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Exposition On The Book Of Psalms by St. Augustine


166. Let us now hear the words of one praying: since we know who is praying, and we recognise ourselves, if we be not reprobate, among the members of this one praying. |Let my prayer come near in Thy sight, O Lord| (ver.169): for, |The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart.| |Give me understanding, according to Thy word.| He claimeth a promise. For he saith, |according to Thy word,| which is to say, according to Thy promise. For the Lord promised this when He said, |I will inform thee.|

167. |Let my request come before Thy presence, O Lord: deliver me, according to Thy word| (ver.170). He repeateth what he hath asked. For his former words, |Let my prayer come near in Thy presence, O Lord:| are like unto what he saith, |Let my request come before Thy presence, O Lord:| and the words, |Give me understanding according to Thy word,| agree with these, |Deliver me according to Thy word.| For by receiving understanding he is delivered, who of himself through want of understanding is deceived.

168. |My lips shall burst forth praise: when Thou hast taught me Thy righteousnesses| (ver.171). We know how God teacheth those who are docile unto God. For every one who hath heard from the Father and hath learned, comes unto Him |who justifieth the ungodly:| so that he may keep the righteousnesses of God not only by retaining them in his memory, but also by doing them. Thus doth he who glorieth, glory not in himself, but in the Lord, and burst forth praise.

169. But as he hath now learned, and praised God his Teacher, he next wisheth to teach. |Yea, my tongue shall declare Thy word: for all Thy commandments are righteousness| (ver.172). When he saith that he will declare these things, he becometh a minister of the word. For though God teach within, nevertheless |faith cometh from hearing: and how do they hear without a preacher?| For, because |God giveth the increase,| is no reason why we need not plant and water.

170. |Let Thy hand be stretched forth (fiat, be made) to save me, for I have chosen Thy commandments| (ver.173). That I might not fear, and that not only might my heart hold fast, but my tongue also utter Thy words: |I have chosen Thy commandments,| and have stifled fear with love. Let Thy hand therefore be stretched forth, to save me from another's hand. Thus God saved the Martyrs, when He permitted them not to be slain in their souls: for |vain is the safety of man| in the flesh. The words, |Let Thy hand be made,| may also be taken to mean Christ the Hand of God...Certainly where we read the following words, |I have longed for Thy salvation, O Lord| (ver.174): even if all our foes be reluctant, let Christ the Salvation of God occur to us: the righteous men of old confess that they longed for Him, the Church longed for His destined coming from His mother's womb, the Church longeth for His coming at His Father's right hand. Subjoined to this sentence are the words, |And Thy law is my meditation:| for the Law giveth testimony unto Christ.

171. But in this faith, though the heathen rage furiously, and the people imagine a vain thing: though the flesh be slain while it preacheth Thee: |My soul shall live, and shall praise Thee: and Thy judgments shall help me| (ver.175). These are those judgments, which it was time should begin at the house of the Lord. But |they will help me,| he saith. And who cannot see how much the blood of the Church hath aided the Church? how great a harvest hath risen in the whole world from that sowing?

172. At last he openeth himself completely, and showeth what person was speaking throughout the whole Psalm. |I have gone astray,| he saith, |like a sheep that is lost: O seek Thy servant, for I do not forget Thy commandments| (ver.176). Let the lost sheep be sought, let the lost sheep be quickened, for whose sake its Shepherd left the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and while seeking it, was torn by Jewish thorns. But it is still being sought, let it still be sought, partly found let it still be sought. For as to that company, among whom the Psalmist saith, |I do not forget Thy commandments,| it hath been found; but through those who choose the commandments of God, gather them together, love them, it is still sought, and by means of the blood of its Shepherd shed and sprinkled abroad, it is found in all nations.

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