“_Thou wilt shew me the path of life_.” To Jesus first this way was shown, for he is the first-begotten from the dead, the first-born of every creature. He himself opened up the way through his own flesh, and then trod it as the forerunner of his own redeemed. The thought of being made the path of life to his people, gladdened the soul of Jesus. “_In thy presence is fulness of joy_.” Christ being raised from the dead ascended into glory, to dwell in constant nearness to God, where joy is at its full for ever: the foresight of this urged him onward in his glorious but grievous toil. To bring his chosen to eternal happiness was the high ambition which inspired him, and made him wade through a sea of blood. O God, when the worldling’s mirth has all expired, for ever with Jesus may we dwell “_at thy right hand_,” where “_there are pleasures for evermore_;” and meanwhile, may we have an earnest by tasting thy love below. Trapp’s note on the heavenly verse which closes the Psalm is a sweet morsel, which may serve for a contemplation, and yield a foretaste of our inheritance. He writes, “Here is as much said as can be, but words are too weak to utter it. For _quality_ there is in heaven joy and pleasures; for _quantity_, a fulness, a torrent whereat they drink without let or loathing; for _constancy_, it is at God’s right hand, who is stronger than all, neither can any take us out of his hand; it is a constant happiness without intermission: and for _perpetuity_ it is for evermore. Heaven’s joys are without measure, mixture, or end.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Verse 11.–In this verse are four things observable:–1. _A Guide_, THOU. 2. _A Traveller_, ME. 3. _A Way_, THE PATH. 4. _The End_, LIFE, described after. For that which follows is but the description of this life.
This verse is a proper subject for a _meditation_. For, all three are solitary. _The guide_ is but one; the _traveller_, one; the _way_, one; and the _life_, the only one. To meditate well on this is to bring all together; and at last make them all but _one_. Which that we may do, let us first seek our _Guide_.
_The Guide_. Him we find named in the first verse–Jehovah. Here we may begin, as we ought in all holy exercises, with _adoration_. For, “unto him all knees shall bow;” nay, unto his _name_. For holy is his name. Glory be to thee, O God! He is _Deus_, therefore _holy_; he is _Deus fortis_, therefore _able_. “For the strength of the hills is his;” and if there be a _way_ on earth, he can “_show_” it; for in his hands are all the corners of the earth. But is he _willing_ to “_show_”? Yes, though he be _Deus_, _holy_; (which is a word terrible to poor flesh and blood), yet he is _Deus meus_, my holiness. That takes away servile fear. He is _meus_, we have a property in him; and he is willing: “_Thou wilt show_,” etc. And that you may know _he will guide_, David shows a little above how diligently he will guide. First, he will _go before_, he will lead the way himself: if I can but follow, I shall be sure to go right. And he that hath a _guide_ before him, and will not follow, is worthy to be left behind. But say, I am willing, I do desire to go, and I do follow: what if, through faintness in the long way, I fall often? or, for want of care step out of the way, shall I not then be left behind? Fear not; for “He is at my right hand, so that I shall not slip.” Verse #8|. This is some comfort indeed. But we are so soon weary in this way, and do fall and err so often, that it would weary the patience of a good _guide_ to lead us but one day. Will he bear with us, and continue to the end? Yes, always; or this text deceives us; for all this is found in the eighth verse (#8|). We must have _him_ or none; for he is one, and the only one. So confessed Asaph: “Whom have I on earth but thee?” Seek this _good Guide_, he is easy to be found: “Seek, and ye shall find.” You shall find that he is first _holy_; secondly, _able_; thirdly, _willing_; fourthly, _diligent_; and fifthly, _constant_. O my soul! to follow him, and he will make thee both _able_ to follow to the end; and _holy_ in the end.
_The traveller_. Having found the Guide, we shall not long seek for one that wants him; for, see, here is a _man out of his way_. And that will soon appear if we consider his condition. For, he is a _stranger_ (“_Thou wilt show me_”); and what am I? “I am a stranger, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were,” says he, in another place. But this was in the old time under the law; what, are we, their sons, in the gospel, any other? Peter tells us no: that we are strangers and pilgrims too; that is, travellers. We travel, as being out of our country; and we are strangers to those we converse with. For neither the natives be our friends, nor anything we possess truly our own. It is time we had _animum revertendi_; and surely so we have if we could but pray on the _way_. _Converte nos Domine_. But it is so long since we came hither, we have forgot the way home: _obliti sunt montis mei_. Yet still we are travelling; and, we think, homewards. For all hope well: _oculi omnium sperant in te_. But _right_, like pilgrims, or rather, wanderers. For we scarce know if we go right; and, which is worse, have little care to enquire.
“_Me_.” David still keeps the singular number. As there is but _one_ guide, so he speaks in the person but of _one traveller_. There is somewhat, peradventure, in that. It is to show his _confidence_. The Lord’s prayer is in the plural, but the creed in the singular. We may pray that God would guide _all_; but we can be confident for none but ourselves. “_Thou wilt show_,” or thou dost, or hast, as some translate: all is but to show particular confidence. “_Thou wilt show me_;” _me_, not _us_, a number indefinite wherein I _may be_ one; but _me_ in particular that am out of the way; that am myself _alone_; that must walk in “_the path_” _alone_. Either I must follow, or go before others; I must work for myself alone; believe for myself alone; and be saved by one alone. _The way_ in this text that I must walk is but one; nay, it is but a “_path_” where but one can go: this is no highway, but a _way_ of sufferance by favour: it is none of ours. It is no _road_; you cannot hurry here, or gallop by troops: it is but _semita_, a small _footpath_ for one to go alone in. Nay, as it is a _way_ for _one alone_, so it is _a lonely way_: _preparate vias ejus in solitudine_, saith John, and he knew which way God went, who is our _Guide in solitudine_: there is the sweetness of solitariness, the comforts of meditation. For God is never more familiar with man than when man is _in solitudine, alone_, in his _path_ by himself. Christ himself came thus, all _lonely_; without troop, or noise, and ever avoided the tumultuous multitude, though they would have made him a king. And he never spake to them but in parables; but to _his_ that sought him, _in solitudine_, in private, he spake plain; and so doth he still love to do to the soul, in private and particular. Therefore well said David, “_Thou wilt show me_,” in particular, and in the singular number. But how shall I know that I, in particular, shall be taught and _showed_ this _way_? This prophet, that had experience, will tell us: _mites docebit_, the _humble_ he will teach. #Ps 25:9|. If thou canst humble thyself, thou mayst be sure to see thy _guide_; Christ hath crowned this virtue with a blessing: “Blessed are the meek;” for them he will call to him and teach. But thou must be humble then. For heaven is built like our churches, high-roofed within, but with a strait low gate; they then that enter there must stoop, ere they can see God. Humility is the mark at every cross, whereby thou shalt know if thou be in the way: if any be otherwise minded, God also shall reveal it unto you, for, “_Thou wilt show_.”
“_The path_.” But let us now see what he will _show_ us: “_the path_.” We must know, that as men have _many paths_ out of their highway–the world–but they all end in destruction; so God hath _many paths_ out of his highway, the word, but they all end in salvation. Let us oppose ours to his (as indeed they are opposite), and see how they agree. _Ours_ are not worth _marking_, _his marked_ with an _attendite_, to begin withal; _ours_ bloody, _his_ unpolluted; _ours_ crooked, _his_ straight; _ours_ lead to hell, _his_ to heaven. Have not we strayed then? We had need to turn and take another path, and that quickly: we may well say, _semitas nostras, a via tua_. Well, here is _the Book_, and here are the _ways_ before you; and he will _show_ you. Here is _semita mandatorum_, in the Psalm #Ps 119:35|; here is _semita pacifica_ (#Pr 3:17|); here is _semita aequitatis_ (#Pr 4:11|); here is _semita justitiae_ (#Ps 23:3|); here is _semita judicii_ (#Pr 17:23|); and many others. These are, every one of them, _God’s ways_; but these are somewhat too many and too far off: we must seek the way where all these meet, and that will bring us into “_the path_;” these are many, but I will show you yet “a more excellent way,” saith Paul. #1Co 12:31|.
We must begin to enter at _via mandatorum_; for till then we are in the dark and can distinguish no _ways_, whether they be good or bad. But there we shall meet with a _lantern_ and a _light_ in it. Thy commandment is a lantern, and the law a light. #Pr 6:23|. Carry this with thee (as a good man should, _lex Dei in corde ejus_); and it will bring thee into the _way_. And see how careful our _Guide_ is; for lest the wind should blow out this light, he hath put it into a lantern to preserve it. For the fear, or sanction, of the “commandments,” preserves the memory of the law in our hearts, as a lantern doth a light burning within it. The law is the light, and the commandment the lantern. So that neither flattering Zephyrus, nor blustering Boreas shall be able to blow it out, so long as the fear of the sanction keeps it in. This is _lucerna pedibus_ (#Ps 119:105|); and will not only _show_ thee where thou shalt tread, but what pace thou shalt keep. When thou hast this light, take Jeremy’s counsel; enquire for _semita antiqua_, before thou goest any further. “Stand (saith he) in the ways and behold and ask for the old way; which is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” This will bring you some whither where you may _rest_ awhile. And whither is that? Trace this _path_, and you shall find this “old way” to run quite through all the Old Testament till it end in the New, the gospel of peace, and there is rest. And that this is so Paul affirms. For the law, which is the “old way,” is but the pedagogue to the gospel. This then is “a more excellent way” than the law, the ceremonies whereof in respect of this were called “beggarly rudiments.” When we come there, we shall find the way pleasant and very _light_, so that we shall plainly see before us that _very path_, that _only path_, “the path of life” (_semita vitae_), in which the gospel ends, as the law ends in the gospel. Now what is _semita vitae_ that we seek for? “All the ways of God are _truth_,” saith David. #Ps 119:151|. He doth not say they are _verae_, or _veritates_, but _veritas_; all one truth. So, all the _ways_ of God end in one truth. _Semita vitae_, then, is _truth_. And so sure a _way_ to life is _truth_, that John says, he had “no greater joy” than to hear that his sons “walked in truth.” #3Jo 1:3|. “No greater joy:” for it brings them certainly to a joy, than which there is none greater. _Via veritatis_ is “the gospel of truth.” but _semita vitae_ is the truth itself. Of these; Esay prophesied, _et erit ibi semita et via_, etc. “There shall be a path, and a way;” and the way shall be called _holy_, the proper epithet of the gospel: “_the holy gospel_,” that is _the way_. But the _path_ is the epitome of this _way_ (called in our text, by way of excellence, “_the path_,” in the singular); than which there is no other. “The gospel of your salvation,” saith Paul, is “the word of truth;” and “thy word is truth,” saith our Saviour to his Father. _Truth_, then, is “_the path of life_,” for it is the epitome of the gospel, which is the _way_. This is that truth which Pilate (unhappy man) asked after, but never stayed to be resolved of. He himself is the word; the word is the truth; and the truth is “_the path of life_,” trodden by all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs and confessors, that ever went to heaven before us. The abstract of the gospel, the gate of heaven, _semita vitae_, “_the path of life_,” even Jesus Christ the righteous, who hath beaten the way for us, gone himself before us, and left us the prints of his footsteps for us to follow, where he himself sits ready to receive us. So, the law is the light, the gospel is the way, and Christ is “_the path of life_.”–^William Austin, 1637.
Verse 11.–It is Christ’s triumphing in the consideration of his exaltation, and taking pleasure in the fruits of his sufferings: “_Thou wilt show me the paths of life_.” God hath now opened the way to paradise, which was stopped up by a flaming sword, and made the path plain by admitting into heaven the head of the believing world. This is part of the joy of the soul of Christ; he hath now a fulness of joy, a satisfying delight instead of an overwhelming sorrow; a “fulness of joy,” not only some sparks and drops as he had now and then in his debased condition; and that in the presence of his Father. His soul is fed and nourished with a perpetual vision of God, in whose face he beholds no more frowns, no more designs of treating him as a servant, but such smiles that shall give a perpetual succession of joy to him, and fill his soul with fresh and pure flames. Pleasures they are, pleasantness in comparison whereof the greatest joys in this life are anguish and horrors. His soul hath joys without mixture, pleasures without number, a fulness without want, a constancy without interruption, and a perpetuity without end.–^Stephen Charnock.
Verse 11.–“_In thy presence_,” etc. To the blessed soul resting in Abraham’s bosom, there shall be given an immortal, impassible, resplendent, perfect, and glorious body. Oh, what a happy meeting will this be, what a sweet greeting between the soul and body, the nearest and dearest acquaintance that ever were! What a welcome will that soul give to her beloved body! Blessed be thou (will she say), for thou hast aided me to the glory I have enjoyed since I parted with thee; blessed art thou that sufferedst thyself to be mortified, giving “thy members as weapons of righteousness unto God.” #Ro 6:13|. Cheer up thyself, for now the time of labour is past, and the time of rest is come. Thou wast sown and buried in the dust of earth with ignominy, but now raised in glory; sown in weakness, but raised in power; sown a natural body, but raised a spiritual body; sown in corruption, but raised in incorruption. #1Co 15:43|. O my dear companion and familiar, we took sweet counsel together, we two have walked together as friends in God’s house (#Ps 55:14|), for when I prayed inwardly, thou didst attend my devotions with bowed knees and lifted-up hands outwardly. We two have been fellow labourers in the works of the Lord, we two have suffered together, and now we two shall ever reign together; I will enter again into thee, and so both of us together will enter into our Master’s joy, where we shall have _pleasures at his right hand for evermore_.
The saints, entered as it were into the chamber of God’s presence, shall have joy to their ears in hearing their own commendating and praise, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (#Mt 25:21|); and in hearing the divine language of heavenly Canaan; for our bodies shall be _vera et viva_, perfect like Christ’s glorious body, who did both hear other and speak himself after his resurrection, as it is apparent in the gospels’ history. Now, then, if the words of the wise spoken in due places be like “apples of gold with pictures of silver” (#Pr 25:11|), if the mellifluous speech of Origen, the silver trumpet of Hillary, the golden mouth of Chrysostom, bewitched as it were their auditory with exceeding great delight; if the gracious eloquence of heathen orators, whose tongues were never touched with a coal from God’s altar, could steal away the hearts of their hearers, and carry them up and down whither they would, what a “_fulness of joy_” will it be to hear not only the sanctified, but also the glorified tongues of saints and angels in the kingdom of glory? … Bonaventure fondly reports at all adventure, that St. Francis hearing an angel a little while playing on a harp, was so moved with extraordinary delight, that he thought himself in another world. Oh! what a “_fulness of joy_” will it be to hear more than twelve legions of angels, accompanied with a number of happy saints which no man is able to number, all at once sing together, “Hallelujah, holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” “And every creature which is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” #Re 4:8; 5:13|. If the voices of mortal men, and the sound of cornet, trumpet, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and other well-tuned instruments of music, passing through our dull ears in this world be so powerful, that all our affections are diversely transported according to the divers kinds of harmony, then how shall we be ravished in God’s presence when we shall hear heavenly airs with heavenly ears!
Concerning “_fulness of joy_” to the rest of the senses I find a very little or nothing in holy Scriptures, and therefore seeing God’s Spirit will not have a pen to write, I may not have a tongue to speak. Divines in general affirm, that the smelling, and taste, and feeling, shall have joy proportionable to their blessed estate, for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality; the body which is sown in weakness is to be raised in power; it is sown a natural body, but it is raised a spiritual body, buried in dishonour, raised in glory; that is, capable of good, and, as being impassible, no way subject to suffer evil, insomuch that it cannot be hurt if it should be cast into hell fire, no more than Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, were hurt in the burning oven. In one word, God is not only to the souls, but also to the bodies of the saints, _all in all things_; a glass to their sight, honey to their taste, music to their hearing, balm to their smelling.–^John Boys.
Verse 11.–“_In thy presence is fulness of joy_.” The saints on earth are all but _viatores_, wayfaring men, wandering pilgrims far from home; but the saints in heaven are _comprehensores_, safely arrived at the end of their journey. All we here present for the present, are but mere strangers in the midst of danger, we are losing ourselves and losing our lives in the land of the dying. But ere long, we may find our lives and ourselves again in heaven with the Lord of life, being found of him in the land of the living. If when we die, we be in the Lord of life, our souls are sure to be bound up in the bundle of life, that so when we live again we may be sure to find them in the life of the Lord. Now we have but a dram, but a scruple, but a grain of happiness, to an ounce, to a pound, to a thousand weight of heaviness; now we have but a drop of joy to an ocean of sorrow; but a moment of ease to an age of pain; but then (as St. Austin very sweetly in his _Soliloquies_), we shall have endless ease without any pain, true happiness without any heaviness, the greatest measure of felicity without the least of misery, the fullest measure of joy that may be, without any mixture of grief. Here therefore (as St. Gregory the divine adviseth us), let us ease our heaviest loads of sufferings, and sweeten our bitterest cups of sorrows with the continual meditation and constant expectation of _the fulness of joy in the presence of God, and of the pleasure at his right hand for evermore_.
“_In thy presence, IS_,” etc., _there it is_, not _there it was_, nor there it may be, nor there it will be, but _there it is_, there it _is_ without cessation or intercision, there it always hath been, and is, and must be. It is an assertion _aeternae veritatis_, that is always true, it may at any time be said that there it is. “In thy presence _is_ the fulness of joy;” and herein consists the consummation of felicity; for what does any man here present wish for more than joy? And what measure of joy can any man wish for more than fulness of joy? and what kind of fulness would any man wish for rather than this fulness, the fulness _kat’ e’xoch