“I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.’ (Psalm 82:6-7) Ye shall die as a man. Here the Psalmist distinguisheth between mortal gods and the immortal God. Ye have seen their glory; now behold their end, ‘They shall all die like others.’
Though they be ever so rich, so goodly, so mighty, so honourable while their date lasteth, yet they may as truly as Job call ‘corruption their father, and the worm their mother,’ (Job 17:14) for the grave shall be the last bed of all flesh.
As they were born like men, so they shall die like men; the same coming in and going out is to all. When Isaiah had said that ‘all flesh as grass,’ as though he would correct his speech, he adds, ‘and the glory of it is as the flower of the field,’ (Isaiah 40).
As if he should say, ‘Some men have more glory than others, and they are like flowers; the others are like grass: no great difference, the flower shews fairer, but grass stands longer; one scythe cuts both down, like the fat sheep and the lean, that feed in two pastures, but are killed in one slaughter.
So, though the great man live in his palace, and the poor man dwells in his cottage, yet both shall meet at the grave, and vanish together. Even they which are lords, and judges, and counsellors now, are but successors to them which are dead, and are nearer to death now than when I began to preach this sermon.
It had been a great sessions for all others to die; but for magistrates, princes, for kings, for emperors to die as they die, what a battle is this that leaves no man alive! Shall the ‘gods’ die too? (Psalm 82:6-7) He gives them their title, but he tells them their lot.
Though their power, though their wealth, though their honour, though their titles, though their train, though their friends, though their ease, though their pleasures, though their diet, though their clothing be not like others’, yet their end shall be like others’, ‘I have said that ye are gods, but ye shall die like other men.’
If it weren’t for this word ‘die,’ many would live a merry life, and feast, and sport, and let the world slide; but the remembrance of death is like a damp, which puts out all the lights of pleasure, and makes him rub, and frown, and whine which thinks upon it, as if a mote were in his eye. Oh how heavy tidings is this to hear ‘thou shalt die,’ from him which hath life and death in His own hands, when the message is sent to them which reigned like gods!
Even you which glisten like angels, whom the world admires, and sues and bows to, which are called honourable, mighty and gracious lords, I will tell you to what your honour shall come:
First, ye shall wax old like others, then ye shall fall sick like others, then ye shall die like others, then ye shall be buried like others, then ye shall be consumed like others, then ye shall be judged like others, even like the beggars which cry at your gates: one sickens, the other sickens; one dies, the other dies; one rots, the other rots.
Look to the grave, and shew me which was the rich man and which was Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). This is some comfort to the poor, that once he shall be like the rich; one day he shall be as wealthy, as mighty, and as glorious as a king; one hour of death will make all alike; they which crowed over others, and looked down upon them like oaks, others shall walk upon them like worms, and they shall be gone as if they had never been.”
–Henry Smith, “The Magistrates’ Scripture,” in The Sermons of Henry Smith: The Silver-Tongued Preacher, Ed. John Brown (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1908), 107-109. Smith’s sermon is from Psalm 82:6-7: “I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.'”
[HT: Jonathan Worsley]