« PreviousContinue »
and that the best of men daily sin, as long as they continue here below. Nevertheless, there have been many who are called of God himself, just men: men whom he justified while living, and glorified when dead. Who these are, or what is necessary to constitute any of mankind such, is a question, therefore, of the last importance. Until this is well answered and understood, it cannot be known when we have reason to entertain a comfortable hope respecting our own future state, or concerning the present state of our departed friends.
It is easy to show, in general, that by just men, we are to understand no other than men of true piety and virtue. Thus this phrase is constantly used in the holy scriptures. See Psal. vii. 9, "Let the wickness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just." Prov. iii. 33, "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just." And Matt. xiii. 49, "So shall it be in the end of the world; the angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just." In both the Old Testament and the New, all men are thus divided into two classes; the just and the wicked whence it is obvious that by the former are meant, none but good men, or real saints: none but such as are approved, or justified, in the sight of God.
To prevent mistakes, however, it may be needful to give the character of these, in a few particulars. Here then,
1. Let is be osberved, that those whom the Bible means by just men, are certainly men of justice in their social intercourse; or in their treatment of their fellow men, in word and deed. To this purpose are the words of David, in the fifteenth Psalm : "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness. He that backbiteth
not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor." And the following words of the apostle James; "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue,-that man's religion is vain." A just man is no slanderer or reviler; nor one that will go beyond or defraud another, in any matter. He is a man of truth and punctuality in his dealings, and of integrity and faithfulness in whatever business he undertakes, or station he sustains. He is one that makes conscience of observing the rule of our Saviour, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them." And that of the apostle, "Render to all their dues: tribute, to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honor, to whom honor."
2. A just man will be as careful to render to God, his due, as to men the things which are their's. He will no more neglect the duties of religion, than be negligent in the discharge of social duties. However honest men may be in their dealings; however punctual in paying their debts, and equitable in all respects in the treatment of their neighbors; yet, if they never inquire, nor concern themselves, what they shall render to the Lord for all His benefits; if they restrain prayer, pay no attention to the word of God, and are men of no religion, they are not just men in the sense of scripture; nor can they with any propriety, be so called. To rob God, is certainly as unjust, as to wrong our fellow-men.
3. A just man is upright in heart, as well as one that walks uprightly. "He is not a Jew," says the apostle, "who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh but he is a Jew that is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." A man may be very virtuous, and very religious, externalFff
ly, from sinister views, or merely from selfish motives. But should we bestow all our goods to feed the poor, and give our body to be burned, without any ultimate regard to the glory of God, or the good of our neighbor, in the day of final retribution, it would profit us nothing.
In a word, as to their personal character, just men have the root, and all the branches, of moral rectitude. The tree is good, and the fruit good. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are be
In this sense, Noah and Job were perfect; and so is every good man. As an infant may be a perfect man in miniature, though extremely imperfect in stature and strength; so those called the just in scripture, are perfect, as having all the parts of the new man, which is created after God in righteousness and true holiness.
4. Yet just men are not so called, so accepted of God, or so looked upon by themselves, merely because of their personal goodness. It is said in Habakkuk, and it is several times repeated in the NewTestament, "The just shall live by faith." And the apostle says, Rom. iv. 5, "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
That any of mankind are self-righteous, is because they are, at heart, altogether unrighteous. That any hope, or wish, to be accepted of God as righteous persons, on the ground of their own goodness, is because they are totally selfish, and have no impartiality. The moment one becomes upright, in the lowest degree, he condemns himself; and fices for refuge to free grace, reigning through the righteousness of Christ, as his only support from utter despair. Nor does he ever after build his hope of being justified, on any other foundation.
Having seen what are the essential characteristics of just men on earth;
II. We are to consider the perfection of the spirits of such, when translated to heaven. Here,
1. They are made perfect in holiness.
He who is entered into that rest, hath ceased from sin. Ho longer is he subject to carnal appetites, unruly passions, or any moral imperfections. From these, the best of men in this world are far from being wholly free. Paul found a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind and to his christian brethren, the Galatians, he says, "The flesh lusteth against the spirit,-so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." But from the flesh-from the law of sin-from the remainder of depraved nature, believers are perfectly delivered when the body dies.
Nor is this all the moral perfection of pious souls departed. Holiness is not a mere negative; consisting in freedom from sin only. This is one thing implied in it; but it implies, moreover, all good principles, and all the fruits of active righteousness. These are all comprehended radically, in universal benevolence of disposition. "The end of the commandment is charity." In this the spirits of just men in heaven, are perfect. They are perfectly disposed to render honor to whom it is due; to take complacency in the holiness, and to rejoice in the happiness of all around them, and above them, whether the Creator of all, or their fellow-creatures.
2. Compared with us, and with themselves while here below, they are perfect in knowledge. 1 Cor. xiii. 12, "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
3. The saints above are made perfect in happi
That their negative happiness is perfectly complete, we are abundantly assured. See Rev. xiv. 13, "I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors." Rev. vii. 16, They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them nor any heat." And chap. xxi. 4, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain for the former things are passed away."
And that they enjoy positive good, of the purest kind, and in the highest degree, we are plainly given to understand, Psalm xvi. 11, "In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for ever more. "" 1 Cor. ii. 9, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." And Rev. vii. 17, "The Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of
We are not to suppose, indeed, that the separate spirits of saints above, are now so happy, as they will be after the resurrection; nor are we to suppose that all of them are equally happy: Yet it may well be believed, that, to the utmost extent of their present capacities, whether greater or less, their joy is full.
But, that we have a more suitable impression and belief of the greatness of their felicity, it may be useful to consider, more distinctly, wherein it consists. But in attempting this, we have time now to attend only to a few of the most essential particulars. Here then,
(1.) The spirits of just men, on their leaving the body and this world, are admitted into a very num