To execute upon them the judgment written: this honor have all his saints. Praise you the LORD.
Read Chapter 149
Augustine of Hippo
10. "That they may bind their kings in fetters, and their nobles in bonds of iron" (ver. 8). "To execute upon them the judgment written" (ver. 9). The kings of the Gentiles are to be bound in fetters, "and their nobles in fetters," and that "of iron." ...For these verses which we are beginning to explain are obscure. For for this purpose God willed to set down some of His verses obscurely, not that anything new should be dug out of them, but that what was already well known, might be made new by being obscurely set forth. We know that kings have been made Christians; we know that the nobles of the Gentiles have been made Christians. They are being made so at this day; they have been, they shall be; the "swords twice sharpened" are not idle in the hands of the saints. How then do we understand their being bound in fetters and chains of iron? Ye know, beloved and learned brethren (learned I call you, for ye have been nourished in the Church, and are accustomed to hear God's Word read), that "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the strong, and the foolish things of the world hath God chosen to confound the wise, and things which are not, just as things which are, that the things which are may be brought to nought." ...It is said by the Lord, "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and come, follow Me, and thou shall have treasure in heaven." Many of the nobles did this, but they ceased to be nobles of the Gentiles, they chose rather to be poor in this world, noble in Christ. But many retain their former nobility, retain their royal powers, and yet are Christians. These are, as it were, "in fetters and in bonds of iron." How so? they received fetters, to keep them from going to things unlawful, the "fetters of wisdom," the fetters of the Word of God. Wherefore then are they bonds of iron and not bonds of gold? They are iron so long as they fear: let them love, and they shall be golden. Observe, beloved, what I say. Ye have heard just now the Apostle John, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment." This is the bond of iron. And yet unless a man begin through fear to worship God, he will not attain to love. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." The beginning then is bonds of iron, the end a collar of gold. For it is said of wisdom, "a collar of gold around thy neck." ...There cometh to us a man powerful in this world, his wife offendeth him, and perhaps he hath desired another man's wife who is more beautiful, or another woman who is richer, he wisheth to put away the one he hath, yet he doeth it not. He heareth the words of the servant of God, he heareth the Prophet, he heareth the Apostle, and he doeth it not; he is told by one in whose hands is a "sword twice sharpened," "Thou shalt not do it: it is not lawful for thee: God alloweth thee not to put away thy wife, "save for the cause of fornication." He heareth this, he feareth, and doeth it not. ...Listen, young men; the bonds are of iron, seek not to set your feet within them; if ye do, ye shall be bound more tightly with fetters. Such fetters the hands of the Bishop make strong for you. Do not men who are thus fettered fly to the Church, and are here loosed? Men do fly hither, desiring to be rid of their wives: here they are more tightly bound: no man looseth these fetters. "What God joined together, let not man put asunder." But these bonds are hard. Who but knows it? This hardness the Apostles grieved at, and said, "If this be the case with a wife, it is not good to marry." If the bonds be of iron, it is not good to set our feet within them. And the Lord said, "All men cannot receive this saying, but let him that can receive it, receive it." "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be freed," for thou art bound with bonds of iron. "Art thou free from a wife, seek not a wife;" bind not thyself with bonds of iron.
11. "To do in them the judgment that is written." This is the judgment which the saints rio throughout all nations. Wherefore "written"? Because these things were before written, and now are fulfilled. Behold now they are being done: erst they were read, and were not done. And he hath concluded thus, "this glory have all His saints." Throughout the whole world, throughout entire nations, this the saints do, thus are they glorified, thus do they "exalt God with their mouths," thus do they "rejoice in their beds," thus do they "exult in their glory," thus are they "lifted up in salvation," thus do they "sing a new song," thus in heart and voice and life they say Halleluia. Amen.