Psalm 31

a. Ipsi David Intellectus.

Beati quorum remissae sunt iniquitates, et quorum tecta sunt peccata. Beatus vir cui non imputavit Dominus peccatum: nec est in spiritu ejus dolus.

To David himself, understanding.

Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

b. Quoniam tacui, inveteraverunt ossa mea: dum clamarem tota die. Quoniam die ac nocte gravata est super me manus tua, conversus sum in aerumna mea, dum configitur spina.

Because I was silent my bones grew old; whilst I cried out all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: I am turned in my anguish, whilst the thorn in fastened.

c. Delictum meum cognitum tibi feci: et injustitiam meam non abscondi. Dixi, Confitebor adversum me injustitiam meam Domino: et tu remisisti impietatem peccati mei.

I have acknowledged my sin to thee, and my injustice I have not concealed. I said, I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord: and thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sin.

d. Pro hac orabit ad te omnis sanctus, in tempore opportuno.

For this shall every one that is holy pray to thee in a seasonable time.

e. Verumtamen in diluvio aquarum multarum, ad eum non approximabunt.

And yet in a flood of many waters, they shall not come nigh unto him.

f. Tu es refugium meum a tribulatione, quae circumdedit me: exsultatio mea, erue me a circumdantibus me.

Thou art my refuge from the trouble which hath encompassed me: my joy, deliver me from them that surround me.

g. Intellectum tibi dabo, et instruam te in via hac qua gradieris: firmabo super te oculos meos.

I will give thee understanding, and I will instruct thee in this way, in which thou shalt go: I will fix my eyes upon thee.

h. Nolite fieri sicut equus et mulus: quibus non est intellectus.

Do not become like the horse and the mule, who have no understanding.

i. In camo et freno maxillas eorum constringe: qui non approximant ad te.

With bit and bridle bind fast their jaws, who come not near unto thee.

j. Multa flagella peccatoris: sperantem autem in Domino misericordia circumdabit.

Many are the scourges of the sinner, but mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord.

k. Laetamini in Domino, et exsultate, justi: et gloriamini, omnes recti corde.

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye just, and glory, all ye right of heart.

a. Hic incipit quarta deca primae quinquagenae. Et sicut in prima decade sunt psalmi in quibus fit mentio de persecutione Absalonis; in secunda de persecutione Saulis; in tertia de persecutione populi, ita in ista quarta de tribulatione quam boni a peccatoribus sustinent: 2 Petr. 2: Habitans apud eos qui de die in diem animam justam iniquis operibus cruciabant. Dividitur autem haec deca in duas partes. Quia primo commendatur justorum dignitas. Secundo imploratur auxilium contra persecutiones impiorum, in Psalm. 34: Judica Domine nocentes me. Circa primum duo commemorat. Primo gratiam justificantem. Secundo dignitatem justorum, ibi, Ps. 32: Exultate justi etc. Tertio monet justos ut in justitia sistant, ibi, Ps. 33: Benedicam Dominum.

This Psalm marks the beginning of the fourth decade of the first 50 Psalms. Just as in the first decade, there are Psalms where reference is made to Absalom's pursuit of David, in the second to his persecution by Saul, and in the third to his persecution by his own people, the fourth decade describes the tribulations the good endure at the hands of the wicked: "Dwelling among them who from day to day vexed the just soul with unjust works." (2 Peter 2:8) This group of ten Psalms, however, is itself divided into two parts. In the first, the excellence of the righteous is commended. In the second, God's help is implored against persecution by the impious: "Judge thou, O Lord, them that wrong me." (Psalm 34) In regard to the first, he emphasizes two things, the justifying power of grace and the excellence of the just: "Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just" (Psalm 32); thirdly, he urges the just to persevere in their righteousness: "I will bless the Lord at all times." (Psalm 33)

Hujus Psalmi novus est titulus, scilicet Ipsi David Intellectus. Hieronymus habet, Eruditio David. In multis Psalmis sequentibus est invenire titulum hunc. Et signatur per hoc, quod in omnibus Psalmis in quibus hic titulus dicitur, tractatur aliqua veritas communis, non solum pertinens ad unam personam, sed quasi ad providentiam Dei, vel ad aliquid aliud arduum. Et licet in omnibus Psalmis quaedam sint ad eruditionem, ista tamen ad hoc principaliter ordinantur. Specialiter vero iste Psalmus intitulatur ab intellectu quem debet habere poenitens, qui debet intelligere se peccatorem, et gratiam dei liberantis: Lev. 5: Si intellexerit homo delictum etc. Hunc intellectum dat vexatio, Isa. 28.

The superscription of the Psalm makes its appearance here for the first time: "To David himself, understanding." Jerome renders it as "The knowledge of David." The same superscription also appears in many of the Psalms that follow, and this is worth noting because, in all the Psalms in which this title is used, some universal truth is addressed that does not involve one individual only, but divine providence or some other lofty theme. Although instruction is found in every Psalm, the Psalms thus titled are principally ordered to that end. Psalm 31 bears the superscription, because it sets out the kind of understanding that one who is repentant must have, the intellectual comprehension, that is, of being a sinner and the knowledge of God's grace which forgives and sets him free: "If a man should become aware of his offense" etc. (see Lev. 5:4). Such understanding derives from the endurance of hardship (Isaiah 28).

Beati quorum. Iste est secundus Psalmus poenitentialium. In primo enim egit de contritione cordis, in isto vero de confessione; et dividitur in tres partes. In prima enim ponitur remissio peccatorum. In secunda, via ad remissionem, ibi, Quoniam tacui etc. Tertio desiderium sanctorum de remissione, ibi, Pro hac orabit. Circa primum duo facit. Primo enim ponitur aliquid quod est ex parte Dei. Secundo illud quod est ex parte hominis, ibi, Nec est in spiritu.

Blessed are they. This is the second of the "Penitential Psalms."1 In the first (of these Penitential Psalms), the psalmist was concerned with contrition of heart; here he is concerned with the confession of sin. It is divided into three parts. The first deals with the remission of sins, the second with the path that leads to that remission, at Because I was silent, and the third with the desire of the saintly for remission of their sins, at For this shall everyone...pray. In regard to the first point, he does two things. First, he sets forth what the Lord does, secondly, that which a man must do, at In whose spirit there is no guile.

In peccato namque primo est offensa Dei. Secundo macula. Tertio reatus poenae. Contra haec tria ordinat tria. Quia Deus remittit offensam, maculam tegit, reatum poenae tollit, non imputando peccatum. Quantum ad primum dicit, Beati quorum remissae sunt etc. Sed quia beatitudo est duplex, scilicet rei et spei, isti tales, scilicet quorum remissae sunt iniquitates, sunt beati in spe; qui tandem erunt beati in re. Beatus enim ille est spe, in quo praecedit causa beatitudinis, et via quae est virtus, et praecipue perfecta: unde in quo virtus perfecta apparet, potest dici beatus in spe: sicut arbor bene florens potest dici fructificans. Post corruptionem enim primi hominis isti flores non erant, sed spinae peccatorum. Et ideo beatitudo peccatoris quae est in spe, non est hujusmodi, sed quod Deus remittat peccatum, et sic fructificat: Hier. 4: Novate vobis novale etc. Remissae: Isa. 40: Dimissa est iniquitas illius: Luc. 6: Dimittite, et dimittetur vobis.

In sin there is first an offense against God; secondly there is the stain of sin, and thirdly the guilty state of punishment. Over against these three things, three others are arrayed: God remits the offense, covers the stain, and removes the guilty state of punishment by not imputing the sin. In regard to the first, he says, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven etc. However, since blessedness is two-fold, namely of that in which it really consists (i.e., in God Himself), and this as He is enjoyed first in man's hope, those whose sins are forgiven are already blessed in this hope, that they will, at length, be happy in (union with) Him.2 He is blessed in hope in whom the cause of his (future) blessedness and the path to it (which is virtue, especially that which is complete) is anticipated. Therefore, the person in whom perfect virtue is observed is said to be blessed in hope, just as a beautiful flowering tree is said to be fruitful. However, following the corruption of the first man those flowers ceased and only the thorns of sin remained. The blessedness of sinners, which exists in hope, is not like this, however, because God forgives their sins and causes them (i.e., those forgiven) to flourish: "Break up anew your fallow ground (and sow not upon thorns)." (Jeremiah 4:3) Are forgiven: "Her iniquity is forgiven" (Isaiah 40:2); "Forgive, and you shall be forgiven." (Luke 6:37)

Quantum ad secundum dicit, Et quorum tecta sunt peccata. Peccata sunt maculae animae: Hier. 2: Quam vilis facta es etc. Quando quis habet in se turpe, et illud tegitur, tunc oculos intuentis turpitudo non offendit. Deus autem tegit turpitudinem peccatorum: sed quomodo? Totaliter, scilicet abluendo animam. In peccato enim duplex est deformitas. Una scilicet ex privatione gratiae qua privatur peccator: et haec totaliter tollitur, et non tegitur, quia datur ei gratia. Alia macula est ex actu peccati praeterito: et haec non deletur, quia non datur ei quod non fecerit, sed quod non imputetur ei ad culpam: et haec tegitur.

With respect to the second (thing that God does over against man's sin), he says, And whose sins are covered. Sins are blemishes on the soul: "How exceeding base art thou become." (Jeremiah 2:36) When someone has something ugly in him and it is concealed, then his ugliness does not offend the eyes of those who see him. But God "covers" the ugliness of sin. How? Completely, that is, by cleansing the soul. For in sin, there is a two-fold deformity. The first is that stain which arises from the privation of grace that the sinner finds himself in consequent upon his sin. With forgiveness, this deformity is totally removed and is not concealed, since grace is bestowed on him. The second stain is that which the actual sin itself committed in the past leaves on one's soul. This stain is not destroyed because it is not given to the sinner to have not actually committed the sin, but only that the blame is not imputed to him. And this is what is covered.

Quantum ad tertium dicit, Beatus vir cui non imputavit Dominus peccatum. De reatu poenae intelligitur, quia poena non ei reservatur pro peccato: Dan. 3: Omnia induxisti super nos etc. Secundum glossam, triplex peccatum hic insinuatur: peccatum originale, actuale mortale, et actuale veniale. Primum signatur per iniquitatem, quae est quaedam inaequalitas: et hoc est in originali, inquantum in ea vires animae recedunt ab aequalitate innocentiae; et hoc dimittitur et diminuitur, quia aufertur reatu et remanet actu. Dicit autem pluraliter iniquitates, quia in diversis diversa originalia, et in uno unum. Secundum signatur per peccatum actuale mortale. Actualia enim peccata mortalia dicuntur tegi, quando non imputantur peccatori jam ad culpam. Tertium signatur per peccatum veniale, quod non imputat Dominus. Peccatum enim veniale non imputatur ad poenam aeternam. Vel primum dicit propter peccatum quod est ante baptismum. Secundum propter peccata quae sunt post baptismum. Tertium vero post confessionem, quia non imputabitur peccatum ad poenam. Sed ex parte hominis requiritur quod non fictus confiteatur; alias non consequitur gratiam: Sap. 1: Spiritus sanctus disciplinae effugiet fictum. Et ideo, Nec est in spiritu ejus dolus, ut aliud habeat interius, et aliud praetendat exterius.

In regard to the third (thing that God does over against man's sin), he says, Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin. With respect to the guilty state of punishment, it is understood that the punishment for his sin is not reserved to him (alone): "(For thou hast executed true judgments in all the things that thou hast brought upon us, and upon Jerusalem the holy city of our fathers: for according to truth and judgment) thou has brought all these things upon us (for our sins)." (Daniel 3:28) According to the Gloss, there is an allusion to three kinds of sin at work here: original sin, actual mortal sin, and actual venial sin. The first type of sin is characterized by iniquity, which is a kind of inequality. This was present in original sin, in that the powers of the soul departed from the even tenor of innocence. This aspect of sin is forgiven and diminished, since it is taken away from the one responsible for it, although it still persists (in one's soul). The psalmist speaks of iniquities as plural in number, since there are diverse original sins in diverse individuals, but only a single original sin in one individual man (Adam). The second type of sin is characterized as actual mortal sin. These are said to be covered when they are no longer imputed to us as sin. The third type is venial sin, which the Lord does not impute to the sinner; for venial sin is not considered in terms of eternal punishment. Considered in another way, the first type is sin which occurs prior to baptism, the second after baptism, while the third occurs after confession, since sin will not then be subject to punishment. On the part of the individual, however, it is necessary for his confession to be unfeigned; otherwise, he will not receive grace: "The Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful." (Wisdom 1:5) That is why he says, And in whose spirit there is no guile, unlike one who, possessing one thing inwardly, outwardly pretends another.

b. Quoniam tacui. Secunda pars est, ubi ponitur via perveniendi ad remissionem peccatorum: et circa hoc tria facit. Primo enim ponit statum peccati. Secundo conversionem, quae est causa remissionis peccati, ibi, Delictum meum.

Because I was silent. In the second part of this Psalm, the path of arriving at the remission of sin is described. In this regard, he does three things: first he sets forth the condition of sin, secondly, conversion, which is the reason for the remission of sin, at I have acknowledged my sin.3

Dicit ergo, Quoniam tacui etc. Contradictio videtur hic. Cum enim clamet tota die, dicit se tacere. Respondeo. Tacebat ab eo quod dicendum erat, sed clamabat quod dicendum non erat, nedum clamandum. Et in utroque est peccatum. De primo Isa. 6: Vae mihi quia tacui. Debet enim peccator dicere peccata sua: Job 16: Si tacuero, non recedit a me; nunc autem etc. Ergo Quoniam tacui peccata mea, Inveteraverunt ossa mea, idest interior fortitudo defecit. Saepe in Scriptura sacra per membra corporalia intelliguntur virtutes interiores. Unde per ossa in quibus est fortitudo, intelligitur interior virtus. Et quia inveterascit quod deficit, idest minuitur, inde dicit: Inveteraverunt ossa mea: Baruch 3: Quid est Israel, quod in terra inimicorum es, inveterasti etc. De secundo Isa. 5: Expectavi, ut faceret judicium, et ecce iniquitas: justitiam, et ecce clamor. Et hoc est quod dicit, Dum clamarem tota die. Clamabat enim se justum, clamabat de poena, et tacebat de culpa. Sed quid fecit Dominus? Convertit eum aggravando manum Domini, gravamen inferentem, Quoniam die ac nocte.

And so, he says Because I was silent etc. This appears to be contradictory -- when he is weeping all day, he says he is quiet. My response is this. He was silent about what needed to be spoken, and he was weeping over what was left unsaid, not what he should have been weeping for -- and in both there is sin. Concerning the first, Isaiah says, "Woe is me, because I have held my peace." (Isaiah 6:5) The sinner must declare his sins: "If I hold my peace, it will not depart from me. But now (my sorrow hath oppressed me, and all my limbs are brought to nothing." (Job 16:7-8) Therefore, Because I was silent about my sins, my bones grew old, that is, my inner strength has failed. In Holy Scripture, inner strength is frequently expressed in terms of parts of the body. Hence through "bones," in which there is strength, is understood interior strength. And since what grows feeble decays or is diminished, he says, My bones grew old. "How happeneth it, O Israel, that thou art in thy enemies' land? Thou art grown old (in a strange country)." (Baruch 3:10-11) Concerning the second,4 Isaiah states: "I looked that he should do judgment, and behold iniquity: and do justice, and behold a cry." (Isaiah 5:7) This is also what the psalmist says: Whilst I cried out all the day long. He was clamoring that he was just and weeping over his punishment, but he was keeping silent about his moral responsibility. Now what does the Lord do? He brings about his conversion by imposing his hand on him -- the hand of the Lord -- bringing a heavy pressure to bear both Day and night.

Secundo conversione consequente, Conversus sum etc. Dicit ergo, Die ac nocte, idest continue, Gravata est etc. Manus Domini aliquando consolatur: Ezech. 3: Manus Domini erat mecum confortans me. Aliquando aggravat, sicut hic 1 Reg. 5, dicitur manus domini gravissima: Isa. 26: In tribulatione etc. Et ideo dicit, Conversus sum in aerumna mea, idest in miseria quam patior pro peccatis. Dum configitur spina, dum spina, idest remorsus conscientiae, infigitur cordi meo. Vel pro spina dorsi quae tenet totum hominem rectum, Dum configitur. Et signat superbiam, quae quando constringitur, corrigitur homo. Vel quare clamabas? Propter gravitatem, inquit, manus tuae. Et hoc ideo quia non sum conversus ad te, sed ad peccatum. Et hoc dum spina peccatorum configitur, idest firmatur in me, et sic spina, idest peccatum, intelligitur. Vel dum ratio, quae sicut spina est, regens dorsum deprimitur. Vel secundum Hebraeos, Conversus est humor meus in siccitatem aestatis, idest ex aggravatione manus tuae, quicquid in me carnale et humidum fuit, conversum est in siccitatem aestatis. Hieronymus habet, Versatus sum in miseria mea dum exardescit messis, idest ad modum messis arui.

Then there follows his conversion,5 at I am turned. And so, he says Day and night, that is, continuously, (Thy hand) was heavy (upon me). At times the hand of the Lord is comforting: "The hand of the Lord was with me, strengthening me." (Ezekiel 3:14) Sometimes it weighs heavily, as is stated in 1 Kings 5:12 that the hand of the Lord is exceedingly heavy.6 And so he says, I am turned in my anguish, that is, in the misery I suffered because of my sins. Whilst the thorn, that is, the remorse of conscience, is fastened, that is, is laid upon my heart. Or he may be speaking here of the spine in our backs, which holds the entire person erect Whilst fastened. And this signifies pride, which when it is held in check, man is held upright. "Why was I continually weeping" he asks. It was "from the weight of your hand upon me, for I did not turn toward you, but toward sin." He implies this by saying, "When the thorn of sin pierces," that is, when it is firmly fixed in us and is acknowledged. Or the meaning is, when the rule of reason, like a thorn, presses downward upon us. Finally, according to the Hebrew (version?), "My humor was turned into the dryness of summer," that is to say, by reason of the heaviness of your hand, whatever was humid in my body, was turned into the dryness of summer. Jerome's version has "I was tossed in sorrow as my harvest burned," that is, I shriveled up, scorched like a standing crop.

c. Deinde cum dicit, Delictum. Primo ponit confessionem. Secundo ejus efficaciam ostendit, ibi, Dixi, Confitebor. Sed quia duo debet homo confiteri, scilicet bona omissa, et mala commissa; quantum ad primum dicit, Delictum meum, scilicet quod dimisi facere quod debui: Cognitum tibi feci: non quod Deus non cognoscat; sed quando homo recognoscit peccatum suum, tunc vult etiam quod Deus cognoscat, ut ignoscat. Quantum ad secundum dicit, Injustitiam meam non abscondi: Job 31: Si abscondi quasi homo peccatum meum etc. Prov. 28: Qui abscondit scelera sua etc.

Next he says, (My) sin. First, he describes his confession. Second, he shows its efficacy, at I said, I will confess. But, since a person ought to confess two sorts of things, both the good things left undone and the bad things done, he begins with the former saying My sin, namely that "I have omitted to do what I ought to have done:" I have thee, not because God was unaware of it, but because when man recognizes his sin, he also desires God to be aware of it, in order to forgive it. He continues with respect to the latter, saying, My injustice I have not concealed: "If as a man, I have hid my sin" (Job 31:33)7; "He who hideth his sins (shall not prosper: but he that is hardened in mind shall fall into evil). (Proverbs 28:13)8

Efficacia vero confessionis ostenditur, cum dicit, Dixi, Confitebor. Confessionis effectus est remissio peccatorum. Dicit ergo, Dixi, idest proposui in corde me: Confitebor Domino, idest ad honorem Domini: Jos. 7: Da gloriam Domino Deo Israel, et confitere etc. Injustitiam meam, non bona mea: Adversum me, non pro me. Aliquis confitetur peccatum suum, sed contra proximum, dicens, Alius induxit me. Contra naturam, ex fragilitate sic accidit. Contra Deum, non potui resistere: 2 Reg. ult.: Ego sum qui peccavi, ego sum qui inique egi. Vel, Adversum me, idest propositum meum, quo manere in peccato proponebam.

The efficacy of confession is shown when he says I said, I will confess. The effect of confession is the remission of sin. Therefore, he says I said, that is, "I proposed it in my heart:" I will the Lord," that is to say, to the honor of God. "Give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and confess..." (Joshua 7:19). (I will confess) my injustice, and not my good works: (I will confess) against myself, and not for my benefit. One might confess a sin, but only in relation to another person who was involved, by saying, "He led me into it." Or he acknowledges his sin, but holds nature responsible: "It was because of my own weakness that I acted so." Or it is held against God: "I could not resist." (But in contradistinction to these so-called confessions of sin, we have the true example of David in) 2 Samuel 24:17 (where we read): "It is I, I am he that have sinned, I have done wickedly." Or, (I will confess) against myself, that is "It was I who proposed the sin and I who persisted in it."

Sequitur remissio, Et tu remisisti: Eccl. 2: Remittit in tempore tribulationis peccata. Sed contra: tanta est efficacia confessionis, quod non solum quando quis actu confitetur, sed habens propositum confitendi consequitur remissionem. Ante ergo remittitur ei quam confiteatur: Isa. 65: Et erit antequam clamet, ego exaudiam. Quid ergo facit confessio? Dicendum quod propositum operandi operatur ex virtute rei propositae, ut fiat. Unde si cesset operatio illius rei, cessat effectus. Et ideo necesse est perseverare in proposito. Tamen in confessione actuali peccatorum, et absolutione virtute clavium, dimittitur ei de poena, et propter verecundiam amplius ei gratia confertur, et multa bona consequitur.

There then follows the remission of sin, at And thou hast forgiven: "(For God is compassionate and merciful, and) will forgive sins in the day of tribulation." (Ecclesiasticus 2:13). Contrary to this reading, one might say the following: So great is the efficacy of confession, that not only when one actually is engaged in the act of confession, but even when one has made the decision to confess, he attains forgiveness. Thus, he is forgiven before he confesses: "And it shall come to pass, that before he calls, I shall hear." (Isaiah 65:24) What, therefore, does confession accomplish? I reply to this objection by stating the following: A proposed action becomes operative by virtue of the thing that is proposed, i.e. that it should occur. Thus, if doing a thing ceases, its effect also ceases. For this reason one needs to persist in the action that is proposed. However, in the actual confession of sin, and in the absolution granted by the "power of the keys," the penalty is dismissed and, what is more, because of the feeling of shame that arises, grace is conferred and a multitude of good things follow as a consequence.

d. Hic tertio ponit desiderium sanctorum de remissione peccatorum: et circa hoc tria facit. Primo enim proponitur sanctorum ad hoc desiderium. Secundo peccatorum monitio, Nolite fieri sicut equus. Tertio concluditur Psalmus in gratiarum actione, ibi, Laetamini. Circa primum duo facit. Primo enim exprimit desiderium sanctorum ad remissionem peccatorum in generali. Secundo in speciali suiipsius refugium ostendens, ibi, Tu es. Circa primum duo facit. Primo enim proponit desiderium sanctorum signo orationis; secundo orationis effectum ostendit, ibi, Verumtamen in diluvio.

The third part of this psalm concerns the desire of the saintly for the remission of sin. In this regard, he does three things. First, he sets forth the desire of the saints toward this end, secondly, an admonition to the sinner at, Do not become like the horse, and thirdly the Psalm concludes by giving thanks at, Be glad. In regard to the first, he does two things. First, he expresses the yearning of the saints for a remission of sin in general. Secondly, he particularly emphasizes his own place of refuge by saying, Thou art (my refuge). In regard to the first, he does two things: He sets forth the desire of saintly people in the context of prayer, and then shows the effect of prayer at, And yet in a flood.

Dicit ergo, Dixi, Confitebor pro hac, re, idest pro remissione peccatorum. Orabit ad te etc. Et dicit tria. Primo quid orandum, scilicet ut remissionem consequamur: omnes enim peccavimus; 1 Joan. 1: Si dixerimus quia peccatum non habemus etc. Et ideo petenda est remissio: Eccl. 38: Ora Dominum, et ipse curabit te: Matth. 6: Dimitte nobis debita nostra. Secundo quis debet orare, scilicet, Sanctus omnis: Jac. ult.: Multum valet deprecatio justi assidua. Tertio, quando, quia, In tempore opportuno, scilicet gratiae et praesentis vitae, quia novissime clausa est janua, Matth. 25; 2 Cor. 6: Ecce nunc tempus acceptabile etc. Jo. 9: Venit nox, quando nemo potest operari.

Therefore he states, I said, I will confess...For this, matter, that is for the remission of sins, Shall every one that is holy pray to thee. He says three things. First, that he is about to pray, so that we might receive remission for our sins, for we have all sinned: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves." (1 John 1:8). And for this reason remission is to be sought: "Pray to the Lord and he shall heal thee" (Ecclesiasticus 38:9): "Forgive us our debts." (Matthew 6:12) Second, who should pray, that is, Every one that is holy: "For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much." (James 5:16) Third, when (one should pray), In a seasonable time, namely of grace and in this present life, since the door is closed at the last hour (see Matthew 25:10-11); "Behold, now is the acceptable time (behold, now is the day of salvation)" (2 Corinthians 6:2); "The night cometh, when no man can work." (John 9:4)

e. Deinde cum dicit, Verumtamen, ostenditur effectus orationis, quia, In diluvio aquarum multarum. Aqua potest hic accipi tripliciter. Uno modo voluptates: Gen. pen.: Effusus es sicut aqua. Alio modo falsae doctrinae: Prov. 9: Aquae furtivae dulciores sunt. Tertio tribulationes: Ps. 68: Intraverunt aquae usque ad animam meam. Sequitur, Ad eum non approximabunt. Quod dicit, Ad eum, dupliciter potest intelligi. Uno modo, ut ly, Eum, referatur ad sanctum; quasi dicat, Quamvis oret sanctus, patitur tamen aquas multas, sed eum non obruunt, sive sint aquae voluptatis, sive falsae doctrinae; sive tribulationis: unde, Non approximabunt: Isa. 43: Cum transieris per aquas, tecum ero, et flumina non operient te: Psalm. 43: Transivimus per ignem et aquam etc. Alio modo ut ly Eum referatur ad Deum: et sic loquitur mutata persona: quia primo ad Deum loquitur, modo ad alios; quasi dicat, Qui sunt in diluvio aquarum multarum, sicut dictae sunt, non appropinquabunt ad Deum.

When he says, And yet in a flood of many waters, the efficacy of prayer is demonstrated. "Water" can be interpreted in three ways. It can signify pleasure: "You have poured forth like water" (General Penitential Rite). It can also mean false teachings: "Stolen waters are sweeter." (Proverbs 9:17) Or thirdly it can mean tribulations, as in Psalm 68:2: "The waters are come in even unto my soul." But in this Psalm he goes on to say: "The waters will not approach him." What he says concerning the word "him" can be interpreted in two ways. In one way, the word "him" can be taken in reference to the saintly person, as if to say that even though the saint prays he still endures a flood of waters. However, they do not overwhelm him, whether they are the waters of pleasure, false doctrine, or tribulation. "When thou shalt pass through the waters, I will be with thee, and the rivers shall not cover thee" (Isaiah 43:2); "We have passed through fire and water." (Psalm 65:12) Looked at another way, the reference of the word "him" can be to God, although the object of the psalmist's words has changed. First he was addressing God, but now he is speaking to other men, as if he were saying, "Those who are, so to speak, caught in a flood of many waters, shall not draw near to God."

f. Consequenter cum dicit, Tu es refugium etc. Exprimitur desiderium sanctorum in speciali: et circa hoc duo facit. Primo exprimit desiderium ut liberetur. Secundo effectum desiderii, ibi, Intellectum. Circa primum duo facit. Primo enim ostendit, unde concipit spem orandi. Secundo subdit petitionem, Erue a circumdantibus me.

And so, when he says, Thou art my refuge, he describes the desire of the saints in particular. Concerning this, he does two things. First, describes their desire to be freed, and secondly, the effect of this desire at Understanding. Concerning the first, he does two things. First, he shows whence he conceives the hope of praying, secondly, he states the intention of his prayer, at Deliver me from them that surround me.

Spem autem petendi concipit ex duobus. Primo, quia Deus est speciale justorum refugium. Secundo, quia eorum speciale refugium in tribulatione. Ergo dicit, Tu es refugium meum a tribulatione quae circumdedit me. Tribulatio circumdat quando undique opprimit, ita quod non patet refugium ab aliqua parte: Psalm. 39: Circumdederunt me mala quorum non est numerus etc. Sed in hac tribulatione non est refugium nisi ad Deum: 2 Paral. 20: Cum ignoremus quid agere debeamus etc. Psalm. 90: Qui habitat in adjutorio altissimi etc. Sic ergo habeo, inquit, ad quem refugiam, habeo et in quo consoler, quia, Exultatio mea: 2 Cor. 1: Qui consolatur nos in omni tribulatione nostra: Ps. 93: Secundum multitudinem dolorum meorum in corde meo, consolationes tuae laetificaverunt animam meam. Deinde exprimit quid petit cum dicit, Erue me a circumdantibus, idest a tribulatione quae circumdedit me. Et quia tribulatio debet fieri ab aliquo, oportet quod si tribulatio circumdat, quod innitentes sint circumdantes, scilicet daemones et persecutores: et ideo dicit, A circumdantibus me.

The hope contained in his petition is based on two factors: the first that God is the special refuge of the just, and the second that He is the particular refuge of those who are in tribulation. Therefore he says, Thou art my refuge from the trouble which hath encompassed me. Trouble surrounds us when it presses on us from all sides and no recourse appears: "Evils without number have surrounded me." (Psalm 39:13) In such trouble, there is no refuge except in God: "(We have not the strength enough to be able to resist this multitude, which cometh violently upon us.) But as we know not what to do, we can only turn our eyes to thee" (2 Chronicles 20:12); "He that dwelleth in the aid of the most high." (Psalm 90:1) Therefore, the psalmist states, I have one in whom I find refuge, one in whom I am comforted, that he is My joy: "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation" (2 Corinthians 1:4); "According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy comforts have given joy to my soul." (Psalm 93:19) And then he states that for which he is seeking: Deliver me from them that surround me, that is, "from all the troubles that surround me." Since trouble must be caused by someone, it is reasonable that if trouble surrounds one, that it is because those who encircle us press hard upon us, namely our demons and our persecutors.

g. Secundo, cum dicit, Intellectum, ostendit effectum suae orationis. Deus est qui loquitur, Intellectum tibi dabo etc. quasi dicat Deus, Petis a me ut eruam te, et ego tria tibi faciam: dabo enim tibi donum intellectus, et te instruam et te custodiam. Tria enim sunt necessaria homini a Deo. Primo, ut gratiae donum percipiat, ut per hoc anima hominis perficiatur ad prompte agendum. Sed quia quantumcumque homo haberet donum gratuitum, nisi Deus movet animam ad opus bonum, non sufficit; ideo oportet quod post gratiam praevenientem Deus operetur et moveat ad bonum. Sed gratia et donum recipitur secundum modum naturae nostrae: et non eo modo, quo possit ad omnia vitanda; et ideo necessaria est super hoc protectio Dei et defensio. Et ideo primo ponit donum intellectus, cum dicit, Intellectum tibi dabo: Eccl. 15: Implevit eum Dominus spiritu sapientiae et intellectus. Et hoc necessarium est homini, ut scilicet cognoscat peccatum suum: et quod non possit salvari nisi per Deum. Secundo ponit debitum usum hujus doni, cum dicit, Instruam te: Isa. 54: Ponam filios tuos doctos a Domino. Tertio custodiam, cum dicit, In via hac, scilicet mandatorum, Qua gradieris, firmabo super te oculos meos, idest protegam te: 2 Par. 16: Oculi Domini contemplantur universam terram, et praebent fortitudinem his qui corde perfecto credunt in eum.

(Continuing with the division made at the start of f.) secondly, when he says, Understanding, he shows the effect of his prayer. It is God who says, I will give thee understanding. It is as if God were saying, "You seek that I should rescue you, and I will do three things for you. I will give you the gift of understanding, I will instruct you, and I will protect you." For man there are three things that are necessary from God. First, he must obtain the gift of grace so that through it the soul of man might be brought to the point of acting promptly. But as much as man has this gift of grace, it does not suffice unless God moves the soul to the performance of some good work. For that reason, it is fitting that God be active in this way, moving the soul to perform good work, following upon the gift of antecedent grace. However, we receive the gift of grace according to the mode of our nature, that is, we do not receive it in such a way as to avoid all suffering. Thus God's protection and defense are also necessary. And so, first, he sets forth the gift of understanding, when he says I will give thee understanding: "He shall fill him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding." (Ecclesiasticus 15:5) This is necessary for man so that he might acknowledge his sin and recognize that he cannot be saved, except by God. Secondly, he explains how this gift is to be used when he says, I will instruct thee: "I will make thy children taught of the Lord." (Isaiah 54:13) Thirdly, His protection, when he says, In this way, namely of His commandments, In which thou shalt go: I will fix my eyes upon thee, that is, I will protect you: "The eyes of the Lord behold all the earth, and give strength to those who with a perfect heart trust in him." (2 Chronicles 16:9)

h. Consequenter cum dicit, Nolite, convertit se ad peccatores, ut ad poenitentiam redeant: et circa hoc duo facit. Primo ponit monitionem. Secundo comminationem, ibi, In camo.

Next, when he says, Do not become, he turns toward the sinner in order that they might turn to penitence. Concerning this he does two things. First, he sets forth an admonition, and second, a threat, at With bit.

Dicit ergo: Deus dat homini intellectum, sed et intellectu excedit animalia. Qui ergo indignum se reddit dono intellectus, comparatur animalibus; et ideo dicit, Nolite fieri sicut equus et mulus etc. Secundum Glossam equus est animal superbum; mulus vero animal pigrum, unde non currit. Illi sunt ergo sicut equi, qui per superbiam extolluntur: Hier. 8: Omnes reversi sunt ad cursum suum quasi equus impetu vadens ad praelium. Illi sunt sicut mulus, qui tarde ad viam Dei veniunt: Prov. 13: Vult et non vult piger. Vel per mulum intelliguntur luxuriosi. Mulus luxuriosus est, tamen non generat: sic peccata luxuriae infructuosa sunt: Rom. 6: Quem ergo fructum habuistis tunc in illis in quibus nunc erubescitis? Vel equus portat sessorem indifferenter, et mulus onus quodcumque: peccatori duo imponuntur, sessor, scilicet diabolus, et onus, scilicet peccatum. Non ergo sitis sicut equus, non discernens inter sessores, an scilicet Christus sit, vel diabolus. Nec sicut mulus, qui quodlibet onus, scilicet peccatum, indifferenter portat.

And so, he says: God gives intelligence to man, and with that intelligence he makes him superior to animals. Therefore, those who show themselves undeserving of the gift of intelligence are compared to the beasts. Thus, he says, Do not become like the horse and the mule, who have no understanding. According to the Gloss, the horse is a proud animal and the mule is a lazy one, which is why it will not run. Those who are like horses are swollen with pride: "They are all turned to their own course, as a horse rushing to the battle." (Jeremiah 8:6) They are like mules, arriving late and lazy on the path of God: "The sluggard willeth and willeth not." (Proverbs 13:4) Or by the mule it is voluptuaries who are meant. The mule is a voluptuary; however, it does not procreate, just as the sins of luxuriousness do not bear fruit: "What fruit therefore had you then in those things, of which you are not ashamed?" (Romans 6:21) Or the meaning is that the horse carries all riders indifferently, as the mule bears any load. Two things are borne by the sinner: a rider, namely the devil, and a load, namely sin. Therefore, he says, do not be like the horse, not distinguishing between riders, whether it is Christ who is riding him or the Devil, nor like the mule that carries any load, that is, sin, indifferently.

i. Deinde cum dicit, In camo, ponitur comminatio. Et primo per modum orationis. Secundo per modum praenunciationis, ibi, Multa.

Then, when he says, With bit, he sets forth the threat, first expressed in a prayerful way, then by means of a prediction at, Many are the scourges.

Dicit ergo, In camo etc. Sic metaphorice. Si homo se habet sicut homo, Deus tractat eum sicut hominem, monitionibus et doctrinis; sed quando recedit a dignitate hominis, tractatur sicut brutum animal, quod coercetur poenis et violentia, scilicet, In camo et fraeno; quasi dicat, Monui quod non fiant sicut equus et mulus: quod si non acquiescunt, fac eis sicut equo et mulo, scilicet, In camo et fraeno maxillas eorum constringe, comprimendo scilicet loquacitatem, et subtrahendo cibos, quibus utuntur ad voracitatem. Locutioni enim et gustui deservit maxilla: Isa. 37: Ponam circulum in naribus tuis, et fraenum etc. Vel, In camo et fraeno, idest in majori et minori tribulatione.

Therefore he says, With bit and bridle. This is stated metaphorically. If a man conducts himself like a man, God treats him like a man, with admonishment and teaching, but when he falls away from the dignity of man, he is dealt with like a brute animal, which is coerced by means of punishment and violence, i.e. With bit and bridle. It is as if he were saying: "I have warned you not to become like a horse or a mule." If they do not obey, deal with them like a horse or a mule, namely With bit and bridle bind fast their jaws, by subduing their loquacity, and taking away their food with which they feed their voracity. For jaws are used both for speaking and eating: "I will put a ring in thy nose, and a bit between thy lips." (Isaiah 37:29) Or With bit and bridle, he means with greater or lesser tribulation.

j. Secundo cum dicit, Multa, praenunciat; et primo quid paratur malis: quia Multa flagella a Deo: Ps. 49: Arguam te, et statuam contra faciem tuam. A sua conscientia: Prov. 12: Quasi gladio pungitur conscientiae. A potestate: Rom. 13: Vindex est in iram ei qui male agit: Prov. 26: Flagellum equo, et camus asino, et virga in dorso imprudentium. Secundo quid paratur bonis, Sperantem etc. Misericordia potest esse nominativi casus, ut sic intelligatur quod ipsum misericordia circumdabit qui sperat in Domino. Vel potest esse ablativi casus, ut intelligatur quod Dominus misericordia sua circumdabit sperantem in se. Et hoc est quando undique subvenit in miseriis hominum: Ps. 102: Qui coronat te in misericordia etc.

Then, when he says, Many (are the scourges), he sets forth (the threat by means of a) prediction, first, about what lies in store for the evildoer, that (there will be) Many...scourges from God: "I will convict you and stand before you in judgment" (Psalm 49); from his own conscience: "Pricked as it were with a sword of conscience" (Proverbs 12:18); and from one in authority: "(For he is God's minister:) an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil" (Romans 13:4); "A whip for a horse, and a snaffle for an ass, and a rod for the back of fools" (Proverbs 26:3); and then he speaks of what lies in store for the good at, But mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord. Here the word "mercy" (misericordia) could either be in the nominative case, meaning "Mercy will surround him whose hope is in the Lord," or it could be in the ablative, meaning, "The Lord shall encompass with his mercy the one whose hope is in him." This happens whenever God comes to the assistance of men in their sorrows: "...who crowneth thee with mercy and compassion..." (Psalm 102:4)

k. Ultimo concluditur Psalmus gratiarum actione, cum dicit Laetamini. Haec est autem consuetudo in Psalmis poenitentialibus, quod incipiunt in luctu, et finiunt in laetitia: quia hoc facit poenitentia. In hac autem conclusione hortatur justos et rectos ad bonam operationem, et rectam intentionem, dicens, Laetamini in Domino et exultate justi; quasi dicat: Duo sunt necessaria homini: scilicet recta operatio: et hoc facit justitia: et recta intentio: et hoc facit laetitia. Dicit ergo, Laetamini justi, et exultate. Secundum Glossam, Laetari est tacita suavitate gaudere; exultare vero est concitati animi fervore gaudere. Unde exultatio provenit ex interiori gaudio. Sed in quo? In Domino, inquit, non in mundo: Phil. 4: Gaudete in Domino, iterum dico gaudete. Sequitur, Et gloriamini omnes recti corde. Recti corde sunt, qui conformant voluntatem suam voluntati divinae: hi habent gloriari in Deo: 2 Cor. 10: Qui gloriatur, in Domino glorietur.

Lastly, the Psalm concludes with thanksgiving when he says Be glad. This is customary in the penitential Psalms, which begin in sorrow and end in joy, since it is penitence that accomplishes this joy. In this conclusion, he exhorts the just and righteous to good works and right intention saying, Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye just. It is as if he were saying that there are two things required of a human being: right action, which justice performs, and right intention, which joyfulness brings. Therefore he says, Be glad and rejoice, ye just. According to the Gloss, "to rejoice is to be joyful with muted delight, but to exult is to rejoice with the fervor of stirred up feeling." Exultation, then, arises from internal gladness. But joy in what exactly? In the Lord, he says, and not in the world: "Rejoice in the Lord, again, I say, rejoice." (Philippians 4:4) Finally he says, And glory, all ye right of heart. The righteous of heart conform their own will to that of the divine; these are the ones who glory in the Lord: "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." (2 Corinthians 10:17)

© Peter Zerner

The Aquinas Translation Project

1 The traditional numbering of these psalms would be 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129 and 142 using the numbering of the Septuagint.

2 For this distinction, see ST. I-II. 3. 1.

3 The third thing is not mentioned.

4 of the two things in which sin consists being treated presently in the context of his reply to the objection presented earlier.

5 The second of three things required for the remission of sins with which the discussion in b. is concerned.

6 The reference to Isaias 26:16 makes no reference to the hand of God, and could possibly refer instead to 14:26.

7 There is a string of conditionals throughout Job 31 that resolve in vs. 40 all of which Job offers to give an honest account of his own virtues. Thus, if all these things that I, Job, say are true, then "let thistles grow up to me instead of wheat, and thorns instead of barley."

8 Proverbs 28 supplies a list of what happens if one does not confess one's sins.