Verse 3. But to the saints that are in the earth. These sanctified ones, although still upon the earth, partake of the results of Jesus' mediatorial work, and by his goodness are made what they are. The peculiar people, zealous for good works, and hallowed to sacred service, are arrayed in the Saviour's righteousness and washed in his blood, and so receive of the goodness treasured up in him; these are the persons who are profited by the work of the man Christ Jesus; but that work added nothing to the nature, virtue, or happiness of God, who is blessed for evermore. How much more forcibly is this true of us, poor unworthy servants not fit to be mentioned in comparison with the faithful Son of God! Our hope must ever be that haply some poor child of God may be served by us, for the Great Father can never need our aid. Well may we sing the verses of Dr. Watts:
"Oft have my heart and tongue confessed How empty and how poor I am;
My praise can never make thee blest, Nor add new glories to thy name. Yet, Lord, thy saints on earth may reap Some profit by the good we do; These are the company I keep, These are the choicest friends I know."
Poor believers are God's receivers, and have a warrant from the Crown to receive the revenue of our offerings in the King's name. Saints departed we cannot bless; even prayer for them is of no service; but while they are here we should practically prove our love to them, even as our Master did, for they are the excellent of the earth. Despite their infirmities, their Lord thinks highly of them, and reckons them to be as nobles among men. The title of "His Excellency" more properly belongs to the meanest saint than to the greatest governor. The true aristocracy are believers in Jesus. They are the only Right Honourables. Stars and garters are poor distinctions compared with the graces of the Spirit. He who knows them best says of them, in whom is all my delight. They are his Hephzibah and his land Beulah, and before all worlds his delights were with these chosen sons of men. Their own opinion of themselves is far other than their Beloved's opinion of them; they count themselves to be less than nothing, yet he makes much of them, and sets his heart towards them. What wonders the eyes of Divine Love can see where the Hands of Infinite Power have been graciously at work. It was this quick sighted affection which led Jesus to see in us a recompense for all his agony, and sustained him under all his sufferings by the joy of redeeming us from going down into the pit.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 2-3. My goodness extendeth not to thee; but to the saints. See Psalms on "Psalms 16:2" for further information.
Verse 3. But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. My brethren, look upon saintship as the greatest excellency to love it. So did Christ. His eye was "upon the excellent ones in the earth;" that is, upon the saints, who were excellent to him; yea, also even when not saints, because God loved them. Isaiah 43:4 . It is strange to hear how men by their speeches will undervalue a saint as such, if without some other outward excellency. For whilst they acknowledge a man a saint, yet in other respects, they will contemn him; "He is a holy man," they will say, "but he is weak," etc. But is he a saint? And can there be any such other imperfection or weakness found as shall lay him low in thy thoughts in comparison of other carnal men more excellent? Hath not Christ loved him, bought him, redeemed him? Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 3. But to the saints. I understand that a man then evinces affection towards God, and towards those who love God, when his soul yearns after them -- when he obliges himself to love them by practically serving and benefiting them -- acting towards them as he would act towards God himself were he to see him in need of his service, as David says he did. Juan de Valdes, 1550.
Verse 3. The saints. The Papists could abide no saints but those which are in heaven; which argues that they live in a kingdom of darkness, and err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God; for if they were but meanly conversant in the Scriptures, in the holy epistles, they should find almost in every epistle mention made of the saints who are thereunto called in Jesus Christ, through whom they are sanctified by the Holy Ghost. And mark, he calleth them excellent. Some think rich men to be excellent, some think learned men to be excellent, some count men in authority so to be, but here we are taught that those men are excellent who are sanctified by God's graces. Richard Greenham.
Verse 3. By David's language, there were many singular saints in his day: To the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. Was it so then, and should it not be so now? We know the New Testament outshines the Old as much as the sun outshines the moon. If we then live in a more glorious dispensation, should we not maintain a more glorious conversation?... "The excellent." Were the sun to give no more delight than a star, you could not believe he was the regent of the day; were he to transmit no more heat than a glow worm, you would question his being the source of elementary heat. Were God to do no more than a creature, where would his Godhead be? Were a man to do no more than a brute, where would his manhood be? Were not a saint to excel a sinner, where would his sanctity be? William Secker.
Verse 3. Ingo, an ancient king of the Draves, who making a stately feast, appointed his nobles, at that time Pagans, to sit in the hall below, and commanded certain poor Christians to be brought up into his presence chamber, to sit with him at his table, to eat and drink of his kingly cheer, at which many wondering, he said, he accounted Christians, though never so poor, a greater ornament to his table, and more worthy of his company than the greatest peers unconverted to the Christian faith; for when these might be thrust down to hell, those might be his comforts and fellow princes in heaven. Although you see the stars sometimes by reflections in a puddle, in the bottom of a well, or in a stinking ditch, yet the stars have their situation in heaven. So, although you see a godly man in a poor, miserable, low, despised condition, for the things of this world, yet he is fixed in heaven, in the region of heaven: "Who hath raised us up," saith the apostle, "and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Charles Bradbury's "Cabinet of Jewels," 1785.
Verse 3. To sum up all, we must know that we neither do nor can love the godly so well as we should do; but all is well if we would love them better, and do like ourselves the less because we do love them no more, and that this is common or usual with me, then I am right: so that we are to love the godly first because God commands it, because they are good; and in these cases our faith doth work by our love to good men. Next, when I am at the worst, like a sick sheep, I care not for the company of other sheep, but do mope in a corner by myself; but yet I do not delight in the society of goats or dogs, it proves that I have some good blood left in me; it is because for the present I take little or no delight in myself or in my God, that I delight no better in the godly: yet as I love myself for all that, so I may be said to love them for all this. Man indeed is a sociable creature, a company keeper by nature when he is himself; and if we not associate ourselves with the ungodly, though for the present, and care not much to show ourselves amongst the godly, the matter is not much, it is a sin of infirmity, not a fruit of iniquity. The disciples went from Christ, but they turned not to the other side as Judas did, who did forsake his Master, and joined himself to his Master's enemies, but they got together. Some say that Demas did repent (which I think to be the truth), and then he did "embrace this present world," but for the present fit: put case he did forsake Paul; so did better men than he. Indeed as long as a man hath his delights about him, he will embrace the delights of this present world, or the delights which belong to the world to come; join with Paul, or cleave to the world. In this temptation our stay is, first, that we care not for the company of goats; next, that as we should, so we would, and desire that we may take delight in the company of sheep, to count them the only excellent men in the world, in whom is all our delight. The conclusion is, that to love the saints as saints, is a sound proof of faith; the reason is, for that we cannot master our affections by love, but first we must master our understandings by faith, Richard Capel, 1586-1656.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 2-3. The influence and sphere of goodness. No profit to God, or departed saints or sinners, but to living men. Need of promptness, etc.
Verse 2-3. Evidences of true faith.
- Allegiance to divine authority.
- Rejection of self righteousness.
- Doing good to the saints.
- Appreciation of saintly excellence.
- Delight in their society.
Verse 3. Excellent of the earth. May be translated noble, wonderful, magnificent. They are so in their new birth, nature, clothing, attendance, heritage, etc., etc.
Verse 3. In whom is all my delight. Why Christians should be objects of our delight. Why we do not delight in them more. Why they do not delight in us. How to make our fellowship more delightful.
Verse 3. Collection sermon for poor believers.
- Saints on the earth.
- These are excellent.
- We must delight in them.
- We must extend our goodness to them.