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PSAL. XVI. II.
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy j at thy right hand there are pleasures forever more.
The Saviour of men was, before and under the law, by various predictions and types described, to prepare the world for his reception with faith and obedience. In this psalm, a mixture of history and prophecy. The words of the text applied by the Apostle to Christ's resurrection and ascension, and glory in heaven. The divine presence is the supreme and eternal felicity of the saints in heaven. The glory of the place considered. The happiness of heaven illustrated by sensible representations.
The divine wisdom and goodness was pleased, before and during the legal dispensation, by various predictions and types, to delineate the person of our Redeemer, and the work of redemption, to prepare the minds of men for his reception at his coming into the world. All the evangelical prophecies recorded in the old testament, as dispersed rays, are conspicuously united in him, "the sun of righteousness and as in a curious piece of Mosaic work, each stone (according to its natural vein and color) is so exactly disposed, and with that proportion joined to another, that the lively figure of the human body results from the composure; so by variety of types, the entire image of our Saviour's life is represented from his first appearing on earth, to his ascending to heaven.
Now the due comparing and observing the harmonious agreement between the prophecies and types of the old testament and the history of the new, is a powerful means to produce and establish a truly lively faith in the blessed Jesus, as the promised Messiah: for it is an infallible argument of the Divine Providence, in disposing times and things so, as the oracle should be verified in the event, and the misterious figures substantially exhibited in the manifestation of the Son of God. It is true, his miracles raised admiration, and aigued the concurrence of power truly divine: for the exercise of an absolute dominion over the order of nature, is a royalty reserved to God; but that his miraculous operations were foretold, added more authority to his person, and efficacy to his doctrine. Therefore our Saviour himself, in answer to the public question sent from John the Baptist, whether he were the expected Saviour of the world, commanded the messengers to tell him what they heard and saw; The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up; Mat. 11. Which healing miracles were foretold by the Prophet Isaiah, Isa. 35. as the clear and distinguishing characters of the Messiah from all seducers, when he should come. The fulfilling God's word by the works of Christ, of which there was sensible evidence was an irrefutable testimony that his miracles were true, and performed for the confirmation of the truth.
Now of all the chosen saints that foretold the coming of Christ, the new law of grace, and the new kingdom of glory, that he should reveal and establish; of all that represented him in various particulars, concerning his person and offices, there was not a more illustrious type than David, that by * prophetical words, and by prophetical actions did so clearly describe him.
In this Psalm, composed by him, there is a mixture of history and prophecy; some things in the literal and immediate sense referring to David: "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." Our being at God's right hand, implies the highest honor; his being at our right hand, implies present and sure protection and defence: and of this David had the infallible promise of God, to secure his hope, notwithstanding all his unrighteous and implacable enemies. But the following verses are applicable to David, but in a lower sense, and by a remote metaphor, and have their literal and principal accomplishment in our Saviour: "thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;" that is, in the state of the dead; "nor suffer thy holy one to see corruption:" that is, the body of our Saviour should be exempted from the corrupting power of the grave, and restored the third day to life. In this propriety and perfection of sense, the prophecy is applied by St. Peter to our Saviour's alone: for David died and saw corruption, Acts 2. 27. 29. and his body still remains under the dominion of death.
* Ulorum hominum non tantum lingua, sed ct vita prophetica fuit. Aug,
And this last verse, "thou wilt shew me the path of life; in thy presence is fulness of joy, at thy right hand are pleasures forever moreis applied by the Apostle to Christ, his resurrection, ascension to heaven, "and sitting at the right hand of the majesty on high. Thou wilt shew me the path of life;" that is, introduce him into the kingdom of glory, and by experimental fruition make him partaker of it: "in thy presence is fulness of joy, at thy right hand are pleasures forever more."
In these words the causes and excellencies of the heavenly life are expressed. The causes, are the glorious presence of God, and the intimate application of his presence, and discovery of his peculiar love to the saints. This our blessed Saviour had respect to, as the complete reward of his sufferings: "Thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance." And his right hand implies his bounty that dispenses, and his power that secures our happiness. The excellencies of it, are "fulness of joy, and pleasures forever more."
From the words I shall observe one proposition.
The enjoyment of the Divine presence in Heaven, is the supreme and everlasting felicity of the saints.
In discoursing of this point I will consider,
I. The place wherein the Divine presence is gloriously revealed. 2. Shew that the enjoyment of the Divine presence is the supreme felicity of the saints. 3. Prove that the felicity shall be everlasting.
[1.] The place wherein the Divine presence is revealed. It is consistent with the divine immensity, to be differently present in some places. The essential presence of God is the same every where; the influxive declarative presence of God is special, and otherwise in one place than another. He is more excellently present in the living temples, his saints on earth, by the gracious and eminent operations of his spirit, than he is in the rest of the world: he is most excellently present in heaven, by the clearest manifestation and the express characters and effects of the divine perfections.
This inferior world is framed with exquisite order; "the earth is full of the glory of the Lord :" yet it is but the sediment of the creation, the habitation of birds and beasts, nay of rebellious sinners: and by this we may raise our thoughts to conceive something of the glorious sanctuary of life, and blessedness above. It is called "the heaven of heavens," which is the highest comparison, to instruct and astonish us with the amplitude and glory of the place. It is a place becoming the majesty of God, the image of his immensity. Our Saviour assures us, " In his Father's house are many mansions," to receive the innumerable company of glorified saints. It is called the excellent glory, 2 Pet. 1.17.
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The shining firmament, with all the luminaries that adorn it, are but the frontispiece to the highest heaven. All the lustre of diamonds, the fire of carbuncles and rubies, the brightness of pearls, are dead in comparison of its glory. "It is the throne of the God of glory," wherein his majesty is revealed in the most illustrious manner. For pleasantness it is called Paradise, in allusion to the delightful garden planted by the hands of God himself for Adam, his favorite, whilst innocent. There is the tree of life. There are rivers of pleasure springing from the divine presence. It is called "the inheritance of the saints in light;" to signify the glory and joy of the place: for light has splendor, and conciliates cheerfulness, and is a fit emblem of both. As on the contrary, hell is descibed by "the blackness of darkness forever," to signify the sadness and despair of the damned; and because in that centre of misery, a perpetual night and invincible darkness increases the horror of lost souls.
Heaven for stability is called "a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." The present world is like a tent or tabernacle set up for a time, whilst the church is passing through the wilderness: but heaven is the "city of the living God," the place of his happy residence, the seat of his eternal empire. The visible world, with all its perishing idols, shall shortly fall, this beautiful scene shall be abolished: but the supreme heaven is above this sphere of mutability, wherein all bodies compounded of the jarring elements are continually changing and dissolving: it is truly called " a kingdom that cannot be shaken." Briefly, the wise maker has framed it correspondency to the end for which it was designed: it is the seat of his majesty, his sacred temple wherein he diffuses the richest beams of his goodness and glory, and his chosen servants see and praise his adorable excellencies forever.
[2.] I will endeavour to shew, that the enjoyment of the divine presence in heaven, is the supreme felicity of the saints.
To make this supernatural blessedness more easy and intelligible to us, the scripture describes it by sensible representations. For while the soul is clothed with flesh, fancy has such a dominion, that we conceive of nothing but by comparisons and images taken from material things. It is therefore set forth by a marriage feast, Rev. 17. 7. to signify the joy and glory of the saints above. But to prevent all gross conceits, we are instructed, that the bodies of the saints shall be spiritual, not capable of hunger or thirst, or consequently of any refreshment that is caused by the satisfaction of those appetites. The objects of the most noble senses, seeing and hearing, the pleasure of which is mixed with reason, and not common to the brutes, are more frequently made use of to reconcile the blessed and heavenly state to the proportion of our minds. Thus sometimes the saints above are represented on thrones, and with crowns on their heads: sometimes clothed in white with palms in their hands: