A Plea for the Godly by Thomas Watson
GOD'S TITLES FOR THE RIGHTEOUS
But God sets a high estimate upon the righteous, and that appears by bestowing more excellent titles on them than upon others.
1. God calls them His jewels. He laid His best jewel to pawn for them. They are jewels for their sparkling quality. They shine in God's eye. The saints have a kind of angelic brightness, as one of the ancients expresses it.
They are jewels for their price. Diamonds, said Pliny, were not known a long time but among kings and emperors. The price of a saint is above others, "Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that perverteth his ways, though he be rich", Proverbs 28:6.
2. God calls the righteous "hidden ones," Psalm 83:3. They are hidden, first, for their invisibility. Their excellence is not known to many. The world can see their infirmity, not their eminence. A saint has that eternal glory which cannot be beheld by a carnal eye; the fair face is hid under a veil Second, righteous are hidden for their safety. Diamonds are hid in the rock, so the saint's life is hid in Christ, the Rock of Ages, Colossians 9:5.
3. God calls the righteous "the excellent of the earth," Psalm 16:2, or 'the magnificent, " as Junius renders it. They are the spiritual phoenixes; they are the cream and flower of the creation; they are the purer part of the world, doubly refined, Zechariah 13:9.
4. God calls them "vessels of honor, 2 Timothy 2:21.Though they are earthen vessels, yet they have heavenly treasure in them. They are filled with the wine of the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 Though they are scoured with affliction, yet it is to make them brighter, Daniel 12:10.
5. God calls them the apple of His eye Zechariah 2:8. The apple of the eye is the tenderest part of the eye, to express God's tenderness of them, said Salvian God cannot endure to have His eyeball touched.
6. God calls them "His portion, " Deuteronomy 32:9. As if riches lay in them. As a man seals a hag of money for his use, so the Lord seals His people as His portion with a double seal, one of election, 2 Timothy 2:19, the other of assurance, Ephesians 1 :13.
7. God calls them His "plant of renown. "Ezekiel 34:19. He hedges in this noble plant with His protection, waters it with the silver drops of His ordinances, blesses the springing of it, adorns it with fruit, and transplants it into the heavenly paradise where it grows continually in the sweet sunshine of His favor.
8. God calls them "joint heirs with Christ, "Romans 8:17. Jesus Christ is a rich heir. He is Lord of all. and the saints have shares with Christ.
9. God calls them the luminaries of the world. They give light by their precepts and example. "Among whom ye shine as lights in the world," Philippians 2:15, Lot was a bright star in Sodom. The world would be dark were it not for the children of light.
10. God calls them a "peculiar people," 1 Peter 2:9. He has taken them out of the world as out of the wild forest, and enclosed them to Himself by a decree. They are a purchased people. The righteous are the purchase of Christ's blood, and He will not lose His purchase.
11. God calls them a kingdom of priests. They are kings. They have their throne, Revelation 3:21, and white robes, Revelation 6:11, Robes signify their dignity and white their sanctity.
They are priests. The priesthood under the law was honorable. The king's daughter was wife to Jehoiada the priest, 2 Chronicles 22:11. In ancient times, the Egyptians chose their kings out of their priests. The saints are consecrated to be priests. to offer up to God eucharistical sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in heaven.
God calls them a crown of glory and a diadem in His hand, Isaiah 62:3 That is, said a learned writer, they are exceedingly eminent and renowned above other people. The crown Is a sign of thc highest state and honor Nay, the Lord calls them expressly His glory. "Israel My glory." Isaiah 46:13, as if His glory lay in His people All this shows what a high estimate God puts upon the righteous in giving them such illustrious titles of honor. They are princes in all lands; kings minister to them, even angels. The Lord will give whole kingdoms to ransom them, "I gave Egypt for thy ransom," Isaiah 43:3. That was when God destroyed Egypt in the Red Sea for the saving of Israel. Nay, God gave His own Son to die for their ransom.
And if God esteems so highly His people now on earth, how much more will He value them when they are in heaven? If when the righteous arc afflicted they are so excellent, how much more when they are crowned? If with their blemishes they are precious, then how much more when their imperfections shall be done away and they shall be presented to the Father without spot and wrinkle? If gold is valuable in the wedge and the ore, then how precious is it when it is fully refined? If wheat is excellent when it is mingled with chaff, then how much worth has it when it is fanned and made pure? If God reputes the righteous more excellent than others when conflicting with infirmities, then how incomparably excellent and glorious will they appear in His eye when they shall be cleansed from all remaining corruption, and shall shine with knowledge as the air with light? If a man makes any ac-count of his friend when he sees him under distempers of body which cause forwardness, how much more will he prize him when he sees him in perfect health and his spirit calm and sedate? If God esteems the righteous better than others in the pre-sent juncture of time, when they have their unto-ward passions and fainting-fits of unbelief, what will He do when they shall be perfectly holy and as an-gels of God?
USE 4. See the different esteem that God has of the righteous and that men have of them. The men of the world esteem the saints lightly; they disdain them and scarcely allow them half an eye. 'hey think, of all things, the people of God may be best 'pared; they look upon them as the burden and refuse of the earth. "We are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day," 1 Corinthians 4:13. The apostles were the eyes of the world, the breasts of the church, and earthly angels; yet they were counted by some like the dung cart that goes through the city into which everyone throws his filth. The saints are loaded with invectives and are not judged worthy to live in the world. "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live," Acts 22:22.
But God has an entirely different way of evaluating the righteous. He thinks the world is not worth", of them. "Of whom the world was not worthy, Hebrews 11:38. Hence it is that He takes his children so fast away by death and places them among the cherubims. God looks upon the righteous as His curious needle-work, wrought with the finger of the Holy Ghost and the glory of the creation. He would soon break up house in the world were it not for their sakes. This excellent esteem God has of them will be best seen when He shall separate between the precious and the vile and shall say to the wicked, Go ye cursed," and to the godly," Come ye blessed."
USE 5. See how dearly God loves the righteous and how near to His heart they lie. They are more excellent. The word "excellent" carries affection in it. Things we prize we love. The righteous are God's treasure, Psalm 135..4, and where His treasure is there is His heart. They are God's delicious garden where He plants the flower of His love, They are the dearly beloved of His soul. They are His darling. He engraves them upon the palms of His hands that they may be never out of His eye. He rejoices over them with joy and rests in His love. It is no ordinary affection that God bears to the righteous. The sun shining upon a burning glass sets on fire only the object that is near the glass. The beams of God's love are more intensely enflamed towards them who are near Him by grace; these have the strength and spirits of His love distilled, He loves them as He loves Christ. Indeed, in one sense, God's love to Christ and believers is not alike, for Christ is loved purely for His own sake but believers are loved for Christ's sake. Yet, in another sense, God the Father loves believers as He loves Christ. It is the same love for the quality, the same for the unchangeableness of it. God will no more cease to love believers than He will to love Christ.
USE 6. See from hence what a venerable opinion we should have of the righteous. They are to be prized by us above others. "He honoreth them that fear the Lord," Psalm 15:4. A saint in rags is better than a sinner in scarlet. We prize things that have excellency in them. Why do we value gold and pearl but because they excel glass beads? Oh, then, esteem the righteous as most worthy because of intrinsic holiness whereby they outshine their neighbors! The righteous carry Christ about them. "Christ liveth in me," Galatians 2:20. Queen Cleopatra put a jewel in her cup which contained the price of a kingdom. How rich are they who carry Christ, the Pearl of price, with them! Despise not the saints for their worldly poverty, but honor them for their virtue. We esteem a ruby or diamond though it is in the dust. John Baptist wore but a leather girdle, yet he was more than a prophet. He was honored to usher in the King of Glory into the world. John was so eminent a person that Herod would have kept his oath, though he had not beheaded him, for he swore to the damsel to give her what she asked up to half of the kingdom. But John Baptist was worth more than all his kingdom. A saint's exterior may be poor but he has a rich lining. The outside of the Tabernacle was goat's hair, but within it was embellished with gold. "The king's daughter is all glorious within," Psalm 45:13. Jesus Christ Himself was outwardly mean, yet in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom. A soul inspired by the Almighty and beautified with grace exceeds others more than the light of the sun exceeds the light of a candle.
USE 7, If the righteous are more excellent than others, then how severe will God be against those who wrong them? The wicked are thorns in the sides of the godly. Saint Paul was scourged by cruel hands. "Thrice was I beaten with rods," 2 Corinthians 11:25, as if you should see a slave whip the king's son; but shall not God avenge His elect? Surely He will. "The sword of the Lord is filled with blood... for it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion," Isaiah 34:6-8. It is as if the prophet had said, "The time appointed has now come for God to avenge Zion for the wrongs done to her." Jeremiah 50:10-11 says, "Chaldea shall be a spoil, saith the Lord, because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, 0 ye destroyers of Mine heritage." And Jeremiah 30:16, "All that prey upon thee, will I give for a prey. The saints are persons of honor; they are God's first-born. Oh, how enraged will the Lord be against such as offer injury to them! They trample God's pearls in the dust. They strike at the apple of His eye. The righteous are God's diadem. Will a king endure to have His robes spit upon and his crown thrown in the dirt? What is done to the righteous is done to God Himself. When the king's favorite is struck at, the king himself is struck at. "I know thy rage against me," 2 Kings 19:27. The rage of Sennacherib was against the person of Hezakiah, hut, there being a league between God and His people, the Lord took it as done to Himself. "I know Thy rage against me: certainly it shall not go unpunished. He reproved kings for their sakes. What became of (the pagan Emperors) Julian, Nero, and Diocletian? One of them had his death wound from heaven. Others had their bowels come out and died raving. Charles the ninth of France, who had glutted himself with the blood of so many Christians in the massacre at Paris, was in such inward horror that he never dared be waked without music, and at length blood issued Out at so many parts of his body that he died bleeding. These were set up as public monuments of God's vengeance.