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43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

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41. Depart from me, you cursed. He now comes to the reprobate, who are so intoxicated by their fading prosperity, that they imagine they will always be happy. He threatens, therefore, that he will come as their Judge, and that he will make them forget those luxurious enjoyments to which they are now so entirely devoted; not that the coming of Christ will strike them with terror—for they think that they

have made a covenant with death, (Isaiah 28:15,)

and harden themselves in wicked indifference—but that believers, warned of their dreadful ruin, may not envy their present lot. For as promises are necessary for us, to excite and encourage us to holiness of life, so threatenings are likewise necessary to restrain us by anxiety and fear. We are therefore taught how desirable it is to be united to the Son of God; because everlasting destruction and the torment of the flesh await all those whom he will drive from his presence at the last day. He will then order the wicked to depart from him, because many hypocrites are now mixed with the righteous, as if they were closely allied to Christ.

Into everlasting fire. We have stated formerly, that the term fire represents metaphorically that dreadful punishment which our senses are unable to comprehend. It is therefore unnecessary to enter into subtle inquiries, as the sophists do, into the materials or form of this fire; for there would be equally good reason to inquire about the worm, which Isaiah connects with the

fire for their worm shall not die,
either shall their fire be quenched, (Isaiah 66:24.)

Besides, the same prophet shows plainly enough in another passage that the expression is metaphorical; for he compares the Spirit of God to a blast by which the fire is kindled, and adds a mixture of brimstone, (Isaiah 30:33.) Under these words, therefore, we ought to represent to our minds the future vengeance of God against the wicked, which, being more grievous than all earthly torments, ought rather to excite horror than a desire to know it. But we must observe the eternity of this fire, as well as of the glory which, a little before, was promised to believers.

Which is prepared for the devil. Christ contrasts with himself the devil, as the head of all the reprobate. For though all the devils are apostate angels, yet many passages of Scripture assign thee highest authority to one who assembles under him, as in one body, all the wicked to perdition; in the same manner as believers assemble to life under Christ, and grow under him, till, having reached perfection, they are entirely united by him to God, (Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 2:19.) But now Christ says, that hell is prepared for the devil, that wicked men may not entertain the belief that they will be able to escape it, when they hear that they are involved in the same punishment with the devil, who, it is certain, was long ago sentenced and condemned to hell, without any hope of deliverance.

And his angels. By the devil's angels some understand wicked men, but it is more probable that Christ speaks only of devils. And so these words convey an indirect reproach, that men, who had been called to the hope of salvation through the Gospel, chose to perish with Satan, and, rejecting the Author of salvation, voluntarily threw themselves into this wretched condition; not that they were not appointed to destruction as well as the devil, but because in their crime is plainly seen the cause of their destruction, when they reject the grace of their calling. And thus, though the reprobate were devoted to death, by a secret judgment of God, before they were born, yet, so long as life is offered to them, they are not reckoned heirs of death or companions of Satan, but their perdition, which had been formerly concealed, is discovered and made evident by their unbelief.




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