Verse 37. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright. After having watched with surprise the downfall of the wicked, give your attention to the sincerely godly man, and observe the blessed contrast. Good men are men of mark, and are worth our study. Upright men are marvels of grace, and worth beholding. For the end of that man is peace. The man of peace has an end of peace. Peace without end comes in the end to the man of God. His way may be rough, but it leads home. With believers it may rain in the morning, thunder at midday, and pour in torrents in the afternoon, but it must clear up ere the sun goes down. War may last till our last hour, but then we shall hear the last of it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 36-37. See Psalms on "Psalms 37:36" for further information.
Verse 37. Mark...and behold. Herodotus maketh mention of a custom among the Ethiopians to set the dead bodies of their friends in glazed sepulchres, that their proportions might be obvious to the passengers. How needless soever that custom was, it is doubtless no more than just that the pious lineaments of their minds who die in the Lord should be presented to the living in the mirror of art. Indeed, commendation after death is the tribute of a religious life. Good works are jewels not to be locked up in a cabinet, but to be set forth to public view. If Christ would have Mary's name remembered in the gospel until the world's end for one box of ointment poured on his head, we cannot imagine that he would have the many pious and charitable deeds of his servants to be buried in oblivion. Consult the Scriptures and you shall scarce find any godly man laid in his grave without an epitaph of honour. View the fathers, and you shall observe it their practice to honour the death of the good by giving them their deserved praises. Nathaniel Hardy.
Verse 37. The perfect man, etc. -- Divines well distinguish of a double perfection, it is absoluta or comparata. That is absolutely perfect, to which nothing (that it may be accounted truly good) is wanting; and thus He only is perfectus who is infactus; God, who made all things, and himself is not made, only enjoying an all sufficient perfection, in and of himself. That is comparatively perfect, in which, notwithstanding some wants there is a fulness compared with others. Thus every saint is perfect in comparison of the wicked among whom he liveth. In this respect it is said of Noah, That he was a perfect man in his generations; his grace compared with the wickedness of the old world well deserving the name of perfection; indeed every upright man is perfect in comparison of them who are openly bad, or but openly good; stained with wickedness, or but painted with holiness. Thus one saint may be perfect if compared with another, the strong Christian in respect of the weak, whom he outstrips in grace and piety: such saints Paul means when he saith, "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect;" that is, such as have attained to greater measures of grace than others. It was said of Benaiah, "He was more honourable than thirty, but he attained not to the first three;" and though no saint can ever attain to the perfections of the first three, the blessed Trinity, yet many saints may be honourable amongst thirty perfect in comparison of those among whom they live.
We must further distinguish of a double perfection, it is extrinseca and intrinseca. Extrinsic perfection so called, because by imputation, is that which every believer is partaker of through the perfect righteousness of Christ, whereby all his imperfections are covered; in this respect the author to the Hebrews tells us, "That by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified;" and S. Paul tells the Colossians that they were "complete in him," meaning Christ. Indeed omnia Dei mandata tune facta deptutantua, quando id quod non fit ignoscitur: divine commands are then in God's account fulfilled when our defects for Christ's sake are pardoned; and the evangelical perfection of a Christian consists not in perfectione virtutum, sed remissions vitiorum, in the completion of our graces, but remission of our sins.
Intrinsical perfection, so called because by inhesion, is no less rationally than usually thus distinguished, there is perfectio partium et graduum. He is said to be perfect, cui nihil deest eorum quae ad statum salutis necessaria, who wants no graces that accompany salvation; or he is perfect, cui nihil deest in gradibus gratiarum et virtutum; who is not defective in the measures of those graces; both these are frequently and fitly illustrated by the resemblance of a child, and a grown man; the one whereof hath all the essential and integral parts of a man, the other a complete use and measure of those parts. Nathaniel Hardy.
Verse 37. The end. All wise men affect the conclusion to be best: to ride two or three miles of fair way, and to have a hundred deep and foul ones to pass afterward is uncomfortable; especially when the end is worse than the way. But let the beginning be troublesome, the progress somewhat more easy, and the journey's end happy, and there is fair amends. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. Mark him in the setting out, he hath many oppositions; mark him in the journey, he is full of tribulations; but mark in the conclusion, and the end of that man is peace. Thomas Adams.
Verse 37. The end of that man is peace. Give me leave to determine what it is to end or die in peace. To end in peace with Euthymius, is to end in pace cogitationis, in peace of mind as it is opposed to doubting. To end in peace with Cyprian, is to end in pace securitatis, in peace of security, as it is opposed to final falling. To end in peace with Origen, is to end in pace conscientiae, in peace of conscience as it is opposed to despairing. To end in peace with old Irenaeus, is to end in pace mortis, in the peace of death as it is opposed to labouring. Again, to end in peace, is to end in pace Dei, in the peace of God which passeth all understanding, i.e., far beyond men's apprehensions. To end in peace, is to end in pace proximi, in peace with our neighbours, i.e., when no outcries or exclamations follow us. And lastly, to end in peace, is to end in pace sui, in peace with ourselves, i.e., when no distractions or perturbations of mind molest us. Richard Parre.
Verse 37. The text may be divided into these two parts. Here is
- The godly man's property; and
- The godly man's privilege. His property is perfection; his privilege is peace. Here is the saint's character and the saint's crown: he is characterised by uprightness or sincerity, and crowned with peace. Here is the Christian's way and his end, his motion, and his rest. His way is holiness, his end happiness; his motion is towards perfection and in uprightness; his rest is peace at his journey's end. John Whitlock, in a Funeral Sermon entitled, "The Upright Man and his Happy End,"
Verse 37. Time would fail me to tell how Christians die, nor can anything save the pen of the recording angel who has stood by their bed of death and borne them to Abraham's bosom narrate the unnumbered instances of their delightful departure from the present world, which verify the truth of the Bible. "I could never have believed," said a dying saint, "that it was so delightful a thing to die, or that it was possible to have such views of the heavenly world as I now enjoy." The memorable Melancthon just before he died, chanted in his sleep the words, "I will not any more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." He seemed restless, and on being asked by one near him, "Whether there was anything more that he desired?" replied, Aliud nihil nisi coelum -- nothing more, unless it be heaven. Gardiner Spring.
Verse 37. To die well be sure to live well; we must not think to have Lazarus's death, and Dive's life; like him in Plutarch that would live with Craesus, as he said, but he would die with Socrates. No, Balaam's wishes are foolish and fruitless: If you would die well, Christians, you must have a care to live well: qualis vita, finis ita, if you would die quietly, you must live strictly; if you would die comfortably, you must live conformably; if you would die happily, you must live holily. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace. John Kitchin, M.A., 1660.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 35-37. Three memorable scenes.
- The imposing spectacle.
- The astounding disappearance.
- The delightful exit.