St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 4

This post contains Latin and English texts side by side. The content appears here courtesy of The Aquinas Translation Project.

a. In finem. Psalmus cantici David.Cum invocarem, exaudivit me Deus iustitiae meae: in tribulatione dilatasti mihi. Miserere mei, et exaudi orationem meam. Unto the end. A psalm in song of David.When I called upon him, the God of my justice heard me: when I was in distress, thou hast enlarged me. Have mercy on me: and hear my prayer.
b. Filii hominum usquequo gravi corde? ut quid diligitis vanitatem, et quaeritis mendacium. O ye sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?
c. Et scitote quoniam mirificavit Dominus sanctum suum: Dominus exaudiet me, cum clamavero ad eum. And know ye also that the Lord hath made his holy one wonderful: the Lord will hear me when I shall cry unto him.
d. Irascimini et nolite peccare: quae dicitis in cordibus vestris, et in cubilibus vestris compungimini. Sacrificate sacrificium iustitiae, et sperate in Domino. Be ye angry, and sin not: the things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds. Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord.
e. Multi dicunt, Quis ostendit nobis bona? Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui Domine. Many say, Who sheweth us good things? The light of thy countenance O Lord, is signed upon us.
f. Dedisti laetitiam in corde meo. A fructu frumenti, vini, et olei sui multiplicati sunt. Thou hast given gladness in my heart. By the fruit of their corn, their wine, and oil, they are multiplied.
g. In pace in idipsum, dormiam, et requiescam. Quoniam tu Domine singulariter in spe, constituisti me. In peace in the selfsame I will sleep, and I will rest: For thou, O Lord, singularly hast settled me in hope.
a. In praecedenti psalmo David imploravit auxilium Dei contra tribulationes orando, et sentiens se exauditum hortatur alios ut in Deo confidant. Et exprimit psalmus iste affectus hominis qui expertus divinam misericordiam et beneficia et justitiam, hortatur alios ut non desperent. Titulus ejus est In finem. Psalmus cantici David. In hoc titulo duo consideranda sunt pro toto libro: scilicet quod dicit psalmus cantici. Secundo quod dicit, In finem. In the preceding psalm, David invoked God’s help with his prayer against the troubles (he faced), and, understanding that he has been heard, he now exhorts others to trust in God. This psalm expresses the sentiment of a man who, having experienced divine mercy, kindness and justice, exhorts others not to despair. Its title is “Unto the end. A psalm in song of David.” In this title, two things are to be considered that occur throughout the psalter, namely what he means by “A psalm in song,” and “Unto the end.”
Quo ad primum ergo nota, quod David sicut legitur 2 Reg. 6, faciebat psalmum metrice, et cantabat ante arcam cum psalterio. Ergo psalmus dicitur quod cantatur ad psalterium, sed non absque psalterio. In quibusdam autem psalmis describitur psalmus David, ubi intelligitur quod est factus ad psalterium. In aliquibus praescribitur canticum David, quia cantabatur sine instrumento. In aliquibus, psalmus cantici David, vel e converso: eo quod ille psalmus cantabatur simul voce humana, et ad psalterium. Sed in aliquibus incipiebat unus vel multi voce humana sine instrumento, et unus respondebat cum psalterio; et hi intitulantur canticum psalmi. In aliquibus vero unus cantabat psalmum cum psalterio, et alii respondebant sine psalterio: et hi intitulantur psalmus cantici. Et haec est differentia litteralis; sed mystice et secundum glossam, psalmus significat bonam operationem; canticum vero exultationem mentis de aeternis. Quando vero simul utrumque ponitur in uno psalmo, significatur quod de utroque agitur. With respect to the first of these, one should understand that David, as it is read in 2 Kings 6, used to compose metrical psalms and sang before the ark of the covenant upon the harp. Therefore, a “psalm” in this sense is what is sung to the harp, but not without it. In some of the psalms described as “A psalm of David,” it is understood that they are accompanied by the harp. Others are described as “A song of David” because they are sung without an instrument. Those entitled “A psalm in song of David” (or the converse of this), indicate a psalm that is both sung and accompanied by the harp. Some of these began with one or many human voices singing without accompaniment, and one person responding with the harp. These are entitled “A song in psalm.” In others, one person used to sing a psalm with the harp and others would respond without the harp. And these are entitled “A psalm in song.” This difference is of a literal sort. However, mystically and according to the Gloss, “psalm” signifies a good activity, while “song” indicates the exaltation of the mind concerned with eternal matters. But when both are placed together in one psalm, this signifies that both (good activity and exaltation) occur.
Quod vero dicit In finem, si consideretur hoc quantum ad rem per psalmum figuratam, manifestum est quia in finem intelligitur, idest in Christum; Rom. 10: Finis legis Christus ad justitiam omni credenti. Sed si consideretur in finem secundum figuram; datur intelligi, quod cantabatur pro consumptione operis vel negotii, sicut hic psalmus pro consummata liberatione David a persecutione Absalonis factus fuit, quasi pro victoria. Alii dicunt Victori, scilicet David, In psalmis, quia omnes in psalmis faciendis vincebat sed hoc verum non videtur. When he says Unto the end, if one were to consider this with respect to that which is represented by the psalm, it is clear that the phrase is to understood in an ultimate way, that is to say, in Christ: For the end of the law is Christ unto justice to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:4) But if one were to consider the phrase figuratively, it can be understood that it was sung upon the completion of work or of some business, just as this psalm was composed upon the completion of David’s liberation from the persecution brought about by Absalon, as if upon David’s victory. Some entitle the psalm For the victor, namely, David, Innpsalms, since he was superior among all of those who composed psalms. But this interpretation does not seem to be accurate.
Dividitur autem psalmus iste in duas partes: nam primo incipit a gratiarum actione pro receptis beneficiis; unde ait: Cum invocarem etc. Secundo finitur in exhortatione aliorum ut convertantur ad Deum, ibi, Filii hominum etc. Circa primum duo facit. Primo enim agit gratias de praeteritis. Secundo orat pro futuris, ibi, Miserere mei etc. Circa primum duo facit. Primo agit gratias quod est exauditus. Secundo ostendit qualiter est exauditus, ibi, In tribulationeetc. This psalm is divided into two parts. The first begins with thanksgiving for kindnesses received. Thus he says: When I called upon him. The second finds him finishing (his thanksgiving) with an exhortation of others to turn to God, at, O ye sons of men. Concerning the first of these, he does two things. First, he gives thanks for past events. Second, he prays for future ones, at, Have mercy on me. Concerning the former of these two, he does two things. First, he gives thanks that he was heard, and second he demonstrates how he was heard, at, When I was in distress.
Sed notandum quod hic est duplex littera: una dicit: Exaudivit: alia habet Exaudisti; et huic concordat Hieronymus dicens, Exaudisti; in hoc tamen non est vis. Dicit ergo: Cum invocarem, exaudisti etc. Ubi quatuor consideranda sunt. Primo ponit orationem et exauditionem: unde dicit: Exaudisti. Sed non exaudivit, non clamantem; unde dicit: Cum invocarem; quod est implorare auxilium in necessitate. Ps. 119: Ad Dominum, cum tribularer, clamavi, et exaudivit me. Item requiritur, quod sit justus: quia si audit peccatores, est ex misericordia, non est ex justitia; et ideo dicit: Justitiae meae: ibi glossa: idest dator justitiae, vel justificationis meae. Ps. 33: Oculi Domini super justos. Aliud quod est primum, quod justitiam suam homo attribuat Deo, et non sibi; et ideo dicit: Deus. Contra quod Rom. 10: Ignorantes Dei justitiam, et suam volentes statuere etc. Primo ergo debet bonum suum attribuere Deo; secundo habere justitiam; tertio clamare; quarto exaudiri. It should be noted that there are two versions of this verse. One says, He heard me, while the other has, You heard me, the latter of which agrees with Jerome’s version. But this is not the (correct) sense of the phrase. Therefore, the psalmist says, When I called upon him, He heard me, wherein four things are to be considered. First, the psalmist describes his prayer and the fact that he was listened to: whence he says, He heard me. But he was not heard without crying out. Hence he says, When I called upon him, which means to pray earnestly for help in dire need: In my trouble, I cried to the Lord, and he heard me. (Psalm 119:1) In like manner it is required that he (the one calling upon the Lord) be just. For if he listens to sinners, this is by reason of his mercy and not his justice. And so he says, Of my justice, that is to say, according to the Gloss, the giver of justice, or of my justification: The eyes of the Lord are upon the just. (Psalm 33:16) Another1 says that this is first, namely that man attribute his justice to God and not to himself. Thus he says God.2 But against (this, St. Paul at) Romans 10:3 (writes): For they, not knowing the justice of God, and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted themselves to the justice of God. Therefore, one ought first to attribute his own good to God, second, be just, third, cry out, and fourth, be heard.
Modus autem exauditionis describitur cum dicit, In tribulatione. Dicit Exaudivit et Dilatasti vel quia forte metrice factus est psalmus ubi oportuit mutari constructionem propter metrum; vel quia per modum orantis, ubi ex diversis affectibus mutat homo loquendi modum. Dicit autem, In tribulatione dilatasti mihi, quia plus est dilatasti quam liberasti; quasi dicat, non solum liberasti, sed in ipsa tribulatione cordis latitudinem tribuisti. Psal. 17: Dilatasti gressus meos subtus me, et non sunt infirmata vestigia mea. Vel latitudinem animi ad patienter sustinendum, vel latitudinem potestatis de qua dicitur Gen. 9: Dilatet Deus Japhet. Deinde cum dicit, Miserere mei, removendo scilicet quidquid remansit miseriae praeteritae: Et exaudi me, orantem pro futuris bonis. The way in which he was heard is described when he says, When I was in distress. He says, He heard me and Thou hast enlarged me, either because the psalm was composed in a strong meter where it was fitting to change the construction on account of the meter, or because of the manner of prayer, where, by reason of diverse emotions, a person changes his manner of expression. But he says, When I was in distress, thou hast enlarged me, because you have enlarged more than you have freed. It is as if he were saying, “You have not only freed me, but in tribulation itself you have enlarged the extent of my heart”: Thou hast enlarged my steps under me; and my feet are not weakened.” (Psalm 17:36) Or (you have enlarged) the extent of my soul to suffer patiently, or the extent of my power, concerning which Genesis 9:27 speaks: May God enlarge Japheth. Then he says, Have mercy on me, namely by removing whatever remains of my past suffering, And hear me praying for good things to come.
b. Deinde cum dicit, Filii etc., convertit se ad aliorum exhortationem: et circa hoc duo facit. Primo redarguit peccatores; secundo exhortatur eos ad emendam, ibi, Et scitote etc. Circa primum duo facit. Primo commemorat conditionem; secundo arguit culpam, ibi, Ut quid diligitis; Next, when he says O ye sons of men, he turns to the exhortation of others, concerning which he does two things. First, he finds fault with sinners, and second, exhorts them to make emends, at, And know ye also. Concerning the former, he does two things. First, he mentions their condition, and second, he asserts their blame, at, Why do you love vanity.
conditionem commemorat dicens, Filii hominum: quod dupliciter potest intelligi. Primo in malo, sic, Filii hominum, quasi homines secundum naturam inferiorem corruptibiles et proni ad peccandum. Gen. 6: Non permanebit spiritus meus in homine in aeternum quia caro est. Et iterum 8 cap.: Sensus et cogitatio hominum in malum proni sunt ab adolescentia sua. Filii ergo hominum; quasi dicat, Ostenditis vos esse filios hominum, idest peccatorum, scilicet Evae et Adae: Usquequo gravi corde? Isa. 1: Vae genti peccatrici, populo gravi iniquitate etc. Secundo in bono: quia homo inquantum homo, est imago Dei: unde Filii hominum, non bestiarum. Psal. 48: Homo cum in honore esset non intellexit, etc. Et, o Gravi corde, idest quia debetis habere cor grave et stabile, Usquequo non convertimini ad Deum; et hoc est quod Hieronymus habet, Filii viri, usquequo inclyti mei ignominiose diligitis vanitatem, quaerentes mendacium; et sic convenienter arguit culpam, Ut quid diligitis etc. In peccato namque sunt duo consideranda, scilicet voluntas inhaerens rei, et intentio inordinata. Primo ergo tangit inordinatam amorem cum dicit, Ut quid diligitis etc. idest aliquid vanum, non solidum, temporalia quippe vana sunt, quia non continent solidum, sed pertransiens bonum. Eccl. 1: Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas. Ut quid ergo diligitis etc. quasi dicat, ut quid diligitis temporalia. Secundo tangit pravam intentionem cum dicit: Et quaeritis mendacium, idest quare amatis divitias, ut habeatis sufficientiam? Nam Eccl. 5: Avarus non implebitur pecunia. Hier. 5: Aspexi terram etc. Vel Mendacium, idest idolum, 1 Cor. 8: Idolum nihil est. Usquequo ergo diligitis, et quaeritis hoc, et non convertimini ad Deum? He mentions their condition saying, O ye sons of men. This can be understood in two ways. First, in an evil way. And so, Sons of men, as men who are corruptible and prone to sin according to their lower nature: (And God said:) My spirit shall not remain in man for ever, because he is flesh. (Genesis 6:3) And again at 8:21: The imagination and thought of man’s heart are prone to evil from his youth. Thus, Sons of men, as if he were saying, “You have shown yourselves to be sons of men,” that is to say, of sinners, namely of Eve and Adam. How long will you be dull of heart?: Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity… (Isaiah 1:4) Secondly, (Sons of men) can be taken in a good way, because man, insofar as he is man, is the image of God. Hence, Sons of men, and not of the beasts: And man when he was in honor did not understand; (he is compared to senseless beasts and is become like to them). (Psalm 48:13) And, O ye…dull of heart, that is because you ought to have a serious and stable heart, How long will you not be turned toward God? And this is what Jerome has: Ye sons of men, how long will you, my renowned children, desire vanity shamelessly, seeking after lies? And thus he suitably asserts their blame, at, Why do you love vanity? For with regard to sin, there are two things to be considered, namely the will that clings to the thing, and one’s disordered intention. He touches first upon disordered love when he says, Why do you love vanity, that is to say, something vane, not solid — temporal things to be sure are vane because they do not contain anything solid, but are goods that are passing: Vanity of vanities…all is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 1:2) Why do you love vanity, as if the psalmist were saying “Why do you love temporal things?” He touches, secondly, upon their perverse intention when he says, And seek after lying, that is to say, “Why do you love riches so as to find your contentment?” For A covetous man shall not be satisfied with money. (Ecclesiastes 5:9); I beheld the earth, and lo it was void, and nothing (Jeremiah 4:23). Or, Lying, that is to day, an idol: An idol is nothing. (I Cor. 8:4) Therefore, why do you love and seek after this, and not turn towards God?
c. Secundo cum dicit, Et scitote, hortatur peccatores ad emendam: et circa hoc tria facit. Primo commemorat beneficia sibi exhibita. Secundo hortatur ut ad Deum redeant, ibi, Irascimini etc. Tertio ostendit praeeminentiam sui ad illos in bonis, ibi, Dedisti laetitiam etc. (Having found fault with sinners,) the psalmist, at, And know ye also, now exhorts them to make emends. Concerning this he does three things. First, he calls to mind the kindnesses shown to him. He then exhorts (sinners) so that they might return to God, at, Be ye angry. Lastly, he shows his own pre-eminence over them in the goods (they respectively enjoy), at, Thou hast given gladness.
Dicit ergo, Et scitote etc. Sed notandum est, quod hic in Graeco est Diapsalma, in Hebraeo vero est Sela, quod Hieronymus transtulit, Feliciter, vel Semper. Diapsalma ergo divisio psalmi est: qui quando cantabant, fiebant aliqua intervalla in psalmo, ut ostenderetur quod sequentia ad aliam materiam pertinebant secundum Augustinum. Sed contra hoc est, quia secundum hoc, Diapsalma nunquam inveniretur in fine psalmi; sed in psalterio Hieronymi Sela invenitur in fine psalmi. Et ideo sumptum est Sela ex ly Salon, idest Pacifice. Et concordat cum Hieronymo qui interpretatus est Feliciter. Sic ergo melius Pacifice, quasi Semper, et hoc Sela importat. And so he says And know ye also. One should note here that the Greek word here is Diapsalma, while in Hebrew it is Sela, which Jerome translates as Happily, or Always. Diapsalma therefore acts as a divider of a psalm, which when it was sung by the Hebrews, indicated an interval in the psalm so that it might show that what followed pertained to other material, according to Augustine. But contrary to this interpretation is that according to this line of reasoning, Diapslam should never be found at the end of a psalm, while in Jerome’s Psalter, Sela is found at the end of a psalm. And for this reason, Sela is named after the word Salon, that is to say, Peacefully. This agrees with Jerome who interprets it as Happily. Hence it is better to use Happily as Always, and this is how we understand Sela.
Beneficium autem quod commemorat est duplex: unum de praeterito, et aliud de futuro, ibi, Dominus exaudiet. Quantum ad primum dicit, Et scitote etc.; et cum sit principium sententiae continuatur cordi prophetae, sicut illud in principio Ezech.: Et factum est in trigesimo anno etc. Nam sela quod interpretatum est Diapsalma, ponitur hic: quod notat interruptionem. Vel continuatur ad praecedentia; quasi dicat: Nolite diligere vanitatem, et scitote quare? Quoniam mirificavit Dominus etc. Ecce quot bona mihi fecit: quia scilicet Mirificavit etc., idest mirabilem reddidit. Potest etiam aliter continuari secundum glossam; quasi dicat: Quia vana scitote, et scitote quid sequamini: Quoniam mirificavit Dominus etc., idest Christum per figuram principaliter intellectum, qui est sanctus sanctorum, de quo Dan. 9. Hunc Deus ostendit mirabilem suscitando, et ad dexteram ejus eum collocando. Quilibet etiam justus mirabilis est; quia majora sunt opera justitiae, quam miracula exteriora. Ps. 67: Mirabilis Deus in sanctis suis. Sed Christus est maxime mirabilis. Isa. 9: Et vocabitur nomen ejus admirabilis. Quantum ad secundum dicit, Dominus exaudiet. Isa. 65: Antequam clament, ego exaudiam etc. The kindnesses that he calls to mind are twofold, those received in the past, and those to be received in the future, at, The Lord will hear. With respect to the former, he says, And know ye also. Since And is at the beginning of the verse, it is connected with the heart of the prophet as to the beginning of the book of Ezechiel: And now it came to pass in the thirtieth year (…when I was in the midst of the captives…the heavens were opened, and I saw the visions of God). For Sela, which is interpreted as Diapsalma, is found here, which indicates an interruption. Or, it continues what had preceded it, as if the psalmist were saying: “Do not love vanity.” And know ye also. What? That the Lord hath made his holy one wonderful. Look at how many good things he has done for me: for he has made his holy one wonderful, that is to say, has given wonderful things to me. This can also be continued otherwise according to the Gloss, as if he were saying: “And know ye also that these things are vain, and know ye also what you have pursued,” that the Lord hath made his holy one wonderful, that is to say, Christ figured principally through the intellect, who is the holy of holies of which Daniel 9:24 speaks. God makes this one wonderful by raising him from the dead, and by seating him at his right hand. Anyone at all who is just is wonderful because the works of justice are greater than outward miracles: God is wonderful in his saints. (Psalm 67:36) But Christ is wonderful in the highest degree: And his name shall be called Wonderful. (Isaiah 9:6) Concerning (the kindnesses that he will receive in the future), he says, The Lord will hear: Before they call, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24)
d. Deinde cum dicit, Irascimini, exhortatur eos ad emendationem vitae: et circa hoc tria facit. Primo exhortatur ut recedant a malo; secundo ut tendant in bonum, ibi, Sacrificate sacrificium; tertio movet quaestionem, ibi, Multi dicuntetc. Next, when he says Be ye angry, he exhorts them to the emendation of their life. Concerning this, he does three things. First, he exhorts them that they might withdraw from evil, secondly, that they might tend to good, at, Offer up the sacrifice, and third, he poses a question, at Many say.
Circa primum considerandum est, quod peccatum in nobis ut plurimum ex tribus consurgit: scilicet ex corruptione irascibilis, rationalis et concupiscibilis. Primo ergo prohibet peccatum quod consurgit ex primo; unde dicit, Irascimini etc. Hoc autem intelligitur tribus modis. Primo de ira inordinata; quasi dicat: Permittitur nobis quod motus iracundiae surgat in nobis: non tamen perducatis iracundiam ad actum peccati. Ephes. 4: Sol non occidat super iracundiam vestram. Secundo sic: Irascimini, idest contra vestra peccata. Isa. 63: Indignatio mea ipsa auxiliata est mihi etc. Et nolite peccare, scilicet iterum; quasi dicat: Sic irascimini contra peccata praeterita ut non committatis alia. Tertio de ira per zelum sic exponitur: Irascimini contra vitia aliorum; et tamen Nolite peccare, eos inordinate corrigendo, quia debet ira dirigi per rationem. Secundo prohibet vitium rationalis, scilicet simulationem, dicens: Quae dicitis in cordibus vestris, supple sint in vobis; quasi dicat: Non aliud sitis in corde, et aliud praetendatis extra. Tertio prohibet quod surgit ex concupiscibili. Compungimini, scilicet de peccatis quae fecistis: In cubilibus vestris. Rom. 13: Non in cubilibus et impudicitiis etc. Concerning the first of these, it should be considered that sin arises in us mostly by reason of three things, namely from the corruption of the irascible, rational and concupiscible (aspects). Therefore, first, the psalmist forbids that sin which arises from the first of these three, whence he says, Be ye angry. This can be understood in three ways. First, concerning inordinate anger, as if he were saying: “It is permitted for the movement of anger to surge up in us. However, it is not permitted for you to follow anger into an act of sin: (Be angry and sin not.) Let not the sun go down upon your anger. (Ephesians 4:26) Second, in this fashion: Be ye angry, that is to say, with your sins: My indignation itself hath helped me. (Isaiah 63:5), And sin not, that is to say, again. It is as if he were saying: “Be angry with your past sins so that you will not commit others.” Third, concerning anger as it is displayed through zeal: Be ye angry with the sins of others, but nevertheless Sin not by correcting them inordinately, because anger must be directed by reason. The psalmist forbids the second of these three corruptions, that pertaining to reason, namely of hypocrisy, saying, The things you say in your hearts, let them be in you, as if to say: “Let not there be one thing in your heart, and another simulated outside of it.” He prohibits the third, that of sin arising out of the concupiscible, (saying) Be sorry for them, namely for the sins that you have committed, Upon your beds: (Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness,) not in chambering and impurities, (not in contention and envy. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in concupiscences.) (Romans 13:13-14)
Vel dicendum, quod tangit duplex peccatum: scilicet irae, sicut dictum est, Irascimini de ira per zelum. Secundo concupiscentiae, Compungimini quae dicitis in cordibus vestris, idest male cogitatis, In cubilibus vestris, idest de occultis, vel in occultis. Et hoc magis sonat littera Hieronymi, qui dicit, Loquimini et tacete, idest non publicetis inordinate exequendo. Vel de ira per vitium, quam prohibet non procedere ad opus, quod pejus est. Vel de ira contra peccata. Or it must be said that he treats of a twofold sin, namely of anger, as it is said, Be ye angry with the anger of zeal, and secondly of concupiscence, Be sorry for the things you say in your hearts, that is to say, your evil thoughts, Upon your beds, that is to say, concerning secret things, or things done in secret. And this agrees better with Jerome’s version which says, Speak and keep your peace, that is to say, do not disclose an inordinate way of acting by punishing. Or (Be ye angry) with the anger of vice, which he holds back so as not to go forth into act which is worse. Or (Be ye angry) with sins.
Consequenter hortatur eos ut faciant bonum. Et primo dirigit eos circa principium boni, quia Sacrificate sacrificium justitiae; quasi dicat scilicet Compungimini. Levit. 4, mandatur quod offerunt sacrificium pro peccatis. Sed Dominus de hujusmodi non multum curat. Psalm. 39: Sacrificium et oblationem noluisti: aures autem perfecisti mihi; unde et vos, sacrificate sacrificium justitiae et sperate in Domino: multi dicunt quis ostendit etc. idest satisfactionis et poenitentiae. Rom. 12: Exhibeatis corpora vestra Deo, hostiam viventem, sanctam, Deo placentem etc. Secundo dirigit eos circa finem boni, dicens: Et sperate in Domino etc.: quasi dicat: Sitis sperantes in Domino qui dedit vobis haec operari. Following upon this, he urges them to do good. First, he instructs them concerning the beginning of good (works), that (they) Offer up the sacrifice of justice, as if he were saying Be sorry for them. In Leviticus 4, it is commanded that they offer sacrifices for their sins. But the Lord does not care much for these: Sacrifice and oblation thou didst not desire; but thou hast pierced ears for me. (Psalm 39:7) And so, Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord. Many say, Who sheweth, that is, of satisfaction and contrition: Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God. (Romans 12:1) Secondly, he instructs them concerning the end of good (work), saying And trust in the Lord, as if to say: “Be filled with hope in the Lord who gave to you these (sacrifices) to be performed.”
e. Deinde cum dicit, Multi, movet quaestionem quam dicunt, Multi, idest stulti: Dicunt autem, quis ostendit nobis bona; quasi dicat: Quomodo scire possumus quae sunt haec sacrificia Deo acceptabilia? Hanc autem quaestionem solvit cum dicit: Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui, Domine; quasi dicat: Ratio naturalis indita nobis docet discernere bonum a malo; et ideo dicit: Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui, Domine etc. Vultus Dei est id per quod Deus cognoscitur; sicut homo cognoscitur per vultum suum, hoc est veritas Dei. Ab hac veritate Dei refulget similitudo lucis suae in animabus nostris. Et hoc est quasi lumen, et est signatum super nos, quia est superior in nobis, et est quasi quoddam signum super facies nostras, et hoc lumine cognoscere possumus bonum. Ps. 88: In lumine vultus tui ambulabunt etc. Super hoc autem signamur signo Spiritus. Eph. 4: Nolite contristare Spiritum sanctum in quo signati estis. Et iterum signo crucis, cujus signaculum nobis impressum est in baptismo, et quotidie debemus imprimere. Cant. 8: Pone me ut signaculum super cor tuum. Next, when he says, Many, he poses a question which they, the Many, that is to say, the foolish, ask, namely Who sheweth us good things? as if to say, “How can we know what sort of sacrifices are acceptable to God?” He answer this question when he says, The light of thy countenance O Lord, is signed upon us, as if to say: “Natural reason, innate to us, teaches us to discern good from evil.” For this reason he says The light of thy countenance O Lord, is signed upon us. The countenance of God is that through which God is known, as a man is known through his countenance. This is the truth of God. By this truth of God, a likeness of His light shines forth from our own souls. And this is a sort of light, and it is signed upon us, because it is highest in us, and is as it were a sort of sign upon our faces, and by this light, we are able to know good: They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. (Psalm 88:16) In addition to this, we are signed with the sign of the Spirit: And grieve not the holy Spirit of God: whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30); and with the sign of the cross, the mark of which is impressed upon us in baptism, and which we ought to impress daily: Put me as a seal upon thy heart. (Song of Songs 8:6)
f. Deinde cum dicit, Dedisti, ponit praeeminentiam ejus ad illos peccatores in bonis: quasi dicerent ei: Tu nos exhortaris ad beneficia tua, sed nos habemus omnia; ideo comparat temporalia spiritualibus. Et primo ponit spiritualia; secundo temporalia, ibi, A fructu etc. Tertio praeeminentiam spiritualium, ibi, In paceetc. Next, when he says, Thou hast given, he describes his pre-eminence over those sinners (whom he has just exhorted to turn away from sin and return to God) in the goods (they respectively enjoy). It is as if they are saying to him: “You exhort us to seek your kindnesses, but we have everything (that we want).” For this reason, he compares temporal with spiritual goods. First, he sets forth the spiritual goods, then secondly the temporal at By the fruit, and lastly the pre-eminence of the spiritual goods at, In peace.
Dicit ergo: Verum est quod omnes habent lumen vultus desuper se: sed, o Domine, sanctis et mihi Dedisti laetitiam, scilicet spiritualem, In corde meo, ut scilicet de te gaudeam. Rom. 14: Non est regnum Dei esca et potus; sed justitia et pax, et gaudium in Spiritu sancto: et hoc est beneficium spirituale. Mali autem habent abundantiam temporalium; et ideo dicit: A fructu frumenti, vini et olei sui, multiplicati sunt, idest dilatati. Et per omnia ista temporalia intelliguntur omnia alia: quia omnia referuntur ad necessitatem vivendi: et sic frumentum pro cibo, et vinum pro potu, oleum vero pro condimento accipitur. Alia littera habet, A tempore frumenti; ubi duplex bonorum istorum defectus innuitur, quia temporalia dicuntur a tempore. Sap. 2: Umbrae enim transitus est tempus nostrum. Et quia unum non sufficit, oportet quod sint multa; ideo dicit: Multiplicati sunt. And so he say: It is true that all things have the light of your countenance (shining upon) them from on high. But Thou, O Lord, Hast given gladness, that is to say, a spiritual one, In my heart, namely so that I might rejoice in you: The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17) And this is a kind of spiritual beneficence. The evil, however, have an abundance of temporal things, for which reason he says, By the fruit of their corn, their wine, and oil, they are multiplied, that is to say, they are swollen. By these temporal things are to be understood all the rest, for they are all related to the necessity of living. Thus, corn stands for food, wine for drink, and oil for seasoning. Another version has, By the time of your fruit, where a two-fold defect of their own goods is observed, since temporal things are designated in relation to time: For our time is as the passing of a shadow. (Wisdom 2:5) And since one (such temporal good) does not satisfy, it is fit there they be many, hence he says, They are multiplied.
g. Deinde cum dicit, In pace, ponit praeeminentiam spiritualium; quasi dicat, Quid inter haec excedit? Certa laetitia cordis. Et hoc patet duplici ratione. Primo, quia hoc bonum erit aeternum, illud vero temporale; secundo quia est unum et simplex, illud est multiplex. Secundum ponit ibi, Quoniam tu, Domine singulariter etc. Next, when he says, In peace, he sets forth the pre-eminence of spiritual things. It is as if he were saying: “What excels among these (spiritual goods)?” Certainly joy of heart. And this is plain for two reasons. First, that this good will be eternal, while that which they enjoy is temporal, and second, that the former is one and simple, while that latter has many parts. The second reason he sets forth at, For thou, O Lord, singularly hast settled me in hope.
Dicit ergo, In pace etc.: quasi dicat: Alii in tempore, sed ego non, immo In idipsum. Nota ergo, quod etiam in praesenti vita dicitur justus stare in bono, propter quatuor. Primo, quia non impeditur exterius: et ideo dicit: In pace. Isai. 31: Sedebit populus meus in pulchritudine pacis etc. Secundo ex immutatione rerum habitarum, quia hoc semper idem manet; unde In idipsum. Psalm. 121: Hierusalem quae aedificatur ut civitas, cujus participatio ejus in idipsum. Tertio, quia sine solicitudine: unde, Dormiam. Cant. 2: Ego dormio etc. Quarto ex quiete a labore conquirendi; unde dicit, Et requiescam. Et hoc potest esse etiam hic in praesenti vita secundum inchoationem; quia sancti omnia ista habent hic aliqualiter in Deo; sed haec omnia perfecte erunt in patria. Et hoc ideo habeo, dicit David, quia unum habeo in quo sunt omnia haec: et hoc est quod ait, Quoniam tu Domine etc.: quasi dicat: Uno modo in quadam spe singulari; Constituisti me, scilicet vita aeterna, de qua infra dicitur Psal. 26: Unam petii a Domino etc. Et hoc respondet contra id quod dicit, Multiplicati sunt: ut Quoniam tu Domine etc. quasi dicat, In te singulariter spero. Et hoc magis sonat littera Hieronymi, quae dicit: Quia tu Domine specialiter securum habitare me fecisti. Ps. 117: Bonum est confidere vel sperare in Domino etc. And so, he says, In peace. It is as if he were saying: “Others rest in the temporal, but not I. Instead, I rest In the selfsame.” Note, therefore, that even in this present life, the just man is said to stand steadfast with respect to (temporal) goods in four ways. First, that he is not hindered by external things: And my people shall sit in the beauty of peace, and in the tabernacles of confidence, and in wealthy rest (Isaiah 32:18); second, on account of (his) stability in things possessed, that this always remains the same: hence In the selfsame: Jerusalem, which is built as a city, which is compact together (Psalm 121:3); third, that he is without solicitude, hence he states, I will sleep: I sleep, and my heart watcheth (Song of Songs 5:2); and fourth, by having attained rest from his labor, hence he says And I will rest. And this can even be achieved here in this present life imperfectly, for all the saints have this here with God after a fashion. But everyone will have this perfectly in heaven. And for this reason David says “I have this, because I have one good in which are found all these (other goods).” And this is what he says: For thou, O Lord, singularly hast settled me in hope. It is as if he were saying: “In one way, in a particular hope, Thou hast settled me, namely in life eternal, concerning which Psalm 26:4 speaks: One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. It is as if he were saying: “I hope in one thing in particular.” And this agrees better with Jerome’s version which says: For you, O Lord, have made me to dwell especially secure. It is good to confide in the Lord, rather than to have confidence in man (Psalm 117:8)

© Dr. Stephen Loughlin

The Aquinas Translation Project


2in the verse upon which Thomas is presently commenting.


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One Response to St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 4

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