THE PROSPERITY OF THE RIGHTEOUS. REV. W. JAY.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree ; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to shew that the Lord is upright ; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him." — Psalm, xcii. 12 — 15.
The title of this Psalm is, " A Psalra or sung for the Sabbath-day." Many foolish writers believe that it was written by Adam himself. If this were true, it would be an immense curiosity indeed : for of all he did, nothing else has come down to us but the sad consequences of his eating the forbidden fruit. " In Adam all died." " By one man sin entered into the world." This supposition is groundless : it is contradicted by the internal evidence of the song itself; for there were then no musical instruments ; then, there were no adversaries — there were no wicked men to rise up against him. " But the leaders of this people have always caused them to err ; they destroyed the way of their fathers." The Jews are a lamentable proof that infidelity does not arise from want of evidence : they could always believe any thing, unless that He who opened the eyes of the blind, and who raised the dead, and who was raised again the third day, was the Son of God. We have every reason to conclude that it was composed by D^vid, who was more distinguished by an attachment to the sanctuary of God, than by anything else. He could say, " I have loved the habitaion of thy house, and the place where thy honour dwelleth." " One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." It consists of praise ; the materials of which are sketched from the works of Jehovah, and especially his dealings with the wicked, and above all, with the righteous. The case is this : the Lord loves his people infinitely ; " he takes pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy." And it is of this that David here speaks. Let us interrogate this tei(t, and obtain from it, if possible, answers to these six questions : first, Who shall flourish ? The righteous. " He shall flourish like the palm-tree." Secondly, How shall they flourish? " He shall flourish like the palm-tree : they shall grow like cedars in Lebanon." Thirdly, Where shall they flourish ? " In the house of our Lord, in the courts of our God." Fourthly, When shall they flourish? " They shall still bring forth fruit in old age." Fifthly, Why shall they flourish ? " To shew that the Lord is upright," &c. Si.xthly, Who can come forward and bear his testimony to this ? " I," says the Psalmist; " he is my rock."
358 THE PROSPERITY OF TIIK RIGHTliOUS. Who shall flourish? 'J'he righteous. "There is none righteous, no, not one." Such was tlie testimony of God liiinself, when he lookeil down (rota heaven on the children of men. ot when he looked down hefore tiie flood, when it is said, '• the wickedness of man was great," and that " every imagination of their hearts was only evil continually ;" but after so many means had been employed to reform tlie world. We may be imposed upon ; we are often led to erroneous conclusions ; but His judgment is always according to trutli. You may entertain a hundred good opinions of your fellow creatures ; but vou cannot suppose that any one of them hath ever " continued in all things written in the law, to do them." Vou may have a flattering opinion of yourself, and especTally compared with some who are grossly vile ; but surely you cannot imagine that you are naturally innocent before God. But if you are transgressors, you are under the law and under the curse. Does not universal observation and experience accord with this testimony of God, tliat " there is none righteous, no, not one?" Yet the Scripture is perpetually speaking of the righteous : and if there were no such characters to be found, nothing could be said concerning them. The case is this : there are none righteous by nature, but there are some who are righteous by grace. There are none who are righteous by a righteousness of their own — that is, a righteousness derived from themselves ; but there are those who are righteous by a righteousness derived from God. Of this the Apostle speaks ; " That I may be found in him, not having mine own," &c. He tells us, that " Israel, which followed after .the law of rigiiteousness, did not attain to the law of righteousness; and wherefore?" says he, " Because they sought it not by faith ; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion," &c. And yet they were distinguished by innumerable privileges, and were very zealous ; but their zeal was in a wrong cause, and therefore carried them astray : •' for they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about," &c. There is a two-fold righteousness, however, spoken of in the Scriptures : the righteousness of justification, and the righteousness of sanctification. Tiiese are very distinguishable from each other; and unless it is clearly discriminated, a confusion will pervade the whole of the religious system. 'I'he one is the change of our state; the other of our nature. 'I'he one is a relative change ; the other personal. The one entitles us to glory ; the other is a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. The one is an instantaneous operation, and applies at once ; the other is gradual and progressive. Yet they are always Inseparable, though distinguishable. " If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things are passed, behold all things are become new." With regard to this righteousness of sanctification, you will observe, that
this at present is not complete. So far from it, " there is not a man that liveth and sinneth not." We are taught, by our Saviour himself, to pray for our daily pardon, as well as for our daily bread. This rigiiteousness is so prevailing in the subject of it as to discriminate even to character : and when a Christian falls, he is acting out of character. In due time it will be complete ; complete as the righteousness of justification. ow, as he has a new righteousness, he has new and right views, new and right feelings, new and right hopes. But all these righteousnesses have a mi.xture, but soon they will be without mixture before the throne for ever. Oh, Christian, it is a thing worth dving for — is it not ? 'I\) drop this body of sin and death ; to feel no n)ore " a law in the members warring against the law of tlie mind ;" no more to say, "When
HL PKOSPERITY OF THE RIGHTEOUS. 359 1 would do good, evil is present, with me" — to shake yourselves from yo'.ir moral death to put on vour beautiful garment of holiness to meet the Lord in the air, and be " presented faultless before the throne with exceeding joy." How SHALL THEY FLOURISH ? " Tlic rigliteous shall flourish like the palmtree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon." The image is sometimes taken from human life: we read in the family of God of little children, young men, and fathers: we read of our coming to " tlie measure of the stature of perfect men in Christ." Sometimes the image is taken from animal life : it is said that those " upon whom the Sun of Righteousrtess shall arise with healing in his wings, shall go forth like calves of the stall." Sometimes the image is taken from vegetable life, and very frequently indeed : " They shall grow as a vine ;" "they shall revive as the corn ;" " they shall spring up as willows by the watercourses ;" " they shall flourish like the palm-tree, they shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon." it is unnecessary to inquire why the palm-tree and the cedar arc selected ; it is suflicient to know that these trees are beautiful in their growth and form, and very fruitful ; and both of them are evergreens ; the cedar gives strong and sweet timber; and, in addition to this, the palm-tree yields an abundance of fruit — dates — sometimes a hundred weight is found upon one tree. But just notice the contrast mentioned in the former verse of this Psalm; " Wlien the wicked spring as the grass,, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish ; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever." " They flourish as the grass, which to-day is, ami to-morrow is cast into the fire." But the righteous flourish as the cedars and palm-trees. We have the same contrast in another Psalm, and in reference to another image. " 'I'he man," says David, " whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and in whose law he doth meditate day and night, is like a trse planted by tlie rivers of water," &c. " The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand," &c.
But the grand thing to be derived from this part of the subject is assuredly this — that there is a real and active progressiveness in religion; that though Christian principles and passions at present are all imperfect, yet they are growing, and shall advance to maturity. This progressiveness is to be considered as a Christian's duty, his desire, and his privilege. His duty ; and therefore it is so often enjoined upon him. " Grow in grace, and in the knowledge," &c. "Giving all diligence add to your faith,' &c. His desire; therefore he " forgets the things that are behind, and looks forward to the things that are before ; therefore his prayer is, " take back that which thou hast wrought for us." "Perfect that which concerneth me" " Thy mercy endureth for ever." " Forsake not the work of thy own hands," &c. His privilege, and therefore it is provided for him ; " therefore it hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell ; ' and from this fulness he is to receive "grace for grace." Therefore it is said, " the righteous shall hold on his way ;" " the Lord will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." " 'i'he righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree." Where shall they flourish? " Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God." There is a fine allusioa
360 THE PROSPERITI UTI THE RIGHTEOI'S. It intimates tliat tlie house of God is iike a garden, or like a well of water, rendering to the life and fertility of the tree. Can you say in words which you have often taught your little children, " Lord how delightful 'tis to set A whole as embly worship thee." There it is that you have fellowship with the Father and witn nis Son Jesus Christ. There his ordinances are dispensed — the ordinances of life. There the word of everlasting truth is proclaimed. There God hath commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. There he resides : " This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell." " I will clothe my priests with righteousness, and make my saints shout for joy." Yes, " they shall be satisfied with the fulness of his house." In order to enjoy these advantages, you must be planted there, as a tree must be, in order to be fruitful: that is, you must be fixed there. How is this? Is a Christian to live there continually? o; this is not to be his dwelling-place literally. We sometimes exercise spiritual self-denial. There are some who run after their favourite preachers, who ought to be at home attending to their families. There are some in the house of God who ought to be in their own
house at the very time. Christian wisdom is necessary here to distinguish things that differ. God has enjoined various duties on you, and €is Bishop Hopkins says, " He will never accept a duty that conies before him stained with the murder of another duty." Every thing is beautiful in its place, and in its time. Yet we frequently read of Christians dwelling in the house of God. Here we have the same idea. Their being planted must mean something; and there it is that they are fixed — there they dwell in two ways. One by choice — for, "where the treasure is, there will the heart be also ;" and where the heart is, there you are, wherever the body may be. I'he other is by the frequency of your attendance, availing yourselves of every opportunity the providence of God allows you to be found there. How often, is Jiot for us to determine ; it is not determined in Scripture. God honours his people by leaving it to their disposition : for love is a generous principle — it always acts best when left free and God thus honours his people, by leaving it to their inclinations and experience. I am sometimes struck with two things. I am sometimes astonished that some persons attend so frequently, and get nothing for themselves, nor have any desire to get any thing. You never examine yourselves afterwards. What in the world can induce you to come here, year after year so regularly, when yon know you have never been really seeking after God in any of the services. Soine have been hearing here, twenty and thirty years, and there has not been a religious movement in you — you are no more settled than you Mere when ] first came, now thirty-eight years ago. As yon are determined to go to hell, what use is your ob.servation of the Sabbath, of being so often reproved, passing so many weeks and months — yea, years, within these walls. "(>1), but we may find him if we seek him." But you know you have not been seeking him. Whatever in the world has influenced yon? You know this is not your aim. I wonder on the other hand, that others do not attend more frequently, because tiiey know tiie value of these things; and am often amazed, that such trifling excuses keep peojile from the sanctuary of God — especially nn week-days. We need sometliiug in the week to keep our minds nearer to God. I iiave been
THE PROSPERITY OF THE RIGHTEOUS. 361 ninazed that people will not rise earlier on those days, and so manage their roncerns as to be able to come forth on week-day evenings to hear the Word of Life, especially if they can afford the expense of riding, or if they keep their carriage. ow, this slack attendance of some, is the effect of a cause : it is the effect of a low degree of zeal, and will become still lower in a man, wlio can neglect the means of grace when opportunity offers : he must not expect to be in a prosperous condition. Sometimes people are fixed where they cannot attend by sickness and accident. ow God, in these cases, will not leave them comfortless.
And there is this to encourage his people — when they cannot have access to the means of grace, they have access to three things — namely, that they have access to the word of grace; they have access to the throne of grace; and they have access to the Spirit of grace. But as for those who can attend, and refuse these opportunities, wjiat have they a right to expect. What good they can do is one thing, what they may do is another. But what is the ground of your expectation? " They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength : they shall mount up with wings as eagles ; they shall run and not be weary ; they shall walk and not faint." " Draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh unto you." " The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God." When shall they flourish ? " They shall still bring forth fruit in old age." ot that they all live to be old — this is not the meaning of it. Sometimes tliey have been removed in early life, in the midst of their days ; which, by the way, is a very mysterious Providence — that men who are likely to be useful, (should be soon cut off, while a Voltaire is suffered to live, poisoning men, to the age of ninety. But though they die young, they fill up their days. They die old ; for life is not to be measured by days. There was a being, once, that lived in Judea, who died at thirty-three, and yet lived much longer than Methuselah; for every action, and word, and feeling, of that Being, said, "I must work the work of him that sent me while it is called to-day." Under the former economy, long life was reckoned a peculiar honour and blessing : it was made a matter of promise, and was attached to the first commandment of the second table : " Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Says David, "He that would desire life and live many days," &c. "With long life," says God, "will I satisfy him." "Length of days is in wisdom's right hand." Religion has a tendency to prolong life by sustaining and promoting health. Lying late in bed is very injurious to health ; and a Christian will say with David, " My voice shalt thou hear in the morning." Idleness and sloth are very injurious to health ; and religion abhors every thing like idleness. Intemperance in all its stages and degrees is injurious: and a religious man will put a knife to his throat if he be a man given to appetite. Anxious cares and fears corrode and injure the constitution ; but faitii teaches a man to be tranquil. " Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee." All the malevolent passions are injurious to health, but religion is designed to establish the affections and passions, and teaches us to love God supremely, and our neighbours as ourselves. And you find in the scripture, that the hoary head is a crown of glory, when found in the way of righteousness. Altraluun, Isaac, .Jacob, Moses, Caleb, Joshua, David, Samuel, John, Peter, and Simon, and Mnason (an old
362 TJiK rROsi'Eurry op run rioi;teou8. uisciple witli wlioin tlie Apostles lodgeJ; — all were spared to a fine old ago^ and
^^ ere gatliered-iii like a shock of corn when it is ripe. liut when it is said, that they "shall still bring forth fruit in old as;e," it is not to be taken as if they were not to bring forth fruit at any other time; but, first, to show the permanency of their fruits and dispositions; that tiiough others fail they will endure. That which comes from God will infallibly lead to God. It is well to distinguish the Christian from all the works of nature : "The plants of grace shall ever live; ature decays, but grace must thrive; Time that doth all things else impair, Still makes them flourish strong and fair." ot that they escape all the effects of old age, far from it ; but as the Apostle savs, " When the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day." When the outward ear grows deaf, then the inward man hears the voice of God. When the eye grows dim, the mind is irradiated and enlightened. When the fleshly parts grow weak, we are " strengthened with might in the inner man." When the corporeal frame shrinks and is withered, the spiritual part, to use the language before us, is " fat and flourishing." We look for this in the old Christian. The young Christian seems to me like a tree in spring covered with blossoms. That is the loveliest period to see it. An old Christian is like a tree in autumn, bending with fruit. 'Tis not more beautiful, but more valuable. What fruit are we to expect in you, you old sinner ? When you sin you are like a man stealing under the gallows. When a carriage is going down hill, we suppose it will be chained and clogged. When people are going down hill in the close of life, we expect to see a peculiar restraint upon these appetites and passiofiS; we e.\pect to find them dead to sin and the world ; they know its deceit and emptiness. We expect to find them ready to go. ot that they will say, " Take my life from me, for it is better to die than to live :"' but we expect they will be more loosened from the world. It is one of the consequences of old age in Christians, to look towards heaven. There he reckons upon his relations and friends. "There my best friends, my kindred dwell — there God my Saviour reigns." He seems to have more connexion with that world than with this. We look for meekness in the aged. The young are giddy, fierce, fiery, and determined — the older are M'illing to give up every thing for the sake of peace, unless it is a good conscience and truth. There we look for maturity and judgment in divine things — that he should be able to distinguish things that differ, that his heart may be established in righteousness. He has not only had faith, but experience: the one is help to the other. The young soldier when he enters the field, we expect to see him hang down his head at the first fire; but the old soldier looks the foe in the face. 'I'he young mariner may be alarmed at a little squall, wliile the old sailor, who has been through may storms, has no fear. " I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." The young have had few trials*, and have seen little of the power and providence
of God: but the old Christian can endure long ; he can bear many hardships; he has seen the interpositions of Providence and of grace, so that he cannot despair. "Tribulation workcth patience, and patience experience, and experience hope." Why are thky to floirisii? "To shew that the Lord is upright." I'nere seems <Jumething remarkable in thi.-*. Their fearing God, attending his
THE PROSPERITY OF THE RIGHTEOUS. 363 ordinances, and " bringing forth fruit even to old age," shews that thev are uprigiit ; but how does it slie.v that Ood is upright? And yet David gives God the glory. " To shew," says he, " that the Lord is uprigiit." Whv? It does this in two ways. First, as it evidences his faithfulness to his engagements. All the ways of tiie Lord are mercy: not only mercy but truth ; because they are in fulfilment of his promises. What is there pertaining to you, Christians, that has not been provided for in the covenant of grace? I am sure it is not your afflictions, whatever else it may be: I am sure the rod was in tlie covenant from everlasting. " If thy cliildren transgress my law, and walk not in my statutes, I will visit their transgressions with a rod, and their iniquities with stripes ;" and David says, " I know that in faithfulness thou hast afflicted me." Faithfulness regards the accomplishment of the promise : God has engaged to afflict his people. Has he been with you in trouble? He told you so. Has he not sustained your strength ; and have you not had shoes for your feet, to defend you fi-om the thorns and the briers. He is upright: he is faithful. 'I'hen in the next place, because it shews their adhering to him with purpose of heart: and not turning back from him, shews that they found him what they took him to be. Had they been deceived in him they would have given him up. Under the law, the servant that had his ear bored gave proof that he loved his master ; ,vnd he would not have loved him if he had not behaved weW to him. The attachment and the adherence of the servants of God proclaim liis faithfulness ; and shews they have not been disappointed in their expectations of him. Just like the venerable Polycarp, who when asked to deny his Saviour or perisli, said, " He has been a good master to me these eighty years, and can I now forsale him ?" This shows the perseverance of the Christian ; not what he is, but wh:it God is. " By the grace of God I am what 1 am." " ot me, but the grace of God which is in me." " To shew that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him." Who can bear his Testimony to this Truth? "I," says David; " he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him." Every one can sav this, and will say this, who has, like David, made God his rock for building upon — his rock of danger — his rock of refreshment, whose streams follow him all the wilderness through. Many still are able to bear their testimonv, and to say, he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
Others have their rock — they make many things their rock: but as Mo.ses said, " their rock is not as our rock, our enemies tliemselves being judo-es." Do they ever recommend their rock in trouble? However fond people mav be of the world, they never speak well of the world : not one of them in death recommends the world to those that visit them. ot one of them speaks well of their own experience. But the wicked have been obliged to bear their testimony to our rock. Balaam exclaimed, " Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." If this be the testimony of the wicked, what must be the testimony of friends! Tliey can speak from experience; and this carries force with it. It is said that Socrates lectured so eloquently and beautifully on the honours and advantages of marriage, that all the poor bachelors Mere ready to rush out, determined to marry as soon as they could. And yet he could not speak from experience, for he was tied to a limb of the devil. But yet you see tlie force of eloquence. Then what must it bo when spoken from experience? There is nothing like experience to enforce our
364 THE piiosPEiirry op the righteous. Jiddrcsses to others. We should, when we speak from experience, speak clearly and with confidence. We can say, " that which we have seen and heard, declare Ave unto you." Such are likely to speak with earnestness. Tt will coxne from the heart. They are the persons who know what a miserable condition it is to be absent from God, and they who have made a trial of reconciliation with God, are the men to speak his faithfulness ; yes, they who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, to say to others, " Oh, taste and see that the Lord is gracious." Tiierefore do this ; think well of his name — speak well of his name — recommend him to all around. Only take care of this one thing — • while you recommend religion see that you are examples of it yourselves. Some professors often speak in favour of it ; they would do much more good if they were silent, they do more harm than good, when the mouth says one Ihino- and the temper and conduct another. When you strongly recommend a medicine to others, and yet they see disease staring you in the face, they say, you don't believe one word you are saying to us in recommendation of this medicine — you have no confidence in it yourself — try it upon yourself, and then from its influence recommend it to us. See that your conduct is such as becomes the Gospel of Christ. Then you cannot say too much. Then you may hold forth the word of life. Then the word speaks in your souls. How good it is! Avail yourselves of every opportunity to recommend the Saviour you have received ; and say, as Moses did to his father-in-law, " We are journeying toward the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you : Come thou with us, and we will do thee good ; for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel." " If a man err from the truth, and one convert him : let him know, that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shali save hi.s soul alive, and shall hide a multitude of sins. '
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