The righteous [is] more excellent than his neighbour
Not than his neighbour who is righteous also; for though one may have more excellent gifts than another, or a larger measure of grace; one righteous man may have more faith than another, yet not more righteousness; every truly righteous man is justified by the same righteousness, even the righteousness of Christ; and therefore one cannot be more excellent, considered as righteous: but the righteous is more excellent than his neighbour, who is ungodly and unrighteous, or however who has no other righteousness than his own; though his neighbour may be of more noble birth, and have even the title of "his excellency" given him; though he may have a larger share of wealth and riches; and though he may have attained a greater degree of natural wisdom and understanding, be a man of brighter parts, and of a larger capacity; yet, being righteous, he is more excellent than he: his superior excellency lies in his righteousness, from whence he is denominated; the righteousness of Christ, imputed to him, is far better than the best righteousness of his neighbour; it being the righteousness of God, his is the righteousness of a creature; a perfect righteousness, whereas his is imperfect; a splendid and glorious one, his filthy rags; a very extensive one, by which all the seed of Israel are justified, his such as not one individual person can be justified by it; an everlasting one, that will answer for him that has it in a time to come, his like the morning cloud and early dew that passes away; yea, the inherent righteousness of a righteous man, or the grace of Christ, imparted to him and implanted in him, that principle of holiness in him is greatly better than the righteousness of his neighbour a Pharisee; for this is true and real holiness, truth in the inward part, whereas the other's is only a shadow of holiness, a form of godliness without the power; this has the Spirit of God for its author, it is his workmanship, and a curious piece it is, whereas the other is only the produce of nature; this makes a man all glorious within, and gives him a meetness for heaven, whereas, notwithstanding the other, the man is inwardly full of all manner of iniquity, and has neither a right nor meetness for eternal glory. Nay, the external works of righteousness done by a truly righteous man are preferable to his neighbour's, destitute of the grace of God; the one being a course of obedience to the will of God, and a respect to all his commandments; when the other consists only of a little negative holiness, and of an observance of a few rituals of religion: the one spring from a heart purified by the blood of Christ, and the grace of the Spirit, and from principles of grace and love, and are done to the glory of God; whereas the other do not arise from a pure heart, and faith unfeigned; nor are they done sincerely, with a view to the glory of God: only to be seen of men, and gain credit and reputation among them; and in these respects the righteous man is more excellent as such than his neighbour, who at most and best is only externally and morally righteous: his superior excellency does not lie in nature, in which they are both alike; nor in outward circumstances, in which they may differ; nor in the opinion of men, with whom the saints are the offscouring of all things; but in the, esteem of Christ, and through his grace and righteousness; see ( Psalms 16:3 ) ; Some render the words, "the righteous explores [his way] more than his neighbour" F14; seeks and finds out a better way than he does; and is careful that he is not seduced and carried out of the why, and perish; but the way of the wicked seduceth them;
or causes them to err; it deceives, by promising the honour, pleasure, and profit, which it does not lead unto and give, and which they find not in it; and hereby they are led to wander from the way of the righteous, by which they attain a superior excellency to them.
F14 (qydu wherm rty) "justus explorat viam suam prae socio suo", Gejerus; "explorat pro compascuo suo justus", Schultens; "explorate ducit proximum suum justus", Cocceius.