A Plea for the Godly by Thomas Watson
2. What He Has.
A righteous man is more excellent than a wicked in respect of what he has.
1. He has a more excellent name. God Himself embalmed Moses' name and set a garland of honor upon his hearse. Joshua 1:2, "Moses My servant is dead." Thc names of the righteous are registered in the sacred records of Scripture. Proverbs 10:7, "The memory of the just is blessed." Isaiah 65:15 "The wicked leave their name for a curse." How cursed is the name of Judas! What Christian would baptize his child with that name? How odious are the names of Nero, Domitian, and Bonner! When their bodies rot underground, their names rot above ground. But by faith the righteous obtained a good report. How renowned was Moses for his meekness, Cornelius for his alms? Their names send forth a fragrant per-fume in the church of God to this day. "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance," Psalm 112:6. It may be said of a gracious person as once was said of King David, his name was much esteemed. A wicked man may leave a great estate behind; a righteous man leaves a good name.
2. A righteous man has more excellent company. He has the communion of saints. "I am companion to all them that fear Thee," Psalm 119:6. A good man delights in a companion of his own species. The lamb does not care to be with the wolf. If unawares a godly man comes into the company of the wicked, he fears either pollution or scandal. Therefore, he makes haste to get out as out of an infected house. A righteous man flourishes among the saints. He is joined to Christ's mystical Body. "And being let go, they went to their own company," Acts 4:23. A righteous man has communion with God. "Our fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus," 1 John 1:3. A gracious soul has sweet inter-course with heaven; he goes to God by prayer and God comes to him by His Spirit. How happy is that person who has the angels to guard him and God to keep him company!
3. A righteous man has more excellent promises belonging to him. What a sinner has is rather by providence than by virtue of a promise. It is the saints who are called "heirs of the promise;" Hebrews 6:17, and those promises are precious, 2 Peter 1:4. They are the beams of the sun of righteousness, the pleasant streams that run in the paradise of Scripture. "All things work together for good," Romans 8:28, but to whom? "To them that love God." All mercies shall work for their good. They shall be footstools to lift up their hearts higher to heaven, and all afflictions shall work for their good; the rod shall be a divine pencil to draw Christ's image more lively upon their souls.
There is another promise. "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," Hebrews 13:5. This promise be-longs to the heirs of salvation. God will not leave His people either to their strong corruptions or their weak graces. He will counsel them in their doubts, supply them in their wants, and defend them in their dangers. When they are most assaulted, they shall be most assisted. How can God leave them? They are His spouse. Will a man leave his spouse?
Thus the saints have the royal charter of the promises settled upon them. As these promises are sweet, so they are sure. Men reckon their wealth not always by what ready money they have in their houses but by their bonds and leases. A Christian's estate lies mostly in bonds and bills of God's hand sealed with His oath. What better security can there be?
4. A righteous man has more excellent freedom. "And I will walk at liberty," Psalm 119:45. Another is capable of civil freedom; he may be a Roman born, but he is still enslaved to his lusts. But a righteous person is God's freeman, 1 Corinthians 7:22. His neck is out of the devil's yoke. He is "free from the law of sin," Romans 8:2. He has God's free Spirit, Psalm 51:12, which makes him free and cheerful in his obedience. The will is not compelled but changed. A re-generate person is drawn indeed by the Spirit, hut sweetly, as one is drawn into a garden of spices by the fragrance of their smell. He is drawn to Christ as one is drawn with another's beauty. He is free; a righteous soul chooses the ways of God, Psalm 119:30, and what greater act of freedom is there than an act of choice? And a saint cannot have his spiritual freedom taken from him. While be suffers in prison, his conscience is most free. In short, he is made free to enjoy "the innumerable company of angels," Hebrews 12:22.
5. A righteous man has more excellent food. Carnal men feed only on earthly provision; the righteous feeds on heavenly. He tastes how sweet the Lord is, Psalm 34:8. He feeds on God's love; this is the hidden manna. He eats Christ's flesh, which not only begets life, John 6:33, but prevents death. "This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die," John 6:50 - that is, not die the second death. Other bread may nauseate or cause bloating, but there is no excess here. We can-not eat too much of the Bread of Life. We cannot have too much of Christ, as one cannot have too much of health. Oh, what excellent food is this! God Himself is in this cheer!
6. A righteous man has more excellent armor, namely, "the armor of light,", Romans 13:12. This armor is of God's making, and the Lord, with His armor, gives strength. Alexander the Great might have given a coward armor, but he could not give him courage. But God infuses a spirit of magnanimity into His people. With His armor He conveys strength. "My strength is made perfect in weakness," 2 Corinthians 12:9. When a Christian has on God's armor and goes forth in the power of His might. nothing can hurt him. That wicked one touches him not, that is, with a deadly touch. Grace is armor of proof; it may be shot, but it cannot be shot through. This spiritual armor is not burdensome; a Christian may run his race in it as well as fight. The more the armor of God is struck at, the stronger it is; the more faith is assaulted, the more vigorous it is; the more zeal is opposed, the hotter it is. This excellent armor makes a Christian steadfast in religion. Hypocrites wear Christ's colors but lack His armor; therefore, they fall away. The righteous man never gives over the spiritual combat till the trophies are hung up and the palm branches are put in his hand in token of victory.
7. A righteous man has more excellent hopes. A sinner's hope is in this life; he hopes to increase his estate. He makes the wedge of gold his hope, but it is a perishing hope, Proverbs 11:7.
But the righteous man's hope excels. His hope is in Christ; it is both a helmet and an anchor. While he is fighting with temptation, hope is a helmet. While he is upon the waters of affliction, hope is an anchor. The anchor of a ship is cast downwards; the anchor of the soul is cast upwards in heaven. A saint's hope is a purifying hope, a death-bed hope, a soul-comforting hope. He is "looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior," Titus 2:13. When Christ was in the flesh, He appeared as a Surety; now in heaven He appears as an Advocate and, when He comes in the clouds, He will appear as a Judge. A righteous man hopes for this blessed appearing, when Christ ;hall vindicate His saints from all un-just calumnies and openly acquit them in the court.
8. A righteous man has more excellent joys. Religion does not restrain but refines his joy. What is the joy of a sinner? He takes joy in corn and wine; he sucks from the flower of pleasure. Alas! What is this to the joy of the righteous? We joy in God. This joy arises from the pardon of sin, the firstfruits of the Spirit, and the foretaste of glory. The gleanings of this heavenly by are better than the vintage of carnal joy. Plato told the musicians that philosophers could dine and sup without them. How much more can a believer be merry in the Lord without the supplement of worldly comforts!
It is more inward joy. "Thou hast put gladness in my heart," Psalm 4:7. Other joy lies more in the surface; it pleases the senses. It is like the paradise the Turks dream of where they shall have all dainty dishes served with gold in abundance, silken and purple apparel, and angels their servants bringing them red wine in silver cups. This delights the fancy and the senses, but divine joy cheers the conscience. Aecolampadius, on his sick bed, when asked if he wanted any light, put his hand to his heart and said, "Here I have light enough." The saints' joy, being inward, sweetens affliction. It turns their water into wine. "Having received the Word in much affliction with joy" I Thessalonians 1:6. Theodoret, when he was on the rack, in the midst of his torments said that he found no anguish. When they took him down from the rack, he complained they did him wrong in so doing. "For," said he, "all the while I was on the rack, I thought there was one in white, an angel who stood by and wiped off the sweat, and I found much sweetness which now I have lost."
It is a more unmixed joy. Worldly joy is usually spiced with some bitterness; guilt eclipses it. "In laughter the heart is sorrowful," Proverbs 14.13. One may drink wormwood in a golden cup. but the joy of 'he righteous, like David's harp, drives away sadness. It gives honey without gall; it has no allay or umbrage.
The joy of the righteous is more durable. Other joy is like a flower that withers while you are smelling it. I have read of a river in America that runs in the day with a full torrent but is dry at night. The comforts of the world run strongly in the day of health and prosperity, but at the night of death they ire dried up. But as joy abounds in the godly, so it abides. "Your joy no man taketh from you," John 16:22. Divine joy is but begun in this life; it is perfected in glory'. Here is but the tuning of the instrument; the sweet concert is reserved for heaven. Here the saints do hut sup of the cup; there they shall drink of the rivers of pleasure forevermore.
3. What He Shall Have.
A righteous man is more excellent than a wicked in respect of what he shall have. He shall have a better reward. Both righteous and wicked are re-warded, but there is a vast difference. The wicked shall have a reward of punishment, the righteous of mercy. So that a man shall say, verily there is a reward for the righteous," Psalm .58:11. They shall be rewarded with a kingdom. The height of men's ambition is a kingdom. Earthly kingdoms are corruptible. What has become of the pride of Babylon, the glory of Athens, the pomp of Troy? They lie buried in their own ruins But the kingdom of heaven can-not be shaken, Hebrews 12:28; it runs parallel with eternity. In that blessed kingdom, we shall have a transforming sight of God, we shall be like Him, I John 3:2, like a pearl, by the beams of the sun, becomes bright and radiant like the sun. God's terror shall be then laid aside. The majesty in God shall appear, but majesty shining with beauty and sweetened with love. This will be unspeakable and full of glory.
And this reward is near at hand. "Now is our salivation nearer than when we believed," Romans 13:11. When Columbus's men were weary of their voyage, he desired them to go on but three days longer. They did so and discovered America. While the righteous fall upon the waters of affliction, this may comfort them in their voyage; by going a little further they will see heaven. There the tree of life grows and the crystal streams flow from Lebanon. The saints' salvation is now nearer than on the birthday of their faith. Thus I have beaten out this gold in the text into the leaf, and shown you wherein "the righteous is more excellent than his neighbor," Proverbs 12:26.
II. The second thing is why a righteous man is more excellent than another. The reason is in respect of that near relation he stands in to Christ. There is consanguinity; He is brother to Christ. Christ partakes of his flesh and he partakes of Christ's Spirit. There is unity: A righteous man is one with Christ as the members arc one with the head. Then, surely, the righteous must have a surpassing dignity. If Christ is a precious corner stone, I Peter 2:6, then also those lively stones must be precious which are built upon Him.
USE 1. See from hence what it is that raises the price of a person. It is righteousness; this puts a glory and excellency upon him. He that is graceless is worthless. "The heart of the wicked is little worth," Proverbs 10:20. But righteousness makes the heart like the heaven bespangled with stars. The graces are compared to chains of gold for their value, and to myrrh and cassia for their fragrancy. As the precious stones shone upon Aaron's breastplate, so righteousness shines in the eyes of God and angles. What made Christ admire the woman of Canaan but her graces? "Great is thy faith," Matthew 15:28. Christ was more taken with that than all the fancy buildings of the Temple. God does not esteem the better of any man because he is rich or noble or embellished with worldly ornaments. It is righteousness that advances him. Righteousness is to the soul as the diamond to the ring, as light to the world which bespangles and adorns it
USE 2. Learn then, that it is no disparagement to any person to be righteous seeing it casts a splendor and renown on him and makes him more excel-lent than others. Some are loathe to espouse religion because they think it will be a stain to their reputation; but you see how righteousness emblazons one's nameplate and gives him a super-eminence above others. Novarinus relates of an ancient king who invited a company of poor Christians and set them above some of his nobles. Being asked why he showed so much respect to men of such mean birth and extract, he replied, "I must honor these as the children of the high God; they will be kings and princes with me in another world." Theodosius thought it a greater renown to be a member of Christ than the head of an empire.
The righteous are highly in favor with God and He has enrolled their names in the Book of Life. It was a custom among the Romans to write down the names of their senators in a book; therefore, they were called Patres Conscnpii. This is the honor of the righteous - their names are written among the courtiers of heaven. Believers, in regard of their mystical union with Christ, have a kind of excellence above the angels. The angels are morning stars, Job 38:7, but these are clothed with the sun. Can it be any shame to be listed among the saints when God is not ashamed to be called their God? Hebrews 11:16.
USE 3. See what high thoughts God has of the righteous, He looks upon them as more excellent than others, and His judgment is best worth praising. The saints have low thoughts of themselves; they overlook their own worth, like Moses who knew not that his face shined. The eye, though beautiful, does not see itself. Yet, as low thoughts as the righteous have of themselves, God has high thoughts of them. "Since Thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honorable," Isaiah 43:4. The Lord puts way the wicked like dross. The greatest man in the world, lacking holiness, is like Naaman, who was captain of the king's host and a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper, 2 Kings 5:1. A wicked man may be higher than others in nobility and worldly grandeur. A dunghill is higher than other ground, but it is never the better; it sends forth odious vapors.