Summary: This Sermon is #25 from Rev. Andrew Lee’s SERMONS published in 1803 by Isaiah Thomas, Jr. at Lisbon, Connecticut.
The entire book of Andrew’s Lee’s Sermons is available free at Project Gutenberg as e-Text #15031.
The Good Man Useful In Life and Happy in Death.
"Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: For the end of that man is peace." *
* Preached at the funeral of Asa Witter, Esq. Oct. 9th, 1792.
THE subject of this psalm is the way and end of the righteous and the wicked. It is designed to calm the minds of good people when tried with adversity, and to reconcile them to the divine administration in the unequal distributions of Providence, and the apparent disregard of character, in those distributions. With these views, the writer, after glancing at the lives of saints and sinners, calls our attention to their end, noting the manner of their exit out of life.
THE text relates to the righteous. In discoursing upon it, _We shall consider the excellence of their characters, and their peaceful end; and add a few reflections_.
I. WE _are to consider the excellence of their characters. Mark the perfect man and behold the upright_.--
THE _perfect man_.--This may seem a strange representation of an imperfect creature--a creature which viewed in the glass of the divine law appears deformed, and tried by the perfect rule must be condemned --a creature whose best services can find acceptance with God, only on the plan of grace! For such is man since the apostasy--such the saints feel and confess themselves. But however strange the representation, it is drawn by the pen of inspiration, and applied to the saints.
PERFECTION is sometimes attributed to particular saints. "Noah was a just man and _perfect_ in his generation." Similar is the description given of Job. "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job: And that man was perfect and upright."
IN the text, the term perfect, hath not a particular reference, but refers generally, to those who have been renewed by divine grace. But when applied to a fallen creature it must be understood with limitation. We have seen it applied to Job: Hear him then speaking of himself--"If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me. If I say I am _perfect_ it shall prove me perverse."
ST. JOHN held a high rank among the faithful; yet speaking of the saints, and including himself, he observes--"If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us--If We confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins". * St. Paul had before declared that "there is none righteous, and that the Scripture hath concluded all under sin."
* 1 John i. 8--10.
IN what sense then are the saints perfect? And wherein consists the excellence of their character?
1. THE saints are _perfect_ in Christ. "In him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." His righteousness is made theirs. "They are complete in him. He is made of God unto them wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption." In this view every good man is a _perfect_ man.
THE saints before the gospel day were but very partially instructed respecting the way of salvation. They knew not how they were to be saved through a Redeemer who had not come in the flesh. But the matter was open to the divine eye. And it is observable that the term _perfect_ is never assumed by the saints. They confess their own emptiness and abase themselves before God. Where perfection is attributed to them, it is always by those who spake as moved by the Holy Ghost.
2. THE saints are the subjects not only of an imputed, but also of an inherent righteousness: And have been so from the beginning. Noah was a just man and perfect--Job _perfect_ and upright. In this respect they were not made to differ from other saints. All the saints are born of God--they are renewed after the image of the Creator and made to bear the image of the heavenly. The change which takes place in them causes them to favor the things of God; to love holiness, and delight to do good as they have opportunity and ability.
THEY are just and upright; just toward man, and upright before God.
JUSTICE respects the part which mankind act toward one another. It is opposed to fraud and injustice. The just man is fair in his dealings --gives to all their dues--is careful to fulfil every trust, and to do by others as he would others should do by him.
SUCH is the character given of him of old, who "was _perfect_ in his generations," when "the whole earth was filled with violence, because all flesh had corrupted their way," And every good man follows his example; hath respect to all God’s commandments, and hates every evil way. Perfection, in the strict sense of the term, is his wish, and his aim, though he doth not expect to attain it while resident in the body. But he "forgets the things which are behind and reaching forth to those which are before, he presses on," endeavoring a nearer conformity to the divine pattern.