Verse 11. 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 firstborn 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 a 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:
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." Psalms 16:8 . 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. 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, what 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 is 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. Psalms 25:9 . If thou canst humble thyself, thou mayest 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 nostrus, 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 Psalms 119:35 : here is semita pacifica (Pr 3:17); here is semita aequitatis ( Proverbs 4:11 ); here is semita justitiae ( Psalms 23:3 ); here is semita judicii ( Proverbs 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. 1 Corinthians 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 thy law a light. Proverbs 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 ( Psalms 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. Psalms 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." 3 John 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 a 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, impassable, resplendent, perfect, and glorious body. Oh, what a happy meeting will this be, what a sweet greeting between the soul and the 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." Romans 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. 1 Corinthians 15:43 . O my dear companion and familiar, we took sweet counsel together, we two have walked together as friends on God's house (Ps 55:14). For when I prayed inwardly, thou didst attend my devotions with bowed knees and up lifted 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 chambers of God's presence, shall have joy to their ears in hearing their own commendating and praise, "Well done, good and faithful servant" ( Matthew 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 gospel's history. Now, then, if the words of the wise spoken in due places be like "apples of gold with pictures of silver" ( Proverbs 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 the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all them 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." Revelation 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 impassable, 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 advises 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 intercession, 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 ezochn? And where would any man wish to enjoy this fulness of joy rather than in the presence of God, which is the ever flowing and the over flowing fountain of joy? And when would any man wish for this enjoyment of the fulness of joy in the very fountain of joy rather than presently, constantly, and incessantly? Now all these desirables are encircled within the compass of the first remarkable, to make up the consummation of true felicity. "In thy presence is fulness of joy." "The Consummation of Felicity," by Edward Willan, 1654.