Verse 12. "Why hast thou then broken down her hedges?" Thou hast withdrawn protection from her after caring for her with all this care; wherefore is this, O Lord? A vine unprotected is exposed to every form of injury; none regard it, all prey upon it: such was Israel when given over to her enemies; such has the church full often been.
"So that all they which pass by the way do pluck her." Her cruel neighbours have a pluck at her, and marauding bands, like roaming beasts, must needs pick at her. With God no enemy can harm us, without him none are so weak as to be unable to do us damage.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 8-19. See Psalms on "Psalms 80:8" for further information.
Verse 12. "Why hast thou then broken down her hedges?" Why hast thou done this, O Lord? What is the advantage? The guard of angels thou hast removed; they used to ward off the robbers; they used to defend it. Where, today, is this faithful guard? Where are the prophets? Where the apostles? Where the teachers? Where the pastors surrounding the vine? Casting out devils, excommunicating heretics, arresting perverse men, and guarding the imperfect. What is the hedge? The guard of angels, the defense of pastors, the sacred doctrine of preachers. Where is the hedge? It is destroyed. Who has destroyed it? Thou, O Lord, who hast taken away the preachers, gathered the pastors into heaven, removed the angels. Why hast thou cast down her hedges? Was it that she might fill up her iniquities, complete the measure of her wickedness, that at length she might be punished and renovated? But what was wanting to her? What sin was not found in her? Behold, Lord, for her wickedness is full. And now they gather her grapes, even all who go out of the way. Not the true vine dressers, not the true husbandmen, gather her grapes, not all good, not a few good, not partly good and partly bad, not even one good, but all who pass beyond the way, pluck her. All who keep not thy precepts, who know not the way of God, open sinners, disreputable, these are the men that are chosen to minister at the altar, to these are benefices given, these gather her grapes for themselves, not for thee. They regard not thy poor; they feed not the hungry; they clothe not the naked; they help not the stranger; they defend not the widow and orphan; they eat up the lamb of the flock, and the fatted calf from the midst of the herd. They sing to the sound of psaltery and organ, like David; they think they have the instruments of song, arranged in choirs, praising God with the lips, but in heart they are far from God. Drinking wine in cups, perfumed with the richest odours, they suffer nothing for the grief of Joseph; with no pity are they moved for the needy and poor. These, then, are the men who go out of thy way and gather the grapes of thy vine. But what shall I say, Lord? For even all who transgress thy way, gather thy vintage? Walking in thy way and seeing the hedge of thy vine broken down, they have gone out of the way. They have not walked a straight course, but leaving the way, have turned their feet to thy vine, to pluck her, to gather her fruit, not the spiritual fruit, but the temporal. What is it you say? This I say, Lord: The rich men of this world walking in the way of their sins, seeking by thy will and against thy will the riches, honours, dignities, and pleasures of this world, have turned aside from thy ways. The riches of this world they have ceased to pursue; its honours they seek no longer; they are turned to thy vine, to ecclesiastical dignities and riches. The hedge is broken down which repelled the unworthy, and now even they who go out of thy way have entered, and gather her grapes. What is your indictment? This: Today in the theatre, tomorrow in the bishop's chair. Today at the custom house, tomorrow a canon in the choir. Today a soldier, tomorrow a priest. They have transgressed thy way, and turned to thy vine: not, indeed, that they might cultivate her for thee, but that they might gather her grapes for themselves. Savonarola.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 8-15. Parallel between the Church and a vine.
- The hedges of the Church.
- Their removal.
- The deplorable consequences.