Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume VIII/Expositions on the Book of Psalms/Psalm XXXIV
A psalm of David, when he changed his countenance before Abimelech, and he sent him away, and he departed.
1. Because there was there a sacrifice after the order of Aaron, and afterwards He of His Own Body and Blood appointed a sacrifice after the order of Melchizedek; He changed then His Countenance in the Priesthood, and sent away the kingdom of the Jews, and came to the Gentiles. What then is, “He affected”? He was full of affection. For what is so full of affection as the Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, seeing our infirmity, that He might deliver us from everlasting death, underwent temporal death with such great injury and contumely? “And He drummed:” because a drum is not made, except when a skin is extended on wood; and David drummed, to signify that Christ should be crucified. But, “He drummed upon the doors of the city:” what are “the doors of the city,” but our hearts which we had closed against Christ, who by the drum of His Cross hath opened the hearts of mortal men? “And was carried in His Own Hands:” how “carried in His Own Hands”? Because when He commended His Own Body and Blood, He took into His Hands that which the faithful know; and in a manner carried Himself, when He said, “This is My Body.” “And He fell down at the doors of the gate;” that is, He humbled Himself. For this it is, to fall down even at the very beginning of our faith. For the door of the gate is the beginning of faith; whence beginneth the Church, and arriveth at last even unto sight: that as it believeth those things which it seeth not, it may deserve to enjoy them, when it shall have begun to see face to face. So is the title of the Psalm; briefly we have heard it; let us now hear the very words of Him that affecteth, and drummeth upon the doors of the city.
2. “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth” (ver. 1). So speaketh Christ, so also let a Christian speak; for a Christian is in the Body of Christ; and therefore was Christ made Man, that that Christian might be enabled to be an Angel, who saith, “I will bless the Lord at all times.” When shall I “bless the Lord”? When He blesseth thee? When the goods of this world abound? When thou hast great abundance of corn, oil, and wine, of gold and silver, of servants and cattle; when this mortal health remaineth unwounded and sound; when all that are born to thee grow up, nothing is withdrawn by immature death, happiness wholly reigneth in thy house, and all things overflow around thee; then shalt thou bless the Lord? No; but “at all times.” Therefore both then, and when according to the time, or according to the scourges of our Lord God, these things are troubled, are taken away, are seldom born to thee, and born pass away. For these things come to pass, and thence followeth penury, need, labour, pain, and temptation. But thou, who hast sung, “I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall be ever in my mouth,” both when He giveth them, bless; and when He taketh them away, bless. For it is He that giveth, it is He that taketh away: but Himself from him that blesseth Him He taketh not away.
3. But who is it that blesseth the Lord at all times, except the humble in heart. For very humility taught our Lord in His Own Body and Blood: because when He commendeth His Own Body and Blood, He commendeth His Humility, in that which is written in this history, in that seeming madness of David, which we have passed by, “And his spittle ran down over his beard.” When the Apostle was read, Ye heard the same spittle, but running down over the beard. One saith perhaps, What spittle have we heard? Was it not read but now, where the Apostle saith, “The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom?” But now it was read, “But we preach,” saith he, “Christ crucified” (for then He drummed), “unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God. Because the Foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the Weakness of God is stronger than men.” For spittle signifieth foolishness; spittle signifieth weakness. But if the Foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the Weakness of God is stronger than men; let not the spittle as it were offend thee, but observe that it runneth down over the beard: for as by the spittle, weakness; so by the beard, strength is signified. He covered then His Strength by the body of His Weakness, and that which without was weak, appeared as it were in spittle; but within His Divine Strength was covered as a beard. Therefore humility is commended unto us. Be humble if thou wouldest bless the Lord at all times, and that His praise should be ever in thy mouth.…
4. But wherefore doth man bless the Lord at all times? Because he is humble. What is it to be humble? To take not praise unto himself. Who would himself be praised, is proud: who is not proud, is humble. Wouldest thou not then be proud? That thou mayest be humble, say what is here written; “In the Lord shall my soul be praised: the humble shall hear thereof and be glad” (ver. 2). Those then who will not be praised in the Lord, are not humble, but fierce, rough, lifted up, proud. Gentle cattle would the Lord have; be thou the Lord’s jumentum; that is, be thou humble. He sitteth upon thee, He ruleth thee: fear not lest thou stumble, and fall headlong: that indeed is thy infirmity; but consider Who sitteth upon thee. Thou art an ass’s colt, but thou carriest Christ. For even He on an ass’s colt came into the city; and that beast was gentle.…“Be not ye as the horse or as the mule, which have no understanding.” For horse and mule sometimes lift up their neck, and by their own fierceness throw off their rider. They are tamed with the bit, with bridle, with stripes, until they learn to submit, and to carry their master. But thou, before thy jaws are bruised with the bridle, be humble, and carry thy Lord: wish not praise for thyself, but praised be He who sitteth upon thee, and say thou, “In the Lord shall my soul be praised; the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.”…
5. Now followeth, “O magnify the Lord with me” (ver. 3). Who is this that exhorteth us, that we should magnify the Lord with him? Whoever, Brethren, is in the body of Christ, ought for this to labour, that the Lord may be magnified with him. For he loveth the Lord, whoever he is. And how doth he love Him? So as not to envy his fellow-lover.…Let them blush who so love God as to envy others. Abandoned men love a charioteer, and whoever loveth a charioteer or hunter, wisheth the whole people to love with him, and exhorteth, saying, Love with me this pantomime, love with me this or that shame. He calleth among the people that shame may be loved with him; and doth not a Christian call in the Church, that the Truth of God may be loved with him? Stir up then love in yourselves, Brethren; and call to every one of yours, and say, “O magnify the Lord with me.” Let there be in you that fervour. Wherefore are these things recited and explained? If ye love God, bring quickly to the love of God all who are joined unto you, and all who are in your house; if the Body of Christ is loved by you, that is, if the unity of the Church, bring them quickly to enjoy, and say, “O magnify the Lord with me.”
6. “And let us exalt His Name together.” What is, “let us exalt His Name together”? That is, in one. For many copies so have it, “O magnify the Lord with me; and let us exalt His Name in one.” Whether it be said, “together,” or “in one,” it is the same thing. Therefore bring quickly whom ye can, by exhorting, by transporting, by beseeching, by disputing, by rendering a reason, with meekness, with gentleness. Bring them quickly unto love; that if they magnify the Lord, they may magnify Him in one.…
7. “I sought the Lord, and He heard me” (ver. 4). Where heard the Lord? Within. Where giveth He? Within. There thou prayest, there thou art heard, there thou art blessed. Thou hast prayed, thou art heard, thou art blessed; and he knoweth not who standeth by thee: it is all carried on in secret, as the Lord saith in the Gospel, “Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” When therefore thou enterest into thy chamber, thou enterest into thy heart. Blessed are they who rejoice when they enter into their heart, and find therein nought of evil.…
8. “I sought the Lord, and He heard me.” Who then are not heard, seek not the Lord. Attend, Holy Brethren; he said not, I sought gold from the Lord, and He heard me; I sought from the Lord long life, and He heard me; I sought from the Lord this or that, and He heard me. It is one thing to seek anything from the Lord, another to seek the Lord Himself. “I sought” (saith he) “the Lord, and He heard me.” But thou, when thou prayest, saying, Kill that my enemy, seekest not the Lord, but, as it were, makest thyself a judge over thy enemy, and makest thy God an executioner.  How knowest thou that he is not better than thou, whose death thou seekest? In that very thing haply he is, that he seeketh not thine. Therefore seek not from the Lord anything without, but seek the Lord Himself, and He will hear thee, and while thou yet speakest, He will say, “Lo, here I am.”…
9. I have said who was the exhorter, namely, that lover who would not alone embrace what he loveth, and saith, “Approach unto Him, and be ye lightened” (ver. 5). For he saith what he himself proved. For some spiritual person in the Body of Christ, or even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself according to the flesh, the Head exhorting His Own Members, saith; what? “Approach unto Him, and be ye lightened.” Or rather some spiritual Christian inviteth us to approach to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. But let us approach to Him and be lightened; not as the Jews approached to Him, that they might be darkened; for they approached to Him that they might crucify Him: let us approach to Him that we may receive His Body and Blood. They by Him crucified were darkened; we by eating and drinking The Crucified are lightened. “Approach unto Him, and be ye lightened.” Lo, this is said to the Gentiles. Christ was crucified amid the Jews raging and seeing; the Gentiles were absent; lo, they have approached who were in darkness, and they who saw not are lightened. Whereby approach the Gentiles? By following with faith, by longing with the heart, by running with charity. Thy feet are thy charity. Have two feet, be not lame. What are thy two feet? The two commandments of love, of thy God, and of thy Neighbour. With these feet run thou unto God, approach unto Him, for He hath both exhorted thee to run, and hath Himself shed His Own Light, as he hath magnificently and divinely continued. “And your faces shall not be ashamed.” “Approach” (saith he) “unto Him, and be ye lightened; and your faces shall not be ashamed.” No face shall be ashamed but of the proud. Wherefore? Because he would be lifted up, and when he hath suffered insult, or ignominy, or mischance in this world, or any affliction, he is ashamed. But fear not thou, approach unto Him, and thou shalt not be ashamed.…
10. As the Prophet testifieth, “The poor man cried, and the Lord heard him” (ver. 6). He teacheth thee how thou mayest be heard. Therefore art thou not heard, because thou art rich. Lest haply thou say, thou criedst and wast not heard, hear wherefore; “The poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” As poor cry thou, and the Lord heareth. And how shall I cry as poor? By not, if thou hast aught, presuming therefrom upon thy own strength: by understanding that thou art needy; by understanding that so long art thou poor, as thou hast not Him who maketh thee rich. But how did the Lord hear him? “And saved him out of all his troubles.” And how saveth He men out of all their troubles? “The Angel of the Lord shall send round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them” (ver. 7). So it is written, brethren, not as some bad copies have it, “The Lord shall send His Angel round about them that fear Him, and He shall deliver them:” but thus, “The Angel of the Lord shall send round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them.” Whom called He here the Angel of the Lord, who shall send round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them? Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is called in Prophecy, the Angel of the great Counsel, the Messenger of the great Counsel; so the Prophets called Him. Even He then, the Angel of the great Counsel, that is, the Messenger, shall send unto them that fear the Lord, and shall deliver them. Fear not then lest thou be hid: wheresoever thou hast feared the Lord, there doth that Angel know thee, who shall send to succour thee, and shall deliver thee.
11. Now will He speak openly of the same Sacrament, whereby He was carried in His Own Hands. “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (ver. 8). Doth not the Psalm now open itself, and show thee that seeming insanity and constant madness, the same insanity and sober inebriety of that David, who in a figure showed I know not what, when in the person of king Achis they said to him, How is it?  When the Lord said, “Except a man eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, he shall have no life in him”? And they in whom reigned Achis, that is, error and ignorance, said; what said they? “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” If thou art ignorant, “Taste and see that the Lord is good:” but if thou understandest not, thou art king Achis: David shall change His Countenance and shall depart from thee, and shall quit thee, and shall depart.
12. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” Why needeth this to be explained at length? Whoever trusteth not in the Lord, is miserable. Who is there that trusteth not in the Lord? He that trusteth in himself.…
13. “O fear the Lord, all ye His saints, for there is no want to them that fear Him” (ver. 9). For many therefore will not fear God the Lord, lest they suffer hunger. It is said to them, Defraud not; and they say, Whence can I feed myself? No art can be without imposture; no business can be without fraud. But fraud God punisheth: fear God. But if I should fear God, I shall not have whence to live. “O fear the Lord, all ye His saints, for there is no want to them that fear Him.” He promiseth plenty to him that trembleth, and doubteth, lest haply if he should fear God, he should lose things superfluous. The Lord fed thee despising Him, and will He desert thee fearing Him? Attend, and say not, Such an one is rich, and I am poor. I fear the Lord, he by not fearing how much has he gained, and I by fearing am bare! See what follows; “The rich do lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing” (ver. 10). If thou receive it according to the letter, He seemeth to deceive thee, for thou seest that many rich men that are wicked die in their riches, and are not made poor while they live; thou seest them grow old, and come even to the end of life amid great abundance and riches. Thou seest their funeral pomp celebrated with great profusion, the man himself brought rich even to the sepulchre, having expired in beds of ivory, his family weeping around; and thou sayest in thy mind, if haply thou knowest some both sins and crimes done by him: I know what things that man hath done; lo, he hath grown old, he hath died in his bed, his friends follow him to the grave, his funeral is celebrated with all this pomp; I know what he hath done; the Scripture has deceived me, and has spoken falsely, where I hear and sing; “The rich do lack and suffer hunger.” When was this man in need? when did he suffer hunger? “But they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” Daily I rise up to Church, daily I bend the knee, daily I seek the Lord, and have nothing good: this man sought not the Lord, and he hath died in the midst of all these good things! Thus thinking, the snare of offence choketh him; for he seeketh mortal food on the earth, and seeketh not a true reward in heaven, and so he putteth his head into the devil’s noose, his jaws are tied close, and the devil holdeth him fast unto evil doing, that so he may imitate the evil men, whom he seeth to die in such plenty.
14. Therefore understand it not so.…When thou art filled with spiritual riches, canst thou be poor? And was he therefore rich, because he had a bed of ivory; and art thou poor who hast the chamber of thy heart filled with such jewelry of virtues, justice, truth, charity, faith, endurance? Unfold thy riches, if thou hast them, and compare them with the riches of the rich. But such an one has found in the market mules of great value, and has bought them. If thou couldest find faith to be sold, how much wouldest thou give for that, which God willeth that thou shouldest have gratis, and thou art ungrateful? Those rich then lack, they lack, and what is heavier, they lack bread.…For He hath said, “I am the Living Bread which came down from Heaven.” And again, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” “But they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing:” but what manner of good, I have already said.
15. “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (ver. 11). Ye think, brethren, that I say this: think that David saith it; think that an Apostle saith it; nay think that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself saith it; “Come, ye children, hearken unto Me.” Let us hearken unto Him together: hearken ye unto Him through us. For He would teach us; He the Humble, He that drummeth, He that affecteth, would teach us.…
16. “What man is he that desireth life, and loveth to see good days?” (ver. 12). He asketh a question. Doth not every one among you answer, I? Is there any man among you that loveth not life, that is, that desireth not life, and loveth not to see good days? Do ye not daily thus murmur, and thus speak; How long shall we suffer these things? Daily are they worse and worse: in our fathers’ time were days more joyful, were days better. O if thou couldest ask those same, thy fathers, in like manner would they murmur to thee of their own days. Our fathers were happy, miserable are we, evil days have we: such an one ruled over us, we thought that after his death might some refreshing be given to us; worse things have come: O God, show unto us good days! “What man is he that desireth life, and loveth to see good days?” Let him not seek here good days. A good thing he seeketh, but not in its right place doth he seek it. As, if thou shouldest seek some righteous man in a country, wherein he lived not, it would be said to thee, A good man thou seekest, a great man thou seekest, seek him still, but not here; in vain thou seekest him here, thou wilt never find him. Good days thou seekest, together let us seek them, seek not here.…Read the Scriptures.…
17. Let not a Christian then murmur, let him see whose steps he followeth: but if he loveth good days, let him hearken unto Him teaching and saying, “Come, ye children, hearken unto Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” What wouldest thou? Life and good days. Hear, and do. “Keep thy tongue from evil” (ver. 13). This do. I will not, saith a miserable man, I will not keep my tongue from evil, and yet I desire life and good days. If a workman of thine should say to thee, I indeed lay waste this vineyard, yet I require of thee my reward; thou broughtest me to the vineyard to lop and prune it, I cut away all the useful wood, I will cut short also the very trunks of the vines, that thou have thereon nothing to gather, and when I have done this, thou shalt repay to me my labour. Wouldest thou not call him mad? Wouldest thou not drive him from thy house or ever he put his hand to the knife? Such are those men who would both do evil, and swear falsely, and speak blasphemy against God, and murmur, and defraud, and be drunken, and dispute, and commit adultery, and use charms, and consult diviners, and withal see good days. To such it is said, thou canst not doing ill seek a good reward. If thou art unjust, shall God also be unjust? What shall I do, then? What desirest thou? Life I desire, good days I desire. “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile,” that is, defraud not any, lie not to any.
18. But what is, “Depart from evil”? (ver. 14). It is little that thou injure none, murder none, steal not, commit not adultery, do no wrong, speak no false witness; “Depart from evil.” When thou hast departed, thou sayest, Now I am safe, I have done all, I shall have life, I shall see good days. Not only saith he, “Depart from evil,” but also, “and do good.” It is nothing that thou spoil not: clothe the naked. If thou hast not spoiled, thou hast declined from evil; but thou wilt not do good, except thou receive the stranger into thine house. So then depart from evil, as to do good. “Seek peace, and ensue it.” He hath not said, Thou shalt have peace here; seek it, and ensue it. Whither shall I ensue it? Whither it hath gone before. For the Lord is our peace, hath risen again, and hath ascended into Heaven. “Seek peace, and ensue it;” because when thou also hast risen, this mortal shall be changed, and thou shalt embrace peace there where no man shall trouble thee. For there is perfect peace, where thou wilt not hunger.…
19. “The Eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous:” fear not then; labour; the eyes of the Lord are upon thee. “And His Ears are open unto their prayers” (ver. 15). What wouldest thou more? If an householder in a great house should not hearken to a servant murmuring, he would complain, and say, What hardship do we here suffer, and none heareth us. Canst thou say this of God, What hardships I suffer, and none heareth me? If He heard me, haply, sayest thou, He would take away my tribulation: I cry unto Him, and yet have tribulation. Only do thou hold fast His ways, and when thou art in tribulation, He heareth thee. But He is a Physician, and still hast thou something of putrefaction; thou criest out, but still He cutteth, and taketh not away His Hand, until He hath cut as much as pleaseth Him. For that Physician is cruel who heareth a man, and spareth his wound and putrefaction. How do mothers rub their children in the baths for their health. Do not the little ones cry out in their hands? Are they then cruel because they spare not, nor hearken unto their tears? Are they not full of affection? And yet the children cry out, and are not spared. So our God also is full of charity, but therefore seemeth He not to hear, that He may spare and heal us for everlasting.
20. Haply say the wicked, I securely do evil, because the Eyes of the Lord are not upon me: God attendeth to the righteous, me He seeth not, and whatever I do, I do securely. Immediately added the Holy Spirit, seeing the thoughts of men, and said, “But the Face of the Lord is against them that do evil; to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth” (ver. 16).
21. “The righteous cried, and the Lord heard them, and delivered them out of all their troubles” (ver. 17). Righteous were the Three Children; out of the furnace cried they unto the Lord, and in His praises their flames cooled. The flame could not approach nor hurt the innocent and righteous Children praising God, and He delivered them out of the fire. Some one saith, Lo, truly righteous were those who were heard, as it is written, “The righteous cried, and the Lord heard them, and delivered them out of all their troubles:” but I have cried, and He delivereth me not; either I am not righteous, or I do not the things which He commandeth me, or haply He seeth me not. Fear not: only do what He commandeth; and if He deliver thee not bodily, He will deliver thee spiritually. For He who took out of the fire the Three Children, did He take out of the fire the Maccabees? Did not the first sing hymns in the flames, these last in the flames expire? The God of the Three Children, was not He the God also of the Maccabees? The one He delivered, the other He delivered not. Nay, He delivered both: but the Three Children He so delivered, that even the carnal were confounded; but the Maccabees therefore He delivered not so, that those who persecuted them should go into greater torments, while they thought that they had overcome God’s Martyrs. He delivered Peter, when the Angel came unto him being in prison, and said, “Arise, and go forth,” and suddenly his chains were loosed, and he followed the Angel, and He delivered him. Had Peter lost righteousness when He delivered him not from the cross? Did He not deliver him then? Even then He delivered him. Did his long life make him unrighteous? Haply He heard him more at last than at first, when truly He delivered him out of all his troubles. For when He first delivered him, how many things did he suffer afterwards! For thither He sent him at last, where he could have suffered no evil.
22. “The Lord is nigh unto them that have broken their heart; and saveth such as be lowly in spirit” (ver. 18). God is High: let a Christian be lowly. If he would that the Most High God draw nigh unto him, let him be lowly. A great mystery, Brethren. God is above all: thou raisest thyself, and touchest not Him: thou humblest thyself, and He descendeth unto thee. “Many are the troubles of the righteous” (ver. 19): doth He say, “Therefore let Christians be righteous, therefore let them hear My Word, that they may suffer no tribulation? He promiseth not this; but saith, “Many are the troubles of the righteous.” Rather, if they be unrighteous they have fewer troubles, if righteous they have many. But after few tribulations, or none, these shall come to tribulation everlasting, whence they shall never be delivered: but the righteous after many tribulations shall come to peace everlasting, where they shall never suffer any evil. “Many are the tribulations of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of all.”
23. “The Lord keepeth all their bones: not one of them shall be broken” (ver. 20): this also, Brethren, let us not receive carnally. Bones are the firm supports of the faithful. For as in flesh our bones give firmness, so in the heart of a Christian it is faith that gives firmness. The patience then which is in faith, is as the bones of the inner man: this is that which cannot be broken. “The Lord keepeth all their bones: not one of them shall be broken.” If of our Lord God Jesus Christ he had said this, “The Lord keepeth all the bones of His Son; not one of them shall be broken;” as is prefigured of Him also in another place, when the lamb was spoken of that should be slain, and it was said of it, “Neither shall ye break a bone thereof:”  then was it fulfilled in the Lord, because when He hung upon the Cross, He expired before they came to the Cross, and found His Body lifeless already, and would not break His legs, that it might be fulfilled which was written. But He gave this promise to other Christians also, “The Lord keepeth all their bones; not one of them shall be broken.” Therefore, Brethren, if we see any Saint suffer tribulation, and haply either by a Physician so cut, or by some persecutor so mangled, that his bones be broken; let us not say, This man was not righteous, for this hath the Lord promised to His righteous, of whom He said, “The Lord keepeth all their bones; not one of them shall be broken.” Wouldest thou see that He spoke of other bones, those which we called the firm supports of faith, that is, patience and endurance in all tribulations? For these are the bones which are not broken. Hear, and see ye in the very Passion of our Lord, what I say. The Lord was in the middle Crucified; near Him were two thieves: the one mocked, the other believed: the one was condemned, the other justified: the one had his punishment both in this world, and that which shall be, but unto the other said the Lord, “Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise;” and yet those who came brake not the bones of the Lord, but of the thieves they brake: as much were broken the bones of the thief who blasphemed, as of the thief who believed. Where then is that which is spoken, “The Lord keepeth all their bones; not one of them shall be broken”? Lo, unto whom He said, “To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise,” could He keep all his bones? The Lord answereth thee: Yea, I kept them: for the firm support of his faith could not be broken by those blows whereby his legs were broken.
24. “The death of sinners is the worst” (ver. 21). Attend, Brethren, for the sake of those things which I said. Truly Great is the Lord, and His Mercy, truly Great is He who gave to us to eat His Body, wherein He suffered such great things, and His Blood to drink. How regardeth He them that think evil and say, “Such an one died ill, by beasts was he devoured: he was not a righteous man, therefore he perished ill; for else would he not have perished.” Is he then righteous who dieth in his own house and in his own bed? This then (sayest thou) it is whereat I wonder; because I know the sins and the crimes of this same man, and yet he died well; in his own house, within his own doors, with no injury of travel, with none even in mature age. Hearken, “The death of sinners is worst.” What seemeth to thee a good death, is worst if thou couldest see within. Thou seest him outwardly lying on his bed, dost thou see him inwardly carried to hell? Hearken, Brethren, and learn from the Gospel what is the “worst death” of sinners. Were there not two in that age, a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day; another a poor man who lay at his door full of sores, and the dogs came and licked his sores, and he desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table? Now it came to pass that the poor man died (righteous was that poor man), and was carried by Angels into Abraham’s bosom. He who saw his body lying at the rich man’s door, and no man to bury it, what haply said he? So die he who is my enemy; and whoever persecutes me, so may I see him. His body is accursed with spitting, his wounds stink; and yet in Abraham’s bosom he resteth. If we are Christians, let us believe: if we believe not, Brethren, let none feign himself a Christian. Faith bringeth us to the end. As the Lord spake these things, so are they. Doth indeed an astrologer speak unto thee, and it is true, and doth Christ speak, and it is false? But by what sort of death died the rich man? What sort of death must it not be in purple and fine linen, how sumptuous, how pompous! What funeral ceremonies were there! In what spices was that body buried! And yet when he was in hell, being in torments, from the finger of that despised poor man he desired one drop of water to be poured upon his burning tongue, and obtained it not. Learn then what meaneth, “The death of sinners is worst;” and ask not beds covered with costly garments, and to have the flesh wrapped in many rich things, friends exhibiting a show of lamentation, a household beating their breasts, a crowd of attendants going before and following when the body is carried out, marble and gilded memorials. For if ye ask those things, they answer you what is false, that of many not light sinners, but altogether wicked, the death is best, who have deserved to be so lamented, so embalmed, so covered, so carried out, so entombed. But ask the Gospel, and it will show to your faith the soul of the rich man burning in torments, which was nothing profited by all those honours and obsequies, which to his dead body the vanity of the living did afford.
25. But because there are many kinds of sinners, and not to be a sinner is difficult, or perhaps in this life impossible, he added immediately, of what kind of sinners the death is worst. “And they that hate the righteous one” (saith he) “shall perish.” What righteous one, but “Him that justifieth the ungodly”? Whom, but our Lord Jesus Christ, who is also “the propitiation for our sins”? Who then hate Him, have the worst death; because they die in their sins, who are not through Him reconciled to our God. “For the Lord redeemeth the souls of His servants.” But according to the soul is death to be understood either the worst or best, not according to bodily either dishonour, or honours which men see. “And none of them which trust in Him shall perish” (ver. 22); this is the manner of human righteousness, that mortal life, however advanced, because without sin it cannot be, in this perisheth not, while it trusteth in Him, in whom is remission of sins. Amen.
- Lat. XXXIII.
- [1 Sam. xxi. 13. He follows the Septuagint, which differs from the Vulgate.—C.]
- Matt. xxvi. 26.
- 1 Sam. xxi. 13.
- [This expression, so frequent in St. Augustin, refers to the Epistle for the day. As the Law and Prophets in the synagogue, so also the Evangelists and Apostles were read ceremonially in the Church.—C.]
- 1 Cor. i. 22–25.
- Ps. xxxii. 9.
- In idipsum.
- In unum. [In the Septuagint ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό, as in Acts ii. 1.—C.]
- Al. “by working.”
- Matt. vi. 6.
- [He makes the same exhortation to a brother bishop who was present: attendat, Sanctitas Vestra.—C.]
- Isa. lxv. 24.
- So our mss. and others, as Ed. Ben. says, magno consensu. Sicut magnifice et divine secutus est. Ben. however reads, “so that ye may be able magnificently and divinely to follow Him.” Sic, ut magnifice et divine se sequi possitis. See on Ps. xxii. Exp. ii. § 16. “Gloriously expressed.” The word is magnifice.
- Immittet. LXX. παρεμβαλεῖ, “shall encamp.”
- Isa. ix. 6, LXX.; Mal. iii. 1.
- [See Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. i. p. 223, note 7; also vol. v. p. 628, note 2, and passim.—C.]
- Al. “when those wretched ones before king Achis said, How is it?”
- John vi. 53.
- John vi. 52.
- [Luther’s doctrine, and even Calvin’s, admits of this language. Rhetorically, even Zwinglians might use the same. For the primitive doctrine see Justin Martyr and Irenæus, A.N.F. vol. i. p. 185, note 6, and 528, note 4. Observe also the fragment (xiii.) on p. 570.—C.]
- E.V. “The young lions do lack,” etc.
- John vi. 51.
- Matt. v. 6; Luke i. 53; 1 Sam. ii. 5.
- Most mss. “Think,” imperative, as in the other clauses.
- Dan. iii. 28.
- Al. “and do not.”
- 2 Macc. vii. 3.
- Acts xii. 7.
- [“Let us not receive carnally” is language which reflects light upon ver. 8, p. 75, supra. Note also what is here said of faith.—C.]
- Exod. xii. 46.
- John xix. 33.
- Luke xxiii. 43.
- Al. “even at no premature.”
- Al. “in this world.”
- Luke xvi. 19–22.
- Rom. iv. 5.
- 1 John ii. 2.