My dear Marcellinus,

Your steadfastness in Christ fills me with admiration. Not only are you bearing well your present trial, with its attendant suffering; you are even living under rule and, so the bearer of your letter tells me, using the leisure necessitated by your recent illness to study the whole body of the Holy Scriptures and especially the Psalms. Of every one of those, he says, you are trying to grasp the inner force and sense. Splendid! I myself am devoted to the Psalms, as indeed to the whole Bible; and I once talked with a certain studious old man, who had bestowed much labour on the Psalter, and discoursed to me about it with great persuasiveness and charm, expressing himself clearly too, and holding a copy of it in his hand the while he spoke. So I am going to write down for you the things he said. 

SON, all the books of Scripture, both Old Testament and New, are inspired by God and useful for instruction, as the Apostle says; but to those who really study it the Psalter yields especial treasure. Each book of the Bible has, of course, its own particular message: the Pentateuch, for example, tells of the beginning of the world, the doings of the patriarchs, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, the giving of the Law, and the ordering of the tabernacle and the priesthood; Joshua, Judges, and Samuel describe the division of the inheritance, the acts of the judges, and the ancestry of David; Kings and Chronicles record the doings of the kings, Esdras (Ezra) the deliverance from exile, the return of the people, and the building of the temple and the city; the Prophets foretell the coming of the Saviour, put us in mind of the commandments, reprove transgressors, and for the Gentiles also have a special word. Each of these books, you see, is like a garden which grows one special kind of fruit; by contrast, the Psalter is a garden which, besides its special fruit, grows also some of those of all the rest. The creation, for instance, of which we read in Genesis, is spoken of in Psalm 18 (19), "The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth His handiwork," and again in 23 (24). "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof: the inhabited earth and all that dwell therein. He Himself laid the foundations of it on the seas." The exodus from Egypt, which Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy record, is fitly sung in Psalms 86 (87), 104 (105), 105 (106), and 113 (114). "When Israel came out of Egypt," says this last, "the House of Jacob from among a foreign people, Judah became his holy place and Israel came under his authority." "He sent Moses His servant," Psalm 104 (105) declares, "Aaron whom He had chosen. He showed the words of His signs among them, and of His wonders in the land of Ham. Darkness He sent, and it was dark, and they were not obedient to His word. He turned their waters into blood and slew their fish: their land brought forth frogs, even in the king's apartments. He spake, and dog-flies came, and flies in all their quarters"; and so on, all through this Psalm and the next, we find the same things treated. As for the tabernacle and the priesthood, we have reference to them in Psalm 28 (29), sung when the tabernacle was carried forth, "Bring unto the Lord, ye sons of God, bring unto the Lord young rams, bring to the Lord glory and honour." The doings of Joshua, the son of Nun, and of the Judges also are mentioned, this time in Psalm 104 (105), "They built them cities to dwell in and sowed fields and planted vineyards," for it was under Joshua that the promised land was given into their hands. And when we read repeatedly in this same Psalm, "They cried unto the Lord in their trouble and He saved them out of their distress," the period of the judges is referred to, for then it was that, when they cried to Him, He raised up judges to deliver them from their oppressors, each time the need arose. In the same way, Psalm 19 (20) has the kings in mind when singing, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will gain glory by the Name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen, but we are risen and stand upright." And Psalm 125 (126) of the Gradual Psalms speaks of that which Esdras (Ezra) tells, "When the Lord turned the captivity of Sion, we became as those comforted"; and similarly Psalm 121 (122), "I was glad when they said unto me, We will go into the House of the Lord. Our feet were set in thy gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem is built as a city that has fellowship within itself: thither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to testify to Israel." 

You see, then, that all the subjects mentioned in the historical books are mentioned also in one Psalm or another; but when we come to the matters of which the Prophets speak we find that these occur in almost all. Of the coming of the Saviour and how, although He is God, He yet should dwell among us, Psalm 49 (50) says, "God shall come openly, even our God, and He shall not keep silence"; and in Psalm 117 (118) we read, "Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the House of the Lord. God is the Lord, and He has given us light." That He Who comes is Himself the Father's Word, Psalm 106 (107) thus sings, "He sent His Word and healed them, and rescued them out of all their distresses." For the God Who comes is this self-same Word Whom the Father sends, and of this Word Who is the Father's Voice, Whom well he knows to be the Son of God, the Psalmist sings again in 44 (45), "My heart is inditing of a good Word"; and also in 109 (110), "Out of the womb, before the dawn, have I begotten Thee." Whom else, indeed, should any call God's very Offspring, save His own Word and Wisdom? And he, who knows full well that it was through the Word that God said, "Let there be light, Let there be a firmament. Let there be all things," says again in Psalm 32 (33), "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the Breath of His mouth." And, so far from being ignorant of the coming of Messiah, he makes mention of it first and foremost in Psalm 44 (45), "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, a sceptre of justice is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness: wherefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." Further, lest any one should think this coming was in appearance only, Psalm 86 (87) shows that He Who was to come should both come as man and at the same time be He by Whom all things were made. "Mother Sion shall say, A man, a man indeed is born in her: and He himself, the Most Highest, founded her," it says; and that is equivalent to saying "The Word was God, all things were made by Him, and the Word became flesh." Neither is the Psalmist silent about the fact that He should be born of a virgin-no, he underlines it straight away in 44 (45), which we were quoting but a moment since. "Harken, O daughter," he says, "and see and incline thine ear, and forget thine own people and thy father's house. For the King has desired thy beauty, and He is thy Lord." Is not this like what Gabriel said, "Hail, thou that art full of grace, the Lord is with thee"? For the Psalmist, having called Him the Anointed One, that is Messiah or Christ, forthwith declares His human birth by saying, "Harken, O daughter, and see"; the only difference being that Gabriel addresses Mary by an epithet, because he is of another race from her, while David fitly calls her his own daughter, because it was from him that she should spring. 

Having thus shown that Christ should come in human form, the Psalter goes on to show that He can suffer in the flesh He has assumed. It is as foreseeing how the Jews would plot against Him that Psalm 2 sings, "Why do the heathen rage and peoples meditate vain things? The kings of the earth stood up and their rulers took counsel together against the Lord and against His Christ." And Psalm 21 (22), speaking in the Saviour's own person, describes the manner of His death. "Thou has brought me into the dust of death, for many dogs have compassed me, the assembly of the wicked have laid siege to me. They pierced my hands and my feet, they numbered all my bones, they gazed and stared at me, they parted my garments among them and cast lots for my vesture." "They pierced my hands and my feet"-what else can that mean except the cross? and Psalms 87 (88) and 68 (69), again speaking in the Lord's own person, tell us further that He suffered these things, not for His own sake but for ours. "Thou has made Thy wrath to rest upon me," says the one; and the other adds, "I paid them things I never took." For He did not die as being Himself liable to death: He suffered for us, and bore in Himself the wrath that was the penalty of our transgression, even as Esaias (Isaiah) says, "Himself bore our sicknesses." So in Psalm 137 (138) we say, "The Lord will make requital for me"; and in the 71st (72nd) the Spirit says, "He shall save the children of the poor and bring the slanderer low, for from the hand of the mighty He has set the poor man free, the needy man whom there was none to help."

Nor is this all. The Psalter further indicates beforehand the bodily Ascension of the Saviour into heaven, saying in Psalm 23 (24), "Lift up your gates, ye princes, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall come in!" And again in 46 (47), "God is gone up with a merry noise, the Lord with the voice of the trumpet." The Session also it proclaims, saying in Psalm 109 (110), "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on My right hand, until I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet." And Psalm 9 mentions also the coming destruction of the devil, crying, "Thou satest on Thy throne, Thou that judgest righteousness, Thou hast rebuked the heathen and the wicked one is destroyed." And that He should receive all judgement from the Father, this also the Psalter does not hide from us, but foreshows Him as coming to be the Judge of all in 71 (72), "Give the King Thy judgements, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the King's Son, that He may judge Thy people in righteousness and Thy poor with justice." In Psalm 49 (50) too we read, "He shall call the heaven from above, and the earth, that He may judge His people. And the heavens shall declare His righteousness, that God is Judge indeed." The 81st (82nd) likewise says, "God standeth in the assembly of gods, in the midst He judges gods." The calling of the Gentiles also is to be learnt from many passages in this same book, especially in these words of Psalm 46 (47), "O clap your hands together, all ye Gentiles, shout unto God with the voice of triumph"; and again in the 71st (72nd), "The Ethiopians shall fall down before Him, His enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarsis and of the islands shall bring presents, the kings of Arabia and Saba shall offer gifts." All these things are sung of in the Psalter; and they are shown forth separately in the other books as well. 

My old friend made rather a point of this, that the things we find in the Psalms about the Saviour are stated in the other books of Scripture too; he stressed the fact that one interpretation is common to them all, and that they have but one voice in the Holy Spirit. 

Moreover, he went on, the opposite is true, to some extent; for, just as the Psalter includes the special subjects of all the other books, so also do they often contain something of the special feature of the Psalter. Moses, for example, writes a song; Esaias (Isaiah) does the same, and Ambacum (Habakkuk) offers prayer in form of song. And in the same way in every book we see something alike of prophecy, of law-giving, and of history; for the same Spirit is on all and He, being by nature One and Indivisible, is given whole to each: yet is He diverse in His manifestations to mankind, and each one who is taught by and receives Him ministers the word according to the moment's need. Thus (as I said before) Moses is at times a prophet and a psalmist, and the Prophets on occasion both lay down laws (like "Wash you, make you clean. Wash clean your heart from wickedness Jerusalem"), and also record history, as when Daniel relates the story of Susanna or Esaias (Isaiah) tells us about the Rab-shakeh and Sennacherib. Similarly the Psalter, whose special function is to utter songs, generalizes in song matters that are treated in detail in the other books, as I have shown you. It also even lays down laws at times, such as "Leave off from wrath and let go displeasure, incline thine heart from evil and do good. Seek peace and ensue it," as well as telling us the history of Israel's journey and prophesying the coming of the Saviour, as I said just now. 

You see, then, that the grace of the one Spirit is common to every writer and all the books of Scripture, and differs in its expression only as need requires and the Spirit wills. Obviously, therefore, the only thing that matters is for each writer to hold fast unyieldingly the grace he personally has received and so fulfil perfectly his individual mission. And, among all the books, the Psalter has certainly a very special grace, a choiceness of quality well worthy to be pondered; for, besides the characteristics which it shares with others, it has this peculiar marvel of its own, that within it are represented and portrayed in all their great variety the movements of the human soul. It is like a picture, in which you see yourself portrayed and, seeing, may understand and consequently form yourself upon the pattern given. Elsewhere in the Bible you read only that the Law commands this or that to be done, you listen to the Prophets to learn about the Saviour's coming or you turn to the historical books to learn the doings of the kings and holy men; but in the Psalter, besides all these things, you learn. about yourself You find depicted in it all the movements of your soul, all its changes, its ups and downs, its failures and recoveries. Moreover, whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you do not merely hear and then pass on, but learn the way to remedy your ill. Prohibitions of evil-doing are plentiful in Scripture, but only the Psalter tells you how to obey these orders and refrain from sin. Repentance, for example, is enjoined repeatedly; but to repent means to leave off sinning, and it is the Psalms that show you how to set about repenting and with what words your penitence may be expressed. Again, Saint Paul says, "Tribulation worketh endurance, and endurance experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed"; but it is in the Psalms that we find written and described how afflictions should be borne, and what the afflicted ought to say, both at the time and when his troubles cease: the whole process of his testing is set forth in them and we are shown exactly with what words to voice our hope in God. Or take the commandment, "In everything give thanks." The Psalms not only exhort us to be thankful, they also provide us with fitting words to say. We are told, too, by other writers that all who would live godly in Christ must suffer persecution; and here again the Psalms supply words with which both those who flee persecution and those who suffer under it may suitably address themselves to God, and it does the same for those who have been rescued from it. We are bidden elsewhere in the Bible also to bless the Lord and to acknowledge Him: here in the Psalms we are shown the way to do it, and with what sort of words His majesty may meetly be confessed. In fact, under all the circumstances of life, we shall find that these divine songs suit ourselves and meet our own souls' need at every turn. 

And herein is yet another strange thing about the Psalms. In the other books of Scripture we read or hear the words of holy men as belonging only to those who spoke them, not at all as though they were our own; and in the same way the doings there narrated are to us material for wonder and examples to be followed, but not in any sense things we have done ourselves. With this book, however, though one does read the prophecies about the Saviour in that way, with reverence and with awe, in the case of all the other Psalms it is as though it were one's own words that one read; and any one who hears them is moved at heart, as though they voiced for him his deepest thoughts. To make this clear and, like Saint Paul not fearing somewhat to repeat ourselves, let us take some examples. The patriarchs spoke many things, all fitting to themselves; Moses also spoke, and God answered; Elias (Elijah) and Eliseus (Elisha), seated on Mount Carmel, called upon the Lord and said, "The Lord liveth, before Whom I stand." And the other prophets, while speaking specially about the Saviour, addressed themselves also at times to Israel or to the heathen. Yet no one would ever speak the patriarchs' words as though they were his own, or dare to imitate the utterance of Moses or use the words of Abraham concerning the great Isaac, or about Ishmael and the home-born slave, as though they were his own, even though like necessity oppressed him. Neither, if any man suffer with those that suffer or be gripped with desire of some better thing, would he ever say as Moses said, "Show me Thyself," or "If Thou remittest their sin; then remit it; but if not, then blot me out of Thy book that Thou hast written." No more would any one use the prophets' words of praise or blame as though they were his own, or say, "The Lord lives, in Whose sight I stand to-day." For he who reads those books is clearly reading not his own words but those of holy men and other people about whom they write; but the marvel with the Psalter is that, barring those prophecies about the Saviour and some about the Gentiles, the reader takes all its words upon his lips as though they were his own, and each one sings the Psalms as though they had been written for his special benefit, and takes them and recites them, not as though someone else were speaking or another person's feelings being described, but as himself speaking of himself, offering the words to God as his own heart's utterance, just as though he himself had made them up. Not as the words of the patriarchs or of Moses and the other prophets will he reverence these: no, he is bold to take them as his own and written for his very self Whether he has kept the Law or whether he has broken it, it is his own doings that the Psalms describe; every one is bound to find his very self in them and, be he faithful soul or be he sinner, each reads in them descriptions of himself. 

It seems to me, moreover, that because the Psalms thus serve him who sings them as a mirror, wherein he sees himself and his own soul, he cannot help but render them in such a manner that their words go home with equal force to those who hear him sing, and stir them also to a like reaction. Sometimes it is repentance that is generated in this way, as by the consciencestirring words of Psalm 50 (51); another time, hearing how God helps those who hope and trust in Him, the listener too rejoices and begins to render thanks, as though that gracious help already were his own. Psalm 3, to take another instance, a man will sing, bearing his own afflictions in his mind; Psalms 10 (11) and 11 (12) he will use as the expression of his own faith and prayer; and singing the 53rd (54th), the 55th (56th), the 56th (57th), and the 141st (142nd), it is not as though someone else were being persecuted but out of his own experience that he renders praise to God. And every other Psalm is spoken and composed by the Spirit in the selfsame way: just as in a mirror, the movements of our own souls are reflected in them and the words are indeed our very own, given us to serve both as a reminder of our changes of condition and as a pattern and model for the amendment of our lives. 

This is the further kindness of the Saviour that, having become man for our sake, He not only offered His own body to death on our behalf, that He might redeem all from death, but also, desiring to display to us His own heavenly and perfect way of living, He expressed this in His very self: It was as knowing how easily the devil might deceive us, that He gave us, for our peace of mind, the pledge of His own victory that He had won on our behalf: But He did not stop there: He went still further, and His own self performed the things He had enjoined on us. Every man there-fore may both hear Him speaking and at the same time see in His behaviour the pattern for his own, even as He himself has bidden, saying, "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart." Nowhere is more perfect teaching of virtue to be found than in the Lord's own life. Forbearance, love of men, goodness, courage, mercy, righteousness, all are found in Him; and in the same way no virtue will be lacking to him who fully contemplates this human life of Christ. It was as knowing this that Saint Paul said, "Be ye imitators of me, even as I myself am of Christ." The Greek legislators had indeed a great command of language; but the Lord, the true Lord of all, Who cares for all His works, did not only lay down precepts but also gave Himself as model of how they should be carried out, for all who would to know and imitate. And therefore, before He came among us, He sketched the likeness of this perfect life for us in words, in this same book of Psalms; in order that, just as He revealed Himself in flesh to be the perfect, heavenly Man, so in the Psalms also men of good-will might see the pattern life portrayed, and find therein the healing and correction of their own. 

Briefly, then, if indeed any more is needed to drive home the point, the whole divine Scripture is the teacher of virtue and true faith, but the Psalter gives a picture of the spiritual life. And, just as one who draws near to an earthly king observes the formalities in regard to dress and bearing and the correct forms of words lest, transgressing in these matters, he be deemed a boor, so he who seeks to live the good life and learn about the Saviour's conduct in the body is by the reading of this holy book first put in mind of his own soul's condition and then supplied with fit words for a suppliant's use. For it is a feature of this book that the Psalms which compose it are of many different sorts. Some such as 72 (73), 77 (78), 113 (114 and 115), are narrative in form; some are hortatory, like 31 (32), 96 (97), and 102 (103); some are prophetic, for example, 21 (22), 44 (45), 46 (47), and 109 (110); some, in whole or part, are prayers to God, as are 6, 15 (16), 53 (54), 101 (102); some are confessions, notably the 50th (51st), some denounce the wicked, like 13 (14); while yet others, such as 8, 97 (98), 116 (117), 124 (125), and many more, voice thanksgiving, praise, and jubilation, Psalm 65 (66) alone of these having special reference to the Resurrection of the Lord. It is possible for us, therefore, to find in the Psalter not only the reflection of our own soul's state, together with precept and example for all possible conditions, but also a fit form of words wherewith to please the Lord on each of life's occasions, words both of repentance and of thankfulness, so that we fall not into sin; for it is not for our actions only that we must give account before the Judge, but also for our every idle word. 

Suppose, then, for example, that you want to declare any one to be blessed; you find the way to do it in Psalm 1, and likewise in 31 (32), 40 (41), 111 (112), 118 (119), and 127 (128). If you want to rebuke the conspiracy of the Jews against the Saviour, you have Psalm 2. If you are persecuted by your own family and opposed by many, say Psalm 3; and when you would give thanks to God at your affliction's end, sing 4 and 74 (75) and 114-115 (116). When you see the wicked wanting to ensnare you and you wish your prayer to reach God's ears, then wake up early and sing 5; and if you feel yourself beneath the cloud of His displeasure, you can say 6 and 37 (38). If any plot against you, as did Ahithophel against David, and someone tells you of it, sing Psalm 7, and put your trust in God Who will deliver you. Contemplating humanity's redemption and the Saviour's universal grace, sing Psalm 8 to the Lord; and with this same Psalm or the 18th (19th) you may thank Him for the vintage. For victory over the enemy and the saving of created things, take not glory to yourself but, knowing that it is the Son of God Who has thus brought things to a happy issue, say to Him Psalm 9; and, if any wishes to alarm you, the 10th (11th), still trusting in the Lord. When you see the boundless pride of many, and evil passing great, so that among men [so it seems] no holy thing remains, take refuge with the Lord and say Psalm 11 (12). And if this state of things be long drawn out, be not faint-hearted, as though God had forgotten you, but call upon Him with Psalm 26 (27). Should you hear others blaspheme the providence of God, do not join with them in their profanity but intercede with God, using the 13th (14th) and the 52nd (53rd). And if; by way of contrast, you want to learn what sort of person is citizen of heaven's kingdom, then sing Psalm 14 (15). When, again, you need to pray against your enemies and those who straiten you, Psalms 16 (17), 85 (86), 87 (88), and 139 (140) will all meet your need; and if you want to know how Moses prayed, you have the 89th (90th). When you have been delivered from these enemies and oppressors, then sing Psalm 17 (18); and when you marvel at the order of creation and God's good providence therein and at the holy precepts of the Law, 18 (19) and 23 (24) will voice your prayer; while 19 (20) will give you words to comfort and to pray with others in distress When you yourself are fed and guided by the Lord and, seeing it, rejoice, the 22nd (23rd) awaits you. Do enemies surround you? Then lift up your heart to God and say Psalm 24 (25), and you will surely see the sinners put to rout. If they persist, their murderous intent unslaked, then let man's judgement go and pray to God, the Only Righteous, that He alone will judge according unto right, using Psalms 25 (26) and 34 (35) and 42 (43). If your foes press yet harder and become a veritable host, that scorns you as not yet anointed, be not afraid, but sing again Psalm 26 (27). Pay no attention either to the weakness of your own humanity or to the brazenness of their attack, but cry unceasingly on God, using Psalm 27 (28). And when you want the right way of approach to God in thankfulness, with spiritual understanding sing Psalm 28 (29). And finally, when you dedicate your home, that is your soul in which you receive the Lord and the house of your senses, in which corporeally your spirit dwells, give thanks and say the 29th (30th) and, from the Gradual Psalms, the 126th (127th). Again, when you find yourself hated and persecuted by all your friends and kinsfolk because of your faith in Christ, do not despair on this account nor be afraid of them, but go apart and, looking to the future, sing Psalm 30 (31). And when you see people baptized and ransomed from this evil world, be filled with wonder at the love of God for men, and in thanksgiving for them sing the 31st (32nd). And whenever a number of you want to sing together, being all good and upright men, then use the 32nd (33rd). When you have fallen among enemies but have escaped by wise refusal of their evil counsel, then also gather holy men together and sing with them the 33rd (34th). And when you see how zealous are the lawless in their evil-doing, think not the evil is innate in them, as some false teachers say, but read Psalm 35 (36) and you will see they are themselves the authors of their sin. And if you see these same wicked men trying, among other evils, to attack the weak and you wish to warn their victims to pay no heed to them, nor envy them, since they will soon be brought to nought, both to yourself and others say the 36th (37th). When, on the other hand, it is your own safety that is in question, by reason of the enemy's attacks, and you wish to bestir yourself against him, say the 38th (39th); and if; when he attacks, you then endure afflictions, and wish to learn the value of endurance, sing Psalm 39 (40). When you see people in poverty, obliged to beg their bread, and you want to show them pity, you can applaud those who have already helped them and incite others to like works of mercy by using 40 (41). Then again, if you are aflame with longing for God, be not disturbed at the reviling of your enemies but, knowing the immortal fruit that such desire shall bear, comfort your soul and ease your pains with hope in God, and say the 41st (42nd). When you wish to recall in detail the loving-kindnesses which God showed to the fathers, both in their exodus from Egypt and in the wilderness, and to reflect how good God is and how ungrateful are men, you have the 43rd (44th), the 77th (78th), the 88th (89th), the 104th (105th), 105th (106th), 106th (107th), and also the 113th (114th and 115th). And the 45th (46th) will supply your need when after deliverance from afflictions you flee to God, and want to give Him thanks and tell of all His loving mercy shown towards yourself. 

But suppose now that you have sinned and, having been put to confusion, are repenting and begging for forgiveness, then you have the words of confession and repentance in Psalm 50 (51). Or you have been slandered, perhaps, before an evil king, and you see the slanderer boasting of his deed: then go away and say Psalm 51 (52). And when they persecute and slander you, as did the Ziphites and the strangers to King David, be not disturbed but with full confidence in God sing praise to Him, using Psalms 53 (54) and 55 (56). If still the persecution follows hard on you, and he who seeks your life enters (though he knows it not) the very cave in which you hide, still you must not fear; for even in such extremity as this you have encouragement in Psalm 56 (57) and also in the 141st (142nd). The plotter, it may be, gives orders that a watch be kept over your house, and yet you manage to escape; give thanks to God, then, and let Psalm 58 (59) be written on your heart, as on a pillar, as a memorial of your deliverance. And if not only your enemies cast you in the teeth but those also whom you thought to be your friends reproach and slander you and hurt you sorely for a time, you can still call upon God for help, using Psalm 54 (55). Against hypocrites and those who glory in appearances, say for their reproach the 57th (58th). But against those whose enmity is such that they would even take away your life, you must simply oppose your own obedience to the Lord, having no fear at all but all the more submitting to His will as they grow fiercer in their rage, and your form of words for this will be the 61st (62nd) Psalm. Should persecution drive you to the desert, fear not as though you were alone in it, for God is with you, and there at daybreak you may sing to Him the 62nd (63rd). And if even there the fear of foes and their unceasing plots pursues you, be they never so many or so insistent in their search for you, still you must not yield; for the toy arrows of a child will be enough to wound them, while Psalms 63 (64), 64 (65), 69 (70), and 70 (71) are on your lips. 

So then, my son, let whoever reads this Book of Psalms take the things in it quite simply as God-inspired; and let each select from it, as from the fruits of a garden, those things of which he sees himself in need. For I think that in the words of this book all human life is covered, with all its states and thoughts, and that nothing further can be found in man. For no matter what you seek, whether it be repentance and confession, or help in trouble and temptation or under persecution, whether you have been set free from plots and snares or, on the contrary, are sad for any reason, or whether, seeing yourself progressing and your enemy cast down, you want to praise and thank and bless the Lord, each of these things the Divine Psalms show you how to do, and in every case the words you want are written down for you, and you can say them as your own. 

And so you too, Marcellinus, pondering the Psalms and reading them intelligently, with the Spirit as your guide. will be able to grasp the meaning of each one, even as you desire. And you will strive also to imitate the lives of those God-bearing saints who spoke them at the first. 

{Abridged from original}

Saint Athanasius: Letter to Marcellinus 

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