PSALM I. (BEATUS VIR.)
The happiness of the just: and the evil state of the wicked.
Theodoret observes that this psalm has "no title in Heb.;" and some have attributed it to Esdras, when he collected the psalms into one book. But the Compl. Sept. reads, "A psalm of David;" "without a title among the Hebrews." The Fathers attribute it to David, and suppose that he speaks particularly of Joseph of Arimathea, or of Jesus Christ; though the Jews refer this high encomium to Josias. Jeremias (xvii. 7.) has imitated this psalm, which may be considered as a preface to all the rest, and an abridgment of the whole duty of man. C.
--- Blessed. Heb. also, Manifold are (H.) "the blessings" (Pagnin) both for time (H.) and eternity. W.
--- Ungodly, who mind no religion, or a false one. H.
--- Heb. "inconstant." --- Sinners, who are still more obstinate. C.
--- Pestilence. Heb. "scoffers," who are the most dangerous sort of people, boldly deriding all religion, and maintaining atheism. There is a beautiful gradation here observed, showing the fatal consequences of evil company. If the virtuous associate with one even of the least contagious, the infection presently catches him, and he is soon introduced among the more dissolute, where he stops with little remorse, till at last he even glories in his shame, and becomes a champion of impiety. 1 Cor. xv. 33. H.
--- These three sorts of wicked people may designate pagans, Jews, and heretics. S. Clem. Stron. ii. S. Jerom. C.
--- He is on the road to heaven, who has not consented to evil suggestions, nor continued in sin, so as to die impenitent. W.
Virtus est vitium fugere, et sapientia prima. Hor. i. ep. 1.
--- The suggestion, delight, and consent to sin, are here rejected, as well as every offence against God, ourselves, or our neighbours. Hopper.
THE BOOK OF PSALMS.
The Psalms are called by the Hebrew, Tehillim; that is, hymns of praise. The author, of a great part of them at least, was king David; but many are of opinion, that some of them were made by Asaph and others, whose names are prefixed in the titles. Ch.
--- These, however, are not unquestionably of divine authority, though they deserve to be respected. C.
--- S. Jerom (ad Cyprian) says: "Let us be convinced that those labour under a mistake, who suppose that David was the author of all the Psalms, and not those whose names appear in the titles." Paine is not, therefore, the first who has made this discovery. Watson. 2 Par. xxix. 30.
--- Psalm lxxvi. compared with Psalms xxxviii. lxiv. lxx. cxi. cxxv. cxxxvi. and cxlv. seems favourable of this opinion, (C. T. &c.) which is contrary to S. Ambrose, &c. The matter is not of great moment, as all confess that the 150 Psalms were dedicated by the Holy Ghost. D.
--- S. Aug. (de Civ. Dei. xvii. 14.) attributes all the Psalms to David; and it seems best to adhere to this opinion, as it is most generally received. M.
--- Our Saviour cites the cix. Psalm as belonging to David, (Matt. xxii. 44.) agreeably to the title; and the 2d Psalm is also attributed to him, by the apostles, (Act. iv. 25.) though it have no title at all, no more than the first. H.
--- It has generally been asserted, that when a Psalm is in this position, it must be referred to the author who was mentioned last. But Bellarmine calls this in question: and the titles of themselves afford but a precarious argument, either to know the author or the real import of the Psalm. C.
--- S. Jerom himself (ad Paulin.) seems to suppose that David was the writer of all the Psalms, (W.) and that he has left us compositions which may vie with those of the most celebrated pagan bards. In effect, nothing could excel the harmony of these divine hymns, to judge even from a translation. Fleury.
--- What then would they be in the original? The difficulty of coming to a perfect knowledge of the author's meaning, arises chiefly from the variety of translations and commentaries, which have been more numerous on this work than any other. To examine all minutely, would require more volumes than our present limits will allow. The version which we have to explain, is not that which S. Jerom made from the Heb. and which possesses the same intrinsic merit as the rest of his works: but the Church has declared authentic the holy doctor's corrected (H.) version from S. Lucian, (Bellar. T.) or from the Sept. as the people had been accustomed to sing the psalter in that manner; and it would have been difficult for them to learn another. C.
--- A critical examination would show, that the Sept. have not so often deviated from the original as some would pretend. See Berthier, &c. Pellican extols the fidelity of our version on the Psalms, though he was a Prot. Ward. Err. p. 6.
--- When therefore we offer a different version, we would not insinuate that the Vulg. is therefore to be rejected. The copiousness of the Heb. language, (H.) and on some occasions the uncertainty of its roots, or precise import, (Somon. Crit.) ought to make every one diffident in pronouncing peremptorily on such subjects. Let us rather adhere to the decision of the Church, when it is given on any particular text; and when she is silent, let us endeavour to draw the streams of life from our Saviour's fountains, and read for our improvement in virtue. H.
--- No exhortations could be more cogent, than those which we may find in the Psalms. They contain the sum of all the other sacred books, as the Fathers agree. S. Aug. S. Bas. &c. To understand them better, we must reflect upon what key or string they each play. Expositors discover ten such stings on this mysterious harp: 1. God; 2. his works; 3. Providence; 4. the peculiar people of the Jews; 5. Christ; 6. his Church; 7. true worship; 8. David; 9. the end of the world; 10. a future life. On some of these subjects the Psalm principally turns. The titles, composed by Esdras, or the Sept. (W.) or by some other, (C.) will often point out the subject; and if that be not the case, the context and other parts of Scripture will (W.) commonly (H.) do it. W.
--- The greatest stress must be laid on these. C.
--- An intimate acquaintance with the history of David, and with the Jewish and Christian religion, will also be of essential service to enable us to penetrate the hidden treasures contained in these most heavenly canticles. H.
--- David excels all the pagans in point of antiquity, as he lived 100 years before Homer. His natural genius led him to follow the pursuits of poetry and music; (1 K. xvi. 23.) and God inspired him to compose these poems, as works in metre are more easily remembered, and make a more pleasing impression upon the heart. Hence Moses and other prophets adopted the same plan, both in the Old and the New Testament. The pious king not being permitted to build the temple, made nevertheless all necessary preparations for it; and among the rest, procured 288 masters of music to train up 4000 singers. 1 Par. xxiii. 25. He foresaw that these Psalms would be of service, not only on the Jewish festivals, but also in the Christian Church, (Ps. lvi. 10. &c.) gathered from all nations, (W.) among whom he sings by the mouths (H.) of the clergy, who are commanded daily to sing or recite some of these Psalms. W.
--- The psalter takes its name from an instrument of ten strings, resembling the Greek L, (Ven. Bede) and sounding from above, to insinuate that we may (W.) here learn to observe (H.) all the decalogue, and to aim at heaven. If difficulties present themselves in the perusal of these sacred writings, we must remember not to trust private interpretation, (2 Pet. i.) but to the doctrine of the Church, (Jo. xiv. 16. 1 Cor. xii.) which we may find in the works of the holy Fathers, (S. Aug. Doct.) and exercise ourselves in humility, when any thing occurs above our comprehension. S. Greg. xvii. in Ezec. W.
--- We must pray with all earnestness to the Father of Lights, and surely no prayers can be more efficacious to obtain what we want, than those which he has here delivered. Whether just or sinners, whether in joy or sorrow, we may here find what may be suitable for us. H.
--- In hoc libro spiritualis Bibliotheca instructa est. Cassiod.
Ver. 2. Will. He is wholly occupied and delighted in keeping God's commandments. W.
--- This distinguishes the saint from him who only refrains from sin through fear. C.
--- Qui timet invitus observat. S. Amb.
--- Yet even servile fear is of some service, as it restrains exterior conduct, and may, in time, give place to filial reverence. H.
--- Meditate, and put in practice. M.
--- Night. The Jews studied the books of the law so earnestly from their childhood, that they could recite them as easily as they could tell their own names; (Josep. c. Ap. 2. Deut. vi. 6.) and is it not a shame that many Christians should be so negligent, that they have never so much as read the gospels! (C.) though they be eager enough after idle books. The sacred writings are the records of our inheritance. They shew us our true destination, and deserve to be most seriously considered from the beginning to the end. H.
Ver. 3. Tree. Probably the palm-tree, the emblem of a long life. Job xxviii. 18. The tree of life is watered by the river of living waters, proceeding from the throne of God, who is the source of all grace. Apoc. xxii. 1. Lu. xxi. 33. Jo. iv. 14. C.
--- Those who make good use of favours received, are continually supplied with fresh graces. W.
--- And. In the office-book a new verse begins here, though not in Heb. which the Vulg. follows. They were not marked by the sacred penman.
--- Prosper, and be rewarded hereafter, though the just man even among the Jews might be here afflicted. Prosperity was only promised to the nation, as long as it continued faithful. Individuals were in the same condition as Christians. They were to trust in the promises of futurity, though some have very erroneously asserted, that there is no mention of eternal felicity in thee holy canticles; (Berthier) Ferrand says, hardly in the Old Testament. C.
--- All this verse might perhaps be better understood of the tree. "And its leaf...and whatever it shall produce," faciet (fructum). H.
--- Some trees are always covered with leaves, like the palm-tree, &c. M.
Ver. 4. Not so. Heb. "but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away." H.
--- They are inconstant (S. Jer.) in the good resolutions which they sometimes form. H. Job xxi. 18.
--- The good corn remains, but they are tossed about by every wind, and their memory perishes with all their children and effects. C.
--- They yield to the slightest temptation. W.
Ver. 5. Again. So as to gain their cause, (Amama) or to make opposition; as the Heb. yakumu, "stand up," with defiance, intimates. H.
--- They are already judged, (Jo. iii. 18.) and can make no defence; they being separated from the just, like goats, Kimchi (though he is defended by Amama. H.) and some other Jews, falsely assert that the souls of the wicked will be annihilated, and that only the just Israelites will rise again. Buxtorf. Syn. 1.
--- But this is very different from the belief of the ancient Jews, who clearly assert the truth respecting future rewards and punishments. 2 Mac. vii. 9. 14. 23. and 36. Wisd. v. 1. Josephus. or 4 Mac. x. See Job, &c.
--- The Fathers have adduced many such proofs from the other parts of Scripture, which they had read with as much attention as modern critics. C.
--- Council, (M.) or rather "counsel," as the same word, Boulh, is used by the Sept. as v. 1. (C.) though the Heb. hadath, here be different, and mean a council, or assembly. M.
--- Sept. and Vulg. may be understood in the same sense. H.
--- Sinners shall be destitute of all hope at the resurrection, and shall be driven from the society of the blessed. W.
--- They will not even be able to complain, since they had been so often admonished of their impending fate, (Bert.) and would not judge themselves in time. S. Aug. 1 Cor. xi. Acts xxiv. 15. Prot. "They shall not stand," &c. H.
Ver. 6. Knoweth, with approbation. There is only one road which leads to heaven: but these men, having sown in the flesh, must reap corruption. Gal. vi. 8. Berthier.
--- God will reward or punish (W.) all according to their deserts. H.
--- To some he will thunder out, I never knew you; while others shall hear, Come, &c. Mat. xxv. 34. &c. C.
--- In this world, things seem to be in a sort of confusion, as the wicked prosper. But, at the hour of death, each will receive a final retribution. Temporal advantages have been dealt out to the wicked for the small and transitory acts of virtue, the afflictions of this world have served to purify the elect from venial faults. H.