall have been like scarlet, like snow I will whiten them." It may also thus be understood, so that in that which hath been said, "wings of a dove silvered," there be understood, ye shall be, so that this is the sense, O ye that like as it were spoils to the beauty of the house are divided, if ye sleep in the "midst of the lots," wings of a dove silvered ye shall be: that is, into higher places ye shall be lifted up, adhering however to the bond of the Church. For I think no other dove silvered can be better perceived here, than that whereof hath been said, "One is My dove." But silvered She is because with divine sayings she hath been instructed: for the sayings of the Lord in another place are called "silver with fire refined, purged sevenfold." Some great good thing therefore it is, to sleep in the midst of the lots, which some would have to be the Two Testaments, so that to "sleep in the midst of the lots" is to rest on the authority of those Testaments, that is, to acquiesce in the testimony of either Testament: so that whenever anything out of them is produced and proved, all strife is ended in peaceful acquiescence. ...
15. "Between the shoulders," however. This is indeed a part of the body, it is a part about the region of the heart, at the hinder parts however, that is, at the back: which part of that dove silvered he saith is "in the greenness of gold," that is, in the vigour of wisdom, which vigour I think cannot be better understood than by love. But why on the back, and not on the breast? Although I wonder in what sense this word is put in another Psalm, where there is said, "Between His shoulders He shall overshadow thee, and under His wings thou shalt hope:" forasmuch as under wings there cannot be overshadowed anything but what shall be under the breast. And in Latin, indeed, "between the shoulders," perchance in some degree of both parts may be understood, both before and behind, that we may take shoulders to be the parts which have the head betwixt them; and in Hebrew perchance the word is ambiguous, which may in this manner also be understood: but the word that is in the Greek, metafrena, signifieth not anything but at the back, which is "between the shoulders." Is there for this reason there the greenness of gold, that is, wisdom and love, because in that place there are in a manner the roots of the wings? or because in that place is carried that light burden? For what are even the wings themselves, but the two commandments of love, whereon hangeth the whole Law and the Prophets? what is that same light burden, but that same love which in these two commandments is fulfilled? For whatever thing is difficult in a commandment, is a light thing to a lover. Nor on any other account is rightly understood the saying, "My burden is light," but because He giveth the Holy Spirit, whereby love is shed abroad in our hearts, in order that in love we may do freely that which he that doeth in fear doeth slavishly; nor is he a lover of what is right, when he would prefer, if so be it were possible, that what is right should not be commanded.
16. It may also be required, when it hath not been said, if ye sleep in the lots, but "in the midst of the lots;" what this is, "in the midst of the lots." Which expression indeed, if more exactly it were translated from the Greek, would signify, "in the midst between the lots," which is in no one of the interpreters I have read: therefore I suppose, that what hath been said signifieth much the same, to wit the expression, "in the midst of the lots." Hence therefore what seemeth to me I will explain. Ofttimes this word is wont to be used for uniting and pacifying one thing and another, that they may not mutually disagree: as when God is establishing His covenant between Himself and His people, this word the Scripture useth; for instead of that expression which is in Latin between Me and you, the Greek hath, in the midst of Me and you. So also of the sign of Circumcision, when God speaketh to Abraham, He saith, "There shall be a testament between Me and thee and all thy seed:" which the Greek hath, in the midst of Me and thee, and the midst of thy seed. Also when He was speaking to Noe of the bow in the clouds to establish a sign, this word very often He repeateth: and that which the Latin copies have, between Me and you, or between Me and every living soul, and whatever suchlike expressions there are used, is found in the Greek to be, in the middle of Me and you, which is ana meson. David also and Jonathan establish a sign between them, that they may not disagree with a difference of thought: and that which in Latin is expressed, between both, in the middle of both, the Greek hath expressed in the same word, which is ana meson. But it was best that in this passage of the Psalms our translators said not, "among the lots," which expression is more suited to the Latin idiom; but, "in the midst of the lots," as though "in the midst between the lots," which rather is the reading in the Greek, and which is wont to be said in the case of those things which ought to have a mutual consent. ...But why in the "lots" the Testaments should be perceived, though this word is Greek, and the Testament is not so named, the reason is, because through a testament is given inheritance, which in Greek is called klhronomia, and an heir klhronomoj. Now klhroj in Greek is the term for lot, and lots according to the promise of God are called those parts of the inheritance which were distributed to the people. Whence the tribe of Levi was commanded not to have lot among their brethren, because they were sustained by tithes from them. For, I think, they that have been ordained in the grades of the Ecclesiastical Ministry have been called both Clergy and Clerks, because Matthias by lot was chosen, who we read was the first that was ordained by the Apostles. Henceforth, because of inheritance which is given by testament, as though by that which is made that which maketh, by the name of "lots" the Testaments themselves are signified.
17. Nevertheless, to me here another sense also occurreth, if I mistake not, to be preferred; understanding by cleri the inheritances themselves: so that, whereas the inheritance of the Old Testament, although in a shadow significant of the future, is earthly felicity; but the inheritance of the New Testament is everlasting immortality; to "sleep in the midst of the lots" is not too earnestly now to seek the former, and still patiently to look for the latter. ...And because so well they have slept, on them, as it were on wings now flieth, and with praises is exalted, the Church: to wit, the Dove silvered, in order that by this fame of theirs, posterity having been invited to imitate them, while in like manner the rest also sleep, there may be added wings whereby even unto the end of the world sublimely she may be preached.
18. "While He that is above the heavens distinguisheth kings over Her, with snow they shall be made white in Selmon" (ver. 14). While He "above the heavens," He that ascended over all heavens that He might fulfil all things, "while He distinguisheth kings over Her," that is, over that same "Dove silvered." For the Apostle continueth and saith, and "He hath Himself given some for Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers." For what other reason is there to distinguish kings over Her, save for the work of the Ministry, for the edification of the Body of Christ: when she is indeed Herself the Body of Christ? But they are called kings from ruling: and what more than the lusts of the flesh, that sin may not reign in their mortal body to obey the desires thereof, that they yield not their members instruments of iniquity unto sin, but yield themselves to God, as though from the dead living, and their members instruments of righteousness to God? For thus shall the kings be distinguished from foreigners, because they draw not the yoke with unbelievers: secondly, in a peaceful manner being distinguished from one another by their proper gifts. For not all are Apostles, or all Prophets, or all Teachers, or all have gifts of healings, or all with tongues do speak, or all interpret. "But all these things worketh one and the same Spirit, dividing proper gifts to each one as He willeth." In giving which Spirit He that is above the Heavens distinguisheth kings over the Dove silvered. Of which Holy Spirit, when, sent to His Mother full of grace, the Angel was speaking, to her enquiring in what manner it could come to pass that she was announced as going to bear, seeing she knew not a man: ... he saith, "The Holy Spirit shall come over upon thee, and the virtue of the Most Highest shall overshadow thee," that is, shall make a shadow for thee, "wherefore that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God." That "shadow" again is understood of a defence against the heat of carnal lusts: whence not in carnal concupiscence, but in spiritual belief, the Virgin conceived Christ. But the shadow consisteth of light and body: and further, The "Word" that "was in the beginning," that true Light, in order that a noonday shadow might be made for us; "the Word," I say, "was made Flesh, and dwelled in us."
19. But this mountain he calleth the "mountain of God, a mountain fruitful, a mountain full of curds" (ver. 15), or "a mountain fat." But here what else would he call fat but fruitful? For there is also a mountain called by that name, that is to say, Selmon. But what mountain ought we to understand by "the mountain of God, a mountain fruitful, a mountain full of curds," but the same Lord Christ? Of whom also another Prophet saith, "There shall be manifest in the last times the mountain of the Lord prepared on the top of the mountains"? He is Himself the "Mountain full of curds," because of the babes to be fed with grace as though it were with milk; a mountain rich to strengthen and enrich them by the excellence of the gifts; for even the milk itself whence curd is made, in a wonderful manner signifieth grace; for it floweth out of the overflowing of the mother's Bowels, and of a sweet compassion unto babes freely it is poured forth. But in the Greek the case is doubtful, whether it be the nominative or the accusative: for in that language mountain is of the neuter gender, not of the masculine: therefore some Latin translators have not translated it, "unto the Mountain of God," but, "the Mountain of God." But I think, "unto Selmon the Mountain of God," is better, that is, "unto" the Mountain of God which is called Selmon: according to the interpretation which, as we best could, we have explained above.
20. Secondly, in the expression, "Mountain of God, Mountain full of curds," Mountain "fruitful," let no one dare from this to compare the Lord Jesus Christ with the rest of the Saints, who are themselves also called mountains of God. ...For there were not wanting men to call Him, some John Baptist, some Elias, some Jeremias, or one of the Prophets; He turneth to them and saith, "Why do ye imagine mountains full of curds, a mountain," he saith, "wherein it hath pleased God to dwell therein"? (ver. 16). "Why do ye imagine?" For as they are a light, because to themselves also hath been said, "Ye are the Light of the world," but something different hath been called "the true Light which enlighteneth every man." so they are mountains; but far different is the Mountain "prepared on the top of the mountains." These mountains therefore in bearing that Mountain are glorious: one of which mountains saith, "but from me far be it to glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom to me the world hath been crucified, and I to the world:" so that "he hath glorieth, not in himself, but in the Lord may glory." "Why" then "do ye imagine mountains full of curds," that "Mountain wherein it hath pleased God to dwell therein"? Not because in other men He dwelleth not, but because in them through Him. "For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead," not in a shadow, as in the temple made by king Solomon, but "bodily," that is, solidly and truly. ..."For there is One God, and One Mediator of God and men, the Man Christ Jesus," Mountain of mountains, as Saint of saints. Whence He saith, "I in them and Thou in Me." "Why then do ye imagine mountains full of curds, the mountain wherein it hath pleased God to dwell in Him?" For those mountains full of curds that Mountain the Lord shall inhabit even unto the end, that something they may be to whom He saith, "for without Me nothing ye are able to do."
21. Thus cometh to pass that also which followeth: "The Chariot of God is of ten thousands manifold:" or "of tens of thousands manifold:" or, "ten times thousand times manifold" (ver. 17). For one Greek word, which hath there been used, murioplasion, each Latin interpreter hath rendered as best he could, but in Latin it could not be adequately expressed: for a thousand with the Greeks is called xilia, but muriadejare a number of tens of thousands: for one muriaj are ten thousands. Thus a vast number of saints and believers, who by bearing God become in a manner the chariot of God, he hath signified under this name. By abiding in and guiding this, He conducteth it, as though it were His Chariot, unto the end, as if unto some appointed place. For, "the beginning is Christ; secondly, that are of Christ, at the appearing of Him; then the end." This is Holy Church: which is that which followeth, "thousands of men rejoicing." For in hope they are joyful, until they be conducted unto the end, which now they look for through patience. For admirably, when he had said, "Thousands of men rejoicing:" immediately he added, "The Lord is in them." That we may not wonder why they rejoice, "The Lord is in them." For through many tribulations we must needs enter into the kingdom of God, but, "The Lord is in them." Therefore even if they are as it were sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing, though not now in that same end, to which they have not yet come, yet in hope they are rejoicing, and in tribulation patient: for, "The Lord is in them, in Sina in the holy place." In the interpretations of Hebrew names, we find Sina interpreted commandment: and some other interpretations it has, but I think this to be more agreeable to the present passage. For giving a reason why those thousands rejoice, whereof the Chariot of God doth consist, "The Lord," he saith, "is in them, in Sins in the holy place:" that is, the Lord is in them, in the commandment; which commandment is holy, as saith the Apostle: "Therefore the law indeed is holy, and the commandment is holy, and just, and good." ...
22. In the next place, turning his address to the Lord Himself, "Thou hast gone up," he saith, "on high, Thou hast led captivity captive, Thou hast received gifts in men" (ver. 18). Of this the Apostle thus maketh mention, thus expoundeth in speaking of the Lord Christ.: "But unto each one of us," he saith, "is given grace after the measure of the giving of Christ: for which cause he saith, He hath gone up on high, He hath led captive captivity, He hath given gifts to men." ...And let it not move us that the Apostle making mention of that same testimony saith not, "Thou hast received gifts in men;" but, "He hath given gifts unto men." For he with Apostolic authority hath spoken thus according to the faith that the Son is God with the Father. For in respect of this He hath given gifts to men, sending to them the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. But forasmuch as the self-name Christ is understood in His Body which is the Church, wherefore also His members are His saints and believers, whence to them is said, "But ye are the Body of Christ, and the members," doubtless He hath Himself also received gifts in men. Now Christ hath gone up on high, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father: but unless He were here also on the earth, He would not thence have cried, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" When the Same saith Himself, "Inasmuch as to one of My least ye have done it, to Me ye have done it:" why do we doubt that He receiveth in His members, the gifts which the members of Him receive?
23. But what is, "Thou hast led captivity captive"? Is it because He hath conquered death, which was holding captive those over whom it reigned? Or hath he called men themselves captivity, who were being held captive under the devil? Which thing's mystery even the title of that Psalm doth contain, to wit, "when the house was being builded after the captivity:" that is, the Church after the coming in of the Gentiles. Calling therefore those very men who were being held captive a captivity, as when "the service" is spoken of there are understood those that serve also, that same captivity he saith by Christ hath been led captive. For why should not captivity be happy, if even for a good purpose men may be caught? Whence to Peter hath been said, "From henceforth thou shall catch men." Led captive therefore they are because caught, and caught because subjugated, being sent under that gentle yoke, being delivered from sin whereof they were servants, and being made servants of righteousness whereof they were children. Whence also He is Himself in them, that hath given gifts to men, and hath received gifts in men. And thus in that captivity, in that servitude, in that chariot, under that yoke, there are not thousands of men lamenting, but thousands of men rejoicing. For the Lord is in them, in Sina, in the holy place. ...
24. But what next doth he adjoin? "For they that believe not to dwell" (ver. 18): or, as some copies have, "For not believing to dwell:" for what else are men not believing, but they that believe not? To whom this hath been said, is not easy to perceive. For as though a reason were being given of the above words, when it had been said, "Thou hast led captivity captive, Thou hast received gifts in men:" there hath been added in continuation, "for they that believe not to dwell," that is, not believing that they should dwell. What is this? Of whom saith he this? Did that captivity, before it passed into a good captivity, show whence it was an evil captivity? For through not believing they were possessed by the enemy, "that worketh in the sons of unbelief: among whom ye were sometime, while ye were living among them." By the gifts therefore of His grace, He that hath received gifts in men, hath led captive that captivity. For they believed not that they should dwell. For faith hath thence delivered them, in order that now believing they may dwell in the House of God, even they too becoming the House of God, and the Chariot of God, consisting of thousands of men rejoicing.
25. Whence he that was singing of these things, in the Spirit foreseeing them, even he too being fulfilled with joy hath burst forth a hymn, saying, "The Lord God is blessed, blessed is the Lord God from day unto day" (ver. 19). Which some copies have, "by day daily," because the Greeks have it thus, hmeran kaq hmeran: which more exactly would be expressed by, "by day daily." Which expression I think signifieth the same as that which hath been said, to wit, "from day unto day." For daily this He doeth even unto the end, He leadeth captive captivity, receiving gifts in men.
26. And because He leadeth that chariot unto the end, He continueth and saith, "A prosperous journey there shall make for us the God of our healths, our God, the God of making men safe" (ver. 20). Highly is grace here commended. For who would be safe, unless He Himself should make whole? But that it might not occur to the mind, Why then do we die, if through His grace we have been made safe? immediately he added below, "and the Lord's is the outgoing of death:" as though he were saying, Why are thou indignant, O lot of humanity, that thou hast the outgoing of death? Even thy Lord's outgoing was no other than that of death. Rather therefore be comforted than be indignant: for even "the Lord's is the outgoing of death." "For by hope we have been saved: but if that which we see not we hope for, through patience we wait for it." Patiently therefore even death itself let us suffer, by the example of Him, who though by no sin He was debtor to death, and was the Lord, from whom no one could take away life, but Himself laid it down of Himself, yet had Himself the outgoing of death.
27. "Nevertheless, God shall break in pieces the heads of His enemies, the scalp of hair of men walking on in their transgressions" (ver. 21): that is, too much exalting themselves, being too proud in their transgressions: wherein at least they ought to be humble, saying, "O Lord, be Thou merciful to me a sinner." But He shall break in pieces their heads: for he that exalteth himself shall be humbled. And thus though even of the Lord be the outgoing of death: nevertheless the same Lord, because He was God, and died after the flesh of His own will, not of necessity, "shall break in pieces the heads of His enemies:" not only of those who mocked and crucified Him, and wagged their heads, and said, "If Son of God He is, let Him come down from the Cross;" but also of all men lifting up themselves against His doctrine, and deriding His death as though it were of a man. For that very same One of whom hath been said, "Others He saved, Himself He cannot save," is the "God of our healths," and is the "God of saving men:" but for an example of humility and of patience, and to efface the handwriting of our sins, He even willed that the outgoing of death should be His own, that we might not fear that death, but rather this from which He hath delivered us through that. Nevertheless, though mocked and dead, "He shall break in pieces the heads of His enemies," of whom He saith, "Raise Thou me up, and I shall render to them:" whether it be good things for evil things, while to Himself He subdueth the heads of them believing, or whether just things for unjust things, while He punisheth the heads of them proud. For in either way are shattered and broken the heads of enemies, when from pride they are thrown down, whether by humility being amended, or whether unto the lowest depths of hell being hurled.
28. "The Lord hath said, Out of Basan I will be turned" (ver. 22): or, as some copies have, "Out of Basan I will turn." For He turneth that we may be safe, of whom above hath been said, "God of our healths, and God of saving men." For to Him elsewhere also is said, "O God of virtues, turn Thou us, and show Thy face, and safe we shall be." Also in another place, "Turn us, O God of our healths." But he hath said, "Out of Basan I will turn." Basan is interpreted confusion. What is then, I will turn out of confusion, but that there is confounded because of his sins, he that is praying of the mercy of God that they may be put away? Thence it is that the Publican dared not even to lift up his eyes to Heaven: so, on considering himself, was he confounded; but he went down justified, because "the Lord hath said, Out of Basan I will turn." Basan is also interpreted drought: and rightly the Lord is understood to turn out of drought, that is, out of scarcity. For they that think themselves to be in plenty, though they be famished; and full, though they be altogether empty; are not turned. ..."I will turn unto the deep of the sea." If, "I will turn," why, "unto the deep of the sea"? Unto Himself indeed the Lord turneth, when savingly He turneth, and He is not surely Himself the deep of the sea. Doth perchance the Latin expression deceive us, and hath there been put "unto the deep," for a translation of what signifieth "deeply"? For He doth not turn Himself: but He turneth those that in the deep of this world lie sunk down with the weight of sins, in that place where one that is turned saith, "From the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord." But if it is not, "I will turn," but, "I will be turned unto the deep of the sea;" our Lord is understood to have said, how by His own mercy He was turned even unto the deep of the sea, to deliver even those that were sinners in most desperate case. Though in one Greek copy I have found, not, "unto the deep," but "in the depths," that is, en buqoij: which strengtheneth the former sense, because even there God turneth to Himself men crying from the depths. And even if He be understood Himself there to be turned, to deliver such sort also, it is not beside the purpose: and so then He turneth, or else to deliver them is so turned, that His foot is stained in blood. Which to the Lord Himself the Prophet speaketh: "That Thy foot may be stained in blood" (ver. 23): that is, in order that they themselves who are turned to Thee, or to deliver whom Thou art turned, though in the deep of the sea by the burden of iniquity they may have been sunk, may make so great proficiency by Thy Grace (for where there hath abounded sin, there hath superabounded grace ), that they may become Thy foot among Thy members, to preach Thy Gospel, and for Thy name's sake drawing out a long martyrdom, even unto blood they may contend. For thus, as I judge, more meetly is perceived His foot stained in blood.
29. Lastly, he addeth, "The tongue of Thy dogs out of enemies by Himself," calling those very same that had been about to strive for the faith of the Gospel, even dogs, as though barking for their Lord. Not those dogs, whereof saith the Apostle, "Beware of dogs:" but those that eat of the crumbs which fall from the table of their masters. For having confessed this, the woman of Canaan merited to hear, "O woman, great is thy faith, be it done to thee as thou wilt." Dogs commendable, not abominable; observing fidelity towards their master, and before his house barking against enemies. Not only "of dogs" he hath said, but "of Thy dogs:" nor are their teeth praised, but their tongue is: for it was not indeed to no purpose, not without a great mystery, that Gedeon was bidden to lead those alone, who should lap the water of the river like dogs; and of such sort not more than three hundred among so great a multitude were found. In which number is the sign of the Cross because of the letter T, which in the Greek numeral characters signifieth three hundred. Of such dogs in another Psalm also said, "They shall be turned at even, and hunger they shall suffer as dogs." For even some dogs have been reproved by the Prophet Isaiah, not because they were dogs, but because they knew not how to bark, and loved to sleep. In which place indeed he hath shown, that if they had watched and barked for their Lord, they would have been praiseworthy dogs: just as they are praised, of whom is said, "The tongue of Thy dogs." ...
30. "There have been seen Thy steps, O God" (ver. 24). The steps are those wherewith Thou hast come through the world, as though in that chariot Thou wast going to traverse the round world; which chariot of clouds He intimateth to be His holy and faithful ones in the Gospel, where He saith, "From this time ye shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds." Leaving out that coming wherein He shall be Judge of quick and dead, "From this time," He saith, "ye shall see the Son of Man coming in clouds." These "Thy steps have been seen," that is, have been manifested, by the revealing the grace of the New Testament. Whence hath been said, "How beautiful are the feet of them that proclaim peace, that proclaim good things!" For this grace and those steps were lying hid in the Old Testament: but when there came the fulness of time, and it pleased God to reveal His Son, that He might be proclaimed among the Gentiles, "there were seen Thy steps, O God: the steps of my God, of the King who is in the holy place." In what holy place, save in His Temple? "For the Temple of God is holy," he saith, "which ye are."
31. But in order that those steps might be seen, "there went before princes conjoined with men psalming, in the midst of damsels players on timbrels" (ver. 25). The princes are the Apostles: for they went before, that the peoples might come in multitudes. "They went before" proclaiming the New Testament: "conjoined with men psalming," by whose good works that were even visible, as it were with instruments of praise, God was glorified. But those same princes are "in the midst of damsels players on timbrels," to wit, in an honourable ministry: for thus in the midst are ministers set over new Churches; for this is "damsels:" with flesh subdued praising God; for this is "players on timbrels," because timbrels are made of skin dried and stretched.
32. Therefore, that no one should take these words in a carnal sense, and by these words should conceive in his mind certain choral bands of wantonness, he continueth and saith, "In the Churches bless ye the Lord" (ver. 26): as though he were saying, wherefore, when ye hear of damsels, players on timbrels, do ye think of wanton pleasures? "In the Churches bless ye the Lord." For the Churches are pointed out to you by this mystic intimation: the Churches are the damsels, with new grace decked: the Churches are the players on the timbrels, with chastened flesh being spiritually tuneful. "In the Churches," then, "bless ye the Lord God from the wells of Israel." For from thence He first chose those whom He made wells. For from thence were chosen the Apostles; and they first heard, "He that shall have drunk of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst, but there shall be made in him a well of water springing unto life everlasting."
33. "There is Benjamin the younger in a trance" (ver. 27). There is Paul the last of the Apostles, who saith, "For even I am an Israelite, out of the seed of Abraham, out of the tribe of Benjamin." But evidently "in a trance," all men being amazed at a miracle so great as that of his calling. For a trance is the mind's going out: which thing sometimes chanceth through fear; but sometimes through some revelation, the mind suffering separation from the corporal senses, in order that that which is to be represented may be represented to the spirit. Whence even thus may be understood that which here hath been written, namely, "in a trance;" for when to that persecutor there had been said from Heaven, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me:" there being taken from him the light of the eyes of flesh, he made answer to the Lord, whom in spirit he saw, but they that were with him heard the voice of him replying, though seeing no one to whom he was speaking. Here also the trance may be understood to be that one of his, whereof he himself speaking, saith, that he knew a man caught up even unto the third Heaven; but whether in the body, or whether out of the body, he knew not: but that he being caught up into Paradise, heard ineffable words, which it was not lawful for a man to speak. "Princes of Juda the leaders of them, princes of Zabulon, princes of Nephthalim." Since he is indicating the Apostles as princes, wherein is even "Benjamin the younger in a trance," in which words that Paul is indicated no one doubteth; or when under the name of princes there are indicated in the Churches all men excelling and most worthy of imitation: what mean these names of the tribes of Israel? ...For the names are Hebrew: whereof Juda is said to be interpreted confession, Zabulon habitation of strength, Nephthalim my enlargement. All which words do intimate to us the most proper princes of the Church, worthy of their leadership, worthy of imitation, worthy of honours. For the Martyrs in the Churches hold the highest place, and by the crown of holy worth they do excel. But however in martyrdom the first thing is confession, and for this is next put on strength to endure whatsoever shall have chanced; then after all things have been endured, straits being ended, breadth followeth in reward. It may also thus be understood; that whereas the Apostle chiefly commendeth these three things, faith, hope, love; confession is in faith, strength in hope, breadth in love. For of faith the substance is, that with the heart men believe unto righteousness, but with the mouth confession be made unto salvation. But in sufferings of tribulations the thing itself is sorrowful, but the hope is strong. For, "if that which we see not we hope for, through patience we wait for it." But breadth the shedding abroad of love in the heart doth give. For "love perfected casteth out fear:" which fear "hath torment," because of the straits of the soul. ...
34. "Command, O God, Thy Virtue" (ver. 28). For one is our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we in Him, of whom we read that He is "the Virtue of God and the Wisdom of God." But how doth God command His Christ, save while He commendeth Him? For "God commendeth His love in us, in that while yet we were sinners, for us Christ died." "How hath He not also with Him given to us all things?" "Command, O God, Thy Virtue: confirm, O God, that which Thou hast wrought in us." Command by teaching, confirm by aiding.
35. "From Thy Temple in Jerusalem, to Thee kings shall offer presents" (ver. 29). Jerusalem, which is our free mother, because the same also is Thy holy Temple: from that Temple then, "to Thee kings shall offer presents." Whatever kings be understood, whether kings of the earth, or whether those whom "He that is above the heavens distinguisheth over the dove silvered;" "to Thee kings shall offer presents." And what presents are so acceptable as the sacrifices of praise? But there is a noise against this praise, from men bearing the name of Christian, and having diverse opinions. Be there done that which followeth, "Rebuke Thou the beasts of the cane" (ver. 30). For both beasts they are, since by not understanding they do hurt: and beasts of the cane they are, since the sense of the Scriptures they wrest according to their own misapprehension. For in the cane the Scriptures are as reasonably perceived, as language in tongue, according to the mode of expression whereby the Hebrew or the Greek or the Latin tongue is spoken of, or the like; that is to say, bythe efficient cause the thing which is being effected is implied. Now it is usual in the Latin language for writing to be called style, because with the stilus it is done: so then cane also, because with a cane it is done. The Apostle Peter saith, that "men unlearned and unstable do wrest the Scriptures to their own proper destruction:" these are the beasts of the cane, whereof here is said, "Rebuke Thou the beasts of the cane."
36. Concerning these also is that which followeth, "The congregation of bulls amid the cows of the peoples, in order that there may be excluded they that have been tried with silver." Calling them bulls because of the pride of a stiff and untamed neck: for he is referring to heretics. But by "the cows of the peoples," I think souls easily led astray must be understood, because easily they follow these bulls. For they lead not astray entire peoples, among whom are men grave and stable; whence hath been written, "In a people grave I will praise Thee:" but only the cows which they may have found among those peoples. "For of these are they that steal into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, who are led with divers lusts, alway learning, and at the knowledge of the truth never arriving." ...For, "may be excluded," hath been said, meaning, may appear, may stand forth: as he saith, "may be made manifest." Whence also, in the art of the silversmith, they are called exclusores, who out of the shapelessness of the lump are skilled to mould the form of a vessel. For many meanings of the holy Scriptures are concealed, and are known only to a few of singular intelligence, and are never vindicated so suitably and acceptably as when our diligence to make answer to heretics constraineth us. For then even they that neglect the pursuits of learning, shaking off their slumber, are stirred up to a diligent hearing, in order that their opponents may be refuted. In a word, how many senses of holy Scriptures concerning Christ as God have been vindicated against Photinus, how many concerning Christ as man against Manichaeus, how many concerning the Trinity against Sabellius, how many concerning the Unity of the Trinity against Arians, Eunomians, Macedonians? How many concerning the Catholic Church in the whole world spread abroad, against Donatists, and Luciferians, and others, whoever they be, that with like error dissent from the truth: how many against the rest of heretics, whom to enumerate or mention were too long a task, and for the present work unnecessary? ...Of whom, as it were bulls, that is, not subject to the peaceful and gentle yoke of discipline, the Apostle maketh mention, in the place where he hath said that such an one must be chosen for the Episcopate as is "able to exhort in sound doctrine and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly;" these are bulls with uplifted neck, impatient of plough and yoke: vain-talkers and leaders astray of minds; which minds this Psalm hath intimated under the name of cows. ...
37. "There shall come ambassadors out of Egypt, Ethiopia shall prevent the hands of Him" (ver. 31). Under the name of Egypt or of Ethiopia, he hath signified the faith of all nations, from a part the whole: calling the preachers of reconciliation ambassadors. "For Christ," he saith, "we have an embassy, God as it were exhorting through us: we beseech you for Christ to be reconciled to God." Not then of the Israelites alone, whence the Apostles were chosen, but also from the rest of the nations that there should be preachers of Christian peace, in this manner hath been mystically prophesied. But by that which he saith, "shall prevent the hands of Him," he saith this, shall prevent the vengeance of Him: to wit, by turning to Him, in order that their sins may be forgiven, lest by continuing sinners they be punished. Which thing also in another Psalm is said, "Let us come before the face of Him in confession." As by hands he signifieth vengeance, so by face, revelation and presence, which will be in the Judgment. Because then, by Egypt and Ethiopia he hath signified the nations of the whole world; immediately he hath subjoined, "to God (are) the kingdoms of the earth." Not to Sabellius, not to Arius, not to Donatus, not to the rest of the bulls stiff-necked, but "to God (are) the kingdoms of the earth." But the greater number of Latin copies, and especially the Greek, have the verses so punctuated, that there is not one verse in these words, "to God the kingdoms of the earth," but, "to God," is at the end of the former verse, and so there is said, "Ethiopia shall come before the hands of her to God," and then there followeth in another verse, "Kingdoms of the earth, sing ye to God, psalm ye to the Lord" (ver. 32). By which punctuation, doubtless to be preferred by the agreement of many copies, and those deserving of credit, there seemeth to me to be implied faith which precedeth works: because without the merits of good works through faith the ungodly is justified, just as the Apostle said, "To one believing in Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness:" in order that afterwards faith itself through love may begin to work. For those alone are to be called good works, which are done through love of God. But these faith must needs go before, so that from thence these may begin, not from these this. ...This is faith, whereof to the Church Herself is said in the Song of Songs, "Thou shalt come and shalt pass hence from the beginning of faith." For She hath come like the chariot of God in thousands of men rejoicing, having a prosperous course, and She hath passed over from this world to the Father: in order that there may come to pass in Her that which the Bridegroom Himself saith, who hath passed hence from this world to the Father? "I will that where I am, these also may be with Me:" but from the beginning of faith. Because then in order that good works may follow, faith doth precede; and there are not any good works, save those which follow faith preceding: nothing else seemeth to have been meant in, "Ethiopia shall come before the hands of her to God," but, Ethiopia shall believe in God. For thus she "shall come before the hands of her," that is, the works of her. Of whom, except of Ethiopia herself? For this in the Greek is not ambiguous: for the word "of her" there in the feminine gender most clearly hath been put down. And thus nothing else hath been said than "Ethiopia shall come before her hands to God," that is, by believing in God she shall come before her works. For, "I judge," saith the Apostle, "that a man is justified through faith without the works of the Law. Is He God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles?" So then Ethiopia, which seemeth to be the utmost limit of the Gentiles, is justified through faith, without the works of the Law. ...For the expression in Greek, xeira authj, which most copies have, both of "hand of her" and "her own hand" may be understood: but that which is uncommon in the Greek copies, xeiraj authj, by both "hands of her" and "her own hands," in Latin may be expressed.
38. Henceforward, as if through prophecy all things had been discoursed of which now we see fulfilled, he exhorteth to the praise of Christ, and next He foretelleth His future Advent. "Kingdoms of earth, sing ye to God, psalm ye to the Lord: psalm ye to God, who hath hascended above the Heaven of Heavens to the East" (ver. 33). Or, as some copies have it, "who hath ascended above the Heaven of Heaven to the East." In these words he preceiveth not Christ, who believeth not His Resurrection and Ascension. But hath not "to the East," which he hath added, expressed the very spot; since in the quarters of the East is where He rose again, and whence He ascended? Therefore above the Heaven of Heaven He sitteth at the right hand of the Father. This is what the Apostle saith, "the Same is He that hath ascended above all Heavens." For what of Heavens doth remain after the Heaven of Heaven? Which also we may call the Heavens of Heavens, just as He hath called the firmanent Heaven: which Heaven, however, even as Heavens we read of, in the place where there is written, "and let the waters which are above the Heavens praise the name of the Lord." And forasmuch as from thence He is to come, to judge quick and dead, observe what followeth: "behold, He shall give His voice, the voice of power." He that like a lamb before the shearer of Him was without voice, "behold shall give His voice," and not the voice of weakness, as though to be judged; but "the voice of power," as though going to judge. For God shall not be hidden, as before, and in the judgment of men not opening His mouth; but "God shall come manifest, our God, and He shall not be silent." Why do ye despair, ye unbelieving men? Why do ye mock? What saith the evil servant? "My Lord delayeth to come." "Behold, He shall give His voice, the voice of power."
39. "Give ye glory to God, above Israel is the magnificence of Him" (ver. 34). Of whom saith the Apostle, "Upon the Israel of God." For "not all that are out of Israel, are Israelites:" for there is also an Israel after the flesh. Whence he saith, "See ye Israel after the flesh." "For not they that are sons of the flesh, are sons of God, but sons of promise are counted for a seed." Therefore at that time when without any intermixture of evil men His people shall be, like a heap purged by the fan, like Israel in whom guile is not, then most pre-eminent "above Israel" shall be "the magnificence" of "Him: and the virtue of Him in the clouds." For not alone He shall come to judgment, but with the elders of His people: to whom He hath promised that they shall sit upon thrones to judge, who even shall judge angels. These be the clouds.
40. Lastly, lest of anything else the clouds be understood, he hath in continuation added, "Wonderful is God in His saints, the God of Israel" (ver. 35). For at that time even most truly and most fully there shall be fulfilled the name Israel itself, which is one "seeing God :" for we shall see Him as He is. "He Himself shall give virtue and strength to His people, blessed be God:" to His people now frail and weak. For "we have this treasure in earthen vessels." But then by a most glorious changing even of our bodies, "He Himself shall give virtue and strength to His people." For this body is sown in weakness, shall rise in virtue. He Himself then shall give the virtue which in His own flesh He hath sent before, whereof the Apostle saith, "the power of His Resurrection." But strength whereby shall be destroyed the enemy death. Now then of this long and difficultly understood Psalm we have at length by His own aid made an end. "Blessed be God. Amen."