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And then, on the contrary, he declares the miserable condition of the ungodly, ver. 4, 5, The ungodly are not so: (i.e. they are not blessed as the righteous, but are indeed very miserable men :) they are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore, or because, the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the right
Now what judgment or tribunal of God is that, to which all the ungodly shall be cited, in which none of them shall be able to stand? i. e. to carry their cause, but they shall all, causa cadere, “be cast, and
utterly overthrown?” Certainly this cannot be understood of any judgment of God exercised in this life. For here wicked men often prosper, and go out of the world without any discernible mark of God's judgment on them. And on the other side, many good men, as to the things of this world, are cast and overthrown, ruined and undone. David therefore undoubtedly speaks of a judgment to come. And accordingly the author of the Targum, or Chaldee Paraphrase, thus renders the words,“ The ungodly shall “ not be justified in the great day b.” The great day, i. e. the day of the last judgment, the day of the great assize, wherein all men shall receive their final doom and sentence, called by St. Peter the day of the Lord, 2 Peter iii. 10. Again, what is that congregation of the righteous, wherein no sinner shall appear? Surely there neither is, nor ever was, nor ever will be, any such unmixed company of righteous men to be found in this world. Here the chaff and the wheat, the good and bad, are mingled together; but
* לָא יִזְכּון רַשִׁיעֵי בְיוֹמָא רַבָּא
a winnowing time of judgment will come, wherein the wicked shall be as the chaff which the wind drive eth away, (as the Psalmist expresseth it,) and nothing but the pure and clean wheat shall remain and be laid up in God's granary. There shall then (as our Saviour assures us) be a congregation or gathering together, from one end of the heavens to the other, of all God's elect, who have been from the beginning of the world; which being placed at the right hand of the Judge, shall receive that joyful sentence, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. In this congregation of the righteous no sinner shall be found: the ungodly shall be placed altogether in another herd, at the Judge's left hand, and hear that dreadful sentence, Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels. This is the clear sense of those words of the Psalmist, The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. And by these texts it is evident, that David believed a future state and a judgment to come.
Nor was this faith peculiar to David, but a received notion among the Jews, in the time and
wherein David lived. For it appears that the Jews then generally believed the immortality and subsistence of the soul of man after the death of the body, and consequently a future state of happiness or misery, according to the works and actions of men in this life respectively. This, I say, appears (if we had no other evidence of it) from the history of Saul, desiring to consult the prophet Samuel after he was dead, 1 Sam.
xxviii. the eleventh and following verses. For that history (which way soever you determine the old dispute, whether it was indeed the soul of Samuel that gave him answer, or an evil spirit personating the holy prophet) undeniably proves that Saul (as little true religion as he had, yet) believed that the soul of Samuel was still in being, and alive, after his body was dead and laid in the grave; from whence it is plain, that the doctrine of the soul's immortality was no news to the men of that
age. In the writings of king Solomon, the son of David, we find some very clear declarations of the immortality of man's soul, and of a future state. Such is that in the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes, ver. 7. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave ite. The plain and evident sense of which words is this: Whereas man consists of two parts, body and soul, the condition of these two when he dies will be very different: for the body being first taken out of the dust of the earth, and so of a corruptible constitution, shall go back into the earth again, and moulder into dust; but the soul, as it is of another and more noble original, (as being at first breathed immediately from God himself into the body,) shall not perish with the body, but return to God and the regions above. For Solomon seems to speak of the end of man, according to God's primary and antecedent will and intention; which was, that the soul of man after. death should go to God and the heavenly beings; and not of the consequent event of things happening through men's sin and wickedness ; whereby it comes
to pass, that the souls of many men, when they die, go to the Devil and the infernal regions. Though it is true also, that the spirit of every man after death, good or bad, in some sense goes to God, and returns into his hands, to be kept somewhere under the custody of his almighty power, in order to the receiving of his final sentence at the last judgment, either of life or death eternal. And accordingly the Wise Man, a little after in the same chapter, subjoins the article of the future universal judgment, and that as an argument to persuade men, not to acquiesce in these worldly vanities, but to make religion and the service of God their chief design and business; ver. 13, 14. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments : for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. This was Solomon's faith.
Let us proceed to the following ages. After these times it pleased the good and gracious God, to afford his people a mighty and most convincing evidence of the future heavenly and immortal life in the translation of Elias, of which you read, 2 Kings ii. 11, 12. that he was taken up by God in a fiery chariot into heaven, and that in the sight of Elisha, who afterwards saw him no more. And this was left upon record, so that none of the Jews who read the history could be ignorant of this wonderful work of God.
In the writings of the succeeding prophets, there are many passages, which an equal and unprejudiced reader cannot but believe have a prospect to the life to come. But because they are liable to some cavils and exceptions, (occasioned by the obscurity of the prophetic style,) which I have not now time to consider, I shall at present wave them, and proceed to some other instances.
In the time of the captivity lived the penman of the 102d Psalm, as clearly appears from the thirteenth and following verses; and he is thought by some learned interpreters to have been Nehemiah. But whoever was the writer of the Psalm, we have therein a very remarkable passage to our purpose in the twenty-fifth and following verses : Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth : and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. Here it is most plainly asserted, that as the heavens and the earth were at first created and made by the almighty power of God, so by the same power they shall one day, as to their present constitution, perish and be dissolved; and that a change or new state of things shall ensue.
Now what is this, I beseech you, but the very doctrine of St. Peter concerning the last day of judgment, 2 Peter iii. 10. and 13. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up. Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Certainly the end or dissolution of this present world, and a future state or world to come, have a necessary connection one with the other, and are both alike matters of divine revelation. Nor can it be imagined why, and to what purpose, the