Puritan Board Graduate
THE MARKS OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN
From: A Plea for the Godly
Let us try whether we are in the number of these righteous ones; whether we are indeed more excellent than others.
1. A righteous man is a humble man. He who is proud of his righteousness is unrighteous. "God I thank Thee that I am not as other men are. . . . I fast. . . I give tithes. . ." Luke 18:11-12. Here was a triple crown of pride the Pharisee wore. Righteousness, though it raises the name, depresses the heart. "If I am righteous, I will not lift up my head," Job 10:15. The violet is a sweet flower, yet hangs down the head; such a flower was Job. The righteous are like the silkworm. While she weaves her curious works, she hides her-self in the silk. The righteous man is more likely to judge himself than to play the critic on another. He shrinks into nothing in his own thoughts. David cried out, "I am a worm and no man"; though a saint, though a king, yet a worm.
St. Austin said, "Lord, I am not worthy of Thy love." Bishop Hooper said, "Lord I am hell, but Thou art heaven " One of the martyrs subscribed his letter, "The most hard-hearted sinner, John Brad-ford." He who is righteous puts a greater value upon others than upon himself. "Let each esteem other better than themselves," Philippians 2:3. The higher grace is, the lower the heart is. The more gold you put into the scale, the lower it descends. The richer the ship is laden, the lower it sails- When the soul looks black in its own eye, it is most comely. "I dwell with him also that is of an humble spirit," Isaiah 57:15. God has two heavens, and the humble heart is one of them.
2. A righteous man is devoted to holiness. The priests under the law were not only washed in the great laver but also adorned with glorious apparel, Exodus 28:2, the emblem of a righteous man who is not only washed from gross sin, but adorned with inward sanctity. He is what he seems. He does not have holiness painted on him but living in him. It is said of Zachariah and Elizabeth that "they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless," Luke 1:6. A good Christian is God's temple. His body is the outward court of the temple and his soul the holy of holies. He is pure in heart, Matthew 5:8. His work is to serve God and his end is to enjoy Him. Man, having a principle of reason, must not live as a beast, and, having a principle of righteousness, he must not live as a sinner. He is not metamorphosed; "he lives godly," Titus 2:12. Christ is not only his Priest, but his Pattern. As he makes use of Christ's death for his salvation, so of Christ's life for his imitation.
3. A righteous man is just in his dealings. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? He that hath clean hands," Psalm 24:3-4. He who is righteous has not only his heart purged from unholiness but his hands from injustice. He abhors all indirect ways; he will not defraud to grow rich. He will not sell his conscience for a wedge of gold. A good Christian is zealous for duties of both tables; he makes piety and justice kiss each other.
4. A Righteous man serves God out of a principle of love. Grace now biases the heart and carries it strongly towards God in ardent affection. A righteous man S serving God is not by constraint but consent. It is heaven to him to serve God! He mounts up in the fiery chariot of love and breathes forth his soul into his Savior's bosom. Love is the shibboleth that differentiates a righteous man from others. The carnal man says, "What a weariness is it to serve the Lord!" Malachi 1:13. The righteous man says, 'What a plea-sure is it!" "I delight in the law of God in the inner man," Romans 7:22. As the bee delights to suck the flower, so a holy person delights to obey God. He does duty out of love to duty; he prays out of love to prayer. When he sings, he makes melody in his heart to the Lord. Love lines the yoke of religion and makes it easy. As a bride delights in putting on her jewels, as a musician delights in playing on his violin, so a gracious soul delights in obeying God. love to duty is better than duty; serving God with de-light is angelic. The seraphims are described as having wings, Isaiah 6:2, to show their cheerfulness as well as their ability in God's service.
5. A righteous man perseveres in religion. He who gives over his work before he has finished it is but half a workman; and he that gives over in religion before he has finished his faith is but half a Christian The promise is to him who overcomes. Who makes reckoning of corn that sheds before harvest? It was the glory of the church of Thyatira that her last works were more than her first. Perseverance carries away the garland. A true Christian not only sets out in the race but holds out. "The righteous also shall hold on his way," Job 17:9, be that way what it will. Though strewn with thorns, though there is a lion in the way, he is resolved to hold on his way "Bonds and afflictions abide me, but none of these things move me," Acts 20:23-24 The troubles a godly man meets with for conscience enflame his zeal all the more. Sufferings cannot make Christ stop loving the saints, nor make the saints stop loving Christ. Though Job lost all, he held fast his integrity. Unsound hearts, when they see the swords and staves are up, leave Christ and shift for themselves. A right-spirited saint is made of mettle that will not wear out. Athanasius (the Church Father) was the glory of his age; he had a counter motion to the times; he kept his piety when the world turned Arian. Melancthon, who was called the phoenix of Germany, was, as Ambrose said, like the cypress tree that keeps its greenness in the winter season. The church of Pergamus held fast to Christ's name though she dwelt where Satan's seat was. This is to be righteous: to be faithful to the death and not suffer the breastplate of holiness to be shot through. My foot has held His steps; His way have I kept and not declined. And whoever is thus divinely qualified is entitled to the privilege in the text. He is more excellent than others.
From: A Plea for the Godly