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3. The godly are in some sense already blessed
I proceed now to the second aphorism or conclusion, that the godly are in some sense already blessed. The saints are blessed not only when they are apprehended by God, but while they are travellers to glory. They are blessed before they are crowned. This seems a paradox to flesh and blood. What, reproached and maligned, yet blessed! A man that looks upon the children of God with a carnal eye and sees how they are afflicted, and like the ship in the gospel which was ‘covered with waves’ (Matthew 8:24), would think they were far from blessedness. St Paul brings a catalogue of his sufferings: ‘Thrice was I beaten with rods; once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck . . .’ (2 Corinthians 11:24-26). And those Christians of the first magnitude, of whom the world was not worthy, ‘had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings; they were sawn asunder; they were slain with the sword’ (Hebrews 11:36, 37). What? And were all these during the time of their sufferings blessed? A carnal man would think, If this be to be blessed, God deliver him from it.
But, however sense and reason give their vote, our Saviour Christ pronounces the godly man blessed; though a mourner, though a martyr, yet blessed. Job on the dunghill was blessed Job. The saints are blessed when they are cursed. Shimei cursed David. ‘He came forth and cursed him’ (2 Samuel 16:5). Yet when he was cursed David, he was blessed David. The saints, though they are bruised, yet they are blessed. Not only shall they be blessed, they are so. ‘Blessed are the undefiled’ (Psalm 19:1). ‘Thy blessing is upon thy people’ (Psalm 3:8).
(1) How are the saints already blessed? In that they are enriched with heavenly blessings (Ephesians 1:3). They are ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4), not by an incorporation into the divine essence, but by transformation into the divine likeness. This is blessedness begun. As the new-born babe is said to have life in it as well as he who is fully grown, so the saints, who are partakers of the divine nature, have an inchoate blessedness, though they have not arrived yet at perfection. Believers have the seed of God abiding in them (1 John 3:9). And this is a seed of blessedness. The flower of glory grows out of the seed of grace. Grace and glory differ not in kind but degree. The one is the root, the other the fruit. Grace is glory in the dawning; glory is grace in the meridian. And in this sense that assertion of Augustine is true, ‘Blessed are we in faith and in hope., Grace is the first link in the chain of blessedness. Now he that has the first link of the chain in his hand, has the whole chain. The saints have the Spirit of God in them, ‘The Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us’ (2 Timothy 1:14). How can the blessed Spirit be in a man and he not blessed? A godly man’s heart is a paradise, planted with the choicest fruit, and God himself walks in the midst of this paradise, and must the man not needs be blessed?
(2) The saints are already blessed because their sins are not imputed to them. ‘Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity’ (Psalm 32:2). God’s not imputing iniquity, signifies God’s making of sin not to be. It is as if the man had never sinned. The debt book is cancelled in Christ’s blood, and if the debtor owe never so much, yet if the creditor cross the book, it is as if he had never owed anything. God’s not imputing sin signifies that God will never call for the debt, or, if it should be called for, it shall be hid out of sight. ‘In those days the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found’ (Jeremiah 50:20). Now such a man who has not sin imputed to him, is blessed, and the reason is, because if sin be not imputed to a man, then the curse is taken away; and if the curse be taken away, then he must needs be blessed.
(3) The saints are already blessed because they are in covenant with God. This is clear by comparing two scriptures: ‘I will be their God’, (Jeremiah 31:33), and ‘Happy is that people whose God is the Lord’ (Psalm 144:15). This is the crowning blessing, to have the Lord for our God. Impossible it is to imagine that God should be our God, and we not be blessed.
This sweet word, ‘I will be your God’, implies propriety, that all that is in God shall be ours. His love is ours, his Spirit ours, his mercy ours. It implies all relations: of a father, ‘I will be a father unto you’ (2 Corinthians 6:18). The sons of a prince are happy. How blessed are the saints who are of true blood royal? It implies the relation of an husband: ‘Thy Maker is thy husband’ (Isaiah 54:5). The spouse, being contracted to her husband, is happy by having an interest in all he has. The saints being contracted by faith are blessed, though the solemnity of the marriage be kept for heaven. It implies terms of friendship. They who are in covenant with God are favourites of heaven. ‘Abraham my friend’ (Isaiah 41:8). It is counted a subject’s happiness to be in favour with his prince, though he may live a while from court. How happy must he needs be who is God’s favourite!
(4) The saints are already blessed because they have a reversion of heaven, as, on the contrary, he who has hell in reversion is said to be already condemned. ‘He that believeth not is condemned already’ (John 3:18). He is as sure to be condemned, as if he were condemned already. So he who has heaven in reversion may be said to be already blessed. A man that has the reversion of a house, after a short lease is run out, he looks upon it as his already. This house, says he, is mine. So a believer has a reversion of heaven after the lease of life is run out, and he can say at present, Christ is mine and glory is mine. He has a title to heaven, and he is a blessed man who has a title to show; nay, faith turns the reversion into a possession.
(5) The saints are already blessed because they have the first-fruits of blessedness here. We read of the earnest of the Spirit, and the seal (2 Corinthians 1:22), and the first-fruits (Romans 8:23). Heaven is already begun in a believer. ‘The kingdom of God is peace and joy in the Holy Ghost’ (Romans 14:17). This kingdom is in a believer’s heart (Luke 17:21). The people of God have a prelibation and taste of blessedness here. As Israel tasted a bunch of grapes before they were actually possessed of Canaan, so the children of God have those secret incomes of the Spirit, those smiles of Christ’s face, those kisses of his lips, those love-tokens that are as bunches of grapes; and they think themselves sometimes in heaven. ‘Paul was let down in a basket’ (Acts 9:25). Oftentimes the Comforter is let down to the soul in an ordinance, and now the soul is in the suburbs of Jerusalem above. A Christian sees heaven by faith, and tastes it by joy; and what is this but blessedness?
(6) The saints may be said in this life to be blessed, because all things tend to make them blessed. ‘All things work together for good to them that love God’ (Romans 8:28). We say to him that has everything falling out for the best, You are a happy man. The saints are very happy, for all things have a tendency to their good. Prosperity does them good; adversity does them good. Nay, sin turns to their good. Every trip makes them more watchful. Their maladies are their medicines. Are not they happy persons that have every wind blowing them to the right port?
(7) A saint may be said to be blessed, because part of him is already blessed. He is blessed in his head; Christ, his head, is in glory; Christ and believers make one body mystical; their head is gotten into heaven.
See the difference between a wicked man and a godly. Let a wicked man have never so many comforts, still he is cursed; let a godly man have never so many crosses, still he is blessed. Let a wicked man have the ‘candle of God shining’ on him (Job 29:3), let his way be so smooth that he meets with no rubs; let him have success; yet still there is a curse entailed upon him. You may read the sinner’s inventory (Deuteronomy 28:16, 17, 18). He is not more full of sin than he is of a curse. Though perhaps he blesses himself in his wickedness, yet he is heir to God’s curse. All the curses of the Bible are his portion, and at the day of death this portion is sure to be paid. But a godly man in the midst of all his miseries is blessed. He may be under the cross, but not under a curse.
It shows the privilege of a believer. He not only shall be blessed, but he is blessed. Blessedness is begun in him. ‘You are blessed of the Lord’ (Psalm 115:15). Let the condition of the righteous be never so sad, yet it is blessed; he is blessed in affliction. ‘Blessed is he whom thou chastenest’ (Psalm 94:12); blessed in poverty, ‘poor in the world, rich in faith’ (James 2:5); blessed in disgrace, ‘The spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you’ (1 Peter 4:14). This may be a cordial to the fainting Christian; he is blessed in life and death! Satan cannot supplant him of the blessing.
How may this take away murmuring and melancholy from a child of God? Will you repine and be sad when you are blessed? Esau wept because he wanted the blessing. ‘Bless me, even me also, O my father, and Esau lifted up his voice and wept’ (Genesis 27:38). But shall a child of God be immoderately cast down when he has the blessing? Adam sinned in the midst of paradise. How evil it is to be blessed, and yet murmur!
What an encouragement is this to godliness! We are all ambitious of a blessing, then let us espouse religion: ‘Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord’ (Psalm 112:1). But you will say, This way is every where spoken against. It is no matter, seeing this is the way to get a blessing. Suppose a rich man should adopt another for his heir, and others should reproach him, he does not care as long as he is heir to the estate. So, what though others may reproach you for your religion, as long as it entails a blessing on you; the same day you become godly, you become blessed.
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