Puritan Board Graduate
If the righteous are thus excellent, let it encourage us all to true piety. No sooner do we be-come gracious than we become precious. This day have "I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you," Joshua 5:9. That day we become righteous, our reproach is rolled away from us. Faith raises our fame; righteousness exchanges our fetters for a crown. A crown of glory shall she deliver to you. By espousing godliness, we are better and richer than others, being possessed of a gold mine - the un-searchable riches of Christ! We have from Christ the riches of justification, consolation, and glorification. We are as rich as the angels. Oh, then, let this excite every one to be godly! Righteousness puts a splendid excellence upon a man, as if you should see a clod of dust turned into a star.
1. If the righteous are so excellent in God's eye, then let God be excellent in their eye. If they are high in God's thoughts, let God be high in theirs. Let the saints have adoring thoughts of God. "Thy righteousness, O God, is very high. Thou whose name is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth," Psalm 83.18. God is the most super-eminent blessing; who can show forth all His praise? God surpasses the praises of the archangels. He is encircled with glory and majesty. He infinitely outvies all the powers of the earth. Princes hold their crowns by immediate tenure from Him; His dominions are largest, His possession longest. "Thy throne, 0 God, is forever and ever," Psalm 45:6. Those excellencies which lie scattered in the creature are infinitely united in God. Austin complains that man can admire the magnitude of the stars and not admire Him who is the Father of lights. Oh, esteem God most excellent!
God's wisdom is excellent. He is wise in heart. He knows the causes of things; yea, at one instant. Angels light their lamps at this sun.
God's power is excellent. He is Almighty. His power is as large as His will. What His soul desires, even that He does. He bridles the proud waves. He cuts off the spirit of princes. God's holiness is excellent. This is the most sparkling jewel of His crown. "Glorious in holiness." Exodus 15:11. God is first transcendently holy: "There is none holy as the Lord," 1 Samuel 2:2. The blessed seraphims cover their faces and cry "Holy, holy, holy", but what angels can take the just dimensions of His sanctity? They are too low in stature to measure these pyramids.
God is communicatively holy: "I am the Lord which sanctify you," Leviticus '2O:8. He is not only a pattern of holiness but a fountain. He empties His golden oil through the pipes of the sanctuary. His holiness is imparted, not impaired.
God is unchangeably holy. His holiness can no more cease than His godhead. He never lost a drop of His holiness. As He cannot have more holiness, because He is perfectly holy, so He cannot have less holiness, because He is unchangeably holy.
God's love is excellent. "How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, 0 God!" Psalm 36:7. This drops as the honeycomb; it dulcifies and sweetens the waters of Marah; it is better than life; it has a hyper-hyperbole in it. "It passes knowledge," Ephesians 3:19. God's love may be felt but not fathomed. Oh, then, let the saints have God-admiring thoughts! The psalmist esteemed Him above the glory of heaven and the comforts of the earth, Psalm 73:25. God is the mar-row and quintessence of all good. his beauty is amazing; His love is ravishing. All divine perfections meet in God as the lines in the center. Let us, then, with Paul, count all things loss for Him. If God puts such a value and appreciation upon the righteous, that they are highest in His esteem, let Him be highest in theirs.
2. If God has so honored the righteous and made them better than others, let not the righteous debase themselves or lose any of their excellency. Has God made them precious? Let not them make themselves vile.
(1) Let them not debase themselves with earth. An earthly saint is as great a contradiction as an orthodox heretic. It is called filthy lucre because it makes a person so filthy. Earthliness is an enemy to grace. It is Aristotle's observation that dogs can-not hunt among sweet flowers because the smell of the flowers diverts the scent of the hare. Those can scarcely run after Christ in the savor of His ointments who are diverted by the smell of earthly de-lights. Whom the Helena of the world kisses, she be-trays. It is below a Christian - and too much resembles Satan - to be always compassing the earth. 'And seekest thou great things for thyself"Jeremiah 45:5. As if God had asked Baruch, Jeremiah's secretary, 'Baruch, who are by your new birth excellent, akin to angels; by your office excellent; a Levite; do you now seek earthly things? I am going to pluck up, and are you planting? The ship is sinking, and are you decorating your cabin? Oh, Baruch, do not so degrade yourself of your honor! Do you seek great things? Seek them not." Though the wicked, like eels, wrap themselves in the mud, yet let the birds of paradise fly aloft. The higher grace is, the less earthly-minded should Christians be; the higher the sun is, the shorter the shadow.
(2) Let not the righteous debase themselves by sinful compliance. Such as profess themselves to be regenerate should not be malleable to every opinion and humor. Shall the excellent cedar bend like the pliant willow? "Issachar is a strong ass, couching down between two burdens," Genesis 49:14. Issachar was a strong tribe but lacked courage. You who are righteous, be not too pliant. Do not choose iniquity rather than affliction, Job 36:21. Do not so value your liberty as to wound your integrity. God is a great God; dare not to offend Him. He is a good God; venture not to lose Him. Be not swayed by the evil examples of others. Dead fish only swim downstream. The righteous greatly lessen both their esteem and re-ward by fraternizing with sinners. Let not the godly violate their conscience. The dust will be wiped off this glass and then it will represent guilt. When Crankier had, with some reticence of mind, sub-scribed to the popish articles, lie was afterwards in great horror; his conscience was like Moses' rod turned into a serpent. He could have no peace till he had recanted his subscription. By sordid, unworthy actions, the Holy Spirit will be grieved, the godly will be offended, the wicked will insult, and conscience will accuse. Conscience is like a bee: If a man does well, it gives honey; if ill, it puts forth a sting.
(3) If the righteous are more excellent than others, let not them envy the prosperity of the wicked. "Let not thy heart envy sinners," Proverbs 23:17. God has made you better than they. He has given you His Spirit to sanctify you and His Son to save you. Envy is an ill humor. It hurts a man's self most. Envy drinks its own venom; it corrodes the body as canker does iron.
The first man born in the world was envious. Ibeodoret observes that it was not so much Cain's own sin that troubled him as to see his brother's offering accepted. It is unbecoming for God's people to feed this fretting disease; it is bad to feed an envy. What if God wrings out the water of a full cup to the wicked? It is but a sugared poison. Prosperity, Like Circe (the mythological witch), with its enchantments turns men into swine; it makes them grow worse. The moon never suffers an eclipse but when it is at the full. The world is given to the wicked in anger. When Belshazzar was in the midst of his jollity, the hand of God was writing bitter things against him. The hot day of prosperity presages thunder at night. Haman's banquet was but a preface to the hangman's noose. Oh, Christian, shake off envy as Paul did the viper! God has made more excellent than others, He has given you better riches and preferment. They have a golden apple, you have a crown, 2 Timothy 4:8. God keeps the best wine till last. Let this divine harp drive away the evil spirit of envy and discontent.
(4) If the righteous are so excellent, let it persuade people to get into their company and choose to be of their acquaintance. Next to being good, it is wisdom to converse with those who are so. "The excellent in whom is all My delight," Psalm 16:3. Be not like swine, who would rather lie in the dung than in a fair meadow. The righteous are the light of the world, and it is prudence to follow them who carry the light. Seek for the olive; but if the bramble takes hold of you, cast it away. There is much good to be gotten in the society of the godly. Their speeches edify. their prayers quicken) their examples teach. Graft among the saints. A slip grafted into a good stock partakes of the virtue and influence of the root. The righteous are more excellent. Be often among these spices and you will smell them. "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise," Proverbs 13:20.
(5) It exhorts the righteous to walk worthy of the high honor which God has raised them to. "Walk as children of light," Ephesians 5:8. As you are more excellent by your high calling, so be more excellent in your walking. Adorn religion by your prudent holy carriage "Shine as lights in the world," Philippians 2:15. Some Antinomians of old taught that whatever a man's life was, yet he was justified. So they believed the false gospel which Luther confuted. Such as are a royal priesthood should be a peculiar people. The Lord has dignified the righteous above the rest of the world, and they must not take the same latitude others do. For example, "It is not for kings, 0 Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink," Proverbs 31:4. It is becoming not them who are high-born to be in-temperate. So it is not for you who are of a sacred pedigree - whom God has made superior to others -to be vain and loose in your behavior. Alexander would have the Grecians known not only by their garments but also by their virtues.
A child of God should be known by the exemplary nature of his life. "Be ye holy in all manner of conversation," 1 Peter 1:15. Christ has anointed His people with the graces as those virgins were purified with sweet odors, Esther 2:12, and He expects that they should send abroad a sweet perfume of holiness. Christians must observe that which is lovely and of good report, Philippians 4:8. They need to walk accurately, Ephesians 5:15, because so many watch for their halting. If the wicked find anything the people of God dishonorable to their profession, they lay the blame upon religion. It is noted by the fifth-century Christian writer, "What will the pagans say when they see Christians loose and 'The Christians live so bad because Christ taught them no better.' How should the righteous off occasion from those who seek occasion? 2 Corinthians 11:12. Daniel's piety sealed up the lips of his enemies, Daniel 6:4. Martin Bucer was so unblamable in his life that those who most maligned had nothing justly to lay to his charge.
Oh, Christians, look to your steps! When you 'e prayed against sin, then watch against temptation, A spot in a royal robe cannot be hid; a dash of ink would quickly have been spied in Aaron's white If there is a blemish in a professor, everyone's eye is upon it. The sin of such a person causes rig among the saints, as the patriarchs could not help but be ashamed when the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. Oh, that all who profess the name would depart from iniquity, 2 Timothy 2:19! Dare not blaspheme that worthy name by which you called, James 2:7! Such as are more excellent others, God expects some singular thing from them. They should bring more glory to God and, by exemplary piety, make proselytes to religion. Better fruit is expected from a vineyard than from a wild forest.
(6) Has God so enabled the righteous and given them a superexcellency above other? Then let the righteous be thankful. "He raiseth the poor Out of the dust, that He may set him with princes," Psalm 113:7-8.
God has raised you out of the low estate wherein you were by nature, and has made you more illustrious than others that He may set you with angels, those princes above. "0 let the high praises of God be in your mouth," Psalm 149:6. God has done more for believers than for all the world besides. He has given them the "holy anointing", the "new name", the "white stone", which is "the earnest of the inheritance." At the day of judgment, Jesus Christ will confess their names before His Father and the holy angels, Revelation 3:5. And their souls and bodies, being re-united, shall be fully invested with glory. After their session at Christ's right hand, it shall be proclaimed, "Thus shall it be done to the persons whom the King of heaven will honor."
Does not all this deserve thankfulness? "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord," Psalm 100:1. In the Hebrew it is' "Sound for His praise as with a trumpet," Praise God with the best instrument, the heart, and let it be screwed up to the highest peg. Do it with the whole heart. You who are righteous, speak well of God and tell others what He has done for you. His blessings bestowed are legacies, not debts. Praise is glorifying God, Psalm 50:23, and will not you cheerfully pay this debt? Will you not do it constantly? "I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being," Psalm 146:2. The people of Carthage at first used to send a tenth of their yearly revenue to Hercules, but by degrees they grew weary and stopped sending. Christians fail much in their thank-offering. Do not be like those who play a fit or two of music in a year and then the violin must be hung up. Be often upon Mount Gerizim blessing God. Consider that thankfulness is the work of heaven; you who shall have angels' reward, do angels' work. Sound forth the memorial of God's holiness and celebrate His fame. Praise is thc music of heaven; do not let God lack His music. While others murmur, you bless. Wait and long for that time when you shall be called up to the heavenly mount and placed among the glorious cherubims, where your employment to all eternity will be to breathe forth love and sound forth praise.
From: A Plea for the Godly