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Who are “sinners” we may plainly see; for this is the outward man of the ungodly; but the counsel and the ungodly man that are hidden in the heart we see not. Here therefore, David is speaking of those works, actions, and ways
which appear outwardly: and this he calls the way,” because now, the counsel is supposed to have come forth into habit and practice, as they say, and because they here commit outwardly the evil which they imagined inwardly. But this way,” as I have observed, is for the most part of a better outward show than even that of the godly. For as to those grosser sinners, any one might easily beware of them without this admonition; or at least, might know them.
The term “stood,” descriptively represents their obstinacy, stiff-neckedness; wherein they harden themselves and make their excuses in words of malice, having become incorrigible in their ungodliness, as considering it to be godliness. For 'to stand,' in the figurative manner of scripture expression, signifies to be firm and fixed : as in Rom. xiv.4. “To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up, for God is able to make him stand.” Hence the word 'column' is by the Hebrews derived from their verb to stand, as is the word "statue' among the Latins. For this is the very self-excuse and self-hardening of the ungodly—their appearing to themselves to live rightly and to shine in the external show of works above all others.
With respect to the term “seat,"—to sit in the seat, is, to teach, to act the instructor and teacher : as in Matt. xxiii. 2. “The scribes sit in Moses' chair.” So, to sit on a throne is to reign or act as king: as we frequently find it expressed in the Books of Kings. So also, to sit on a chair of state, signifies to act as ruler; and, to sit on a tribunal, to act as judge.
In respect of “ pestilence,” though the translation is not literal, yet it is very forcible. The word in the Hebrew is of the mockers,' or of the scornful.' But the scornful are they at whom he strikes in the Psalms under the terms deceitful,' and 'false tongues ;' as
being those who under a show of sound doctrine diffuse the poison of erroneous doctrine,
For the pestilence among bodies is not half so contagious as that of ungodly doctrine among minds; “ Their word, (saith the Apostle, 2 Tin. ii.) will eat as doth a canker.” And even as the wise are called the health of the world, Wisdom vi.; so these ungodly are rightly called the pestilence of the world. And what mockery can be more pestilential, than to administer deadly poison unto souls that are thirsting after the purity of the truth?
David, therefore, according to that usual manner adopted throughout the- church of distinguishing the good life from the evil by faith and walk, the former distinguishing the godly from the ungodly, the latter saints from sinners, here describes these two states, and to them adds a third. For, after ungodliness has infected a man inwardly in his thoughts, and outwardly in his life, it would have no farther to go, did it not rush forth and draw others along with it into the same perdition. And therefore, it is not contented in itself at the being wicked in thought and wicked in life, unless it teach others ungodliness also.-So far, concerning the grammatical part.
And this also is especially to be remarked in the scriptures—how wisely it omits to mention the names of sects and persons. For this Psalm without doubt strikes first at the people of the Jews; as the apostle saith, “ to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” And Rom. iii. “ We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law." Yet David does not say, “ Blessed is the Jew,' or Blessed is that certain person: nor does he say, In the counsel of the Gentiles, or of these or those certain persons; but absolutely, “Blessed is the man;" and,“ the counsel of the ungodly;" and, “in the way of sinners;" and also,“ in the seat of the scornful;” whoever they may be, for there is no respect of persons with God.
And this was highly necessary to be done, that the Word of God, as it is eternal, should apply to all ages of mankind. For although manners, persons, places, and
customs, may vary in different times, yet both godliness and ungodliness are the same in all ages. Hence we see, that the prophets used the same scriptures against the false prophets, the apostles against the false apostles, and the true teachers against heretics, though they found not in those scriptures the names of the prophets, or the apostles, or the teachers, or their adversaries, but the godly and ungodly described only.
Moreover, if any particular person were mentioned, then the rest would not believe that the evil which was spoken of belonged to them; or, that the good which was spoken of belonged to them only. Even as the Jews apply to themselves, all the good that was spoken to the seed of Abraham and to Israel. At whom, first, this Psalm undoubtedly strikes, as I before observed. Hence we also, after the example of the holy fathers, apply this Psalm to the generation in which we live; or rather, we follow it while it leads us thereunto; seeing that it goes before us arraigning all the ungodly; and is rather found of us already doing this, than made by us to do it.
Therefore, saith David, “ Blessed is the man that hath not walked;" that is, while there are so many millions of the ungodly around us, ,
you may well say with Psalm xii. 1, “ Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth, for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” And as Micah also saith, chap. vii. “ The good man is perished out of the earth, and there is none upright among men.”—And is he not a blessed man, and a man truly strong in the faith, who, in the midst of so great a multitude, does not walk in the broad way? who, moreover, suffers from the same, reproaches and many evils, and yet, does not so consent unto them as to walk with them ? and who is not deceived by the most specious counsel of the ungodly, which might deceive the very elect? It is a great thing not to be overcome by riches, pleasures, and honours : but, to overcome the specious righteousness and wisdom of the ungodly, which direct their attack most of all against pure faith, is the greatest of all victories!
But of faith; and that they do not speak of men according to
t you are to remark, that these words are the words what they appear to be. For, as I have already observed, no one would imagine such to be the ungodly. The prophet speaks in the spirit ; and, in spirit, that is ungodly which the world considers to be the most godly; because, it is devoid of faith ; as it is written in Eccles. vii. I saw the wicked buried, who, while they lived, hail come and gone from the place of the holy, and were praised in the city as the doers of righteous works.' And again, Psalm xxxvii. 35. I have seen the wicked exalted as a cedar in Lebanon. These are awful things. Who could have thought to find ungodliness here, and that so deep?
But listen! This Psalm does not only strike at the ungodly and sinners, (for every man out of Christ is an ungodly man, and a sinner,) but chiefly at those who are twofold sinners, ---who, though they are ungodly, do not acknowledge it, but all the while form to themselves a “counsel " to walk therein, and to follow after ungodliness. For David does not say, Blessed is the man who does not walk an ungodly man, or, who does not stand a sinner; but “in the counsel of the ungodly,” and “ in the way of sinners ;” for such are not contented with being ungodly, but wish to be accounted righteous and saints; thus adding to their ungodliness the outside show of godliness.
And at whom, think ye, he strikes in this our day? I will dare not to mention by name any particular persons, lest I should split upon the implacable rock of some religious ones, priests or bishops. For such has ever been the nature of ungodly men, that they will the least endure the Word of God, but fill the world with martyrs; and for no other reason, than because they imagine that they thereby yield obedience unto God; and thus, while they seem to contend for godliness, they are all the while most bitterly accusing the truly godly of ungodliness.
But know thou, and be well assured, that those are here pointed at, who shine in ceremonies, rites, and other pompous show's of godliness, and who measure
their godliness by their garments, meats, times, and places, or, more especially, by their workings and prayings; and more particularly, those who, on account of their observances, privileges, dignities, powers, and rights, divide themselves into implacable discords, and are ready to do and suffer any thing rather than humble themselves and yield to each other in mutual charity. And that these are the ungodly pointed at, you may conclude from this.-Such are secure and confident in their lives, and there is no fear of God before their eyes.
And take this for an universal and infallible criterion, and, (as they say) for a certain touchstone,—that the peculiar marks of the ungodly, are, not to fear God--to be secure of his mercy--and to presume in all things ! But on the contrary of the godly--to be afraid of all their works--to have no trust in their own righteousness--and to account all their holiness as dung ! And therefore, the latter cannot contend for these things, nor justify nor vindicate themselves, but consider themselves deserving the hatred and vengeance of all. Hence, as I said, we must have the eyes and ears of faith to hear these words of the Spirit, and to understand their meaning: for man of himself cannot understand them.
Think not, however, that I condemn all holy ceremonies and good works. It is the false opinion, confidence, and devotedness that I call the pestilences; for it is through these things, as we see, that men rush forth into sects, strifes, backbitings, and infinite enormities of sin; all which by the veil of their counsel, and the show of their doctrines, they cover over with the name of godliness; whereas, if all their works were done in humility, they would certainly be good.
After they have violated faith by ungodliness, what can remain but that their works are evil, and sins? But now thou wilt say, Can the works of Jews, of heretics, and of the proud, be evil, when they fast, pray, do good, and work all the rest of those things which no man dares to call evil ?—I have said that faith is wanting! Therefore, all those works are by so much the worse, because they confirm their ungodliness, and cause them