A Plea for the Godly by Thomas WatsonSpecial Note:
A Plea for the Godly
"The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor." Proverbs 12:26
Solomon was a man of renown. He was the world's wonder; he discoursed of trees from the cedar-tree in Lebanon to the hyssop that springs out of the wall. The Proverbs are profound and holy aphorisms, inspired by the Spirit of God and penned by him who was both a king and a preacher. A great part of this book is to set forth the differences between the godly and the wicked, the happiness of the one and the misery of the other. The text is spoken in the eulogium and commendation of a righteous man: "The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor."
I begin with the first word, "righteous." There is a twofold righteousness:
1. A civil righteousness; and so he is righteous who is adorned with the moral virtues: prudence, justice, and temperance; who keeps free from penal statutes and does not dash upon the rock of visible scandal. This righteousness is valid in man's court, but is insufficient to salvation. Under the fair leaves of civility, the worm of unbelief may be hid. Many a person decked with morality is now descended into hell. A bull may be tied with ribbons and wear a garland on his head, yet go to the slaughter. However, for the honor of this age, it were to be wished that there were more civil righteousness to be found in the world.
2. There is a gospel-righteousness, which is first a righteousness imputed, namely, when Christ's righteousness is made over to us. In Adam we were all criminal persons, in whom "all have sinned," Romans 5:12. If the head plots treason, all the body is guilty; "but Christ is made to us righteousness," 1 Corinthians 1:30. Indeed, it is only in this righteousness which we can stand before the justice of God. This is the name whereby He shall be called, "The Lord our righteousness," Jeremiah 23:6. This righteousness is a coat without seam which not only covers but adorns us. This is as truly ours to justify as it is Christ's to bestow.
There is a righteousness imparted, which is the infusing the seed and habit of grace in the soul, making a person internally holy. And so he is said to be righteous who has a change of heart wrought in him and is transformed by the renewing of his mind, Romans 12:2. Such a one, though he is not another man, yet he is a new man, 2 Corinthians 5:17. The faculties are not new but the qualities are, as the strings of a violin are the same but the tune is altered.
1. Righteousness is extensive in the subject; it has a spreading virtue. "The God of peace sanctify you wholly," 1 Thessalonians 5:23. A child of God is re-generate in every part though but in part.
2. "He is more excellent." Excellency is the en-nobling of a person, or a gradual elevation of him above others. The righteous man is more excellent; that is, he is a better man. The word for "excellent", in the Hebrew and Italian signifies abundant. It is as if the Spirit of God had said, "The righteous has more abundant worth in him, more intrinsical goodness." 3. "Than his neighbor." "Neighbor" is not to be taken here strictly for one who lives in a vicinity and is nearly situated, but by neighbor is meant anyone who is unrighteous, and does not have the fear of God before his eyes.
The text has two general parts:
1. The subject, "the righteous."
2. The predicate, "he is more excellent than his neighbor."
Solomon seems, as it were, to put the righteous and the wicked in a pair of scales; the one weighs as weighty gold; the other weighs lighter than the dust of the balance.
DOCTRINE. He who is truly righteous is far more excellent than any wicked person in the world whatsoever. I say "truly righteous" to exclude the hypocrite who has a form and slight tincture of piety, but knows not "the grace of God in truth," Colossians 1:6. He has nothing of religion but the name, and religion often suffers by him. But he who is really righteous is the excellent person and has a superiority to all others.
For the illustrating of the proposition, I shall do two things. I shall show:
First, how the righteous man is more excellent.
Second, why the righteous man is more excellent