THE INTERPRETATION OF GIOVANNI PICO UPON THIS PSALM CONSERVA ME DOMINE
Conserva me Domine quoniam speravi in Te. Dixi Domino: Deus meus es Tu, quoniam bonorum meorum non eges. Sanctis qui funt in terra mirificavit voluntates suas. Multiplicate sunt infirmitates eorum postea acceleraverunt. Non congregabo conventicula eorum de sanguinibus: nec memor ero nominum eorum per labia mea. Dominus pars hereditatis mee & calicis mei: Tu es qui restitues hereditatem meam mihi. Funes occiderunt mihi in preclaris: etenim hereditas mea preclara est mihi. Benedicam Dominum qui tribuit mihi intellectum: et usque ad noctem increpuerunt me renes mei. Providebam Deum in conspectu meo semper, quoniam a dextris est mihi ne commovear. Propter hoc letatum est cor meum et exultavit lingua mea insuper et caro mea requiescet in spe. Quia non derelinques animam meam in inferno: nec dabis sanctum tuum videre corruptionem. Notas mihi fecisti vias vite: adimplebis me letitia cum vultu tuo. Delectationes in dextera tua usque in finem.
Conserva me Domine. Keep me good Lord. If any perfect man look upon his own estate there is one peril therein, it is to wit, lest he wax proud of his virtue, and therefore David speaking in the person of a righteous man of his estate beginneth with these words. Conserva me Domine. That is to say, keep me good Lord: which word keep me: if it be well considered: taketh away all occasion of pride. For he that is able of himself any thing to get is able of himself that same thing to keep. He that asketh then of God to be kept in the state of virtue signifieth in that asking that from the beginning he got not that virtue by himself. He then which remembreth it he attained his virtue: not by his own power but by the power of God: may not be proud thereof but rather humbled before God after those words of th apostle. Quid habes quod non accepisti. What hast thou that thou hast not received. And if thou hast received it: why art thou proud thereof as though thou haddest not received it. Two words then be there which we should ever have in our mouth: the one. Miserere mei Deus. Have mercy on me Lord: when we remember our vice: that other. Conserva me Deus. Keep me good Lord: when we remember our virtue.
Quoniam speravi in Te. For I have trusted in Thee. This one thing is it that maketh us obtain of God our petition, it is to wit, when we have a full hope & trust that we shall speed. If we observe these two things in our requests, it is to wit, that we require nothing but that which is good for us and it we require it ardently with a sure hope that God shall hear us, our prayers shall never be void. Wherefore when we miss the effect of our petition, either that is for that we ask such thing as is noyous unto us, for (as Christ saith) we wot never what we ask, and Jesus said whatsoever thee shall ask in my name it shall be given you (this name Jesus signifieth a Saviour, and therefore there is nothing asked in the name of Jesus but that is wholesome and helping to the salvation of the asker) or else God heareth not our prayer because that though the thing it we require be good yet we ask it not well, for we ask it with little hope. And he that asketh doubtingly asketh coldly & therefore Saint James biddeth us ask in faith nothing doubting.
Dixi Domino: Deus meus es Tu. I have said to our Lord: my God art Thou. After that he hath warded & fenced himself against pride he describeth in these words his estate. All the estate of a righteous man standeth in these words. Dixi Domino: Deus meus es Tu. I have said to our Lord: my God art Thou. Which words though they seem common to all folk, yet are there very few that may say them truly. That thing a man taketh for his God that he taketh for his chief good. And that thing taketh he for his chief good which only had, though all other things lack, he thinketh himself happy, & which only lacking, though he have all other things, he thinketh himself unhappy. The niggard then saith to his money: deus meus es tu, my God art thou. For though honour fail & health and strength and friends, so he have money he thinketh himself well. And if he have all those things that we have spoken of, if money fail he thinketh himself unhappy. The glutton saith unto his fleshly lust, the ambitious man saith to his vainglory: my God art thou. See then how few may truly say these words, I have said to our Lord: my God art Thou. For only he may truly say it which is content with God alone: so that if there were offered him all the kingdoms of the world and all the good that is in earth and all the good that is in heaven, he would not once offend God to have them all. In these words then, I have said to our Lord: my God art Thou, standeth all the state of a right wise man.
Quoniam bonorum meorum non eges. For thou hast no need of my good. In these words he showeth the cause why he saith only to our Lord: Deus meus es tu, my God art Thou. The cause is for that only our Lord hath no need of our good. There is no creature but that it needeth other creatures, and though they be of less perfection than itself, as philosophers and divines proven: for if these more imperfect creatures were not, the other that are more perfect could not be. For if any part of the whole university of creatures were destroyed & fallen to nought all the whole were subverted. For certainly one part of that university perishing all parties perish, and all creatures be parts of that university, of which university God is no part, but he is the beginning nothing there upon depending. For nothing truly won he by the creation of this world, nor nothing should he lose if the world were annihilate and turned to nought again. Than only God is he which hath no need of our good. Well ought we certainly to be ashamed to take such thing for God as hath need of us, & such is every creature. Moreover we should not accept for God, it is to say for the chief goodness, but only that thing which is the most sovereign goodness of all things, and that is not the goodness of any creature, only therefore to our Lord ought we to say: my God art Thou.
Sanctis qui sunt in terra ejus mirificavit voluntates suas. To his saints that are in the land of him he hath made marvellous his wills. After God should we specially love them which are nearest joined unto God, as be the holy angels & blessed saints that are in their country of heaven: therefore after that he had said to our Lord: my God art thou: he addeth therunto that our Lord hath made marvellous his wills, that is to say he hath made marvellous his loves and his desires toward his saints that are in the land of him, that is to wit, in the country of heaven which is called the land of God and the land of living people. And verily if we inwardly consider how great is the felicity of that country & how much is the misery of this world, how great is the goodness and charity of those blessed citizens: we shall continually desire to be hence that we were there. These things & such other when we remember, we should ever more take heed that our meditations be not unfruitful, but that of every meditation we should always purchase one virtue or other, as for ensample by this meditation of the goodness of that heavenly country we should win this virtue that we should not only strongly suffer death and patiently when our time cometh or if it were put unto us for the faith of Christ: but also we should willingly and gladly long therefore, desiring to be departed out of this vale of wretchedness that we may reign in that heavenly country with God & his holy saints.
Multiplicate sunt infirmitates eorum postea acceleraverunt. Their infirmities be multiplied and after they hasted. These words the prophet speakth of wicked men. By infirmities he understandeth idols and so it is in the Hebrew text. For as good folk have but one God whom they worship, so evil folk have many gods and idols, for they have many voluptuous pleasures many vain desires many divers passions which they serve, & wherefore seek they many sundry pleasures? certainly for because they can find none that can set their heart at rest & for it (as the prophet saith) wicked men walk about in a circuit or compass whereof there is none end. Now after these words: their idols be multiplied: it followeth. After they hasted: it is to say: after their idols, after their passions and beastly desires they run forth headlong unadvisedly without any consideration. And in this be we taught that we should as speedily run to virtue as they run to vice, & that we should, with no less diligence serve our Lord God than they serve their lord the devil. The just man considering the estate of evil folk determineth firmly with himself (as we should also) that utterly he will in no wise follow them, & therefore he saith. Non congregabo conventicula eorum de sanguinibus: nec memor ero nominum. I shall not gather the congregation of them from the blood: nor I shall not remember their names, he saith, from the blood: both because idolaters were wont to gather the blood of their sacrifice together and thereabout to do their ceremonies: and also for that all the lives of evil men forsake reason which standeth all in the soul, and follow sensuality that standeth all in the blood, the prophet saith not only that he will not gather their congregation together from the blood, that is to say it he would do no sacrifice to those idols but also that he would not remember their names, that is to say that he would not talk nor speak of the voluptuous delight which are evil peoples gods, which we might yet lawfully do: showing us by it: that a perfect man should abstain not only from unlawful pleasures but also from lawful, to th'end that he may all together whole have his mind into heavenward and the more purely intend unto the contemplation of heavenly things. And forasmuch as some man would peradventure think that it were folly for a man utterly to deprive himself from all pleasures, therefore the prophet addeth. Dominus pars hereditatis mee. Our Lord is the part of mine inheritance. As though he would say. Marvel thee not though I forsake all thing to th'intent that I may have the possession of God in whom all other things also be possessed. This should be the voice of every good Christian man. Dominus pars hereditatis mee. God is the part of mine inheritance. For certainly we Christian people to whom God is promised for an inheritance ought to be ashamed to desire any thing beside him. But for it some man might haply repute it for a great presumption that a man should promise himself God for his inheritance, therefore the prophet putteth thereto. Tu es qui restitues hereditatem meam mihi. Thou good Lord art he that shall restore mine inheritance unto me. As though he would say. O good Lord my God I know well that I am nothing in respect of Thee, I wot well I am unable to ascend by mine own strength so high to have Thee in possession, but Thou art He that shalt draw me to Thee by thy grace, Thou art He that shalt give Thyself in possession unto me. Let a righteous man then consider how great a felicity it is to have God fall unto him as his inheritance: it followeth in the psalm. Funes ceciderunt mihi in preclaris. The cords have fallen to me nobly. The parts and lots of inheritances were of old time met out and divided by cords or ropes. These words then, the ropes or cords have fallen to me nobly, be as much to say as the part or lot of mine inheritance is noble. But forasmuch as there be many men which though they be called to this great felicity (as indeed all Christian people are) yet they set little thereby and often times change it for a small simple delight, therefore the prophet saith suingly. Hereditas mea preclara est mihi. Mine inheritance is noble to me. As though he would say that as it is noble in itself so it is noble to me, that is to say I reputed it noble, and all other things in respect of it I repute (as Saint Paul saith) for dung. But forasmuch as to have this light of understanding whereby a man may know this gift that is given him of God to be the gift of God, therefore the prophet suingly saith. Benedicam Dominum, qui tribuit intellectum. That is to say. I shall bless our Lord which hath given me understanding. But in so much as a man oftentimes intendeth after reason to serve God, and that notwithstanding yet sensuality and the flesh repugneth: then is a man perfect when that not his soul only but also his flesh draw forth to Godward after those words of the prophet in another psalm. Cor meum & caro mea exultaverunt in Deum vivum. That is to say. My mind & my flesh both have joyed into living God. And for this the prophet saith here suingly. Et usque ad noctem increpuerunt me renes mei. My reins or kidney hath chidden me unto the night. That is to say. My reins, in which is wont to be the greatest inclination to concupiscence, not only now incline me not to sin but also chideth me, that is to say, withdraw me from sin unto the night, that is to say, they so far forth withdraw me from sin that willingly they afflict and pain my body. Affliction is in scripture oftentimes signified by the night because it is the most discomfortable season. Then suingly the prophet showeth what is the root of this privation or taking away of fleshly concupiscence in a man, saying. Providebam Deum in conspectu meo semper. I provided God alway before my sight. For if a man had God always before his eyes as a ruler of all his works, & in all his works he should neither seek his own lucre his glory nor his own pleasure but only to the pleasure of God, he should shortly be perfect. And forasmuch as he that so doeth prospereth in all thing, therefore it followeth. Ipse a dextris est mihi ne commovear. He is on my right hand that I be not moved or troubled. Then the prophet declareth how great is the felicity of a just man, which shall be everlastingly blessed both in body and in soul, and therefore he saith. L?tatum est cor meum. My soul is glad knowing it after death heaven is made ready for him. Et caro mea requiescet in spe. And my flesh shall rest in hope. That is to say that though it joy not by and by as in receiving his glorious estate immediately after the death, yet it resteth in the sepulchre with this hope that it shall arise in the day of judgement immortal and shining with his soul. And also the prophet more expressly declareth in the verse following. For where he said thus, my soul is glad, he addeth the cause, saying. Quia non derelinques animam meam in inferno. For thou shalt not leave my soul in hell. Also where the prophet said that his flesh should rest in hope he showeth the cause, saying. Nec dabis sanctum tuum videre corruptionem. Nor thou shalt not suffer thy saint to see corruption, that is to say, thou shalt not suffer the flesh of a good man to be corrupted. For that that was corruptible shall arise incorruptible. And forasmuch as Christ was the first which entered paradise and opened the life unto us, and was the first that rose again and the cause of our resurrection: therefore these words that we have spoken of the resurrection been principally understanden of Christ, as Saint Peter the apostle hath declared, & secondarily they may be understanden of us in that we be the members of Christ, which only never saw corruption, for his holy body was in his sepulchre nothing putrefied. Forasmuch then as the way of good living bringeth us to a perpetual life of soul & body, therefore the prophet saith. Notas mihi fecisti vias vite. Thou hast made the wages of life known unto me. And because that all the felicity of that standeth in the clear beholding and fruition of God, therefore it followeth. Adimplebis me letitia cum vultu tuo. Thou shalt fill me full of gladness with thy cheer. And for that our felicity shall be everlasting, therefore he saith. Delectationes in dextra tua usque in finem. Delectation & joy shall be on thy right hand for ever: he saith on thy right hand because that our felicity is fulfilled in the vision and fruition of the humanity of Christ which sitteth in heaven on the right hand of his father's majesty, after the words of Saint John. H?c est tota merces, ut videamus Deum, & quem misisti Jesum Christum. That is all our reward that we may behold God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent: to which reward he bring us that sitteth there and prayeth for us. Amen.