Second. If thou wouldst be faithful to do that work that God hath allotted thee to do in this world for his name, then labour to see a beauty and glory in holiness, and in every good work: this tends much to the engaging of thy heart. 'O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; fear before him, all the earth' (Psa 96:9). And for thy help in this, think much on this in general, that 'Thus saith the Lord' is the wind-up of every command; for, indeed, much of the glory and beauty of duties doth lie in the glory and excellency of the person that doth command them; and hence it is that 'Be it enacted by the King's most excellent Majesty' is in the head of every law, because that law should therefore be reverenced by, and be made glorious and beautiful to all. And we see, upon this very account, what power and place the precepts of kings do take in the hearts of their subjects, every one loving and reverencing the statute, because there is the name of their king. Will you rebel against the king? is a word that shakes the world. Well, then, turn these things about for an argument to the matter in hand, and let the name of God, seeing he is wiser and better, and of more glory and beauty than kings, beget in thy heart a beauty in all things that are commanded thee of God. And, indeed, if thou do not in this act thus, thou wilt stumble at some of thy duty and work thou hast to do; for some of the commands of God are, in themselves, so mean and low, that take away the name of God from them, and thou wilt do as Naaman the Syrian, despise, instead of obeying. What is there in the Lord's supper, in baptism, yea, in preaching the Word, and prayer, were they not the appointments of God? His name being entailed to them, makes them every one glorious and beautiful. Wherefore, no marvel if he that looks upon them without their title-page goeth away in a rage, like Naaman, preferring others before them. What is Jordan? 'Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel; may I not wash in them and be clean?' saith he (2 Kings 5:10-12). This was because he remembered not that the name of God was in the command. Israel's trumpets of ram's horns (Josh 6:2-4), and Isaiah's walking naked (Isa 20:3), and Ezekiel's wars against a tile (Eze 4:1-4), would, doubtless, have been ignoble acts, but that the name of God was that which gave them reverence, power, glory, and beauty. Set therefore the name of God, and 'Thus saith the Lord,' against all reasonings, defamings, and reproaches, that either by the world, or thy own heart, thou findest to arise against thy duty, and let his name and authority alone be a sufficient argument with thee, 'to behold the beauty' that he hath put upon all his ways, 'and to inquire in his temple' (Psa 27:4).
Third. Wouldst thou be faithful to do that work that God hath appointed thee to do in this world for his name? then make much of a trembling heart and conscience; for though the Word be the line and rule whereby we must order and govern all our actions, yet a trembling heart and tender conscience is of absolute necessity for our so doing. A hard heart can do nothing with the word of Jesus Christ. 'Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word' (Isa 66:5). 'Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling' (Psa 2:11). I spake before against a servile and slavish frame of spirit, therefore you must not understand me here as if I meant now to cherish such a one; no, it is a heart that trembleth for, or at the grace of God; and a conscience made tender by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ. Such a conscience as is awakened both by wrath and grace, by the terror and the mercy of God; for it stands with the spirit of a son to fear before his father; yea, to fear chastings, though not to fear damnation. Let, therefore, destruction from God be a terror to thy heart, though not that destruction that attends them that perish by sin for ever (Job 31:23). Though this I might add further; it may do thee no harm, but good, to cast an eye over thy shoulder at those that now lie roaring under the vengeance of eternal fire; it may put thee in mind of what thou wast once, and of what thou must yet assuredly be, if grace by Christ preventeth not (Isa 66:24). Keep, then, thy conscience awake with wrath and grace, with heaven and hell; but let grace and heaven bear sway. Paul made much of a tender conscience, else he had never done as he did, nor suffered what we read of. 'And herein,' saith he, 'do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men' (Acts 24:16). But this could not a stony, benumbed, bribed, deluded, or a muzzled conscience do. Paul was like the nightingale with his breast against the thorn. That his heart might still keep waking, he would accustom himself to the meditation of those things that should beget both love and fear; and would always be very chary, lest he offended his conscience. 'Herein do I exercise myself,' &c. Be diligent, then, in this matter, if thou wouldst be faithful with God. A tender conscience, to some people, is like Solomon's brawling woman, a burthen to those that have it (Prov 25:24). But let it be to thee like those that invited David to go up to the house of the Lord (Psa 122:1). Hear it, and cherish it with pleasure and delight.
Fourth. If thou wouldst be faithful to do that work that God hath appointed thee to do in this world for his name; then let religion be the only business to take up thy thoughts and time. 'Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might' (Eccl 9:10). With all thy heart, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. Religion, to most men, is but a by-business, with which they use to fill up spare hours; or as a stalking-horse, which is used to catch the game. How few are there in the world that have their conversation 'only as becometh the gospel'! (Phil 1:27). A heart sound in God's statutes, a heart united to the fear of God, a heart moulded and fashioned by the Word of God, is a rare thing; rare, because it is hard to be found, and rare because it is indeed the fruit of an excellent spirit, and a token of one saved by the Lord (Psa 119:80, 86:11). But this indifferency in religion, this fashioning ourselves in our language, gesture, behaviour, and carriage, to the fancies and fopperies of this world, as it is in itself much unbecoming a people that should bear the name of their God in their foreheads, so it cannot be but a very great and sore obstruction to thy faithful walking with God in this world (Rom 6:17). Gird up, then, thy loins like a man, let God and his Christ, and his Word, and his people, and cause, be the chief in thy soul; and as heretofore thou hast afforded this world the most of thy time, and travel, and study, so now convert all these to the use of religion. 'As ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness' (Rom 6:19). Holy things must be in every heart where this is faithfully put in practice.
1. Daily bring thy heart and the Word of God together, that thy heart may be levelled by it, and also filled with it. The want of performing this sincerely, is a great cause of that unfaithfulness that is in us to God. Bring, then, thy heart to the Word daily, to try how thou believest the Word today, to try how it agrees with the Word today. This is the way to make clean work daily, to keep thy soul warm and living daily. 'Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?' saith David. 'By taking heed thereto according to thy Word' (Psa 119:9). So again, 'Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips, I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer' (Psa 17:4). And again, 'Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee' (Psa 119:11). He that delighteth 'in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth meditate day and night, he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper' (Psa 1:2,3).
2. A continual remembrance that to every day thou hast thy work allotted thee; and that sufficient for that day are the evils that attend thee (Matt 6:34). This remembrance set Paul upon his watch daily; made him die to himself and this world daily, and provoked him also daily to wind up the spirit of his mind; transforming himself by the power of the Word, from that proneness that was in his flesh to carnal things (1 Cor 15:30-33). This will make thee keep the knife at thy throat in all places, and business, and company (Prov 23:2).
3. Let thy heart be more affected with what concerns the honour of God, and the profit and glory of the gospel, than with what are thy concernments as a man, with all earthly advantages. This will make thee refuse things that are lawful, if they appear to be inexpedient. Yea, this will make thee, like the apostles of old, prefer another man's peace and edification before thine own profit, and to take more pleasure in the increase of the power of godliness in any, than in the increase of thy corn and wine.
4. Reckon with thy own heart every day, before thou lie down to sleep, and cast up both what thou hast received from God, done for him, and where thou hast also been wanting. This will beget praise and humility, and put thee upon redeeming the day that is past; whereby thou wilt be able, through the continual supplies of grace, in some good measure to drive thy work before thee, and to shorten it as thy life doth shorten; and mayst comfortably live in the hope of bringing both ends sweetly together. But to pass this.
Fifth. If thou wouldst be faithful to do that work that God hath appointed thee to do in this world for his name, then beware thou do not stop and stick when hard work comes before thee. It is with Christians as it is with other scholars, they sometimes meet with hard lessons; but these thou must also learn, or thou canst not do thy work. The Word and Spirit of God come sometimes like chain-shot to us, as if it would cut down all; as when Abraham was to offer up Isaac, and the Levites to slay their brethren (Gen 22; Exo 32:26-28). Paul also must go from place to place to preach, though he knew beforehand he was to be afflicted there (Acts 20:23). God may sometimes say to thee, as he said to his servant Moses, 'Take the serpent by the tail'; or, as the Lord Jesus said to Peter, Walk upon the sea (Exo 4:3,4). These are hard things, but have not been rejected when God hath called to do them. O how willingly would our flesh and blood escape the cross of Christ! The comforts of the gospel, the sweetness of the promise, how pleasing is it to us! Like Ephraim here, we love to tread out the corn (Hosea 10:11), and to hear those pleasant songs and music that gospel sermons make, where only grace is preached, and nothing of our duty as to works of self-denial; but as for such, God will tread upon their fair neck, and yoke them with Christ's yoke; for there they have a work to do, even a work of self-denial.
Now this work sometimes lieth in acts that seem to be desperate, as when a man must both leave and hate his life, and all he hath for Christ, or else he cannot serve him nor be counted his disciple (Luke 14:26-33). Thus it seemed with Christ himself when he went his fatal journey up to Jerusalem; he went thither, as he knew, to die, and therefore trod every step as it were in his own bowels; but yet, no doubt, with great temptation to shun and avoid that voyage; and therefore it is said, 'He set his face steadfastly to go up,' scorning to be invited to the contrary, and to prevent the noise of his weak disciples, Master, save thyself (Luke 9:51). It is said he ascended before them, insomuch that they were amazed to see his resolution, while they themselves were afraid of that dreadful effect that might follow (Mark 10:32-34). Also when he came there, and was to be apprehended, he went to the garden that Judas knew, his old accustomed place; so when they asked him the killing question, he answered, 'I am he' (John 18:1-5).
Sometimes in acts that seem to be foolish, as when men deny themselves of those comforts, and pleasures, and friendships, and honours, of the world that formerly they used to have, and choose rather to associate themselves with the very abjects of this world—I mean, such as carnal men count so—counting their ways and manners of life, though attended with a thousand calamities, more profitable, and pleasing, and delightful, than all former glory. Thus Elisha left his father's house, though to pour water upon the hands of Elijah (2 Kings 3:11). And thus the disciples left their fathers' ships and nets, to live a beggarly life with Jesus Christ; as Paul did leave the feet of Gamaliel for the whip, and the stocks, and the deaths that attended the blessed gospel. One would have thought that had been a simple way of Peter to leave all for Christ, before he knew what Christ would give him, as that 19th of Matthew seems to import; but Christ will have it so (v 27). He that will save his life must lose it; and he that will lose his life in this world for Christ, shall keep it to life eternal (John 12:25). I might add many things of this nature, to show you what hard chapters sometimes God sets his best people; but thy work is, if thou wouldst be faithful, not to stop nor stick at anything (Matt 10:37). Some, when they come at the cross, they will either there make a stop and go no further, or else, if they can, they will step over it; if not, they will go round about: do not thou do this, but take it up and kiss it, and bear it after Jesus. 'God forbid,' saith Paul, 'that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world' (Gal 6:14).
Now, for thy better performing this piece of service for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: O it is hard work to pocket up the reproaches of all the foolish people, as if we had found great spoil; and to suffer all their revilings, lies, and slanders, without cursing them, as Elisha did the children; to answer them with prayers and blessings for their cursings. It is far more easy to give them taunt for taunt, and reviling for reviling; to give them blow for blow; yea, to call for fire from heaven against them. But to 'bless them that curse you, and to pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you'—even of malice, of old grudge, and on purpose to vex and afflict our mind, and to make us break out into a rage—this is work above us; now our patience should look up to unseen things; now remember Christ's carriage to them that spilt his blood; or all is in danger of bursting, and thou of miscarrying in theses things. I might here also dilate upon Job's case, and the lesson God set him, when, at one stroke, he did beat down all (Job 1:15), only spared his life, but made that also so bitter to him that his soul chose strangling rather than it (Job 7:15). O when every providence of God unto thee is like the messengers of Job, and the last to bring more heavy tidings than all that went before him (Job 1); when life, estate, wife, children, body, and soul, and all at once, seem to be struck at by heaven and earth; here are hard lessons; now to behave myself even as a weaned child, now to say, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord' (Job 1:21). Thus, with few words, Job ascribeth righteousness to his Maker; but though they were but few, they proceeded from so blessed a frame of heart, that causeth the penman of the Word to stay himself and wonder, saying, 'In all this Job sinned not' with his lips, 'nor charged God foolishly.' In all this—what a great deal will the Holy Ghost make of that which seems but little when it flows from an upright heart! and it indeed may well be so accounted of all that know what is in man, and what he is prone unto.
1. Labour to believe that all these things are tokens of the love of God (Heb 12:6; Rev 3:19). 2. Remember often that thou art not the first that hath met with these things in the world. 'It hated me,' saith Christ, 'before it hated you' (John 15:18). 3. Arm thyself with a patient and quiet mind to bear and suffer for his sake (1 Peter 4:1-3). 4. Look back upon thy provocations wherewith thou mayst have provoked God (Deut 9:7; Lev 26:41,42); then wilt thou accept of the punishment for thy sins, and confess it was less than thine iniquities deserve (Ezra 9:13). 5. Pray thou mayst hear the voice of the rod, and have a heart to answer the end of God therein (Micah 6:9). 6. Remember the promise—'All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose' (Rom 8:28).
Sixth. If thou wouldst be faithful to do that work that God hath appointed thee to do in this world for his name, then labour away to possess thy heart with a right understanding, both of the things that this world yieldeth, and of the things that shall be hereafter. I am confident that most, if not all the miscarriages of the saints and people of God, they have their rise from deceivable thoughts here. The things of this world appear to us more, and those that are to come less, than they are; and hence it is that many are so hot and eager for things that be in the world, and so cold and heartless for those that be in heaven. Satan is here a mighty artist, and can show us all earthly things in a multiplying glass; but when we look up to things above, we see them as through sackcloth of hair; but take thou heed, be not ruled by thy sensual appetite that can only savour fleshly things, neither be thou ruled by carnal reason, which always darkeneth the things of heaven. But go to the Word, and as that says, so judge thou. That tells thee all things under the sun are vanity, nay worse, vexation of spirit (Eccl 1:2). That tells thee the world is not, even then when it doth most appear to be; wilt thou set thine heart upon that which is not? 'for riches certainly make themselves wings, they fly away as an eagle toward heaven' (Prov 23:5). The same may be said for honours, pleasures, and the like; they are poor, low, base things to be entertained by a Christian's heart. The man that hath most of them may 'in the fulness of his sufficiency be in straits'; yea, 'when he is about to fill his belly with them, God may cast the fury of his wrath upon him' (Job 20:22,25); 'so is he that layeth up treasure for himself' on earth, 'and is not rich towards God' (Luke 12:20,21). A horse that is loaden with gold and pearls all day, may have a foul stable and a galled back at night. And woe be to him that increaseth that which is not his, and that ladeth himself with thick clay. O man of God, throw this bone to the dogs; suck not at it, there is no marrow there (Heb 2:6). Set thine affections on 'things that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God' (Col 3:1-4). Behold what God hath prepared for them that love him. And if God hath blessed thee with ought, set not thine heart upon it; honour the Lord with thy substance. Labour to 'be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life' (1 Tim 6:17-19). Further, to lighten thine eyes a little, and,
1. Concerning the glory of the world.
(1.) It is that which God doth mostly give to those that are not his; for the poor receive the gospel; not many rich, 'not many mighty, not many noble are called' (1 Cor 1:26).
(2.) Much of this world and its glory is permitted of God to be disposed of by the devil, and he is called both the prince and god thereof (John 14:30; 2 Cor 4:4). Yea, when Satan told Christ he could give it to whom he would, Christ did not say, Thou liest, but answered, by the Word, 'It is written thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve' (Luke 4:6-8). Implying also, that commonly when men get much of the honours and glory of this world, it is by bending the knee too low to the prince and god thereof.
(3.) The nature of the best of worldly things, if hankered after, is to deaden the spirit (Rom 8:6,7), to estrange the heart from God, to pierce thee through with many sorrows, and to drown thee in perdition and destruction (1 John 2:15). 'O man of God, flee those things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness'; and 'Fight the good fight, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called,' &c. (1 Tim 6:9-12).
2. As to the things of God, what shall I say? the things of his Word, and Spirit, and kingdom, they so far go beyond the conceivings of the heart of man, that none can utter them but by the Holy Spirit; but there is no deceit in them; 'no lie is of the truth,' what they promise they will perform with additions of amazing glory (1 John 2:21). Taste them first, and then thou shalt see them. 'O' come 'taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him' (Psa 34:8). To stoop low is a good work, which is an act of thine, if it be done in faith and love, though but by a cup of cold water; it is really more worth in itself, and of higher esteem with God, than all worldly and perishing glory; there is no comparison, the one perisheth with the using, and for the other is laid up 'a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory' (2 Cor 4:17). But again, as thou shouldst labour to possess thy heart with a right understanding of the perishing nature of the riches and pleasures of this world, and of the durable riches and righteousness that is in Christ, and all heavenly things; so thou shouldst labour to keep always in thy eye what sin is, what hell is, what the wrath of God and everlasting burnings are. Transfer them to thyself, as it were on a finger, that thou mayst learn to think of nothing more highly than is meet, but to give to what thou beholdst their own due weight; then thou wilt fear where thou shouldst fear, love what is worthy thy love, and slight that which is of no worth. These are just weights, and even balances; now thou dealest not with deceitful weights; and this is the way to be rich in good works, and to bring thy work, that God hath appointed, to a good issue against thy dying day.
Seventh. But again, if thou wouldst be faithful to do that work that God hath appointed thee to do in this world, for his name, then beware that thou slip not, or let pass by, the present opportunity that providence layeth before thee. Work while it is called today, 'the night cometh when no man can work' (John 9:4). In that parable of the man that took a far journey, it is said, as he gave to every servant his work, so he 'commanded the porter to watch'; that is, for his Lord's coming back, and in the mean time, for all opportunities to perform the work he left in their hand, and committed unto their trust (Mark 13:34,35). Seest thou the poor? seest thou the fatherless? seest thou thy foe in distress? draw out thy breast, shut not up thy bowels of compassion, deal thy bread to the hungry, bring the poor that are cast out into thine house, hide not thyself from thine own flesh, take the opportunity that presents itself to thee, either by the eye or the hearing of the ear, or by some godly motion that passeth over thy heart (Isa 58:7; Rom 12:20). 'Say not' to such messengers, 'go, and come again tomorrow; if thou hast it by thee'; now the opportunity is put into thy hand, delay not to do it, and the Lord be with thee! (Prov 3:28). Good opportunities are God's seasons for the doing of thy work; wherefore watch for them, and take them as they come. Paul tells us 'he was in watchings often' (2 Cor 11:26,27); surely it was that he might take the season that God should give him to do this work for him; as he also saith to Timothy, 'Watch thou in all things,—do the work,' &c. Opportunities as to some things come but once in one's lifetime, as in the case of Esther, and of Nicodemus, and holy Joseph; when Esther begged the life of the Jews, and the other the body of Jesus; which once had they let slip or neglected, they could not have recovered it again for ever. Watch then for the opportunity. 1. Because it is God's season; which, without doubts, is the best season and time for every purpose (Eccl 3:11). 2. Because Satan watches to spoil, by mistiming as well as by corrupting whatever thou shalt do for God. 'When I would do good,' saith Paul, 'evil is present,' that is, either to withdraw me from my purpose, or else to infect my work (Rom 7:21). 3. This is the way to be profitable unto others. Thy wickedness may hurt a man, as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit the son of man (Job 35:8). 4. This is also the way to be doing good to thyself (Job 22:2). 'He that watereth shall be watered himself' (Prov 11:25). 'Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days' (Eccl 11:1; Deut 15:10). As God said to Coniah, 'Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? He judged the cause of the poor and needy, then it was well with him' (Jer 22:15,16).
And I say, that the opportunity may not slip thee, either for want of care or provision, (1.) Sit always loose from an overmuch affecting thine own concernments, and believe that thou wast not born for thyself; 'a brother is born for adversity' (Prov 17:17). (2.) Get thy heart tenderly affected with the welfare and prosperity of all things that bear the stamp and image of God (2 Cor 11:29). (3.) Study thy own place and capacity that God hath put thee in, in this world; for suitable to thy place thy work and opportunities are (1 Cor 7:24). (4.) Make provision beforehand, that when things present themselves thou mayst come up to a good performance; be 'prepared to every good work' (2 Tim 2:21). (5.) Take heed of carnal reasonings, keep thy heart tender; but set thy face like a flint for God (Gal 1:9). (6.) And look well to the manner of every duty.
Eighth. Wouldst thou be faithful to do that work that God hath appointed thee to do in this world for his name? believe then, that whatever good thing thou dost for him, if done according to the Word, it is not only accepted by him now, but recorded, to be remembered for thee, against the time to come; yea, laid up for thee as treasure in chests and coffers, to be brought out to be rewarded before both men and angels, to thy eternal comfort, by Jesus Christ our Lord. 'Lay not up,' saith Christ, 'treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal' (Matt 6:19,20). The treasure that here our Lord commands we should with diligence lay up in heaven, is found both in Luke, and Paul, and Peter, to be meant by doing good work.
1. Luke renders it thus, 'Sell that ye have and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth,' the latter part of the verse expounding the former (Luke 12:33).
2. Paul saith thus, 'Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy: that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate: laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life' (1 Tim 6:17,19).
3. Peter also acknowledgeth and asserteth this, where, in his exhortation to elders to do their duty faithfully, and with cheerfulness, he affirms, if they do so, they 'shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away' (1 Peter 5:2-4); which Paul also calleth a reward for cheerful work (1 Cor 9:17; 2 Tim 4:2). And that as an act of justice by the hand of a righteous judge, in the day when the Lord shall come to give reward to his servants the prophets, and to his saints, and to all that fear his name, small and great; for 'every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour' (1 Cor 3:8).
But before I go any further, I must answer three objections that may be made by those that read this book.
The First Objection. The first is this; some godly heart may say, I dare not own that what I do shall ever be regarded, much less rewarded by God in another world because of the unworthiness of my person, and because of the many infirmities and sinful weaknesses that attend me every day.
Answer. This objection is built partly upon a bashful modesty, partly upon ignorance, and partly upon unbelief. My answer to it is as followeth.
You must remind and look back to what but now hath been proved, namely, That both Christ and his apostles do all agree in this, that there is a reward for the righteous, and that their good deeds are laid up as treasures for them in heaven, and are certainly to be bestowed upon them in the last day with abundance of eternal glory. 2. Now then, to speak to thy case, and to remove the bottom of thy objection, that the unworthiness of thy person, and thy sinful infirmities, that attend thee in every duty, do make thee think thy works shall not be either regarded or rewarded in another world. But consider, first, as to the unworthiness of thy person. They that are in Christ Jesus are always complete before God, in the righteousness that Christ hath obtained, how infirm, and weak, and wicked soever they appear to themselves. Before God, therefore, in this righteousness thou standest all the day long, and that upon a double account; first, by the act of faith, because thou hast believed in him that thou mightest be justified by the righteousness of Christ; but if this fail, I mean the act of believing, still thou standest justified by God's imputing this righteousness to thee, which imputation standing purely upon the grace and good pleasure of God to thee, that holds thee still as just before God, though thou wantest at present the comfort thereof. Thus, therefore, thy person stands always acccepted; and, indeed, no man's works can at all be regarded, if his person, in the first place, be not respected. The Lord had respect first to Abel, and after to his offering (Gen 4:4; Heb 11:4). But he can have respect to no man before works done, unless he find them in the righteousness of Christ; for they must be accepted through a righteousness, which, because they have none of their own, therefore they have one of God's imputing, even that of his Son, which he wrought for us when he was born of the Virgin, &c. As to thy sinful infirmities that attend thee in every work, they cannot hinder thee from laying up treasure in heaven, thy heart being upright in the way with God; nor will he be unrighteous at all to forget thy good deeds in the day when Christ shall come from heaven.
1. Because by the same reason then he must disown all the good works of all his prophets and apostles; for they have all been attended with weaknesses and sinful infirmities; from the beginning hitherto there is not a man, 'not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not' (Eccl 7:20). The best of our works are accompanied with sin: 'When I would do good,' saith Paul, 'evil is present with me' (Rom 7:21). This, therefore, must not hinder. And for thy further satisfaction in this, consider, as Christ presents thy person before God, acceptable without thy works, freely and alone by his righteousness, so his office is to take away the iniquity of thy holy things, that they also by him may be accepted of God (Exo 28:36-38; 1 Peter 2:5). Wherefore, it is further said, for the encouragement of the weak and feeble, He shall not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, but shall bring forth judgment unto victory (Matt 12:20). The bruised reed, you know, is weak; and by bruises we should understand sinful infirmities. And so also concerning the smoking flax; by smoking you must understand sinful weakness; but none of these shall either hinder the justification of thy person, or the acceptation of thy performance, they being done in faith and love, let thy temptations be never so many, because of Jesus Christ his priestly office now at the right hand of God. By him, therefore, let us offer spiritual sacrifices; for they shall be acceptable to God and our Father.
2. Because otherwise God and Christ would prove false to their own word, which is horrible blasphemy once to imagine; who hath promised that when the Son of God shall come to judgment, he shall render to 'every man according to his work' (Rev 22:12); and doth upon this very account encourage his servants to a patient enduring of the hottest persecutions: 'for great is your reward in heaven' (Matt 5:12; Luke 6:23,35; Matt 6:1, 10:41,42). From this also he bindeth his saints and servants to be sincerely liberal, and good, and kind to all; first, because otherwise, they have no reward of their Father which is in heaven, that is, for what they do not; but if they do it, then, though it be but a cup of cold water given to a prophet or righteous man, they shall receive a prophet's reward, a righteous man's reward; yea, they shall receive it in any wise, 'they shall in no wise lose their reward.'
3. It must be so, otherwise he should deny a reward to the works and operations of his own good grace he hath freely bestowed upon us; but that he will not do. He is not unfaithful to forget your work of faith and labour of love (Heb 6:10). And so of all other graces, 'our work shall not be in vain in the Lord' (1 Cor 4:58). And, as I said before, temptations, weaknesses, and sins, shall not hinder the truly gracious of this their blessed reward. Nay, they shall further it, 'if need be, ye are in heaviness, through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:6,7). And the reason is, because the truth and sincerity of God's grace in us doth so much the more discover itself, by how much it is opposed and resisted by weakness and sin. It is recorded to the everlasting renown of three of David's mighties, that they would break through a host of giant-like enemies, to fetch water for their longing king; for it bespake their valour, their love, and good-will to him; the same also is true concerning thy graces, and every act of them when assaulted with an host of weaknesses (1 Chron 11:12,15-18).
The Second Objection. And now I come to the second objection, and that ariseth from our being completely justified freely by the grace of God through Christ; and by the same means alone brought to glory; and may be framed thus:—but seeing we are freely justified, and brought to glory by free grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; and seeing the glory that we shall be possessed of upon the account of the Lord Jesus, is both full and complete, both for happiness and continuing therein, what need will there be that our work should be rewarded? Nay, may not the doctrine of reward for good works be here not only needless, but indeed an impairing and lessening the completeness of that glory to which we are brought, and in which we shall live inconceivably happy for ever, by free grace?
Answer. That we are justified in the sight of the Divine Majesty, from the whole lump of our sins, both past, present, and to come, by free grace, through that one offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all, I bless God I believe it, and that we shall be brought to glory by the same grace, through the same most blessed Jesus, I thank God by his grace I believe that also. Again, that the glory to which we shall be brought by free grace, through the only merits of Jesus, is unspeakably glorious and complete, I question no more than I question the blessed truths but now confessed. But yet, notwithstanding all this, there is a reward for the righteous, a reward for their works of faith and love, whether in a doing or a suffering way, and that not principally to be enjoyed here, but hereafter; 'great is your reward in heaven,' as I proved in the answer to the first objection. And now I shall answer further:—
1. If this reward had been an impairing or derogation to the free grace of God that saveth us, he would never have mentioned it for our encouragement unto good works, nor have added a promise of reward for them that do them, nor have counted himself unfaithful if he should not do it.
2. The same may be said concerning Jesus Christ, who doubtless loveth and tendereth the honour of his own merits, as much as any who are saved by him can do, whether they be in heaven or earth; yet he hath promised a reward to a cup of cold water, or giving of any other alms; and hath further told us, they that do these things, they do lay up treasure in heaven, namely, a reward when their Lord doth come, then to be received by them to their eternal comfort.
3. Paul was as great a maintainer of the doctrine of God's free grace, and of justification from sin, by the righteousness of Christ imputed by grace, as any he that ever lived in Christ's service, from the world's beginning till now: and yet he was for this doctrine; he expected himself, and encouraged others also to look for such a reward, for doing and suffering for Christ, which he calls 'a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory' (2 Cor 4:17). Surely, as Christ saith, in a case not far distant from this in hand, 'if it were not so, he would have told us' (John 14:1-3). Now could I tell what those rewards are that Christ hath prepared, and will one day bestow upon those that do for him in faith and love in this world, I should therein also say more than now I dare or ought; yet this let me say in general, they are such as should make us leap to think on, and that we should remember with exceeding joy, and never think that it is contrary to the Christian faith, to rejoice and be glad for that which yet we understand not (Matt 5:11,12; Luke 6:23). 'Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be,' &c. But 'every man that hath this hope in him,' namely, that he shall be more than here he can imagine, 'purifieth himself even as he is pure' (1 John 3:2,3). Things promised when not revealed to be known by us while here, are therefore not made known, because too big and wonderful. When Paul was up in paradise, he heard unspeakable words not possible for man to utter (2 Cor 12:3,4). Wherefore, a reward I find, and that laid up in heaven, but what it is I know not, neither is it possible for any here to know it any further, than by certain general words of God, such as these, praise, honour, glory, a crown of righteousness, a crown of glory, thrones, judging of angels, a kingdom, with a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, &c. (1 Cor 4:5; 1 Peter 1:7; 2 Tim 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4; Matt 25:34-36). Wherefore, to both these objections, let me yet answer thus a few words. Though thy modesty or thy opinion will not suffer thee to look for a reward for what thou dost here for thy Lord, by the faith and love of the gospel; yea, though in the day of judgment thou shouldst there slight all thou didst on earth for thy Lord, saying, When, Lord, when did we do it? he will answer, Then, even then when ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me (Matt 25:37-40).
The Third Objection. But is not the reward that God hath promised to his saints, for their good works to be enjoyed only here?
Answer. 1. For concerning holy walking, according to God's command, yieldeth even here abundance of blessed fruits, as he saith, 'in keeping of them there is great reward,' and again, 'this man shall be blessed in his deed,' that is, now, even in this time, as he saith in another place; for indeed there is so much goodness and blessedness to be found in a holy and godly life, that were a man to have nothing hereafter, the present comfort and glory that lieth as the juice in the grape, in all things rightly done for God, it were sufficient to answer all our travail and self-denial in our work of faith and labour of love, to do the will of God.
2. Dost thou love thy friends, dost thou love thine enemies, dost thou love thy family or relations, or the church of God? then cry for strength from heaven, and for wisdom, and a heart from heaven to walk wisely before them. For if a man be remiss, negligent, and careless in his conversation, not much mattering whom he offends, displeases, or discourages, by doing this or that, so he may save himself, please his foolish heart, and get this world, or the like, this man hath lost a good report of them that are without, and is fallen into reproach and the snare of the devil (1 Tim 3:7). He is fallen into reproach, and is slighted, disdained, both he, his profession, and all he says, either by way of reproof, rebuke, or exhortation: physician, cure thyself, say all to such a one; this man is a sayer, but not a doer, say they; he believeth not what he says; yea, religion itself is made to stink by this man's ungodly life. This is he that hardens his children, that stumbleth the world, that grieveth the tender and godly Christian; but I say, he that walketh uprightly, that tenders the name of God, the credit of the gospel, and the welfare of others, seeking with Paul, not his own profit, but the profit of others, that they may be saved; this man holds forth the Word of life, this man is a good savour of Christ amongst them that are saved; yea, may prove, by so doing, the instrument in God's hand of the salvation of many souls.
3. This is the way to be clear from the blood of all men, the way not to be charged with the ruin and everlasting misery of poor immortal souls. Great is the danger that attends an ungodly life, or an ungodly action, by them that profess the gospel (Jer 2:33). When wicked men learn to be wicked of professors, when professors cause the enemies of God to blaspheme, doubtless sad and woeful effects must needs be the fruit of so doing (2 Sam 12:14). How many in Israel were destroyed for that which Aaron, Gideon, and Manasseh, unworthily did in their day? (Exo 32:25; Judg 8:24-27). A godly man, if he take not heed to himself, may do that in his life that may send many to everlasting burnings, when he himself is in everlasting bliss. But on the contrary, let men walk with God, and there they shall be excused; the blood of them that perish shall lie at their own door, and thou shalt be clear. 'I am pure from the blood of all men,' saith Paul (Acts 20:26). And again, 'your blood be upon your own heads, I am clean' (Acts 18:6). Yea, he that doth thus, shall leave in them that perish an accusing conscience, even begotten by his good conversation, and by that they shall be forced to justify God, his people, and way, in the day of their visitation; in the day when they are descending into the pit to the damned (1 Peter 2:12).
4. This is the way to maintain always the answer, the echoing answer of a good conscience in thy own soul. Godliness is of great use in this way; for the man that hath a good conscience to Godward, hath a continual feast in his own soul: while others say there is casting down, he shall say there is lifting up; for he shall save the humble person (Job 22:23-30). Some indeed, in the midst of their profession, are reproached, smitten, and condemned of their own heart, their conscience still biting and stinging of them, because of the uncleanness of their hands, and they cannot lift up their face unto God; they have not the answer of a good conscience toward him, but must walk as persons false to their God, and as traitors to their own eternal welfare; but the godly upright man shall have the light shine upon his ways, and he shall take his steps in butter and honey. 'The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever' (Isa 32:17). 'If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things; beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God' (1 John 3:20-22).
5. The godly man that walketh with God, that chiefly careth to do the work that God hath allotted him to do for his name in this world, he hath not only these advantages, but further, he hath as it were a privilege of power with God, he can sway much with him; as it is said of Jacob, as a prince he had power with God to prevail in times of difficulty (Gen 32:28). And so again, it is said of Judah, being faithful with the saints, he ruled with God (Hosea 11:12). How many times did that good man Moses turn away the wrath of God from the many thousands of Israel; yea, as it were, he held the hands of God, and staved off the judgments not once nor twice; the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (2 Sam 5:10). One man that walketh much with God, may work wonders in this very thing; he may be a means of saving whole countries and kingdoms from those judgments their sins deserve. How many times, when Israel provoked the Lord to anger, did he yet defer to destroy them? and the reason of that forbearance, he tells them it was for David's sake; for my servant David's sake I will not do it. As the Lord said also concerning Paul, 'Lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee'; that is, to save their lives from the rage of the sea (Acts 27:24). Yea, when a judgment is not only threatened, but the decree gone forth for its execution, then godly upright men may sometimes cause the very decree itself to cease without bringing forth (Zech 2:1-3). Or else may so time the judgment that is decreed, that the church shall best be able to bear it (Matt 24:20).
6. The man that is tender of God's glory in this world, still ruling and governing his affairs by the Word, and desirous to be faithful to the work and employment that God hath appointed him to do for his name; that man shall still be let into the secrets of God; he shall know that which God will reserve and hide from many; 'Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do,' saith the Lord?—'For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord,' &c. (Gen 18:17,19). So again, 'The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant' (Psa 25:14). 'And to him that ordereth his conversation aright, will I shew the salvation of God' (Psa 50:23). Such a man shall have things new as well as old. His converse with the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit, shall be turned into a kind of familiarity; he shall be led into the Word, and shall still increase in knowledge: when others shall be stinted and look with old faces, being black and dry as a stick, he shall be like a fatted calf, like the tree that is planted by the rivers of water, his flesh shall be fresh as the flesh of a child, and God will renew the face of his soul.
7. If any escape public calamities, usually they are such as are very tender of the name of God, and that make it their business to walk before him. They either escape by being mercifully taken away before it, or by being safely preserved in the midst of the judgment, until the indignation be overpast. Therefore God saith in one place, the 'righteous are taken away from the evil to come' (Isa 57:1). But if not so, as all be not, then they shall have their life for a prey (Jer 39:15-18). Caleb and Joshua escaped all the plagues that befel to Israel in the wilderness, for they followed God (Num 14:24). Somewhat of this you have also in that scripture, 'Seek ye the Lord all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness, it may be, ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger' (Zeph 2:3). According to this is that in Luke, 'Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man' (Luke 21:36). When a man's ways please the Lord, he will make his enemies to be at peace with him. Marvellous is the work of God in the preservation of his saints that are faithful with him, when dangers and calamities come; as Joseph, David, Jeremiah, and Paul, with many others, may appear. 'He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee. In famine he shall redeem thee from death; and in war from the power of the sword. Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue; neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh' (Job 5:19-21).
8. If afflictions do overtake thee, for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth, yet those afflictions shall not befal thee for those causes for which they befal the slothful and backsliding Christian; neither shall they have that pinching and galling operation upon thee, as on those who have left their first love and tenderness for God's glory in the world.
(1.) Upon the faithful upright man, though he also may be corrected and chastised for sin, yet, I say, he abiding close with God, afflictions come rather for trial and for the exercise of grace received, than as rebukes for this or that wickedness; when upon the backsliding heartless Christian these things shall come from fatherly anger and displeasure, and that for their sins against him. Job did acknowledge himself a sinner, and that God therefore might chastise him: but yet he rather believed it was chiefly for the trial of his grace, as indeed, and in truth, it was (Job 7:20, 23:10). 'He is a perfect man,' saith God to Satan, 'and one that feareth God, and escheweth evil, and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause' (Job 2:3). God will not say thus of every one when affliction is laid upon them, though they yet may be his children; but rather declareth and pronounceth that it is for their transgressions, because they have wickedly departed from him (Psa 39:11, 38:1-4).
(2.) Now, affliction arising from these two causes, their effects in the manner of their working, though grace turns them both for good, is very different one from the other; he who hath been helped to walk with God, is not assaulted with those turnings and returnings of guilt when he is afflicted, as he who hath basely departed from God; the one can plead his integrity, when the other blusheth for shame. See both these cases in one person, even that goodly beloved David. When the Lord did rebuke him for sin, then he cries, O blood guiltiness, O 'cast me not away from thy presence' (Psa 51:11). But when he at another time knew himself guiltless, though then also sorely afflicted, behold with what boldness he turns his face unto God; 'O Lord, my God,' saith he, 'if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; if I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; [yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy] let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah,' &c. (Psa 7:3-5).
This, therefore, must needs be a blessed help in distress, for a man to have a good conscience when affliction hath taken hold on him; for a man then, in his looking behind and before, to return with peace to his own soul, that man must needs find honey in this lion, that can plead his innocency and uprightness. All the people curse me, saith Jeremiah, but that without a cause, for I have neither lent nor taken on usury; which it seems was a sin at that day (Jer 15:10).
9. When men are faithful with God in this world, to do the work he hath appointed for them, by this means a dying bed is made easier, and that upon a double account. (1.) By reason of that present peace such shall have, even in their time of languishing. (2.) By reason of the good company such shall have at their departure.
(1.) Such souls usually abound in present peace; they look not back upon the years they have spent with that shame as the idle and slothful Christian does. 'Remember now, Lord,—how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart' (Isa 38:3). Blessed is the man that considereth the poor, the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the earth; and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing; thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness (Psa 41:1-3).
Ah! when God makes the bed, he must needs lie easy that weakness hath cast thereon; a blessed pillow hath that man for his head, though to all beholders it is hard as a stone. Jacob, on his deathbed, had two things that made it easy:—(a) The faith of his going to rest, 'I am to be gathered unto my people'; that is, to the blessed that have yielded up the ghost before me (Gen 49:29). (b) The remembrance of the sealings of the countenance of God upon him, when he walked before him in the days of his pilgrimage: when Joseph came to see him, before he left this world, Israel, saith the Word, 'strengthened himself and sat upon his bed'; and the first word that dropt out of this good man's mouth, O how full of glory was it! 'God Almighty appeared unto me,' saith he, 'at Luz, in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,' &c. (Gen 48:1-3). O blessed discourse for a sick bed, when those can talk thus that lie thereon, from as true a ground as Jacob; but thus will God make the bed of those who walk close with him in this world.
(2.) The dying bed of such a man is made easy by reason also of the good company such shall have at their departure; and that is, (1) The angels; (b) Their good works they have done for God in the world.
(a) The angels of heaven shall wait upon them, as they did upon blessed Lazarus, to carry them into Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22). I know all that go to paradise are by these holy ones conducted thither; but yet, for all that, such as die under the clouds for unchristian walking with God, may meet with darkness in that day—may go heavily hence, notwithstanding that (Job 5:14). Yea, their bed may be as uncomfortable to them as if they lay upon nothing but the cords, and their departing from it, as to appearance, more uncomfortable by far. But as for those who have been faithful to their God, they shall see before them, shall know their tabernacles, 'shall be in peace' (Job 5:24), 'the everlasting gates shall be opened unto them,' in all which, from earth, they shall see the glory (Acts 7:55,56). I once was told a story of what happened at a good man's death, the which I have often remembered, with wonderment and gladness. After he had lain for some time sick, his hour came that he must depart, and behold, while he lay, as we call it, drawing on, to the amazement of the mourners, there was heard about his bed such blessed and ravishing music as they never heard before; which also continued till his soul departed, and then began to cease, and grow, as to its sound, as if it was departing the house, and so still seemed to go further and further off, till at last they could hear it not longer. 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love him': behold, then, how God can make thy sick bed easy! (1 Cor 2:9).
(b) A dying bed is made easy by those good works that men have done in their life for the name of God: 'Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them'; yea, and go before them too (Rev 14:13). No man need be afraid to be accompanied by good deeds to heaven. Be afraid of sins, they are like bloodhounds at the heels; and be sure thy sins will find thee out, even thee who hast not been pardoned in the precious blood of Christ; but as for those who have submitted themselves to the righteousness of God for their justification, and who have, through faith and love to his name, been frequent in deeds of righteousness, they shall not appear empty before their God, 'their works,' their good works, 'follow them.' These shall enter into rest, and walk with Christ in white. I observe, when Israel had passed over Jordan, they were to go to possess between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, from whence was to be pronounced the blessing and the cursing (Deut 27). The gospel meaning of which I take to be as followeth: I take Jordan to be a type of death: and these two mountains, with the cursing and blessing, to be a type of the judgment that comes on every man, so soon as he goes from hence—'and after death the judgment'—so that he that escapes the cursing, he alone goes into blessedness; but he that Mount Ebal smiteth, he falls short of heaven! O! none knows the noise that doth sound in sinners' souls from Ebal and Gerizim when they are departed hence; yet it may be they know not what will become of them till they hear these echoings from these two mountains: but here the good man is sure Mount Gerizim doth pronounce him blessed. Blessed, then, are the dead that die in the Lord, for their works will follow them till they are past all danger. These are the Christian's train that follow him to rest; these are a good man's company that follow him to heaven.
 Solemn indeed is the responsibility of a Christian minister, and every follower of the Lamb bears that office privately, and should be earnest in prayer that public ministers may do the work of evangelists, not only by insisting upon the necessity of the new birth and its solemn reality, the happiness of a close walk with God, and the glorious rest that remaineth, but to visit the poor and rich at their own habitations, in sickness and health, and watch over their people as those that must give an account.—Ed.
 'With a curse,' is from the Puritan version.—Ed.
 Wretched are the persecutors, like a troubled sea, casting up mire and filth, vainly opposing the sinner's duty of personal inquiry for salvation, and harassing him if he refuses to submit to human dogmas, creeds, catechisms, and liturgies—the inventions of men. Although the power is curtailed, the disposition remains the same; restless and unwearied, they stick at nothing to glut their revenge upon the disciples of Christ. But all in vain; the gospel spreads although the persecutor kicks; it is against the sharp goads; he rushes upon Jehovah's buckler and crushes himself; is wretched in this life and lost to all eternity; unless, as in the case of Saul, unspeakable mercy arrests him—Ed.
 The lions growled and roared upon the pilgrims in Bunyan's days, to prevent their making a public profession of Christ by uniting with one of his churches; represented in the Pilgrim's Progress by the palace justly called Beautiful. Many were then kept back, to their serious injury or ruin, by fear of enormous penalties or imprisonment, but NOW, what keeps you back, O Christian. Fears for the loss of property, liberty, or life, would have been a wretched plea for the loss of the soul, how much less the fear of ridicule from ungodly friends or relatives.—Ed.
 A familiar expression; 'rub up,' prepare for action. 'Put on thy harness,' an obsolete term for armour, weapons, and habiliments of war; the spiritual warfare, 'put on the whole armour of God.'—Ed.
 Would you be ready to die in peace? then seek a close walk and communion with God in time of health. A life of faith ensures a life of glory. Live and walk in the Spirit; as strangers and pilgrims abstain from fleshly lusts. To live thus is Christ; to die is gain, the more sudden the more joyful and glorious.—Ed.
 This meaning of the word 'touch' is now obsolete. It refers to touching the seal on a deed, called sealing it; a solemn, deliberate pledge to keep close to your covenants. 'I keep touch with my promise.' Sir Thomas More.—Ed.
 'To make both ends meet,' is a proverbial expression, meaning that our expenses should not exceed our income; but, in this more solemn sense we should fulfil our daily duties as they approach, as all our moments have duties assigned to them. Omissions can never be recovered; hence the necessity of forgiveness for Christ's sake, who fulfilled every duty, and hence the necessity of perpetual watchfulness.—Ed.
 How delightfully does this exclamation flow from the lips of the pious patriarch, overcome by his exertion in this solemn death-bed scene. He pauses, and then, with his recovering breath, appeals to heaven—'I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.' Poor old man, the cold sweat of death is on thy brow, the angels stand ready to open the gate of the celestial city; finish thy solemn instructions to thy children, and then thou shalt enter upon the fruition of all thy patient waiting, thy fearing, fighting, trembling, doubting, shall be absorbed in immeasurable, eternal bliss.—Ed.
 This is a very illustrative allusion. When a spinner has wound up all his material, the technical term is, 'The bottom is wound.' When a poor spinner by age or infirmity, is incapable of work, it would be said, 'Ah! his bottom is wound.' In this text, Jacob had finally made an end of all his earthly duties, and had now only to close his eyes for the last time upon the world.—Ed.
 These are solemn and most weighty arguments to press upon us the fulfilment of our daily duties. How incomprehensible are the ways of God. His love is proved by bitterly convicting us of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Like Christian and Hopeful in Doubting Castle, sometimes so overwhelming as to drive us to the verge of despair and self-destruction. We fall not down the precipice, for still there is hope and pardon in his bosom, and at the proper time it will be revealed.—Ed.
 That preventeth; 'letteth' is from the old verb to let or hinder, as used Romans 1:13.—Ed.
 This language is probably founded on Revelation 22:14, 'Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.' Until the work that is assigned to us is done, we cannot cross the river and ascend to the New Jerusalem. 'He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen.' He who is diligent to finish his work may reply with truth, 'Even so, come, Lord Jesus.'—Ed.
 Bunyan was in his politics a thorough loyalist. When a young man he even fought at the siege of Leicester, when it was besieged by the royal army. Probably the horrible cruelties practised upon the peaceful inhabitants, by the cavaliers, at the taking of that city, induced him to leave the service. His pastor, J. Gifford, had also served in the royal army as an officer; both of them narrowly escaped. This may account for Bunyan's high monarchial principles, they appear very prominently in many of his works.—Ed.
 Many extraordinary tales are told of the nightingale, as to their great memory, and facility in imitating the human voice. Sitting in thorns is more for protection than penance. See Goldsmith's Animated Nature. It was a generally received opinion that the nightingale, to keep himself awake in the night, sat on a tree of thorn, so that if he nodded he would be pricked in the breast. The learned and witty Dr. Thomas Fuller thus alludes to it:—'I am sure the nightingale which would wake will not be angry with the thorn which pricketh her breast when she noddeth.' How useful would it be if a thorn could be so placed as to prick those who nod at church!—Ed.
 A painted figure of a horse, behind which the sportsman stealthily approaches the game.
'One underneath his horse, to get a shoot doth stalk Another over dykes upon his stilts doth walk.' —Drayton's Polyolbion, vol. iii. p. 25.—Ed.
 So dress as to pass without being noticed; neither precise nor formal, slovenly nor dandyish; dress like a man or woman. Conduct yourself as one that fears God.—Ed.
 The head having been crowned with thorns, it is unsuitable that the feet should tread on rose leaves.—Mason.
 How very striking is this expression. O! that it may assist in riveting upon our souls a vivid remembrance of the Saviour's sufferings.—Ed.
 Some Pharisees, falsely called by the Romish churches 'saints,' have claimed merit from associating with dirt and filth, and vermin, beggars, and vagabonds, upon dunghills, to show their contempt of the world! All this was to gain the applause of the world. God's saints will associate with the salt of the earth, with God's fearers, who whether rich or poor, are equally despised by the world.—Ed.
 Reader, do not mistake this to mean a piece of wood shaped as a cross. It means cherish, love, be conformed to the conduct or image of Christ, follow him in reproaches and revilings, and count it your honour to suffer for his sake. 'Kiss it,' has the same meaning as the words of the Psalmist, 'Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish.' It is the soul mentally kissing the Saviour, and not a bit of wood, which would then be an idol, inflicting the deep guilt of idolatry.—Ed.
 Upon the opening of the sixth seal in the book of Revelation, there was 'a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon as blood.' A preternatural and awful darkness broods over nature, preparatory to its final dissolution. Thus Satan darkens the things above to the natural man, so that he cannot discern spiritual things, while those of time and sense are magnified and multiplied in his estimation.—Ed.
 This refers to the phylacteries worn by every Jew while in his daily prayers. These are long strips of leather, having small boxes containing the law minutely written in Hebrew, worn upon the forehead and wrist, and bound round the fingers. A custom founded on Exodus 13:9, 16; Proverbs 7:3. That the Divine law should direct the head and fingers, as representing the mind and conduct, so would Bunyan have all Christians carry, at all times, in the mind and conduct, the riches and righteousness of Christ.—Ed.
 There are no idlers in God's Israel, every one has his appointed work to fulfil against his appointed day. Christian, watch against idleness.
'For Satan has some mischief still For idle hands to do.'—Ed.
 Godliness, saith Paul, has the 'promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.' This should be more dwelt upon by our ministers, as Bunyan sets the example. The mind of a Christian has the richest enjoyments, however his body may be persecuted, for over that only the enemy has power. A prison may be the gate of heaven. With God as our Father, a wall of fire round about, and the glory in our midst, 'what can we want beside?'—Ed.
 To tender; to care for, to guard. 'He had provoked others to tender and seek the glory of God.'—Udal. Not frequently used in this sense.—Ed.
 How tenderly does the Psalmist exhibit the love of God to his chosen under this figure, 'Thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.' He will never leave nor forsake them; and, when heart and flesh shall fail, he will guide them and receive them to his glory. 'Wonders of grace to God belong.' Christian women! with such an example, can you hesitate to go and make the bed of a poor sick and afflicted neighbour?—Ed.
'Jesus can make a dying bed Feel soft as downy pillows are, While on his breast I lean my head, And breath my life out sweetly there.'—Dr. Watts.
THE DESIRE OF THE RIGHTEOUS GRANTED;
A DISCOURSE OF THE RIGHTEOUS MAN'S DESIRES.
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR
As the tree is known by its fruit, so is the state of a man's heart known by his desires. The desires of the righteous are the touchstone or standard of Christian sincerity—the evidence of the new birth—the spiritual barometer of faith and grace—and the springs of obedience. Christ and him crucified is the ground of all our hopes—the foundation upon which all our desires after God and holiness are built—and the root by which they are nourished. It is from this principle of Divine life which flows from Christ to his members, that these desires and struggles after holiness of thought and conduct arise, and are kept alive. They prove a fountain of consolation to the harassed and tried believer; for if we are in the sense of this scripture 'righteous,' we shall have those desires to enjoy the presence of God on earth, and with him felicity in heaven, which the voice of the Omnipotent declareth SHALL be granted. O! the blessedness of those in whose hearts are planted 'the desires of the righteous.'
This brings us to the most important of all the subjects of self-examination—am I one of the 'righteous'? or, in other words, 'am I born again?' Upon this solemn heart-trying inquiry hangs all our hopes of escape from misery and ascension to glory—a kingdom, a crown, a bright, a happy, an eternal inheritance, on the one hand, or the gloomy abodes of wretchedness on the other hand, are for ever to be decided. What are our desires? To guide our anxious inquiries into this all-important subject, our author unlocks the heavenly treasures, and in every point furnishes us with book, and chapter, and verse, that we may carefully and prayerfully weigh all that he displays in the unerring scales of the sanctuary. A desire after the presence of God—of conformity to his image and example—for a greater hatred of sin—yea, as Bunyan expresses it, a desire to desire more of those blessed fruits of the Spirit, inspires the inquirer with the cheering hope that he has passed from death unto life—that he has been born again, and has been made righteous. And if, as we progress in the Divine life, our experience of the delights of communion with God enables us to say with David, 'My soul panteth,' or crieth, or, as the margin of our Bibles have, brayeth, 'yea, thirsteth after God,' however we may be assaulted by the enemies within and without, we may say with confidence, 'Why art thou disquieted, O my soul? hope thou in God, for I SHALL yet praise him.'
Deeply are the churches of Christ indebted to the Holy Spirit for having assisted his honoured servant to write this treatise; and we are under great obligation to his friend, Charles Doe, for having handed it down to us, as he found it prepared for the press, with other excellent treatises, among the author's papers after his decease. It abounds with those striking ideas peculiar to the works of the author of the Pilgrim's Progress; most faithful home thrusts at conscience, which those who really desire to know themselves will greatly prize. It has been very properly observed that the words used by the author, as descriptive of the text, may, with great propriety, be applied to this treatise—'It is a sharp and smart description' of the desires of a righteous man.
The desires of the righteous are very graphically impersonated and described. They reach beyond time and peep into eternity. 'The righteous have desires that reach further than this world, desires that have so long a neck as to look into the world to come.' 'So forcible and mighty are they in operation'; 'is there not life and mettle in them? They loose the bands of nature—harden the soul against sorrow—they are the fruits of an eagle-eyed confidence.' They enable the soul 'to see through the jaws of death—to see Christ preparing mansion-houses for his poor ones that are now kicked to and fro, like footballs in the world!' 'A desire will take a man upon its back and carry him away to God, if ten thousand men oppose it.' 'It will carry him away after God to do his will, let the work be never so hard.' The new man is subject to transient sickness, during which desire fails in its power when the inner man has caught a cold.
Bunyan's views of church fellowship are always lovely; they are delightfully expressed. He also introduces us to the unsearchable riches of Christ. 'The righteous desire a handful, God gives them a seaful; they desire a country, God prepares for them a city.' Wonders of grace to God belong.
Bunyan's pictures of the natural man are equally faithful and striking—when guilt and conviction take hold on him—when pestilence threatens to break up his house-keeping—and death takes him by the throat and hauls him down stairs to the grave; then he, who never prayed, crieth, Pray for me, and the poor soul is as loath to go out of the body for fear the devil should catch it, as the poor bird is to go out of the bush while she sees the hawk waiting to receive her. But I must not detain the reader longer from entering on this solemn and impressive treatise, but commend it to the Divine blessing.
THE DESIRE OF THE RIGHTEOUS GRANTED.
'The desite of the righteous is only good.'—Proverbs 11:23
'The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him; but the desite of the righteous shall be granted.'—Proverbs 10:24
This book of the Proverbs is so called because it is such as containeth hard, dark, and pithy sentences of wisdom, by which is taught unto young men knowledge and discretion (1-6). Wherefore this book is not such as discloseth truths by words antecedent or subsequent to the text, so as other scriptures generally do, but has its texts or sentences more independent; for usually each verse standeth upon its own bottom, and presenteth by itself some singular thing to the consideration of the reader; so that I shall not need to bid my reader go back to what went before, nor yet to that which follows, for the better opening of the text; and shall therefore come immediately to the words, and search into them for what hidden treasures are contained therein.
[First.] The words then, in the first place, present us with the general condition of the whole world; for all men are ranked under one of these conditions, the wicked or the righteous; for he that is not wicked is righteous, and he that is not righteous is wicked. So again, 'Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous, spoil not his resting-place.' I might give you out of this book many such instances, for it flows with such; but the truth hereof is plain enough.
The world is also divided by other general terms, as by these—believers, unbelievers; saints, sinners; good, bad; children of God, and children of the wicked one, &c. These, I say, are general terms, and comprehend not this or that sect, or order of each, but the whole. The believer, saint, good, and child of God, are one—to wit, the righteous; the unbeliever, the sinner, the bad, and the child of the devil, is one—to wit, the wicked; as also the text expresses it. So that I say, the text, or these two terms in it, comprehend all men; the one all that shall be saved, the other all that shall be damned for ever in hell-fire (Psa 9:17, 11:6). The wicked; who is he but the man that loves not God, nor to do his will? The righteous; who is he but the man that loveth God, and his holy will, to do it?
Of the wicked there are several sorts, some more ignorant, some more knowing; the more ignorant of them are such as go to be executed, as the ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; that is, as creatures whose ignorance makes them as unconcerned, while they are going down the stairs to hell. But, alas! their ignorance will be no plea for them before the bar of God; for it is written, 'It is a people of no understanding; therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will show them no favour' (Isa 27:11; Prov 7:22).
Though, I must confess, the more knowing the wicked is, or the more light and goodness such a one sins against, the greater will his judgment be; these shall have greater damnation: it shall be more tolerable at the judgment for Sodom than for them (Luke 10:12, 20:47). There is a wicked man that goes blinded, and a wicked man that goes with his eyes open to hell; there is a wicked man that cannot see, and a wicked man that will not see the danger he is in; but hell-fire will open both their eyes (Luke 16:23). There are that are wicked, and cover all with a cloak of religion, and there are that proclaim their profaneness; but they will meet both in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; 'The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God' (Psa 9:17).
There are also several sorts, if I may so express myself, of those that are truly righteous, as children, young men, fathers, or saints that fear God, both small and great (Rev 11:18; 1 John 2). Some have more grace than some, and some do better improve the grace they have than others of their brethren do; some also are more valiant for the truth upon the earth than others of their brethren are; yea, some are so swallowed up with God, and love to his word and ways, that they are fit to be a pattern or example in holiness to all that are about them; and some again have their light shining so dim, that they render themselves suspicious to their brethren, whether they are of the number of those that have grace or no. But being gracious they shall not be lost, although such will at the day of reward suffer loss; for this is the will of the Father that sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, 'That of all which he had given him he should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day' (John 6:37-39; 1 Cor 3:15).
[Second.] In the next place, we are here presented with some of the qualities of the wicked and the righteous; the wicked has his fears, the righteous has his desires. The wicked has his fears. 'The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him; but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.' Indeed, it seems to the godly that the wicked feareth not, nor doth he after a godly sort; for he that feareth God aright must not be reputed a wicked man. The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, declareth that he feareth not God aright, because he doth not graciously call upon him; but yet for all that, the wicked at times are haunted, sorely haunted, and that with the worst of fears. 'Terrors,' says Bildad, 'shall make him afraid on every side.' And again, 'His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors' (Job 18:11-14).
A wicked man, though he may hector it at times with his proud heart, as though he feared neither God nor hell, yet again, at times, his soul is even drowned with terrors. 'The morning is to them even as the shadow of death; if one knew them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death' (Job 24:14-17). At times, I say, it is thus with them, especially when they are under warm convictions that the day of judgment is at hand, or when they feel in themselves as if death was coming as a tempest, to steal them away from their enjoyments, and lusts, and delights; then the bed shakes on which they lie, then the proud tongue doth falter in their mouth, and their knees knock one against another; then their conscience stares, and roars, and tears, and arraigns them before God's judgment-seat, or threatens to follow them down to hell, and there to wreck its fury on them, for all the abuses and affronts this wicked wretch offered to it in the day in which it controlled his unlawful deeds. O! none can imagine what fearful plights a wicked man is in sometimes; though God in his just judgment towards them suffers them again and again to stifle and choke such awakenings, from a purpose to reserve them unto the day of judgment to be punished (2 Peter 2:7-9).
[Third.] In the third place, as the wicked has his fears, so the righteous has his desires. 'The desire of the righteous shall be granted'; but this must not be taken exclusively, as if the wicked had nothing but fears, and the righteous nothing but desires. For, both by Scripture and experience also, we find that the wicked has his desires, and the righteous man his fears.
1. For the wicked, they are not without their desires. 'Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his,' was the desire of wicked Balaam (Num 23:10), and another place saith, 'the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire'; that he is for heaven as well as the best of you all, but yet, even then, 'he blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth' (Psa 10:3). Wicked men have their desires and their hopes too, but the hope and desire of unjust men perisheth (Prov 11:7, 14:32). Yea, and though they look and long, too, all the day long, with desires of life and glory, yet their fears, and them only, shall come upon them; for they are the desires of the righteous that shall be granted (Psa 112:10).
The desires of the wicked want a good bottom; they flow not from a sanctified mind, nor of love to the God, or the heaven now desired; but only from such a sense as devils have of torments, and so, as they, they cry out, 'I beseech thee torment me not' (Luke 8:28, 16:24). But their fears have a substantial foundation, for they are grounded upon the view of an ill-spent life, the due reward of which is hell-fire; 'the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God,' their place is without; 'for without are dogs and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie' (1 Cor 6:9,10; Rev 22:15).
Their fears, therefore, have a strong foundation; they have also matter to work upon, which is guilt and justice, the which they shall never be able to escape, without a miracle of grace and mercy (Heb 2:3). Therefore it saith, and that with emphasis, 'The fear of the wicked it shall come upon him'; wherefore his desires must die with him: for the promise of a grant of that which is desired is only entailed to righteousness. 'The desire of the righteous shall be granted,' but 'grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked,' saith David (Psa 140:8).
2. Nor are the righteous without their fears, and that even all their life long. Through fear of death, they, some of them, are all their life time subject to bondage (Heb 2:15). But as the desires of the wicked shall be frustrate, so shall also the fears of the godly; hence you have them admonished, yea commanded, not to be afraid neither of devils, death, nor hell; for the fear of the righteous shall not come upon them to eternal damnation (Isa 35:4, 41:10-14, 43:1, 44:28; Luke 8:50, 12:32; Rev 1:17).
'The desire of the righteous shall be granted.' No, they are not to fear what sin can do unto them, nor what all their sins can do unto them; I do not say they should not be afraid of sinning, nor of those temporal judgments that sin shall bring upon them, for of such things they ought to be afraid, as saith the Psalmist, 'My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments' (Psa 119:120). But of eternal ruin, of that, they ought not to be afraid of with slavish fear. 'Wherefore should I fear,' said the prophet, 'in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?' (Psa 49:5). And again, 'Ye have done all this wickedness, yet turn not aside from following the Lord;—for the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake' (1 Sam 12:20-22).
The reason is, because the righteous are secured by their faith in Christ Jesus; also their fears stand upon a mistake of the nature of the covenant, in which they are wrapped up, which is ordered for them in all things, and sure (2 Sam 23:5; Isa 55:3). Besides, God has purposed to magnify the riches of his grace in their salvation; therefore goodness and mercy shall, to that end, follow them all the days of their life, that they may 'dwell in the house of the Lord for ever' (Psa 23:6; Eph 1:3-7). They have also their intercessor and advocate ready with God, to take up matters for them in such a way as may maintain true peace betwixt their God and them; and as may encourage them to be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto them at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13; 1 John 2:1,2). Wherefore, though the godly have their fears, yea, sometimes dreadful fears, and that of perishing for ever and ever; yet the day is coming, when their fears and tears shall be done away, and when their desires only shall be granted. 'The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon them; but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.'
The words, then, are a prediction or prophecy, and that both concerning the wicked and the righteous, with reference to time and things to come, and shall certainly be fulfilled in their season. Hence it is said concerning the wicked, that their triumphing is short, and that the joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment (Job 20:5). O, their end will be bitter as wormwood, and will cut like a two-edged sword! Of this Solomon admonishes youth, when he saith. 'Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment' (Eccl 11:9).
This, therefore, showeth the desperate spirit that possesses the children of men, who, though they hear and read all this, yet cannot be reclaimed from courses that are wicked, and that lead to such a condition (Prov 5:7-14). I say they will not be reclaimed from such courses as lead to ways that go down to hell, where their soul must mourn, even then when their flesh and their body are consumed. O! how dear bought are their pleasures, and how will their laughter be turned into tears and anguish unutterable! and that presently, for it is coming! Their 'judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not' (2 Peter 2:3). But what good will their covenant of death then do them? And will their agreement of hell yield them comfort? Is not God as well mighty to punish as to save? (Isa 28:18). Or can these sinners believe God out of the world, or cause that he should not pay them home for their sins, and recompense them for all the evil they have loved, and continued in the commission of? (Job 21:29-31). 'Can thy heart endure, or can thy hands be strong in the days that God shall deal with thee?' (Eze 22:14). Thou art bold now, I mean bold in a wicked way; thou sayest now thou wilt keep thy sweet morsels of sin under thy tongue, thou wilt keep them still within thy mouth. Poor wretch! Thy sins shall lie down in the dust with thee (Job 20:11). Thou hast sucked the poison of asps, and the viper's tongue shall slay thee (Job 20:16). 'Thou shalt not see the rivers, the streaming floods, the brooks of butter and honey' (Job 20:17). 'All darkness shall be hid in thy secret places, a fire not blown shall consume thee.' 'This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed to him by God' (Job 20:26-29).
And as they [the Scriptures] predict or prophesy what shall become of the wicked; so also they plentifully foretell what shall happen to the righteous, when he saith their desire shall be granted: of which more anon. Only here I will drop this short hint, That the righteous have great cause to rejoice; for what more pleasing, what more comfortable to a man, than to be assured, and that from the Spirit of truth, that what he desireth shall be granted? And this the righteous are assured of here; for he saith it in words at length, 'The desire of the righteous shall be granted.' This, then, should comfort them against their fears, and the sense of their unworthiness; it should also make them hold up their heads under all their temptations, and the affronts that is usual for them to meet with in the world. The righteous! Who so vilified as the righteous? He, by the wise men of the world, is counted a very Abraham, a fool; like to him who is the father of us all. But as he left all for the desire that he had of a better country, and at last obtained his desire; for after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise; so those that walk in the steps of that faith which our father Abraham had, even those also in the end shall find place in Abraham's bosom; wherefore it is meet that we should cheer up and be glad, because what we desire shall be granted unto us (Heb 6).
THE NATURE OF THE WORDS.
But I shall here leave off this short way of paraphrasing upon the text, and shall come more distinctly to inquire into the nature of the words; but my subject-matter shall be the last part of the verse, 'The desire of the righteous shall be granted.' From which words there are these things to be inquired into.
FIRST. What, or who is the righteous man? SECOND. What are the desires of a righteous man? THIRD. What is meant or to be understood by the granting of the desires of the righteous? 'The desire of the righteous shall be granted.'
[WHO IS THE RIGHTEOUS MAN?]
FIRST. For the first of these, namely, 'WHAT OR WHO IS THE RIGHTEOUS MAN?
My way of prosecuting this head shall be to show you, first, that I intend a righteous man not in every sense, but in that which is the best; otherwise I shall miscarry as to the intendment of the Holy Ghost; for it may not be supposed that these words reach to them that are righteous in a general, but in a special sense; such, I mean, that are so in the judgment of God. For, as I hinted, there are several sorts of righteous men that yet have nothing to do with this blessed promise, or that shall never, as such, have their desires granted.
FIRST. There is one that is righteous in his own eyes, and is yet far enough off from the blessing of the text: 'There is a generation that are pure' or righteous 'in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness' (Prov 29:12). These are they that you also read of in the evangelist Luke, that are said to trust 'in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others' (Luke 18:9). These are set so low, by this their foolish confidence, in the eyes of Jesus Christ, that he even preferred a praying publican before them (Luke 18:13,14). Wherefore these cannot be the men, I mean those righteous men, to whom this promise is made.
SECOND. There are those that by others are counted righteous; I mean they are so accounted by their neighbours. Thus Korah and his company are called the people of the Lord, and all the congregation by them also called holy, every one of them (Num 16:3,41). But as he who commends himself is not approved, so it is no great matter if all the world shall count us righteous, if God esteemeth us not for such: 'For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends' (2 Cor 10:18).
THIRD. There are those that indeed are righteous when compared with others: 'I came not to call the righteous'; 'for scarcely for a righteous man will one die,' and the like, are texts thus to be understood. For such as these are, as to life moral, better than others. But these, if they are none otherwise righteous than by acts and works of righteousness of their own, are not the persons contained in the text that are to have their desires granted.
FOURTH. The righteous man therefore in the text is, and ought to be, thus described: 1. He is one whom God makes righteous, by reckoning him so. 2. He is one that God makes righteous, by possessing of him with a principle of righteousness. 3. He is one that is practically righteous.
First. He is one that God makes righteous. Now, if God makes him righteous, his righteousness is not his own, I mean this sort of righteousness: 'Their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord' (Isa 54:17). God then makes a man righteous by putting righteousness upon him—by putting the righteousness of God upon him (Phil 3:6-9). Hence we are said to be made the righteousness of God in Christ: 'For God hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him' (2 Cor 5:21). Thus God, therefore, reckoneth one righteous, even by imputing that unto us which is able to make us so: 'Christ of God is made unto us—righteousness' (1 Cor 1:30). Wherefore he saith again, 'In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory' (Isa 45:25).
The righteousness then by which a man is made righteous, with righteousness to justification of life before God, for that is it we are speaking of now, is the righteousness of another than he who is justified thereby. Hence it is said again by the soul thus justified and made righteous, 'The Lord hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness' (Isa 61:10). As he also saith in another place, 'I spread my skirts over thee, and covered thy nakedness' (Eze 16:8). This we call a being made righteous by reckoning, by the reckoning of God; for none is of power to reckon one righteous but God, because none can make one so to be but him. He that can make me rich, though I am in myself the poorest of men, may reckon me rich, if together with his so reckoning, he indeed doth make me rich. This is the case, God makes a man righteous by bestowing of righteousness upon him—by counting the righteousness of his Son for his. He gives him righteousness, a righteousness already performed and completed by the obedience of his Son (Rom 5:19).
Not that this righteousness, by being bestowed upon us, is severed from Jesus Christ; for it is still his and in him. How then, may some say, doth it become ours? I answer, by our being put into him. For of God are we in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us, of him, 'righteousness.' And again, we are made 'the righteousness of God in him.' So then, the righteousness of Christ covereth his, as a man's garments cover the members of his body, for we are 'the body of Christ, and members in particular' (1 Cor 12:27). The righteousness therefore is Christ's; resideth still in him, and covereth us, as the child is lapped up in its father's skirt, or as the chicken is covered with the feathers of the hen. I make use of all these similitudes thereby to inform you of my meaning; for by all these things are set forth the way of our being made righteous to justification of life (Matt 23:37; Eze 16:8; Psa 36:7).
Now thus a man is made righteous, without any regard to what he has, or to what is of him; for as to him, it is utterly another's. Just as if I should, with the skirts of my garments, take up and clothe some poor and naked infant that I find cast out into the open field. Now if I cover the person, I cover scabs and sores, and ulcers, and all blemishes. Hence God, by putting this righteousness upon us, is said to hide and cover our sins. 'Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin' (Rom 4:7,8). For since this righteousness is Christ's, and counted or reckoned ours by the grace of God, it is therefore bestowed upon us, not because we are, but to make us righteous before the face of God. Hence, as I said, it is said to make us righteous, even as gay clothes do make a naked body fine. 'He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.'
This is of absolute necessity to be known, and to be believed. For without this no man can be counted righteous before God; and if we stand not righteous before God, it will benefit us nothing as to life eternal, though we should be counted righteous by all the men on earth. Besides, if God counts me righteous, I am safe, though in and of myself I am nothing but a sinner, and ungodly. The reason is, because God has a right to bestow righteousness upon me, for he has righteousness to spare; he has also a right to forgive, because sin is the transgression of the law. Yea, he has therefore sent his Son into the world to accomplish righteousness for sinners, and God of his mercy bestows it upon those that shall receive it by faith. Now, if God shall count me righteous, who will be so hardy as to conclude I yet shall perish? 'It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?' (Rom 8:33-35).