This Psalm commences with the word "Blessed." Blessing, considered in its natural sense, relates to worldly prosperity, and to whatever contributes to its attainment. These are promised to the natural man, because they are most congenial to his wishes, and are therefore best adapted to secure the performance of his duties. He is threatened also with the loss of worldly comforts and enjoyments in case he offend against the Divine Law; for he, who is naturally and sensually minded, can be influenced only by the hope of reward, or by the fear of punishment. But spiritual blessing, or blessing in its spiritual sense, is conjunction of life with the Lord, when the will is receptive of the goodness which He communicates to it, and the understanding is receptive of His truth, uninfluenced either by the expectation of reward, or by the fear of punishment; and when the truth which is known, and the goodness which is loved, are unitedly applied to the duties of his life.
Verse i. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." In this verse there are three conditions of the body mentioned, walking, standing; and sitting; and each of them has a corresponding meaning in relation to the human mind. Man cannot walk without changing the space which his body occupies; and as the space of nature corresponds to mental state, bodily motion in space corresponds to change of state. The application of this instance of correspondency is to be found in common discourse, though few of those who make use of it are aware of its spiritual origin ; for how customary is it to apply the word walk in the sense of living, and to speak of the duration of life as of a journey.
Man is a human being strictly from the condition of his affections ; but all changes in their state are presented visibly, as it were, in the intellect. Without this internal or intellectual sight, we could have no perception of those changes ; and therefore walking corresponds to the progressive changes of thought in the intellect, derived from, and representing the intentions of the will. Standing, which is a cessation from bodily motion, corresponds to the intentions of the will manifested in the delights they communicate, and to a continuance of the state which produces the delight. Sitting, which is a position of more perfect rest, corresponds to a confirmed and permanent state of the affections, whether they be good or evil. As the ungodly are, in the above passage, connected with walking, to walk in the counsel of the ungodly corresponds to the life of evil intentions shown in the progressive falsification of truth by the intellect; and as sinners are connected with standing, and to stand with sinners relates to the will in the manifestation of its evil: and as the scornful are connected with sitting, and sitting with the scornful corresponds to a confirmation of the mind in its evil affections by the falsification of truth, therefore they follow in the above order, which order, in the spiritual sense, points out the progressive states through which the human mind passes, first, from the life of falsehood, or the falsification of truth ; next, to the manifestation of evil intentions, and a delight in them ; and last of all, to such an appropriation of them by the mind, that they become the fixed and ruling love of man's life. This last state is one of confirmed hatred to all goodness and truth.
It is here worthy of remark, that in the description of those who are "blessed," or spiritually conjoined to the Lord by love and faith, the progress of man's reformation and regeneration is described, or the change from a natural state of life to a spiritual, and at the same time the means are given by which this change must be brought about. For, first, we are instructed, not in that which we are required to do by the Divine Law, but in that which we must abstain from doing : we must not walk in the counsel of the ungodly; we must not stand in the way of sinners; we must not sit in the seat of the scornful : and this abstaining from evil affections and thoughts, with their delights, and, as a necessary consequence, from the sinful actions which flow from them, is the first step in the progress of our reformation. We must "cease to do evil," before we can "learn to do well:" for we "cannot at the same time serve God and mammon." When this happy change is effected, then has our regeneration commenced, for then we can feel delight in the law of the Lord, which spiritually signifies that our wills are then in a state to receive the Divine instruction ; while our intellects, both in their clear spiritual perceptions and in the obscurity which at times comes over us, are still in a measure receptive of the Divine Wisdom, which is signified by meditating in His law day and night. For having the Divine light within, the appearances of truth in the literal sense of the Word, which are adapted to the obscurity of our natural conditions, will, at the dawning of our mental day, be seen in the purity and brightness of their spiritual meaning, and that in proportion as we make truth our own by loving and practising it.
Verse 3. " He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water." Rivers of water are the representative images of truth. Water signifies specifically natural truth, and therefore the Lord Jesus Christ, at the marriage of Cana in Galilee, turned the water into wine ; and interiorly at every heavenly marriage of the human will and understanding, to which every true natural marriage corresponds, and which it represents, He who is the Divine Love and Wisdom is interiorly present, and turns the merely natural perception of truth, which is signified by the water, into the spiritual perception 'of truth, which is the wine. By the rivers of water the tree is planted, for the roots signify the natural mind, and natural truths, signified by the moisture communicated from the river, are its food. But when taken up into the system, or when appropriated, the truth then becomes living, and this is represented by the circulating juices of the tree ; and then too fruits are produced, of a quality determined by the state of man's recipiency. The leaves of a tree are in their functions analogous to the lungs in man, and both correspond to the understanding, in its powers of perceiving, by means of truth, the state or condition of the will and its affections, and of purifying them, as the blood is purified by passing through the lungs, from their natural corruptions. The withering of the leaf sig- nifies the destruction of the intellect by the perversion and falsification of truth. The fruit of a tree, though applied in the Holy Scripture analogically to good works, spiritually signifies the state of the will ; for if it be good fruit which the tree produces, it corresponds to the love and charity of the will determined to their representative forms. "Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper," signifies the spiritual prosperity of the entire man, when, in consequence of his regeneration, his will is brought into obedience to the Divine Will by love to the Lord and to his neighbour, and when his intellect is capable of receiving the spiritual truths of the Holy Scripture.
The two following verses, which, in the natural sense, describe the lot of the wicked, recall to memory, in the spiritual sense, what has been the natural condition of every man before he was regenerated or born again of the Lord. He is "chaff," because he is merely external, and devoid of the Divine Life, which is the life of love and charity; and then hell, by falsities of various kinds, signified by "the wind," has power over him, and he is spiritually destroyed.
Verse 5. " Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous." "Judgment" corresponds to truth, and he perception of it, as " righteousness" does to goodness and the delight experienced in its reception; for it is by means of truth that man judges of the righteousness or unrighteousness of his affections and desires ; and therefore judgment relates to truth, and righteousness to goodness. Hence it is said in the New Testament, that the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son ; for the Father and the Son, in the spiritual sense of the Word, are not two persons, but one and the same Divine Being, the Father signifying the Divine Goodness of that one being, and the Son His Divine Truth ; and hence all judgment is said to be given to the Son, or to the Divine Truth. The judgment is for eternal happiness when the Divine Goodness and Truth are unitedly received, but for eternal misery when truth is separated from goodness, or faith from charity, and the Divine Goodness from the Divine Truth.
Verse 6. " For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish." The Lord is said to "know the way of the righteous," which spiritually signifies the perception communicated to the regenerate, of the progressive states of happiness to which a life of love and charity conducts; but the way of the ungodly is said to perish, because a life of falsehood and wickedness is spiritual death, and spiritual death is everlasting misery.
This first Psalm is an epitome of all the states of the human mind which are unfolded at large in the spiritual sense of the following Psalms. It embraces summarily the condition of man, both in his regenerated or spiritual state, and in his unregenerated or natural state. From the darkness and death of the latter, he rises, by means of the Divine Truth, to the light and life of the former ; and from this elevation he is enabled to see his previous misconception of fallacious appearances for the truth itself, and being no longer enveloped by that dark mist, which the rising Sun of Righteousness within him has dispersed, he willingly and joyfully permits the Lord, who is ever with him, to bring his external or natural man into a useful and cheerful obedience to the internal or spiritual man.