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Psalm XVI

This psalm is called "Michtam," or a golden Psalm of David. It may have had this title from the beauty of the natural thoughts and images which it suggests, and from its excellence in point of composition. But spiritually it is called golden, because gold signifies celestial love in its lowest form, which is the basis that comprehends within itself all higher forms of love. The various objects of the mineral kingdom correspond to some condition of the mind, but in its lowest sensual and scientific form, and not in the living forms of the will and intellect to which the animal and vegetable kingdom correspond. "All nature is a theatre," and in the innumerable objects which it contains, the Lord's kingdoms of life and light, or the opposite kingdom of death and darkness, is represented ; and the three degrees, which constitute each of these kingdoms, are figured in the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral worlds. But in the ultimate forms of nature the Divine Truth is in its representative fixedness as well as in its fullness; and therefore we have, in the geological structure of the crust of the earth, with the order of its strata, and the fossil forms of animals and plants, the fullest and most perfect history of the human mind, as it is successively developed through those states which correspond to the mineral, the vegetable, and animal kingdoms, and before the truly human or heavenly form of the mind is produced.

Verse 4. " Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god." In the spiritual sense of this passage we have the origin of all the troubles and cares to which man is subjected in the course of his reformation. To hasten after another God is, in its spiritual sense, to multiply our sorrows; for to hasten is expressive of the determination of the will, and to hasten after another God is, in the internal sense of the words, spiritual idolatry, and spiritual idolatry consists in the love of self, the love of the world, and the love of sensual pleasures. These are the origins of that natural idolatry, to which the Jews, above all other nations, were prone. If the unregenerated man be checked in the free enjoyment of these, he feels a torment proportioned to the resistance offered to his insane and filthy delights, and thus are his sorrows multiplied. But the sorrows of him who is in some measure influenced by goodness and truth, are holy sorrows ; for they flow from repentance, and grief of mind that his evil passions and propensities should have prevailed over the light of the Divine Truth within him, conducting him in the paths of purity and peace.

Verses 5 and 6. " The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places : yea, I have a goodly heritage." The Lord is spiritually the portion of man's inheritance and of his cup when he is conjoined with Him by love and by the life of faith. The lines, it is said, are fallen unto me in pleasant places : yea, I have a goodly heritage: a declaration which either literally refers to the beauty and fertility of that allotment of the land which had fallen to the writer's share, or metaphorically to the prosperity of his natural condition.

Verse 8. "I have set the Lord always before me ; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved." The Lord is always spiritually before us, when our affections are turned towards Him. To love ourselves is spiritually to turn our backs upon Him, and in a subordinate sense upon our neighbour also. From this spiritual cause is derived the natural effect of turning the face towards those we love, and our backs upon those whom we dislike. To be at the right hand of the Lord is to possess, in consequence of our having Him always spiritually before us, the Divine power of subduing our wicked propensities and desires. To have our hearts ever turned towards Him is the same thing as to be receptive of His Love, and to possess from Him the Divine power of conquering our evils is the same thing as to be receptive of His Wisdom, and to receive His Love and Wisdom is spiritually to be in heaven, for it is this His spiritual presence in man, which communicates the fullness of heavenly joy ; and to be at His right hand is to possess an eternity of heavenly delights in consequence of the Divine protection. In the Gospel according to Mark it is said, that after the Lord had spoken to His disciples, "He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." Here the literal sense plainly indicates a distinction of Persons between the Father and the Son. To sit on the right hand of any one can never mean, in the obvious sense of the words, that they are one and the same person. It may be fairly concluded then, that if the literal sense is to supply the materials for our belief respecting the Saviour, and if such passages as the above are to be allowed any weight, our creed will certainly include more than one Divine Person in the Godhead. But, though this must be the inevitable consequence of seeking for a true doctrine among the appearances of truth, instead of drawing or extracting it from them by the science of correspondencies, we are not therefore to attribute the errors, in which the Christian world has been for so many hundred years involved, to the imperfection of the literal sense, and not to the corruptions of Christian men. Had a purer revelation of truth been given, the gross error of believing in three Divine Persons might perhaps have been avoided, but then it would have been by the substitution of a worse error in its 'place. A purer revelation would not have been received at all. For the Lord, as the Divine Truth, comes to every man with power and great glory, whensoever the heavens are opened within him ; but He cannot come in the power and glory of of the Father, except by the opening of a heavenly state of charity and faith ; nor can He come at all, except it be in the clouds of heaven, which clouds are spiritually the appearances of truth, such as belong to the literal sense of the Holy Scripture. Had the early Christian church remained steadfast to that simplicity of character, that mutual kindness, and brotherly love, which distinguished its earliest members, there can be no doubt but that their minds must have been opened to a perception of the interior sense of the Word of God. The writings of the early Fathers of the church point to this conclusion. The direction of their thoughts was evidently of a spiritual kind, and in some instances their spiritual sense of parts of the Holy Scripture was the true one. But neither the Apostles, nor their successors, had anything like a clear and correct view of the Trinity; they could not see the identity of Jesus Christ with Jehovah, because they did not rationally comprehend the science of correspondencies, and could not explain, by that science, the spiritual reason for the broad distinction, which is so frequently made between the Father and the Son, nor for the seeming unconsciousness, which the Lord at times displays of His being Himself the I AM, who is before Abraham was. Not knowing that what He appeared to be, and what He declared Himself to be, had its spiritual sense as well as what He appeared to do, and that the natural sense of the historical account is in itself nothing more than the appearance of truth, which represents, because it is an effect of the condition of the natural man in relation to the Divine Truth ; not knowing that those happy beings to whom the purely spiritual truths of the Word of God are presented, are entirely ignorant of every outward circumstance connected with the Lord, whether it be His natural birth, His growth in stature and in wisdom, His outward miracles, His apparent want of perception that He was the Omniscient God, His sufferings on the cross, His despair at being forsaken by Jehovah in His extremity, and His death; and not knowing that the real truth of these, as distinguished from the apparent truth, can only be found in their .spiritual sense, they could not but come to the conclusion, that the Father and the Son, though united in some mysterious manner, had a distinctly conscious Personality, and that in the heaven into which the Lord was taken up in the sight of His Apostles, He actually sits at the right hand of Jehovah, to mediate for those who have faith in His merits. But it is no more a spiritual or real truth, that the Lord sits at the right hand of the Father, than that He who declared Himself to be the I AM, actually despaired upon the cross and died. These events were effects in nature, representing their spiritual mediatory causes in man, and their spiritual causes were all comprehended in the interior rejection of the Divine Truth by the Jews, in consequence of its separation from the Divine Goodness. Therefore "their scourging Him, their spitting in His face, smiting Him with a reed, and putting a crown of thorns upon His head, their giving Him vinegar to drink, their dividing His garments, and their finally crucifying Him, were all representative (effects) of the state of that church. It is this which is signified by His bearing, or carrying their iniquities, and also His sustaining the severest temptations " (Apocalypse Explained, n. 805). Neither is anything else meant by their piercing the Lord, than the destroying of the Divine Truth (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 27). Nor by His death than the utter rejection of it. For He is said to have been dead, and actually so appeared, when the church had no longer any perception of the Divine Truth, nor any love for it ; therefore representatively carrying their iniquities, He died, and was buried, and by the same law of representation He was seen to rise again and ascend into heaven by no others but His regenerated disciples.

Verse 2. " For Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption."' This passage, which appears to have been originally applied by David to himself, has been commonly applied by Christian commentators, as a prophecy, to the Lord. It is He who is supposed to say to Jehovah, Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption; and as, from the literal sense, He is supposed to have descended into hell, and to have risen again from the dead, the facts are appealed to, as a fulfilment of the prophecy. But the prophecy is not to be interpreted literally, nor are the facts to be literally understood. His death and His burial are, as well as His resurrection and ascension, to be understood spiritually, or in relation to the Divine Truth, in its state of extinction by separation from the Divine Goodness. Were it possible ;to find the true doctrine respecting the Lord in the literal sense of the Word, we have, just as good reason for taking His declaration to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection,"Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to My father and your father, to My God and your God," as well as that of the Evangelist, "that He sits on the right hand of God," for the groundwork of our faith, as any of those passages which unite Him with the Father, and from which exclusively,, a doctrine of a different, though of an equally incomprehensible kind has been framed. For, to suppose the Lord Jesus Christ to have been at times conscious, and at times unconscious that, as to His own soul, He was Jehovah, is only to substitute one mystery for another, not a jot less objectionable, but equally opposed to the light of reason, and the spiritual sense of the Word of God.

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