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Ver. 15. To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly amongst them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly 294 committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
Having described the judge, with his attendants, he cometh to describe his work, which is to convince and execute judgment, together with the persons against whom he will thus proceed, all that are ungodly amongst them: as also the grounds and reasons of the process, because of their ungodly practices and hard speeches against Christ.
Some say the 14th verse doth only contain the prophecy of Enoch, and that these words are the apostle’s application or explication of it; but improbably, the words running on in a continued sense or form of speech, and the application is at the 16th verse.
To execute judgment; it is a hysteron proteron; the last act is put first, execution before conviction or arraignment. Upon all, that is, upon all such as are here spoken of, upon all the ungodly; for judgment is not executed upon the saints, but for them. And to convince, ἐλέγξαι; it implieth such a clear proof that we see it is impossible things should be other wise at the day of judgment; wicked men are ‘speechless,’ Mat. xxii., and ‘self-condemned.’ All that are ungodly amongst them; that is, amongst the wicked, and the severity of the process is chiefly bent against those that are ungodly. Of all their ungodly deeds; in the Greek, ‘the deeds of their ungodliness.’ Now ungodliness here is not taken in its proper sense, for denying God his due honour and worship, but for any opposition against his servants, Worship, truth. Which in an ungodly manner they have committed, ὧν ἠσέβησαν; which argueth the malice and spite which they bewrayed in their oppositions and reproaches. And of all their hard speeches, σκληρῶν; ‘hard,’ as applicable to things as well as speeches. Our speeches are here intended, as appeareth by the following clause. Wicked practices and an evil tongue are seldom severed; that by hard speeches is meant any proud, taunting, cursed, or contumelious language. See 1 Sam. ii. 3, in the Hebrew, and Ps. xciv. 4, ‘How long shall they utter and speak hard things, and the workers of iniquity boast themselves?’ Which ungodly sinners; not only sinners, but ungodly sinners, for the greater emphasis; see Ps. i. 1. Against him; that is, against himself, against his person, or messengers, or truths, ordinances; for what is spoken against any of these is spoken against Christ himself.
This verse is large, and full of points; but because the doctrine of the day of judgment hath been already touched upon, and ungodliness opened at large, ver. 4, therefore the briefer notes will serve the turn.
Obs. 1. Christ’s second coming is to judgment; so it is said in the text, ‘He shall come with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment.’ Of his first coming it is said, John iii. 17, ‘God sent not his Son to judge the world, but that the world through him should be saved.’ He came not then as a judge, but as a redeemer, offering and procuring grace and life. When we frustrate the end of his coming as a redeemer, we make way for the end of his coming as a judge, and he that then came to us will now come against us.
Obs. 2. When Christ cometh to judgment, one great part of his work will be to convince sinners, and that openly, publicly. Some think that the whole work will be dispatched in the conscience, without any audible and external voice, both as to examination and sentence; 295others think the trial and conviction shall be in the conscience of a sinner, but the sentence audibly pronounced; and because the punishment is to light upon the body and the soul, the ear is to receive it as well as the conscience feel it. I conceive that conviction, trial, and sentence will be all open and public. Though I cannot expressly say that every particular sin shall be discovered before the whole world, yet enough manifested to show the sentence just; as their unfaithfulness in their callings, their opposition of God and godliness, their oppression of his servants, their neglect of grace, &c., with all the circumstances and aggravations of it, as the gracious opportunities and means which they have enjoyed, stirring sermons, motions of the Spirit, checks of conscience, blessed methods of love and mercy, &c. God keepeth an account of these things. Those passages which imply God’s reckoning with his people in the world are but pledges of what he will do at the day of our last account. Now here God taketh exact notice of the long time and many means which we have enjoyed; as Luke xiii. 7, ‘These three years,’ &c. It alludeth to the time of Christ’s ministry; he was just then entering upon his last half year, as by a serious harmonising the evangelists will appear: John iv. 54, ‘This second miracle did Jesus in Cana of Galilee;’ account is kept of a former: 1 Kings xi. 9, ‘Appeared to him twice;’ so ‘these twenty-three years,’ Jer. xxv. 3. All this is remembered and produced to convince the sinner.
This conviction implieth two things:—(1.) The opening of the conscience: Rev. xx. 12, ‘The books were opened;’ that is, the book of conscience and the book of God’s remembrance; the ‘consciences of men shall then be extended to an exact view of all their works and deeds past. It is wonderful, but it shall be done by the mighty power of God; for it is said here, ‘he shall convince them of all their un godly deeds and hard speeches.’ Their works and words are not lost and forgotten, but do follow them into the other world, and stand in the view of conscience, challenging the sinner, Tu nos egisti, opera tua sumus—sinner, these are the things that thou hast done and spoken; we will not leave thee, but bring thee to judgment; see Hosea vii. 2, Ps. xlix. 5. Then is that expression made good, ‘Their iniquities shall find them out,’ Num. xxxii. 23. Our old sins and carnal practices were long since forgotten and worn out of memory, so that we think we shall never hear of them more, but there they find us out, and pursue us to Christ’s tribunal. (2.) There is an outward publication and manifestation of all these sins, or of most of them, before the world; for the apostle saith, 1 Cor. iv. 5, ‘Hidden things shall be brought to light’ in that day; that is, not only called to remembrance by the sinner himself, but exposed to the notice and censure of others, as the context there showeth. So Eccles. xii. 4, it is said, ‘Secret sins shall be brought to judgment.’ If only discovered to the conscience of the sinner, they are still kept secret. Wicked men are already in a great measure convinced, yea, and condemned, in their own consciences. It is, then, God’s design to shame them before all the world. How otherwise shall the suspected innocency of his servants be vindicated, and saints and angels applaud the equity of his judgments, unless they have some cognisance of the matter for which wicked men 296are condemned? Now, these sins maybe discovered many ways; either by their own confessions and pitiful complaints extorted from them by the power of God. They shall bewail and bemoan their case thus, probably: Oh! that ever I despised Christ, oppressed his servants, opposed his truth, slighted the seasons of grace,’ &c.; see Rev. vi. 16, 17. Or by the sentence of Christ, in the pronouncing of which there is some repetition of their sins, see Mat. xxv. 41-43; and also by the testimony of the good and bad angels against them. The good angels and guardians of the saints are sensible of the injuries done to them, and may possibly accuse you to Christ upon that score, Mat. xviii. 10. The devil, who is now a tempter, will then be an accuser. One of the fathers bringeth in the devil pleading thus, Domine, sit meus per culpam, qui tuus esse noluit per gratiam, &c.—Lord, let him be mine by sin, who would not be thine by grace. I never died for him, had no heaven to offer him, only a little carnal pleasure or profit, and this was enough to draw him from thee, &c. Yea, further, the ministers and other godly persons, by whose example they have been reproved or condemned, may give testimony against them: John v. 45, ‘There is one that accuseth you, even Moses,’ &c. The cries of those whom they have oppressed and wronged may possibly be renewed, James v. 4. Abel’s blood may cry out against Cain afresh. Starved souls may cry out against a lazy minister, oppressed subjects against a bloody magistrate, the neglected poor against those that have shut their bowels against them; as, on the other side, the godly poor that have been refreshed and relieved by the bounty of the rich are said to ‘receive them into everlasting habitations,’ Luke xvi. 9. Again, the example of those that have had less means may be produced against them, because they went further in a way of compliance with the Lord’s purpose, Mat. xii. 41, 42. Others with whom we have sinned may complain of us. Dives was afraid ‘lest his brethren should come into the place of torment,’ Luke xvi. 28, which might be a means to increase his anguish, they sinning by his example. I have produced these suppositions only to make the conviction at the day of judgment more intelligible and effective.
Obs. 3. Again observe, when Christ hath convinced, he will condemn, and when he hath condemned, he will execute. Conviction now maketh way many times for conversion, but then for confusion; now God killeth, that he may make alive, but then they are presently transmitted and sent into their everlasting estate. Let us imitate the method of Christ’s process in our judging ourselves; let us examine, judge, execute, not ourselves, but our sins; voluntary acts prevent enforced.
Obs. 4. From that of all their ungodly deeds, &c., observe that the process of the last day chiefly lieth against the ungodly. These are expressly mentioned in the text; unrighteousness is a cause of God’s wrath as well as ungodliness, Rom. i. 18. But ungodliness doth chiefly provoke; for the first part, and chiefest part of the law, provideth for our duty to God, ex ordine modum, ex loco statum et dignitatem uniuscujusque prcecepti,151151 Tertullian. &c. The dignity of every command is known by the order of it. Now, in the first place, godliness is required, and then righteousness, or a care of moral duties.297
If you would know who are ungodly, see the notes on ver. 4, where they are described at large; all atheists, speculative and practical, pagans, sinners that slight the offers of Christ, that neglect communion with God, and are touched with no reverence and dread of his majesty, all these are ungodly persons, and also all that scoff at religion and holiness of conversation, that despise the ordinances of God, oppress and persecute his servants, hate his truths, these are all in the scripture branded with the same mark, as I could easily show you, if I listed to dilate upon this argument.
Now none of these will be able to hold up the head in the day of judgment: Ps. i. 5, ‘The ungodly shall not stand in judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;’ for since they hate or neglect God, how shall they be able to look him in the face, or appear among his servants? They that have despised ‘the mystery of godliness,’ 1 Tim. iii. 6, vi. 3, how can they expect the reward of godliness? You that mock at godliness, make duties the objects of your scorn, not your care, how will Christ scorn you at the last day! Well, then, if you would have the day of judgment comfortable to you, be not only just and strict, but godly, for godliness is a notion distinct from holiness, 2 Peter iii. 11. It is not enough to do actions just and good, but we must do them upon the sight of God’s will, and with aims at his glory. Holiness implieth a conformity to the law of God, but godliness an unfeigned respect to his glory. Now a Christian’s whole life should have such a tendency and ordination, for it is called a ‘living to God,’ Gal. ii. 19.
Obs. 5. Once more observe, these ungodly men are the rather judged because they commit sin with an ungodly mind, or sin with a sinning mind; for so it is in the text, ‘ungodly deeds ungodly committed.’ A child of God may fall into wickedness, but he doth not commit it wickedly, with a full consent; men are not condemned for infirmities, but iniquities. As a child of God cannot act with such liberty, purity, and perfection in the ways of God as he doth desire, so in the ways of sin he cannot do what he would, nor be carried out with such a’ full bent and purpose of heart as wicked men are, because of the opposition of the new nature. To this latter sense it is said, Gal. v. 17, ‘Ye cannot do the things that ye would,’ as will appear by a serious inspection of the context. Wicked men follow the devil’s work with all their might: Micah vii. 3, ‘They do evil with both hands earnestly.’ The Lord, that is tender of those that sin through infirmity, yet taketh notice to the purpose when men sin for sin’s sake, and their hearts are largely and eagerly set upon it; those that are disclaimed at the day of judgment are called ‘workers of iniquity,’ Mat. vii. 23, such as make a business and a trade of it. A godly man doth not so much act sin as he suffereth by it, peccatum patitur, non facit (Bernard). He doth not pour out his whole heart this way; there are constant dislikes in the soul, which are a let and restraint to him. Usually the sins of the godly are either sins of ignorance, incogitancy, sudden surreption, and daily incursion; if they sin deliberately, there is not such a spite and rage as there is to be found in the sins of the wicked.
Obs. 6. From the next clause, and their hard speeches, observe, 298not only the deeds of ungodly men, but their speeches are brought into judgment. Words do not perish with the breath with which they are uttered; no, they remain upon record, and we are to give an account of them at the last day, Mat. xii. 36, James ii. 12. Men are more serious in their actions, but in their speeches rash and inconsiderate, and those that dare not act evil dare yet speak. Oh! consider, if Christ did only call us to an account for our actions, and our words were free, it were another matter; but he reckoneth with us about our speeches, therefore ‘so speak and so do as those that would be judged by the law of liberty.’
Obs. 7. Once more from thence observe, that of all speeches men’s ‘hard speeches’ shall be produced at the day of judgment. Now, what are these hard speeches? I answer—Either such as have anger in them, as Solomon speaketh of the ‘froward mouth and perverse lips,’ Prov. iv. 24, when men breathe nothing but fire, and drop coals instead of words; or such as have pride in them, or contempt of others, as when we lessen their abilities, insult over their miseries: ‘They speak to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded,’ see Ps. lxix. 26; or triumph over their slips and failings; this is to pour salt and vinegar into new wounds.
Again, such as have bitterness and malice in them, as calumnies and reproaches: Ps. lxiv. 3, 4, ‘They bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words.’ By whisperings and clancular suggestions they wound the credit of God’s servants, and so bring them into disesteem with others. Well, then, be not hasty to utter hard speeches, especially against God’s children: Num. xii. 8, ‘Were ye not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?’ The repetition of these hard speeches will be sad notes to your ears at the last day.
Obs. 8. The next note is, that of all hard speeches those are the worst which do most directly reflect upon the honour and glory of Christ; for so it is in the text,—hard speeches spoken against him. Now, hard speeches against Christ are either blasphemies against either of his natures;—the Ebionites denied him to be God; the Valentinians made him a fantastical man, or a man only in appearance;—or murmurings against his providence and regimen of the world: ‘Your words have been stout against me,’ Mal. iii. 13. When we tax and excuse152152 Qu. ‘accuse’?—ED. providence, as if the Lord were blind, careless, unjust, or injurious in his dealings: ‘The Lord shall not see, he shall neither do good nor evil; how should the Most High know?’ or when we scoff at his word, as these, Jer. xxiii. 36, ‘The burden of the Lord, the burden of the Lord; every man’s word shall be his burden.’ Because the prophets usually began their sermons with this preface, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ they scoffingly were wont to say, What burden have you for us to day? Now, saith the prophet, this shall return into your bosoms, ‘your words shall be your burden.’ So also when we speak against his ways, calling zeal fury, strictness a foolish preciseness, and godliness puritanism. O Christians! these hard speeches will cost dear, here or hereafter. It is possible that blasphemy repented of may be be forgiven, Mat. xii. 31; but when you are brought home to Christ it will cost you bitter pangs and a sound remorse.299
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