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ROMANS ii. 10.
But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good.
The Apostle, having in the preceding verses declared what is the portion of wicked men; viz. indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish; in this verse declares what is the portion assigned to good men. In the words of the text we should observe,
1. The description of a good man; viz. the man that worketh good. Such men are here described by the fruit which they bring forth. Christ has taught us that the tree is known by its fruit. Paul here describes them by that which most distinguishes them; not by the external privileges which they enjoy, or the light under which they live; but by the fruits which they bring forth. For as the Apostle says, in verse 13, “ Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of it shall be justified.” That which distinguishes good men from bad, is not that they hear good, or that they profess good, or that they intend good; but that they do good. They are workers
2. The reward of such a man ; viz. "glory, honour, and peace;": in which are mentioned three sorts of good that are assigned to them as their portion. 1. Their moral good, expressed by the word glory. "Glory shall be given them; i. e. they shall be made excellent and glorious. They shall be endued with those excellent and glorious qualifications, which will render them beautiful and lovely. They shall have the image of God, and be partakers of his holiness. Thus the word glory is used by
2 Cor. iii. 18, We are changed into the same image from glory to glory. 2. Their relative good; Honour. They shall be in most honourable circumstances. They shall be advanced to great dignity, receive a relation to God, and Christ, and the heavenly inhabitants, and God shall put honour upon them. 3. Their natural good; Peace : which, as it is used in the scriptures, siguifies happiness; and includes all comfort, joy and pleasure.
I shall endeavour to show from the text, that glory, honour, and peace are the portion which God has given to all good men. In describing their happiness, I shall consider the successive parts of it; both here and hereafter.
First. I propose to treat of their happiness in this world. Those who are truly good men have been the subjects of a real, thorough work of conversion, and have had their hearts turned from sin to God. Of such persons it may be said, that they are truly blessed. They are often pronounced blessed by God. He is infinitely wise, and sces and knows all things. He perfectly knows who are blessed, and who are miserable. He hath said, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.”—“ Blessed is he whose sins are forgiven.”— " Blessed is the man that maketh the Lord his trust."-- Blessed are the poor in spirit”—“the meek”—" the merciful"-"the pure in heart."
In considering the happiness of the righteous in this world, I. shall pursue the method which the text obviously points out, and shall consider, 1. The excellency; 2. The honour; and, 3. The peace and pleasure which God bestows upon them in the present life.
I. The excellency or glory. The sum of this consists in their having the image of God upon them. When a person is converted, he has the image of God instamped on him. Coloss. iii. 10. “ And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him who created him." And Ephes. iv. 23, 24: “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness.” They have their eyes opened, and are led into such a sight of God and thorough acquaintance with him, as changes the soul into the image of God's glory.
What can render a creature more excellent than to have the very image of the Creator? and how blessed a change is that which is wrought in conversion, which brings a man thus to be in the image of God! For though the image of God in Christians in this world is very imperfect, yet it is real. The real image of God is most excellent, though it be imperfect.
Hence, “the righteous is more excellent than his neighbour," and “the saints are the excellent of the earth.” The image of God is their glory, and it may well be called glory, for imperfect as it is, it renders them glorious in the eyes of the angels of heaven. The image of God is a greater beauty in their eyes than the brightness and glory of the sun in the firmament.
Indeed the saints have no excellency, as they are in and of themselves. In them, that is, in their flesh, dwells no good
thing. They are in themselves poor, guilty, vile creatures, and see themselves to be so; but they have an excellency and a glory in them, because they have Christ dwelling in them. The excellency that is in them, though it be but as a spark, yet it is something ten thousand times more excellent than any ruby or the most precious pearl that ever was found on the earth; and that because it is something divine, something of God.
This holy heavenly spark is put into the soul in conversion, and God maintains it there. All the powers of hell cannot put it out, for God will keep it alive, and it shall prevail more and more. Though it be but small, yet it is powerful; it has influence over the heart to govern it, and brings forth holy fruits in the life, and will not cease to prevail till it has consumed all the corruption that is left in the heart, and till it bas turned the whole soul into a pure, holy, and heavenly flame, till the soul of man becomes like the angels, a flame of fire, and shines as the brightness of the firmament.
II. I would consider the honour to which Christians are advanced in this world; and the sum of this is, that they are the children of God. This is an excellent and glorious degree of honour and dignity to which they are admitted, and that because the Being to whom they are related is an infinitely glorious being, a being of incomprehensible majesty and excellency; and also because the relation is so near and honourable a relation. It is a great honour to be the servant of God. John the Baptist said of Christ, that he was not worthy to stoop down to loose the latchet of Christ's shoes. But Christians are not only admitted to be the servants of God, but his children; and how much more honourable in a family is the relation of children than that of servants ! Gal. iv. 7. “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Rom. viii. 16, 17. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of Go ; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Cbrist, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” 1 John iii. 1. “ Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!” The honour appears the greater if it be considered how Christians are brought into their relation to God; and that is by Christ. They become the children of God by virtue of their union with the only begotten and eternal Son of God; they are united to him as his spouse and members of his body, as his flesh and his bones, and as one spirit; and, therefore, as Christ is the Son of God, so they are sons; therefore are they joint hcirs with Christ, because they are joint sons with him. To this end God sent forth his Son, that VOL. VIII.
so they might through him also be sons. Gal. iv. 4, 5. “ But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” And therefore they, partaking of the relation of the Son, so are they also of the spirit of the Son; as it follows in the next verse, and because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”
Herein Christians are the children of God in a more honourable way than the angels themselves ; for the angels are the sons of God by virtue of that relation which they have to God, as they are in themselves singly and separately. But Christians are the children of God, as partaking with Christ, the only begotten Son, in his sonship, whose sonship is immensely more honourable than that of the angels. And Christians, being the children of God, are honoured of God as such. They are sometimes owned as such by the inward testimony of the Spirit of God. For, as it is found in the verse already cited from Romans, “the Spirit beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.” They are treated as such in the great value God puts upon them, for they are bis jewels, those which he has set apart for himself; and he is tender of them as of the apple of his eye. He disregards wicked men in comparison of them. He will give kings for them and princes for their life. He is jealous for them. He is very angry with those that hurt them. If any offend them, it were better for them that a mill-stone were cast about their neck, and they were drowned in the depths of the sea. He loves them with a very great and wonderful love. He pities them as a father pities his children. He will protect them, and defend them, and provide for them, as a father provides for his children. This honour have all they that fear and love God, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. Peace and pleasure are also the portion of Christians in this world. Their peace and joy in God begin in the present life, and are no less excellent than the glory with which he invests them, and the honour to which he advances them. We ought here to consider, 1. What foundation they have for peace and joy. 2. What peace and joy they actually have.
1st. Their foundation for peace and joy is in their safety and their riches.
1. They have ground for peace because of their safety. They are safe in Jesus Christ from the wrath of God and from the power of Satan. They that are in Christ shall never perish, for none shall pluck them out of his hand. They are delivered from all their dreadful misery, that indignation and wrath, tri
bulation and anguish, which shall come on ungodly men. They were naturally exposed to it, but they are delivered from it; their sins are all forgiven them. The hand-writing is eterually blotted out. Their sins are all done away; God has cast them behind bis back, and buried their sorrows in the depths of the sea, and they shall no more come into remembrance. They are most safe from misery, for they are built on Christ their everlasting rock. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea, rather is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God. They have the faithful promise of God for their security, that is established as a sure witness in heaven. They have an interest in that covenant, that is well ordered in all things and sure. "Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus."
2. They have a foundation of unspeakable comfort and joy, because of their riches. They have true and infinite riches. They are the possessors and heirs of something real and substantial, and that is worthy to be called by the name of riches. The things they possess are excellent, more precious than gold and than rubies; all the desirable things of this world cannot equal them, and they have enough of it. The riches that they have given them of God are inexhaustible. It is sufficient for them; there is no end of it. They have a fountain of infinite good for their comfort, and contentment, and joy; for God has given himself to them to be their portion, and he is a God of infinite glory. There is glory in him to engage their contemplation for ever and ever, without ever being satiated. And he is also an infinite fountain of love ; for God is love, yea, an ocean of love without shore or bottom! The glorious Son of God is theirs; that lovely one, who was from all eternity; God's delight, rejoicing always before him. All his beauty their portion, and his dying love is theirs, his very heart is theirs, and his glory and happiness in heaven are theirs, so far as their capacity will allow them to partake of it; for he has promised it to them, and has taken possession of it in their name. And the saints are also rich in the principle that is in them. They have inward riches which they carry about with them in their own hearts. They are rich in faith. James ii. 5. “Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him ?” They have the grace of God in their hearts, which is a most excellent treasure, and a good foundation of joy; for it is the seed of joy. Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. And the seed that is sown in their hearts, is the grace of God there. That is a seed that however it