A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.
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Augustine of Hippo
6. "And all they have boasted, that hate Thee" (ver. 4). Observe the servants of demons, the servants of idols: such as at that time the Gentiles were, when they overthrew the temple and city of God, "and they boasted." "In the midst of Thy festival." Remember what I said, that Jerusalem was overthrown at the time when the very festival was being celebrated: at which festival they crucified the Lord. Gathered together they raged, gathered together they perished. "They have set signs, their own signs, and they have not known" (ver. 5). They had signs to place there, their standards, their eagles, their own dragons, the Roman signs; or even their statues which at first in the temple they placed; or perchance "their signs" are the things which they heard from the prophets of their demons. "And they have not known." Have not known what? How "thou shouldest have had no power against Me, except it had been given thee from above." They knew not how that not on themselves honour was conferred, to afflict, to take, or overthrow the city, but their ungodliness was made as it were the axe of God. They were made the instrument of Him enraged, not so as to be the kingdom of Him pacified. For God doth that which a man also ofttime doth. Sometimes a man in a rage catcheth up a rod lying in the way, perchance any sort of stick, he smiteth therewith his son, and then throweth the stick into the fire and reserveth the inheritance for his son: so sometime God through evil men doth instruct good men, and through the temporal power of them that are to be condemned He worketh the discipline of them that are to be saved. For why do you suppose, brethren, that discipline was even thus inflicted upon that nation, in order that it might perish utterly? How many out of this nation did afterwards believe, how many are yet to believe? Some are chaff, others grain; over both however there cometh in the threshing-drag; but under one threshing-drag the one is broken up, the other is purged. How great a good hath God bestowed upon us by the evil of Judas the traitor! By the very ferocity of the Jews how great a good was bestowed upon believing Gentiles! Christ was slain in order that there might be on the Cross One for him to look to who had been stung by the serpent. ...